Builder Chicks represents the day-to-day needs of women in the construction industry. We offer the latest building news, links to educational resources and job boards. We bring you stories related to developments that affect all construction workers. Enjoy your first cup of morning coffee with Builder Chicks.


Lean Times?

How many females in construction are experiencing tough times right now?

Celebrate Earth Day With a Free Webinar

April 22 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and every year the celebration reaches more homeowners and builders.

For this year's Earth Day celebration, Leviton is presenting free webinars for professional contractors in the construction industry and for homeowners who want to make use of smart energy and lighting techniques.

Save money, conserve energy and learn more about making responsible choices this Earth Day.

Choose from the following times and dates.

Make your residence energy-smart.

Lighting  Management Systems

Even if you don't sign up for a webinar, take the time this Earth Day to figure out ways you can make your construction efforts a little less wasteful and your projects a little greener.

Weekend Warriors: Safety Counts When Using Power Tools

With warmer weather and a healthy dose of cabin fever, we're all heading outdoors to tackle those remodeling projects or landscaping tasks.

Remember to service your power tools, especially if you haven't used them since last fall.

Wear protective eyewear, long sleeves and long pants.

Don't remove the safety features from your tools.

Happy Building!

What's Wrong in This Remodel Picture?

This image comes to us from HGTV's "Holmes on Homes," website. The idea is to pinpoint all the things that are wrong in the  picture.  The host of this popular remodeling and building program, Mike Holmes, gives viewers tips and techniques for remodeling on each show.

This is just a little bit of light-hearted fun and I don't want to steal the thunder from HGTV so you'll have to go there to find out if you got all correct answers. Be aware - there are 30 mistakes!

Thanks to HGTV for a bit of fun to start our day.

Starting Right: Top 5 Power Tools

If you're a weekend warrior or you're just getting the construction bug, power tools will make your life (and your projects) much easier. I've compiled a list of my favorite "must have" power tools.

While your list may vary, due to your building needs, the follow 5 power tools have a place in any workshop and on any jobsite:

  1. Circular Saw: For cutting on the fly, a circular saw is vital. This saw goes everywhere and makes the final cuts on dimensional lumber. Not the best, however, for cutting sheet wood panels.  My personal favorite is the Dewalt Circular Saw.
  2. Cordless Drill: The corded variety also works well but a cordless drill goes with you, even where there is no electricity. Use it to insert and remove screws and drill small pilot holes or very large holes. My favorite cordless drill is made by Makita, but there are other good brands out there, too.
  3. Table Saw: You can start with a small table saw if you're only doing wood craft or small projects, but you'll eventually need a kick-ass table saw if you're planning a large remodel or an addition. Look for safety features and read online reviews before buying. For big projects, get a 12-inch saw for more cutting power.
  4. Orbital Sander: This small power tool will save your elbow if you have a lot of sanding to do. The best feature is its ability to sand in random patterns, which will help you avoid sanding marks. Right now I'm using a Dewalt Orbit Sander but in the past, I used a Milwaukee sander and it was pretty good.
  5. Compound Miter Saw:  I almost chose the jigsaw for 5th place but I really think the compound miter saw has a spot in the Top 5. While your table saw will cut large sheets of wood with ease, it cuts straight lines. A compound miter saw cuts angles. You'll use it for triming around windows, installing baseboard and fitting cove. I'm using a Hitachi that has given me five years of service and show no sign of slowing down. Love this saw!

There it is. The Top 5 Power Tools for any workshop. Do you have different favorites? What's your favorite tool manufacturer?

Note the New Tag Line

If you're new to the blog, you might not know that I just changed the tag line to better represent what Builder Chicks is all about. I want to accentuate the construction world as it relates to women builders, contractors and skilled workers while focusing some of the attention on the news that is relevant to our industry.

Last Month for the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

Unless congress extends the deadline, April is the last month in which you can take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit.

This should send buyers scurrying to find the perfect home and sign a contract before April 30.

No one really knows if the credit will be around in May and it's highly likely that congress will keep us hanging until the last minute, just to encourage buyers to purchase now.

But, we can't depend upon "maybe's." If you're thinking of buying, this might be it.

How Will Climate Change Affect Your Construction Practices?

We hear about it almost daily. Our industrial practices are creating emissions that destroy portions of our atmosphere's protective abilities, allowing our climate temperatures to fluctuate wildly, melting ice flows and raising ocean tables.

Congress is taking note and so are organizations that are studying the best ways to reduce additional impact on our environment.

So, how will climate change affect your construction practices? The US Green Building Council  has developed a rating system, the LEED system, that offers green building suggestions for new residential and commercial construction projects.

These suggestions are just that...suggestions. But construction experts think they will be implemented into building code before long.

In the short run, the cost of construction materials will likely go up. Even when it's voluntary, homeowners and commercial clients want the new eco-friendly technology. If you start learning about it now, you'll be ahead of the game. Instead of gravitating to the well-known and the reliable construction materials, ask your lumberyard representative about new green building materials they are selling. Find out the pros and cons. If you can afford it - try it.

Start a construction waste recycling program on your jobsite. The way you dispose of construction materials is preparing to change. By recycling some construction waste, you will reduce the impact from the need to manufacture new construction materials. Talk to your employees and start a construction waste recycling program that becomes second nature before you're required to do so.

Relax. I've spoken with numerous contractors who are none too happy about the coming adjustments created by climate change. You can fret about it all day but it won't stop the changes. However, you can become proactive in the movement, follow the new green building trends and the changes will have less impact and make more sense. And you'll be ready to implement them cost effectively.

Working With Do-It-Yourself Homeowners

Do you offer to work with homeowners who want to do a portion of the project themselves? Or do you take a hard-line approach to construction project management?

I've encountered this a number of times on jobs, most recently it came in the form of one client thinking he could cut about half off the bid if he measured, figured, ordered and took delivery of all the materials. plus cleaned up the jobsite.

Cleaning up the site is something I always graciously accept help for but if I'm going to work with the materials, I want to be the one in charge of them. Otherwise, the job slows to a crawl.

This guy's misconception was that he decided he was going to spend as many hours with his self-appointed jobs as I would spend on the job. To him, this was equal to half of the amount he would pay me for my presence on the jobsite.

I almost chuckled but thank goodness I didn't. He was serious. If he spent 8 hours a day ordering, measuring and picking up trash, he wanted me to reduce my fee by half. I kid you not.

So we had a chat. I'm pretty easy going and I'll cut the paint or wallpaper fee out if you want to do that part of the job. I'll reduce labor hours if you want to clean up the site. But, you're paying for my expertise and I'm not going to cut my fee by half if you perform jobs that are very likely to increase my actual hours on the project.

We compromised. I would cut my charge for my lowest paid laborer, the guy who would pick up trash, on an hourly basis, as long as the homeowner could keep up (work-wise) with that laborer. In addition, the homeowner could order the materials, but if the wrong ones arrived, my crew pulls off and heads to another job. He agreed.

Yesterday, he approached me and asked me to reinstated the original deal with no reduced fees. It seems he pulled a muscle in his thigh and could barely walk. But that's not all. He also got his butt chewed by the manager of the local lumberyard for ordering and sending back materials three times. In the end, the manager (who is the sweetest guy on earth) charged him a sizable delivery and restocking fee despite the fact the guy ordered the wrong stuff and it had to be returned.

I enjoy my clients and I enjoy this guy. But I have to wonder how many homeowners think they could easily do our jobs? 

Build it.

Green Construction: Building to LEED Standards

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). 

If you haven't heard of it yet, you soon will. If you've heard of it and you're using some of the standards, you're way ahead of the pack. Closely related to the new green construction code I reported on last week.

The LEED rating system has big plans, worldwide plans. The intent of the US Green Building Council to set universal construction standards, upheld worldwide is a daunting task. But, if it works without causing more harm than good, it might be worth it.

LEED standards focus on numerous areas of construction or reconstruction, including:

  • Existing Homes
  • New Homes
  • New Commercial Buildings
  • Existing Commercial Interiors
  • School Construction
  • Healthcare Construction
  • Retail Construction
  • Neighborhood Development

Basically, LEED standards cover everything you can put a saw or hammer to except small crafts. You can take a course in different aspects of the LEED system but I'm wondering why these aren't free courses.  Charging fees to take them isn't going to encourage many people.

Nevertheless, check out the LEED rating system when you get a chance.

Women Must Fight Hard for Their Place in the Construction Industry

I recently read an article entitled, "Where is Roberta the Builder?" The author questions the subconscious idea that women should be at home or uninterested in things like building.  Oh, that's rich.

After I seethed a while, I concurred that he makes a valid point. Women make up only 10 percent of the construction industry and until we can raise those numbers - or at least become more visible in this industry, we will face men who think we don't belong here.

If you're like me, you grew up thinking construction was for men, that it just wasn't a real option for your future. Then, something happened; Maybe a teacher saw in you a talent for design or you took a shop class and you found out you were good at it. Really good at it. Your interest in the construction industry piqued.

But that still leaves us with a dilemna. How do we create a feeling of true equality when we're up against a traditional male industry? How do we turn the male resentment into willing acceptance?

The answer, I think, is with slow but steady persistence and visibility. We have to get out there and join the local builder's clubs. We have to take part in community events that allow others to see us at the top of our game.

And we have to do a good job. No matter if you're a man or a woman, if your work is better, if you're faster, or if you're cheaper than the competition, you have a fighting chance. People want quality and they want it at a fair price. Word-of-mouth may be the biggest promoter in the construction industry today.

I'm interested in hearing stories from other women in construction who have successfully (or not successfully) faced sexism in the industry.

Recycling Construction Waste?

Is this the newest step in green building? It might be soon in Stamford, CT.  The city fathers are debating the passage of a bill that would fine construction companies up to 50 cents per pound of construction debris not sorted and sent to the correct recycling station.

While I see the wisdom in recycling construction waste, I also see a big cost being passed on to the consumer. Right now, in large demolition projects, a wrecking ball destroys entire structures, leaving a pile of rubbish that may contain friable asbestos, asphalt, inorganic compounds, molds and toxins that may create health issues if the workers start picking through the rubble and sorting them out.

Which leads to taking special precautions when sorting potentially toxic materials. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but it adds a lot of expense to the contractor's budget, expense that she isn't going to eat. She's going to pass it on to her customers.

Think about this - most demolition takes place in buildings where fungus and mold may be present. After all, we don't tear down new buildings. At least I don't. Those toxins eventually disapate when returned to nature, via the landfill. Not so if we must disturb them now to sort out construction waste.

Instead of using a front-end loader to pick up and load the construction waste into dump trucks and dumpsters, we will be picking through it, piece by piece.

While this is a good plan for recycling, it might require gradual implementation to offset a large increase in construction costs to the consumer.

Most communities have some type of disposal laws right now that focus on removing specific toxins, such as paint, chemicals, rubber or other landfill toxins before dumping the construction waste.

I think it might be prudent to follow this same method, step by step.

The other incentive for this green building friendly initiative is to purchase the sorted construction waste from the contractors. If it's going to be recycled, someone is going to make a profit. That someone can fork over some dough to make sorting worth the contractor's time.

There are many ways to approach this and eventually, I'd hazard a guess that construction waste disposal will feature recycling regulations.

But, go easy. Our economy, especially the building sector, can't take another direct hit right now.

Notable Women in Construction

Kelly Dozier, co-owner and General Manager of Mad Dog Construction in Tallahassee, Florida, takes top billing during Tallahassee's Women's History Month.

Dozier, once a designer at the company, worked her way up the ladder of success to her current position. While she still designs homes, she is also active in the community and holds a Florida real estate license.

Congrats to you, Kelly. You exemplify what women in the construction industry are all about. We agree with Tallahassee, you're the real deal and an inspiration to every woman.

Build it, girl!

Home Construction: Have We Seen the Bottom Yet?

I keep thinking we've sunk as low as we can possibly go and that we're on the way back up.

But I keep having to face the fact that I'm wrong. Just this morning, March 17, the Census Dept. announced that housing fell again last month by 5.9%. Since 2006, the housing market has been in free-fall and we're all just waiting for any small sign of improvement.

As I mentioned yesterday, the First Time Homebuyer credit is set to expire at the end of next month. How will that affect a housing market that has not yet stabilized?

In addition to another slip in housing sales, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that builder confidence is also lower. In fact, builder confidence indicates that contractors do not feel encouraged that home sales will pick up any time soon.

The New Green Construction Code

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and improve energy efficiency, the International Code Council just released the brand new International Green Construction Code (IGCC).

The new regulations will affect new and existing commercial construction so take a look if you're in the building industry.

Some key points of the new regulations are:

  • Improvement of indoor air quality.
  • Preservation of natural site resources.
  • Installation of renewable energy systems.
  • Collection of rain water and gray water.
  • Architectural design guidelines for energy efficiency.
  • Carbon neutral building design.
  • Environmentally friendly concrete.

The bill is being tweaked and will probably face small alterations before approval. We already have a residential National Green Building Code.

Other bills, passed and pending, address many of the green building concerns.

April 30th: Deadline for First Time Homebuyer Credit

For home builders, April 30th looms large. It marks the end of the First Time Homebuyer's Tax Credit.

Since the burst of the housing bubble and the subsequent drop in home sales, contributing to the deepest recession in half a century, this credit, established by Congress, seeks to push new homeowners into the marketplace.

By offering first time homebuyers an $8,000 tax credit for purchasing a new home, the credit offset the lack of funding offered by private lenders. But what will happen after April 30th if the credit isn't extended?

Houses will continue to sell but maybe not right away. We might see an additional drop in sales contracts but, eventually, buyers will still be out there. Because couples get married and start their lives and they want houses.

It would be nice to see the credit extended a little longer but, if not, we'll still houses sell. April will be the month of many contracts as the buyers rush to get in under the deadline.

We're keeping a close eye on the situation here at Builder Chicks and we'll keep you on top of the latest news as it comes out of Washington.

Housing Recovery in the Near Future?

Well, the Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Homebuilding Index seems to think so. So far just in the first two and a half months of 2010, the index has seen a 14 percent recovery. That's good news.

But housing sales fell in January so we're still getting mixed signals. What will happen when the first time homebuyer's incentive expires at the end of April? We just don't know yet. Some think the incentive will be extended but I have a sneaking feeling that it won't.

The unemployment rate has moderated some but not nearly enough to signal a real recovery. And don't forget that we have large areas of the nation who've seen substantial housing value declines.

I think we're on the downhill side of this recession but I'm also worried that dropping the first time home buyer's credit too soon may set us back a couple of steps.

Favorite Tool Manufacturer?

Are you a Makita girl? Or do you insist on Dewalt tools?

I'm a fan of different types of tools from different manufacturers. I usually choose Bosch for my pinners and staple guns but I like Dewalt for my nailers.

My airless spray gun is Porter-Cable and it's lasted a long time and given me a lot of good service. The only reciprocating saw I'll buy is Milwaukee . I have one of their nailers, too, but I prefer Dewalt's round-head 2-inch framer. And I use Dewalt for portable compressors but I admit that I have a large Craftsman  compressor in my shop.

Like everyone else, I have a shop full of miscellaneous power tools and hand tools. What are your favorite tool manufacturers? And not just power tools. If you have a favorite hand tool, let me know. I'm always ready to try out a new tool, especially if it comes highly recommended.

And remember, use safe building practices.

Green Residential Building

This is where the future is.

Although I initially resisted this snowball-rolling-down-the-hill, I now see some real benefit to our economy and our environment from green residential building techniques.

You see, I paid attention when there was great talk of the "new" way to build sustainable homes from straw bales. I was leery and sure enough, the homeowners had some trouble with mold and some very expensive repairs. But green residential building technology moved on and improved while I was still pondering the old straw bales.

Today's eco-friendly building is embracing energy savings and quality materials, ensuring that the homeowner isn't left with a lemon. Some of the new green residential building trends include:

  1. Moving from new construction to remodels.
  2. Increased solar and wind generation in homes.
  3. Zero-net-energy technology.
  4. Local and state incentives and green mandates.
  5. Fresh water conservation technology in the home.

If you haven't already dipped your pinkie in the green residential building pond, this might be the time to take a night class or borrow some library books on the subject. Don't be left behind.

Home Security System Companies: A Feature in Your Houses?

I ask this question because it seems to be part of a growing trend. Home security system companies sending fliers, brochures and coming by the job site to push their services.

Maybe this is the norm, and has been for a while, in large metropolises, but it's a relatively new thing in rural parts of the nation. Do you hire home security system companies? And if so - do you contract for one house, or for all your spec houses?

Here in Kansas, the trend seems to be separate from general electrical wiring jobs. That is to say, the electrical contractors are not tackling this lucrative niche in the market. Instead, the home security system companies, themselves, are selling and installing their own product almost exclusively.

If any of you out there are electrical contractors who are slow right now, look into this. Despite the economic slowdown, this speciality is growing quickly. It might become a new, and lucrative construction opportunity for you.

Build it, sister.

A Degree in Construction Management?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 10 percent of all construction management jobs in the US are held by women.

While 10 percent isn't a lot, it's a darn sight better than where the nation was 50 years ago.

Girls looking for a degree in construction management may now focus on green building or other environmentally-aware positions. As the face of construction changes, so will the face of those managing the industry.

10 percent today--50 percent tomorrow. There's no looking back. Check out our list of Builder Chick friendly construction schools.

What Caused the Housing Bubble?

A lot of factors, I'm sure. From greedy lenders to a consumer-driven run on homes in certain areas. One thing's clear, when the bubble popped, the entire nation suffered. The construction companies in California and Nevada don't even resemble the massive crews of ten years ago.

Did government have a hand in the bubble? Probably. But to what extent?

I included this little film today about the Federal Reserve back in the 90's when we all thought nothing could go wrong.

There are more reasons for the bubble that eventually brought us to our be sure...but this just might be one of the first. This is making me rethink bills like the Home Star Program.

Boston Fed

Click the 4-directional arrow box at the top right to enlarge the screen for easy viewing.

Insubordinate Employees

Disagreements are never pleasant but when they arise between the boss and the employee, trouble might be brewing. But, keep in mind that, as the boss, you can't control everything that is said. And if you have an employee with a valid gripe, you could suffer if you try to shut her down unfairly.

  • Take the time to find out if the insubordination is real or if she is responding to a problem on the work site that needs to be fixed.
  • Talk to her alone. If you berate her in front of others, you're just asking for trouble.
  • Stay visible. If you must confront an employee, get out of earshot, but remain where others can see you.
  • If the problem concerns safety on the job, take a closer look. An unresolved safety issue could come back to haunt you if you refuse to listen and remedy the situation.

The bottom line is to treat your employees with respect but don't let employee insubordination disrupt the job site.

Air Tools: Choosing the Right Ones

Everyone uses air tools these days, and if you're a do-it-yourself weekend warrior, you could save yourself some elbow grease if you choose your air tools wisely.

  • Make sure you have the correct power source at home. That nail gun won't run without a compressor. It's not a stand-alone tool.
  • Get a nail gun that you can comfortably operate. The biggest framing nailer out there won't do you much good if you can't use it overhead without taking frequent breaks.
  • Look for durability with air rotation tools. Ratchets and air wrenches are great for replacing the manual twist, twist, twist of hand tools.
  • Get a two-handed sander to reduce elbow strain. Sanders are great but even a small vibrating or orbital sander will tire your arm if you can only use it with one hand.
  • Go small on air saws. reciprocating saws and air shears can making cutting at heights easier, but they will cycle your compressor frequently. The big stuff is still cut with skill saws and tables saws.

I'd be interested in hearing what your favorite air tools are. Do you keep them on your belt for quick changing? Or do you attach one and return to the compressor to switch? I read this guy's advice on how to choose air tools and it gave me the idea for this article.

Do You Have a Small Business Credit Card?

My banker once told me that the best kind of credit card to have in my purse is a small business credit card. Supposedly, because the purchased items were used to "grow" my business and also because the purchases, and the interest, are deductible on my income taxes.

Still, you must shop around for your small business card to get the best rates and terms. As a business, you probably have many purchases that are deductible and if you have a credit card with a lower interest rate than you pay a supplier - and no finance charge for quick payoffs, you might rack up enough "frequent flyer miles" to take your guy on a holiday vacation to somewhere with white sand beaches. Okay, that's my dream, but you can still benefit from a small business credit card.

  • Obtain your small business credit card through a local bank.
  • Talk to your banker about your construction goals and ask for a low rate.
  • Keep your banker in the loop, especially if you have to make a late payment.
  • Pay your other personal and construction loans on time.
  • You'll need an Employer Identification Number, not a SS number.

The caveat: Don't put personal charges on a small business credit card. It's too confusing when you're doing your books and the IRS might not think it's clever.

Construction Project Management--Are You On Top of It?

There's no doubt, really. If you have good project management skills, your job runs smoother, you experience fewer scheduling conflicts and you save money. But project management is more than something you learn in college, it's an intuition. If you can't sense growing problems before they become too large to handle, you'll lose time and money.

The basic steps in project management include:

  • Listing the project goals.
  • Charting the project by phase.
  • Determine a chronological order.
  • Solicit the experts (subs).
  • Create and schedule the time line.
  • Tie the project together in a synopsis.

To successfully layout a project management plan, you must start with a  well defined goal and make it fit your budget. If the numbers don't crunch, either you must raise more capital, or revise your project management plan to suit your budget.

What will the New Health Bill Mean for You?

A battle is raging in Congress over the future of your health care but what will the passage of that bill mean for the construction industry? That's yet to be seen.

If you're a self-employed contractor or a subcontractor, you will have to purchase your own health insurance policy, but no numbers are out on what that coverage will cost. If you can't afford the premiums, and that's likely, if you're between jobs or slow due to the economy, you'll have to pay a penalty. The amount of the penalty may be adjusted for your income, but it might be around $1500 per year, per family.

If you go that route, you will won't have insurance unless your income falls into a category where you qualify for a free policy.

Now, I'm all for helping out our fellow man but something seems a little fishy here. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the bill, but it seems that there may be a group of people above the poverty line, but below the income level that would allow them to freely purchase $20,000 per year policies.

And most self-employed construction workers appear to fall into that category. So, the bill bears watching.Alternately, this guy has some current info on how to get medical treatment without health insurance. And we offered some methods for avoiding construction injuries last month.

Keep building...keep happy.

Finding Free Online Classes and Courses

Do you need help setting up your bookkeeping system? Would you benefit from learning a little html coding? If you're busy working and don't have the time or money to devote to classes for a formal education, you can learn lots of little things in free online classes.

I was looking for some free internet marketing ideas for my blog when I came across this guy, who claimed there were lots of free online classes in many disciplines that I could take...just for signing up.

Long story short, I followed his advice, and his links, and now I'm registered at Self Made Scholar for an Internet Marketing course and I'm enrolled at Yale, yes, that's Yale University, in a Political Philosophy course.

I'm impressed and I'm ready to learn. Of course, you can still take the traditional college route when studying construction.

How about you?

How to Videos & Articles:

Reducing Workplace Accidents in the Construction Industry

You already know construction is dangerous but there is a fine balance between staying safe and slowing down the work schedule.

The answer lies in taking a responsible approach to reducing workplace accidents. We've compiled a list of the most common areas of danger on the construction work site.

In general, the goals must be to:

  • Reduce falls
  • Prevent explosions
  • Prevent excavation accidents
  • Leave safety guards in place
  • Insist on eye protection
  • Train in scaffolding
  • Cap rebar
  • Clean the site
  • Insist on hardhats
  • Match the worker to the job

Check the safety of your site against our list.

Making it Possible for Young Women to Attend College to Learn the Building Trades

Do you belong to a professional builder's association? If so, why not set aside some money to help young students go to college to learn a building trade? Nothing supports the idea of women in construction more than putting our money where our mouth is to benefit other women.

The Professional Women in Building Council in Asheville, North Carolina, is doing just that. They are offering scholarships to current high school seniors from their county who want to study one of the building trades.

The cost of college today is outrageous and for some kids, it's beyond their means. Help, for these kids, from any sector, is a blessing.

If your group is looking for ways to give back to the community, consider scholarships. And check out our list of schools that offer a degree in the building trades.

The January Housing Drop - Not as Drastic as it Appears?

The Euro dropped against the dollar yesterday, ostensibly on the idea that the U.S. housing industry is still shaky.

In January, pending house sales dropped over 7 percent. The problem is-it's not always some gloomy economic indicator that.affects the fluctuating house prices. And in this case, it probably wasn't.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) thinks the barrage of heavy snows played a significant role. And I agree. Buyers simply don't go looking when the blizzards roll in. And in January, the weather was one big tumultuous roll, covering large sections of the nation.

And, let's not forget what Warren Buffet said recently.

Funny how fickle investors are.

Will Congress Extend the First Time Home Buyer Bill?

When the housing market dropped, one of the only things that kept it going was an incentive for first time home buyers to enter the market. Right now, if you have a house to sell, the buyer must make a good offer before April 30, to qualify for the rebate. The rebate is $8,000.

Needless to say, the first time home buyer incentive has moved new buyers into a market when they might not have taken the plunge otherwise.

But, when it ends, housing prices will drop. They can't do anything else. A house that was worth $100,000 to a buyer at the end of April, is only worth $92,000 on May 1. Either the buyer or the builder (or any type of seller) will absorb that loss, meaning buyers will offer less, dropping house prices.

We have a small remodeled house going on the market in the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see the effect if this bill expires.

Women Only Power Tool Classes? Is This for Real?

I can't figure out if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

On the one hand, the guy wants to teach women to operate power tools--and to do a number of other construction-related tasks. But on the other hand, why must the women be separate? Does he think they will feel alienated or put on the spot if they take the classes with the men? Does he offer the same instruction on the same power tools?

I'm not going to judge this guy but I'd be interested in hearing other's opinions on this.

Should women be instructed separately? If so, why?

Cambodian Business Women Find Facebook to be a Financial Friend

I love this. No matter where you are in the world, the internet is reaching out to bring all of us together. This time it’s Facebook.

Cambodian women are known for their strong work ethic but, surprisingly, they’re even better businesswomen. Women own 62 percent of Cambodia’s businesses. Sure, many of them are small startups, but The Asia Foundation notes that Cambodian women are making inroads in formerly male-dominated industries and construction is one of them.

Unfortunately, these progressive entrepreneurs face a lack of traditional support for their business ventures and that’s where Facebook enters the picture. Already, more than a few hundred Cambodian businesswomen have joined their sisters in creating the Cambodia Women in Business site on Facebook, which is proving lucrative, indeed.

Congrats to these industries women and best of luck for their continued success.

New: Women In Concrete

The women who make concrete happen just took a huge step into the future with the formation of the Women in Concrete Alliance (WICA), a brand new organization for women who work in the concrete industry.

Founded by Kimberly Kayler and Kari Moosmann, WICA exists to educate women about the opportunities available in the concrete industry and to provide educational resources.

The new WICA site hosts a "Spotlight" page that features accomplished women in concrete construction.

We extend a big hearty welcome to Kimberly and Kari and to all the women they will undoubtly benefit with their new alliance.

Build it, sister!

What's Your Billing Style?

I overheard a couple of contractors talking yesterday about the way they bill clients. One said he gets a deposit upfront for the job, just in case the client turns out to be a deadbeat. The second contractor (a woman I know and respect), said she never asks for a draw until she's either invested money (materials) or time.

Along conversation ensued about the ethics of billing one way or the other, but, in the end, both contractors made valid points.

So, what's your billing style? And does it depend upon the type of job? Whether the client is new or a repeat client?

Share your thoughts with us.

Sustainability in Construction: 2010 symposium

April 20 is the date for the 16th Annual Sustainability in Construction Symposium. The University of Southern California (USC) will host a thousand construction industry professionals, and elected officials to share the newest green construction technology.

This is shaping up as the "event to attend" in 2010. If there's any way you can make it to Los Angeles, do it.

With the massive environmental push toward green construction and reducing our carbon footprint, this is the way of the future and the sooner you jump on bard, the sooner you'll start seeing the dollars roll in.

As construction professionals, it behooves us to stay on top of the latest trends and legislation. Funding for green construction projects and possible fossil fuel regulations pound this idea home.

Build it green, sister!

Punakha Construction Women Sing as They Work

Even heavy work - hand-compacting the soil has a light side. These two women from Punakha stay busy but raise the level of enjoyment by singing. Is your jobsite like this?

Maybe it should be.

Non-Residential Construction Dollars Lowest Since 2003

We reported last week how Kansas City residential construction rose but its commercial building was still low.

That trend seems to be the norm for other parts in the nation as well with dollars spent on commercial construction at the lowest they've been since 2003.

So what's the deal?

The deal is investor confidence. Until the economy shows signs of healthy and steady improvement, venture capitalists and commercial lenders are going to keep a tight grasp on the purse strings. Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractor's spokesman thinks the decline indicates a weakness in the commercial real estate sector. What was your first clue, Ken?

Despite the numbers and the naysayers, the only way to boost commercial construction is to prompt the investors to start investing again. Eventually demand catches up with supply. In the areas where unemployment rates are dropping, more workers mean more consumer consumption and the trickle-up effect will soon be felt by the banks who will happily start footing the costs, once again.

Bank on it.

Warren Buffett Predicts 2011 Housing Recovery

When Warren Buffett talks - ears perk up.

His actual words are, “Within a year or so, residential housing problems should largely be behind us,” so let's hope Mr. Buffett is spot on.

Here in Kansas, we've seen some recovery but we never experienced the kind of downturn that took the coastal states by storm. We slowed a bit, moving into remodels to keep our crews working but houses are still going up, albeit much slower than they were five years ago.

This is encouraging news, not only because Warren Buffett said it, but because other industries take stock of what he says and plan accordingly.

March 7-13: National Women in Construction Week

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) will be kicking off a week of festivities starting March 7. Designed to celebrate and focus attention on women in the building trades, the NAWIC offers ideas for celebrating this week with your own crew.

A full two months of preparation went into this years celebration and some of the exciting events will include a week long construction camp for women and girls, a construction fashion show, scavenger hunts and "Girls Night Our at Home Depot."

You've got a week to get your own festivities together. Look at the NAWIC handout for some cool ideas. Let us know what you do to celebrate Women in Construction Week.

Top 10 Green Building Bills

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) just announced what it thinks are the Top 10 GREEN bills. Here’s a quick rundown of all 10:
  1. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – More than $80 billion for new, green energy technology and energy efficient programs. This bill is now law. 
  2. The American Clean Energy and Security Act – provides funding for bringing existing structures up to code and reducing carbon emissions. HR 2454 
  3. The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act – HR 2187 – funding to bring public schools up to code. 
  4. The Expanding Building Efficiency Incentives Act – HR 4266 – Tax incentives for installing energy-efficient commercial building measures. 
  5. The Property Assessed Clean Energy Tax Benefits Act – HR 4155 - Finance initiatives for homeowners to install energy saving measures. 
  6. Act to Enhance Private Financing for Clean Energy Technology - HR 3836 – Allows private funding for implementation of renewable energy. 
  7. The Energy Efficiency Modernization Act – HR 4099 – Promotes energy efficiency for those in federal housing to improve resident affordability. 
  8. Water Accountability Tax Efficiency Reinvestment Act – HR 1908 – reduces water waste through tax incentives. 
  9. Livable Communities Act – (pending introduction) proposes $4 billion for sustainable initiatives, including housing, transportation and green energy efficiency. 
  10. Federal Personnel Training Act – (pending introduction) proposal to fund training on federal workers in green technology and green building techniques.


Malawi Women Bring Solar Technology to Villages

This demonstrates how valuable women are in building our world.  In my head, I'm hearing, "Give a man a fish...feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish...feed him for a lifetime.

If you lived in a village that used parafin for lighting, what would it mean to you to suddenly the ability to generate light with solar technology? It would mean everything.

The Center for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE) chose 6 semi-literate Malawi women and trained them to become solar engineers in the Barefoot College of India. They learned the fundamentals of solar energy and how to build and install the new technology in their own villages.

Kudos to CCODE for their progressive thinking and kudos to these new women solar engineers. The world just got a little bit brighter.

Is India's Solar Mission Achievable - The Market Perspective

Build it Sister!

YouthBuild: Constructing a Brighter Future for Low-Income Teens

Giving underprivileged girls and boys a chance for a brighter future is the goal behind one of the most successful construction programs in the United States today.

What started as a glimmer of hope for kids in East Harlem in 1978, is now one of New York City’s most impressive youth training programs of all time. Designed to provide young women and young men with a set of construction skills to transform their lives from poverty to triumph, YouthBuild offers more than just hands-on training. It encompasses an entire educational program to transform young lives.

Funded through private donations and grants from the US Department of Labor (DOL), YouthBuild provides construction opportunities for teens who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to develop marketable skills.

Builder Chicks supports YouthBuild 100-percent. We’ll be bringing you announcements of future events that you can take part in and covering the success stories of YouthBuild construction projects around the nation.

Will the Home Star Program Help Your Construction Business?

We surely hope so.

With the nation still in the grasp of an economic recession, Congress is now considering the Home Star Bill that could provide the funding to create as many as 168,000 new jobs.

The program will offer rebates to citizens who install energy-saving appliances and take part in weatherizing their homes. This could be a big boost for the construction industry but in order to be effective, we must get the word out to our clients.

Learn about the program and approach former clients who have expressed interest in energy-saving technology now. If you can provide the actual figures for savings, you could get some new clients.

The details are not finalized yet, but the program would separate energy saving measures into categories, classified under "Silver Star" or "Gold Star" depending upon the type of energy saving measures the homeowner chooses.

Check back with Builder Chicks as we follow this bill. We'll bring you the latest developments as they happen.

Until then,
Build it Sister!

How's the Building in Your Neck of the Woods?

In Kansas City last month (January 2010), residential construction rose by 26%, but the biggest news, and not good news, is that all other forms of construction took a dive.

Non-residential construction in KC was down 59% last month, compared to January of 2009. Needless to say, that does not bode well for some of the bigger contractors who then send smaller crews on jobs the little contractors depend upon.

Let's get out there and get this thing talked up. A rise in the economy depends upon new construction starts. It's like a house built of cards, one card falls over knocking down the rest...until one card simply refuses to fall. That stops the collapse.

Get out there and be the card that refuses to fall. Talk it up. Encourage your clients to build or remodel now.

Looking for Green Jobs?

So are we!

Last year, the White House designated $500 million dollars to bring green job opportunities to the nation's rising unemployed workers.

That’s quite a chunk of change and we should be able to look around and see at least a little benefit in some sectors. Problem is, no one’s seeing it.

Claudia Rowe, from the Institute of Southern Studies, asks the administration, “Where are the Green Jobs?”

Now, a full year later, record numbers of workers are still unemployed and the green jobs are nowhere to be found.

Construction Opportunities for Women on the Rise?

With the coming retirement of the Baby Boomers, economists predict a rise in demand for jobs in the trades industries, specifically in construction.

Needless to say, this opens a whole new vista for females wanting to build careers in construction.

Business Global suggests an average skilled electrician can make approximately $70,000 a year, depending upon where she lives.

For young women thinking about a career in the construction industry, now is the time to starting paving the road to a fulfilling career.

Take math and construction-related courses, learn the business end of running a contracting company and work on a jobsite whenever possible.

When the next wave of demand for construction workers hit - you'll ride the wave with ease.

What's Your Management Style?

I’m lucky enough to know a few dozen female contractors, through years of networking, conventions and late night phone calls. At a dinner in NYC a few years ago, the topic came up about the differences between male and female contractors on a construction project. 

While everyone had a slightly different experience, one aspect was common, the women dropped small hints to the workers once or twice before coming right out and stating what was wanted.

One contractor shared her story of trying to get a young male carpenter to take more time on his finish work. She would inspect the job with him in tow, talking pleasantly but pausing to notice a rough spot on wood trim or to run her fingers over a hole the carpenter forgot to fill. It was her hope that the young man would see that she was discovering these small flaws and pay more attention to his work.

Unfortunately, the carpenter did not change. His work wasn’t poor, but it lacked finesse. Finally, the contractor took him aside and mentioned the problem. The young man was surprised. When told that she had tried to get the point across to him by touching or feeling the errors, he admitted that the hints had gone right over his head. He never made the connection.

The rest of the women contractors could identify with that and they all shared similar stories. 

Why do we feel the need to hint around before getting to the point? Maybe something we learned a long time ago about not hurting anyone’s feelings. 

At any rate, it’s counterproductive and can detract from the construction project. So the next time you’re inclined to drop a hint, don’t waste your time. Point out the problem and offer a solution. You’ll save time and that will save money.

Starting Young in Construction with Block Kids

The Santa Clara chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) recently sponsored a LEGO building competition for students in grades first through sixth.

The children were allowed 45 minutes in which to create their architectural masterpieces with one hundred LEGO blocks, a rock, a piece of string and a bit of foil. Through imagination and a fun hands-on activity, children, both girls and boys, got the opportunity to experience the thrill of designing and constructing their own project.

The kids of today are the architects, contractors and carpenters of the future.

To arrange for a Block Kids Building Day in your community, contact the NAWIC, for more information.

Women Top Men at Keeping Their Jobs

This is a bittersweet turn of events. While women are holding onto their jobs better than men are during the creeping recession that started in 2007, no one wants to see anyone, male or female, lose their job. Not only are women less likely to lose their job - currently there are more women in the workforce than there are men.

So what's behind this trend? At the University of Chicago, economics expert, Casey B. Mulligan, has been carefully tracking the employment trends. Mulligan believes that historian decades from now will point to this anomaly with interest. Never before have there been more women employed than men.

So, while this is a day for the record books, it's too soon to congratulate our sister co-workers, not when their brothers, sons and fathers are unemployed.

The Pros and Cons of Construction Estimating Software

It's every woman contractor's dream to be able to open up a software program, enter a few dimensions and have an immediate printout of her material's list and hourly labor requirements.

While construction estimating software plays a valuable role in figuring bids, it doesn't do it all by itself. The contractor must input a number of parameters and she may have to update them frequently, as well.

  • Materials: Some estimating programs link to a national database for materials prices and update the list constantly. But if prices in your community vary much, you bid may be off.
  • Labor: You must not only enter the average number of hours it take you, or your crew, to complete a specific job, such as taping out drywall or installing bathroom fixtures, you must enter each employee's wage. If some workers are much faster than others, your program may register a big discrepancy.

    However, if you're spending too much time figuring your estimates and you have an office staff, you may benefit from having them monitor material prices changes in the program .

    Good programs aren't cheap and there is often a steep learning curve. But they're still less expensive than hiring an independent estimator. The caveat here is research and buy with care.

    Stretching to Avoid Construction Injuries?

    Why not?

    Many construction projects are no different than playing sports. All good coaches recommend at least a brief stretching period before taking part in the strenuous stuff and for good reason; a long muscle is a strong muscle. And it's less likely to be injured.

    Building is no different, especially if you're going to be framing walls, roofing or installing drywall. You bend, lift, reach, stretch and twist your body as you build.

    Protect your muscles by stretching gently before starting your day and during breaks.

    A few good construction stretches:

    • Face a wall with one foot in front of the other. Lean forward, bracing yourself with your hands and keep your back leg straight, stretching your Achilles tendon. Switch legs and repeat.
    • Standing, clasp your hands together behind your back and bend forward at the waist .Lift your arms high behind you to stretch your upper back and shoulders. Stand up, relax, roll your head slowly and repeat.
    • Plant feet shoulder width apart and raise your arms to the side to form a "T". Twist gently as far as you can to one side, then to the other to loosen your midsection.
    • Take your coffee break on the floor. Sit with legs extended straight in front of you and gently stretch your torso towards your legs. Repeat.
     Five minutes is all you need to reduce your risk of pulling a muscle. Commit now to be a safer, and more flexible builder. Your body will thank you.

    Construction Scholarships for Women

    Finding sources of financial aid for construction education can be tough, especially if you're a female. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) know this and they make a valiant effort to help other women achieve their dreams of getting a degree in the building trades.

    Each year, the NAWIC offers women seeking financial assistance a chance to go to school. With a number of scholarships, totally $25,000 each year, I guess we can safely say that the women of NAWIC mean business.

    Apply for a general scholarship or submit an essay if you're currently an undergrad with dreams of a career in the construction trades.

    The deadline is March 15th, so it's time to download the applications and get started.

    A big thank you goes out to NAWIC for making this sholarship available to those who will one day help society build a better future.


    Breaking the Mold

    It wasn't that long ago when women who dared to enter the construction industry were ridiculed, insulted and had their sexuality publicly questioned. Today we live in a different world. More females are successfully following their dream of working in the construction industry.

    From carpenters and masons and from contractors and company owners, women are entering the construction industry at full force and there's no turning back.

    This blog celebrates women in the construction industry, shares their stories and offers advice and educational resources.

    Build it Sister!