Larry’s Rant #5
Hi Ya’ll! It’s once again time to get stuff off my chest. Instead of going to therapy, I just write another rant. Stuff sure builds up when living day to day in the foundation repair field. I imagine most every job has its challenges (i.e. pains in the tush) that you pretty much ignore, until something sets you off.
With the latest issue I’ve had, I must say that I am proud of myself for just sticking to my guns, and to not saying everything that ran through my mind. I must be getting mellow with age, or maybe I just don’t want to waste my time. And getting to write a rant helps. Since my rants are about anonymous people, you get to hear what I really think.
So I am in my office the other day, minding my own business, (literally, as I was balancing the company checkbook. Oh so fun.) when the phone rings. It’s a contractor calling about a project he’s working on. Now, let me point out, that I know lots of good contractors. I recommend them out a lot, like Jim Crawford, the chimney guy. (Sorry Jim, your anonymity is gone) I know he’s both particular about his work, and he gets old houses. But more often than not, I don’t care for contractors. We’re a smelly, grubby lot, and I am tired of other contractors telling me how to do my job. I do what I do, I leave the plumbing to the plumber, so leave the foundations to me. Besides, contractors are often slow payers, and will cheat you worse than lawyers. Oh yeah, I said it. I’d rather work for a lawyer than most contractors. In fact, check out my testimonial-he’s a lawyer, and a good guy. Living dichotomy. Finally, so many contractors bend the rules on workman’s comp, insurance, and just plain incompetence that I am leery when a contractor I don’t know calls me.
Anyway, as is usual, he tells me a story how he started to work on this house, and found some foundation issues. Right away, I bite my tongue. How did you find out about foundation issues AFTER you started working on this house? Didn’t you look first? I don’t expect you to know everything, but you had no clue? I suspect he did have a clue, but needed the work, so figured he’d “open her up” and then go from there.
After he spends 10 minutes describing the project in detail, I try to wheedle the address out of him. Now, this is typically tough with these guys, because I guess he’s concerned I will steal this job from him somehow. But, I have no interest in dry walling, painting, replacing windows, setting tile, etc. He should have no interest in doing foundation work, just like I don’t do granite countertops or eat sushi-not my bag, man.
I finally get the address, and sure enough, I find out I did an estimate 5 years before. This is not unusual-I’ve done thousands of estimates over the years. What surprised me is I did the estimate for the current homeowners. They had been told the entire foundation needs replacement. This is a large, expensive job, and should be done before all the “cosmetic” work they are planning is done. So I guess nobody talks anymore, either homeowners to contractors, or vice versa. Can’t we all get along?
We set up a time, and I tell him, hey, no guarantees, likely it hasn’t fixed itself, it’s probably a large job. Lets check it out. He goes on about the client’s not having a large budget, etc. Now here is pet peeve number 3,086. (Oh, I got issues) While I am sympathetic about lack of money (oh, I understand that!) that really doesn’t change the bid. The only way the price changes is if I change the scope of work. If the foundation is shot, I can’t just fix it a little bit. Better that you wait on the repairs till you can do them right. But while I am sympathetic, in this case, I figure they had five years to save up. Since I’ve never met them, I really can’t speak too much about what they are up against, so I guess I am fine with it.
I go there the next day, and I can tell it’s shot in about 30 seconds. Just like five years before, the whole thing needs to be replaced. Sorry, it didn’t fix itself. I spend the first 15 minutes looking it over, showing him the damage, (and still wondering how he didn’t see it) and explaining the process of house the repair would proceed. Then, for the next fifteen minutes he tries to talk me into doing a portion of the foundation instead of the whole thing. He says how the client’s don’t have the money, and since they have started cosmetically fixing the front of the house in order to get historic status, they have a limited budget, yadda yadda yadda…..
This is where I am proud of myself. I put my foot down. I said there’s no way I’m repairing that foundation in a way that compromises my principles, that I am not putting my name on it if it isn’t done right. Its just time to bite the bullet and give this house the foundation it deserves. I mentioned the names of several competitors, and how they might be willing to do it, but I just can’t do it. At the end of the day, I probably lost about $20k in work. But I have to sleep at night, and this house deserves to be properly preserved. So, if you are going to ask me to do a job less than what I think is necessary, save me from saying no to a customer, which I hate.
Finally, a note on historic homes. I LOVE historic homes, the older the better. The Mills act was an attempt to preserve older homes by giving property tax breaks to building owners. This tax break isn’t there for you to buy a new car, or Jacuzzi, or even antiques to furnish the house. It was intended to reimburse the homeowner for the expenses necessary to preserve old homes. So, if you think owning an old home that has historic status is a way to save money, guess again. Old houses need lots of love (translation, money) so be prepared to give the house the necessary love it deserves.