I'm writing this review based on my personal experience of our family going through a home remodel over the past 4 months. I just want to document our experience, and to make this information available to others who might be considering working with them. This is just my personal experience; others may have worked with him and had a good experience. We did not.
This blog post is not really meant for most of my regular readers, so if you are happening upon this and looking for my usual content, you can bypass this one.
In other words, while most of my content is written for my audience, I'm not writing this for you guys. I'm writing this one for me, and for the people out there who may benefit from finding this article.
Our Home Remodeling Nightmare: An Open Letter to Austin-based Chris Campbell & Hill Country Flooring
As some of you know, our family moved to from Los Angeles to Austin this summer.
In June 2020, after 3 months of lockdown and our kids not being in school, my husband and I realized the chances of our kids getting back to school in the fall were not looking good. (Turns out we were right — I heard that in California they are not going back to school until next fall. Our kids were able to go back to school in person in September here in Austin.)
Anyway, we had been thinking about leaving California for a while since the cost of living kept going up and the standard of living kept going down. After COVID hit, we had had enough, and we packed up our whole house and moved to just north of Austin.
I was raised in Texas, and went to school in Austin, so I was happy my husband agreed to move.
So the background is, we had to buy a house sight unseen (we did a walkthrough via a Zoom call). When we got here and did the walkthrough, we realized that there was a lot of work that needed to be done.
The person who owned the home previously had installed a hodgepodge of 3 different floors downstairs — one tile and two different wood floors.
There was also tile on the walls in one of the rooms (bizarre), and a truly ugly kitchen island.
The master bathroom also needed a remodel, and the whole house needed to be painted.
So we decided to hire a contractor to do the floors as well as the other work needed.
Before I get into my review, I want to preface this with a couple of points:
- I have no personal issues with Chris Campbell or Hill Country Flooring. I never met the guy before August of this year. This is not personal — it's strictly business. I actually liked the guy in the beginning — but working with him has soured that. Just saying, this is not any kind of a vendetta. I just need to get this off my chest.
- I am writing this review for two reasons: (1) Therapy. My husband and I are so traumatized from the past 4 months of hell, I really just need to get this off my chest. I am reading a book about PTSD right now, and in it she says you have to WRITE THINGS DOWN. Hence, this review. (2) I am making this public simply because I hope to play a role in preventing others from going through what we went through. Hopefully someone will see this open letter and my Yelp review and think twice before hiring Hill Country Flooring.
- I also want to say that my husband and I had good experiences with pretty much everyone we worked with on this home remodel — other than Chris Campbell and Hill Country Flooring. From the electrician to the plumber to the painters (with the exception of the ones who were fired) and the janitorial service we hired — we are very grateful for all their hard work and dedication.
An Open Letter to Chris Campbell of Hill Country Flooring
Date: December 15, 2020
In this letter, I will outline the terrible experience we had remodeling our new home with Austin-based Chris Campbell and Hill Country Flooring. It was, hands down, the worst experience working with any business in my entire life.
I will explain why in detail below.
And no, I can't show you the “reveal” photos of what our house looks like after the remodel.
Because it's STILL NOT FINISHED. Four months later, and we are still under construction.
Let's go back to the beginning: August, 2020.
Remodeling Scope of Work
When we moved to Texas in August, 2020, we needed new flooring in our home. We got a few estimates for the flooring job but ultimately decided to go with Chris Campbell of Hill Country Flooring. He was referred to us by one of our real estate partners. We liked his choice for vinyl flooring in terms of color and design and felt confident that his team would do a good job.
In addition to the flooring, we also talked to him about doing other renovations in the house, including:
- Partial kitchen remodel
- Full master bathroom remodel
- Painting the walls in the entire house
- Painting the exterior of the house
- Painting both interior stairwells
- Insulating and soundproofing the walls in the downstairs music room
- Removing an interior wall in the living room
- Removing the stairwell bannister in the master bedroom
- Adding lighting in the ceilings in several rooms
- Replacing ceiling fans in several rooms
- Replacing lighting fixtures in all of the bathrooms, in the kitchen, dining room, main stairwell, and upstairs office
- Replacing 2 sets of double doors — one in the music room and one in the master bedroom
- Fix the kitchen pantry doors so they would stay closed
- Chris also said that he would throw in wire trestle bannisters on the stairwells and also painting the garage door.
The remodeling project started in late August (they started the floors on August 25). Again, it is now December.
Yes, we have been going through a remodel for 4 solid months. The majority of those 4 months we have had our house in a complete shambles, literally every room downstairs was a mess. It has been absolute hell.
When I complained to Chris about how long everything was taking, and the fact that ALL the rooms downstairs were a mess for months on end, he said, “I didn't want to have a lot of people here working at the same time.”
So as a result, we had to live with chaos for months on end. Wires sticking out everywhere, dust and debris from one end of the house to the other. For months.
There was debris left on the front porch for so long, we were getting letters from the HOA saying we were going to get fined.
I really don't think it's fair that we had to pay the fines for all the trash sitting on our front porch for weeks. Do you? But that's just a drop in the bucket of what went wrong on this remodel….
But I digress… let's go back to the beginning… back to August.
We were looking to get started on the remodel right away because our moving van from California was running several days late. We were hoping to do the flooring first so that when the moving van arrived with all the furniture, we wouldn't have to move it twice.
Chris told us the original completion date would be October 23, 2020. The week of the October 26th through the 30th was scheduled for final cleanup. Chris assured us we would be done no later than Halloween, October 31, 2020. As you'll see in this post, that did not happen.
When I started writing this letter on Sunday, November 15, I had written the following: “The work is still not done. The master bathroom is a mess, with no shower stall and the bathtub has been incorrectly installed. The kitchen island is incomplete. We have not gotten the 2 double doors that were supposed to be installed. Many rooms do not have texturizing and painting completed. The baseboards only got finished this past Friday — and still have not been painted.”
It is now December 15, 2020. Here is the status of the remodel project — which still has not been completed:
- The shower was just installed this past week (at our expense), and we had to spend thousands of dollars to hire a team of janitors to come in and clean the floors because they were destroyed beyond recognition from all the construction dust and paint spills (as I will describe below).
- The kitchen island is still incomplete and the counter does not have an overhang. The island also needs to be moved, because when the overhang is added, it will need to be re-centered. Also, the cabinet with the trash cans was done incorrectly and needs to be redone.
- We still don't have new doors on our bedroom or music room.
- The exterior was never painted even though he charged us for the paint. He never even bought the paint.
- The stairwells were never painted.
- There is a large hole in the the flooring in the bedroom where they never patched.
- There is a floorboard in the kitchen right in front of the refrigerator that is coming up. I can literally pull it up with my fingers. I have photo and video evidence of that. These are brand new floors and they are already coming up!
Remodeling Proposal & Budget
We never received a proposal or an outline of the work. We received 3 invoices, and we paid them all in full.
Since we never got a proposal, we assumed that the work outlined in the 3 invoices was all of the work we had discussed (outlined above). We assumed we had paid in full for all the work that was going to bed one.
We believed this because Chris kept telling us all the things we discussed would be completed. He never indicated that there would be more invoices.
Chris told us the flooring would only take 3 days to complete.
That turned out to not be true. We spoke to the person in charge of installing the flooring when he showed up and he said it would take at least a week.
Looking back at the dates on my photos from my phone, they started demo on the floors on August 21st.
It took over a week to finish the flooring. This next photo shows that they had not completed the flooring by August 28:
So it took a little over a week to complete the flooring — less than 2 weeks.
That said, they accidentally installed vinyl flooring in the master bathroom, which they weren't supposed to do. It was supposed to be bathroom tile which we had chosen with Chris.
So they had to then remove the vinyl flooring in the master bath — and we had to live with rough, unfinished cement floors in our master bathroom until they finally installed the bathroom tile floors in our master bathroom in early November.
I remember the flooring in the master bathroom was finally completed in early November because it was after my in-laws left town on November 2nd.
We also had to live without a toilet in the master bathroom for that entire time because they accidentally removed the toilet which they then had to replace.
Of course, the new flooring that was installed was completely trashed throughout the whole downstairs because they painted and demo'ed the walls AFTER they did the floors.
They didn't properly cover the floors to protect them from all the dust and paint.
And as I will show below, there was a ton of dust that we lived with for months — and we actually got sick from it.
After the flooring throughout the house was completed in August, they sent another crew to do the interior painting. They started painting the upstairs first.
Within the first few days, we realized there were problems with these painters. They were very inexperienced; some of the crew seemed like they had never painted a house before. Two of the painters were fired the first week because they were doing such a bad job.
They got paint on the floors and on many of our belongings. They got blue paint on the carpet, all over the bathroom. They left bright blue paint in the tub.
We had to hire people to clean all the paint throughout the house.
It took a whole day of 2 men cleaning to get all the paint removed.
They found a couple of spots on the brand new fridge that they couldn't remove. The painting crew damaged the fridge by scratching the side of it:
You can also see paint in the carpet and on the countertops:
They even got paint on my kitchen appliances, including the brand new dishwasher and refrigerator.
The even got paint on my dishes and pots and pans.
And they broke 7 sets of window blinds. Chris said he would fix the blinds, which has never happened. So now the blinds still don't work properly.
The painting was also not done very well. For example, we did a couple accent walls and you can see that they didn't tape the lines very well.
It doesn't look clean and professional:
Also, the kitchen cabinets look really bad:
We were told this is because the cabinets were rolled and not spray-painted. Whatever the reason, the work is sloppy and looks tacky. It looks like cabinets in a very old house that have been repainted multiple times.
I'm not sure when they started the demo on the walls downstairs. They had to remove tile from the walls in the music room, and demo the bathroom. They also had to demo the island and backsplash in the kitchen and demo the bathroom, demo the wall in the living room, and demo the bedroom stairwell bannister so they could replace it with a wall.
Not sure when all of this demo occurred, but it was a very messy process with lots of dust and there was no schedule given to us re: when any of it would occur or how long it would last. It must have started sometime in September, and the demo process was ongoing through sometime in October.
This was very annoying because it was going on in literally every room downstairs at the same time, and the demo went on for many weeks. They did not cover the floors before the demo, nor did they clean up after the demo inside. I was sweeping up dust and moving stuff around constantly, only to have it get covered with again.
We also had a lot of junk sitting on our front porch and a huge trailer filled with debris and trash in our front driveway for a long time.
We got multiple notices from the Home Owner's Association saying we would be fined if they didn't haul off the trash.
I think we paid around $100 in fees — my husband has the letters we received.
In November, after my in-laws went back home, we got word that my father-in-law, who is in his 80s, got very sick after he was here visiting for 10 days in late October.
He contracted bronchitis and they were very worried that he had COVID.
I now realize it was just all the construction dust we were breathing in for weeks. There was so much dust that we were all sneezing and coughing.
When we saw how filthy the the air conditioner screens were, we realized what we had been breathing in.
You can also see the thick layer of dust on a piece of furniture in the photo below:
I am only now starting to feel better after being sick for months. I was taking handfuls of vitamins every day, but I couldn't seem to get rid of my cough and pleghm.
I am very upset that my father-in-law's health was compromised by Chris's incompetence and negligence.
Can you imagine how scared he and my mother-in-law were, thinking he might have COVID? I'm livid that they went through this.
Here's a photo of how dingy and dirty the new floor looked after they did the demo and painting:
When we hired janitors to come and clean the floor, they said it was dirty and ground in, it was going to take 2 passes with the machine to get it clean again.
A team of 3 people spent 2 full days cleaning the floors, and another day cleaning paint off things.
This is what the floor looked like after they got done — it was like night and day:
It's ridiculous that we had to spend nearly $3,000 to have our floors cleaned due to Chris Campbell's negligence, lack of planning and inability to manage a project and teams. This came out of our own pocket, on top of all of our other expenses.
Also, this floor cleaning was done week of Thanksgiving. As grateful as we were to have the floor finally cleaned, can you imagine the stress of having loud machines cleaning all over the house while you are trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner?
Needless to say, I was grateful because already I was breathing easier after they got done. However, I didn't stop sneezing and coughing until just a few days ago (mid-December).
Overview of Mistakes in the Remodel
Almost everything that was done in the house was done either incorrectly, with a ton of mess, and it took a long time to be completed.
Here are some examples:
- The master bathroom floor had vinyl flooring installed instead of the tile we chose (as mentioned above).
- The painting was a mess, and as I said, it was done BEFORE the demo.
- The toilet in the master bathroom was demoed and hauled off even though we never talked about replacing the toilet (as mentioned above).
- The pony wall in the master bathroom was not properly measured and the plumber said the bathtub would not fit.
- The pony wall in the master bathroom was also installed crooked. We measured it after all the tiling was done and it was an inch off, as you can see from the photos below:
- The bathtub that was purchased took many weeks to arrive and when it finally showed up, it sat in our garage for weeks. It was smashed on the side (not sure if it arrived that way or it got broken by the crew); it had to be replaced which delayed the installation.
- The bathtub was also installed incorrectly the first time. It was not centered on the pony wall and was instead installed against the back wall as shown below. This was not the plumber's fault, but Chris Campbell's fault, as he was not there to instruct the plumber.
- Some of the kitchen tile backsplash was crooked and had to be redone. You can see a picture of it here:
- The tile was also just very sloppily done. There is still grout everywhere. They even caused the drain in the shower to stop up. We had to hire a plumber to fix it the clogged drain. He informed us that it was clogged because the team that installed the tile threw cement grout down the drain. It took him all day to get the drain unclogged with a snake.
- The living room wall that was removed was crooked and had to be redone.
- The wall they added in the bedroom was crooked; you can see a big line in it. That has not been addressed or fixed.
- The day they started work on the baseboards, the baseboards that arrived were way too large for the house; the workmen agreed. We were not given a chance to see them and approve them. They had to be sent back and new ones ordered.
- There is still a hole in the flooring in the bedroom that needs to be replaced, as you can see below:
- And, finally, there is a floorboard in the kitchen, right in front of the fridge, that is coming up. I can pull it up with my fingers. Yes, a brand new floor with floorboards that are coming up. Here are a few photos:
Many Things Didn't Get Ordered; Constant Delays
Many things Chris said he would order never got ordered. For example, Chris said he would get us kitchen cabinet pulls we chose from Premium Cabinets (the people who made our kitchen island). He never ordered them and he said there was a delay on their end.
He ended up getting us different pulls from Home Dept which we did not like as much. We later talked to Alex at Premium Cabinets and he said we could order the ones we wanted and have them within a week. Chris had actually told us that he had asked Alex to order them and he said Alex forgot. Alex said Chris never asked him to order them.
Another example: We went to Ferguson's with Chris and selected a dining room chandelier which cost around $1,000. That was back in September. He charged us for it on one of the invoices, which we paid in full. (We paid all 3 invoices in full back in September.)
Many weeks later, when we asked Chris about the chandelier and when it would arrive, he said he had ordered it but had still not received it. We don't know if that is true or not… I'm guessing he never ordered it. I say this because my husband went online and ordered the chandelier from Ferguson's and we got it 2 days later. We have not been credited for this.
One more example: On the same trip to Ferguson's, we selected a shower trim kit and 2 sink faucets. The trim kit was listed on one of the invoices so we assumed the faucets were, too.
When it came time for the crew to install the faucets, we called Chris and he said he didn't order them because he said, “We never picked anything.” We remembered exactly which ones we picked. He obviously never wrote it down.
So my husband ended up ordering the shower trim kit and both sink faucets. Originally we agreed we were going to get a square shower faucet and a square drain. Chris must have forgotten because we now have a square shower faucet and a round drain. It looks bad.
Kitchen Island Disaster
The kitchen island was demo'ed and the kitchen was not installed for several weeks after.
There was electrical wiring sticking out in the middle of the floor for weeks after they demoed the island — and we all kept tripping over it, including my in-laws who are in their 80s.
As you can see below, I did my best to cover it up with floorboards. I did this so we would stop tripping on it.
When they finally installed the island, Chris told the Premium Cabinets crew where to install it. They said they would follow Chris' exact specifications. He taped it and he personally gave them instructions about where to put it.
And it was put in crooked. I measured it and it was off by an inch. They had to come back and reinstall it.
You can see in the photo below, it is lined up with the floorboards at the top but near the bottom it is not aligned.
Also, they installed the wrong type of wastebasket thing:
I want to be clear that this was NOT the fault of the guys at Premium Cabinets. It was 100% Chris Campbell's fault.
He taped where the island should go and he gave the crew exact specifications. They even specified to me that they would not install it based on measurements — they were going by exactly what Chris told them to do.
So they had to come back and redo it.
There was also no overhang on the countertop which we had asked for.
The woman from Arizona Tile came to measure for the countertop for the island. When she arrived, she asked me how long the overhang should be. I said, “I have no idea. Isn't this documented somewhere?”
When we met with Chris and Premium Cabinets, we agreed that we wanted to have counter stools on one side of the island — and there would be an overhang on that side. But when they brought the countertop, there was no overhang.
As you can see in the photo below, which is a snap I took at Premium Cabinets, this is what it was supposed to look like, with an overhang so we could have stools on one side:
I later spoke to Alex from Premium Cabinets who was in our initial meeting and oversaw the island manufacture. He said he did remember that part of the discussion.
Obviously, Chris never communicated this to Arizona Tile. I don't think this was Arizona Tile's fault. Clearly, it was Chris's inability to communicate and complete lack of project management.
The kitchen island still is not completed. Thankfully, Alex and Premium Cabinets have committed to making the island right.
The Premium Cabinets team members have come to our home on multiple occasions to follow up and I trust that they will complete the work to our satisfaction. They've been great to work with, their cabinet work is very high quality, and I do recommend them.
One more thing about the island… the paint job was horrible. This, again was not Premium Cabinet's fault. It was Chris Campbell's team that did the painting.
You can see in the photos below, they forgot to paint parts of the island:
They also got paint on the countertop:
You can see from the photo below, the painting is also very uneven and badly executed. I love the Premium Cabinets' island — the work is quality. But the painting makes it look cheap. And it was not cheap!
No Permits or Inspections
Also, we just found out recently that for any kind of home remodeling in Cedar Park, you need permits from the city and you have to have home inspectors come to inspect the work. Now we are concerned that the work was done incorrectly and not to code. We are worried that when we go to sell our home that we will have problems.
When we asked Chris if permits or city inspections were required, he said they are not required for this kind of work. But we looked on the Cedar Park city website and it says the permits are required.
When someone confronted one of the workmen about whether or not we had permits, Chris scoffed and said, “they don't know what they're talking about.”
Complete Lack of Project Management
Finally, Chris rarely showed up to oversee any of the work. My husband Seth had to manage the project himself. Seth was working full time for weeks managing the crew, ordering supplies, and the timeline. He became more and more stressed out, having never managed a project like this before.
It was also very stressful for him because he works at home and he kept getting pulled away from the work he needed to do for his job. The various crews kept coming to him, asking him questions, and he didn't know the answers to the questions. They did this to me, too. Workers showed up every day with no instructions from Chris about what they were supposed to work on. Chris also very rarely answered his phone so it didn't help when we tried to call him.
In September, I started helping to manage the projet, because we were so frustrated. I began making Excel spreadsheets of things that needed to be done and materials that needed to be ordered, and answering questions from the crew. I was also cleaning up after them every day, and calling them to find out where they were when they didn't show up (which was often).
Here's an example of the kind of thing that was happening constantly: When Chris said that a specific plumber would be at the house on Monday morning, that person didn't show up until Wednesday. When we asked him why he had been delayed, he said he had not gotten the call from Chris until “an hour ago” when he was told there was an emergency with no specifics.
I am very angry that my husband and I had to spend so much time managing this project given that (a) we had no experience managing a construction project (b) we didn't have most of the information we needed (c) we had no schedule, no project plan, and no information about the materials ordered and (d) we were not being paid to manage the project.
When I repeatedly complained to Chris about why we were doing his job for him, he said, “I never charged you for the project manager fee.”
I told Chris that I felt like we were being taken advantage of because we both work from home. We lost income because we couldn't work on our own businesses. My mother-in-law also spent a substantial amount of time helping us manage the remodel when she was in town in October.
I added up the amount of hours my husband and I spent managing the project (he spent at least 20 hours per week for at least 14 weeks and I spent at least 10 hours a week for at least 8 weeks) and calculate what it would cost to pay us back for our time (at our current consulting hourly rates) he would owe us over $100,000 just for the time we put into the project.
Chris never wrote down any specs, never supplied any schedules or sketches. When he was many weeks behind and we finally pressured him to give us a schedule in late September / early October, within days the schedule he finally gave us had slipped.
He seemed to have no interest in following and making sure that tasks were completed. He gave us no information about who would be showing up on which days and when they would be working.
There were times when people were in the house in the morning. If we left the house, sometimes we would come home and they were gone, leaving the house unlocked.
On countless occasions, we would ask about something and he would say, “I'll take care of it,” and he never did. If we didn't step in and do it, it wouldn't get done. This caused a lot of tension in our marriage, causing us to fight and argue.
Damage to Our Property
As I mentioned above, we had several sets of window blinds that were damaged by the painting crew and have never been replaced.
The painters also got paint on a lot of our property, including my kitchen appliances, dining room chairs, our clothing, even my dishes and pots and pans, and on our carpet and in the bathtub upstairs. When we mentioned it to them, they said, “Oh that comes off easy.” But they didn't clean it.
We had to spend thousands of dollars to hire a janitorial team to power clean the floors and get up the ground in dust from the construction. These are brand new floors and they looked horrible after all the demo. They also spent an entire day cleaning off paint throughout the house.
The refrigerator looks like it had paint splotches on it — but it was actually damaged by the crew — the paint on the side of our brand new fridge was scratched by the crew.
I included photos of the above earlier in this post.
Many Things Were Not Paid For Or Completed
We ended up paying for a lot of the things Chris Campbell said he would pay for. The chandelier, the shower trim kit, the shower door, the insulation, and on and on.
He never installed the shower — we paid to have that done and it finally got completed in December. I was just able to take my first shower in my bathroom for the first time in 3 and a half months.
He also never painted the stairwells or the exterior. We even paid for the exterior paint which he never bought — it's on the invoice!
He also never paid a number of the contractors, including electricians and plumbers. They are now calling us, asking us to pay them, since he didn't. This is outrageous, since we paid all of his invoices for the electric and plumbing work up front.
When we called these businesses to let them know we had already paid Chris and they should contact him, they told us that they had tried to contact him. They said he wasn't answering his phone. if they did get to talk to him, they said he told them they should put a lien against our home.
Conclusion: My Experience Working with Hill Country Flooring
This remodel has been a straight-up nightmare. I'm in my 50s and I've never in my life had such a terrible experience working with anyone in business.
Chris seemed to have no concern that we had just moved two kids across the country and we both work at home. He seemed to have zero regard for the amount of stress he put our family through. He promised over and over again to make things right, but he never did.
We were willing to pay three invoices up front in full because we were anxious to get the job done quickly so we could give our kids some normalcy after COVID lockdowns in California. Instead we have had four EVEN WORSE months here in Texas, with dirt and dust and paint all over the house, constant interruptions from a flow of confused and frustrated workmen in and out of the house, many of woman have said they would never work with Hill Country Flooring again. I would caution anyone against working with them.
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