When to say when?

Discussion in 'Heavy Equipment & Pavement' started by SiteSolutions, Nov 12, 2008.

  1. SiteSolutions

    SiteSolutions LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,114

    I am going nuts over this situation. A case of an ounce of prevention would have saved a ton of trouble...

    I got a call from a guy I do work for, an irrigation guy. He occasionally works for a builder, builder "A" let's call him. Said he needed some grading work done real quick, pretty cheap, take care of him on this and he's got this huge grading job for me out at the airport.

    So I go down there, 45+ minutes away, on his word that the site is "ready" for me to put a rough grade on it. I go down there on a Sunday afternoon, because he and the builder are crazy to have this thing finished ASAP so it can be in the local parade of homes. What do I find? The flatwork has been formed up but not poured! I can't even get into half the front yard to work on it. I work on the back a little and knock down a pile of dirt, put a little shape on it, and hit a rock. One in a million, this rock gets behind my bucket, yanks on the hose to my 4-in-1, and pulls the whole fancy quick disconnect spool thing out of my loader. Can't use the machine like that. Have to put it on the trailer.

    I get back down there a couple days later, after getting the replacement part from Bobcat, and the irrigation is already installed! And that's not the best part. Somebody dumped three triaxle loads of dirt in the back yard. The irrigation guys trenched through the piles and put in the sprinklers anyway. And of course everybody is still in a huge hurry.

    So they say, just "slick it off" and harley rake it and get it ready for sod. So that's what I do. I have laborers come down and hand rake the edges, and I go over the whole thing to try to put a decent final grade on it. While I am working, the neighbor's house is also under construction. The guy building that house, builder "S", is on bad terms with the guy building the house I am trying to grade. As in, childish pissing contest type situation. That builder has his guys putting in the electrical service. They are placing the spoils on my yard as they dig the trench. Builder "A" (and his daddy) tell me to just push the spoils back in their trench. I decide it would probably be better to push the spoils in to their yard without filling in the trench if at all possible. Even better, builder "A" is digging up a corner of the yard near there, by hand, because the conduit is smashed or something and they are trying to figure it out. I say fine, but I can't grade that part while there is a hole in it, have the irrigation guy fix it when he comes out to lay the sod.

    Fast forward a couple weeks, and I get a call saying that the side yard is holding water. This is the side where all the trouble was while I was working. I go down to investigate, and decide to try to fix it. The sod is still fresh. I have my helpers peel up the sod wide enough to get my loader in to work on it. I have to get this puddle to drain out the back of the yard. I end up cutting down over a foot at the back, 8 inches below the level at which I found the irrigation piping. I have to cut through two sprinkler heads and cover a third one to make the grade right. I have to come back four times because the pissing contest has inspired builder "S" to leave his irrigation on and continually flood the low spot where it can never be graded. It takes so long that the once viable sod dies and must all be replaced. Finally last week, after I have made peace with builder "S" and gotten him to shut off his irrigation, and have cut out the mud and put in dry dirt, and raked it all by hand, I have installed 4 pallets of sod back in the new swale and it looks good.

    During all this, I accessed the property from the adjoining subdivision. There's a vacant lot behind the house I was working on, separated by two ditches. Now builder "A" calls me this morning, to tell me the developer for the adjoining subdivision is all over him to fix his ditch, it's holding water, it used to have grass in it, etc etc... That ditch is so muddy my track machine had trouble crossing it. I tried to shape it back up on my way out but there was only so much I could do. To really fix it would just about take a gradall and dump truck , which would cost me $200 an hour, 3 or 4 hour minimum. I already spent 400 bucks on sod. I only got paid $700 for the grade job in the first place! So I know I should have walked away much much earlier in the story. Once I did the job, I have felt bound by honor to make it right, regardless of how screwed up the other characters were. But I am just about at the end. Builder "A" has two more houses he wants to use irrigation guy and me on, but this job has to be finished first. Irrigation guy has the huge job at the airport coming up. But I keep thinking, if they are all going to be like this, why would I ever want to work for either of them again?

    Any advice? Should I just suck it up and get er done? Or tell these knuckleheads to kiss my butt? Or maybe something in between?

  2. bobcat_ron

    bobcat_ron LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,137

    Get the hell out of there and don't look back, if that was me in your situation, one of those "A or "S builders would have gotten their tires slashed. You are getting jerked around for no reason.
  3. Gravel Rat

    Gravel Rat LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,544

    I would tell them to stick their job where the sun doesn't shine and walk away.

    It sounds like a bunch of fly by night people. I wouldn't want to be buying any of those houses they would have nothing but problems.

    If they are in that much of a hurry all they are after is a quick buck. Get the houses built and sell them to some un-suspecting sucker.
  4. Sunscaper

    Sunscaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 305

    Thats a tough one. Do you need the work? Even if you do I cannot really believe that you will likely get it. If I did any future work with them I would tell them to let me handle to outside jobs like dirt, irrigation, and sod, landscape install etc. Mark each one up a little more run it your way and alleviate these communication problems. Most builders know building trades like framing, concrete, roofing, electrical which is all fine and dandy but they have NO idea about sitework whatsoever. They think that is just all so easy just spread the dirt whats the big deal? Then when you do like I do hit utilities because they were too damn dumb to to a rough grade before stucco, or utility rough ins they get upset and expect you to be a psychic and just know they were there, or better yet dig it by hand. the builder should have been ready for you. Because he failed to fill in his ditch and allow you to make the proper drainage cut is his responsibility not yours.
  5. RockSet N' Grade

    RockSet N' Grade LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,454

    The real di@kheads in this business try and hold out a carrot. And that carrot is always "the next job". It is a standard BS line. Take that away and what do you have? A bunch of monkey's fu@king a football. They obviously do not know their job......which is simply, process to product, organization, and making the job run smooth with no gliches......This one is easy for me to see and I have been on a bunch of them......First off, do NOT bid this work and have everything signed on a contract. Do it time and material with transport fee's included and dead trip fees for showing up when the job is not ready.........you can get paid handsomely for your frustration without burning much fuel....If you can't get it that way, walk away because they are full of hot air and really don't know what they are doing....You will find the pro's and confident builders who have been around don't play the carrot/stick game........
  6. Junior M

    Junior M LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,607

    I dont know what I would do. If I were in your situation I would determine if I need the work or not. If you dont need there work then tell them to screw off, but if you are struggling for work then try and hold on and bill them like Rockset said...
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2008
  7. SiteSolutions

    SiteSolutions LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,114

    Thanks for all the replies. I will add these little bits of info to keep the conversation going...

    1. I have done work for sprinkler guy for over a year and he always pays, although I do feel like I should spell out my liability better ahead of time with him on any future work. We had one other very large job together this fall and there was a problem with the rough grade, which I had no hand in. He asked me to just harley rake it, after irrigation and drains were installed, so he could sod it. When it held water and the homeowner wouldn't pay anybody, I had to go back and fix it. He always has work to do though, so it would be hard to let this one go, assuming we can work out the kinks in the relationship and I don't get left holding the bag again.

    2. Builder "A" I don't ever care if work for again. Actually, I do care that I never see one of his disorganized jobs again. I have done three or four houses for him now and they are always problem children. (For example, they have me trying to final grade with two extension cords and an air hose running from the temp power pole into the house!) But I don't want to screw up anything for sprinkler guy with him.

    3. At the absolute heart of this to me, my biggest concern, is keeping a good name in this town. There's really nobody that can talk bad about me right now, and I would prefer to keep it like that.
  8. Summit L & D

    Summit L & D LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 269

    On point number 1, why don't you have a simple laser level? This would save you all the hassle of coming back to regrade. Unless there are factors outside of your control, you should not have negative drainage issues.

    Point number 3, I would eat it. Go fix your reputation...but go directly to the builder that has the ditch issue. Tell him why you're fixing it, and try and get future work from him...based on your integrity.
  9. RockSet N' Grade

    RockSet N' Grade LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,454

    So, sitesolutions.......there are nuggets of gold in what you just wrote - I see them!! Here are a few, you find the rest: under terms and conditions of your contract (1) permission to work on or over adjoining property to perform this contract shall be secured by owner at no cost to Contractor (2) Any expense borne by the Contractor in connection with repairs to or replacement of any part of the work, due to damage thereto caused by the failure, repair or replacement of the work of others, shall be added to the amount of this contract and be considered a part thereof (3) contractor is not responsible for any damage to or repair and replacement costs of or any direct or dindrect costs associated with the hitting of any type or underground bor buried lines. This inclueds but is not limited to: gas, electrical, water, cable, thelphone or drainage and sprinker lines of any type.......There are a couple more in there, but I will leave those gems for you to ferret out.........
  10. jefftb

    jefftb LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 563

    I learned long ago (and it was painful) that in these situations it is absolutely imperative that you start documenting everything that went on, who said the he-said, she said BS, and to get it all down while its fresh.

    This not only helps if it ever gets to a law-(yer) suit but even if its short of that you can go back and pull out your log and say..."well, on such and such date you asked me to do "X" and X, Y & Z happened that day on this job and this is who did or said what. There is too much that can go on in these situations based on ego & testosterone.

    This information helps keep your integrity since you are now the "bearer" of information (and information is power) not only with the two petulant builders but with the third party who is the innocent affected third party.

    Finally, after you get it all down, figure out in a calm and collected matter who deserves what benefit or support is necessary and what it really takes to keep your reputation with the people that matter. The information helps with this process.

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