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San Clemente Journal

CONTRACTORS: ARE THEY REALLY SUCH BAD GUYS?

Feb 05, 2005 02:05PM ● Published by Don Kindred

by Anne Batty

    A man’s/woman’s home is said to be their castle, a haven and resting place from the toils and snares of this world. Enter drill, saw, hammer and nails, and what was meant to be a shelter from the storms of life can become a nightmare. But maybe, with a little knowledge and understanding, it doesn’t have to be that way.
     We’ve all heard building and remodeling horror stories. They usually revolve around those bad guys … the contractors. They don’t return phone calls, don’t show up when promised, don’t finish the job on time, charge too much for their services, and so on.
    No contest, building or remodeling can be a nightmare and perhaps the bad rap some contractors receive is often deserved. But like any good story there just might be another side to this one. 
    Taking a brief look at things from the contractor’s point of view could enlighten and heighten our understanding of their position, garner a new respect for what it takes to provide their services and make building or remodeling less painful for all concerned.

Red Tape
    Like all businesses, construction deals with lots of red tape – state, city and county licenses and permits, bonds, building codes, inspections and more. Any one of these requirements can become an obstacle to beginning, continuing or even completing a job, and the contractor is often caught in that trap, at the mercy of bureaucracy.

Scheduling
    Unlike most businesses contractors cannot do one job at a time and remain solvent. Timing plays an enormous part in the construction business. One trade depends upon the work of another and contractors are often required to wait upon each other in order to begin, continue or complete their portion of the job by a proposed deadline. Therefore most contractors have several jobs going at once in order to generate a steady flow of work and income between these hold ups. This situation often causes delays in their appearance on a job, but are the unfortunate, unavoidable cost of conducting business of this nature. Most contractors are anxious to finish their jobs, receive payment and move on, as they don’t benefit from delays any more than their customers do.

Changes and/or Additions
   Bids for time, materials and costs of construction are usually made from plans submitted to the contractor by the owner of a project. Often times these plans have not been drawn to, and do not meet code. Therefore changes in construction must be made in order to pass inspection. These necessary changes, and any other changes or additions requested by the owner during construction, increase the contractor’s costs in time and materials and are all considered “extras” to the job. It should be expected that all of these changes will incur additional costs.

Payment
    A payment schedule is generally set up and agreed upon for each job bid, and includes a percentage to be paid at the beginning and mid-job, with the last payment due upon completion and final inspection. Like all businesses, contractors depend upon the promptness of these payments to cover expenses, labor, and material costs. Interruption in payment can cause delays in job completion. Payment for any “extras” is generally based upon the additional costs incurred by the contractor and it becomes necessary to set up an additional payment schedule to cover these “extras.”

Communication 
     As in all things relational, communication is key. Non-returned phone calls may indicate a breakdown in communication. When this breakdown in contractor/owner relationships occurs, whether it be justified on either side or not, problems often arise. An open-minded effort to know, understand and appreciate the position of all parties involved can surmount many obstacles.
    English physicist and educator John Tyndall once said, “Knowledge once gained casts a light beyond its own immediate boundaries.” Looking beyond one’s own immediate boundaries often reveals another side to a story. While the story line presented here is only the tip of the iceberg where contractors are concerned, perhaps it will serve as food for thought and cast them in a little bit different light. 
    Contractors may not be such bad guys after all. They might just be about what most small business people are about in a climate and economy that can close a business at the snap of a finger… trying their best to please their customers while struggling against the odds to survive. b 
Anne Batty has lived and worked in a family of contractors for over 30 years. 
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