a peek inside the fishbowl

15 Aug, 2012

Reno post #35 – a huge mistake as a result of bad graphic design

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno

The other day I was at the mall when I suddenly heard someone yell: “YOUR RENO IS LOOKING REALLY GOOD.” It was someone I know very peripherally from my neighbourhood, practically a stranger. I’m not sure if he even knows my name. The girls and I walked over and chatted with him about it a little bit.

I find this hilarious, talking about the details of our closet space and bathrooms with random people like this. But it seems that folks are universally interested in renovations.

It’s almost always the first thing people ask us. How is the reno going? To summarize: it’s going great. There have been many times where something could have gone terribly wrong and cost us a lot of extra money (during the digging of the basement, for example) but so far so good.

However the story I want to share with you is a real doozy about the one lousy thing that’s happened to us so far. And the star of this story is Very Bad Graphic Design. Seriously.

This happened before just before we were leaving on a weeklong camping holiday.

Mark biked by the house on his way home from work and he noticed that the roof on the new addition (it’s on the back of our house) was an odd colour. He snapped a quick photo with his iPhone and texted it to me along with four or five exclamation marks. It looked like the wrong colour but it was hard to tell because (a) that part of the roof is pretty high up (b) there are a few trees in the way and (c) the light was hitting it at an odd angle at that moment.

It couldn’t POSSIBLY be the wrong colour of roof shingle, could it?

I jumped in the car and drove over. Sadly, shockingly, it was indeed the wrong colour. We had chosen a medium-dark-grey colour, closer to black. This was closer to white, a milky grey that was the colour of dirty water. What the hell?

We had had a meeting with our builder awhile back, at which point he showed us a card of shingle colours with samples attached to it. We pointed to colour we wanted, telling him that we wanted as close a match to our existing roof colour as possible. Here is a photo of the IKO roof tile colour chart we used to make our selection. The colour we wanted is circled in black.


My mind was reeling. How on earth could this happen? How much was this mistake going to cost us? Could we get away with having a two-tone roof, especially since the new part was hard to see?

Mark and I were stunned. We went home and searched our email, and there it was. A couple weeks before we had been asked to confirm, in writing, the name of the colour of roof tile we wanted. So, looking at the sample sheet (as per above) we had told him we wanted Dual Grey.

We took another look at all of the documents in play and realized that the name of the colour (marked with the letter A below) doesn’t belong to the tile directly above it (marked with a B), but the tile BELOW IT, marked with a C. Holy crap, right?


The colour name is bumped too close to the tile and there’s a drop shadow behind it all, visually differentiating it from the other tiles. Gah! The actual name of the actual tile we actually wanted was HARVARD SLATE. Frig.

I AM blaming IKOs terrible graphic design but also my own idiocy for not studying the sample board hard enough. So, during one of the worst heat waves of the summer, the roofers had to lay the new colour over the old colour. I’m sure they were cursing our names.


I can’t believe it either.

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10 Responses to "Reno post #35 – a huge mistake as a result of bad graphic design"

1 | Alison in Ottawa

August 15th, 2012 at 8:06 am


If I had triple checked the colour name, I still likely would have given the wrong colour name. That is a terrible layout!

2 | Eden Spodek

August 15th, 2012 at 8:30 am


Andrea, I feel for you especially after having gone through a reno last year. Agreed the mistake was a result of poor graphic design but shouldn’t your builder have done a better job of explaining the documents to you especially when the design was so misleading? Will he be fixing it for you?

3 | Chantal

August 15th, 2012 at 9:49 am


see I see that as the shingle company’s error and not yours. That is a horrible sample sheet. I would have made the exact same error as you!

4 | Amy @ Muddy Boots

August 15th, 2012 at 10:25 am


I wonder how much extra work they drum up with that “design”? Brutal.

5 | Stefania

August 15th, 2012 at 11:24 am


Yikes! I would have made the same mistake. Did you get a reduced rate for the right colour?

6 | Pamela

August 15th, 2012 at 11:37 am


Holy crap is right. No idiocy on your part though. I would have made the same “mistake” you did.

7 | Monica

August 15th, 2012 at 3:37 pm


That is unbelievable. No wonder you made the mistake. It took me a few reads to understand as it was so unclear which colour belonged with which sample. Ouch, ouch, ouch! Hope you caught it in time that it wasn’t a huge loss to swallow. Good thing Mark cruised by on his bike!

8 | Richard

August 15th, 2012 at 9:32 pm


Not a good situation to say the least. I find it odd that the contractor did not catch that. It would be unusual for someone to have two different colour roofs. Add to that the fact that you indicated that you “wanted as close a match to our existing roof colour as possible. ”

I think the contractor took his/her eye off the ball on this one.

The joys of renovations.

9 | andrea

August 16th, 2012 at 9:07 am


Richard – I think this was a case of him not being on site at the exact moment the tiles were delivered and the crew just going ahead with it. Thankfully we caught it before it went too far.

The builder is a great guy and we’re very happy with his work. He absorbed the cost of this error and we all learned a big lesson.

I thank my lucky stars that we were able to find an apartment so close to the house. We drop by almost every day to see the progress, and this gives us lots of time to ask questions and double check.

10 | Richard

August 16th, 2012 at 8:06 pm


Glad he absorbed the cost. Says a lot about his integrity for doing that. Happy you dodged that bullet:) Good luck with the rest and stay close!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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