The Contractor Post

The real question I have today is: How many times do I have to rewrite the opening sentence before I can just get on with this post?  So far the count is up to four.  It’s not a day I feel strongly about writing and lately have been a bit overwhelmed with work and our little dance with the contractor community.

It’s also been very hot the last few days and likely not going to get cooler until later in the week.  I’ve always found it a bit strange that here in Northern California, September can often be hotter than August.  It’s been very odd talking to roofers and trying to predict when the rains will start – when will it be too cold to take the roof off while standing there sweating, in shorts and t-shirt.

I remember cold days and having to wear those things – jackets, coats? – forget the exact name but they keep you warm and I know I have a few around here somewhere.  Right now my brain can’t even comprehend the thought that I might need one again.  Well, until lunch today – the restaurant was freezing inside – they didn’t have the air-conditioner on, I think they just sat us in the walk-in freezer.  I was close to hypothermia by the time we finished lunch. Never thought I’d be happy to get outside to a nice California heat wave.

Back at our hot-house I started looking at my sweat stained notes from all those tours of the house I’ve been giving.  I have to say that talking to contractors about fixing the house has been more than a bit disturbing to my brain and general mental health.  You talk to one and they say, “Sure we can do that,” while another says, “don’t think city building codes will allow that.” Then there is the contractor who just looks at you blankly and says something like, “I’ll have to check on what I can do with that.”  Which generally means they have no clue and are looking for way to get away from you and your job.

So far I’ve found one really good contractor, one acceptable and another I’m thinking of getting a restraining order against (while I don’t think he’s actually dangerous, he was scary and now he knows where I live).  It’s interesting the mix I’ve found so far – from one man shops to family owned to big corporate operations.

The real problem has been two-fold: ideas and money.  That is too many great ideas and not enough money.  The electrician called with a preliminary quote that turned the notion of ‘sticker shock’ into ‘sticker atomic explosion.’  My personal estimate of the cost didn’t even have the same number of digits.  Still, talk about tempting – LED lights in the closets, exhaust fans that work, and enough circuits in the kitchen to have a cup of coffee while making tea and toast with the dishwasher running.  I think I actually fell in love with the electrician when he looked into my workshop and said, “You should have a circuit for each of your power tools – you’ll need about six in here.”

By the time the last of my list of contractors came through on Friday the project had expanded to include: re-roofing the house; completely rewiring; taking all the siding off and insulating the walls; building a carport; a new concrete walkway; remodeling both bathrooms; a complete kitchen redo; and while we’ve got everything torn up – why not replace the heater, add a air-conditioner and install solar to power it all?

There goes my retirement fund.

And all in the name of, “well, while we’ve got that wall open you might as well …”

By Friday, Heather was ready to sell the house and move, and I was calculating how many dumpsters it would fill if we just bulldozed the place and started from the ground up.

All this started by just wanting to make tea and toast at the same time with a roof that doesn’t leak.  How hard could that be?

Apparently very hard.

Heather and I had to sit down and go back to the beginning and re-ask the question – what is the pain point?  That is, what really needs to be fixed and what can stay the way it is.  Turns out the real trick isn’t figuring out what you want to do but rather learning to say, “no, we’re not going to fix that – it’s not important to us.”  After some reevaluation of our real needs and desires we’re looking at scaling the project way back.  I am again looking forward to a comfortable retirement.

But at least I’ve found a couple of very good contractors that I can work with and have a more manageable plan that doesn’t involve moving or bulldozers.

It does involve telling a few enthusiastic contractors, “no.”

With any luck psycho contractor won’t call back with a quote and I’ll get to avoid that bit of drama.

Still, it would be nice to have air-conditioner on these rare very hot days.

Till next week,

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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2 Responses to The Contractor Post

  1. curt says:

    I know exactly what you’re feeling – unfortunately I didn’t have your common sense. I’m 4 years in a renovation – never said no to any possible upgrade. The result will be a house I’ll love – but it would have been much cheaper to bulldoze it and build new – by many thousands of dollars. Live and learn. I’m sure your place will be a great place to live – perfect? perhaps not – but you’ll make it your home.


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