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I often think of DIY in terms of three different groupings: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or more accurately, three distinct phases in a certain order of progression:
- Bad (the inspiration for improvement)
- Ugly (looking even more like crap as the Bad gets taken apart and looks WAY worse)
- and Good (where things finally turn the corner).
The house’s exterior has been no exception to this typical pattern. The last time I left off about my exterior siding, things weren’t looking quite so hot:
Of course, this fit squarely in the Ugly step, as the guys I’d hired were getting started on a long-awaited project that I kept putting off. To recap from the beginning, when I bought the house, the exterior needed a number of repairs. Some of these things were obvious enough to take care of immediately, and prompted a lot of rapid changes, such as repairing the siding of the garage, getting rid of some wood rot on the upstairs windows, and picking new house paint colors. I was on a roll, but after months of hard work, I was running out of steam.
While each individual part of the exterior repair technically wasn’t anything I couldn’t have done on my own (provided that I had regular access to a tall enough ladder and the supplies on hand), it simply got to be too much with all of the other improvements I was making on the rest of the house. Months went by. A lot of them. I made a little progress here and there, but began to feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it… and that led to procrastination (for me, it always does!).
When I got too
bored tired to keep the same level of repair work going, I made a handful of stopgap repairs where they were most needed (none of them pretty), and things just kind of drifted into project limbo.
Of course, this method only lasts so long before it could really use some reinforcements. Because at some point, woodpeckers and the elements will make you wish you’d called a repair guy sooner. For example, in the photo above, there’s one piece of siding that just fell off at some point, several holes from birds being assholes, and a previously caulked piece of wood trim that needed to be replaced before rain made its way inside.
I knew I could do it on my own if I found the time, but not every project can wait on me to find it; this was one of them. Even though spending money on labor was both a cost of actual dollars and pride (and I always want to DIY if and when I can because budget), it was time to just get this thing DONE already.
I know. Yikes.
Originally, I intended on getting this heap o’ mess dealt with back in March when I got my first few quotes on HomeAdvisor.com. I’d been doing some online searching and started using their service because it was free, they had useful cost calculators, and they had lots of company reviews (I’m a review nut when it comes to purchases that I have to live with for an extended period of time or over a certain dollar amount). But after realizing that my exterior repairs might not be as expensive as I’d originally budgeted for (I figured around $3k, and quotes were coming back around $1,000), I also got quotes for cutting down the pine trees in my back yard. I guess the logic behind that was that I’d already spent the money in my head on exterior improvements, and I might as well see how far the dollars could stretch while I was getting quotes. Which actually went really, really awesome.
Except having the trees cut down and the thought of no longer dealing with the overwhelming nature of six pine trees’ worth of pine needles wooed me as a BIG FAT item crossed off my to-do list, and I got distracted enough to start again on some interior work. Which meant I still needed to come back around to the whole reason I began searching on HomeAdvisor in the first place. Birds pecking at your chimney makes for a very loud reminder, so I began looking for quotes again this summer.
And here’s where the story gets a little strange. I had such an easy time finding plenty of quotes and great service for tree cutting services that I knew I’d be going back to use HomeAdvisor again for this project. I simply assumed that finding someone to do siding repair would be even simpler than the trees, and began the search process again. I even tried calling the guy back who had come in with the lowest quote earlier this spring to have him come out again for an estimate adjustment (thinking that his number might increase with a few more months of allowing the siding to get worse). But it was like I’d gone fishing next to someone who just couldn’t stop yakking: unlike before, there were no bites.
Surely, there had to be plenty of local guys who did cedar siding repair, right? Most of the businesses I found on my own online had some form of exterior repair listed, but it seemed as though my “category” for this project neatly straddled the check boxes of other categories. It wasn’t just repair and wasn’t full replacement, and there was also caulking and painting needed. Every phone call I made while doing research wound up going something like “yeah, so I need X and Y and a little bit of Z”, and they would each do one or two of the things, but not all (usually they would only do full replacement, not repair, which was much pricier). So I reached back out to the HomeAdvisor team, who created a help ticket for me to speak to one of their on-staff service folks. This guy’s job was to help me find my matches, but not in a “this is the keyword you should use, good luck” sort of way. He came back with a list for my area and had these guys already notified to call me to set up quote appointments. All for free. They were basically as nice as a Canadian stereotype (minus the Tim Horton’s).
A very short couple of weeks later (some of which was waiting on rain to stop), I had a price agreed upon and strangers taking apart my house.
As usual, I went with my gut on who to choose. These guys had been in the business for a long while, seemed to have more expertise, and possessed a genuine interest in educating me about different alternatives to what I was originally asking for (with each suggestion actually less expensive than mine). They snagged the materials quickly, showed up on time, and went well above the scope of the work they quoted. Even after finding some nasty elements hiding beneath certain parts of the house and having to repair more than they saw during their initial inspection (such as the wood rot below), they got all of the necessary repairs done, sealed, and painted less than a week later.
They also took care of it all without costing a dime more than their quote. They even climbed onto the roof and got rid of some tricky gutter issues, just because they figured I wouldn’t be able to get to it in the near future. I’d definitely hire them again (if you’re in the local area and looking for someone, his info is at the bottom of the post*).
They kind of ran with their own instincts in certain areas, which worked really well for me since I knew I could trust them to do this while I worked on other things. Here, they were explaining the use of the rough versus the smoother side of the siding and why painting it was actually a huge pain. The house had been painted before I moved in, forcing me and these guys to keep painting it, but cedar is actually plenty resistant to the elements on its own. So rather than painting, cedar should always be stained. Not much I could do once painted (other than scrape or replace it, which would be $$$), so painting continued.
In the end, things looked SO MUCH BETTER.
The chimney looks way better too. You can’t really see it in the photo below, but they put a cap above the large band (which was supposed to be there but missing for way too long) to keep the wood rot situation from happening again anytime soon. I forgot to tell them the various areas that should be white vs. tan, but caught them before they put up the tougher trim pieces up, so the areas that need to be repainted will be much easier for me to reach.
As you can see, they didn’t paint everything, but that’s because I hired them to specifically to get to the parts that needed to be repaired or replaced and paint just that. I still have to finish painting the other spots of trim, but thankfully it’s a much easier job knowing that I don’t have to replace anything else. And of course, it’s been pushing me to get a LOT of yard work completed to complement all of the new siding work.
The work isn’t totally done yet to completely cross “exterior paint” off of the list. It’s also never going to be 100% perfect on the exterior (cedar siding doesn’t have the seamless, uniform kind of look that vinyl does), but it’s been a huge motivator to do all the things around the entryway, and I know my neighbors are probably very pleased to see the improvements.
I know I am!
Up next: my epic saga with attic squirrels. For those of you who might secretly hope for a squirrel near-ass-kicking of yours truly, you’ll want to catch the next post.
*Local Atlanta area info for the team I hired: Barry, 404-980-5228.
Huge thanks to HomeAdvisor for all of their help!