Thursday, October 1, 2015


Starting a new roof with Walt VerVynck Construction,
Kewanee IL
We’ve had this 1896 built home since 1996.  We brought it back from the brink of “tear down” but that involved some financial choices.  It wasn’t a “Let’s buy the best of everything to have a perfect house” kind of effort.  It was a pick and choose on quality and cost to fit our budget.  And at that time, some things we wanted to do were cost prohibitive in this area. 

We’ve done much of the work ourselves and had contractors do the big stuff.  We’ve been blessed by many good contractors, local business owners who are talented and take pride in their work. 

Now it’s time to do some final upgrades to either last us through our lives or to make the house more marketable should we have to move.  (Or as I like to say:  "Do they wheel me out the front door to the nursing home or find me toes up in a bed of daylilies with a fist full of weeds.) 
Dana Well Drilling, Kewanee IL
Today we have started the process of installing a steel roof.  Almost twenty years ago, the options for a steel roof were not easily available at our house.  Today we have J Mac Metals right here in Galva: American made – Galva made – Henry County installed:  perfect!

I’ve talked about having contractors work in yards where gardeners care about plants.   See “Contractors in the Yard” published April 27, 2009 that still has relevance today.  Some things I’ve learned since that article:
New coating of old fashioned plaster
by Gary Hirsch, Cambridge IL

Remove anything that is easily breakable no matter how far away it may be from the work site.  There’s always a lot of material and movement in any outdoor project.

Unless it’s emergency repairs, schedule work to be performed in the fall.  This is the time when most valuable perennials are going into dormancy.  An example:  Stepping on a daylily in the fall is not a killer.  Stepping on a daylily in the spring or summer will definitely mean no flowers that year and may kill the plant. 

If you have a valuable plant in the vicinity of the project, talk to your contractor about possible solutions.  Can it be moved?  Should you box it in with wood?
Cement walks base by
Arnie Cordrey Construction

Kewanee IL

Accidents happen.  I’ve done enough home projects to know even when the person working cares something can go wrong.  A good contractor knows this and builds that into his cost plan, his insurance and his customer service.  A good customer works with the contractor to help make any damages simply get fixed and not a major hissy fit throwing incident.

Successful contractors are a breed all their own.   They have been smart and worked hard over many years to be successful.  They have an array of talents because they must know every aspect of the business.  It isn’t enough to know how to lay a brick if you aren’t good with money, managing employees, customer friendly or a million other business decisions.  Respect this. 

Most mature contractors have job related health issues.   You don’t do really excellent hard manual labor without it eventually wearing your body out.  It’s why you see old guys on the ground directing and young bucks hefting the supplies.
First paint - Alan Anderson Painting, Altona IL

How the house first looked once we cut down the weeds.

Contractors can be Divas.  Face it; most manual labor jobs have a large element of creative and artistic flare.  The job is their canvas.  They compose the project as if they are painting a picture.   They take pride in how well it will look once they’ve finished.  It’s an extension of who they are.  Divas love praise and are sensitive to criticism.  Although no contractor will warm up to being called a Diva, take my word for it:  Approach all your comments about the work with this in mind.

If possible, trim up growing things that will constantly frustrate your contractor.  How many times does that worker need to be hit in the face with that branch before he begins to dislike you and your yard? 

Keep your teenage girls away from the workers.  I know a tough task but keep the blinds closed in the bedroom/bath and no sunbathing.  A young stud hanging from a ladder does not need to be distracted. 

Find a perfect place for your contractors to park their trucks, stack their material and access the property. 
Arnie Cordrey installing a new basement wall.

Point out where they cannot drive heavy equipment.  This would include drainpipes, septic systems, cement edges and walks. 

Repeat back to the owner your understanding of all the understandings.  I have learned this the hard way that my understanding of his words may not be the meaning he was wishing to convey.

Yes, they will most probably have a radio and it will be loud and it will have a station you hate.  Close your window and ignore.  They are young and you are not – it makes their day go faster so leave them alone on this one.

There are some plants that may have to be moved.   If it isn’t after the middle of October, plant in an out of the way place, mulch, keep watered until the first freeze and move them back in the spring.  Contracting ahead of fall will allow you time to figure this out instead of last minute inappropriate growing time moves.

If you have children, keep them out of the way to prevent injury to them and annoyance to the workers.  That kid may be a cutie pie but cutie pie will wear thin if they are always in the way or get in the supplies.  And don’t ask the contractor to hire your unemployed child or grandchild – just don’t. 

As I’ve stated before, the contractor/owner’s reputation is their most important advertisement.  If you walk away with a job done right, your yard intact and would use them again, you have been blessed.  Thank them, compliment them and reward them by paying in full and on time.   Then tell anyone who will listen your good experience.  It’s part of the deal.

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