Portland area's best and worst contractors in 2008

Portland area's best and worst contractors in 2008

by Liz Vernon

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

The Best

Cleaner by Pfarr

When Randy Pfarr moved to Oregon, he brought along a share of his brother’s company, Cleaner by Pfarr. “I found I had a corner on the market,” he says. “I use alcohol- and hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners [rather than shampoo], so I don’t have to get carpets really wet.”

His method is working well — Pfarr has many happy customers, including Andrea Frost of Portland, who hired him to clean her carpet and furniture, plus polish her hardwood floors. “The carpet looks brand new,” she says. “The furniture was at a different house, but he had no problem driving there. He took time with an ink stain I didn’t expect to come out.” Pfarr says that kind of service equals success: “I treat it like it’s my own house, and I always keep the customer in the loop.”

Live Earth Inc.

Dustin Marchello used skills he learned from a favorite hobby — rockclimbing — when he first worked with his now-father-in-law, who’s a certified arborist.

“He asked me to work with him one Saturday,” Marchello says. “He climbed a tree to prune it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ I fell in love with it.” Marchello, who’s now a certified arborist himself and runs Live Earth Inc. with his wife, Rachel, has done work all over, even volunteering to help clean up after hurricanes in Louisiana and storms in Colorado.

Judith Jindrich of Wilsonville hired the company to remove an old apple tree. “The tree hung over my roof, deck and neighbor’s fence,” she says. “He got it down by himself without hurting anything. This was a tricky job, and Dustin did great work.”

Marchello says he believes customer service is what keeps his clients coming back. “People really like that I answer questions about their trees,” he says. “I’m genuinely excited to do the work, and I think it shows.”

American Power Vac


Silver coins. Hot dogs. Old newspapers. Marbles. These are some of the things Eddie Nickens, owner of American Power Vac, has found in air ducts. “I found two birds and a bunch of feathers that had probably been in the house since it was built,” he says.

Angie’s List members have praised Nickens for a job well done. Two mentioned how he cared about their cats’ comfort and safety during the job.

Deb Scott of Portland hired the company to clean her vents, air returns and furnaces. “He was prompt and did a great job,” she says. “I was concerned I’d let it go too long, but he said I was right on schedule.”

Nickens, who’s operated his company for four years, says he’s recently started getting repeat customers. He recommends duct cleanings every three to five years, and good service is a way to keep them coming back. “I’m a true believer in good customer service. If you go a little further, people will appreciate it.”

The Worst

Danner’s Home Renovations Inc.

Kimberly Maus says she encountered several problems when she hired contractor Dan Gianuzzi to repair some water damage in her kitchen. “He installed the cabinets and flooring crookedly,” says the news anchor for Fox 12 Oregon. “It looked like a funhouse because it was cockeyed.” Maus ended up in civil court in July — but it was Gianuzzi who sued her. According to Maus, he wanted her to pay for repairs that she says were a result of his mistakes. Maus never had to pay for those repairs. “Dan didn’t show [in court],” she says. Maus isn’t the only unhappy customer. Gianuzzi’s company, Danner’s Home Renovations Inc., has received four “F” Angie’s List reports in the past two years for allegedly performing shoddy work. Maus reports that Gianuzzi’s out of business in the Portland area and now lives in Idaho. A call to the company for comment wasn’t returned.

Bearcreek Design LLC
Pacific Cascade Homes
Pacific Cascade Remodeling & Design

Oregon City and Wilsonville

Wade McGilvra is operating as the principal of Bearcreek Design LLC, which got an “F” on Angie’s List in 2008. That’s not his only company with a bad track record.

In 2005, the Oregon Construction Contractors Board suspended McGilvra’s license for Pacific Cascade Remodeling & Design, which owes customers $26,000. A year later, the CCB revoked McGilvra’s license for Pacific Cascade Homes for fraudulent conduct, such as leaving jobs incomplete and doing shoddy work. That company has more than $6,500 in penalties and owes customers more than $45,000.

Stewart Rose hired McGilvra to build a house. He says he paid one-third of the job cost up front. “I could never get him on the phone, and he never drew a plan,” Rose says. “When I went to his office, it was closed.”

Rose says the CCB ordered McGilvra to refund him the full $11,000 down payment, but he couldn’t collect because McGilvra’s bond money had already been spent to pay what was owed to other victims.

Bearcreek Design LLC isn’t licensed through the CCB, but design work doesn’t require a license, and the CCB says it has no evidence that the company is offering or performing work as a contractor. Bearcreek Design has a “C-” rating with the Better Business Bureau, although no complaints have been filed.

“It’s unfortunate what happened in the past, but I’m not a scoundrel,” McGilvra told Angie’s List Magazine.

Gutter Topper Northwest

Lake Oswego

Angie’s List member Lori Colville of Yacolt, Wash., says the gutters that Gutter Topper Northwest installed in September 2004 worked properly for about six months before trouble began. “Fir needles kept building up,” Colville says. “They said the needles would wash off and fall to the ground, but it looked like they’d start to decompose and then stick. The water wouldn’t go in the gutter, but went over the edge and straight to the ground.” Colville says the company replaced the gutters twice, but problems persisted. “I’d talk to the manager of the company, and he’d make promises and never follow up.” She says she asked for a refund of the $1,600 purchase price, but never heard back. The last time she spoke with him was last spring. Colville and another member’s complaint landed the company in the Penalty Box twice in 2008. In August, the CCB suspended the company’s license after receiving notice its bond had been canceled. The CCB also imposed two civil penalties for $300 total, which the company paid. The company’s phone has been disconnected, and according to the BBB, it appears to be out of business.

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 Portland homeowners Bill Gollhofer and Glenda Hughes say they're unsatisfied with the work performed by unlicensed contractors. (Photo courtesy of Glenda Hughes)
Portland homeowners Bill Gollhofer and Glenda Hughes say they're unsatisfied with the work performed by unlicensed contractors. (Photo courtesy of Glenda Hughes)

While hiring a licensed contractor doesn't guarantee quality work or service, it does offer homeowners protection. In Oregon, anyone who performs construction work for money must be licensed through the Construction Contractors Board.

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