Any time someone breaks in to your jobsite and steals something, you feel violated," says Shanta Bulkin, owner of Shanta Design/Build in San Francisco. Bulkin says that the few times it's happened to his company, the guys working on the job haven't been "right" for up to two weeks afterward.
Of course, there's no ignoring the financial side either. Tools and materials are costly to replace, and if you show up at a site in the morning and something is missing, "your whole day is off," Bulkin says. Here are some tips for avoiding the hassle, inconvenience, and economic impact of jobsite theft.
Be prepared. Before work begins, decide on how you'll secure the house and the jobsite, then fine-tune the plan throughout the project.
Don't overlook the small things. Bulkin's crew is told to never leave the door unlocked unless they can see it.
Take it home ... Crew members at Shanta Design/Build take their tools home with them at the end of every day.
... Or lock it up. Store larger tools on site in secure boxes. Deana Bond, chief production manager at Harrell Remodeling in Mountain View, Calif., says her crews establish a "safe area" -- usually a room in the house -- where materials like tiles, lighting, and bathroom fixtures can be stored out of sight.
Limit access. Scaffolding can become a ladder for an ambitious crook. Bulkin insists that all windows accessible from scaffolding be locked at the end of the day, even if the homeowners left them unlocked in the morning. If the window locks need fixing or replacing, Shanta Design/Build offers to do it -- often at no charge.
Deter would-be thieves. Harrell Remodeling occasionally puts up 8-foot-high fences around their larger projects. Bulkin posts signs on the scaffolding warning of potential danger. "Anything to give people the idea that it's not something you want to fool around with," he says.
The best deterrent, Bulkin says, is to create the image of a well-watched-over jobsite. He instructs his employees to keep the site as neat as possible -- so neat, in fact, that it doesn't look like any work is going on. Additionally, keeping a clean site shows the neighbors that you're mindful of them, and they, in turn, will look out for you.
Your company probably has insurance to cover construction theft, but it shouldn't take the place of security precautions. Bill Medina of Medina Construction in Salina, Kan., recalls that when his company had several thousand dollars worth of tools and equipment stolen, he chose not to make an insurance claim, because of the skyrocketing premiums that would result.
And even when the police do catch the culprit, it can be of little help to you. Police recovered items stolen from Medina but held them as evidence.
"We ended up replacing them and hoping that we'd get them back sometime down the line." They didn't, and Medina says he suspects that the items were sold at public auction.