Adventures in Urban Homesteading: Working with Contractors
As someone that likes to do everything myself (not only to take pride in the craftsmanship when the job is complete, but also to ensure the job is done exactly as I want it) I have come to realize that sometimes I just have to let it go and let the professionals do the work. That was the case in my latest adventures with home ownership.
My driveway, installed at the same time my house was constructed (in 1945) had seen better days. It looked like the San Andreas fault line in areas with cracks as wide as 2 inches, a driveway approach that was guaranteed to scrape the bottom of your car, and a nice pond next to the foundation of my house whenever it rained.
Knowing my back couldn’t handle demolishing and installing over 500 sf of concrete I drew up some simple plans, contacted 4 local contractors, got very competitive bids, and chose a contractor. Little did I know that as soon as construction began, issues would follow.
My contractor had hired a subcontractor to do the work and the contract between him and the contractor was different than the contract I had with my contractor. There were constant disagreements with the foreman and I on what was included in the job and what wasn’t. (That is where I was extremely happy to have drawings with everything called out, because whatever wasn’t called out was a battle). It became apparent that my expectations with the quality of the workmanship and the contractors clearly did not align. In the morning, I would give the construction crews specific directions before leaving for work and when I got home would find that they did not follow my instructions (or the plans).
I am now 45 days into the construction of the driveway and the contractor still has not completed the job.
When all is said and done my back is going to thank me and, although it’s been a trying process, I’ve learned a very important lesson in regards to contractors – make sure that EVERYTHING is in writing before beginning work (and choose a contractor that has already done work for someone you know).
Written by Matt Gruber, Project Manager at Callander Associates