Chicago Best & Worst Contractors of 2013

Chicago Best & Worst Contractors of 2013

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Contractors of 2013.

Chicago Best Contractors

December 27, 2013 by Lacey Nix



Adam’s Water Treatment | Crystal Lake

Gagen says his upbringing on a ranch just outside of Chicago solidified his belief in abiding by the golden rule. (Photo courtesy of Adam Gagen)
  • Charity work or cummunity awards
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

After another contractor told Lakewood member Lawrence Manassa he needed a new water softener, he turned to Adam’s Water Treatment for a second opinion. Manassa says owner Adam Gagen surprised him by fixing the problem in 20 minutes and didn’t try to sell him a new softener. “It’s always a relief to find an honest person in this industry,” says Manassa, one of 19 members who nominated Gagen for a Page of Happiness last year.

Gagen says his upbringing on a horse and cow ranch just outside of Chicago helped him develop strong ethics. “I learned that you always help your neighbor and abide by the golden rule,” says Gagen, whose work does not require a license. Gagen started working in the water treatment field in 1989, after a brief stint in the commodity trading business. He says he left that industry because he felt some of the work was unethical and started his own company in 2012. “It’s all about relationship building,” he says. “I get to know my customers and they are customers for life.”

Gagen volunteers at the Crystal Lake Food Pantry where he serves food to the homeless, and donates all scrap metal to an organization that recycles it and uses the money to feed the homeless.


Secure Choice Property Consultants | St. Charles

Wilczak says he doesn't accept work from Realtors as it creates a conflict of interest. (Photo courtesy of Mark Wilczak)
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Praised for child friendliness
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

Six-time Super Service Award winner Mark Wilczak left his job as director of building and grounds at Chicago Public Schools to fill a void he says he found in the home inspection business. Wilczak says many home inspectors solicit business from Realtors, something he says he’ll never do. “There is an obvious conflict of interest — they are trying to sell something and I’m there to say what’s wrong with it,” says Wilczak, whose company earned 13 Page of Happiness nominations in the last year.

Wilczak, a two-time Best Contractor, started his own home inspection company in 2001 and clients say they like that he takes his time. “My philosophy is the client is paying the bill, so I’ll give them all the time it takes,” adds Wilczak, who holds an Illinois home inspector’s license.

Yorkville member Maria Depasquale says Wilczak’s inspection helped her negotiate $5,000 worth of repairs to her home before she purchased it. The four-hour inspection also included estimates for the repairs needed. “On the surface, things looked brand-new, but he saved me a ton of money by discovering many things that weren’t functional,” Depasquale says.

Chicago member Ryan Kinney says Wilczak saved him from buying two homes after inspections cited serious foundation issues on one and a large termite infestation on the other. “You feel like you really know your home after he inspects it,” Kinney says. Naperville member Cheryl Lebanco says Wilczak gave her suggestions for child-proofing products after he discovered some potential hazards for her young daughter.

Wilczak says he loves the challenges an older home presents during an inspection. “It’s like putting together a puzzle, since the homes often have old and new components,” he says. In his spare time, Wilczak enjoys trail riding and skiing, although he says he gets little spare time with three teenage children at home.

Wilczak performs all of the inspections, while his wife Jennifer handles all of the office work. He says he delivers the inspection reports digitally and his office is paperless to help cut down on wasted paper.


MG Door Installations | Chicago

Friends nicknamed Gilbertson "the door whisperer" because of his expertise in the field. (Photo courtesy of Mark Gilbertson)
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

At 6 feet 5 inches tall, MG Door Installations owner Mark Gilbertson is only 3 inches shorter than a standard door, which he says helps him during installations. Park Ridge member Alan Mirza says Gilbertson’s work on doors is so phenomenal, he’s hired him twice. “He is a true craftsman and carpenter — his work is much more than slapping up a new set of hinges,” Mirza says, adding that Gilbertson takes time to understand the door’s intricacies.

Gilbertson, whose company garnered 13 Page of Happiness nominations in the last year, says he takes a great deal of pride in his work. “I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t cut corners or make excuses,” says Gilbertson, whose friends nicknamed him “the door whisperer.” His grandfather and great uncle started the eight-time Super Service Award winning company in 1947, and Gilbertson resurrected it in 2001 after his father retired several years earlier. Gilbertson, who holds a Chicago home repair license, recycles aluminum and copper garage doors.


Bean’s Lock & Key | Wilmette

Bean says he developed a passion for locks after watching an Israeli solider pick one during a raid. (Photo courtesy of Jon Bean)
  • Charity work or cummunity awards
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

Evanston member Joshua Robinson says he felt so educated after owner Jon Bean replaced his home’s locks, he could write an entire essay on their design and history. “He really knew his trade,” Robinson says.

Bean, who holds a state license and received 10 Page of Happiness nominations in the last year, started his company 17 years ago after working in a variety of industries. In the early 1980s, he moved to Israel and served in their army, following in his father’s footsteps. Bean says he wanted to get into the locksmith trade after watching a fellow soldier pick locks during a raid. “After nearly 20 years, I can still say picking locks is more exciting than falling in love,” says Bean, who donates to the Salvation Army and the USO. Bean also recycles all old locks and keys at his Wilmette and Lake Bluff locations.

More Best Contractors

Here are some more Best Contractors who made this year’s cut based on their awesome track record for local service. Read their reviews on angieslist.com to learn why members think they’re so special.

2013 Best & Worst Contractors

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Contractors of 2013. Did your contractor make the list? Select a market to the best and worst in your area.

Chicago Worst Contractors

December 27, 2013 by Lacey Nix

Fulton & Coard Estate Sales | Glenview

  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Faces/faced civil lawsuits or penalties
  • Allegedly took the money and ran

Shortly after his uncle’s funeral, Northbrook member Samuel Oliva says he hired Fulton & Coard in 2013 for an estate sale that he says he expected to generate $10,000. He says appraisal documents from Fulton & Coard estimated the items at nearly $31,000. However, according to the final accounting statements sent to Oliva, he only grossed $2,383, but he says he never received any money.

The accounting documents indicate the company donated all of Oliva’s remaining property to the Reach for the Moon Foundation, a nonprofit owned by Shelley Bruss, according to that organization’s annual report. However, Oliva says he later found many of his items for sale in Thrift and Dollar, a for-profit, Aurora-based resale store. According to filings with the Secretary of State, Bruss’ husband, Jeffrey Bruss, owns Thrift and Dollar. “They are working together to defraud people,” Oliva alleges. At press time, calls to the Brusses were not returned.

Oliva joined Angie’s List and filed an F review, one of four recent bad reviews on the F-rated company, after calls to Fulton & Coard owner Curtis Tate went unanswered, Oliva says. “It’s one thing to lose a family member, but to have all their possessions stolen by a company like this is really disheartening,” Oliva says. Tate didn’t return messages for comment.

In 2013, a judge discharged Tate’s bankruptcy, in which he claimed $146,573 in debt, according to federal court documents. Cook County court documents also show Fulton & Coard faces a lawsuit filed in 2013 by Helene Bjorseth and David Hall for allegedly taking 10 works of art to sell, but never paying for the $50,000 appraised art or returning it. The case is ongoing.

Also in 2013, Kildeer resident Karin Walter-Spiess reached a confidential settlement with Fulton & Coard after she sued for $200,000 following her estate sale, for which she received no payment, Cook County documents show. Tate also agreed to repay Evanston resident Jeffrey Epstein $10,000 after Epstein says the company never paid him for his estate sale, according to court documents.

At press time, Fulton & Coard’s website showed it continues to conduct estate sales. However, Elizabeth Kaufman, deputy press secretary for the Illinois secretary of state, says it is not in good standing and was involuntarily dissolved in 2013 for failing to file its annual report and pay a required fee.

P&C Construction | Chicago

Corky Miller (Photo courtesy of Cook County Jail)
  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Faces/faced criminal charges
  • Faces/faced civil lawsuits or penalties
  • Landed in the Penalty Box
  • Allegedly took the money and ran
  • Notice added to provider's profile
  • Illegally unlicensed

At press time, Corky Miller, owner of concrete pouring and repair company P&C Construction, which formerly operated as Corky’s Construction, faced a late 2013 trial date on felony burglary and theft charges, according to Will County court records. He’s accused of playing a key role in a 2013 theft of $50,000 in jewelry and $44,000 in cash from a Bolingbrook home, according to Chicago Police spokesman Lt. Mike Rompa. He says Miller gained entry into a 66-year-old man’s home by telling him he was “with the city.”

Miller used a similar ruse in 2011 when Schaumburg police arrested him on charges related to gaining entry into another elderly man’s home, Sgt. John Nebl says. Nebl says Miller fled the scene after he noticed police in the man’s neighborhood, near Schaumburg, and led officers on a high-speed chase that resulted in two minor traffic accidents. Prosecutors charged Miller with three felony counts of residential burglary, aggravated fleeing and eluding. Prosecutors later dropped the burglary charge and Miller pleaded guilty to felony fleeing and eluding charges; and a judge sentenced him to 24 months probation and $684 in fines, according to Cook County documents.

On Angie’s List, P&C Construction landed in the Penalty Box in September after failing to respond to Chicago member Bob Henze’s complaint of shoddy work and not getting a refund. Henze says Miller offered to give him a discount on repairing a brick wall, but later demanded $2,400, nothing close to the quoted price, he says. Henze says he paid $1,600, but later complained about the cost and Miller agreed to refund $600. Miller also said he would repair shoddy work, Henze says, but he’s done neither. “I was scammed,” he says.

He joined the List to file an F review, one of four the F-rated company received in 2013. Portage Park member Kelsi Lenz says Miller approached her with a similar offer to repair her front steps. “The work was horrific,” says Lenz, who adds she later canceled the $350 check and joined the List to file a review.

Cook County court records show Miller, who remains in jail on a separate felony charge of aggravated fleeing, owes $14,400 in judgments to two homeowners. Miller didn’t return messages for comment. Chicago Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection records show Miller has never held the required home improvement or masonry contractor licenses to work in the city.

Advanced Moving & Storage | Carol Stream

  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Faces/faced civil lawsuits or penalties
  • Landed in the Penalty Box
  • Notice added to provider's profile

Member Rhonda Galloway says she hired Advanced Moving in 2013 for a long-distance move from Chicago to Texas. She says the company promised to deliver her belongings within two weeks, but says it took more than three months. “This was an absolute nightmare,” Galloway says, adding that many of her antiques were broken and several boxes of valuables are still missing. Galloway joined Angie’s List and filed an F review on the D-rated company.

Also in 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a violation against Advanced Moving & Storage during an inspection in which USDOT records show one of the company’s drivers was under the influence of drugs. USDOT issued a similar violation to the moving company in 2012, according to department records.

Advanced Moving remains in the Penalty Box after not responding to two other members’ complaints of overcharging and shoddy moves. Owner James Lalagos has filed bankruptcy three times, including in 2012 when he claimed $300,000 in unsecured debt, federal records show. Cook County records show he or his company owe $175,827 in eight unpaid judgments. Lalagos didn’t return messages for comment.

North Point Exteriors | Schaumburg

Dave Sager says North Point Exteriors never fixed the hailstorm damage on his siding. (Photo by Jay Madden)
  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Faces/faced civil lawsuits or penalties
  • Allegedly took the money and ran
  • Notice added to provider's profile
  • Illegally unlicensed

After North Point Exteriors owner Lateef Farooqui failed to appear for a court hearing in 2013, a Cook County judge permanently barred him and his company from selling home repairs in the state, following complaints of shoddy work and working without a license, among others, court documents show.

The judge ordered Farooqui to pay $157,286 in restitution to nine homeowners and fined the company $10,000 after the AG filed suit based on 18 consumer complaints that the company acted as storm chasers and ripped off customers. Two of those consumers, Union members Anita and Dave Sager, say they hired Farooqui after a storm damaged their home, and gave him a $23,000 check from their insurance company, but they say he left shoddy, incomplete work and then disappeared. “I admit, we were too trusting and gullible,” Dave says. Neither Farooqui nor his attorney returned messages for comment.

Penalty Box Hall of Shame

The Penalty Box is our way of alerting other members about a provider who has failed to meet a member's expectations. See Chicago Penalty Box Hall of Shame.

2013 Best & Worst Contractors

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Contractors of 2013. Did your contractor make the list? Select a market to the best and worst in your area.


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Atlanta Best & Worst Contractors of 2013

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When Renwick opened Flood-X, he says his company was one of the few focused on repairing water damage. (Photo courtesy of Jason Renwick)
When Renwick opened Flood-X, he says his company was one of the few focused on repairing water damage. (Photo courtesy of Jason Renwick)

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Atlanta Contractors of 2013, chosen for their superior or shoddy service. Did your contractor make the list?

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