Construction Services

I do residential work on homes in the south downriver Detroit area.  I specialize in kitchens and bathrooms, and can do major, moderate, and minor remodels of both.  I am a licensed carpenter, and operate out of a small woodshop.  Besides carpentry, I am also a licensed homebuilder meaning I am not just a carpenter, but a a tile and marble setter, painter/decorator, a mason, a concrete guy, excavation man, insulation installer, a siding guy, a roofer, a door and window installer, a gutter repair, a demolition expert, basement waterproofer, etc… I am also a computer aided designer utilizing modern 3D tools to render your space when needed to make sure we are on the same page and confirming our ideas together will translate well into a well proportioned finished project.

Custom Kitchens and Baths

I prefer to do custom work. I like taking a collection of photos of kitchens or bathrooms you think are beautiful, and I design and build custom cabinetry, stone, and tile in the style you like in a way that works best in your space from scratch.  Those pictures you have bookmarked of how you wish your kitchen or bathroom could look like… it usually can.  And the price of the raw materials (drywall, mud, paint, rough-sawn hardwood lumber, sheet goods, tile, stone) and my labor costs to make them finished pieces usually end up less than what factory made materials and various layers of contractor and subcontractor installation costs would be from a competitor.  And my product is often just plain better and stronger and fits in the available space… and ends up a closer approximation of the renovation you imagine mixed with the available space you have to work with (important in downriver homes)

I only use 3/4″ furniture grade plywood (or melamine depending on the cabinet style), hardwood faceframes.   My work is not stapled together.  I use lasting workmanship techniques, preferring and mainly relying on glued and pinned dado and rabbet cases, glued hardwood mortise and tenon joinery.  Sometimes I use pocket screws in hidden areas additionally as clamps, (and 7mm x 50mm Confirmat screws when the project requires working with melamine).

I also prep the area properly, adding support under islands when necessary, doubling up studs when needed.  I can move walls, place headers, enlarge windows, etc.  In kitchen work, my custom cabinets are precisely leveled, the top rear and side face of them all simultaneously splitting a thin laserbeam before I install contertops.  It is movement and uneven cabinets (or too weakly made cabinets) that often cause granite and stone to crack.  The entire project is done using construction methods of lasting work.  Many features that are considered extra by others are standard.  And because I’m a homebuilder, not just a drywall, or tile guy… not just a cabinet installer or countertop installer… because of that, if I see ways we can open up or improve the space we have to work with, I let you know and we can plan that in.

From your standpoint, the difference is I am starting with your pictures and ideas (instead of having you choosing from a set of predefined items.)  You aren’t walking into a storefront or a book looking at 10 door designs, and 6 cabinet designs, and 5 wood choices…. the choices are almost unlimited… and most often driven by pictures you have collected that strike you as beautiful.  We sit down and you tell me what it is that you like about each picture, and we come up with a design tailored to your likes.    While it takes us a little longer planning to make sure we hit the ground running in the proper direction… once we do, a full space transformation takes about 10 weeks.  Most of that time is spent in our shop not disrupting your life.

Kitchens:

  • ~$1-15k Minor remodels are a good way to do alot with a small investment.  To do this, general contractor, carpenter, and furniture maker tools and skills are directed in ways to keep the cabinets but replace the front face frames and build doors, or paint cabinets, or make 1/2 overlay to full overlay cabinets and replacing countertops for a very cost effective but transformative look.  The kitchen looks like a brand new version of your old kitchen, but when you open cabinets, the insides of the cabinets are the same as they used to be.
  • -$15-30K Moderate remodels are most common and may or may not include replacement of drywall down to studs, most plumbing, outlets and cabinet layouts remain the same but everything is replaced to your new style and is all brand new.  Can be solid surface, stone, thin granite, or laminate tops.  The kitchen looks like a brand new kitchen, but for the most part is in the same layout as you started with.  The pictures we work from are worked into the space you already have.
  • ~$30-60K Major remodels include moving locations of plumbing, walls, opening up floor plans, typically involves going down to studs and sub-floor, dealing with modifications to load bearing walls, adding skylights, different lighting, adding properly supported islands where there wasn’t one before, etc.  The kitchen you end up with has absolutely no resemblance to the kitchen you started with.  We don’t let the space you have stand in the way of the pictures you want us to work from.

Bathrooms:

  • ~$1000 Converting your existing tub to a walk in tub for people with knee problems, there are a few different styles (step in conversion, convertible with removable piece, and inswing tub door) and sizes available and various additional handholds which causes a little bit of variability in prices.
  • ~$1-10K Minor remodels are usually prebuilt shower/tub, new flooring, new cabinets, new fixtures, etc, or remodels which leave the current shower/tub/toilet and refresh and modernize the look without completely discarding all the elements of the original bathroom.
  • ~$10-20K Moderate remodels… remove what is there and put it back in mostly the same layout, but all brand new.  Usually includes removing all walls and floors to studs and subfoor and properly prepping for tile and building new… often includes custom full tile showers.
  • ~$20+K Major remodels include adding bathrooms where there are none, including in basements with under slab plumbing, rearrangement of usable current space which requires things like bumping out an exterior wall, moving plumbing, electrician work.

…And Everything Else

Without describing all of our capabilities, I have experience from the foundation all the way to the chimney cap, and everything in between.  Sometimes, it is a welcome break from our most common work of kitchens and bathrooms to change it up and build something else.  Sometimes, we come in to talk about a kitchen and see that your porch is in need of maintenance, or your roof or foundation is leaking and offer to handle that while we are there.  Here is an incomplete list of some other things we occasionally do.

  • Roofing: From repair and replacing individual shingles up to full roof replacement. I do roofs solo with a part time helper for some stages, and the way I work and bill often saves thousands.  Repair (matching and replacing a several shingles that have come loose after a storm) is usually around $300
  • Concrete
  • Installing or moving locations of doors or windows in a brick wall.
  • Masonry porch repair or demolition of old porch and construction of new masonry porches from scratch.
  • Proper decks/pergolas/porches.   Decks done right and in either wood or composite, with hidden fasteners, proper and safe railings and stairs, footings that withstand frost heave.
  • Modernize your floor plan: Open up your floor plan with properly designed and implemented load-bearing wall modifications.
  • Additions: Sometimes the best way to remodel is to also add-on or even just bump-out 2 or 3 feet to really add some increased options to your remodel.
  • Outdoor entertainment patio areas, outdoor kitchens, masonry fire pits/fireplaces/pizza ovens, etc.
  • Foundations: Many styles depending on application.  Poured or concrete-block basements and crawlspaces, stem (rat) walls, monolithic slab, reticulated pin, diamond pier, deck post, and frost-protected shallow.
  • Garages, Man-caves:  We can put up garages.  Whether you just want basic area to park your car and store your stuff, or a heated/insulated/plumbed man-cave with a wet bar and a loft, or custom designs to accommodate a car lift or an upper loft.
  • Furniture: there are situations where you need a certain non-built in piece/pieces made a certain way to really bring a room or outdoor space together.

If you can dream it, I can usually do it… Because of the transparent and fair way we determine your final costs, we usually also can do it for less than what we originally estimate.  At the end of a project, you have an itemized breakdown of every cost incurred and how you were billed.

We are an EPA Certified Lead Safe Firm

We properly test for, set up work areas to contain, and clean up in a way that keeps your family and loved ones safe from dust from our activities.  With so many homes in the area built before 1978 having lead based paint, even if the area we are working on in your home tests negative for lead based paint…  all our tools, training, work practices, and experience treating our work dust as if it were poison dust translates to a cleaner environment during ALL of our renovations, not just older homes containing lead based paint…. we don’t blow our dust around with shop vacs, we use 99.97% HEPA EPA certified vacuums, bag our demolition debris, wipe our feet, put up poly doors, use floor runners, mask off our work areas and clean up in nearly the same way.  Quite simply, working with lead dust makes us work better with all dust also… and that is good for the residents of any house we are working on.

I am also an Asbestos Abatement Contractor

There were over 3000 commonly used home building materials containing asbestos and were used up until 1981 to improve the weight, fire resistance, strength, price, and longevity of materials before the harmful effects of breathing the fibers resulting in delayed effects of Asbestosis/Lung Cancer/Mesothelioma were connected to its widespread use.  Left undisturbed, it doesn’t typically pose a significant threat to residents…. but demolition and renovation work on a home with these materials does pose a threat.  It can be found in Popcorn ceilings, wall plaster, pipe insulation, flooring, glues, (roofing-most asbestos roofing has by now been deteriorated and replaced), exterior siding, drywall joints and mud compounds.

Many homes in our area are in that pre-1981 era.  If you live in one, it is imperative that you hire someone who will recognize and treat these potential hazards right.  There is a significant difference between the Asbestos Abatement Contractor Worker/Supervisor that I am and a Builder, Contractor, or Tradesman who has taken the required annual 2 hour Asbestos Awareness Training.  I currently subcontract larger abatement projects out as it makes the most sense to.  However, in those cases, I think I am better at negotiating fair pricing and ensuring proper because I know exactly what is entailed from beginning to end in the job I am requesting, and I can and do make entry into the hazard area during the job to ensure proper removal and enforce safe work practices.

Licensed

There are alot of people out there doing substandard work who are not licensed and insured.  It is simple to do a license check here:  https://www.lara.michigan.gov/colaLicVerify/lNbr.jsp     (My license number is 2101213459.)  License numbers must by on all advertisements, business cards, truck signs, etc.

In Michigan most licensed contractors are Residential Maintenance & Alteration Contractors are licensed in a single (or a few) specialties. Carpentry, Concrete, Excavation, Insulation Work, Masonry, Painting & Decorating, Siding, Roofing, Screen & Storm Sash, Gutters, Tile & Marble, House Wrecking, Swimming Pools, Basement Waterproofing.

and Residential Builders: Licensed to perform the work of ALL of those residential maintenance and alteration contractors tasks, with additional training on contracts and law… but who are not licensed to do alterations to plumbing/electrical/HVAC.

Essen Davis of Level Up Contracting LLC is a Licensed Builder, holding also an EPA lead safe firm designation and Asbestos Abatement Contractor/Supervisor certification.  Meaning we are licensed to build a new home from the ground up or may do any kind of repairs regulated under Article 24 of the Occupational Code, including all work on homes built prior to 1981 containing hazardous building materials containing asbestos and/or lead paints.

Design/Build

We are also a Design/Build Firm.  This means that for most residential projects (those under 3500 sq feet), we can design and produce the required large format drawings for permitting and approval when needed by the building department.  We can create both 3D mock ups and 2D blueprints and plans.   We offer it when it will save money or provide a better end product.

Insured

$1,000,000 general Liability insurance.

Bonded

We are bonded for theft underwritten by Brooklyn Ventures since we work inside peoples homes and at times invite other tradespersons in.  When necessary, we offer appropriate job specific bid or payment bonds, also.

BBB

We are accredited by the Better Business Bureau BBB- Level Up Contracting, LLC

Advertising

We also do not pay for ad referral services like Houzz or Angie’s list, or pay-per-lead lead generation services like Home Advisor.  Most of our customers come from referrals from friends and prior customers, so we decided not to add that overhead, and it is important to me not to not lose any control of our online presence.  We try and keep this website updated, and it links to our facebook business page where you can see pictures of our work.

Pet Friendly

We are pet friendly.  I have pets at home.  I do what I can to make your pet comfortable around me very early on.  I only ask that you provide an easy way to sequester them from work or door areas for those times when myself or other workers might be going through exterior doors with 2 hands full so they don’t run off.  I don’t hire subcontractors who are not comfortable with 4 legged family members.

Kid Friendly

See Asbestos and Lead info above.   That is the most important.  But I also have a family at home.  I have my wonderful wife, Nichole, who has been my #1 since I was a kid myself.  A wonderful son Hayden (who sometimes helps out with building) and crazy smart and also beautiful daughter (who also sometimes helps out) at home and have watched them grow from babies to now driving cars and Hayden is flying airplanes and motorcycles now, and Kaeli is aggressively pursuing her studies in many fields.  I am a family man and I do what I can to not be a scary worker in the house to the little ones.  And I do what I can in my work to include little features in my work that let them know that they are important too… like my grandfather did in his carpentry… I always remembered those little details he would do… like a push to pull out step to reach the bathroom sink where the toe kick is in other people’s work.  A “Musical” stone hallway.  Indoor sandbox rooms.   When I can work in neat little extras like that, they are not billed.  The payments for those kind of details are in smiles.

Warranty

And, of course… We do professional work, and I warrant the quality of our work and I personally stand behind it.  I don’t hide behind a different business builders license number to mask myself through a layer of abstraction. To be able to do this I must publish my full name and my personal license and home address in all of my advertisements like, business cards, company website, and signage.  And due to my other career as a professional firefighter… I’m planted pretty firmly in the area… if I do move, it won’t be far.  I also always maintain EssenDavis.com  (Don’t click on it right now, it just goes to the front page of this website) so that as life ebbs and flows and if business names, addresses, or phone numbers change… “my name dot com” will always have or point to my current contact info.  (It has a side benefit of being able to refer my services to friends if you know me but can’t remember our business name.)

All of our work has the typical State of Michigan 12 month warranty, but no one’s checking calendars around here.  If you are in my recent memory as a customer, I’ll stand behind our work. Things that are very custom that we have produced and installed from raw goods like our cabinetry, stone, and tile work carry 10 year warranties…. but they will last much longer than that.  Well designed and beautifully crafted work from good materials is timeless.  I try to do it right the first time every time… but I’m not to proud or too busy to admit a mistake and do it right the second time.

This business is based on, grows by, works for, and depends on smiling customers and their referrals.  If something about our work makes you unhappy after we have left, dial us back at 734-407-SMILE and we’ll come out with a good attitude and do what we can to get your smile back