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January 25, 2010

So you’ve brought home a bumbling new contractor who’ll turn your Ritz into a wreck. How to avoid it? Read on.

101 contractors illustration just go for it

Joe just built a new house. He is frowning because he did it wrong.

He started the process by purchasing a house plan book at a garage sale, quickly finding a design that looked “doable.” He made a copy of the design and gave it to his nephew Kenny,* who looks like a wood rat. Kenny assured Joe he could build a house—–he had worked construction before and knew how to swing a hammer.

Joe didn’t get a firm bid from Kenny, who suggested instead that they just “go for it.” He performed some mental calculations and jotted how much he thought it would cost to build the house on the back of a Lucky Charms box. He gave this to Joe one evening, along with a $5,000 invoice for “miscellaneous up-fronts.” When Joe asked about a contract,* Kenny gave him the stink eye.*

Construction didn’t go well. There was a small fire. There was gunplay. There was an infestation of flying bugs that looked like shrimp. All of these distractions resulted in change orders.*  In addition to dealing with these unexpected costs, Kenny underestimated subcontractor bids by a long shot. He invoiced Joe sporadically, based on when he found himself burdened with what he referred to as “cash flows.”

One day, an inspector came by and shut the job site down. (Kenny’s plan to “go for it” meant working without a building permit.) On his own, Joe found an architect to slap together a set of construction documents* and to stamp the design. These delays proved too much for Kenny, whose cash flows forced him to sell his tools to the framing guy.* And then one day Kenny was gone, leaving Joe’s job site looking like the nest of an enormous man-eating bird.

After another delay, Joe found a second contractor to finish what Kenny had started. His name was Mark. (Or perhaps it was Doc—–it was hard to understand what he was saying.) Mark/Doc finished the house as well as he could, given the circumstances. When Joe asked about a punch list,* Mark/Doc misunderstood, thinking that Joe was picking a fight. He drove off, terrified, and was never heard from again.

Joe finagled a C of O* from a sympathetic inspector and moved into his oddly proportioned, hurriedly crafted, shrimp-infested, south-leaning house. He hates it.

This is why Joe is frowning.
 

* See Words You Should Know

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