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Doing the Job right with Jeff Devlin

“Oh Screw it. We can just caulk it!” “I don’t think it’s that noticeable!” “Nobody will know but me and I am okay with that!”

As a licensed contractor, I hear these sayings from homeowners almost daily. Making small mistakes along the way is inevitable in construction. Not fixing them as you go? That is a big mistake.

Every day, I teach homeowners how to do it themselves. I can show them the steps to lay tile successfully, or how to install custom trim around a doorway. What’s harder to teach, and what sometimes doesn’t sink in, is the integrity and dedication needed to finish a job properly. Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” To me, it’s about being honest with yourself and your work. It’s about not trying to convince yourself that something looks good if it doesn’t. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right the first time.

We’ve all been there, rushing to get to the finish line of a project and the little issues start to pile up. Most homeowners and, yes, even some contractors set unachievable goals for their projects. This creates stress and mistakes. What else is new? What matters is what you do about your mistakes.

Here’s an example: A homeowner lays tile in a bed of thinset on the floor, sits back and looks at it with a keen eye and thinks: “That gapping will probably be hidden by the grout.” (Funny, right?) He is lying to himself because he’s not willing to do the extra work involved to correct the mistake. Maybe he’s tired or frustrated. Yes, it will take some time to fix it, but the ramifications from not picking up the tile and doing it over are huge and will last for years. How frustrating is that?

We all make mistakes, but how you react to that mistake is what determines how successful your renovation will be. You will see that imperfection or problem every day for as long as you live in that house. Until you fix it, or do it over. Why wait? If it looks wrong, it is wrong. Fix it. As you go. You owe that to yourself and to the integrity of your home and the project.

My dad said a long time ago, “Everything you build or fix has your name on it.” This never really hit home until I went back to a customer’s house to do more work for them and saw a piece I had built 10 years ago. Of course, I was happy to see the piece still on display, but nervous about how it was holding up and whether they were still satisfied with it. They displayed it proudly and spoke very highly of it, and even went on to say they look forward to passing it down to their children one day. Wow! I was ecstatic. My name will always be attached to that piece of furniture and I am very proud of that.

I hope that every project you tackle, either as a homeowner or contractor, makes you feel proud of your work. Think long term and try to maintain the highest level of Integrity possible. Remember, by doing it right, your work reflects the best of you!

-by Jeff Devlin