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Setback may push Temple Hills renovation beyond Oct. 1 deadline

(Justin Pierce)

Pierce, a real estate investor based in Northern Virginia, over the past few months has been chronicling his experiences renovating and selling his house in Temple Hills.

At the time of my last writing I had hoped to have the rough inspection completed by the first or second week of August. As it is, we just got the rough inspection done a month behind schedule — the first week of September.

My general contractor’s framers did a great job getting the home framed up and enclosed. But, then it was time for the subcontractors. The plumber came right in and knocked his work out no problem.

We’d paid the heating and air-conditioning (HVAC) subcontractor a deposit weeks earlier so he could order the materials. When it was time for him to start working, he informed us that he was sick. After waiting multiple weeks for him, my general contractor had no choice but to bring in another heating and AC subcontractor. We still haven’t received our deposit back from the first HVAC guy.

I hope that won’t be a fight.

The electrician seemed to be overly busy. We have used this electrician many times before but on this job he just wasn’t on site much. It looked like he was trying to be in too many places. Even with all the problems we had with the HVAC guy, in the end the electrician was the last subcontractor we were waiting for to complete his work so we could order the inspection.

The home passed the rough inspection. The general contractor then scrambled his team to get insulation on site and installed. The insulation is very important to me. I went over recently in the midst of this and I was pleased to see that the contractors had very cleanly installed the insulation, not over packing it or leaving gaps. Better yet, they had gone through with a caulking gun and sealed up all the seams between double and triple studs and around windows and headers. Making this little effort to seal up the envelope is very cheap and easy to do but it adds great value to energy efficiency and so many contractors skip it.

Soon after, the inspector was back on site to do the insulation inspection. The home passed and we were on to drywall.

My general contractor is really juggling. I have him doing two major jobs right now. I don’t know what else he has going on and he informed me earlier this month that he had to fire two of his guys. He didn’t fully explain why but I trust he had good reason. At any rate, I know how that can hobble a business. Business owners are often torn. They are reluctant to let people go because they have obligations to clients. But they can’t keep someone who may poorly serve the client. It’s a real Catch 22. The problem is particularly acute in the construction business where poor work can be extremely costly and even dangerous.

I try to work with my contractors in this kind of situation. It makes it real difficult for me to stay on my schedule but working with a good contractor to get through challenges like this helps me get the best pricing. The contractor may make less on a job but he has more assurance that he’s less likely to get into trouble on a job when he is working with a known quantity who has in the past demonstrated flexibility rather than confrontation. It’s a real balancing act between being flexible and being a push over.

But the jobs move on. A couple weeks ago my cabinet supplier went over the project and designed the kitchen. I also had a local company give me a design and a bid, but I’ve decided to stay with my regular cabinet company on this one. Now the kitchen is all dry-walled so the general contractor is going to double check the kitchen measurements and I expect to order cabinets soon.

Over the Labor Day weekend, my appliance supplier contacted me and informed me that he had a big sale going. So I ordered two stainless steel kitchen appliance packages — one for this project and one for another project I’m working on. That saved me about $300 per kitchen.

I’ve also been keeping my eye on the flooring stores, particularly the hardwood outlets and warehouses. If I can find a really good hardwood on sale then I’d like to cover all or at least most of the main level with hardwood. If not, then I’ll probably just tile the kitchen and carpet everything else.

The problems with the subcontractors were very minor and I’m grateful those are the only real bumps to report since my last writing. However, it did set me back a critical three weeks and is going to make it very difficult to finish by Oct. 1, especially with my general contractor being shorthanded.

Follow Pierce on Twitter at @justinpierce1.

Read Pierce’s previous posts:

Crews make up for lost time in pop-top project

With plan approved, race is on to reconstruct house for fall sale

Pop-top renovation becomes pop-back plan

Gone are the low lying fruit of real estate investing