Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Today's post is a bit of vent... No pictures, just a rag about the sales process in the remodeling industry which are a mystery to a corporate guy like me who spends most of my working life around customer service and sales and marketing types.

Today I had an interesting conversation with the concrete guy, who's company is excellent with a great reputation and a successful business that's been around for 20+ years. In fact the did work for us when we did our first This Old House project on Poplar and did great work. 

A little background will help to understand this post. The concrete guys are nearly done forming and getting the rebar all set up and we had a couple of changes, pretty normal, 'eh. And these guys have been great about working through these minor changes, I mean really good. In fact, I hope I can find a carpenter who's as good as these guys.

So first Steve tells me 'We've had a couple of changes and I owe you a credit'. Then he tells me 'we'll need to bring in some more dirt so I'm going to have to charge you some more'. Ok, pretty reasonable and then he says ' I should be doing change orders for all of this, but....'. I say, that's fine, no problem. After all, we IT guys say the same thing and rarely do we do change orders religiously so who the hell am I to complain, besides I trust the guy. Somehow this leads to a conversation about my progress on selecting a general contractor. 

At this point I decide to have a conversation about contractors and their sales practices. 

So I tell Steve that I'm amazed at how shitty his industry is at follow up and communications and what I consider simple manners, like returning calls. I recount my experience with a contractor referred to me by a friend who showed up on time, was really nice, gave me some good suggestions, set a date for submitting an estimate and all was good. Then I never heard from him again. No responses to my emails, no answer on his phone, no return messages to voicemails, nothing. It was like the guy died ( I sure hope not), he simply stopped communicating. And he wasn't the only one, it seems like the exception is the guy who : 1) calls back 2) follows up 3) does it in a reasonable time.

Well Steve kind of smiles in an embarrassing way and essentially says 'that's kinda how we work'.

We chat about it and I go back to my desk and decide to follow up with three contractors who I've spoken to in the last two weeks about bidding on the job. Here's what followed :

1) I send an email to a guy who has the blue prints for two weeks but has never scheduled a face to face. I ask him 'Matt are you interested' . A couple of hours later he sends me a response (which is encouraging) and says 'Tom, I'm interested but I'm getting married this weekend and am slammed with wedding stuff and can't estimate your job till next week at best' Interesting response, I wonder what would have happened if I didn't follow up.

2) I send an email to a guy who was out here last Friday and he sends me an email back in 10 minutes with 'I'm track for an estimate next week' , which was his original committment. He goes to the top of the list simply because he's executing and followed up quickly.

3) I send an email to another guy who was out here last Friday who told me ' I REALLY want your job, this would be a big deal for me, I will give it all my attention ' and guess what. You're right, haven't boo from  him as of 8:00 tonight. 

Contractor rant over, stay tuned for who gets our money.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Houston, we have a project !

After 2+ years of planning (the old requirements and design phase, complete with sign offs) that included 8 months in the San Mateo planning and building department, where every change add 21 business days to the cycle, we have started work.

Permits in place, we passed our 1st inspection, dealt with the 1st and 2nd on the fly design changes and have actually had a contractor show up and begin work !

I've been lax in sharing photos and status for the last few months but I'll backfill in the days to come with some interesting photos and anecdotes. 

Here's a quick snapshot of the excavating crew after a hard day of pushing dirt around :

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Look Ma, no garage !

Progress has been slow but steady.

As you can see from the pictures, the garage is gone, or nearly gone. One wall remains and will act as a fence until we replace it with a new fence in a few weeks. And the tree will be gone soon.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Demo has begun, plans submitted for building permits

For all of you loyal followers, significant progress this week, even though we were in sunny Minneapolis for several days.

The plans have been submitted to the building department and they promise 'comments' in 20-25 days. My interpretation of that is in 24 days they tell us what changes they want and then they take another 24 days to say yes or no. I'm now assuming building permits will happen in the mid to late June time frame, just in time for little Lincoln's arrival in the world.

In the mean time, demolition of the garage continues with several walls down. In two, there will be no garage, which is a significant milestone.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Final phase about to start

It's been a few months and much has been done but with no posts. I'll catch up over the next couple of weeks to get back into the blogging thing and also to learn how to actually blog. I've decided I need to learn this so I'll use the house remodel and my 3 followers as learning tools.

Status report on This Old House.

- The front is finished and it's looking good. We used a mason contractor with the apt name of Rock John Masonry and interestingly enough, Rock is his real name and he's from the Midwest. Here's a couple of pictures of the new entry to the house.

- The plans are finished and approved by the Planning dept in San Mateo, building permits next. What a pain in the ass.

- Demoing the old garage is next, work has begun.

More to come as soon as I relearn blogger.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The project is proceeding faster than my blog entries, but we'll do a bit of a catch up on this post with some pics of the new state of the yard including some  additions that Quinn & Nolan made last Sunday morning.

A couple of interesting notes before we get to the boring stuff. We hired a team of diligent Tongans who knocked out a new sidewalk, concrete planter boxes and a new wall to replace the gorgeous little bushes along the sidewalk and they did a bang up job. To add to the fun, we also had a new San Mateo Park day care center up and running in our front yard while the demo and concrete work was proceeding. As you can imagine, Mom was REALLY thrilled about this bonus operation. And she was ecstatic when one of the day care moderators freaked out when Tuggie greeted her in typical golden retriever puppy fashion. I'll let Mom fill in the details over a Fat Tire this weekend.

So as you'll see from the pictures, the front yard looks completely different, the cute little bushes replaced with a concrete wall and the even nicer boxwoods by the porch replaced with slick concrete planter boxes. I've included a couple of pics of the stone we're going to put down on the sidewalk and walls, that should happen in a few weeks. Maifu, John and the other guy (who was very large, very strong and very nice but couldn't speak a lick of English) will probably not get this job but who knows.

Plans are coming along for the new garage/bedroom addition, we're scheduled to see the next phase of the design on Oct. 4. People have been yelling at me for 30 years about how long it takes to do an IT project, it's clear they never worked with architects and city planners. The melting of the polar ice caps seems quicker. I'll post a picture of the design once it's ready.

In the meantime, here's a few snaps of the front remodel :

 Before Maifu and John


 What it looks like today
    Sidewalk Stone

 Wall Stone

Monday, August 27, 2012

We're at it again

We're about to start at it again, this one will be interesting as eventually we'll be doing an addition as well as some landscaping. A few "Before" pictures and a posting to light up the internet and see if we have any followers left from the kitchen phase.

Here are a few pix's before the demo began on this phase :

 Lovely driveway, almost hate to lose it.

Site of the new garage, deck and master bedroom expansion

The infamous tree which will become firewood at some point in the next few months

Not part of the reno but was in the same camera roll on the iPhone. Meg all dressed up. You can tell this picture was taken before Tug arrived because her hands are not covered in bandages,

More to come.