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!

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Ounce of Maintenance is Worth a Pound of Cure.

What a sad situation! This concrete deck overlay was installed in 2000. It has only been 9 years and look at what the lack of maintenance has done to it.

All they needed to do was to re-seal it every 2-4 years and check on potential water penetration zones each year, and this deck would have lasted them a lifetime. But instead, 9 years later, these homeowners had to replace the entire deck. The cost to re due the overlay was over $16,000. To re-seal the deck every 2-4 years, it would have cost $2,000. Now that maintenance cost may even seem like a lot to spend but you have to remember that the deck is over 1500 square feet......HUGE! No matter what you do to it, it is going to cost money.

You can see in these pictures how over just a short amount of time without care, the deck formed small hairline cracks, which allowed water to seep in. Once the weather turned cold and that water turned to ice, well we all know what ice can do to concrete with cracks in it.

Over just one season, those cracks allowed enough water and ice to penetrate the thin concrete surface and started a domino effect of problems. Once you have one season of water and ice, there is no turning back. The deck basically has a date with deterioration and disaster.

So if you are wondering if you have enough money to cover repairs like this, here are some recommendations for those that read this and are freakin' out about their homes and the lack of maintenance that they have received.

1. Remember, maintenance is different from warranty. Warranties can be void if the owner does not maintain the equipment or product properly. Home Owners don't quite understand this and then when they call in a warranty request, they get shocked when they find out the warranty is void due to a lack of maintenance.

2. Contact your general contractor. Have him compile a list of trade contractors and suppliers that worked on your home.

3. Once you have the list, call each one and ask for maintenance instructions. Compile all the information in a maintenance manual. Start then scheduling recommended maintenance.

4. If you didn't hire a general contractor, then make the calls yourself. Call all suppliers and laborers. If they don't have the answers, then another great resource is the Internet. Do google searches, or you can visit the National Home Builders website, there they have information specifically for those that are trying to keep up on their home.

Keeping up on maintenance is so crucial to the longevity of any project. Here is one more insight. When pricing out a project, make sure and look at the long term cost of maintaining the equipment or product being installed. Doing this can help you factor in long term costs and determine which product or equipment is right for you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Plain and simple, "the right tool is worth it's weight in gold."

That statement rings true with any construction project you try to trump. If you use the right tool you find the job to be fluid, effortless and almost fun, (if projects like demolishing a concrete deck can be fun.)

As for us and our Wyoming deck adventure, we found that we had some of the right tools and also some that did not work so well. These three tools you see are awesome for the demolition of a stapled or nailed lath deck. I thought we would be spending a day and a half on the demolition but instead with the right tools it only took us 5 hours.

On the other hand when we sheeted the deck with half inch plywood, we used cordless drills to screw it down. Big mistake!!!! We had a lot of down time when batteries needed recharging, and just the constant bending over while screwing in each screw was nauseating. It took two guys two days to screw off the entire 1200 square foot deck. I felt like an idiot because I left our self-feeding screw gun at home. That would have cut the work down to one guy and about 4 hours.

So let me enlighten those that need to find the right tools. Here is what you need to know.
  1. Any job that you are going to do, whether it be setting tile or running wiring for your theater room, there are tools that have been invented to help make your job easier. Honestly, whatever it is, they have the tool for you. My goodness, in Dubai they have machines called Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers which build islands out in the middle of the ocean. So if you are in the middle of a project and saying to yourself, "this is taking forever," or your breaking your back trying to get the job done, you are probably using the wrong tool.
  2. Talk to the professionals. Contractors for the most part know the tools for their trade. They know what works and what doesn't. Most contractors would be happy to help a Saturday Warrior. Talk to several contractors who do that particular task on a regular basis, odds are they have figured out the fastest way to get the job done.
  3. Don't be afraid to use the right tool. We tend to get nervous to use pneumatic tools, or power tools because they seem like too much to handle, or we are nervous we might break the tool or maybe we think the tool is too involved and we won't know how to use it. We resort to cavemen tactics to complete the scope of work which cause us to hate life when you are tying to build a shed and you are using a hammer and nails instead of a pneumatic nail gun. Well let me enlighten you......most of the tools that you would even consider using for any household project are really very simple to use. Once you rent or buy the tool and read up on the instructions, you find out that taking proper care of the tool is more involved then actually using the tool.
In the end you will either look back and say, " man that was worth doing," or you will have tried to kill yourself with the very tools you are using to do the job.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting the Right People on the Bus

Ok, so a little off the subject of Construction Management Checklists here for a second. I wanted to just take a week and report on a cool backwoods adventure my deck and concrete overlay crew took this past week. I sent them to the backwoods of Afton, Wyoming to demolish and re due a concrete decking system that had failed.
We did not do the original system which had failed but we were sent up to fix the problem. It was a lot of hard work, and at times we wondered why we agreed to do the project, but when it was all done, it was worth the experience. We learned tons, and hopefully I can share some of the management systems we used to help us get the job done right. As well as some of the mistakes we made, so when you do a project you don't make them.

The picture you see is of my Superintendent Chris Abney standing on the log rail looking over the vast wilderness which is Afton. The cabin we went too was about 10 miles west of Afton. The cabin is so hidden by pine trees that you can't see the structure until you are about 500 yards away from it. Once we arrived we powered up the generator which ran on propane and then all of sudden it was like we were in the city again. The house lit up, and as we entered we found every luxury of life. Big screen TV, walk in showers, soft beds and plenty of room for relaxing after a long hard day of back breaking work.

In my Opinion it is worth making sure your living conditions are amazing. It made the difference for my guys as we ended up working about 14 hour days. When they were done, it was awesome for them to just be able to relax and unwind in a comfortable setting. Good food was also essential. It is amazing what good food can do for the moral of 3 hungry men.

Now who were the 3 hungry guys? They are one of the best crews I have been able to put together. From left to right you have Thomas Unga, a Construction Management Major at Brigham Young University. He is amazing with management systems and has been a great addition to the team. Next is Chris Abney, a Business Management Major at Utah Valley University. He also has several years of painting experience under his belt which has given him the eye for detail to make sure every job is done with perfection. And lastly is Tyler Nelson, he is a senior in high school. He is a great utility man. They are each over 6 feet tall and strong. Their brute strength was crucial in getting the job done.

These guys worked 14 hour days. The sun was out and bright, and even though the temperatures were only in the upper 80s, the deck surface got much hotter then that. We were reaching temperatures of 95 degrees plus on the deck. They didn't complain, they didn't make excuses, they just got to work, and with every challenge they met, they put a plan together and saw it through.

So here is the lesson for the day. There is no substitute for the right crew. They will make or break your project. Whether you are looking at hiring a general contractor, managing the project yourself, or doing the work yourself, make sure you hire the right man for the job. Don't let price get in the way of picking the right guy. If you let price take precedent, you may pay countless times more in headache and frustration from missed deadlines and unmet expectations with quality and service, not to mention warranty.

So to emphasize, I take the liberty of stealing a line from one of the greatest books written on building a business, Good to Great.........."Get the right people on the bus."