Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pictures of the Week: Grasshopper in a bind!

For those of you that are faint of heart and want to protect and save every living creature out there, then you will be really proud of me. Especially my wife.

This week's Picture of the Week takes us to the benches of Provo, Utah where my crew was doing a deck overlay for one of our clients. We do the deck in multiple phases and the base coat phases are really sticky and smell really sweet, which subsequently attract all kinds of insects.

When we showed up one morning to continue the process, we were surprised to find a grasshopper stuck in our base coat; obviously it had been stuck there all night.

So what did we do? Well the only humane thing we could do. We cut off its feet! I know that sounds groosom but there was no way we were going to get him out of our base coat. He had to sacrifice his legs for his life.

Well I am glad to say that we were able to get him free and he bounced off the deck and now I am sure his friends call him Hopalong Joe or something clever like that.

Well hope you enjoyed the pics, until next week, see ya lata!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tool Under Review: The Burke Bar

OK, here is a new addition to The Quirky Contractor. Each week I will post a review on a tool I feel is worthy to comment on. Hopefully through doing so you will be able to get a real overview of a tool that you can possibly use on one of your projects or suggest for your contractors to use. Or maybe the tool is just a waste of space and this will help you avoid a costly purchase.

There are so many cool tools out there. I continue to find tools that make my job easier and less painful to my body. There is always the right way and wrong way to perform a task, and most likely the tools you use define whether you do the job the right way or the wrong way.

This weeks tool is really the MVP of the job we did a month ago in Wyoming. We had to demolish an existing deck and recover it with a concrete overlay. The tool that made the demolition go by so fast was the Burke Bar.The Burke Bar is the yellow tool in this picture. The other two tools will be discussed next week. They were useful as well. The Burke Bar is a heavy duty demolition specific leverage bar to help bust up stubborn flooring like tile, wood, or concrete overlays. Here are the pros and cons:
  1. It is very, very heavy, which allows the bar to do most of the work. Just like a sledge hammer is heavy this tool is heavy on purpose. It allows the user to plunge the tool into the flooring and the weight of the tool alone will do some serious damage.
  2. The teeth on the end of the curved bar allows you to get up under the flooring and really pry it up. I haven't found another floor demo tool that can get up under difficult flooring like the Burke Bar. Other tools need a second tool like a hammer to help pry up under the flooring.
  3. The heavy nature of the bar does get you more tired then some of the other demo bars out there. We were exhausted by the time we were done demoing the deck but it was also over 1,000 square feet. That is a lot of flooring to demo in only 5 hours.
  4. The bar is shaped a little odd. You have to construe your body a little to get the bar to slide under the flooring properly. They really need to fix the shape so that you don't feel like the hunchback of Notre Dame when you are done.
Overall I would need to give this tool a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars for its effectiveness. Really the only downfall would be its awkward shape, but nonetheless we were able to get much more work done in less time. The translate into $$$ and that is what makes a good tool great.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Budgets Part Du: Understand the Process

Remember, Remember, Remember budgets, and understanding budgets are the most important skills a contractor or a homeowner can have. How well the budget is controlled, and understood dictates the level of happiness, peace of mind, and exceptional customer service that can be achieved on a construction project.

Out of the three crucial elements of the building process, budget, quality, schedule, the most difficult one to recover from is the budget. You see if the quality is poor, it can be fixed and improved. And if the schedule is off, its not the end of the world, now although schedules are important its not the end of the world of you loose a couple of days; things can be done to get the project back on track. But! if the budget if off, well then its a whole 'nother ball game.

For most people money doesn't grow on trees. It is hard to come by and even harder to part with. When a contractor comes back to a client and says, "Oh and by the way, we found the dead remains of a human in your basement concrete," it creates a level of anxiety in the client, not from the dead body, but from the amount of money it will cost to remove the remains. You see they only care about one thing.....what will it do to my bottom line.

The client is now playing defense. They are not on the team anymore, their sole focus is now protecting the basket of money. When this happens, the joy of building is gone. Feelings of frustration enter, and you will be lucky to get the client back on your team. Am I right, or am I right?

So whether you are the client, the general contractor, or owner builder, the first thing that needs to be done to protect yourself from budget destruction is to start off with the right budget from the beginning. You need to understand the process:
  1. The first part of the budget process is understanding the scope of work. Do you even know what the scope of work entails? Ya, you know that you want to remodel you master bedroom but do you know what it really takes to do it? And do you know what finishes you want? How do you expect a contractor to get the price right without all the details.
  2. Take the time to walk through your project on paper. Make lists, make material lists, make tool lists, make potential problem lists, make all the lists necessary to make sure you have not missed any details that may cause budgets to change.
  3. Walk through the lists with competent contractors. I really mean competent contractors. Not your brother who worked one summer on a landscape crew, not your grandpa who has been retired for 20 years, but contractors who are in the field working everyday, and who come highly recommended. They will be able to add to your lists and help you understand the full spectrum of work, tools, material, and time needed to accomplish the task.
  4. Use those competent contractors to get estimates, as well as using those lists you've made to help you get multiple estimates from other contractors. The more you get the better. It will help you understand the wide range of prices that will accomplish the same task, because all contractors charge different prices for things.
  5. Once you have a healthy pile of estimates you can then start to put together your budget.
  6. The one thing you will find is that this process of walking through the project several times on site and on paper will help you refine your wants and needs. It will help you narrow in on the best approach to take on a certain scope of work, and the most important thing it will help you do is get very intimate and acquainted with your plans. You will start to feel comfortable about the project and how it will come together.
  7. Make sure and address the unknowns. On every job there is an unknown price for a certain scope of work. Whether it is a remodel and you will be moving pipes that you cannot see, or you are excavating and you don't exactly know what soil you will be digging into, make sure and use the best historical data you can get your hands to help estimate the cost of the unknown scope of work.
These steps are crucial in obtaining a workable budget. Most people don't take enough time because they are too worried about a schedule, or are just anxious to get started. They take the first estimate and think its good enough. They don't take time to walk through the job and they don't take the time to really think things through. Please don't be one of those people. Take the time, lock in the budget and from the starting line you will have a great experience.

Good Luck!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Picture of the week: Dubai

So the pictures of the week showcase the coolest place in the world.......Dubai!

Besides being once of the fastest growing places in the world, they are also building things that few have dreamed about, including an underwater hotel, and developments that comprise of man made islands in the shape of palm trees and the world.

They also have the only 7 Star hotel in the world.

I wonder what they do for you in a 7 Star hotel.

I have also attached a link with video feed that you need to check out. Once you see the videos, of what they are daring to do in Dubai, you like me will want to move there.

I would love to work for the company building these crazy developments out in the ocean. I have also attached a link to there company's web page. Go to it and click on the video introductions and you will be blown away.

Well, have an awesome weekend and see you next week on the Quirky Contractor.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Budgets: Its what it all comes down too.

OK, let's be honest with ourselves. When going out and buying a home, or building a home or remodeling a home, or.....did I cover my bases, OK lets continue, all that matters in the end is the price. We can get all excited about what features the home has or will have but in the end we look at the savings account, or our lender and ask, "Can we afford this?" To which the answer is more then likely "NO!"

Come on, how many times have you gone out there and even on small purchases, if you had to be honest with yourself, when you get that item with all the extras and you look at the price tag, you have that pit in your stomach because your emotional side is saying, "YeS, yEs" while your logical more practical side is saying with an accountant like voice,"Nope, you can't afford this."

Now hopefully you have experienced both sides of the purchasing experience. The times when you have made the purchase emotionally, and you feel awesome until you get the credit card statement and ask yourself how you are going to pay for it, or the times when you were disciplined, smart, logical and turned down the urge to purchase. If you have experience both of these, then you are ready to build, buy or remodel your home. If not, then go out, experience it, and lets talk later. There needs to be an even balance of emotional excitement and logical reasoning to end up with the right project, done the right way, with the right price.

Here are some things that will help you as you are trying to set budgets for your next project.
  1. Understand the Budget Process: Know what you comes next. There is no sense in trying to set a budget before you know how much the work will actually cost you. And there is no sense in asking a contractor for a bid if there is no plan, or complete understanding of the scope of work. Make sure you follow a logical path to find out what your budget should be.
  2. Understand how to correctly analyse your budget. Make sure you have dotted your i's and crossed your t's. To correctly analyse your budget you need to know how to read the contractors bids. Did they forget something. You better hope not, if they did, your budget has just been compromised.
  3. Find the right budget forms to use so it helps you throughout the entire building process. The right forms will help you at every stage of the project.
In the end, it comes down to really understanding what baggage that price tag comes with. It can be overwhelming but if you take it step by step, you should be OK......Good Luck.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pictures of the Week

See something wrong with this picture?

Take a closer look.

Wouldn't you love to wake up to a phone call in the middle of the night from your contractor telling you your beautiful custom home has burned down?

We were building a home for one of our clients just a block away.

We found out that one of the trade contractors had left a propane heater on in the basement over night.

I wanted to cry for them. I couldn't imagine the frustration and pain this created for everyone involved.

The home had to be completed torn down and it is still just a hole in the ground to this day.

Be Careful! don't leave heaters on! Oh ya, and make sure and have good insurance on your project.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Demolition: Its a Martial Art

If you are considering demolition, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Look at the mess we got into as we demolished this 1600 square foot deck in Wyoming. It was crazy.

Here are some things you want to consider as you plan a demolition project.
  1. Know How: do you know what you are doing? If you don't, then do some serious research. There are tools and methods that professionals use to make their jobs as easy as possible.
  2. Time: Make sure and estimate how much time you think it will take......then triple it. Demolition projects always take much longer then you think. If you set your mind around a certain time frame and you go over it, mentally you can become frustrated, especially when you are exhausted and haven't paced yourself.
  3. Man Power: Make sure you have the right man power. Much of demolition is using your back and elbow grease. If you do not have enough man power or are not in shape to do the work, then pretty soon the project is then demolishing your moral and physical wellness. Many Saturday Warriors have underestimated the physical nature of a demolition project and have ended up throwing out their backs or worse.
  4. Disposal: Make sure you have figured out how to get the demolition debris to the landfill. You are going to have much more garbage to get rid of then me! Make sure and also check with local building officials to make sure whether or not you need a demolition permit for your project. There can also be harmful chemicals in the demolition debris that may need special methods of removal. You can get in big trouble if you don't take care of it the right way. So be safe and consult with city officials before you start.
Follow these guidelines and you should be able to get the job done right. Good luck and have fun!