Reality checks

Reality checks

We finally installed a temporary site fence to enclose our side yard until we are ready to build a permanent fence. Our strategic goal was to increase security around our storage areas and to provide a secure place for me to play with our reactive dog.

In the past we had rented fencing for a monthly fee. However, these fences are unsightly, and when we factored in the cost of installation and rental over a number of years, we decided we could do better by building our own fence. This was our return on investment calculation for a 5 year time frame:

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Soft benefits from this decision process included:

  • Re-using scaffolding material that was destined for the green waste stream, doubling the use-value of lumber and reducing environmental impact
  • A fence that is aesthetically satisfying compared to rental fence visual impact
  • All the materials for the temporary fence are recyclable, there will be no waste going into the landfill when it is finally replaced
  • We were able to custom fit the fence to the shape of the yard instead of having to adapt to pre-determined shape of the rental fence and making do with an inferior layout
  • It was fun to build the fence, we were able to hire my carpenter brother, who helped us with the layout and cost-effective structure
  • Rental fences are not easy to lock and unlock everyday, they involve daily expenditures of energy to manipulate fence panels and ensure closure at the end of the day

Based on these numbers and analysis, it was well worth the effort to build our own temporary fence.

More interesting to me was that even with all our savings, the project cost was $1600, which I would not have guessed if I had not done the calculations.

I would definitely not have guessed the cost of renting the fence for that period of time would be so high, because the amount per month is low and it seems convenient when the fence company comes to do the installation. I would not have factored in the unsightly view of the rental fence over an extended period of time, nor the extra energy every day of having to shift fence panels around to access the yard.

This was a good lesson to me, about how we guess the value of renovations and how often our guesses are well out of range of actual costs. When I imagined how much time it would take for us to install the fence once we had all the materials, I guessed it would take the three of us 1/2 a day. I was out by an order of magnitude of 100%. It took us a full day, twice as much as I thought.

Given the fact that I am an experienced home renovator, carpenter, estimator and project manager, this exercise shows the difference our optimistic imagination can envision and the reality of actually getting the work done. It is no surprise that an inexperienced homeowner who does not understand how long it takes to get tasks done, how many errands have to be run to collect materials, supplies and equipment, and how many people it takes to complete the work, would have unrealistic expectations of scope, schedule, cost, and risk.

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