Building/moving to a new home – day 91 – update

We got Traction!!

TractionYesterday, we had treacherous glare ice as far as you could see. Today we have traction and all is well.

I called our grading and excavating contractor, Michael Shortt, and asked if he could do something to handle our glare ice problem. First thing this morning, he sent one of his men out with a Bobcat front loader to make a usable driveway for us.

By the time we arrived at 9:00 am, a 200 foot skid-proof driveway of crushed rock had already been laid down. It took only a few minutes to work out a way to add skid-proof walkways to the house and workshop so that deliveries of heavy appliances and wood stoves could take place.

I have been told by almost everyone including a few contractor that putting down fine crushed rock is a waste of time unless a base of large crushed rock was laid down first. Their thinking was that the lighter rock would  merely sink into the soil and would be wasted.

As an engineer by training, I tend to be more pragmatic in my approach to solving problems. We have a problem: about an inch of glare ice over frozen ground which is hard enough to defy four-wheel drive vehicles and deliveries which must be accomplished in the next week before more snow falls.

My solution: we should throw crushed rock at the problem until it disappears.

Michael Shortt and his crew provided me with that solution quickly and economically in 20-degree weather. i could not have asked for more.

I am extremely fortunate to have developed a working relationship with this superlative contractor who doesn’t tell me that things are difficult – he just gets things done…on short notice…in all kinds of weather.

Michael Shortt is the excavator to call on if you ever have a building project in Floyd. He has been invaluable to us in getting this project pushed through.

When the Virginia Department of Transportation couldn’t spare the resources to widen the state road leading to our house, Michael did it. When the utility company needed land cleared to lay cable, Michael did it. When a neighbor needed assurance that any damage to his property would be remedied, Michael was part of that negotiation and will be part of any solution that is required. That kind of backup is invaluable when one is trying to accomplish things that have not been tried before. We recommend him highly.

If what you need is something he doesn’t do, he will recommend someone reliable who will do it. The contractors we used to build our foundation and our workshop were all recommended by Michael Shortt.

Some observations about contractors

Since I was acting general contractor managing this project from 175 miles away, I feel that our continued success against all odds was due to the support of this well-respected local contractor.

He also had the willingness and generosity of spirit to provide valuable advice to me as a first-time general contractor without laughing at my ideas or unusable suggestions. No one could ask for more.

If you ever tackle a large project of this sort, I would suggest that you go with the contractor who treats you with understanding and respect, rather than relying on the fact that someone is "highly qualified". The contractors attitude says a lot about your potential for executing a successful project together.

I found some highly qualified contractors who only worked well with large management firms. What that told me was that they were good at following orders, not in developing creative solutions in partnership with a home owner. This gets revealed when you ask a contractor for references.

Always ask for references and always check out the references. Make sure the references are people like yourself and for jobs like the one you are planning.

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