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Responsibility for jobsite materials

26246 Views 47 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Unregistered
I'm taking a break and building a deck at my own house which has created a situation that is making me think about job site materials.

I just had 2100 ft of Brazilian walnut decking dropped in my driveway, nothing stopping it from walking away but the quality of the neighborhood I guess.

Got me thinking, about having materials dropped in the driveway of a customers house and the liability of who is responsible for them should some of them mysteriously get up and walk away.

Does anybody cover themselves with a waiver? I'm thinking maybe it should be something discussed with the homeowner and have them sign a waiver, letting them know if there is no way to store materials on their site in the garage or somewhere safe that they acknowledge that they are responsible for the materials and replacement of any if they happen disappear. Some of this stuff is expensive and I don't want to replace it.
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Think of it another way - new construction - someone walks onto the property at 11 at night and falls into the hole killing themselves. Whos responsibility is it? The contractors all the way. If someone walks on the site and steals a power tool. Whos responsibility is it? The contractors all the way.
Why would materials be any different? We rarely have any materials stored on-site and if a subcontractor stores materials off-site we require them to give us a valid insurance policy covering the materials.. if they want to bill against it.
If you don't want to replace the material then you should be responsible to protect it. If the owner goes out and buys some material - it's their responsibility if it gets stolen because it's not under your contract.
I take full responsibility for materials left outside. If an item is so valuable that I don't want to leave it outside I either have it delivered the day we need it or I store it in a secure facility (storage box or garage) on the site.

It happened to us once that we know of. A customer's neighbor took some shingles to roof his shed. Our customer saw him roofing the shed a week later with the same color shingles and called us.
All good points, however new construction and remodeling are somewhat different. Even a custom home and a home being built in a development can be different right? Isn't there something about ownership of the house in a development is with the builder until the homeowner closes on the house? Remodelling someone's kitchen is a bit different I think. Also we aren't talking about something that can be stored in a box.

The example I was thinking of my 20-foot decking, lots of it, way too much to be moving around multiple times. It doesn't fit in a box, and the homeowner isn't going to pay for a huge storage bin. It gets dropped by a truck and that is where it sits.

I'm thinking about a situation where you can't put the stuff into a safe place such as the homeowner’s garage or back yard, hell even if you could I think I will still have them sign for responsibility. I might say something like:"Here are the materials for the job, they are here now and I just need to let you know that I need you sign this form that just says that the materials are now on your property and that if anything should happen to them it is clear that you are responsible for them now, if someone breaks in or if the house burns down, the materials are considered delivered."

This could be $5000 worth of deck lumber or $10,000 worth of cabinetry waiting to be installed in their kitchen.
What do other companies do?
I would have them sign a waiver, but if all the other companies quotes include safe storage, I could see that hurting you.
This is part of the fun of being a contractor! Here, you are responsible until the product is incorporated into the home. I always weigh the possibilities. By the time a home is ready for decks or cabinets the alarm system has been installed. I don't hesitate to leave items in the garage or inside the home, I worry more about damage from other contractors who may use your stack of lumber for a workbench or 'borrow' a small piece when they need it. A/C guys are the worst about this and I usually cover whatever with doorskins, the other option is to stack boxes (empty is good) on top and cover with painters plastic, the object is to make an irregular surface. A flat surface attracts all kind of things. As in all things, some guys respect your stuff and others don't.
I am currently installing solid wood kitchen cabinetry, value $93,000.00. They are mounted or stay in my trucks. Insured one way or the other.
Yes new construction is different which is why I said storage box. They can be rented... and we can have goodies delivered at any time.

Cover the material with tarps and hope for the best. Since we are talking about new construction it is HIGHLY unlikley any GC will pay for the responsibility, they would laugh your proposal out of the office if it had that clause, especially in production building. This is why we are shying away from new construction. The GC's always act like they are doing you a favor.
Now now grumpy.. no bashing on GC's.. haha. I do hear it all the time from subcontractors though. That's why we have the best subs on our jobs.. they always want to work for us.
As a previous post brought up - you get the owner to sign that's it's their material (if you can get them to do it) and what happens when a window supplier, under your scope, drives over the stack and damages a bunch of it? Or your cut man cuts a bunch of it at the wrong length? Bad examples I'll admit but you get the idea.
Anyway.. I still stand by the thought that the GC/installer/subcontractor is responsible for the material until it's actually nailed, screwed, mounted, installed, etc in it's final resting place - remodel or new construction the contractor is still responsible for the jobsite. I like what Teetorbilt stated, and to build on it - the fun part of contracting is figuring out how to deal with new issues, covering your butt, putting quality work in place, keeping your clients happy, and making a profit. :)
I like to bash GC's... and unions. :)
:) I don't care much for bashing them but I don't agree with some of the methodologies behind the unions and what that does to production, wages, etc.
I sniff a thread change.......
I bash unions in jest. I have said 100 times that if I was still an installer I'd be union. Since I am on the other side of the coin I get to bash them :)

When it comes to GC's I bash more out of frustration than anything else. Like I said these guys act like they are doing you a favor. There are only a few GC's I enjoy working for and only a we are trying to slowly eliminate new construction unless the GC agrees to OUR proposal and OUR specifications. No more 60 page idemnifications!
All of our work is remdel/custom homes. Our contract has a clause that address the owners need to insure the property during the course of construction. Including loss by theft. Now if your subs damage the goods, you got to handle it. If you have 30K worth of cabinets delivered and leave them on the driveway, you asking for trouble. If you move them inside and reasonably secure the house and then someone breaks in at night and steals them..well who got robbed the owner or you?
Not the owner IMO, unless they signed a contract stating they take responsibility. If they do sign that contract, they are fools IMO.
There is a difference in new construction and remodels. If it's a remodel and the owners are living there - then I can see where it should be covered under their insurance policy... otherwise - well you know my opinion.
Yes hatchet, I believe we covered that difference already many posts above :)

Personally as a person who has hired people to work on his own condo, and have hired subs to work on jobs I have contracted, I would never take responsibility for anyones tools or materials. As a person who has worked on jobs and left tools and materials at job sites I do not expect anyone to take responsibility for my tools or materials except me.
Tools and materials are completely different.

I would not expect a homeowner to take responsibility for my tools. In fact when I do remodel jobs and leave tools behind at the end of the day I always cross my fingers that they will be there the following day. You make judgement calls about the customer, if they have sticky fingered kids, where the work area is, how isolated or secure it is.

However, materials are totally different. Every bit of materials is going into the project and will reside in the customers house when I am done. I don't see any difference between somebody stealing a deck board off their deck 2 months after I'm gone or a board being stolen from the material pile secure on their property, they are the responsible owners of the deck board in either case.

If I order 500 square feet of decking for their deck and have it put in their garage on Friday and on Monday the bands are broken and 100 square feet is missing I'm sure as hell not going to be paying for it twice. Those materials are theirs. If there lawn mower is missing I'm not going to be paying for that either.
I'm a remodeler - - and the possibility of getting materials stolen has always been a worry. Even if you did get the customer to take the responsibility, once something happened you would still be the 'bad guy'. You know how that goes.

What I do to solve the problem, is I get the materials for the whole job delivered to my fenced/gated/locked back yard, and I pull what materials I need each morning (or the night before). Yes, I have too handle them an 'extra' time, but to me, it's the best overall solution, and I sleep good at night.
I don't see why there is ANY difference between tools and materials. IMO the materials might be at the job site, but the customer doesn't take delivery until they are installed... because that is what the contract agrees I will do.

I just had an idea though... There just might be some law that governs this topic. What I mean is, it's obviously a common issue. I'm sure governments have set laws to say who owns what at what time.
I don't know what the law here says but, when I take tools and material to a jobsite , those materials are mine until I turn the completed job over to the customer. I take my tools and flooring to the house, do my work and give the customer a completed installation in return for my payment.

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