We hired Norseman in the summer of 2019 to demolish and rebuild the kitchen at the back of our house, to modernize and widen the structure. It was to be a three-month project. It took 13 months for them to complete the work, and an additional 12 months to close-off open defects.
We discovered quality issues with virtually every task and phase of the project. Plumbing installed in the wrong location. Electrical circuits that failed. Unnecessary framing, which reduced the size of the kitchen (an error which we wound up having to pay Norseman to correct). Needlessly obstructive bulkhead framing in the basement. Incorrectly installed bathroom shower floor tiles. Incorrectly connected vents. A crooked heat register. Missing baseboards. Improperly installed custom exterior windows and doors (none of them were properly anchored to framing, and could have literally fallen-out). Gaps in the insulation (which were not discovered until after all the work was done; as a consequence, our kitchen is and will always be cold and drafty.) Exterior Hardie-board panelling that was installed incorrectly and smeared with adhesive. Drywall that was installed over top of light-fixture boxes, covering them completely (twice). A deck that was not square or structurally sound, and then was rebuilt using the same, now-splintered lumber (Me: “would you want a deck that looked like this in YOUR backyard?” Norseman COO: “That’s not relevant.”) A gate that would not latch. An interior door that would not close. Missing or incorrectly installed roof flashing (later, the roof leaked, in two separate places).
Every single one of the above problems with the quality of trades work was discovered by us, the client, and not their project manager, whose job it is to supervise the work. Then we had the task of hounding Norseman to get their people back onsite to fix the issues. Often this took numerous phone calls and text messages, sometimes to several people at Norseman. There was a constant problem getting them to communicate: answer emails and phone calls or update us on the status of the job or the progress in addressing defects we had found.
On several occasions we discovered that workers had helped themselves to our tools and supplies, stored in other parts of the house: a space heater, a ladder (many times, which wound up getting splattered with paint), a hammer (which never reappeared), painting supplies. We also had a constant battle with Norseman workers to not park or leave equipment in neighbours’ parking spots, and to clean up debris left in neighbouring public spaces.
And the structure they built is in the end is several inches narrower than specified in the drawings (they blame the survey.) Remember, the whole point of the project was to widen the kitchen.
We made our final payment to Norseman in September 2020 (we knew there were many open defects, but they threatened to put a lien on our house, so we paid it). Since then, we have found quality issues with insulation, ductwork, electrical/lighting, roofing, plumbing, flashing, window and door installations. It has required numerous calls and constant hounding to get them to fix these defects (a roof leak was blamed on an “unusual” 7-inch snowfall).
We note that, at the start of the project, they were a “Mike Holmes Certified” contractor (this influenced our decision to proceed with them as our general contractor). As of today, there is no longer any mention of Norseman on the Holmes’ website. Emails to Holmes asking why this has changed go unanswered.
The project was originally slated to be completed in three months. It wound up taking 13 months. Of this time delay, two months is explainable due to agreed and necessary scope changes, and one month due to a temporary shutdown due to COVID. The rest was pure schedule slippage.
During the 13-month duration of the job we found that, on FOURTEEN (!!) separate occasions, at the end of the day, the workers had left our home not secured: doors unlocked, locks missing, gates wide open. Note we had personal possessions stored in other parts of the house, and Norseman contractors effectively left the house in a state where anyone could literally walk in off the street and help themselves to our stuff. More worrisome, from time to time our young-adult children needed to have to access the house to retrieve items. An intruder could have been hiding in the house – a serious security concern.
At the start of the COVID pandemic, the job was shut down. After a month, we received an email from the president of Norseman saying that they would start the job back up if we paid them a “COVID Management Fee” of $3500. This was supposedly to cover for the fact that our project manager would only be working on our job and no others, that trades would only work onsite individually rather than as a group, that materials would no longer be delivered to the site by suppliers, and also some mysterious “incremental vehicle insurance costs”. If we would not agree to pay the fee, we were told they would just proceed with competing the work of another client, and our job would wait until they could complete the job “economically”. (They knew we were renting an apartment in the neighbourhood at the time and knew they had us over a barrel.) After much arguing we agreed to pay half of this fee up front and half after a month; this was the only way we could get them to start up the job again. It immediately became clear that our project manager was in fact working on multiple jobs, that trades were perfectly willing and able to work onsite as groups, and that suppliers were indeed still delivering materials – some were even waiving their usual delivery fee. To their credit, Norseman did not have the nerve to ask for the second half of this “fee.”
To add insult to injury, they have posted highly misleading “before” and “after” photos on their social media sites, without our permission, and have refused to take them down.
We have over two years’ experience dealing with Norseman Construction and Development on this three-month project, and have dealt with five different company representatives, including the president and owner. The funny thing is, aside from the fact that it is narrower than per drawings and is drafty in winter, we are quite happy with the addition. But our experience with Norseman was so bad that we would not recommend them to our worst enemy. The fact that our extension is satisfactory has nothing to do with any “excellence” in construction project management and customer service on the part of Norseman staff; it is purely a consequence of us checking on their work on a near-daily basis (with drawings, tape measure, and spirit level in hand) throughout the project and hounding them (sometimes for months) to fix defects.
- Company Response
We apologize for any misunderstandings on your renovation. However, if you are going to write a statement to cause harm, we feel that the actual events and trials that created your animosity should be transparently elaborated. So, that real judgement can be established.
We started working on your home at the end of August 2019 and the project started as a full rear addition constructed on piers. However, the scope of work expanded to a basement renovation including an underpin with a complete annex of the primary drawings. Not only did an addition of services extend the time frame, but we were also working next to an uncooperative neighbour on a semi-detached home with zoning issues and inaccurate survey of which the drawings were assembled from.
The project was stated to be 3 months for "substantial performance" NOT completion, as completion would have been in 6 months. However, we do not charge for the management of the completion period. So, our contract reflects the period that we bill for, knowing that 3 months (as in 90 days) are set for substantial completion prior to work being officially completed (this is a Norseman Construction benefit; it helps keep costs down).
The extended work required a full permit revision with new drawings and a new permit to compensate for this extended period. It also required a full rework of how your project was to be assembled and completed.
This extended your project after demolition had already started by 3 months and into Christmas and this was just to catch up on where we were to be two weeks into the initial project.
On Fri March 20, 2020, at 9:51PM we alerted all active clients that we were shutting down for an undetermined period and that under section 6.5 of our contracts we would wait for further instructions. We updated all our clients as we navigated through the initial COVID-19 panic; this was followed by very detailed updates to our continued temporary closure for 3 months.
On Sat April 11, 2020, at 1:23PM we alerted all of our active clients about the continued shut down and once again about a month later, May 13, 2020, at 2:32PM alerting all active clients and trades that we would be making a slow re-entry back to work.
Unfortunately, some of our trades did not make the time crunch and their businesses did not make it through the impact of the pandemic. However, we did not give up and we did not abandon our clients, and though it was a tough road we looked for new trades to finish the renovations. While we admit that there were some problems reassembling projects with new trade groups and with new people on site, the work did get completed and they did pass all inspections.
All the work we completed was following the code and had passed all government issued inspections. Your project had some zoning issues which were caught on site and unfortunately the drawings did not reflect the actual sizes. Therefore, the project was further lengthened due to the structural issues to the existing structure that led to a plan revision. In addition, you had increased the scope of the work by including a basement extension and renovation. This in turn lengthened the project timeline and increased the budget of which you were further unhappy by the situation, and it is evident in this reaction.
The pandemic hit hard in March 2020 and as mentioned, we temporarily shut down to protect our staff and our clients. We did not open until the end of May 2020 and even then, it was a slow restart as we wanted to ensure the safety of our staff and our clients. As mentioned, this was tough and for some of the clients who lost their jobs during this time which led to more trying times. However, we worked together hand in hand to complete the projects during this tough time.
The initial start of your project was August 21, 2019, however, on September 11, 2019, your project was deemed unfit to be completed as it was intended. Engineers, architects and designers had to create and redesign new drawings, the draft was completed on Oct 23, 2019.
The CWO accepted the new drawings on November 4, 2019. This increased the project timeline increased in work by approximately 3 months due to additional items added to the project.
On November 18, 2019, the property required an underpin to continue after excavation; inspection and revision was required by the city to proceed.
By November 27, 2019, the new set of drawings had been approved, the trades were booked, and everything was ready to restart up again.
On December 11, 2019, the underpin started, 7 days later, on December 18, 2019, the underpin completed.
On December 23, 2019, the footings were completed, and we were awaiting the survey to verify the points.
Between the dates of December 23, 2019, to January 2, 2020, we were closed for Christmas.
At this point, the project is now being held during winter and as a result, to acquire and build the required additional material was slowed due to poor weather (snowy conditions and below 0 temperatures).
The project continued on schedule until the COVID-19 pandemic, and we faced a temporary closure which lasted from the lockdown between March 20, 2020 to May 13 2020. The project starts up. It was a slow restart as we wanted to ensure the safety of our staff and our clients, which continued until September 2020. We would have a 90 day hold back to add to this amount of time after completion. Then we would validate the entire warranty period and repair any outstanding deficiencies for the entire length of time allotted to this project.
During the of COVID-19 pandemic we were forced to shut down and none of our staff were working at this time, while many of our clients were renting due to the ongoing renovations to their home. We understood greatly that they were in a hard spot and so some of our project managers selflessly offered to work independently from us to finish the job and we offered this option to some clients who we knew were in a hard spot.
Once we were back up and running and our project managers were back on salary, we did not charge our clients the remainder.
We, at Norseman Construction, stood by our clients during such a difficult time in our company's history.
We use the photos of our completed projects as a strong and positive testament to the various trades and to the people who worked on them through these difficult times. Some of these renovations turned out to be one of the nicest looking projects and we took pictures to show our pride and perseverance through adversity.
We have a deep sympathy for your personal and difficult strife while this renovation was ongoing, and the construction expansive issues, which you requested, that caused delays and further financial burdens on your life as this project continued. We apologize sincerely for the negative impacts the pandemic has on you as well as the issues it caused you while this renovation continued.
However, we feel that although you might not like the way things went. As you have mentioned the result (in which we will differ on whose accomplishments merit the praise) turned out to be a great project and although you intend harm in this review of our relationship during this project. We wish you nothing but the best in the future and we congratulate you on finding employment.