Get it in Writing

May 6, 2021

Hello everyone:

How many times have we heard the warning to “get it in writing?” I’ve heard it again and again and so I did. Kind of. Let me share with you my tale of wall building woe.

My neighbor shared that my backyard was hard for his son to mow, so I suggested perhaps it would be nice to have a retaining wall.  Great idea! Superb! I knew just the fellow to do the job- a man from my church was dong some handyman work and would love to have the chance to build it for me. I could help my neighbor’s son with him mowing, offer a helping hand to a family in need, and get a wall for a reasonable price. Or so I thought.

I talked to the handyman, and we went off to Home Depot to look at retaining wall material. He gave me a bid, said the project would take 30 hours over the course of one month to complete, and could start right away. I agreed and the materials were ordered.

To make a long story short, the project took 9 months to complete, and the building supplies we ordered for a fairly reasonable price needed some supplemental items (like cement, rebar, more blocks, tools, and the like) that my handyman did not realize he would need  because he had never built a wall before, apparently.  The labor? Well, I added some patio pavers  to the wall area, which I thought would cost $400 in labor, based on a conversation that I had with the handyman…..On the last day of the build, I was handed a bill that doubled the total cost of the labor (making it just under $3000)…Apparently, all those extra months meant the clock was ticking on the cost of labor, but I didn’t know it.

My neighbors told me later than they had never seen anyone move so slowly- they hoped I wasn’t getting charged by the hour….I hadn’t known I was.  Oh, one of the neighbors, who had built his own retaining wall, told me that my wall would probably fall down or start sinking in a couple of years. Why? Because the stones needed as a foundation were not used.

Lesson learned? Get it in writing. Hold the craftsperson to the contract. Don’t hire someone just to be helpful- hire a professional.


Dr. Sheri

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