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Ivan Kirkpatrick
User Rank
Platinum
It's Easy (not!)
Ivan Kirkpatrick   3/14/2012 10:34:25 AM
I have taken recently to avoiding saying any job will be easy.  I keep running into this kind of unexpected condition that makes a seemingly easy job require a lot more work than first expected.

We used to call this "discovered work" in that we only figured out how much work it really was once we started.

I have also started applying  a new rule to my work projects.  Do as much as possible to prepare the work site beforehand.  Clear the site, get everything out of the way and make sure one has sufficient access before actually ripping out stuff to be replaced.  Keeping the work site clean and cleared of debris is really helpful in reducing lost time.

Jon Titus
User Rank
Blogger
Re: It's Easy (not!)
Jon Titus   3/14/2012 11:18:29 AM
Good advice, Ivan.  I suppose that's why contractors and repair services charge what they do--they never really know what's involved until they get started.  I see this often on PBS's "This Old House," when after tearing out some part of a structure, the builders find rotten wood, incorrectly installed plumbing, leaky pipes, and so on.  It's no wonder PBS never reveals the total cost of a project!

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: It's Easy (not!)
Charles Murray   3/14/2012 9:39:24 PM
Goint points, Ivan. Almost every job ends up taking longer than planned. About 20 years ago, I finished my basement and installed a bathroom. In the process I created my own rule of handyman work: Always multiply by three the amount of time you think it should take. (Much of that time is spent driving back and forth to the hardware store.) More often than not, my rule still falls short.

rrietz
User Rank
Iron
Re: It's Easy (not!)
rrietz   3/15/2012 11:45:01 AM
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I remember the old adage - The first 80% of a job takes 80% of the time.  The remaining 20% takes the other 80% of the time.  Site prep and cleanup, mentioned in the first post are very important.

streetrodder
User Rank
Gold
Re: It's Easy (not!)
streetrodder   3/15/2012 5:01:09 PM
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Ahh yes, the surprising houses!

I have three places, one is a 110 year old board on board construction (no studs in weight bearing or exterior walls), a 80 year old brick bungalow and a 65 year old cabin in the sticks.  All have their challenges, with the 110 year being the most interesting.  Try fitting door jambs and windows into a 2 inch thick wall, luckily they're solid straight grain fir, so the items mount solid, just need lots of spacing to look right.... 

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Clever adaptations
Ann R. Thryft   3/14/2012 1:20:27 PM

Jon, that sounds like some clever adaptations on your part. I wish I could get my husband to describe what he did in adapting a bathroom fan to the opening in our kitchen ceiling which had previously, and mysteriously, accommodated an old grease-laden bathroom fan (in this tiny cabin kitchen there's no room for a modern exhaust fan). The mystery came when we couldn't figure out how the old fan had been mounted, in between the beams and on top of acoustic ceiling tiles, into the attic space. Anyway, he had to create a structure inside the attic that could then be attached and used to mount the fan. The project was about 80% design and 20% installation.


Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Clever adaptations
Rob Spiegel   3/14/2012 1:47:29 PM
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Ann, I ran into the same challenge as your husband when I installed a ceiling fan in a dining room. I thought, "This is a common installation -- how hard can it be?" I spent some quality time on the beams in the attic space, which is a difficult space for improvising. Like your husband, I had to create a mounting structure as the fan didn't have a sufficient apparatus to attach to the beams. 


Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Clever adaptations
Ann R. Thryft   3/14/2012 1:53:03 PM
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Rob, I can at least understand the problem if it's a first-time installation. What was so weird about our situation is that a previous fan had been mounted in the hole, and when we took it out, we couldn't figure out how it stayed up: there was no mounting structure of any kind. 


Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Clever adaptations
Rob Spiegel   3/14/2012 1:57:25 PM
Sounds like you simply lucked out that previous fan didn't fall out of the ceiling at some point. When I was installing the ceiling fan I was tempted to take a substantial short cut that would have involved mounting the fan less securely. But I figured Murphy's Law would send the fan crashing down at some point, so I took the long safe road.

Jon Titus
User Rank
Blogger
The Installation Blues
Jon Titus   3/14/2012 2:07:39 PM
It does make one wonder how contractors and DIY enthusiasts do some of the things we must go back and rework, repair, or replace.  I'd bet someone forgot to attach the fan in the first place or forgot to come back and finish the job.

When we built out house here in Utah I told the kitchen people I would install an outside vent for the microwave oven later, so they just had to put the oven in place and I'd get to it when I had time. Until we had the vent, I told them we would use the oven's fan to recirculate the air. When I removed the microwave to install the vent I noticed the installation people had left a baffle in place that directed the air to the back wall. The air we felt coming out the front vents somehow bypassed the baffle just enough so we thought everything worked fine. Glad I got the vent in or likely the fan motor would have burned out. It's difficult to trust people to do things right unless you do them yourself.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: The Installation Blues
Ann R. Thryft   3/14/2012 2:18:55 PM
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Rob, we came to the same conclusion about our luck! It was very heavy, very greasy (black smelly stuff) and would have made a huge mess. But instead of forgetting to finish the job, as Jon suggests, the way things got built in cabins out here means it was more likely the owner, not a real contractor, who installed it, and that person had no idea of what they were doing. On the other hand, that still doesn't explain its gravity-defying presence in the ceiling. Jon 's microwave story sounds like the typical situation here, too. I've had problems with lots of things installed or built even by so-called professional contractors.


Jon Titus
User Rank
Blogger
Get the right tools & knowledge
Jon Titus   3/15/2012 1:38:56 PM
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After bad experiences with several contractors (and "helpful" friends) in our first house my wife and I decided for most jobs we would learn how to do something, buy the right tools, and do the work ourselves.  Getting good information is critical, although we all run into unexpected problems. Having the right tools is critical, too--as is knowing how to use them. Thankfully, companies such as Home Depot and Lowe's have excellent tool-rental sections and employees can demonstrate how to use the tools before we take them home. These stores also have hands-on training sessions as well as a stock of well-illustrated books that explain how to tackle projects.

Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Get the right tools & knowledge
Alexander Wolfe   3/15/2012 4:23:42 PM
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It's the same issue putting audio speakers in the wall, and even more so in cars. I find that, when you do it yourself (when "self" is either contractor or you), things never quite fit. I was incredibly impressed when my carpenter brother-in-law built a fancy cabinet for a client on an uneven floor and he made it perfectly plumb and also made it look straight by appropriately angling the wood veneer. There's a guy I want doing my fans and speakers.

Jon Titus
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Get the right tools & knowledge
Jon Titus   3/15/2012 4:33:55 PM
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That's the difference between a contractor and a craftsman.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
MODERN CONSTRUCTION, etal.....
OLD_CURMUDGEON   3/19/2012 10:44:36 AM
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I beleive that is why people like NORM ABRAM & TOM SILVA on THIS OLD HOUSE are invaluable in your neighborhood.  As someone who has been raised in a family of trades people, and who has spent many decades working on various home construction projects for family & close friends, I can attest to the incredible lack of CARE, FORESIGHT, CONCERN, & EFFECT of many licensed contractors & repair individuals.  What I have seen has made me shudder with disbelief. especially in recent times.  I believe that modern conditions have dictated so much overhead on the part of many contracting businesses that they are required to hire less-qualified, but quick workers to do as many jobs in as short a time frame as possible.  Why else would obvious shortcuts be implemented????? 

As far as seeking advice from either LOWES or HOME DEPOT personnel is concerned, I believe that is a relic of a time long ago also.  There was a time when you could go into a HOME DEPOT and ask the person in a particular aisle for advice / guidance, etc.  Many of the fellows (and ladies) that were there were professionals in these areas.  Not any more.  I've asked countless questions in the several HOME DEPOT & LOWES outlets in this area, and they all look at me as if I was speaking a foreign language.  Furthermore, competition has reduced the numbers of "experts" in the aisles to a relative few.  The concept of a self-service store is being more fulfilled as time progresses. 

Jon Titus
User Rank
Blogger
Re: MODERN CONSTRUCTION, etal.....
Jon Titus   3/22/2012 6:28:24 PM
NO RATINGS
I have had good experiences renting tools from Home Depot in the US and Canada.  The people in the tool-rental section explained how to use the tools, let me know about any consumable items needed--lubricant, sanding disks, nail strips, and so on. The tools were well cared for and much better overall than the quality of tools I've found at "rental centers" that rent everything from party "stuff" to jack hammers.  I also find knowledgable people (usually the old timers with a lot of experience) in hardware stores.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
Re: MODERN CONSTRUCTION, etal.....
OLD_CURMUDGEON   3/23/2012 8:19:04 AM
NO RATINGS
Jon,

I have never rented any tools from HOME DEPOT or LOWES, so I can't judge for myself the merits or demerits of those transactions.  I have a garage full of tools ranging from watchmakers' tools thru carpentry, electrical & plumbing contractors' tools.  My need for renting has been nil!

What I commented on was regarding the overall sales assistance & knowledge base of the personnel haunting the aisles.  In my many decades of shopping @ HOME DEPOT (for example), I've seen a marked decline in technical ability of those personnel.  Here in the Tampa Bay, FL area, we experienced our first HOME DEPOT outlet close to 30 years ago (the early 1980s).  When I went to the local store years ago, I was mostly greeted w/ very knowledgeable fellows who not only knew the products on the shelf, but were not hesitant to ask if I knew how to work w/ the item(s).  LOWES for us is a relative recent addition.  The local store was built on the order of 5 years ago.  However, going into either store presently, and asking questions, more often than not is greeted w/ a blank stare.  The people manning the aisles (IF you can find one) are for the most part NOT very experienced or knowledgeable with the items in their departments.

I can only surmise that employment conditions at these stores has changed drastically from what it was then.  Now, instead of hiring experienced trades people, they are hiring anyone regardless of previous work experience.

The Gizmonic Man
User Rank
Iron
Re: MODERN CONSTRUCTION, etal.....
The Gizmonic Man   3/29/2012 8:11:34 PM
NO RATINGS
My brother-in-law was recently in the process of demolishing his old 1980's-ers kitchen to clear the way for a new one. In the early stages of the process, he noticed that both the electric oven and dishwasher were impossible to remove, because they were literally surrounded by the edges of the front panel of the cabinets. There were no trim pieces to remove to gain clearance--the appliances were literally built in by the custom cabinetry.

On further disassembly, he found that it wouldn't have mattered even if he was able to get clearance around the appliances front edges--both were hard-wired with Romex cables that disappeared into the floor with zero slack. Apparently, whoever built the kitchen placed the dishwasher and oven in place first, hard-wired them in, and then built the cabinets around them, evidently never thinking about the need to one day service or replace the units.

I can only draw a parallel with the heater core on my car, which requires the entire dashboard and HVAC module to be removed to replace it, for some $600 worth of labor to replace a $40 part.



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