We had been planning this rehab for two years. When it came time to pick a general contractor, the ones we met either lacked the experience or they were way overcharging us. I asked our architect, Bob Chernack, if he could recommend anyone. At first he said no. Then he paused and said Joe Walker at Double Check. He said that Joe delivered on his promises.
Joe studied the plans and met with the architect to get clarification on a number of items. I was confident that he had a clear and complete understanding of the scope of work and his price was $ 200,000 below the highest bid. Joe struck me as a straight shooter so we signed him up. Joe assigned his son Matt to the job. Matt had worked for a number of years in the hotel business before joining his father at Double Check. Joe inherited the business from his father-in-law. I liked the fact that I was working with a third generation company. I also liked the fact that Matt came from the hotel business. Nothing teaches you customer service like the hospitality industry. Matt proved to be an excellent communicator and he took the time to answer all of our questions. We never felt like it was ‘us and them.’
Double Check’s subcontractors have been with them for years. Everyone was professional and courteous. As with any major rehabilitation project, a number of problems emerged along the way as walls were opened up and old foundations exposed. Matt did a good job of working with the subcontractors to solve these problems. He always gave us options so that we could keep the cost under control.
Rehab jobs also present opportunities to upgrade old technology, replace aging systems and do other work that might not have been in the architect’s original plans. We did a number of these upgrades along the way. We also eliminated some aspects of the plans that looked better on paper than in real life. None of these modifications would have been possible if we weren’t working as a team with Matt and Joe.
We worked with an independent kitchen designer who handled the cabinet and appliance installations. Matt did a great job preparing the space for kitchen people and coordinating with his plumber, electrician and other contractors to keep the kitchen people moving smoothly. Matt also did a great job coordinating with our internet/stereo/phone guy. Many days it was a three-ring circus at the house but Matt always seemed to have a handle on things whether or not the work was part of his contract.
When the job was starting out, Joe made two statements that stuck with me through the eight months that the project took: (1) we will do the work as if it were for our own home; and (2) our relationship is going to be like a marriage: we will both have to work at it and make some compromises. Both statements held true. If I saw something in the work that didn’t seem quite right, Matt would fix it even if he had to do the work himself. There really weren’t any big disputes. One example would be that when they took out a wall of the living room they destroyed a length of crown molding which couldn’t be replaced to match what was left. Matt offered to have his carpenters replace all of the crown molding in the room free of charge if we would pay for the molding. That made sense to me.
I don’t want to make the rehab process out to be too romantic. We lived in the basement for seven months. Our kitchen during that time was primarily a microwave and a crockpot. For a long time there was fine gypsum dust everywhere in the house. There were periods when the house was open to the elements and it was cold and drafty as big blue tarps flapped in the wind against the wall studs. The driveway and much of the yard around the house alternated between being ice and deep mud. All of us, including the dog, were under a lot of stress and inconvenience. Throughout this lengthy difficult period I felt that Matt and Joe were doing everything they could do to expedite the process and minimize our inconvenience.
Two weeks ago we had Matt, Joe and their wives over for dinner. I barbecued on the new outdoor kitchen that they built. We ate out on the big deck that they built and after dinner we sat around the fireplace in the new kitchen. It was a great evening that offered us all the chance to enjoy what we had done together.
Last summer when we began our journey, Matt and Joe were contractors. Today I count them as friends.