Seeking (experienced) Advice, Planning For The Future... - Carpentry - Contractor Talk

Seeking (experienced) Advice, Planning For The Future...

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Old 06-06-2019, 07:51 PM   #1
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Seeking (experienced) Advice, Planning For The Future...

I've been poking around a bit, as I am new to the forum. I've read some very useful/insightful posts. Thank you.

In searching some specific questions, I haven't been able to turn up answers. I'm hoping someone might have some guidance for me by way of a link to an existing thread, or responding.

I've been working as a residential carpenter on and off for the past 6 years. One year of which I had an excellent teacher/mentor, but mostly learning as I went, on my own. Specifically in residential carpentry. Light framing, door/windows, cabinet installs, trim paint/stain grade, that sort of stuff.

At this point in time I'm working with a GC as "his guy." I'm doing everything from frame to finish as a remodeler. I'm considerably more competent with the carpentry aspects of the job, albeit a bit rusty from being away from it for a bit.. but because of the nature of his work, there are things I'm definitely slower at. I'm currently faster at hanging and casing doors than scraping and painting a radiator.. I'm not his "lead guy," yet. I will be, and eventually I will go out on my own, but all things in time.

Been with him 5 months now, and at this point I'm looking for my first pay increase. Which is where the question starts, what's reasonable for someone in long Island, Ny to seek as a day rate considering the following:

I have a reliable van I picked up in March specifically for this job, I have a full compliment of the tools necessary to complete my work, well organized and in good repair, I'm neat, punctual, and left to work independently 90+% of the time, every day I get better, and I try to be student of my trade. That being said, I'm currently faster at hanging and casing doors than scraping and painting a radiator..

Are any of you guys in my area, and and can you help me out with some up to date info on what's reasonable to expect for an hourly, or day rate -considering the above?

The second part of the question is, and is why I chose the carpentry specific category, is this a reasonable endeavor? Should I stick to carpentry specifically, as a sub? Is the GC thing the way to go, or will I find that the only way to make a reasonable living is to take on guys, put down the tools and sell jobs? Possibly take what I'm learning now and apply it to working independently as a Handy-Man?

Do you suppose its possible to work as a one or two man show and still live comfortably here? I know it's hard to really say what the future will hold, and living on Long Island presents its own market specific challenges.. but any and all opinions are welcomed and appreciated. Thanks in advance for your responses.
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Old 06-09-2019, 06:44 PM   #2
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Trade: Remodel/landscaping/irrigation
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Re: Seeking (experienced) Advice, Planning For The Future...

Welcome to the forum, I'm kinda new myself but it's a pretty decent bunch of guys here.
While I'm 3K miles away where 100K a year is considered below the poverty line so I can't speak to your rate and such. What i can say is this, when it comes down to brass tacks, I don't care about being anyone's "guy" appreciation is shown with dead presidents period. I keep my options open and if you have other options before you ask for a raise, all the better, if he doesn't want to lose you, he'll pay you more. If you're gassing your own van, picking up mats for jobs and getting reimbursed then you should be paid accordingly and not just as a carpy.
That being said, your question is tossing a lot against the wall to see what sticks. Perhaps it would be better to distill it down some and see if we can focus it a little better.
Being a GC is being EVERYTHING, a babysittier, a bank, hiring, firing, selling yourself, hunting for work, listening to clients bitch, wanting to throttle building inspectors, making money, losing money, licensees, insurances, bonds for specific jobs, an accountant, taxes, taxes, taxes, payroll WORKMAN COMP INSURANCE (ridiculous amounts of money you will spend on this for even just one single employee). Every single state and local pencil neck who can screw with you and cost you money will. Your laborer forgot to put waddle around a storm drain and the local sanitation dept screams at you, nail-off done wrong? Fail inspection, do it again. Client suddenly gets weird when you need a check for payroll Friday? Tough. Guys don't show up, subs ghost you, schedules get blown and you end up thinking about your business day and night. You can never find good people and why can't people just show up and do their damn jobs????? It can be effin brutal.

Not to discourage you at all, but I know that there isn't a single GC on this forum who will disagree with what I just said.

THAT being said, some guys can do all that and do it well and some guys aren't cut out for that. Some guys do a lot better being smaller and being specialty, like cabs, or rock or electrical or whatever. Getting hooked into a few big GC's is a great way to make a living without having to go out and get the jobs yourself. You can have a couple of guys under you and your company does one thing and does it really well. As you do remodel, it's a good way to find what aspect interests you most. Maybe you want to find a bigger more professional outfit and just be their lead framer or finisher or whatever. Or maybe project manager, those are usually in demand positions that large companies always need all over the place.

Or, maybe you just want to go get your GC and work on your own and hire spot as needed and keep it small and specialized. Don't get too big and onerous that you can no longer actually go out and build stuff ya know? I know plenty of GC's who never get to touch a hammer anymore, they never have the time. They have 12 guys with families to feed that rely on him for work and if he doesn't keep that work coming in, those 12 guys will leave and he'll be screwed. It's a lot of pressure, I know, just keeping one guy with a family busy for 6 years ground on me. There was plenty of times I would give him my work so he would have pay.

It's a lot to think about, I love carpentry but I don't really like having to run a business, I don't consider myself to very good at it. I just wanna build chit and pay my bills hit the beach on the weekends. I ran my own gig for a long time and got on with another company recently, less pay and no more thrill of the chase but a LOT less headaches. I needed the break for a while.

Good luck man.


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