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#198225 01/16/11 11:44 AM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,369
Likes: 1
Cat Servant
OK, it's Sunday- maybe the reason I'm feeling so preachy & peachy!

We have a thread active now, asking for the hack-job you've ever seen. Hackwork is nothing new; in some ways, that's what makes this site possible. So I had to wonder: WHY is there so much kludge?

I conclude hackwork is the unintended result when several virtues combine.

The first is our tradition of the rugged, self-sufficient individual. We feel pride when we say 'I did it myself.' One of the box stores even bases its' business model on this pride.

Then there's the 'self-esteem' we're taught. No need to listen & learn; we're all clever enough to figure things out.

Then there's the virtue of 'waste not, want not.' Currently marketed as 'being green,' we are all told to re-use, repair, recycle. We're told to never throw things away.

There's the virtue of being cheap. The less you spend, the holier you are. We're told to shop around, get bids, etc.

Even our concept of 'quality' tends to focus on the final appearance and the use of expensive finish materials. When all the money is spent on $20 floor tiles, is it any wonder the electrical work is marginal?

Put these together, and you get someone powering the ceiling fan with phone wire.

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Joined: May 2005
Posts: 984
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I contend that another reason is that electricity doesn't blow things up nearly enough.

We've all see people smoking at the gas station, fueling a running truck, sticking their hand in the elevator door...and the fire/explosion/amputation don't happen.
If every single time someone pumped gas with a cigarette in their mouth the hazard would be taken seriously.

Folks figure that electricity is safe so long as the electric doesn't go from the wire to somewhere that could cause a problem. Generally whatever gets cobbled together kinda works.

When nothing bad happens the perception of electricty causing fires goes down to 'can cause fires' to 'might cause a fire' to 'rarely causes a fire' to 'almost never causes a fire'. They forget that 'almost never' is comparable to 'virtually unsinkable' and we all know where that went.

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
My experience has been commercial.

'Value Engineering' ( cutting corners ) is the boss's favorite gambit -- particularly in a 'Hard Bid' contract.

But even we followed the Code -- mostly.

The craziest stuff always shows up from two sources: retired EE's who know everything -- and handymen/ homeowners who are taking a stab at after flipping a couple of pages at the Big Box.

They move from the books for sale over to the electrical isle and choke on the prices. Now comes value-engineering. Should it be #10,#12,#14,16# or #18? The answer is obvious: the Big Box wouldn't sell #18 in the same section if it wasn't as acceptable as #16. Further, the insulation is the same plastic. In fact, this stuff looks like the lamp wire! We're good to go! Big time cost savings!

Those phone quotes -- I'm beating them by a country mile!

Now, let me see...

I only need to cross 30 feet, some electrical tape to hold it in place ought to do it!

I don't even need wire nuts! I'll use the ones that came with the fixture. ( China ) If I get in a pinch, I'll just twist'em and tape'em.

Why would anyone pay more?

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,722
Broom Pusher and
My thoughts towards this dilemma are based on what I have seen lately on the "DIY" Shows - along with "Certain" Personal experiences.




1st off, the DIY Shows.


There is a certain Show on one of the DIY Channels, where the Home Owners take on Residential Alterations on their House (very common concept of course).
The Show's Host boasts of being a Contractor, who has "Done It All And Seen It All in Construction", with a "There's Nothing I Do Not Know" kind of attitude.

The Mission of this Show is an attempt to compare the "Savings" between having a Contractor perform the Work (Bid/Build) -vs- doing everything yourself.

Apparently at least one Contractor was invited to bid the Proposed Scope of Work, and provide a standard bid Proposal.
This is the first thing that got me going on a tirade! Promoting "Bid Shopping" mad

The Homeowners begin the Project with the attitude of "Oh, this will be so easy! I am more than able to perform this work! We will save so much money! Those Contractors are just ripping people off, left and right!, etc...", and for the first 5 minutes, have a very Pompous approach to the work.

Half-Way through the episode, the Homeowners' now have a completely different "Attitude"; they look scared, aggravated, exhausted, completely disoriented, and regretting the decision of trying to take on this work.

At the same time, the Project's installations begin to appear more and more like a Professional Contractor has come in and performed the work "off-camera".
I say this because the Homeowners are shown doing lots of Demo work, but very little is shown of them working on the Alterations.
Also, the newly performed work looks way too "Pro" for inexperienced People to do in a very short amount of time.

Consistently throughout the episode the Host uses the Contractor's Bid Price, to compare the Materials' cost paid out by the Homeowners.

My point here is the Attitude of "Out-Of-Pocket Costs" is the "Real Mission Statement" of this Show, and is used to push the most ridiculous concept of "Anyone Can Do This Work"; which plants the seed of arrogance in more and more inexperienced persons!

The "Seed" being the Attitude that "Any One Can Do The Work, And Do It For Nearly Free".

The outcome of the Project on this Show is typically "Listed" as a near 60% Savings -vs- the Contractor's Bid Price.

One particular episode which has been embedded in my mind, involved a Basement Alteration.

Apparent Contractor's Proposal Price was $16,000 for all work (Design Consultation, Demo, all Subcontractors, Permits, Someone to walk with the Inspector, Cleanup, Closeout - as well as Materials and Warranties).
To me, that was a great deal, but the Host repeatedly mocked the Contractor's Bid Price -vs- out-of-pocket costs of Materials only.

The "Displayed Total Costs" for the "Whole Job" (only Materials were mentioned) ended up to be around $4,500 - approximately 28% of the Contractor's Bid, or a Savings of 72%.

What does not get mentioned or factored in are:
  • Time Involved to get the Materials,
  • The Host encourages the Homeowner to purchase "lower quality items",
  • The Homeowners spent at least 320 Man-Hours working on this Alteration - as "6 Weeks later" was mentioned at the completion,
  • All Tools - Power and Hand, either had to be purchased or rented by the Homeowners,
  • All removal was done by the Homeowners,
  • All Material Storage and Logistics was the Homeowner's responsibility,
  • All mis-matched, damaged (needs replacement) and unknown needed materials were the Homeowner's responsibility,
  • Homeowners had to Apply and Pay for Permit(s) directly, as well as submit the Applications,
  • Homeowners dealt directly with Inspectors (who knows how many Correction Lists were generated, and how long it took per Inspection!),
  • EVERYTHING had to be done by the Homeowners,
  • The Homeowners had no experience in any of the Construction Work they were responsible for,
  • Specialty Trade Installations (i.e.: Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing) were performed, but the Materials were not included in the "Displayed Total" Price,
  • yadda, yadda, yadda...

My point being that these Shows are furthering the stupidity, by using these Prestidigitation techniques on Television!



2nd: Attitudes I have the misfortune to experience.


Just as many others here, I've had my fair share of hearing the same old Bandini-Based statements from arrogant People:

"How Much Could It Possibly Cost To Install X_____X Item!
It Costs $20.00 At (enter big box name), and only takes about 10 Minutes to Install!
Why Do You Expect Me To Pay $150.00 To Do Something I Can Do MYSELF For Only $20.00!!!???"

There was an occasion to hear this same statement, spewed out of the mouth of a Person claiming to be a Project Manager!

I was not proposing to do any work, the guy was just boasting / complaining about an encounter he recently had with an Electrician, per a Service Request.
This was spewed out at a Progress Meeting, during that time where everyone is waiting around for the last representative to show up (the typical 20 or so Minutes prior to the "ACTUAL" start of the scheduled Meeting).

After the Bandini Slinging, I mentioned the Price seems quite reasonable - in fact I would not touch the job for that Price!
A very hostile "WHAT???!!!", followed by an even more heated "HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT???!!!" was Shot-Gunned towards me, so I calmly responded:

"Unless the Electrician not only lived at your House, but was also there at the time of the request, plus:
  • ALL THE MATERIALS POSSIBLY NEEDED were supplied by you,
  • ALL NEEDED TOOLS were on the Truck, and the Truck was parked right next to the room where the work was to be done,
  • The Electrician has almost Zero overhead (only Vehicle Maintenance + Fuel),
  • Does not have an Office, will not claim this work on Income Taxes, does not offer Warantee for Installation,
  • Spent less than 5 Minutes consulting with you per the Install and surveying the install parameters,
  • Is not responsible for cleaning up after the Install, and patch/repair anything messed up during the Install,
  • Able to produces an Invoice in one minute after completion.

then in my opinion, the Proposed Price was fair - provided the installation was not done sub-par.

Response to this was "Ya, Whatever...", and the discussion was ended there.

About 10 Minutes later, one of the Architect representatives Queried this guy for a "Ball Park Quote" to Install something at his House (the Architect Rep's House).
The quoted price was "Around $1,000.00"
So the Architect Rep replies "WHAT!!! I can buy the parts at Home Depot for $100.00, and put it in myself!"

Guess what that Project Manager replied with???
(hint: kind of looks like my list above!).
Architect Rep responds:
"So what is different between my job and the Electrician you asked to perform the Service Work???"

Everyone (except that P.M.) started chuckling, then flat-out laughing!

Best Progress Meeting I have ever been to!

So my point per this silly story:

Even Persons with direct knowledge of how much a proper Installation should costs, some (or many) will ALWAYS leap over Dollars to get to Dimes.

Most of these same People are willingly Pay 20 per Dime they pickup, AND STILL leap over Dollars to get to those Dimes!!!

Even though they would be ahead 80 per Dollar picked up (if they picked up the Dollars only), they are still focused on the Dimes!


-- Scott

Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
Scott that brings up another peeve: late approval for change order work.

There is only so much 'window' available on commercial jobs to get extras done before their cost skyrockets: job progression is burying the necessary work space!

The only solution is to require a short fuse. The quote expires in 48 hours -- maybe less. All subsequent quotes will ramp higher.

Joined: Apr 2003
Posts: 362
Nicely done Scott! Also, unlike plumbing you can't see the electric leaking out on the floor and may just sit waiting to be a problem for months , years. For example it is common around here for the electrician to leave a roll of wire for the genreal to install the post light. This results in UF buried 6" under the ground or under the walk. No care is used in the installation and all the knick and kinks don't become a problem till they corrode off a year or more later. Contractor is long gone. I'm not complaining mind you it keeps me busy fixing them.


Choose your customers, don't let them choose you.
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,788
Likes: 14
There was a story several years ago talking about the horror stories from the TV show homeowners. This was about the Sears guy who worked for PBS. The complaint was that these guys came in way over budget and when the show got all the footage they wanted, they were done, leaving the homeowner with lots of work left undone. Basically if you didn't see the completed part on camera, it probably wasn't finished. The people they interviewed say it was fun being on TV but they didn't save a dime and it was generally a nightmare.

We have done a lot of "owner builder" projects around my house but my wife has a lot of contacts from 7 years of building houses and I know the value of hiring a professional when I am in over my head. I really only enjoy the electrical part and the woodworking after the CO so that is pretty much all I do. Other than that we are operating as the GC/super, hiring real trades. There is still a whole lot of money to be saved and we have the control we want over the project.
That may still be over the head of your average homeowner but I am fortunate to have a partner who has built over 100 houses.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 613
The other answer to the architect is I could have designed that building for the cost of a pencil, an eraser, and a ruler.

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 109
In the Mining industry I run into this alot. We have various votages ranging from 15,500vac all the way down to 12vdc. The miners will call for an electrician when something goes wronge with the 4160v transformer, but think they can do it themselves if it is 120v and sometimes even at 480v.
I find it amazing that the voltage you are around the most is the voltage you are not afraid of. People are simply desensitized to electicity because it is everywhere. Of course this is why 120v fatalities are the most common.

Bottom line....No respect!

Jon Niemeyer
Joined: Feb 2011
Posts: 4
New Member
One thing i have noticed over the last couple of years is that the new younger generation of journeyman electricians respect the dangers of electricity, they rarely work on live panels and circuits, i got my ticket in 96, and i learned a lot of stupid things from the old guys in the IBEW, we use to install the bus kits into live 600v cabinets (just tape up your screwdriver and your channel locks) worked on lots of 347 lighting ccts, got poked more than once.

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