Over the last 8 years I have had business transactions with many contractors in my personal and professional life. In my experience, nothing is ever perfect when work is being done and something usually goes wrong. I have found that the best businesses are the ones that own up to the issue, apologize and correct the problem. I understand that as a customer I many not be right, but my questions should be taken seriously and responded to with respect. Unfortunately, my experience with Mark Huffer, the president and owner of Utmost was the exact opposite. Below is the contract and issues that transpired. CONTRACT: SCOPE: Clean all steps/landings on the front and back of the house (4 ct. total), remove all loose, spalled, broken, and/or larger cracked (does not include fissures and/or hairline cracks as agreed unless the brick is truly cracked all the way thru, etc.) bricks and replace the broken ones (this doto match existing and relay all of them in new type S mortar (harder, laying mortar) color, spot-tuckpoint all open, loose, missing, very bad mismatched color/finish of previous repointing of joints, cracked, and/or crumbled mortar joints via grinding out to a min. depth of 1/2" to 3/4" and repoint using a type n mortar (softer, repair mortar) with mortars to match the finish of existing joints very closely (we will do samples for your approval), reset the loose handrails and final clean new mortar. We will warranty our labor and materials for one year (it is flat work). Terms are a third down and balance on completion. My initial experience with Mark was easy and professional. His pricing (even after our negotiated price) was higher than all my other bids but I wanted a highly qualified mason to do my steps. The work began July 9th and on July 16th I was told most items were done however they still waiting for replacement bullnose bricks. July 19 - Mr. Huffer's son is inspecting the job site. I point out several areas that still have cracks and crumbling mortar. This includied the horizontal joints next to the risers. July 22 - I am told by Mr. Huffer's son: 1. The mason could not finish my project as he was called out to work on another job so he would be finishing the project. 2. They would like to repair the horizontal joints closest to the risers of each step with Caulking. 3. They were unable to find the matching bullnose bricks so they were going to use bricks without a bullnose edge. 4. Mr Huffer's son removes and resets the right handrail to our front porch. I was concerned as "caulking" was not part of the contract. It was never discussed and it just did not seem like a permanent fix compared to repointing. I researched online and I was unable to find one proponent who recommends this solution. Next, I contact a mason and he list numerous reasons why the joints should be completed as outlined in our contract. My husband and I agree that we should stick with what was described in the original agreement. This evening we notice that Mr. Huffer's son damaged the base of the front porch handrail. Please note that the base looks like it was rusted and would have broken eventually so I do not hold them accountable for this. However, they reset the entire handrail without notifying us that the base has a large, extremely noticeable hole in it. We will need to rip out all the work that was just completed to replace this piece. It just does not make any sense why this was not brought to our attention. I inform Mr. Huffer. July 24: I realize Mr. Huffer's son and crew put mortar on all the riser joints without removing the old mortar. The new mortar covered more than 1/3 of the brick in some areas. Mr. Huffer's response : "the joints in question are too narrow to fully grind out at an angle without potentially cutting into the bricks and no one wants that. The loose mortar was removed and I know how it was pointed back so I think it will last and it’s is under warranty. This type of joint is not flat and another reason why I also recommended caulking it. It looks fine as well. If you want us to attempt to grind it and we cut bricks and have to replace any bricks as a result it will be an extra and the bricks themselves are not cheap." Jul 24, 2019 - my emai to Mr. Huffer: Can you tell me: 1. Will the appearance of the riser joints change. These currently are wider and look worse then the original "patch job". Mortar extends to over 1/3 of the brick. 2. Is this the gold standard for repointing riser joints? (I.e. Not removing old mortar and just placing new on top?) 3. Are the risers and sides of the staircase included in the estimate? 4. Would you be happy with this job if it were your home? Mr Huffer's response: 1) when we clean them, yes, they will get a little smaller the way we brushed them etc. and 2) the new mortar will come off of the brick. Again, should be a convex joint so water sheds off and doesn’t lay there and or have been caulked (BUT WHAT DO I KNOW?!🤪) 2) This is close to the other joints as far as looks and pointing techniques and it is even acceptable on historic projects with architects etc so I KNOW IT"S GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOUR RESIDENTIAL REPAIR AND ANY JUDGE IN THE LAND ETC 3) yes, they are included and we will do a little more spot pointing that was missed but why was this not addressed before now— you’ve had plenty of time to review the work, etc and have we not continued to show you and ask you if things look good, etc every time we see you? It is what it is but let’s MAKE **** CERTAIN IF THERE"S ANYTHING ELSE, YOU PUT IT IN WRITING and even show and give it to my masons next time they are there. ***I had reviewed these items with his son on July 19th. 4) yes, it’s more than acceptable and I’d be happy. I have to say at the risk of being a little too frank but I guess you don’t believe the local experts—us—you hired for a reason and rather rely on doing on line research which is a joke, quite frankly. This is very frustrating. Thus, if you are not happy with the few newer joints once we clean them, it might come down to where I can just give you a small discount and you do the work and finish it yourself or use another mason. HONESTLY, I HAVE TO SAY THAT I'VE RARELY HAD A HOME OWNER, EVEN IN "NEW ALBANY" BE THIS WAY.... There are several other emails from Mr. Huffer but I think this one gets the point across. The only expectation I had of Mr Huffer and Utmost was that the work be done per our contractual agreement. I had made no other requests. On three separate occasions he claimed that the handrails were not included in the contract when they clearly were. He claims the handrail in the back is not under any warranty as he chose to epoxy it instead of resetting it. (another breach in contract). He did not repair any of the horizontal joints near the risers per the contract specs. He wanted to charge me for bricks if he damaged them. There is nothing about this in the contract. I am not sure if his way of doing things with caulking or new mortar on top of old are his standard practices but I can tell you other local masons consider this as unacceptable. Obviously, I would not recommend Utmost because of how unprofessional and reactionary Mr. Huffer is. To be honest, I am pleased with the quality of work done by the first mason. Unfortunately, I can not say the same for Mr. Huffer's son or his crew. The quality of the work is night and day.