My Garage King Experience

A blog to record my experience in getting a new garage built in Chicago by the company Garage King.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A bit more on the garage floor

Based on some comments added to the previous post, here is a bit more on the garage floor. One corner had a low spot, so if I hosed down the inside of the garage, water would puddle up there and not drain out of the garage (as promised). When the cement guy came out, he filled in the low spot (i.e. raised it up), so water wouldn't stay there. An earlier post has some pix of the problem. After filling the low area, the water doesn't stand there now. The color of the cement however is not uniform. Since that area is covered by palettes and garden supplies, that is not a problem for me. jd

Saturday, February 16, 2008

All's well that ends well

After a few tries, the cement guy came back and fixed the garage floor. So everything pretty much turned out okay. I promised in an earlier post to give some thoughts on the whole process of buying a garage. I think what I mainly wanted to write about was the asymmetry of the purchase process. The salesperson sells lots of garages, maybe hundreds or thousands. I buy one garage, hopefully, in my entire life. The sales rep knows all of the details, all of the things I should be asking, and may or may not clue me into it. Like there being sales tax on the materials (but not the labor). And that there might be gotchas from the cement guy or the electrician. Buying cars falls into the same category, and houses too, and appliances. Any of the big ticket items. The Internet helps to level the playing field somewhat, by providing a mechanism for connecting the islands of experience. But that requires a lot of effort on the part of the consumer -- searches and reading and comparing and assessing and synthesizing. Not fun. jd

Monday, June 11, 2007

Electrical in, technically it's done

On Monday, June 4 I received a call from the electrical sub-contractor, to make sure it would be okay for their crew to come by the next day. And sure enough, on Tuesday they showed up at the promised time to install the garage door opener, electrical outlet and the outside light, which I understand is required by the city. The work was tidy, and everything seems to work just fine.

Never did get a call from the Garage King construction manager about the puddling in the garage. Still thinking about that.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Construction is done

A new garage

What we see from the house

Water trickles in...

And puddles up
On Wednesday morning about 6:10a I was awoken by a loud thud out in the alley. A truck literally dropped off my garage material -- in front of my neighbor's garage. Fortunately he didn't need to get out of his garage that morning. My load was wrapped in a plastic sheath that said something like "Garage Builders Supply" although that might not have been exactly the name. And on the truck was another load, with the "Danley's Garage World" logo on it. (Danley's Garage World of course being a major competitor with Garage King.) More on this in a subsequent post.

The load was basically a garage kit -- the lumber, doors, shingles, siding, etc., all wrapped up and ready for assembly. The carpentry crew arrived about an hour later, and quickly set to work. One of the workers found a dead rat in the alley, and moved it across the alley, next to another neighbor's fence, and propped some scrap over it.

Most of the construction was kit assembly, although the studs needed to be cut, and the rafters for the hip roof needed to be cut (which takes some serious special reasoning). The whole job was done by 3 p.m. It was quite amazing to see how quickly they put together the new garage. I suppose garage construction is about as straightforward as construction gets -- very standardized -- and if the crew puts together essentially the same building every day, they will make it look easy.

A couple of notes: the side door is primed, but not a final color -- that is my job. Ditto for the side doorframe. (The main garage door is the correct color.) The workers tidy up after themselves, including picking up most of the nails left behind. The larger scrap went into the garage for pick up by someone Garage King sends over. (Which they did the next day.)

The quality of the work is pretty good I think. There headers are as the sales guy promised (these are the bigger boards over the doors and window to support the weight of the roof where there isn’t the normal support). I can see daylight in a couple places around the foundation, where the walls meet the concrete. The siding looks pretty good, but if I look carefully, there small inconsistencies.

Garage King wanted their final payment as soon as the carpenters were done. That's what I agreed to so...

After they left, I retrieved the rat, put it in a plastic bag and put it in my garbage bin. It was a good-sized one.

Now I am waiting for the electrical guy. I expected to hear something about when he would show on Thursday, but nothing, and nothing on Friday either. Until the electrical work is done, we don't have a garage door opener (well there's me, and I am amazed at how light the new door is compared to the old wood door).

One potential problem -- you can see in the photos -- we had rain in Chicago on Wednesday night, and I found a trickle of water coming into the garage. Now I can expect some water from the roof maybe bouncing off of the apron (since there are no gutters) and finding its way into the garage, but it should stay around the door, and be minimal at that. Water is predictable -- it flows downhill. The concrete slab is supposed to be pitched to allow water to run out, not in. And mostly it does that. But I mentioned the dip I saw in the slab after the concrete was poured. The fact that the dip is close to the main door means that there is a place inside the garage for water that might bounce under the door to go. There is a second picture that shows a spot on Saturday morning, after the big rains we had on Friday night. Today is Sunday, and the water has evaporated, but still...

I called Garage King on Friday to talk about this, but the construction manager was out, and was transferred to the head of the company? It was one of those classic conversations where the other person doesn't listen. After every sentence they need to reply, without getting the complete story first. First he said water in the garage was normal, it was because I didn't have gutters. Then he said I could push the water out of the garage. I tried to explain what I understood about floor pitch etc. He asked me what I wanted them to do. Which is an odd question -- I mean, I don't want water to come in the garage and stay there for a day or two. As to how they fix it -- how would I know? And then I was transferred back to the receptionist/office manager, who was very polite, and said she would have the construction manager call me on Monday.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Concrete update

An update: On Wednesday, I received a call from Garage King to find out if it would be okay for the construction crew to come by the following Wednesday (May 30). That would give the slab/foundation another week to cure. They also asked about payment #2 -- had I given it to the concrete guy? No, I didn't see him when he left, and he hadn't said anything about it. I offered to drop a check in the mail, but the person I spoke with said they could send someone by to get the check, or I could pay by credit card. After a tussle with the accounting person, who somehow had first reached my wife's celphone and then seemed quick to assume some evasion was going on our part, payment info was successfully transmitted.

Evidently, for concrete to set properly, it needs to be wetted down periodically, after being poured. See these Guidelines for Curing and Sealing Concrete for a straightforward description of what is going on during the curing process, and what you can do to help it along. The concrete guy told us to water the slab, as if we were watering a lawn, the next day (after he laid the slab). Done. And I did it again on Wednesday too, since it wasn't clear to me if that was necessary or not, and I figured it couldn't hurt. I noticed on Wednesday that water was puddling in one corner, meaning that there were some low spots on the slab.

I asked the concrete guy about it when he came to remove the forms, on Friday (this would be the Friday after laying the slab on Monday). He insisted it wouldn't be a problem, or he could make a channel in the floor to ensure that it drained out to the alley. But that would mar the floor, and he didn't feel it was necessary.

And so here is a dilemma -- pouring concrete seems to be one of those things that you get one chance to do right. Or like cutting wood -- you cut it too short and you are SOL. Writing computer code is much more forgiving, although once the code starts working on large amounts of data, making corrections to the data can be very tedious and expensive if not impossible. Which is why one gets an expert, to make sure it gets done right the first time. Again, I have practically zero zilch experience with garage floors. The previous garage sat below the alley, and frequently got water in it with no easy way for it to get out, except to seep through the cracks in the floor, or evaporate. That won't be a general problem with this garage, as it sits a few more inches above the alley. But if water ever does get in the garage -- e.g. I hose down the floor for some reason, a puddle will remain in one corner, and need to be squeegeed out. So the question is -- are such indentations normal or sign of poor craftsmanship? Another indication of the information imbalance between garage buyer and garage builder.

Here is a link on raising or leveling concrete slabs.

With the garage gone, I can now see how much lower than the alley my yard sits. Chicago was once pretty much a big swamp, and sometimes, especially after a big rain, I feel like Chicago still is a big swamp. The concrete guy recommended raising the area around the garage with dirt. This would cover the exposed side of the slab. He offered to bring some dirt by on Saturday, but never showed (though it rained most of the day). Being Memorial Day weekend, maybe on Tuesday?


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A new slab

Laying the slab

The finished slab

So the old garage was removed last Thursday (May 17). The next step is getting a new garage floor -- the "slab". This work also is sub-contracted out. I was hoping to hear from the concrete folks on Friday, but no. Then awakened by a call at 6:10 am on Saturday morning (the record of the call is still on my phone) -- could they come by and do the framing for the slab? Of course, to keep the process moving along. A small crew showed up about 45 minutes later, and put in the wood frame, the mold for the new garage floor. The lead guy said he would be back on Monday to pour the concrete.

As noted earlier, I was concerned about how much concrete they were going to need to pour, in order to ensure that the garage floor, at the back, was higher that the floor at the alley. That way, any water in the garage would be sure to drain out of the garage and not pool in it. This is called the pitch of the floor. As the concrete guy explained, the floor would be 5 inches above the alley in the back, three inches above the alley in the front of the garage, and then the "apron", the trapezoidal area between the garage and the alley, would slope down the three inches to the alley.
It was very difficult -- no impossible -- to get a straight answer on if more cement was going to be needed that what I had contracted for. I thought of a phrase I had just read in Lisa Delpit's book, Other People's Children, "cultural dissonance in cross-cultural interactions." It wasn't that the concrete guy was being evasive, I think it was more a cultural form of dealing with the customer. Or a problem of my expectation for some clear answer from someone who was not in a position to give it. In the end I realized that he was the expert, and I wanted him to do the job correctly per his expertise, and I will settle the question of any overage later.

On Monday, about 10:00a, the crew showed up again, to actually lay the slab, and the bit of sidewalk we were replacing. The first step was to put down a lawyer of dirt and rocks. These were tamped down with a machine, then wire screen laid on top of that to help give strength to the concrete. Then the concrete was poured in, and smoothed down. In all, the job took about five hours I expect. The floor looks great -- again, I am very happy with the quality of the work that they did. Some minimal plant damage, but that's to be expected I think. They did a good cleanup job too.

In the pictures, you can see the level edge for the walls, with the bolts sticking up that the walls will anchor the walls. You can see the pitch of the floor in relation to this edge.

The floor needs to cure for about a week to ten days, and then the actual construction can begin.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Goodbye old garage

The teardown begins

The teardown continues

The rear wall goes

The cat is a bit bewildered -- where did it go?
Goodbye old garage.

The wreck-and-haul guys came today, and, well, wrecked and hauled. Garage King sub-contracted the work with a company called Donco Hauling. Basically one guy with a Bobcat made short work of the garage, with two trucks, one for the garage itself, and one for the broken up slab and the bit of sidewalk we are replacing as well.

Everything went very smoothly. The Bobcat operator showed up first -- very pleasant and considerate guy. We chatted for a bit, until the trucks showed up, and then he got to work with his Bobcat. What is it about seeing workers and machines tearing stuff down? And to see someone who is completely skilled and comfortable with a machine. The guy (never got his name) had to work within a fairly small space. You might be able to see in the pictures that there is a chain link fence that went right up to the garage that further constrains the space. The bobcat-guy wheeled the machine around and around within the small space -- 14 x 20 ft - lifting entire walls at a time, leaving the overhead phone and electric wires intact, the fence too, and the garden was hardly touched. I had the impression that he wore the machine, something like Sigourney Weaver / Ripley in Aliens, but much smoother.

And then it was over, the garage was gone. The cat was bewildered about the changed shape of his little world, and me a bit too. The yard feels exposed without the building there.

I am very happy with the wreck-and-haul job.