Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mr. Nola is determined to make this blog current

Since TOH is stuck in purgatory, and we are desperate to get out of a suburban apartment complex and return to our lives in Uptown New Orleans, Maison Derriere is our big priority. Unfortunately we had a run of bad luck with subcontractors.

Our plumber was great... couldn't think of a bad thing to say about him. Note my use of the past tense. After Katrina, he started to miss appointments, rarely returned calls, and eventually his overflowing voice mail was simply disabled. I have no idea what happened to him, nor what changed, but I have yet to find a plumber who was anything like this one. Matt, if you're out there, please CALL US!

The electrical work on Maison Derriere was supposed to have been done by Sam, the electrician we've used for a decade. We scheduled his start date before purchasing Maison Derriere and were understanding when he said that he was running late, but he later announced that his wife convinced him to retire, so he would not start our job. I wish him well and he certainly deserves it, having worked as an electrician twice as long as Ms. Nola and I have been alive, but we didn't know where to turn.

Not wanting to leave us hanging, our retiring electrician recommended another guy. Turns out that this electrician, let's call him Bubba, employs Sam JUNIOR. Sam Jr. doesn't want to run his own business and is content to be dropped off at a jobsite and do what Bubba tells him to do. With the exception of picking up checks, Bubba has yet to show up on time for a single meeting. Bubba has lied about work that would be done, about work that had been done, and about the paperwork.

We haven't seen Bubba for over two months, despite numerous promises that haven't been fulfilled. If we fire him, we're out $3k for work that I paid for but later learned wasn't complete. Worse still, the sheetrock is now up and several electricians have told me that they will NOT finish a job started by another company. So unless we want to hire somebody who is disreputable from the start, or rip out all the wiring that's already finished, we're probably stuck with Bubba.

The roofer... oy. People in New Orleans will tell you that a good roofer around here was worth their weight in gold BEFORE Katrina, and that's about what you would expect to pay. After Katrina, there are plenty of roofers around and the prices are lower, but it's anybody's guess if the roofer will do a decent job. With plenty of roofers setting up shop on the Gulf Coast hoping to cash in, you may imagine that there are plenty of scam artists, and even some of the good guys will abandon current jobs and customers in favor of a bigger/faster payday. This trend proved reliable, and we had arrangements with three roofers in a row who never got around to starting our little job. One even started but then took off after the first day when a better offer came in. We managed to find someone --I'm not even going to bother with a nom de blog-- who seemed nice enough and eventually (5 weeks later than promised) started the job. The only problem is that the employee he sent up to our roof left one vent unfinished, promising to come back the following day. The office manager came to pick up a check, having assumed (as did I) that the job was finished. I have been chasing these guys for weeks, getting one promise after another that the job will be finished immediately. Finishing the small job that they were already paid for isn't nearly as profitable as moving on to something else, so they never keep their promises to show up. Filing a complaint with the contractors' licensing board is very time-consuming and mostly ineffective, so that's truly a last resort.

There is one shining star in our contractor mess-- I call him SurferDude. He defies every single contractor stereotype you could come up with. If Nola were to have a crush on him, I wouldn't blame her a bit. Making matters worse for me, his carpenters are young, good-looking guys with Scottish accents... Nola swoons. They are a relatively inexperienced crew, so mistakes happen, but SurferDude always acknowledges if there was a problem and [gasp!] he FIXES it! Occasionally the lack of experience shows in the details --remember not to place a lightswitch where it would be blocked by an open door-- but they are minor and manageable if you know what you want and can present a clear plan in advance. SD and his staff always show up when expected, they are enthusiastic and honest... I just hope that our jobs are finished before these guys burn out!


At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Mei said...

So sorry to hear of the contractor woes; I'm suffering the same. I'm in NOLA too, by the way, so I definitely feel your pain.

At 4:58 AM, Blogger John Murden said...

Y'all sure are having to really deal with it, working with contractors is stressfull and weird enough under normal circumstances. Reading this post I was reminded of Carl Hiaasen novel that included a bit about scam roofers preying on Floridians after one of their hurricanes.


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