Contractor-speak update

Courtesy of

In the past year plus, I have worked with contractors almost non-stop. I have learned a lot this time around. Unlike contractors in the “days of old” these are new times, and they call for new words. This is my public service announcement for any of you foolish enough to embark on a large-scale construction project now.

Fresh start – My contractor seemed to be stalling me off. I kept losing a day here and there. There were early quits and supply runs. His response to one of my quizzical looks was “fresh start” as in we’ll have a fresh start on Monday. He says this on Wednesday. He needs to pick up more supplies on Thursday (which won’t take all day) but he won’t be here. Why come Friday when he can start fresh on Monday? Is there a law that says you can’t begin the next part on a Friday? What this customer heard was I’m losing two days because he didn’t plan out his supplies properly and he wants Friday off. (Someone suggested that he’s doing a second job at the same time. My sympathies to them.)

Want it to be right Whenever I get the “this is taking too long” look in my eye he uses this phrase. Since when did stalling a project make something “right?”

It’ll be amazing – This comes on the tail end of the “want it to be right” paragraph. It’s meant to appease me so I’m more patient. It’s worth the wait. Well, it ain’t working!

Sister up – I found out this is a true construction phrase. We are cantilevering out the deck a little bit more and our support joists had to be “sistered up.” This means another joist going the full length of the deck is nailed next to the existing joist. Is this different from brothered up? Why isn’t it twinning? I have no idea but I’m intrigued.

End of rant. End of PSA. Searching for chocolate.

63 thoughts on “Contractor-speak update

  1. Pingback: Trooping The Kitchen – Snakes in the Grass

  2. Sounds like the list of vocabulary words Ally Bean published about doctors – a whole set of phrases discussed amongst them and their cohorts. I identify with “want it to be right” as I took my car in for service on Wednesday, May 4th for a few quirky electrical issues, new car lock buttons and a new A/C unit. I have patronized this mechanic/shop for 20 years. The morning I took it in I said “don’t fool around with charging it with freon and sending the car home with red dots to find the leak – we’ve done that 2X now – replace the unit.” So he said “call me Thursday night – it should be ready.” (This was a week ago Thursday). I called and he said “we have to put in an A/C unit – it’s leaked on us twice.” Really – you didn’t understand me the first time?! He goes on “there are two other mid-size GM cars getting new A/C units – I don’t know what’s going on with that – so you’re after them – only one of my guys does dashboard tear-outs.” Only I asked you before them to replace it.

    So this past Thursday it was to be ready in the a.m. I told him I’ll go for a walk and pick it up and take it home then – they open at 8:00 and he had said “give us another hour or so before coming in.” I called him while walking and he gave me a story about a new core and hot glue. (Don’t they bolt or screw in an A/C unit – they use hot glue like from Michael’s??) He says “I’m not going to rush it because WE all want it to be right.” Emphasis on the word “we” …sigh.

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  3. Dear lord, he’s really taking you for a ride with all of those excuses. I’m so sorry. The only complaint we have with our contractor at the moment is that he shows up way earlier than he previously announced. We’re usually running for the bedroom to throw on clothes because it’s 90 minutes before we thought he’d arrive. But I suppose that’s a nice problem to have. I sure hope his “fresh start” is going to be productive. – Marty

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    • No, a different guy did my kitchen. He was less temperamental and more dependable but very choosy on his projects. He has bad knees so he wouldn’t do a second story deck project. The deck guy did our music room and another small project. He’s had a lot of turmoil in his life since then.

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  4. Kate, good morning! Trying to catch up after taking a little getaway. As I read this blog post, I felt a panic attack start to take hold of me! It’s so fresh… I have so much sympathy for you with respect to the deck deal. I swear maybe he is like John that did our tiling, maybe he needs a pour over coffee! My would be on my last nerve.

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    • A getaway? Lucky you! I’ll need one after this. The deck itself is beautiful but the progress is slow. He’s been leaving early throughout the job. This morning I talked to him about the progress. He got very upset but it did come out that he has another job going and at least yesterday, he left to go there. He says he can set the work up (on the other job) and the crew can do without him. He had talked about building a new house for himself when he did the kitchen window and I suspected he was starting on that. You really have no control. I’d like him to finish my job and go on to the next.

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      • I know it’s frustrating, but hearing that the deck is beautiful is BIG! I would certainly take beautiful and put on another pair of patience pants. He can’t be there forever… I hope!… there has to be an end. I began to relax with John when I saw how pretty the shower was. Jerry tells me that they rob Peter’s job to pay for Paul’s but I suppose you are already aware of that. Lots of juggling. When we moved to The Tiny Ten we did a huge reno and the contractor took our money to pay for supplies for other jobs. He started to have heart issues and he got so bad he dumped us high and dry and all the other people he was doing work for. We were lucky that his worker bees were left high and dry and they finished the work and did a beautiful job. Contractors are from another planet, Jerry and I call it Boopiter. They all seem to be hanging on by a very thin shoestring.

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  5. Oh Kate, I feel your pain. Our backyard renovation – which included a rebuild of our pool – finally started at the end of last July, when it was supposed to start in April. We were told it would be a 6-8 week job, but it is 9+ months later and we are finally almost finished … and yes, it does look amazing as promised 🙂

    The biggest part of our problem was the landscaper who would be doing all the stone work for the patio around the pool. A 2-week delay turned into 2-1/2 months … and then they had to stop when the snow came. I worried all winter that there would be endless delays in restarting this spring, but they did show up as soon as the ground was dry enough to work.

    We encountered a number of supply issues resulting in us often having to go to 3rd choice of materials, but the guys worked hard when they did finally arrive on site. The conclusion I’ve come to is that this contractor is excellent at what he does, but abysmal at estimating. He simply has no concept of time. But then again, I accuse all men of this affliction 😜

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    • You are right. Our contractor is talented and creative but has no concept of timing or planning. He also has not been able to get workers like he said he could. He’s been limping along with one guy who shows up occasionally for maybe 2 hours or so and another guy who hasn’t been feeling well. He also waited until the rip out was complete before ordering materials. He had the decking. We ordered what the store carried to ensure there was no “supply chain issue” but we lost a week waiting for the lumber yard to deliver the wood. What bothers me most is that he is working short days. He is gone by 2 at the latest. Sometimes by noon. I think it’s kid issues because he isn’t picking up things for my job. He did a job for us last summer and while it ran over about a week, it was nothing like this.

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  6. Yes, definitely doing several jobs at the same time. Works a few hours for you to keep you on the hook and a few hours elsewhere. They would never ever think of turning down a job. I just hired a company to fix my bathroom sink, broken by my housecleaners. They were going to do it Thursday until they got the job. Then I got a text that they would do it in two weeks. Argh! I would fire them, but I’ve been trying to get it fixed since February.

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    • I OD’d on mochas last week. Too much can twist up my stomach! At the time it felt good though. I couldn’t find an origin of the term. Someone told me that sisters are more likely to be closer than brothers.


  7. I tried to think of something positive to say or explain the materials away to the supply chain, but the reality is you’re at his mercy, and he’s probably juggling multiple projects and homeowners. If he’s like all the businesses here, he also probably can’t find qualified and dependable help. I remember in the late 90’s when we couldn’t find IT folks, then on January 2, 2000, they were all looking for jobs. This is different though because so many young people are choosing not to work and those that are definitely don’t want to sweat and get dirty. I’m glad my HR days are behind me, and I’ll hope ‘Monday’ comes quickly.

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    • This isn’t about supply chain at all as the materials are purchased. I’m sure he can’t find dependable help. One guy showed up at noon today and another left around 11 (he wasn’t feeling well). Still, everything stopped at exactly 2. Correction, they started to put things away around 1:45. He seems to hire that layer of people who work just enough to eat but not much more preferring the time off. Not sure if either of these guys have families but they aren’t young. He keeps talking about interviewing good prospects but I haven’t seen them yet. He pays well enough. I’m not sure why he doesn’t put in a couple more hours a day. I know there is paperwork to having a business but you have to balance it out. He said it was a 2 week job and we’re in the third week and not anywhere near finished.

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  8. Just this very minute came inside from talking with a guy from a company that might be building our deck– and doing small repairs on the exterior. I’ll keep my ears open for “sistering up” and “fresh start.” Thanks for the heads up.

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  9. So, being a contractor is like starting a diet. It’s Tuesday and next Monday would be a great time to start fresh. I may as well eat the litany of forbidden foods the rest of the week and besides, I will get together with my friends this weekend and I can’s turn down pizza! And when Monday comes and it’s raining, I can’t possibly start a diet in the rain so I’ll make a fresh start next Monday.

    Want it to be right and it’ll be amazing sounds like mansplaining to me. Just be patient, little lady. Let me do what I’m going to do and eventually it’ll probably get done.

    I know what sister joists are! I watch or have watched many renovation shows, starting with This Old House and Home Time years ago. I learned to do basic tiling from Home Time though they failed to tell me that 4 inch tiles are not really 4 inches. I have no idea why they call it sistering, however. Mr. Google suggested that sisters are much more comfortable snuggling up together than men. Could be, I suppose.

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