and Jeanne MacDonald
When we began planning a renovation of our 1850's Victorian farmhouse in Melrose, we looked at many contractors and subcontractors. Steve Cohen met with me shortly after I contacted him and went over the house inside and out. Since the house had been somewhat neglected for a number of years, there was more work needed than we could possibly have done all at once. We had also decided early on that we wanted to keep the character of the home intact and "restore" rather than "replace" when possible. Steve was great at identifying the areas that needed immediate attention, where existing structural elements could be saved, and where modern construction techniques could be employed without altering the antique feel of our home. Since this house will undoubtedly be a lifetime project, Steve was also invaluable in helping us decide what aspects of the project could wait until later.
When the Steve Cohen Builders team! arrived to begin work, we couldn't have been more pleased with the crew and their skills. Since I had previously decided to act as "general" contractor myself, I had made arrangements with eleven subcontractors to work on varying aspects of the house including roofing, chimney repair, window restoration, insulation, electrical updates, plastering, painting, floor sanding, and more. Coordinating this parade of specialists required quite an effort, and Steve Cohen (in a consultant role) helped me to guide the process through to completion. Throughout the job, Steve and his team handled the extensive carpentry tasks that were the core of our restoration effort. They were able to tackle everything from rotten foundation sills and other major structural issues to the replication of detailed moldings and trim inside and outside of the house.
I can't say enough about their ability to adapt to changing requirements and to work closely wit! h the subcontractors that I had hired. As an example, I recall a point in the project where the painters discovered that much of the existing horse-hair plaster on the interior walls was unsavable (an aspect of the project that Steve was NOT previously involved in). I quickly called my plasterer (who had already done the ceilings) and made arrangements for them to return that week. Since all the old walls had to be removed right away, Steve's team came in on a Sunday and demolished the old plaster and cleaned it out of the house so that the project could continue without delays. In other instances, Steve's team worked closely with the roofers, window installers, painters, electrician, and others to ensure that each aspect of the job was done correctly. Since I was the "general", Steve could have easily ignored what my subcontractors were doing, but instead he was willing to coordinate his efforts with theirs with terrific results.
There were a few aspects of the project where we did not have a clear notion of how to proceed, and we relied heavily on Steve Cohen's expertise. The front porch of our house, while small in size, was dilapidated, poorly designed, and was an eyesore in the focal point of the front of the house. We didn't know if we should tear it down, modify it, or build something completely new. Steve spent a lot of time and effort discussing the possibilities with us, researching other porch designs on similar houses, and showing us options. Ultimately, Steve came up with a design to modify the existing porch so that we didn't have to completely tear it down. The resulting work has completely transformed the front of our house, and the porch is a perfect fit with the Victorian style that we have tried to preserve. We get comments daily from our neighbors on how fantastic the house now looks. As I mentioned before, Steve helped us decide what aspects of the project to save for later, and we will undoubtedly ask him to work on the next phase of our restoration. The most important thing to us was that Steve and all of his team took pride in the quality of their work, and the end product reflects their commitment to an excellent product. Stephen Cohen Builders was everything that we were looking for in a contractor, and we would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone who is contemplating a restoration project.
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