Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Get Involved in Your Project

One of the biggest issues we see in existing and historic buildings is the continuity of the envelope, or function of the exterior.  Too often we see single source contractors failing to combine the function of a building.  Redoing a roof without considering drainage.  Painting a house when there are moisture problems.  Or one of the worst problems: insulating without full comprehension of how the building breathes; dealing with moisture; or looking at other, less impactful alternatives aside from insulating.  I know I have preached this before, but considering the whole building is the single most important thing you can do to save money and most importantly, save the building.


Single service contractors are a vital part of a building’s maintenance.  Specialists know what they do by practicing it.  Years of experience lead to a strong ability to develop multiple solutions, since few situations are the same.  Experience helps create the best solutions for your particular situation.  But not all contractors are the same.  I had a professor years ago that wrote about, and stressed emphatically, “The Headless Hand”.  “The Headless Hand” is the worker who does not think before they do, or cares little about the consequence of their actions.  These are the ones you try to weed out, or watch them like a hawk.


When I was a real green horn, I once had a job where a client pulled up a chair and watched me work all day.  It was hot, he was not much of a conversationalist and he was perhaps the most intimidating person I ever met.  It taught two very important lessons.  First: I need to have the self-confidence to do my job alone or in front of a crowd.  Second: people have a right to be engaged in the process.


Spending money on your house should be the best investment you can make.  Too many times I hear about people having to spend it twice and usually more the second time.  How can you avoid it?  Here are some things to make the project more comprehensive:


Have people prove themselves to you.  Develop a relationship of trust.  Without trust, a project can go bad very quick.

Start small.

Keep a watchful eye.

Ask a lot of questions.

Have them report to you on a regular basis.  Pick a method of communication that is consistent.  Be available.  If the job is big enough, request a written summary.  Not only is it a good way to find out what was done, it is an easy way to look back and remember what was done.

Everyone, take lots of pictures.  You can never make too many.  Take pictures of the work before, during (especially problems) and after work is done.

Get a permit.  It protects everyone.

Get insurance certificates.  You can request to be a certificate holder, so you will be notified if they cancel or have their insurance dropped.

Make sure you have proper insurance, especially if you are creating hazards during construction.

Talk about the budget.  Ask how it is going, if they are on track.

Ask about the schedule.  “Two weeks” four weeks ago creates bad blood.

Ask if they found anything you need to address.  Most contractors see a lot more than they are doing, so find out if they see some things that need to be done, now or in 5 years.

And IF you have a conflict or problem, invest in a third party assessment before you get a lawyer.  A third party has little to gain from one observation or another, as well as no emotion tied to the situation.

Have fun!  One of my mom’s favorite sayings about project angst was “A year from now, none of this will matter”.  But poor work lives forever.



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