Things have been quiet project wise at the LocustPointRowhouse this summer. We’ve been out of town a lot and the impending wedding have kept us pretty tied up lately. It has been tough for me to sit still, however it has been good to not spend several hundred dollars at Home Depot every week. I have struggled to keep from delving into new projects, however that doesn’t mean I haven’t been up to anything…
After dragging Beth on the roof (finally), she began to understand my vision of adding a roof deck. Last year I kicked around the idea of a full 3rd floor addition and decks, however for the size of my house and its location, we didn’t feel as it would be worth it to take on such a large scale project. This year, with my scope drastically reduced, I started the painful process of obtaining bids and determining the feasibility of this project.
I struggled to find contractors via internet searches and ended up getting an Angie’s List account. Funny thing is, there were not many local contractors on there who appeared to specialize in roof decks. I sent numerous emails out and in the initial round of responses, heard back from just 3 contractors about even setting up a meeting here at the house. You are welcome to contact me more directly for specific names, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll call them contractors A, B, and C, especially because this is an on-going process.
Contractor A: Had a fairly nice website with lots of pictures of completed entire house rehabs. They had a few pictures of a roofdeck they had done. The guy I spoke to seemed like they did a lot of decks. Their estimator showed up on time and seemed like a nice guy. He met with me for about 15 minutes. He did not take any measurements. He did not go outside the house. We talked in the upstairs hallway for most of the meeting and he poked his head out my skylight and quickly visually scanned the roof. He left promising a proposal within the next week or so. He planned to price a deck accessed via an internal stair over the existing interior stair with a pop-up or doghouse walking out onto a deck, the standard yet unappealing through the back bedroom approach, and from an example I saw in Federal Hill, a two-story spiral from the patio to a roof deck. Before he left I asked about formstone removal as they list themselves as Brick Restoration/Masonry experts…he ball-parked it at $3500… whoa, hope that isn’t an indicator of the deck price.
Result: It has been about a month and I have not heard back. I emailed the estimator at the address on his business card and it came back as no longer in service.
Contractor B: Great website. Very detailed. Recommended by someone I knew in my commercial construction days. Estimator/co-owner of the company was very personable. Took laser measurements of the entire upstairs. We talked for almost an hour I guess. We talked about pricing the same approaches as I discussed with Contractor A. After he left Beth and I were excited and felt really comfortable with the guy. They also do formstone removal… ball parked at $2800, with $150 per window to reflash/caulk at brick.
Result: About two weeks later we received his proposal. The multiple options I requested were not priced. The proposal was for the most intrusive and complicated means of doing the deck. Priced was a new interior stair to match existing, a doghouse with a door to the roof deck. As with Contractor A, I requested simple pressure treated decks, vinyl siding, etc. Total proposal cost: about $29,000. $29,000!!!! Wow. I picked the proposal apart with a friend at work who does decks on the side and was previously in the custom home business. Every category was extremely high. He had almost 10k for the roof deck alone. Beth and I were a little disheartened. I guess this contractor preys on the type of people who only get one proposal and have alot of money to blow. Not sure why I gave him any more of my time, but I called and asked him to evaluate another option I had thought up and done some sketches of. He ballparked it on the phone at $18-20k. Still shocked I argued a bit about how it could be that high when we were not even using trex or any kind of special materials. Needless to say I have not heard anything further… and I’m not sad.
Contractor C: Again, nice website. I have seen this contractors work around the neighborhood and their complete guts are stunning. After my experience with contractor B, I didn’t have much hope for these guys as their work looked 100x more amazing. Their estimator showed up on time and was very serious. He did not seem to be shmoozing or putting on a show. He was all business, talked to me in technical terms (which I appreciate) and listened to all of my ideas. We met for about 45 minutes and talked about the same general options as I did with the other contractors. He left and about 5 minutes later there was a knock at the door. It was the estimator again… “Is that your garage out back?” Yeah it is, do you want to see it? “Yeah I didn’t realize it was that large and detached from the house like that.” So out back we went and talked some more on the patio. He talked to me about how it may be possible to go with a deck on the garage that would be connected to the roof deck via a staircase. He mentioned that because my lot is so deep and that since the garage is almost 30′ deep, we would have no problem with setbacks in the alley. He decided to price this instead of the double spiral option.
Result: I received a detailed proposal with 3 Options to choose from.
- Via 2nd Floor Walkout Deck -12′x14′ deck over patio, 12′x16′ roofdeck, straight wooden stairs, convert window to door. $11,300.
- Via deck on Garage – new landing on patio, 4′ x 12′ deck on garage, 12′ x 16′ roof deck, 2 sets of stairs. $9,400. Could possibly go as large as 10′x12′ deck on garage based on setbacks.
- Via interior stairs with penthouse – 12′ x 14′ roofdeck, interior stair to match existing, structural work, roofing, penthouse structure, drywall, electric, etc. $14,600.
- A local ornamental iron company ballparked a 2-story spiral staircase at $10,000.
- A local ornamental iron company ballparked a metal stringer straight stair that could span the entire patio at $5,000.
- A spiral stair in Baltimore City must be 5′ 0″ in diameter to meet code. Thats a pretty large footprint on a deck or patio.
- I emailed no less than 5 architecture firms in the area that listed decks on their websites to talk about pricing for plans. Not a single one responded to me.
- One contractor I emailed told me that they “Do not do any decks in the summer as it is too hot.” Wow, they must get a lot of jobs.
- Another contractor I emailed told me they can no longer do jobs in Baltimore City. That sounds promising…wonder what they did wrong.
- The lowest bid I have thus far for formstone removal is $2,400, if anyone out there in cyberspace is looking for a reference point.
Hopefully I will have more on this topic soon.