Restoring the Patio: From Glass Back to Fresh Air Was More Restoration than Renovation

Peeling, beige 1980s tile with thumb-width grout lines

Peeling, beige 1980s tile with thumb-width grout lines

In every other part of my home, there was zero I wanted to restore. Gut? Heck yeah! But not restore. It was closed off, boxy and an inefficient use of space. In addition, the original 1966 finish materials were, well … 1966 finish materials. Flocked and metallic wallpaper, crumbling cabinetry, age-stained tile, and crow’s foot plaster work coating … Every. Single. Wall. (A list of plaster texture horrors can be seen here)

So finally I have a restoration project: The patio! It was originally a beautiful 27’ long and 7.5’ deep open expanse until the previous owner cut it in two and enclosed half of it. The horrible, peeling beige-glazed tile with thumb-wide grout didn’t help.

After two years of penny-saving, the glass enclosure is now gone and the glass wall resealed. But this job almost didn’t happen.

Old Tile gone; glass still ugly-ing up the place

Old Tile gone; glass still ugly-ing up the place

You see, when I originally got quotes nearly two years ago, the quotes were running in the $2,000-ish range. Budget prevented me from having the work done until now (bigger fish to fry, and all that). Getting new quotes proved more difficult, and for some, a heck of a lot more costly. In our hot market, many things are getting pricier.

Genesis Glass, the low bidder last time, had already snagged the job in my mind if their new quote was even remotely similar to the original. Excited, we set an appointment for an estimate.

They didn’t show. When I called, the phone was actually picked up and hung-up without a word. Click. Texts were unanswered. With “Genesis 1:1” quoted on their business card, I’m left to wonder if their Bible begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …  so you can ditch clients.”

Going back to other original quotes, I found that in the interceding years, Alamo Glass decided they didn’t like the whole high-rise thing and declined to re-quote. The third quote … was … very… slow …getting … back … to … me. Weeks passed.

In the meantime, not being terrifically patient, I went back to square one. I called Binswanger. They sent out a guy who was probably the most knowledgeable estimator of the group – especially the little doo-dads of work I wanted done on other windows. Their quote for the glass removal was $6,060.04. My stomach dropped. Next up was Southern Building Services. Nice guy, knew his stuff, no problem doing the job … quote $4,124.33. Better, but still …yikes!

Maybe I could just crack the glass myself, but I didn’t want to play Garry Hoy.

Next, I was visited by the “M” in J&M Glass, Martin Gates. He was doing work nearby and had worked in my loony-bin building before.

His quote: $2,204. Man I slept well that night, knowing that God-awful enclosure was about to bite the dust.

The other piece of the restoration was calculated replacement. I’d guess the original patio floor was concrete grey and even though I removed the tile, I’m not going back to cement. Instead, I’ve (trendily) selected a porcelain tile that looks like the wood flooring inside to visually extend the room outside.

 

Tile

You have no idea how difficult it is to find 4″ wide “wood” tile.

The quote process to install the tile (which as you’ve guessed, I sourced, purchased and hauled home myself) were eerily similarly to the glass quotes. Did they know each other? Some wouldn’t show, others didn’t want to work in the building and others were (a lot) more than I wanted to pay. The outfit I selected, CDL Stone and Tile, is new in town but comes highly recommended by The Tile Shop (where he – Craig Patrick – was a store reference in Chicago before relocating to Dallas). After I accepted his bid, I told him about CandysDirt.com and said maybe I would write about his work.

Funny thing about generations and patios. When I mentioned in an HOA meeting that I would be restoring my patio, opening it up, I was semi-mobbed by a gaggle of very concerned little old ladies (the original LOLs). They were curious as to why I’d want to re-open the patio, because, well … it can be windy outside. I explained that I like to grow herbs and some flowers and of course wanted a place to watch the weather go by with a flute in my hand (champagne, not musical). To actually be outside! They appeared flummoxed.

I also recently heard from a friend at 3525 Turtle Creek that a resident there had restored their luxurious patio for outdoor use. Perhaps this is a nascent trend?  (Are you listening Park Towers?)

Job Diary

Wednesday: Not-Day One: Well, day one is over and … nothing. This morning I emailed J&M Glass to find out where their crew was. I was told they had to delay because they were behind on another job due to the rain (because they didn’t know this last night?). So tomorrow will be “day one.”

Thursday: Half-Hour One: Crew showed up and quickly decided they couldn’t do the job because the windows were caulked in-place from the outside…and left. I quickly sent a note to Gates asking if the problem was breaking the caulk seal from the outside. He replied, “Yes sir, as I understand…” and said he needed to talk to his crew, thinking an exterior scaffold (or swing stage) would be needed.  The wrinkle is that his company doesn’t provide them and it wasn’t part of the original quote. I was beginning to think this was why the other two were so much more. Great.  Given my budget, this may not be happening after all.

A couple of hours later at 2:15pm, I devised a knife on a pole and released the caulk on the first window panel. Yep, I just reached around the corner of the glass and cut the caulk from the outside of the window pane.  See, the problem with the caulk was reach, not difficulty.  A 2-foot knife gave me the length to slice through the caulk.  I sent a note telling of my potential solution. It’s 6:30pm and no reply. Clearly Day Two will not be tomorrow.

Had to put off the tile guy.

Friday: New Day: I can’t call this “Day 1” because nothing’s been done. The job was supposed to be completed yesterday and here I am trying to get in touch with Martin Gates. It’s 9:30am and no reply to yesterday’s email and my moments-ago phone call went to voicemail. At 12:46pm, I get an email from Mr. Gates stating, “I will get with you Monday. The flooding is causing issues.”

Gates was likely busy with rain-related problems (remember the rain?) but also I felt I was now a problem because the job was not going to plan.

In response, I’ve already contacted two other potential bidders to line up a backup. This is the only way to deal with tradespeople. Their “the phone will ring again with another job” attitude is what stops inexperienced renovators. In response, I‘ve learned to minimize my wasted time and move on pretty quickly to backup plans.

Remember the tile guy, Craig Patrick? He took it upon himself to put me in contact with a glass company (Vortex) who will also be providing a quote. (I’ve been very pleasantly shocked by this guy’s professionalism – something to do with being Australian?)

Saturday: Re-Quote: I was visited by A&A Glass who also installed my bathroom shower glass. He measured the job and we spoke about the exterior caulk and my solution. He was fine with the job and the solution and said he’d have me a quote in a day or two.

Monday: Changing Tradesmen: A&A gave me a quote of $1,300 saying they could begin Thursday. While it was tantalizing to move forward Thursday, I had to postpone. I was leaving Friday on a business trip which would leave no margin for error should anything go wrong.  Murphy’s Law and I are good friends. So I accepted the bid and rescheduled for the Monday after my return.

At 2:45pm, I sent a note to J&M Glass, “You seem busy, so I’ve found someone else to do the work.” I’ve heard no reply.

I also never received a quote from Vortex.

One Week Later…

Monday: The glass removal was postponed to Tuesday due to worker illness. I postponed tile yet again.

Tuesday: Glass Day 1 – FINALLY. After some early morning rain discussions, the crew showed up and began work. About 6 hours later, the job is complete with little fuss and the expected demolition muss. The rain began about 30 minutes ago, but it’s coming from the opposite direction, so the workers are still dry. I confirmed with Mr. Patrick … tile begins tomorrow.

Note: A&A had no problems with removing the glass from the inside despite the caulk. My “knife on a stick” tool was outclassed by their longer version, although they used both at some points. Because of this rather problem-free success, I’m wondering why others were talking about rappelling and swing stage scaffolding being needed from outside the building?

Sometimes backup plans need backups, and the hallowed “three quotes” may not be enough. Maybe it’s five or seven. Ultimately the quotation spread for identical work ranged from $1,300 to $6,060. The difference from cheapest to most expensive was 4.66-times! I won’t recommend calling and calling until you get the quote you want, because sometimes that’s a huge mistake. But I will say that price doesn’t necessarily equate to ability – I don’t doubt the abilities of any of the glass companies I contacted. All I’m saying is that for this job, this convoluted process worked. But boy, did it take time and energy.

Wednesday: Day 2 – TILE. Or not. Craig showed up early but thanks to tropical storm Bill, the patio is too wet to tile.

Friday: Tile Day 1. Craig was here at the crack of dawn (well, as early as building rules would allow) ready to get started on the now-dry patio. After all the prep work, he got about 40% tiled today.

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday Days 2, 3, 4. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. Craig showed up early and did his job. It took a little longer because … well … patio … one exit … not wanting to tile himself into a corner.

Patio Best

What do I need now? PATIO FURNITURE!

So that’s my tell-all on the process of restoring and re-tiling my patio.  The process I went through getting quotes and the inevitable snafus and problems are likely reasons why more people don’t renovate.  The disparity in pricing, poor communication and general uncertainty freak out exhaust the average person.  I’m sure some of the tradespeople I used for the main renovation are thrilled I wasn’t writing for Candy back then!

Resources Used and Recommended:

A&A Glass and Mirror

Hatim Kapasi

214-682-9128

aaglassmirror@yahoo.com

 

CDL Stone and Tile

Craig Patrick

630-546-1116

cdlstoneandtile@gmail.com

 

Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (hey, they’re legal in Texas)! sharewithjon@candysdirt.com

5 Comment

  • I want to say we have used J&M glass for window replacement twice in the last four years and they did a fantastic job at a reasonable price. Excellent quality windows and workers. Showed up on time and were respectful and considerate and did beautiful work. This is different from your job and they should have kept in contact with you.

  • I’m sure all the vendors I contacted have happy customers or they’d quickly be out of business. For example, Binswanger recently did wonderful work for a very satisfied upstairs neighbor. I think the finished product would have been the same regardless of whom I chose. My goal was to walk readers through the journey from beginning to end, warts and all. I hope to help readers understand and accept inevitable snafus but to also mercilessly look out for their own goals and timeline. You’re right about communication, if something goes south, it’s even more critical.

  • I had a fireworks viewing party last night showing off the new patio. I’ll take it that the patio re-do was a success as there was a marriage proposal (accepted) at the party.