My wife and I recently met a husband and wife at their lovely home on the lake. It was like stepping back in time to see the original Westinghouse dishwasher in lemon yellow, the huge, dated entry doors and retro furnishings, and an incredible view of the lake right out their west-facing picture windows. The expansive rear patio had no doubt entertained many, many families and groups over the years.
When first approaching the house the husband met us outside. He warned us that his wife was in a bad state of mind after the last contractor, who had just left. It seems the fellow walked around the home making statements about why they should tear the place down and start over. He was referring in part to various issues of water intrusion and potentially expensive repairs that in his mind would be more easily accomplished with new construction.
These are owners who love their custom, unique, architect-designed home. They don’t want to modernize it, except for where it is really necessary. They want to restore it. His comments may have been technically correct, but his presentation was terrible.
Tami and I found this couple to be very down to earth and friendly once they let their guards down realizing we were a different sort of people. The previous contractor, describing himself as a new home builder, was rude and offensive in his remarks. He showed little appreciation for what they were trying to achieve and presented himself in an arrogant and self-serving manner. They felt he only wanted to line his pockets while destroying the features that made their home so appealing. Their web page and related reviews rave about the fact that one steps back in time when staying at the home, now a vacation rental.
The point in telling this story is this: This is your home. This is your castle. It is your safe space, your investment, and in this case, the owner’s delight. If you want to keep a feature in your home, whether it is outdated or not, my goal is to help you achieve that, not deride you for wanting to keep the very feature that gives your home its uniqueness. There are times when building codes and modern techniques must apply and be used, but they can often be achieved discreetly, hidden within the project.
This remodel, should we be awarded the contract, will indeed be a challenge. It will be done with the goal of maintaining the unique, vintage nature of the dwelling while restoring, replacing, and if necessary hiding the more modern upgrades behind the facade of the 1970’s contemporary look.
I enjoy my wife’s input on projects like this. She has designer’s eye for detail, and we both love retro-features in our own home, even preserving the old cabinets, light fixtures and such. If you consider us for your project, know that we do our best to honor your request, whether it is to modernize the appearance, or to upgrade in a subtle manner, keeping the flavor of the past.
I always enjoy meeting new prospective customers. As we exchange pleasantries and greetings, usually with Tami at my side, the elephant in the room is usually the cost of the project. This is understandable of course. We all live in a real world that, like it or not often revolves around our financial position. Can we afford it? Can we put the work off until our tax return comes in?
These are real-life concerns and I get that. Other times it’s not just a question of economics, but whether the repair is even necessary for a home sale or another concern. I believe many contractors are simply self-serving, providing a low-quality product for a high quality price. They speak in “constructionese” terms to baffle the homeowner and paint a bleak picture of how bad the condition is and how the expensive proposed repairs are their only option. I could play that game, but I won’t.
Recently a homeowner was quite surprised when they asked me about repairs they thought were necessary. By the end of the conversation I had reassured them that in my opinion, nothing needed to be done. They looked stunned, but were very pleased, thanking me profusely for NOT giving them what they expected to hear. We parted ways and I went on with my day, feeling like I had done my job.
Our tag-line on our business cards reads, “Live Every day Lovin’ What You Do.” I can rest easy at night and carry myself with confidence each day knowing that I do “Love what I do.”
If you ask me to build your deck, remodel your bathroom, or install your flooring, don’t be surprised if I come back with cost-saving ideas or remedies or revisions to your design which are perhaps simpler and easier on the wallet. I want to see that smile when we’re done, knowing that you are satisfied and may call us back. I’m not always the least expensive, but am always willing to work together with you to make the project fit into your budget.
Don’t be surprised however if I give you a different answer than the other contractors. I have to live here in this small community. You are my neighbor. We walk our dogs on the same beach. I will serve you with the work ethic my father taught me. You can take that to the bank!
What an experience this first few months have been! I can tell you one thing; nothing will challenge your body and mind like deciding to start a construction business again in your mid-50’s. After 6+ years of working at a non-profit and sitting behind a desk I took a deep breath, and with Tami’s blessing put on my tool bags again. Not that I really ever stopped construction, being a remodeler at heart. But working on one’s own house is very different from drumming up work and having the future depend on my skills. I went from the comfort of heat and air conditioned spaces to whatever weather the Oregon coast decides to bring.
In the beginning it was challenging to say the least. Not only did I have to whip my body into submission when it groaned, but I had to reopen all of those corners of my brain where the all of the construction and remodeling knowledge has been shelved.
My son Matt is a quick study, so just a few weeks into this he was making smart decisions and questioning me on decisions, something I love to see (dads aren’t always right). We have a very good relationship and I think he understands that a big part of why I’m doing is for him.
Many of my stubborn habits have reawakened, and I am learning to swallow my pride and get with the program. My fingers have band-aids all over them from slices, slivers, and minor infections due to my habit of not wearing gloves. Actually, I gave Matt my gloves on the first day since he didn’t have any and I haven’t replaced them. Still, I prefer going gloveless, but yesterday broke down and wore a new pair all day. By the end of the day my hands were still clean, had been protected, and Tami gave me kudos for doing the smart thing for once. Actually, she didn’t say it like that, but I will. You see, as we get older we settle into habits that don’t break easily. I am learning to once again eat a cold sack lunch everyday, and if I make a bad decision or cut a board wrong, it costs ME money, not the other guy I work for (there is no other guy anymore).
Tami is working hard to figure out taxes, acceptable deductions, and all of the legal stuff. I just have to find the work, convince them they need to hire me, and then complete it to their satisfaction. So far, so good on that point. Right now the weather is mostly dry, so people are talking decks and exterior siding. In the winter they will be wanting bathrooms and kitchens remodeled…I hope. It’s a risky proposition, going into business again, but I still have something to give, something to teach, and lots to learn. I intend to be free to pursue other dreams because of the flexibility that self-employment offers. At the same time I guess I’m proving to myself that I’m NOT an old fart, destined to sit behind a desk until retirement. I’m learning that I’m not too old to get out there and still get it done!
Till next time,
It has been quite the ride since we decided to step out and start a new business! A bit of a rush, scary as hell, and the most amazing thing.... well second to our move to the beach!!
I don't know if it is truly possible to put all the "feels" on paper. I also think it's hard for others to understand unless you have been in this position yourself, but here I go.
For me the rush came the moment Jerry turned in his resignation. This was going to happen! We weren't just talking about it anymore....it was REAL! Next came the scary as hell part, the day Jerry said his final good-bye to co-workers and a company he'd worked at for 5 years and walked away. OH yeah, no turning back now!! :O
That's when stuff pops into your head like... Will there really be enough work out there to sustain us? Will the people come through that told us they would put us to work? When would these jobs take place? How will we pay our bills? Will I have to go back to work? Are we being foolish starting a "physical" type business at our age? Are we being foolish starting a business of our own at all?! On and On, the questions bombarded me.
But you know what??? EVERYTHING is OK and an amazing thing is taking place....
We are beginning another wonderful journey together and every journey we have taken, has been more wonderful and more amazing then the last.
Jerry's going to be doing something he loves.... working for himself and no one telling him what to do. Doing something he is GOOD at, using the talents and gifts he has learned and developed over the years. He has this opportunity to work along side his youngest son and pass a legacy down to him. That alone is priceless. I couldn't be more proud of my husband and son and what we are building together!
Where am I at in all this? By their sides! Loving them, supporting them, listening and cheering them on!
I LOVE waking up every morning knowing we are in control of our future, whether good or bad, and that we are in this together! That my friends is AMAZING!
Today was just one of those days when you breathe in the salty air and thank God He put you here on the Oregon coast!
Tami, Matt and I have started this business venture with nothing but success and quality of life as our goal. Some may think that "success" is a big goal, but for us it is pretty simple.... To have enough to pay your bills with a little left over, live in a beautiful place, be relatively free from stress, and spend more time with those you love. That's success in our book!
Today was some tedious demolition as Matt and I began to remove an old deck from it's former habitat, carefully and piece by piece without anyone getting hurt. At one point I noticed a lot of blood on my pants and realized I had sliced my arm on some old, rusty flashing metal.... Oh well, part of the job. I'm just glad my Tetanus is up to date! Now to I tell Tami or not! lol
If you know me at all....Jerry here....you know I love to write and tell stories. I think this is going to be my favorite page of our website!