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Old 10-11-2011, 08:33 PM   #1
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Default New construction trim work

Having been out of new residential construction for some time and focused more on light commercial and residential repaints I need some advice from those who have been doing NC. I have recently picked up some NC jobs and started the first last week. These are very large homes that are at least 7000+ sqft.. My question is about the trim work and how much " fixing " the painting crew should be responsible for. It is my understanding that filling nail holes, caulking around door and window frames, base and crown is the norm. However, the trim crew has left 1/8 inch gaps at the 45's above the door and window frames all over the place, large gaps at mitered straight runs, and gaps between the window trim and window frame, and gaps in the crown ends on trayed ceilings.
I have stipulated in my contract that additional work will be charged accordingly. Do the above conditions warrant additional charges or is this normal for NC nowadays. I would expect to run into these types of mitered cuts in remodels where the walls may be uneven but not NC. I have taken pics of the areas but want to get some feedback before I go to the GC with it. Thanks for any help.

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Old 10-11-2011, 08:45 PM   #2
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sounds like fun to me. i'd charge a bit extra - yer gonna need more caulk and more man hrs.

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Old 10-11-2011, 08:49 PM   #3
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I would ask the GC what his expectations are. If he is not checking the work of his carpenters then you should not be held responsible for them. You should also check the spacing and swings of every door in the house before you do anything (removal and painting). This could save you a ton of headaches down the road. If they did a lousy job with miters you can bet there are a few doors rubbing from slamming baseboard in or a few doors out of square.

Always inspect the conditions before any prep or painting begins. Bring these to the attention of the GC right away and tell them you would be more than happy to rectify the problem for $XX.XX. Give them the number right away so they know how much to back charge the carpenters for doing a lousy job before he pays them.
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:01 PM   #4
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I'm about 90% NC right now and that stuff is pretty normal setting nails is what really annoys me
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:32 PM   #5
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Place a line item in your contract you are not reponsible for the carpenters work. Give a price to caulk and a price to repair/replace as needed.
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:34 PM   #6
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Joints that are not nailed and glued together are going to open up eventually. Poor carpentry, but you get what you pay for. You have to fill em', after all it is a reflection on your job. Shame is you'll always be able to see the caulk and that the joint was never done right. There are a lot of cheap homes built where I live by a certain builder. Everyone goes with the big house for less money but every owner runs down the builder later.
I hate bringing myself to do a lower standard of work because that's what the customer wants to pay for. It's new construction for god's sake. It will be there for a half a century or more. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. It's just hard getting the people paying for the work to understand it sometimes.
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Old 10-11-2011, 10:00 PM   #7
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Best thing to do is to talk it out with the GC and see what the costs cover. In my area the more trim the higher the dollar amount.
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Old 10-11-2011, 10:27 PM   #8
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I personally liked the GC that I have worked with here near me. I was pretty bent out of shape with the way things went during the job.

Good advice- talk it over. The bigger time sucker for me was cleaning, after everyone/trade....and not being able to figure out if this is new construction...why does the homeowner come back within a years time and get repairs to pop out drywall nails/mitres(caulk) constantly having to go back and repaint after towels bar install, after tub got rout....jambs were removed because marble tops not measured correct...etc....going round and round........

good luck with that!
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Old 10-15-2011, 08:32 AM   #9
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As suggested above talk with the GC... But take pics and document all the poor trim work this will save your a$$ when it's bill time. Good luck!
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Old 10-15-2011, 08:42 AM   #10
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What neps said.

You have to help the gc understand that you want to make the trim (and the whole project) look as best it possibly can, but it is your responsibility to have a clearly defined contract, and as neps said, to throw a flag immediately over anything that falls outside of that. If you are on the job and have your eyes open, and allow yourself enough time each day to be running the contractual side of the business, it becomes fairly easy to navigate.

I talk alot directly with the carpenters if I see things that are creating backwards motion for us. Most times, they are open to resolving cosmetic issues with us before they escalate.

If your contract and communications are not clear, there is alot of gray area in nc that painters can end up eating.
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Old 10-15-2011, 10:33 AM   #11
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Thats the same problem I am having here in cali. The GC isn't making as much as he use to on the homes so he is beating us down to the bare minimum price. So to do the same great product for half the price is not working out. Every trade is cutting corners and expecting the next guy to clean it up. End of every job i am spending an extra 30 hours repainting all the mistakes that the buyer points out just so i keep a good name. Its actually retarded no one is wanting to be responsible for anything. So I'm meeting with the GC to go over the next one. Either he lessens the scope of my work or he pays me for extra time it takes to polish the home.
I would refuse to be responsible for the gaps. On my sites the trim carpenter is responsible for those and they fill them with wood filler and sand them. Communicate until you get a resolution. Everyone is trying to make what they were before and its just unrealistic. Good luck with yours i just wanted to let you know your not the only one.
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Old 10-15-2011, 10:37 AM   #12
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Its a tight market in general.

The buzzword (sorry DeanV) is "value engineering." Its a good idea to find material options that are more painter friendly and still yield a high level result. For instance, I offer one pricing tier for oil satin impervo, and another for wb satin impervo. There is a cost difference.

Also, finding ways to do things faster and make more money. If you have always brushed doors, spray them. Spend less time, make more money, get a better result.

Paint contractors in nc really have to take a look at how they have always done things and adjust to current market realities in order to deliver good finishes that are appropriate to current budgets. Guys who are doing what they have always done, without adjusting their practices, are probably having a hard time in nc.
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:08 PM   #13
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I did my one and only NC this year. IT was an epic disaster for SO many reasons.

Some of the problems I ran into due to lack of experience:

The interior carpentry was terrible, so was the interior drywall. Although the GC and JSM were around all the time, they did not "notice" unless paint was put on it. We did our standard fill & caulking, but because it was so bad it still didn't look good. Afterwards the JSM tells me "you paint it you own it" and it was my responsibility to fix. Same with the drywaller who did a terrible job. IT was hard to see how bad until paint was on it. "you paint it you own it" and again I had to fix it. It was a nightmare.
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:49 PM   #14
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We are pretty lucky to have some good trim carpenters, but the new cabinet guy leaves a lot to be desired....
Attached Thumbnails
New construction trim work-photo281.jpg   New construction trim work-photo279.jpg  
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:56 PM   #15
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yikes
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Old 10-23-2011, 04:53 PM   #16
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Gonna be seeing another new cabinet guy soon methinks....
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Old 10-23-2011, 06:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibberish45 View Post
Gonna be seeing another new cabinet guy soon methinks....
For sure, this is a good builder to work for to!
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:54 PM   #18
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A copy paste of one of the most helpful articles I have ever read regarding builder relationships. On the money! One of the guys here is the one being interviewed.

Q: Are there different skills required for new construction versus repaints?

A: In our experience, yes. We paint large new homes when they are built. Sometimes one job will be going on over the course of two years or more. For me, the ability to look at the project as a whole is critical. There are a lot of variables involved, especially when there are 12 other trades with similar scopes of work happening during the same timeframe. That part of it involves fostering good cooperative relationships with the other subs. We are able to help each other out a lot.

In terms of the actual paint work, because everything is new, there is a lot more time spent on initial prep such as filling nail holes, priming, caulking, in between coat sanding, etc. Sometimes our painters will spend weeks prepping several rooms for paint. I think both new construction and repaints require diverse skill sets.

The difference, as it applies to paint companies working for contractors, is that there is a much larger picture happening compared to repainting for a homeowner. The contractor is your customer and they have a lot of other people working for them at the same time. The type of communication and relationship maintenance are different because, while the contractor is your customer, the architect might be their customer and the homeowner is the client of the architect. And sometimes, the homeowner brings their own interior decorator on board. There are more layers in the communication process, so you have to be thinking weeks in advance to make sure you are asking for information in a timely manner. You cant expect the GC to have your answers, you have to be proactive and educate the GC about what you need, and when, to be sure that the process is in motion at all times. When a paint company owner/operator tries to sling paint for 40 hours and do all of the above, it is really difficult to do it all well, so they defer to the paint slinging because it is easier…the comfort zone. Communication suffers and the slippery slope is on.

__________________________________________________ ________

Q: I can see where communications would really suffer for the guy who is in the bucket. Any tips on what he could do to improve the communications?

A: I came to the conclusion, and it took a long time, that to try to paint 40 hours and run the business on the side is an exercise in frustration – not just for me, but for the contractor. It is better to at least start with a 50-50 split. You have to be surrounded by a strong team with systems and processes in place to assure consistency and accountability. Transitioning out of the bucket requires a presence even when not “in the bucket”. When I am not on the job, I am in constant communication with my crew and the builder about the job, several times daily. I do a lot more exchange of information with builders by computer than ever.

__________________________________________________ ________

Q: We’ve all played the game “telephone”, where a statement is relayed around the room and by the end it is something completely different. When you are not on the job, how do you make sure the information you are relaying is correctly understood?

A: It depends who the information is going to. Flow of information to my crew is flawless. It happens each morning and several times per day by telephone. With contractors, by doing as much as possible with email and file attachments, there is less room for error than phone conversations and scribbled notes. It is to the point, for instance, where the builder receives paint color and spec info in email from the architect, forwards it to me by email, and I can forward the same email directly to my supplier to begin the paint mixing. That limits the error margin and makes it easy to document when the homeowner shows up and says “that’s not the color I asked for.”

On the operations side, the painter (s) in charge need to know the exact scope of work, what’s included and what’s not. There are always items that I suspect may pop up and I give my crew a heads up about those items and remind them to contact me directly when it happens. Its my job to anticipate change, and communicate with my crew so that we are closely following the agreed upon scope. Changes have to be tracked carefully. It’s in everyone’s best interest.

__________________________________________________ ________

Q: I can imagine a situation where the GC tells you one thing, the home owner another, and the decorator a third thing. How do you avoid getting caught in the middle of such situations?

A: Chain of command. The classic, and most dangerous, is the wife telling you one thing and the husband telling you another about colors, details etc. Nothing is done without clearing it through the GC. The GC cuts our checks. If I am not there, and someone other than me requests something, my crew calls me immediately and I call the GC. When you go outside that chain, you do so at your own risk. If the homeowner or decorator requests something outside the scope of work, it requires a change order. If we do the work without an approved change order in place, we may have a hard time getting paid. Change orders are documented with the weekly billing.

__________________________________________________ ________

Q: Sometimes relationships, despite the best intentions, are not a good fit. In the middle of a project, what are some signs of an unsuccessful relationship with a general contractor? How do you handle it?

A: On the business side, I watch cash flow. For the first few weeks, there is the honeymoon period where bills are being paid quickly and consistently. I watch for changes in receivable patterns and address them immediately. You also can monitor changes in the quality of communication with the contractor. I have in the past had to drive to a contractors house to get a check that was late in coming. That is not a good sign.

Just as it is our responsibility to educate the contractor about our needs, it is the contractor’s responsibility to pass that education on to the architect and homeowner. I try to keep it a bottom to top process. When bad ideas are handed down from the top, and you have no influence as the paint expert in the chain, that is not a good sign.

On the operations side, if our finishes are willfully compromised by the actions of the contractor, in terms of how they are using other sub trades in wet paint areas, that is something to address immediately. Rework, in this case, will be an extra charge and they need to be reminded of that. If they instantly accommodate and change for you, that’s good. If they choose to operate that way and not pay you for rework, not so good.

Questionable contractors will pull out lots of parlor tricks to entice you to do free work. If they are holding 30 days of payment on you, their influence can be considerable. On top of that, you may be told that if you take care of this situation at your own expense, they can guarantee you the next three houses that they have lined up. That is not a road to go down. It doesn’t get better. So, the best you can do when it starts to sour, is revert to your contract, follow it to the letter, complete your professional responsibilities, be sure to get paid, and move on. Then, revisit your contract and add in any new terms that need to be emphasized based on the bad experience.

__________________________________________________ ________

Q: You’ve mentioned that you do a fair amount of work on a time and material basis. I’m not a big fan of T&M as you know. Why do you choose that pricing method at times?

A: When we create our initial budget, we have a large set of plans and that is it. The trim scheme is not confirmed and colors are months away. As this information comes in, the preliminary budget is adjusted to reflect the new information. We knowingly price an incomplete scope initially and it is constantly changing from start to finish. The time and materials format is set in a way to allow for our target profit margin. And with weekly billing cycles, I don’t have to figure out percentage of completion, which would be ridiculously small and difficult to demonstrate.

I tell contractors that if they can guarantee us 4 months in the house with no other trades and everything ready to paint, I will commit to a fixed price. We know our unit costs, production rates, costs and overhead well enough to be able to do it in a vacuum. Large scale custom new construction is more like a circus of subs than a vacuum. Schedule realities do not allow for them to take me up on that suggestion.

In our case, it’s the most responsible approach. For smaller residential repaints, I am not a fan of t&m either.

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