Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Informal Poll

Spring is approaching (although you wouldn't guess it from the snow) and we are still in the process of trying to line up our projects for the summer. We've got potential contractors identified for all of the major pieces of work, except for the gutters. Whether or not we employ them all next summer and to what extent will depend upon how high all the bids come in.

The two pieces that absolutely can't wait are the gutters and the roof. If necessary, everything else could probably wait another year or two, but so long as the the roof leaks and the gutters continue to channel water into the house and along the foundation, we are at risk of the house deteriorating into a very expensive hole.

Yesterday I spent an hour with Jon, our roofer, at his office. We talked about all styles of shingles - asphalt, cedar, slate, rubberized slate, copper, aluminum, zinc, steel and tile. We went into the warehouse to look at samples of various shingles. We looked at pictures of jobs they had done in other places. And we danced around the issue of prices.

I had already gotten a bid from him on fairly standard three tab asphalt shingles, along with the price to remove the existing cement asbestos shingles. I made it clear to him then, that I wanted nice looking but inexpensive shingles and he came back with three options. Stylistically none of them suited. We'll be trying to go for the historical tax credit again, and that means that we need to be sensitive to the historic look of the house.

I'd love to put diamond shaped, asbestos slate shingles back on the roof again as they are extremely durable and have a low health risk. With the scare of cancer caused by asbestos though, cement asbestos shingles haven't been made in at least 20 years. Finding them now would be expensive and not worth the hassle, cost or negative reaction when we sell the house (someday).

That means we certainly have a wide latitude in picking a material of shingle, and we can really just focus on the look and the cost. Everything from low cost asphalt shingles to high cost tiles are available. I asked Jon to give me a rough estimate for each of the major types of materials so that we can narrow in on where we want to be. He did show us a nice scalloped type of asphalt shingle out of France, which would be priced towards the lower end and it might do. They look a bit like the shingles you'd see on a gingerbread house. Even if we like them, the State historical society could say no. That doesn't mean that we can't put them on, but it does mean that they won't grant us a tax credit for the work. It's worth our time and the hassle to try and find something that appeases them and makes us happy too.

So all of this leads me to an informal poll question. I've looked around the web and talked to co-workers, and trying to get costs for doing any of this work is really hard. I'm not talking hard costs, I'm talking rough estimates. For anyone who has never done this before (like me), I don't have a clue what the cost is to re-wire a house, or re-do the plumbing, or get the masonry re-pointed, or put on a slate roof. I really had to do some head scratching when it came time to buy this house, because I had to know what it would cost to fix this house and add that to the purchase price. Only then would I know if we might be able to afford it.

The informal poll question is two-fold. Is it tacky to list the prices of some of these bids? Do you think it has any value considering how different requirements are for different jobs?

In the Midwest, people tend to be very conservative and tight lipped about their money. I've been other places where that's not the case, and I've talked to some people who talk about their home countries where everyone knew what everyone else was making. I've lost my sense of what's appropriate and what's not. What are your thoughts?


Syl said...

I'm dying to know, so no qualms here. And I think if you provide several, we can get the idea, even if we don't know either how much it costs to repoint masonry.

Anonymous said...

If contractors are reading this mumm is the word.

The Dude said...

Tight lipped here. :)

Pusher said...

I dunno. On one hand, yes, it seems like Midwesterners would as soon regale you with the details their sex lives as their finances. On the other hand...that seems a little silly. And this blog is the saga of The House of 42 Doors, and the estimates and such are part of that saga. Yet my inner Midwesterner is cringing a little.

I'd have to flip a coin, but I'm not telling you what denomination of coin it is. ;-)

ShoNuff said...

I think if you aren't giving the contractors name it would be fine. I'm always willing to let people know what I've spent on stuff, but I do a lot myself so don't really end up with a real accurate final tally. The thing I've noticed with contractors (in a little working with them and many stories) is the starting bid usually is less than what the cost ends up being.
Now that I've taken a bunch of space to say very little...I'll stop.

Kashka said...

Being, mostly, from the public sector when it comes to construction and the like, I'm more on the end of the spectrum where everything's pretty open. Levels the playing field and all that.

Allknowingjen said...

I am somewhere between Pusher and Syl :) I think rounded ballparks are very helpful and give you at least a range to start in. But I agree that a lot depends on the individual job, since no two are the same. Also? Personally, I am always afraid someone is going to yell "You paid what?!? You got screwed!"- KWIM? But maybe that is just me.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I think it'd be useful for other readers to know. I think that a lot of ugly remuddling occurs because people think that doing things properly is more expensive than it is. There's a lot of work that's put off and gets worse as a result.

For instance, I'd assumed, from everything that I'd heard, that I'd be spending between ten and twenty thousand dollars for maintenance on my slate roof. As a result, I planned to do a certain amount of it myself. My current understanding is that the average cost to fix all the little things that have been neglected on a slate roof for years comes closer the ballpark of $3000-$6000. People mostly perceive the cost of them as great because with most houses, they haven't had any work done on them since new, so there's a lot of deferred maintenance to deal with.

Wood windows and storms are a similar matter - people assume that they are more expensive to fix than they actually are.