Rural Living

Construction Destruction

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I’ve just had some renovations done by a quiet, timely contractor. If you have eagerly devoured this issue devoted to home improvements, chances are you’re ready to hire a contractor of your own. Or soon will be. Choosing a contractor can be tricky. It would be helpful if, before we make that important decision, we had some idea whether our dream project might become a nightmare.

Here is a letter I wish I’d received from a previous contractor, before that job began …

“Welcome to the world of homeowners who want to have a little work done. We hope you are in no hurry! We know you’ve pondered your various projects and priorities; what might cost more than you can imagine, what might inconvenience you the least.

“We know your project is important to you; it is important to us, too. Sort of.

“After you’ve made your decision, the first thing you should do is attempt to get a contractor to return your call. The adventure begins!

“During the estimate phase of the project, be sure to inquire about the amount of time the job might take, in addition to a ‘ballpark’ figure as to cost. And please, remember just how far we are from the nearest ballpark.

“Also be advised that, after the initial estimate, you may never actually see your contractor. That’s what hourly workers are for, don’t you know.

“Please understand that having us in your home might be a little scary. Some of us will, no doubt, be on parole. Others may appear to have recently escaped incarceration. You may be hesitant to leave us here alone; you may be hesitant to be alone here with us. This is called a conundrum.

“It is not unusual for a job estimated to take ‘a half-day, maybe a day,’ to easily take four or five weeks. Possibly more. Additionally, please be advised that your project may be an ‘after-hours’ affair. This should become apparent when, after seeing no workers on the job throughout the day, you hear buzz saws at 9:17 p.m.

“We understand your project — making a door where once there was a window — is, in your eyes, a simple enough task for contracting professionals. Remember, though, that ‘professionals’ is a subjective word.

“Please know that, just because you leave a note asking us to make sure the doors to the interior of the house are shut, while that gaping hole to the outside blows in snow and freezing wind, this probably will not happen. This should become quite clear as soon as your next heating bill arrives.

“You will perhaps be surprised to learn, after day four of the half-day job, that your door has been installed. Upside down. We hope you will find this amusing.

“By the way, it is our sincerest hope that your musical tastes run to heavy metal, country, or hip-hop music. We will bring our own boom boxes to the site, and serenade you with a constant barrage of such selections throughout the entire day. It is important that our crew be kept happy.

“During the course of our work, we may find it necessary to move a heat register in the room. It could take three weeks before we thoughtfully place the new register in the middle of the floor. During this time, the massive duct from the furnace will be left open in the basement. However, if you will simply make your concern about this known, our professional staff will stuff an old bath towel into the duct. Problem solved!

“Pay no mind to crumpled wrappers, empty bottles and cigarette butts scattered about your yard. They will complement the scraps of wood and vinyl siding, and the abandoned power tools strewn there. What better sign that progress is being made?

“You might not complain, because you’ll perhaps be feeling rather hopeless and helpless about this project after a while, but we want to mention the grimy hand and fingerprints we will leave on the creamy bisque walls in our workroom. Do not attempt to wash these off. The only solution will be to have the entire room repainted. Should you desire, our staff of professionals will be happy to make an educated guess about the amount of time this new project might take and, of course, give you a ‘ballpark’ estimate of the cost.”

Had I received this letter, valuable information would have been revealed. As for my fabulous new contractor, well, I refuse to reveal his name.


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