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Backyard Observatories... Installed pricing?

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#1 Footbag

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:57 AM

I was browsing the BYO site and I see they have installed prices for their observatories. The prices seem very reasonable or at least less then a local builder would charge me.
Are there any other charges that aren't spelled out? It seems like a low amount for them to come from Ohio to build it and then return home. Unless of course the delivery charges bump the price up.
Has anyone used BYO? How quick was it? Tips?
I seems to remember them being at NEAF. I'm going to try and get all of my research done by then and get the ball going at NEAF.
Does anyone know of any builders who have built observatories in northeast PA?

#2 csa/montana

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 10:31 AM

Adam, you cannot go wrong with Scott at BYO! I have one of his; a Dobservatory. He built it in one weekend! He's very meticulous about little details, and does absolutely quality craftsmanship! I'd suggest you get in touch with them to discuss any questions you may have. You will get either Scott or his lovely wife, Diane replying. They are the most cordial, helpful people you will ever meet. He has built around 175 observatories around the country, so he's not a beginner!

Check out the Vendor Forum here (down at the bottom of the page); he's got a new thread there.

Here's mine.

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#3 1965healy

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 10:49 AM

BYO built my Obs a few years back and I' totally satisfied with the price/process and Obs. I'll expand on that a bit.

The price: I think he can keep this well controlled and reasonable because he knows what to do/expect. He's built hundreds of them.
Mine was anything but a "standard" build and he still kept the price fair.

The process: we disussed the build on the phone, via e-mail and even a
bit here on the CN site in this forum. Again, mine was not a typical Obs,
the plan was to "punch a hole" in an existing structure and build a roof top ROR. Scott had been there and done that before. No problem.

Timing: he usually tries to schedule a series of builds that allow him to keep travel time and costs down. He built a couple more Obs here in TX on his trip. He's very up front about timing/scheduling. The build itself in spite of being a bit unusual took less than 3days.

In the end I'm very happy with the experience and the results. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

#4 Footbag

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:30 AM

Do they need much info on the site? Do they get permits? About how long would the planning take?

I'll probably contact him, I was hoping to make one trip up to the site to take some photos and measurements.

#5 csa/montana

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 12:02 PM

Again, they are just a phone call, or an e-mail away; to answer any questions you may have. Scott & Diane are also both members of CN.

#6 Footbag

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 12:04 PM

I e-mailed them. Just looking for opinions on the process from the customers end.

#7 csa/montana

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 12:12 PM

In my case; they knew nothing about the site, simply what was needed as far as observatory size. All lumber was purchased locally. In my area there were no building permits required.

It's difficult for us to answer questions that only Scott (BYO) should be answering, as I'm sure there are different circumstances for different builds that he has to take into consideration.

#8 Gargoyle

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 01:44 PM

Adam,

Scott and crew installed my observatory coming on two years now (No. 150!). These guys are consummate professionals. They arrive with a plan based on your design and their cumulative experience, and adjust if need be with barely a hiccup. All costs are documented up front and are exactly as quoted. Scott manages his costs by purchasing supplies local if he can and by routing his installs to regions.

Straight stuff Adam, the most positive influence on my viewing has been having that observatory built by (in my opinion) the best observatory builders you can hire today. Scott and the guys from BYO are just good guys who return 100% + value for your cost. Very trustworthy and solid people.

Give him a call or email him with your thoughts and plans. Why wait to NEAF?

Jerry

#9 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 03:59 PM

BYO built an observatory for me two months ago. In addition to the listed price, I was charged "mileage," which was split with another project they were doing in NM. Of course, all of this is agreed upon ahead of time. Scott & Don showed up on a Sunday afternoon, unloaded some materials, and they went to work the following morning. In 2-1/2 days my observatory was finished. A friend who knows construction looked at it, and he thinks BYO did a great job. However, you're on your own for permits. I intentionally kept my project smaller than 120 sq ft, so that it could be just a "storage shed." Also, since they are unlicensed in my state (Calif.), I would be potentially liable if one of them were injured on the job. Individual homeowners are usually protected if the contractor is licensed, at least in Calif. The situation may be different in your state.

Edited to add: I sent Scott photos of the concrete slab well before they came out. When the slab was installed, I got Scott on the phone with my cement guy to be sure there was a mutual understanding about what was needed.

#10 Footbag

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 04:20 PM

BYO built an observatory for me two months ago. In addition to the listed price, I was charged "mileage," which was split with another project they were doing in NM. Of course, all of this is agreed upon ahead of time. Scott & Don showed up on a Sunday afternoon, unloaded some materials, and they went to work the following morning. In 2-1/2 days my observatory was finished. A friend who knows construction looked at it, and he thinks BYO did a great job. However, you're on your own for permits. I intentionally kept my project smaller than 120 sq ft, so that it could be just a "storage shed." Also, since they are unlicensed in my state (Calif.), I would be potentially liable if one of them were injured on the job. Individual homeowners are usually protected if the contractor is licensed, at least in Calif. The situation may be different in your state.

Edited to add: I sent Scott photos of the concrete slab well before they came out. When the slab was installed, I got Scott on the phone with my cement guy to be sure there was a mutual understanding about what was needed.


Thanks. That answered a lot of my questions. Did they suggest you pour the slab without them? I was wondering what they did while waiting for the concrete to set.

#11 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 04:59 PM

Our observatory slab was poured two months before BYO came out. We had the slab poured as an addendum to a patio & walkway project. I think BYO can build a deck, maybe a slab, but I'd check with them about that. I don't know what they would do if they had to wait for the concrete to set. They used locally-bought Quik-Crete for the telescope pier footing and outrigger footings. For my own benefit, I wanted to get the project underway, to get it out of the hypothetical category ("Someday, I'm going to build an observatory!"). Also, I wanted to be able to send photos of the finished slab to Scott to show that I was serious, that I wasn't just wasting everybody's time with queries about something that wasn't going to happen. That was my concern, not necessarily relevant to anyone else. I did check with another observatory vendor (not Sky Shed; they don't come to Calif.), and it would have cost something like $14k for a smaller, less-attractive building, and reports here about the unresponsiveness of that vendor also put him out of the running.

Some people have suggested that I could have done the whole thing on my own for a lot less money. Probably true. I looked at a lot of photos of other personal observatory projects. I saw any number of steps where I might lose enthusiasm for the project or perhaps "settle" for something substandard, because doing it right would be beyond my confidence level, and I'd have to puzzle over the next step. Also, I could see that dumping a load of lumber in my driveway would still leave me months or years from getting it done. I'm 69 now (68 when the obs. was built), and I don't have a lot of "somedays" remaining. I wanted it done. These guys have built a lot of them (mine is no. 173), and they know exactly what to do. There's no wasted motion.

#12 Footbag

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 05:29 PM

I was considering building it myself. In fact, I was about to start digging a hole for the pier when my back went out. It was then that my contractor neighbor convinced me I didn't want to do it myself.

But I also know that If I pay someone to do it, it will get done quickly. If I do it myself, it could take forever.

#13 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 07:59 PM

But I also know that If I pay someone to do it, it will get done quickly. If I do it myself, it could take forever.

Everybody has to judge their own ability and persistence for something like this. I see pix of lots of beautiful, completed, user-built observatories. I didn't see my own picture being among them. BTW, I thought they would pour the pier first. They did it last. My cement guy left a 16x16-inch aperture in the slab (per specification), and Scott dug it out after almost everything else was finished.

#14 BKBrown

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 08:20 PM

BYO is a thoroughly professional outfit, and I encountered zero issues with "hidden costs"...everything was laid out and agreed upon up front. Scott and Don are first class craftsmen and knocked the whole thing out in three days, start to finish. IMO they are the gold standard for amateur observatories. Here is a link to my project, Beaglehaven Observatory BYO #168, it pretty well documents the entire process: http://www.cloudynig...5275087/page... Good luck!

Clear Skies,
Brian

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#15 Footbag

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:28 PM

I can see they do nice work. Along with their craftsmanship, I may need their advice as I have two potential sites each with their own set of challenges.

#16 Digital Don

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:42 PM

Hi Adam,

BYO addresses the delivery charges on their website: "The Observatory shipping/delivery charge is not included in the prices listed but will be included in your quote." The delivery price was reasonable and I imagine it varies with distance.

Mount Jennings Observatory was number 100 for BYO and it's been one of the best astronomy related purchase I've made!

The real 'bottom line' is that you'll observe much more with an observatory than without one. Period.

Don :usa:

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#17 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:54 PM

Anza Gap Observatory exterior:

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#18 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:54 PM

Anza Gap Observatory interior:

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#19 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:55 PM

Anza Gap Observatory open for business:

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#20 Calypte

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 10:00 PM

Anza Gap Observatory slab:

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#21 Calypte

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 01:08 AM

Adam, I apologize for taking over the thread, but there are three other things I wanted to mention.

(1) In these tiny buildings, every inch of space counts. I added 2 ft of length, making the obs. 9-6 x 11-6, still keeping it under 120 sq ft. The two extra feet cost an additional $450. Since I was already down a lot of money for the project, I couldn't see nickel & dime-ing what I really wanted. I did, however, forego the motorized roof $1100), and I may yet regret that decision. It takes a good pull to get the roof rolling.

(2) Scott & Don came in a big Chevy pickup with a trailer of the type you might use for moving, about the size of a large horse trailer. I have a lot of space on the property (2.73 acres). I chose the observatory site so that the house would block a particularly annoying bright light, but also it was already cleared off, and it was easy for the guys to get back there to do the work.

(3) I considered a dome. A friend has an Explora-Dome, and it's really very nice. Three things made the decision for a roll-off instead of a dome: (i) I didn't want to attract unwanted attention by having something that looked like an observatory. (ii) My friend's Explora-Dome requires some calculations and data entry to get the rotation correctly synchronized with the scope. He said he had some trouble getting it right. Since I'll be swapping scopes occasionally, I wasn't sure I could get it working with all three scopes. I didn't want to have to worry about it. (iii) His door requires bending over to crawl through. At 69, I don't want to bend over if I don't have to. However, the Explora-Dome provides more protection against dewing of the optics, more protection from wind, and a view down to the horizon. I agonized a long time about the pier height. I finally went with BYO's standard 42 in. No, I can't see the horizon (except south; I got the fold-down south wall), but for imaging it doesn't matter. I'm not going to shoot down there anyway, and I gain some wind protection. It was important to me to get the fold-down south wall, but it turns out that I haven't used it except to view Canopus from inside the observatory. I may gain some galaxies in Fornax and Eridanus.

#22 Footbag

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 09:56 AM

Thanks for all of the info. I appreciate all of the details and pictures. I think I also have a better understanding about the logistics of how they operate.

I have to say, I'm excited to get this underway; but not at all confident in my location selection or planning ability.

Below is a picture of the location. It will either be on a raised deck right up against the house where the gas tank is, or in the center of the lawn with all effort put into maintaining the view from the windows you can see behind the landscaping.

I'd like the roof to roll south, but I also want maximum southern view. That is what I don't have in town.

I'd also like a warm room to be placed within the frame for the roll off roof. And I'd love to do it in an 8X10 structure.

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#23 csa/montana

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 10:26 AM

I'd like the roof to roll south, but I also want maximum southern view.



If your roof rolls south, it will definitely block some of your southern view! I had mine roll west, as there's a mountain that partially blocked the horizon, so the roof didn't take any sky away. My walls are around 3' high, to give me maximum view with my dob; therefore, a Dobservatory.

#24 1965healy

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 10:51 AM

Is there attic/finished space in the part of the structure to the right of the propane tank? If so you could use it as your warm room and a way to access the Obs which could be built on a deck above where the propane tank is.

#25 Footbag

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 11:02 AM

Is there attic/finished space in the part of the structure to the right of the propane tank? If so you could use it as your warm room and a way to access the Obs which could be built on a deck above where the propane tank is.


Yes. Actually, the window above the gas tank is my bedroom. I could use it as a warm room, but wouldn't easily be able to get there from the observatory. This is a very old log cabin. We won't be allowed to cut any logs.

I just had a discussion with my parents, who own the property and will have veto power over the location. They also prefer the gas tank area. My initial concern was their view from their bedroom, and that has become their main concern.

If I were to put it by the house, I just wonder how you would deal with the roof transitions. This is why I need a professionals guidance.

I really hate to say this, because I don't like them; but a dome might make this a lot easier.






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