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High Quality Craftsmanship Delivered On Time and On Budget: An Interview with Pioneer Valley Custom Construction

By Kristen Bosse

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

Pioneer Valley Custom Construction is a small family owned and operated company owned by James West and Louis Hale, with help from Jim's son and father, and 3 of Lou's cousins. We provide complete residential and light commercial remodeling and building. We specialize in solving challenging projects with creative solutions.

What is your position at PVCC?

Partner and project manager.

What Green Building initiatives have you taken recently?

We try to avoid using the term "green" as it's become more of a marketing term then anything else. We do however try to be as energy efficient and sustainable as possible. We recently rebuilt an 1840's cape to near passive house standards with a heating load less then 50% of a new house of the same size built to today's code.

It's not often you still see "Built-In" furniture featured on a website. Is this service still popular?

We do only a few of these a year, so I don't know if that qualifies for "popular" but there certainly is some demand for skilled craftsmen to build something to perfectly fit a space.

What are some of the benefits of slate roofing?

Slate roofing has many benefits making it hard to know where to start. I would say its biggest benefit is how durable it is a new slate roof can last over 100 years with only minimal maintenance.

Slate roofing is easily repaired if damaged, you can change individual slates after a hailstorm (if there even are any damaged slates) instead of stripping off the entire roof, throwing it away and starting over with new shingles. Non broken roofing slates can also be reused should they ever have to be removed.

Most slate roofing is quarried and cut right here in New England and New York by small family run companies, unlike shingles who are all made by large national and international corporations.

What are some steps homeowners should keep in mind during the remodeling process?

I would say the most important "steps" are the planning and budgeting steps. Almost all of the remodeling horror stories I hear start with poor planning, big promises and insufficient budgets. Any time and money spent on planning and design will easily pay for itself with faster completion time once construction starts, realistic pricing and reduced change orders. You get what you pay for and if it sounds to good to be true it probably is.

What are some aspects of your business level strategy?

One aspect of our business strategy is organic growth from referrals, networking and delivering a high quality project. A controlled and slow pace to growth allows to keep overhead costs in check because we are not dependent on a large expensive advertising campaign to keep our crew busy.

Another business level strategy has been debt avoidance, our trucks might not be brand new but we own them and all of our other tools and equipment like our back hoe outright. This ties in with a slow controlled growth plan and lower monthly overhead. Too many business fail because they get to big to fast and go in to 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars of debt to do it the first time a slowdown hits they can't make their payments and it's all over. Almost no debt has made us near recession proof.

What should homeowners be looking for in a quality construction business?

Referrals, written warranties, a team of repeat sub contractors ( in 98% of cases they shouldn't be putting the sub contract work out to competitive bid each and every time), proper licenses and insurance especially workers comp. Being properly insured and properly classifying your employees may cost more then listing them as " sub contractors" it protects property owners. If an employee get's injured on a job site he only has the right of suing his employer. However an employee misclassified subcontractor to save money on payroll taxes and workers compensation premiums can sue a property owner directly should the contractor not have enough money or insurance to cover the claim.

What are the most difficult kinds of projects?

The kind that we take. Since we thrive on a challenge I am probably not the best person to ask. That being said the most difficult projects we do are the ones with incomplete plans and indecisive owners.

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

Emails for non urgent things and phone calls if it can't wait.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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