Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Creative Way to Find a Qualified Contractor

Today the kids return to school after an 11 day school vacation. They could barely drag their behinds out of bed this morning. I had cut my work schedule way back during their vacation so these last few days gave them all a brief taste of summer living. Judging by the long faces today, I'd say they're all ready for summer to begin.

One of the challenges of maintaining a summer home is finding the right contractor for any job that needs to be done. JIm does most of the maintenance but some things require a more skilled hand. We've already put a roof on it and because we weren't at the job site, it took months, rather than days for the job to be completed.

Our bathroom remodel was made necessary by my daughter's foot. It went through the tiled wall while she was shaving her legs due to water damage behind the tiles. This job took an eternity as well and we weren't thrilled with the final results. In fact, Jim wound up redoing much of the work himself with some help on the plumbing from his father.

On the other hand, our heating system and hot water heater replacements went very smoothly. We've found a fabulous company that did both of these for us. In both cases the work was done in a timely manner, for a resonable price.

So what's the difference between the contractors? In our experience, and I'm sure this differs town to town, we had better luck going with a local, but slightly larger, company. It is presumed by some that the problem lies in the fact that we are "summer people" rather than year round residents.

Whatever the reason, we have found ourselves with another repair that needs professional attention, a leaking masonry chimney. Despite numerous phone calls to local masons, we've had no success getting our phone calls returned. I don't care how highly recommended someone comes, if they don't return phone calls, I don't want to deal with them. After almost a year of frustration I came up with what I consider a rather ingenious solution to get someone interested in our leak.

On Wednesday, we called a well known and respected local fireplace and stove company. Jim told the gentleman that we were looking to put an insert in our fireplace to increase efficiency. (This is true but it is not a priority right now.) He went on to describe our fireplace. The gentleman felt it would be no problem and told Jim they could send someone out to get the measurements to see what would fit or if we would need to do something custom made. Then Jim threw in the zinger, "I have just one problem. I have this leak in my chimney that I can't seem to get resolved and I wouldn't want to do anything with an insert until it was fixed..."

Within six hours, we had gotten our phone call to their mason returned and an appointment was set up for him to come and look at the problem. He arrived promptly on Saturday morning and gave an incredibly thorough inspection to the chimney. (I do mean thorough. He was on the roof, in the attic, in the main floor of the house and in the crawl space inspecting that chimney.) His impressions of the problem and solutions to it jive with what we already knew. He gave us a ball park estimate but will be mailing a detailed estimate at the end of this week. It is such a relief to finally make some progress on resolving this leak!

For those of you sitting back scratching your heads wondering if that was an ethical way to get a qualified contractor, rest assured we will be heading down to the fireplace and stove company to check out inserts once the chimney repair is complete. We had always planned to get this information anyhow.

Sometimes you need to be creative, really creative, to solve an unyielding problem!

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