Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Trades are a Lousy Plan B: 3 Reasons

Right now we are facing a shortage of skilled tradespeople.

And it's only going to get worse.

Many of our most skilled workers are nearing retirement age, and with the high schools pushing college over training programs in the trades, employers who need these skilled workers are looking down the barrel at some tough years ahead.

It's a problem of our own making.

For decades, high schools have pushed the idea that college is the goal. But college does not make everyone happy. Not every student, no matter how successful the school (or how smart the student), wants to continue their education at a university. Even so, many succumb to parental and student counselor pressure to continue on with a college education.

The school of thought has been that if college doesn't work out, the trades are a good "plan B."

Here are 3 reasons the trades make a lousy "plan B."

1) School is expensive. Very expensive. The student is not only investing thousands of dollars to sit in classes, but they are also losing out on employment income while they do so. The college investment is often figured out by the cost of tuition, etc., but when you consider wages lost while spending time in the classroom, that cost could more than double.

Additionally, most students take out some loans to pay for their education, which means if plan "A" (college) doesn't pan out, they are now not only jobless, but also they are jobless, lack work skills, and have debt.

2) The trades should be respected. The men and women who build our houses and bridges and roads make it possible for the country to move and grow. Speaking for those of us in the construction industry, we would rather train a worker who feels good about their life choices than try to reprogram a disappointed, disillusioned, college dropout who feels like they failed by getting a job in our industry. We like what we do. We make a decent living. We are proud of our jobs. Let your kid be proud of who they are too. 

3) Life moves quickly. And the trades are learned almost solely in apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship pay is (and this is a huge generalization) roughly half of what a Journeyman makes. For someone just starting out, this can pay the bills. Add a couple of years, some debt from college, and maybe a family to support, and many people can't afford to begin an apprenticeship program, even though the outlook for future income is well beyond what they currently make.

The fact is, the trades make a great career. Journeyman aspirations should not be considered any lower than college aspirations, and we need to stop pushing our kids to fit in the college box.

There are jobs to be had. If your kid isn't relishing the idea of going to college, please support them and let them explore some of the other options. 

Here is a link with some information on jobs in the trades.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Non-TV Remodel

I flipped on the TV and tuned in that popular home improvement station—yeah, you know the one.
Suddenly, I was transported to California, land of sunshine and perfect weather, watching house flippers discuss what it would cost to remodel a wreck of a bathroom.

Now this bathroom was in a neighborhood of near million dollar houses, where granite was old school, a basic landscape plan would make even the fattest of wallets clamp closed in disbelief, and where the neighbors looked like Ken and Barbie—every last one of them.

They called in their contractor, authentically and reassuringly garbed in jeans and a t-shirt, met him at the door, and the viewers were treated to all the scripted non-scripted grunts and groans at every new discovery.
Finally, the contractor stands back, rubs his chin, crosses his arms, and with feet planted firmly on the warped subfloor of the trashed and flooded house, nods his head back and forth and pronounces it might cost up to $6000. The flippers gasp, the camera cuts to private shots of the husband and wife team as they wrestle with this potentially budget-busting surprise, and then, the commercial break. Oh the drama, the intrigue, however will they do it?

I clicked off the TV.

Did you know that just the tubs in houses like that can be more than $6K? Forget everything else.

Yet when people call, they seem to be convinced that any remodeler could recreate that miracle for $6K, well, actually less, because we are in Wisconsin, and things should be cheaper here. Right?

Wrong. Truth be told, I can’t figure out where they get their numbers. They are laughably unrealistic.
That doesn’t mean that a lot can’t be accomplished in a bathroom with $6K. In fact, you can have some major upgrades for a lot less, and if you are interested we can take a look at your home and let you know how much difference an investment like that can make.

But it won’t necessarily buy you a new bathroom with in-floor heating, a copper tub, a shower that threatens to drown anyone less than 6 feet tall, and the most expensive imported tile.

You see, what they don’t show you on those shows are the months and months of planning that go into creating the perfect space. And then they don’t show you the insanely talented and hardworking craftsmen that work around the clock to get it done in the TV studio’s time frame. And they really don’t show you the down to the pennies budgets that a real contractor works under.

We will show you, though. We take the time, we follow your budget, and we build to your specifications. It might not be done in 24 hours, and it might not be that special European tile, but there will also not be the surprises, drama, and the overall budget mystery.

Do you want a well-built, budget responsible, space designed just for you? Give us a call.

Designed for your Life.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sump Pump Challenge

Sometimes we run into things that need a bit of extra attention. And typically these challenges deal with things that can't go wrong, because if they do, they could cause a lot of headache.

Anthony and Abe ran into one such problem this spring.

Like most other homeowners in Wisconsin, these homeowners had a sump pump. But unlike most other homeowners, this sump pump ran non-stop, and in the winter there was always the risk of freezing.

We first added a battery back-up, because the only thing worse than worrying if your sump pump is going to keep up to the storm is knowing it won't because the power is out. Then we dealt with one of the reasons for the large amount of water: the existing pipes were dumping the water right back down the foundation wall.

The homeowners wanted the problem resolved, but they didn't want to see downspouts and they didn't want to worry about freezing.

Here was our solution.

We buried the pipe at the house, while still allowing water to escape in case of a spring freeze/thaw cycle. And then we went to work on the aesthetic considerations.

We avoided the downspout by burying the pipe and creating a rubber outlet at the edge of the existing landscaping. We screened the pipe to keep the critters out, and the rubber material makes the pipe mower and weed-eater resistant for even the most enthusiastic of mowing companies.

Do you need a creative solution for an ongoing problem? Give us a call...we might have the answer.