Enter your email:

Construction Topics




















Become a FB fan

Construction Network

Trades Hub


February 7, 2011

Innovation in Contracting
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Here’s your problem. You have over 1 Billion people to identify (let’s call them Indians). How do you set up a system that gathers and tracks identity data? To add some fun, many of the folks can’t read or write, don’t know their birth date and lots of the laborers have worked so hard they’ve worn off their fingerprints.

The Economist recently reported that the Indian government has undertaken to positively identify and give a Social Security type number with biometric data to its 1.2B citizens. Since hundreds of millions lack documents, addresses or even surnames, the project seems even trickier. Of course, the successful completion of the project could greatly reduce corruption and improve the efficiency of financial transactions. The upside to getting this done and done right is huge.

The Indian government contracted this project in a creative manner. They chose three contractors to:

  1. Interview a person and document the name and birth date (guessing at dates when necessary)
  2. Get a face photo that also scans the iris
  3. Take fingerprints (adding moisture to the hands of those hard working types)
  4. Compare the gathered biometric info against the database and verify that the person isn’t a duplicate in the system.

The fascinating part of the contracting process involves which firm gets the most work. The firm that does the fastest and most accurate job gets 50% of the work, while the second best firm gets 30% and the worst firm gets 20%. This allocation gets reassessed often, so a firm can move up and obtain more work (and more rupees) by getting better.

Now think about how we typically award projects in construction contracting. Public bids go to the lowest cost bidder (regardless of their reputation or ability to get the job done well…other than requiring a bonding company to vouch for them). Private bids generally also focus on the lowest cost, though most of us limit our invited bid list.

I understand contracting for a building project isn’t the same as gathering biometric data, but I’m challenged to try to contract more creatively. I’m not sure where it goes, but I will contemplate how I can improve the contracting in my business. Do you have any ideas or thoughts you’d like to share?


November 19, 2010

Construction Job Hunting? Use Linked-In
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I just came across an excellent blog post for using Linked-In (the Facebook for work) to help you find a construction related job.

Carol’s Construction Technology Blog walks you through the process of getting found by those likely to hire. If you’re looking for a job or considering that possibility (which includes most people in the construction industry these days), you should be on Linked-In. After you’re signed up, send me a friend request and you’ll be able to see what someone else’s profile looks like.

Then take some time to learn how the profiles work and how you want to present yourself to the world of shoppers. It’s an audacious new world out there and you need to be making yourself a bit uncomfortable to be succeeding.


July 13, 2010

The Beauty and Aggravation of Mechanic’s Liens
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I was checking out a blog on my right side links titled Construction Law Monitor and found an excellent series on Mechanic’s Liens. Before your eyes roll back in your head, I think you need to consider the times. The tight economy moves many firms into the category of potential problems.

Whether not getting paid or the job getting half done and the firm defaulting, you are probably going to be dealing with some financial shenanigans in the next few months. In most states, the Mechanic’s Lien will be the most important tool in dealing with the issues.

Mechanic’s Liens developed to protect tradesmen from unscrupulous property owners. As an example, if a property owner has a tradesmen install a new bathroom, then decides not to pay him, the tradesmen’s only real option is to bring a civil lawsuit. Since the property owner may have much more money and time, the tradesmen may not have had any real opportunity to right the wrong of the unscrupulous property owner.

States developed the right to file a Mechanic’s Lien, then, to give the tradesmen (the little guy) a chance to put a claim against the property immediately. This claim causes the property owner aggravation. The claim is public, the property can’t be sold without this claim being removed and often the claim takes precedence over the first mortgage, which gets the bank’s attention.

So these powerful Mechanic’s Liens can upset the traditional balance of power. The specifics of correctly filing the Mechanic’s Lien, though, are detailed and specific. A Mechanic’s Lien incorrectly files generally means a worthless Mechanic’s Lien.

So read the blog above and acquaint yourself with some of the specific Mechanic Lien regulations in your state. There’s even a blog completely devoted to the subject titled Construction Lien Blog. No matter where you live on the food chain, you should understand the Mechanic’s Lien basics for your area. It’s going to be a more important part of construction for the next few years, unfortunately.


April 5, 2010

Lots of Looking, Not Much Talking
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I checked the web stats for (which I should probably do more often) and was pleased to see over 16,000 unique visitors to the site last month. Considering we were at 2,000 unique visitors two years ago, I’m glad to know so many construction professionals find the site useful. It’s certainly growing only by word of mouth, because I don’t do anything to promote it.

This blog gets from 2,000 to 3,000 unique visitors a month. So lots of folks are looking. I continue to be surprised, though, that so few people are talking. I get an occasional comment on blog post, usually from one of a few people. The Construction Knowledge Forum has some occasional postings.

Both these venues provide you the opportunity to ask questions, rant about things that move you, or just engage in discussions with others in this great construction industry. I encourage you to consider posting something in the Forum or the Blog comments. It may be a new experience for you, but hey, get out of your comfort zone. As W.C. Fields said, “It’s time to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” Happy postings.


April 1, 2010

Construction, Bankruptcy and Regressing 250 years
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

A good friend of mine will be signing his personal bankruptcy papers this week. He already shut down his construction business, fortunately without owing anyone. On the personal side, though, he’s underwater everywhere. His home and truck are both worth much less than the outstanding loan balances. He has a big chunk of credit card debt that he’s paid on for years (probably paying the original loan down several times) that just keeps growing at high interest rates. We’ve all heard this story often, I’m just seeing it up close this time.

My pal builds to an amazing quality level. He has an artist’s eye and gets decent production as well. Whether winning awards for his finish carpentry work on a local college project or building beautiful built-in furniture, he’s an amazing tradesman. Admittedly, he probably shouldn’t have his own business. Too quick to empathize with his customer’s point of view, he lacked the attribute to protect himself. He didn’t ever charge enough, always worried that he’d lose the work or that he wasn’t being fair.

So what’s he going to do? He’s going Aborigine. Moving to the Appalachian Mountains, he’ll live with a group of people that teach others how our ancestors lived…no electricity, making tools for building, hunting or harvesting for food and all that goes with a primitive lifestyle.

All his tools are sold. Most of his other possessions he hauled to the Penryn Mud Sale and sold at auction. I took some stuff to that sale as well. Below is a photo of some Amish kids having a great time playing on an old air hockey table we wanted to get rid of.

As I was walking around the sale, I saw an Amish framer I work with often. Elam was there with his twin 3 year old sons, who had to be the cutest little guys I’ve ever seen. He and his wife got there in their horse and buggy, yet his crews frame with air nailers and electric drills and have cell phones.

I’ve lived around the Amish my entire life and have a basic understanding of how and why they stay Amish. For most, it’s just how they were raised. Everyone’s upbringing seems normal to them.

When I look to my friend moving to the woods, though, I’m intrigued. The writing about the camp gives more detail, “We orient to the basic foundation of where things come from and where things go. We plant and harvest in our gardens, milk goats, make butter, soap, bowls, spoons and tools of all size and description. We hunt and gather wild foods and medicines and natural resources abounding in our huge natural preserve. We cook on a fire, gathering our own wood.”

Sounds like a great adventure doesn’t it? Perhaps we have much to learn by looking back? Would you be ready to step back in time?


March 13, 2010

Smokestacks Imploding
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I never seem to get tired of watching things get blown up. Here’s a good video clip of two smokestacks in St Louis that were imploded last year.


As always, don’t try this at home.

Imagine the guys that built those smoke stacks…assembling the scaffolding (probably all wooden), laying brick day after day for weeks, and showing their families what they built when completed. Now, in five seconds, those stacks become a pile of rubble. The circle of life continues.

By the way, this is the first YouTube video I noticed that Google put a related advertisement at the bottom. What will those Googlers monetize next?


January 27, 2010

Haiti: A Saga of Building Codes Ignored

I’ve worked in Haiti a couple of times and been broadened by the experience. The first time I saw children playing in the raw sewage stream running down the street, I was nauseated. After a while, I barely noticed. Yet the sights of the brightly colored culture and the roughly built structures stayed with me. Here are a few photos I took to provide a sense of place:

Haiti is poor, but functions. People work, figure ways to buy food for their families, build buildings and enjoy times of celebration. Of course, I have a particular interest in the build buildings part of the society.

It’s not that Haiti has no building code, but the code doesn’t get enforced. An earthquake won’t kill 150,000 to 200,000 people unless lots of buildings are falling down. It wasn’t just the shacks of the poor; the schools, hospitals, churches, hotels and government buildings collapsed like houses of cards. An ENR article explains the Haiti codes and lack of enforcement.

Let me make you a challenge. The next time you work with a Code Enforcement Officer. Take a moment to thank him or her for the job he or she does. Bring up Haiti and what happens when everyone just builds as they see fit.  We can become frustrated with building inspectors, but they protect the public, and us, when they do their jobs. So let the next inspectors you work with know that you are glad we aren’t in the free-for-all world of no inspections. Let them know you appreciate the work they do.


July 11, 2009

The Problem with Profanity
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

When I was putting myself though college, I worked as a roadie on lots of rock and roll tours. One side benefit of the job was learning how to cuss with the best of them. My Dad tells me of a similar language learning experience when he was in the Navy during WWII. After returning from the war, he was eating Sunday dinner with his parents and said to his mother, “Pass me the fu*&#ing potatoes.” That word wasn’t in common use at that time, certainly not by his Brethren mother who wore a prayer veil all the time. He tells me that no one said anything and they passed him the potatoes.

When I finished school and started working construction and engineering jobs, my colorful language seemed to fit on the jobsite. After a couple of years, I decided that I didn’t like the way I sounded. When I took a job as president of a construction company, I determined to change the way I talked. In my pea brain, that translated into 100 push-ups for every cuss word. I got some sore arms over a few weeks, but my language changed. I still slip from time to time, of course, to the surprise of my kids and co-workers.

What made me think about this topic was an article about some renovation at a Retirement Home. The construction workers were demolishing a wall to change two toilet rooms into one accessible toilet room and thought they had encountered asbestos insulation on the pipes. The workers brought brought their concerns to the Home’s executive, Paul Morin, who stated, “I don’t give an F” and instructed them to proceed with the work.

The Attorney General has brought Criminal charges against Morin, even though no asbestos was found and no air pollution occured. It seems to me that the case was brought due to his attitude and language. While this seems stupid on one hand, it’s instructive as well. In many disputes, I’ve seen quotes with profanity brought out to taint the character of one of the parties.

Just remember, whatever you say (and however you say it) can be used against you. Am I wrong on this? What do you think?


July 7, 2009

Super Tips Newsletter 2009-2
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Super Tips Newsletter: Training Tips for Construction Supervisors and PMs

…Learning Leads to Advancement

Newsletter #2, July 2009

Construction Supervisors work one of the toughest jobs in the world. They mash the theory of blueprints and spec books with the reality of iron workers, electricians, building inspectors and things that don’t fit. creates a community for Construction Supervisors and PMs to learn, grow and advance. We provide technical skills, people skills, motivation, humor and interaction with other Construction Leaders. I love building things and helping others build better. This amazing construction business has been good to me and can reward you also if you’re willing to learn and grow.


People Skills: Develop a Growth Mindset

Ask Ned: An Advice Column for Construction Supervisors

Basic Technical Skills: The Useful Skill of Converting Units

Trade Skills: The Structural Basics of Concrete

Quote to Remember:

Super Tips Puzzler: Win $100

Super Humor

People Skills: Develop a Growth Mindset

None of the people skills will help you unless you believe you can actually change how you live and what you do.  Dr. Carol Dweck wrote Mindset: The New Psychology of Success after much research on how people think and act. She found that people generally have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset sees our talents and abilities as unchangeable, they are what they are. Conversely, a growth mindset knows talents get developed and abilities built over time.

When asked, most people express confidence in their ability to grow and change. Most people initially claim to have a growth mindset. Upon further reflection, though… (follow the link to find out)

Ask Ned: An Advice Column for Construction Supervisors

Dear Ned: I got laid off three months ago. I’ve worked as a carpenter, then carpenter foreman for the past 10 years, building mostly commercial projects. My boss told me he’d bring me back as soon as they get some work, but has no idea when that will be. I’ve applied to all the general contractors in the area and no one has shown any interest in hiring me. I’m starting to get freaked out, any ideas? Stressed in PA.

Dear Stressed: I’ve been there too, and it’s not a good feeling. I recall standing in an employment benefit line in 1983, when my wife was about to have our first child. My advice to you is to start by changing the way you frame the problem. Right now you’re thinking, “I need a job.” Instead, you need a career plan that makes you valuable now and in the future. Take some time to really think about what you love to do, what you seem to have real aptitude for. Then take some more time and consider how the world is changing, what directions you see it taking. For example, two friends of mine recently found themselves in a position similar to yours, they both worked on light construction project, but earlier had experience with large, heavy construction projects. They read about all the stimulus money and concluded that roads and bridges will be well funded for quite a few years. Both got jobs with a first class bridge contractor who has lots of work and a reputation for treating employees well. Take your time off as a gift that allows you to learn, to look deeply into your options and to end up at a better place.

Basic Technical Skills: The Useful Skill of Converting Units

When I wrestled in high school and college, I often beat guys that were both stronger and faster than me. How did I overcome the natural advantage of another? I worked hard at making few mistakes. I paid attention to the little details that the better athletes tended to ignore, so sometimes I surprised them by the end of the match.

In construction, I’ve encountered people smarter than me that aren’t doing as well. Their brain power leads them toward arrogance. They don’t think the little things are worthy of their attention. If, like me, you don’t have an incredible IQ and amazing memory, then you need to make few mistakes.

This little trick of the trade for converting units will help you to get it right each time. Simply stated, write the problem down (don’t do it in your head) and actually write the units, then cancel them. Seems simple, but many times a group of us stand, trying to resolve some problem and we go from square feet to acres and the guy doing the figuring is off by 10 or 100.

A simple example shows you how, follow the link for the example.

Trade Skills: The Structural Basics of Concrete

Concrete is strong in compression. So what does that really mean?

To understand compressive strength, think about several packs of crackers sitting on the floor. If you carefully stand on those packs of crackers, your weight will probably be supported, but you are putting those crackers in compression. Your weight tends towards crushing those crackers. If you jump up and land on those packs of crackers, you will increase the force applied and probably crush the crackers. You will have made the crackers fail in compression.

Now try to jump on a concrete sidewalk. You’d have to jump pretty high to make that sidewalk crush under your weight. In fact, you probably couldn’t make that sidewalk fail in compression. That’s why concrete gets used so much in construction. But the story doesn’t end with compression.

To learn more about the structural basics of concrete, follow the link.

Quote to Remember

There comes a time in the affairs of a man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation. W.C. Fields

Super Tips Puzzler

If you recall, the last Super Tips Puzzler was:

Three tradesmen work on a jobsite, Bob is older than the redheaded guy, but younger than the electrician. Mike is younger than the blonde, while Joe is older than the dark haired guy. The carpenter is the ironworker’s younger brother. Can you give the hair color and job of each tradesmen in order of age?

The solution is that Joe is the oldest and a blond electrician, Bob is in the middle and a dark haired iron worker and Mike is the youngest, one of God’s mistakes (a redhead) and a carpenter.

The winner of the $100 prize (randomly selected from the correct answers) was Jeff Mylin of Akron, PA.

Win $100 if you correctly answer the Super Tips Puzzler below. Send your answer to I’ll randomly select the winning entry from the correct answers that I receive. Make sure to include your contact information so I will know where to send the check.

The jobsite looked a mess and a couple of loads of trash needed to get hauled to the landfill. So we loaded the F350 pick-up that had a dump truck bed and headed for the dump. We got weighed when we arrived with a full load and after we deposited our trash into the landfill. As we were getting weighed the second time, I mentioned to the scale master that we would be back in a few hours with another load. He responded with the usual level of helpfulness of landfill workers. He grunted.

I’d noticed that the rear driver side tire was low, so we stopped at a gas station and filled all the tires.

We went back to the jobsite, loaded up again, stopped for lunch, and then drove back to the landfill. We got weighed before and after, just like the first time. Then my buddy noticed something strange on the weigh slips. The first time we left the dump empty, we weigh 6,420 pounds, this time our weight was 6,360 pounds.

I went into the scale master to complain that either their scales were wrong or they over-charged us for 60 pounds of trash. He called me a knucklehead and told me there was nothing wrong with their scales. Why?

Super Humor

Years ago a carpenter was putting a roof on a small church building. The carpenter was a rough-and-tumble sort of fellow and would yell “Damn, I missed!” quite loudly every time he missed the nail with his hammer. After several days of this, the pastor called up to him that he needed to stop this profanity in the church.

The carpenter sneered, “What’s going to happen, do you think God is going to send down lighting to strike me dead?”

The minister said, “Well, yes, I think that very thing just might happen.” Moments later, clouds formed, a big wind began blowing and a single bolt of lighting shot through the church roof and killed the minister.

Heard from the sky was a booming voice, “Damn, I missed!”


January 16, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Construction: #2
Filed under: Construction — nedpelger

#2 Big Results Get Big Rewards

Big money changes hands on construction projects. Whether a house addition or a new stadium, construction projects always seem expensive to the Owners. The one time nature of each project and the resulting lack of efficiency means the variance between what things could cost and what they actually cost can be large. So what does that mean for you?

Let’s see. Performance on the construction project can vary greatly depending on the Foreman,  Construction Superintendent and Project Manager. A project that runs smoothly and comes in under budget (sometimes way under budget) is a Big Result for those involved. Since projects involve substantial cash outlays, the smart construction company owner ties those Big Results to some Big Rewards.

Performance based pay may mean project bonuses or an excellent salary. Generally, though, peak performers in construction receive excellent compensation for their work. It’s just good business.

In another positive corollary, expertise trumps discrimination in construction. If you have a Construction Supervisor who consistently shows promise, does projects well and makes you money, you treat that person well even if you are a bit uncomfortable with him or her (which is the basis of discrimination).  So the possibility of Big Rewards can be open to effective workers, regardless of gender or race.

Finally, Dr Salary in his PayScale Blog writes about jobs that can pay over $100,000 per year with no 4 year college degree required. Of the 14 jobs listed, he includes both Construction Superintendent/Manager and Cost Estimator, Construction. He also includes Owner / Operator, Small Business, many of whom work in the construction industry. The financial opportunities in construction abound.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »