Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The curse of crappy electricians and contractors in South Africa - Be warned!

Quite a while ago we renovated our house at a great cost. The mental anguish and trauma we had to endure plus the major financial raping session, is something we won't be getting over in this lifetime. Never again will I make use of a so called "contractor" unless he is someone that can show me a major list of recommendation and referrals from happy customers - (and even then, I admit, I am going to be scared as hell).

It all started when we decided to add a gym section onto our house so that we wouldn't have to endure the local gym's smells of sweaty armpits and sweaty balls. It seemed like a simple enough plan. Only one room had to be built on, on the side of our bedroom. While we were at it, we decided to have an extra wall built, splitting our overly huge bedroom into a walk-in-closet and smaller main bedroom.

All in all the whole plan included the building of five walls (of which only four would need a foundation, ceiling woodwork/structure, ceiling board and roof tiles), the removal of one window and the addition of two doors and a window. Sounds simple enough, right? WRONG!

What should have been a fairly straightforward, simple renovation turned into weeks and weeks of hell, as well as a feat that almost financially ruined us! I should've learnt my lesson from past renovations, but no. Once bitten should've been twice shy, however it seems I had to not only hit my head before I learnt my lesson, I practically needed to have it cut off at the neck!

See, the shit started from week one. We gave the guy (who calls himself a "contractor") the percentage of the money as agreed upon beforehand, so that he could buy all the materials needed. Surprise, surprise when he came back to us a week later, informing us that he "misjudged" himself in his quotation and that he would need more of the total money agreed upon for the job, so that he could "finish buying" all he needed.

Naturally we were a bit peeved, but what could we do? The so called law works in such a way, that if we tried to kick this guy to the curb, and then sue him for our money back, we would land up not receiving a dry cent out of the whole fiasco. Also, we would most likely land up being held liable for paying HIS legal costs as well in the end of the day, -even if we "won" the so called case (we learnt this in a previous experience with a renter that ruined our house and left outstanding municipal debts on the property - long story, will do a separate posting about this).

The law is definitely not on the side of the victim!

So, deciding we were in this thing now one way or another till the bitter end, we bit our top lips and gave him what he asked for. Guess what happened next? This scene played out almost every single week since then! The guy kept needing more and more of the money. Eventually all the agreed upon monies were paid to him and we were only halfway with the building job! I had half walls, no doors, no windows, nada.

Yet again, what could we do? We sought legal advice at this point and as we suspected, it would work us out much cheaper just trying to get the job done, than it would trying to sue the jerk or sending him packing. The law was on his side! As mentioned above, the law seems to be on the side of the criminals in this backward, banana republic of ours.

Fine, we kept smiling and playing nice. Eventually we were begging the ass to try and build a bit faster, as our bedroom was now open and exposed to the elements of nature (with little more than black bags covering the huge hole in the side of it).

Then came even more excuses. They started building even slower and leaving earlier and earlier every day. This went on for what felt like forever! At some point hubby and I were even helping the ass! Our agony went on for ages and the leech just kept smiling all the way to the bank, doing just as he pleased in the process with the knowledge that we could do absolutely "sweet blou fokkol" to him.

In the end our room had been painted in cheap OUTDOOR, rough as hell paint. We also had a cheap pressed wood door leading into the walk in cupboard, and a second hand window graced the newly build gym. As if all that wasn't enough, the rubber floor tiles installed in the gym were bubbling up and lifting at the interlocked joints, and the gyms ceiling was skew! However we were just glad the oxygen thief was finished! We bid him farewell, almost three months later than expected and at double the cost. -On and interesting added note, the fuck-up never even offered to fix his numerous mistakes and we never saw him, or heard from him ever again.

Alas though, this was not the end of it all! We landed up needing to rip out the rubber floors and installing a wall to wall carpet (which was done horrifically skew and which is now also lifting), in the gym, due to the way the rubber floors were lifting.

A few months after the job was "completed" (-and I use that term very loosely), all the walls started cracking and pulling away from each other in/at the corners (because they weren't joined together properly) and a doorway that was built closed, started opening up again because the walls were cracking at the seams of where they were added to the existing opening/walls.

Then, a few more months down the line, the laminate wood flooring piece he installed in our room, started cracking and lifting up too. The list of problems and errors goes on and on. Absolutely nothing and I really mean NOTHING this guy did was done properly! I don't know how the hell he can be registered as a contractor (in fact I am starting to think that is something he might have faked).

Now, for the electrical part of things. A month after the guy finished, the electrical wiring in the room burnt out, so we had to have all the wires cut. I now have a gym and walk-in without any working plugs. We have since had a local electrician come out to check things out, however when he learnt that hubby and I are claustrophobic and therefore won't ever climb up into the ceiling, the alcohol-on- his-breath-wash-out claimed we would have to rewire over 90% of the house because all the electrical (of the whole house according to him) had been messed up. He was very rude and half crapped us out, telling us we HAVE to do it through him and we have to do it now!

He charged us R2000 just to climb into the ceiling that day, so there was no way I would trust this guy (since in the first instance, how the hell can one room's electrical addition gone wrong, fuck up a whole houses wiring?), without getting a second or even maybe a third and fourth opinion on the matter (as no one can be trusted this day and age - everyone is just out for M O N E Y).

We have since phoned numerous electricians and to this day not one has rocked up! 

Now recently, we have come to learn that all the ceiling wood work done by the "contractor" was done incorrectly and therefore our roof tiles would leak forever as they would never slant correctly. We were naturally advised by a roofing company to redo the whole section of roof. Lol, I must add that the same roofing company advised us to take off the whole houses roof tiles and have them re-laid, since according to them, all our roof's tiles were laid wrong! Boy, I had no idea my "whole house was such a mess".

Therefore people my advice to you is to really learn something out of all this. I am not the only one who has had horrifying experiences. Unless you feel like being hundreds of thousands of rands' poorer, never ever have any work done on your house, UNLESS you are 150% sure about the legitimacy of the guy you are getting, and even then, demand at least 50 references from people he completed jobs for.

Finding someone like that (as described in the paragraph above) is going to be extremely difficult to find in this country of ours, so good luck to you. Also, be wary of all plumbers, electricians, roofers, et cetera et cetera. Especially if you live in an upper class neighbourhood! Then you are seen as an endless fountain of money, even though they have no clue how the real world works.

They will see you as someone who basically just has to push a piece of plastic into any ATM and endless supplies of cash will come pouring out.

So people, when the urge to renovate bites you, have a stiff drink or two, advertise your house privately (since many estate agents make a fortune off of you for not doing much), sell it and rather buy one that suits your needs better. Lord knows that although selling and moving is a lot of work, it is definitely better than trying to renovate in good ol' SA. - Just be careful of who does your electrical certifications before the sale ;-)


PLEASE NOTE: Some electricians and contractors are fair, honest and deliver good work. This posting is not aimed at ALL electricians and contractors, so please read it as it was intended. 


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