Choosing Your Builder

Submitted by Jim Roberts

We decided to build a Hearthstone home of 1,820 sq. ft. We contacted our local distributor in Central Ohio who also wore the hats of builder and site manager. This gentleman was in his 60’s and was as personable as a wolverine. We asked for references and he scoffed and said most of his clients were doctors and lawyers and shouldn’t be bothered. He finally gave in and said he’d give us a list. In the meantime, I called around to colleagues and asked about this gentleman. Most said he is gruff with a dry sense of humor and was probably insulted by my asking for references. Since he had so much experience and I was impatient, we signed with him.

To make a long, long story short, I am now stuck with completing many tasks that he was supposed to do but couldn’t perform because of his physical condition. Of course, these tasks are mostly of the “high” nature and not pleasant to do. The odd thing is that even though I finished much of the work myself, including flooring (sub and finish), roof, gable ends, stone fireplace, chimney, door installation, electrical wiring, roof decking, porch decking, chinking, splining, staining, painting, and skylight installation, we still went way over budget with this gentleman gathering in the most money of all. Hard to figure, but true. The saddest thing is that I actually started feeling sorry for the guy and did much of the setup, cleanup and preparation for him. 

One other lesson – two of the three supplied doors had mildew stain that I haven’t been able to remove by sanding or any other means. The French doors have never latched correctly regardless of adjustments by several different people of skill. Maybe they are warped or just weren’t built  correctly, I’m not sure. Four out of 16 windows have broken “weights” (I’m not sure what you call them – the part that makes the upper sash stay up) and the upper sash slips down every time you unlock the window. Windows have one center lock that when in the locked position cause both the ends away from the center to pull open from the tightening of the  center lock. One window just doesn’t close all the way. When I spoke to my Heartstone distributor about it, he kept putting me off and minimizing it. Finally, when I confronted him for the fourth time before he left for good, he said it was the door and window manufacturer’s problem, not his. 

My lesson learned – experience doesn’t mean a thing if you are no longer physically able to do the work. Don’t be a “nice person” – it doesn’t matter if your builder ends up thinking you are the biggest creep in the world. If you end up never disagreeing, you are not doing a good job representing yourself and are giving the builder free reign.

log-world EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks, Jim, for sharing your story. To all who go for their dreams of building a log home – be educated, be aware, be willing to stand up for your rights as a customer. All of the standard caveats are true – buyer beware!! It’s your money, it’s your dream, it’s the house you’re going to be living in, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and keep asking them until you get satisfactory answers. If a builder doesn’t want to answer your questions or you feel the answers aren’t sufficient, either don’t hire that builder or buy a caseload of pain relievers – you’re going to be in for some headaches!

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