Stair trims, whose responsibility is it?

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Posted by: from Richmond Hill
10/3/2012 at 1:11:46 PM

Hello all,

I have been doing renovations for over 11 years. In my experience, new stair installation does not involve all the trims. I recently re-did some existing stairs. The client did not want to use my company to do all the trim work in the house.

My contract states what is being done to the stairs and railing but does not state anything about trim work (shoemold under the nosing, burlap under the stairs where the drywall meets the stringer, shoemold at the bottom of the last step, etc.). Since he feels that all the trims are my responsibility and not the trim crew that he hired, I am not being paid for my work.

Before I get legal and take him to court, does any professional out there feel that I am right and if not why? Has anyone run into this problem in the past?

I usually do not have problems but I think its just another case of a client wanting Champagne for beer prices.

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 2:14:00 PM

When I have quoted stairs as part of an over all renovation, or just part of it. I include all moldings associated with the stairs themselfs in the quote. And they are listed in work to be done.

Having said that, if your quote was specific and listed in detail what was to be included and excluded, then take the client to court. Or lien the property.

But if you were not clear, bite the bullet and do it. And learn from the situation.

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 2:20:58 PM

If it is not specified in the contract or any email from you to the client, then it may be an issue in disupte.

Try contacting the trim crew to see if their contract stipulates the stair trim. If not, if the cost of buying and installing the trim is less than lets say $2000, I wouldn't suggest going through the hassle involved with Small Claims.

I know, often people will say its the principle that counts, but just consider the amount of time and disruption from your work it will take.

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 2:24:10 PM

If the client will pay you for your work after the trim is installed. I would suggest that you do it. Better to lose a few dollars rather than start metals as this will cost significantly more than a few feet of trim. If the client does pay you after the you immediarely after you finish. Then put a lien on their house.

Wrong or right is not the issue. Next time be very clear in tour estimate that trim is excluded or just include itfIe every job. Less headaches.

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 2:38:10 PM

Hi there,

As a contractor I see the last step and the bullnose trim as part of the stair unit but the trim above the skirts as extra as they must interact to rest of the baseboards thus not part of the package.

Good luck.

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 3:27:44 PM

Good morning to you,

I a very sorry about this situation you are in. As Interior Designer, I saw very often this type of situation between contractor and client and usualy get between them.

What usually happen:

1- Contractor not specific on the job to be done in their contract. A-B-C-D very well set for the client understanding.

2- Client ignorance. When the client think about their stair way, they see it finish, nothing to touch after. They think their project is the most important, what it is true for them and they will usualy fight for their position.

3- It is very hard to fight if it was not specify A-B-C-D and sign by the client.

4- My best suggestion, tell your client to verify around with other supllier, the cost of this type of stair way without those moulding and with those moulding. Always try to keep your client as friend without fight but with understanding. They may like you and even give you other project because you did manage the situation. But do not give your job for free. Just make them understand and do understand also on your side their position.

If you have any question, feel free to contact me.

Lison Ouellette

Interior Designer

L.O. Interior Design and Management Inc

O 604.877.1255 M 604.657.8184

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James from Coey Stairs in Milton
Date/Time10/3/2012 at 3:32:50 PM

We manufacture and install new stairs and railings and as part of the info I give customers I am sure to mention to them that trimming the stairs in not included in the quote. I follow with we can do it but it would be more cost affective to have trim carpenters do it.

When I send quote It is stated that trim is not included!

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 3:45:37 PM

You said: "...Since he feels that all the trims are my responsibility and not the trim crew that he hired, I am not being paid for my work..." Does it mean he won't pay you ANY money at all before it is completely done?

In case you were not clear enough in your quote then he should pay you at least the amount minus the money he would need to hire another "trim-guy" to do the Trimwork. (Presumed your already performed work is done professionally.) So your client would not spend more money he thought in the first place by getting the work done. If this is the case, you can discuss the rest work/money with your client and

mayby you should go with the already given advices.

But If he is not willing to pay at least for the work you have done already, I would be careful to do any more work because there is a good chance you won't see any money either. Because these could be the the kind of clients they want to have champagne for free. ☺

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 4:22:56 PM

This comes down to you not clarifying what you quoted for. You have to remember that clients have you do the work because they can't, or don't know what's involved. If he stairs are a spec feature and designed with a wood different from the rest of the house/trim, then you should include any and all stair trim in the quote, however if the trim throughout the house is say a common primed wood trim finishing the stairs than I would say this should be included in the other guy price.

What you have to do is say to the client that this was simply overlooked/not discussed (on both your parts)and that you can do this work but it has to be cost plus because (bottom line) if you have not done the work, he has not been yet charged for it. Renos are a stressful time for home owners and unfortunately it's situations like this that home owners feel they can dump all their frustrations on you.

If you can try to toss him a price to finish, you'll save you rep a ill, and it'll prolly cost more to go to court than to finish the job.

Hope this helps.

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Date/Time10/3/2012 at 5:02:46 PM


I am not sure where to start. Another case where the contract states what work and material is part of the work but the owner is now asking that other work like the trim which in your case was not included. It seems like the company that did the other trim work did not include the trim work of the stairs and is telling the owner that the company who installed the stairs should do the trim work for the stairs. I feel he either did not priced it originally or his pricing for the trim work is too tight, or he does not want to come back and do it or he is losing money if he does the stair trim. I am not sure by your explanation whether the owner is willing to pay for the portion of the stairs minus the trim costs or is he refusing to pay for the compete stair project?

My advice is to stay away from court. No one wins except the lawyers. And also that you must keep paying until you are in court and then the decision is in the Judges hands. Remember there is no right or wrong just how the judge will interpret the explaination from both sides.

To save time and money I would suggest to work out a payment or some type of settlement like. You may not be happy with the amount but I also think that you will not be happy with the final amount if you decide to go to court and place the decision in a judge's hand.

Bottom line advice from me is to stay away from court and lawyers whenever possible. Settle as amicably as possible. Remember if this works out there maybe other work in the future from him or he may even give a friend or relative your name as a reference for a future project.

Try to turn this situation into a positive or as best a situation possible although you may not be completely satisfied as court is not pleasant and not cheap. Yes lawyers want to be paid.

By the way it is the same today as it was 30 or more years ago as the client wants champagne and work fit for a King or Queen on a beer budget and not beer prices (which may not be bad) but for pennies or even less than that.

Remember the key is to inform the customer that although it was not included and there maybe a misunderstanding and that you are willing to install the trim but that you would like to have full payment either prior to starting the trim work or upon completion of the trim.

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Erroll from MVP Construction in Surrey
Date/Time10/3/2012 at 11:58:17 PM

If your contract states what is being done to the stairs and railing but dosn,t state anything about

trim work than re-show your client the contract and work it out.. If your price was fair than you should have no problem substanciated your claim.

There is a lot of dirty contractors out there these days but there is also alot of rich pigs out there that dont care about the guy that works hard to make a buck. They will feel good about screwing you for a weeks wage for what they make in an hour. It's how they roll.

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Date/Time10/4/2012 at 3:28:06 PM

Hmm, have you talked to his other contractors he has hired?

My experience from a home builder who is trying to do his own general contracting has been interesting.

Often times the homebuildiner realizes that he has overspent their budget, and the finishing stage becomes quite sketchy. In order to see the project thru to the end they will often try to find a way to delay payment or to avoid payment.

Does your gut feel like you are in this situation?

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