If you’ve ever tried to renovate during an insane housing boom, you know exactly what we’ve been going through for the past year. But if you’re blissfully unfamiliar with that situation, I’m here to tell you that contractors use a special language full of shorthand and contractions; and after a year of tearing my hair out I’ve finally learned to interpret the local dialect.
Here are some common phrases and their translations:
“I’ll be your project manager and take care of everything.”: “I’ll collect $1500 per month from you and ignore your job entirely unless you call and nag me every day. If I do actually get involved, it will be to obstruct progress by telling all the trades that I’m the sole point of contact and then dropping off the face of the earth.”
“You can have anything you want…”: “…as long as it’s one of our three substandard stock items.”
“We can have that in for you by Friday…”: “…two months from now.”
“Yep, we can do that no problem.”: “We’ve been promising that we can do it for the past three months; but now that it’s time for us to actually show up and do the work, we can’t do it after all. You’ll have to find somebody else and sit on their waiting list for another three months.”
“That’s impossible.”: “That’s not the cheap-ass way we want to do it.”
“This is prepped all wrong. Whoever did it was an idiot*.”: “I’m going to charge you extra.”
*Any trade not currently on site will be blamed for shoddy workmanship regardless of the actual quality of the work.
“I’ll drop by and do an estimate and get right back to you…”: “…when hell freezes over.”
“I’ll be there Tuesday at nine AM…”: “…or maybe noon. Or maybe sometime Wednesday. Or I might not come at all; but the one thing you can count on is that I won’t call to tell you.”
“I’ve just got a couple of days left on my current job and then you’re next in line…”: “…after I take the money from my last job and go on a three-week bender, and then do ‘a quick job for a friend’ that takes another two months. But right after that, you’re next… ish.”
“I have to leave for another job, but don’t worry; you can get anybody to finish these last couple of details for you.”: “I’ve made a fundamental mistake in my work and I can’t finish unless I tear it out and redo it. And that ain’t happenin’, so sayonara, suckahs!”
“I’ll charge hourly.”: “I’ll hide in my truck talking on my cell phone for hours at a time and hope you won’t notice when I bill you for it.”
“I know that’s what the building code requires, but as long as you don’t get a permit or an inspection we can do it my way for a lot cheaper.”: This means exactly what you think it means: RUN AWAY!
Unfortunately, being able to translate these phrases accomplishes nothing except to adjust my expectations far below what I would normally consider sub-par. And even my adjusted expectations are turning out to be wildly optimistic.
So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the bald chick in the corner muttering profanities to empty air and yanking on my last two remaining hairs.
But at least I speak the language now.
P.S. I learned these phrases the hard way this year but, to be fair, we’ve also had some excellent tradesmen who were professional and reliable. But after two separate miscreants bailed on us this week after promising us the world for months, I was just a leetle cranky. I’m all better now. Ish…