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Terrible Renovation Experience with Zest Design & Construction

Terrible Renovation Experience with Zest Design & Construction

Old Jan 2nd 2015, 3:27 am
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Default Terrible Renovation Experience with Zest Design & Construction

Hi Everyone,

I have benefited from many others who have contributed on renovation advice and learnings so I thought I should share my terrible experience with Zest Design and Construction (Victor Tan) so you can learn from our experience, and hopefully avoid the pitfalls that we went through when you are doing your renovations.

We are now in a situation where Zest Design has walked off the job, and we are left to find some else to finish it. We also discovered that he had cut many corners, and did not do some of the things that were part of the contract, which we have already paid for.

We engaged Zest Design & Construction (Victor Tan) as we had seen a number of good reviews on the Sammy boy forum. We had read of the many bad contractor experiences of others, and hence thought we would go with recommendations from others who had engaged him.

Our biggest mistake was that we were too trusting, and did not do background checks. Our friends warned us about being too trusting but we kept insisting that Victor was different. He was a good & honest guy. How wrong we were!

It was easy to be convinced by Victor in the beginning as he is well spoken in English, drives a Singapore-plated BMW 5-series, and had a ‘pleasant’ personality. Well, we certainly paid the price for not doing more checks and for being too impatient to find a contractor.

I thought I’d share some tips of what you should watch out for when engaging your contractor (all the things we didn’t do):

1) Contractors often do not quote for many things that we think are included. If you expect it to be included, ensure it is stated in the contract.
For example, we thought tiling and ceiling plaster boards were included in the contract. Our contractor quoted for it in one part of the house, but not for another section. We thought windows were included in the contract. He only quoted for window frames! If you expect a door, make sure it is detailed. Don’t accept “Yes, it’s all included”. If you do not see it in the details of your contract, assume it is not included. It is the smallest of things, like a wooden railing for the balcony, or handles for the kitchen cabinet door, etc. If you a renovating a bathroom, do not assume the plumbing is included. If you are doing a new room, do not assume air-con piping is accounted for.

2) Delivery Date / Deadline & Compensation
Ensure that a delivery date is stated in the contract. Allow for a grace period, and then insist on a day rate compensation for further delays. Our original renovation was supposed to take 4 months. It has now been 11 months, and he has walked off the job.

What contractors often do is move their workers around from one job to another. They take your deposit or progress payment, have workers at your place, then take on another job, move workers there, after a few days or even a week or two, workers come back to your job. This can go on for months, as we have experienced.

3) Payment Terms
Never, never, never agree to pay more than 25% upfront. And absolutely insist you will pay last 20% payment at the end of completion. We made a mistake by only holding on to 5% for the final payment. Hence, why he could walk away from the job.

4) Maintain your own Records of Payments, Progress of Work and Variation Orders
Again, we were too trusting and accepted his submission records. He tried to confuse us with multiple different Excel sheets, and very confusing method of listing the costs.

Towards the end when we were in dispute, and we went through the records and documented it ourselves, we picked up double-billing of the same item, quoting for materials that weren’t actually used, asking for more final payment of that side order, when the job was actually not completed, etc.

5) Take your own Measurements & Check the materials used
Tiling and Ceiling plasterboards are charged per square foot. Victor was charging us a slightly larger area than the actual size he did the tiling and plastering. He was also charging us for better and different material then he actually used. When we questioned him, he did not respond.

Another thing we discovered, he was supposed to do waterproofing of the roof, which is a basic requirement of any roof. He only did 1/3 of the area he is supposed to do! This was pointed out by the new plumber we engaged.

6) Deposit with the Management
Make the contractor put down the deposit with Management office. That way, you can be assured that he will clean up the vicinity before he leaves. Apparently this is acceptable & common. We made the mistake of putting down the deposit (RM5000). Now we have to spend our own money to clear the area as our contractor has left the debris behind.

7) Get your own Sub-contractors if you want to save money
If you are looking to save money, try to get your own subcontractors, and include that in your contract up front that you will engage sub-contractors as well. We bought our own tiles, glass doors, landscaper, etc.

That was one of the things that upset our contractor. We found his quote for glass doors too high, so we got our own supplier. The difference in price was RM8000! And this is just for the glass doors alone.

8) Qualifications & Credentials
Always double-check that your contractor indeed has the experience and expertise to do what you need safely and correctly. When we re-read the good reviews on Zest Design, we realized that it was mainly on small projects like cabinetry, putting up interior walls, etc. Ours was a larger project as we put up an entire second floor. We actually did not double-check if he is certified to do such a project.

9) Check on workmanship constantly
Constantly check on the workmanship and ensure it is delivered to standard. Know what you are buying and paying for.

10) Don't rush into appointing a Contractor
That was another mistake we made. We were too much of a hurry to get started and hence, did not do thorough checks. Take your time, talk to many people, and don’t be shy to ask around for advice. People are always willing to share and offer advice. Don't let the contractor push you or dictate terms. If he is doing that upfront, then you're better off not working with him any way.

All these points above may actually seem very obvious to do. But as I mentioned, we were too trusting and were taken in by his ‘pleasant’ personality and thought Victor was honest and trust-worthy. Maybe he was in the past, but now I understand why people say never trust contractors in Johor. BE ON GUARD, all the time. Even his sub-contractors were telling us of problems with other clients. We actually engaged some of them directly to finish up the outstanding works, and it got done within 1-2 days.

I really hope the above tips will help you have a better renovation experience than we did. In Malaysia, you really need to be patient, and vigilent. Don't think that you can always sue the contractor. That is a tall order in Malaysia. You are better of taking the precautions upfront.

Good luck!
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Old Jan 2nd 2015, 8:16 am
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Default Re: Terrible Renovation Experience with Zest Design & Construction

Some good tips there.

Yeh, renovation is a real nightmare in Malaysia. Not sure I want to go through it again.
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Old Jan 2nd 2015, 8:58 am
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Default Re: Terrible Renovation Experience with Zest Design & Construction

First on the list should be get at least three quotes for the work and then after you have researched the contractors first.

We had our new place done and I was expecting a nightmare.
Although I've had loads of experience within the construction industry the missus wanted to be involved and I was happy to let her and just oversee from a distance.

She did an amazing job with the quotes and then comparing them and interviewing the contractors before making a decision.

I'd say we had three issues which however minor always bug you but when I consider how it might have gone if she hadn't done her due diligence then I was over the moon with the result.

Well done to my missus.

I'd recommend our guy to anybody in Singapore. He doesn't work in Malaysia.
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Old Jan 8th 2015, 6:32 pm
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Default Re: Terrible Renovation Experience with Zest Design & Construction

mfwarren - what a nightmare! Good advice though for others.

I hope your situation gets sorted out soon.
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