Recent Review: Imagine the letdown of closing on our first house, a fine little place (or so we thought), only to discover within days that latent defects had brought the rain right in, down behind walls and under floors, leading to buckled hardwood, moldering carpet, soaked drywall and black mold. Then imagine a contractor who made us forget these sordid discoveries (well, almost), not just by fixing the flaws (which he did), but by enthusiastically taking up our larger vision of our home and bringing it promptly to life -- all with the skill, professionalism, courteousness and, above all, the integrity reminiscent of a bygone era of handshake agreements and an honest day's work. Thankfully we did not need to imagine this outcome because this is what we got. When we chose DSI's proposal over several competing bids, we knew very well our intention was to choose quality, thoroughness and honesty over cheap, quick and mysterious, but we could not have known how consistently Mr. Spence would maintain the standard, seeing the project through to its happy conclusion despite myriad moving parts and a steady series of surprises and unavoidable adaptations, occasioned by the peccadilloes (or outright defects) of past construction -- some of the costs of which he insisted on absorbing himself (at times over our protest) because he considered them (in retrospect) to have been at least partially foreseeable, a good example of integrity in action and not just in principle. Before finishing with some additional representative examples (the most efficient way to convey such an involved project, spanning many weeks), I'll state our conclusion: You can find cheaper bids, but hardly a better value than DSI. Whatever the contract says (and yes, of course, we worked with a written contract easily negotiated with Mr. Spence), you simply don't want to work with anyone at all if there's reason to worry about their capabilities or their word; with Mr. Spence we worried about neither. No one is superhuman and in a project of any complexity there will be oversights, miscommunications or errors (albeit in our case, only relatively minor ones); the difference with people like Mr. Spence is that he stands behind the agreement and his word and backs it up with action, and that, in the end, makes all the difference. Some examples of Mr. Spence and DSI in action: -- when a bedeviling rook leak persisted even after numerous leaks had already been fixed, DSI used a hose and strategically placed observers to track the source and path of water instrusion, pinpointing the leak and enabling repair and more effective remediation of water damage; -- Mr. Spence rode herd over numerous work teams and performed continuous quality control, insisting that (for example) several flawed tiles be removed and replaced from a supposedly "finished" kitchen floor and again in a supposedly "finished" shower; similarly insisted that garage floor painting be re-done since it had not been correctly applied the first time; similarly insisted that various drywall, texturing and wall painting flaws be corrected; similarly insisted that irrigation system include a rain sensor (as required by code); similarly insisted that custom cabinetry be corrected for flaws in finish; -- Mr. Spence proactively alerted us to several dangerous electrical wiring conditions (preexisting) so they could be corrected, and also to several inadequate plumbing arrangements so that we could make a decision about how to deal with them; --Mr. Spence proactively played devil's advocate when we faced ambiguous choices or judgment calls (a choice of materials or color, for example, or between competing solutions to questions of design, layout or functionality); --Mr. Spence employed subcontractors (electrical, plumbing, cabinetry, tile, painting, HVAC) with whom he maintains longstanding relationships, and managed and integrated them and their work into the project and its timeline, so that we experienced as seamless an effort as possible; --Mr. Spence promptly let us know when a planned approach needed to be amended (e.g., in light of wiring deficiencies) and always made sure we approved any changes before he made them -- nothing was assumed without our approval; --Mr. Spence and team rose above and beyond on numerous occasions, for example by polishing tired-looking kitchen hardware, adjusting out-of-alignment cabinets, and having the entire worksite professionally cleaned prior to our arrival, simply to make things nicer for us; by delivering supplies we needed even though outside the scope of his work; by removing debris we created even though outside the scope of his work; by advising on many ancillary home-improvement questions (and we had many, many such questions, such as pool-related issues, appliances, cabinet reglazing, security, safety, lighting, flooring, and landscaping) even though all were outside the scope of his work; --Mr. Spence always listened to our questions, took our concerns seriously, and took the time to explain things thoroughly so that we understood the processes and decisions (even micro-choices) involved; for example, constructing a new walk-in closet required consideration of not just where the entry door should be cut, but the type of door, direction of swing, width / arc, etc.; also, a new breakfast nook built-in bench required careful consideration of angles and depths, balancing bench storage with seating, custom cushions, etc. -- none of this was taken for granted or assumed for us, but instead Mr. Spence solicited our input at every step so that we would know exactly what we'd be getting; --In general, Mr. Spence took the time and thought to do things right, absorbing the pressures and tensions inherent in a complex project, shielding us from the brunt of the difficulties, yet keeping us intimately involved and connected to the details and decisions. --Would we work with DSI again? Not only would we happily work with Mr. Spence again, we have in fact already hired him for a new project on the lanai, now in process -- an action to speak with all these words.