It was a warm April afternoon when my seven-year old son and I started to clear the lot.
A couple of months before, a contractor had approached me with a proposal to build a house: he would deed the lot to me which I would pay for later; help me to design the home and loan me his carpentry crew. To me it was a no-brainer decision: since I was in the business, I would save money on the heating, air conditioning and roofing; I would reduce cost through sweat labor—such as clearing the lot; and, there would be no contractor or design fees.
Along with my four-foot tall helper, I commenced the process of building our new home. I began the job with the belief that it would be easy, and completed it having learned that constructing a home takes knowledge and experience.
Since the subdivision was under construction, with dirt access roads and no electricity or water, the job was more complex than most. I was fortunate the lead carpenter was an experienced builder and prevented a complete disaster.
For months, I worked two jobs: for my father, my “paying” job and the house. I began to believe that there was a conspiracy against finishing, and I was doomed to be forever nailing, painting and cleaning in the semi-darkness of the late afternoon. When finally I could see the finish line and is when disaster struck.
We decided to lay clay tile pavers in the entrance hall, kitchen, breakfast and utility rooms. Until they were installed we couldn’t complete the house and the tile guy kept putting us off. When I complained about the delay to the lead carpenter, he responded, “I can lay the pavers.” I hesitated but having no reason to believe he couldn’t, I told him to go ahead and do so.
On the way to attend a Florida State football game, I stopped by the house and found the job progressing smoothly: most of the pavers had been laid, the pattern was what I wanted and he was going to start grouting. When I returned the following day, I found a monumental mess. The carpenter and his wife were furiously trying to clean up the mortar mix they had allowed to dry on the pavers.
Nothing sticks to clay pavers like fresh mortar. For two weeks, we scraped and rinsed muratic acid soaked flooring. Paver by paver, we finally got the floor clean, and then the first two-foot of drywall had to be replaced. It was a mess beyond belief, that delayed our moving in by a month.
I learned a valuable lesson: you are only fooling yourself if you believe you can save money undertaking a project you know nothing about. Not knowing how to schedule, I made mistakes, such as having the plumber scheduled before he was needed and a carpentry crew waiting for materials. Likewise, the carpenter’s decision to not clean the grout off of the pavers cost him hours of extra work and me time, money and a delayed move in.
Professionals have the expertise and experience that allows them to understand the complexities of the jobs they undertake. They avoid the mistakes that lead to extra costs, waste of time and duplication of efforts. Most of the time, a fee paid is money saved.
“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” – Frank Tyger