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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finding plants

We have a vision for the landscaping of our lot and the sidewalk boulevard. We want it to feel like you are passing through a garden as you walk along the sidewalk. However, we have absolutely no money left from the renovation for plants. We have joined the Green Streets Program with the City of Vancouver. Our neighbour, Moira, gave us a heads up that a Green Streets traffic circle was going to be demolished for road repairs and we were allowed to harvest plants that had been left unwanted.

We quickly attached our trailers to our bicycles, loaded our shovels and road up the hill to the traffic circle. There was a lovely little tree left, and some other perennials. We managed to fill our trailers with plants, to bring them home for planting.

It was a super fun outing, made all the more sweet because we were able to use our bikes instead of a car or truck for transport.

getting to final

It is a very discouraging time. It seems as if the more we get done the further the finish line moves away from us. The pieces for the front porch railing have been sitting awaiting a final coat of sealant for a week. The kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanity have taken much longer than we thought. Now I am teaching, and my work on the house has been cut down almost totally. The tiles are sitting in their boxes awaiting installation. We have run out of money.

Matt is the only one working on the project now, my teaching fees are keeping us afloat. If only we were on a renovation show, and some handsome tv contractor could come in, and with a deft hand on the editing software, speed everything up 10x. Within a few seconds everything would be done, and we would be smiling and waving a copy of the final inspection.

the final ordeal

Today we faced our final ordeal for this renovation. Well, it is definitely up there. There is no saying what still lays in store for us.

My approach was to duck out completely, I was going to work upstairs on my dissertation and let Matt handle it. But, periodically I would hear Matt and the backhoe operator talking down below in the yard, and I would have to go down and see if there was anything I could do to help. As the morning wore on, everytime I went down, I noticed Matt was looking more drawn and distressed with the progress of the work. I kept staying down longer and longer, until finally I didn’t go back upstairs to write.

I stayed down on the site, working side by side with the backhoe operator to empty out the side yard. By the end of the day we had filled a bin with soil and dug a hole approximately 10 x 12 x 8 feet. We have a little more to do tomorrow. I pray that I will be able to report success at the end of the day.

the fence is gone

Yesterday the fencing company came and removed the construction fence preparatory to excavating tomorrow. All of a sudden the property feels naked and exposed on the corner. We don’t have a line of defence from scavengers, nor from keeping Jethro from charging off the yard at passerby and crows.

At the same time, the house sits so proud on the corner. There is a feeling of energy moving, whoosh, up from the property. As if the house was sitting at the vortex of movement between heaven and earth. It feels dynamic, alive, vibrant.

We will get another fence built eventually, but in the meantime, we have to keep everything locked up, and the yard has to be free of any and all clutter.

trash run

On Monday we did a huge trash cleanup on the property. The final pieces of plywood leftover from the cement forms are gone, all the waste from trimming and siding are gone. We tore down the trash bin we built and hauled all the pieces away.

We gave away the pine planks we had sawn up from a tree we removed a couple of years ago. An old lawn bench is gone.

Our contractor is starting to remove his tarps and extra materials and equipment that are no longer needed for this job.

It is as if the property has heaved a gigantic sigh of relief.