Sunday, June 03, 2007


Everybody knows somebody who's had some major house project done by a contractor that turned into a train wreck. We've got a neighbor right now who's going into month thirteen of a six month addition; her stories are just absurd. We knew from the get-go that this was one of the really attractive upsides of prefab for us; particularly because our home site is a couple of hours away, the idea of not having to supervise/nag a GC to get this done was a huge advantage of the Res4 version of prefab (a 95% completed box), even if it hadn't been any cheaper. And having a (little) bit of DIY experience, the idea of finishing as much as we can ourselves really means that we're in control of the timeline and the costs. But there are some things that you just have to have other people do (like build a quarter-mile long driveway and pour the foundation) and that are not in your control. And even when things are going fine there's just a little bit of insecurity about how the next thing's gonna go.

So our working relationship with our contractors (an excavator and a GC, though we're not using him as a GC) has been pretty good so far; I don't have any real complaints. But I am struggling with a creeping anxiety that I'm sure most clients must face at one time or another: that our project is slipping from the consciousnesses of our contractors and that, try as I might, I cannot will them to put our job first. Now in our particular case it's pretty understandable; ours is admittedly a small potatoes kind of job. Our excavator is currently building the road for a 1400 acre subdivision ten minutes or so from our place, and the GC is building million dollar homes in that same subdivision. The excavator worked hard to get our road in; the only thing we're waiting on from him is the utilities ditch and conduits (and electric isn't essential at this point anyway). We haven't yet even engaged the GC to do anything other than the foundation and the set, and he's been available to me for all sorts of questions and coordination issues. But we're two weeks out from the set and I don't have total confidence that we're going to be ready (and really all that entails is the foundation being poured properly). I'm sure all modular projects, by their nature, have a ratcheting of anxiety as the set date nears, and mine will increase accordingly.

This anxiety is not really grounded in anything in particular at the moment; it's just that feeling of not being in control of a process that I'm not real savvy about in the first place that gnaws at me (as much as you read and learn, how confident can you be that your foundation's concrete doesn't have too much air/water in it?). And I'm not even a control freak. But like everybody else I want to get precise answers to my questions and have calls returned promptly and have people show up when they say they're going to. And of course it's a reality of working with contractors and trades that those things don't always happen. One thing prefab means, for me, is that there's much less of this anxiety than there could otherwise be.

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