Redoing Our Deck (Part 4)

We finished installing all the Fiberon boards. Unfortunately, we faced two issues: functional and aesthetic. When I cut the boards around the posts, I didn’t leave space for the boards to expand when the weather changes. I should have read up on it before installing the boards. I don’t have a problem with taking those boards out and trimming them some more because they seem to be crucial for the longevity of the deck.

The second issue is absolutely unnecessary and my wife and I discussed from the beginning. I was cleared that we were not going to cut boards since they fit our deck. They were not perfect, but very close. Initially, she agreed and now she changed her mind after we screwed in all the boards. I don’t mind that all the boards are not lining up in a straight line. It gives a feel of handmade quality. Unfortunately, my wife is absolutely adamant and wanted to cut the boards so that they are all even. We argued a bit over it. I am frustrated with her stubbornness. If we messed up with the cutting, we will throw $1,500 down the drain and restart it. Then again, I don’t want to hear her complaining for the next ten years that I didn’t do the right thing. I cut corners by not cutting the edges.

So now we have to unscrew all the boards and re-shift them so that they are flushed on one side and then prepare to cut on the other. Fortunately, the Trex Universal Hidden Fasteners make unscrewing and realigning the boards easy. Still, we now slowing down the progress. I have to take vacation time next week (or I will lose it) to work on the deck. I hope that we can wrap up this project by next week.

Redoing Our Deck (Part 3)

Installing the 4×4 posts was the most physical demanding part of redoing our deck. I had to drill, hammered, and added anchors to secure the posts. Eight posts took me three days to complete. By the last two posts, I was exhausted.

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to Home Depot to buy deck boards. We settled on Fiberon. We also bought Trex Universal Hidden Fasteners. The cost was almost $1,500. Because we switched to composite, the materials are a bit more than what I had expected. The board installing took two days. I worked mostly with my wife, but the kids helped screwing the nails as well. The only painful part was cutting up the boards around the posts. Other than that, the hidden fasteners worked very well.

Next, we will work on the the railings, stairs, and trims. We are doing each part at a time instead of planning ahead. This way it gives us the time to focus on each section and that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. The only issue is that we just have to make many trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot for materials and tools. Fortunately, my brother-in-law has almost any tool I would need. He loaned me seven types of saws. Some of them I don’t even know how to use. I can now use the table saw, circular saw, and jigsaw with confidence. I am actually not as bad as I thought with home improvements.

Redoing Our Deck (Part 2)

With the help of my two older sons and their cousin, we pulled out all the deck boards and railings over the weekend. On Monday, I woke up at seven in the morning and went to Lowe’s to pick up 4×4 pressure-treated timbers and other materials to continue the project. I didn’t get to work on the deck because I had to switch to my full-time job at 9:30 am.

I was going to jump back to the deck project after work, but my wife insisted that I needed to get the permit from the county. Instead of doing physical labor, I called the county and emailed about the process. I spent time reading and gathering information. I went ahead and submitted my application and paid the fee. I also submitted the paperworks I think they needed. I hope the process will work out smoothly. I am not doing anything much really. I am just replacing the woods.

This morning at 7 am I went to Lowe’s and Home Depot to pick out more materials. I didn’t get to work on the deck as I had planned in the morning so I did some after work hours. I cut up 4×4 timbers. I am hoping to install the posts tomorrow morning. The project is so far so good. I am not in a rush, but I wanted to keep the project moving.

I debated whether I should go with wood or composite. I kept switching back and forth trying to figure out which method is simpler. Right now I am leaning toward composite. I really don’t like the idea of maintaining the wood every summer. We’ll see!

Redoing Our Deck

Our deck has been neglected. In the past 12 years since we moved in, I stained it once. Needless to say, the woods have been badly deteriorated. I have been wanting to redo it every summer, but I rather spend time with the kids and go on vacation.

Now that the kids stay home and spend more time on the deck, I don’t want them to get splinters. It has come to the point where I have to do something about it. In the past couple of days, my wife and I had been discussing this project. We went from repainting to replacing, from woods to composites, and doing ourselves to hiring professionals. We looked up YouTube videos and did some research.

I wanted to get a few estimates and one of our neighbors had just completed his deck. He hired a professional company for $20,000. He informed me that the starting price is $15,000. I thanked him for sharing the information. Dropping fifteen to twenty grants for a deck is just too much for me. I don’t see it as a necessary spending, especially at the time when people struggle to pay their bills. If I could have it my way, I would rather do away with the damn deck.

After examining the structure of our deck carefully, the frame is still in good shape. I just need to replace all the boards and the railings. Although I am not a handyman and I have low confidence when it comes to home improvement, I think I can pull this off.

I went to my brother-in-law’s house to borrow a few electric saws. Then I went to Home Depot to pick up a Wrecking Claw for $50. This tool made removing boards painless. In half a day, we pulled up half of the decks already. My sons used it to help me pull up the nails. I used the saws to cut off the railings. Tomorrow we will finish up pulling out all the woods.

My calculation for the woods would be about $500. I am sure my work won’t be as nice as the professional, but I can save $14,500. Why do these companies charge so much? With the tools and the materials available from Home Depot and Lowe’s, doing it yourself seems possible if you are willing to do it. Even if I don’t want to do it myself, I have no choice, but to do it myself. I just can’t justify the cost for hiring a professional, especially for something that I don’t think necessary.

What about when people hire me to create a professional website? I don’t charge $15,000 if I could do the job for $5,000. I assume why my freelance is failing. I don’t feel good overcharging my clients. In contrast, companies do not feel bad overcharging me.

A few years ago, my sister-in-law hired a contractor to build a patio. I am not sure how she found him, but she complained that she could not find any information on his work. She advised him that he should have a website showcasing his projects then she recommended me. I came and talked to him about it. I quoted him around $2,000 for a simple website with work samples, testimonials, information about his services and his company, and of course contact information. Unfortunately, he told me he could not afford it. He charged my sister-in-law $40,000 for the job and he could not afford $2,000 for his business website? I don’t get it.

I am not sure where my ranting is heading, I just know that I am suck at doing business. I would love to be able work for myself, but I know I won’t survive. I don’t have the skills of a business-savvy person.

Replacing a CV Axle for 2011 Toyota Sienna

Another day, another high pay. Replacing the left-font CV axle for our 2011 Toyota Sienna cost:

  • Part: $300
  • Labor: $300

Total cost: $640 (tax included).

New Tires for 2011 Toyota Sienna

Writing down my mundane maintenances helps me keep track of my spending. For example, I replaced four brand new Michelin Premier at Costco in August 2018. For the entire year, I managed to miss two rotations because Costco’s service takes four to five hours.

Today I took my car in for a rotation and the technician that the two front tires were badly worn out. Even though I only drove 15,000 miles (125,000 miles to 135,000 miles) in 15 months, the warranty was voided because I missed the rotation.

I ended up replacing all four brand new Michelin Defender tires. I am definitely going to take my car for rotations every 5,000 miles from now on. If Michelin continues to wear out that quick, this will be my last time using its tires.

Total cost: $840

Replacing Battery for 2011 Toyota Sienna

On Friday, the car alarm went off and I didn’t know about it until someone notified me. The battery drained and I couldn’t start the engine. I asked someone to jumpstart for me. I left the engine running for ten minutes.

On Sunday, I couldn’t get it to start again; therefore, I needed another jumpstart. I drove for half an hour, shut off the engine, started again, and it worked fine. I didn’t want to take the chance in the winter; therefore, I bought a new battery from Advance Auto Parts. After installed the new one, I realized that the old battery is a Toyota TrueStart with a 84-month warranty. I only had it a little over 36 months. In retrospect, I could probably get more life out of it.

In any rate, I purchased an AutoCraft Platinum AGM Battery Group Size 24F, 710 CCA from Advance Auto Parts with a 3 year free replacement.

Total cost: $200

New Roof

A few months ago, a couple of young men knocked on our door during dinner time. I was about to send them away until one of them started to speak Vietnamese to me. He explained to me that he could get us a new roof from our home insurance if I let his crew inspect our roof. I couldn’t turn away a fellow Vietnamese so I agreed. They discovered that a hail storm sometimes in July had damaged our roof and they made a claim to our insurance. After they reached the deal with the insurance’s inspector, the insurance agreed to pay for our new roof as well as our shed.

Last Saturday, they came at 7:30 am and installed the new roof around 1 pm. I haven’t have a chance to go to the roof to check, but it looks good. They didn’t do the shed yet. I am hopeful that they will keep their word and come back to do it this weekend. Other than that I am satisfied with their service.

Update on November 3, 2019: Two weeks had gone by and they have not come back to do the shed. I called the Vietnamese guy last week and he he said this week. I am not going to waste my time complaining or making a big deal out of it. I am just disappointed. I also found a dozens of nail the left behind on the gutter. My wife found about a dozen on our yard. My son also found one on the driveway. Luckily, we didn’t drive our cars over it.

Update November 16, 2019: They finally came back to do the shed and they did a good job. I am not sure if they kept their word or they knew they wouldn’t get the second half of the payment if they didn’t finish the job. Early in the week, my insurance forwarded me the final bill they submitted claiming that the job was done, but I responded that they did not finish their job and told my insurance to hold off the payment. It turned out that the payment would go to me and I would pay the contractor. I would have refused to pay them if the job was incomplete. It’s all good now.

I recommend United Roofing & Exteriors after all.

AC Cleaning and Service Partner with Home Service Doctors

Last week before July 4, our AC leaked condensed water due to frozen coil. I called Home Service Doctors for the following cleaning:

  • Evaporator cleaning: $205
  • Condenser cleaning: $205

I also signed up for service partner to get 15% discount on the services: $180/year.

Total cost: $590

The service was fine. The cost was not cheap.

The Tree Debacle

Last Thursday, a brief storm splat one of the branches of an oak tree in front of our house. Both pieces hang down to the ground. I wanted to cut down the entire tree, but Đạo and Đán begged me to save it. I called a tree service, but it won’t be available until next week. I decide to do it myself.

My workplace had no power; therefore, I didn’t have to go to work on Friday. I climbed up a ladder to cut off the lower half of the branch that was still hanging down. It fell off and scratched my face. Luckily it didn’t strike me and make me fell off the ladder. Saturday, I did more trimming and cleaning. Sunday, my brother-in-law and I tried to pull the upper broken branch off, but we were unsuccessful. The weather was extremely hot so we gave up and let it hanging.

Sunday, a couple of men came by and asked if I wanted them to cut off the broke part. I wanted to cut off half of the branch. They wanted $500. I negotiated down to $300 because I knew it was a quick trim and would only take them half an hour. They left, but then came back 20 minutes later agreed to do the job. I gave them $320 after they completed it.

I am glad I paid them to do it. Even though it only took them half an hour, it would be too dangerous for me to cut down half of a tree. It might fell on my house, on my neighbor’s house, or worse, on me. The two days of work made me realize how hard it was to do the job myself. I also got a good exercise out of it.

Total cost: $320