Every year around this time Tahoe City attorney Greg Shanley and I conduct a construction law seminar. Last week’s get-together included more than 40 contractors, subcontractors and a handful of owners about to start their home building projects. We usually learn as much as the attendees.
I was reminded of some construction definitions that were sent to me from several sources many years ago and I have doctored them up and added a few of my own. They definitely have a “woe-is-thee” contractor tone.
Contractor: a gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal.
Bid opening: a poker game in which the losing hand wins.
Bid: a wild guess carried out to two decimal places.
Low bidder: a contractor who is wondering what he left out.
Engineer’s estimate: the cost of construction in heaven.
Architect’s estimate: half the engineer’s estimate.
Project manager: the conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union.
Critical path method: a management technique for losing your shirt under perfect control.
Delayed payment: a tourniquet applied at the pockets.
Construction lender: one skilled at applying tourniquets.
Subcontractor: a figment of the contractor’s imagination.
Completion date: the point at which liquidated damages begin.
Liquidated damages: a penalty for failing to achieve the impossible.
Change orders: never-ending requests from owners to which contractors reply, “that’ll only cost a couple of hundred dollars.”
Plans: a good idea at the time.
Diversion of funds: a contractor who finally pays his subs and suppliers before the owner pays him on the last job.
License board: “I’m from the government and I am here to help.”
Punch list: a free long-term maintenance contract.
Owner: a dreamer with a champagne appetite on a beer budget.
Inspector: another immovable hurdle in a race to the finish.
Warranty: a one-year period that has no end.
Auditors: people who go in after the war is lost and bayonet the wounded.
Lawyers: people who go in after the auditors and strip the bodies.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is also a mediator.
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