Wow Wow Wow

You know how it is when you studied something, got ready for it, knew what to expect and believed you could handle the challenge? You know how it is when you move from being intellectually prepared to actually going through it? You think you can handle it, and you’ve trained for it. And then you have got to do it. Or try to anyway. Well that’s me this month.

Let me explain. Our Keycomm offices are scheduled to move over Christmas week. We’ve been here a long time and I would not say we’ve outgrown our space but we’ve outgrown its configuration. And we’re at the limit of what re-configuring we could actually do here so, after 12 years, we decided to move. With that move comes an interior build-out. Now having been in the “construction biz” for so long, I thought I could handle it. And I can’t say it’s going badly, but I can’t say it’s been seamless, either. What it has done, though, is given me a chance to practice what I have been reading and writing about for years.

So here are the top five things I knew intellectually but that are a whole lot different in the reality of construction:

1. There’s a wide disparity in general contractors. Wow. Some I spoke with were right on it, providing timely proposals, while others went away for weeks only to re-surface. One even threatened me that if we didn’t use them he was going to report us (for what I don’t know). I knew glazing contractors dealt with a wide variety of GCs with various degrees of competency and communication ability, but to actually see how much that affects every phase of a job upon which you are working was a real-life lesson indeed.

2. Everything can and does change. Wow. I knew certain trades come before other trades in a build-out, but I did not realize what a delicate nuanced dance it was. And even then dates change, some materials don’t arrive, others arrive before they are supposed to and create new problems, subs only want to work in the building once not twice (which again I understand rationally, but practically as a client trying to get in there is a whole other deal).

3. Nothing matters but the code official. Wow. While we have had no issues thus far, thankfully, nothing happens without their approval. And you are not their customer; they are government officials, with all the layers that entails.

4. There are tremendous differences in interpretations among code officials. Double wow. For example, we are adding a handicapped-accessible kitchen sink about 6 feet away from a handicap-accessible water fountain. I’d like to remove the water fountain. That, evidently, requires a variance that could take months. And I’ve been told if we were in a neighboring town less than 15 miles from here, I would not even have had to ask. I feel for what our readers must go through when trying to get code approval for fire-rated buildings, railings and other items.

5. No one knows glass. Sad wow. No one knows about glass–not generals, not code officials and I dare say not some architects. I wanted to use glass countertops, but the kitchen contractor is very hesitant. “We’ve never done that before, don’t know anything about it,” they said. Every GC could tell me whose flooring they recommended, what type of paint to use, etc., but when I ask about glass, well … uh … they just well, don’t know. Every GC knew the differences in types of flooring, but tempered vs. laminated glass, what’s that? We have some work to do.

It’s not easy to be the customer either. You are strapped in for a ride you can’t control, and you hope you have made the right decisions and choices that you’ve hired your team well. We’ll find out in a few weeks and I’ll let you know.