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After that, the project proceeded conventionally on the interior. On the exterior, we installed horizontal furring strips above the parging, which allowed us to slightly flare the new beveled cedar siding over the stucco — a nice touch.

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Expanding a Kitchen

Expanding a Kitchen

  • Figure 5. The original unsightly railroad-tie retaining wall (A) was replaced by a nicely graded backyard (B). Thanks to a new bay window over the sink (C) and a 12-light entry door, the reorganized and expanded kitchen gets plenty of natural light (D).

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    Figure 5. The original unsightly railroad-tie retaining wall (A) was replaced by a nicely graded backyard (B). Thanks to a new bay window over the sink (C) and a 12-light entry door, the reorganized and expanded kitchen gets plenty of natural light (D).

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    Rob Corbo

    The original unsightly railroad tie was replaced. . . .
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    Rob Corbo

    . . . by a nicely graded backyard.
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    Rob Corbo

    Thanks to a new bay window over the sink (seen here from the outside). . .
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    . . . and a 12-light entry door, the reorganized and expanded kitchen gets plenty of natural light.

To land the job, I had discounted my original estimate by $5,000 to match the bids from several competitors. With a total project budget of about $111,600, this amount — plus the $2,300 we ate as a result of the missing below-grade detail — ended up being lost profit. I probably should have tried harder to stick with my original numbers, but that was hard to do during the downturn, when we were struggling to keep employees working, pay salary and overhead, and continue to chip away at our line of credit. As it turns out, our strategy may be starting to pay off: I haven’t had to discount any of my estimates lately, and recently the home­owners on this project asked us to renovate their master bath.

Rob Corbo is a contractor in Elizabeth, N.J.