I'll probably come up with a couple more posts about my contracter before this is all over, he's finally back in touch and doing some work for us. It's always interesting having him around, especially when I can reflect on how work we do with him can relate to good or really bad project management.
This time I might as well take the blame.
We asked Fernando to install two wall unit air conditioners in each of our daughters small and stuffy rooms. For reasons I wont go into, window unit A/C's were not an option and fans weren't cooling down the rooms enough (nothing like getting woken up at 2am by a very sweaty baby, I felt terrible about it and we had to fix it as soon as possible).
So, what went wrong? Well, the air conditioners were cemented into the walls and put through to the back, but without a sleeve to hold them. So, two big problems here - the mechanics in the back of the A/C are exposed and not protected by the elements, and there is no easy way to remove the A/C if and when it breaks down. How did this big (expensive) mistake happen? A serious of bad decisions...
Let's start with the purchase of the appliances. My husband (who is a wonderful father and very intelligent and talented in his field of English Literature, but not exactly a handy fixit kindof guy) went to buy the wall units. Ideally we would have went online beforehand and picked out exactly what we wanted and done the research to help us figure out what accessories we needed, but we didn't.
Mistake #1: Lack of research & planning.
We rushed to get the A/Cs so that Fernando's guy could install them ASAP, and before the next brutal heatwave. Apparently wall units are sold without the sleeves, because they assume you might already have one in the wall. So, the sales guy was happy to sell us the A/C, but when my husband asked if he needed anything else, the guy said absolutely not.
Mistake #2: Bad communication and transfer of knowledge (assuming that the sales guy knew exactly what our situation was and would know enough to make the right recommendations).
So, we purchased two nice new wall unit A/Cs and brought them home (without the sleeve, of course). Fernando came by to look it over and raised the red flag. He said we bought the wrong thing, these were without a sleeve and we could not put them into the wall without one. I think it was morning when we came to this realization, and I was juggling getting the girls dressed and fed and getting my own stuff together so that I could get everyone where they needed to be and myself to work on time, and had not planned for this little hitch in my schedule. So, I wasn't focusing enough on the problem and trusted that Fernando would be able make everything ok. We looked through the box and took out all the pieces. I asked Fernando if there was any way to make it work, or what we should do. He said he'd figure something out. Sounded good to me... I dashed downstairs, fed the girls and got us all out the door.
Mistake #3: Rushing the schedule and not taking the time to properly reflect on the issue at hand and manage the new risks of the project.
So, Fernando's guy (who is an electrician by trade and not an A/C installation expert) started working on putting the holes in the wall. Within a couple of days the units were in the wall. The units were cemented back in, so no chance of anything sliding out. When I went to look at the work that was done, it was only then that I realized how important that sleeve was, because I saw the 3-4 inches of mechanics exposed in the back of the A/C. I asked Fernando if this was going to be a problem and he said only in the winter. So, he promised to get it covered by winter.
The next day my neighbors (one of whom is an expert in heating & air conditioning I have recently learned) raised about 10 red flags and told me that we needed to cover that A/C as soon as possible, before the first rain. So, now I have my contractor (who I've trusted for many years) telling me one thing and our neighbors (who we also trust) telling me another. I'm just using common sense here and figuring my neighbor is probably right. Another issue that my neighbor mentioned and I'm kicking myself for not realizing sooner is that if we ever needed to remove the unit, we'd have to break through all that concrete. Without a sleeve, there's no easy way to get the units out of the wall.
So, what was the end result? We cut our losses and decided that rather than remove both units from the wall now to put in a sleeve (and risk breaking the new units while separating from the concrete), we'd cover the exposed parts of the units and 5-10 years from now (hopefully not sooner) when they break down for good, we'll break the concrete and put the sleeves in.
I regret not spending more time to properly think the whole process through and expecting that each player would know exactly what to do. At this point I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the units aren't damaged by the rain we've had in the last couple of weeks and we can atleast salvage our investment.
The bright side is that I learned some great lessons. I try to be super careful with planning, risk management and communication with the software projects I manage from 9 to 5 (I only wish it was from 9 to 5!) but maybe it's time to be more careful with the stuff that happens after 5.