Reno company builds for family

To Trudi Appleton, Felipe Freig is a hero – but instead of wearing a cape, he’s got a construction belt strapped around his waist.

And to think they were complete strangers a couple of months ago.

Freig, who owns and operates Versa Home Renovations in Langley, recently stepped forward to do free renos in Appleton’s Pitt Meadows home.

The work would have cost Appleton roughly $20,000, a big hit for a single mom of four children.

“I’ve coined him my knight in shining armour,” Appleton said, of Freig. “Clichés aside, he’s my construction angel. It’s been very overwhelming.”

“I felt that we could help out,” Freig said. “We been blessed with so much work that it’s time to give back and help a family in need. I wanted to help out and tackle this project at no charge to Trudi.”

Versa is adding a bathroom and laundry area to an empty basement space.

“We gutted the old framing and started from scratch,” Freig explained.

Appleton was put in a difficult spot after a renovation company based out of Port Coquitlam, Ecowest Renovation Ltd., filed for bankruptcy after receiving a $5,000 deposit from her to do the work.

According to a post on the Better Business Bureau website dated March 12, Ecowest Renovations Ltd. filed a voluntary assignment in bankruptcy effective March 4, and MNP Ltd. was appointed as trustee of the estate.

The note said MNP Ltd. advises customers who paid a deposit to the company or otherwise advanced funds for work not yet completed that Ecowest will not be completing any further work with respect to installation agreements or other contracts.

“Based on MNP Ltd’s initial evaluation of the assets and the amount of secured claims, including the secured claims of Canada Revenue Agency, they do not expect there to be any funds available from the bankrupt estate for the claims of unsecured creditors,” the post said.

Among those affected was Appleton. With three sons ages 11, 13, and 16, and a 15-year-old daughter, she has her hands full, especially with only one full bathroom in the home.

 â€œIt was getting more and more painful as the kids were getting older,” Appleton said. “Mornings were definitely a challenge for everyone to keep a smile on their face.”

Appleton figured she had two options: sell the house that the family had lived in for 14 years, and then move to a house that would accommodate a parent and four children, or adding a basement bathroom to their existing home.

“Finding a five bedroom home is a challenge,” she said. “This, I’ve already created into a five bedroom home.”

She decided to go with the latter option.

“There was an unfinished laundry room in this house all along, and it [adding a second bathroom] was in the plan, that one day we would do this,” Appleton said. “Then it became, ‘I’d have to do this, or we’d have to move.’”

Ecowest was one of five contractors that bid for the project.

“I did choose them, ultimately,” Appleton said.

A deposit of $5,000 was required to start the work.

The balance was to come from a bank loan, that has since been forgiven.

“I’m off the hook for the loan, but I did lose the $5,000,” Appleton said. “I did that in a draft. That has no recourse – I won’t see that again.”

The time line on the work “was getting pushed, constantly,” Appleton said.

The project manager made measurements, and a plan was supposed to be put in place. It was a plan that Appleton never saw.

“The project was on hold; every now and then, the owner of the company would text me: ‘We can’t start it now, start it in three weeks,’ that kind of thing,” Appleton said.

A promise to start the work in the new year drifted into February, and then March, and in the beginning of March Appleton received notification that Ecowest had declared bankruptcy.

That’s when Freig came into the picture. Freig had done some work for a mutual friend of Appleton and her ex-husband, John.

Freig had also remodelled a basement for John a couple of years ago. John asked Freig if he could take on a project for Trudi.

“But we where too busy and couldn’t take on the project,” Freig shared. “I always kept in touch with John as I do with all my clients. He recently called me and explained to me that Ecowest

Renovations had made a deal to renovate Trudi’s basement and offered her financing.…”

After Ecowest’s bankruptcy, John called Freig to find out if I knew of any laws or procedures to recover her lost funds. 

“I never met Trudi before,  but when John explained that this happened, I felt a little responsible for not taking the job in the first place,” Freig related. “I felt that if I wouldn’t have said no, this wouldn’t have happened to Trudi.” â€œ

“John was phoning Felipe to find out where I stood,” Appleton said. “That’s when Felipe said, unfortunately, she’s basically high and dry. That’s when Felipe insisted I give him a call.”

She was skeptical at first, but a week later, Freig called John to say that he hasn’t heard from Trudi, and he’s insisting to here from her.”

Appleton connected with Freig, telling him that she has limited ability to pay.

His response: “Don’t worry about it. I want to make this right.”

Appleton decided to go public with the story to give Freig the credit she feel he deserves.

“It’s a good story, because every time he phones me, he’s got another trade that has offered to put in time without charge,” Appleton said.

The work will be completed, and the bathroom will be put in place, roughly in the next couple weeks.

“I have cried tears initially because I just couldn’t believe I had been taken [by the previous contractor],” Appleton said. “I thought I was smart enough. But then it turned to tears of overwhelming joy. Every time Felipe would phone me and say that someone else had heard of your story and just wanted to make it right, and has offered this and that. I feel almost uncomfortable receiving all of it, but I had a lot of people say, don’t be silly.”

Freig said he never expected his trades and suppliers to get involved.

“I was ready to take the hit, but as I called them to the project and told them about it, they wanted to get involved,  I truly have the best trades and suppliers,” Freig said. “They are real pros with a huge heart.”

Involved in the project were:

• Tech 3 electric;

• C. S. T. Mechanical;

• JN Floors;

• Frontier plumbing and Heating;

• Dale’s Great cover up;

• Aura painting;

• Julian Tile;

• Andrea Johnstone Design;

• Country Lumber; and

• Pacific Rim Flooring

A landscaper had offered to aerate Appleton’s lawn and do some spring cleanup, which has nothing to do with the bathroom renovation.

For Freig, the motivation comes from putting a positive light on his industry.

“He deals with a lot of negative aura in his industry and for him, it’s karma,” Appleton said.

Freig said he felt he needed to do this project on behalf of the renovation community.

“One bad contractor makes every contractor job harder. Clients won’t trust contractors, because of all the bad media out there with TV shows about bad renovations,” Freig said. “People need to know that there is good contractors out there trying to do a great job and make clients happy about their investment.”

Freig said he definitely chose the right person to help.

“She is a hard working lady, raising four kids, and volunteers at the Rotary Club to help others,” he said. “Every time we talk on the phone she tells me how thankful she is that we could help,  and it only makes me want to help her more.”

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