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General Contracting reviews in Beltsville

  • B
    Professional Home Solutions LLC
    We bought a house in Beltsville, closing on May 24, 2013.  We wanted to do extensive renovations before moving in, primarily knocking out a wall to install a large new kitchen and finishing the basement with a family room, bedroom and bathroom.  We interviewed two contractors who were A-rated on Angie?s List.  Both seemed quite competent, but one would not give us a firm estimate, asking us to trust him to do a good job at a fair price.  I did trust him, but I also had a $100,000 budget I couldn?t exceed, so when Brandon gave us an estimate that included everything we wanted for $91,000, we went with him.  Even with the inevitable cost overruns, we did keep it to about $100,000.  I have no doubt that the other contractor would have cost more.
    We made it clear that the job had to be finished before we moved into the house in mid-August, so Brandon put a clause in the contract that his company would pay a $100/day penalty if the project was not completed nine weeks after the start date.  But in the copy of the contract that we actually signed, the start date was specified as ?After permits onsite,? which did not occur until early August.  On July 11 he wrote, ?I'm hoping to be done by mid-August,? and on August 3, ?We will still finish in two weeks,? but in fact we lived in a house that was still very much under construction until late September.  As I write this six months later (March, 2014) there still remain details to complete.
    While the customer is often responsible for such delays, that was not the case here.  Brandon had stressed the importance of ordering kitchen cabinets promptly, so we did that in mid-June, but a project manager was not even assigned until July.  Cabinets and appliances sat in the house for over a month.  The contractor would argue that his work should be judged by the quality of the final result, and we were indeed somewhat pleased with that, but we cannot overlook the inconvenience caused by the slow pace of the project.
    PHS employs a workforce that is entirely comprised of Hispanic immigrants.  They are quite competent and hard-working.  The project managers (Roger and Jean Paul) spoke good English.  But even though they were copied on the e-mails, they never sent e-mails and rarely knew what was in them.  Sound insulation in the basement ceiling, hard-wiring of the towel warmer, and wiring for a chandelier -- jobs plainly laid out in the contract -- never got done.  Roger frequently asked me to itemize everything that had to be done, or every fix I had hashed out with Brandon, even though these things were in the e-mails and the contract.  That was one of several ways that I thought I was doing jobs the contractor should be doing.
    Another was purchasing.  The contract included an allowance schedule to cover the cost of cabinets, countertops, backsplash, flooring, appliances, and such.  It specified over and over, ?All provided by PHS.?  But I was pretty picky about what I wanted (Consumer Reports Best Buys that also had high customer ratings on Amazon), so Brandon was more than happy to let me do all the purchasing.  That worked well with the notable exception of the kitchen flooring.  The contractor must come to the rescue when the customer needs technical advice.  Three weeks of delays developed as we waited for Brandon to get us floor samples, then to tell us what underflooring, adhesives, and T-molding to buy, then for an accurate measurement of the square feet required.  When I finally placed the order, our choice of flooring had just been discontinued by the manufacturer, so we had to start over.
    Companies making large deliveries, like appliances and flooring, will tell you what day they are delivering but not what time.  Just 8 to 5.  But the work crew left at 3 every day.  The tedious work of scheduling and then rescheduling deliveries was left to me.
    When the tile guy was installing the kitchen backsplash and needed grout, it was my job to run to Lowe?s to buy some.  Not the contractor, not the project manager, not the tile guy.  And had I not known that there are different kinds of grout, I could have been stuck with the consequences of a bad choice for years to come.  This is noteworthy because this experience was not atypical.
    My wife?s father is a contractor, so she discerns flaws in workmanship that I miss.  Her judgment:  on painting, the finish work was poor.  As for spackling, walls are not completely smooth.  Doors are not sanded and mounted quite right.  In short, everything is just a little off.
    But I do think they shine when it comes to problem-solving.  Example: when the manufacturer of the hardwood floors failed to cover flaws with the warranty, Roger improvised a two-to-one mixture of commercial stains to get a perfect match which covered the scratches.
    A couple of projects in the contract started as nothing more than photos I found on the web.  Roger took an Ikea dresser and a cutout in the wall beneath the fireplace to give us the look of a custom built-in dresser in the new basement bedroom.  He also built in-the-wall wine storage in space under stairs that would otherwise be wasted.  This was some of the best work they did, and for a very reasonable price!  I encourage future customers to do creative Google searches, present Brandon with the photos, and see what they can do.  I doubt that anyone else does it as well for such a good price.
    Brandon has strong communication skills, almost always responding to e-mails the same day (and often close to midnight, suggesting that he spends long hours managing many projects).  Perhaps his greatest strength is that he never allowed the tensions of things gone wrong to spiral out of control.  Whenever there were disputes over costs or delays that inconvenienced us, he was there with a financial concession to smooth things over.
    Brandon?s weakness is that he didn?t always demonstrate the mastery of his profession that he should.  He recommended building a shelf in the kitchen to house our countertop microwave as a cost saving over buying one from the cabinet manufacturer, and Roger never did figure out how to do that (but Jean Paul did, and it ultimately turned out nice).  He inadvertantly low-balled the original estimate because he didn?t think code required an egress window in the basement bedroom if we had a sprinkler system and an exit down the hall; he ultimately gave us the egress window at cost without a mark-up, but it still added $1500 to our budget.  He placed the emergency generator 19 inches from the house even though the owner?s manual said it had to be five feet away, saying that the building inspector had appoved the placement, but that did not in fact pass inspection.  He said that was okay because our vinyl siding was not flammable, but it is.
    In contrast to the other contractor we interviewed, Brandon is not the type to offer tips, ideas, and suggestions based on years of experience.  The other contractor suggested knocking out a wall to expand the kitchen, and he had a little-known vendor for kitchen cabinets that was cheaper than Lowe?s or Home Depot, which Brandon suggested.  He had novel suggestions for the new backyard patio.  But when we invited Brandon to help us brainstorm about the patio, he simply wrote back, ?of course we can make the patio however you would like to best fit your needs/wants.?
    If the customer is dissatisfied with anything, PHS will come back and do it again.  On top of that, the contract has a one-year unlimited warranty.  Still, one wonders if that?s sufficient.  If my wife hadn?t remembered every detail after seeing the $1700 kitchen pantry cabinet in the showroom, we would still be living without half the shelving, because the workers assembled it without reading the directions.
    In summary, expect a good (but not excellent) job at an outstanding price.
    - Robert R.
  • A
    Blue Sky Painting & Carpentry LLC
    Project Coordinator, Adam, was the reason we chose Blue Sky - had another ballpark estimate but Adam's professionalism, courtesy & communication skills sealed the deal. We had some rotting wood trim on our 2001-era townhome in Longwood Community - some of which was on top level - and all needed a fresh coat of paint. Adam was great: listened to what we wanted done, took notes, explained clearly what Blue Sky would do. Then he got back to us with an estimate later that day (he also called each time he sent us an email throughout the project).
    The crew was a different story, however. Two workers (with minimal English skills) & a supervisor (Durian was his name, as I recall) came out to do the job. Adam said it would probably take a day-and-a-half but the crew seemed to be rushing to finish it that one day. Sure enough, when I inspected their work the next morning in good light I found several problems: the re-caulking was poorly done, some painted trim edges were sloppy, a repaired PVC trim piece wasn't planed down before being painted. Worst of all, the one top level piece of trim that was to be replaced with PVC had not been - and this was written down in our Blue Sky contract. The workers had left sawdust, wood scraps & TWO NAILS in our driveway, too.
    We got Adam back out here & showed him all the problems. He was respectful, attentive & agreed with us that the job was not professional work. He apologized to us & promised to make it right. The team came back, made the corrections, replaced the top level trim with PVC & painted it, re-did the poor caulking & sloppy trim edges. 
    I gave Blue Sky an "A" because when all was said & done, Adam made it a success. Without his efforts & interpersonal skills this would not have been rated an "Excellent" experience. We were confident in Adam's representation of what Blue sky could do for us at the beginning & he didn't disappoint. We will hire this company again because of this ultimate guarantee of satisfactory service.
    - Mark B.
  • A
    Maxc Impressions LLC
    Excellent Work. Excellent Company Highly recommended and I will most definitely use them again !!!
    - Terry O.
  • A
    Renaissance Restoration Inc.
    Very well. Everything was done in the span of about a week.
    - John M.
  • A
    Handyman Connection of Rockville (MD)
    - Theresa R.
  • A
    Central Exteriors
    - Frederic B.
  • A
    Ed Lundquist
    He was very reliable, he shows up on time and he is very conscientious about his work. He works very hard and is very precise. I have him come in every year so that he can help me maintain my house.
    - Barbara H.
  • A
    Just Moulding
    Excellent. They responded to phone calls, and came on time to do the work. They took great care of the furniture and the floors. Their work was excellent.
    - Angela S.
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General Contractors in Beltsville

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