Hassle Removed

A new firm helps take the hassle out of building

By Peter C. Hotton, The Boston Sunday Globe, December 4, 1988

There’s a new company on the South Shore, and it is helping home owners to save money on everything from building additions to installing new kitchens.

It’s called Cornerstone Consulting, Inc., founded nine months ago and headed by Richard Connolly of Weymouth, who operates out of his house. “Soon we hope to get an office,” Connolly said. The phone number is [deleted].

When you think of consulting firms, you often thing, “Bring lots of money.” But Cornerstone is not that kind of consultant. Charging by the hour, the company determines what the homeowner wants, the outcome expected and what a project will cost.

Cornerstone consists of Connolly, who is president, and several consultants: Charles Palmieri of Hanson, electrical; Jerry Caldwell of Quincy, plumbing; Bill Olson of Weymouth, ventilating and air conditioning; and Max Cangiano of Newton, technical. Among them they bring 100 years of experience to the company, Connolly said.

Connolly built a house in 1973, acting as his own contractor, and while the project was a success, he vividly remembers the hassles – delays, confusing and timing difficulties – as the house took shape. “Cornerstone tries to avoid these things for the homeowner who is trying to build an addition or convert an attic or even build a house,” Connolly said.

Here’s how Cornerstone works:

The firm meets with the homeowner to determine what the project is. It gives the homeowner a report, plus recommendations as to what to do, a master plan and a glossary of terms. Then it puts the homeowner in touch with an architect or designer for design work.

“We have names of contractors, renovators; we also ask the homeowner for the name of his own contractors, if he has one,” Connolly said. “We recommend that the homeowner have his own contractor, even if he takes him out of the Yellow Pages.”

The company then does a material take off – a lumber list – and will buy materials if necessary, help the homeowner buy materials or advise where to buy at competitive prices. Labor costs are also figured. “When we buy materials, we look for good buys; we shop around,” said Connolly.

All this information goes to contractors, who then bid on the project.

“It’s a time saver for contractors,” said Connolly. They can save three to four days of work because we do the lumber lists, specifications and labor costs.”

Contractors offer bids, and the homeowner makes his choice. In fact, Cornerstone negotiates the contract between homeowner and contractor.

The process takes two to three months, from the initial phone call to Cornerstone to the groundbreaking.

When the project is under way, Cornerstone develops a milestone plan, showing daily activities on the job. It also provides periodic site inspections: mechanical, plumbing, electrical and structural.

Projects so far have cost $1,500 to $500,000 to build: Connolly says he feels Cornerstone can save the homeowner 15 to 20 percent of the cost of a project. Cornerstone’s fees have ranged from several hundred dollars to $2,000.

“The idea is to put the homeowner in charge of the project without the hassle. We’re interested in preventing problems before they happen,” Connolly said.

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