Monday, August 4, 2014
A Major Project Stand Still--Working with the Trades--My Bitter Rant
Well, by the end of September progress on the house really slowed down. We had had a fellow doing our stucco exterior… a whole drama in and of itself. I did not want to hire him. He had a criminal record and had been in jail and his parolee was going to need to check in with us. I had heard a few stories and was not interested in having him around our site. However, D. (our contractor that helped us over the summer with the concrete pours) said that he was the cheapest we would find and he would keep him in line. Of course Jeremy did not want to consider any other options as it was clear that our Stucco job with J. would indeed be cheaper than any other crew we could hire. During August/September…things seemed to be working fine (but D. was still in and around our site a bit--which helped keep him in check)…by October working with J. became a real headache. Our agreed upon pay period of every two weeks, turned into every day, plus they would need their car filled with gas at the end of each day to get to and from the site. Each week there would be another sob storey, and he was also becoming unreliable at showing up at work or putting in a full days work. If Jeremy ran late after school they would wait outside our house for the money until he got home. This never made me feel to comfortable, but it took a real turn when I showed up at the site one day and overheard their conversation (they were working behind a tarp to keep the heat in and did not realize I was there). Anyway, it was incredibly inappropriate and disturbing and so I told Jeremy I was not comfortable at the site while they were there anymore. I also did not want them coming to our rental house anymore waiting for their daily cash. Jeremy relayed the message and reiterated our previously agreed upon 2-week pay period arrangement. However this chat had little impact and a few days later they sat outside my house for 2 hours--even after I had told them several times that Jeremy did not have cash on him today and he was in meetings and would be home late. By the time Jeremy came home I was mad. Jeremy was out there politely trying to resolve the situation, but I was already in full blown mother-bear mode. I slipped on my jacket and stormed out and gave them piece of my mind. I let them know I had heard their conversations the other day on the site and frankly it was very inappropriate and disturbing and I did not even feel comfortable going to the site or having them around my house. I let them know I had police officers in the family (okay, maybe a little dramatic) and that I don't trust people and when they behave this way red flags go up for me. I told them if it were up to me they wouldn't even have a job at our site and if they don't shape up I was more than happy to find someone else to finish the job. I also explained to them that when they do not show up for a full days labor (and I know when they are coming and leaving the site as our rental house is on the same road), and then expect to be paid for a full day that that is theft and I was tired of it….etc etc etc. After my rant I stormed back inside (locked the doors again) and let Jeremy deal with the rest. They apologized for their behaviour at the site and said they would do better. After that they put in a few more weeks of work and then they just stopped coming to the site altogether (by this time it was getting colder…but we would still get texts saying "on our way"…or "Will be there tomorrow", but they never showed up. All of their mess and supplies were still at the site so we knew they would come back sometime…but the exterior of the house would stay as is until later in the spring. The hardest part of this was when he left he had just started our South side…So all of our South glazing that was meant to help heat our home in the winter was completely not available over the winter as J. had left the scaffolding and tarps up across the whole south side of the house. As such over the winter we had no solar heat from our south windows and particularly frustrating no light…essentially we were working in a cave. It was a nice break not having to deal with all the disfunction and drama of having to babysit them, however we still had plenty of other drama to deal with. None of our other trades seemed to want to work at our site. We were now ready to get moving with our plumbing and electrical and shift our focus to the interior of the home. Our plumber who had started with us and who Jeremy had helped install the septic field with was not interested in coming to our site any time soon. I think after the septic field experience when he realized how much money we saved doing so much of the labor ourselves, he was not interested in working with us (unless desperate for work) as he could charge out and make a lot more money just doing it all himself. You see, it became clear to me that unless there is a shortage of work, the trades could really not be bothered to come to our house unless they were going to make a mint…However we planned to do work ourselves and cut costs where we could so in the end…I guess being cheap or trying to save money ended up being a hang up with the trades…(Don't get me wrong, it is not like we were ripping our trades off or trying to get a steal of a deal…they were still charging their rate…Our plumbers $85 dollars/hour rate was completely respectable and we paid all our bills on time) however he realized that on our septic field alone by having Jeremy do so much of the work we saved over $10, 000, which meant he was not making that money for him…his interest in our project quickly waned. This became a big problem with our electrical fellow to. We had worked out a rate etc. with him. It was agreed upon. However, work in the fall for our trades picked up and they were not hurting for jobs. Because we were cheaper and willing to do so much ourselves, the incentive to come to our site just was not there for them because they could make more money elsewhere. We also did all of our shopping and purchasing of materials for both the electrical and plumbing supplies…of course this saved us money but the plumber and electrician were not able to get the mark-up on materials that they charge when they supply the materials. After waiting a month and a half for our plumber we finally talked with him on the phone to try to pin down a time. The best he could tell us was maybe sometime in the new year but he wasn't sure when. We could not wait anymore--especially on such a loose commitment. We parted ways, found a new plumber, applied for another plumbing permit for our house and again, it was a hidden blessing. The new Plumber was out of lethbridge and was recommended to us by the Geothermal company we were working with. He would travel to our location…His rate was fair (perhaps even a smidge cheaper than our local guy), he was fair, decent, honest, but the best part was a great plumber that understood geothermal systems. He so far is my favourite Trade and one we recommend to anyone and everyone. Our Plumbing frustrations in the end turned out to be a real blessing as our previous plumber new nothing about Geothermal. Our Electrical guy was frustrating because he would always give us a date when he would be coming and then never show up. This went on for weeks and weeks. I would notice his truck for entire weeks at D.'s new house he was building and finally I asked our electrician why he never came to our site. He basically told me that D. is a General Contractor that gives him a lot of work and so he feels more of a commitment to make him happy than us….Again he said he would be to our place before Christmas, but it never happened. It then turned into after the new year, but again it was weeks and weeks before he showed up…and when we would get him it was usually just for an hour or two before he would leave. Sometimes he would leave his young assistant behind to do a few jobs for us, but it was definitely a SLOOOOWWW moving job. I guess that is the advantage to having a General Contractor. They deal with all the headaches of the trades…and they have more pull with the trades than we did. Our tin-smashers and HRV duct work fellows came from Lethbridge and they were great. However our walls were held up and we were unable to move on to drywall until our electrical and plumbing was tied up. In the end we had more luck with Trades from Lethbridge or out of town than we did with our local guys. And in the end I missed just being able to plunk away on it ourselves. Turning the house over to the trades brought a lot of frustration and for me bitterness whereas when it was just us working on the house we had no one else to blame or be bothered by but ourselves. I was looking forward to taking the house back and being done with our trades and doing the work ourselves again.