Indianapolis' best and worst contractors of 2008
by Joshua Palmer
In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Indianapolis contractors who have earned the distinction of being the Best or Worst in the Indianapolis area.
Perfectionist Carpentry Inc.
When Carly Atkins needed a quick fix for her home's leaky front door, she got several bids. But one company stood out from the rest: Perfectionist Carpentry Inc. "Rob [Weinrich, the owner] was just really matter-of-fact and knowledgeable — there was no question he was the guy for the job," Atkins says.
In business full-time in Indianapolis since 2005, Rob and his wife, Kathy Weinrich, have offered homeowners an increasingly rare commodity: genuine pride in their workmanship. "I don't expect anyone to be happy with a job if I'm not happy about it," Rob says. "I'm pretty picky, and I take a lot of pride in my work."
That dedication is the reason members have given them a total overall grade of "A" on the List. "You don't very often find people like them, to be honest," says Joan Elliot, who hired the company to replace rotted exterior wood on her home.
Lyon Glass Block
Nick Provenzano knows Lyon Glass Block goes the extra mile. When he hired the company to replace a basement bathroom window with glass block, installing an exhaust fan through the new glass block proved to be an obstacle. But company owner-operator Nick Lyon quickly ordered a special fan and worked with Provenzano to produce a clean installation. "That made me think this guy is great: He's not just trying to get some money and get out. He really wants to do a quality job," Provenzano says.
Other Angie's List members report similar satisfying experiences by giving the company "A" ratings on every report they've submitted in the last 12 months. Lyon's extra attention to details impressed Karen Suitor, who hired the company to replace her basement windows. "Before they left, they not only swept the floor where they replaced windows, but they swept the entire basement," Suitor says.
Lyon says his six years in business have taught him an important lesson. "Caring is 90 percent of everything," he says.
Air Cleaning Experts Inc.
For Air Cleaning Experts, focusing on one service and doing it well has helped them earn rave reviews from Angie's List members. Ed Heath hired the company to clean his home's air ducts and a dryer vent. "I can absolutely tell a difference. My clothes dry a lot quicker, and there's less dust in my house," Heath says.
Elmer James, who founded his owner-operated company a little more than two years ago, says he wanted to focus on a niche, dryer vent and air duct cleaning. "When I started, only about 10 percent of companies offered air duct cleaning," James says. "I knew if I gave excellent customer service and straightforward pricing, I'd be successful."
So far, James' approach has worked, and Debra Gibson, of Franklin, who hired the company to perform air duct cleaning, couldn't be more pleased. "Their estimate was right on target. I knew how much they'd charge before they came," she says. "They did a great job, and I trusted them in every room of my home."
Bill Carr and the many company names he uses, including American Boy Painting, All About Trees, VIP Construction and eight others, have built an unsavory reputation in Greater Indianapolis. In April, Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner indicted Carr on six home improvement fraud charges, alleging that from November 2007 through February 2008, Carr contracted for tree service with six homeowners but took $9,000 in deposits without finishing the jobs.
"Home improvement fraud isn't tolerated by this office," Hamner says. Carr turned himself in and was released on bond. If convicted, he faces an 18-year maximum sentence.
Melvin Shiver of Zionsville says he paid Carr $9,000 in June to provide home maintenance. Shiver estimates he received only $3,500 worth of work. "After I paid him, I never saw him again," he says. In the last 12 months, two other Angie's List members gave Carr "F" reports, including one report that landed All About Trees in the Penalty Box.
In July, Carr was also arrested in Marion County on 36 felony theft charges and posted bail. The indictment alleges Carr, under different company names, stole more than $40,000 from 36 Indianapolis homeowners. If convicted, Carr faces up to 10 years in prison.
"Someone else was using my name and taking people's money," Carr told Angie's List Magazine. "I have no problem telling the truth about anything."
Johnson County Prosecutor spokeswoman Amy Davis says Carr had indicated his willingness to plead guilty to all charges at his next court hearing Jan. 28 and pay restitution to his victims. At press time, Matthew Symmons, spokesman for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, says there had been no change in Carr's not guilty plea before his Dec. 23 court date.
Joseph Radcliff, CPM Construction
In September, Indianapolis Police arrested CPM Construction owner Joseph Radcliff on felony charges, including insurance fraud, corrupt business influence and criminal mischief. Acccording to Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, Radcliff's company intentionally damaged roofs, gutters and eaves to inflate insurance claims. The charges stem from a National Insurance Crime Bureau investigation that found CPM deliberately inflicted damages to five roofs following storms in 2006 and 2007.
"I have negative things to say," says Craig Hinshaw of Indianapolis, whose home was one of those allegedly damaged by CPM. "If I'm subpoenaed, I'm willing to testify." Hinshaw declined further comment citing the ongoing case. CPM also earned Angie's List members' ire with three members reporting "F"-rated experiences in 2008, despite the company being made unavailable in February for Angie's List category searches due to repeated self-reporting infractions.
Radcliff was released after posting bail. At press time, a not guilty plea had been automatically entered by the court on Radcliff's behalf, and his next court date was scheduled for Jan. 7. "We feel the charges are appropriate, and we plan on going forward with this case because it's a serious matter," says Matthew Symmons, Brizzi's spokesperson. Frederick Vaiana, Radcliff's attorney, says Radcliff denies the charges. "He looks forward to the truth being presented in a court of law," Vaiana says.
Windows Direct Midwest Inc.
When Darlene Hoff of Fortville hired Window Direct Midwest in October 2007 to replace 19 windows and gave them a $1,972 deposit, she felt confident they'd do a good job, even after they failed to show for installation appointments. "They kept giving me excuses they were behind due to weather," Hoff says. "I totally felt they were reliable up until last January." That's when she says Window Direct stopped answering its phones. Three Angie's List members gave them "D" or "F" ratings in the last 14 months, including Hoff's report that led to the company's entry into the Penalty Box.
In May, the Indiana Attorney General filed a civil suit seeking consumer resititution from Windows Direct after receiving 33 complaints. Each complaint is nearly identical: Windows Direct Midwest accepted down payments but never delivered windows. In all, the attorney general reports the down payments add up to nearly $40,000. "We highly encourage consumers to file complaints so we're aware of any fraud or deception," says attorney general spokesperson Natalie Robinson. "When appropriate, we can investigate and seek restitution."
At press time, Windows Direct Midwest owner Rod Hardesty hadn't responded to a court summons and couldn't be reached for comment.