Friday, February 17, 2012

Do it yourself or hire it out?

The fencing down the sides and back of my property is all constructed of cattle panels and hog panels (almost the same, just closer together at the bottom for hog panels).  These are very heavy duty wire panels that are 16 feet long and 4 feet high.  I have a t-post at each end and one approximately at the 8 foot center.  Fifteen years ago I put this fence in.  I did hire one person to help with the job since at that time not only did I have to put in 2000 feet of fencing, dragging panels by hand, but the weeds were five feet high as well.  I paid an hourly wage and got the person through a company called Labor Ready. 

To hire someone from Labor Ready you call up the company, tell them what you want someone to do, and let them know how long you want to hire the person.  I would always say one day.  You can either bring the company a check or pay by credit card over the phone.  The person will show up at the time you want them and will work for however long you agreed to.  You then sign a sheet telling Labor Ready what you thought of the worker and how many hours they worked.  The worker then takes this back to Labor Ready and they get paid.  Usually you pay double to triple minimum wage but the worker gets just a little more than minimum wage.  Still better than not having a job.  If you like the person you can call Labor Ready to hire them again, or better yet, just make the deal with the worker.  You then can pay them more than Labor Ready paid but not as much as when you paid the middle man. 

I've been looking at the fence lately.  Over the years with the animals leaning against the fence and with the ground the way it is, the fence has started to lean over.  Instead of the t-posts vertical to the ground at a nice right angle some are at about 45 degrees.  Not good when you want to keep animals in.  The sheep haven't tried getting out which means this is a good time to fix the fencing.  2000 feet of fencing at 16 feet per panel means I have 125 panels.  With 2 t-posts per panel that means 250 t-posts.  Since the ground is soft from the rain the t-posts can be hand pulled.  A post puller won't be necessary.  I was figuring that perhaps I could work on the fences and maybe hire someone to help, or better yet, hire someone to do the entire job.  After all, it's 15 years later.  I'm 15 years older. 

Around here people stop by properties and ask if you have any odd jobs.  Usually our front gate is closed but sometimes it's left open when the kids leave in the morning.  When someone does work at one property around here they want to make sure they hit every house in the neighborhood to let everyone know that they have worked locally and the quality of their work can be checked out.  The property two houses down had 250 fruit trees that needed trimming.  The house next door hired the same person to trim some of their palm trees.  This laborer came to my house wanting to know if I had any work that he could do.  Well...I have this fence.  How about if you give me an estimate.

It took him about 45 minutes to walk from one end to the other looking at the posts.  He came back and told me that he would bring a crew of 6-8 people and they'd have it done in a week.  It will cost about $4,500.  As I choked down the price I told him that I'd discuss it with the family and get back to him.  I'm not sure if the neighbors let it slip that "single grandparent and two grand kids" live here or what but I made it very clear that I had to discuss it with the other family members.  I told him someone would get back to him on Tuesday.  He said that they could start this weekend.  No.

I was shell-shocked with the price and amount of time.  I got to much time do I really think this project is going to take?  Now I do know there is a lot to it, and other than the weeds not being an issue like before there is actually more involved with redoing the fence than there was to originally put it in.  This time the wires need to be cut off the t-posts, the posts pulled out of the ground or at least pulled straight up.  Then the posts have to be pounded into the ground and the fence panels wired back to the t-posts.  How long should this take?  I figured it would take 15 minutes per panel.  It really shouldn't take that long but I wanted to round up.  That means four panels per hour.  With continuous working, it should take 32 hours to do all the panels.  I'm figuring on one person.  I don't see that a second person working side by side would really save a lot of time since I don't have two sets of post pounders.  I guess one person could be undoing the panels as the other pounds the posts.  Would it cut down the time from 32 to 16 hours?  I don't know.  But this person who bid the job, even with only 6 people on the job, estimated the job to take 240 hours.  That's 2 hours for one panel.  I don't think so!

I don't want to take a week off of work to do this task.  Do I want to spend four full weekend days working on fencing?  No.  I'm still thinking about hiring it out, or at least hiring a helper and making it a two person job.  I was figuring $15 per hour.  If I hired the person for 20 hours that would be $300.  Even if it took them an entire week it would be $600.  Certainly no where near the amount of the bid of $4,500.  Do it myself or hire it out?  I'll probably just do it myself until my arms get too tired pounding posts.  Then I'll hire it out. 


  1. Holy crap, $4,500? I am going to start charging for my fence building services! I become more thankful for coming from a large farm family every day. I just offer to fill the kid's gas tanks for the week they help out and I have plenty fence builders.

    I wish I lived a bit closer, I'd come help you build for dinner. Sorry to hear how much they charge. Maybe you could check at your local farm supply store and just ask if they know anyone who's a handyman (woman) who wants to make a few extra bucks. It just hurts to think of that price. Good luck on your fence building.

  2. As you know , G.I. JIM is a huge history buff. I believe that history is the best way to find out how our fore Fathers did things when society was self reliant .

    why not have an old fashioned "fence raising" just as they had a barn raising. Invite friends, especially ones with fencing or ranching back round. Have a plan put together and materials on hand. Have this a pot luck with the ladies (or men in some instances) preparing a dish and you provide the beverage and barbecued meat.

    The only draw back to doing it this way is you must commit to helping the attendees with future projects. But, I feel this will be extremely rewarding as the next project might be a shed raising, concrete slab pouring,butchering. canning party, pasture clearing, etc., and you will learn new skills you never had before. In addition, it builds communication and skills to work together which WILL BE NEEDED when the collapse comes. In that time no one will have "credentials" to show what they can and cannot do. You will not be able to call the BBB or google angie's list to find out if the person is legitimate. Yet, you will already know the people you can depend on and they will have the same confidence in your integrity . These activities build bonds that cannot be broken among people.

    In preparation,

    G.I. JIM

  3. We are rehabbing a house we biught and I have done the lions share of the work. With my junk knees we decided to get a quote to tile a small bathroom and shower. $1500 bucks and we have all the material ready. So this morning I'm teaching myself how to tile a bathroom.

  4. Being the son of a son of the Depression, I tend to do things on my own. Usually this means that jobs get done at a slower pace than if it was hired out. But that is the usual option because of cost.