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“I’m just one of those ‘handy, do anything’ type of guys…and that’s what I like.”

Smokey Ensey officially joined STRITE design + remodel in 2015, but we’ve worked with him for 25 years — long enough to know that his skill as a craftsperson, attention to detail, and all around good nature are a great compliment to our organization, and especially to our customers. This is his story.

I’ve been known as “Smokey” since I was born, which was along the Northern California coast near Santa Rosa, in a town up in the mountains called Annapolis. It was basically not much more than a store — but it was a gorgeous place to live.

Back in the ‘70s I was building electronic digital scales — high precision instruments ranging from pharmaceuticals to trucking. The recession in the ‘70s hit our industry hard, so I opted for a voluntary lay off and took up tile work, thanks to an acquaintance who was a tile contractor and worked throughout the Bay Area.

My family and I left California in 1988 and went to Montana. Montana is wonderful for hunting, fishing, back packing…and that’s what we do, along with riding motorcycles and dirt bikes. But it’s hard to make a living in Montana…and the winters get pretty long. We came to Boise on the 4th of July 1991, back when it was about the size of Santa Rosa, but with four seasons. Everything we want to do is a short drive away.

I became a tile contractor in 1992, and STRITE was always my number one customer. STRITE and I were always on the same scale when it comes to cleanliness, detail, and keeping the job site clean. I also preferred remodel projects to new construction, which I quit doing around 2001. They want you to do an entire house in one week when you should spend two to three weeks to do the job right. They had crews back then who would knock these jobs out, and that is a lot of what is getting redone today: leaking showers, tile falling off the walls — not quality work. You get what you pay for, and I’m very quality-oriented. I don’t think I’m anal, but it’s either right or wrong. There is a line you cross between efficiency and quality, and I refuse to cross the line on quality.

Since joining STRITE, I don’t set tile anymore. I’m one of those “handy, do anything” types, and that’s what I like — but what I am primarily is a “punch list” guy. I go in at the end of a job and make sure everything is detailed, and I work with the clients on their accessories. It’s right up my alley — it’s the quality end of the job, making sure that every detail is the way the client wants it. I keep them in the loop, and every evening or morning I let them know what has happened and what is going to happen next.

I’m having a great time, doing what I want to do. We get some great projects to work on, and we’re the number one remodeler in Idaho. I’m on my first remodel as the project manager — but the best part of my day is still coming home to my wife. She is my best friend, and we both enjoy the outdoors and cooking. I look at food the way I look at music and clothes: variety is the spice of life!

Read Smokey’s Team Bio.

Rendering of shed roof from front of home by Strite Design in Boise, Idaho
Garage Addition Digital Renderings

“Begin as you mean to continue” is a great philosophy for living in general.  In remodeling, however, intentionality in execution begins with intentionality in design.  In the case of some remodel projects, the number of options that face a designer require the kind of scrutiny that only 3D modeling can provide.

Vision

Our clients wanted to add an additional garage to their home, and had thought through their remodel criteria very carefully.  They wanted high ceilings, an overall sense of openness, and an orientation that would take advantage of the view from their foothills home.

Challenge

As we attempt to gain ceiling height in the new garage (the existing garage roof is just under 8 feet), the fascia tie-in between the new and old structures presents a challenge that is best addressed by carefully modeling different roof options.

Accomplishment

We have invested in 3D modeling capability for precisely the reasons this case study presents.  Using this technique with a home that already has an unusual roof line, we were able to look at shed roof designs that included clipped and unclipped versions of the existing garage roofline, then study the ramifications of these options from different perspectives.

Highlights

While we still have a couple of studies remaining, our 3D models have already led us to the conclusion that the clipped roof doesn’t tie in well with the rest of the overhangs, so we will look at retaining the existing roof line while looking at the connection with the shed option and the hip option.  You can imagine the sense of confidence these models will give our clients as they make their final decision on the design of the new addition.

Click on images for a larger view.

Addition with shed roof and no clip on existing roof

Shed from side. but wait, keep reading more

Taupe
Trends

Have you ever wondered just how many ad campaigns and marketing slogans would be rendered mute if you struck the word “value” from the English lexicon?  It’s a tantalizing concept, since it would require companies to be a bit more specific about just what their products and services contribute to the lives of their customers.

Like the words quality and service, the meaning of value has become a marketing cipher into which many businesses expect their customers to apply their own definition.

Which is precisely the problem when applying value to the business of remodeling.  While the concept of value may be a bit fuzzy to many consumers, far fewer have a difficult time defining the term bargain.  And unfortunately for those of us in the remodeling industry, these two words are too often thought of as being synonymous.  As a company that takes great pride in the value that our services represent, we think it’s high time to open up a discussion as to just what that term means.

The idea of “getting a bargain” when it comes to a remodel makes us very uneasy.  After all, there is a reason that so many businesses throw out the lowest bid when it comes to getting quotes for products and services.  There simply is a cost to things below which you cannot go without sacrificing the quality and integrity of materials and services.  The willingness of a service provider to go below that threshold should raise a red flag when it comes to their professionalism and experience.  And while quality and integrity are certainly “value propositions” in our minds, we think these two attributes should be a given for anyone in our business.

A more popular concept of value in recent years has been “return on investment”, or ROI.  In the heady days of the real estate boom, the idea of picking up a property for little or nothing down, upgrading the interior and/or exterior, and then “flipping” the property for a windfall profit was a mighty tempting behavior for a lot of homeowners.  Too tempting, as it turned out.

With real estate prices languishing for the foreseeable future, we think it makes a lot more sense for homeowners to look at where they live as a “quality of life” rather than “return on investment” proposition.  The days of treating ones home as an ATM are long over…to which we say, “thank goodness”!  We encourage our customers to look at a remodel as a process and outcome that adds to their quality of life, and not to their indebtedness!

In thinking of value as something we experience, rather than a “bottom line” transaction, we see value in both the process and outcome of a successful remodel.  And after all, if you reject that idea of value as something material, what you are basically left with is a qualitative definition – one that looks at the experience of the “thing” rather than the thing itself.  In our next blog installment, we’ll talk more about the concept of value as an experience, and just what that “thing” is from the perspective of our customers.

Design by Strite Design + Remodel
40 Years of Delivering High Quality

Over the years, an essential attribute of the “Strite brand” has become “experience” — not so much as defined by the amount of time and knowledge we’ve invested in our craft (as considerable as that may be), but more from the standpoint of how our customers experience a remodel project.

As Marketing Associate for STRITE design + remodel, I have the privilege — and challenge — of promoting a company that has spent nearly forty years building an enviable reputation in the Treasure Valley. To get a sense of just how solid that reputation is, I would invite you to take a look at our customer satisfaction ratings on Guild Quality.com (an excellent resource for anyone looking for reliable suppliers in their local residential building industry).

When 97% of third-party survey respondents say they would recommend Strite, you would be justified in wondering just how much of a challenge promoting our brand might be. Short of being the public relations director for “The Organization for the Advancement of Puppies, Kittens, and Toddlers,” marketing a company with the customer loyalty that Strite enjoys isn’t a bad gig. You’d figure I could get in a few naps during the day, or at least update my Facebook page on a more frequent basis.

The challenge with promoting almost any brand, however, is defining and communicating the attributes that constitute its “value proposition” — and Strite is no exception. In the case of the remodeling industry, the most obvious brand attributes are quality, delivery, and price.

As a professional services provider, the first two of these attributes, quality and delivery, are givens. That doesn’t mean they’re a slam dunk — it just means that we consider them to be the inalienable right of every customer. The third brand attribute, price, is a far trickier one. While you can choose to compete on price, all of us understand, at least on an intuitive level, that you can only cut so much cost out of any undertaking before you compromise quality (and even delivery, if you’re not fairly compensating your trades).

Over the years, an essential attribute of the “Strite brand” has become “experience” — not so much as defined by the amount of time and knowledge we’ve invested in our craft (as considerable as that may be), but more from the standpoint of how our customers experience their remodel projects. In measuring our success, it’s no longer enough that the people and processes in our organization deliver the expected result — we want the experience of that result to enhance our customers’ lives in very real and meaningful ways. To put it another way, we’ve gone from focusing simply on the quality of the customer outcome to including the quality of the customer experience.

If all this seems a bit “touchy feely,” consider this: We are in the business not just of “building stuff,” but of harmonizing people’s homes and lifestyles. Our customers’ needs generally go beyond, “We want another 1,000 square feet of space in our home.” Nowadays, their needs are more aspirational. “Now that our kids have left home, we want to do more entertaining, and our kitchen just doesn’t work.” If that’s not “touchy feely,” what is?

Focusing on the lifestyle aspirations behind a remodel project means, first of all, understanding those aspirations; and because the only people who truly know what those are are our clients, this also means that the “Strite experience” must connect with who they are, what they value, and the ways in which the esthetics of their environment not only reflect their lifestyle, but enhance it as well.

Involving our clients in their remodel project means helping them get in touch with “their inner designer.” We do this in part by asking a lot of questions, but also by encouraging them to pay attention to design elements that resonate with them. In one recent project, for example, our client did a Google search on “zen bathrooms,” which yielded a number of ideas for colors, textures, and fixtures that collectively expressed “the feeling of water,” as well as her feelings toward a cherished home of thirty years.

Being able to experience the connection between a personal sense of esthetics and how it might best express and reinforce itself in the remodel of a bathroom turned out to be an energizing and creative exercise that far outweighed the anxiety our client naturally felt about the change taking place in her home. We are, after all, creatures of habit. At the core of the value proposition underlying our brand is a commitment to immersing our clients in a creative process that not only yields a more beautiful and/or functional home, but also helps them realize that we are creatures of creativity as well. That’s an epiphany that stays with you long after a remodel is completed — and as ineffable as it may seem, it’s what the “Strite Experience” is about.

Nari

Having a Home Remodeled? NARI Offers Tips for a Homeowner to Stay on Top of a Home-Improvement Project. The first step to take is pre-planning, which can be started by making two lists about the room that you want to remodel: Things that you like and things that you dislike. Then, write out: Features you […]

Recommendation

According to NARI of Idaho, these are some warning signs to watch out for while interviewing your remodeler

Avoid remodelers at all costs when:

  • You can’t verify the name, address, telephone number or credentials of the remodeler.
  • The salesperson tries to pressure you into signing a contract.
  • The company or salesperson says your home will be used for advertising purposes so you will be given a “special, low rate.”
  • The builder/remodeler tells you a special price is available only if you sign the contract “today.”
  • No references are furnished.
  • Information you receive from the contractor is out-of-date or no longer valid.
  • You are unable to verify the license or insurance information.
  • You are asked to pay for the entire job in advance, or to pay in cash to a salesperson instead of by check or money order to the company itself.
  • The company cannot be found in the telephone book, is not listed with the local Better Business Bureau, or with a local trade association, such as NARI.
  • The contractor does not offer, inform or extend notice of your right to cancel the contract within three days. Notification in writing of your Right of Rescission is required by law. This grace period allows you to change your mind and declare the contract null and void without penalty (if the agreement was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premises-in your home, for instance.)

In addition, be cautious when:

  • You are given vague or reluctant answers.
  • The contractor exhibits poor communication skills or descriptive powers.
  • The contractor is not accessible.
  • Your questions are not answered to your satisfaction.
  • The contractor is impatient and does not listen.
  • Only the work is addressed, instead of your needs as the homeowner.
  • There is no presentation book of previous projects presented.

Questions to Ask References

To protect yourself, always check the contractor’s references. This is an essential stage of qualifying the right person for your project. Here are just a few questions to ask previous customers:

  1. Could they communicate well with the remodeler?
  2. Were they pleased with the quality of work? (This is a tough question, however, since everyone defines “quality” differently. It is much better to ask to see the completed project to determine the level of quality for yourself.)
  3. Were they satisfied with the remodeler’s business practices?
  4. Did the crew show up on time?
  5. Were they comfortable with the trades people the remodeler subcontracted to?
  6. Was the job completed on schedule?
  7. Did the remodeler fulfill his or her contract?
  8. Did the contractor stay in touch throughout the project?
  9. Were the final details finished in a timely manner?
  10. Would you use the remodeler again without hesitation?

Originally from NARI of Idaho website.

Recommendation

Contractor Checklist From NARI

Be sure to look for and be satisfied with these items before signing a contract with a contractor.

  • Was the Contractor/Salesperson on time?
  • Was their appearance neat and professional?
  • Was their vehicle presentable?
  • Did they listen to your ideas, and ask questions?
  • Did they suggest options / alternatives / ideas?
  • Do they have insurance? (Liability & Workman’s comp.)
  • How many years have they been in business?
  • Are they members in any trade or other organizations?
  • Are they certified? (If applicable)
  • Do they have a website for more information?
  • Do you feel comfortable with them?

Download NARI’s PDF version of this checklist here.

Bob Mundy, Strite Design + Remodel in Boise, Idaho

We hit a sewer line – no worries, all fixed up with absolutely no inconvenience to the home owners. Watch Bob Mundy, our production coordinator, explain what happened: