email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, July 7, 2014

Some Embarassment

Have you ever listened carefully to someone and thought you understood that they said and were wrong?  AND thought of the situation logically and were wrong?  That happened to me about the leftover materials from the new deck today.

Well, see, there were chunks of wood and leftover pieces from the deck, and the construction foreman said I could keep anything I could use because it was all just going to the landfill.  Cool!

But then later it occurred to me I should be able to because I had paid for all that material in the price of the deck.  It's not like they brought leftovers from their last job here for free.  There were 6' pieces of 6'x6' posts, pieces of 2'x12 boards, and lots of cutoffs from the composite deckboards.  Best of all, there were two 20' and one 8' lengths of composite deck boards!

I should mention that the deck itself is composite boards, but the rest is standard pressure-treated wood.  And when the builder discussed the upper posts and railings, my choices were narrow pointy vinyl with a narrow top or pressure-treated wood 6" wide.  I like flat top rails to lean on and set stuff down on.

After the construction, it occurred to me that topping the flat railtop pressure-treated (P-T) wood with composite board would be a nice finishing touch.  And the other boards were the right size to frame a sloped area behind the new posts for a row of hostas under the shade of the deck.  The remaining "chunks" were good for surrounding some shrubs and filling with mulch to keep down weeds.  Etc.

I spent a hot sweaty day outside Sunday moving the stuff I wanted to keep to the edge of the yard away from the pile of debris to be removed so that it was separate from the debris I didn't want. 

So, when I saw the contractor hauling some of the boards back toward the front yard, I asked him why.  He said he could return them to the lumber store for credit.  I said I was told by his foreman that "what was left was mine".  He said that only applied to the cut-up stuff.  Dang!  I felt embarrassed. like I was trying to steal stuff.  He said not to worry, it was a common mistake. 

But I really did want that compsite board to cap the rail tops, so I offerred to buy those two 20' long boards.  Saves him having to return them and me having to go get new ones.  I agreed to add them to the final deck cost.  The long composite boards with bullnose (rounded) fronts are not cheap - $70 each. 

But I've been thinking about this.  It seems to me that I paid for all the material the builder brought to the job.  And its not the cost (after $16,000, what's another $140), but a principle here. 

The contractor didn't arrive here with any free leftovers from the last job.  So everything he had delivered here, he bought within the price of the contract and expected to use building my deck.  So it seems to me that all the materials brought to the site are ones I was charged for in the job quote.

So, aren't they mine?  So, if I pay this guy returns unused materials to the lumber store for credit, shouldn't he reduce me cost by that much?  Or leave me those materials at no extra cost.

I plan to ask him more about that tomorrow.  I'm not going to be loud or demanding, but I do want to understand this matter of materials a bit better.  Partly for now, but partly for the next contractor (and there surely will be a "next contractor" about "something" here (planning kitchen tile work and a bathroom repair job).

OK, be honest, I can handle it.  Am I wrong to fuss about whether I've already paid for the slight leftover onsite materials?  I won't hold any comments against anyone, I need some reality-check.  I'm just trying to decide if this leftover stuff was already mine.

It's not like I'm complaining about the deck at all... I LOVE the new deck!

Thanks in advance,



Megan said...

Mark - to my mind, the answer depends on the nature of the contract that you entered into with the builder. If you and he agreed on the specification of what was to be constructed and the builder gave you a firm, fixed price for delivering the outcome, then the builder carries the risk of getting the estimate right. You bear no risk. Thus, if he over-estimated the materials required, he gets the 'reward' of being able to return them for credit. On the other hand, it seemed that the chaps who dug the holes took a lot longer to achieve the required outcome than the builder seems to have estimated - because of the nature of the ground in your yard - and extra labour hours would have meant extra costs for the builder. That's his cost; I presume that you weren't expected to pay any more to cover this.

One other thought: it may be the builder's established practice to buy more timber than he expects to use in a job, knowing that any surplus can be returned for credit. He may do this because it's cheaper/more convenient to have extra right on hand than to have to down tools, jump in the truck, go back to the lumber yard, hope they've got exactly the same kind of boards still in stock, and buy three or four more. Indeed, if this IS his practice, then it could well be the case that he bought, say, five extra boards and circumstances dictated that three of them ended up being used, leaving only two to be returned. So, rather than make extra profit on your job, he may have made less because he used three boards that he didn't cost into the job.

If you had entered into what I'd call a "cost plus" contract, then the surplus boards would be yours. I'm thinking that perhaps after you and the builder agreed on the specification for the deck, he might have given you an ESTIMATE (rather than a fixed-price quote): 'x' hours of labour at (say) $50 per hour; and a list of materials with their expected cost. You would then have been liable to pay for every hour actually worked (including the extras required for the holes) and the cost of materials actually used. In this situation, you would be the one carrying the risk that the estimation was accurate. In such circumstances, the builder might have asked you whether you preferred him to return the boards to the supplier and credit you with their cost, or include them in your bill and leave them with you.



Megan gave you a well thought out comment.
But it just seems to me that the contractor knew from measuring what he needed to build your deck. So he purchased what was necessary which is what you paid for. I would think that all of the leftovers were yours. That would be my assumption and I wonder if the contractor makes a little pocket change back on stuff he does not use on each job he does. OK that is really cynical. Most people probably don't want any of the leftover material and I just wonder (being cynical again) if this is his way of adding a little back into his pocket. Maybe not, but it's worth asking about and looking over the contract you signed and see if there is any language in there that deals with materials.