Choosing a contractor
One of the key decisions when renovating a house is, of course, the choice of the contractor. We decided we could do without an architect for our project, which meant that the contractor had extra responsibilities and we would rely on him to complement our own ideas with his professional experience.
Any project throws up unexpected things – the state of some ceiling timbers for example in our case – as well as some new opportunities that we hadn’t thought of at the outset. In the latter category, we realized we could solve the problem of the lack of light in the master bedroom as-was by removing the ceiling and using the whole height under the roof, which would allow us to place an automatic Velux window.
So basically you need someone who has experience, is reliable, energetic, available, flexible and trustworthy – not least because you still want to get in within the available time and budget. In Brussels, Polish workers are famous for their craftsmanship and work ethic and we already had a lot of contacts, so by asking around we drew up a short list.
When we met Arek, the multilingual founder of Concept XXL (he speaks Dutch, French, English and Russian fluently in addition to Polish), we were very impressed. He had done a small but challenging job for some friends of ours who were very happy with him. We were very surprised to learn he was only 26! And already with his own firm employing about 25 people and working on around 12 projects at the same time, including some prestigious commercial clients.
Arek told us he had come from Poland when he was 16 and studied at a Flemish technical high school, starting in business already when he was 21. We thought he was perfect for the job. Firstly he seemed like a really nice guy and someone we could trust, which was essential.
We were also very impressed by his entrepreneurial attitude. Since starting work (which actually started two or three weeks earlier than expected!), we have found him to be flexible and to have the necessary ideas on how to solve the various issues that arose. We are pretty optimistic this will continue and that we will be safely installed in a beautifully renovated house by our deadline of end of August – in fact by end of July Arek should have finished, leaving only the kitchen to be installed.
When we invited a few friends around for a barbecue a couple of weeks ago, lots of them were skeptical it could be done. Obviously they have not had such good experiences in the past, but we think we chose well and hopefully can confirm that to our readers over the next couple of months!