Tuesday, September 30, 2014

contractors: the good, bad, and ugly

As we are nearing the completion of our interior renovations, we have a fairly good idea of who we would hire again and who we wouldn't. So, to promote deserving businesses, and to make sure others don't have to experience the headaches we've had to, here's my honest evaluation of some of the many businesses and contractors we've dealt with over the past four years:


Tim Bakker - Plumbing (Picton)
5/5
Formerly of Veenstra Plumbing, Tim is experienced and knowledgeable. Good service. Works hard to get things done on-time and on-budget.

Verkuyl Construction (Picton)
0/5
Terrible customer service. Little regard for details, building codes, and workmanship. Had to pay someone else to re-do most of the work, and still got billed for the full price. A close friend also had a bad experience.

Carpet One (Belleville)
3/5
Decent selection and service. Prices are steep but their Beautiful Guarantee is legit. However, beware of one of their sub-contractors, Kirkland's, who does the carpet installation.  Not only did they arrive late, they were very sloppy and marked up doors, walls, and crushed one of our outdoor planters. Because they were late on the job, they had to return in the evening of the next day just to complete our job. Also, do not have them install anything marble or granite as they are only knowledgeable when it comes to ceramic.

Wilson's Flooring (Belleville)
5/5
We dealt directly with Jim & Janneke Smardenkas, who took care of the ordering and installation of our new upstairs carpets. Their prices were comparable, and the installation was very professional. 

Beyond Marble & Tile (Mississauga)
4/5
Carried the incredibly-hard-to-find dark green tile we wanted. Just make sure you check over every.single.tile you get, especially if they are end-of-the-line seconds. The second time we ordered from them, all of the tiles were etched. They offered to do an exchange, but the ones they had left were also quite bad. I would say that overall their customer service was quite good.

Top Notch Drywall (Picton)
5/5
Very approachable, accommodating, and respectful of your home. Work quickly and efficiently and clean up after themselves. Satisfaction is guaranteed and there are no hidden costs. Customer service far exceeded our expectations.

Chris DeMille Excavating (Picton)
5/5
Great customer service. Fair prices.

William Design Company (Hillier)
2.5/5
Excellent workmanship and design. Just don't expect phone messages to be returned, or for the project to be completed in a timely manner. Get a written contract for everything or the final bill will be an unpleasant surprise.

John Vanderloon Construction (Roslin)
3/5
Capable of very good craftsmanship and would recommend him for fine carpentry projects. If you have a large project, this would not be a good fit, as he takes his time and does his best work alone. Be sure to get a written estimate for everything, bearing in mind that it is only an estimate. The final bill will more than likely have unexpected additional costs tacked on.

dTb Heating Services (Toronto)
5/5
Experienced and knowledgeable. Excellent pricing. Customer service was above and beyond our expectations.

GRT Electric (Belleville)
5/5
Experienced and knowledgeable. Excellent customer service and D.I.Y. support. Extremely reasonable prices. 

Exterior Decor (Picton)
4/5
We had Exterior Decor out for a number of small projects over the years. In my opinion, they are overpriced; however, Dan's work is excellent. If price is an issue for you, (like it was for us), then I would recommend getting Dan to complete your project as a side-job. He installed our windows, doors, flashing, fascia and soffit, as well as the siding on our garage. He also fixed a 50-year old leak on one of our dormers that no one else could.

Home Hardware (Picton)
5/5
Knowledgeable staff. Excellent in-store customer service. Good quality products. Convenient location. The 3-D designer tool on their website was invaluable for deciding what we wanted our new kitchen to look like. Highly recommend their Kitchen design/installation team to make your dream a reality.

Chambers Roofing (Belleville)
4/5
These guys were sub-contracted through our main contractor. Their prices are competitive and their crew of 4 finished installing our shingles promptly. However, I was not impressed when they left all their personal garbage (and paint cans from another job) on our job site. 

Trimar Doors (Belleville)
5/5
I emailed Sean a photo of the garage doors I wanted and he was able to order and install them in less than 3 weeks. All my inquiries were addressed promptly. The price was reasonable. The installation was professional. When we had an accident with one of our doors, he was able to order the new part and install it quickly.

Alota Tile (Bloomfield)
5/5
These guys deserve a blog post of their own. Rusty has been extremely helpful in assisting us with a marble tile crisis, going above and beyond anything we'd expect for customer service. He has made countless trips to our home to go over things with us, has done hours of research, and has made numerous inquiries and phone calls on our behalf. The installation was prompt and the guys were very meticulous cleaning up and making sure it looked like they were never even here.

Walt Schaly Design/Build, Inc. (Plainfield)
5/5
After working with some average (and some below average) contractors in the past, we were pleasantly surprised by Walt.  Because he is also a designer, hiring him eliminated the need for us to hire a private designer. He was very easy to work with, listening to all our ideas and understanding our vision. Walt is one of the hardest working contractors we've met and is extremely knowledgeable. We had no problems with any inspections because everything was done right the first time. Not only did we find his initial estimate comparable (if not lower) than some of the other contractors, our new construction project was completed under budget (which allowed us to hire him for some "extras" afterwards). By having us pay most of the sub-contractors directly, he also saved us hundreds of dollars in HST. Our only regret is that he wasn't living in our area five years ago when we started renovating.

Dynamic Exteriors (Belleville)
4.5/5
Recommended by Walt, we had Mike from Dynamic replace all our remaining old eavestrough. He was a fraction of the price of anyone in the County, and we did not pay one cent more than his original quote. It took a while for him to get here to complete the project, but once we finally got a date locked down, the work was done quickly. Although the customer service aspect could have used some improvement, the end price and result more than made up for a few phone calls not being returned promptly.

Inline Fence, David Lindsay (Belleville)
4.5/5
We had David install our vinyl fence and were pleased with the end result. He was flexible with our schedule, even though it meant he had to work all day Saturday to complete the project. When we had an issue with how one of the gates was installed, he came back and corrected it. 




*** The opinions in this post are my own. I was in no way compensated by any company or business. I acknowledge that my experiences may not be the same as other clients; however, I have no qualms about recommending any of the businesses or companies that received a 5-star rating. ***

Saturday, September 27, 2014

kitchen renovations - before, during & after


This past May, we packed up our entire kitchen, and carted off all the non-essentials to my mom's basement. The necessary items (mircowave, hot plate, toaster oven, food, and lots & lots of paper plates) were crammed into our office--the only available living space downstairs. 

We decided to completely gut our old kitchen and start from scratch. Despite the fresh paint and new curtains, the floor was crooked, the cupboard doors didn't close properly, we had no ceiling (previous renovation), and it was always freezing cold in the winter. 

kitchen "BEFORE"

Here's a look at this long and stressful journey, that has finally come to an end:


gutting begins






cutting out the old crooked floor






view of the old cistern
new floor joists


updating the plumbing


fixing the rotten exterior wall


floor insulation


new subfloor and framed walls


new electrical

wall insulation
drywall
paint
vinyl flooring
new cupboards
sink installation
dishwasher installation
light fixture installation


And here are the "AFTER" pictures for a look at the completed kitchen:


east wall
1950's - style cast-iron sink

with vintage-looking faucet


north wall
new stove




south wall
south wall


west wall










Friday, September 26, 2014

office renovations: before, during & after

Renovations to our downstairs began in April 2013, when we decided to turn the bedroom into an office/front entryway. We also decided to add a hallway and re-configure some doorways so the bathroom would no longer be an ensuite. We started gutting the bathroom and our former bedroom.  The whole process was finally completed in the fall of 2014. Here's a look at how it all went down:


gutting the former bedroom and bathroom


former basement entrance



The new temporary trap door to the basement (via the kitchen)....

...allows for the former entrance to be closed up, creating a new hallway

The former basement door became the perfect spot for a cute little window

The addition of a front door provided a private entrance (perfect for our home businesses), as well as some extra light in the office

new sub floor, electrical, and insulation
drywall

fresh paint



Then we took a break from the office renovations, because we had to move our kitchen and living room into the office while we gutted and renovated those two rooms. Our entire downstairs living area consisted of our little office all summer long!

office and living room
 The fourth office wall had not been drywalled previously because we knew it had to be torn out anyway when we renovated the adjoining living room. 

temporary cooking area


newly framed wall with soundproofing

final wall drywalled

Finally, the kitchen and living room renovations were finished and we could move all the kitchen stuff out of the office. Boy, did it seem large! We added some wainscotting to match the bathroom, hung some curtains, and voila--our office was ready for tutoring students.

Here's a look at some "AFTER" pictures of our mostly finished office:


south wall

west wall



east and north walls