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Unread 12-07-2018, 12:03 PM   #1
feh
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Do you have full time helpers?

...And is it worth it???

I've read through some previous posts on this topic, but I was curious how many of you have full time helpers? And how did you come to find them??? If you work alone, how bad of a beating does your body take, and can you make a decent wage taking longer doing a job solo?

We had a helper, very reliable in that he showed up every day and could install some different types flooring--but not tile. He ended up quitting because we couldn't promise him 40 hours a week once we started doing a lot more tile work. I paid for him to have access to NTCA training and videos and told him I would pay him to get some education when we had shorter weeks but he would never do it. He also had to be watched because he loved to cut corners--never did have the high standards my partner and I held ourselves to. Ended up at a commercial installation company and loves it--grout "hides" lippage and bad workmanship, shoe mold holds down plank on floors, ya know, quality!

Anyways, we have been without a helper and in some ways it is a blessing but in other ways it has cut into our work/life balance. But we have never had good luck with helpers and are apprehensive about going through the time and trouble to find and train someone who is going to quit in a week or show up but not actually want to work. And where to even start to look for a helper that isn't a friend of a friend or a friend's kid or the like?

What has worked for y'all?
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Unread 12-08-2018, 11:11 AM   #2
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Welcome to the club.

I'm far more efficient with a helper. I went through a number of helpers until I found Gary who worked for me for 10 years. Great guy.

Took me 2 years to find a decent replacement who is just about to retire.
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Unread 12-08-2018, 04:08 PM   #3
Just In Tile LLC
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Never have had a fulltime helper when I started my company in Texas, I have hired friends/family on more labor intensive parts of a job.

Have a guy I like working with now but he also does oilfield work on occasion. At first it was hard because my mind is geared for solo, after he works with me for a week or two we have a good rhythm and we get a lot more done, well worth him being there.


My future outlook though is pretty much solo. Less headache in a lot of areas, and with the trades slowly meshing together with products taking less labor and skill I could see more one man home remodelers in the future, or maybe 1 guy who hires other solo tradesmen.


Yes having no helper is not as efficient but it seems that the trend in my area at least is it doesn't matter. Less and less people to choose from for a given task and still be happy with the work. I could also see a trend of waiting longer and longer for certain people simply because you know it'll be right.
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Unread 12-12-2018, 07:14 AM   #4
tilemanct
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In my area it is almost impossible to find a young person who wants to do manual labor. When you do find someone you are basically paying someone to text and smoke or vape. One young man couldn't understand why it was wrong to vape in a customers house. He felt it was his break he could do whatever he wanted. He didn't last the day.
Its a catch 22 situation with helpers.
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Unread 12-12-2018, 06:43 PM   #5
Raymond S
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Yeah, you pretty much need one to mix and fetch, maybe even cut, but they will eventually go out on their own and become your competitor if you teach them too much. Been there, more than once.
Put an out of work guy to work during the flood recovery here. Couple of weeks later he had saved up enough to buy some tools to work for himself. Called back a couple of months later to see if he could come back to work so he could learn how to build showers.
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Unread 12-12-2018, 08:24 PM   #6
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I have a helper and 2 other installers. Sometimes I wish I didn't.
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Unread 12-13-2018, 08:31 PM   #7
Simplyjames
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Helper / basic setter makes perfect sense if you consider how much time is spent setting up and tearing down the various work stations needed. If I have a cutting and mortar station set up outside, snap cutter table in the bathroom and 900 miles of drop cloths laid out, I may as well have two guys using it all instead of just one.
I do understand the distain for incompetence. Stupid helpers just drain the whole day. A helper needs to be able to set tile to some extent, otherwise he’s not worth having.



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Unread 12-13-2018, 09:24 PM   #8
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It is important to get a good groove going too. Not everyone can just work with anyone.
If you don’t like working with a helper, you may just have the wrong guy.
I primarily do backsplashes and we have gotten the process extremely efficient. I’ll walk in with drop cloths and exchange niceties with the homeowner while my helper brings in the tile and then sets up a work station outside. Ten minutes later, tarps are in place and mortar is slaking. I pop off outlet plates and tape receptacles while he tapes and papers the counters. I’ll do a quick layout while he sorts and stacks tiles on the covered counters. I then mark the Schluter strips and give them to him in exchange for a whipped up bucket of mortar. By the time I have a scratch coat on the first area, he has the cut Schluter strips back in the house. He will then start backbuttering tiles while I start plunking them up. After two rows of tile are up across the entire length, he’ll start the third and fourth rows which is generally the outlet cuts. By this time, I’m running a ledger board behind the stove and making the connection to counter on the other side. I’ll then circle back to where he has the third and fourth row finished and plunk up the rest of the tile above it. Mortar gets dumped onto a piece of cardboard and I work from that, doing the rip cuts along the upper cabinets. He goes out to clean buckets and load everything back into the car. I’m usually setting the last few tiles as he’s coming in to wrap up tarps.
What’s interesting is that all this just happens. We never talk about what we do or how to do it and have never discussed a strategy for splashes. It’s all just intuitive.
It helps that he seems to think exactly how I do. This rapid splash setting has become an extremely fun game. I’m always trying to beat my last time. After this many years, I need to do something to stay entertained.


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Unread 12-14-2018, 12:09 PM   #9
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James that is how the guy I apprenticed under trained me I just can't find a helper like I was. Motivated. With carpet when I first started he would hand me the drawing when I got in the truck and ask me where I thought we should start, I was wrong for a while but after learning the order of operations I got it and most of the time it was same as he was thinking. He always told me think about this work like chess not checkers alway think about what you are going to do/need next and never walk out to the trailer or come in from outside with out something in your hand, and whatever it is don't let it be your phone, he would take it away and put it in his glove box till the end of the day. Hardest man I ever worked for but definitely made me the installer I am today. At the end of my first day he told me to go home and look up the definition of meticulous and if I couldn't recite it verbatim without reference in the morning I should bother showing up
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Unread 12-14-2018, 01:21 PM   #10
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Wow. Old school indeed. Love the chess vs. checkers thing. Basically, just don’t be stupid.


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Unread 12-14-2018, 02:37 PM   #11
tilemanct
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Wow Shawn, he must have a brother cause that was exactly the how the guy who I apprenticed with trained me! He always talked about the job first and the plan of attack. The most important guy who trained me though was my dad who was not in the business. He was an ex marine who taught me "how" to work. Was the best training I ever had.
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Unread 12-14-2018, 07:26 PM   #12
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Semper Fi to your pops, I too am a marine and my grandpa was a drill in the Marines in 1950 I was over prepared for boot camp. And to answer the OP I have worked by myself for last 7 years I had a few helpers before that but could never find someone that would treat my company and reputation like their own. Good enough was the attitude most of them had, or they couldn't be on time. That is one of my biggest pet peeves. I use to ask if you worked at sprint would you show up 15 mins late? Well no. So why do you think it is ok to be late with me? That normally didn't get a response so I would tell them to go home and we could try again tomorrow. I would tell them don't be late and smile, then go back in the house. I have had even more problems with the "I am a tile setter or experienced carpet installer" There is a lot of "your're not going to leave that like that are?" "Or who taught you to do it like that?" Thise are the guys I can't leave alone cause they start doing it their way as soon as you turn around. I don't get things done as fast as a crew but I have worked by myself for so long I developed ways to be more efficient like mixing thinset in the room and set my sigma up as close as possible to make most of my cuts. I set the wet saw up on most jobs but 95% of my cuts are on the sigma. Before anyone freaks about the mixing indoors I use the Bosch vac140A I clamp the hose with my knee pad and a wireless remote on the vac, I turn it on when I pour in to the bucket and then while mixing until there is no dust then turn it off.
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Unread 12-15-2018, 10:03 AM   #13
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I always had at least one helper until I was 65 when I partially retired. From that point I took my RV north in the summers and worked part time when I returned. Took only jobs that I could do myself and told customers that I was the slowest guy they could hire. I didn't get in a hurry, and nobody bitched at me. After years of having others to worry about it was a relief to work alone. I do recommend a helper for full-time tile work.
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Unread 12-17-2018, 06:07 PM   #14
feh
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Seems like many things are universal, no matter where we are from! I guess that is just people haha.

My partner was spoiled early on, before I came into the biz, having one of those partners where they didn't even have to talk, they just had a good working rhythm and would fly through jobs. He went off on his own, as he was so skilled.

And yeah, you'll get someone who wants to do things his "own" way, or who doesn't take the standards of your business seriously. Argggh.

At least it's a comfort to know y'all have the same type of experiences b ut managed to find ways to make things mostly work out
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Unread 12-17-2018, 08:03 PM   #15
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I only have tile setters. No time to train the unwilling these days.
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