Choosing a contractor

Choosing a contractor can be a difficult task.  It is hectic enough to know that your premises needs work and you would need to hire someone.  But when clients go on a search to find the contractor of their choice, the driving factor “the price” is the key element in their decision making.  So, this blog is dedicated to contractors work ethics and why one contractor may be different from another, and hopefully, it will benefit you in your decision making choosing the right contractor for yourself.

A close family member of mine Sophia and Johnny, a couple in their 60’s  asked me to give them a quote to paint their beautiful home of approximately 3000 sq. ft. of interior space.  At the time, I quoted them $5800 plus $500 for paint allowance for the entire work.  Mind you my family members thought I was giving them a price that was unreasonable.  Two weeks later they called me bragging that they found a contractor from the weekly “—saver” newspaper and that they were going to do the entire work, plus patching some problem areas all for $1800, and regardless they would have to purchase the paint themselves – how hard could it be, it’s only paint, right?  I told them before they hire him, give him one room to paint just to see the quality of his job, and if they are pleased with it, to give him other rooms of the house.  That contractor didn’t want to do that, it was all or none.

On they go to their nearest Home Depot store, and they purchased over $700 worth of paint to have it ready for their “painting contractor” in the next few days.  With approximately 25 gallons of paint, they loaded up their car not realizing that the amount of time they’ve spent in the store and the amount of work they’ve done.  They didn’t realize until later that once their car was loaded, how dangerous it was driving back home with such a heavy car.  But that was not the issue, as they got home just fine.  The next day the contractor showed up with his crew of 5 and they went to town on the house with the paint job.  Sophia had to work, so she left behind the workers with her husband Johnny to watch over throughout the day.

Sophia came back to a disaster.  All their fine furniture that they’ve paid top dollar for had become damaged due to dripping of paint, paint smudges, or just plain lack of attention when moving them.  The painting job although not complete, was noticed that it was poor quality.  The workers tried to cut the ceiling with a paint brush and without experience, they’ve smudged the ceiling with wall paint, and decided to poorly wipe it off.  Windows frames where not cut properly or straight, paint on the floor, paint on the carpeting on the upper floors.  But worst of it, things were missing!  Not anything that has substantial value, but that’s not the point – it’s the principal behind it.   In addition, the paint job, well……..awful.

Meanwhile, this burden also produced a rift between Johnny an Sofia, as how difficult was it to watch over some workers.  But certainly it wasn’t Johnny’s fault, as Johnny couldn’t be in multiple places at the same time.   Sophia called me that same night in a panic, with the basic question “what should I do?”  I told her, cut your loses, pay the contractor, and tell him thank you, no thank you.

She didn’t listen.  She was well invested in the paint and paid 50% to the contractor prior to the commencement of work.  Her next decision was that she is going set the contractor a piece of her mind, and set him straight.  Next morning, she did exactly that, and the contractor went to home depot to purchase the cheapest plastic covering to place on the floor and the furniture.

Sophia came back to another set of calamity, and now worse than before.  It’s not that the damages were any different than before, but they were more of them.  Her talk with her contractor went on deaf ears.  And, at the same time, the contractor wanted to be paid for a great job he just finished – a true Rembrandt!

So, why go thorough the motions of writing this story?  I think for you the reader, it is beneficial to understand when did Sophia and Johnny’s problem first started.  If you guessed that it was when the contractor didn’t go to pick up the paint or have it delivered, you would be correct.  Mind you, who are the people coming into your home?  Most people have good intentions, and with a bit of reasonable expectations that you may have, you would want people to behave just like yourself.

Even with the most simple jobs we get, we go through the steps, so the client knows what to expect.  We like to keep our clients clued in, and with reasonable description, and completion date.  I agree that price is a factor of making a decision, but it should not be the only factor.  I generally tell people “if it’s too good to be true, it’s really to good to be true.”  Ask your contractor reasonable questions, and if the answers are dismissive or he avoids answering the question, a red flag should come up.

Penny saved, pound foolish – Sophia and Johnny now spent another $6300 with us, to correct their problem, they’ve learned their lesson, but also paid the price additionally to have their furniture repaired.  Don’t get fooled, choose wisely.

Basement Remodel – Make it theather room – Movie night!!!

Stop fantasizing over the HGTV projects, commit yourself to remodel your basement.    Certainly it’s a big commitment, and if you see you cant do it yourself, Yes, we do more than just the standard rooms that most people are accustomed to.  The home you bought came with an unfinished or a dated basement.  It is a portion of a your home, and your either paying real estate tax or rent for it, why not enjoy it to it’s maximum potential.  I also believe that whenever you’ll be marketing your home for sale, it is definitely a huge plus if you have a finished basement.

One common factor about any basement, whether or not its a new construction or a remodel, is moisture issue.  We encourage that when homes are built, for the basement floor, that proper insulation methods are taken as well as pex piping be run for radiant heating.  Try to have a separate zone for AC.  Your air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier, and it does come in handy to remove moister in the air when humidity has kicked up.

So the basement has become an area that you can master your art of hording.  But imagine you have an area all removed from the rest of the home, where you can watch TV or listen to your music pretty loud at any time of day or night without disturbing your neighbors, or the people residing in your home?

Most builders decided that it would be too costly to finish basement, so they leave it alone.  How about turning that awful basement into a theater, a game room, a gym, a wine cellar, batting cage or a library.

The picture you see with this post is a theater / media room.  Theater RoomWe isolated one area just for the mechanical and laundry room.  When entering this room, although you are going down stairs, you don’t feel that you are in a basement.  You really think that you are in a room that is part of the house, yet removed.  Sound proofed walls and ceiling, and carpeting on the floor allowed for optimum surround sound.  Sony projector, and Bang and Olufsen surround system.  There is no bad seat in the house, we’ve spaced out the seats and on a platform so you don’t feel that you are seeing over your guest.  The entire room is integrated with remote lighting system.

We soften up the look with deep crowns, baseboard, sconces, and paneling.  All AC/heat diffusers are on the perimeter, so you don’t have a cold/hot draft over you while your watching.  We hid the diffusers (technical word for A/C vents) by the crown surrounding the perimeter of the room.

We’ve pushed everything to one side, to install at a later date a bar area which will include a pop corn machine, fridge, and cabinetry for candies and other items.


Open Concept – Coffered Ceiling

Homeowner was so pleased with their bathrooms on the upper floors, that they retained us to redo their dinning, kitchen and living room.  Originally the home owner wanted wanted wainscoting and small panel coffered ceiling, and in addition to open coffered ceiling open conceptconcept (meaning removal of some walls, and reinforcements of beams both above and below) – yes a tall order.  Wainscoting would have been a big no no, due to the fact that we had leaned up so many walls, that there was no space to place wainscoting.  Once we opened up the walls, to put small panels of coffered ceiling would have made the space look small.   The bigger panel coffered ceiling did make sense, as it gave the impression that the space is much larger than it is.  With an over abundant of windows that gave a ton of natural light, going with a medium grade darker wood floors worked well, as it complimented the kitchen cabinets as well.  We used red oak stain on 5 1/4″ oak panel installed straight.  The obstacle was to match up the kitchen and dinning room floors (Creme  Malfi 18″ x 18″ tiles) to the wood floors so that it all one level.  Kitchen is a bit on the dark side, but that’s a matter of taste.  Dark cherry color with dual sub zero refrigerator freezer, glass back splash by the wine cabinetry, and mosaic’s by stove.  We threw in some cabinet with windows, so it wasn’t going to be this heavy masculine kitchen.  It worked, and it was a fun project.

Wine Cellar or Man Cave – you decide.

So she got the closet she always wanted, and it was time for payback from her husband who loves fine cigars and wine.  Wife said absolutely NO to the built in humidor, so the cellar had to do.  Call it a man cave, a mave, or what ever you care to call it.   But it was so surprising to see that during the construction phase, it was the wife who came down more often with her friends to show off the cellar than the husband.  Was the cellar really for him?Devine Wine Cellar

Madam of this residence supplied us with the table which she had purchased in the flea market.  We revamped it by refinishing it.  We installed the entire wine cellar in a pyramid shaped to center.  We have temperature controlled unit installed to keep the temperature of the room at a constant.  Pin lights on the tall basement ceiling, and speakers tied in to the central sound system.  Single panel walnut door with 8 panel mulled windows 8 feet tall, all custom made.  Slate flooring.

Le chaim!

Kitchen Overhaul

Kitchen OverhaulSometimes (ok, most of the times) we even amaze ourselves when we see the end result.  In this kitchen overhaul we were able to use years of experience and design, and most importantly, we conveyed all to the homeowner about the do’s and don’t of kitchen makeovers.

A lovely husband and wife couldn’t decide on the finish and color of their kitchen.  Husband wanted dark walnut finish throughout, wife wanted white antique finish (glazed cabinetry).  But what they both agreed on was the continuation of hardwood floors throughout the home. We gave them the best of all world.

The entire cabinetry is custom made and finished.  Having a 48″ oven range, we implemented a commercial kitchen’s hood draft system to be able to handle the intensity of both the heat, smoke and smell while the range is fully operating, and at the same time be whisper quiet.  We channeled the bottom of the cabinets to accept LED light under mount lighting.  Glass cabinetry was used throughout, as to break up the blunt look of just wood cabinetry.

New Deck – Vintage look

Owner of this estate wanted a new deck, but he was concerned that any new material that we would install wouldn’t look inappropriate next to his home which is from the 1800.  His further concern was also that he didn’t want to purchase new lawn furniture, for few reasons: Vintage Exterior Deck  First, is that any new furniture even if it’s going to look dated would still look too new.  Second, the furniture was going to be way too expensive.  Lastly, the furniture looked awful for the price.  So we opted to give him a vintage look deck, and wrapped seating around the perimeter by using the same decking material as seating.  We acid washed the entire deck and seating to give it a worn look, however with immaculate structural integrity.  The previous landscaping filled in, and the deck looked like it was there from previous years.  Whats was really interesting was that we added a very simple design, and yet the same design can be used in any home.  We just added a different finish.

Sleek Basement Bathroom Remodel

David June Bathroom pic 3Whenever we commence any basement bathroom remodel projects or any project, we begin with a two fold process.  First, is our obstacles and last is our final goal.

In this project our challenge was to deliver to the homeowner a chic cutting edge bathroom in the basement.  Our first challenge was the ceiling height.   We overcame this obstacle by digging lower, and underpinning the existing foundation.  We were lucky that the sewer line was much lower than what we dug for the finished floor.   We insulated the floor prior to our pour of concrete, and at the same time we were pleased that the homeowner took our suggestion of having floor radiated heat via hydronics.

The local codes dictated that we needed fresh air and windows.  As you can see we lit the entire room with the brand new windows we installed throughout the perimeter.

We installed the roman shower with a waterproof pan underneath, and thereafter was caped with creme marfil stone.  The shower floor is removal made from teak with exterior grade finished.  We hid the drain under the teak floor, while the gap in between the boards rinsed through.  Cabinetry was custom made and is wall mounted with zero plumbing line peeping out.

We thank the homeowner for the opportunity to show their basement bathroom remodel project.