Frequently Asked Questions and Frustrating Facts

Why should I hire a licensed contractor when I can do it myself?

The perception is that if you do it yourself you save money. In some instances, this has a positive other instances, not so much.  Every project has innumerable variables that contribute to a positive outcome. Hiring a licensed trade professional is one of those variables. Think of it as a surgical procedure – do you want to hire the person that has “some power tools” or do you want a qualified surgeon with a team?

How do I identify the right contractor for my project?

Every contractor has a “zone of genius”. An example would be one contractor might be specialized in new construction, another contractor might be a handyman and only handle minor repairs. Another contractor might focus on remodels that include kitchen and baths. Some factors to consider in finding the right contractor; the overall project and your personality. They’re going to be in your home for a long time because some projects take a while. Make sure that it’s a good match professionally and personally.

What should do before I hire the contractor?

There are many things but here are a few that are important. In today’s world many people rely on a handshake or a text message that says, “let’s go ahead”. Always have a contract in place even if it’s a Letter of Agreement or a fully disclosed Contract. Always ask for referrals, both good and bad. Every project is going to go in a ditch or hit a bump in the road. It’s about how they navigate out of the ditch or over the that bump and finish the project. Ask the contractor for a project calendar with a start date and a possible end date. This is important because you’ll know what to expect over the course of the project. New construction has a different calendar than a remodel. Expect that the calendar is always going to change because of unforeseen circumstances.

Why does it cost so much?

Consider where we live, the cost of materials and goods, the shortage of labor and housing and a very busy remodeling economy.

As a homeowner, I don’t understand why it’s so complicated and it should take so long?

The number one delay in any project are unexpected issues with the site. Number two is the homeowner’s ability to make decisions; decisions must be made in order for the project to proceed. Changing your mind changes the outcome. Another factor is the availability of subcontractors at key points in the project – they may be on another project that has been delayed.

On Being a Locavore…

Napoleon Bonaparte and Clarence Birdseye forever changed the course of our culture and lifestyle. Two events separated by a hundred years contributed to the change from a farm-to-table locavore culture to a farm-to-factory-to-freeway distribution of food.  Bonaparte could only advance his armies as far as the food rations would allow. He sponsored a contest for food preservation which ultimately led to the Mason canning jar. Clarence Birdseye was inspired to develop flash freezing techniques after observing Inuit ice fishing. Today that technology allows us to enjoy “fresh, previously frozen” tuna from Samoa.

“Fresh, previously frozen” tuna from Samoa was the catalyst that forever changed the course of my food buying habits. I live on an island where “live locally” is not only the community’s daily mantra it is a state of mind. One in every three cars in line for the ferry is a Prius and if you are at the four way stop in town the default right of way goes to the car that runs on recycled cooking oil.  As I picked up the piece of tuna from Samoa that was wrapped in plastic and on a Styrofoam tray I started to think about what it took to get that $6.00 piece of fish to the island market. The mindset of a culture that supports purchasing tuna from Samoa is sheer insanity.  I put the fish back and bought locally FARMED…that’s right…farmed salmon!

Here in the Northwest the locavore lifestyle has been around since the late seventies and early eighties. It never was a trend; it was a consciousness about “What’s available from the farmers right now?” Local restaurateurs have embraced this philosophy and have a devoted following of customers. The grand daddy of locavorism is the Herbfarm located in Woodinville Washington. The annual 100-Mile Dinner features nine courses of food, including wine, originating within a 100 mile radius.

I will confess that around February when the northwest winters take their toll on my attitude I will buy oranges from California. I resist the strawberries as I will wait for the ones that are grown locally in the summer.  Avocados are my karmic downfall…I just cannot resist fresh guacamole on my salmon fish tacos.  A friend in the community raises turkeys. Starting in late September he starts feeding them apples from his trees. By the time November rolls around and they end up scheduled for the dinner table their meat is flavored with the taste and smell of Washington apples. The one drawback is that he started naming them after famous baseball players. Ichiro is still around but Ken Griffey Jr. is gone from the team.

While I live in a unique community and embrace the lifestyle and culture of being a locavore not everyone has that luxury. I consciously rethink my food purchases and have enjoyed the challenges of cooking seasonal offerings from my garden or the local farmers market. With that said, can anyone give me some suggestions on a menu that includes Walla Walla sweet onions, Yakima cherries, Coho salmon and wild fennel?