Thursday, April 5, 2007

Building Integrity

This has been an interesting week - lots of battles being fought and on the good side reconnecting with great role models.

After getting an SOS from my sister that's building a stunning home in Oklahoma I headed up 35 to see how I could help. From the beginning it's been obvious that we are sisters - she and her husband didn't want a home that was like every one on the block. They wanted one that embraced old and new, had character just like their family definitely does, and was full of the love and craftsmanship our parents brought us up in. This wasn't a project they took on as a whim - finding the right lot and the right components has been a decade long search. They were also looking for partners in the process that could share their passion and to be honest they had no issues with compensating people for their time and involvement. As a person and as a professional there isn't one thing that I would have done any differently than they did.

When interviewing builders they spent over a year talking to other consumers that had built in the area, visiting homes built by various builders and almost gave up on being able to find the right partner. Finally they found one that said the right things and was as anxious to get started as they were.

Fast forward almost two years, and my sister is still waiting for the home to be completed. It's become the nightmare that we all hear about - the builder is never around and with subcontractors that have no supervision or guidance my sister is having to take on pretty much the builders role to move the house forward.

So much comes down to attitude - her family is very sensitive to smoke and they discovered one day that the trim carpenters had been smoking in the house... a lot. They asked then not to smoke in the house because of the health issues and yet the contractors continued to - never even stepped outside to indulge in something that has been proven to be a health hazzard to them as well as everyone around them. Plus the fact that the painters were working in the house with very flammable stains and lacquers. If the builder had been around to see this it should have been his responsibility to handle this with HIS subs and to be sure that the work was being done on time and with the craftmanship that was promised.

As someone who makes their living in the home building industry, I'm embarrassed to have people like this call themselves professionals, and it's people like this who hurt all of us. My sister and her family are ending up paying a very heavy price - instead of getting to spend as much time as she would like to with her family and her husband's business she is having to manage subs and do the work that they have paid others to do. Sadly, I think if they knew how much building a home was going to affect their quality of life for this many years they might not have ventured down that road.

Fortunately there have been bright spots. It's a family trait / curse that we don't ask people to do anything that we wouldn't do ourselves and many times we work right along side the people we've hired and frienships evolve. One of those is a soul that there aren't even words to describe -someone who has given his time, his sources, and his treasures to make my sisters home as special as they had hoped. He has understood their vision (unlike their builder) and has discovered architectural components that have been around for hundreds of years and will continue to have a place of honor in their home. Their stone work is a masterpiece and you can tell it is a labor of love as is the pool complete with it's own grotto.

I'm sure I'll be adding to this subject in the future. What this has taught me is that it doesn't matter if your new home costs $20,000 or $2,000,000 - every family and every home deserves to be treated with respect and with the quality we would expect if we were building it for ourselves.

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