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a brick chimney on the side of a blue house with two windows

Masonry reviews in New Albany

  • F
    Utmost Renovations
    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.
    - JILL S.
  • F
    Richards Restoration
    I got the sales pitch saying their reputation is on the line and their name is too important not to do a good job. I was happy that there were no subcontractors hired to do their work until I saw the results. The work was very poor. The masonry work was sloppy and the mortar was covering the brick on the edges. In some places over an inch and a half. I called Richard who came out to look at the work done. He agreed that the poor workmanship needed repaired and that they would work on the brick to repair their poor job. The excuses started. We are too busy. Just give us another week and a half. I naively believed him. After 7 phone calls and months of empty promises I am giving up.
    - Joe Z.
  • A
    Mark Monnette Masonry
    I have been relying on Mark for 10 years. I have a mid-sized brick walkway, stairs, and stoop. The backyard has a small brick patio. The mortar takes a beating with the sun, rain, and snow and I have a number of large trees and their roots all but destroy the mortar and the occasional brick. Mark comes in year after year and makes it right. I have no doubt that without Mark's services all my brickwork would have had to be replaced by now. Several neighbors have had to have their's replaced and my house is the oldest one on the block. My trust in Mark is so complete that unless Mark has noticed some significant damage that he wants me to see, I just tell him to do whatever he needs to do. Mark's rates are more than reasonable and he always gets the work done as quickly as the weather allows. Mark and my car repair guys are the only two contractors I have used every year, without interruption, since I moved to Ohio. They are the only two that have never let me down, never came up short.
    - JONATHAN G.
  • A
    Plant Masonry
    Excellent contractor!  Excellent craftsmanship.  They were responsive and were actually able to work us in sooner than originally expected.  They performed the work within schedule and budget.  The finished steps look fantastic, very pleased.  Plant Masonry worked with us by giving several options that would work within our budget and were responsive to answer all our questions throughout the process.  
    Highly recommend Plant Masonry.
    Thank you!
    - Doug and Sheri C.
  • B
    Property Worx
    Initial contact was great.  Although other proposals were lower in price, I opted for Fletcher's. After the project was completed and paid for, I found the response to phone calls disappointing or never returned.  A cap on one of the columns accumulated water and Correy advised that was normal. The other column cap did not have that issue.   In the spring of 2015 I contacted him again to advise it chipped. Eventually he stopped by to inspect; verified it needed to be replaced; and  eventually replaced (after I allowed a potential customer to look at my patio).  Soon after I called to request an estimate to replace landscape stone around two areas to match the paver patio but never received a call back.
    - Sandra D.
  • F
    Perfect Ponds & Lawns
    I had used Jake in the past for some other work (ponds / indoor stone work). In the past my husband  and I had some issues with Jake  and I was able to express my concern / disappointment to him but was willing to give him another chance.  
    In sum, I think we have spent 50K plus with him and I have to say, this last job was the straw that broke the camel's back.  It was a disaster from day 1.  My husband and I paid him for everything he quoted... but 'be aware'... he will quote you work and say he will be firm on price, and he will collect everything he quoted, but will not complete all the work.  He will collect 'draws' and then you won't see him for days upon days...... and he will make excuses (including lies) that get very old.  I tried as hard as I could to be patient with him and sympathsize but he continued to string us along by making up stories, excuses, etc as to why he couldn't be here.   I had many witnesses laugh at his one worker that spent more time on the phone texting then working.... I told Jake about it as there were times Jake wasn't present, and he seemed like he really didn't care what I thought and seemed a bit offended that I dare critque his worker.  And, I really dont think he cared as Jake would work by this guys side while he would sit on the stone ledge texting or doing whatever.  I am certain that Jake, on this last job, was over on his labor BUT he had workers that would do little of nothing when they were here.  They would maybe, just maybe work hard a couple hours of the 5-6 they would spend at the job.  It simply amazed me.  
    Jake eventually stuck me with having to pay out of pocket for additional for stone (decorative stone) that was included in the project and left many items un-done as he ran out of money.  He will tell you...." I need to take an additional draw in order to........" so, you have to pay him to keep him moving, however, the labor draw isn't relevant to the % completions of the work. So, he will get to the end and have no funds left to complete the work.  So, you won't see him for days (I think he goes to other jobs to get their downpayments, etc. in order to move forward on the job he is on).  He will take initial payments toward material and won't buy the material... he will fool around and not show up.... will work a little bit and then ask for labor draws prematurely.  I think in our case, he flat ran out of money to buy my material and bailed on me because he messed around too much all summer.
    He told me this would be a 6 week project that turned into a project that lasted from AUG until DEC.  In fact the project too so long due to Jake fooling around and not showing  that the granite people  had to place the granite, that I purchased separate, on my grill when the snow was flying!  It was absolutely ridiculous.  In fact, Jake had limestone quoted 'as included" and even failed to provide me a credit because he didn't use that material (of which I paid for).
    Be aware of Jake, he is a smooth talker and he doesn't like it if you have a difference of opinion on something he has done, etc.  For example.... he was placing real stone on my fireplace like  three inches apart (I think because he wanted to save money by buying less stone so he can put the difference back into his pocket for labor) and there was a huge mortor gap... it looked insane!  I told him about it and I mind as well have been the devil.  It was sloppy and he simply didn't want to take them time to cut the stone to make it look nice. Again.... he already was tapped out on his labor costs (due to the fooling around for months) and then when it came down to getting the job complete.... he was always full of excuses.  If he would respond to this, he will likely claim that I changed the scope..... believe me when I tell you.... I went over every aspect of this job and nothing, I mean nothing was changed on my part. The only time I called him out as it relates to scope was when he tried to slap on stone without even trying, I insisted that he do a better job.... I will attach a picture.  He moved a few stones, but he certainly didn't do me any favors.
    On the final day Jake was here, he left about 3 ton of stone in my driveway (this was the end of Nov).... and I had a memorial service planned as I lost my father to brain cancer during this time,  and we had to hand move all of it out of my drive so people could park.  I confronted him about it and asked if he planned on cleaning up / moving it.... he said he would..... and I never heard back from him again.
    He is a swindler, he will overpromise and WAY underdeliver.  He became recently divorced and I can certainly see the the attitude shift since.  He seemed to have a compassion for what he did in the past, and while we had some problems prior to this job, overall the work he did was ok.  But, this job was my worst nightmare and I would never ever re-hire him.
    He left many items undone and I still don't have a working outdoor fireplace.  I have to hire someone else to finish it all up and my husband has spent a ton of time cleaning up his half-done work.
    I can't begin to describe all the issues that I had in this brief review but if it were me, I would look to someone else to do your job.  He may seem cheaper in the beginning, but he won't either complete everything or will ask for more money or have you start paying for material as he has run out of the money you have already paid him.  He will have to move onto to the next job in order to pay his people as he will be out of money. He will make excuses why he isn't there. That will be the routine.  Be aware of his discounts, etc... they are his way of getting money up front because he is in the whole from prior job.....  Avoid yourself the heartache and the stress of working with him and look for someone else.


    - MICHELLE P.
  • A
    Utmost Renovations
    Mark was fabulous. I've been working with a lot of contractors lately and he was the only one that truly communicated did what he said he would. He was on time, called frequently, emailed me regular updates, and was wonderful to work with. His prices were reasonable. Brick steps turned out well. I highly recommend him.
    - Mari L.
  • A
    Bob Kessler Construction LLC

    We had water leaking into the house around the fireplace.  Mr. Kessler came out and did a visual inspection and from the ground could not be certain what the problem was but he made some suggestions.  He thought that these fixes should take care of the problem.  He told me he would get back with an estimate.  It took a week before he got back with me on the estimate and when he did it was 7:45 am on a Saturday when I was still asleep.  I agreed to have him do the work.  He told me that he would be out in a week or so.  He actually called me several days ahead of the original scheduled appointment and said that he could do it sooner, so we had him out.  He and his assistant Ed came out and started the project.  The first thing they did was go up and inspect the chimney.  They discovered that the crown of the chimney was breaking down substantially.  They brought a piece down and showed me how it was crumbling.  They said builder used mortar instead of cement as they should have.  They said the crown needed replaced.  I gave he go ahead to do so. 

    They completed the work previously agreed to plus replaced the crown.  The additional work was done at a very reasonable costs. We do not know if the fix has worked yet since we have not had a major rain since.

    The largest negative was actually he brought his dog along and it was not friendly with our dogs.  It was fine with people. 

    Working with him is very old fashioned.  All is done on a scratch pad, a handshake and easy conversation.  He is not a fast worker but he also charges are very low.


    - David F.
  • C
    GBR Masonry Inc
    We did not hire them. The estimate was a few times over what we expected to be a fair price for the work involved. (Two brick steps from patio door down to our patio were wobbly and in need of overhaul.)
    - Onur O.
  • A
    New Buck Chimney Sweeps
    Set up an appointment and they showed up on time and provided a detailed quote of services that were needed. The cost was in the middle of other quotes we received. We ended up going with All Ohio Mortar as they were a little lower cost.
    - JASON W.
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