Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Structural Repairs, Part I

As I sit here writing, I am torn between being brutally honest and abiding by my word.  You see, I made an agreement with the contractor who completed the structural repairs on our home.  My original idea was to document all the work being done with photos depicting the staged repairs.  I always believe in being honest with people and explained to the owner that I have a blog and would like to have his permission to post pictures of his equipment, etc.  My thoughts were, well, it's my home, I am vicariously paying for it and it's absolutely free advertising for their company.  I was a bit shocked to hear his response.  I'll paraphrase:

1.  Anything on the internet is there forever.
2.  We don't know how you'll depict our work.
3.  Our methods are proprietary.
4.  ...so is our fee schedule.

These are all valid points (I guess).  I responded to the owner saying that I agree with them 100% on the proprietary part.  They worked for 'X' number of years "perfecting" their methods, who am I to post pictures of their secret ways?  It was quite understandable, however, my goal with this blog is to be honest with all costs involved with the work on this antique home.  So, I made a compromise.  I countered saying that I will not post the name of the company or pictures depicting their means and methods.  The owner grudgingly agreed, with the exception of wanting to review my post as a courtesy on my part, which I can only gather for editing purposes. Like I said, I want to be honest about everything that occurred, but for reasons which are to follow, I will forfeit that courtesy and post away with my first amendment rights.  Mind you I will stick to my word.  The name of the company, the crew and their methods will NOT be discussed.  Regardless, brace yourself, this will be a long post.  I will try to break it up over a couple of posts.

On July 24, 2011, I came into contact with this contractor through a quasi government related group listing (really advertising) contractors working to rebuild and repair historic structures.  In the initial post, I described the issues with the seller; how she was unwilling to hire a proficient contractor specializing in post and beam repair.  When she finally caved in to hiring a qualified contractor, we split the cost for this particular contractor to come in costing us a combined $345. The contractor came in to produce an estimate of structural repairs in the basement.  This estimate would be used to negotiate with the seller.

The contractor was on site for a couple of hours where they and I went over the basement pointing out the locations indicated in the report from our inspector.  The support structure in the basement was covered with insulation but the contractor viewed what he could and took measurements.  I took him to the attic as I wanted him to produce a secondary estimate for vents to be installed (that I asked to be kept separate from the sellers estimate).

On August 13, 2011, the evening after the visit, the following was submitted:
1.      Remove and replace up to 12 linear feet of front left sill.
2.      Remove and replace up to 14 linear feet of left side front sill.
3.      Remove and replace two joists in this area that run parallel with the street (6x6x~12’).
4.      Remove and replace up to 9 linear feet of beam in this area (running perpendicular to the street).  Install footing and vertical where the new beam joins the old one.
5.      Set up supports and remove two existing screw jacks in the cellar near chimney. Dig new footings and install concrete filled lally columns.
6.      The beam on the back side of the chimney has sagged and there is separation between it and the beam it intersects with. Install 2x6 oak underneath it.  Dig two footings and install concrete filled lallys.
7.      The chimney beam on the right side is rotted and broken over the opening. We will attempt to replace but if it becomes apparent that this will cause damage, we will put a horizontal and verticals underneath it. 
8.      The diagonal members supporting the hearths have damage. Either sister or install verticals as needed.

The cost of labor for the above work is $10,680.00.  Materials and supplies are extra and should be about $2,640.00.  A deposit of $1,100.00 is required to be scheduled.  Payment is to be in two parts with final payment due in full upon completion.  See conditions.  Any damage to the chimney/hearths is not included and is the responsibility of the homeowner.
This work totaled $13,320.  A second estimate was given for the work in the attic:

1.      Install square gable end vent on each gable end of the house as discussed.
2.      Sister two tie beams in the attic. 
The cost of labor for the above work is $835.00.  Materials and supplies are extra.  Payment is due in full upon completion.  This estimate is only valid if done in conjunction with the structural work. 
Since we were dealing with the seller's money, I was unable to personally provide the full $1,100 deposit.  I suggested that instead, we use the labor cost of $835 for the attic work as the deposit since that work is coming out of our pockets.  They agreed and we were scheduled for an October start date.  Since we sent in our deposit before a set date, we were given a $250 coupon.

A couple weeks passed and I hadn't heard much from the contractor.  I took a couple photos of the home's exterior and emailed it asking if they wanted me to trim back the bushes or tree allowing them more working area.  Their response was simply that if we did not want to, they don't mind.  And only that the EPA requires a 10 foot plastic ground cover around all areas exposed to construction for lead protection.

By this point, however, I still haven't heard anything about a start date.  I was beginning to get worried that their schedule wasn't keeping in mind that I have checks made out in their company's name that have an expiration date.


I may be mistaken but I don't think you told me when (company name) plans on starting.

Due to the negotiations and to make the bank happy, as well as to allow you full access to the property, (company name) has priority. And because of that, we'll have two other contractors waiting to start after you finish. All contractors are being paid via checks issued by our lawyer. Checks expire... So, please kindly advise me as to your anticipated start date.

Thank you,

I relayed this to them on October 12 and I did not hear back until October 17, when they wrote:

We will be there Thursday morning. We will be bringing our trailer which will be staying there for the duration of the project. Please leave room for us to back it into the driveway. Thank you. (name)

I guess money talks...

Here are photos of the condition of the beams in the basement prior to the contractor's work:

1.  Overall view of the floor structure below the future library, viewing southeast.

2.  Overall view of the floor structure below the future library, viewing south.

3.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing east.

4.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing northeast.

5.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing east.

6.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing northeast.

7.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joist connecting to the sill, viewing northeast.

8.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing southeast.

9.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged sill, viewing east.

10.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged sill, viewing south.  Notice the rat poison white bag peaking out by the wire, behind the brick.

11.  Closeup of a prior repair showing the lally column supporting a hearth support beam and joist with the mortise and tenon visible, viewing east.

12.  Diagonal support for the old kitchen fireplace above, viewing south.

13.  Overview of chimney foundation showing existing lally columns, viewing northeast.  The black columns to the right are temporary supports.  Temporary really means non-existent.

14.  Overall view of the old kitchen fireplace supports, viewing northeast.

15.  An old exhaust flue or perhaps even a makeshift fireplace.  The wood beam above it runs through the brick/stone foundation as one solid piece of wood.  The beam is weakened and is sagging.  Viewing south.

Click HERE for Structural Repairs, Part II.