oops.

Mistakes happen. Most of us do what we can to prevent them — but they happen. As any self-help, leadership or children’s book will tell you, the best thing you an do is learn from them and figure out how to keep them from happening again.

We’ve only had a couple of mistakes so far in rebuilding this house. <knocks on wood> Two were preventable and could have been easily avoided with better communication. The other would have required a dog whisperer or a bigger bladder.

All of them cost money.

When I was 13 and our family moved from southern California to the DFW area in Texas, a new custom-built home helped to take the edge off the culture shock. We got to pick out every detail, from the Laura Ashley wallpaper to the crown molding. My sister Kelly, being 4 years older than me, got first dibs on bedrooms. So naturally, she chose the biggest and best room with the large bay window at the front of the house. And just like the plot of a John Hughes movie, I declared it unfair.

grapevinehouse

The Grapevine house we built in 1985 (photo 2015). The top bay window was Kelly’s room.

My mom had a gift for making things right, though. She took great care to make sure presents were equal at Christmas and that none of us felt slighted or left out. Since this was a custom-built home, the solution was to add a picture window and window seat to my smaller room overlooking the driveway. I felt satisfied.

When we got to town a few weeks before the start of the school year following our cross-country drive, our first stop was to see the progress on the house. It wasn’t ready for us to move in yet (that would take 4 more months!), but we could see the dangling carrot of the new home. We walked around the exterior of the house in the twilight and pointed out each room. There was Kelly’s room, the guest room…but when we got to the driveway, there was no picture window. No room for me! I was crushed.

Of course I didn’t know it in the moment, but there was a room for me, just no window. A builder’s mistake. Eventually it was fixed and a window added, but not quite like we envisioned. These things happen, and if you aren’t onsite to monitor every move, they can happen a lot.

This is what happened two weeks ago when we didn’t monitor the powder room tile installation on our house remodel. Can you spot the difference?

The tile setter installed the Sabine Hill pieces on a diagonal, instead of a normal grid pattern. The design is correct, but the diagonal placement along with black grout (not our choice) turned our bold design pick into a busy distraction. The crusher is that we waited 10 weeks for the tile to arrive from the Dominican Republic and removing the mistake would also mean another delay. Of course, a few more weeks at this point is a rounding error. (I’m just saying that to make myself feel better. It’s not really working.)

Then there’s the roof color mistake. We opted not to replace the entire roof and just do the new and main portion of the roof. The smaller area of roof over the front door was replaced just two years ago and we chose a slightly darker color for it knowing we’d eventually replace the entire roof. So, we asked for the new roof to match the existing.

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See the problem with that communication? We said “match the existing,” but we didn’t clarify which part was existing. It took a few days for us to notice, but the new roof matched the old existing roof that it was replacing, and the front of the house still has the slightly darker shingles. Anyone with OCD will quickly point this out to us.

Two mistakes that could have been averted with better communication and more supervision.

And then there’s the most recent gaffe.

Over the weekend we were focused on other things and neglected to give Rocky any water all day long. By bedtime on Saturday, he was barking and looking for any drop of liquid to quench his thirst. Once we realized what he was upset about we gave him enough water to fill about three bowls. He quickly slurped it all up. Of course we knew he’d need to go out to pee before bed, so we made sure he did his business.

Sunday was Christmas Eve and a travel day. We had to evacuate for the holidays so the floors could be stained and varnished. The sanding was already done and the raw naked floors were ready to be made beautiful. We had the car half-packed to get up early and drive to Lincoln to celebrate Christmas with the Lundak family.

Dan found the very large puddle when he woke up. It wasn’t on the vinyl by the front door. It wasn’t on the finished wood by Rocky’s bed. It wasn’t on the ceramic tile in the new mudroom. It was on the raw, naked, sanded, new wood by the back door. Dan soaked it up as best he could. A minor annoyance in the process of getting out of town.

Then two days later we get this text from our GC…

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The floors were cupping and the acid had discolored the wood. The three bowls of water turned into replacing all the wood in the stained area, re-sanding and then starting the staining process (that’s dripping with irony) all over again.

At this point, all that matters to us is that we get back into our house on Sunday, New Year’s Eve, and can stop being nomads.

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” Oscar Wilde

The lesson here? We’re human. We make mistakes. It might mean a little delay or a little more cost, but that’s just the price of gaining experience.

And better communication — with humans and dogs — could definitely help.

2 Comments

  1. I know that feeling, Molly! Luckily, I’ve caught more than one tiling error before the grout dried! But we’ve had other remodeling errors that we’ve just learned to live with. The exterior of your house looks great!

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  2. On the night we inspected the DFW house, your bedroom window was the least of my concerns! The contractor had maliciously over estimated the state of completion by phone to me. Your mom was so upset that a few months later I found her bawling on the bathroom floor in anguish.
    BTW, your room had a window, just not the bay window we had promised. But it ended up having a lovely window seat, and how about the hot water hook up in the powder room toilet! Love Dad

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