Sunday, February 1, 2015

One Small Step For Your Contractor – One Giant Leap For Mankind!

Back in 1961 Alan Shepard became the first American to be launched into space. It’s been reported that while he waited for that historic moment to take place, strapped into his capsule seat atop the Redstone rocket, one thing crossed his mind as Mission Control counted down to zero. He was at the mercy of technology and human ingenuity that was in fact built by the lowest bidder.

While we all put our faith in manufactured items during the course of our daily lives, very few have to be as trustworthy as early pioneers, such as astronauts. And while nothing compares in our homes to going into space, we still expect that quality workmanship in the manufactured items within our homes will live up to a standard that is safe, durable, and yes even cost effective.

But unfortunately, there are people out there whose mantra is, “Who cares?” “What’s the difference?” and “It doesn’t matter!” Over the years I’ve heard them all. What’s a guarantee worth when most of the time it includes only parts, not labour? Lifetime guarantee means what exactly? There is the old saying, “anything uttered before a ‘but’ is a lie.” In some guarantees you could almost say the same thing before an asterisk. You really, really have to get out that magnifying glass to read the fine print. You may find that your item only has a partial guarantee.*

It’s sad to say that many items that are returned to suppliers (or distributors) are credited, but a lot of the times defects are not reported to the manufacturers. I once brought a defective item to a supplier’s attention. They exchanged the piece and proceeded to throw the defective part in the garbage. Aghast, I asked, “What are you doing?” Their response, “Do you expect the manufacturer to care about this one piece; you are the only one complaining. If we have more complaints, MAYBE we’ll bring it to their attention.”

That kind of lackadaisical response angers me so. If distributors of plumbing supplies could be so cavalier about the quality of material, then what about precision welding facilities where they could be manufacturing pieces for airplanes or hospital equipment? How would you like having an MRI machine built that doesn’t work well because of faulty material? Now, do you begin to understand Alan Shepard’s concern?

I only wish there were more caring contractors out there. Unfortunately, there are many that put money before compassion. Fellow contractors don’t forget; our clients are of the utmost importance to us, and should be treated as such. Clients must realize that there ARE compassionate contractors out there who are NOT trying to take advantage of them. There are those of us who are trying to help, not just make a buck.

I’ll go one step further. I personally am there for my peers as well. I’m here to help my fellow professionals. But I have no qualms about condemning the ones who do not care. So wake up fellow contractors. In our daily lives there is not only theoretical knowledge, but practical knowledge as well. Work together with inspectors and other trade professionals by sharing information of technique and material quality. Let’s make it easier for us to do a better job and provide a more efficient service level to our clients. Let’s try to save money and time for our clients where necessary; not only for the short term, but also the long term. Without our clients, we are nothing. But on the other hand without us caring for them, our clients would be lost. And if we do our job right the first time, like Alan Shepard, the sky’s the limit.

See you around the drain!!!

*Many people will never read the asterisk here at the bottom. Sadly that’s almost a guarantee.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Teamwork – It Makes Sense With Your Dollars

I remember in my younger days when I worked for a company building single and multi dwelling properties. It was always great going to work with a positive attitude, having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Dinner tastes better, sleep was more restful and all was right with the world when the daily grind was hassle free of bad attitude.

But that Utopia is not always the case. I shudder to reminisce about one past horror story of a project I was on. The drywall had been completely installed in the bathroom before the shower faucet was put in the wall. After approaching the drywall installers with the problem, they informed me that they were on a tight schedule. Really?!?! That’s like putting an empty casket in a burial plot because your schedule it too tight to wait for the body!

When I informed that I would have to remove the sheet of drywall to install the piping, and it would have to be their job to then reinstall the drywall, to my horror, the installer said, “No problem, we’ll just sign off an extra on the job!!!”

WHAT A CROOK! Gee it’s nice to see so-called professionals being cavalier with other people’s money! I cannot tolerate that word --- EXTRA!!! That means larger, unjustified costs to the consumer.

Or how about not-so-bright plumbers, who are clearly still wet around the seal, installing toilets and lavatories before the walls have been painted? It’s uncanny how many times I have to change toilets where either wallpaper or paint becomes visible because it wasn’t done properly in the first place. That’s like trying to tie your shoes tightly, before putting your feet in them.

And speaking of feet, what about flooring finishers, whether it’s for tile, carpet or hardwood, who install too early, meaning other workers have to traipse across newly unprotected flooring, with all the grace of a herd of buffalo? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what happens to a finished floor that isn’t covered properly. It could end up finished in more ways than one.

Why do these screw ups occur? One good reason is a lack of coordination. When the coordinator of the job just executes and delegates work to subcontractors without keeping all trades people in the loop, mistakes will occur. The correct procedure is capsulated in a single word – Teamwork.

Everybody working on a project must know scheduling and devise a work strategy to properly execute the renovation. While coordinating a renovation isn’t exactly like planning the D-Day Invasion, there is something to be said for when the battle plan, or lack-thereof, greatly affects the quality and cost of the finished product.

Frankly, when it comes to teamwork, I really don’t care which rusty wrench of a brain is responsible for bad coordination. It’s up to us, the subcontractors (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc) to work together and make each project run as smoothly as possible. It’s imperative, not only for having a good work attitude, but also to have thoughtfulness for the end user, the paying client. It’s bad enough that certain circumstances could arise that might alter scheduled work from getting done, so let’s not try to add gasoline to the fire.

If you’re a consumer getting work done on your home, make sure you’re in the know of ALL aspects of the renovation itself from the basis of the general contractors scheduling. Ask if the contractor’s scheduling is on plan, and if not, ask why. If for some reason you are coordinating the project yourself, make sure all your subcontractors follow the proper schedule and ask if your scheduling is reasonable. One thing you don’t want to happen is to discourage your subcontractors. Have on site meetings frequently, making sure everything is running to plan.

Withholding changes to all the subcontractors is another no-no. A lot of prep is sometimes needed for a change order by one or many subcontractors. That means more cost to you if things have to be done twice. Understand that all projects don’t always fall into plan. Be prepared to make quick decisions based on on-site conditions and circumstance.

Listen to your subcontractors. Most do have experience, however many have a lot of bad experience! Sadly, I come across some so-called professionals on the lower end of Darwin’s evolutionary scale on a weekly basis. “I have 30 years of experience,” one subcontractor might say. To which I could easily respond, “And from the looks of things, it appears to be 30 years of bad experience!” Usually that retort leads to my not being on their Christmas card list, but I believe in standing up for the client and doing what’s right. If that puts me at odds with trades people who do shoddy work, or worse, don’t care, then so be it.

Finally, home owners should try and chose fixtures that can easily be repaired in the future and make sure replacement parts are readably available. Conventionality is the word of choice. Buy fixtures that you can easily find generic replacements for. Options are extremely important in a “reno.” Look for or ask your general contractor for different options way in advance of the project start date. Perfectly executed jobs are far and few between. Reno disasters are more and more in style. Please try to prevent those disasters from happening. I really do not need the extra work!

See you around the drain!!!