The Little Fountain That Could

February 27, 2015

When this fountain was first installed 7 years ago, the advice was to turn it off, drain it, and cover it in winter. It was too much a feature of this small, urban back yard to consider silencing it for 1/3 or the year. So the client kept it bubbling. And it kept freezing. And thawing. And freezing again. Somehow, it kept going. This is an antique Chinese urn. It’s not supposed to withstand zone 7 winters, yet on it goes. Sometimes the best advice is to do what makes you happy. The sound of water gurgling and the sight of the fountain make this client happy. If it was turned off and covered, they would never have witnessed this.


fountain bird photo


Recently, a neighbor of mine got hoodwinked by a bathroom contractor. The neighbor boasted about how the contractor claimed he could finish the project in just 3 days. About how he was half of what the other contractors charged. About his positive recommendations from others. Hmmm. If he was so competent, why was he only charging half the typical price?

While I can appreciate anyone trying to save a dollar, few people reflect on how working on their home is not an assembly line process. You are not buying a Honda where one dealer has exactly the same car as any other. You’re not at the grocery store where the bottle of Coke is the same as at another store; there are many variables that go into a project at your home.

Non-price things to consider when investing in your home:

1. Do you like the person who will lead the project? You will have to see her daily and work closely with her to keep project on track.

2. How long has the contractor been in business?

3. How have they handled a problem? If anyone tells you they have never had one, move right along to the next guy.

4. Is the company insured and do they have proper licensing? It costs more to hire a professional company, but it will help if anything goes wrong.

5. Are the workers legal and do they have worker’s comp insurance? See above. It cost more to hire a professional company…

There are some people to whom price is always the major, and sometimes only, consideration. They are not my preferred customers. They are the people whose dry stacked wall is scattered all over the front yard in a matter of months. They are the people whose jobs I fix when their contractor abandons them.

Sure, price is a consideration, but when I think of price I think of it differently. When I get a high price from my preferred contractor I don’t wonder how to talk them down, or how to use their ideas and hire someone less expensive. What I think about is how I can come up with the money to build the project that I want. With them. I think about features/fixtures/design elements that I can implement in phases to get the desired end result. If I think the price seems high, I ask what kind of work is involved in the project so that I better understand how they arrived at that price. I want my vendor to work with me to give me the look and feel that I want, for the best price we can work out together. I am investing in the relationship with my contractor.

Oh, and the neighbor? 3 day project still not finished 6 weeks later, and contractor not returning calls. Quite a bargain.

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