Many days over the past week have been cool and rainy, often with wind. The dark skies have been gloomy, reflecting my mood as I seek estimates for the remaining work on the house.
My builder, Nick, broke his contract and never completed the work he was paid for in June 2017. When he left in the fall of 2017, he promised to return in May, 2018. In May he wrote angrily that he “had to make money” and would return in August. In August he returned for a few days, had me order $800 worth of brick for the chimney, and then never came back. He wrote in October that he would re-pay the money he owed (in reality, less than half the real total). He made a first payment but then… silence. Finally in January 2019 I sent him a registered letter, asking him politely to send the promised payments so we could end his contract on a reasonable note. He responded with an emailed bill to me for $7500, claiming we should pay for all the time he “wasted” having to work around us (because he missed his finish date by many months, a responsibility he has never acknowledged). He sent a post-script: “Non-payment of invoice after 30 days will result in 5% interest charge for unpaid balance.”
I was shocked at a deep, deep level. This dishonesty came on the heels of multiple other blows falling last winter until it seemed there was not an honorable person left in the world. I fell sick with bronchitis and didn’t shake it for eight weeks. My friend Tom died, another disorienting shock. There was a beautiful goodbye party for my husband’s retirement. It felt like everything was ending.
A few weeks ago I finally consulted a lawyer. She told me that I could take Nick to court, and I would win. “But all you would win would be a judgment, a piece of paper saying he cheated you and owes you money. You already know that.” It wasn’t fair, she agreed, but she advised me to move on.
I have been trying. A first job is to make a list of all the unfinished work. My distress is so great, I have told myself I will make the punch list room by room, only trying to write out details for one room a day. I hired a plumber to install the long-promised hose spigots in the basement. This week I have had a team here to measure the exterior for a painting estimate. Yesterday I toured an interior painter. (It is likely that I will have to do the latter myself.) I am calling to find someone to install the cookstove insulated pipe through the chimney stack. I have made inquiries to masons for the chimney brickwork. I am looking for a roofer to fix the leaking porch flashing. I have investigated how to build porch stairs and will build them. I am going to research the screen porch materials Nick left in a heap last August and I will build that, too.
It’s all manageable, and I will manage. But it has been gloomy as the various contractors shake their heads and talk about big dollars. I have not been sleeping. Tired and blue, it’s been hard to stay motivated.
The dark skies have not been helping my mood but it has been a happy time for the cows. Cold and drizzle! Wind and rain! No bugs — how nice!
I am trying to think like a cow.