Canadian Contractor

The reality is, building is NOT rocket science. It's not even flying a commercial plane

"I am surprised that you would take exception to John's reliance on experience to ensure the work done on his house is of the highest quality"

June 26, 2014
By Robert Koci

Publisher Rob Koci, who switched to the trade magazine business after 20-plus years framing houses, responds here to Brian, who challenged the notion that even a highly-professional and organized man (like former pilot John Bleasby) can build a house, using subtrades and suppliers, as well as a veteran GC can…

“Brian: First I want to thank you for commenting on John’s blog. As the pubisher of Canadian Contractor, I believe it’s critical that we get the attention of experienced contractors and give them an opportunity to have their say, share their expertise and advocate for the industry.

I am surprised that you would take exception to John’s reliance on experience to ensure the work done on the house is of the highest quality. You have sufficient knowledge to build a house yourself without relying on others. Great. John does not and has the foresight and character to realize it and play to his strengths: organization, management and high intellegence. As a result, his house, I promise you, will be the equal of anything you have built.

The reality is, building is NOT rocket science. It’s not even flying a commercial plane. Your accreditations are great, and good for you that you have them and you use what you have learned to build quality homes. But don’t be upset with John because he can do just as good a job as you by appreciating his limitations and working within them.


I might add that if you have a build to tell us about; if you are willing to write a blog on a build you think will help contractors understand better the process of construction, I would happy to give you the space you need to tell your story. Writing, like building, is not rocket science either, as much as I would like to think otherwise sometimes. It is humbling sometimes to realize that what you do just isn’t that hard.”

– Rob Koci

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3 Comments » for The reality is, building is NOT rocket science. It's not even flying a commercial plane
  1. Kevin Doucette says:

    The only thing wrong with this response is that you assume that the people that John chooses are actually good at what they do. By KNOWING how to build a house you know if something is being done wrong or unacceptably. Without that knowledge you have know idea what people are doing.

    I’m somewhere in between Rob and Brian in their responses but certainly closer to Brian.

  2. I have an unusual background. My grandfather was a contractor, my father had an electrical contractor’s license and also ran crews for my grandfather before he branched into other things and I am a contractor.

    But I took time to get a formal education. I went to University for some time and have 4 degrees, including a Masters in piano performance. I found after graduation that the educational system is another business. More concerned about filling seats than giving you practical life skills and insight into how to get a job with all the wisdom they provided.

    I had been putting myself through school by doing renovations, mostly on my professor’s homes. After I graduated and as there was no positions open in my field in a University where I had expected to settle, I kept on with renovations.

    I’ve been doing renovations and new construction now for some 30 years full time. I typically don’t mention I have an education as I think it’s irrelevant and people like to put you into boxes for their own comfort issues.

    I’ve worked for neurosurgeons who don’t know how to turn off the stop under their sink to stop a leak. I worked for another doctor and his wife who were the administrative heads of a local hospital. The woman especially, who has 1/2 the education I do, treated me like I was some mentally deficient pee on and talked to me like I was 10 years old. (I was in her house fixing a pocket door that one of their drunk friends fell into and broke up the track system on. My $225 fix to pull it all apart, run all over town to find matching casing, reassemble with new track/rollers, trim out and paint in was only worth $135 in her mind and so that’s all she paid me. 10 years later though I was in their house again for a shower door fix. They didn’t remember me but I remembered them. I could have fixed their door for $100 but instead sold them a new door and added extra for a total of some $1100 they paid. So I did have my moment of poetic justice.)

    My point in all this is that it takes every bit as much ability and brain power to be a good professional contractor as it does to be a good white collar worker. There are no shortage of poor craftsmen who still have more ability than a lot of the doctors out there, and there is no shortage of poor doctors who are hacks and shouldn’t have a job. Or lawyers, or bureaucrats or whatever other industry that is somehow held in high esteem. My contractor grandfather died because 5′ of surgical gauze, a safety pin and 2 sponges were left in him from an operation. My grandmother died as well from a botched operation. My mother died because she was misdiagnosed, was sent home from emergency and died that night from a perforated bowel and going septic.

    I know after being a contractor for decades, that it’s every bit as hard to find a great tradesman as it is to find a good doctor. I know too as I could have easily made a career in academia if I was willing to live somewhere other than the west coast,. Being a contractor is a tough career, under valued and under appreciated. All the quick catch phrases like Home Depot puts out “You can do it and we can help!” have only devalued our industry. Someone can take a 1 hour tile setting overview at some store and suddenly think “Yeah! This isn’t so hard!” The store loads them up with a bunch of stuff, they screw up whatever and then the store gladly sells them even more stuff. After all, they’re there to sell and that system totally works for their benefit. But the fallout is that once again, the general public sees little value in our ability because “It’s just THAT EASY!!” as Shell Busey would tell the world.

    I am never intimidated by some ignorant doctor or lawyer who my company might work for. And neither should you. One of the greatest benefits from having a University education is that i see through the facade of pride and ego. You’re not a someone because you have an education. You’re a someone by treating people with respect and value. Do your best and get what your time is worth. You can not only turn a shut off but even fix a leaking tap and 100,000 things more. Something a lot of white collar people can’t. It’s one thing to have a hobby (I do writing, photography and legal prep work as hobbies too) and quite another thing to be a professional contractor. Being a full time contractor means you not only did a hobby build or renovation, but you also have to be exceptionally versatile and knowledgeable. There might be 100,000 buildings in a town, or 1,000,000. Everyone has unique problems, history and challenges to address. It takes a huge amount of knowledge, capacity, insight, time and resources to be a professional contractor.

    • Steve Payne says:

      Greg, thanks so much for this post – which is packed with insights and well worth us running in our print book, if you’d approve of that.

      I’m really sorry to hear about your grandparents and your mom, re: the medical practices you refer to. Whatever humour you had in your piece, those losses, those events are obviously beyond words and thanks for writing so openly about them.

      “People like to put you into boxes for their own comfort issues.” Amen to that. The entire “image” of the trades… you just summed it up in 12 words.

      “Neurosurgeon who didn’t know how to turn off the stop under his sink to stop a leak.” Priceless. (Reminds me of the beautiful expression, “We are all ignorant, just about different things.” Who wrote that?)

      BTW, the “poetic justice” on the doctor and his wife… with the $1,100 shower door. Home run for that one. The old English expression “What you lose on the swings, you make up on the roundabout” seems to fit that one.

      Nice writing here… great stuff…

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