We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, September 24. 2008
If we have any such readers, would you guys please consider showing up for work once in a while? I mean, like, even if you have messy lives, and addictions, and multiple divorces, and kids from numerous females with school problems and police problems, and sick relatives, and broken transmissions, and court dates, and side-jobs, and cash-flow emergencies, and bowling practice and softball practice, or a kid with a tooth-ache or stomach-ache, or your helper is out sick with a hangover or a bad head-cold, or whatever, how about considering working like normal people? Like normal Yankee people who do not have an excuse du jour, and view their work as a serious committment to another person?
You know, like beginning work early in the morning, showing up when you say you will, working a solid 8-hr day, and all that sort of regular steady American thing. It just might do you guys some good.
Most people need structure to their lives if they are to thrive. I think these guys just don't need the money.
I still have no master bathroom, since early August. Tiling is half-done. No, 1/4 done, and this guy is supposed to be the best guy around. He shows up for two or three hours, gets a phone call from one of his ex-wives or a lawyer or a dealer or a friend who wants to go out drinking or fishing or an hysterical girlfriend who says he's cheating on her and who needs calming down, or a friend he has to take to rehab in Ohio, or whatever, then disappears for two days and turns off his cell phone.
The shower door guy seems reliable, and our carpenter is the shiznits.
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Only three ways to avoid it:
References, references, references.
If he's doing it now, chances are he was the same on the last two jobs.
I'm using a contractor in the Pacific NW whose references couldn't say enough good things about him - and about the multiple projects he'd done for them, their friends, and their families. And sure enough, he showed up on time and worked his b__t off.
The other subs he's recommended have all been reliable, too.
One other thing: don't make any final payment until you're 100% satisified with the work, no matter how much of a sob story you get. Hold off 20% or so until everything is complete - amazing how much incentive that gives the guys.
I take pictures form beginning to end..if the contractor objects, then he's probably not the contractor I want.
Ha ha, you have learned the same lesson I did when renovating the farmhouse (the infamous financial meltdown, at least up until last week's events reclaimed the title).
The lesson is that there is an enormous, untapped opportunity for moderately-skilled craftsmen to make a bundle by simply showing up and doing a job, being reliable, and charging for it. They would have customers beating down their doors by word of mouth alone. The only problem is scaling up to deal with the increased business, because that means hiring and being responsible for other people showing up and doing the job.
Geez, it's crazy how hard it is to find a reliable contractor who isn't content to just make enough to keep the wolves from the door so he can take the rest of the day off.
I feel your pain, bud.
Dan D - your comment is right on the money. It's almost impossible to find responsible craftsmen. I'm elated when one actually shows up for the initial appointment to bid on the job.
In my city finding a citizen to bid on any work is near impossible, so far I've stuck to my guns on not hiring illegals, but it's looking like my bathroom tile work will be done by Mexicans - I can't find anyone else to come do the job and I'm willing to pay above the going rate for a legal contractor.
On a broader note, maybe the public schools ought to reconsider the college track for every student and go back to the vo-tech model used in the past? We might have fewer dropouts if some of these young men were given training in something they have an aptitude for and enjoy.
Here in rural northern Michigan, it's pretty much the same as your situation, BD. Even though Michigan has a depressed economy, these guys don't show up when they say they will, and then when they do, it's "I forgot a part, have to go to town to get it" and you don't see them for a week or two. Heck, you'd think we were asking them to work for free! My solution: get to be friends with the best one, and then, maybe, you'll get treated normally - but only because his wife will get on his ass to 'fix that widget problem over at so-and-so's house or else!' Geez.
I think collectively these guys were the under-achievers in school, and have simply grown into adulthood. They couldn't hold down a 'regular job' so this is what they do. They are used to doing everything half-assed, have done it all their lives and will continue to do so. - Of course, that characterization doesn't include all the really good, competent, professional contractors who read this blog!
I have generally had good luck with tradesmen, but do agree that some are the sh**z. I have the best luck with people referred by friends or relatives that are satisfied with the work done for them.
We had a painter that painted our condo (the second job he has done for us) tell us that he gets almost all his work from referrals and repeat business. Something to think about.
Mexicans do excellent tile work. They tend to work harder than dropouts from the USA, for less. Please check their SSNs before you hire.
I'll take the contrarian view here. This is the type of thing I expect to happen when the homeowner acts as the general contractor.
For the most part, the reliable subs work for the good general contractors. There are always a few guys in every market that do the entire job themselves, but they are hard to find and it's also often very hard to get on their calendar.
I am a specialty remodeler in Dallas (kitchens mostly, with the occassional bath). I find that my biggest problem is being able to charge enough for my services as the economics of a remodeling project are pretty simple. The homeowner can do the project for less than I would charge if they are going to perform the role of GC. Many homeowners, for reasons that are entirely understandable, choose not to pay the cost of hiring me to perform their remodeling projects. I do, however, think too few of these homeowners understand the trade off in time and frustration that will almost certainly be the result of that decision.
I have also learned the hard way that service is a function of price. My go to guys, the plumber, electrician, painter, etc. are not cheap. Every time I have been lured by the siren song of less expensive, I have been burned and ended up with a customer that is dissatisfied with the length of the project.
I am very sympathetic to your current situation. The one thing I can recommend to you at this point is to tough it out. If you fire the people who have started the job, it will be nearly impossible to find quality trades to finish the work. It is work my firm never takes on.
While I'm spending time on your web site instead of getting out my next proposal, I will also suggest that as the economy softens, this problem with craftsmen will get worse. You will have plumbers, etc. that would normally be working for a larger firm out on their own since they have been laid off. They now have to handle all the back of the house work that their former employers handled for them. Most are not capable of it, many that are capable of handling the additional responsibility will not charge enough, making it look like they can't handle the additional responsibility. I have seen this every time there is a down turn since I've been a remodeler.
Our carpenter is acting as our GC for a few or our current repair projects. He is great, and went to HS with most of these guys - they are skilled, but so damn unreliable.
There's a pawn shop looking for all those nice tools . . .
Seriously, what you need is some Ecuadoran work ethic.
BD, I like you , in a bastardly sorta way. Do you need your head examined? Never hire friends from H.S. to do work for you. Never lend your friends money. Never sell them anything you own. Like a car. I'd like to say I feel sorry for you but I really don't. You probably have 3 other bathrooms to use. Just because your 1500 sq. ft. master bathroom is down and you are not able to take a jacuzzi, it isn't the end of the world. Things could be worse. I'd hate to be around you when the power goes out. Now quit your whining, you whining American and figure out a way how to deal with this current problem that you have. Now that's the best Phil Gramm advise I can give you.
Sorry for being so blunt and mean spirited. I had a terrible day myself. That's what you get for not holding the Larson-McLeod and Wife convention at your house. Please take my above ramblings with a grain of salt :)
My daughter and her husband just had a house renovated. Aside from being shoddy, untimely, and unprofessional they were untrustworthy. My daughters husband had to change the locks after thay finished because the contractor wore one of those ankle bracelets.
As a contractor I deal with all grades of workers here in England...it seems pretty much the same as in America...a great number are people who are tilers etc by default and not through choice.If you find a worker who is a craftsman through actual choice then you have a winner.
I like watching Holmes on Holmes. Mike Holmes is a contractor who has become a big TV star but don't hold that against him. He is a really good builder. Here is one of his books about renos. Think he has a new book out on home inspections too.
Make It Right (TM): Straight Talk on Home Renovation from the Most Trusted Contractor in the Business
by Mike Holmes
Subtrades (like tile, drywall, painting, etc. etc.) are often times priced by the square foot. The back and forth on small jobs is a pain, so the best subs will often decline a small job. If they do take them, then the bigger jobs will bump the smaller jobs and commercial work will bump residential and in some trades that can happen at almost any given time. Having substance abuse and life style problems is another story, but sometimes tradesmen who run a small "sub-contracting business" do so because they are almost unemployable otherwise. Never pay them until late Friday or Saturday and do not count on them to show up on Monday either. Also, a good carpenter is not necessarily a good contractor. Not judging your guy BD, just saying. A good contractor has to know about everything, the structural, the insulation, the venting, the mechanical, the plumbing, the wiring, the waterproofing and all the possible finishes. And building to code is not always good enough. Gotta make it right.
Here is an interesting (to me anyways) clip of Mike Holmes on youtube, fixing a noise problem in a new townhouse.
QuietRock Soundproofing on Holmes
Tile is one fourth done? The picture shows an open wall, how can one tile this? How many times have you changed your mind on things? Usually, when the walls are all finished, (hung and taped) you're half way home, if the tile guy isn't given a clear space, how can he perform? Somebody, you or your carpenter buddy, isn't telling the full story to each other.
THIS is why I believe in handcuffs and a gun (shackles possibly). Once they enter the domain, they will not leave until the job is finished. Have you noticed it is also difficult to track them down when they step out for lunch or a smoke? Possibly one of those ankle monitors should be applied.
While not for everyone, this is exactly why I prefer the DIY approach. My wet tile saw, table saw, Fluke analyzer, and other specialized tools have paid for themselves many times over as I (or my wife) continue to find more and more projects to use them on. And I don't have to expose my family and floorplan to those people whose background I have no idea on.
With DIY, things tend to take longer but they are often cheaper and I know they were done right and to my specs.
Just my $.02. Good luck!
Try a Union electrician. For years the electrical unions in most states have ceded the residential market to the folks you describe because they could make a nice living in commercial ventures. No more. The IBEW has a “Code of Excellence” to change the perception of union workers as such reform is the only path to long term job security. Here are some highlights:
• Come to work on time, fit for duty and ready to work.
• 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay. Be on the job unless otherwise allowed or authorized to leave.
• Obey recognized customer and employer work rules.
• Demonstrate zero tolerance for alcohol and substance abuse.
• Follow safe, reasonable and legitimate management directives.
• Limit lunch and break times to allocated periods; adhere to established start and quit times.
• Curtail idle time or pursuit of personal business during work hours, including cell phone use.
• Expel job disruptions and refuse to engage in slowdowns or activities designed to extend the job or create overtime or any other conduct that would cast the IBEW in bad light.