We’ve had so many things go wrong that it’s always a shock when something good happens, especially when you least expect it.
I’ve mentioned a bunch of times that our deck was in urgent need of replacement or repair. The going price for replacing a simple wooden deck a year ago was approximately $5,000. But that was before COVID-19, the repercussions of which are going to be with us for a while.
For example. Owen wanted to build a rack for his stereo equipment. He has discovered second-hand 1970s audio equipment is much more satisfying than “virtual” stuff they are selling now. Through a combination of yard sales, eBay, and private contacts — he meets a lot of people while he works — he has put together a fine collection of quality audio equipment. It’s the same high quality equipment we owned when everyone was geeking out over the great music we had in the 60s and 70s, but now everyone listens to music on their cell phones. That’s pathetic. You can’t hear music that way. It’s worse quality than the scratchy old records we once owned.
He has seven speakers — a super surround system — and all the other stuff that goes with it. He realized he needed shelves so he could stop tripping over it. He drew up a set of simple plans using basic plywood and went to Koopman’s, our local lumber yard. He needed three pieces of inexpensive plywood. They quoted him $96 per slab.
Owen’s head started to spin. That was (with tax) more than $300 for an unfinished cabinet that would have, pre-pandemic, have cost less than $100. He told them “no thank you” and came home. Crumpled up his plans and decided to keep tripping over the equipment. Apparently during COVID, a lot of mills closed and while many are now reopening, there’s a shortage of lumber. So all those simple little home projects you may have been planning? You might want to wait until lumber yards are more fully stocked and prices come down.
Of course this was exactly the time when I was beginning to collect quotes on fixing the back deck. The first company to come by sent a well-dressed fellow who said he’d have to tear down the entire deck, tear out our French doors — which we installed about 10 years ago. It would cost around $30,000.
Not in this lifetime.
I was not encouraged especially when Owen came home and explained the lumber shortage, which also explained the humongous jump in price from $5,000 to $30,000 though I’m pretty sure this guy was trying to sell us something a lot fancier than we wanted or needed.
He also explained that repairing a door is impossible. You have to tear them out, throw them in a dump, and start over. Really?
I’m weary of people who believe that you can’t repair stuff. When in doubt, throw it out. But we’ve repaired doors many times. Fixing things used to be a perfectly acceptable way to deal with things that are broken. You do not have to remove an entire set of French doors to fix a rotting corner. You cut out the bad piece and replace it. Paint it. Voila, ten more years for that door without a $10,000 price tag for a new set of French doors, not to mention the rubble.
I was not encouraged. The next group to come by were a group of Brazilians. I thought they were Hispanic, but Owen said they were speaking Portuguese. For reasons no one has explained, we have a large Brazilian population locally. What I knew for sure was that whatever they were speaking, it wasn’t a language I understood. They talked to each other for a while and finally, the one who spoke English got up and started jumping on the deck. Then he had everyone jump on the deck. The deck didn’t wiggle or wobble.
“Why you want to replace the deck?” he asked.
“I don’t want to replace it. It’s old. If it can be repaired, that would be fantastic. I would be very happy to fix it.”
“It’s a good deck,” he said. “Just needs a little fixing. Replace the gate. Change the hangers. Fix the door,” he said pointing at the French doors that the previous guy said couldn’t be fixed. “We’ll get rid of all the junk and then paint. Good paint. I will send an estimate,” he promised.
I explained that we were poor, so this might just be an estimate because social security doesn’t give bonuses to people whose homes need repair. For that matter, they don’t give you enough to buy eyeglasses, hearing aids, or fix your teeth, but I digress.
About a week later, I got an estimate for $2,500, which was just about $1,000 more than I have available. I took a couple of days to ponder where I could get an extra thousand dollars, but nothing came to mind. So I wrote him back that I could come up with $1,500 immediately, but I could pay the rest off at $200 a month. And I would also understand if he couldn’t do it.
He called me back and said, “We’ll do it. Payments are fine. It’s okay. How is Saturday?” And yesterday they arrived. The deck looks great. It doesn’t look new, but it’s beautifully painted. It has a new gate and opens and closes properly and the door was repaired. All the junk is gone. They used top quality materials. It isn’t a new deck, but it feels like a new deck.
And as he left he said, “Don’t worry about the money. When you can, you pay.”
No one does that. No contractor has ever worked with us like this. I am so incredibly grateful, I really don’t have the words.