Sunday, July 24, 2005

This to shall pass...

To all the people who have sent me emails of encouragement, thank you very much. I appreciate the support

This project will be completed. The agnst, anger, and frustration may never give way to a sense of accomplishment that was once envisioned but it will be complete. Life has a way of bringing everything into focus, our goal is to make sure we are looking when it comes into focus. To that end, I have included some updated pictures of the house coming into focus.

As I re-learn how to focus myself on what is truly important, I find that the one of the criteria of judging a boxing matchrings true, effective aggression. That is something I need to remember everytime I look at this project and become angry. I need to focus the aggression on where it truly belongs. I need to make decisions that:

  • Complete this project
  • Make cost effective and timely decisions
  • Remember that this is an investment
  • Do not get bogged down in little details

One thing that I will take away from this is that letting someone in your life is not a trivial matter. How disruptive this project has been to my life is the poster child of that statement.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Needing to vent...

I have been trying to keep this journey in the proper perspective these last few months but this week I am failing.

The more I discover about Dave Exline and Three Little Pigs Construction, the more I am shocked, awed, and amazed that he is still in business. His name has showed up at least 3 times on the court dockets in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties so far this year. At least 2 of them construction related. From what I can tell, he has spent more than his fair share of time in civil and small claims court. Of course in typical american justice fashion, going to court or settling a lawsuit is not an admission of guilt or wrong doing but it does make you wonder. Exlines current attorney(he has been represented no less than 5 attorneys the past 5 years) says he is a salt of the earth kind of guy, honest as the day is long, blah, blah, blah. If being in various stages of litigation is an indicator of saltiness and various court appearances are a sign of honesty, I would have to agree with those statements.

In this situation, the neighbors would tell me that the Three Little Pigs crew would show up at 7am and leave at 11am. That some days they would not come out, that they would look to be talking and joking and not working. I am positive that the only person with a Genreal Contractors license from Three Little Pigs Constrution, spent less than 25% of the time on my site. AND IT SHOWS. The crew he had out there were not real job site managers, or carpenters. Tim Exline(Dave Exlines son) may not have anything more than a high school diploma and he was the job site manager?!?!? Perhaps a closer look at Tim's history in a future post, will bring some clarification to the quality of the work and the work ethic the neighbors mentioned.

Is this a I hate Dave Exline site? No, it's that I hate what contractors are allowed to do to people site.

I have the perspective of someone who grew up in a very bad area. Where there were gangs, drug dealers, thugs and scam artists, etc. I have seen the hustle and the game played up close. The Contractors lobby has twisted the game in such a way that it puts almost ALL of the onus on the consumer to be educated, informed, and on top of things. Even then, it would be almost impossible to protect yourself from a bad contractor. You can call the police after someone has stolen your car or broke into your house. When a contractor screws you over, try getting the CSLB on the phone. Really, try.

The true problem is not so much with Exline but with how contractors are allowed to operate in this state. His actions and behavior is a learned behavior. In effect, contractors can legally take your money, not deliver the goods and services, not pay THEIR bills and leave the owner holding the bag. The bar to getting a complaint on a contractors record is more prohibitive than anything else. The best way I can describe it is this way. The CSLB must have consulted with the IRS's audit team about the level of documentation required to clear an audit in developing their complaint procedure.

In short, contractors have a better game than, the Pimp Game, the 419 Game, and the Three Card Monte scam. The reality is, a high school graduate with no real business or financial skills becomes a contractor and begins to build houses. Before you know it, this person is building 2-3 houses per year at an average cost of $375k. So you have this contractor dealing with subs, permits, owners, etc, and they have over 1 million dollars of budget responsibility. Some contractors handle this well, some do not. Some pay subs on time, some do not. Some play the shell game of "pay me for plumbing and then apply it to something else", where as some keep everything above board. Guess which one I got...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Contractors

Mark Twain is rumored to have uttered the phrase "There are Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" Personally, I think a contractor said it.

Statistically speaking, this house is very wasteful in wood, materials, space utilization, and time and effort to date. Not the 'green' house I envisioned. It needs two heating and cooling units, possibly 20% more lumber than estimated, and no fireplace. (The fireplace story is for another post)

In addition, Dave Exline took liberties with the design and architecture without ever notifying me, the owner, I have included what the house looks like now(left image), and what is was designed to look like.(right image) Of course Dave Exline swears he did this for my benefit.
How about letting the owner make the decision. Note: Please excuse the poor Photoshop job. I am a bit rusty these days.

In line with the title, here are some of the conversations I recall having with Dave Exline of Three Little Pigs Construction.

  • Bedrooms and bathrooms do not need central heating and cooling because of how strawbale houses perform. (strange that the laundry room 'needed' it)
  • Better to stain the concrete floors prior to framing(the floors will have to be redone due to the amount of traffic during construction)
  • Concrete counter tops are too expensive(bid I have is over 75% less than Exline estimated)
  • No such thing as stucco color coat(Strange, every other stucco contractor I spoke to heard of it)
  • He had never heard of obscure tempered glass
Sometimes I wonder if he ever listened to anything I requested or did he just build the house he wanted. Maybe he was too busy working on his sons house and the project in Greenfield to pay any attention to me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Contractor Responsibility

Progress on the house continues. It is great to see real professionals at work. People who can make a commitment and stick to it. Who update you with progress and let you know the current status of your project. Thanks again for bringing this project back from the precipice.

Which brings me to this question, why don't some contractors take responsibility? When given a job of building a house, remodeling a kitchen, adding a room, the consensus from people I have spoken to is that some contractors will never admit a mistake. Some just try to ignore it, some try to blame the customers 'meddling' and some actually tell the customer to leave them alone and they will get the job done.(as happened to me). Why not make it right? Why not accept that you did not meet the customers expectation and ask them what would it take to make them happy? Taking responsibility is something most of us learn growing up. What happened to these individuals? Did their parents not give them enough attention, do they despise all authority? Do they become contractors because they can be their own boss, make their own hours, and have virtually no accountability for bad work as long as they can make it pass code?

All bad contractors know that they have the advantage. They know they can do sub-par work and not have any repercussions. The bar is so high to get a complaint on their record that most people do not even try. A contractor can do a bad job and move on. They control who their references are, who their prospective customers talk to, and even the work their prospective customers see.

The agency that regulates contractors in California, the Contractors State License Board, makes getting a complaint on a contractors record is close to an act of god. The amount of documentation and paper work they request is amazing. The amount of paper work is more than what a bank would ask for in a home loan.

In order to have the CSLB begin looking into your alleged complaint, a contractor would have to do something like:

Then, the Contractors State License Board will begin to look into your complaint. Should I consider myself lucky that there they are looking into my alleged complaint?

When I first met Dave Exline, he came across as a very dedicated, hard working, honest, upfront, responsible contractor. For me, he is just another report to the CSLB.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Why are Contractors so...

Contractors Complaints (981,000 results from Google) The word elicits the same reaction as car dealers,(527,000 results from Google) and dmv complaints,(66,400 results from Google) . My experience, albeit very limited, is that when a contractor starts giving reasons instead of results, RUN!!! When they begin to tell you how they could have done it, after they have done it, RUN!!! When they say that you don't understand something and refuse to explain it, RUN!!!

In short, do not cut them any slack. Get everything in writing, get performance guarentees, get a list of ALL of their customers, and have them abide by the contractors ethics guidebook. Getting them to include this in their contract would be advisable.

Sadly, when I brought this to the attention of Dave Exline of Three Little Pigs construction, he refused to agree to it. The tagline for the ethics guide is "
Doing it Right A Contractors Standard for Excellence.

In addition, I am taking donations to send this book to the former contractors customers :-)

Perhaps there are contractors out there who do the job right the first time. Who do not make excuses, who do not seek to deflect the 55 construction defects from their previous lawsuit to others. Maybe there are contractors who take responsibility for their actions and acutally stand behind there work. Semmes and Company builders seem to fit that bill. They communicate, take pride, and offer results. Sadly they were not my 1st choice to build with.

I have learned quite a bit, and will continue to learn as this process winds it's way thru. Stay tuned, I have 10 months worth of email conversations I am reviewing. Some of them quite enlightening.

Monday, July 04, 2005

House Thoughts and Ramblings...

How did this project go awry? Why, in the face of overwhelming information would someone refuse to take responsibility? Obviously the work was not done in a timely manner. Nor was it done in a workmanlike manner. It was not even done in some cases.

I keep asking the same questions knowing there will be no answers forthcoming. At least from Dave Exline. If this were the first lawsuit against him, I could perhaps accept it. If it were first job he was fired from, perhaps I could accept it. Instead, I was drawn in by Dave Exlines proclamations of:
  • "I stand behind my work"
  • "You are going to have a nice piece of property"
  • "This is a custom home, not a tract home, it takes more time"
So after Dave Exline/Three Little Pigs being on the job from 10/2003 to 11/2004, he was less than 60% complete, no rough framing or roof framing inspections passed, and a host of issues that are outlined in this post.

In trying to articulate how I feel about this, I am struck by the depth of emotions experienced. The questions of why and how will always remain unanswered. They will remain unanswered because Dave Exline does not finish all of the projects he starts, leaving the owners of those respective projects asking themselves some of the same questions.

Hunt, Marrs, Miley. These are the names of the people who ask themselves the same questions I do. Dave Exline/Three Little Pigs Construction started but did not finish these projects. They represent a some % of Three Little Pigs Construction work since 2000. How can you 'stand behind your work' when 3 out of 5-7 projects have VERY unhappy customers.

I removed myself from day to day involvement in the house to gain perspective. It has worked to a certain extent but the reality is that this has been extremely painful, very disappointing, and very frustrating. As the house continues to get built by true professionals, I am constantly struck by the difference in workmanship, work ethic, communication, and quality. Why I settled for less I will never know. There are lessons in every painful moment in life. The hard part is taking the time to learn those lessons. Those lessons are for another post.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Paso Straw Bale House Visit, July 2nd, 2005

This is my first visit to the house site is 3 months. The last 3 months have seen more work done than the Three Little Pigs Construction Company accomplished in 6 months. Kudos to Semmes and Company Builders, (Walt is a good man) for the high quality workmanship, and hard work. True professionals.

I enjoy seeing progress on this but still have a lot of anger and frustration. Anger over re-reading 3 months worth of email correspondence and seeing the lack responsibility for the work done. Frustration over the fact that my dream has turned into something else. Frustration that it is costing so much more in time, effort and energy than anyone could have imagined. Frustration in seeing entire housing developments started and completed in the time it has taken to get to stucco and drywall.

The Internet, leveling the playing field one blog at a time.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Two years to the day

I am two years to the day of signing a contract with Dave Exline of Three Little Pigs Construction. Attempting to re-hash everything is beyond the scope of this entry but I am going to archive the posts I was making to my website here. I will keep this blog updated with the less than enjoyable aspects I encounter as I continue to bring to closure my involvement with Dave Exline of Three Little Pigs construction.