French/storm drains are putting me in the poor house. Thoughts on

hautingluMay 4, 2010

So my old farmhouse has water leaking in when it rains from about 3 sides. It's mostly due to sinking sidewalks. I have the downspouts going a few feet from the house. It's not crazy flooding, just decent sized puddles. The basement also feels damp and wet. So I got a quote from an excavator that I trust for an honest opinion. We spent 3 hrs going through my to-do wishlist. The price he came back was 3x what I expected. Now I'm having second thoughts even though I know it needs to be done.

What do you guys think? Is this reasonable? I know I need to do the gas since the oil furnace needs to go.

-Mark utilities, avoid trees, grapevine, etc.

-Remove and dispose of sinking sidewalks around the house.

-French and storm drains around 80% of the house (except by garage). Not interconnected.

-Two gravel pit areas. One in the front, one in the back.

-Waterproof and insulate foundation (sandstone in some places).

-Trench gas and water lines.

-Remove oil furnace.

-Trench and install water, electric, sewer, gas to shed.

-Gravel drain pit around shed.

-Remove concrete sinking cement walk ways throughout the yard.

-Heating ducts to addition (4ft of cinder block).

-2 water hydrants outside

-Grade yard

-Grind 3 tree stumps

This includes everything except basement window surrounds and electrical work (new 200-amp box, running 100amp wire to shed, hooking up my old box in the shed, and 4 outlets outside).

Total damage: ~$30k

Originally I thought the house was built between 40-50's, but according to him it's more like 1890's. It has sandstone foundation in certain areas, but several additions are cinder block.

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You should never just get 1 quote. Contact a few other people and have them give estimates too.

However, it sounds like you expectations are unrealistic on price. You thought all of that was only going to be 10k? Those are some really big projects. You could easily pay 10k just to covert from oil to gas, especially if they are running new ducts.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 11:20AM
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Bill - I had unrealistic expectations because I didn't having anything go off. Hence that's why I posted here to get an idea. Originally, I talked to him about simply trenching a gas and water line to the street which he quoted at $1000.

There is no new duct work. It's simply breaking through the addition wall to tie into the addition's duct work (which is on a heat pump).

I know I need to get several quotes, I just don't think I can find anyone who can do all that work. Contractors around here take their time calling back (if at all).

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 11:30AM
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I sympathize. The advice given is to get at least three quotes for every job, and I have never had as many as three people call me back or provide quotes. Five years ago, I thought it was the economy, now I think its that people still don't feel like doing what they don't wanna do...and I have had more than one craftsperson tell me I was "badgering" them (I called him once a month, one of them. This after I had used him before and referred others to him...never again.) Sometimes it has been enough that I want to move back into a rental property.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 11:41AM
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Ain't that the truth. That's why I try to do everything myself.....well except for this. After this work, I'll have the windows and furnace left. For the furnace, getting 3 quotes is no problem. For the windows, I'm leaning towards doing one at a time self. After that, all that's left is some painting, patching, and floor refinishing.

p.s. I do have a 15min walk to work, so that did make the house attractive.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 12:15PM
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It could've been worse. I had a contractor recommended to me that never called me back, and I saw him on the news. He is in prison now for running over a nun while lighting a crack pipe while driving. I dodged that bullet. The poor sister did not.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 12:43PM
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We had all of our lines trenched and put underground when our WWI sewer pipe collapsed about 14 or 15 years ago. We put new sewer pipe from the house to the city line, new conduit and lines for electrical and phone, and a gas line all in the (huge) trench. Then, we had a long concrete driveway poured over it all. I believe the cost was right around $15,000. Again, that was about 15 years ago. We need a french drain on the north side of our house. There is almost no space to get in there and dig (because the lot is samll and the house sits all the way to the north). I am afraid to get the estimate for that. It doesn't look like your estimate includes repouring any sidewalks. I guess I'm not too surprised by your $30,000 estimate for your proposed work though. I suppose the cost of such estimates also depends upon how long the length of trench runs/drains is too. It will be interesting to see if you can get other estimates and what those run. Cheers, -Kim

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:24PM
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Re contractors:

1 guy can't do landscaping, concrete work, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, foundation work, run gas lines, and grind stumps. Almost all of those trades require extensive training and any contractor is going to have to bring in tons of subcontractors to tackle that project. You can look for 1 guy who wants to be a general contractor, but you will probably have better luck just hiring people to do their parts of the whole project. It will take some effort to coordinate that, but then you will have much more control.

As for getting calls back, unless you live in a 1 horse town, you shouldn't have to badger a contractor to get a quote. If they don't call back, it means they aren't interested in your job. I think if you just deal with the individual tradesmen, you will have better luck though.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:28PM
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Kim - I guess prices have gone up from 15 yrs ago. But the trench is pretty extensive, especially for the gravel pit areas. There's no repouring of the sidewalks because I don't want them. I just need a short path from the driveway to the front door and I'm going to go with something similiar to this .

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 2:10PM
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Yeah, there's no question prices go up and up, that's why I wasn't surprised by your estimate either. I just provided my price as an "historical reference"! Ha Ha. I do like the path you have planned. It looks very nice, and maybe you can get some moss established between stones. Wish I had a place for some nice moss...

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 2:19PM
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Well after some back and forth, I decided I didn't want to eat ramin noodle for next 6 months. I'm going to break up the work into phases and having another plumber (with good reviews from AL's) come out for a quote.

I think I'm just going to go with water and gas lines to house. I'll probably eat the $2000 tap in fee for water. Even though I have a Culligan green sand whole house filter, my hot water smells like rotten eggs after I replaced the hot water heater....the anode rod is reacting with phosphorous bacteria (I think).

The problem is the utility won't put in a meter until I have 1 gas appliance. So what I might do is buy a new h.e. washer/dryer and have the plumber install the gas to that.

Now the price is more manageable.....$5000 for gas/water trench, $2000 tap in, $1000 washer $1000 for 'extras' (TBD).......about $9,000 to get the water and gas up-to-date.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 10:22AM
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