Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My new house, five years later

Back in the year 2000 I went with one of the big name builders to build new house. It is now five years later and I can be fair commenting on it.

I know for a fact (from a former foreman) that there is a distinct difference in the services you get depending upon what class of housing you build; class meaning $90,000 to $160,00 or over $200,000. The houses are mostly the same parts just but the lower class houses do not get as much attention and they also do not get the better contractors. You are "nickel-and-dimed" at this level as well.

During construction:

  • the framers did an adequate job
  • they lost the plans, causing a four week delay
  • the pipes in the cement in the lower bathroom that travel upstairs were sealed in cement two feet outside the location they were supposed to be at.
  • the folks putting up the wood sides smoked and discarded the butts in piles of sawdust
  • the plumbers screwed up two of the four faucets
  • the low-voltage wiring guy was a complete asshole
  • the drywall people covered up two electrical outlets and one handing lamp box
  • the painters did the entire house in roughly 80 minutes
  • the house was not completed at wallk-though
  • the main support beam for the ground floor was leveled with a plywood shim
  • people urinated in the sump pump
  • the painters were called back twice to paint tops of exposed closets and areas underneath vaults, both plainly visible to anybody upstairs
  • the painters were called back three times to fix their numerous mistakes and omissions
  • the downstairs toilet never worked and once the papers were signed the agent stated I would have to fix it myself or wait for the 90-day.
  • the water people left giant muddy footprints in my basement
At the 90-day walk through:
  • the gutter was never fixed
  • they refused to fix the carpet because it would cost too much
  • they "fixed" the wood shim with a piece of cinder block
Five years later (and within that time):
  • the highest roof was not centered over point of the lower one, providing three locations for bird to enter my attic
  • there are four unique spots on my floors that creak when you step on them
  • the nails used on the drywall are popping in most rooms
  • there is a crack in the basement cinder block wall next to the support beam that was "shimmed"
  • the linoleum in the bathroom (not complete at time of walk-though) is now curling
  • the cement under that linoleum (that has to be dug up when they misplaced the pipes) is chipping
  • the basement floor has separated from the cinder block walls in most places
  • the upstairs master shower had to be resealed, they cheaped out on the caulk which allowed water to get outside the unit.
  • the upstairs shower pipes "thump" occasionally
  • the wood mailbox became infested with hornets (as have others in the area)
  • there is a small leak that lets water trickle from the roof, down an exhaust pipe, to a bathroom fan
  • there is a board in the roof that thumps when the wind blows really hard

Would I recommend one of these builders? Almost a resounding "Hell no!" They do offer better interest rates than you could get on a pre-owner home, they pay all the points and take care of a lot of fees. You can watch them like hawks but even a season construction professionals like my cousin and a friend managed to get screwed some way.

This speaks volumes about the quality of workmanship in everything nowadays. We have technology to make our jobs better but we don’t seem to be doing a better job. If I were to guess I would say it was a combination of the company trying to cut costs and increase labor output at the expense of quality. If a guy is getting paid a certain amount to do four electrical "kits" per day, then they want five, then six per day – quality suffers. Also, some people just don’t care anymore – especially if you aren’t paying them adequately. Compare the one guy that painted my friend’s house to the two guys that did mine (first pass). It took the one guy about six hours to paint the entire house; his house looks good. My two painters waltzed in with their bucket, blasted "Village People" music on a boom-box with one working speaker, literally slopped the paint on, went to their truck for a smoke, finished up then drove away.

My grandparents have a solid house they have lived in for decades. It stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to come apart when it storms. It was also built by contractors and engineers that had the time, knowledge, and pride to do things right. Sadly I see very little of that nowadays from houses to cars to computer systems.

As a computer programmer (software engineer?) I try to take pride in my work and do things right. A lot of the time I am forced not to by management. Every time that happens I get that little sickness in my belly that feels similar to eating too much Taco Bell. I feel the same way about my house sometimes. If you spend six figures on something you damned well better get some pride out of it and not get nickel-and-dimed. If I spend $150,000 or your product would it hurt to spend $5 more on screws instead of nails or $2 for a damned furnace filter?

F--- that company that built my home who shall remain nameless for legality sakes; although you can probably figure out the words of their name down to the letter with two hints.

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