Tuesday, January 13, 2015

An open letter to all Toronto owners of vintage brick homes in need of restorative masonry work in the upcoming future

Below is an open letter I’ve written to all owners of vintage brick or stone homes in need of upkeep.
If you are here because you have received a hard copy of it in your mailbox (You have therefore already read it) and want some additional information, I propose you read the following previous blog posts I’ve previously published: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10. They were intended to inform, whether you live in Toronto, somewhere in North America, or anywhere in the world, even.
If you have arrived here via le web, then the open letter might be a good place start. Here it is:
“My name is Mario Cantin I am the owner of Invisible Tuckpointing Ltd., a brickwork restoration company.
First of all, as much as I welcome the idea of getting new business, the primary purpose of this letter is to inform consumers.
My immediate goal is to leave you with a thought and hopefully help you in your decision process, even if you end up going with a different contractor.
The way homeowners hire a brickwork restoration specialist today has changed in Toronto over the last five years or so.
I was early on the internet (2003), endorsed by Masonry Magazine and providing written documentation that explained my process, which is to match old bricks and mortar with a particularly high of level of aesthetic quality, while the bulk of my competition was still offline.
This made it easy for a search-oriented consumer to browse the web and find me and subsequently decide whether or not what I had to offer was what they were looking for, or whether it was just plain overkill for them.
Two things have happened since:
a) the move away from traditional advertising channels and toward the internet, in general — and the advent of Homestars, in particular.
b) the commoditization of “heritage work” through the now widespread availability of lime products and better imitation bricks than what had previously been on the market. I used to have to import some of my materials from England in 2002. Now there are suppliers in Toronto who carry European imports. While this is a good thing in general, I’ll say that better paint doesn’t necessarily make a better painter.
The net result is that you now have a buyer’s market full of contractors who presumably can do restoration work with deflationary economics, and they mostly all have positive reviews on Homestars.
So if your goal is to save money fixing your brick home, now may be a great time for you to do so and be reasonably happy if your expectations do not exceed a certain threshold.
The other side of this is that, if you are a stickler for perfectly matching mortar with well sourced vintage bricks, it is now harder to go online and find someone who can really perform up to your expectations, as there is simply too much “me-too’ism” and too much advertising clutter.
For example, the owner of one of the last jobs my company performed in 2014, on Palmertson Blvd., had been most unsatisfied with the first three or four contractors she had asked to bid on her project after carefully taking the time to review some of their past efforts by physically visiting the addresses they had given her as references, even when they had “restoration-sounding” business names.
So she kept getting more and more quotations.
I was the ninth or tenth contractor she called.
She ended up hiring me even though I wasn’t one of the low quotes.
Because she wanted the repairs to blend harmoniously and she wanted the overall result to be very artistic. And she was acutely aware by then that those are rare skills.
She was also willing to take the time to do her research.
What all-too-often happens is that someone gets hired after the first three or four quotes that a consumer gets.
Or take the example of the individual on Shaw Street last June who had no idea who to hire, even after searching the internet. He ended up walking up and down Cabbagetown with his wife on a Sunday afternoon and eventually asking a prominent general contractor there who he should trust to restore his Victorian brickwork. The contractor kindly pointed to me (thank you Joe).
My aim with this letter is solely to connect with the highly-precise, exacting individuals who are seeking a company that will match materials to the levels that I have taken that skill to. These individuals would be unsatisfied with a run-of-the-mill product and would be disappointed in the outcome, not having found what they were looking for. It would be in our mutual best interest for such customers to have my company perform their work. And hopefully I’m not coming across as conceited.
On the other hand, there are many people who do not feel they need a profoundly accurate brickwork restoration repair, such as I offer. For these individuals, there will be no regret in hiring most well-reviewed contractors on the internet. They will feel they have derived good value from it indeed.
I have made some resources available for more information about the brickwork restoration trade in general, and about what is that I do exactly.
My company website is: www.invisibletuckpointing.com
I also have put a blog together: www.mario-cantin.com (don’t forget the hyphen!) I would recommend going to the blog archives on the right-end side of the page and start with the oldest post (Friday, October 18, 2013) and move forward toward the present until you’ve read enough to satisfy your curiosity, essentially.
Call me if you have any questions.
Mario Cantin
Invisible Tuckpointing Ltd.

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