Don Stash, owner of Stash Construction, Inc., began his building career as a remodeler.
"A good friend of mine worked for a fire restoration company in Hammond. He suggested I apply for a job with the same company. I was hired and started out doing aluminum siding, soffits, fascias, gutters and that type of thing."
"In the beginning, I wrote all my estimates by hand, listing the exact amount of materials needed for a job and the amount of time needed to do it. The adjusters were impressed because the estimates were prepared exactly the way they wanted them and they were able to negotiate with me. They were also impressed by our work.
"We provide 24-hour emergency fire, water, break-in and weather services, as well as standard restoration work," Don explained. "People are often told to get two to three estimates. However, they have the right to have whoever they want repair their home. What they need to do is check out their contractor, make sure he is responsible, pays his bills, and is easy to deal with. Just like they would if they were buying a house. Then, let the contractor write his estimate and negotiate with the insurance company. "For insurance purposes, I have to write the estimate to put the house back exactly like it was. If the customer decides they don't want paneling on a wall any longer, I also write them a credit on the work I won't have to do on a change order so they know exactly where they are."
Many of Don's employees have had training on how to deal with special situations. For example, one man has training on how to deal with raw sewage damage and the use of disinfectants for bacteria or other contaminants. Another has training on how to deal with fire and smoke contaminants. Stash Construction recently began building and selling modular homes from several manufacturers. "The modular home business goes hand-in-hand with our remodeling work." Don continued. "When the house came in, I really looked it over. There weren't any tires or wheels. It had a floor joist system, was completely drywalled, had carpeting and the plumbing was stubbed down. I couldn't tell it hadn't been built right there on site!" "I was very impressed with the quality and was amazed it could be strapped and picked up by a crane and shifted around without falling apart.
From my building experience, I knew that if you tried to grab a conventional house off a foundation like that, it would crumble just from the force on the straps." "Since then, I've learned Heckaman Homes were originally home builders. In 1969, they simply began building their homes inside--they were never mobile home builders."
Don told Builder/Architect that Heckaman homes have all 2 x 6 walls, 16 inches on center. The walls are glued and fastened like a floor joist system. The frames are built, electric lines are installed, and a visqueen vapor barrier goes over that before the drywall is installed. Exterior receptacles and holes are caulked and sealed to prevent air infiltration, and all voids are packed with insulation. Then the sheathing is glued on and fastened before the siding is put on. The second floor is all a joist-truss system with the webbing, so ductwork goes off the webbing.
"You can't build homes of that quality in the field! People always compare a modular home to a stick-built house, and they should be doing just the opposite. Look at it this way. If there was an earthquake, which house would be more likely to sustain damage? The house that rolls down the highway at 60 miles an hour and goes over bumps and shakes, rocks and rolls? Or, the one that is built on site and is fragile because it may or may not have exterior sheathing and may or may not have metal straps on it?" "What people give up in a modular is the flexibility to make a lot of changes. We can do some interior customizing," Don added. "For example, if you want hardwood and ceramic floors, we'll order the house without the flooring. I'll put in hardwood and ceramic, but you'll pay the same amount you'd pay for a site-built home."
Don values his long-term relationships with subcontractors. "I've been working with my electrical contractor, my heating man and my plumber since the day I went into business. We use other subs as well, because with the volume of work we do, they couldn't keep up with every job." Stash Construction is licensed in Lake County, Porter County, Michigan City, and also in the South Suburbs in Chicago. "When it comes to commercial projects, we are a union shop and use union subcontractors." Stash Construction's community involvement includes sponsorship of Little League, Babe Ruth and T-ball, soccer, and girls' softball teams. The firm also supports high school projects, donates to food pantries and much more. Active with Christmas in April, Don serves on the Board of Directors in Gary, and will sponsor a house next year.
Don joined the BIA of Northwest Indiana when he went into business 12 years ago. As President in 1996, he stated, "I give the BIA credit for the survival of my company because of the certification programs and seminars available to members. I have earned the GBI, CGR and Master Builder certifications. My company runs on the business management ideas of the NAHB and GBI. I truly believe that what we pay in dues is a small amount for what we actually get for our money." When thinking about the future, Don stated, "I really like modular homes. In the next five years, I see this company selling 20 or more homes a year. We also plan to develop more subdivisions like Westfield Estates, which exclusively features modular homes.