by Constance Scharff, Ph.D., home ownerIn 2009, I purchased a home in NW Austin that required a little bit of "TLC" before I could move in. I had trepidations about hiring a contractor. I had no one to recommend a contractor in the Austin area and was still living in Southern California. I knew that I would be out of state for the majority of the remodel, and needed to find someone I could trust to do the project right, without constant supervision.
I interviewed several contractors and settled on someone other than Solluna. However, it became clear quickly the contractor on whom I'd settled was looking to take me for a ride. It was one of those situations where he couldn't manage to get all the expected costs down on one page. The architect drawing up the plans never listened to what I wanted and sent invoices charging for an architect's time when I knew full well that the substandard work being produced was coming from an intern. The red flags were everywhere. Before the contractor was officially hired, I contacted Solluna again and spoke to Wayne.
Remodeling a home isn't exactly my cup of tea. Remodeling a home two time zones away from where you're living can only be described as a stressor and a pain. However, Wayne made the process as easy as possible. When I came to Austin to discuss the project with him, he brought out an architect who was able to complete the plans overnight for a nominal fee. Wayne explained every part of the process to me, and put his entire budget down so that it was clear and understandable. He was forthright about his profit margin, letting me know exactly where he was being paid for his services. I especially appreciated this, as I didn't feel I was falling prey to hidden mark ups. Once we signed a contract for the first phase of the remodel, work started almost immediately. Though unforeseen problems (rain, for example), pushed the timeline of the project, Wayne always stayed on budget. Wayne was in constant contact with me during the project. He took photos at every stage and put them online, so that I could see exactly how the job was progressing. Since I was in Southern California three weeks a month, we had an agreement; "No photos, no money." Wayne's photographic documentation allowed me to see exactly what I was paying for when a check came due.
The process wasn't always easy. I became overwhelmed with the details that needed to be worked through. I hired an interior designer to work with Wayne. They developed a wonderful partnership. Both of them had a great sense about when to come to me for a decision and when to leave me be. If I wanted to understand something, Wayne (or his subcontractors) would take whatever time was necessary to explain it to me. I'm the kind of person who wants to know her options, and Wayne made sure that I was able to make an informed decision on each part of the project.
I think what was most important to me was that when mistakes were made, they were fixed immediately. As problems arose, they were dealt with. Very often, Wayne was able to work the cost of some unforeseen problems into the existing budget. He always looks for ways to save the client money while maintaining quality standards. He listened to my desire for green improvements, and made suggestions that have helped to lower my energy costs and improve my quality of life. Wayne also completed little extras, making repairs and upgrades to personal items, at my request. If a problem arose with a workman, Wayne protected his relationship with me, the client, and sent the sub packing. Once I moved into the house, he and his men were gracious and cognizant of my desire for privacy. They were also very respectful of my pets. Solluna's handymen in particular are outstanding and courteous young men. This kind of service earned Solluna another contract with me to do a "phase 2" part of the project.
I'll be honest. There was a point when we were about eighty percent through with the project that I was emotionally done with it, and I'm certain that Wayne was ready to be done with me. I just wanted the remodel to be finished and wasn't interested in hearing another word about how the dampness and cold were slowing progress by extending drying times and work schedules. I was emotionally drained and prepared to be completely unreasonable. Although at that point I was not an easy woman to work for or with, Wayne kept his cool and continued to provide quality service through the completion of the project. Wayne has never wavered in his commitment to quality.
Now that the project is over, I am still in contact with Wayne. Unlike many other contractors, Wayne guarantees his work and means it. When the HVAC unit wasn't fully functional, he found someone who could come out immediately and repair it. I've had no other major issues -- but when a fan needed balancing or the front door started to swell in the damp or I noticed an area that should have been painted and wasn't, Wayne immediately set out to make it right. He's never balked at completing small handyman requests for me. When Wayne was out recently checking on something, I asked him to hang a wind chime because I wanted it in a place that was too high for me to reach, even with a ladder. There was no bill or lip -- just a smile and a task completed. What I have learned about Solluna Builders is that their priority is making sure the customer is satisfied.
I've made my home a palace. I've put more into it than I could recoup if I had to sell it today, but I didn't do the remodel to flip the house. I remodeled the house so that it would have the "Wow" factor when guests come in, a place that is both beautiful and welcoming. I remodeled the house so that I would feel happy standing in my kitchen or comfortable lying in bed looking out the windows into the garden. I asked Wayne to take a structure that had not been well cared for and make it into a home. I truly have the most beautiful house in my neighborhood, and I owe that in large part to Solluna Builders. Constance Scharff, Ph.D.