Appreciate that. We will get to the Ballard project in a little bit, but first I want to share a story that has a little bit to do with Chris Swinson, he doesn’t know what I’m going to say, so he’s probably freaking out right now, but a story about how to choose a contractor and how not to choose one. About 5 months ago, Chris gave me a referral, a guy named Charles in Los Alamedos, Charles and his family had just purchased a home and wanted to do some remodeling.
I remember there was a laundry facility they wanted to create and some plumbing they needed, so in talking with Charles on the phone, not a brand new house, but had just purchased a house and wanted to do all this remodeling, so he had already had a couple of HVAC guys, and already had a couple of plumbers, and already had an electrician, so I’m like, ‘Well, what do you need me for? Sounds like you have everything under control’ and he said, ‘Well, I just want to get another bid, I want to get the best possible price on it’ and I was looking for a way out, it didn’t sound like a project that made sense for me, so I asked him, ‘Now you are going to pull permits on this, right?’ and he said, ‘No, no I don’t want to pull the permits, I don’t have the time and don’t want to spend the money for permits’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry I can’t help you.
I’m a licensed contractor and I can’t put my license at risk, I can’t do anything that requires a permit and do it without permits, I’m sorry I can’t help you.’ So he says ‘Oh, okay, fine.’ He calls me about three weeks ago, actually the first time he had called was about five weeks ago, but he called again three weeks ago, and he says, ‘I don’t know if you remember me, I’ve got this place in Los Alamedos,’ and he tells me all about the problems he’s been having, mainly with the plumber, a plumber who’s not Chris, so Chris gave me this referral, and this guy didn’t even hire Chris, he found somebody, I don’t know, maybe cheaper, so he finds this guy and the guy did the work and now the work buried in the wall isn’t done properly, it’s not functioning properly and he can’t get in touch with the guy to get him to come back and he wants me to come out there and help him. So the first thing I ask is if the guy is a licensed contractor. If he is, you can go back to the state licensing board, and complain to them and they’ll threaten to take away his license and he’ll come out and fix it for you. ‘No, he wasn’t a licensed contractor.’ Darnit! That would’ve been really good to hire a licensed contractor.
Contact the board anyway, because they’re breaking the law by doing the work without a license. As soon as he signs a contract with you as a non-licensed contractor, he is breaking the law. So he has all these issues, and I said, ‘Are you ready to pull permits on this project?’ Any idea what he told me? ‘No, no, I don’t have that kind of time, I want to get my family moved in.’ I said, ‘You haven’t moved in? It’s been five months.’ He said, ‘No, I’m not going to move in until it’s all done.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry, unless you’re going to pull permits, and do it properly, I’m not your guy, I can’t help you.’ And with that, we parted ways and he’s handling things the way he thinks is best. But that’s not the way to hire a contractor. The way to hire a contractor is the way the Ballards did it.
I was not their only source, they had one other contractor that I know of, and they put me through the wringer, those Ballards are tough. You don’t become a fourth-generation jeweler without being tough. They had another contractor, in this case, I know normally I talk about how we come up with a design, but in this case, another local contractor had come up with the design with the Ballards and had given them an estimate and then they had me estimate that same project. It turns out I was about $2,000 less than the other contractor when you compared apples to apples, so thankfully they chose me and we were off and running.
The drawings, the full set are on the table back there, right now a couple of photos are being passed around, in-progress photos, there’s a little bit of construction going on, but most of it has been demolition to this point. Mark was really kind to say the handiwork’s looking good, but if you see the photos, most of what you see is mass destruction. There’s a tremendous amount of demolition and retro-fitting, the work we had to do. In fact, one photo, you may not be able to tell what it is, but it’s a photo of their master bedroom, shot from the bedroom down the hallway, and what you see is a massive trench literally in their bedroom.
They’re still living there. So what you’ll see are a few planks across that massive trench and there are other holes and trenches in the house we had to dig, excavate, haul away and ultimately fill with concrete. So we had to do all that stuff before we could actually construct it.
Next time we’ll speak, I’ll have more photos, finished, showing you what it looked like before and after. But that’s how we operate, we keep the job as clean as we can possible keep it. We’re on the job virtually every single day, I’ve been on the job over there some weekends, the Ballards were out of town a few weeks ago, there was a chance of rain, so I went over there on a Sunday, and spent a couple of hours covering the project to protect their items. Keep in mind that while we’re constructing, they’re still living there. They had to move a few items out, but they’re still there, all they’re possessions are there, their bedding, electronics, furniture, everything, needs to be protected by the elements, the dust, the construction. But they’re still there.
How much time do we have? That’s the two different ways of hiring a contractor. Obviously, I think the Ballards did it the right way, they hired two completely qualified contractors and had them compete for the work. You don’t go out and find the cheapest person because the cheapest person is probably not qualified. And it does matter who you hire. Last week, we had a big inspection on Friday. The inspector was there for about 2 ¼ minutes. That’s it. I’ve had to inspect during the week exactly what he was inspecting and I’ve spent 2 ½ to 3 hours inspecting everything and he was there for about 2 minutes. It does matter. The inspector is necessary, I’m a big fan of inspectors, they’re a key component to make sure everything is done correct, they’re a second set of eyeballs for me, but the bottom line is they don’t ensure a quality product. The contractor is going to ensure it.
So with that, I open it up to questions, comments and complaints.
Do you find it more difficult permit wise to do business in Huntington Beach?
Yes and no, permit-wise, they have some interesting things, depending on the project, part of Huntington Beach is in a flood plain, and in a flood plain, there’s only so much square footage and value you can add to a property at one time, so that can be confusing. It’s a pain in the neck you have to pull separate permits for each trade, but it’s not the end of the world. During the project, electrically, they are incredibly by the book which is fine, but different from virtually every other city. For instance, I’ll work in 15 other cities and everything is fine, but go to Huntington Beach, and boom, we’ll get hit with something we haven’t been hit with. Not a big deal, we make the adjustment to get the code, but generally, not a big deal.
When you say quality, what do you look for? What are the obvious signs of a really crappy job? (That another contractor does?)
A messy job site is a sign of that, to some extent. The timeframe, schedule, are things well coordinated? If not, the quality is probably not going to be there. The naked eye can’t always tell til the end when the job is done. The quality of the finished work, the tile work, the inspector doesn’t care about that, that’s all based on the contractor, and all the contractors I work with have been with me at least 15 years, some 35 years, so it’s a good working relationship. And I see that I am out of town, so with that, I bid you adieu.
C.R. BEINLICH & SONS CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION
Residential Remodeling Specialists