The Rescue Builder

When a home project goes horribly, horribly wrong and the contractor disappears, Tom Phillips steps in to straighten things out.

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By the time code violations were addressed and the project was completed—two years after it had begun—the Condes had spent twice the money they’d budgeted. And they discovered that they were one of eight victims the contractor had cheated over several years. Phillips restored their faith.

“Once I met him, I thought, There is a God,” Conde says. “Tom’s history was very important to me, and he came with a squeaky clean reputation with the county. He’s also very knowledgeable. That was clear right away.

“He listens, so he knew exactly what we wanted. And he returns phone calls. He was here every morning, early, and he always returned to check the progress each day. He finished the job in three months, including renovating the kitchen and upstairs bath, and we haven’t had a problem since.”

Karen Carlson was not as lucky. Three months after her addition was completed, the roof started to leak. Because the builder had done a good job on a previous project, she had no reason to suspect incompetence. But when she hired him to expand the living space above her garage, he failed to ensure that the building would have the strength to support it. One year later, the walls leaned and the roof sagged, forcing windows and door openings out of alignment. The contractor returned to remedy code violations, then realized how bad the problem was and skipped town.

“Even the county inspectors didn’t notice that original tie beams [supporting the garage roof] had been removed, which wasn’t according to the plan the contractor had submitted,” Carlson says. “Tom was left with the drudgery of propping up the addition and the garage, then digging four feet under the back wall of the garage in order to pour a foundation. But it took two years before he got involved. By that time the floor had cracked, and I thought I was going crazy.”

Replacing the roof, which had continued leaking even after all code violations had been addressed, required county approval for a second release of bond money. That took almost four years. In the interim, Carlson had given up hope, resigned to placing potted plants under all the leaks. When the county finally acquiesced to Carlson’s repeated requests, it was Phillips who once again made everything right.

“Tom is a partner with his clients,” Carlson says. “He is able to embrace their vision without preconceptions, and he cares as much about the finished product as they do. He is a technician with the soul of an artist.”

Ann and David Duch joined the Phillips fan club after suffering a similarly painful initiation into renovation. When they decided to double the size of their home in Fairfax, the contractor they chose from among three they interviewed came highly recommended by a family member. The Duchs saw no need to ask for additional references.

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