Cornerstone speaks with design contractor A.J. Stones.
Q: What are the most important factors to be considered when hiring a contractor?
A: Hiring a remodeling contractor is the same as hiring any other professional. You need to look at background, education, training, how the business is run, who’s in charge, who you’d deal with on a daily basis, how many jobs the contractor has running at the same time and the person’s management skills. The most important factor in hiring a remodeler is trust—you need to trust this person to do the right thing and to treat you and your house with respect. Someone once said to hire the person you’d feel comfortable inviting for dinner. If you want to ensure you hire a contractor who knows “green,” a look at the person’s background and training, plus past jobs and other involvements, will yield the correct answer.
Q: How can you identify a home remodeler who is sensitive to health concerns and the environment?
A: An environmentally conscious remodeler is one who is equally concerned with the impact of their work on themselves, the client, the community and the environment. They need to know a lot more than carpentry, electric, plumbing and plastering. They need to have an understanding of how things work, how they work together, what goes into each product and how the products are manufactured.
Q: Are environmental concerns more easily addressed in remodeling projects or new construction?
A: Actually, most remodeling projects have fewer environmental concerns than new construction, as no forests are being torn down or roads being built. Adding onto or improving an existing “footprint” is much less detrimental than building new. Also, the older the building, the less likely it is to contain toxic material—with the possible exceptions of lead-based paint (which was used until 1974) and asbestos.
Q: What health concerns can be addressed through this type of work?
A: The most extensive health concern is indoor air quality. Take a 30-year-old house—when it was built, it had all hardwood floors, linoleum flooring, real wood cabinets, plaster walls and forced air heat, all of which are basically natural/non-toxic. Now take that same home today with wall-to-wall carpeting, vinyl flooring and air conditioning—the windows never need to be opened, air ducts and carpeting trap grease and hair, along with other allergy-causing substances, and the carpeting and flooring off-gas toxic substances. The easiest problem to address is keeping out toxic substances; the hardest is cleaning up an already toxic, unhealthy home.
Q: Does it cost customers more to have remodeling done in an environmentally friendly way?
A: It shouldn’t if the customer wants a high quality job, although people are generally surprised to learn how much projects cost today, especially if they purchased their home a number of years ago. The basic parts of all remodeling jobs are the same; the only difference is in the quality of the professionals and the materials that are chosen.
A.J. Stones, a Certified Remodeler (CR) from Jeannette, PA, specializes in energy-efficient, environmentally conscious construction. He devotes himself to relevant, ongoing education and has 16 years experience in the field, including 12 years operating his own business. View his website at www.ajstones.com.