Bruce Beinlich: explains his role as a General Contractor serving clients in Orange County, California

Ceiling Repair Orange County

General Constractor Orange County – Bruce Beinlich of Beinlich & Sons General Contractors

Bruce Beinlich
Residential Remodeling Specialists
Lic. #59076

Bruce: A couple of weeks ago I brought my handy dandy laser level, showed it off, and I know everybody wants to see exactly how it works. So think of this as your kitchen backsplash. You’ve got your countertop in here; you’ve got a tile backsplash, and you’ve got a plug here, and your switch there. Maybe they’re 14 feet away or maybe they’re six feet away. The typical contractor or electrician is going to measure up from the floor to here, and get maybe 42 inches and nail that one in; go over to there, 14 feet away, and measure up 42 inches and nail that in there. About 80% of the floors are out of level. So no big deal, this one is maybe a quarter inch lower than that one or vice versa. Its 14 feet away, right? Nobody’s ever going to see it.

That’s not true if you put tile there, because tile has what? Grout lines. So even though it’s 14 feet away, if it’s in a wall, you’d never see it. If they were out an inch you wouldn’t see it. But with the grout lines being virtually perfectly level you would see it.

So anybody have any idea if these two are level?

Male: No.

Bruce: Show of hands?

Male: Not level.

Bruce: Yes, because they are less than a foot and a half away, right? Think of them 6 feet away, 14 feet way. So what I do; the electrician comes in and he does his thing. After he’s done I come in with my laser level… no it is not… and I, and this is awesome. I don’t need to set this at the perfect height. I can measure down or up from here. So I’ll go in here and I’ll do this, and I’ve got 14 1/8, but you keep moving [inaudible 00:01:48]. That’s 14 inches, and this little bad boy over here, and I pull down there, and I’ve got 13 3/4. So they are a quarter inch out. No big deal.

It is a big deal, because by the time anybody notices it the tile is in. The drywall guy’s not going to care. The electrician’s going to measure from the floor and nobody’s going to care except the homeowner, and then there’s a problem. So you have to fix it before the drywall goes in. I also use this to set my foundations, a similar way.

I have a little prop there; I don’t normally bring in props, but it’s a good thing that I did. What is this all about? This is a tiny part of managing the project. And that is what a general contractor does. That’s why you hire a general contractor; to manage the project. I have a potential client who I was out to see about two months ago. I was referred to her by my finish carpenter, who had already gone out, met with her, and was going over new windows and doors. And then she said, “Well, I want to reconfigure my closet and my bedroom, this, that, and the other. Call Bruce.”

So I go out there, and that was the only part of the project that I was going to do. Nothing happened for about a month and a half. She didn’t call him back. She didn’t call me back. I called her this week just checking status, and she said, “You know what? I’m having trouble choosing my doors, my windows.” She said, “I thought I was going to be able to handle this myself. Would you be able to manage this entire project, the windows, the doors, the stucco repair?” These are things that I was not going to be involved in. And I said, “Absolutely; that’s what I do for almost all my clients. I manage it.” She said, “I thought I was going to be able to do it but I just can’t.”

Now I know a lot of people think they can do it themselves, and some people can. It’s tricky, because you’re managing the schedule. You’re managing the workers. You’re managing the supply chain, vendors, all of these things, and that is a challenge, if you know what you’re doing; if you know the ins and outs.

You guys all know your business, and how poorly would I be able to do your business. I would not be able to do it very well. So we all get good at what we do, and that’s the big thing about hiring a general contractor. If you just need a roof, you don’t need a general contractor. If you just need carpeting, something like that, or you just need a plumber, you go directly to the plumbing. You don’t need anybody to manage Chris Swenson. He can manage himself.

So that is the big spiel for me; management and the reason to hire a general contractor. I have a buddy who I did a kitchen remodeling for. This guy worked in the industry most of his life. He’s now a window and door salesman. But for many years he worked as the assistant of a general contractor, and they did almost all the work themselves, everything from concrete to drywall. He has built furniture. He has made cabinets. He’s installed cabinets. He’s fixed cabinets.

Originally he told me, “I’m too busy with my new job. I want you to do everything.” Paper bid, he said, “Oh, we didn’t want to spend that much. I’m going to do some of it; no problem.”

So he ended up handling the cabinetry, the painting of the cabinetry, the countertops, etcetera. So I only did a few things. He had the cabinets done, and when they installed the cabinets he called me and he said, “I’ve got this sink cabinet that sticks out a little bit, and right next to it is the dishwasher on one side and right next to it is a cabinet on the other side. It doesn’t look right with the dishwasher next to it. What can I do?”

So I gave him some suggestions. My cabinet guy would have figured that out long before the cabinets were made and arrived on the job site. He sent it over to the finishers before it was delivered. The guy who painted it, or finished the cabinets, lost about six pieces of molding. He brought in a different guy, so he had a cabinet maker, a finisher, and then somebody different to install the cabinets. He told me the guy was going to be there two days. It took the guy six days to install them. He was doing a nice job, but that’s part of managing your schedule. If you had other guys set up to come in after that, that would really affect the schedule.

Also, when they went to install the cabinets they found out that in nine feet, one wall is nine feet long, the ceiling is out an inch and three quarters. That’s a lot. It would not be unusual for it to be out certainly a quarter inch, even three quarters of an inch, but it was an inch and three quarters. And you can see that. My cabinet guy would have picked up on that the day he measured, before the drywall was in and we would have made a decision on whether we’re going to do a different type of molding to fix that, or are we going to fix the ceiling now. And to fix the ceiling then would have been maybe $200 or $300, and like a zero delay in the project.

To fix it now probably would be $1,800 and it would take a week. So these are the types of things that a good general contractor brings to the table. I don’t think most general contractors use this type of device. I think typically what you would have is most kitchen remodels, of course, are done on existing floor and existing area. When it’s all said and done, and the owner points out that they’re not level, he’s going to say, “Well your floor’s not level. It’s not my fault. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

I don’t know, John Thomas may have experience about that, but that’s, I think, typical. Some guys would do this but not all, and with that I open it up to questions and comments.

John: So at what point does it make sense to repair a floor if that’s the problem? I guess it’s up to the home owner if they’re remodeling, to make that decision. But like how often is the floor the cause of more problems?

Bruce: Most of the time the floor is out; probably 70-80% of the time the floor is not level, and what’s really funny is we’re all this way. Somebody will have lived there for 35 years with it being out of line. And then you come in and maybe it’s only three-eighths of an inch or half inch and 12 feet. But when you set the cabinets up that’s when they notice it.

The cabinet guy sets his cabinets level, and there are shims underneath the cabinet on this side and not there, and they say, “Whoa; what did your guy do? He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” And I bring my level out, and I say, “No, the cabinets are level, but your floor’s not level.” “Well you guys should fix that. Well you should have fixed it.” “Okay, well, we can still fix it now, but…

John: But you’d have to jack up your house.

Bruce: Right. There’s almost always a fix, but what is the timeframe, what is the cost, and you know, I’ve even had them say, “It wasn’t like that before you got here.”

It’s okay, it’s okay. Like Kathleen, who has been in the business for a long time, you’ve heard and seen just about everything. So every situation is different. There are some where they are fixable, and others where the direction it’s flowing is meeting with the dining room and you can’t lift this up because then you’re going to have a step. So you just kind of live with it, and you put that out of levelness in the least conspicuous place you can find.

John: So you’ll find a solution?

Bruce: There’s always a solution. Sometimes they’re minimal cost and sometimes they’re huge. And then somebody has to make a decision if that’s worth fixing or not. But we’re all living with imperfect homes.

Pat: When I go to a home I see that a lot, where it’s shifting soil and the decay of the foundation from having too much [inaudible 00:09:45]. So do you guys fix that kind of stuff?

Bruce: That is a very specialized thing; it’s something that we could do but it’s not something that we do.

Pat: What about the garage when the garage is attached?

Bruce: Yes, if it’s a situation in a garage, and we had a lot of this in former dairy land, in Buena Park and La Palma. Yes, we can go in there and bust up the entire slab, haul it away, and work with the soil putting steel in it and re-pour it. We can do that. Sally.

Sally: Mine is a comment on work that Bruce did in our kitchen several years ago. And I can really attribute to the fact that we got an increase in the price of our house when we sold it because of granite top that he helped us find, and then installed, and put the backsplash on it and that kitchen was absolutely the most gorgeous kitchen. And everybody who walked in my kitchen it blew them away. It just blew them away. And that kitchen is what sold the house. That and the master bedroom are the two rooms that just sold the house. He does an awesome job, and he guides you every step of the way, Bruce is there to guide you. And professionalism is his main issue. These guys are neat, orderly, and quick. Thank you so much for that.

Male: Commercial property?

Bruce: Yes, but it depends upon what it is; in other words…

Male: [inaudible 00:11:30].

Bruce: Yes, yes. If it’s like a concrete tilt up, I don’t do that. Thank you. I appreciate your time.