Archive for the ‘Renovation’ Category

Carpenter or Contractor? Why should I select one or the other?

Often people use these terms interchangeably. Knowing the difference between the two can be the difference between success and frustration in a construction project. A carpenter is an individual with unique skills in building with wood. A contractor, (General Contractor) on the other hand is an individual who is essentially a manager of people who build. So to boil it down to two simple words, a carpenter builds while a contractor manages. Why, you might ask, is this difference critical. To avoid frustration in a construction project it is essential to match the skills to the task, or quite simply, the task will not get done properly … or worse yet, not get done at all.

Some carpenters can function as contractors. Some contractors can function also as carpenters. Even if an individual can indeed wear multiple hats, as a project gets bigger, that becomes too many hats to try to wear at once.  That is where the challenges can begin. When a project is small, such as a bathroom or kitchen renovation, it is possible to wear both hats effectively and not compromise quality or lose efficiency. As a project gets larger, such as a whole house renovation, or a new house, it is unrealistic to expect both responsibilities to be served well by one individual.

Construction of new home


Many times, as I have helped someone embark on a new project, I have heard “oh, he is an amazing finish carpenter. His work is beautiful. We should hire him to build our house.” This is equivalent to saying “oh he is an amazing chef. His meals are delicious. We should hire him to organize our 2,000 person awards banquet.” While it is true that at an awards banquet you do value, and tend to remember, good food. But do you want a chef in charge of organizing scheduling, venue selection, promotion, tickets, parking, directions, security, decorations, awards, guest speakers, timing, emcees, lighting, audio, recording, ushers, serving, clearing, cleanup, etc,? Even if the chef had all these skills, when would there even be time to cook. Obviously you would hire an events coordinator, not a chef. This sounds like an absurd example but it is really not that different from hiring a carpenter to build your house. The management component of this size project precludes ever picking up a hammer. So then what difference does it make what his actual finish carpentry skills are? A more effective pre-qualification is to evaluate management skills that might include the following:

  • Communication abilities
  • Bookkeeping skills
  • Organizations skills
  • Ability to price out a complex project
  • Ability to schedule a complex project (and stay on schedule)
  • Ability to understand a complex process and visualize 20 to 30 steps ahead
  • Ability to settle misunderstandings in a calm and neutral manner
  • understand the technical and scheduling interdependencies of 20 to 30 different sub-trades as they collaborate on a single project
  • know when to ask you as the owner about a judgement call versus make his own judgement call.
  • Understand building codes and other regulatory requirements
  • Ability to solve technical problems within all the different sub-trades
  • Ability to maintain a safe and clean job site with all the sub-trades at work in one space
  • Sensitivity to your design priorities
  • Oh… and if he is a great finish carpenter, and actually has the time … do a couple carpentry tasks along the way.



Curb Appeal

Poore and Company is in this month’s Design New England with an article about the renovation of the Agusti Residence in Gloucester.

Here is a link to the article:

Renovation: Face Lift

Curb Appeal

Renovation of a simple summer cottage with a voluptuously detailed new porch to add garden amenities and curb appeal.


Should I buy direct

Posted in Interior DesignKitchen Design on 12/01/2009 03:52 pm by Jonathan Poore

Or let the contractor buy everything?


In any construction project it is tempting to think that there are great savings to be gained by direct buying materials, fixtures, and building components for the contractor to install. In theory this saves the contractor’s markup which might be anywhere from 5 to 20%. Sounds good so far. Let’s look at the bigger picture for a moment.


Typically the contractor receives a deeper discount price, often wholesale, than any discount offered to you as a retail transaction. Even when a vendor tries to lure you with a sale or special offer, it is still generally more than the contractor’s price. The very best case scenario is that you may on occasion be able to match the contractor’s price. Even if this were the case, it is helpful to examine the process a little more closely.

The contractor is responsible for much more than just getting the item at a fair price. He is also responsible for:

1. Lead time - ordering the item early enough so that it arrives at the right time in the construction sequence

2. Verifying order - Making sure the right item is ordered, including the correct finish, details, options, installation kits, etc.

3. Receiving delivery - Being available to receive the delivery even if it does not arrive on the agreed upon day or time

4. Checking delivery - Checking to be sure it is the correct item, it is complete, and that it has not been damaged

5. Rectifying order problems - Contacting the shipper, vendor, and / or manufacturer if there is a problem

6. Tracking progress - Tracking the problem to be sure it is fully resolved

7. Storing items - and safely storing an item that might arrive too early

8. Testing - Checking to be sure it is functioning properly

9. Corrections - Rectifying any additional problems or deficiencies

10. Warranty - Being available during the entire construction warranty period to correct any problems that arise

In general, on a construction project, these needs arise on a frequent basis and the contractor is responsible to manage the process.

This list of responsibilities is why the contractor charges his markup and, in general, a contractor works hard to earn this money. If you feel inclined to take on the responsibilities listed above and you either enjoy the process or are willing to work hard for the cost savings then direct buying is a good idea for you. If however you have a busy life with other responsibilities then it is often best to leave this work to the contractor. the_end1