Not that it matters much, but, do you think...

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Topic by BillyJ posted 06-20-2011 05:45 AM 3703 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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253 posts in 4219 days

06-20-2011 05:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Let me start off with a disclaimer – I AM NOT A FULL-TIME PROFESSIONAL. Although I’ve been putzing around with woodworking and carpentry for most of my adult life, most of it’s been out of necessity or fun. Of late, I’ve gotten my builders license and have begun a remodeling business as a side job.

I remember my first real home improvement job – remodeling our bathroom.

Our second house was a track house built in 1956, in the same neighborhood I grew up in. I distinctly remember the demo of the vanity – I used up every four-letter word I knew within two or three swings of my 15-lb sledge hammer. This thing was built to withstand a nuclear attack!!! The rest of the house had the same quality – nice plaster job, good rough carpentry, nice lumber, etc.

Then we moved to another house (in the same city), but this one was built in the 70s. I started to notice different workmanship. This was another track house, but lacked some of the common place items that were found in houses built 20-years prior: there was no cross bridging on the floor joists, cabinetry was made of particle board, and it had a design that lacked intelligence (there was a step-down between the attached bathroom and the kitchen – it was also where the back door was located that lead to the basement). Was this an “oops” moment?

When I started doing work for others, it became real apparent that much of the work being done was either poor quality, or altogether wrong. Sure, I can understand the homeowner who hammers 27-16d nails and 15-finishing nails into a 2×4 just to make sure the 3-foot shelf is not going to fall down, but I’m beginning to wonder whether half of those claiming to be ‘professionals’ really know what they are doing.

Not that it really matters much, but do you see the same thing? Am I just being overly picky or are there just too few people who really care?

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View sandhill's profile


71 posts in 4215 days

06-20-2011 06:22 AM

Well it kind of goes like this.. When I was 25 I did roofing and siding and had 3 guys working for me then the building industry had a slump and the next thing you know the guy across the street putting on a roof was the apprentice electrician I met 3 months earlier. He had no clue how to roof. I think your seeing the same thing now people need work and if they can hold a hammer guess what? You got it.

View dfletcher's profile


128 posts in 4077 days

06-20-2011 03:57 PM

I run into this a lot. As a matter of fact, i am called a lot to fix someone Else’s poor quality work.

sandhill is right, there are plenty of good carpenters out there, but, track houses are notorious for having people work on them who just don’t know how to build. They are usually new, because, hey, they are the cheapest.

View Grandpa's profile


139 posts in 3571 days

06-21-2011 03:56 AM

In my area we have people that go lay down their $250 and they have a license. They go out and sub everything. They don’t know if the subs are doing quality work or not because they (the license hoilder) don’t know anything about construction. then they put the house on the market and it is listed as “another fine home by XYZ”. So this goes on until the new standard is set and then it continues to lower. Roofing is not what it was when Sandhill was doing it years ago and most likely he doesn’t do it the same becasue he has to be competitive also. The spiral downward continues. No offense to anyone but that is how it goes. How do we stop it? I am not really sure. Telling people to get a license isn’t the answer because they have done that and nothing new has happened. Not only in the framing area but I even see it in the electrical area and the plumbing area.

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 4219 days

06-21-2011 04:50 AM

Grandpa – unfortunately, you are correct about the license. A license proves that you have the money to jump the hoops. Prior to me obtaining my residential builders license, I talked to many who failed the exam and were trying to pass it a second, and in one case, a third time. I’m not talking the business and law section, I’m talking the practical trades part! I was worried beyond belief – I had seem some of the exam questions and they were asking about how many and what size nails would you use in a particular situation.

Well, as you might guess, the exam was so simple that I had to laugh. Oh, and the nail question did come up – they had a copy of the section out of the code book for you to look up the answer.

I believe the problems we see deal more with ethics then anything else. If the person really does not know what they are doing, how can they, in good conscience, say they are a contractor? And if a person does know what they are doing and just lets things go because they don’t want to spend the time or effort to do it right, then apparently they don’t even possess a conscience.

I think things will turn around when good contractors stop trying to lower their prices in order to compete with the quacks. Let the customer pay double the amount the first time, rather then paying triple in order to finally make it right.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

331 posts in 4722 days

06-21-2011 06:42 PM

I’ve paid for a few things on my house, and am now of the opinion that if I want it done right, I need to learn the details myself. And if I need help on doing it right, I should go hire some Central American day laborers and supervise them, rather than trying to get a licensed contractor to do it right.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

View Dave549's profile


2 posts in 3534 days

07-05-2011 11:19 PM

Grandpa’s hit the nail on the head about licenses. In most places, what he’s referring to is a Business License, which is just a tax revenue issue, period. Nothing to do with skill, experience or integrity. In many states (but not all) some of the building trades and the GC’s are required to have an actual trade license. That’s an improvement but still nothing like a guarantee. In my state (NC), the trades that are licensed are the HVAC, Plumber & Electrician, and the GC. The trades must demonstrate proficiency in their respective fields to get a license, and it has to be renewed annually. The GC is the guy who is supposed to know the entire game plan, and the job details of every person that walks onto that jobsite. He is supposed to be knowledgeable in all aspects of the construction process. And I’m sure, at one time, it actually worked that way.

When I got mine in ‘86, the GC exam was 2 phases – 1 on building knowledge (using a real set of plans) and the second on construction law, accounting practices, insurance law, etc. Each phases lasted 4 hours. They gave it 4 times a year and the test administrators proudly proclaimed at the beginning of the test that the typical failure rate was a little under 60%.

Roll the clock forward to 2004. A young guy comes to my office and asks for a job. He want’s to learn to be a construction superintendent. He’s taken some college classes on architecture and was working 3 days a week for a local architect, but doesn’t have any building experience. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I put him on 2 days a week as an apprentice with the stipulation that he would work as a helper to my sub crews until he learned enough to be useful. He took the job. The first day he was “on the job”, I took him with me to pin out a foundation for a new house. About halfway thru the 45 minute drive, he suddenly blurted out “I hope this doesn’t harm our business arrangement, but I have a contractor’s license”.

I was quite surprised, to say the least. I said I thought you didn’t know anything about building. He said he didn’t, but he had taken a one-day seminar on how to pass the test, which now was all multiple choice and included a lot of “trick” questions. He failed the test initially but after the testing agency reviewed the results to the “trick” questions, they granted him a license. I had to admire the kid for his spunk- and his truthfulness. He wasn’t lying – he didn’t know anything about building. After a few weeks of shuttling between subs, he decided that this wasn’t what he expected and quit. Which means that now he was a “Licensed General Contractor” and legally able to operate as such. Can you see a potential for major problems here?

I see it all the time – from the online “experts” stressing the importance of getting a licensed professional to the “stings” on youtube showing the authorities in CA and FL “nabbing” unlicensed contractors, many with a truckload of “evidence” (building materials) in their possession. I’m sure their (the police) mothers are proud of them for taking these calloused, sun-beaten criminals off the street. Sure, maybe they have been doing their job for 20 yrs (and doing it well), but without that license they are a menace to society and must be dealt with accordingly! You may have figured out by now I don’t agree with this situation either.

Btw, the legal definition of a “Professional Contractor” is an individual or entity that provides goods and/or services buy contract on a continual and on-going basis. So when you hire a guy to build an addition or tile a floor who who (truthfully) tells you that he does this type of work regularly and who does the work on a fixed or fee basis and you sign an agreement with him for said process (in some states verbals stand up in court), he is technically a professional contractor. If he has the required local and state licenses, it is a legally binding agreement on both parties. If he does a lousy job, you have to take him to court, where the only winner is usually the attorneys.

The truth is, the general public is their own worst enemy with it comes to hiring a contractor. They frequently don’t know exactly what they want, their research is usually limited to who is the lowest bidder, and they think “the government” will protect them is something goes wrong. And the tradesman (roofer/painter/tileman/mason/???) who has “been doing this for 15 yrs”, but who hasn’t gone to the trouble to get legally licensed for what he does is just as bad. When he gets a customer who won’t pay or his picture on YouTube in a sting operation, it’s his own fault.

Hiring a licensed professional won’t guarantee the customer a successful project – but it will increase the odds. For the tradesman, getting that license won’t guarantee payment, but it too increases the odds. To the consumer, don’t assume you will get the same quality job with the low price guys – you’re not buying a new car here and they’re not all the same. For the Tradesman, everybody has to start somewhere, but that needs to be at the bottom, not the top. Learn the trade from someone who actually knows it before you proclaim yourself to be an “experienced professional”. If you want to break into the business, this is the way to do it, and now is actually a good time to start.

I’ve been a licensed GC for 25 yrs (I passed the test the first time), and I can promise you, good tradesmen are hard to find (especially now) and it doesn’t work in real life like it does on most of the d-i-y TV shows. The only exception are the grey haired (ok, one’s bald) guys with the New England accents who really love “old houses”. I don’t recall catching anything amiss with the advice they have dispensed. As for the others…...

View Grandpa's profile


139 posts in 3571 days

07-06-2011 04:33 AM

Dave, you have nailed it…literally. In our state you just go to the city and pay an tax and you are licensed. No test. The way it usually works is when the state decides to control it they will ask all those that have been doing this type of work for pay and have completed 4 jobs in the last 2 years they can come in and pay the fee and are licensed. After a certain date the remainder has to take a test and pass it as you mention. I am a licensed home inspector. I work for the buyers or the banks. This is the way it was handled. I had to go to school and pass a national test but I only get a state license. I cannot go across the state line even though I passed the national test. The test wasn’t easy because it involved things like oil fired furnaces. We don’t have those in Oklahoma. That sort of thing was something we had to learn for the test but it was taught and we had books to read. I will never run across an oil furnace in SW Oklahoma. I do see natural gas air conditioners though…..not many. Try those in New England. LOL

View rhys234's profile


479 posts in 422 days

05-12-2020 06:12 PM

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