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Fireman/contractor

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Posted by: from Lefroy
5/22/2009 at 9:24:04 AM

Hi Guys,

I've been a self employed contractor for over 20 years and have built a very solid reputation in my area. One of the most annoying things I run into all the time is when a home owner mentions that they have a friend who is a fireman and they can do the job for half. I can't tell you how many times I've been called back and been asked to rescue them from the fireman. I just had a call this week from a relative who is a fireman out west, he does painting on the side and thought he would upgrade to an airless sprayer. Now the home owner is forced to stay in a hotel and all the stipple has to be removed and re-done. When he asked me what to do, I told him to stick to putting fires out. He told me that every man at his station does contract work on the side. When he asked why I was so against this I explained to him. Firemen already have a job with great pay and benefits and obviously a whole lot of spare time. is it fair to be out competing with guys who do this proffessionly for a living and to put food on their tables?

I'm thinking next time I see a fire I'm not calling 911, instead I'll call a bunch of my contractor friends and when the firemen roll up we'll tell em we got this one under control.

Do any other contractors run into this as much as I do?

REPLIES (3)
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Bill from Bill Carr Renovations in Baltimore
Date/Time5/26/2009 at 4:09:15 PM

I hear you Fred. Its not just fireman either. All kinds of shift workers, factory workers, whatever are out there cutting our prices. I do get the odd one saying they have someone to do it cheaper, so I tell them thats who they should get. If it turns out they screw up, I won't get a call to fix it because the person is now too embarassed to call me. You should be able to sniff out the cheap clients within minutes of your first meeting. If its all about saving money to them with no care for quality or workmanship, I just make any excuse to bug out- no sense wasting time.

We contractors have to try and educate people on the choices they make when it comes to improvements to their homes, but quite often it all comes down to dollars.

2 of the biggest problems I see with these 'weekend contractors' is that they will get so far into a job and suddenly realise they don't have a clue what they're doing, but they keep going because they are too far in. I have heard of some that just desert the job, won't answer calls, won't return money.

The other problem is duration: if they are already working a 40 hour week, how much time are they dedicating to their client? Worst horror story I heard was a family of 4 without their bathroom for 12 weeks, the 'contractor' told them 2. Icing on the cake- when it was finally finished, the people noticed water stains on the drywall after about 2 weeks. The 'contractor' would not come back (he was paid, so he was done, right?) so they called in a plumber who found a pin hole in a copper line. He suggested they rip everything out to make sure nothing else was wrong. But the important thing here is- they saved money, dammit!

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Abba's Service in Huntsville
Date/Time5/28/2009 at 4:23:32 PM

I have not check the board for awhile because I have to have surgery. It is nice to see that things are still the same old. As for the question? I find people are always saying somebody is cheaper. and the way things are now people are choosing it. Trying to keep things rolling is a problem. Example The was a company that owns 2 apartment buildings in N.Falls I went to give them an estimate I told them that the one apartment needs to be completely gutted and the other would need some repairs. The maintenance guy told me that he does contract work. He said they will buy the materials and just for labor only. I told them $15,000 for one and $8,000 for the other. just trying to get started again. Under cut my own prices. The guy told e that he did the whole bathroom for $650 dollars and he does not have the time to do the rest. Ok! no way! I contacted the lady in Calgery and gave her my price she said in Calgery contractors are charging $40.00 per hrs. I told here I was about $28 and each job would be at least 30 day's she said she will only pay 15 for the Niagara region I told here that will not even pay my liability and help. what do you think I said?

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Ken Mollan Contracting in Surrey
Date/Time9/1/2009 at 11:45:27 PM

I can understand your frustration. And I have to agree. Even though I am a Firefighter that works 4 on 4 off and had a contracting company on the go. My reason? Family. I am fortunate to be able to have my wife at home so the kids have a stable upbringing. With the cost of living, that means I need to bring in more income. One thing I would like to correct is having too much free time. Yes I have free time with which I choose to do contracting work. A requirement to get a job as a firefighter is to have trade skills and education. All of us (including you) have invested time and $ to become knowledgeable in our areas.

Now!! The biggest problem is really about shoddy workmanship. This usually (not always) comes with the cheaper price if it happens. I absolutly agree 100% that it is embarrassing for all who do a quality job when someone goes in and does poor work or unsafe work. It affects everyone. Seeing that you are concerned about this tells me you are more likely in the higher quality bracket. GOOD!! It is up to each person not to do more than what they know. I am always turning down extras or handing them to the qualified poeple that I know and trust with good workmanship. I didn't go to school for electrical so I have no business doing it. But I do know enough to point out deficiencies with electrical and what is unsafe.

Long story short, no one should be under cutting pricing and doing work they are not qualified to do.

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