By Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R.
Don’t be surprised if you find an exact duplicate of your present (or future) kitchen or bath replicated in such foreign places as North Korea, China or even New Jersey! Even where food is scarce and life is cheap, people still dream about a breathtaking kitchen, and they will not be denied, even if it means using illicit techniques to hack into the interweb or darknet. There they can steal your most secret design concepts or selfies! Is nothing safe today? Not really, just watch the news or look on the web if you dare. If you want to ensure a unique solution to your kitchen or bathroom project, and have it executed properly, look for a secure, licensed, accredited firm that has been around for a while and knows what they are doing.
Beware especially of the “sleeper contractor” who remains dormant until there’s mischief to be made. (See: http://video.foxnews.com/v/5278056499001/?#sp=show-clips) These reprehensible operators operate under the radar, off the grid, in the shadows, until it’s time to strike. They have no license, they have no insurance, they don’t even have scruples! They would steal a design, or cut a corner, without giving it a second thought and install cabinets infused with arsenic and lead, from countries that pay their workers pennies a day! Just wait until something goes wrong or you need a replacement part, or the cabinets start to warp. If you’re lucky enough to find them, just as their name connotes, they’ll probably be “sleeping” on the next job and unable and unwilling to help you.
Unfortunately legitimate design/build firms don’t come cheap and I’ll explain why. Licensing fees alone for a lawful home improvement business in our area runs over a thousand dollars. They include Westchester County fees; separate fees for Yonkers; Connecticut license fees and New York City, too. And in New York City you can’t actually do home improvements even if you have a Home Improvement License unless you also get a “Home Improvement Salesman License” too! (Also add Rockland and Putnam license fees for firms that work there).
Then there are the feds, God bless ‘em. In order to be a legitimate home improvement contractor you must pay to be trained and certified by the EPA for the “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program”. This training cost a couple of hundred dollars every few years, not to mention the time involved for classes. In addition, you also have to pay $300 to the EPA every so often, just to be registered. On the other hand, you have to weigh all that against being taught never to leave stuff lying around that can be inhaled, stolen or copied by another, less reliable contractor.
And let’s not forget insurance, as if anyone with 15 minutes could ever forget insurance. The “sleeper contractor” doesn’t need “no stinkin’ insurance”. However, the properly trained and licensed home remodeling firm is required to have many types of insurance. They need liability insurance. They need disability insurance. They need Worker’s Compensation insurance. They need auto insurance. And those with permanent locations like a showroom need even more insurance. And insurance isn’t free!
So when you hear that someone got an all new kitchen with installation for $5,995, you can only guess who did it. Wake up! They made a conscious choice to give up the piece of mind that comes from using a real American contractor who plays by the rules. Of course this type of security doesn’t come cheap, but you get what you pay for. And, if you need warranty service years after the job has been completed, who do you think will not be sleeping on the job and be willing to take care any problems that may arise?
Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com.