You Want it When?
by Carol Dunn
LA VETA- Something you will notice shortly after moving to this area is that contractors are in short supply – well, except for the kind you don’t need at the particular time you need one. And the contractors who live here might specialize in seven or eight different things and work another job on the side, kind of like actors in L.A. OK, so “specialize” is used loosely in some situations. Still, you’ve got to sympathize with guys in construction around here. There’s not enough work in any one trade to keep a family fed, especially with the price of tea in China. So be patient if you call a contractor. Also keep in mind when speaking to a contractor that days, hours and dates are only relative terms. These are artists. If he says he will be out to look at your problem on Tuesday, he may mean a Tuesday in the future, not necessarily THIS Tuesday. If he says he will be there at 8:00, he may mean today, tomorrow or a couple days from now. Be careful if you try to nail him down (sorry for the pun) on a particularly day and time. He may lose cell phone coverage at that particular moment, and it may not clear up for several days. For your own mental health, NEVER ask how long a job will take. This will only result in frustration on your part, because all contractors are taught in Estimating 101 to quote the standard “two weeks.” If you MUST know when a job will be completed, here is the algebraic formula: y = 3x + w. “Y” is the amount of time it will probably take; “X” is the amount of time the contractor tells you it will take; “W” is extra time required because something weird happens. Something weird could include, but is not limited to: transmission goes out on contractor’s truck; contractor gets the flu; a hurricane hits Massachusetts; a packrat chews apart the wiring in contractor’s wife’s car; or it rains.
Of course, weather is not always an issue. In February, I watched a young man shoveling snow off a roof so he could continue working on it. (I’m not making this up.) The reason I know he was young is because he was actually up there doing it. Anyone over the age of thirty would have told the foreman, “I’m not going up there. YOU go up yourself.” Contractors can lead dangerous lives. Except for plumbers, of course, who happen to do a job we are more than happy to pay a hundred dollars an hour and wait three weeks to have someone else do. You only pay sixty? That’s a bargain! A good plumber is worth his weight in sewage, so to speak.
And how about roofers? Besides shoveling snow, they have the famous Huerfano County wind to deal with. Anyone who has done a metal roof knows that if you hold on to a panel just right and the wind kicks up, you can end up in Johnson, Kansas clicking your heels together saying, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” All right, so sometimes the wind can be in a roofer’s favor, like when the old shingles are loosened up then the wind blows them all into the neighbor’s yard. That’s a plus. It can also provide a tremendous tail wind. Some out-of-town roofers are so fast, they can drive to La Veta, do an estimate, contract and finish a job before the building inspector gets back from lunch to notice they don’t have a permit.
One thing to keep in mind is that if a contractor is extremely busy, that’s a good sign. Most are worth waiting for. Word gets around fast in small towns, and poor contractors are not busy for long. And if you want it yesterday, better get a time machine.