When a job starts, everything starts happening all at once–and not all of it is good. This is when you’re really earning your builder fee and you must do what builders do. Of course, there’s the human element. Problem clients can cause their fair share of chaos. Workers too can be a challenge, a polite way of saying they spend every waking moment trying to figure out a way off the job site to become a butcher, baker, rock star or Los Angeles Laker.
Even if you have adopted a building system to reduce the amount of variables that can take a toll on your bank account and reputation, nothing can prepare you for every scenario. These tales will make you feel better about this season’s problem client or job site snafu. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent and guilty alike. Have your own freaky but true horror story? Share it in the comments!
Final Draw Fiasco
A log home builder visits his client, a successful businessman and his attractive trophy wife, to collect his final draw. The builder notices as he drives up that finish crews are giving him sheepish grins from the protection of their trucks instead of working, which is odd for this time of day.
But the front door suddenly flies open and the spitting mad wife makes it clear why. She arrived with a final load of small items to move in when she discovers that the entire finish crew was performing their work while wearing her thong panties–on their heads.
Apparently the finish crew said their goodbyes to their most attractive client in their own clownish, yet decidedly creepy way. The crew fled from her wrath to their trucks. Awkward conversations ensued. The builder had to explain that while the actions of the finish crew were unprofessional in the extreme, it did not detract from the value of the home he produced. Amazingly, the builder got his final draw.
The Phrase That Doesn’t Pay
Ever have one of those out-of-body sales experiences where you listen patiently to a potentially difficult client’s extremely expensive needs, then smoothly offer assurances for every concern? A modular builder reports he recently had such an experience with a client with lavish tastes and an equally luxurious bankroll. The builder spent hours working with a client on a high-end design.
After all the specs were chosen, the contracts signed and the order placed with the factory, the client casually mentions he’s bankrolling this entire project with the money he just won in court settlement. Mildly curious, the builder asks what company he sued and obtained such a sizeable judgment from. The client names another popular area home builder. Awkward sinking feeling ensues. Note to self: Add phrase in sales contract to the effect that the builder can withdraw from a project for any reason.
Bedtime For Bonzo
A timber frame builder reports that a recent wealthy client wanted to renovate and expand a historic timber frame home. The problem came in the form of their pet prized chimpanzee, Thibedeau. ”They insisted on living in the home during the renovation, although they were traveling a lot,” explains the longtime timber framer. “Apparently, it’s hard to find boarding for a chimp. This meant we ended up taking care of it. And that was one mean monkey.” Chimps don’t deal well with changes to their environment.
To help soothe the animal, the contractor built a “chimp condo” away from the main house, a sanctuary from the construction fury. With the owner absent, workers began drawing straws as to who had to escort the chimp to the condo, since it would often bite workers or hurl its feces. Eventually they began leaving Thibedeau in his condo full-time, bringing it food and water each day.
Although surly, Thibedeau was smart. His dexterous chimp hands allowed him to escape. Despite the best efforts of animal control officers, Thibedeau remained on the loose, screeching at workers from the safety of the trees.
The chimp eventually ventured down from the trees and was struck and killed by a passing motorist. (Surely an unusual sight for the driver in rural America.) The resulted in an awkward moment for the builder, who had to inform his clients their chimp was dead.
Catching A Bus In Istanbul
Building a Swedish-cope, handcrafted, log golf clubhouse in Istanbul, Turkey, presents its own challenges, reports the longtime U.S. log home builder who was contracted for the job. First, the language barrier was formidable–only the builder and the owner spoke English. The U.S. builder began calling Turkish workers by names he made up, which were not always complimentary.
Next was the lack of modern tools. “It was like working with carpenters from 2,000 years ago,” he recalls. “I asked for a forklift or a boom truck to position these huge 14″ beams. The owner says (imitating thick Turkish accent) “No forklift! I give you 90 men!’ Do you know how crowded a subfloor can get with 90 men?” Taking inspiration from the Egyptian pyramids, the U.S. builder created ramps to get the logs into place. “It worked. But it’s amazing no one was hurt or killed,” he says.
The other problem was sheer exhaustion, with 14-hour days, seven days a week being common. “They’d pick me up before daylight and I wouldn’t get back ’til after dark. After six or eight weeks of that, it’s way beyond rigorous–it’s a grind that you just pray to God that you survive.”
It was exhaustion that contributed to his run in with an Istanbul bus. On a rainy day when the temperature was hovering around freezing, the builder wanted to cross the street but was too tired to walk down to the crosswalk. So he crossed the southbound lanes, mounted the cement barrier between lanes and waited a moment to clear his glasses of rain drops.
His vision obscured by a tree, the builder nonetheless jumped down into the northbound lane and was immediately struck by a fully loaded city bus. “The bus threw me as far as a human can be thrown,” he recalls. But the horror wasn’t over.
“With all the rain and all the people on the bus, the driver couldn’t stop. It hit me again.” This time the builder hung onto the front bumper to keep from going under its wheels. The bus finally came to a stop. A passing taxi driver dragged him into the backseat and rushed him to the hospital.
Amazingly, he had no broken bones and his thick clothing protected him from road rash. “The doctors couldn’t believe it. I went back to the hotel and had a drink. Then I went back to work the next day.”