Thursday, May 3, 2007

On Getting a Contractor

So your daughter is getting old enough to crawl and you don’t have a) spindles on your staircase or b) skills or c) time to develop (b) so you can install (a). You want: a handyman. Simple. The process works like this:

1) Identify a need: Spindles, banister
2) Look in phonebook (because you’re old-fashioned and the Internet just doesn’t work for this kind of thing) under “construction.” Find lots of people.
3) Call three of them. Get firm commitments for them to come out and give you an estimate.
4) On the appointed day, wait.
5) Repeat Step 4.
6) Repeat Step 2.
7) Repeat Step 3, choosing three different contractors.
8) Repeat Step 4.
9) As you begin to repeat Step 2, get a call from the first of the second batch of contractors. Make a firm commitment for him to come right over.
10) Repeat Step 4.
11) Repeat Step 1: Baby helmet, knee & elbow pads, gym mats.

This process works for all kind of skilled people. Say you want an engineer to come assess your drainage and foundation needs. You can do the exact same thing. Say you need a painter. A landscaper. A babysitter. Anyone, really. This exercise really builds your appointment-making abilities. What it does not build is your house.

Somewhere these guys are working up a really great condo complex or something, and they’re consulting on foundations and watching each others’ kids and putting mulch around the yew trees and building staircases and kitchen cabinets up and down the hillsides while the radiant-heated tile floors glow in the setting sun and the newly-hung light fixtures glint off the pristine birchwood banisters and spindles on the baby-safe staircases that lead ever upward to brand-new, tastefully colored rooms where people sleep adrift on seas of pleasant dreams.


Anonymous said...

Arrgh! And here I thought it was just me. Last night, a contractor who came highly recommended by my neighbors stood us up for the second time in a week. We've rescheduled for Sunday. I'm not optimistic.

Anonymous said...

It's funny 'cause it's true. . . .

Magpie said...

My father bought a house in the Catskills some years ago. He (we) called some contractors - the two in his valley never called back, so someone from Kingston got a boatload of work. He was a born-again Christian, but he did good work, so we didn't talk politics. Then one of the two from the valley returned some calls and did some Beautiful work. Beautiful. Then he took the stair spindles out. And they are still out. And it's been, oh, four years? Periodically I call him, just for the hell of it. Great skill, NO sense of time. Kid walks fine now, so I don't care about the safety thing anymore, but aesthetics?

wcs said...

Same in France. It's a different time plane those contractors exist in. We're waiting (two months now) for an estimate from our electrician - he's already done good work for us. He must know we'll wait for him. Arrgh !

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Mexico! A couple of years ago a carpenter took money from us, did half the job really chintzily, then never came back to finish even the shoddy work he had started. Luckily he had left all his tools, so my roommate and I told him never to come back. The tools are still here. Someday we will sell them.

Bill Braine said...