Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

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psteinx
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Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by psteinx » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:16 am

So I'd like some deck repair work done. Around a day's work, I think. General carpentry, basically.

For better or worse, the work I want done is a bit non-specific - largely replacing partially rotted boards, but which specific boards, and how many, is a little open ended until the work starts (it's a bit hard to see the extent of the problem, which boards could be re-used, in part, elsewhere, etc until some boards come up). So it doesn't readily fit into the "get an estimate (or several) and go from there" mold. And anyways, it's a small-ish job, and I don't want to waste my time, nor that of prospective contractors.

Anyways, my problem is that I'm having a hard time finding a contractor. So far I've been using Craigslist, leaving messages, getting some callbacks, some "I'll come by this afternoon"s, and almost no follow through. I had one contractor come out, but he wanted to go the estimate route, and his estimate was way out of line for what I think the amount of work entails (probably 3-4X what I think a professional-ish contractor would/should charge).

I've had spot repairs done on this deck in the past, and I think I even did pretty much what I was trying to do now (calling up names off Craigslist) without too much trouble. But this time I'm struggling. Maybe it's the season? If it was minor electrical or plumbing or painting, I'd perhaps search for a local firm, but I figured for small-scale carpentry, that wasn't really the right route - just look for one/two person teams on Craigslist. Wrong approach? Suggestions?

123
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by 123 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:21 am

In your language looking for assistance I would use the term "handyman" to make it clear to prospects that it's a smaller job. A "contractor" is probably looking for jobs that involve a week or more of work.

Sometimes local Ace Hardware stores have a message board posted in their stores where handymen may post a business card indicating their availability.
Last edited by 123 on Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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jebmke
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by jebmke » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:22 am

I think what you have discovered is that everyone is booked up and small jobs aren't of interest. Despite what you sometimes hear in the media, the economy is strong and there is a shortage of skilled labor.

Our strategy is to try to do as much as possible during recessions. We spent a lot of money on renovations in 2009-2010 - availability of contractors and prices made it a no brainer. Now, skilled contractors are busy and materials prices are up considerably.

Absent that, I try to time work in the "off season." We will have some windows replaced this winter even though ideally, I would like to have had the work done before fall.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

Rupert
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by Rupert » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:25 am

123 wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:21 am
In your language looking for assistance I would use the term "handyman" to make it clear to prospects that it's a smaller job. A "contractor" is probably looking for jobs that involve a week or more of work.

Sometimes local Ace Hardware stores have a message board posted in their stores where handymen may post a business card indicating their availability.
+1. What you want is a handyman, not a contractor. Your job is too small for contractors, who, at least in my neck of the woods, are very busy these days. Construction is booming, and there's a shortage of skilled laborers due to the political climate. (I got this last bit directly from my general contractor's mouth over the summer when he showed up to paint my bathroom himself. He said he couldn't find laborers to do the work on small jobs; so he's started doing the painting himself.)

jebmke
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by jebmke » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:30 am

123 wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:21 am
Sometimes local Ace Hardware stores have a message board posted in their stores where handymen may post a business card indicating their availability.
Building supply distributors also - they can steer you to someone who fits the job. They typically know the locals and what they can and can't do.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

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englishgirl
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by englishgirl » Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:30 am

I've used Thumbtack successfully to find people for jobs around the house. I am not sure if it is busy/good in all areas, but the last project I put on there was for a handyman. You select the type of service you want, provide details of the job, and then local service people can send you back their information.

[Full disclosure, I use Thumbtack to get clients for my own business too - it costs a small amount for people to send you back a quote which I think is actually useful because I don't send back a quote for work that I am not interested in. So I know when I am hiring people on there it is not "too small" or a job they can't do, or whatever.]
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lthenderson
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by lthenderson » Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:43 am

Like others have said, the economy is strong and any sort of handyman or contractor are booked up into next year in my area. I should know as I have spent the last six months trying to get a quote on an addition to my house and only have one after all this time and it was definitely, if I am going to do it you will pay through the nose kind of a quote.

I would ask around your neighborhood for recommendations. If a neighbor or acquaintance is getting work done, drop in and see the handyman personally versus leaving phone messages which rarely get returned. More than likely for such a small job, no matter who you get, you will have to pay more than you think it should cost.

jebmke
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by jebmke » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:03 pm

lthenderson wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:43 am
Like others have said, the economy is strong and any sort of handyman or contractor are booked up into next year in my area. I should know as I have spent the last six months trying to get a quote on an addition to my house and only have one after all this time and it was definitely, if I am going to do it you will pay through the nose kind of a quote.

We found an excellent contractor (started with larger jobs) who still takes on the small jobs. I asked him why he still takes these smaller jobs from us and his reply was: The business today (2017) is just like it was in 2007. Eventually this is going to end and the big jobs just won't be there. I want to keep customers satisfied so that when the economy goes south, they will remember me.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

carolinaman
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by carolinaman » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:18 pm

IMO, Craigslist is risky for this sort of thing. One problem is people will overstate their capabilities and you will not find out until they are on the job. I was talking to a contractor last week and his business is booming. One of his ongoing problems is finding qualified subs. He usually does not find out until they are on the job and he has to let them go.

Building and remodeling is booming right now. My son is a remodeler and has problems finding available subs just like everybody else. The best suggestion may be to defer this work until the offseason and see if you can find someone.

p0nyboy
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by p0nyboy » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:25 pm

If you're only looking to replace some rotted boards...why not just do it yourself? Its not difficult. With the amount of money you'll save you can buy a saw and any other tool you use and still be way ahead in terms of saving money. I find it odd that people dont do things for themselves anymore. People rely on everyone else to solve their problems.

michaeljc70
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:31 pm

I'd look on Yelp or Angie's list probably. At least you can read some reviews. Hiring someone from Craigslist how do you know if they know what they are doing (though what you need sounds pretty basic).

Another option is a handyman service. They are used to small jobs.

fposte
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by fposte » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:32 pm

If it's reasonably active in your area, Nextdoor.com is a good place to get recommendations for people with specific handy skills that aren't contractor level.

Rupert
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by Rupert » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:40 pm

p0nyboy wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:25 pm
If you're only looking to replace some rotted boards...why not just do it yourself? Its not difficult. With the amount of money you'll save you can buy a saw and any other tool you use and still be way ahead in terms of saving money. I find it odd that people dont do things for themselves anymore. People rely on everyone else to solve their problems.
Well, now, that's overstating the case a bit. Not everyone should operate power tools. But another option for OP would be to pull up the boards that appear to be rotten, measure them carefully, and have the lumber yard (or even big-box store) employee cut the boards to size for him. I find that most folks can operate a hammer (but, sadly, not all). A 70-year-old lawyer I work with recently revealed to me that he didn't know until just recently that you always tighten screws by turning them to the right. So even "righty tighty, lefty loosey" never gets communicated to some people.

Theseus
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by Theseus » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:07 pm

englishgirl wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:30 am
I've used Thumbtack successfully to find people for jobs around the house. I am not sure if it is busy/good in all areas, but the last project I put on there was for a handyman. You select the type of service you want, provide details of the job, and then local service people can send you back their information.

[Full disclosure, I use Thumbtack to get clients for my own business too - it costs a small amount for people to send you back a quote which I think is actually useful because I don't send back a quote for work that I am not interested in. So I know when I am hiring people on there it is not "too small" or a job they can't do, or whatever.]
+1 for Thumbtack. I just used it last week for the first time to run a 50 Amp line into garage and within one hour of posting I had 4 bids (ranging from $250 - $900). I picked one that was in the mid range ($420) - and had 5 star reviews. I confirmed he was licensed and insured.

Well, the electrician that came to do the job hit the AC line (not really his fault - he would not have seen it as it was buried in the spray foam insulation) when drilling the hole from the garage and all freon escaped. And they couldn't get to the line that was punctured for repairs. So they had to install a whole new line from outdoor unit to the indoor. Must have been around $800-$1000 jobs including freon. Since the company I picked was insured and had good ratings it worked out well. They handled it professionally with no stress for me.

I would never trust a one off company/person from Craigslist in the future. Unintended things happen on home repair stuff, and you want someone that will stand behind and will take care of things.

renue74
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by renue74 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:13 pm

I'm going through a huge remodel project on an 80 year old rental house I bought last fall. Most of the work I do myself, but occasionally, I want to farm some work out (just don't want to do it.)

Anyways...I had this old 42" heart pine door that I needed to reframe the door jamb on. I texted around to 3 or 4 handymen and they all came back and said it would be 6 to 8 weeks before they could look at it.....thats handyman speak for 12 weeks.

I just did it myself. I'm tired of trying to beg people to do work for me. Much less, me have to hover over them to make sure it's done right. I've got my own kids that I have to hover over to take out the trash! :)

Ask around on Nextdoor.com. You'll find somebody there who can refer you to a handyman.

Don't do Craigslist. It's risky.

pshonore
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by pshonore » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:21 pm

Rupert wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:40 pm
p0nyboy wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:25 pm
If you're only looking to replace some rotted boards...why not just do it yourself? Its not difficult. With the amount of money you'll save you can buy a saw and any other tool you use and still be way ahead in terms of saving money. I find it odd that people dont do things for themselves anymore. People rely on everyone else to solve their problems.
Well, now, that's overstating the case a bit. Not everyone should operate power tools. But another option for OP would be to pull up the boards that appear to be rotten, measure them carefully, and have the lumber yard (or even big-box store) employee cut the boards to size for him. I find that most folks can operate a hammer (but, sadly, not all). A 70-year-old lawyer I work with recently revealed to me that he didn't know until just recently that you always tighten screws by turning them to the right. So even "righty tighty, lefty loosey" never gets communicated to some people.
Hard to believe a 70 year old never once had to unscrew something in their lifetime (like a light bulb).

Back to the original problem, is OP certain that the understructure of the deck is in good shape? How high off the ground is it? Might as well get it done right the first time.

psteinx
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by psteinx » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:35 pm

Follow-up:

One of the contacts who I thought was a non-follow up did in fact follow-up today, came out, and may be the right person for the job. If this doesn't work out I may end up doing it myself.

A few things had me dissuaded from doing it myself:

1) The boards needed are VERY long and I don't have easy access to a pickup. I knew delivery was possible but thought it was (overly) pricey. But in looking into this further today it seems that I can probably get delivery at a reasonable price from a nearby 84 lumber.

2) It's an elevated deck - maybe 7-9' off the ground. I have a 6 foot stepladder but that's just a little too short to comfortably do any work from underneath (top down it's obviously not an issue). But I can probably make it work or borrow a neighbor's ladder. I don't really want to buy a new ladder for the rare times I need something bigger, largely because a big ladder takes up a lot of storage space.

3) I did major work last summer and it turned into a lot trickier effort than I expected. That said, I *think* this deck stuff is fairly contained.

===

Anyways, after looking at the deck more today, I'm having modest second thoughts about what I want done and how I want it done. I had thought that the issue was relatively contained - mainly end bits of the boards rotting. The deck boards lay out diagonally, and I thought by shifting from longer to shorter, and cutting off the extra ends, much of the wood could be reused and the amount of new lumber needed would be modest. But looking at things underneath, I'm debating full replacement of not only the rotted boards, but perhaps much/all of the deck surface boards.

It's a ~21 year old deck, cedar surfaces, rails, and the like, pressure treated underlying cross beams. A few deck boards have been spot replaced in the past, and I was thinking this would be a slightly more extensive case of the same. Not sure...

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ram
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by ram » Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:55 pm

Labor is costly/ not easily available. Lumbar is cheap. I dont like to reuse damaged lumbar.
Ram

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chickadee
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by chickadee » Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:38 pm

I don't like to use my damaged lumbar either! But sadly it's the only lumbar I've got. (We are talking about backs now, right? )

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Earl Lemongrab
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Re: Finding contractor for small-ish, hourly job (deck carpentry)

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:13 pm

A bit over ten years ago, I replaced the boards on my deck. I wouldn't even try these days, lumbar indeed!

After I had my amounts, I called the local True Value place at the contractor number. I said, "I'm not a contractor, but I'm doing a substantial job. Can you give me any break on the price?" After getting the specific size and count numbers, he called back with a bid that was perhaps 10% off, more than covered the delivery cost. A few days later a pile was in the driveway.
This week's fortune cookie: "You will do well to expand your horizons." Ow. Passive-aggressive and vaguely ominous.

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