May 2024: What Happens When Things Go Wrong

Number 121, May 2024

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Edith likes to keep her monster truck clean. Sometimes though, that clean up can be awfully messy! 

What happens when things go wrong?

In this case, it was a mud bath for both Edith and her truck! Her truck certainly fared better than she did!

From the Desk of: Bill 

Last month, Kandy and I got back from a trip to the Springfield, Missouri area to visit our son and his family. Next month, we pack up and head west again, this time stopping by the Knoxville area to pick up a couple of grandsons. We are planning to take them to the Grand Canyon with a number of stops along the way. This will be our fifth “grandchild” trip and grandchildren #13 and #14. 

In the past, we took four grandchildren at a time because Mandy and Jessy went with us as chaperones. We would get two motel rooms with four in each room. Now that they are both working (more than) full time, we just take two grands at a time. On our trips, we try to hit places that have historical or geological significance such as pony express stations, Route 66 sites, old western forts and dinosaur footprints.

If all goes according to our itinerary, we plan to ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad. The narrow gauge railroad was built in 1880 for the silver mines in the area. Today, it serves passengers. The tracks cross the Colorado/New Mexico state line 11 times on its 64 mile route. The tracks go through the Cumbres Pass (at 10,015 feet), the highest mountain pass reached by rail in the United States. The steam locomotive pulls the cars at a breath taking 12 miles per hour.

The Cumbres & Toltec takes about seven hours to cover the 64 mile route (with an hour for lunch midway).

I have been working on Duke Buckner’s political campaign. He is running for the South Carolina 6th district against James Clyburn, a 30 year incumbent. I am new to the world of politics so this is a little out of my comfort zone.

I am also working on a few projects around the house. This past week, we got a new island installed in the kitchen. Jerry and Will built and finished it. I ended up repainting it because the first color and paint type did not work out. Jerry finished the walnut butcher block top.

Jerry and Will built this cabinet. Jerry finished the walnut butcher block top. Will and I laid the brick floor a few months ago. Slowly, we are getting the kitchen upgraded.

My next building project is a coffee cart. We have three coffee type appliances: a traditional drip brewer, a Keurig and a cappuccino machine. I plan to build a cart for them and have drawers and a cabinet to store other coffee related items Hopefully, I can get that done in the next month or two.

I am also compiling letters I have written our children into books by year. I have done 2019, 2020, 2022 and 2023 so far. I am working on 2021. It is interesting to look back through the letters to see what has happened. 

So far, I have compiled letters for four years. I began writing letters to the children in 2007, so I have a few years to compile.

Bill spent about 35 years doing electronic design work at large companies, 5 years starting tech companies and then another 16 or so building homes. He is a Professional Engineer (Florida) and a Vietnam Era Army veteran.

Bill & Kandy have been married 55 years, have eight children and 38 grandchildren (so far).

Bill & Willis started Willis Sinclair (Sinclair is Bill’s middle name) a little over 15 years ago. A few years ago, Bill quit doing job site supervision and now does some back office work, including writing the newsletters.

What Happens When Things Go Wrong?

Last month I wrote about what happens when things go right. What about when things don’t go right?

There can be a number of reasons why things don’t go as smoothly as we would like when building a home. The good news is any problem can be fixed.

Sometimes a lack of availability of supplies is a problem. In the past we have had shortages of many of the items typically used in a home. When supplies are short, prices usually go up and deliveries get stretched out. Typically, this happens when major storms hit and materials are diverted to address the needs in the damaged areas. Unless different materials are used (wood interior walls instead of sheet rock, for example), not much can be done except to wait for deliveries.

Occasionally, materials that are not suitable will be delivered. When we poured the slab for one home, the concrete was “hot” (just about ready to set) and the foundation sub was not able to get it leveled and tooled before it did indeed get hard. We wound up with a wavy concrete floor. The sub tried to grind it smooth, but that did not work. We ended up adding another 4 inches of concrete over the original slab. To make sure everything was secure we added a number of steel bars to tie the two floors together pursuant to the engineer’s direction.

One home we built was nearly complete when a building inspector decided we needed flood vents in the foundation. We had to cut a number of holes in the foundation for the vents and that took some time, effort and expense. The home may or may not have actually needed them – it was borderline, but to err on the safe side we installed them. It would have been easier to install them as the foundation was being built, but that option was past. The architect missed the storm vent requirement as did the engineer, the surveyor, the foundation sub, inspectors for the first half dozen building inspections and us. It happens. We fixed it.

Sometimes subs make mistakes and they are not caught until later in the process. Wide windows are required to be framed with two jack studs (jack studs go from the floor to the header – the horizontal beam over the opening) on either side of the window. Narrower windows need only a single jack stud on either side.

The jack studs support the header (or lintel). On narrow windows one jack is required on either side; on wider windows, two are required on either side.

Our framer missed the size of the window and put only one jack on either side although the window was a couple of inches over the threshold requiring two on either side. Since we could not just add a jack to either side because that would make the opening too small for the window, we had two choices. One was to rip out the framing around the window and rebuild it. The second was to get a letter from the engineer saying we could add a steel bracket (designed for just such a purpose) to the existing jack stud. We opted for the latter, but the turn around time for a letter from a busy engineer is not zero. As I recall, it took several days to get the letter and the brackets.

Another area where sometimes things go wrong is interpreting the plans. The architect usually has a picture in his mind about how the house should look. Sometimes, those pictures in the architect’s mind don’t make it to paper. Getting all of the relevant details onto paper is a non trivial task and often, the architects who charge less than others cannot afford the time to document all of the details. If a sub makes a wrong assumption, it delays things.

Sometimes, the architect (especially lower priced architects) does not think the plans through carefully. In several of the homes we have built, the architect did not consider how to run HVAC (air conditioning) ducts to all of the rooms. In one case the attic as designed was so small the air conditioning unit would not physically fit. We had to lower the ceiling of the upstairs to make things work.

The two boxed in corners on either side of this window had to be added because the architect had not provided a way to get HVAC ducts placed.

One guest home we built had hand drawn plans. Typically computer generated plans keep all of the different sheets of the plan up to date, so if the architect changes the floor plan, the change is reflected in the foundation and other relevant plans. The plans for this small home caused problems for two reasons. The first was a closet was added to the master bedroom (the architect initially forgot the closet). The foundation was built per the foundation plans, but unfortunately the foundation sheet did not include the new closet. We had to rework the foundation because of the incomplete plans.

Another issue was the kitchen area. As drawn and as the cabinets were designed, everything was nice and symmetric. It looked good. There was a half wall so the person in the kitchen could look into the great room. Unfortunately, the half wall was drawn as a zero thickness wall to make the plans work out. We were not able to simply push the wall out because of the location of the front door. We had to rearrange a few items to make things work.

Many things can go wrong, but usually, things will go well. In the grand scheme of things, most of our projects go well with few exceptions. Sometimes problems may seem like “the end of the world” but we have never faced a problem that we did not solve. If a problem occurs, we will resolve it and do our best to make things work out with minimal impact.


Call or text (843 846 2500), or email ( if you have any questions or comments. We can help. No cost or obligation for you, of course.

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