Nfld. & Labrador

Labrador couple says contractor destroyed their dream home, cost them thousands

A Labrador couple says they are out thousands of dollars after a St. John's contractor destroyed their house and walked away.

Couple considering legal action against James Dobbin, LJ's Contracting

Chris Bridle and Joshua Nolan say a contractor from St. John's ruined their Red Bay home this fall and left much of the renovations unfinished. (Photos courtesy Joshua Nolan)

When Joshua Nolan and Chris Bridle bought their little abandoned house in Red Bay, they imagined a dream home.

Built into the rocky hills, the house overlooks the water with a view of the picturesque town in the background.

They saw a place to build their lives together.

What the couple didn't imagine was the nightmare they said they endured when a contractor left their house in shambles last fall.

"It's every homeowner's nightmare," Bridle said. "When I walked into the house, the day we were supposed to move in… I could have sat in the middle of the floor and cried. My heart just sunk."

Dream home gone wrong

The couple bought the house in January 2016, eyeing a move back to Bridle's hometown to be closer to family and his job at Muskrat Falls.

The house had been shuttered for nearly a decade and required extensive work before it was move-in ready. It needed new flooring, drywall, paint, windows, siding — the works.

"There wasn't a lot of contractors around because it's such a small town," Nolan said. "So I went on the hunt and found James Dobbin."

James Dobbin, who attended the same high school as Joshua Nolan, was hired to do the work in Red Bay. (James Dobbin/Facebook)

Dobbin, who attended the same high school as Nolan in St. Mary's, had been working in home construction and renovation around the Avalon Peninsula.

From the photos he posted on Facebook, Nolan believed Dobbin to be a talented carpenter.

"I trusted him because I thought I knew him," Nolan said. "I didn't ask for any references, which was my mistake on my part."

Problems came quickly, couple says

The two men agreed on a contract, according to Nolan. Dobbin would bring his team of two workers to Red Bay on the homeowners' dime. He would be paid $8,500 in three installments, with an additional $1,200 in travel costs.

The crew was to arrive on Sept. 7 and start work immediately.

Dobbin began laying the laminate flooring throughout the house first, Nolan said, leaving the new floor to be walked over for the next three weeks.

Bridle was away at work, while Nolan stopped by occasionally throughout the renovations.

In the last week of September, Dobbin told Nolan he would be heading back to Newfoundland to deal with a family matter.

In a message on Facebook, he told him the work was nearly complete, but they wouldn't have time to lay a portion of the flooring or put up crown mouldings in the kitchen.

The couple didn't think that would be a big deal — just minor work they could finish themselves.

Work done wrong or left unfinished

When they arrived at the house the next morning, they were shocked.

"Then we walked in, and our jaws just dropped," Nolan said.

Top left: Ceramic tiles in the bathroom were left unevenly cut without grout between them. Bottom left: Ceilings were left unfinished with electrical wires hanging down. Right: Crown mouldings were cut short and the gaps were filled with caulking. (Joshua Nolan)

The couple had purchased Victorian-style crown mouldings to go throughout the house. They said Dobbin and his men cut them short, filled the gaps with caulking, put some of them upside down, glued them to the ceiling and used a hammer rather than a nail gun.

In the bathroom, the toilet was not properly installed, but had water running to the tank, Nolan said.

"When I flushed it, the water came right through the bathroom, all over the new flooring."

The toilet was not installed properly, but had water running to the tank. The result was water spilling across the bathroom floor. (Joshua Nolan)

Laminate floor ran throughout most of the house, but one room featured vinyl flooring. Instead of laying the vinyl flat on the original surface, the crew placed a foam underlay beneath it.

"It felt like memory foam," Nolan said. "If someone walked in with high heels on, it would go right through the floor. So everything had to be ripped up."

The couple took their complaints to Dobbin. Screenshots of correspondence show he offered to return $500 to them.

"That was just a joke to us," Nolan said.

The couple says drywall was hung unevenly throughout much of the house. (Joshua Nolan)

After some additional tasks were added to the contract during construction, the couple said they paid $11,500 to Dobbin for labour and travel.

In return, all the interior work needed to be re-done and much of the $40,000 worth of materials they purchased was ruined, they said.

The girlfriend of Dobbin employee Shawn Ryan responded to Nolan on her boyfriend's behalf. Screenshots of their conversation show her saying he would help work with the homeowners to fix the shoddy work, along with coworker Simon Dobbin — James' brother.

The couple said they have been unable to reach Dobbin since he returned approximately $4,000 to them shortly after leaving Red Bay.

Messages left for Dobbin by CBC have yet to be returned.

Chris Bridle and Joshua Nolan were told their home would be move-in ready. When they showed up on the morning their contractor was leaving, they say they found a total mess. (Joshua Nolan)

In the end, Nolan and Bridle enlisted the help of a local fisherman and handyman to fix the mistakes for $3,500, plus nearly $4,000 in new supplies.

"We're still in a rut," Bridle said. "We're in our home now. There's still a few things that need to be done. But we're out a lot of money."

The couple is considering legal action, but would rather settle out of court.

"If he would return even 75 per cent of the money he cost us, I'd be OK with that," Nolan said. "Just to be done with him forever."

About the Author

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.