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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Builder Build,, Remodelors Remodel and General Contractors Fix Stuff

Just try and coordinate roofers and siders together. Do the roof first and the siders will bang up the metal edge. Do the siding first and the roofers will get debris behind the aluminum fascia. Do them at the same time and nobody will pick up trash. What’s a contractor to do?
Be a hard arse. Tough love. Tell them what you expect and enforce it. There still might be problems because the two trades need to be tied together. They have different ways of doing things and usually speak different dialects. So be there. Stay on top.
When I was in college and putting a roof on a new home in Pioneer Valley, Irving, 75060, my boss, also named Jon, shot Johnny. The next day when I went to finish the job because boss man was in the pokey, the plumbers asked my 19 year old self to let them come in and put on the flashings later because they hadn’t cut the PVC pipe penetrations yet. Sir this and sir that, I was confused. When my helpers went on the ground to eat their lunch and I stayed in a patch of shade on the roof, one of the old grumpy men said something about how mean we were and that we didn’t even eat together. They thought I was the shooter. This incident is referred to as the "Shoot Out at Double Oak(Lane)"
I asked them if they thought I was the shooter. They told me to go flash my own pipe. There you have it: my first encounter of mixing trades. Nobody died but we came close.
Whenever a general contractor, which we often are, has to coordinate various professions, they all seem to get a lot less professional. The blame game begins and the trash pile grows. Slacking, pointing fingers, and sloppy work, are happening because it is easy to blame.
Nobody gets paid until you children straighten it up. I don’t care if it’s the other guy, we are in the same sinking boat and I want it fixed before somebody sees it.
Cooperation amongst the species can go a long way toward building a better world. We don’t need to bicker about who killed who but focus on a better castle.
Insurance companies know about this and will pay a ten and ten on a job if there are three trades. Some include the roofing, like State Farm, but others won’t, like USAA. Ten and ten is a twenty percent mark up for headaches and lost materials. It used to be ten on ten, which is twenty one percent, but we lost that also to the nickel and dime department.
When remodelors coordinate painters with plumbers successfully the plumber doesn’t know a hole in the recently finished faux texture with splattered drag paint. Window guys don’t tear up the new siding, and steel roofers don’t seal metal to the outside of freshly installed vinyl siding. Dump trucks don’t drive over new lawn sprinkler systems and roofers don’t shot each other.
A perfect world of harmony and bliss arises and the need for Buddhism abates.
I saw a roofer in Dallas drop his hatchet from the roof and it never hit the ground. I always wondered how those sheet rockers were going to bang sheet rock nails with a waffled hatchet head. The tape, bed, and texture guys had to be furious. I guess you might call it Karma, which is Asian for Mother Nature with an attitude.
Anyway, if it were easy everybody would be a general contractor. Dallas has many. Too many. Most know nothing about the different trades they direct. One builder who built in Mesquite, Irving, and Dallas in the 1980’s told me the roof was ready to dry in. when we arrived it wasn’t. He asked me “don’t you start at the top and work down?” We do on stone coated steel roofs like Gerard and Decra but even with those roofs the dry sheet begins at the eave.
Another builder in Garland, who never paid me my change orders, sent his carpenter, painters, and masons onto my roofs where they proceeded to face nail thousands of large diameter nails right through the roofing. There must have been twenty nails per hundred square feet driven and then removed. Due to the steep slope and small hole size, water tension keeps the leaks from occurring, for a while.
After some time, with the U.V. protection (granules) gone, the sun will eat away at the asphalt, which is organic, and the destruction will begin.
You know the City of Garland inspectors never caught it. I tried complaining.
Remodel contractors are better than builders because they carry the liability. They work for the people who will be living in the home. After a new home sells all bets are soon off. The guarantees were negotiated with the seller, the builder, and not the buyer, the one who will have to pay the remodelor to repair the damaged plywood decking, the sheet rock, the insulation, the paint, and, oh, the roof.
Builders just usually don’t care because they don’t understand. They’ve never swung a hammer or climbed a step two story roof on a hot Texas afternoon.
In fact, builders are hardened and don't care. Remodeling contractors are incompetent most of the time and look for cheap subcontractors. General Contractors hire competent contractors and coordinate them. They mark up the contractors fees and don't look solely at price. Their job is to get a good job at the best price possible, not the cheapest price. This is where remodeling companies fail. They bid the job at a set price and try to hold the line. General Contractors have quality in the mix too. If needed, they use a more expensive contractor for a particular service because they find it necessary. Then they mark it up 20%.
When I was just out of college in the record breaking summer of 1980, my compadre and I were wrapping it up when the builder came scrambling up the ladder to persuade us to stay. What he didn’t realize was that the heat was beginning to penetrate his soles. He started to dance the Watusi while we rhythmically clapped and sang to his undulating body. Desperately he ran for the ladder but relief was not in sight. The heat was just getting to his foot. He kicked off his shoes, jumped from the ladder into a pie of sand, and said “you guys can quit clapping now. Go home.” I thought he said beer store. I’m still mad he didn’t pay the receipt.
There are a lot of builders like this. They don’t pay. Remodelors are better. They even buy their guys some beer but I won’t. What they do with their money is their business. What I do with my customer’s money is their business. I better be tough. I’ll be fair but tough.
Jon Wright