Contractors’ Blues

30 04 2014


images2TT0YUICIf you are a home owner, it is quite probable you have encountered a rotten building contractor or two. My wife and I have run into three notably dirty-rotten-cheating-LYING-crooked ones in the past seven or eight years. In fact, I was not at all surprised to learn that someone actually created a book of excuses for contractors and that some would actually use the book DAILY! I have joked about this sort of book idea for years. Here are a few of the idiocies we have encountered:


  1. My son had to have an emergency tonsillectomy.
  2. Someone broke into my truck.
  3. Someone stole my cellphone.
  4. I couldn’t get it done because the ‘other guy’ (a concrete cutter) didn’t show up.
  5. I don’t do the drywall stuff around the window in the interior. I just put in the windows. I never said I’d do that. That wasn’t in my quote.
  6. I don’t remove the dirt that I dug up to put in the window wells. I never said I’d do that. That wasn’t in my quote.
  7. I didn’t know I was supposed to use treated lumber around the frames. I’ve never done that. Just paint it, or whatever.
  8. You never told me when you wanted it finished (after we had agreed on two weeks in our first meeting).



  1. First, he hired a fellow with a large backhoe to dig out our retaining wall and left the dirt so that there was a narrow single lane left in the alley. When we insisted they push the dirt into a more realistic setting, piled up beside the hole, he barked, “I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!” The local ‘sheriffs’, busybodies, bored old men with Bylaw on speed dial, lost no time in calling in the authorities. So, we were handed a stop-work order from the City of Calgary and had to go through all sorts of stupidities – a land survey, engineered drawings, a bitter spinster dragon woman in the planning department (I’m sure she has a beehive and cat’s-eye glasses) – to get the wall completed. To get revenge upon the old geezers who repeatedly called bylaw to complain about the project, I ended up prolonging it and not cleaning anything up until bylaw called me. I made friends with the bylaw officer, and she was sympathetic because she has to deal with all sorts of pathetic grievances from people who live to complain. She appreciated my friendliness and my quip, “Oh! I was wondering when you’d call! What would you like us to do?” Anyway, the contractor who was in charge of getting the wall done had a plethora of lame excuses for never getting to work. The wall was very well built, after it was finally done, but the anguish of nearly six months to get to simple project completed destroyed the appreciation. The fool led to a simple project needing a chain link fence, tarpaulins, reflectors, signage and a host of other needless measures that are ubiquitous in our modern world of liability paranoia. We found out that he is no longer in the business, thank goodness.



This was our most recent deadbeat of a contractor. We hired him to redo much of the interior of a half-duplex we are putting onto the market. Basically, he buggered up so badly we let him go, paid him for what he did and then had to redo many things he monkeyed up beyond belief. The worst flub was when he left a water line leaking and it destroyed most of the new flooring in the kitchen! Bugs Bunny would snarl, “What a maroon!” The fellow is a menace, and we cannot see how he actually makes any money at all. The dolt showed up about every third day for a couple of hours, and then disappeared. He would not answer his phone, nor reply to texts, unless we threatened to do things like hurl his tools into the backyard. Here are some of his lines:

  1. I was rushing to get here and got rear-ended. Then, I had to go to the hospital. (There was no evidence of any collision on the back of his truck and he was functioning normally)
  2. Someone stole my truck!
  3. I was at the police station because someone stole my truck (we wondered how he got to the police station, and he then slipped up and said he drove his truck there).
  4. My cellphone ran out of battery power, so I could not get your calls or texts.
  5. My cellphone is broken, so I could not get your calls or texts.
  6. I lost my wallet. Can you give me cash to go buy materials? I’m flat broke.
  7. I could not buy gas for my truck because my bank is in Okotoks, I lost my bank card and I have to go to Okotoks to get money. So, I couldn’t make it over to work. (In modern times, this is not realistic. The guy could have gone to any branch of his bank to arrange SOMETHING). We still wonder how he got money to buy gas, to get to Okotoks.
  8. After despairing of hearing from the fellow, we went over to the duplex to find a childishly written sign sitting in the unfinished kitchen. “Debbie. Leave $200 so I can go buy a replacement door. I am going out and will be back later.” What door? And, the fellow never returned anyway. He DID have his cellphone this time but neglected to take it out to call us. He did not lock the door when he left.
  9. “I’ll be right over!” We went to the place, and started to clean up around the outside, clip hedges, etc., knowing he would be late. Over three hours later, after multiple communications, he texted: “I’m loading tile at my warehouse. I did not mean for you to go there and wait for me. YOU should have waited until I got there and let you know I’d arrived.”

Thank the Lord not all contractors are like these buffoons. We have had some good experiences with contractors, and mixed ones too. We have taken to getting references before hiring anybody now, and are prepared to pay more for sane service. One cannot put a price on avoiding the angst attached to people like the above-mentioned morons! Really, these fellows should get out of construction and make a fortune writing blues songs. By the way, the author of ‘The Contractor’s Book of Excuses’ is Karyn Zweifel and you can buy her book online, should you be a deadbeat contractor with less imagination for making lame excuses.