Why we hire the wrong people

Summer 2018 is almost over–I mean I go back to work next week–and we have made some real progress on the house.

A bunch of stuff we did for ourselves, but there were some things we needed help with.

This was the back porch in April 2017.

Remember that post Seeking Carpenter? I needed help building a landing and stairs for the back porch. Well, we found one and he proved once again that way back when we first started our project, we had no clue how to hire people! (To be fair to ourselves, the whole renovation industry needs an overhaul, but I’ve explored that before.)

This time, instead of a) waiting for a large, reputable home-builder (like HW Construction, whom I recommend if you can snag them) to find time to fit our tiny project into their busy schedule or b) signing our lives away to a mid-sized “Renovation Contractor” (maybe one with glitzy marketing materials, a glitzy web-site, glitzy questionable “awards”, lots of positive reviews everywhere from people you can’t actually get ahold of on the phone and a long list of lawsuits to their name) I hired a guy from the neighbourhood.

His name is Craig Pinsent and I can totally recommend him so give him a call:

Pinsent Custom Carpentry 604-999-0112 [email protected]

I never would have done that in 2015.

The plan for our back landing and two sets of stairs.

The project I needed help with was two concrete pads and a set of stairs off the back deck. I put the call out to the Hammond Neighbours Facebook group and got a bunch of names. Here are the companies that people recommended that I didn’t hire so please give them a try and let me know how it goes:

Paulus Construction, Steve Paulus 604-209-9433

FB & IG, who specialize in outdoor living areas, decks, fences etc. Call Ryan at 604.202.6468

Sam Orchard from Knotty Boys Construction

Art Giroux (especially about the concrete part)

Kencrete Contracting (the concrete again)

There were a few other names but I’m pretty sure those are the people who I talked with directly. Some came out and visited. All of them seemed pretty good.

I hired Craig Pinsent who lives here in Hammond. I could tell he knew what he was talking about and I liked the arrangement he suggested. I’m not really an easy client to work with because you have to listen to my crazy ideas and tell me where I’m wrong and where I’m right. It’s time-consuming and a lot of people just want to quote the whole job and be left alone to do it the way they know how. Craig was very patient and taught me a lot.

Craig helped me with the concrete and built us a handsome landing and stairs. He charges $30/hour and he’s worth more. I’ll get into more detail in another post–with more photos, I promise.

Incidentally, Craig also passed me on to another guy to put a vinyl deck on the back porch. His name was Perry and he also did a great job. More about that coming soon. Also the company that sold us about a cubic meter of concrete, mixed on the spot, was Pro-Mix Concrete.

I want to say that I think Craig and Perry are part of a class of trades people that you should be seeking out when you have a smaller renovation. Quite often they are retired, but retired or not, they’ve all had long and varied careers in their trades.

In fact, we have several people in the neighbourhood that fall into this category. I’ve noticed a few common characteristics:

-They love getting a job done right and getting paid a fair price directly.

-Maybe they’ve worked for other companies, maybe even owned a company, but they don’t like the bureaucracy or the paperwork or maybe the dishonesty they encountered and now they want to keep things simple.

-They like it when you are happy with their work.

-They don’t want to bother advertising so they get jobs via word-of-mouth.

-If you want them to do a job the wrong way, they won’t take the job (especially true of Craig).

-They stand by their work.

-They give advice freely even if it means they make less money because you do it yourself, having taught you how.

-They are pissed off at the companies who give the renovation industry a bad name.

I remember talking to a few of these guys way back when we hired our disappointing general contractor, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around hiring a person who had no employees. Our project just seemed too big. One or two said they would bill by the hour and I thought that was crazy because we had a very fixed budget.

I thought a splashy web-site and materials meant a company was committed to keeping a strong reputation. Unfortunately, the opposite often seems true. Good marketing often seems to mean that’s where the company’s skills lie and they put less care into the actual work. I mean if they are good at marketing, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at building. How many carpenters do you know who know how to build a web-site?

I thought a costed-out estimate protected us from going over-budget. However, it’s not uncommon for a company to give a quote with no connection to reality just to get the gig, and then explain away the inevitable cost over-runs. Unethical? Yes, but all too common.

If you read my post about how we chose a contractor, you may remember that I was discouraged when one guy said he had been called in to fix mistakes made by another company. That sounded an admission to being involved in shady practices. Now I understand it happens all the time. (In fact it happened to us. Our “rescue contractor” was HW Construction (thank you Ryan!). Having an independent structural engineer, Chiu Hippmann Engineering Inc., also saved our bacon–thank you Carlos!).

Working with Craig Pinsent, I can see that the most important things you need are experience and expertise. If there’s something he can’t do, he’ll tell you, but he probably knows someone who can. Could Craig and I have done a better job managing our project from the start? It’s hard to say. I’m sure it would have been challenging for both of us, but at least I could trust him!

As I’ve said before, a huge unexpected obstacle to turning our older homes into forever homes is the renovation industry. Home owners need to be able to trust that a company will meet the minimum standards and, um, be honest.

Too much to ask?

Concrete, landing and stairs!

Next time, I’ll get into details on how Craig and I prepped for the concrete and how he finished it and built the landing and the stairs. Needs railings, but looks good so far, amiright?

If you have any thoughts about how we can help homeowners hire the right people, please comment and share this article. Thanks!




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James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

4 thoughts on “Why we hire the wrong people”

  1. What a wonderful article of gratitude, that is so deserving for Craig. He is a well experienced carpenter and takes great pride in his work.

    1. Thanks for commenting Andrea! We hear about the nightmares so often, it’s nice to be able to sing someone’s praises. There are a lot of good people out there!

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