Finding a construction paradise
Having work done on one's home is always a dream in progress — and a potential nightmare in the making, right?
Georgina and I have been through it all.
Previously, while renovating our house in New York City, we took the nightmare route, hiring and then firing four out of five contractors. The next to last was a guy whose crew pushed our furniture into the middle of the living room, covered it with a drop-cloth (it's a miracle they thought to do that), and proceeded to spray-paint the entire room, including the brick fireplace that was more than 100 years old!
With the drop cloth tightly wadded up against the front door, they then left for the day at about 3:30 p.m. It was a Friday afternoon. They did not expect to return until Monday. After the foul-mouthed departure of contractor No. 4, we discovered that one of our new neighbors on the block was a contractor. Who knew? He ultimately got the job done. The experience left us exhausted and intensely wary of contractors in general.
Such was our state of mind when we began to seek out a contractor here in Portland. This time, we looked on Yelp, checked Angie's List and asked around for recommendations. Eventually, we narrowed it down to three qualified people, and scheduled meetings.
The first arrived at the scheduled time, looked at the space, took some measurements and provided an estimate, with the admonition that he would not be able to move forward until an engineer could be brought in and plans drawn up. The price was a bit higher than we would have liked, but that's always part of this sort of thing.
The second arrived more than an hour and a half after the agreed-upon time. We were actually surprised when he showed up, having figured he was just another problem we were lucky to avoid. Nevertheless, we let him in. He casually, hands in pockets, looked at the space from the outside and provided an estimate that was literally three times the estimate of the first guy. He was history before he said goodbye.
The third was a perfectly nice person who showed up on time but didn't seem to have his notebook with him and was therefore unable to provide any sort of estimate. We shook hands all around and he left, never to be seen again.
As Georgina and I discussed the situation, we realized that we wanted to talk with the first guy again. His name is Nour Chaaban and his company is called Paradise Construction. From that initial meeting until now has been something like a two-year process. That period represents the time it took for us to make sure we had the money in place to take the job all the way to completion, having the engineer and draftsman bring their talents to bear, waiting for permits and then inspections, and fretting over things that we had no control over.
Once a date was set, the work began on time, questions were asked and answered on both sides, and what happened next was nothing short of amazing.
The transformation of our cavernous but raw crawlspace into a beautifully livable space has happened at an incredible speed. Within the first two weeks, so much had been accomplished that our heads were spinning, and our cat became fixated on what was happening beneath her feet — which she could hear, but not chase and bat around. From the beginning until now has been about two months.
It might have gone faster, but I made the choice to do much of the work myself (saving money and learning more about what's inside the walls of my home than I ever thought possible). We expect that we'll be ready for final inspection within the next three to four weeks. Throughout the process, we've been continuously kept informed, been given solid advice, and have never once felt that we were doing business with the wrong people.
Ultimately, the idea of searching for sincerity is all about finding those people in the world who are coming from a place of true personal integrity. Obviously, such people are out there. In this column we write about those who have impressed us and ignore those who have not. Nour and his crew have impressed us.
The people he has hired reflect his values, and each one I've had the pleasure to work with deserves an individual shout-out: Mark is the smart, good-natured guy who quite simply knows so much about so many things that it's impossible to trip him up; Brandon is the one with a dry, clever wit and a nail gun he uses to make things happen at lightening speed; and Jay, though still learning, is clearly fast to pick things up from the others and make them his own.
Each of them has nothing but praise for their employer, and this is telling too. A good contractor is hard to find. A sincere contractor is one in a million.
Rating: Extraordinarily Sincere