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Bad Apple Doing Tree Work? Home Improvement Harangue

August 9th, 2013 at 05:49 pm

Man, can you trust anybody in this world today to be what they say they are?

As mentioned yesterday, I had 5 contractors over my house yesterday to give me estimates for three different projects. One of them being the takedown of a huge ailanthus (tree of paradise) tree that is too close to my house (maybe 20 feet) and has already dropped a large limb in the last big storm.

One guy who was highly recommended passed on it, saying it was a little too big for him and I'd need someone with a bucket truck.

The next guy climbed trees and didn't use a bucket truck. He quoted me a price of $930 which would include mulching the smaller branches, cutting and then stacking the rest of the tree. Unfortunately, I don't have a fireplace so don't have much use for the wood.

I called my next door neighbors (an elderly couple) to see if the tree guy and his crew of 4 could drive a truck over their lawn with the mulcher. I figured they'd be fine with it because this tree threatens not only my power lines on one side, but theirs as well, on the other side and all of us, I think, are getting tired of big trees dropping in storms.

Sure enough, they were okay with it and so I called and told the tree guy he had the job. He was going to do it tomorrow morning.

It was around 4 pm today when I suddenly remembered I hadn't called the contact number tree guy gave me when I asked about his insurance. Tree work is inherently risky and dangerous work, and if someone got injured on my property, I could be sued. So I called and checked out the insurance; they said he had general liability insurance but not worker's comp.

I decided to do some quick due diligence online to check out the guy's background; this is something I do with most contractors I do business with. I noticed like so many others, he didn't put an actual address on his estimate paperwork and I learned years ago when I wanted to sue someone in small claims that you can’t serve someone if you don’t have their address.

While I didn't dig up his address, I did learn that he had only recently (a year ago) arrived in CT from PA. A man by the same name as him and going by the same business name had a long list of complaints filed against him by customers who said he completed part of the work, asked for more money and then never returned to finish the work. There were 16 complaints of that ilk. BBB of PA gave him an "F." Others also said he treated his workers very poorly, yelling and cursing at them. He was arrested for drug possession. There was even a local television station in PA that did an expose-type story on his business practices!! Amazing what you can find online when you dig a little.

So, I decided to back out and left a message for him. I was actually a little nervous about telling him the truth about what I found, lest he get angry with me and blow a fuse, so I lied and told him my husband lost his job today. Sorry, but you can't be too careful.

I'm just frustrated that I have to start from scratch again, and I'm pretty sure future estimates will be higher. His $930 I thought was fairly reasonable, given the size of this tree. I don't know if it even makes sense to spend money taking the tree down when there are so many other home improvements I need to make before selling my house, something I keep saying I want to do. It's just that after last winter, I truly am fearful of going through other storms like the 2 or 3 bad ones we've had, including Sandy.

Certainly, there are probably a half dozen other trees that could, theoretically, hit the house, but this one was the one I worried about the most.

One of the furnace humidifier guys got back to me with an emailed quote of $985 to install an Aprilaire humidifier, which I thinks is ridiculous. I hadn't realized what a top notch company this was, and they do a lot of business, he was telling me, with all the mega-mansions in Greenwich and southern parts of Fairfield County. They charge $130/hr for labor for cripes' sakes. I want to get the price from the other HVAC guy and then make a decision. This, too, is a project that is debatable as to usefulness if I sell the house in a year or two. Could I make do with the single room humidifier I use now, but perhaps more consistently, in just the bedroom? It gets incredibly dry in this house with forced hot air. I don't know; don’t really want to have to deal with that anymore. It's a $600 question.

There was another project I called a guy over for...the north side of my house with a large picket fenced-in area, all totally overgrown and beyond my control. (It would scream "high maintenance" to any prospective buyer.) He was here for quite a while talking to me about my options, which included his using a rototiller-type machine or something else I forget the name, to dig up the pachysandra and invasive brambles but we both agreed he wouldn't be able to get every last bit of pachysandra and the stuff would grow back. He wanted more money for doing that anyway. So he suggested that he had his 2 sons simply rake up all the debris and growth in there, take it away, trim it real short and dismantle the picket fence which is falling apart and rotting. For that he wanted $1200, again a ridiculous price. The idea of just cutting it all down low would be that I could then stay on top of it with my lawnmower.

When I didn't call him back in a day or two, he called me and left a message saying hey, I'm working in your town next week and I can save you some money by doing your job same day and hauling your stuff away same day, thereby only having to pay dump fee once and he brought the price down to $950. Somehow I suspect he's just trying to get my business and isn't necessarily working in my town. Anyway, that's way too much money. I might as well just wait til spring and again attempt to stay on top of the growth in that area with a mower/trimmer.

I keep feeling like I'm getting nowhere. Probably the biggest thing I’d want to try to fix with the house before selling it would be my damp basement issues. In the past with very heavy rains in spring I've had water coming through the cinder block walls. I have used Thoro-Seal and believe that's mostly plugged up. But I still have damp areas of the concrete floor in there during times of high humidity or in spring when there's a high water table. It's not wet, per se, and not standing water, just damp areas along the perimeter of the walls.

In years past I had not one but two separate underground drainage systems installed and spent probably $10K+; still I have these problems and I dread tackling this problem again. But I feel this would need to be addressed becus, unlike when I bought the place, state laws now require that any house seller disclose certain key problems (like wet basement, termites, etc) on a special form that's given to the buyer.

I've poured so much money into this place, installing a top of line furnace, new roof, hook-up to city water, hook-up to town sewers, all new Whirlpool kitchen appliances w/ s/s fridge and dishwasher, new washer/dryer, sun room conversion, new attic windows, French doors, new I-beam in basement, rebuilt front stoop, rebuilt brick patio, replaced all faucets, attic insulation, blown-in wall insulation, vinyl siding...

Other shortcomings of this house are...the driveway is in bad shape, but that's another expensive fix I wasn't planning on doing. And while I replaced the roof 18 years ago, it should probably be redone soon because the plywood boards underneath it are soft and no good. And the final big problem is the walls in the dining room and living room...it's paint over wallpaper and, you guessed it, the paint is cracking and coming up because the underlying wallpaper is starting to come up. I tried with one small area of the wall to scrape the whole thing down and it's a mess, with several layers of old wallpaper from I'm guessing the 50s. It would probably be easier to just replace the beaverboard with new sheetrock and then tape it, but that again is an expensive and time-consuming project. I also thought it might be easier to have my handyman guy just install vertical wood paneling over it, but then you have baseboards and moldings to worry about, and things like electrical outlets won't be flush.

If I had the $ I could just wave my hand and say, make it so, but now, every dollar is precious and I have to be careful of how I spend it. If I had a handy husband, that would be enormously helpful right about now.

4 Responses to “Bad Apple Doing Tree Work? Home Improvement Harangue”

  1. Wino Says:

    There is a tool you can buy that allows you to perforate wallpaper. You then spray it really, really well with water - some people say to put fabric softener in the water - and they you scrape it off. It is not rocket science, and even DD2 and her husband were able to remove several rooms of wall paper in two days with the help of a few friends. Don't scrap too hard. One of the girls helping DD2 managed to take off some of the paper that coats the drywall. Luckily, it wasn't too much of the paper, and it could be skimmed over.

    http://img.hgtv.com/HGTV/2010/08/27/UHT-Wallpaper-Removal_wa...Scoring tool for removing wallpaper

    http://www.hgtv.com/home-improvement/how-to-easily-remove-wa...Directions: How to remove wallpaper

  2. PatientSaver Says:

    Yes, I'm familiar with the tool you're speaking of, and I have one. It's easy to take off the drywall paper. I will post a pic of the small area I tried scraping. It's a mess. Not all of it came up, that's the problem, so all uneven surfaces. I suppose it could be fixed by skimming over. Do you use joint compound to do that?

  3. scfr Says:

    Are you familiar with the home improvement referral service "Home Advisor" ... formerly called "Service Magic"? I went through Service Magic to locate people to: install our TV antennae, do heating/AC checkups, and install glass shower doors. In all cases I was VERY happy with both price and service. I have not used them since they became Home Advisor because I've had no need.

    You fill out a very short form about the type of work you need done; they give you several names and then you can call around and make your choice. I made my choices based on phone conversations, perusal of on-line information (including yelp reviews), and estimate. For the heating/AC tuneups and antennae installation, I chose without meeting (just set up an appointment), but for the shower doors the owner had to come out to take measurements and show samples for us to choose from, and then he gave us an estimate.

    You don't have to pay for the service (the contractors do that), but you are asked to do a rating/review. Of course the business owners know you will be rating them.

    The SA web site is not allowing me to post a link, but if you do a web search for Home Advisor and then click on the FAQ page you can get information about how they screen providers. They require insurance coverage only for health care providers and moving services, so that is something you would need to check on your own.

    As I said, I've been very happy with the results I've had so far and will use them again when the need arises.

  4. MonkeyMama Says:

    With the internet these days, we generally have not had any troubles with online contractors (very pleased, though price often varies for quality - one opinion's of reasonable does not always match our opinion). But, that might be easier living in a high population city.

    That said, we've had a lot going on in the past couple of weeks. IT was easy to find a solid plumber, BUT the garage door repair stuff was interesting. Very highly recommended service who we would have most likely gone with, but I noticed that the name, address AND phone # did not match the license number they provided. ??? There may have been a reasonable explanation, but we ruled them out first. (We had a landscaper use his brother's license when we first moved here - was kind of a mess - so kind of didn't want to touch that with a ten foot pole). Everyone seemed to have an entirely different take and opinion on everything, so it was interesting. More than one seemed to have license problems. It just takes 5 seconds to look up a license; I don't think most people bother. I suppose license is less important for garage door installer, and why we were finding this to be the case, but we also have a rule to only do business with the most ethical of people. So, if they are lying about their license, then forget about it. I know I am way crazy picky on that point, but there is no doubt it pays off in the long run. If someone wants to cut corners and fudge on this and that, lord knows what else they will cut corners and fudge on.

    P.S. Good detective work!

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