Saturday, September 17, 2011

On the other hand...

In counterpoint to my rant the other day,where I added my voice to the collective outburst of the entire province against the corruption in our government and contractors, I have had the exact opposite experience with renovators at the private, entrepreneurial level here in Quebec.  At my job, I am currently overseeing a fairly significant renovation project.  Thanks to a happy confluence of timing, real estate and budget, we have been available to invest a bit of money into our office space, which I have mentioned before is a 100-year old presbyt√®re.  We've got a bunch of people fixing doors and windows, redoing the kitchen, painting, re-doing the floors and doing a general energy efficiency overhaul.  It's an old, long-neglected building and while we are only doing a fraction of what should be done to return this piece of Montreal history to its proper state (and to simply protect it).

This project has brought me in contact with a bunch of different people whose career is in renovation: contractors, painters, carpenters, general handymen, window experts, locksmiths, restoration experts, energy efficiency engineers, designers.  There are anglophones, francophones and allophones.  Some are old and have been doing this for decades.  Some are brand new and even still in school for their trade.  It's early days still and there is still room for a minor disaster.  But so far I have been uniformly impressed with the quality and integrity of the work of every one of them.  

They have come in on time, done a thorough analysis and provided me with what so far appears to be fairly accurate estimates.  Once the work has started, they have been more than on-time (getting to the job site so early that I am the one who has to be changing my schedule), hard-working, flexible (and with this old building, my vacillation and a not entirely traditional work environment, they've had to be flexible) and just pleasant, interesting people to be around.  Their costs are reasonable.  None of them is making a huge margin on these jobs and in several cases they have given us a break, recognizing that we are a non-profit and that our landlord (the church) would be otherwise leaving this beautiful building to rot.

And they are skilled.  There have been some serious challenges already, such as the sill under the front door being completely rotted away and no real floor joists left to properly support it.  After a few minutes of standing around and looking and discussion, the guy went out that day, got some quick-drying concrete, built a mini-form and just filled the gap in with a little foundation that will support the sill.  The guys doing the floors discovered that the old substrate plywood under the floor went underneath all the radiators and he couldn't just tear it out without them losing their level and possibly damaging the pipes.  So he hand-fashioned little wooden shims and went around under each foot of each radiator and tapped them in.

It's just been a joy to be a part of a process where old, quality work is being restored and brought back to its original quality with a minimum of waste and with long-term durability in mind rather than they typical short-term "get it done so we can sell it" mentality.  I have seen so much shit "renovation" work done here in Montreal, where they just go in, tear everything out, put up aluminum studs and gyproc walls and paint everything white.  My sister lives in Brooklyn and it seems impossible to find anybody competent with any skill or care for the job.  Just that fucking dull-faced, semi-tough guy contractor attitude, where they are utterly inflexible and tell you how the job is supposed to go.  Have any of you dealt with that?  I have seen so many of those guys in my life and I haven't even met one so far in this project.  If I did, he would be out the door, that's for sure.  Being able to say that is a result of the surplus of skilled, conscientious craftsmen on the market here and it is something to celebrate.

If only this were the same for the development industry and the government workers here in Quebec.


meezly said...

Well said!

caropops said...

What is an allophone?

OlmanFeelyus said...

An allophone is a person who speaks a language other than french or english at home.