Be Startin’ Something

Yesterday, His Nibs and I signed the contract with a local construction contractor. We’re turning our laundry room into a second bathroom, which means Spare Oom will be smaller. It also means the horrid fake wood panelling in Spare Oom will be no more. Also: out with the wine-coloured shag carpet. (*hurk*)

I plan to document this journey because a) it’s cool; b) if we ever sell the house, it’ll be good to have these records for the new owners; c) I have to tell you about the people we’ve hired.

Here’s the deal: I promote books. I mean, that’s my job. I help to market books. His Nibs and I have never hired contractors before. We’ve never had major work done on our house that we didn’t do ourselves. So when we started looking for contractors to do this bathroom/bedroom renovation, we were in somewhat deep water. I, um. I kind of jumped in.

We had a couple of estimates done, and we fought about it, and fought about it some more, and then we fought about it. And then my friend Smarty Pants recommended Walnut Construction. Last week, we had Walnut come in to do an estimate for us. The other contracts were awesome. I mean, they came when they said they would, and they were pretty up-front about not knowing what they’d get in to when they tore up the floor to inspect the plumbing (the bathroom is going in in our addition, which was built in the 40s, and which may or may not have a concrete foundation. We don’t know, because we can’t get in to any crawlspace. Because there kind of isn’t one). They gave us very reasonable quotes ($18K-$20K for the bathroom alone; up to $7K just to rough in the plumbing).

Then Eric de Waal showed up at my front door. A couple of minutes early. He’s tall. He wears Buddy Holly glasses. He was dressed in a knit sweater and a newsboy cap. He has dimples. He smiles easily. I knew within five minutes of his walking through the door that I wanted to work with him.

We went through our renovation plans. This may shock you, but His Nibs and I often don’t agree on things. In fact, we often don’t agree on anything. And here’s the magic of our first meeting with Eric: he would stop me and ask His Nibs what *he* wanted. And then he’d laugh, because His Nibs and I wanted (we thought) completely different things. But Walnut is all about communication. And I swear to God, he’s somehow managed to help His Nibs and I be able to talk about this renovation without fighting. It’s…well. “Magical” might be too strong a word. Or maybe not.

Eric sat down with us and, right in front of us (and this part IS TOTALLY magic) drew out the shell of the two rooms, and started placing appliances and fixtures and walls and before we knew it (well…okay…after he showed us how his drafting program can actually render the Titanic in 3D with cut-away floor-by-floor plans), we had construction plans and drawings. He went over his budget line by line. He talked about his overhead, cost of materials, hours of labour, and contingency plans. He showed us video of one of the projects Walnut had done in preparation for a possible HGTV programme (they built a cottage out of recycled materials. It was a wicked cool project, and I’d kill my own mother for a cottage like that. If she weren’t, you know, already dead).

His Nibs and I talked things over, and disagreed on some things (but we didn’t fight!) and finally agreed that we both felt confident that Walnut was the company we wanted to welcome into our home, to redesign and build with us. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I’d like these guys to move in and just hang out with us. I mean, I have pretty good people sense. From the moment Eric came in to our home, he just fit in completely. Like. *Completely*.

You know when you first meet someone and then you kind of can’t remember not having known them? How they just seem to settle in and you’re immediately comfortable and there’s no weird “sooo….you like….stuff?” happening? Well, this is like that. Yesterday, His Nibs and I went to Walnut’s office to sign the contracts. And here’s the next cool thing: THE WHOLE BLOODY COMPANY IS LIKE THAT. Everyone we met – wonderful, smiling, eager people. THEY HAVE DOORS FOR A CEILING. We walked into the conference room and there was a Piece of Art ™ hanging on the wall. Bright red. Looked like it might be a farm implement. But it wasn’t. I said, “hey, is that a steel sound board from an old piano?”

And Vuv (Walnut’s Lieutenant) said, “yeah! It totally is! How’d you know that?”

I knew that. I mean. They have a frigging STEEL SOUND BOARD FROM AN OLD PIANO hanging on their wall. They also have a wooden canoe hanging from the ceiling. A handmade wooden canoe. We signed stuff. We talked about stuff. We felt good. REALLY good when we left. His Nibs and I went shopping. We even argued about flooring. But – again…there’s something wonderful happening here – we found places of compromise and places where we both agreed (in one case, Very Excitedly).

Today, Eric brought Kevin to the house – Kevin is the team Captain, and will be leading our renovation project. Kevin is also awesome. He’s quieter than Eric. He’s shorter than Eric. He plays hockey, and I get the sense he’s the kind of fellow who would play a Paladin really, *really* well. Just as well as he’d play a Halfling Rogue. I woke up at 6am with the intention of baking cinnamon buns for them. It didn’t quite work out that way. I mean, I did bake cinnamon buns, but because I’m a horrible judge of how long these things will take, they weren’t ready. But the hammers and saws start work next week, and I should have some left. If not, I’ll make a new batch.

So let me tell you why you need to hire Walnut Construction. But don’t hire them, like, *right now*, because I need them. Give it a couple of weeks, maybe? Or, you know, call them now and book your renovation. Meet Eric. Here’s why:

1) These guys are more than just tradespeople. They’re artists. Look at some of their design and projects.

2) They focus on communication. And what we’ve found out so far is that not only do they focus on communication with their company (but that’s huge too – I mean, just sitting with Eric and seeing how he prices things out was wonderful), but they were somehow able to get His Nibs and I to communicate. Effectively. I seriously **don’t know how this happened**. I think it’s partly because of #3.

3) I am at ease. I know they know their stuff. I know they care about what they do. BECAUSE THEY ARE PASSIONATE about what they do. I mean, they have certificates and licenses and all the right *qualifications*. But when I look at the work they’ve done, I can see they know their stuff.

4) I trust them. Why? Because they care about what they do. Because they listen. Now, I fully realise that this could change. I don’t think it will. I mean…I have *really* good instincts about this. Everyone we met was at ease, excited to work on this project, and open.

5) Seriously. I want to have these folks at my gaming table. I want to work for them. I am looking at projects to do around the house so that we can keep hiring them.

So. I may have to eat these words some day, but I don’t think so. I’m SUPER excited about this renovation. Partly because of what we’re going to have at the end of it, but partly because I’m going to enjoy working with Walnut Construction. I’m going to enjoy the process.

  2 comments for “Be Startin’ Something

  1. 11 October 2013 at 11:15 am

    Maybe your contractor can make a little wall art from your lovely burgundy shag carpet. Don’t say “no.” Let it sink in a few days.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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