Update: Thanks for your response Square Footage. Clearly you are much quicker to respond to communication on a public forum as compared to private emails, messages and phone calls. I would like to note the following:
1. You were provided with this review about 2/3rds of the way through the project. Your service continued to be subpar as you continued to ignore our communication and subsequently refused to fix the defects.
2. You never once apologized for the issues we raised to you throughout the project. Instead you were combative, inflexible and difficult. Yet you are now apologizing to save face with the public for the benefit of future work.
3. If you are serious about using feedback to make necessary changes as you say in your response, please make arrangements to return and fix the defects that you left in our home. You are contractually required to fix them at your own expense. Your refusal to fix them in spite of this calls into question your integrity, trustworthiness and reliability.
We chose to use Square Footage for our main floor reno based on the stellar reviews on another site (also starts with an H) and a positive initial meeting. If you are considering using this company, I suggest doing some research on that site, and specifically the reliability of the reviews. You will come to realize, as I did, that it may not be a unbiased source of information. Rather, it is a promotional platform for the industry to market their business, gain visibility and generate leads for future projects. Pictures are perfectly curated and negative reviews seem to be few and far between. Contractors pay for this service, and it would be insurmountable to generate leads for a business with negative impressions from prior customers. I tried to post this review there and was told "Review cannot be published". See screenshot below.
Below is a detailed account of our experience with this company. If you are thinking of hiring them, or have already signed up for a future project, consider yourself forewarned. Do NOT be fooled by their professionally curated online presence. They make a lot of claims and promises that they fall well short of once they are given the job. They do not care about you or your project. They just want your money. If I were to do it again, I would walk away and take my business elsewhere - even if I had already paid them a deposit.
In the first meeting, Frankie told us they are a full service firm that employ their own staff, communicate early and often, are the “good contractors” that treat your home well, maintain a tidy worksite, and finish on time. However, as we have come to realize, this could not be further from the truth.
Although they say they are full service, there is actually very little service provided after you sign a contract with them. Part of the reason we decided to work with them was due to COVID restrictions, sourcing materials curbside would have been very difficult. However, Square Footage didn't make things any easier. We have had to follow-up with them every step of the way to ask if they have sourced each and ever item for our project. Presumably, full-service means you are paying for a final product, an outcome, and the process is taken care of. This is not the case. We have had to babysit them every step of the way.
They say they have their own staff and only subcontract out HVAC, plumbing and electrical. They say this makes them more flexible than your average general contractor and gives them greater control over the quality of work. However, they leave out that they also subcontract out demolition, flooring, millwork installation, drywall, taping and paint. They actually do very little work themselves.
They are extremely inflexible. They will charge you extra for "service calls" - fees to call subcontractors back to complete work when it takes longer than originally estimated, or as a result of changes originally unforeseen by them. It is the epitome of pettiness. There was a lots of nickel-and-diming on our project that was originally invoiced at over $200k. When you ask for explanations, you get long, winding, circuitous explanations. Listening to their explanations will make your head spin.
At the end of the project, they owed us money because they couldn't get their subcontractors to complete work in our contract. Instead of paying us back they sent us invoices double-charging us for miscellaneous things that we had already paid for.
They say they over-communicate so that you are informed of each step of the project. That is the exact opposite of our experience. Instead, subcontractors show up randomly and without notice. On the first day after demolition was complete, their only employee assigned to our job showed up and started jackhammering in our basement without any forewarning. Not scheduled. Not communicated. No regard for our personal belongings which were left covered in dust. After the final cheque was cashed, they completely stopped replying to our text messages and emails even though much work remained.
One cabinet door panel was re-ordered three times and when the project ended, it still had not been delivered. They refused to reply to messages in which we asked for an explanation. Anyone else with reasonable customer service skills would call you up and say "we messed up again, we are sorry for the error and we will fix it." Instead, they left us in the dark. We called up the manufacturer who told us that the door left the warehouse but as of this writing Frankie and John have not been in touch to schedule installation.
On the topic of communication, they say they will finish on time. We provided a target completion date of April 1st, 2021 at our first meeting on September 30th, 2020. They provided a loosely defined schedule with a completion date of May 15th, 50% longer than expected, and sent it to us in an empty email a week before the project was scheduled to start. There were no words in the email to explain the delay, just a sparsely defined schedule that was much longer than expected. Until that point, over numerous meetings, they gave us no indication they would not be able to meet our target completion date. See screenshot of schedule below.
They tell you they will assist with all aspects of design. Actually, you will rarely hear from Frankie or Laura when construction is underway. They will be unresponsive to phone calls, neglect to respond to your emails or will get their office assistant to send emails on their behalf, as if they are too busy to communicate with their own customers.
We included a gas fireplace on our wish list which we provided on our first meeting (September 30th). They did not include it in any of the five designs they presented. We had some funds remaining in our budget so we thought it wouldn’t be unreasonable to request it be incorporated into the design. We emailed Laura on January 8th regarding it. No response. Emailed again on January 15th, to which Frankie came back with:
“Unfortunately, at this time, I cannot design the element for several reasons. There is a long backorder list on fireplaces and this is the first thing to be selected. I have spoken to my Gas Co and advised them of our intention and needs. He will report as things change on availability. My time is relatively limited with the new "Stay at Home Order." It affects other clients, projects, vendors and running the business from home.When and how things change, is a moving target. I have every intention of finishing the project to the best of my ability. My focus, for now, keeps moving forward.” See screenshot below.
WHAT?!? There was no further follow-up or communication. It was clear they had no interest in fulfilling this request. By that time, I had already been in touch with my local fireplace dealer and got a sense of their stock situation. I placed the order for the unit of our choice and received it within a couple of weeks. We would have preferred that it was incorporated into a TV wall-unit but without the cooperation of the designer we figured we would just have it installed and figure out the rest later and proceeded. Of course, Square Footage didn’t hesitate to charge us their design fee on the cost of installation even though, by their own admission, they were unable to design it. This is predatory, opportunistic, rent-seeking behaviour.
The fireplace was installed crooked, literally. It is either not level or the wall is not straight. The top of the fireplace is sticking out of the wall and bottom is recessed behind the wall. I paid $6,500 for the fireplace and around $4,000 to have Square Footage to have their subcontractor install it and this is the disappointing result. I advised John of the defect and, without even coming by to take a look, he said he doesn't consider it to be a defect. See screenshot of email below.
They are excruciatingly slow. At our first meeting on September 30th, we told Frankie we would like our stairs to match the new flooring. The stairs were excluded from the design presented to us on October 20th. We told them it was a must-have when we signed the construction contract on December 16th. They agreed to treat it as an add-on to the project. They requested an inspiration picture which we immediately provided. Frankie emailed us on January 15th, a few days after construction began (January 11th) to say “I can not assure the look can be recreated in your application appropriately and I will need a bit more time on this to reconsider the design and cost of materials.”
Ok, no problem. We continued to wait for her to come up with her design and provide a quote so we could move forward. We even made some compromises because they were unable to fabricate a metal railing. We did not receive a quote from them on the stairs until February 5th. When John was on site the following Monday, he said he’ll need approval on the stairs soon otherwise it may result in project delays. So basically they took up all the slack in the schedule to come up with a quote and left no time for us to evaluate it. I scrambled and found a specialized stair contractor that would replace the staircase without any design compromises for 25% less than they had quoted to give our existing staircase a facelift – a compromised one at that. It was a no-brainer to replace the whole thing for a lot less and get exactly the design we wanted. However, it did stall our project, and shares no responsibility for it because we chose another contractor for that chunk of the project. However, the fact is they took 51 days to give us any cost or design parameters and left us no time to evaluate their quote and weigh our options. To add insult to injury, they are charging us more service fees – this time to call back each of their subcontractors to complete unfinished work the main floor around the staircase – even though it was all within the original scope of the project. Again, rent-seeking behaviour. Frankie came by to see the stairs once they were installed, one of the few times she showed up on site. I had mentioned to the stair contractor what a disaster Square Footage was, and they told me that Frankie had called them to inquire about using them to subcontract for future projects. Kind of comical considering they told us they do "a ton of stairs" and couldn't come up with a design after 51 days!
They say, as design professionals, they are able to access a 20% discount on materials, of which they will retain 10% commission and pass along the rest of the savings. By and large, those discounts did not materialize or were available to the general public as well. They withhold product information by sharing screenshots instead of sharing links to product webpages. Usually the information on these screenshots aren’t enough to make an informed decision. Since communication with them is such a struggle, we resorted to Google. Fortunately, image search functionality makes it easy to trace screenshots back to their respective sources.
Selection of light fixtures was to be done after construction was underway. As we began the finishing stage of the project, we realized nothing had been selected. It’s like it was forgotten. We emailed them separately over a number of weeks for the selection of each and every light fixture. Eventually we managed to get everything selected, but not before much effort on our part. Definitely not full service. You would think after our first email they would have taken the hint and made the remaining selections.
They take no responsibility for their own mistakes and offer no compensation for them. The misinterpreted the engineers drawing and failed to account for one of the support posts that had a cap on the top that couldn't be hidden over the finished ceiling. The only solution to this unforeseen problem was to create a bulkhead that looks totally out of place in the middle of our entry hallway. No mention of it until after drywall was already mostly complete. It was a complete failure of their design process. There was nothing that could be done about it. It cannot be hidden. It looks amateurish and silly. It’s ironic that they messed this up, one of the things they do themselves. So much for assuring quality. This is not the product of an award-winning full-service design/build firm as they promote themselves to be. You won’t see this on their carefully curated social media profiles. Oh well, $200k later we’re stuck with this nonsense. See pic.
They broke the oven cabinet during installation and had to order another one, delaying the completion of our kitchen by a month. Once the countertops were in, we asked if they would at least hook up our stovetop in the meantime. Seemed like a reasonable request considering the unforeseen delay that they were undeniably responsible for. By this point, we had been living in our basement for three months. They said our contract only accounted for one additional electrician visit which was to be scheduled for the finishing stage of the project, after the arrival of the replacement oven cabinet. Instead of taking ownership, they suggested we incur an additional service fee for the electrician to hook up the stovetop. Even if we ignore the fact that the oven cabinet was delayed, no electrician would be able to complete the amount of electrical work that remained at this stage in one visit.
They say they will maintain a clean work site. In fact, the one Square Footage employee who was on site for our project was an absolute disaster. Not only did he work in a haphazard way, he was extremely messy. He left tools, construction materials, packaging, and waste all over the place. He never used a dropcloth. He never cleaned up after himself. We were cleaning sawdust off our dining table in the basement on a daily basis. He wore his workboots up to our upstairs bathroom. We cleaned up after him EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Apparently, he is one of their “best people”.
Their subcontractors were, for the most part, not much better. The HVAC contractor cut holes in our floor to pass vent piping through and did not protect the area below. We had sawdust all over our basement sofa and personal belongings. Even inside my son’s skates. See pics.
When you bring up concerns, they fall on deaf ears. They do not take ownership. They do not apologize. Regarding her lack of explanation about the schedule, Frankie said “Sorry you feel the schedule could have been better communicated”. Huh? I don’t need anyone to apologize for the way I feel. This is just one example. They are combative. They push back, deny and deflect. When I told John about the mess the HVAC guys made in our basement, it was like talking to a brick wall. No words of empathy or regret. As if they had nothing to do with it.
I have worked with contractors in the past who dealt with concerns much more effectively. They were customer-centric. They would say “we’re sorry, we will address your concerns and make sure you are satisfied”. Nothing else needs to be said. My last contractor whom I used for my master bathroom actually asked if there was anything else I needed him to take care of around the house before he left. It showed he was willing to go above and beyond to ensure we were satisfied. THAT is good service.
At this moment they have refused to fix the defects left in our home, including a pocket door that doesn't open, and awaiting delivery for a number of items. They have cashed all cheques.
The fact that this company has so many good reviews is evidence that the bar for customer service is very low in this industry. The worst from contractors and unfortunately, my experience with this company was below the average that I have seen from the overall industry. How are the results? Well, the kitchen looks fine, I guess. But it is a reminder of the terrible experience dealing with this full-service firm. Hopefully the memory of it will fade with the passage of time but for now it is still tainted by the bitterness of feeling deceived and taken advantage of.
If you are considering using this company for your renovation, realize that what you see here and other social media sites has been carefully curated. Above all else, they are excellent self-promoters. Based on our experience, my guess is that customers that had negative experiences with them simply abstained from leaving a review and were happy to be done with them.
If you have worked with this company, I suggest you review your invoices carefully. They seem to be very slick with bundling items that are already covered in your contract along with project add-ons and referring to them as "Extras". If you are thinking of working with them, buyer beware! Do NOT be fooled and consider yourself forewarned. They make a lot of claims and promises in the initial meeting that, in our experience, they fall well short of once they are given the job.
- Company Response
As a company, we set high standards for ourselves and we are sorry to hear we did not meet your expectations.
Even though we feel that the issues brought up are greatly overstated, we do take some responsibility in this matter and we will use your feedback to make any change necessary in order to always provide the best client experience possible.