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It happens to everybody

GMcD Member Posts: 477
Granted 99% of the trades, even the "hydronic specialists" don't read or participate in forums like this, how do you get the industry in general to clean up it's act? Let natural selection run it's course and the bad apples will slowly go out of business? But at what cost? How many crappy buildings will be built while the industry "corrects itself"? See the "bad radiant installation thread still going on. It seems that any Tom, ****, or Harry can open a Contracting shop and go into business. In my neighborhood, "construction management" is the new flavour, all the old General Contractors are now CM's, and anybody can hang out a shingle and become a CM , no licensing, no qualifications. It's all about "risk avoidance", thanks to the lawyers and insurance companies. The poor sap who pays in the end is that unknowing owner who wanted the building built in the first place. That's where the education needs to start. The lowest price only guarantees you the cheapest final product.


  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    It happens to anyone

    OK, this is a "bad contractor" story, but before you get your danders up, it's about a foundation pour gone awry. Structural engineer sits across from my desk, he's shaking his head and muttering expletives under his breath. He had detailed and specified some 2" imbedded "J" bolts to be poured into some foundations and strip footings. Concrete gets poured, gets the call from the site- "Umm, well, we didn't put the bolts in because it was too hard to keep them upright when we poured the concrete, so we left them out. Is this gonna be a problem?".....Now they want him, the structural engineer, to draw up a detail for remedial work to fix the problem. Additional fee letter being typed as I speak. "Too hard to hold the bolts up when we poured...." And we wonder why we hear so many radiant jobs gone wrong and those systems are even more complicated than simply casting some imbeds into footings....
  • tls_9
    tls_9 Member Posts: 89
    sounds to me

    like a contractor that should not be in the concrete buisness.

    any one for licencing and inspection of concrete?

  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,782
    .... sounds expensive to me...

    ... drilling and epoxying lots of bolts (even in a green foundation) is no fun. Now if those bolts actually have to be attached to the rebar below... (doesn't sound like it though).

    A situation like this would make me question a number of things, principally, whether the concrete was poured to spec or if the contractor was trying to make life for him easy by adding lots of water to the mix. For, a properly mixed concrete batch won't have a lot of slump nor have any issues supporting a 2" bolt. I would test that concrete to ensure that it'll meet the specs you set out.
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    umm hello?

    You don't try and hold them in place when you pour. Duh, let the crete set a little while then set them in place... WOW someone missed on that one..
  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    Quality control

    Yes, well it's the same old story, project was designed to Clients desires, and budgets calculated, low and behold, Tenders come in over budget, job is re-designed and re-issued and the lowest bidders get the job. Geez how I love the low-bidder system we have set up here in North America.....We engineers don't have enough fee money to be out there policing guys like that every two days, and even that might not be enough in some cases. Too many guys cutting corners to save something stupid like money. Save $10.00 now, to spend $100.00 to repair it later, the North American way.
  • grindog
    grindog Member Posts: 121
    anchor bolts

    That use to happen all the time on the central artery project in boston. We would set anchor bolts in the ceiling before they would pour the concrete so we could hang chain falls later on and they would also support our pipes as well.As we all know the concrete guys dont care about any of the other trades and they would be kicked over or thrown away. When we went back to lay our pipe there would be no anchor bolts to attach to so then the gc would pay us to drill and set concrete sheilds or chemical anchors.
    After dealing with that scenario for to long we started welding everything to the rebar and there were no more problems after that!
  • mike parnell
    mike parnell Member Posts: 42

    there is never enough money to do the job right,but theres always money to do it
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 3,471
    Unfortunately, today....many do not even master their

    own trade and we are stuck keeping them in line. We find ourselves keeping tabs on all the other trades just so we don't get held up or worse yet - screwed! Sad state of affairs...and getting worse, especially with the language gap that exists . Mad Dog

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  • Bob Sweet
    Bob Sweet Member Posts: 540
    I agree whole heartedly with you

    Mad Dog, the language gap is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,782
    Education is where its at...

    ... that is, start with the customer. Unless they know what the difference is between a good installer and a bad one, who can help them? That is, assuming they're not asking for the Taj Mahal on a HGTV budget.

    Considering the uneven performance of codes/quality enforcers (whether within the inspectors department, the RPA, the PHCC, etc.) it's obvious that the current system is broken.

    Evidently, neither industry or the government can be relied on to supply a reliable solution to the problem of how to ensure that the systems installed into homes just plain work. Just look at Dan's blog on industry-approved practices that are all-wrong, or the steam piping in my current basement (no Hartford loop, bull-headed T header, etc.). The evidence is all around us.

    Thus, our only hope is that conscientious homeowners can have access to resources like the Wall that allow them to separate the wheat from the chaff, by qualifying contractors via the ten questions one can ask, etc. In an ideal world, we would also have such questions to qualify GCs... For it's the GC/HO with which it all begins...
  • jerry scharf_3
    jerry scharf_3 Member Posts: 419
    thought for keeping contractors in line


    We all share your pain. Your comments below about the classic "costs too much, let's value engineer and take the low bidder" were right on. That only works if you have qualified the heck out of every one who has bid, and this is lost on almost all owners. The comment about CMs is also right on target. If you ever want a good but somewhat depressing read, find "Joe Boyd's Build It Twice" It teaches you how and why you can lose your shirt as a building owner. It also gives some tips on how to help avoid it.

    What are the earthquake requirements in BC? I live in California, and if you get caught with a missing bolt, it's not just a drill and epoxy. You have to call in an outside inspector to do a special construction inspection. they check the training of the people doing the work, the tools and application methods, observe the installation and then write a report clearing the work. Can you say slow and expensive.

    If the foundation guy is being a pain, you can think about an anonymous chat with the inspector about the missing bolts. One time that it is really expensive will help the contractor learn, and the inspector gets to take the heat. Even if there isn't a code requirement like here, they have to build it to plans or it fails.

    I rarely have to do this, but every once in a while knowing this is in my back pocket allows for a different level of discussion.

  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    Inspectors and seismic

    This particular project is down in south Seattle area, so still has to meet the seismic requirements. The local municipal inspection seems to be a bit lax all right. The structural engineer in question is dealing with it, using more time (time = $$). The frustrating thing for me was that we in the design office made sure we did some due diligence to call around to local Contractors before the first Tender to see who was interested and who had the capabilities to deal with a slightly "off the wall" project. Trouble is the local Project Manager ignored all the Contractors we recommended and simply threw the job out to the streets to see who would bite. His mandate was budget and schedule, everything else is secondary clutter.

    I'll have a look for that book- I may need it to educate one "Client" I've worked with who refuses to believe that fast-tracking and CM on a complex institutional project causes significant change orders. The CM sold him on what a cost saving venture this project would be....
  • Brent_2
    Brent_2 Member Posts: 81

    i agree with the typical sequence you describe. I think you skipped over a problem area.
    1. Project is designed to client's needs and desires
    2. budgets are calculated
    3. bids are over budget

    now I see a lot of the problem being that the architect and engineers did not give an accurate budget. If we just talk about the mechanical side, if the original budget is set at $700,000 and the bids come back at $850,000 whose fault is that? I say it is the engineer's. Someone may say that the customer make additional requests and it increased the price. That is fine but the engineer needs to say with the changes you requested the budget needs to be raised to $x. Then the powers to be will know and can adjust the budget. Or the powers to be can say we don't have any more money. Then a discussion can occur about what can be done to bring the design back to the original budget.

    Now if budget is $700,000 and the bids come in at $750,000 I would say that the engineer did okay.

  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    Cost estimates

    We had a quantity surveyor vet the cost estimates. The project got tendered right in the middle of a local (Pacific NW) inflationary blip- a lot of the local materials prices had gone up 30% or more in the duration time between costing and tender. I even got local pricing for the mech systems from a couple of specialist contractors who I had on my pre-qualified list. Third party cost estimates with Trade comments, don't shoot the designers. What more could have been done?
  • jerry scharf_3
    jerry scharf_3 Member Posts: 419
    it's the perfect book


    After all the great information you've provided, it's the least I can do.

    The book should sober the person right up.

    His pitch is that to succeed you have to build it first on paper and then with steel, concrete and glass. Any failures duing the design phase will haunt the construction phase. I remmeber one job where someone figured out by using high psi rated contrete rather than standard stuff and not letting it harden to full strength, then could shift the forms faster and save loads of money as they built up. No "lowest cost" person will find that solution.

    I seem to remember that amazon didn't have it but barnes and noble did.

  • Tod_2
    Tod_2 Member Posts: 8
    It is the design

    As a steel detailer I can tell you that its all in the design drawings.
    The quality of drawings and the responsibility for there accuracy is terrible. When I bid projects I look to see who has done them there are several companies that I will not bid from there drawings because of the quality.
    P.S. why is it so hard to get the rtu's and sizes on the drawings. Its like pulling teath to get some verification for frames.
  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    How does the design affect holding up a J-bolt?

    I agree that a lot of the design/tender documents out there are, shall we say, less than accurately detailed. But back to first principles: the design says "what to build", the contractor executes "how to build it". Is the design supposed to show the method of holding the J-bolt to the rebar and formwork while the concrete gets poured? Are the mechanical drawings supposed to show how many hangers and where they go on the duct run? Drawings show scope and layout, spec outlines the quality and standard of installation. From an installing contractors' point of view, the drawings and specs should be all perfectly coordinated, highly detailed, and clear enough that he can install the as-designed system wihtout having to think about it. From the designers point of view, the drawings and specs are detailed "enough" to establish the scope of work, general installation standards, and should be coordinated enough that the system actually fits where it supposed to. No one wants to pay the design side enough $$ to do the standard of drawings and specs that the installing contractor would like, everyone wants it cheaper and faster. Buildings are things that have millions of parts, installed by many different sub-trades with their own agendas, using products that may be "equal" but not necessarily meant to fit together with other products, and all under the gun of the schedule.

    For the particular project that started my post, how much more detail would have been needed to show the contractor that cast-in-place imbeds needed to go "here"?
  • Tod_2
    Tod_2 Member Posts: 8
    No excuses for poor work

    Wouldn't the contractor be held responsible for not installing the embeds. If its a GC/CM job it would be up to them to decide if the sub would be backcharged the amount to correct there poor work. I know if the steel wont fit the fabricator is going to recoup his money from me.
  • Vic Plank
    Vic Plank Member Posts: 10
    RTU Frames

    > As a steel detailer I can tell you that its all

    > in the design drawings. The quality of drawings

    > and the responsibility for there accuracy is

    > terrible. When I bid projects I look to see who

    > has done them there are several companies that I

    > will not bid from there drawings because of the

    > quality. P.S. why is it so hard to get the

    > rtu's and sizes on the drawings. Its like pulling

    > teath to get some verification for frames. Tod


    As an HVAC foreman/project manager/designer...I can tell you why frame sizes are so hard to pinpoint

    1) Nobody knows what brand units are going to be used until the GC finally picks an HVAC contractor. This is typically well after you have been picked as the steel supplier.

    2) GC are so bottom line oriented they wont relay info from you to me or me to you because the terms of the contracts say we have to contact each other...but they pick you 3 months before they pick me and you are left in the lurch guessing which one of the big three ( York Lennox Trane) is being used and damn it all I bid on Rheem and your steel is fabbed and then when I get on job site and my curbs dont fit your frames I raise hell and **** at your erectors and then the fun begins...extras all over the place and the GC adds 10 or 15% to the owners and the owners hate you and me and the GC smiles and says to himself " How can we do this to the plumbers, and stud guys , electricians" and make 15% on our lack of foresight?

    3) Mechanical engineers have no clue how a RTU curb interacts with your steel frame and how the the duct work has to go through your steel.

    4) Just an aside.

    Do you always design your RTU frames to be below the decking supporting the entire weight of the RTU on 4 sides of steel so the decking does not deflect and accumulate rain water and after about 3 years causing leaks in the roof

  • Tod_2
    Tod_2 Member Posts: 8

    Vic we usually receive a standard detail as to how the structural engineer would like the frame to be.Some will want the angles coped so the entire frame would lift the deck the leg thickness. Others will use angles to attach the deck to the joist/beam and lower the frame to be flush with the deck. I have attached a pdf of all the information I usually get for roof frames.
  • Tod_2
    Tod_2 Member Posts: 8

    We usually will get a typical roof frame detail from the design drawings as to what type of frame to make. I am atttaching a standard frame. I never really thought about leakage. I usually will try to keep the frame flush with the deck, except for the angles to set the frame on the joist/beam. Is there a better way?
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