24 November 2009

Music & the Trades

As our remodel project comes to a close (or, the part where we hire outsiders does), I feel like I've learned a bit about human nature.

For example, different house-building trades have different stereotype personalities, and listen to different music.

The framing carpenters were the tough but smart guys. They all smoked, and probably drink lots of beer (not on the job, though). They wanted to take home wood from a dead apple tree for smoking meat. They listened to country music. They wielded circular saws one handed, and could easily do fractional arithmetic.

Roofers are macho. We had them here on a hot summer day, and it seemed they were having a contest to see who could wear the least clothing and sweat the most. I took the kids to the pool that day.

Plumbers are smart, but narrow-minded. They'll plan out an entire house full of plumbing, doing complex heat loss calculations but don't realize they should not drill large holes through the giant wood beam holding up the back of the house. [Fortunately, we stopped them before the beam became swiss cheese.] Their radio played top 40.

We had one, older electrician. He started work late, left early, and moved slowly — but did an amazing amount of work. He was willing to let my husband and me help do the work, and he explained to my Mad Engineer how house wiring is different than wiring robots. He's also fully savvy about phone and internet wiring. He didn't bring a radio, and I like him a lot.

The insulation spray-er had fun in his protective gear (plastic coverall, full face mask and respirator) pretending to be a monster and trying to scare my 9 year old son. Fun.

Today, the sheet rock hangers are here. In the building industry, these guys are considered apes — they don't talk, just blast through screw guns a'blazing. They are a bit rough, but perfectly nice, though they are playing Christmas carols far too loudly.

Still to come are the plasterers and the wood floor installer.

I was told that these guys all were anti-social and didn't want to talk to the home owner. Not quite true ... though they would never win the Dale Carnegie award, they are polite, willing to answer simple questions about the work, and don't mind showing off their skill. It helped that I never looked down on them, but treated all as skilled workers who want to do good work for an appreciative home owner. And they are doing good work. The one truly anti-social guy, a plumber, was also incompetent, and we hired someone else as soon as we could.