Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Recommend: ROBB DAMMAN

When we bought our house three years ago, while still living in Boston, we pushed ahead quickly to get work done and in our hurry we cut corners and took advice from contractors without doing our own research all the time. We got recommendations on contractors, but rarely got multiple quotes for projects. We also generally left contractors to work on their own, assuming this was their business and they knew more than we did. Nine times out of ten, we received good recommendations and good advice, and have managed to skate through relatively unscathed. We ended up with a really great and efficient HVAC unit, and blowing in extra insulation into our attic has saved us a ton of money in heating bills, for example. However, we cut some corners on repairing our foundation, and it has just come time to pay the piper.

Luckily, the foundation work we did was really an inexpensive stop gap measure and relatively easily fixed. We had taken the advice of a contractor to put up a couple of cross joists in our crawlspace supported by a few metal screw jacks to help support our floor. Recently though, after a New Year's Eve Dance Party, we noticed our living room floor was beginning to feel more like a trampoline than a floor. When I went into the crawlspace to check it out I noticed our insulation was beginning to fall down, and a couple screw jacks had begun to slip and slide under the weight, especially since we hadn't poured new concrete footers for the screw jacks to sit on.

We called Sara Lachenman at Four Over One Design to ask for subcontractor recommendations (Sara does great design work, and is well versed in historic preservation work). We were determined to get multiple quotes, and to put the contractors through their paces. We wanted to ensure the contractors were good communicators, prompt, and dependable. We called both of Sarah's recommendations, one of which was Rob Damman.

Robb returned our first phone call the same day, and scheduled a site visit and quote for the following week. Robb was the first contractor to come give a quote, and after assessing our foundation and our concerns (Jessie and I didn't want a dance party to end in our crawlspace) he laid out a thorough response to the problem. He even emailed me a detailed quote for labor and materials by the end of the day. Robb was clear I should email him if I had any questions.

The second contractor came out the next day and he also assessed the problem and asked questions, and he suggested a much simpler approach. Now this second contractor is very good, and well respected, so I was a bit taken aback at the disparity in their suggestions. I asked him why he wouldn't do x,y, and z which Robb had suggested, and he responded that it wasn't necessary and probably overkill. I thanked the second contractor and let him know Jessie and I would make a decision in a week. He also sent me his quote by the end of the day. (Big thanks again to Sara, these are both great recommendations). His quote was much less work, and therefore much less money.

Since I knew I was out of my depth on deciding between these two projects, I called a general contractor friend, Miles Honeycutt who was just finishing up our friends' home, the Petty Home, for his advice. I proceeded to completely misrepresent the work Robb had planned to do and Miles thought there was a number of problems with it. I decided to call Robb though, and ask him to respond to Mile's criticisms, as well as why the second contractor's plan was so different from his. Robb's response is the reason we picked him, and why we're so vocally recommending him.

Robb very gently let me know I had misunderstood his plans, and was able to re-explain the work in different language without coming across as condescending. He was also completely unoffended I had questioned his plan, and when I asked if he thought his plan was overkill, he told me the second contractor's plan was perfectly adequate,  "but when I heard 'dance party, I figured you wanted something more." He also never criticized anyone else's ideas and made sure I knew I could call again with more questions if I had them. We called Robb the next day to let him know he had the job.

For the next week Robb showed up every morning when he said he would, he answered any questions we had and made sure we understood everything he was doing without giving us too much information. He kept the job site incredibly clean, and his work is meticulous. He also did two things which in my opinion went over and beyond my expectations for a contractor. First, he recommended some excellent preventative measures (vapor barrier, and new insulation) which in retrospect our first contractor should have installed. Second, he recommended one change to the work plan which went above housing code requirements, and he managed to keep the additional materials cost very low, and managed to get the extra work done without charging more for labor. Robb went above and beyond the work in our agreement just because that's the kind of guy he is.

During the course of our work with Robb, we also found out our next door neighbor had used Robb to install some windows and she couldn't speak highly enough about his attention his craftsmanship, as well as his ability to communicate. And it turns out he is an actual artist too, both of his blogs are below. You can look forward to seeing a couple more posts about Robb here as we plan to hire him and his carpentry skill for two more projects which will hopefully include custom made desks, and re-used lath board for a dining room table.

We hope you hire Robb for your next project!

Robb Damman
919 621 5481



Dylancmj said...

Great review. What I look for first in people I work with or hire is whether I judge them to be a good and honest person. They meet that requirement and I then consider their skills, communication and business sense. The first thing you realize with Robb is that he is a stand up, honest guy who goes above and beyond. He consulted with me on a basement project I took on and was always willing to lend his advice and was more than fair with his time. He is probably the reason my house didn't fall down :)! I second Matt's recommendation. Robb Damman: great person, great carpenter, awesome artist, great hire!

Jennifer said...

Me too!! Robb does high quality work with no bullshit. He is a pleasure to work with.

Shawn Spencer said...

I agree with Dylancmj. Great review. I have some terrible experiences doing projects on my on, on the fly. So for something as important as the foundation I would recommend using a foundation contractor for sure.

Brian said...


I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could e-mail me?