When my husband and I bought our house, we knew no one in the community. The house was old and in major disrepair, which meant we needed to find contractors who could help us with the things we couldn’t do ourselves (most of it…). Not knowing anyone made this a challenging process, especially since there weren’t many reviews we could find. While Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau are options, I: a) don’t believe you should have to pay for information about a business’s work, and b) don’t believe an organization that makes money from the businesses it has information on is going to always be objective.
Because finding information has been a challenge, we’ve had some hit-and-miss experiences. Some were simply frustrating, but others left us with dangerous results that had to be redone. And working with some of the businesses has been an utter delight.
The reviews here are based solely on my dealings with the businesses, and are alphabetical by business name. As we use more of them, I’ll update the information. The beginning of the review will have mostly factual information, and I’ll put my opinions at the end. My hope is that this might help people who use the Internet to search for information make decisions about businesses they are considering hiring.
Belzile, Gilbert (Electrician)
Work performed: troubleshoot power issues with two overhead lights and a double-outlet box in the kitchen; run new wire for one of the lights and the outlets
Ability to reach by phone and/or internet: does not often pick up–has happened once in seven phone calls, returned my phone call once out of six messages; does not seem to have an internet presence
Cleanliness: swept up and disposed of debris
Cost: $35.00/hour plus the cost of materials
Demeanor: polite, willing to explain what he was doing and answer questions, good with the dogs (we have two; it matters to us)
Timeliness: arrived 15 minutes to half an hour late for all three appointments
Work: When he left after performing the work on 9/21/15, both overhead lights and the outlets worked. He had to run new wires to the circuit box in the basement, and move the outlet box about 18 inches to the left of where it had been. I told him we would repair the channel left in the drywall and the hole where the former box had been. We then went out of town for a week, and upon return had a guest. On Sunday, 10/4/15, the guest (my dad) moved a chair in the library behind and to the left of the kitchen (if you ran a straight line without the interference of the dividing walls, it would be about two feet to the left and three feet below the new outlet box) and found a foot-long length of exposed electrical wire coming out of the drywall and going into a hole drilled into our finished wood floor. From the debris left around the top of the hole and the splinters in the bottom of the hole, it was determined that the hole was drilled from the first floor into the basement. Disregarding the ragged hole in the drywall and the hole in our wood floor, the exposed wire was not to code and could be dangerous, especially if one of our dogs had decided to chew on it.
I called Mr. Belzile Monday morning and left a message; called again on Tuesday afternoon, and finally reached him mid-morning on Wednesday. He denied any knowledge of the exposed wire and said he would be at the house Thursday morning at 8. He arrived at 8:30 on 10/8/15, looked at the wire, and continued to state he had no idea he had done it, stating that he thought the wire had gone down between the walls. He apologized and commenced repairs, pulling and re-running the wire after cutting a new hole in the kitchen wall, about three feet below the new location of the double outlet. He began repair on this hole and the one in the library, and in addition began repairs on the channel and empty box area that we said we would fix. When he left around 11:00, he stated he’d be back in the afternoon to finish repairs. He did not return or call.
At 4:45 I called and left a message, and again at 5:15. In the second message, I stated that if he didn’t return my phone call, I’d assume he was returning first thing Friday morning, 10/9/15. There was no phone call, and he did not show up.
There are still all of the drywall repairs to be finished, the painting to be done, and the hole in the floor to be fixed.
My opinion: This has been an altogether unpleasant situation. While I appreciate the fact that he did the repair of the wire and the beginnings of the repairs on the drywall, this does not change the fact that Mr. Belzile lied about his knowledge of the wire, because the hole in the floor could only have been drilled while standing in the room it is in, unless he owns a drill that is about five feet long, with an adjustable 75-90 degree bend in it. He moved the chair to cover the damage after it was done, and I can only assume that he would have been perfectly happy to have left an exposed electrical wire hanging out of the wall for as long as it took to discover it. Fortunately, the humans discovered it before curious dogs did. Bottom line, I would not hire him again, and would recommend to anyone asking that they not do so.
Carriage House Landscaping Service (Landscaping and Hardscaping)
Work performed: spring 2013–enlarged the garden; spring 2015–installed a stone patio and supplied compost for the garden
Ability to reach by phone and/or internet: easy, as is contact via email and on Facebook
Cleanliness: both jobs were left tidy, with minimal to no work required by me
Cost: by the job; provides a detailed written estimate and both times came in at the estimated cost
Demeanor: polite, willing to explain what is being done and answer questions, good with the dogs (we have two; it matters to us)
Timeliness: has always arrived on time for appointments
Work: Our first dealings with the Carriage House were for enlarging the vegetable garden; they added a 20’x40′ area, requiring removing the top soil down a foot, bringing in a bed of sand, and adding a mix of top soil and compost to the surface. This surface area was covered with garden fabric anchored down by earth staples. They were able to seamlessly add this to the existing garden.
The second job the Carriage House did for us was a stone patio in front of our sliding glass doors. The job took one and a half days and required hand-digging of the area because of the existing garden. They made sure that the patio was sloped so that water runs away from the house, and they followed the curves of the garden with minimal (unavoidable) damage to the plants around the edge.
My Opinion: I would (and will) hire the Carriage House for future jobs. Pat, the owner, is professional, friendly, and skilled at what he does, and so is his crew. I highly recommend them.
Woltner-Summit Contracting (general contractors, specializing in energy-efficiency)
Work performed: did a NYSERDA engergy audit for us, and performed work based upon the recommendations–insulated the attic with cellulose insulation to an average depth of 10″, reduced air infiltration by sealing areas between the conditioned living space and the attic and basement, repaired wind-damaged soffit area
Ability to reach by phone and/or internet: cell phone is best, though messages left on the office line are returned; email works–calls and emails usually returned with 48-72 hours
Cleanliness: work areas swept and debris disposed of
Cost: by the job; provides a detailed written estimate and came in at estimated cost
Demeanor: matter-of-fact but polite, willing to explain what is being done and answer questions, good with the dogs (we have two; it matters to us); has a dry sense of humor that took me a bit to get, but which I came to enjoy
Timeliness: has always arrived on time for appointments
Work: The initial energy audit was thorough, and Ed let me ask him a million questions. He wanted me to understand what he was doing.
The work was done by his crew. Ed stopped by each day. The first NYSERDA-driven estimate included additional work in the basement, but Ed was reluctant to do this because we had a wet spring and early summer, which meant our basement was incredibly damp. He didn’t want to seal that moisture in, possibly leading to rot in the wood. A field-change was made to the estimate, removing that phase of the work.
My Opinion: Ed and his crew (who were polite, efficient, and as unobtrusive as possible) are knowledgeable about the work they’re doing and up-to-date with energy-efficiency developments. They monitored-and-adjusted based on what the house was telling them, rather than simply going ahead with the work. I would use them again, and highly recommend them.