A Construction Mobile App Would Have Helped

FieldLens COO Matt Sena proves that even the smallest construction spaces can benefit from a mobile construction app. A tiny bathroom remodel becomes a big issue when communication and collaboration are inefficient.

Living in NYC, you quickly get used to small spaces and the perils of living in close quarters with your neighbors.  Throw in an old building and you could have a recipe for trouble. Recently our upstairs neighbor let a leak linger for a few weeks and we were treated to a bathroom ceiling collapse. Sure, a pain in the neck, but being relatively new to home ownership and repairs, my fiancé (now my wife) and I thought fixing a 50-square foot bathroom meant simple construction. Wrong.

The construction guys over here at FieldLens are always telling me that the smallest jobs can be even more complex than the big ones, and after experiencing the pain involved in this simple repair, I believe them. The fact of the matter is that even on a tiny job like this, there were nearly a dozen different people communicating back and forth, a host of unforeseen problems, an extensive punchlist and even some safety issues! The frustration, the delays, and the lack of relevant information when it mattered on this “easy fix” is a microcosm of what construction professionals and their clients are experiencing every day, and this is exactly the problem FieldLens aims to solve.

This experience made me extra passionate about getting FieldLens into the hands of construction professionals to help make their jobs easier and more efficient, and everytime I walk into that bathroom, all I can think of is how much easier FieldLens would have made my life on even this tiny job.

The way it started…

We initially thought the job would require a simple ceiling patch. Turns out that the entire ceiling and part of the wall needed to be replaced due to all the moisture that had collected. The wiring for our ceiling light was saturated and needed to go. As a bonus, the collapse itself damaged the floor tiles and the bathtub! So right out of the gate we needed demolition work to rip out the damaged materials, drywall installation, tiling work, electrical wiring and bathtub reglazing. Here’s a look at what our bathroom looked like after the collapse:

…and then it spread…

Of course when pulling down the ceiling and walls, our contractors found mold. Though I didn’t have any idea what I’d be looking for, I came home from work to check, while my GC called in his mold subcontractor. Work stopped and waited for them to arrive, inspect and then treat.

A few days later, when the tiles were pulled up, I got another call at work. Turns out my concrete subflooring had mostly turned to sand over the preceding half a century, was unsafe to walk on and definitely not a great base on which to lay the new tile down. Work stopped, again. I came home, again. I took a two second look, agreed it needed to be done, and construction continues after they poured new concrete.

And ended…and ended…and, finally, really ended…

construction crew punchlist

Finally, towards the end of the second week on what was supposed to be a 4-day repair, the work was nearly done. For our 50-square foot bathroom, we had a handwritten punchlist of at least 10 items. We wrote them down and then drafted an email to send to our GC describing where they were located and detailing each problem, which he then relayed to his crew. Here’s the handwritten list we were working off of:

The “final day” turned into an extra three days of trying to get the details right- back and forth between myself and the GC and his crew. Luckily we had a pretty friendly relationship- but I could imagine how tense this situation could become.

How it all could have been easier and faster with a little mobile communication…

It could have been a lot better, even on this tiny job. As the owner, I could have been receiving pictures or video of new issues as they came up. Instead of rushing home to personally inspect mold damage, I could have given the go-ahead from my desk or smartphone. I also could have known what I was walking into each day, such as the unsafe floor condition making our bathroom unusable for two days.

Our general contractor could have been communicating with his crew in real-time. Even for his relatively small company, he had employees working on 5-6 other jobs throughout Manhattan- every time an issue came up at any one of them he had to head over to that site.

And obviously our punchlist could have been managed- instead of writing down a list, emailing it to our GC, having him relay it to his crew and waiting for my evening sign-off, all could have been much smoother and more efficient. Several times the work wasn’t done to our satisfaction, and workers had to come back the following day- all dragging out the process. If I had real-time information to react to, a lot of this back and forth could have been eliminated, saving the GC and his crew time (and therefore money) and us plenty of frustration!