Knoxville area's best and worst contractors of 2008

Knoxville area's best and worst contractors of 2008

by Stacy Giordullo, Joshua Palmer and Paul F.P. Pogue

In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Knoxville contractors who have earned the distinction of being the best or worst in the Knoxville area.

The Best

Chaffee Climate Control

When Les Bischoff wanted to replace his home’s aging heating and air conditioning unit, he practiced savvy consumerism by requesting bids from multiple companies. But only Chaffee Climate Control earned his business with a timely response, affordable pricing and knowledgeable answers to his questions. “It’s refreshing to find people who know what they’re doing and don’t break the bank,” Bischoff says. In business since 2002, owner Rex Chaffee says hiring just a few expert employees is what helps him provide consistent quality and high levels of customer satisfaction. “Keeping it small keeps the quality control better,” Chaffee says. His efforts have led to overall “A” ratings.

Cedar Bluff Plumbing

Janis Trant knows a good contractor when she hires one. She says her 80-year-old home has had a “revolving door” of companies she’s hired for repairs. So when one plumber couldn’t unclog a pipe, she called Cedar Bluff Plumbing, who quickly fixed it. “I wish I would’ve never called anyone else — I certainly won’t in the future,” Trant says. Company owner Charles McMahan says there’s one thing that’s helped him keep customers happy since 1985: “My biggest motivation is providing an honest and dependable service where you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off.” That motivation convinced every Angie’s List member who hired his company last year to submit overall “A”-rated reports.

The Worst

Downhill Plumbing & Septic

Angie’s List member Carol Runyan of Kingston hired Downhill Plumbing and Septic to install plumbing in her house. “The piping failed inspection terribly,” she says. “We found at least seven leaks. We asked them to fix it several times. They didn’t show up. We finally had someone else fix it for $400, and Downhill promised they’d pay us back. We still haven’t received the money.”

The company landed in the Penalty Box for breaking this promise. They’ve also been rated “unsatisfactory” by the BBB for failing to respond to complaints. Additionally, Roane County court records show the company has two unpaid judgments against it — $15,000 due to clients and $6,679 due to a supplier. Owner David Hendon also goes to court in January to face a misdemeanor charge of violating a protective order.

Hendon says he’ll pay back Runyan eventually. “But right now I have to get my business straightened out,” he says.

All-Sun Enterprises Inc.
Lake Worth, Fla.

A Florida company that’s been targeted by state and local authorities says it’s recently set up shop in Knoxville. The Florida attorney general sued All-Sun Enterprises Inc. owners Frank Pennea and Leo Whalen in June after local and state authorities received at least 53 complaints accusing the company of shoddy workmanship or accepting deposits for work they didn’t do.

Saundra Stashak of Jupiter gave the home improvement company $3,500 for work she says it never started. “I did my due diligence by making sure they were licensed,” she says. “But you need to check references — and not just one.”

According to the attorney general, All-Sun operated under Pennea’s state license because Whalen’s was voided in 1993. Pennea’s license was revoked in September and he’s also been ordered to stop all business with Whalen and pay nearly $30,000 in restitution. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Whalen filed bankruptcy in April and is now operating as Midwest Remodeling. Angie’s List Magazine called Midwest after viewing his website,  , and spoke to a man who identified himself as Whalen. He asked that we call back, but then repeatedly failed to answer the phone. Florida’s civil suit against Whalen is slated to be heard this year.

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