It seems everyone has a system to sell

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Bear with me... there's a point to this. I think.

Rebuilding walls

A couple months ago I started getting estimates to have our basement walls repaired. Thanks to Ryan Homes (parent company NVR, as in "nvr does a good job"), we had a severely bowed basement wall and some cracks. The previous owner (and many of our neighbors) had interior drains installed, i-beams, etc., but those are bandaids over more serious issues. I wanted the problem taken care of!

So I got a half-dozen quotes, which were surprisingly varied. One guy tapped his foot on the floor and told me my downspout had leaked and washed gravel out from under the floor in one corner (wtf). One recommended rebuilding 3 walls, a couple suggested rebuilding the front wall (I agreed), and one recommended not touching the walls at all.

The last guy that I brought in was different. He gave me a worst-case scenario, but would only say so much until he started digging. That's a bit scary, but he came with a recommendation from a friend and it makes sense when you think about it - no one has x-ray vision. No one should just come in saying "no this wall doesn't need to be rebuilt" or "there's no gravel under this corner" unless they know exactly what they're dealing with.

As it turns out, there was two inches of gravel around the footer. Okay, so that's the part any of these outfits would've remedied. The really interesting part came when the front wall was torn down. The idiots at Ryan Homes secured the sill plate (top-right) to the cinder blocks with tiny 3 inch nails (bottom-left) instead of cast-in-place anchors (bottom-right). There's a slight difference. 🙄

The fact that our walls are not secured to the sill plate means once the clay started pushing there was absolutely nothing holding that wall in place. Now at least one wall is done correctly, and we've got gravel around most of the foundation so hopefully we don't run into more problems.

Preventing spider eggs (seriously)

In the middle of all this, my front wall all torn up, some guy approaches my house right before dinner one evening, claiming that 34 of my neighbors have signed up for his pest control service. I could be lucky no. 35.

Before I could say anything (springing on my obvious enthusiasm) he tells me that step one is to knock down all the cobwebs around my house, so spiders don't lay eggs behind the shutters.

... okay, that's new. 🤨

Before even asking me if I had a problem with spiders - or ants, or mice, or anything - he's trying to sell me on his freaking cobweb removal services. As if it's a foregone conclusion that every homeowner has this problem.

Get to the point...

So why am I writing about basement walls and spider eggs? It occurs to me that the thought that someone "has a plan" is extremely comforting, but that sometimes it's unrealistic... or just ridiculous.

If I'd gone with the guy that told me the front wall could stay as-is, I'd never have known how crappily it was built in the first place. Even with gravel behind it, it very well could've continued to move. And the spider egg guy.. well, don't even get me started. He might as well have just said, "34 of your neighbors gave me money, would you like to too?"

Sometimes a canned solution is appropriate. But when it comes to a complex problem - like a website or an application you're trying to have written or modified in some way - you're the only one who understands the desired outcome and what's at stake. You've got the largest vested interest in things going well.

You owe it to yourself to understand the problem and solution as much as possible. You deserve to work with someone who will work with you to discover the right solution, who will adjust as things progress and who's knowledgeable enough to make those adjustments - not jump to conclusions before figuring out what the problem even is. That can be a bit of a scary leap of faith in yourself. It's tempting to believe someone already has the problem figured out and buy into it, but a real solution usually involves ongoing discovery and adjustments.


Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.

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