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Construction: Made by hand in the USA

Okay, it isn’t quite Thanksgiving, but in San Diego this week it is cool and cloudy and it is forcing me to admit something a little early this year: ’tis the season.

This time of year we all get ramped up for a lot of celebrating, and a whole lot of spending money. A lot of people assume that this season is pretty much a dead season for the construction industry, but in San Diego there is almost never a time when the industry stops or even slows down much. For one thing, a lot of people are facing their relatives visiting from far away and they look around at their yards and think, this needs something…

But of course, in the season of spending there isn’t a lot of room in people’s budgets for construction. It got me thinking about a question that people ask me a lot, “Why is it so expensive to build things here? All I want is a _____ (insert pool, patio, fireplace, whatever) and I had no idea it was going to cost _____ (insert the expected amount and multiply it by two, or three…)!”

I think a lot about why it costs so much and I think the answer is actually simpler than it might seem. Custom building costs a lot because it is all hand made, by Americans. Imagine for a second that you were buying a quilt at Bed Bath and Beyond. You wouldn’t expect it to be made here, and you wouldn’t expect it to be that expensive. But now imagine buying a hand-made quilt at a little specialty shop in a small town in America. Expensive? You betcha.

Maybe it is a little whimsical to look at it this way, but next time you think about having a ______ (insert pool, patio, fireplace, whatever) built in your house/yard, try thinking of it as an heirloom piece, made by hand, here in the USA. Individual, unique, art.

It is buying local at its best. 

(the photo is from the Venice Art Walk this year, found on Laguna Dirt in May 2011)

© Kate Wiseman 2010. Want your own waterwise landscape design? Please visit for more info.

Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Kate
Wiseman, the Principal, has been a San Diego landscape designer
for the past ten years. Find out more at