As you might have gleaned, our exterior house renovation did not go as planned. 10(ish) months after putting down a deposit, it’s still not done and new problems have popped up. I’ve shared a lot of these problems – with a lot of humor – in my Instagram stories, but it’s a disjointed (although very real time) way to experience the process and timeline. Readers asked me to flesh out the whole window drama and the exterior renovation delays in one blog post.
Today I’m finally giving you the full scoop on the window drama, how our exterior renovation snowballed in the first place, and why everything was delayed. But let me first explain how I feel, because tone is lost so easily in writing. I am NOT sharing this story to elicit sympathy or to be a drama lama. A lot of home bloggers seem to get a little too ensconced in their own little worlds and overly dramatize even the smallest house renovation setbacks. I want to make clear that none of the problems I’m going to (bitterly, lol) complain about are the end of the world. If you followed my stories, I cracked jokes and sipped wine on the deck (after everyone left of course), even in the worst of it. Was this disappointing? Yes! Did this cost me/us financially? You betcha! Did I cry (I was DM’d this question A LOT)? Not once. Did I occasionally want to beat the owner of the company we hired with a bag of oranges? Often. While I think it’s important to show the realities of renovating (and what can go wrong) so other people can have realistic expectations, I do think that it’s equally important to keep things in perspective.
With that said, pour yourself a cup of coffee and let’s get into it!
We had saved for a new roof roof and were gathering quotes so we could have the work done in the summer. In hindsight, this was way too late in the season to start doing this but it’s winter 99% of the time here…
Over the years we’d casually priced out new roofing and siding, but could never commit – we were even thinking of DIYing our own siding. We couldn’t ignore the roof for much longer though, because the shingles had really started to curl up. We didn’t want to be caught off guard with leaking. Hubby really wanted a metal roof so we contacted a local retailer, who put us in touch with a company (let’s call them ABC) who does the installation. Meanwhile I had spotted a copper metal roof the year before and was trying to track down the company who installed it. The owner of the company we were told to contact (let’s call him Allen) came out for a quote and didn’t recommend the metal roofing Hubby had asked about. He showed us something entirely different, a style of metal roof that was better quality, looked more like shingles – and less like barn roofing – and was only slightly more money. He seemed like a really honest guy, and it turned out his company had installed the copper roof I’d been drooling over. His truck was stuffed with samples, so I asked him about siding and it turned out he did metal siding as well.
The exterior renovation kind of snowballed from here. Once we decided on a shiny copper roof, it seemed weird to top our ratty old house exterior with something so beautiful. Yadda yadda yadda, we decided to replace the roof, siding, soffit and fascia and we got pretty good discounts bundling it altogether. It was kind of nutty to make all of these decisions so quickly! Here’s hubby, helping me decide if I want to do black soffit…
As the exterior renovation blossomed, we started to think about getting new windows too. Windows were already on our “in the next few years” list because the wood frames had suffered pretty bad moisture damage and developed mold problems. I had cleaned/treated the mold but aesthetically the damage remained and they needed to be painted, something we’d have to maintain. We had also planned to one day enlarge the road side windows, which were very small and four different sizes, and if we were committing to the siding it made sense to commit to enlarging the windows now as well.
We started to get quotes for windows and had two local companies come out. Our roofing guy asked what we were looking for with windows and he submitted a quote as well. He was way under the other two quotes. The windows were manufacturers in Toronto, and he sent us to a house he was doing to see them in person. At the time, the government was offering a rebate on windows ($500 per opening) but businesses needed to register/jump through hoops, which cost them money. So really what was happening was that (some) companies had just increased their prices, but then people could get money back from the rebate. The company we hired didn’t bother with that, their prices were just lower up front. Allen explained that he’d had issues before with local companies not delivering on time, which held up an entire project. I figured we were getting such a good deal on windows because he’d rather be in control of the whole project so that it went smoothly, and that maybe his mark up on windows was small but it ensured the rest of the renovation, his bread and butter, went as planned.
We finally signed a contract with ABC to have our roof, siding, windows, soffit and fascia, and exterior insulation replaced. Before committing to anything, we asked if getting the work done in a six week window end of July/beginning of August was possible and we were told no problem. The job would only take two weeks, so it was a generous window of time. Hubby and I had already booked a six week summer vacation during that window, which meant that we could be here to wrangle dogs and whatnot. As an added bonus, the bunkie bathroom was available for us to use while they were working on the house which was great because once the bigger windows went in and they started siding we knew it would be awkward to use the bathroom with someone hanging out on a ladder right outside the gaping hole where our window has been. I also leveraged the new house exterior to land some great sponsored posts with some fabulous companies and had a ton of landscaping/patio decor content lined up for the fall.
The window to do this work started to close, with no updates. Allen kept dodging our calls and muttering about delays until he finally showed up at the end of the six week window and we saw our copper metal roof in person! Yay! It was such an exciting day.
ABC tore apart our house, put on most of the roof, and then a few days later Allen told us that the windows weren’t ready. They were at the painters and due to be delivered soon. The roof was done – except for some missing pieces – but the rest of the house was left was left in tatters and work stopped.
Two weeks passed and something didn’t feel right. My spidey senses were tingling. Because Allen had recently gotten married, I got suspicious that maybe our windows were in, but he was secretly honeymooning. Unsatisfied with the answers we got about timelines, we called the manufacturer directly. We found out that not only had he ordered the windows from some random middle man, the order for our windows had JUST been placed. So they were still approximately two months away from getting delivered.
At this point, I was really irritated but there was nothing to do but wait. Meanwhile the house was totally exposed. Rain blew into our attic because we didn’t have soffit and fascia in many places, which caused water damage that seeped into the popcorn ceiling above the fireplace. The squirrels had free range and hid nuts everywhere. At one point, the wind tore down the remaining soffit and send it flying and another chunk in the carport came whooshing down, hanging by a shard of metal whipping around. The force pulled the soffit light out which came crashing down, shattering glass everywhere. Worried about puppy paws, we took pieces of tape and used it to picked up every minuscule shard of glass from the car port. I’m just happy no one was hurt or injured, and no property damage occurred. At this point the capping on the roof was still missing and Allen started sniffing around for a final roof payment. He was a little put out when I asked him to first FINISH THE ROOF, clean up the garbage they’d left in heaps on the property, and secure the hazardous soffit.
The house and yard were a mess for so many months. I couldn’t park my vehicle in the carport like I normally do because they had set up shop there and just left the scaffolding and tools.
The windows held up everything and no other work continued – although I did question why the work couldn’t continue on the ends of the house. The did remove the remaining pieces of soffit, so the house was much safer. Tyvec wrap temporarily installed to cover the attic opening (thank you!) but it was forgotten in place and it makes a buffeting sound in the wind. The dogs bark each and every time to alert us. We really need to crawl into the attic and remove it, but neither of us is excited about that because our attic is awful.
During this lull in the work, they were kind enough to install our sliding patio doors (and even help us troubleshoot the problems). It was a good thing that they did, because it was at that point everyone realized that the way the windows/doors were installed, it would be near impossible to replace them and keep the stone facade. I had originally wanted the stone removed but was told by Allen it wasn’t a good idea (could cause damage to remove it, etc) so my Mom and I painstakingly painted it. Now it had to be torn off. Ugh.
I had held off on staining the deck until the work was completed (knowing they’d probably scuff or damage it with scaffolding etc – it would be unavoidable), so now I was in this holding pattern trying to time it between work being done and the endless rain we had in the fall before the snow set in. I ended up having to stain the deck when it was hovering above freezing and miserably cold (luckily no snow). And then it got kind of trashed anyway, but at least the tiny peek I see through the snow is black and not faded grey!
I was so, so annoyed during this time because the exterior renovation was holding up my own projects and just really interrupted daily life. I also lost income because I had to back out of a lot of brand collaborations because the house exterior wasn’t done. With the soffit gone and the window installation about to happen any day, my interior photography was also ruined so I had to turn down a lot of holiday themed posts because I couldn’t guarantee my home would be picture-ready. This is a problem unique to anyone who uses their home as a business, but it was kind of heartbreaking to have my finances messed with. Anyone who has a home based business would be frustrated by this! On the bright side, I was kind of happy that we could just do siding all around. I tried to focus on the happy accidents.
The windows finally arrived! Allen and his team went to pick them up but he was so disorganized that he didn’t know what window sizes we had ordered and so he had a “melt down” (in his words) at the shipping warehouse. The bigger windows with awnings on the bottom weren’t one big window, they came shipped in pieces (weird), so he didn’t immediately recognize them as mine. Because of the time his melt down took, he ended up leaving two lakeside windows behind for the weekend. Of course they got jammed with a forklift and the frames were destroyed, then he admitted the other two lakeside windows had arrived fixed when they should have been awning style (they were also a smidge too big, so he had to cut the window openings bigger which made a massive mess in the kitchen and wrecked my paneled walls). The privacy glass on the road side windows was also the incorrect type. At least some windows were in good shape and the roadside enlargement process could be done!
He subcontracted another company/guy/handyman (?) to help. He and the guys working for ABC argued over how to install the windows, which took days and made a massive mess. I expected the mess, but had planned it for our summer break. When the windows actually did get installed, I was smack in the middle of the bunkie bathroom renovation with Lowe’s. One day I needed a part but could only buy it in Duluth, MN – a three hour drive away. I couldn’t leave while they were working on the windows, so I waited until their work day was done. I hopped in the truck at 6pm, made it to the hardware store just before they closed, turned around and then had to drive three hours home but I was so exhausted it took me closer to five hours. All these little things bugged me because I had specifically not wanted the house exterior reno happening with the bathroom was happening. Plus, because we were renovating the bunkie and they were working on both bathroom windows at the same time, we didn’t have a bathroom we could use in private.
When the work was done I realized they had installed MDF jams, when I had ordered and paid for vinyl. I specifically said that I didn’t want any painted jambs (we had painted pine and the dogs scratched them). I was told custom vinyl from the manufacturer was a choice and it would fit into the design of the windows seamlessly. Instead, I got cheap MDF which just fit roughly around the windows and stuck out so badly, we had to shim the walls like crazy to even get the trim to fit. Some were so bad we had to try and cut the excess off. They offered to drywall, I think as a consolation, but it wasn’t done well and the guy used two different kinds of mud and then at the last minute whammed me with the sanding. It took an entire day to sand his poorly done mudding job and the walls still have some lumps and bumps.
At least the siding and soffit/fasica could start on some sides of the house, and those poor guys worked for weeks in the freezing cold. Some days it was so bitterly cold and windy that they drove an hour out to the house and turned right around and left.
Slowly but surely the siding was done on the three sides of the house and the replacement frames for the lakeside windows arrived. They switched the window inserts into the new frames and got to work installing them – only to make a giant hole (on the inside, facing the living room) in one during installation. Allen insisted on repairing it and I insisted on replacing it but he refused to order a new one. More weeks passed and the lake side siding started to go up.
Finally he came by for a look and decided that, yeah, it wasn’t fixable (no shit Sherlock). But by now the window jambs and siding and trim had been installed, meaning that all of that would probably need to be uninstalled to re-do the window. Plus winter had set in and they were winding down for the season. At this point, we have to wait until spring to have that replaced because he delayed ordering it. In the meantime the living room looks a little unfinished because I figure it’s a waste to fill holes, caulk and paint the wall if they’re just going to undo some of that to replace the middle window. At least it’s mostly done! Honestly, there were times during this process where I worried he’d just ditch us. I had no reason to think this (I said from the beginning he seemed honest) but I did worry because you read about contractors taking a payment and then just disappearing.
Having the work done in the snow was nutty and something I’d never choose. The crew tried to keep the area clean but I picked up dozens of screws a day, which would get embedded vertically in the ice if I didn’t work quickly enough. It was impossible to find all of the metal shards after a light dusting of snow. I worked tirelessly to keep the icy yard as safe as possible for the crew, and it was so stressful because I really worried about someone getting hurt – remember how I had to drive the tiler we hired to emergency when we renovated the bathroom? At least now I have a green light on the truck as a first responder/volunteer firefighter so vehicles will move over! But still, I worried about a bad slip and fall. Work wrapped up without any more drama at the beginning of December, with a few loose ends, like some caulking, some vents, some window problems (like the damaged frame, a damaged screen, some damaged levers, the incorrect privacy glass) still to tackle. There’s also some spray foam that won’t come clean from the window exterior and a weird kind of haze on some windows that I can’t get clean – it’s like the wrapped plastic left a mark? These things are still on the “please do before I pay you” list.
Before the windows could even get finished, one broke! Late at night during our recent cold spell, we were startled by a loud POP. The office window had cracked end to end in a perfect arc shape, splitting the glass in two. The window manufacturer and installer have decided to split the cost because until it’s removed, they cannot determine if it’s a glazing problem or installation issue. In any case, it won’t get replaced until spring and I am a little on edge whenever I hear the house groan and settle. I really hope we don’t have problems with these windows for years to come. Neighbors across the bay are still embroiled in a lawsuit with their house builder. I really just want things to go smoothly from now on.
Despite all of these problems, we are both very happy we decided to update the house exterior. The copper roof is gorgeous and it would have looked so sad with our old siding and windows. The new siding looks modern and having the SAME SIDING on all four sides of the house is total luxury. Everyone we know says our house looks so good and that the metal siding/roof were practical choices, so I think it will be good for resale – just in case. The inside of the house feels revived too because the new windows let in so much more light! Plus it turned out the house had not been properly sealed when it was built, so we actually had some major leaking around some windows. The lakeside was so bad that the wood framing was totally rotten – one major gust of wind and the old windows might have come crashing into the house. I actually did notice the glass really wobbled in the wind, now I know it was because the whole window was loosely sitting in some rotting wood.
I just wish we hadn’t encountered so many problems. I’m trying to think of a take away, what kernel of advice can we give? My best advice is to stay calm during setbacks like this. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and lose your cool when things don’t work out as planned. I was always polite and patient, although I did take matters into my own hands to find out what was holding up the project. People are less inclined to help you if you’re a jerk, so even when I was really irritated I was always kind and considerate – to both the owner and the workers. If I had a complaint, I was calm and factual. For the crew on site, I made smoothies when it was hot out, coffees when it was cold and, even though no one took me up on it, offered to make lunch and let them warm up inside. I made sure to keep the icy areas safe by putting down turkey grit for traction. I think the guys doing the work in freezing temperatures appreciated these things because they did little extras, like install the lights for us. They really tried to make up for the delays. I kept a rough timeline of the work, but I wish I had taken better notes of every conversation, every point in the timeline so if you’re having a big project done, keep notes and try to discuss as much by email or text as possible to have a paper trail – that saved me money because I wasn’t on the hook for some of the items that were ordered incorrectly.
If I could do it again, I think I might have waited a year. If we hadn’t made these decisions so last minute, we could have planned to have the renovation start in the spring and then, even with months of delay, we wouldn’t have pushed this renovation into the winter. But we started this renovation by just wanting a new roof which, of all of this drama, really only took a few days. And who knows? If we had waited a year, it might have had disastrous results with the secret leaking and aging roof.
I’ll keep you posted on the window solution, meanwhile I’m finally going to be sharing before/after photos of the roof, the windows and the siding – these photos were just a teaser. It’s not done-done but it’s done enough, so you’ll get to see the dramatic difference new windows made and see the progress develop for each project.
But now you know the “window drama” and why everything was delayed.