Don’t be a Guinea Pig

Takeaway: Don't pay to be the test case for inexperienced, unskilled builders I was recently on a job at a building where it was very apparent the a ton of unlicensed work had been performed. The owner confirmed that he had had a couple of "handy fellows" work on the renovations for him. What I noticed when I inspected the building:
  • Stairs that were irregular and dimensionally different at each tread
  • Handrails that were incorrectly installed
  • Unsupported load bearing walls
  • Walls that had been moved with no consideration of load
  • Exposed electrical work with odd junctions and faulty connections
  • Plumbing that had no breathers and incorrect dimensions
  • Doors that were improperly hinged
  • Openings in the siding and roof that allowed birds and rodents to enter the building
  • Skylights that were incorrectly installed and leaked
The owner was shocked when I produced the list of issues. He was at a point where he wanted to legalize the building, he wanted to permit some new work and no he was forced to pay a lot extra to get his new work approved. By coincidence the two fellows who had done all of the work that led to these issues arrived on the site to check out what was going on. They were very proud the work they had done and were lobbying for more work. I was taken aback. I asked for a business card, they didn't have one. I asked for references, they didn't have any. I asked them if they were licensed, they said no. I tried to understand what they were thinking. Approaching a licensed contractor on a job site, where work was being done to repair the work they had previously done - they were either clueless or arrogant. I talked to them about the work they had done on the building and they honestly told me it was the first work of this kind they had done. I asked how they knew what to do, they answered that they just worked it out as they went. Clueless! Well, here we have a case of some "handy fellows" working way outside their scope. They obviously were "handy" and they had some tools, but winging it does not usually lead to a good final product. As it turns out, the owner was well aware that these guys were not licensed and that they had little experience. He felt that because they had done some painting and carpentry for him in the past that they could handle his renovations. They agreed that they could do it too. In the end, it cost him considerably more than if he had hired a high end contractor upfront, and I mean HIGH END. These guys charge a little over $100,000 for work I would have charged somewhere around $45,000 - $50,000 to complete. He could have had some amazing work done for the price he paid these guys to wing it and install second rate materials. They made a lot of money off of him, they may have even learned a few things on the job; but the owner had no real benefit at all and had to spend more money to legalize the work. Some advice for inexperienced builders:
  • Do your research - YouTube, contractor forums and classes
  • Know your limits
  • Get licensed, bonded and insured
  • Find a specialty and stick to it (this is how your make a good living)
Some advice for the novice home owner
  • Ask for your builders credentials
  • Check your builders references
  • Do a little research of your own
This entry was posted in Best practice, Contractor Tips, Project Tips.

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