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Creating Memorable Spaces since 1970: An Interview with Julien Drapeau Home Improvements

By Kristen Bosse

Please describe a little bit about your company and services you offer.

We are an owner operated family business that specializes in exterior residential home remodeling. This includes, but is not limited to, siding, windows, doors, decks, and porches.

How did you get into this line of work?

My father started the company in 1970 and I worked for him before and after college. In 1990 I took over the company. I have other employees that work for me but I am present on each job working alongside them.

What qualities should a homeowner be looking for in a good home improvement company?

I would say the most important qualities are accountability, reliability and responsiveness. The contractor should follow through with what they say they are going to do and if something goes wrong or unforeseen problems arises, measures need to be made to correct the problem and ensure a beautiful job and the customers happiness. It is also important for a contractor to stand behind their work even after the job has been completed. A customer can count on me and the companies I buy from to warranty our work and products years down the road. It is also very important to respect the clients time and concerns and answer calls and questions as timely as possibly, usually within 24 hours.

Is it a long process or difficult to access the new products and learn new methods?

The new products and methods are fun and interesting to learn about. There can also be challenges dealing with the new and innovative products too. With access to the internet, customers can find out about new products the same time we are. Often the newest products aren't easily attainable until they become more "tried and true". We do a substantial amount of research before we recommend a new product to our customer. It is also important that the companies marketing these products have valid warranties in place to back their product if problems arise. We back our workmanship with a long-term guarantee so I like to make sure the products we are installing are going to be there for a long time. We tend to stick with companies with a very good foundation.

Do you have a large client base?

Our company is operated mostly from referrals. The only marketing we do is with local youth baseball teams and hometown organizations but that is really to support my community. About 95% of our work is all from referrals. That is something that I am proud of because that indicates that my customers are happy!

Whether it's the roof, windows, siding, etc., what should homeowners be looking for to see if they need an area replaced?

Most of the time it is something obvious, for example, leaks in the roof or drafty windows. Other times there are little indications such as mold, mildew, or even moss around doors or windows. If it is visible on the exterior then that usually means there is rotting or something going on underneath and replacement or repair is needed. Other times, the needs are cosmetic and the home simply looks beat up and needs some help.

Are they any common mistakes new homeowners make when dealing with a construction company on their home?

The most common mistake is when customers get multiple estimates and make their decision based upon price alone. There are many factors a homeowner should consider such as who will actually be sent to their home to do the work, do those workers share the same expertise, what materials are being used and what are the warranties, and will the materials be installed properly so the warranties will not be negated. The contractor's reputation is also important to consider. A company that advertises heavily and becomes a well known name doesn't necessarily mean that they do quality work. It simply means that they pay for a lot of advertising.

How much does new siding, windows, etc. increase the value of a home?

It really does depend on the house and what specific services are being performed. I've worked on homes that the value was doubled because it was in such need of repair. Other times, people will repair a few things to limit maintenance and the increase in value will not be as significant. Overall, a home with maintenance free products appeals to many home buyers so that is a selling point in the event that the homeowner chooses to sell. However, the most important thing is to make sure the job is done right. I've seen it happen too often, especially in siding, where the job is done incorrectly. The siding may look okay but if they didn't flash the windows properly, in 5-10 years there will be major problems. To increase home value at all, you need to hire an experienced company that will do the job properly to ensure it will stay beautiful for a long period of time.

What seems to be the most popular service you offer? Why do you think that is?

I would say that 80-90% of our work is complete overhauls where we replace all the windows and doors with newer products. We will usually replace the siding as well. It makes sense to do the whole job at one time if it's feasible because the labor costs will decrease. For example, many times we have to rip down some siding in order to replace the windows. If you were planning on replacing the siding in the future and instead bundle the window and siding services together, you will not have to pay for the labor of fixing the siding around the windows twice. It will save you money in the long run if you choose to bundle the services and I communicate this to our customers at the start of a project.

What are the most difficult kinds of projects?

The only times things get a little more complicated is when we're dealing with hazardous materials. If we encounter something like lead or asbestos, the pricing of removal goes up and targeted completion time may be extended. I wouldn't say it necessarily makes thing more difficult but it does require more time and expense.

Do you have a personal favorite project you like working on?

I really enjoy working on unique looking homes and older homes. Once we finish with our project, you can really see the differences in these homes. It always ends up looking really nice and it's exciting to see the transformation!

The Home Designer tool on your website seems like an amazing tool for customers. Have you received good feedback on this feature?

I have received good feedback. Most customers use it to try to pick out different colors for their house. However, most homeowners still like to see how the colors look in person. I will send them to addresses so they can view previously done work various color combinations used in the past. We have done so much work in Western Massachusetts that it is certainly not difficult to find a couple homes near the new customer so they do not have to travel far.

What areas of Massachusetts do you serve?

Most of our work over the past couple of years has been focused in Western Massachusetts. I've never said no to a customer if they ask for our services. Many times, regular customers will ask us to work on their summer homes on Cape Cod and we are always happy to do so.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you?

The best way for people to contact me is via my email address at Julien@juliendrapeau.net or give us a call at 413-596-2641.

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