As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Miss D. and I were recently paid a sum of money that’s been due to us for a long time. We’re putting it to work, rather than leaving it in the bank to lose double-digit percentages of its value every year to the ravages of inflation. So far, we’ve installed a new HVAC system to replace our old, faltering one; bought a new dual-fuel inverter generator for emergency use (something that’s likely to become more important as our aging regional and national power infrastructure begins to break down more often – a very real probability); ordered and half-paid-for a new garage door; paid off debt; and re-established a small emergency fund. Still in progress are a patio and utility shed for the back yard, a new and larger rear gate to allow vehicle access, an upgrade to our electricity main board, and a couple of other minor matters.
One problem I’m finding is that many contractors are either reluctant, or actually unable, to be specific on dates and costs. I’ve been trying to nail down quotes for the patio and shed, only to find that potential suppliers are vague on costs, uncertain about the date(s) on which they’ll be available, and (I think) deliberately vague on specifics. It’s been very frustrating. In the end, I decided to use it as a sorting and selection device. Contractors who couldn’t or wouldn’t be specific on the details of what they proposed to provide, and/or who couldn’t supply drawings of structures that could be used by an insurer to assess damage and/or rebuild in the event of damage, were dropped from my short-list. I finalized the bidding on both projects yesterday, using two contractors rather than one because of cost and other factors. I hope both projects will be complete by mid-year.
I learned two very interesting things in the process of getting a building permit from our local municipality. The first was that, for an uninsulated, unplumbed, unpowered utility shed, I didn’t really need a building permit: but if I expected an insurance company to pay for any damage, I needed one, because without it they’d deem it an illegal structure and refuse to cover any loss. This has apparently happened in the past. Allied to that, insurers apparently expect to be able to examine construction drawings, done to professional standards, that show what type of building it was/is, the materials used, specifications, measurements, etc. Without them, they may deem it an “informal” owner-built structure and pay out only for the cost of generic materials, without labor or any other considerations. If any of you plan small projects like ours, you might want to keep that in mind. It pays to “go by the book” if you plan to cover the work under your insurance policy.
I now have four contractors lined up to do five separate projects over the next few months, with an electrician still to be selected to upgrade our main board. (Interestingly, some electricians refuse to install a generator cut-over switch, apparently due to liability issues if anything goes wrong during a power outage. I don’t get that – why be a professional electrician if you won’t do the job? – but lawyers have apparently added a complicating factor.) The fun part is going to be to keep the contractors’ noses to the grindstone, making sure they honor their commitments and arrive on the specified dates. Sadly, I may end up having to pay more for materials, depending on what happens to the economy over the next few months. They’ve all inserted clauses in their contracts that until they actually receive the material from their suppliers, their prices may be subject to change. Frustrating, but I suppose it’s inevitable.
So far, so good. Onward!