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Finding a Qualified Contractor: An Interview with Roger Bash of Bashland Builders

By Roger Bash

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Bashland Builders was founded in 1977. The initial focus for the firm was the building of custom homes around the Bay Area. After three years spent building custom homes we changed direction to high end renovation and remodeling. We sought greater variety in the challenges, materials and people we worked with and felt that renovation/remodeling would provide that through more and varied projects. After four years in a dual role of carpenter/project superintendent and office supervisor, I was "kicked upstairs" to the full time management of the firm. Over the years we have been involved in projects ranging from kitchen and bathroom remodels, full house renovations, many high rise apartments in San Francisco achieved through elevators, to the renovation of the 50 room Speckles mansion.

Please explain important qualities a contractor must possess, in your opinion.

Although you can delegate many aspects of contracting, to be really good at design and building, I believe you needs to have the experience of building something yourself. As someone who did carpentry for years, I have a sensitivity to what can be accomplished and how long it takes to do the hard work of bringing a design to reality. As a designer, I bring that experience to the drafting table as I apply what I have learned over the years through myriad projects and from working with some of the most talented designers in the Bay Area. As a supervisor of construction, I can weigh in with counsel on how to solve the inevitable thorny problems that arise.

What do you have to say about contractors who generalize versus specialize?

In regards to the often asked question whether focusing on one aspect of the trade is preferable to being a generalist, my bias, not surprisingly, falls firmly on the generalist's side. I often describe our role as being the choreographer of a project. Our people know how to do nearly every trade that is involved in our types of construction. And there are times when they will sweat a pipe or twist wires. But they do not consider themselves experts in each trade. They do not have the time to keep up on new developments or the codes changes in each specialty. But their familiarity with each trade enables them to support and manage the experts as we also provide the carpentry and cabinetry. We apply that knowledge as we choreograph the project participants to insure that they have the information, resources and conditions they need to complete their role expeditiously and economically. A one man crew is said to be the most efficient but he or she will not be the fastest, most informed, most experienced or most effective in building a project.

What advice do you have for someone who found a contractor they can afford, however perhaps he doesn't have the experience they want?

If a customer finds a contractor who is affordable but may not have the experience they want, I don't feel that should be a disqualifier. If the contractor is mechanically adept, honest about his skill level and can communicate how he or she is going to gain the skills to do what is required, the customer should be willing to take the risk for the lower cost. That said, if the cost is too low relative to an experienced craftsperson, one shouldn't take advantage of the contractor. I certainly took on projects in the early days that I did not know how to accomplish but I had the research resources and advisors to enable me to complete the projects in good order if not always profitably.

Why should someone choose Bashland?

When potential clients ask me why they should choose Bashland, I speak to our design and construction experience, our appreciation of the nuance of design that enables us to produce a finished product of exceptional quality, our cabinetry and finishing shop that frees us from having to compromise on materials, and the people of Bashland. I recommend that they speak with some of our references not just about their interactions with me and the foremen but with each member of the crew, how they treated the customer, each other and the subcontractors. How we work together is reflected in the final results and in the customer's memory of the building experience. Finally, I emphasize that we build artful environments for clients who have the ability to see and appreciate beauty around them.

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

I can be reached at rbash@bashland.com. Our website is www.bashland.com.

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My building career started in my youth when I discovered a strong affinity for...

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