Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Upstate Update - Behold the Back Deck

I received these photos from Jeff last evening.  Looks good to me.  I would have preferred a more natural wood look, but he assured me that the stuff he coated the cedar with will increase the life of this deck dramatically.  Also, it will obviously weather naturally as well.  I am going to trust him on this.  Still, it looks like orange juice concentrate - NOT GOOD FOR RESALE, JEFF!!! 
Stairs are yet to come.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Brownstone Facade Restoration - Intro

Without preface, we are having the facade of our house redone. Work started yesterday.  It is a big job. And expensive. And loud. And dusty. And I fear that, if it does not go smoothly, this will be the one that knocks me out. I haven't the stamina to get up after another defeat. So pray that it goes well.

This job is done in a number of stages.  Here is my simplified understanding of those stages:
  1. removal of top layer of old facade - very labor intensive - using electric demo hammers (little jack-hammers) with a chisel bit they chip off the existing top layer of paint and cement and take the facade back down to the original "brownstone";
  2. chipping back brownstone to good rock - once they get to the brownstone, they will find flaking and water damage and they will need to chip that back down to clean, hard rock, being careful not to remove more than is necessary;
  3. application of a "slurry" coat - I may have this a little wrong, but I believe they apply a layer of material that helps the concrete bond to the brownstone;
  4. application of scratch coat - they put on a new cement facade with details roughed in;
  5. curing period - basically this is dormant waiting period of a few months or more while waiting for the cement to "cure";
  6. application of final coat of sandy red "brownstone" cement - This is the artistic stage when they reconstruct the flat surface of the front wall and re-sculpt all the sills and lintels and details in the final layer of red cement.
 It is no small job.
I got estimates from three different companies and the spread between the high and low bids was $17,000.  That is a big spread.  

I chose Metro Restoration to do the job. His bid was in middle, but his reputation was equally important. They did a house down the block five years ago and they did a really nice clean job of it and it is holding up well so far. More important, the homeowner had no complaints about the experience - and that is a big deal. Metro is finishing up another neighbors' house now. The owner and principal point of contact at Metro is a man named Hasan. Although it was hard to get him on the phone initially, he has been very responsive since our first meeting.

The first blow - chipping begins.  This is Hasan.  He gets his hands dirty.

Here's another factor, Hasan communicates clearly. I don't just mean his command of English - although that is certainly helpful and not to be taken for granted.  What I mean is that he is thoughtful and gives complete answers and points to things and engages in discussion.  Basically, when engaging someone to do a job where I know I don't know enough about the details to ask all the right questions, there is plenty of room for miscommunication and even more room for the better informed party to just be clever or even dishonest. I depend on people to be forthcoming and to answer questions fully and to give me guidance and if I can't have a real conversation with a person, I find it very hard to get comfortable that we are on the same page. At this stage, I am comfortable that Hasan and I are on the same page.  Hopefully, my first impressions will prove correct.

End of day one.
We decided to split the job up over a full year.  They will chip the facade and get the scratch coat on this Spring/Summer and then let it cure for a year.  Then they will come back next summer to do the final details and finish coat.  I requested this in order to spread the cost out over a longer period and Hasan agreed to do it.  But when we were signing the contract I asked him what would happen if he were eaten by an alligator after finishing the first half and before completing the job.  He thought about that seriously and then said, "I don't know. That is the risk you take.  For me, I don't care. I'm gone, eaten by an alligator."  He's not wrong.  But he did confirm that anyone who does this kind of work could pick up the job and finish it in his absence.

So, I'm going to try not to get ahead of myself.  Let's just see how things progress, shall we?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Upstate Update - Window Trim

Jeff sent these today.  Looks good! (so far in pictures at least).
I feel like one of my clients though - can I sign it?  Is it done?  Can we go to market?  Is it done?  NO!! Why not??!!!!