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.