In January of 2007, we contacted Senior Project Manager for Stewart Builders, Dave Wentworth to give us a bid on the work we wanted done on our home.
In the first week of February 2007, my husband met with Dave Wentworth to discuss the work required on our home. During the meeting, we learned that two of our other neighbors had hired Stewart Builders, with three others asking for bids. This gave us a false sense of confidence that we had a reputable contractor.
The work on our home would entail mitigation from earthquake damage and remediation from further earthquake damage. It also encompassed some dry rot removal and refinishing interior walls to match existing interior with cedar, washing and removing mold from the exterior, application of fungicide on the entire exterior, installation of hardware straps, installation of James Hardie planks siding over 1/2 plywood and one layer of Tyvek Homewrap and two layers of Tyvek Drainwrap, painting the house with one coat of primer and two top coats of owner specified paint, installation of copper covers for exposed beam-ends, and installation of floodlights.
Added on a separate bid a week later was the removal of old windows and installation of new windows, removal and replacing of old doors and door jams damaged by the earthquake, replacing two single pane gable windows with double pane windows and adding a UV protective privacy tint to all the gable windows. This of course included replacing any window and door trims matching the interior cedar and flooring around door thresholds. Also included was the installation of an exhaust vent in the master bath, installing a cedar flip top storage/bench in dining room under the bay window, installation of new seamless gutters, repair roof as necessary, painting the roof with one coat primer and two top coats with owner specified paint and color, installation of drip edges and metal edge flashing on all to cover all fascias boards. The agreement was that the work would be done to such a degree that no one would be able to tell that the house was ever remodeled.
In our meetings with Dave, he sited the high quality multimillion-dollar homes that Stewart Builders had built and were presently working on. He stated that Stewart Builders had nine crews of 6 to 8 workers per crew presently working on several different projects on this island. When we questioned why a contractor building all these multimillion-dollar homes was bidding on a simple remodel job, he said it was a way to keep the crews busy and to build referrals. We made clear that if we agreed to have Stewart Builders do the work we did not want our project completion to be delayed in favor of the larger multimillion-dollar homes. He reassured us that this would not happen. He said that we could expect the same high quality workmanship as the multimillion-dollar homes.
We checked with our local State office to see if Stewart Builders was licensed and if there were any complaints file. They did have a license and had liability, worker's compensation insurance with no complaints filed against them.
Dave told us that the entire project would take 5 weeks to complete. He gave us two vague bid lists of most of the work we wanted done entitled contract. When we inquired why all the items that we had talked about was not on the list he stated that he knew exactly what was to be done and not to worry because we would be very happy with how it would come out. He called the two lists contracts. We questioned him why Stewart Builders contracts had no legal wording or other pertinent information and he replied that all their customers seem to like it simple so that's the way Stewart Builders does it. He had my husband sign the bottom of both lists and with the receipt of a check of $10,000, he would begin work.
Dave did not give us a signed copy. He told us that no permits were necessary since the work was only cosmetic and not structural. No mention of availability of bonding was ever mentioned nor offered.
The agreement was that payments would be in three drafts. The first one to start the work, the second would be due when the project was past the halfway point and the last upon completion of the final punch list.
This project has had three different Project Managers, 4 or 5 different crews and 2 different siding crews.
The First crew started work on or about February 19. They proceeded to wash the house using a solution called Jomax. The crew, as well as Dave himself did not mix this solution according to the directions on the label. Later we learned thru reading the label and subsequent telephone conversations with the Zinsser, the manufacturer; the product's effectiveness requires that it be mixed with chlorine bleach in order for it to kill mold and mildew. Used full strength as they did, it's just soap and does not kill mold and mildew. Unfortunately, we did not learn of this until June 21 after the underlying surfaces had been caulked and a coat of primer was applied, layers of Tyvek, plywood shear and siding have already been installed on the majority of the house.
All of the cedar siding and building paper was removed on the north walls leaving bare wood the walls open to the wind driven rain. For the first week, the crew hung plastic to cover the walls since the walls leaked water into the house and walls when subjected to the wind driven rain. After the first week, they no longer protected the walls. The walls were left bare; no caulk no paint, no flashings and no Tyvek.
On or about March 12 Dave asked my husband for two checks to pay for the windows and doors. My husband gave him a check for $7000 and a check for $4000. On March 30, Dave asked for another check of $7000 to help make payroll, again my husband complied. The project was nowhere near the halfway point at this time.
The First crew lived in Hilo and had difficulties showing up to work. We heard every excuse known from car trouble, domestic disagreements, deaths and births in the family. When a situation for one of the crew arose, the entire crew would not show up for work. It became apparent that they did not have adequate training, supervision, tools and were always short on materials and supplies. The crew resorted to using my husband's tools some of which are either were damaged or are missing. The project dragged on past the promised five-week completion.
On May 4, Dave asked for a check of $5000 again to make payroll. The house was still not fifty percent completed. Reluctantly, my husband complied.
The new special ordered entry doors are 8 feet tall so the entryway had to be reframed to accept the new doors. After there was this gaping hole in the front of our house, the door crate was opened to find that the doors were not what we ordered. Dave told the First crew to go ahead and install it saying that the supplier (HPM) would just have someone come out and change the glass. They also installed the two other glass exterior doors located at the back of the house that were also delivered with the wrong glass. This glass issue still has not been resolved.
During the course of this project, every door has been installed and removed at least four times. Installed then removed because they were not plumb, then to correct the reveal, then because they didn't open and close properly, then because they weren't centered and then to fix the reveal again. The doors still do not work properly and they leak water. Because of removing and reinstalling the doors so many times the casements and seals are all worn or damaged. Dave had talked us into ordering these ThermaTru doors saying that they were of the highest quality and would hold up against the Waimea weather. The doors now appear to be swelling on the bottom corners.
The first crew struggled to install the window in the proper openings. There was no plan to tell the crew what windows went where. Dave under ordered the windows and we were eight windows short. It would take two more orders, five weeks for delivery per order to get the correct windows.
The windows that were ordered were not of the correct dimensions and so the rough openings had to be cut or furred in, in some cases by 3 or 4 inches. All the windows were custom made and when Dave was measuring the windows my husband inquired if the window trims should be removed before measuring to get the proper measurements of the rough cut opening. Dave said it wasn't necessary.
All but one or two new windows were installed and removed at least three or four times for various reasons. The windows were installed in the wrong opening, ordered the wrong size or the rough opening was framed wrong, installed upside down, installed at the wrong height, not centered in the opening so that the interior trim would not cover the furring and for exterior reveal were some of the reasons. As you can imagine the windows are no longer in new condition. Most of them are scratched or damaged in some way.
On April 23, Dave fired the First crew after the five-window incident. Five windows are supposed to be centered and spaced evenly between the beams. Over the course of two weeks the windows were installed (nailed and caulked in) and then removed six times. The wind, sawdust and rain whipped through our living room and up the stairs to the bedrooms. During these two weeks, my husband pleaded with Dave to help the First crew install these windows but he refused, stating he was not a babysitter and that they are supposed to know how to do this.
On April 24, my husband had a phone conversation with Troy Stewart, the owner of Stewart Builders, explaining all the circumstances surrounding the difficulties that were occurring with our project. Already way past the promised five-week completion period, Troy accepted responsibility and promised that things would go better with another crew, saying that local crews seemed to work much slower than other crews did. He still kept Dave on as the project manager. My husband told him if the same lack of supervision, materials, tools and planning continues the same would happen again regardless of the crew.
On or about April 26 the Second crew started consisting of an apprentice and a carpenter of 2 years experience. But by the second or third week of May the more experienced of the two quit. The apprentice became the carpenter and Dave's nephew a laborer and acting as supervisor for Dave. During this time, many electrical wires were cut even while the wires were in plain sight. Dave himself cut through one even though my husband showed him where the wire was. At this time, the upstairs north wall still unprotected from the rain, was cut to remove wood that had dry rot. It was very disturbing that this crew and the First crew did not take the time to hang plastic or place drop cloths to protect the interior of the house and the furnishings from flying sawdust. It was this Second crew while cutting the first floor north wall damaged the new carpet in the apartment and cracked the tub surround in the apartment bathroom. Second crew used rain soaked plywood to shear the first floor north wall. The plywood was stored uncovered in the driveway.
During this time, there was also a siding crew siding and trimming the house even thought the house was not yet ready to be sided. They trimmed and sided approximately the house, this subsequently had to be removed because the all the windows were not installed at the same height to accommodate the bellyband and the door reveals were not correct. The trim and siding on some of the walls were removed two more times for various reasons. Then the trim around the all doors and windows were removed an additional two more times for various other reasons.
On May 28 the Third crew started. The removal and reinstallation of doors and windows continued. This crew did the most damage to the interior of the house by not wiping up spilled paint on our porcelain floor tile, tracking paint and drywall all over the tile floors, not using drop cloths properly, not taping off and protecting the existing wood finishes, not protecting the rest of the house from drywall dust, marring the interior walls and damaging our furnishings. They also broke our toilet seat and cracked our toilet tank by standing on it to work on the window over it.
It was this Third crew that finally sealed up the second story north wall but also used rain soaked plywood.
By the last week of July the work stopped. Different members of the Third crew stopped by occasionally stopped by to pick up tools or materials from our garage.
On August 2 my husband called Dave, he said that he was going on a Vancouver cruise ship. He also informed my husband that he would be quitting as the project manager of our job. The new project manager, Cecil who we had met a few weeks earlier would be assuming Dave's role as our project. Cecil had been working on and off our job for a few weeks.
On August 3, my husband spoke to Troy on the phone while he was on the cruise ship regarding our concerns regarding our home and Cecil running the project. Cecil had exhibited lack electrical code awareness by adding to a wire length without a junction box for access. We were concerned of the quality of workmanship, following building codes and since many of the items were on a verbal agreement with Dave whether those stipulated promises would be adhered. We also reiterated the length of time that construction had gone on and that we would like the project finished. Troy reassured my husband that all of these would be addressed with Cecil and that Dave would be available to Cecil since Dave would still be with his company.
Cecil and my husband finally met on August 14 after a Cecil did not show for couple of previous appointments. During this meeting, Cecil expressed being overwhelmed by all the problems existing with this and two other of Dave's projects. No more work was done on our home since the work stopped in July. They discussed the mold issue and possible remedies all of which through further research turn out not to be effective. Also at this time, Cecil was given a partial list of items that needed to be completed in a timely manner.
All of the Stewart Builders crews up to this point used the unprotected rain soaked 1/2 plywood as shear on the house. After the shear was hung wet, it was not allowed to dry by painting it with oil-based primer often within minutes of being nailed in. This greatly raised the humidity in the house. This high humidity combined with the uncontained sawdust and drywall dust that was released into the house created a perfect environment for rapid mold growth.
Although mold is not uncommon in this area, with the exception of our master bathroom our home did not suffer from any noticeable amount of mold. We currently control this moisture problem created by the shower steam with a dehumidifier. That is why the bid included the installation of an exhaust fan is this bathroom to address this small problem. This exhaust vent has not been installed as of yet but the drywall has been cut away and an electrical wire installed.
To manage the mold growth and for our family's health we did our best to clean the mold off most of the wood and light fixtures with a special cleaning solution. But the smell and health problems persist. Damage to the wood finish is very noticeable and in some areas need refinishing. My husband suspects that there is mold behind the drywall as evident by of the smell, an area under a window and wall because it was left open to the elements for several months.
In the upstairs bathroom, a blackened, molding piece of plywood was nailed in place of the window leaving no ventilation. The plywood remained over this opening for five months. With no ventilation and the introduction of the black mold, the mold began to grow on the open beam wood ceiling and even after cleaning the wood is darken with stains from the mold.
A similar condition occurred in the one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Because of the mold problem created by Stewart Builders bad building practices, we now are suffering from mold related health problems. Two different mold air quality control experts were hired Joel Nicassio of BioMatrix and Steve Quan of Mold Busters, both recommended removal of the mold and spores by a mold remediation team. Troy, the owner of Stewart Builders is in receipt of these reports and was present during a meeting at our home on September 18 with Joel Nicassio. At this meeting, we discussed options of remediation of the mold in the house. A new project manager, Mike Kaaukuu was also present
Of great concern was the improper mixing and application of the mildewcide, adding water soaked plywood over the mold and sealing in both water and mold made for a perfect environment for mold to grow inside the house walls. The initial recommendation was that the siding, Tyvek, waterlogged plywood, paint and caulking would have to be remove, then proper reapplication of a fungicide before reinstalling the layers of dry material. After a much-heated discussion between Troy and Joel it was decided that this was not feasible because of the cost. Instead, Troy agreed to pay to have Hawaii Restorative do the remediation protocol as recommended once the construction was completed. This included running dehumidifiers before interior siding covered the walls until the plywood was dried to an acceptable level. Shortly after, Chuck Crismon from Hawaii Restorative and Joel Nicassio did a walk thru on presumably to give Troy an estimate for the remediation. These mold issues have not been resolved and Hawaii Restorative has not done the mold removal protocol.
On September 10, with no one showing up to work we sent an email to Troy informing him if there wasn't any progress soon that we would be contacting the State to file a complaint, hiring experts and an attorney at his cost. Troy called back that day informing us that Cecil was no longer with Stewart Builders. He made an appointment to introduce me to our new project manager, Mike Kaaukuu and his superintendent, Daryl Andrade the following day.
September 11 Troy, Mike and Daryl met with my husband and discussed only the exterior of the house. They were appalled by the appearance of our garage that was used by previous crews for sanding, painting and storage of material and tools.
On September 12 the Fourth crew started by cleaning out the garage. Mike decided to put up a tent and to move all Stewart Builders tools, materials and supplies into it. They also started scrubbing the white paint drips off the garage floor and sidewalks that surround the house. They only completed half of the sidewalks. Then they removed the trim and siding from the first story wall, but by September 19 the work had stopped again.
The rest of September was more of the same, sometimes one or two workers would show up to work, with no prior notice, once or twice a week or sometimes just a half-day a week. The wet plywood on the second story north wall was replaced, but not the first floor north wall. Rain screen walls were installed on the north first floor wall and the second story north and east walls to promote drying of the wood. We originally asked Dave to install this system on these walls but he disregarded us. By November 19 the trim and the siding was finally complete except for a few minor areas. Sometime in November Dave Wentworth was either fired or resigned and has since moved back to Wisconsin.
Many times my husband called Troy or Mike but the messages asking them to call back but they did not return his calls. On November 9, my husband finally met with Mike and Daryl to do a walk thru of the interior of the house. The only work done during the entire month of November was two workers for one day and one worker for two and a half days. This is despite us sending him an email on November 14 urging him to finish before Christmas.
One worker worked for one day on our house on December 3. Two workers did come by to measure for the amount of trim needed but did not do any actual work on the house. Then they returned the next day, December 8 to work but the wrong materials were ordered so they left before doing any actual work on the house.
On December 14, Troy finally showed up to walk through the house. We went over a prepared list of the items that need attention. On December 17 and 18, Kelly who is supposed to be a drywall/finish carpenter painted some drywall, then casing and framing the windows downstairs. On December 19, 20, 21 Rodney a different carpenter started removing what Kelly had done previously in the week and started redoing the trim work. Apparently, the work was substandard.
The trim boards that were put up are scratched, gouged and need refinishing because Troy's workers walked all over the finished wood while it was on the driveway. It was our request that the wood be finished or refinished outside to control the dust from sanding in our home. Despite our request for this damaged trim was installed without being refinished. Additionally, there isn't enough of this cedar trim wood on site to complete the windows.
We have been asking for months for the electrician to return to complete his work not only because this is holding up further work on the interior but also for safety concerns. There are bare live wires sticking out of the walls and boxes on the interior and exterior of the house, which is surely a hazard. Finally, on December 10, the electrician came by to work on the wiring. And again for an hour on December 12, but he did not complete wiring of all the switches and outlets. He said that he did not come by earlier because Troy had not paid him for the work done previously by him.
Troy asked us to pay the painter directly from the last 1/3 that we are holding for the completion of the job and punch list. The painting of the house and roof was included in the bid. The price quoted to my husband by licensed painter was $12,000.
Troy tried to argue that we should pay the material to cover the interior walls that his workers cut open to remove rot. It was our agreement with Dave that these material were included in the original bid. While considering accepting the bid we discussed the rot removal and what would be done on the interior walls. Eventually deciding on a wainscot wall with the bottom half drywall. But because his worker's cut out much more wood than necessary and carelessly damaged parts of the walls above the wainscot level. Dave decided that just covering the entire wall at his cost with matching cedar would be easier. After he told his crew this they threw caution to the wind and remove beyond what was necessary on all the walls they were working on. Since we all were concerned about making sure that the house was consistent throughout Dave decided that all affected walls would be covered with matching cedar.
The cedar ordered by a Dave for covering the interior walls is not the right kind of wood. Our interior wood has knots and the wood ordered has none. Troy would like to put it up because he paid over $4500 for the wood but this would not match the existing interior walls.
The downstairs bath is another area affected by their careless work practices. The Second crew cracked the tub surround so Dave had the Third crew remove the entire enclosure because he said it would be impossible to match. He said since it was their mistake he would have to have his crew tile it instead.
Troy has accused my husband of adding on items to what needs to be done for completion. But everything has remained the same from the beginning except for the repairs needed for damages that his crews have done to our home. We have not even addressed the damages to our furnishings, property and my husband's tools.
We only had a set amount of money to spend on this project. We do not feel that we should shoulder the cost of Stewart Builders bad building practices, lack of supervision, hiring young inexperienced workers, pitiable planning and incompetent management of their money, labor and materials.
We have paid Stewart Builder two thirds of the original contracts with the work not yet at 50% done. Troy has sent us a letter terminatiing the contract falsely citing our unwillingness to seek mediation and our unwillingness to pay for work done.
Troy has since refused to return calls from West Hawaii Mediation Service.
This project was promised to be done in five weeks, it is not near completion and it's been over 18 months. Bids from other licensed contractors are in excess of $70,000 to correct and finish our home. Several of the contractors refused to turn in a bid but would work on an hourly basis due to the possible hidden poor workmanship issues that they may encounter.
We wanted to share this is a long and on going nightmare with others that may fall into the same. Troy Stewart and Dave Wentworth are not honorable men that shirk from their responsiblities and promises.