Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Where Did I Leave That Map?

Well. I got the call back from the bank loan officer an hour or so ago. My house appraised out a good deal lower than the neighborhood maximum book value.

This doesn't surprise me. Not really. Not with all the half-stripped woodwork, the wallpaper that's ripped in some places (previous owners' dogs) and hanging off the wall in others (a spur to me to replace it sooner than later--supposedly), the torn-up garden borders, the old, scarred bathroom tub with no shower, and all the other signs of work-in-progress-but-nowhere-near-done.

And the figure came in only a thousand less than the current book valuation by my mortgage company-- and double-digit thousands over what I paid for the house four years ago.

So I can't complain, though I don't qualify for the 1% under Prime home equity credit line interest rate, nor for the maximum line amount. The new bank is still willing to write me a line for more money and at 1.25% less than I now have at the old bank.

So I told the loan officer, let's go with that. It'll allow me to get a thing or two done around here that I shouldn't put off and can't at all do myself.

Like basement waterproofing. And that's where I need the map.

I got an estimate from one major Pittsburgh area company last March, Dessicators, Ltd.* But even after the applicable Home Show discounts, they still wanted a quarter of my gross annual salary (literally!) to do the job.

That was bad enough. But I had a feeling at the time that my architectural firm employer was running out of projects that matched my skillset. So even if the price turned out to be the going rate, I didn't dare take on that kind of major obligation. I told the estimator I'd be getting at least three bids total and I'd (maybe) call him back.

I was right about the job situation. I've been "freelancing" since mid-May. And honestly, I can't say things are immediately more promising now.

But last month I heard that another area basement waterproofing firm, Dry-as-a-Bone Contracting*, was running a 40% off deal through the 30th of September. I got my foot in the door by calling on the 28th to schedule an appointment.

Their estimator came out this morning. He measured and poked and took readings with the water detector. And with the 40% discount, the estimate to dry me out comes in at less than half of the Dessicators, Ltd.'s discounted price.

But I found out where the discount comes from. It's a promo from the major chemical company that makes the drainage system components Dry-as-a-Bone installs. For various reasons, I believe them when they say that they have a rapidly-dwindling number of these discounts to apply, and that I have to let them know by Thursday at the latest.

But I don't have my third estimate! Since a week ago I'd been waiting to hear back from OvenDry Waterproofing, a company that uses a system successfully installed in the basement of a fellow Houseblogger in Portland, Oregon. But when I talked to the regional agent today, they told me they can't come out till the 25th, sorry!

So where do I go from here? Dry-as-a-Bone Contracting has been around for decades, is family-owned, and has an excellent reputation with the Better Business Bureau. The estimator left me a list of references longer than my arm. It seems that the tasks they'd perform would solve my wall moisture problem effectively, and they extend a lifetime no-water guarantee.

And, unlike Dessicators, Ltd., they won't insist on covering my honest painted brick basement walls with that godawful shiny vinyl liner and joint cover strips. They'd need to come up a foot from the floor with it, and I'd have to take on the obligation of repainting the walls periodically. But the estimator says, "There won't be any water."

But I still want that third estimate! And I really, really wanted to check out the system that Hillsdale House in Portland used!

Do I take the chance and rely on Dry-as-a-Bone's reputation? Do I take it as a bad sign that OvenDry Waterproofing never got back to me, and say phooey on them, anyway? Or, might I take advantage of the fact that Ted's Rilly-Dri Basement Company* also installs the interesting system used in Portland? But they might not be able to fit me in, either!

Where, oh, where, do I go from here? There ought to be a nice Ordnance Survey-type map that would tell me where all possible paths might lead and keep me out of the swamps and morasses. But all I see on the charts is Terra Incognita.

Oh, well. I can call some of Dry-as-a-Bone's references. And go down and make myself some lunch. Food first, decisions later.


*Made-up names

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