When your country calls you to do a job, how much should you charge?
That was the predicament Dick Krach, CEO of Sundek of Washington, came face to face with when his secretary fielded a call from someone at a “white house” concerning a pool deck that needed repair and some sprucing up. Turns out it wasn’t just some white house but rather the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“I mean, how much do you charge the president of the United States? Do you overcharge him because he has lots of money? Do you do the work for free?” Krach asks. In the end, he decided, it was best to charge the White House residents exactly what he would regular homeowners to install an acrylic overlay.
The Chantilly, Va., contractor remembers his initial meeting on April 15, 2010. At the first gate, security guards examined his driver’s license, made him get out of the car, opened all the doors and looked under the hood. After a thorough search, which included a security wand detector, they gave him his license back and told him to proceed to the next gate. There, the guards called the White House engineer to confirm Krach’s appointment and then opened “this massive gate” and instructed him to get a pass at the guard house beyond.
The engineer, Brian Rock, arrived and told Krach he needed temporary repairs to the pool deck “so the Obama girls would not cut their feet,” Krach recalls. The plan was to patch the deck in late April 2010 and then complete the entire job when the family was on vacation in June.
Krach later sent Rock an estimate on his company’s letterhead, which the chief usher at the White House initialed and returned. “I was expecting a contract to be something with about 50 pages,” he says. But the simple, signed document sufficed.
Government red tape
After arriving late April 27 due to traffic, Krach and a three-man crew — including Sundek of Washington president Armando Hernandez — encountered one delay after another. At the first gate, the guards checked every nook and cranny possible, even using mirrors that allowed them to see underneath the vehicle, and scrutinized the crew’s personal information, including Social Security numbers and birth dates. “The security at the White House is extremely strict, as you can imagine,” Krach says, “but the guards are very nice and courteous through the whole ordeal.”
By the time Krach and his crew made it to the third security gate, the crawl slowed to a stop because the president had to catch a 10 a.m. flight on his helicopter. “While we had great seats to watch, this put us an hour behind,” laments Krach.
When they finally got to work, they did so under the watchful eyes of White House engineers, as well as Uncle Sam’s security guards armed with AK-47s.
Delays were par for the course, Krach says. Besides the helicopter encounter, he and his crew had to clear the way so Vice President Joe Biden could accompany a disabled veterans’ bicycle-racing group on a tour and again so the first lady could work in the garden.
Still, the crew managed to finish the initial repairs in time for the Obamas to host a pool party that Saturday. Later, they returned June 14 to clean and texture the deck, only to have to repeat those steps again later in the week because of rain. Even with all the delays, Krach says, “We finished on schedule and everyone was pleased with the work.”
The job, which involved Sundek’s Classic Texture in Franciscan Tan, could best be described as very ordinary, Krach says. “We do these kinds of overlays on a routine basis every day. We do some fancy coatings but this was definitely a plain Jane.”
The 2010 visit to the White House swimming pool was neither Krach’s first encounter with the swimming pool nor his last.
Back in 1975, Krach was the swimming pool contractor who built the pool and bathhouse for President Gerald Ford. “When I built that pool for Mr. Ford, it was a rush job that took about one month. Back then, I didn’t keep any notes about the project,” Krach says, adding that was something he regretted. “The only thing I have is a picture of Ford and his daughter, Susan, jumping into the pool,” and he’s not even sure where that is these days.
Many years went by and, as fate would have it, Krach’s current company was recommended for the job in 2010 to brighten up the White House pool deck. He says he owes the referral to a “young lady” who works for a chemical supply company with which he’s done business.
“This time, I kept accurate records of everything I did over there and I must have 50 photographs,” he says. “They never gave us any restriction about pictures inside or outside.”
Krach says he’s given his notes and photo collection to his children, “who might be able to do something with them one day.”
This past March, Krach and his three-man team applied the Sundek Classic Texture to a new section of deck that was poured by Clark Construction Group LLC, the project’s Maryland-based general contractor. The new section of deck was part of a beautification package that included a stone retaining wall and new landscaping close to the pool area.
The 2010 job could have been completed in a couple of days, he confides, but they stretched it out all week so guests — like Sundek Products Inc. presidents Mark Stambaugh and Charlie Plunk — could get in on the project.
“Everyone wanted to go with us,” he says with a laugh. “The (corporate) president of Sundek is a history buff and he had the opportunity to tour a good portion of the White House that the general public doesn’t get to see very often. He was very impressed.
“I don’t care who you are,” Krach says. “It was a thrill to work at the White House. The job was easy. The most challenging part was getting in. I made sure I had on my best company shirt and that my car was washed before heading over.”
Project at a Glance
Client: The American people
Decorative Concrete Contractor: Sundek of Washington, Chantilly, Va. | www.sundekofwashington.com
Sundek Project Manager: Dick Krach, CEO, Sundek of Washington
Scope of Project: In April 2010, repair 300 square feet of an existing pool deck by cleaning it and applying a spray texture overlay. In June 2010, apply the spray texture overlay to the entire deck (1,783 square feet). In March 2012, apply the same spray texture overlay to a newly poured section (between 600 and 700 square feet) that widened the original deck.
Most challenging aspect: Getting onto the premises
Materials Used: Sundek Classic Texture in Franciscan Tan