Clients who want to "pitch in": God help us all
"Even with zero construction experience, you can still swing a sledgehammer," a famous Canadian publication once advised it's readers in an article called "9 Things Your Renovator Won't Tell You." The tenth thing he won't tell you is that you are a moron.
By Steve Payne
Years ago, the well-respected Canadian magazine MoneySense (serious respect, a great publication) took leave of its (money) senses and published an article with one of the dumbest pieces of renovation advice I have ever seen. Under the title “9 Things Your Renovator Won’t Tell You,” it suggested that one of the things your renovator won’t tell you is that you, as the client, can save a bundle “pitching in.”
Direct quote from this bit of the article: “Even with zero construction experience, you can still swing a sledgehammer.”
(Even with zero experience flying an airplane, you can still crater it into the side of an apartment building.)
Years ago I was working for a renovation contractor in North Toronto. I don’t want to name the firm because of what I am about to tell you is a little embarrassing. We were building a two-storey extension on the back of the home of a husband-and-wife who had recently immigrated from Hong Kong (not particularly relevant to the story, except to say they, like a lot of new arrivals from Hong Kong at the time, they didn’t have much experience with home renovations). The husband was a teacher, so he was home for the summer. He drove our crew crazy.
A compact, wiry man, he treated all of us as if we were all degenerates, which was seriously unfair because only half of us were. He talked down to us as if we were his Grade 7 home room kids. Even the owner of the firm, a civil engineer by profession who was scrupulously professional. (“Clients to avoid” by Frank Cohn, a famous editorial in Canadian Contractor in our early years, mentions Teachers about 3rd on the list of dangerous clients, right after Lawyers, but I digress.) This annoying man, I have to say, would butt his head into everything we were doing, every minute of the day from 7 am until 7 pm.
One day, five of us were jockeying, by hand, the main I-Beam down the centre of the addition, trying to nudge it into its respective notches on the foundation walls. It slipped and clocked our teacher-client on the top of the head. We never saw him again that summer. I don’t know why I am reporting this, except that I can’t think of any better anecdote to illustrate why it’s a bad idea to have clients hang around the jobsite. Or why Frank Cohn was definitely right.
If you want to have a laugh, read the original article that includes the “Pitching In” advice here.