Observatory Construction: Review of Backyard Observatories (CJE Construction, Inc.)

Zephyr Ridge Observatory was the 124th observatory built by Backyard Observatories (BYO) according to owner Scott Horstman. This is an impressive record, and the major reason I hired BYO for my project was that I was convinced by what seemed an ideal combination, namely, their previous experience in home construction (according to Scott) coupled with their unique experience in building roll-off roof observatories.

Below I summarize in broad terms my experience with Backyard Observatories.


  • Good communication during planning/negotiation.
  • Honored shipping charge discount for multiple builds, even though other projects were delayed and/or canceled.
  • On-time arrival.
  • Acquired interior fir paneling at reasonable cost and brought to site.
  • Quick build - they clearly have experience in implementing their design.
  • Used the diagram I supplied to accurately place the doors and windows.


  • BYO offers no warranty. The relationship is solely based on trust.
  • Questionable workmanship in some instances.
  • Did not complete project and provided inadequate compensation for unfinished work.
  • Did not provide one interior door ($165 per bid) and refused to give refund.
  • No response when I presented documented evidence of problems with the building two months after completion.
  • Extra time and expense incurred correcting problems with the building.
  • Several large Hefty bags of trash and a large pile of construction debris left on site.

Other Facts to Consider

  • CJE Construction, Inc. is "dead" according to Ohio business records.
  • BYO offers electrical installations, but does not employ a licensed electrician. (I hired a local electrician for my building.)
  • BYO travel expenses are covered in their "shipping charge." There is little flexibility in accommodating construction delays due to local causes.

The Bottom Line

Zephyr Ridge Observatory is a large roll-off roof building, near the upper limit of what Backyard Observatories offers on their web site. Consequently, any deficiencies of design or workmanship are magnified as compared to, say, a 10' x 10' observatory. Moreover, since my building is in a remote location, correcting problems with the building is much more difficult than it would be if it were located in my back yard. Although I was hesitant to hire an out-of-state company to build my observatory, I chose Backyard Observatories because they appeared to be an experienced builder who understood the needs of astronomers and had extensive experience building these types of structures. It seemed prudent to hire someone who had a clear understanding of the issues with a rolling roof system, rather than a general contractor with no such experience, especially with a relatively large structure.

My experience with Backyard Observatories was mixed, as the bulleted review suggests. BYO and I engaged in a dispute over monetary and workmanship issues during the summer of 2009. The dispute was not resolved.

Observatory Construction Pages

Introduction | Excavation | Foundation | Building | Afterwards | BackYard Observatories Review