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Sunday, October 24, 2010

House Construction 2: The Demolition

Work has finally begun on the site. The old house has no more roof, and its windows and grilles have all been torn down. It looks now like something from an old photo of wartorn Beirut.

There are three young and robust Indian men housed at the back of the house under a remnant of a sloping ceiling, on 4 single beds. There is a fridge, some cooking utensils and a square dining table. I even saw a washing machine, and then I knew that the workers are well-treated. The other 2 worksites that I had viewed had workers washing their clothes by hand in a pail. Not surprisingly, the workers are friendly and they look happy. That is important to me. When I interviewed my contractors, I wanted to get a sense of how they treated their workers and their suppliers. If the main contractor abuses his workers and short changes his suppliers, you can be sure that there'll be corners cut when your house is being built.

I talked at some length with the foreman. He is a grizzly haired Indian man who looks very steady and has been with the company for more than 10 years. That too is a good sign. Long time employees would have mastered much tacit knowledge and skills, and when the contractor's team possesses strong bonds built over time, fewer things will fall between the gaps.

The time to be tough is over. Even as we peeled our eyes and scrutinised every line of numbers and terms within the building contract, we now are prepared to be understanding and evolve within a give and take relationship.

We checked out our contractor's past clients. It's easy. Ring the doorbell on any one of the houses he previously built and ask the people staying there. Check out his credentials on the BCA website. Our contractor has been around since the 1990s, and their name has not changed from the start. It's a boutique contractor who builds 4 to 5 houses a year, and the company is run by a father and his son. I thought it a good sign that the son made it through university and is a qualified civil engineer. The father, who is overseeing my construction is probably not a graduate, but he does know what he is doing and he did build the company's track record.

Our contractor is helpful and I wish to be understanding. And since we really did our homework this time, it is time to place our trust in them. This isn't so different than recruiting staff. Recruit someone good and then trust. Of course, I feel good that the architect and the quantity surveyor are there to monitor aspects of the house that I don't know how to monitor.

The time to be bitchy is at the point of qualifying/sourcing the contractor. Once the contractor is on the team, then being bitchy will just make everyone edgy and then the house will suffer. Most owners building houses for the first time fail to be picky at the very very start. They trust because they know no better. After my experience with the dodgy architect, I picked through eggs to look for bones... and sieved through water to find stones. This way, I hope I can avoid having to be bitchy as the project proceeds.

So far, I am quite pleased. The worksite is neat, and the work progresses quite systematically. This is a sign that the person co-ordinating the work really knows what he's doing, from man management to work scheduling. At this point of the demolition works, it is important to be gentle with the house because a semi-detached house shares a wall with the neighbour. As we tear down our half of the structure, we must strive to preserve the neighbour's half in pristine condition. So, I was quite pleased to see that the workers were careful with cutting the beams between the 2 houses and removing the roof. I'm very pleased that they have been very professional in engaging my neighbours. I don't want to move into a house with angry neighbours!!

It's early days yet though... but this is a good enough start.

Once the 2 houses are properly separated, they will bring in a Monster Machine to knock down the whole structure. We've arranged for an ALL TOGETHER photoshoot where all of us will don hard hats and construction boots, and look cool in front of the Monster Machine.


My Sinfonia said...

Exciting isn't it? We are going into phase 2 now while work continues on the details for phase 1. Its amazing what some machinery and a few men can do!

Blur Ting said...

You've done your homework well!

L said...

sounds really exciting! all the best!

Petunia Lee said...

YM - Yup! You bet it is exciting!!

Petunia Lee said...

Ting - Yeah... after the bad experience with the previous architect, I kinda swung to the other extreme. A bit too much I thought... but well... too much is better than not enough when so much money is at stake huh?

Petunia Lee said...

daelight - How is life in Japan?

Malar said...

Wow! You have done a great job and survey too! Excellent!!

Petunia Lee said...

Malar - Thanks!

L said...

It's cold! 8 degrees now. Like living in a fridge. And EVERYBODY tells me it's gonna get colder. To the Japanese, 15 degrees is comfortable. If you don't hear from me in December, I might just have become a popsicle... =p

When will you be able to move into the new place? Are you planning the deco, furniture etc yet? So fun (and ma fun at times) ^^

By the way, what does little boy do with the grasshoppers? Does Milo get interested in them too?

Petunia Lee said...

daelight - As those who know me well will tell you, I have absolutely no eye for decor... and no taste in clothes. I get by the handicap by going for neutral colours and simple lines. And someone taught me that colours will match if there are similar underlying tones. So, I go with those simple rules and very few people know that I have absolutely no taste and no eye.

I'll move all the furniture over, paint all the walls creamy white... and I guess that is about all the decor I'm prepared to put effort into. So I dun think it's that much of a hassle. Of course, friends will probably note that the house isn't as pretty as it should be, but I guess coming from me, it'll surprise no one. Heh!

The grasshoppers are placed into a pen and when the kids are done counting them, the pen is opened and the grasshoppers go back into the grass. The pigeons come back and munch 'em up I suppose.

Milo would love them I suppose but he's never seen them. Little Boy catches them in school and Milo has never been to school. I rather think the Principal will have some stern words with me if I arranged for Milo AND Little Boy to go to school. Haha!

sleepy said...

hi Petunia, i've been reading your blog on house construction and found it really informative. thanks for posting your experience! have actually spoken to W Liew and am thinking of engaging him. is it ok for me to email you privately to ask re workmanship, costing and other issues? i'm at many thanks!

sleepy said...

hi Petunia, i've been reading your blog on house construction and found it really informative. thanks for posting your experience! have actually spoken to W Liew and am thinking of engaging him. is it ok for me to email you privately to ask re workmanship, costing and other issues? i'm at many thanks!