Who's To Blame?

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A. Spruce
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Who's To Blame?

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jun 27, 2017 9:25 pm

In a recent stucco related thread, the conversation got started as to who is at fault for "crappy" products, services, and/or workmanship. It got me to wondering what you guys think of current building trends, products, codes, etc., and how it affects the decisions you make in your own businesses.

I, personally, am not enamored with many of the current new fads and trends, pex is one of them, the stucco in the aforementioned thread is another. It seems that more time is spent trying to skimp and save a buck than to actually add value to the trades or end users.

Thoughts, opinions, discussion . . .
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Shannon
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Shannon » Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:29 am

I personally think that there are so many new products and materials coming out all the time ,many of which are supposed to be "maintenance free", "environmentally friendly" or a "better " alternative to materials traditionally used that it is tough for trades to know everyone one of them well let alone know the exact way to use or install them in every situation. Also the wide differences in conditions across the world make some not a good fit for certain areas. Every company also seems to come out with their own version of these products also which just adds to the confusion because everyone claims theirs is better for some specific reason.
I personally tend to stick to tried and proven products I have had success with for specific jobs but I also like to try new items to keep up with the times. They do not all work as advertised IMO so then I go back to original items. Its getting harder and harder to keep up though and keep everything straight. Unfortunatly someone has to be the ginny pig when it comes to trying new things and new things do noir always work out.
Then you have the trades people or DIYers that do not research what they are doing or trying and just steam ahead with a project not thinking about how some of these items may cause issues with others being used in the same project. The item looks cool or seems like it should be great but in reality it is maybe not the right fit for the project.
Finally you have the trades people who do not care,I call them "fly by nighters" they usually come into a area after a large storm or into an area that for some reason has a shortage or immediate need for trades people for a particular reason.They come rushing in and can get work because people are desperate, they slam together a few weeks of poor work and are gone again never to be seen again before it is realized their work maybe was not up to par.

Something else I should add is this, some ...actually many home owners are just as guilty of these problems IMO. They get some quotes for their latest project and what do they do? They choose the company with the lowest price, they don't ask questions, they do not compare materials being used, they do not try to see what the reason for the difference in price is, they do not ask for references, they just take the lowest price and go with it. They have no idea that maybe that company has a bad reputation, uses inferior materials or has inexperienced workers.
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A. Spruce
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by A. Spruce » Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:37 am

Those are all points I tend to go to as well.

The point on clients choosing the lowest bid, every one of them is only worried about the price, not about what they want or quality of work. I spent my career educating clients on both quality and value. Most of them say, "I've got $XXX for this job, what can I get?", my response was always the same, I don't care how much you have to spend, I want to know what you WANT, take money out of the picture, I need to know exactly what you WANT, then I will put a base bid together with a "good/better/best" options list with pricing for you to choose from. Every single time I was able to provide way more to the client than they thought possible, making them extremely happy and a repeat customer. Getting what you want, or close to it, is rarely out of budget. Doing things the right way may not always be cheap, but it is the least expensive way to go.

The same goes for municipal projects, where lowest bids are offered to get the job NOT satisfy the needs of the project. Once the bid is won, then a flood of change orders come in that skyrocket the cost of the project. The contractors know this, the bureaucrats know this, yet, the practice still goes on.
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Clarence
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Clarence » Wed Jun 28, 2017 10:13 am

One of the most important trends is the construction industries have gotten away from the apprenticeship, now days it is a class room program for a year at which time the new guy has all the book knowledge and about 25% of the practical part. I worked thru The U.S. Gov't Job Corp program that trained most all construction trades the school was a max of 18 months than the students were placed in the field. Over a period of 4 years I had 35 of their students for an apprenticeship Only TWO made it over 6 months on the job reason for leaving was to go back home, didn't like the work, got married and moved out of state, went to prison and many other reasons. The two that stuck with the program are doing just fine One is in business for himself and doing great. The other still working in the plaster trade and is a supervisor. The plastering trade is a very labor intense trade and most workers want a job that is inside where the weather does not affect them.
As for materials in the stucco and plaster the basic mixes did not change it was the ability of the worker to follow the mix design hence the product failure.
Then the manufacture stepped in and started producing a premix. This may not be all bad but than the workers tried to use it for all applications this is were failure starts to occur and the produce gets a bad name.
Stucco & plaster has been used since about 470 B.C. Lime plaster can be traced back to 1530 and maybe earlier.
Structure built 500 years ago using Stucco & plaster are still standing to this date so why is it such a bad product? The design mix at this time has not changed I have traced it back to Mediaeval times.
Does a bad applicator/ contractor make the overall product defective?
Spruce I agree with you on most all your statements.
As for giving the customer a good finished product it would be nice for the owner to have a good plan & written specifications and all bids should have a price based on only the specs. The bid should also include an ADD price and a DELETE price.
Also the contractor along with the Proposal should be required to provide a State License # a certificate of insurance and a performance and payment bond based on the bid price.

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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by A. Spruce » Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:00 pm

Clarence wrote: . . .
I think we can agree that there is no one thing that is the root cause of the issues we see today. Personally, I think money is the largest contributing factor, manufacturers want all they can get, contractors want all they can get, tradesmen want all they can get, and the customer wants to pay as little as possible. Notice I've included everyone from manufacturer to end user in this list.
Clarence wrote:One of the most important trends is the construction industries have gotten away from the apprenticeship . . .
The industry seems to look at employees as a liability, not an asset, so they're not willing to invest time or money into anyone. How is this helpful to the workforce or the industry? This is a rhetorical question for conversation.
Clarence wrote:The plastering trade is a very labor intense trade and most workers want a job that is inside where the weather does not affect them.
Construction is one of those trades where everybody thinks they can do it, all you need is a hammer and a truck, right? Work ethic seems hit and miss as well, whether that is due to ignorance, laziness, or lack of education is up for debate. All I know is momma didn't raise these people right! :P :mrgreen:
Clarence wrote:As for materials in the stucco and plaster the basic mixes did not change it was the ability of the worker to follow the mix design hence the product failure.
Then the manufacture stepped in and started producing a premix. This may not be all bad but than the workers tried to use it for all applications this is were failure starts to occur and the produce gets a bad name.
Do you think fault here lies in the worker, employer, or manufacturer. While manufacturer's can't control what the end user does, is there room for improvement in the way they launch and supply new products so that education is a part of that? Where is the responsibility of employers who demand production and cost savings over proper techniques and quality? If an employee is paid piece work instead of hourly, does this not promote cutting corners to save time? Ultimately, who is responsible for the product failure? Again, rhetorical questions for conversation.
Clarence wrote:Does a bad applicator/ contractor make the overall product defective?
I lean heavily to saying yes, but this is not a simple question with a simple answer. Is it the manufacturer's responsibility to make sure their products are being used properly by the industry, probably not, but the inspection department can sure as heck be a part of the process, and they're not. I have long said that permits and inspections are not about safe construction practices, it is about filling the coffers of the municipality. On a similar note, and maybe another topic for debate, the code book is not written for the very people expected to use it, so how are the masses supposed to understand and follow it?
Clarence wrote:Spruce I agree with you on most all your statements.
Well, it's a darned good thing, I wouldn't wanna have to hurt ya! ;) ;) :mrgreen:
Clarence wrote:As for giving the customer a good finished product it would be nice for the owner to have a good plan & written specifications and all bids should have a price based on only the specs. The bid should also include an ADD price and a DELETE price.
Also the contractor along with the Proposal should be required to provide a State License # a certificate of insurance and a performance and payment bond based on the bid price.
Here in California, license, insurance, and liability bond is required by law be provided to every customer. Performance bonds are optional and for the parties concerned to determine if necessary. As for scope of work and pricing, my proposals were very specifically detailed with options individually priced, and I sat down with every client and literally walked them through it line by line so that there were no misunderstandings. Once the choices were made, a work order was drafted that required a signature of approval and was an attached addendum to the contract. I also made it very clear that change orders were inevitable, no matter how well planned a project is. I don't play games and I was very careful of the type of client I accepted. The bidding process was as much me choosing the client as the client was choosing me. In the end, I never once had a problem client.

As for owners having a plan, well, good luck with that. Most people don't have a clue what they want or what it takes to give them what they want, you have to work with them, talk them through pros and cons, etc., help them figure out what they actually want. From there, a plan and specs can be drawn up, though, God forbid a designer of some sort is involved! :shock: Designers could be a whole other topic! :lol: :lol: 8-)
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Clarence
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Clarence » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:48 am

As related to hard coat stucco lets say the applicator purchases his cement from the big box store than goes to the masonry warehouse for his Lime than proceeds to the landscape supplier for the sand.
His understanding of the mix is 1 cement, 1/2 Lime and 3 sand.
He than uses the bag of cement, 1/2 bag of lime and three bags of sand. ( yes I have seen this happen on many occasions.)
His mix does not meet ASTM Standards or The Plaster Systems Manual.
How does this make the manufacturer"s responsible.
What also should be included is a lot of the applicators can't read the instructions written on the bag much less the Systems Manuals.
It maybe that the Construction industries need a good inspection system for all exterior cladding and interior finishing's.
Thee inspections should be done in phases Say for Stucco Lath inspected and signed off, Scratch coat inspection. Brown coat inspection and finish inspection. All must be submitted with the applicator pay request. It may cost a little more per SQ / FT but would be well worth it over time.

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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by A. Spruce » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:57 am

The major problem is that nobody wants to take responsibility. It's not the installer's fault they can't read the product label, it's not the employer's fault they're not allowing the means of doing the job right, it's not the manufacturer's fault nobody can follow instructions, and it's not the building inspectors fault that the processes aren't more closely watched, and it's not the code writers fault that codes are not written in plain English for all to understand. Which brings us back to the original question of who's to blame?

Now, I'm not insinuating that this is true in every case, and, I think the problem centers more around developers than it does private contractors, not that there aren't bad eggs in the private sector as well.
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Shannon » Thu Jun 29, 2017 1:38 pm

Part of the problem is that you do not know you have a problem until later in tome usually ,so even at inspection it may look fine but fails later on. Inspectors can't stand watching every persons move so it is really hard to regulate IMO
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by A. Spruce » Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:55 pm

Shannon wrote:Part of the problem is that you do not know you have a problem until later in tome usually ,so even at inspection it may look fine but fails later on. Inspectors can't stand watching every persons move so it is really hard to regulate IMO
The crux of this conversation is revolving around stucco, though it can be applied across the construction industry. Clarence says that a skim coat of stucco over foam is perfectly fine and holds up great when done properly. While this may be the case, it's not what I have seen locally, and is also contrary to complaints I've heard from Joe Average and what is going on with their own homes. IF a certain installation method has to be followed to avoid cracks and chips, then every step of the process should be inspected to be certain that each step is done correctly. Since it would be impossible for anyone else to police, this job needs to fall to the inspectors/inspection process, otherwise we need to go back to more idiot proof methods.
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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Aaron » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:11 pm

My dad owns a 1924 stuccoed duplex and the stucco on it is in great shape. Why? Because it breathes. The house was too old to be insulated, there's no vapor barriers inside, and I'm not even sure the stucco was ever even painted. I don't think so.

Having said that, the house is very energy inefficient obviously. Double hung single pane glass windows throughout.

Sorry if this is a non sequitur to the conversation.

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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Mastercarpentry » Sun Jul 02, 2017 8:00 am

There's plenty of blame to go around, but almost all of it can be traced back to money. There's nothing wrong with being frugal, but there is a minimum level of which dropping below will bite you in the butt eventually. And that minimum level is often well above 'code' requirements.

I'm quite a traditionalist most of the time. There are very few 'modern' materials i like, and those few are the ones which are long and well proven. Almost all of the new crap has 2 inherent problems: First it was designed to be cheaper, not better and second, it's usually an idea which came from and was done by people who have never spent the time needed in doing the work in the field to understand how it really needs to be.

And the people. None of the new ones are worth their salt. No apprenticeship, no interaction with other trades, no concern for anything but their own specific work and doing it in the easiest way possible to the lowest acceptable level of workmanship. If you can find anyone wanting to actually do physical work anymore that is. And even those few are married to their smartphone, not their careers.

Not everything is an improvement. The reason extremely old houses still stand is that the people who built them understood every aspect of what they were working with from soil to wood species to weather. The old houses could breathe so the wood became stable, never too wet or too dry but always normalized to the climate. HVAC meant having a means to prevent humans from freezing to death and not much more, then having convection do what cooling was possible in the summers. The people and houses lived with nature- now we try to beat nature into submission and hermetically seal ourselves from everything. And the old houses didn't have plumbing (or not much of it) so water, the main killer of houses, needed only be kept from getting inside.

Nowadays we have the best choices possible, everything from the past and all the 'new and improved' stuff too. We've got all manner of machines to make doing the jobs easier and faster. We've got in-depth scientific research to help us understand what were doing. But none of this is any good when for whatever reason the job is not being done as good as it can possibly be done with that alone being the only criteria put to use in the designing and building. And even I don't always do the best I possibly can- in fact I rarely do save for when nothing less is acceptable. But I never do less than very well.

In the past there was so much time and effort put into building a house that everybody knew it was stupid to do less than the best and to try to make everything last as long as it possibly could. You wanted that house to serve a dozen generations of your/their family if it could. Now that it is supposedly simple and easy nobody looks at things that way anymore. Your/their family will move away, a shopping mall will become more important, and if a house lasts 100 years it's probably being over-built.

Nobody cares anymore and that's the bottom line.

Phil

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Re: Who's To Blame?

Post by Shannon » Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:43 pm

Mastercarpentry wrote:There's plenty of blame to go around, but almost all of it can be traced back to money. There's nothing wrong with being frugal, but there is a minimum level of which dropping below will bite you in the butt eventually. And that minimum level is often well above 'code' requirements.

I'm quite a traditionalist most of the time. There are very few 'modern' materials i like, and those few are the ones which are long and well proven. Almost all of the new crap has 2 inherent problems: First it was designed to be cheaper, not better and second, it's usually an idea which came from and was done by people who have never spent the time needed in doing the work in the field to understand how it really needs to be.

And the people. None of the new ones are worth their salt. No apprenticeship, no interaction with other trades, no concern for anything but their own specific work and doing it in the easiest way possible to the lowest acceptable level of workmanship. If you can find anyone wanting to actually do physical work anymore that is. And even those few are married to their smartphone, not their careers.

Not everything is an improvement. The reason extremely old houses still stand is that the people who built them understood every aspect of what they were working with from soil to wood species to weather. The old houses could breathe so the wood became stable, never too wet or too dry but always normalized to the climate. HVAC meant having a means to prevent humans from freezing to death and not much more, then having convection do what cooling was possible in the summers. The people and houses lived with nature- now we try to beat nature into submission and hermetically seal ourselves from everything. And the old houses didn't have plumbing (or not much of it) so water, the main killer of houses, needed only be kept from getting inside.

Nowadays we have the best choices possible, everything from the past and all the 'new and improved' stuff too. We've got all manner of machines to make doing the jobs easier and faster. We've got in-depth scientific research to help us understand what were doing. But none of this is any good when for whatever reason the job is not being done as good as it can possibly be done with that alone being the only criteria put to use in the designing and building. And even I don't always do the best I possibly can- in fact I rarely do save for when nothing less is acceptable. But I never do less than very well.

In the past there was so much time and effort put into building a house that everybody knew it was stupid to do less than the best and to try to make everything last as long as it possibly could. You wanted that house to serve a dozen generations of your/their family if it could. Now that it is supposedly simple and easy nobody looks at things that way anymore. Your/their family will move away, a shopping mall will become more important, and if a house lasts 100 years it's probably being over-built.

Nobody cares anymore and that's the bottom line.

Phil
Well said Phil!
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