Construction Begins (New Hard Cockpit Windshield and Top)
15 July 2016 | Herrington Harbour South
It's been a long time coming - construction of the new hard top has begun! We have considered this for a long time. The old Bimini was wearing out and costs for a new one versus investing in a hard top was simply the smart thing to do. Our biggest fear was that every hard top "add on" we have seen looks like an add-on! Lots of thought went into the design of our new hard cockpit. We have contracted a fiberglass tradesman and construction is underway! This post's lesson - if you want it done right you must either:
- Do it yourself...or...
- Supervise it yourself!
The new windscreen & top will be fiberglass "cored" with Divynlcell - a light weight, rigid material provide structure but save weight. Weight was a big factor in our calculations. We will use hard Lexan versus glass on the windshield and windows (replacability & breakage factors) and will use canvass and 40ml Lexan for the side and rear curtains (windows). We will additionally include "zip-out" sun/bug screen plus additional insulated panels (also zip out) for winter warmth at the dock here on the Chesapeake.
Of course - I am the chief design architect for this project since you pay an arm and a leg to have someone else do it for money! I will also build the "core" windshield structure using the Divynlcell and turn that over to our fiberglass tradesman to glass, gel-coat and finish it. He will design and complete the hard-top that will attache to the windscreen and aluminum superstructure (that I am also designing and welding).
OK - why am I doing a lot of the design and core work? Well I can (skills) - and the price-tag was exorbitant on initial estimate for a total project. I shaved $5K off of the price by doing what I could myself (at least what I have time for). I was lucky enough to find a young tradesman interested in doing what he was asked to do versus the "total" project. The money we save on this effort I will simply pour back into his skills cleaning up the scratches/gouges and spider cracks in our gel-coat on the hull and decks. It has become a symbiotic relationship.
Musings on costs of hiring a professional: I don't mind paying for professional work - at a fair cost. What I do mind is that many do not guarantee their work. No warranty - you are not getting my business! While working this project (hard top) and planning/researching for the BIG work (refurbishing the hull and deck finish) I knew that the work is mostly labor charges and what you are paying for (professionals) are two things...first - their facilities...A recent quote to "paint" the hull and top-sides from a professional yard service came in at $65-$85K!!! No way!...and second, their up-charge (you might pay $90 per hr for labor but they pay the guy with the spray gun about $20-$30 per hr and pocket the rest to pay for their indoor (OSHA-approved) paint booth...AND...because they can! My advice - just like in painting...90% of the work is in the prep of the surface. Likewise, research and preparation is 90% of your savings when trying to find a professional to do the things you can't - or won't do. SO - look for sole proprietor tradesmen that are skilled/licensed but not part of a corporate model. Consider a longer timeline for the work and be willing to be your own general contractor to save on muscle-cramping the wallet unnecessarily. Also consider obtaining/buying materials yourself and providing them to the tradesman. I found aluminum pipe at 50% of market price because it came in 90" vs 96" lengths.
Musings on "professional augmented" DIY projects: Simple comment - you get EXACTLY what you want! I have nightmares about dropping our vessel into a yacht yard and returning 60 days layer to find nothing has been done (other than taking it apart) and your STUCK with "I'm sorry"... we've been busy...the boat cannot go back into the water and you are now HOSTAGE to their whims. What this really means is that YOU are not their priority!..and never were. We work hard for our money - as I am sure service professionals do...so you don't pay until it is right!...BUT...their business model gives them the advantage - you are STUCK in their yard waiting on their schedule! Not good for you! My wife is in the customer service business as a consultant (PhD)...she will tell you that customer service is a dying art and a "contract" to do quality work within a designated time frame is not a common characteristic of this generation's work-force. As a former military officer - I have a "mission" oriented attitude - it gets done "right" and on time because others depend upon you accomplishing your mission!