Strip Clubs, Blizzards and the Art of Contractor Engagement

A bit of a slow week on Dash Landing.  Bid packages went out to the contractors a few weeks ago and are due to Rob tomorrow.  Based on that information, we’ll decide who gets our life savings.

This will not be our first time at this particular rodeo.  In fact, it’ll be our fourth.  And while we’ve generally had good luck (Knock on wood), we’ve had our fair share of experiences.

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Some of you will remember Everlyn Avenue in Medford.  Redefined the term “starter.”

Cute older house that needed basic updating, but the original owners had done two terrible additions.  Leaky, drafty, poorly organized — truly awful.

When it came time to tackle that section of the house, our neighbors recommended an affordable contractor in the neighborhood.  We spent time with him, talked about our budget, our hopes and our plans.  Called a few references, shook hands and got to work.

Fabulous hire.  Never missed a single day at the site.  The work was done as promised and as scheduled.  Saved us money with a few clever suggestions.

The only “odd” thing was the after-hours communication.  We were given two phone numbers.   The primary was his house in Medford.  If there was no answer, we were “…free to call him down at the club.”  And by club, he meant the Squire in Revere — the “North Shore’s Premier Gentlemen’s Club.”  But it worked.

Our second experience was here on Flying Point Road.  After talking to a couple of builders, we hired a contractor that had done work for our parents.  His plan was to use our house as a “winter project.”  Pour the foundation in late fall, build a weathertight shell and spend the winter working on the inside.  Takes a little longer, but it’s a great way for a builder to pass the slow season providing that the weather cooperates.

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Which it didn’t.  The time from foundation pour to final punch list marked one of Maine’s toughest winters in history.  Cold?  So cold that air compressors and generators wouldn’t work for weeks.  One blizzard after another.  There was a period where we got 6″- 12″ of snow every day for over a week.  Completely and utterly shot his budget.

But another great experience.  The guy built a house that has been rock solid for twenty years.  A few understandable grumbles about his bad luck with the weather and “I’m a builder, not a snow shoveler,” but a real trooper.   (Unfortunately, it also proved to be his last house — he soon left the contracting business…)

Our last project was also here at Flying Point Road.  We built the original house on a really tight budget and wanted to add a few amenities — a mudroom, a living room, fireplace, etc.  Hired an architect.  And after talking to a few builders, we hired one of the more “known” contractors to handle the addition.

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Complete train-wreck.  Our simplest building project proved to be the most difficult.  Every single bill was wrong.  Missed orders.  Wrong orders.  And if we deducted the time that the crew spent smoking cigarettes in our basement from the final price, we would have been issued a large and glorious check.

But ultimately, that’s not why we’ve decided not to invite that builder to bid on Dash Landing.  Let’s face it, bad projects happen.  And it was fairly clear that the site manager on our house addition was a complete chowderhead. (A Maine term.)

It was the “follow-up.”  Six months past the five-year warranty period, we had a small problem with one of the windows in the addition.  Not a big deal.  But it was like they had never heard of us.  And the price they gave us to fix their work proved to be 2x more than anyone else that we contacted.

The four builders bidding on Dashing Landing are great.  Part of the local community.  Fantastic reputations.  We met with all of them on multiple occasions before sending out the bid packages.  And it was really clear that all of them really want to build this house.  Not only has Rob created a beautiful set of plans, but it’ll be one of the most visible houses in Freeport.

We have no idea how this will turn out tomorrow.

But we know it’ll be an experience.

3 Comments on “Strip Clubs, Blizzards and the Art of Contractor Engagement

  1. Pingback: Cupolas not taken. (With sincere apologies to Robert Frost) | A House In A Field

  2. Pingback: No Kavalier. All clay.* | A House In A Field

  3. Pingback: The post in which we discuss crown molding. | A House In A Field

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