Less grumpy about the construction project

Well then. The day has passed and I’m feeling less pissy. 

Part of it is just acceptance, like accepting the sharp pebble in your shoe because you’re running from a fire and can’t stop to pick the pebble out. Best to avoid being burned to ash than worry about the pebble that’s tearing a bitterly painful hole in your flesh.

I’m not sure that metaphor works. Does it work? 


Part of it is deciding to do some work ourselves to cut costs. It’s a simple trade off that eases budget pressure and gives me some mental relief, but it’s not pain-free. The considerable time we’ll spend doing additional work is time we can’t spend doing stuff with and for the kids; but at least we might be able to afford some Christmas gifts for them. 

Part of it is just venting. Here, to a few friends, to Anthony, to the thin air as I drive from here to there. Venting always makes me feel better when I’m full of emotional gas. 

Probably another metaphor that doesn’t work. 

Part of it is just adjusting expectations of what peeps are capable of, including myself of course. No one likes to accept responsibility, take a hit and apologize for screwing something up. It takes maturity and courage, and confidence – not hubris, but awareness that admitting a screw up and seeking a compromise doesn’t mean you suck.

Jesse struggles with this at extreme levels, but maybe it’s just part of the universal human condition, something we all contend with to one degree or another. 

Part of it is just choosing a moral path in my own estimation of things. If someone has to be stiffed, do I want to be the stiffer or the stiffee? I’ll take the latter, thank you, if those are my only options. I’ll feel better about myself and have no regrets. I’ll wipe my hands of it and carry no burden in my mind. 

Which is all surprisingly metaphysical for someone grumpy and simple like me. 

I’ll tell you what it actually probably is. The painter and drywall guy worked hard long days today without goofing off. I finished building a tabletop and did some plastering and painting myself. I made some solid plans for installing cabinets ourselves next week. There was actual progress. Having work actually happen, instead of just talking about it, makes everything a little more palatable. 

Grumpy about the construction project (and bleak. Bleak and grumpy)

I’ve been pretty down for the past couple weeks about our project. Things have just slowed down and slowed down. It feels like the peeps who are supposed to get things finished are moving on to other projects and disregarding the need to close out our job. Finishing something up is always the hardest thing. I guess I expected professionals to do it better than me.

Our kitchen door still isn’t in. It was supposed to go in a couple weeks ago. Instead of the door, we’re staring at the back side of siding. A kitchen window still hasn’t been replaced. I don’t know why. I’ve asked several times. The last time I asked, I got a shoulder shrug and an innocent stare in response. Literally.

It doesn’t leave you with the warm-and-fuzzies.

Now I’m hearing a bunch of whining about not being paid, and threats to not do any more work, and lectures about how “the industry” works, and blah blah blah and money money money. This is a financed project. Everyone knew it going in. This is not a surprise to anyone. The only thing that’s a little shocking is the fact that getting money out of our construction escrow funds at Wells Fargo is a slow and sticky process, as bad as pouring cold molasses out of a jar. It’s mind-numbing.

We’re over budget, of course. But not for pretties and fun things; for basic work. You sort of expect bidding on basic work to not be so far off, but I guess you never know. Once contractors have you by the figurative construction balls, you’re trapped like a mouse in a maze. You have to pay. And how much work would I have to do to figure out if all the invoicing is accurate and fair? How would I know if the guys billed me for time that they were sitting around chatting with me and eating the pizza I bought for them? I guess I could argue about it and see where we get, but if Anthony and I even discuss it in front of Jesse, she gets really agitated and worried. And it stresses me out too. So we try to take those cues and remember that it’ll all work out eventually. I guess.

I painted the bottom half of our home’s exterior over the weekend and discovered that two kitchen windows that were installed  as part of this renovation have the worst caulking job ever where the wood trim meets the window. Nick could have done a better job – gaps everywhere, and the caulk wasn’t pushed into the joints as it should be. I’m going to have to cut that caulk out and start over unless I want those windows to rot out in a year. Will anyone apologize to me for that, or for the laundry chute door that got destroyed and tossed even though it wasn’t supposed  to, or all the little things? Actually correcting the mistakes was what I hoped would happen, because doesn’t that seem like what should happen? But at this point, I’d settle for even an apology and an acknowledgment of any mistakes, because not even that seems to be coming.

I guess I could ask the contractor to fix the poor workmanship on the caulking, but how would I know that he’s not charging me time and materials again for that? Apparently this is a time-and-materials kind of thing, and how would I ever know if he’s double charging? We’ve blown the budget without knowing it until after the fact, and now I’m scratching my head to figure out how to cut corners. Maybe I’ll have plywood countertops in the kitchen instead of granite? Vinyl flooring instead of wood?

And god forbid I should ask for some information, so that I can figure out just these sorts of things: how much money do I have left to put in pretties? You ask for information, and contractors lose their shit. Why does transparency upset the construction industry so much? Is it cultural, or is something hiding back there? Why not just give me information regarding how my money is being spent, so I can make informed decisions? I’m not trying to rip anyone off. When someone hints that this is what I have in mind – not paying for work that’s actually been done – just because I’ve asked for information, I get really, really irate. I’m no deadbeat. But that reaction makes me think of things like the figurative mirror (I believe you tend to see in others what you know is in yourself) or a skunk smelling itself first. Then my thoughts start racing and I end up nowhere good.

First world problems, I know. It’s a bad sign when I’m reduced to a string of rhetorical questions.