1. Priceless . . .We care deeply about quality, and build for the long term.
We've repaired many new homes and cared for numerous 200-year-old homes. We've studied the differences and know why some houses last, and why many don't. Here's an example: it doesn't take much longer to scarf an outside joint on a house's corner board, but the scarfed joint is self-draining and will last. In contrast, a butt joint takes two minutes less to make, but will hold moisture and deteriorate. This sometimes means that we quote an initial higher project cost than someone else, but if you plan on living in your home for more than a few years, the dollars invested in better craftsmanship and materials will pay off.
More new products have been developed for residential construction in the last 4 years than in the prior 100. Some products are significantly better, but many others are simply cheaper and don't last. We believe that the greenest form of construction is a building project that will last for the long term instead of one that requires repair before its time.
2. Before, During & AfterWe listen, and keep listening.
One of the consistent comments we hear after initial meetings with prospective clients is "Wow, you guys really listen!" We love hearing this, because it's part of what sets us apart from other contractors. In serving more than 700 clients, we've learned that no two clients have the same objectives, desires, or aesthetic sense. We know that the only way to figure out what's important to you is to listen, think, repeat back, confirm, and think again. Communication is key in this business, and communication starts with listening.
3. Your Home, Your CastleAt the end of the day, you won't come home to a work site.
With new home construction, a clean job site is a sign of professionalism, making site visits more pleasant. With renovations and additions, a clean job site means even more! As invited guests in your home, we know that cleaning up regularly, talking professionally, respecting privacy, accommodating parking, music, and noise concerns all determine whether you're happy to see our carpenters and subcontractors each day.
Those are just a few of the many reasons that over and over again, great personal fondness has developed between our clients and our lead carpenters. At Platt Builders, we carefully hire employees who have values aligned with this ethos of respectful, courteous, professional service.
4. Money TalksWe specialize in clear communications about money.
More than a decade ago, a master carpenter told me that construction conflicts arise over two things: communication and money. He added that the most serious misunderstandings involve communication about money. Everyone at Platt Builders understands this, and we work diligently on every project to communicate clearly about money.
We know how to accurately predict the cost of any project, whether it's $3,000 or $3 million. We've developed a systematic approach that breaks the construction process into 25 categories, ensuring that we don't miss cost items. We know that the only path to truly happy clients at the end of the project is to tell them the expected costs of construction at the beginning so that they're never surprised.
When changes to the scope of work do occur, we estimate their cost and let you know, but we also go one step further. We always talk about the total project cost so that clients don’t make one change here and another there, which makes it easy to lose track of the total. To avoid surprises, it's critical to talk about the big number, in addition to lots of small numbers.
5. Need Some Hand Holding?Home renovation is an emotional process. We get that.
Your home is a sanctuary, and the choices you make are very personal. We understand that clients want to get everything right, and with that desire comes emotions. We can guide you each step of the way while helping you stay focused on the end goal. We also understand that this construction is just one of many things going on in your life, and that you have hired us to manage the construction process.
Every project has a budget and timeline, and requires many decisions. The sum total of those decisions will determine the finished product. We give our clients lists of necessary decisions so they know what needs to be decided ahead of time. We steer our clients to the right showrooms and suppliers, and we know who to recommend for architectural and design help.
6. Let Us Steer You ClearWe help clients make good decisions, and avoid bad ones.
Here at Platt, we divide decisions into three categories: Design, Livability, and Construction Means and Methods. We steer clients to the right design professionals to help with architecture, design, and decorating choices. When it comes to livability, we bring you our “best practices” from 20 years of learning what lives well and what does not. We enjoy discussions about how a space will be used, heated, cooled, lighted, and cleaned. We work hard to understand what matters to individual clients, how you and your family will live in the space, and then help engineer the space around those priorities, while guiding you towards those choices.
When it's time for construction, there are good methods and bad. After 20 years of remodeling, we know the difference. We've been called in to fix many house issues, and have studied what caused these problems. Our attention to quality construction sometimes adds to the initial cost of construction, but the reward is long-term value.
Clients often voice construction preferences based on research, their own experiences, and those of their friends. We take time to understand what our clients want, as well as to explain why we feel that one way or another is the right way to proceed. While we're the construction experts, we never forget that we are in our clients' homes.
7. With No Games, You WinOur clients know the real cost of each project before it starts.
After 20 years in this business, I'm still astounded at the number of stories I hear about construction projects that go way over budget. It doesn’t have to happen! We don’t have x-ray vision, but we have enough experience to be able to explain to a client what's involved and what to expect.
The real question is this: does a contractor have the integrity to tell a client the truth about cost up front? We always tell the whole story from the start, and this honesty allows us to sleep at night. I've received more than a half-dozen calls over my career from clients who did not choose us, and later went out of their way to call me after someone else completed their project. They reported, “Platt Builders was right―it did cost that much―and I wish I had you do it after all.”
There are many ways to play the bidding and pricing game. At Platt Builders, we only play it one way: Fully understand the project, the drawings, the specifications, and the existing conditions, and then predict the total cost of the project to completion. Then, write in clear language what is included in the scope of work and share these details with everyone involved.
8. Second Thoughts?Changes are a breeze, and are not used to increase our profit margin.
There are many ways to run a business. I've always chosen to think about the long-term, and I believe Platt Builders is now 1/5th of the way to our 100th anniversary. To achieve this goal, the financial foundation of our company must be rock solid and based on fairness to all parties involved: the company, clients, employees, subcontractors, and suppliers.
How a construction company handles change orders says everything about its integrity. Once a change order is requested or needed, the client has few options about who will build the change - it will almost always be the current contractor. At that point the contractor has greater leverage over a client, and many trade articles advocate for an increased profit margin on such changes. We don’t believe in this practice and we don’t do it. Changes are priced the same way the initial project was priced, based on our time, materials, subcontractors, and the original margin.
9. Timing is EverythingOur construction schedules are accurate, and they happen.
Assuming craftsmanship as a given, meeting the construction schedule is the greatest determinant of client satisfaction. Living with residential construction is an emotional, disruptive and tiresome process. We warn our clients that at about 80 percent of the way through any project, the eagerness to use the finished space will likely cause even the calmest of homeowners to be ready to be done. This holds true if the project requires three weeks, three months or an entire year. Understanding this, we work diligently to set accurate expectations.
Once a schedule is set, our job is to "herd cats," as one architect aptly described the process. Anywhere from 5 to 75 people are likely to be involved in most projects, ranging from employees and subcontractors to inspectors and design professionals. Marshalling all of these schedules is a challenge, but we do it every day. Our project managers are skilled at dealing with a range of suppliers and pinpointing the availability and ship- times of both stock and custom materials.
Last but not least, Mother Nature periodically hands us surprises, sometimes making deadline challenges herculean. No matter what we may encounter, we at Platt Builders always remember: Timing is everything and key to our clients' happiness.
10. Tired of Guessing Games?Every house problem has a scientific answer. We know where to find it.
"We have a leak."
"This room never heats evenly."
"We see condensation on the third-floor windows."
"This room smells musty."
"This door won't close properly."
These are some of many symptoms that our clients hire us to diagnose and fix. When our grandfathers were alive, the solutions were simpler and fewer. House construction wasn't nearly as complex fifty years ago as it is today. As a result, contractors must evolve to keep up.
There's now a whole field called “Building Science” that addresses how heat, moisture, sound, structural loading, frost, mold, and insects move through and degrade buildings. To truly get to the root of any problem, we know it's essential to keep an open mind and consider a wide variety of data. Sometimes this involves data testing and collection; sometimes it involves opening things up to eliminate the guessing that often occurs in this industry. We bring many years of experience to our clients, along with an open-minded engineering approach to make sure that we always understand the real issues behind a problem.
11. Now's the Time!Our goal is to fix problems today, not leave them for tomorrow.
One of the simplest things we've learned over the years is that solving a problem today is less expensive than solving the same problem tomorrow.
As soon as we recognize any potential issue, we jump right on it, figure out the solution, and fix it. This always involves the proper diagnosis process; we never ignore any nagging feelings that “something just isn’t right." Everyone in the company knows that Platt Builders will ultimately “do the right thing” and that we save everyone money and stress by dealing with issues as soon as they appear.
12. Keep Calm & Carry OnEvery project requires a calm, guiding hand. That's where we come in.
No matter what "surprise" a client may encounter, we've seen it before. We've happily worked through issues involving termites, rot, bad soils, boulders, ledge, new code restrictions, client changes, architect updates, decorator ideas, scope expansion, scope reduction, weather delays, and on and on. We've found that keeping calm and remembering that we are the professionals in the client/contractor relationship is critical. Unexpected situations may arise, but we stand ready with our best insights and advice about how to handle any issue and move a project forward to completion.
We have also learned the importance of being creative to help clients envision what we are about to build. When a client can’t quite “see” what the built project will look like, we use blue tape to mark out walls or cabinets, paper plates stapled to the ceiling to show recessed lights, cardboard or plywood mockups of spaces when necessary, and even scaffolding to help clients know what the view will be like from the master bedroom. We can do whatever it takes to ensure that we build exactly what our clients want.
13. Safety FirstOur workers have the necessary training and equipment to work safely.
Residential construction is a dangerous profession. We know this and our carpenters know this. Daily safety starts with good training, good equipment, and good estimation.
The requirements for good training and good equipment are obvious. Each of our field employees has been through the OSHA 10- or 30-hour course. We talk regularly about safe work methods, in terms of both immediate risks and long-term occupational concerns. Each year we also upgrade or replace damaged or needed ladders, scaffolding, and equipment.
Good estimation is equally critical to safety. When we estimate a project, we must consider the site, the terrain, the time of year, the weight of the materials, and the logistics of moving around. For instance, we know that if we're going to replace a skylight, we need to allow enough time to have two men set up and take down an anchor point and safety harness. Gone are the days when anyone should simply climb up a ladder onto the roof and start working.
We also understand that our clients' children are likely to be curious about our work. We take pride in leaving the workspace safe at the end of the day because we know you and your family will be excited to check out the day's progress.
14. Have Faith“God is in the details” - Mies van der Rohe
How do you interact with your home each day? Do those interactions cause pleasure or frustration? We know that little things can make a huge difference: hardware selection, newel posts, how a door closes, how quiet or noisy an appliance is, or how a banister feels in your hand as you navigate a stairwell. These are a few of the many details that determine how you feel about your home.
What sets Platt Builders apart? A big part of the answer has to do with our craftsmanship and pride in our work. Each and every trade is filled with workers who share this pride. As general contractor, Platt Builders becomes the glue and grease that makes all of the trades work well together to create an exceptional project. We monitor how each trade interacts and affects the next trade. For instance, we make sure that the HVAC contractor secures the duct boots to the studs with roofing nails, not sheet metal screws, so that the plaster will be flat when the wall register is screwed on. This is just one of a thousand details that become obviously important when pointed out, but painful if discovered after the fact. Such details matter enormously, and our clients depend on us to monitor each and every one.
15. Know the CodeWe're up to date on building regulations, and don't battle building inspectors.
If you ever need a third-party endorsement of Platt Builders, just call your local building inspector. We have an outstanding long-term reputation for being an excellent builder wherever we work. We've built this reputation step by step over the years by knowing what building inspectors want, knowing when to call and ask for input, and never trying to slip something by. Although the code can seem onerous or illogical at times, and is occasionally self-contradictory, it's the law, and there are real-life failures behind every regulation.
It's important to know the code well enough to be able to guide clients and inspectors to logical decisions regarding details that aren't spelled out in black and white. This is one more example of the hidden expertise that we bring to the table for our clients. Such knowledge requires consistent reading and training. All of our project managers and more than half of our field carpenters are licensed Massachusetts Construction Supervisors and are happily in compliance with the state’s requirements for ongoing education.
16. Who We Gonna Call?Our subcontractors are the best in the business.
Platt Builders self-performs more work than most builders do. We then subcontract out trades that require specific state licenses, require specific high value equipment (excavation or concrete), and specialized work such as sanding and finishing floors, installing glass shower doors, etc. On a typical project, our employees do the demolition, framing, trim and siding, interior finish work, cabinetry and millwork, and project management. Despite these efforts, more than half of the dollars spent on a typical project are paid to subcontractors; this gives us enormous purchasing power year after year.
The good news is that we're experts at finding the right people to do these jobs. We've learned which subcontractors are good and which to avoid. We know who stays on schedule and who doesn't. For many trades, we have multiple subcontractors who have different strengths and specializations. We manage each subcontractor so that critical questions get asked and important details get scrutinized. Our combination of expertise and buying power allows us to use the best trade partners for our clients, and after 20 years of sorting, we've assembled a great team with whom we have long-term relationships.
17. Quality Decisions, Done RightWe make hundreds of “blind decisions” for clients on every project.
When someone from Platt Builders works on your home, you're rarely there to watch every choice that person makes. That’s why you hired someone! If that someone is up on a ladder and discovers that a piece of window flashing is an eighth of an inch short, he or she needs to decide whether to make another piece or install the one they have. Because we at Platt want your home to last without water infiltration, our carpenter would go get another one, no doubt about it. Our guys make hundreds of such blind decisions for clients each day and we don’t cut corners.
This is where company ethos and training comes in; every company has an ethos and may or may not have a training program. Our guys have been trained how to make the right call. We constantly talk about the trust our clients have placed in us, and know we must be worthy of that trust during decision-making.
18. Count on Us from Beginning to EndWe never leave a project unfinished.
Of all the nightmare stories I've heard about construction projects, the ones that I least understand are about contractors who walk out on a job, go belly up, or just don't finish. We get paid to finish! No one undertakes a construction project just because they enjoy the process. They undertake the project because they want to get to the finished product. In 20 years we have never left a project unfinished.
This doesn’t mean that we haven’t had our share of difficult projects. However, we always remember that we are invited guests in our client's homes, and cannot stop mid-construction or at 98 percent completion. We always complete what we start; our pride is a byproduct of a completed project.
19. The Bottom LinePeople matter more than money.
Just ask our clients, employees, and subcontractors how we treat them. Perhaps we're a little idealistic, or some might say naïve, but this has been our guiding principle for 20 years. Reminiscing about the many projects Platt Builders has completed, I think about how our clients' lives have been changed by the space we created for them. Our recommendations made those spaces more comfortable, more inviting, and more inspiring. Beautiful spaces affect people in many wonderful ways, and this accomplishment always puts a smile on my face.
It takes a whole team to build a house, and it has taken a great team to build Platt Builders into what it is today. Everyone here is pleased to be part of a larger team in which each person specializes in what they do best. Together, we have seen each other through the ups and downs of life, and that pulling and reinforcing has made the fabric of our company strong. We benefit from that strong fabric, and so do our clients.
20. The Final WordOur Reputation: Created day by day, client by client.
At the end of the day, I enjoy thinking about our philosophy at Platt Builders. I love looking back and looking to the future. More than 10 years ago I realized that our exceptional reputation alone will not carry us forward. Every day since, I have explained to employees, subcontractors and even myself the simple fact that ours is a very practical business, and that our reputation is created day by day, client by client.
Residential construction is a service business, and it's also pragmatic. You have to know how to do the work, plan it well, attack it efficiently, and complete each job so that the client is thrilled. After 20 years of success, Platt Builders has earned an exemplary reputation along with intense customer loyalty.
Tomorrow is a new day, however, and we get to grow and change and do it all over again.
For that we are grateful.