LESLIE: Terri in Washington is on the line with a decking question. How can we help you with your project?
TERRI: Yes, I have an 11x12-foot deck on the back of my home and I’d like to put some kind of a roof over it. I don’t want something to keep the light out but I don’t want it real bright. I’ve gotten five bids and five different ways that they thought it should be done and I’m thoroughly confused at this point.
TOM: OK. OK. So what kinds of things are you considering? Like awnings and that sort of thing?
LESLIE: A pergola? An awning?
TERRI: No. No, I don’t want an – I want it to be permanent so that in the winter, when it’s raining, I can still go outside.
TOM: OK. And what has been the cost range of these designs?
TERRI: I’ve had anything from $1,700 to $6,500.
TOM: Hmm. OK. Well, the problem here is that you have no way of comparing apples to apples, because what you have is apples to oranges. And the reason you have apples to oranges is because there is a critical, missing component of this project.
LESLIE: A design plan.
TOM: And that’s a design plan, exactly. So, what I would recommend you do, since the appearance is very important to you is – this is the kind of small project that it would be worth hiring a designer or an architect to lay out for you.
TOM: For the few hundred dollars it will cost you, you’ll be able to make sure that this is exactly what you want to achieve with this space, Terri. The designer will work with you to choose the materials, to choose the size, the shape.
LESLIE: And it may, Tom – it may have to be an architect, because depending on what the village/town/county – you might need a variance, you might need special permits. It might be something that you need an architect to have approved specific drawings.
TERRI: I don’t think you have to have a permit for this size. I think if it was 1-foot larger, we would have to have a permit.
TOM: But let me give you one of the other key benefits of this and that is that once you have the design done, then you can go back to those five contractors and say, “This is what I want you to build.”
TERRI: I see.
TOM: So you’re not relying on them to design it; you’re saying, “This is what is going to be designed; now, you can give me a price to build it if you want to build it.”
TOM: And this way, you’ll have all five contractors bidding on the exact same project.
TERRI: And then I can compare apples to apples.
LESLIE: Correct. Because currently, you’ve got each contractor just being like, “Well, this is what I think.”
LESLIE: And then the next one is like, “But I think this.”
TERRI: Exactly. And I tried to narrow them down but – so that they – so we’re all on the same page but it just doesn’t seem to work.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I mean the other thing is if one of the contractors has given you – I doubt there’s drawings associated. But say one contractor has been like, “Oh, here’s my sketch and here’s what I’m thinking of doing,” and you like what’s been presented, you can then use that. But really, an architect, this is where they come in; this is their forte.
LESLIE: They’re going to help you determine materials. It really will be exactly what you want.
TERRI: That sounds wonderful.
TOM: Alright, Terri. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.