The News Tribune logo

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Good Contractor is Hard to Find

And the View from My Porch

After 127 years a lady can need attention. After two hundred-year storms, two years in a row thus making them at least seem annual, our 127 year old home in Ilwaco, WA at the mouth of the Columbia River is in need of attention. Actually, we started looking for contractors a year ago after we’d secured funds to make repairs, but on the Long Beach Peninsula it can be problematic just to get contractors to return calls much less do bids and show up to do the work. The Hanukkah storm of 2006 left them with plenty of work, particularly roofs. Fortunately the 100 mile an hour shingles my husband had put on our place had held, but the South side of the house, the side from which most storms pummel structures here, had problems let go too long.

Following the early December storm in 2007, which did not much disturb Pierce County, but hammered the coast with gusts up to 147 miles per hour, my husband and I drove down to Ilwaco to check on my elderly mother who had sat in the dark for three days with no long distance telephone service. The devastation we drove past looked as though a giant had stepped through the Willapa and Black Hills, squashing massive Douglas Firs in his path. “You know of course,” I said to my husband, “we’ll never find someone to work on the house next summer. All the contractors will be busier than…well, a one-armed paper hanger.”

This business of checking on houses on the Long Beach Peninsula has a history in our family. My grandparents had a summer home in Seaview and after every storm my mother would say, “Well, we’d better see if the house is still there.” It always was. Except for our fence which we have finally replaced, we’ve been lucky with storms.

Many people on the Long Beach Peninsula were not so fortunate last December. Many had roof damage. One restaurant in the Black Hills was swept away in a landslide from the record rain that accompanied that storm. My mother’s lights had never been out for more than a few hours because her apartment building is across the street from the hospital. This time the power lines between the Peninsula and Longview had gone down and the roads were blocked by trees making it difficult for PUD to get to places where the lines had been damaged. Basically the Long Beach Peninsula had become an island for three days, cut off from the world by blocked highways and downed power and telephone lines.

My mother’s lights and heat had come back on the day the roads opened. After going to Sid’s Grocery store and stocking up on the basics and some canned food for her we drove back home convinced that our old lady (the house, not my mother although perhaps her as well)would have to keep her chin up for whatever storms 2008 bring us. We’ve focused on replacing the rotten fence and landscaping the front yard with an eye to our being here full time eventually.

This week we had two pleasant surprises. Two contractors showed up on our door step two mornings in a row! These men are not just contractors; they specialize in old homes (one of them will not work on anything but old houses and buildings).

Our neighbor, Kevin Palo is a master craftsman who has worked on houses and buildings all over the country. We had been after him for an estimate for the South side of our house, but between the demands of his restoration business and his work on his own Victorian, he had not had the time to estimate the cost of doing what we needed. So when Dean Halverson showed up on our porch saying that another neighbor who is a retired contractor had sent him we were delighted. We were even more thrilled when he told us he could start as soon as he could get the materials. We have a little family gathering planned for late in August and to have the work done before then seemed too good to be true.

Twenty-four hours after securing Dean to do the job, Kevin showed up on our porch. We had to tell this talented man that we’d already secured someone to do this first project, but we chatted about other things that need doing. I mentioned that we need a better looking and more functional front door. The old door that was here when we bought the place is tall and thin. Buying a readymade door was not going to be in keeping with the character of the house and would not fit. More over a tiny two-paned window over the door was something I want to keep. Kevin said no problem. He would look for a door to make fit and would even make the transom functional so that we could have it open on warm days.

Dean was supposed to start work today, but showed up on my porch this morning to say that he’d had to order the shingles and would start on Monday. I’m not discouraged. Dean is from Portland where contractors make more of an effort to show up on time and get the job done. I love the Long Beach Peninsula and the whole “beach time” thing may be quaint, but it can be frustrating to anyone working on a schedule.

Within twenty-four hours we had two gentlemen who understand old houses secured to improve our old lady. The work was going to force me to stay on longer in Ilwaco this trip, but being here seldom hurts my feelings although I am sorry to be away from my grandchildren. They will be coming here in August and perhaps by then we will have new shakes on the south side of the house and windows that don’t leak! Check back and see our progress.


M. Sugimura said...

What a cute house! I'm going to save this shot for future reference. You never know. We might (bloggers) all get down for a pizza.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Pizza on the porch sounds perfect, Mizu. The house is a work in progress and we are SLOW, but it is a well loved if odd old house. She hasn't a name. The original owners were the Whealdons, but that's never struck a cord with us so were open to suggestions for a name.

Lorraine Hart said...

She is a beauty glad you can get the work done. Have you ever named the house?

Lorraine Hart said...

Er...only on the first cuppa...sorry about the name spelling!! xo

Stephanie Frieze said...

Hopefully she'll be a beauty eventually, Lorraine. When we bought the place in 1992 we traced her history and found out that she'd been built by the Whealdons who owned this whole bart of Ilwaco at one time. It even shows on survy maps as Whealdonberg. We toyed with the idea of calling it Whealdon, but it's never stuck and I'd like a name for it other than "the big house" which is as opposed to Amy's little cottage which is behind the barn. I am open to suggestions and was intending on writing about that. We (the Neighborhood) are a creative community. Maybe you all can help me with a name.

Kim Thompson said...

A naming brainstorming session?


You could name it after your ongoing article series, Stephanie, and call it simply, View From The Porch!

You have such a loving, special family, you could find a name in tribute to a family member who has passed.

I remember you referred to your Amy as your blue rose. What about The Blue Rose?

Oh, I shall have fun with this!

maxi said...

SAN DIEGO, CA -- Refrigeration contractors can find steady and profitable work when they land a maintenance agreement with a supermarket or -- even better -- a supermarket chain.

But they are also aware that store decision-makers are always looking for ways to make sure the work is done well at the best possible price. And that effort goes well beyond a quick chat and a handshake.

Apartments in Longview, Texas