An exterior remodeling project is a major undertaking that requires a lot of decision-making, patience, and a whole lot of trust. So what should you be looking for in a remodeling contractor and how do you know that your project will look great for years to come? We sat down with Cathy Davis, owner of West Hartford’s own Bartlett Brainard Products to talk about trends, industry standards, and what to look for in an expert.
How long have you been in business?
This is a family business and we have been right here in West Hartford for more than 86 years. My father and grandfather worked for the original owners, Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Brainard, and then bought the business from them. I took over from my dad 20 years ago so it has spanned three generations in our family.
What is unique about Bartlett Brainard?
It’s very difficult to find a female-owned remodeling contracting business and it’s something that our customers get really excited about. There are more and more single women buying homes without a partner as well as older women who get nervous about having people in their house when they are on their own. Sometimes people are just more comfortable working with a woman and I’m glad that we are able to give them that option.
In addition to that, we are very focused on giving back to the community here in West Hartford and we’ve been recognized for the work that we do. As a small business, that’s an important part of service because it’s not just the work, it’s also the neighborhood and the community that you’re a part of.
I think service really sets us apart. Our carpenters and installers are all on staff and we have a showroom open daily so you can come in and look at materials before you decide what’s best for you. Someone is always here answering the phone and we pride ourselves on communication with our customers.
What are the biggest trends in exterior remodeling?
The farmhouse-style exteriors are still big and probably will be for some time. Everyone just loves those black exterior windows! It gives a house a modern feel but doesn’t push the boundaries too far. Vertical siding has really taken off and it can look really great on most homes or even as an accent feature. We also love the look of mixed materials, adding in some stonework or brick veneers to give the exterior some texture and depth.
What trend do you wish would go away?
Metal roofs! Aesthetically they look great but they aren’t really appropriate for Connecticut. The finish wears fairly quickly and it can be hard to get the paint to match. You can’t just replace a section easily like you can with an asphalt roof and you have to be really careful to insulate well. If we were in Maine and had a ton of snow, I might feel differently but for where we are, it’s a no from me.
If you could teach every homeowner one thing, what would it be?
Slow down and do more research. People are so anxious to get a price but remodeling is complicated and there are a lot of factors. Your home is your biggest investment and a good roof replacement, new siding, or windows will last you 20 or 30 years. You don’t want to have to do it after five because you went with the contractor who undercut everyone else. Start with the people who have the best reputations and who have been in business for years. There is a reason they’re still doing it.
Why should people choose to work with an independent business as opposed to a big box store?
People think the big box stores are cheaper but it’s almost never the case. Other than price, the level of service is incomparable. The big box stores bring in sub-contractors and when something goes wrong, they blame each other. You can’t get anyone on the phone and you end up calling a local business to fix a problem that happened because of inexperience and cutting corners. Or two years later, something gets damaged and you can’t get the same color or kind of product because it’s been discontinued or it was a limited run. When you work with a local business you get expertise and care. Our business depends on that relationship.
You’re located in the Design District. What’s special about this area?
It’s really great to have a group of professionals who all work in the home industry but do different things. We share so many clients which is actually a huge benefit to the customer because they know they are getting a solid referral. We are all like-minded business people with decades of experience which comes in handy when people get overwhelmed. A home remodel is a huge decision so when you have great partners working for you, it makes the process and the end result that much better.
Bartlett Brainard Products is an exterior remodeling company specializing in roofing, siding, windows, doors, gutters, insulation, porches, and decking. They are located at 75 Talcott Road in West Hartford, Connecticut, and can be reached at 860-233-4475 or at www.bartlettbrainard.com.