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Old 03-16-11, 08:18 AM   #1
JonnyHK 
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Dealing with crappy building contractors.

My wife almost cried when she visited our new apartment (under renovation) on Saturday.

Our builder has been brilliant. Everything has been done well. Questions have been asked, then work completed. The finished result has been neat and as expected.

However, the cabinet makers...

With such a small apartment we opted to have a lot of built in fixtures to make the most of the space. The company that designed these was doing well in the design phase, but has really screwed the pooch in the construction and installation phase.

I expect there to be a few problems. My undergrad is Architecture and I was a Design Tech (workshop) teacher - I understand how stuff is built and what can go wrong.

Despite this, I'm pretty surprised at the cock ups we're looking at.

Half the problems are easily fixed. Re-fit this, replace that, this bit needs to be re-painted. Standard stuff you find in any job - it's part of the 'defects' period.

What I really don't like is the two key components that are just plain WRONG. Simple failure to meet specifications.

The reaction of these guys hurts my head even more. I had an hour long meeting (I videotaped the whole thing) with the designer and specifically pointed out one significant problem that was not only a failure to meet my spec, it was dangerous (wrong levels in a floor, tripping hazard). He had a couple of suggestions for a fix that I rejected immediately as an inadequate 'quick fix' that did not address the core problem - it the unit would still fail to meet spec and be dangerous.

I gave this guy a couple of days to consult his staff etc and come back with a suggestion for a solution.

His suggestion? The two things I had already rejected.



Would God think poorly of me if I threw this ass clown out of the apartment window?



Gearing up for a visit to the small claims tribunal....
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Old 03-16-11, 09:01 AM   #2
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I hear ya. When I was a teenager, we had to get a huge, lower-level picture window replaced (split-entry house). The contractor came out, said he could do it, and started the work. Once there was a huge hole in our house (window was about 4 feet by 15 feet), he realized he had no idea what he was doing with a window that size. Before we knew it, he was cutting a bigger hole which meant he broke other things and all of a sudden, almost the entire side of a split-entry house was being replaced because he didn't know how to isolate and fix the other stuff his guys broke. The work lasted well into winter, and when it got cold, he left a side of the house missing and said it was too cold to work with his materials and it sat like that all winter. To his credit, the plastic crap he used seemed to insulate the house better than the walls, though.

My dad wanted to fire him, but then we would have to find someone new and start all over again.

I was too young to totally understand what was going on at the time, but I know it was quite an epic disaster for my dad.
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Old 03-16-11, 09:13 AM   #3
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In most states, anybody can get a contractor's license... take a general knowledge test, and BINGO! you don't have to be a trained carpenter, plumber, electrician, builder, mason. SO, word to the wise: find out what your contractor actually KNOWS how to do!
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Old 03-16-11, 09:34 AM   #4
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While fun, throwing him out the window might cause more problems than it's worth. On the other hand, that might encourage the other guys to do the job right. Best of luck.
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Old 03-16-11, 12:31 PM   #5
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As a contractor. I firmly believe there are no bad contractors only confused home owners.
You design ideas obviously wouldn't work so the contractor changed things so the job could get done right. Let the contractors finish, pay them their fee plus 25% for being an annoyance.
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Old 03-16-11, 01:32 PM   #6
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While fun, throwing him out the window might cause more problems than it's worth. On the other hand, that might encourage the other guys to do the job right. Best of luck.
This is China. If said person was associated with "losing" an iPhone prototype, no one would ask questions...
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Old 03-16-11, 02:30 PM   #7
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efrobert, not to agrue, but you obvisously haven't watched the show Holmes on Homes or Holmes Inspection. I believe most contractors try to be good contractors, but when they hire unskilled laborers who are not supervised makes me wonder.

Last edited by Rltot; 03-16-11 at 02:31 PM. Reason: puncutation errors
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Old 03-16-11, 03:17 PM   #8
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As a contractor. I firmly believe there are no bad contractors only confused home owners.
You design ideas obviously wouldn't work so the contractor changed things so the job could get done right. Let the contractors finish, pay them their fee plus 25% for being an annoyance.
Did you miss the part where this is China?
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Old 03-16-11, 11:06 PM   #9
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Did you miss the part where this is China?
He may also have missed the part where I said I was an architecture grad (ie I know how to design and draft stuff) and I was also a design-tech teacher.

I was pretty careful to be very clear what I wanted and to draw it all out. If the guy couldn't do it, he should have said so and we could have come up with another idea.

FYI In HK the preferred methods of intimidation and attack involve red paint splashed on doors (or around his showroom) and choppers (meat cleavers). That would appear as if the Triads were involved...

I sent the second letter today. I told him in the letter that I was disappointed at his lazy work and that his suggested plan (the one with the ideas we've already rejected) was an insult.

Now I have to fight to keep the wife calm. I might just have to let her loose on this guy earlier than I had anticipated.
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Old 03-17-11, 12:43 AM   #10
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Would God think poorly of me if I threw this ass clown out of the apartment window?
No, but judicial system might. Although that might depend on how well you are connected. Works in Russia.
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Old 03-17-11, 05:23 AM   #11
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Had a couple of hours around at the apartment busting the balls of the poor installation guys.

I say 'poor guys' because I really think they are in a jam here between head office squeezing them to do stuff quick and the customers breathing down their necks.

We got along ok. I explained a few things (only one guy spoke English and my Cantonese is only really useful in a cab or a bar), drew a few pictures, and did some mime. Trying to explain and mime "block plane" was a bit funny, but they got it.

I did the culturally appropriate 'face saving' for these guys by apologising for being such a fussy customer - they seemed to get that, especially after I demonstrated that I did understand woodwork and told them the price of the job (they probably never see that end of the deal). I'm paying X amount, I'm expecting X quality finish! I made my expectations clear and I was polite - hopefully they come good for me.

Hopefully 3/4 of the stuff will get sorted out.

I still have to beat the designer/manager guy about the head a bit.
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Old 03-17-11, 10:27 AM   #12
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Not sure of your wall construction details in Hong Kong, but have you considered keeping the contractor and mounting him or her in the small space between the outer wall surfaces in room partition or perhaps below the sub-floor?
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Old 03-17-11, 10:32 AM   #13
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As a contractor. I firmly believe there are no bad contractors only confused home owners.
As an architect intern en route to license I can say without hesitation you are wrong. I've seen punch list items go uncorrected many, many times. The biggest problem seems to be apathy, unskilled labor, and a contractor trying to save money.
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Old 03-17-11, 10:50 AM   #14
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In foo, your tongue is firmly planted in your cheek by default.

Unless the post is about pie. Then it gets serious...
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Old 03-17-11, 11:05 AM   #15
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I know. Contractors and engineers say the same things about us. I'm just continuing the cycle.
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Old 03-17-11, 06:34 PM   #16
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Ever heard the old saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? I teach vocational classes and I've seen many inept students with poor work ethics get trades jobs after high school through friends or relatives. It makes me wary.
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Old 03-17-11, 10:32 PM   #17
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As an architect intern en route to license I can say without hesitation you are wrong. I've seen punch list items go uncorrected many, many times. The biggest problem seems to be apathy, unskilled labor, and a contractor trying to save money.
No, the problem is that most PEOPLE have no idea how to run a business. So they wind up underpricing the actual cost, then use the deposit money for "toys" and then they have to figure out how to deliver what they promised without paying for it. So, they hire cheap labor, use inferior materials, don't follow the design/plans because that costs more, and then blame the customer for any problems that result.

A successful business bids jobs so that they make a profit after everything else is paid. Some for the materials/labor, some for the tax man, some for the business to make it's bills and grow on, and some for retirement and/or hard times. The second thing a successful business does is tell the head guy to keep his dam fingers out of the till and income stream. The money ain't your'n until AFTER the whole job is done. And then you don't get it all even if you're greedy.

Outside the paymasters office should be a sign: "This is a NO WHINING zone"

And as for the OP defenestrating the miscreant - don't do it. You KNOW he'll hit something on the way down and you'll have to pay some other contractor to fix it. And you know where that will lead to...

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Old 03-17-11, 10:43 PM   #18
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And as for the OP defenestrating the miscreant - don't do it. You KNOW he'll hit something on the way down and you'll have to pay some other contractor to fix it. And you know where that will lead to...
Many iterations leading to a pile of contractor carcasses as high as any block of flats in HK?!
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Old 03-18-11, 07:32 AM   #19
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I've realised that being a town full of high rise apartment blocks, HK has some very strict laws about dropping/throwing things from windows.

Luckily one of my work mates suggested that I would have less trouble - for a similar effect - if I pushed him down the fire stairs.
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Old 03-18-11, 08:06 AM   #20
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Do your windows even open?
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Old 03-18-11, 10:52 AM   #21
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Hide him in one of the dirt piles at Kai Tak.
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Old 03-18-11, 11:18 AM   #22
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Do your windows even open?
I recently learned that new Chicago high-rises are starting to have windows that open. Just a tidbit I recently came across....
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Old 03-18-11, 05:46 PM   #23
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In most states, anybody can get a contractor's license... take a general knowledge test, and BINGO! you don't have to be a trained carpenter, plumber, electrician, builder, mason. SO, word to the wise: find out what your contractor actually KNOWS how to do!
Utterly incorrect.

In states that require contractor licenses, not only does the applicant take a test, they have to supply trade references to prove they've worked in the industry for a number of years.

I'm glad you edited your previous post. I found it very demeaning to my life's work.
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Old 03-18-11, 06:16 PM   #24
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Utterly incorrect.

In states that require contractor licenses, not only does the applicant take a test, they have to supply trade references to prove they've worked in the industry for a number of years.

I'm glad you edited your previous post. I found it very demeaning to my life's work.
Next time don't even respond to the off-the-wall comment from an uninformed idiot,just a waste of web space
In West-By-God who knows what goes on in the building industry,it's a free for all.

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Old 03-18-11, 07:03 PM   #25
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JonnyHK, I've no idea what the building industry is like over there and I feel for you.

With an apartment remodel, you're dealing with contractors that can't get the good high-end work...and perhaps for obvious reasons. Is there a bidding process there and how did you choose whom to go with?

I'm very fortunate to work for a contractor that doesn't need to bid. If they want this level of work, they'll pay a fair price for it. On my side of things, I don't have clients that nitpick all the details. If they've hired me, they know they're getting top quality work and any problems fixed with no questions asked. We have a saying that goes, "We'll build it the way you want it no matter how much it costs you".
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