Remodeling Bathrooms 101: An Interview with Sam Brusco of Brusco Design & Renovation

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I started my company in January 2002 as a handyman business in the North End of Boston where I was living at the time. I realized that homeowners wanted excellent quality and service at a fair price. (Note that I did not say a “low price”, because those three things do not exist together except on TV.) My company quickly evolved into a remodeling business as my clients asked me to do bigger and bigger projects.

My first renovation was for a client whose bathroom plumbing had overflowed again. In the process of performing my small task of fixing the plaster, I informed my customer that the drain pipe, that served the kitchen and the second bathroom, was pitched in the wrong direction. These “floods” had been going on for years, much to the chagrin of not only my client but the neighbors below, and had been “fixed” by numerous plumbers. I got the job to correct the ongoing dilemma, because I was the first person to ever tell my client the truth about this critical problem. I could have lost the job by telling the truth, but honesty and being a trusted advisor has always been more important to me. In this case, the only solution was to tear apart the seemingly beautiful, almost-new second bathroom and rebuild it correctly. The bathroom and the kitchen have worked perfectly from that point forward.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We specialize in interior, residential remodeling: kitchens and bathrooms, as many contractors do, but we almost always change the layouts of these rooms to work better for our clients. Sam Brusco is also an expert at closets. Twice in his life, he has been shown to be in the top 1 percentile of space perception in national standardized tests; these exams were 25 years apart.

We are the only RI firm that we know of that can build you a closet where one currently does not exist, and then install an organizer to utilize every cubic inch of space. Sam sees space for what it can be for our clients, not how it currently is.

What are some common reasons why someone should renovate their bathroom?

There are several. The most obvious and pressing reason is that it is leaking or it otherwise does not perform well. Typically, these problems can be fixed without remodeling, but many homeowners feel that if you are going to do half the job, why not just do the whole thing.

Another reason is because it is no longer appealing (in other words, it’s ugly). What were they thinking in the 1950s and 60s with pink and light blue bathrooms? And in the 1970s, brown and gold?

An important purpose is that it no longer fits the homeowner’s needs. The most glaring example of this is for folks with physical challenges brought on by age or by an accident. A tub is nice, but if it is dangerous to get in and out of it, maybe a walk-in shower would be better.

How long does the average remodel take?

Well, there truly is no “average” remodel. Every client is different; every house is different. If we are talking just a facelift with new paint and perhaps new fixtures, as little as a week. If we are talking about opening up all the walls and removing everything from the room, and perhaps changing the layout or expanding the room, then it’s 3 to 5 weeks depending on what the client wants.

What is the standard remodeling process, from start to finish?

The remodeling process for most contractors is to take what the client tells them to do and make it happen as quickly as possible. Brusco takes a lot more time upfront to understand our clients and their goals. We then build 3D models on the computer to show our clients possible solutions to meet those objectives. Because we can see the room from any angle, this is an excellent tool for discovering design flaws before anything is built. Concepts usually go back and forth several times until we have what everyone feels is the perfect solution. The time we spend in the design phase saves time, money and anxiety after construction begins.

Once we know exactly what we are building, we create a very detailed, fixed-price proposal with expressly stated, realistic allowances for their project and their home. The contract also has options so our clients can stay within their stated budget or they can decide to splurge by broadening the scope.

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