A million little things go wrong: a project post-mortem

We've all had one, a project that goes so haywire that you wonder if you're even in the right business. Design or not, the message is universal in that no amount of good planning and skill can prevent a project from going south. It's important to chronicle projects that didn't perform well because it helps to identify strengths and development goals of both the individual leading the project and the business fronting the costs. This is the story of one of my recent projects.

I was running in and out to another project when one day "the boss" asked me to take over a client who was standing right there beside her - how could I say no. This client was a bit difficult to read at first, he kept making a face like he sucked on a really sour candy whenever he didn't like something. I proceeded because he was serious. Then "the boss" flew overseas for vacation and I came down with a nasty flu. I site measured with a fever and that shirt was so wet after because it was summer - Vancouver doesn't do air conditioning because we're a comfortable 21 degrees mostly all summer long. I sold the kitchen in a week from start to finish.

I ordered everything and 6 weeks later it was installation day.

1. I showed up on the job site and the flooring had changed, completely, to real slate. I was going to have a bird right then and there. (For those who don't know, slate is a natural stone that should never be used in kitchens because it is uneven on ever tile, making it difficult to level any cabinet.) I lost an inch overall in ceiling height, which meant that the client was going to loose about 1 1/2" to 2" overall from the countertop and bottom of the wall cabinets, for a pretty tight 16" between, not good.

Next time: Advise the client immediately that the existing conditions are not the same as they were before and there will be additional charges in labour to level the cabinetry in order to accommodate the bumpy, uneven, flooring.

2. Surprise number two was that we were provided with 2 duplex receptacles to run under-cabinet halogen lighting. I had 4 transformers drawing at 60W each, running off a 120V circuit with 2 other receptacles and lighting. Really bad news because I was left standing there, looking at my installer with him looking back at me, and I said "So are we supposed to install this lighting? Because that's not in the contract. It was supply only."

Next time: Advise the client that electrical is not included and this was a supply only of fixtures.

3. Somehow the contractor can't read dimensioned drawings and put a receptacle where the refrigerator gable was going.

Next time: "Okay Corey, that's three things in 5 minutes. Why are the alarm bells not going off?"

4. Installer called. There's a cabinet missing. It wasn't ordered (re: flu and fever when entering order, "the boss" was overseas and couldn't double check)

Next time: Maybe call the Guru to come and help to double check.

5. Installer called. The custom panel finished on all sides is only finished on 4. There is ink and an unfinished panel facing a hallway on a main traffic route.

Next time: Instead of edge-banding and staining on-site, return the panel to manufacturer and bill them for the additional trip.

6. Installer called. The custom panel, that was to be finished on all sides, was just cut incorrectly.

Next time: Instead of edge-banding and staining on-site, and making the installer level all the cabinets in the shortened time he now has, return the panel to manufacturer and bill them for the additional trip.

7. Client called. There's a shelf missing for a 6" base cabinet.

Next time: Question all material that is being cleaned by the designer on the job-site. We're so smart that we will dispose of shelves disguised as an off-cut.

8. Glass shelves have all be cut wrong. They were tempered, and expensive.

Next time: Demand a template be done, don't work off the shelves.

9. Lamp has burnt out in the improperly finished custom end panel.

Next time: Don't sell cheep lighting.

10. Lamp has burnt out in the improperly finished custom end panel.

Next time: Don't sell cheep lighting. See #9

11. Lamp has burnt out in the improperly finished custom end panel.

Next time: Don't sell cheep lighting. See #9 & 10.

12. Glass shelves have all be cut wrong. They were tempered, and expensive.

Next time: Demand a template be done, don't work off the shelves. Throw a hissy fit.

13. Installer called. The custom panel finished on all sides is only finished on 4. There is ink and an unfinished panel facing a hallway on a main traffic route.

Next time: Instead of edge-banding and staining on-site, return the panel to manufacturer and bill them for the additional trip. WHY ARE THINGS REPEATING THEMSELVES!!?!?

14. Lamp has burnt out in the improperly finished custom end panel.

Next time: Don't sell cheep lighting. See #9, 10, & 11.

15. Lamp has burnt out in replacement fixture.

Next time: Don't sell cheep lighting. See #9, 10, 11, & 14.

16. Lamp has burnt out in second replacement fixture.

Next time: Don't sell cheep lighting. See #9, 10, 11, 14, & 15. Suspect the transformer earlier in the process.

17. Client called. Wall Angle Cabinet door is rubbing against another door. Need to get it trimmed down. Okay, it's trimmed down, now it's too small by 1/16" and, because there's in-cabinet lighting, you can see the crack when standing at the range.

Next time: CABINETRY TOLERANCES ARE NOT ON THE CONTRACT?!?  They are now. SOMEONE put me out of my misery.

At this point, I'm reminded that I could have had a case of the mean reds.