Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Importance of Being Specific

The building process involved many different contractors of varying degrees of professionalism. Through that process, I discovered that even when I did not realize it, I had some very specific expectations about how things would turn out. Unfortunately, I really only realized this when something turned out differently than I wanted or expected. Many of these things were not something I would think to specify, because I couldn't imagine it being done differently. For example...

Example 1. The tack room, which is finished with pine board paneling that is pretty but not strong enough to screw almost anything into, was framed out with no vertical studs. That's right, the builder designed a room that is specifically intended for storage, and failed to provide any way to hang anything on the walls. Like shelves and saddle racks. The process of hanging those up without studs will be a whole separate blog post. Apparently I should have specified that I wanted to be able to hang things on the walls in my tack room?

Example 2. These were the switches for my main aisle lights, stall lights, and the outdoor flood light:

This layout is seriously awful. You have to lift the plastic cover to do anything, which requires carefully depressing a small latch underneath it. Also, the layout of the switches is ridiculous, with one vertical (the aisle) and two horizontal (the stalls and flood light). A layout like that might be useful if you did not expect to use two of the switches often, but grouping the stall lights (which I will use very often) and the flood light switch (which will virtually never be used except when bulbs need to be changed, because it's motion-sensor) made zero sense to me.

The most frustrating part about this one is that I actually specifically talked to the electrician about what I wanted. I had this brilliant idea about putting the flood light switch separately, above eye level, since it will be used so rarely. That would eliminate the annoyance of it being accidentally turned off or of having a switch that did nothing that was readily apparent. He seemed to understand what I was saying but the result was not at all what I requested.

DH will be rewiring it with this (an outrageous $40 from Amazon, plus a new box):

It's not exactly what I intended because all three switches are together, but at least I don't have to flip an awful plastic cover to turn my lights on every day.

The cause of this extra work and expense was my assumption that every barn electrician would use the same gray weatherproof switches I have seen in every barn ever. I should have been more specific.

Example 3. The plumbers ran a water line to a hydrant next to the pasture, so I don't have to deal with super long hoses. Yay! Naturally, they installed a shut-off valve which I anticipate using regularly during the winter to prevent freezing. Unnaturally, they buried the shut-off valve more than an arm's length underground and made it virtually impossible to use. When we actually needed to use it and realized how inaccessible it was (and that they had inadvertently glued the access cap shut), they had to come back and redo the whole thing. One of them then told us that a standard access box hadn't been included in the quote. Who would contract someone to put in a water line with a shut-off valve and not implicitly want the shut-off valve to be accessible? If the contract doesn't include that, shouldn't it say that instead of leaving it to the inexperienced customer to decipher that no provisions are being made for access?

Lesson learned: When hiring contractors, spell out everything that you know you want. Then think about all of the assumptions you've made about how things will be done, and spell that out too. Then resign yourself to fixing the things based on assumptions you didn't even think about. Don't be the laid-back, easy-going customer who ends up with nothing as you need, want, or expected it.

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