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Construction Confessions: [One] of the craziest client interactions I have ever experienced

When building a custom home, emotions are often times very high and on edge because of how personal the process is to get your home to fit the lifestyle for you and your family and the amount of money that is being spent. With that being said, us veterans in the custom new construction industry tend to expect the high emotions going into a new project and have designed processes and communication methods to ease some of these emotions.

I’ve seen my share of crazy over the years as the builder’s right-hand woman handling everything from design selections to operations. However, when I was four years into the gig in custom homebuilding land working for a custom home builder – I was completely shocked by the actions of one client.

This client started off the process very skeptical of the builder whom I was working for. The client was building a bid-out fixed price home, so the numbers were not fully organized and transparent as they would be for cost-plus build. This client questioned every penny. I couldn’t blame him as I’m super Type A and would want to know where all of my money was being spent as well; but then again – maybe a cost-plus type of build would have been a better fit for him? The builder was patient with him (despite the client constantly being rude, disrespectful, and unappreciative) explaining every penny. Until the actual build started to happen….

The client was on site EVERYDAY and ALL DAY. Everyone working for the builder (including me) questioned his ethics since he had a full-time job and clearly was not spending the time an employer would expect of an employee doing a job since he was always on site. He knew all of our tradesman by first name. There is no problem with that, except for when he started to give the trades direction.

It was 8:30AM in the morning on a Wednesday when I was just getting settled into my office checking emails and drinking my morning coffee when I get a frantic call from my stone mason sub-contractor. He was super upset and sounded winded. All I could hear was his car door opening/closing and his truck starting. He said “I’m leaving, this guy is crazy!” English was his second language as he spoke Spanish so I couldn’t make out much more because I was the girl who took 8-years of French then started working in construction in the state of Texas (not a wise move on my part - but that’s another story).

I quickly got in my car and drove to the site about 10 minutes away from the office. When I arrived, I saw the client with a black can of spray paint in his hand drawing “X’s” on a handful of stone pieces that were already installed and mortared into the exterior of his home. I casually walked up and said “Good morning, what are you up to?”. He told me he was indicating which stones he did not like and wanted to have taken out. I politely explained the nature of natural stone and referenced the natural stone disclaimer he had reviewed and signed during the selection process stating that we have no control over the variations of the natural stone. He shrugged me off and said it would be okay because he was only requesting a handful of stones be replaced, not all of them. I mentioned that the stone mason was done for the day and that the builder would follow-up with him on his concerns. I got back in my car knowing that this was one of those instances that I would need backup from the builder – so I put it in his court.

A compromise was reached that the mason would remove the stones that now had black spray painted “X’s” on them and the client would dig through the pile of stones that were dumped into a 10-foot pile in front of his custom home and take out the ones he did not like so that the mason would not grab for those first. If they were needed, they would be used in discreet locations like behind the AC or back of the house.

This client gave us a few more fun moments throughout the build, but let’s just say that ever since that I moment with the spray paint; all future homes I have designed, I have REALLY stressed the natural stone disclaimer…and of course, I always share this story as an example : )


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