Ask the Architect

Big project? Do your homework.


Q. Sometimes you sound really pessimistic about trusting builders. It has made us very concerned about doing the window replacement, re-siding and roofing we need. Should we interview more than three contractors, and do you recommend people you’ve had a good experience with? You must be very scrutinizing.

A. I like reality. It truly isn’t pessimism, just being careful. It reminds me of when my oldest daughter turned 21. We were at a party in a hotel, and I offered to buy her first drink as an adult. As we sat together at the bar, looking at the glasses of various drinks, she said, “Ya know, Dad, some people see the glass as half empty and some people see the glass as half full. I look at that glass and I say, ‘Are you going to finish that?’” I beamed with pride that she looked beyond the emotion of fear or being naïve and looked toward taking action.

My warning to consumers is just a reminder to be proactive. Look beyond never doing anything or just moving ahead without concern. Trust but verify. Educate yourself enough to know that for the large amount of money you’re going to invest, you’re getting what you pay for.

Let’s face it, everything in life is about safety, security and respect, whether it’s our health and well-being, our ability to survive or our need to be recognized and not overlooked or dismissed. There’s a reason we have so many rules, and there seems to always be somebody who takes advantage of an opportunity to pervert a great idea, whether it’s the Internet, traffic safety, water quality, construction — you name it, and someone has found a loophole to twist a good idea into knots. That’s reality.

I’ve written for years about high winds and flooding and their effects on property. Some people have thanked me for offering ideas on how to secure their property, while others dismiss it as unnecessary. I often get calls from people who don’t want to be pro-active about the potential for disaster, and say, “It’ll be the next person’s problem” or “I plan to sell to someone who has forgotten about flooding.” There’s a moral side to being a realist.

Interview at least three companies who will do work on your home. I do make recommendations, but the best way is to check with their references and go to ongoing projects. Just don’t hover over them, which is disrespectful. Respect their need to make a living, but confirm that they respect your need for a good-looking, water-tight job as well. Mutual benefit and mutual respect are most important. I write about problems to warn others to be vigilant and to protect themselves from unconscionable people who don’t care if they make the whole industry look bad. There are many good contractors out there. Just try to see that glass realistically. Good luck!

© 2017 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.