Insights from a Professional: Things to know before starting construction
Anglos in Israel are always searching for reliable contractors. Whether you are building your dream home or renovating your office, here are some insights into the field from Roni Ratzabi, a favorite contractor among the Anglo community.
What type of projects do you do?
Roni Holdings performs renovation and finishing projects in many different types of properties, including apartments, private homes, villas, commercials buildings, cafes and restaurants. We do both basic and high-end projects down to the finishing touches, according to the specifications of the architects, designers, or clients.
What is your background in the field, and how did you get started?
I worked as a project manager in finishing and renovation for 13 years, learning a tremendous amount about team management and problem solving. I am a licensed electrician and a certified plumber with many years of experience in the field. I founded Roni Holdings in 2004, after working as an electrician and technician in a large company. In 2006, I started working as the head maintenance contractor with the “Si Espresso” chain of coffee shops, while continuing to work with my own private clients simultaneously. During this time, I acquired significant operational and management experience with building contractors who provide high level renovation services. In 2011, I expanded my business to work specifically with the Anglo community, paying close attention to their unique preferences. Over the years, I have developed a thorough understanding of their style and expectations, and we have worked on many beautiful projects that have left everyone satisfied.
What are some of the projects that you enjoyed the most?
I love all my projects as if they were my own children, so it’s difficult to choose one over another. Each project has its own character and style, based on the preferences of the designer, architect or client, but the most important thing is that each client is completely satisfied with the results. What was one of the greatest challenges you were presented with, and how did you solve it? One of the most complicated challenges I encountered was the construction of hundreds of meters of magnetic walls in an art gallery in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv called “Matsart.” Because the scope of the project was unprecedented in Israel, we were forced to find a creative solution. Ultimately, we put tin paneling on the walls that could hold magnets supporting up to forty kilograms, but we processed them to look like regular walls. It was a challenging project, especially because it required a high level of execution in a limited timeframe, but we succeeded.
Americans tend to be very suspicious of contractors. How can one be sure that everything will be done honestly and correctly?
Unfortunately, there are many unprofessional contractors who rely on inexperienced labor they are looking for. Approximately 70% of the contractors claiming to be experts in both structural construction and interior finishing do not meet Anglo standards in the latter. Of the 30% who are true professionals in both fields, only 15% know how to work with Anglo clients. Another issue is pricing. In many cases, contractors give low price quotes to get new clients, but once they are in the midst of a project they realize that the price is far too low for the amount of work required. Since it is too late to raise the price, they simply cover up the problems from the client in order to save themselves money and avoid dealing with the issues. Unfortunately, this creates a very bad reputation for all contractors. To avoid this, always examine how price quotes are calculated, making sure that figures are typed into the computer in an organized fashion, rather than simply scribbled down on scraps of paper. Although there can be a difference of up to 15% among professional contractors, one must always be suspicious if the price quote is too low. In Israel, “cheaper is more expensive,” and if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! I also recommend thoroughly surveying a contractor’s portfolio of projects, not by simply looking at pictures, but by speaking with previous clients about their experiences with the contractor and workers. To ensure professional work, insist that there always be a project manager on site to deal with any issues that may come up, rather than a bunch of people working without any guidance. The entire team must work from clear plans, which will prevent unnecessary problems down the road. The Anglo population tends to work with architectural firms or designers that combine project management, planning and design all together. In these types of arrangements, the contractor chooses an architectural firm based on the amount of profit he will make, and he handpicks all other service and material providers based on commission. This leads to a far more expensive and less professional project, because everyone is looking for maximum profit instead of how to best meet the clients’ needs. The American architecture firms may speak their language, but this simply provides a false sense of security, because they may have the same issues. When clients begin to see these problems throughout the project, they are often hesitant to confront the contractors, so they simply remain silent and pay the price. Therefore, I recommend that people go with a totally neutral independent architect or designer, choose a contractor based on the trusted recommendations of the Anglo community, and always work with official contracts.
Have you noticed a difference in the styles and expectations of Israelis and Americans?
The difference between the Israeli and American style stems from the type of architecture and design they are used to. In Israel, new homes tend to have a “cold” modern design, characterized by straight, sharp lines. The American style has a much higher level of wall processing, paint and finishing, a unique style of kitchens and bedroom, as well as beautiful woodwork and mosaics. Anglos tend to invest in their homes far more than Israelis, especially the final design aspects, and they know how to appreciate high-quality, professional work.
Do you also offer interior design and architect services?
If not, how do you work with all of the different professionals involved in a project? We generally join a project once there is already a design or architectural plan, but part of our job is to mediate between all of the different professionals. We communicate and coordinate with everyone through the project manager, and so far everything has always worked smoothly. We often continue to collaborate in the future – this is just part of the profession.
Are you on site of every project?
As CEO, I often find myself at the site from the beginning of a project until the end, but sometimes I cannot be physically present because I need to take care of the complicated logistics that keep the project moving efficiently. However, there is a professional project manager on site at all times, and we are in constant contact to discuss any issues.
In your opinion, what qualities characterize good construction work?
Site management is one of the most important characteristics of professional work. A higher level of order and organization leads to a higher quality of work. There should be clear, detailed plans hung on the walls for all the different workers to see, and the project manager should fully understand all of the work plans so that he can answer all questions professionally. Laborers should work with lasers to ensure exact measurements, and they must organize the site at the end of the working day, including making order of the equipment and adequately covering the site. Although this may seem like a small thing, the entire labor staff should always wear official uniforms with the business logo, demonstrating a degree of professionalism, which will ultimately lead to the best results.
What turns a “regular” project into a “high-end” project? Is the only difference in the final design touches?
In order to achieve a high-end result, there needs to be thorough, high quality labor throughout every step of the construction or renovation process. For example, in order to end up with the most beautifully finished floors, every step of the project needs to be geared toward this goal. This level of execution can only be carried out by a properly trained professional who will pay attention to all the small details. This level of work takes more time, and therefore, is more expensive.
Is there a difference in the construction methods used for private and commercial building? Commercial construction is generally much simpler than private construction, because it is usually large, open spaces that are simply closed off to create offices or stores. In order to meet the technical specifications of villas or homes, teams need to provide detailed, focused work down to the finishing touches.
What factors determine the cost in construction work?
Are more expensive materials really more reliable? Building costs are determined by the quality of materials, the level of professionalism of the workers and craftsman, and the location of the project, in terms of the accessibility of cranes and containers, site protection, and whether or not there is a need for demolitions. High-quality materials and products will always yield better and more long lasting results, whether it is a faucet, electrical panel or tile. That being said, there are some things that are unjustifiably expensive. There is no reason to spend 3000 NIS on a faucet when you can buy one of the same quality for 1500 NIS that will do the job just as well. To get the best value, you need to know where to go. We are here to provide recommendations and guidance.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
When the client finally sees the finished project and loves it, it is worth all the effort. I’m satisfied when my clients are satisfied. This proves that I met—and oftentimes exceeded— their expectations.
They can be reached at 052-555-3223 or through their website www.ronih.net