Maybe you’re the person who made this call. Or something similar.
Now I’m not going to tell you it can’t be done. Nor am I going to tell you that the requested repairs are much more complex than what you’ve led me to believe without looking at them. But guess what. There’s probably a lot more to those loose stones than just what you’re seeing. I’ve done simple repair jobs in the past. And sometimes they are just as simple as the initial phone call led me to believe. But usually they’re not.
What I usually find in these situations is a much larger underlying problem. Moisture infiltration, drainage and grading problems, inadequate footings or foundations, settling, deteriorating mortar throughout the entire structure, and frost heaving are just a few of the potential underlying causes to the problem. And if I were to fix only the visible manifestation of the problem, ie resetting the loose stones, you’d most likely be calling me back in a year or two complaining that my repairs have fallen apart. That makes you unhappy and doesn’t bode well for my reputation.
And if that 80-year-old set of stone steps is starting to show its age, even if I were able to “reset the loose stones” do you really think that the rest of the original stonework won’t follow suit. You’ll be throwing money at that old set of steps for years to come. That’s no fun for anyone. Those simple repairs often open up a whole new can of worms as far as the whole project is concerned.
Of course delivering the news that an expected couple hundred dollar repair job has turned into a couple thousand dollar replacement job never goes over well with the client. People think I’m up-selling or over-selling. They give me too much credit for a being a shrewd business person. I’ll take it as a compliment, but I’m not. I’m just a simple craftsman delivering the news. Don’t kill the messenger.
Every successful installation starts with a solid foundation. The majority of work we do on any project is stuff the homeowner will never see upon completion. But it’s the stuff that makes the project work, makes it last for years and years to come.
Those stone steps you called about? What more than likely needs to happen is that the whole set needs to be ripped out and replaced. Right down to the ground and below. Then we can build it back up properly and you can rest confident at night that the stones aren’t going anywhere. And if it doesn’t need to be replaced, then it most likely will require a whole lot more clean-up and repairing than just resetting two or three stones. We’ll need to clean out all the loose deteriorated mortar between the stones, which inevitably leads to even more stones popping. And on and on. It’s a Pandora’s Box.
Would you rather throw a few hundred dollars away, or would you rather spend a few thousand dollars and know that you’re getting something of value in return?
So when you call to inquire about those “simple” repairs, don’t be surprised if I grill you a bit on the phone before setting up an appointment to investigate further. And be prepared to spend a whole lot more than you’re anticipating. And you might even want to add a few dollars to that. But in the long run it will be worth it.
And if the existing structure can be repaired, if you can save a few bucks by re-using the stones or avoiding a total tear-out, I’ll be sure to let you know. I’m a homeowner too, so I understand the need to save a few bucks whenever possible. But I also understand value, and the return of getting something of value for your investment.
And who knows? Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is just a simple fix. But nine out of ten times it’s a lot more involved than what you first thought.