Getting quotes for a deck

Leave a comment

Its strange that we have so much trouble getting quotes for a deck and fence. You would think that, being in the residential design industry that contractors would, if not falling all over them selves to get on our good side, at the very least try NOT to get on our bad side!

Oh, I wish that were true.

Location of future deck

Location of future deck

This shows where the deck will go. The BBQ will be on the deck and the trash cans will have their own little enclosure! The deck will be resting on the asphalt, which slopes, so one end of the deck has to be built up a bit with a step.

We were getting three quotes. 1 from the people who put in the fence on one side of our property Coastal Lumber, 1 from a company who did a gorgeous job with a fence and some gates for the property next to us (we’ll call them “Reuben”) and another from a company that called us out of the blue, Just Wood.

Just Wood came out on time, 2 guys. I was told when I made the appointment that “Alex” knew everything there was to know about fences and decks. I don’t remember which one was Alex but 1 of them was on his cellphone 1/2 the time, not paying any attention to our project. The other guy wanted to spend more time talking about his friends home remodel project than talk about our deck. They tossed off a quote for $12,000 (for a ground-level deck that’s 12×15) then said that there was a springtime sale of 20% off so the total would be $10,000.

$10,000! My mom’s deck cost $4800 and hers was more than 2x as big with stairs and railing and footings AND it’s made out of a more expensive product than what we were asking for. She used a Trex-like material and we’re using redwood.

They also said they’d follow up with a written quote – they finally called just now, 3 WEEKS later, to ask if we still wanted a quote! D’oh. I told them they were over a week too late, we’d hired someone else.

Coastal Lumber came out on time, was professional and followed up with a written quote – which, incidentally, was half, HALF!, of what Just Wood quoted.

Fence that needs replacing.

Fence that needs replacing.

Reuben, ah, Reubon. Reuben’s employee, Jeffrey called me 45 minutes late, at 5:45pm and said he wasn’t going to be able to make it that day. He asked if he could reshedule to the next day, same time. Sure, I said.

Of course, he’s a no-show…and no-call.

I wait another day, thinking I got the day wrong…nope.

I call the company and they’re closed for the day, so I go on their website and, being the gracious, gentle soul that I am, ask them to please confirm when Jeffrey was coming out since I obviously got the time wrong.

A Reuben rep calls the next morning and says they don’t have us on their schedule – and , guess what, Jeffrey doesn’t make his appointments anyway. Oookaaay. No apology, nothing. Nothing about how Jeffrey just decided he wasn’t going to make it and didn’t bother to follow up with his people to make sure we got taken care of. No, nothing like that.

Now the rep is saying that there isn’t anything available until – not next week – the week after that. Fine, whatever, I make the appt for Tueday at 10am.

This bench is in the way.

This bench is in the way.

(We’ll relocate the bench but the plant might get crushed by the deck construction – hopefully it will grow back because it is a lush, colorful plant.)

In the meantime, we received a nice quote from Coastal Lumber and decided to go with them rather than wait another couple weeks for Reuben to get around to seeing us. They did a fine job on our fence – although the marketing guy modified our fence contract because he didn’t understand why we wanted the fence we wanted – he thought we should only want a 5′ high fence…why would he think he knew what we wanted? Fortunately, we caught the error as the first panel was being built. Lesson? DON”T BE GONE DURING CONSTRUCTION OR YOU MIGHT NOT WHAT YOU WANT!!!.

Isn't this a nice fence?

Isn’t this a nice fence?

I call Reuben to cancel the appt and…sure enough, they don’t have us for Tuesday at 10am, they have us for Tuesday at 6pm! They are a mess! I certainly don’t want to hire a company who can’t seem to get 1 appt scheduled properly.

Coastal Lumber starts Wednesday…I’ll keep you updated on what happens then 😉


You get what you pay for.


What about the ones at the bottom? Are they for sale?

There are 3 facets to this post:  1.  Low bids from contractors   2. Acting as your own general contractor  3.  What can make your project cost more

Firstly:  You have construction documents and you are getting bids from contractors.  You get three bids.  One is $100, one is $500 and one is $350.  Do you take the lowest bid?   NO!  There is probably something wrong with that bid and you should scrutinize it with a fine-tooth comb before signing over any money to that contractor. 

What are you checking for, you ask?  Does the bid cover everything on the plans?  Vinyl windows,  radiant heat flooring, tankless water heater, down draft stove, barrel ceiling, basement wine cellar?  Have you told him/her that you are having a tile floor in the laundry room or a vinyl floor?  Granite on the counters or soapstone?  Copper sink or stainless steel?  Special ‘green’ products?  The list is a long one and the possibility for a project- (and heart-) stopping problem is high!

If you really like the contractor, then review the contract very carefully, maybe even have an attorney review the contract with you to make sure you are protected.  You don’t want to have a contractor coming to you during the project and say that the triple pane windows aren’t included or that he didn’t price trenching the electrical conduit to the garage or that the upgraded electrical panel isn’t happening. 

Better than an outhouse, I guess...

I’ve seen contracts that said very little – like “Patio deck, $5,800, 40x20sf”.  Nothing else!  Where’s the info about the step and the railing and the materials and the amount of money to be put down as a retainer and the turn-around-time for the project?  I rewrote the contract with the original information and added all the stuff I wanted included in the contract (and that we had discussed).  Then I presented it to the contractor, he and we signed it and off we went.  He did a great job and we are very happy with the deck.  Contracts are not his strong suit, we know that, and we are so satisfied with his work that we use him over and over – and recommend him to others.   But, would I feel comfortable doing that with someone I don’t know – absolutely NOT.

Was it really gonna cost too much to redo the ceiling lights? Apparently so...

And, don’t you do it, either!  A client just emailed us asking for a referral for an electrician.  Their electrician has done some financially questionable things, claiming items aren’t included in his bid even though they are on the plans and so they’ve lost confidence in him. 

Always, ALWAYS check on the contractor’s license with the Contractor’s State License Board.  Check references, check YELP, check the Better Business Bureau, check anywhere and everywhere you can to try and head off any problems.

Hopefully, you’ve talked with contractors during the ‘design’ phase of the project to get a feel for the contractor and an idea of the construction cost and then you meet again when you actually have the construction documents.  And you meet a third time to go over the bid.  This way you’ve begun to develop a relationship.  Remember, it’s a marriage and each party depends on the other to hold up his end of the bargain.

Another story from Rick…quite a few years ago a client up in the hills talked with Rick about the bids he’d received from contractors.  The low bid was 35 grand less than the other bids.  Rick had never heard of the contractor and told our client to be sure the bid included everything.  The homeowner said “Yeah, but $35,000!  That’s the price of a Mercedes!”.  He hired the low bid and, guess what?  That’s right, the contractor started work and after a while, the homeowner noticed that certain items weren’t being done, like trim around the doors.  The contractor didn’t have that stuff in his bid.  But it was on the plans.  The homeowner hired Rick to come to the job site each week to monitor the work and they started pushing the contractor to do what he was obligated to do.  The contractor ended up going bankrupt and leaving the project.  The homeowner had to hire the subs himself to finish the work.  In the end, not only did he pay the $35,000 in real money, he paid much more than that in frustration and headaches. 

Secondly:   You know the old saying ‘he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client’?  Well, that can apply to acting as your own general contractor, too.  We have a few clients each year who are doing their project ‘on the cheap’, so to speak.  If they’ve never managed a construction project before, then they might be in for an unpleasant surprise.  The cost of their construction might not be reduced as much as they’d like.  Here’s why: 

1.  Subcontractors will have little confidence that a newby homeowner can manage the project.  There are many aspects of the job that dovetail together and timing can be critical.  Subs don’t want to be scheduled, then put off, then called in ASAP.  They are working on multiple projects and their timelines can be drastically affected and they could even lose a future job due to a homeowner’s ineptitude. 

Shoulda called the plumber to come extend the pipe to the shower head, beFORE tiling.

A competent general contractor knows how to schedule the flooring, painting, cabinet installation, etc. so that one subcontractor is less likely to damage the work of another subcontractor.  You don’t schedule the cabinet installation when the floor tile is still drying.  You schedule the painter to come in twice, once before the cabinets are installed and then again to do the fine work afterwards.  And the general contractor knows how to handle a conflict between subcontractors, do you?

2.  When a homeowner is a beginner, the subs end up training the homeowner and it costs them time and money to hold his/her hand.  If a subcontractor knows he’ll be dealing directly with the homeowner without the usual buffer of the general contractor, he might charge more for that inconvenience.  There are subcontractors who specifically choose NOT to be general contractors because they don’t want to have to deal with homeowners.

One contractor told me of a client who had researched how to frame a wall and didn’t feel that the contractor was doing it right.  The contractor had to take the time to explain the rules for California, and the rules for the city and why the wall-framing info he’d found online didn’t apply to his job.  Aargh!  What a waste of time and now the contractor is frustrated.  You want your contractor to WANT to come to your job –  if he hates your job, is making no money on it, then watch out. 

The only way to turn off the fan is with the wireless remote. If you can't find the remote, you lose your hand.

3.  Discounts.  General contractors frequently receive discounts with suppliers from whom they buy frequently.  Many contractors pass those savings along to their clients.   Some contractors will use those savings as their buffer for when other costs go up, so they don’t have to turn around and charge the homeowner.  A discount here can offset a price increase there.  Homeowners aren’t going to obtain those same discounts.

Thirdly:  Your project might cost more because you are on a hillside or using products that are unusual or hard-to-find with long lead times.  Maybe you’re in a city that is a pain to deal with – reduced counter hours, grouchy inspectors, weird requirements.  And, yes, pretty much if you’re in Los Gatos or Palo Alto, you’ll be charged more than if you  live on the ‘east side’ (hey, I was raised on the ‘east side’ and loved it…Go Silver Creek Raiders!).  It’s a fact of life – similar to the fact that Macy’s in Valley Fair has different products than the one in Oakridge – it’s the demographics, baby. 

They cut through the plexiglass window rather than go through the wall.

Here are more reasons why a project might cost more:  Look in a mirror.  Can you make a decision?  Are you always looking for a better deal?  There is always a different product, different price, different color, different idea, different size, different EVERYthing.  STOP . LOOKING . AND . MAKE . A . DECISION!  Your inability to decide costs the contractor money.  The contractor wants to be sure you can choose the oven or paint or whatever, when the time comes.  Late product delivery holds up the job.  Don’t let the myriad of choices render you immobile.

Another contractor told us of a client (not one of ours) who couldn’t decide what she wanted and would have him build something, then decide it was too small or short or something and change it, then go on to the next area.  That type of work is fine if you are a contractor without a pipeline (other jobs coming up), but it really only works if the contractor has nothing else to do.

Frequently, it’s the clients who try to bargain like they’re at a flea market who are the ones causing problems in the future.  They drag their feet then try to rush with self-imposed deadlines created because they dragged their feet in the first place.  They use the cheapest contractors, then come running to us to save them when something goes wrong.  They find fault with others and always assume the worst.  Everything is a problem, everything is an emergency and its all someone else’s fault. 

Too cheap to pay for big enough support posts?

We had a client call us to say he was ticked off that there wasn’t a fireplace in the master bedroom.  He’s already in construction.  He’s reviewed the plans and reviewed the plans and gone over them with the contractor when getting the bid.  When did he tell us he wanted a fireplace in the master bedroom?  Even if he told us and we forgot to put it in, he’s been looking at the plans, too.  It’s not something that goes in every house, like a refrigerator!  If we don’t know you want one, you better make sure to tell us.  And don’t act like its our fault, cuz it isn’t. 

Count on your job costing at least 10% over what you think it will cost.  Things happen, products you want are no longer available, paint needs a third coat, the window arrives broken and waiting for it delays something else.   Plus, a general contractor can choose to ‘eat’ a small change order in the name of client satisfaction, whereas having no general contractor on site means the homeowner gets to pay for it.

A tunnel between 2 rooms, what's with the curtain? The paneling, the cardboard? Accomplishing what, exactly?

Well, I guess I got into ‘parental mode’ there for a while.  But sometimes, thinking over the ridiculous things people say can make us, and by ‘us’ I mean ‘me’, irritable.  One client got all huffy because he saw that Rick didn’t hand draw the details for his job.  He felt he wasn’t getting the superior level of service because Rick used a standard detail.  Rick asked the guy, do you really want to pay me to hand draw the plans?  Using standard details means that the contractor won’t have to charge the homeowner for the process of learning how to do something in a new way just for this one job.  Standard details mean less chance of error and standard details means we can charge less because we didn’t have to spend time putting pencil to paper. 

Fun movie...I love what Haley's best friends, who are guys, say the first time they watch her and her teammates compete 'How did we NOT KNOW about this sport?'

Have you ever seen the movie ‘Stick It’?   One of the girls that no ones likes is always mangling words and phrases.  She is going off to do school homework and tries to put down another girl (our heroine)  for not ever graduating.  The other girl says she got her GED when she was 15.  The first girl spouts another put-down and then says “and I don’t see what ‘driving under the influence’ has to do with it.”  Sigh, GED, not DUI, but, really, have you ever tried to correct someone who is so completely wrong?  You start to, you open your mouth to say something and then…you just shut it again, because they simply aren’t going to get it.  

Yeah, that hand-draw-the-details-guy was like that.  He wanted to feel special and felt we were gypping him.  How do you explain to him that hand-drawing these days is not necessarily top-of-the-line service, but probably, in this 3-D design software world, quite the opposite!

This is a creative reuse of an Apple product!

One of the things Rick stresses to his clients is that there is a soft cost to all projects.  That cost is the tuition for learning how to live through a construction project.  It’s not easy, not for the faint of heart.  You’ll do better if you have a good attitude, a sense of humor, the ability to adapt, a rainy-day fund and patience. 

Construction projects are stressful.  Hopefully, by anticipating problems yours will be less so.   Part of the reason I provide these goofy examples is so you can learn from them.  Don’t be afraid but don’t run off half-cocked, either.  Like the Boy Scouts say “Be Prepared”  😉

Photo credit:

How the money works.


I wanna pull money outta this ATM just cuz its so cute!

You have  property and you have construction documents.  You give a set of the plans to the loan officer and the bank will get an appraisal of what the property will be worth with the new addition/house.  You also commit to a certain standard of ‘finishes’, i.e. granite, Corian or Formica countertops?  Tile floors or hardwood or Pergo?  Bosch appliances or GE? 

 The bank will review that appraisal and determine how much loan-to-value exists.  Loan-to-value is the mortgage (financing the property and the loan) divided by the appraised value of the property.  If the value isn’t high enough for the bank, they might ask you to increase your equity in the property by way of throwing cold, hard cash at it assuring them that you have a vested interest in the success of the project – i.e. you won’t walk away when the going gets tough.

I’m not going to go into detail about percentages and amounts and all that (your cue to say ‘thank heaven!’).  There are many different types of loan packages based on the amount of the loan and your FICO score – too many to go over here.

OK, banks also look for a loan-to-cost value – what they will fund and what the project will cost.  They will loan you a percentage of that value.  There is a gap between what the bank will loan and what the project really costs.  YOU must have the funds set aside to fill that gap, plus any cost overruns.  PLUS any cost overruns, ya feel me?

Gotta have a better contingency plan than this!

The bank might assume your current mortgage plus the construction loan and then expect you to refinance when the project is complete. 

Generally, the bank wants the building permit issued prior to issuing the loan.  That means money out of your pocket, although it will be paid back once the loan funds.

 Now, the loan documents are signed, shaking of hands all around.  The bank will fund the loan into an account with your name on it. 

 The bank will give you money from that account based on your ‘draw request’.  Our bank had a form we filled out listing each account line item, what or who the money was for and the amount requested.  There are different processes including online requests so your bank might be different.  You are ‘drawing’ money from the account and you pay interest on that money.  These interest/monthly payments for the loan are taken from a special reserve account each month; you don’t pay for them out of your own pocket.

The first thing you’ll do is figure out what items constitute your first draw of funds from the bank.  You should repay yourself the money you have fronted the project with up to now:  Architectural fees, plan check and permit fees, fees for reports and consultants and the contractor’s retainer.  You did remember to add all those items to your construction costs, didn’t you?

 Then you’ll determine which contractors/subcontractors need to be paid soonest and what products need to be purchased…for instance, you are having your cabinets built by Three Trees Woodshop and you need to give Doug a retainer and a payment towards the purchase of the wood and you are going to have John Joy Studios begin creating the stained glass windows so John needs a retainer.  You’ll list those items on the funds request.

 The bank will send you a check and you will deposit it into your construction account.  Yes, you should create a special checking account for this money.  Getting project money mixed up with your personal funds is a nightmare you don’t want to have, so do what I tell you.

Don't let your files look like this!

You will then write checks as required and provide a copy of the check to your loan officer as proof of payment.

 It’s important to have invoices and copies of checks to provide to the bank.  They get antsy if they think you aren’t as good at record-keeping as they are.  If you squander the money, they get stuck with a white elephant of a property, half-built and harder to unload. 

 You will be allowed a certain number of draws during the course of the project; you won’t be able to pull money out every couple days.  You have to plan and anticipate when you’ll need funds.  Since we were managing our own project, we generally submitted a draw request every 2 weeks or so.  This is something you’ll discuss with your loan officer before the loan papers are signed.

 It helps to keep a spreadsheet of some kind to track your numbers – especially if you are managing your own project.  Each subcontractor will have given you a bid, you signed a contract with them and you will be making numerous payments to them.  Plus you have all the product that you’re buying, what you expect it to cost vs what it DOES cost.

You'll be doing a lot of this...

I used an XL spreadsheet to do the math for me.  That way it’s obvious if you have a cost overrun and need to trim your budget somewhere.  Unfortunately, this isn’t Monopoly.  My sister and I used to have marathon Monopoly games with our friends, they lasted weeks.  We’d have to create our own money in order to keep the game going.  And, yes, we had $500 in the middle and all taxes and fees went there, too.  And if you landed on Free Parking you got it all!

 Your construction loan has a ‘due date’.  If your project isn’t completed by that date, you must BUY an extension to the loan.  This fee amount will differ based on your project, of course, but I’ve heard numbers like $8000 for a loan of about $1,100,000 (which included the land mortgage) with a loan extension of 3 months.

Well, if you're desperate, I suppose this might help...

Oh, yeah, don’t forget to include sales tax in your calculations like I did. That is, unless you plan on buying all your stuff at Orchard Supply Hardware on one of their ‘we pay the sales tax’ weekends.

 Well informed is well armed.  Learn as much as you can about the processes of doing a construction project on your house and you’re more likely to survive with your sanity intact 😉


photo credits:  Mr. Monopoly from:
Messy files = my own credenza, sorry to say 😦    Do as I say, not as I do?  Well, my project file was immaculate!
All others =

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…


“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”*, then you will survive a construction project on your house.

Why is that, you ask?  Well, here are some examples of what kinds of things can happen during a typical project…things that have happened to us and things that’ve happened to our clients:

 We purchased all of our own finishes – lights, sinks, tubs, tile, flooring, doors, windows, you name it.  When the master bathroom sink faucets were being installed (2 sinks), it turned out that one of them leaked and couldn’t be repaired.  Guess what?  They didn’t make that model of faucet anymore (all of 5 months between purchase and installation) and we had to buy new ones – 2 faucets.  We had a perfectly good faucet and one broken one and nowhere to use the good faucet, aargh.

The perfect sink cabinet. Twice as expensive as we planned...

After looking forEVER for a unique bathroom cabinet, something antique-y looking – the design of the house was ‘cottage-style’ with emphasis on everything looking vintage yet fresh – I spent hours online, hours at antique stores, hours at design stores.  I found the perfect one and we stored it in the garage.  Can you guess what happened?  Somehow 2 corners were broken when they went to install it!  Our fault for not checking to see that it was perfect before shlepping it home.  I was very lucky to be able to  find another one. 

Bathroom sink – different bathroom – was 2 inches too wide for the space.  It would have fit, technically, but Code requires a specific distance between the potty and the sink and this wouldn’t have met code.  What happened to make the room 2 inches smaller than on the plans?  Well, we are talking about a ¼ scale plan and 2 inches is a tiny margin of error.  Anyone wanna buy a pedestal sink?

Think anyone will notice?

We bought butler pantry cabinets and they arrived with a broken drawer front – no big deal, we are able to have it replaced, but its just one more thing, isn’t it…

 One bathroom drawer was in the way for the plumbing so it had to be shortened.

 We found this great mosaic tile on sale, during installation we ran short by 1 sheet.  1 LOUSY SHEET!  I ran to 5 stores before I found any in stock.

 We forgot to include a switch for the garbage disposal sink above the kitchen counter, so we had to have one added under the sink.

They said I didn't order enough, but I ended up with left overs, hmmm?

Once the beautiful bamboo floor was installed, the guys put down a heavy layer of paper to protect it.  In spite of that, someone tracked some sort of adhesive ALL OVER THE HOUSE.  I spent hours and hours scrubbing it off – using goo-gone to start with and advancing to ever-stronger solutions with scrubby sponges, paint scrapers and prayer.  Hours and HOURS!  A couple spots absolutely refused to come off completely and I marred the floor in 1 spot – I was sick to my stomach for days about it.

 We didn’t think about how the lower cabinet in the laundry room should open and it is backwards, which is inconvenient.

 The beautiful vinyl, double-paned windows are installed and all of them are sliders with the exception of 1, it has a hand-crank.  By the time we go to sell the house, the crank is misplaced and we have to order a new one, it comes in, it’s the wrong style, we have to reorder.  I can’t complain much since Anderson sent the replacement out for free. 

 I definitely learned to keep items like this in a safe place and labeled properly!  Otherwise you’ll pull out some weird doohickey and wonder what the heck it’s for?  Shall I toss it, should I keep it?  3 years later you still don’t know what it’s for so you finally throw it away.  Then, and only then, do you need it.

Ryan is such a good worker!

 Garage door installation occurs prior to electricity being hooked up at the garage (a trench we forgot to have dug, so we recruit our kids and their friend to dig it).  Of course, we can’t have it tested – no electricity.   And, naturally, it doesn’t work when we do test it and we have to call the installers to come fix it.

 I called AT&T to come out and hook up a phone.  I wait all day for the technician who never shows.  I again called AT&T to give them a piece of my mind (which I can ill afford to lose) and they say no appointment was ever made!  Aargh!

...such a destructive and hungry little cuss!

We have gophers…in our pristine, gorgeous new sod…gophers are digging between the emerald carpet of sod and the dirt >sigh<  I consider using TNT.

 There is a tremendous amount of waste in a big project.  For instance, if you buy moulding, it comes in certain lengths, let’s say 14’ lengths.  You have a room that is 13×12, then you are tossing 1 foot and 2 feet with every cut.  And there is not one thing you can do about it.  You’ll have a pretty big pile of moulding by the end.  Maybe you can find a use for it, I couldn’t. (not the guy I contacted)

When we had a tree taken down I tried to find someone who would like the lumber.  A guy in Santa Cruz does carvings with a chain saw on big tree trunks.  He said he was interested and I followed up with him a few times, he never showed, so the tree eventually got chopped into fire wood.  I still have another big redwood tree trunk on a different property that someone is welcome to.

 Here’s a pretty frustrating scenario:  We’d gotten our project estimates based on product pricing.  I was very specific and got prices on everything I could spec ahead of time – knew where our doors where coming from, windows, potties, and on like that.  Well, when we went to buy the flooring, the supplier wouldn’t give us the same discount we’d talked about, making the product too expensive.  I have to find another supplier fast, which was very irritating…same product, same supplier, why wouldn’t they give us the discount?  Economy was still down, it wasn’t like buyers were climbing over the ramparts to order their products!  Anyway, we discovered Lumber Liquidators!  Great products and great prices.  Yay!

 We ordered a ton of cabinets – and when the order arrived there wasn’t room in the garage with all the other stuff (oven, stove, dishwasher, doors, screens…you get my drift) so we had to (scary thought, here) store it outside in the weather!!!  We bought a gi-normous blue tarp and stacked all the cabinets in the backyard and covered it with the tarp, holding it down with cement blocks.  Lucky for us, nothing was damaged.

 Other fun things that happen to the best of us:

Buried treasure? Well, not so much...

The contractor is digging a trench in the yard for a sewer pipe…Lo! And behold!  He unearths an old, abandoned septic tank in your back yard!  Surprise!  Or it could be an old diesel gas tank or oil tank or propane tank, whatever.  You can’t leave it alone.  You might be able to fill it in with gravel or you might have to dig it up and fill the hole in, either way, it’s $$ out of your purse.

 You order carpet, based on the room sizes, the installer and carpet store say you need to order ‘x’ amount of carpet.  Fine, you do so, 10 days later it comes in, the installer begins laying it out and you get a call.  There wasn’t enough carpet ordered to account for the pattern.  You’ve got to order more…and wait for it to arrive…delaying when you get to move in by 2 weeks.

Just tear it off and start over, old plaster stinks anyway.

You buy an old house and want to remove all the old paint and wallpaper from the walls.  There are about 8 layers of it and by the time you get to the last layer, the wall falls apart – its made of lathe, plaster and horsehair.  Now you have to put up drywall and have it taped and textured (which is actually OK because old plaster smells).  If you had just taken down the wall in the first place you would have saved yourself 3 long weekends of effort.

 The fence on your property is 3 feet closer to your neighbor than it should be. You are going to lose 3’ of your sideyard.

 Many of these happenings are no one’s fault.  You can’t sue anyone, you can’t pass the bill along to someone else, you are stuck and that’s the bottom line.

Count on having delays and surprises, you’ll live longer and without the tummy upset that worry can cause.  😉

 *IF, by Rudyard Kipling

headless photo credit = 

Image URL:  unless otherwise noted.

Don’t call me cheap! I prefer the word ‘thrifty’


Not a good example of reusing a door!

Clients who are remodeling or adding to their home frequently ask me what to do with their old doors, windows, flooring, etc, where they can be reused rather than tossed in the recycle dumpster. 

And…on the other hand sometimes clients are looking for a less expensive way to remodel and can use what someone else doesn’t need. 

Its not just old, outdated junk you’ll find, sometimes people buy the wrong thing and the store won’t allow a return or they bought too many of an item or they changed their minds…keep an open mind and you might save a bundle.  One’s man trash is another man’s treasure.

Here are a few I’ve discovered:

Craigslist:  They have ‘wanted’ and ‘for sale’ sections.   This definitely worked for us.  We had a bunch of gorgeous bamboo flooring left and sold it on Craigslist.  I posted pictures of the bamboo planking, the end of the box with the product data and a link to the store where we bought it.

Freecycle:  Its a site where you can post stuff you want to give away.  We used this site to give away oak desks and file cabinets. 

ReuseMarket:  I’ve never used them nor have I been to their store.  But, man, do they have a potload of stuff, and such variety!  From rakes to cars, clothing to windows and nails. 

If you are in Boise, ID, then this place takes donations!  Doors, windows, cabinets.  Be careful taking out the old stuff and they’ll take it off your hands.  Saves you the cost of taking it to the dump or recycling center (where we are charged by the cubic yard). 

Here’s a picture of the lumber from the garage we were thinking of having ‘deconstructed’ – it had beautiful redwood siding in great condition.  Alas, they wanted about $5k for the privilege. 

Just remnants of the garage are left...


This one is in Australia so it doesn’t help our clients but it has a good site.

Habitat for Humanity:   has something called a ‘Restore’ where they accept donated goods and where you might be able to find a fancy sink, cabinet, potty,  flooring, even paint and save some bucks.   They have stores all over the U.S. and Canada  For our clients, the closest one is in Oakland, CA.

I just searched for ‘second-hand construction material’ and found sites in different states.  Entered ‘used construction material’ and got different sites.  ‘Recycled construction materials’ would be another one to try.

Its worth looking into.  You might be surprised at what you find 😉

%d bloggers like this: