by Jenny Smedra
With summer just around the corner, my family usually tackles the outdoor home improvement projects this time of year. The garden is planted and yard work divided up among everyone. However, inflation and the price of construction materials are preventing many of our home improvement projects. Unfortunately, we are facing a necessary repair with a price tag I’m not sure we can afford.
The Home Improvement Project
My mom maintains a long honey-do list every year. But, there has been one nagging item topping the list for a few years now. Our deck has been in serious need of repair for about five years. It has withstood the elements for nearly 30 years, so we all agree it’s about time that we gave it the TLC it needs. While most of the framework and joists are in good shape, the actual decking is slowly rotting away. It seems like every time someone goes outside, there is a new board that creaks or another hole that appears. Although it is not in immediate danger of collapsing, it can’t go unattended for much longer.
In the past, my dad might have attempted to do the updates himself. However, health conditions have removed this option. The only way we are going to have it taken care of is to hire a professional.
How Inflation and Shortages are Affecting Home Improvements
After much discussion and consideration, my dad called a local contractor for an estimate three years ago. However, when he saw the final tally, he balked. He thought $5,000 was too much to pay for a job he could do himself. So, he put it off. Now, here we are two years later. We are in a situation where we can’t avoid the problem much longer, but the cost of building materials has skyrocketed. It’s a classic example of how hesitating to make a decision will bite you in the rear. While deck builds and repairs are always costly, the most recent estimate was double the initial bid. What’s worse is that we have called nearly every contractor in the Omaha area, and no one is able to even look at your project until spring. Some even have recordings that give referrals to other companies since they are booked so far into the future.
We are not the only ones experiencing these issues. The rising inflation of building materials is affecting everyone’s home improvement and construction projects. Even large-scale projects have been delayed due to the increase in the cost of steel and wood. And while prices have already hit recent highs, it seems as if it will only continue to go up until supply chains catch up to the demand.
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
So, that brings me to my current position of beings stuck between the metaphorical rock and a hard place. Since it is not my home, it isn’t my decision to make. But, my mom is begging for help after several failed attempts to talk to him. She feels she has waited long enough and wants to be able to use the outdoor space again. While it might not be my place, sometimes I am the only person who can communicate with him about financial matters. My question is: What’s the best way to approach it?
We have a good relationship with the initial contractor who gave us a fair bid. Since we will be able to keep most of the deck’s original structure, we only need to replace the decking and railings. We also found cheaper options for the spindles that save on the final bill. All in all, we are looking to spend $8,000-$10,000 to complete the repairs.
However, my dad has a severe aversion to spending money. His anxiety over spending money has been crippling in the past. And since he makes the final decisions, it is going to be a hard sell. My guess is that he will want to wait a little longer to see if the costs of building materials decline. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that is a gamble we can make.
I find myself in a precarious situation, but want what’s best for everyone. While we could wait one more year, it could be even more expensive later on. Even the professionals say that we shouldn’t wait any longer. What is the fairest way to handle this without stepping on toes?
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.
That’s a tough one. Lumber is ridiculous right now. My friends have actually torn out their deck completely rather than replace the boards. They put in a nice stamped concrete patio instead for a much lower cost. Is that a viable option?
I was blown away by the costs. Unfortunately it’s s second level deck, so the only options are lumber or composite materials. I wish we could do the patio option instead though.
On the plus side, I’ve heard composite decking now isn’t as much as an upcharge because lumber is so expensive. It would still add to your 8-10k estimate, but you’ll at least get the benefits of better longevity and less maintenance later. Not sure if availability is any different though. Good luck.
I thought the same things too Angie! I really like the idea of the composite decks for that very reason. But, it is going to be hard enough to convince him as it is. Unfortunately, the composite can’t be used in combination with the existing structure either. Either way, it’s going to be expensive.
Can your father even afford the cost? I find as people get older they won’t do what needs to be done. Try telling your dad the cost will only go up and just bite the bullet
I believe he can, it is just difficult for him to spend it. I agree with you as well, especially as people enter retirement, it seems people in my family become more frugal. I plan to be direct with him, but in a way that he’ll actually listen. But you are right about that too…it is time to bite the bullet.
Try to approach it as with a pro/con list of doing the repair now vs doing it later. Also, maybe try to highlight the safety and use aspect. Meaning the risk of the safety hazard, the potential costs involved with injury and play up the “cost” of not being able to enjoy that area of his property.
I like this systematic approach. He is a very cautious person, so I bet this would appeal to him if he saw the pros/cons in black and white. Thank you!
Right he doesn’t want someone to fall and get hurt. Especially if you have people over.
Exactly! That only brings added stress and concerns with insurance if someone does have an accident.
I’m a senior citizen so might have a different outlook. If one of my kids was trying to advise me about home maintenance I’d have no problem telling him/her to mind his own business unless they are paying for it. I certainly don’t want my adult kids especially if they are living with me tell me what is best.
I appreciate your perspective, Nan. This is exactly why I have stayed out of it for five years. Ultimately, it is his house and his decision. However, we have now had a second professional telling us it is a safety hazard and needs to be repaired immediately. I don’t want to tell him what to do, just help him see the dangers and be open to taking professional advice from the experts.