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Contractor Builds Case

July 08, 1990

I found it very enlightening reading "The Contractor Who Did Everything Right" by Valerie Nelson (June 17), and I find it hard to believe he did everything right.

The homeowner-contractor relationship is perhaps the most complex form of psychology humans have to deal with. The love-hate syndrome cannot be explained in books, lectures or theories, but only in the world of hard knocks.

In your opening paragraphs we hear about friends' warnings, the $300,000 over budget, the anticipation of the contractor's plot to fleece you, and the fact that time is a four-letter word.

It is quite normal for someone to call who is contemplating some home renovations. Many times they have plans already drawn, and many times they have dreams in their heads. Contractors spend their evenings or weekends meeting with the dreamers and the realists. Sometimes these dreamers and realists call back, sometimes you never hear from them again; sometimes you don't want to hear from them again, and yes, sometimes you end up with the job.

Owners, too, can be quite taxing. You have been engaged to perform work in their castle. No matter how imperfect this castle may be, somehow they expect the new work to not only be perfect, but since it reflects them as individuals, it should be better than perfect.

They also have no conception of the world of subcontractors, the people contractors have to work hand-in-hand with. Briefly, let me state a Ph.D. in psychology wouldn't qualify one to handle the myriad problems that can arise in the daily life of a subcontractor. From dead batteries to medical appointments is but a short tale of woes as to why they didn't show up as they said they would. I know where I am going to be at a given time on a given day, so I can only surmise that is why I am the contractor.

I take exception to the phrase attributed to Paul, "People are always having trouble with their contractors." I can say unequivocally, I have had many successes and few failures. And perhaps after Paul and Dan have been in the business a while longer, they too may experience that client who wasn't enthralled with them.

The contractors I know personally, and many I have had the fortune of bidding against, are highly qualified. They do their work on time, keep the budget in hand and even can go back to finished jobs without having the door shut in their face. They too offer suggestions when the architect or designer misses, and show up in the morning on time.

I think it is very unjust to make (general) statements, based on your one experience and some hearsay from friends. Yes, I too have stood with clients and reminisced about the remodel, Europe and sporting events.

Construction is but a series of errors that are eventually corrected. If you don't believe it, try to build something with or without a contractor.


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