Water Damage Cleanup or Restoration Following the February 9th Storm

9th February Long Island Flood Restorations

The recent winter storm on Feb. 9 th that cut through Long Island brought high winds, coastal flooding and quite a bit of damage necessitating restoration services and repairs. Fortunately, there is help for residents along the south shore of Long Island for those who reside in Rockville Center, Massapequa and out to Sayville and all points in between. True Restorations and Construction is on call 24 / 7 and not only provides emergency mitigation of water affected structures but also does all the repairs of the affected areas.

Whether the damage is from rising waters due to a broken sump pump or from water infiltration due to wind damaged roofing and siding, True Restorations has the experience, expertise and equipment needed to solve the problem at hand.

Additionally, the True Restorations staff can help process the insurance claim for their clients and can quickly bring an affected property back to pre-loss condition with little to no delay.

High winds, as what we saw occur in this most recent storm, can cause other adverse and potentially devastating consequences. A recent insurance claim handled by True Restorations was for a house in Northport that had a 75 ft pine tree unexpectedly crash down on the roof of the dwelling. There were no injuries to the occupants but the structural and cosmetic damage was severe. The True Restorations staff responded quickly and lived up to their motto of “one call does it all” by not only removing the tree but also coordinating the insurance claim and repairing all affected parts of the structure.

Not all restoration companies are alike, most restoration companies only perform the mitigation clean up and then leave. Does anyone really want just half the job done? True Restorations full service approach makes the choice an easy one as not having to call many different contractors up to coordinate repairs saves a lot of time and aggravation. If your home or business does sustain damage due to a storm or any other reason and an insurance claim is going to be started, be sure to call True Restorations immediately at 631-757- 0212 because your insurance companies claims processing department will likely send over one of the other restoration companies that only does half a job. Choose “one call does it all”, choose True Restorations.

Water Damage in Long Island Homes or Businesses

Water Damage Cleanup Company Long Island NY

Nеѕtlеd іn bеtwееn Long Iѕlаnd Sоund аnd the Atlаntіс Oсеаn, thе rеѕіdеntѕ оf Lоng Iѕlаnd are uѕеd tо having tо deal wіth wаtеr dаmаgе оf оnе kіnd оr another. Flооd аnd tide wаtеrѕ rіѕе аnd еnvеlор bаѕеmеntѕ аlоng thе coast, ѕеwаgе ѕуѕtеmѕ bасk up during the wіntеr аnd саn’t handle thе hеаvу рrесіріtаtіоnѕ. In Sрrіng, snow mеlt саuѕеѕ additional water dаmаgе problems on Lоng Iѕlаnd. It іѕ lосаtеd іn a Nоrthеrn zоnе оf thе country that frequently sees аdvеrѕе weather conditions.

Lоng Iѕlаnd, unlіkе mаnу of thе other boroughs оf Nеw Yоrk City, іѕ mаdе uр of ѕіnglе family hоmеѕ аnd duplexes thаt have trаdіtіоnаl gutters and dоwnѕроutѕ. Thеѕе need tо be kept clean аnd unobstructed, particularly durіng wіntеr mоnthѕ, tо avoid water dаmаgе. Dоwnѕроutѕ should bе еxtеndеd оut from the hоmе ѕіx tо еіght feet and thе lоt іtѕеlf ѕhоuld be grаdеd ѕо wаtеr drаіnѕ оff properly.

From Hеmрѕtеаd tо thе Hаmрtоnѕ, Lоng Iѕlаnd is оnе of the most рісturеѕԛuе аnd ореn рlасеѕ іn thе New Yоrk City аrеа. Though nоt соnѕіdеrеd by many tо be раrt of thе city іtѕеlf, Long Island is dеfіnіtеlу a ѕuburb wіthіn striking dіѕtаnсе оf Mаnhаttаn. Thе municipalities аrе іndереndеnt аnd each carries thе rеѕроnѕіbіlіtу оf mаіntаіnіng іtѕ water аnd ѕеwаgе ѕуѕtеm, but the сrоѕѕіng roads, lіkе thе Long Iѕlаnd Exрrеѕѕwау, аrе ѕubjесt tо wаtеr damage аlѕо. Thеѕе fаll undеr thе Stаtе Hіghwау Dераrtmеnt.

The hоmеѕ and buѕіnеѕѕеѕ оf Lоng Iѕlаnd аrе the rеѕроnѕіbіlіtу оf thе owners of thоѕе buіldіngѕ. Water dаmаgе thаt іѕ incurred requires private fundіng tо repair and can bе аvоіdеd with ѕоmе рrесаutіоnаrу measures. Winterizing уоur home is a gооd precaution. Hаvе the basement, rооf and drаіnаgе ѕуѕtеm іnѕресtеd аnd add іnѕulаtіоn іf needed. Wrap уоur ріреѕ. Burѕt pipes can саuѕе ѕіgnіfісаnt wаtеr dаmаgе іn thе winter and lеаd tо the ѕhutdоwn оf уоur heating ѕуѕtеm whеn уоu nееd іt thе mоѕt.

Thе term “wаtеr damage” can rеfеr to a numbеr оf different things. Thе most obvious that соmеѕ to mіnd іѕ flooding thаt rеѕultѕ frоm еlеmеntаl соndіtіоnѕ оr іntеrnаl brеаkѕ іn thе рlumbіng ѕуѕtеm, but there іѕ muсh mоrе to it. The іnіtіаl wаtеr damage, whеn сlеаnеd uр, саn cause residual рrоblеmѕ ѕuсh аѕ mоld and іnѕесt infestations. Thеѕе fасtоrѕ can bе dаmаgіng to the health оf your family аnd hоuѕеhоld реtѕ.

Tо аvоіd mоld buіld-uр, mаkе ѕurе that аll аrеаѕ аffесtеd by wаtеr dаmаgе аrе drіеd thoroughly and аіrеd оut. Wеt wооd саn bе an аttrасtаnt tо tеrmіtеѕ and carpenter аntѕ. Mаnу оf the homes оn Lоng Iѕlаnd аrе wооd ѕtruсturеѕ thаt wеrе buіlt ԛuіtе a fеw уеаrѕ ago and wіll be ореnеd uр to this rеѕіduаl wаtеr dаmаgе іf not treated рrореrlу. Hire a wаtеr dаmаgе рrоfеѕѕіоnаl whо knоwѕ whаt they’re doing whеnеvеr you have a water rеlаtеd problem of аnу kіnd. Evеn bеttеr, hаvе ѕоmе рrеvеntаtіvе rераіrѕ and mаіntеnаnсе dоnе on your home bеfоrе you hаvе tо еxреrіеnсе іt. If you’re going tо lіvе іn a bеаutіful рlасе like Long Iѕlаnd, уоu ѕhоuld live comfortably wіthоut thе headaches оf wаtеr damage.

Contact True Restorations today for immediate help with water damage in your home or business.  Call us 24/7 at 631-757-0212 or email us at service@truerestorations.com.

How To Go About Home Renovations Without a Hassle

Storm, Wind, Fire Damage Restorations

After living in your home for a while, you may begin noticing things are falling apart from age or overuse. Instead of replacing one item at a time, you may decide to get your home renovated.

Before you dive into your renovation project, there are a few things you need to consider. Are you a resident of Nassau County, Suffolk County, Sayville, Massapequa or Northport? Or, do you live in an incorporated village such as Rockville Centre? There are certain laws, rules and procedures that determine if, when and how you should carry out any home renovations.  Note that these rules may vary from town to town.

A quick bullet point overview of the process of taking your home renovation concept through completion of the project is as follows:

  • Develop a general scope of work
  • Get rough, “ballpark” pricing
  • Check on your financial ability to move forward
  • Develop architectural plans and clear concise job specifications
  • Get competitive bids using developed job specifications
  • Select a contractor and have a complete contract with equitable payment terms
  • Complete project with a contractors support and assistance

Below we will go into further detail regarding these points:

Develop a general scope of work

The first thing you should do is decide on what you want to be done in your home. It’s best that you write the details down. This will make it easier for you to communicate your vision to the home renovation contractor. Pictures always help convey your concept. There are websites like Pinterest or Houzz that have tons of pictures which you can download and share with your contractors, designers and architects.

Get rough, “ballpark” pricing

Try to schedule a meeting with a remodeling contractor or a general contractor at your home for a walkthrough and ballpark pricing. Be clear with the contractor that you would just like to speak in general terms regarding the overall pricing of the project elements and that you aren’t looking to delve to deeply into any details as of yet. The contractor will likely appreciate this approach as a lot of contractor’s waste time quoting jobs that never get built for one reason or another.

Check on your financial ability to move forward

This critical analysis should be done very early in your project so that not a lot of time and energy is wasted by yourself or the contractors and others pricing and estimating a project that you can’t afford to build or can’t get the financing for.

Develop architectural plans and clear concise job specifications

Do you need a full set of architectural drawings? A competent remodeling contractor should be able to assess your project and determine the need.

You can hire an architect or even a draftsman and get this done. You could also hire a design / build general contractor who will develop the plans with you, often times this is a very intelligent way to accomplish developing a set of plans because the contractor can provide his input into the design and help steer the project in building more efficiently and cheaper. Slight changes in plans can create huge additional costs for an unknowing homeowner. A general contractor with decades of experience doing whole total home makeovers, dormers, extensions, additions, kitchen renovations, bathroom remodeling can provide invaluable feedback during the designing process.

The architectural plans (if needed) are the starting point for a homeowner in moving toward establishing a clear, complete job spec for your project.

If there are no plans needed or even if there are plans needed, the next step is to diligently establish a written job spec for your project. Contractor who will bid your project may or may not provide you with a fully detailed written estimate. During the process of securing estimates from contractors it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to remember who said what, who priced what, etc. Do yourself a huge favor and start to write down the key aspects to your project.

Once you get through your initial interviews with the 2 or 3 contractors that are bidding the project and you collect all their great ideas and perspectives, you can then finalize a job spec and send the spec to all the bidders so that they call all prices the same work.

Get competitive bids using developed job specifications

Now you have a clear, thorough job spec that you developed which will help you get true “apples to apples” bids from the contractors. A savvy homeowner tells the contractor who are bidding the project that as a condition of the bidding process they want a fully detailed, written proposal that states all the particulars from the job spec as well as any additional specs and details needed to expand on the spec. These written proposals from the contractors can be cross compared for additional details with the hope of finalizing wording to be used in a final contract. This written job spec will help you do a number of things, a list of the benefits of establishing a written job spec is as follows:

  • See wording used in your final contract with the contractor you select
  • Eliminate gray areas of your project that could pop up during construction which will add on unsuspected costs….always a killer
  • Help set the tone with the contractor that you expect a detail oriented approach to doing work on your project.

Select a contractor and have a complete contract with equitable payment terms

It’s now happy time since you are through the process and getting very close to starting your project.  You, like your contractor, feels that everything is going great. Don’t lose focus as this is a critical phase in the process and a seemingly small thing such as the payment schedule can alter your project in many ways.

Money is your power, your direct ability to influence the flow and outcome of your project. Money is leverage and should be used as such. A payment schedule that is not lopsided toward the contractor or the homeowner should be the goal. Payments made “upon completion of” are a great way to apply leverage to the contractor while also assuring performance. The amounts are always variable but seeing work completed and then releasing monies is the way to ensure performance.

The landmark payment schedule also ensures you as the homeowner that if something happens to the contractor or if he doesn’t show up, whatever….you will have funds available to hire someone new.  Scrutinize your contract payment terms and don’t be afraid to speak up, a contractor knows that he doesn’t have a deal yet and he is very malleable and amenable to these types of negotiations as he doesn’t want to lose the deal.

Complete project with a contractors support and assistance

You’re almost to the finish line! There are just a few more details of concern. Have all the inspections been done? Do you have the inspection approval receipts from the building department inspector? A great practice is to make your final payment conditional upon receiving a certificate of occupancy (a.k.a a C of O). Getting the C of O for your project ensures that the building permit process has been completed.

Another concern would be proof that your contractor paid all the subcontractors that worked on your job. You could ask for a release of lien from each subcontractor, assuming you knew who they were. Even though you paid the general contractor and received the C of O, the subcontractors have the legal right to place a lien on your property due to lack of payment by the GC. It’s very rare that this occurs, but still a point of note.

Contact True Restorations today to get the renovations you’ve always dreamed of!  Call 631-757-0212 or email us at service@truerestorations.com for fast, friendly, and professional service!

Your Trusted Partner in Mold Removal and Remediation

Heavy Mold Repair Company Long Island NY

Your Trusted Partner in Mold Removal and Remediation

Mold infestation can attack anyone’s home or business. So long as you have a water source in your working or living space, you are at risk of getting exposure to mold.

Mold can generally spread within 24 to 72 hours but there are different strains of mold, some more aggressive than others. To determine what kind of mold you’re dealing with, you need to consult an expert and that’s where True Restorations and Constructions come to play.

Do you reside in Long Island? At the touch of a button, our mold specialists in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Sayville, Massapequa and Northport will come to you and guide you through the process of identifying & testing for the presence of elevated levels of mold. True Restorations is a NYS Licensed mold remediation contractor who not only remediates the mold condition but also provides the necessary repairs to restore the interior finishes removed during the process.

Understanding Mold And It’s Effects

The truth of the matter is, mold is found everywhere in the atmosphere both indoor and outdoor. Mold spores are microscopic and can enter your home through doors, windows, air vents and even air conditioning systems.

However, once mold spores start growing into colonies as a result of exposure to water, then you have a problem. Mold spreads by attaching onto biological food sources such as cellulose that is found in some building constituents such as drywall and wood. Once exposed to water, mold grows fast.

Exposure to mold can cause breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, skin irritation, headaches and even aggravation of asthma symptoms.

How To Detect Mold

A visible indication that you might have mold are dark spots on your walls, floors, and/or ceiling. Mold also produces a musty odor which may precipitate respiratory and allergic reactions. A definitive identification can only be made by having a mold sample taken & sent to a lab for evaluation, this is typically done by an industrial hygienist (IH). The IH (mold identification expert) will not only determine the type of mold but will also establish a mold removal protocol for the licensed remediation contractor. Upon completion of the mold removal, the IH will also provide site testing to ensure the complete removal of the mold.

Mold can also compromise the physical structure of your residence so ignoring it is not an option. You should also note that mold is not always visible; sometimes it grows in walls and under floors, therefore, you can’t rely on the visible signs exclusively to determine if there is mold in your home.

If you suspect or notice any of the signs above, call our mold specialist for a consult and they will be able to coordinate a mold inspection by an IH and determine the best course of mold cleanup.

Mold Removal And Remediation

The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to get rid of mold entirely. Why? Mold spores exist naturally in the atmosphere.

A competent company such as ours keeps it real with you. We understand the science behind how mold develops and grows. Our mold specialists carry out a thorough mold inspection and assess the mold damage if any. Next, they determine the cause of mold growth and develop a strategic plan to fix it; be it a leaking pipe or roof.

Next, we develop a mold remediation plan which includes first cleaning up existing mold while avoiding exposure to oneself as well as the home/office residents.

Once the cause of mold growth; be it from a leaked piped or roof has been fixed, we isolate the contaminated area. This means closing all doors and windows in the area. Doorways and any other openings should at this point sealed with polyethylene paper and duct tape to ensure the infestation doesn’t spread to any other parts of your home or office.

After that, you need to suppress dust and this is done by misting the contaminated space. Once misting is complete, all the wet and mold damaged permeable items are removed from the space.

Mold clean up follows thereafter to get rid of any visible mold from non-porous surfaces and items. Depending on the environment and extent of damage, we may use simple cleaning tools such as wire brushes and disposable wipes, or detergent solutions with vacuum cleaners.

Once cleaning is done, the space and all items therein must be air dried to allow any leftover moisture evaporate. Remember, mold thrives in moist environments so keeping the space dry and airy is key.

Lastly, replacement of the porous damaged items earlier removed is done. And Voila! Your home and/or business are now mold free.

Ascertaining If Remediation Worked

So your space is not cleaned up, dry, and airy. But how will you know if the mold clean up worked?

To be 100% sure that your mold problems are over, you must ensure that the issue which caused molding in the first place has been adequately fixed to avoid a recurrence.

Secondly look out for health symptoms that were present during the mold manifestation. If you and/or your family/ colleagues continue to have allergic reactions or irritations even after the mold cleanup, consult a mold specialist to come do another inspection so as to ascertain if the health conditions are as a result of a greater underlying issue.

Keeping Mold At Bay

Like earlier mentioned, mold spores are in the atmosphere and it’s impossible to get rid of them entirely but you can prevent an infestation or recurrence using the following simple guidelines:

1.    Keep the humidity levels in your home or office low. How you wonder? Opening windows or running fans when showering is a good start. Ensuring that all appliances that create moisture in your home have a vent is also a great way of managing humidity levels.

2.    A good number of mold infestations stem from leaking roofs because most homeowners don’t pay much attention to their roof until a problem arises. Keep tabs on your roof ensuring that there are no leakages; the gutters are clean and stable.

3.    Clogged air conditioner pans and drain lines can contribute towards moisture buildup so ensure they are always clean.

4.    You may consider investing in a dehumidifier which helps keep the temperatures in your space up while getting rid of excess moisture.

Remember, mold removal, clean up and remediation is not a Layman’s task especially if the damage is severe. We at True Restorations and Construction have all it takes to help you deal with your mold challenges once and for all.

Frozen Pipes, what to do & how to prevent

Pipe Burst Repair Company Long Island NY

Do you have a home or dwelling that has a chronic condition of pipes freezing every winter? In this blog I will touch on the following aspects of frozen pipes:
• How to minimize the chance of pipes freezing by preventative pipe installation techniques & some of the likely causes for frozen pipes and locations of the freeze points
• How to safely unfreeze a pipe
• What will happen if you don’t do anything and wait for the pipe to thaw naturally

How to minimize the chance of pipes freezing by preventative installation techniques:

If you are having an addition done on your existing home or building a new structure, you would hope that your contractor or builder would take precautions and adhere to guidelines that would prevent pipes from freezing but unfortunately the rules & regulations are not that stringent. We at True Restorations have seen some shoddy installation techniques all over Long Island in every type of structure.

Domestic water pipes & heating pipes are often times run in an unheated crawl as a necessity for the installation of the fixture. There usually are several options for running these pipes. The easier & faster option is to run the pipe below the beams so that time & energy is not wasted in drilling each beam and snaking the pipe through the beams. The slower option is obvious to do all that drilling. In either instance, the pipe should have some kind of pipe insulation over the pipe. Believe it or not, we often find pipes uninsulated and even the floor systems in crawl spaces uninsulated. Running the pipe in between the beams and having the beam cavities filled with fiberglass insulation as well as having the pipe insulated with a rigid insulation installed tightly will be one of the best preventative measure to protect against frozen pipes in a crawl space.

Another safe practice for pipe installation is to “never”, as in never ever, run a pipe in an exterior wall, a soffit or an overhang. I laugh at myself because as great as this sounds I have broken this cardinal sin of contracting as sometimes there is just no other way to run the pipe to its needed location. There are some precautions that you can take to lessen the chances of pipes freezing if this is an absolute must. One option would be to fur the wall out (make it thicker) son that more insulation can be installed between the pipe & the outside. A second option would be to add a heat tracer (a thermostatically controlled hard wired heating element) to the pipe.

Wind infiltration into, above or below heated spaces will be the likely location of a pipe freeze. The tiniest crack or space can let wind in and often times pressurize the air flow through this tighter space. A thermodynamic quality of gas (air) as it changes from higher pressures to lower pressures the gas experiences a cooling effect, this is how an A/C condenser produces cold air for your air conditioner. The A/C condenser condenses the gas (pressurizes it), when the gas is unpressurized at the blower coil, the coil (metal) gets super cold and the fans blow air past the coil to extract the coldness. If you have ever let air pressurized air out of an O2 cylinder or scuba tank rapidly you would notice the freezing effect that it creates on the metal valves. This effect is part of what is causing the pipes of your dwelling to freeze at these wind infiltration points. Super cold conditions without wind can obviously cause pipes to freeze without wind conditions.

Additional pipe installation techniques that would help minimize pipe freezing’s that I won’t expand too much in order to keep this post reasonably short would be:
• The running of pipes through beams (above heated spaces below) & then projecting pipes out into cantilevers minimizing the amount of piping in soffit areas.
• The running of water mains up from below grade into a heated space with no fittings or valves in unheated areas. The valves or fittings become choke points for the water & provide greater metal surface areas to create a higher likelihood of freezing.
• Not using Pex fitting (especially elbow fittings) in unheated spaces. Pex piping is plastic piping & the fittings are metal. The metal acts as a heat sink and amplifies the freezing process at these water choke points. Pex, being plastic, is flexible and can be gradually bent and run in such a manner as to enable it to be installed without fitting to make a 90 degrees turn (elbows).
• The running of pipes to a vanity on an outside wall that come up from the floor into the bottom of the vanity rather than into the exterior wall would be another recommended practice.

How to safely unfreeze a pipe:
OK, I know you want to grab the portable propane torch and fire up that frozen pipe in your crawl space. This is the most dangerous practice to solve this problem because an open flame in a tight space, coming in contact with wood, insulation paper, plastic piping & plastic wire coatings is a recipe for a disaster. Pipes and wires run through small holes in the framing and in vertical voids of the structure. The torch user can inadvertently send super-hot gases into these voids (condensing the gases which create a greater heating effect on the gases, remember our thermodynamics from above). Unbeknownst to the torch user, a fire is started in this void out of their view and will race up vertically in the void.
The prudent pipe unfreezer person resists the temptation to use the torch & confidently grabs an electric heat gun or hair blow dryer and patiently unfreezes the pipe. Be careful with these electric heat guns as they throw off substantial heat and if held close enough to wood framing members or other flammables can start a fire just like a torch. Keep a safe distance when operating these tools and refer to the operating manual for safe distance recommendations.
Another safe method is to create a sealed cavity or space around the frozen pipe and add a low level heat source to this cavity for gradual thawing of the pipe. For example, if you had a crawl space that had a frozen pipe & you could somehow create a cavity around the pipe with no wind infiltration (somewhat sealed), you could do something as simple as adding a relatively safe heat source (a lamp or drop light) to this cavity which would eventually heat up this small environment enough to safely & slowly thaw the pipe.

Another safe practice is to wrap the frozen pipe with an electric heat tracer. The heat tracer will gradually thaw the pipe. The heat tracer would often times need to be fed by an extension cord from a more remote power source (outlet)
What will happen if you just wait for the pipe to thaw naturally?
Hmmm, that’s the gambling man (or woman) approach. I like your moxie & I can appreciate gambling as an activity as it’s very exhilarating when you win, but when you lose…not so good, right? One thing to consider and understand is what occurs during the freezing & thawing process.

Water freezes, and if you remember what we all learned in grade school about the qualities of water you will recall that water expands when it changes from a liquid state to a solid state. That expansion of water within a contained environment (a pipe) can cause the pipe to split. This splitting or cracking of the pipe, or the pipe fitting, is the risk with a frozen pipe. Not every frozen pipe will result in a water leak but be aware that you probably won’t know if the pipe is leaking until the pipe thaws by, manually by heating it (heat gun), or if the environment around the pipe is heated (naturally or artificially). The water in the pipes are pressurized so one can imagine that once the thawing reaches a certain point the water will begin to flow rapidly through any break in the pipe or fitting which will leave you minimal time to prevent an even larger water damage condition. A safe practice would be to depressurize the affected pipe by turning the appropriate valve off. Which valve to turn off is anyone’s guess as every situation is different. You could turn the water main off, which would be kind of a catch all safety measure as all domestic water pipes eventually get their pressure from the main water supply. However, the heating pipes have water within a contained separate system that will have boiler pressure separate from the water main pressure, if a heating pipe is affected, the water feed to the boiler will need to be shut off and the boiler pressure will need to be bled off before thawing the pipe.

Suggestions on how to handle a frozen pipe:
The 1st logical option would be to call a plumber, right? Well, it’s not wrong but it also might not be the best solution. Often times sheetrock or other interior finishes need to be removed and eventually replaced, does a typical homeowner possess the skillset, the tools, the time or the will to do these repairs? A better call would be to a contractor. Contractors have a wider range of skills and can handle most pipe thawing, pipe repair, interior or exterior finish and most importantly can provide a preventative measure to minimize future pipe freezes. The best call to make would be to a full service restoration contractor. A full service restoration contractor is like a general contractor on steroids. They have all the capabilities of a general contractor plus the water extraction & dry down equipment to deal with water leaks resulting from a frozen or broken pipe. They also have the knowledge & experience in dealing with insurance claims and can help a homeowner process a claim, if needed. We at True Restorations promote our services as “one call does it all” and with a frozen pipe and all the nuances of thawing, repairing and dealing with potential consequences as described above, we are the logical 1st call & only call needed to be made.

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.

Contractors, an educational series……

Trusted Restorations Contractors Of Long Island NY

This is my first foray into the blogosphere. After 30+ years in residential contracting in one form or another I have finally put pen to paper (well sort of) in an attempt to share information & educate whomever cares or is intrigued to learn more about contractors.
Us contractors are an eclectic lot, each with his/her own style & talents that get used and shared with clients. We not only make a living doing this but we also enjoy it at one level or another. We perform different trades but ultimately we are the same at the core. Personally I view contracting as an art form, it’s a way for me to express my creativity in all aspects of the endeavor. Whether it is maximizing efficiency of my crew or building a quick scaffold for a high ridge roof frame install, the freedom and mental creativity in achieving a contracting goal is ever changing and a continuing challenge everyday….all day. On top of all of that, another attractive quality of being a contractor is that we are on different job sites interacting with different people for our entire careers, that variety is very appealing.

I think I speak for most contractors when I say, We can’t imagine working with the same people everyday doing the same job & tasks everyday with little room for creativity and even less reward for effort. There is a trade off for this freedom and I think it was captured in a phrase my Dad once shared with me one day as he was describing the life of a tradesman. He said, “the tradesman starts everyday off at zero”. In other words, you don’t get paid unless you produce. Unlike your typical corporate salaried job where the checks keep coming, where there are sick days and “bennies” (benefits), the tradesman knows not of this world. I guess that is what I truly love about it, I love being around these people because of all of that. Think of the modern baseball player or athlete who gets the big contract as compared to the kid who is on a 1 year contract, nothing guaranteed, struggling, putting it all on the line, who would you rather watch??

Most of the following will be strictly “my opinion”, I can’t and won’t produce any documentation or statistics to prove my opinions. The opinions are based on years & years of real world experience ranging from hands on experiences as a carpenter to operations & dealings as a subcontractor & General Contractor. A lot of what I will share will be my frustrations with “the way it is”.

My plan is to create a series of blog posts that addresses such topics as:
• My personal story of 30 years in the trades
• How a contractor comes into existence
• The training & educational requirements for a typical tradesman & General Contractor
• The licensing & insurances requirements, how contractors comply with them
• What functions a contractor performs & how he/she calculates prices
• Where contractors make mistakes and fall short
• How to identify a good contractor
• And more…….

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.

A Contractors story

Best Restorations Contractors In Long Island NY

My Story

For this post I will share my story in “The Biz” or as we call it “T on the J” or a.k.a “time on the job”.

My T on the J started in 1985. After a few years of lackluster higher educational efforts, I decided to get a real job in the trades with the hope of scaring myself back into caring about obtaining a college degree. That didn’t work out as planned as I fell in love what I was doing, I was a helper on a house framing crew. The love didn’t come right away as I was pretty much just carrying wood all day for the other carpenters. When I finally got a chance to nail off, cut & install my interest peeked. Fortunately…luckily…I was working with a prominent 30 year master framer during the building boom of the late 80’s. House after house, condo developments, one after the other we would frame it was quite a run to be in the trades. John Cutillo (a.k.a “Pop”, as he was affectionately called) was the boss. Pop surrounded himself with young, athletic men and he was adept at developing systems to maximize efficiencies of his crew no matter what the combined experience of the crew was. Pop became my mentor and just like a sponge soaks up water I soaked up knowledge and information from Pop, the master framer.

Three years later in 1988, worked slowed over one winter, I was far to enthusiastic to sit around so I ventured off into my own business, with Pops blessing of course. Personal confidence was in great supply in me even though construction experience & more importantly business acumen was in short supply, if not in existence at all. My 1st business was with a partner Ricky and we did anything & everything. We did painting jobs & framing jobs & roofing, whatever came along. Ricky had some experience in business so off we went.

Upon completion of the 1st year we got caught up in two developments that went into foreclosure, we got screwed out of about $20K. In retrospect that was the best thing that happened to me from a business prospective. I vowed to never let that happen again so I poured myself into developing my business acumen with good contracts, payment schedules, details, thoroughness, etc. I morphed from a new house framer into a remodeling framing subcontractor. Even though it’s still framing, the remodeling framers job is much more difficult as the variables of trying to build straight, level frames on top of crooked, out of level structures is very challenging. I continued in this capacity till the mid 90’s, along the way I would do roofing jobs, decks, porches, siding and all sorts of finishings These were my learning years that I cherish.

Two years later Ricky and I split up, he went into the union as a carpenter and I went exclusively into framing as a new house framing subcontractor. It was the early 90’s and the country was in the throws of a major recession. Funny, I don’t remember it being that bad. I guess my status of being a new kid on the block, struggling, cutting my teeth in the biz I just thought it was suppose to be real hard….and it was.

The next step was to develop my business into completing the house frames that I built. I started to bid General Contracting jobs by the mid 90”s and this took me through a long, tough learning curve. I purchased a laptop computer & an estimating program and I taught myself how to estimate. Countless hours were spent investigating prices of labor & materials & then creating or customizing computer database entries. This was all done so that I could produce & reproduce estimates quickly & accurately. I figured that if I produced an estimate today and then did a similar estimate a month from now, they should be the same, or at least very close. It was truly a grind of an effort but I did it. All along the way I fine tuned my hands on ability to do most phases of residential construction. I would get a little piece of “how to” information from another tradesman or maybe a magazine article and then figure out the rest on the job. Today we have You tube where you can watch a “how to” video on anything & everything…..what a luxury. When I was young in the trades we had to walk up hill….both ways to get to the job (heard that one have you?)

Many years of General Contracting went by with a rich multitude of jobs & experiences under my belt, by the mid 2000’s I was in a real groove, the economy was booming and it was quite easy to get good paying total home makeovers. Total home makeovers became the most rewarding and type of work for me as it was extremely challenging to manage these large scale remodels with every trade being meshed together but also for the sheer cost factor of it. What an honor and privilege it is to be entrusted by a homeowner with their most valuable investment and with huge sums of money.

Over the many years of doing these large scale projects came the next piece of the puzzle in becoming a truly professional general contractor, the development of the industry relationships with great subcontractors and suppliers and other associated industries. There is no replacing having a good team in place, you can have all the knowledge & a great system in place but without a good team in place the managing of projects (large projects in particular) becomes beyond intense. I still use some of the same subcontractors that I have always used and I love to develop new talent as well. Some of my best friends are fellow tradesman & contractors.
So here I sit, some 30 years after catching the contracting bug, still in the biz. I’ve been in and out of business several times, had different partners & sole proprietorships. Currently I have two partners and we have added a restoration division to our list of services. The restoration business which is largely dealings with insurance work for claims that arise from water, fire and mold conditions is a new and exciting industry. The industry, reduced to its core is general contracting and I am proficient and successful at this craft, plus I love doing it, so onward it is, more pages to add to my contracting story……

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.

Birth of a contractor

Birth??, Well not literally, sort of metaphorically is how I mean it. I’m trying to make it sound as if becoming a contractor is some grand undertaking when in reality it is sadly quite simple, and perhaps, as I will suggest, all too easy.

In Europe, I have been told that one must become an apprentice, past certain tests of hands on skills in each craft before they can be considered a qualified tradesman. I would think, the qualifications to become a general contractor would be even more difficult as working on and renovating their centuries old structures which were built by artisans would require a very wide range of skills and knowledge. The qualifications in the states that are needed to become a general contractor, at least in Long Island NY, amount to obtaining a minimum level of general liability insurance and paying a fee to the county. There is no written test or physical test of building ability or any proof of intimate knowledge of the different systems (structural, plumbing, electric, HVAC, etc.). In Suffolk county there is a written test that delves into some rules and regulations as it pertains to an awareness of contract law and other legalities, at least that was the test that I took many, many years ago.

There have been and still are many organizations that a contractor can join in attempt to gain some credibility and some proof of construction knowledge. NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) is one example. NARI offers courses that a member can take that will at least prove that an individual can pass a written test and answer technical questions pertaining to all the different systems previously mentioned and achieve a status as a CR (certified remodeler). It is the opinion of the author that this type of certification (or something equivalent) should be a “mandatory” for one to obtain in order to a registered general contractor. Sadly, the counties that grant the licensing, for whatever reason, ask for no proof of knowledge or experience or ask for any certifications. I recently reapplied for both county licenses due to a name change from True Frame Corp to True Restorations, the main concern was that I had a general liability policy classification that matched the type of contracting that was actually going to be done. Also, Nassau County was diligent in investigating that I would be using licensed subcontractors. It was refreshing and welcomed scrutiny but it falls way short in actually making sure that a contractor seeking a license actually knows what he/she is doing. Is it fair to say that most, if not all homeowners in Nassau & Suffolk Counties think that if their contractor is licensed, he/she “must” know what he/she is doing???

If no proof of construction knowledge or experience by a “licensed” contractor weren’t scary enough, the insurance coverage aspect of each contractor is even more disturbing. I’m not suggesting that a licensed contractors don’t have some insurance, they all have some, a minimum at least, but this doesn’t mean that they have the correct insurance and also doesn’t mean that any subcontractor working under the general contractor has any insurance, or a license for that matter. What I am going to tell you is coming from a 30 years experience as not only a subcontractor but also as a general contractor. Most general contractors & subcontractors (including some of the really big ones), most, like 95% of the companies that you see working up and down every street on Long Island are either not properly insured or are insured but not in the correct classification, or are using non-licensed subcontractors or are not meeting their insurance mandates of having signed contracts or many other shady operational standards, too many to list. My guess is that most have no clue as to what the rules and regulations actually are and that they will swear that they are legit…..and believe it!

The cherry on the top of this nasty, shady, unregulated industry is the rank amateur dealings of a lot of these “businessmen”. Included with the all too easy access into this industry is that with easy access comes low cost. Low cost creates opportunities for the undeveloped and frankly undeserving. I know this because I was one of them. I went into business when I was 23 years old and I had no money, no experience and absolutely no business skills…….like none. Ultimately, this is the biggest failure of our system, having 23 year old know nothings competing against legitimate, experienced and proven contractors. Perhaps, in addition to some real knowledge testing & certifications, the industry is begging to have some ability to demand that a contractor have at least a basic understanding of business finance. Believe me when I tell you, most contractors learn this most basic function on the fly, through trial & error. Most contractors are really good with their hands and probably weren’t cracking homeruns academically during their time in school……if you know what I mean. This is such a big topic that dovetails with the curriculum offered at the high school level and the courses that are not offered and that probably should be. What would contracting look like if some basic “running of a business” courses were more prevalent?

My longtime goal has been to be the best, most professional, caring, efficient & profitable contractor that I can be. I attempt to create some separation from the riff raff in this industry, especially during competitive bids. There is a lot to consider and I will offer some suggestions on how to navigate these waters in a future blog post.

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.

Contractor pricing, the mystery solved…..

Long Island NY Restoration Contractors

Anyone of us that has had multiple contractors over to our homes to work up a quote for a project must have had similar experiences. Similar with respects to receiving such a wide range of pricing for the same job….how can this be? The simple answer is, and this ties into my previous blog post, most contractors really are not skilled or proficient in business finance. I don’t profess to be at the upper end of this spectrum but definitely above 50%, or at least that’s what I’m rolling with.

Ok, let’s break this down a bit. It’s really not all that cryptic. A contractor comes in, measures up, investigates material and labor costs and then puts a price together. That’s not hard, right…..I agree. The next part is where the breakdown, or separation comes in to play. The mark up, the additional charge that EVERY contractor must add on to the estimate in order to pay the bills. That markup, which is a percentage cost or amount of each job that needs to put to the side to pay for all the overhead of the business which includes: general liability, workers compensation & disability insurance, vehicle cost/insurance/maintenance, tool purchases & maintenance, advertising & on and on and on. Hopefully said contractor(s) have spent some time adding all of their expenses up, added up their gross sales from the year before and then determined what % of gross sales their overhead is. This sounds rudimentary right? Sadly, I believe the percentage of contractors out there that don’t have a clue as to these facts & figures for their respective businesses is quite high.

In addition to poor financial diligence in determining a proper mark up, contractors will also fail to price in or compensate themselves for all the functions that a business must provide. Every function that requires time and effort should be compensated. I haven’t met too many people that work for free, have you? Other than a volunteer who does work for free sporadically, that’s not a fair comparison, they don’t volunteer 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. A typical contractor will not only do the hands on work on the job, they will also do the estimating, the field supervision of the job, the accounting and all the administrative parts of the business. Each one of these functions requires time & effort….i.e. expense or cost. Most contractors don’t charge for some if not all of these functions. Who cares…..right? You will take the cheap price and that’s his problem, sounds good, who wouldn’t? Consider a few things the next time you hire “the cheap guy”. When the cheap guy who didn’t price the job right realizes he is crashing and burning on your job, get ready for some additional items to pop up (extras). When the cheap contractor who doesn’t have money in the project to have a project manager on the site and you have questions and there is nobody around was it worth it? When the cheap contractor realizes that not only is your job crashing and burning but his entire business is going down because he got audited by Workers Comp and he would have to work for free for the next 6 months to pay his bills, how’s that cheap price looking now? On and on, all the horror stories told by homeowners are birthed the moment “the cheap guy” is hired. He is the bane of the industry but he lives on in perpetuity.

If you are looking for a good contractor that understands all sides of the business, the work, the financial side, the customer relationship side, the contract / legal side he will likely not be “the cheap guy”. I remember one contractor telling me a sales line that really spoke to me in reference to all of this and it was “You will get the exact job that you pay for, if you want more you will have to pay more”.

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.

Why Homeowners should not act as their own General Contractor

Storm Damaged House Restoration Long Island NY

Why homeowners should not try to be their own General Contractor

In this post I will chronicle many of  the reasons why a typical homeowner (H/O) should not attempt to act as their own General Contractor (GC), especially for projects that entail hiring many different trades (like a room addition). The issues and potential pitfalls are numerous but the main topics are: time spent managing the project, construction knowledge, first time / one time subcontractor pricing, loose estimates causing cost overruns and more. Acting as a GC is way more than just calling in different trades, getting pricing and selecting someone to perform work. Even equipped with a full set of architectural drawings, the H/O neither understands nor appreciates just how overmatched they are in trying to produce their project and either their budget or the project or both will suffer the consequences.

Time Spent:

Once a H/O has gone through the laborious process of interviewing multiple subcontractors for each phase and signs contracts the job is not over, it has only just begun. H/O’s and lower priced GC’s who can’t afford to spend time on their jobs or pay a project manager or don’t really care about building efficiently or looking after the small details will let the subcontractors do their job however they see fit. This is a “HUGE” mistake with countless ramifications, most of which will cost more money and impact the end product of the job.

A GC, or at least a good one, will be on site daily making decisions  as it pertains to how all the different trades execute their phase. The devil is in the details as we all know, the same applies for construction, the details on trade execution is what makes a job come in on budget, what makes one job look great and another look shoddy.

Construction Knowledge:

Does the framer know how much space to leave between the door opening & the wall so that the 3 ½” casings will fit? Does the flooring guy know where to stop the flooring where the tile in the kitchen & the kitchen cabinet meet? Did the plumber run a vent line where the recessed vanity is supposed to go into the wall? Who runs the thermostat line, the plumber who is doing the heat or the HVAC guy or the electrician? I think you can see where this is going, I could type to my fingers bled and I would only scratch the surface. If a H/O thinks a sub is going connect these dots for them, they will be sadly mistaken and the end product will suffer severly or they will suffer countless additional costs and delays in project execution.

A good GC will use his construction knowledge & experience from the moment he walks into a H/O’s house to look at the plans and evaluate existing conditions. With one review of a set of plans by a GC, with changes on how to execute the plan, a client could save thousands of dollars. Most draftsman & architects

1st time / one time Subcontractor pricing:

The H/O interviews the subcontractor / tradesman and gets a quote on the purchase of materials & labor for their project. This same subcontractor likely does the same types of jobs for a GC with the only difference being that the GC will be giving the sub many jobs the same year and perhaps many, many more during their careers together. The sub will naturally give better pricing to the GC based on that relationship, plus the sub knows that the GC knows all the ins & outs of the industry and what standard pricing is for their trade. Additionally, the sub understands that the GC will set the whole job up, ensure all the necessary supplies are there, will coordinate all the other trades cooperation, etc…. in short, the job will go much smoother with minimal wasted time & effort as opposed to what typically happens when the work directly for the H/O’s. The money that the H/O thought they were saving are the very same funds that the GC earns when he performs his valuable service, plus the job goes more smoothly and the H/O doesn’t have to waste valuable time being on the jobsite.

A good GC surrounds himself with a team of quality subcontractors who often times work together for years & years. The subs look after these relationships because they know they will all be together on the next job. Happy subs = happy jobsites.

Loose Estimates:

Loose estimates, bad job specifications, lack of detail……these are the budget killers. Sadly, a lot of GC’s don’t scrutinize this aspect of their jobs, the H/O’s have almost no chance with this aspect as their lack of knowledge & more importantly experience is where this chicken comes home to roost. The architectural drawings are mostly a reference and not specific instructions for the successful completion of any single trade. In fact, the actual building inspectors that perform the onsite inspections as a part of the building process are often times lacking in their abilities to interpret the plans or properly evaluate the work performed as it pertains to the NYS Building code. Coming up with a clear spec for each trade with little to no lose ends is a GC’s job. The H/O has no chance, as in NONE, in entering into agreements with subs with confidence that things won’t pop up. How the plumber ties in the new drain line from the new 2nd floor bathroom, is he using PEX piping or copper and with what connectors? How the doghouse dormer gets flashed, by the roofer or the siding guy, if there is a leak, who is responsible? How the new deck attaches to the existing house?…..all these and a gazillion other options come into play when jobs are being discussed, estimated & executed. The good GC comes up with the most efficient or most cost saving or best structural or best whatever plan and prices in most if not all the labor & materials to execute the project, writes up a fully detailed proposal and then goes to work. When the H/O tries to navigate these same waters on their own, they typically get very little of the above. The subs write down very little job specifications in their proposals, they aren’t typically interested in all the other trades that need to be meshed with theirs, they all have their own agenda. The best part for the sub is that when a H/O runs their own job, the very environment of lack of detail & specifications is a profit “killing field” for them, they know they can “extra” a H/O over and over with the “we never talked about that” or “It doesn’t say that on the plan” routine.

A good GC doesn’t count on any sub to establish the spec for a job, it’s a collaborative effort by all. The good GC acts as the maestro of the symphony called contracting and the wise H/O rests easy and enjoy the show when they hire him/her.

And more:
A few more items that a H/O should consider when anticipating running their own jobs:
• Being on site for all the inspections
• Being on site for deliveries
• Cleaning up and organizing a job site daily & at the end of the job
• Punch list items for each trade, who does them? Did you negotiate that into the contracts with subs?
• When things don’t go right, who will make them right? The sub?
• The architect missed a detail, who will catch it? The sub?

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.