Tough job for glaziers in New Orleans
To read last week's article about rebuilding New Orleans, click here.
Photos by Judy Wharton, Alabaster, Ala.
Despite all the work to be done in post-Katrina New Orleans, some glaziers say it’s not worth the trouble.
Long delays in payment, competition from unlicensed contractors, and labor and material shortages top the list of challenges for contract glaziers in-state or out-of-state.
“I quit going down there,” says Larry Boucon, owner and manager of Pro-Door Glass & Mirror in Mooringsport, La. “We were there within two weeks of the storm and did a job for a hospital. We ruined a truck going through debris, and it took nine months to get paid.”
Unlicensed contractors present another problem for glass companies, Boucon says. “If you’re an unlicensed contractor that’s just driving around with a pickup and an A frame, you can make some good money. But, here I have to pay for licensing, and I have to pay my guys well.”
Since the storm, many reports have come out about unlicensed contractors who produce low-quality work that requires less time and use cheaper products that often don’t meet building codes. Darryl Traylor Sr., owner of Glassman of Louisiana LLC in Chalmette, La., says his company went back to reclad much of the city’s Dominion Tower because of botched jobs by such contractors.
Warren Basco, vice president and manager for Glass Systems Inc. in Port Barre, La., says the best protection glaziers can get while doing New Orleans jobs is to get half of the payment down before any work is done.
“You have to be careful,” Basco says. “People first went down, did work right away and relied on the insurance companies to get paid. On many of those jobs, the insurance company is still trying to figure out whether it was flood damage or wind damage, and whether it’s even covered.”
Many glaziers such as Basco and Traylor continue to work in the city and say their biggest challenge is finding qualified employees. If they are able to find good employees, they pay dearly to keep them, Traylor says. “The average guys get $4 more per hour after the storm than before,” he says.
The tight labor market has pushed average wages for construction works to $1,000 per week, according to the April Katrina Index, published by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center of New Orleans, and the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington, D.C.
Once a glazing company gets on a job, managers often feel pressure from general contractors and owners to complete the project quickly. An ongoing material shortage makes this near impossible, Basco says.
“General contractors and owners need to realize that we’ve had hurricanes from Florida to Texas, and everyone is still recovering,” Basco says. “All materials are backed up. … It’s not the glass installers lead time, it’s supply and demand, and there isn’t enough supply.”
- By Katy Devlin, e-newsletter editor, e-glass weekly