Monday, May 19, 2014

The Backyard Conversion to Parking Spots…

My Backyard along side my neighbor's yard (second steps)

When we bought this house we knew we would have to do something about the front yard and backyard. They were not maintained at all, and were eyesores. They were a weed’s paradise. So, soon after we moved in, we got an estimate and had the front yard done first. This  was the only way I could stomach going in and out of the house until spring, when we would focus on the backyard. It turned out very nice. It’s mostly a patio where we will soon assemble our grill and table and chairs. I am looking forward to it. The weather is finally cooperating and I hope to enjoy it out there in the near future.

Spring barely sprung when I started calling contractors for the backyard. The back yard is about 20 feet by 30 feet and the dirt there is about 4 feet high. It all needs to be dug out, three strong retaining walls needs to be build on a good foundation and then the floor cemented for two nice size parking spots. I got three estimates. The first one was the lowest, $13,500, by the guy who did the front. The second one came from a guy my electrician’s brother-in-law brought me for $15,500. The third estimate came from a guy whose truck I had seen all over my neighborhood since I was a kid, for $22,000. Now I had some thinking to do.

The first estimate was the lowest, but I know the guy is a BS artist. I know he will cut corners in a heartbeat and he is already starting with a low bid. My gut was squeaking about this so I was anxious to get more estimates. The second guy said he was going to do the exact same thing as the first guy, but for $2,000 more. I don’t know anything about this guy, so I did some research. First of all his business is 50 miles away from here and I don’t like that. Second of all, I look at his better business bureau rating and he has an "F" rating. Yeah that’s not a typo…I said “F.” Naturally, with those two strikes against him and my gut screaming, I disn’t need a third strike…he is out. Then I call the third guy. I already know he will come in with the highest estimate, but I want to hear what he is going to do for the extra money. He takes me out back and says he will be using solid 12 inch concrete blocks for the three walls…the other guys wanted to use 8 inch blocks. He tells me he has to put in a three foot foundation under the walls to support them…the other guys wanted to put in a 5 inch foundation. I told him what they said and he laughed. Five inches will never support the weight of those blocks he says. Then he says he is going to cement the floor with a 5 or 6 inch thick layer of cement to support the cars. And he says the law requires a fence on the right wall that is four feet high and he will put one there…the other guys made no mention of this at all. Now I have to think about it and talk to my husband.

It’s so easy to want to go with the cheaper estimate as we are talking a $9,000 difference. That’s a lot of money. What I have to consider is that these three walls separate my yard from three other yards and neighbors. If these walls don’t hold up I will not only have the problem of fixing them, but also three neighbors who could potentially sue me and harass me until I take care of it. I moved here to have peace not to start wars. My husband and I discussed it all. Any shortcuts in this job is going to cost us more in the long run than we will be saving. The most expensive guy insists he will only do the job right. He has had an A+ rating with the BBB for 20 years. His own name and that of his father is the name of the business. I like what he has to say and I trust him to do the right job. We decide to go with him and sign the contract.

Today I get a call from my electrician’s brother-in-law. He brought the second guy to me, the one I scratched off my list right away. He tells me he doesn’t want me to use him to do the job. He says he brought him two other customers and he did a shoddy job for them and they are complaining. And, of course, they are complaining to him because he recommended the guy. I told him I wasn’t going to go with that guy anyway and I told him why. First of all he is too far away for me to be sure he will come back for problems after the fact, if there are any. Then I mentioned that he had an “F” rating with the BBB, which he says he wasn’t aware of. I thanked him for calling me to let me know.

Now I am very glad I thought this through and feel I chose the right guy for the job. I’d rather spend the extra money and have peace of mind knowing it will be done the right way and, if there is an issue, he will come back and take care of it. I hope he schedules me in soon, we signed the contract about a month ago…but we have had lots of rain so who knows. Of course, with all the rain, the yard now looks like a rainforest!

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