A Remodel Model

Turning Point

This spring, my wife and I decided to feather our empty nest with a major remodeling project at our house. It’s a solid, two-story brick house built in the mid 1950s. Back then master bedrooms and baths were at a premium, at least for this house’s original owners who happen to be my wife’s parents.

They raised eight kids in this house, which had four bedrooms on the second floor serviced by one bath. While fairly typical for the day, such a setup is not so hot for resale today.

We bought the house from her dad 14 years ago and have tried to steadily improve it with various upgrades to make it more appealing with an eye to the day we downsize. Of course, in the meantime we can enjoy the fruits of our remodeling.  

The project we’re currently doing is pretty major. We are taking two of the four bedrooms and making them into a master suite—bedroom and connected bath. While I’m pretty handy, this is way beyond my skills. Plus, the time it would take me to do this project, with my day job, would put completion sometime around 2015.

So we hired Mark Wolfer to do the job. Mark is a builder and very good at what he does. His estimate of 6-8 weeks to complete the job was much more in line with our plans than the 4 year to infinity schedule I would require to try to do the job myself.

This is our second project with Mark, and based on our first experience there is no one else we would consider calling. He is successful in a tough business because he follows what I consider the golden rule for any business; he does what he says he’s going to do. It sounds so simple, but most of us can cite occasions when that has not been the case.  

Mark is the full package. He works lean with just one helper, Dan. Together, they gutted the wall between the two rooms, moved a wall, closed a doorway and busted out two closets.

Then they began plumbing and running electric. This was the amazing part to me. When we met with Mark last winter to draw up the plans, I was perplexed at how he was going to run 3-inch PVC drains for a toilet, shower and two sinks from the second floor and somehow tie them into the drainage stack in our basement. And that’s not to mention running the water lines for all these new fixtures and electric for can lights, switches and outlets. In much the same way when a customer asks how you are going to make that part, he calmly told me, “No problem. I know what I’m doing.” 

At this point in the project, he has proved that he indeed knows what he’s doing. The plumbing is done, electric is run and now Mark and Dan are painting. He expects to finish up in a week, and he will—on time and on budget.

That’s one of the many things about Mark that we admire. He has a quiet confidence and an obvious competence that puts his customers (certainly my wife and me) at ease. He shows up at the house as expected and makes sure to inform us if he isn’t going to be there. He works clean, sweeping up debris before leaving for the day. He communicates with us and when we ask, gives us his professional opinion, which we’ve learned to trust.

The construction business and remodeling in particular suffer from some players who don’t follow Mark’s golden rule. They are unreliable, messy and often do work that has less quality than anticipated. Mark is successful because he is a complete opposite of many of his peers’ stereotype. He does what he says he’s going to do, and the quality of his work is beyond expectations—at least that has been our experience. It seems so simple.

It’s in many ways a shame that there aren’t more Marks in this world. He’s a tradesman in every good sense of the word. Talented, trustworthy, with a set of skills that, while hard to come by, can never be taken away. Mark is passing his skills and work ethic to Dan, which is another thing I admire about him. Dan is young and probably will strike out on his own some day. Mark knows this, but understands that’s how the world works. After all, somebody taught Mark how to do what he does. It’s kind of a circle of life.