Once upon a time there was a couple that were building their dream home. They had anxieties about it because it was a big venture both in time and money. They hired a guy to help with the build that was supposed to make those anxieties disappear. Except he hired someone for the concrete labor that made them WAY worse. And so begins the story of the foundation that took forever. And ever. Buckle up, buttercup. This story is a doozy.
Excavation occurred in November, 2016. We had the mildest winter in YEARS, people. It’s April, 2017. There’s no excuse this house isn’t almost complete. But alas, we are still in foundation stage and here’s why. The engineer foundation required a ton of footer work. That in itself wasn’t the issue, but the concrete crew that was hired by the builder in charge of this stage, was. They were soooooooooo freaking slow. Like sloths that work with concrete. Add some engineer inspection issues because the engineer has NEVER worked with an ICF foundation before, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Disaster was the theme for months. They wanted to block off half my storage room with extra support walls of concrete because they were afraid the wall wasn’t well enough supported. But didn’t notice that until inspection #5. It was finally remedied with an angle iron which still sucked, but it was better than losing half of my storage space to a concrete wall that wouldn’t even do the job he wanted.
So, January 2017. New beginnings for the new year so I thought. Nope. The ICF finally gets installed by the actual builder so that’s three days and done. It was exciting again! Then the concrete crew is back on scene. And the engineer being stupid and changing things up (and charging us) for things he missed in the original work. Losing my mind. And my patience. I really hate everything about building a house. This is the worst experience of our marriage and my life so far. The Concrete Sloths continue to spend days messing around with work. It takes them hours and hours to do basic measurements.
I start freaking out for a few reasons. One, we never got a formal bid for this contractor. The builder hired him and just said “we’ll figure that out later.” I have a background in the legal field. THIS IS NOT HOW TO DO IT. I start questioning things, like “are they being paid by the project, or hourly?” Because at the rate they’re going I’m guessing hourly because they make more money if they’re slow. BINGO. Also, who the hell is going to get sued by me at this point when the Concrete Sloths cause us to default on the loan because we only have so many months to complete the whole damn house. I’m not usually the sue-happy type but I’m at the point where we are seriously at risk of losing it all. And I’m not taking that lying down.
My diva-tude gets the attention of the builder via my husband because I’m pissing him off daily. Poor builder is behind on another project that got damaged from high winds. So husband is the stand in often on site. We are fighting often and we rarely fought prior to this project. He opts to go he nice guy route at my disapproval. He wanted to give the Concrete Sloths a chance. Ok, here we go again. February goes by, no bid. March, no bid. Still same slow work as before. They’ve been overpaid by our math because we’ve been buying the concrete and his formula was based on industry standard of labor+concrete. So in short, we’ve paid for materials twice. I’m pissy. I’m also not in control, so those that know me can imagine how twitchy I am now.
Meanwhile we are still living in a camper (since June now) and Kiddo and I have about had ENOUGH. We have meltdowns often. I regret selling the old house big time. This was the old house and it feels even more amazing now than it did when we had it. Grass not greener on the other side currently. Getting an anxiety attack just thinking about it. Ok, *deep breaths.* Moving on.
March brings us some snow storms back to back. It causes weather delays, which are understandable. However, in my mind we shouldn’t have even been in this stage five months later. So, yes, I still have attitude. Was it justified? I don’t know. Some really bad phone calls with the Concrete Sloths occurred when husband had enough. Now, he’s in the customer service industry, so this takes WAY MORE to do than me. F-bombs flew liberally when my husband talked to them. And I felt like maybe they understood we meant business. I was so, so wrong. They were scheduled one day for footer work for the front porch. We ordered concrete. They call the morning of the scheduled pour and cancel. We lost almost $1,000 because the concrete has to be cancelled 24-hours prior. More F-bombs.
A week later the footer and garage slab gets poured. It was horrible. They wait until afternoons which is our high wind part of the day. So naturally, dirt blows all over during the final stage of setting. I die a little more inside. I’m so done with them. Husband is not. He thinks they can redeem themselves and pour the basement slab in one day. I have no faith, but again, I’m not going to basically fight my way to divorce papers. Husband and Concrete Sloths coordinate the job for the basement. It’s supposed to be on a Saturday. We even begged the concrete vendor to allow us to have a prime time slot, 6am. They agreed! It’s magical. Everything is falling in to place.
I’ve done something to muck (IRL I use a bad word) up my karma. We’ve confirmed twice that Friday before with the Concrete Sloths. Good to go. Concrete confirmed for 26 yards of concrete—about $5000 worth with fees and such. Friday night is 4-H Rabbit night, so we decide to go to dinner before the meeting. At 6:30pm, husband gets a call. The concrete guy’s crew had “a rough Thursday/Friday on a job, and won’t be working Saturday.”
Remember that 24-hour notice for concrete cancellation? Michael panics. It’s after hours! He immediately calls the concrete line and was super lucky to get someone on the line that pities us. They cancel the order. I want to puke now. He spends the entire time we are at dinner with family making calls. Finally, the Concrete Sloths are done in his book. They reached his final straw. I get on the NextDoor app on my phone that I was finally accepted to my neighborhood area one and start searching for concrete recommendations.
I plead husband to call him and just see if we have any luck. Boy did we ever! This new guy calls him back that evening, says he will come check out the scene the next day. I’m almost afraid to have hope at this point, but it was still there. New Guy comes out and it’s night and day talking about the project. Husband feels it too. The following Tuesday this new crew is out adjusting the dirt issues. WHAT?! There were issues?! Concrete Sloths were just going to pour. In some places there would have only been 1/2″ of concrete from dirt to top of floor. Uggggh. Wednesday they pour the slab!
Is this real life?! I feel happies. What is this?! I cringe seeing Concrete Sloths next week to hand over a check for the work they “did do.” Because we are overpaying for that. But they’re out of my life now. Once they get their crap off our property.
Finally, we have a basement floor and framing can start this coming Monday. I’m still a little hopeful there will be some joy to come in building a house. Lessons learned here:
- Have your bids ready in writing BEFORE they step foot on the property. Yes, this seems logical but people seem to feel trusting at first and you’ll get screwed. This mistake likely cost us 20-30k in all.
- If at all possible, structure those bids to be deadline driven. So if they’re sloths, they earn less.
I can’t say doing this will be a win-win, but you may not feel the agony we’ve felt the last few months.