A couple of days ago, I decided to start looking for work as a trim
carpenter, as it's a lot closer to woodworking than lugging steel
about- I thought it might help to speak with some contractors on line
to see what they look for when hiring, just to make sure I knew the
proper ettiquette (something I hadn't bothered with as an
independant), and I tried posting to alt.building.construction to ask.
One guy helped a little, but the rest started ranting and raving about
how Mexicans and women were destroying the US. It was like some sort
of clan rally. Normally, I'd expect a flame war over something that
nasty, but they all just kind of joined in.
Anyhow, it threw the quality of this group into sharp relief for me,
and I figured I'd post a thanks to all you folks, even the ones I just
don't agree with, for being mainly decent human beings. It's nice to
have a forum on Usenet that works without flying apart or completely
degenerating into bizzare forms of insanity at the drop of a hat.
Especially with the return of everyone's favorite "family-friendly"
troll, I just felt like it needed to be said.
So thanks. As far as I'm concerned, this place (along with the
woodturning group) is an oasis in Usenet. I may not always agree with
everyone, but you guys are all pretty much all right in my book.
Well, the one sane one said to forget the resume and go directly to
the job site and speak frankly, and volunteer to work for a day to
demonstrate that you can do the job. (Something that I hand't really
thought of, because I had imagined that liability insurance would
prevent non-employees from walking onto a site) Tried it out, and got
the go-ahead to come in and work with a (by all appearances) good
solid contractor for a couple of hours this Monday, and it was only
the first guy I contacted, so it seems to work.
The rest were not worth repeating, IMO.
Damn, Bubba ... wished you lived down here with that attitude. I am starting
another house RSN and am fairly sick of the never ending quest to find
competent "trim carpenters" ... ones who will do the work right rather than
rely on caulk to cover their screw-up.
Rather than hiring it done, I make it a rule to personally spend the effort
to clean the interior of the houses I build at least once toward the end of
construction (IMO, there is no better way to generate a punch list, or see,
closehand, the problems that may exist due to work that doesn't live up to
my idea of what it should be). I just went through that exercise last
weekend and spent a good part of this past week playing fixit "trim
Good luck on your quest... the only "etiquette" is that your work speaks for
... oh yeah, and you're right about a.b.c ... spent about two minutes
looking over that drivel a couple of years back and hit the delete button.
You know I think it is the hundreds of housing starts every day in Houston
that lets shotty workmanship become the standard. 4 or 5 years ago a
friend and I went to work for Kimball Hill Homes doing warranty work. It is
amazing the amount of "lack of pride in your work" you find. Just today my
wife and I were looking at some new Pioneer homes. I just happened to look
up at the ceiling and noticed that the hole for the return air duct in the
ceiling was about 1" wider than the grill. I wonder if it is less costly
to stop and repair a mistake before going on to the next job or if it is
less costly to slap it together and let some one else clean up your mistake.
Seems to me fixing before going on would teach you how to prevent these
On 7/23/2005 11:16 PM Leon mumbled something about the following:
It's the same here in Atlanta area. My brother worked in construction
in California for many years before moving out here to Atlanta. Bought
a newly built house. Went through the punchlist right before closing,
had a list of all kinds of things screwed up, like switch cover plates
that stuck out almost an inch away from the sheetrock, vent covers in
upside down, etc. The builder never did a single thing on the
punchlist, and within 3 months after purchasing the house, the builder
was no longer in business (at least with that company name). Out here,
one doesn't need a license to be a contractor, and it shows.
It would, but people just don't seem to care. I made my share of
mistakes when I was learning the trade, but I fixed all of them
without charge, and I now make very few mistakes these days as a
result. Punching myself in the wallet everytime I did something wrong
made an impression after a little while. I just found out that you
don't need a license in Wisconsin, either, and I'm sorely tempted just
to go it alone anyways- I won't do shoddy work even if I'm ordered to,
and that might be a problem with some of those slash and grab
contractors. I'd hate to have to jump around because I found out the
folks I got hired by are a bunch of scum.
Blah. At least it can't be much worse than fabricating hitches all
day- and it's dealing with wood.
A residential builder in Texas _must_ be registered with the Texas
Residential Construction Commission ... AMMOF, in most, if not all,
muncipalities you can't get a building permit without it. Every week there
are a bunch who find out the hard way if they aren't. Plus the mandatory
warranty provisions on new residential construction has really been
tightened up ... it a good thing, for the most part.
That will be a problem, if you let it.
It's a two way street ... ask for their credentials/references, just as you
are expected to present your own.
It shouldn't bother anyone a bit to give references if they're on the up and
up. I keep a fresh list of "Trade References" updated on the computer and in
my 'site book' in the truck at all times to hand out or fax to anyone who
wants to know. When I send out an RFQ to someone I haven't done business
with before, I attach the latest copy as a matter of course, and I expect
the same in return.
Good sub-contractors want, expect, and deserve an indication that they are
going to be paid without hassle.
Like some of the guys here I am a contractor. I specialize in remodel,
repair, and custom carpentry.
There has been a lot of good advice passed your way, and should be what
you need to get you going. It will be tough until you get a few jobs
under your belt, as you will be considered an unknown quantity.
I do almost all the custom stuff myself as I can't seem to find "the
guy" I want to do the work the way I want it done. They all seem to be
self employed at this point because they have worked with enough
specialized contractors like me that their work is known and that puts
them in demand. I gladly give the good ones glowing references when I
am called. And I still work with them when I find a job a little to
large for me and a few helpers.
Besides, when when things slow down due to interest rate changes,
building cycles, political climate changes, etc., they are my new best
friends if I have work!
If I were you, before putting yourself at risk for being known as just
another wood butcher with a miter saw, I would think that a couple of
jobs under your belt with a trim contractor would be a good idea.
Setting aside the quality issue, there is a lot to be learned about
material handling, job site prep, what is expected of you, and all the
little things that make your work go faster, smoother, and turn out a
better job. You can learn a lot from folks that have been doing it for
a while, some of it good, and some of it bad, but all of it valuable.
You need to know which nailers you will need (should I shoot this on
with the 15ga or 16 ga nailer?, which hand tools to bring, which saws
to bring out (no need to cut shoe mold with a 12" saw or a 10" slider)
when to put a little liquid nails behind your trim (just in case) or
simple stuff like where you can sneak in a shim to make that joint
All the theories in the books and classes are great when everything is
square, plumb, level, and straight. Where the rubber meets the road is
where a real trim guy gets paid. Of the four above mentioned
conditions you should be pleased to get two. Many times you get none;
it is your job to make the project finish out like nothing was ever
wrong. You can only learn this with practical, onsite experience.
Besides, if you do work for someone for a while to learn the ropes,
then you will be building your resume and references for when you do it
I wish you were in San Antonio... I would sure love to learn to weld
(correctly!)in exchange for woodworking lessons.
Geez... and to have someone that actually wants to learn... I'm
getting misty eyed here...
On 24 Jul 2005 10:44:31 -0700, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Actually, I've got eight fairly large ones with references on my
resume. Used to have pictures of them all, but a can of shellac got
spilled in the binder when I moved into my new house, and now all I've
got are digital images from the current one, and that's not very far
along yet (customer is dragging his feet, and is always out of town.
I hate that!)
I imagine there are plenty of things I haven't run across yet, but I
don't believe I'm in any danger of being known as a butcher unless I
get in with the wrong guys. Main thing I haven't done much is using a
nail gun- I've done it, but I generally use a hammer and nail set.
Also a little concerned about speed- I know I'm faster than most guys,
but no one I've ever met can hand cope as fast as a hack with a miter
saw and a tube of caulk.
I think I've got most of that, aside from the nailer info. Some of
the stuff I've trimmed out has been terrible to work on, and it's come
I'll agree with that. That's why I cope now, and don't even bother
with miters on interior cuts. It takes longer to hand cut, but not as
long as it does to piss around changing the miter angle three or four
times to fit the inside angle, and it can compensate for walls that
aren't plumb admirably.
That was my thought, and why I'm planning on doing it. I know how to
do all the work, the problem I've got is not knowing how to do that
same work with others- and no one but they client and their cronies
know how well the job came out, so the networking is fairly limited.
It's still tempting just to stay independant, though.
Well, if I ever get down that way, I'll look you up. Doesn't take too
long to learn to weld- after that it's mostly just practice.
Then perhaps you can help me flesh the rest of it out- I stopped by
the local hardwood dealer and talked him into giving me a handful of
cutoffs from different profiles and species of trim, and spent an hour
or so coping a pile of joints. Does it make sense to mount them
inside a case of some sort, and bring them along for show-and-tell, or
is that just likely to get me one of those "dumbass" looks? I figured
either way, brushing up wouldn't hurt as it's been a year or two since
I last did it.
Thanks. Seems like there's more to it than that, though. Maybe I'm
just paranoid and overly concerned about making the right impression,
but it always seems like the door is ready to be slammed before I even
In a word; "photos" ... I don't often get a chance to drive 100+ miles round
trip to see someone's work before I know if the guy is in the running. The
photos help weed them out.
Make up a binder full of photos of your work, and some of the interim steps
between start and finish. I've hired guys based on that type of presentation
Has something to do with that ALT. I think or at least I've been
advised as such.
My other passion is sailing and I monitor Alt.Sailing.ASA. and find
the same thing to be true. It is loaded up with sock puppets,
ranters, and individuals that constantly berate, lowrate and generally
negate other posters and all others. Very little on topic.
I've monitored (lurked?) and posted on this newsgroup and found it a
friendly environment, on topic for the most part and very helpful. I
started monitoring it because of my profession but stayed because I'm
On Sat, 23 Jul 2005 11:35:06 -0500, Prometheus
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.