Restore vs. Repair

We have a client who calls on us whenever she needs work done at her house.
Repeat clients like that are priceless! Besides, she’s a single mom and we work
hard to make sure that the work we do on her home gives her the best value.
Recently she called with a problem. She had an exterminator under the home
who told her that she had a leak under her hall bathtub, and it had caused
significant damage to the floor under her bath. She called her insurance
company, and then she called us.
I sent John, one of my best carpenters, under the house and confirmed what
the exterminator had said. It was actually the commode flange that leaked under
the tile floor, (a very common leak) and had completely damaged the floor of the
5′ x 8′ bath. Everything was going to have to come out, including a 5′ single
piece fiberglass tub & shower combination. Now, a tub & shower
combination is a BIG bath fixture. In fact, it is physically bigger than the
space it is in, because it has a flange all the way around it that the drywall
covers. There is NO WAY that tub is coming out of that bath without either
cutting it into pieces or taking it through the wall into the next room. Since
the tub itself was undamaged, we opted for the latter, something we have done
many, many times and is actually pretty easy to do.
Meanwhile, the adjuster had sent his “pet” contractor out to see her, trying
to get him the job to fix the bath. Problem for him is, we have worked for her
and her father several times, she trusts us, and she wants us to fix the house
for her, period. That contractor still wrote an estimate, sent it to the
adjuster, and guess what? It never mentioned moving the tub! Beware of “pet”
contractors that many insurance companies have! Often times they are called
“Preferred” contractors. Why are they preferred? Because many of them will cut
corners to save the insurance company money, even if it means reducing the
quality of the work you need! Don’t misunderstand me. Damage to a home is not
like a soft tissue injury in a car wreck that can’t be seen in an x-ray. Damage
to a home is obvious to those who know how to look, and each item can be seen,
touched, and verified.
Now this is where the subject of restore vs. repair comes in. I wrote an
estimate to RESTORE the bath, which included taking the tub through the wall
into the bedroom next to it. That meant detaching and resetting an electric wire
and outlet, taking down 3 studs, rolling up the carpet in the bedroom, taking
down about 3′ x 6′ of drywall, and painting a small 10′ x 12′ bedroom. The
adjuster had a fit! He wanted to know why we were working in the bedroom at all,
since it was undamaged from the leak. I told him that the tub had to go
somewhere so we could replace the sub-floor under it. He said he had been told
the floor under the tub was undamaged. Now I’m wondering if my guy was wrong! So
out I go to the house, camera in hand, and crawl under the house myself. Sure
enough, the floor was just as John had said. I took photos and emailed them to
the adjuster. He still didn’t believe it, and sent his “pet” contractor back out
to confirm what I had told him. Unbelievably, the “pet” told him that though the
floor was damaged, it was “not enough to worry about, since it was under the tub
and couldn’t be seen.” Uh, unless you go under the house! The adjuster then told
me that “generally, we don’t worry about the floor underneath tubs.” I thought
“well then, generally you rip off your insureds.” I was wise enough not to say
that out loud! The client insisted on the proper work, and the adjuster paid for
it like he should have from the beginning.
Now, think this through with me. What if my client didn’t have a contractor
she could trust, and instead trusted the “pet” contractor supplied by her
insurance company? They would have REPAIRED her bath, and from the top it might
have looked great. Then, sometime in the future, she would have put her house up
for sale and some home inspector would have found that damage under the tub. At
that point she would have to either properly fix the floor with her own money or
take that amount off the price of the house. It would have cost her THOUSANDS.
Not exactly what a single mom needs when she is trying to sell her home!
Instead, she had a contractor who was working for HER, had her best interests at
heart, and RESTORED her bath properly.
The big idea to take with you here is that VALUE is what you are insuring
when you insure anything, be it a home, a car, or a life, and while you can
REPAIR something and it may look fine, that doesn’t necessarily RESTORE the
value that it previously had.

The Mark of a Pro!

I spent a couple of hours one Tuesday at the March meeting of the Middle Georgia Home Builders Association.  We had a Board of Directors meeting at 11:00, followed by lunch and a general membership meeting at 12:00.  Georgia Power hosted the meeting at their auditorium on Key Street, and a Georgia Power engineer spoke about current legislative issues affecting the construction industry, particularly as they relate to energy.  Those that attended received an hour of continuing education credit.
            As we talked and listened for those two hours, exchanging information and ideas,   I thought about the many contractors who are members of the Home Builders Association.  What, if anything, sets these contractors apart from the many contractors who are not members? Does it make a difference?  Then it occurred to me; of course it does!  In almost every profession, whether it is medicine, business management, insurance, or contracting, professionalism is marked by membership in professional organizations, by professional certifications, and by continuing education.
            Think about it.  How would you feel if you discovered that your doctor never learned anything after medical school?  Or that the CEO of the company you work for didn’t proactively seek out new information and new ideas to keep your company competitive?  I don’t know about you, but I would feel a bit uneasy, and would question that individual’s professionalism!
            If you are considering building a home, adding on or remodeling, doesn’t it make sense to seek out and hire a builder who is a real pro?  Of course it does.  You want a builder who is exposed to new ideas, products, and fresh ways of doing things, someone who is up to date on the latest codes and requirements, someone who is constantly improving themselves and their businesses. 
            It doesn’t matter if you are building new, adding on, remodeling, or repairing some kind of damage to your home.  As you interview prospective contractors to hire, ask them what professional organizations they belong to, what professional certifications they hold, and what continuing education they have completed in the last year.  It will quickly become apparent who the real pros are! 

“Green” Is Good…With The Right Design!

We are all overwhelmed with the concept of “Going Green”…..”green” cleaning products, “green” clothing lines, “green” this, “green” that… any of it worth the hype?

Usually, when I hear the term “green”, I reach for my wallet, because it often means someone is trying to get some of my green money out of it! Sometimes, though, “green” is worth the trouble, and it doesn’t have to cost much more than doing it the old way! I recently sat through a class on “Green Building for Building Professionals” as part of my Graduate Master Remodeler designation. To tell the truth, I wasn’t that familiar with green building techniques other than the hype I have read in magazines or seen on the news, and I was a bit cynical going in. I soon realized, though, that many of the green building techniques out there can be incorporated into a new or existing building with little trouble or expense. Let’s look at two ways to “go green.”

You can go through one of the recognized green building certification processes, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design through the US Green Building Council) or NGBP (National Green Building Program through the National Association of Home Builders). This is the way to go if you want an independently certified and rated building. If you want the tax breaks and utility company incentives that are out there for green buildings, then you need to go all the way and build to attain a certified level of green building. Both LEED and NGBP use a point system and color codes to certify and indicate various levels of efficiency and utility. These systems look at things like energy efficiency, site layout and design, and sustainability.

You can also “go green” by simply choosing some green building techniques that you can incorporate into your design without too much fuss. If you are building new, look at using advanced framing techniques. For example, you can build walls with the studs (the vertical members that are the walls) on 24” centers instead of 16” centers. What did you say? Heresy! Only a “cheap” building would do that! I can just hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth! The truth is you can build a building using advanced framing techniques that is just as strong, just as sturdy, and just as long lived as one built using traditional techniques. And guess what? For every stud you leave out, that’s one less stud that is connected to the outside of your building, busily transmitting freezing cold or roasting hot temperatures to the interior that you work so hard to heat and cool! And, less lumber brought to the job site means less waste in the landfill. The EPA estimates that builders throw away one billion (with a “B”) board feet of lumber every year. The lumber we throw away every year building our buildings would make a 1” x 12” that is almost 190,000 miles long! Talk about getting the plank out of your own eye! And that’s just the tip of this green iceberg!

If you are thinking about or in the process of building or remodeling, ask your builder about incorporating some green in the design. You can save some “green” in your pocket, and keep the world “green” a little while longer for all of us!