The short story, don’t do business with either C-Thru Sunrooms, or their local contractor, John Mielke DBA The Building Company. For the long story, sit down, this is going to take awhile.
This is an honest account of the construction of our sunroom as best as my notes, recollection and photos can provide. I’m providing it in a detailed chronological time frame.
Making the Decision – 2 weeks
Late January 2018 – What we would call the family room in our 1888 Victorian, was really the back porch that had been enclosed, probably originally in the 1950s based on what I found during the demolition. It was remodeled in the 1980s, and again after the house was put back on the foundation after the 1992 earthquake. The main problem with the room was its dimensions. It was only 7 feet wide, making it impossible to put a couch in the room that would sit four people. Structurally, we also knew it had a problem from the south wall leaking around the window. Earlier we had replaced the window but that didn’t solved the problem. So we knew we were going to have to tear into the wall, and if we were going to do that we thought it would be a good time to expand the room.I liked the idea of a sunroom, as we’re trying to make our house greener, and capturing the passive energy of the sun seemed like a good idea. When I visited the Hamill House in Colorado, I loved the conservatory that was original to the house, and so I wanted a curved glass extension like that. I visited Six Rivers Solar in Eureka but they no longer were doing sunroom additions.
So I went online to see who else I could find. The only company I could find that had a curved glass sunroom like I wanted was C-Thru Sunrooms. I used their dealer locator page to find their local dealer, John Mielke, of The Building Company. Later, as numerous problems had developed, I contacted C-Thru and found out they don’t consider John Mielke to be a dealer, even though he is listed as such on their web site, and on the brochures I was given. Because he wasn’t a dealer, they would not honor the guarantees on their web site. More on that later. If there is one thing I learned from this project, do your due diligence in evaluating your contractor, even if there is no other local choice. Better to not do the project, then have it end up like this one did. Here’s a screen shot of their web page after I clicked the Find A Dealer button and typed in my zip code.
1/30/18 – Eric Fisher of C-Thru sent the design layout to John Mielke.
1/31/18 – John forwarded design layout to me. Later that day, I received an estimate from John by email. The estimate was for $29,124.
2/2/18 – The design and estimate did not include removing the south wall as we had requested. I notified John, and requested a new quote.
2/8/18 – C-Thru provided a revised layout with the extra windows.
2/10/18 – Received a revised estimate for $32,488.
2/11/18 – Approval given to John for revised layout. We’re off and running!
2/15/18 – Paid $399 to Humboldt County Building Department for permits and paid $500 to The Building Company for down payment.
Getting the Permits – 31 weeks
2/16/18 – Signed contract sent back to John.
3/7/2018 – John sent scanned images of Fee & Charges worksheet from county. Images were too small to read.
4/20/2018 – Received reply from Abbay Technical Services on title 24 compliance.
4/23/2018 – Received reply from Marina Herrera, Planner I regarding Building Permit Application.
5/16/2018 – Received a followup call and email from Abbay Technical Services, as they hadn’t heard back from John. It ended up that we didn’t need to be worried about title 24 compliance. 26 days spent with no progress due to John’s lack of following up.
5/25/2018 – Since we had already gone through Coastal Commission process for our garage, we were trying to piggyback on that permit to save time and money. I finally went down to Planning Dept with John to push that through. Check for $1302 paid to Humboldt County Planning Department.
5/29/2018 – Email from Trevor Estlow requesting deed for property. I couldn’t find what he needed so he would get from county.
7/24/2018 – John got a call from the engineer about the beam size and the post to the foundation. Almost another two months went by with little follow up from John.
8/1/2018 – Received Consulting Services Agreement from Whitchurch Engineering.
8/6/2018 – Emailed John the Whitchurch contract that Lori signed. Also emailed John a packet of docs from the planning dept.
8/13/2018 – John advised that engineering should be completed on 15th, the plans will be turned in on the 16th, and approval by 20th.
8/16/2018 – John advised he can pick up plans from Whitchurch on 20th (previously the 15th)
8/21/2018 – Whitchurch called John said plans can be picked up on 8/22 (previously the 15th & 20th)
8/22/2018 – John went to pickup plans at Whitchurch, not ready.
8/23/2018 – Plans were finally picked up at Whitchurch and submitted to plan check. A week lost to getting the plans that were supposed to be ready on the 15th. I’m not sure if Whitchurch really was late, or John was to busy to go get them.
9/5/2018 – Plans held up for exception for the flood map. John contacted previous surveyor who said it would be $1500 and two weeks to resurvey.
9/6/2018 – John contacted Chapman Engineering out of McKinleyville. John came out and got elevations for garage and sunroom floor heights.
9/7/2018 – Chapman Engineering has docs ready. Cost is $500. John turned info in to Building Dept.
9/11/2018 – John received exception letter from Building Dept. He copied me the letter in a text but the image is too small to read. Common problem with him when he forward documents.
9/13/2018 – Check for $878 to Humboldt County Building Dept.
9/13/2018 – Check for $500 to The Building Company to cover survey.
9/16/2018 – John picked up the permit and scheduled inspection for the 17th.
9/17/2018 – Received an invoice from The Building Company showing $32,488 due. Amount was a mistake.
9/18/2018 – Received an invoice from The Building Company showing 11,290 due.
9/19/2018 – Check for $21,198 to The Building Company for C-Thru purchase. At this point the sunroom order should have been placed. John later admitted he waited until the foundation completed on 10/4 to order the sunroom. That added a delay of a week. I started the demolition of the interior. This should have been John’s responsibility, but we were so far behind schedule I offered to do the demolition while he concentrated on building the foundation.
Tearing into the south wall we found the source of the leak. When they did the previous remodel, they put plastic down on the sill but rather than protecting it, it ensured that water ran into the wall. The douglas fir 2x4s were completely rotted under the window. The floor consisted of a layer of vinyl, on top of particle board, on top of linoleum, on top of another layer of particle board, which covered the original 130 year old redwood porch boards. While the bottom layer of particle board was soaking wet and rotted, the redwood underneath was still in good shape.
Foundation & Floor – 2 weeks
9/20/2018 – Work on the foundation began.
9/21/2018 – Foundation concrete was poured.
9/25/2018 – I started tearing off the back wall and side walls after having completed the interior demolition. At this point the back of the house was unsecured, and exposed to the weather. The C-Thru web site and John said it would be delivered 10 days after being ordered. As I was expecting delivery shortly after the 29th, I thought the house would only be vulnerable for a few days.
9/28/2018 – Received C-Thru Production Report showing confirmation date of 9/25/2018 and Estimated Completion Date of 11/5/2018. So much for their 10 day guarantee. Here’s a screen shot of their web site and their meaningless guarantee. It was when I questioned them about the guarantee that they told me John was not one of their dealers, he was an independent contractor, and their guarantee only applied to their dealers. Nowhere on their website is there a disclaimer to that effect. Note the statement about their palletized shipment too. That’s going to come into play later on.
10/4/2018 – Check for $4050 to The Building Company (Completion of Foundation & Floor)
10/9/2018 – Rain has started, back wall is off, wood floor is getting soaked. I purchased visqueen and covered the floor and exposed walls.
10/11/2018 –John advises he will be down to visqueen it. I advised him I already did it.
11/6/2018 – Received an updated C-Thru Production Report with Completion and Ship Date of 11/9/2018
11/16/2018 – Email from Teri Drake @ C-Thru that product was shipped on the 14th. Received a tracking number. Using the online tracking for shipper (The Custom Companies) I started tracking the shipment. On this date, 2 days after it shipped, it was still in Southern CA.
11/20/2018 – John texted that it should arrive the 26th or 27th. 6 days after it shipped it is still in La Miranda.
11/22/2018 – Online tracker said it had been delivered day before.
11/26/2018 – Follow ups with both freight company and C-Thru on status are fruitless.
11/27/2018 – After 13 days, the shipment was still in the possession of The Custom Companies, and still in Southern CA. Even though at times their online tracker said it had been delivered. Teri emailed later that “Apparently the partner company that Custom Companies contracts with did not service the area of the delivery. The company sent the shipment back here. It has been on many docks and I want to make sure there has been no damage to the shipment so I am requesting pictures.”
11/28/2018 – Received an email from Teri, with photos of the damaged pallets. She mentioned that they were going back to the factory so everything could be inspected and any damage repaired.
11/30/2018 – Received email from John after he sent me photos I already had.
12/3/2018 – Received email from Teri saying the pallets were received 11/30/2018 and that they were fixing a few things. She hoped to get delivery out 12/4/2018.
12/5/2018 – Product finally shipped via flatbed.
12/23/2018 – After a follow up email, finally received a response from General Manager Mike Leigh.
12/26/2018 – Emailed John to see if he could inquire about their Guaranteed Shipping.
1/15/2019 – Emailed Teri about all the problems. She replied she would forward it the General Manager. Texted John about the continuing roof leaks, plus new leaks at bottom of windows. John advised that C-Thru should have the glass on the 16th.
1/17/2019 – Huge wind/rain storm blew out temporary windows and floor got soaked.
1/19/2019 – As storm continued, a new leak started by the door. Advised John by text.
1/22/2019 – C-Thru advises that the glass finally came in.
1/24/2019 – Emailed Mike Leigh that John had sent them a photo of the problem window, but also included the description of it being the lower window.
1/29/2019 – Windows shipped via UPS.
1/30/2019 – Received two packages with the 3 transoms and the one replacement window. The north transom was supposed to be solid, and the replacement window they sent was for the upper slider window, not the lower fixed one. John had emailed them a photo of the window showing the condensation so it should have been obvious which one it was.
1/31/2019 – Southeast transom window had one piece of glass that was ¼” bigger than the other one, making it impossible to install. We tried using a glass grinder to resize it but being tempered glass we weren’t successful.
2/4/2019 – Water penetrating on the north side. John said C-Thru should get the new pattern on 2/5.
2/21/2019 – Asked for an update on the window status. Didn’t hear back.
2/24/2019 – John texted asking about leaks. Water was still leaking into the pot on the floor. C-Thru called asking to confirm which window it was again, even though they had been sent pictures and a description of the one with the leak.
2/27/19 – After a major rainstorm, a new leak developed on the floor by the wood post on the south side.
3/27/2019 – Texted John a photo of new leak at bottom of window.
3/4/2019 – Asked for status update on the windows from John. No answer back.
3/5/2019 – Second set of replacement windows arrived. Both have a gasket that penetrates into the viewable area of the window. Asked John if he could stop by on the 7th as it was a no rain day.
3/7/2019 – Talked to John about newly arrived windows and how I didn’t think they would work. Also mentioned the molding used on the north transom wasn’t working and not what the instructions say to use. Again pointed out gap by header gutter that is allowing rain and yellow jackets into the house.
3/27/2019 – Received the third set of replacement windows. The window for the transom has the glazing backwards. Mentioned it to C-Thru by email. Got a text from John saying he would be by on the 28th.
3/28/2019 – John arrived around 10:30, sat in his truck for awhile and then left. No communication if it was due to rain or what.
3/29/2019 – John installed the two replacement windows, and the final trim.
4/1/2019 – Water still leaking into front header trough. Must be coming in under curved glass pieces. Had a talk with John, paid $2000.