At a Glance
Foundation repair and new construction foundations
Brad Fisher, Bob Purcell, and Dave Geise are proud to be the underdogs. When the three friends launched their waterproofing, foundation-repair, and crawlspace company, BDB Walls, Inc., in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1999, Fisher was just 26 but firm in the belief that they would remain blue-collar.
“I never wanted to work for a big company; I didn’t want to be just another employee number,” Fisher says. “I’ve been framing houses since I was 16. I come from a working-class background, and so do the people whose homes we work on. We don’t aspire to be white collar. I know that’s rare, but we do exist.”
Top 5 Keys to Effective Foundation Repair
1. “Product knowledge is critical—knowing what the products you’re installing are capable of,” president Brad Fisher says. “Each foundation issue is unique, and without the proper knowledge, the result of the repair will be unsuccessful. Everything can’t be fixed with one product.”
2. “Gathering information by interviewing homeowners and engineers will tell the story. The repair is only as good as the person designing the system.”
3. “Proper training will come in handy, as no two jobs are exactly the same. The basic principles may be similar, but product knowledge and experience are the most valuable strengths a person can have. Every small task means something to the final result. Knowing how to analyze every step helps achieve the desired result.”
4. “Gather enough information to put the measurements, consequences, [and] problem on paper. Once documented, it’s possible to understand why the problem is happening.”
5. “It comes down to communicating how we install, what we install, and why we install things the way we do. Even if we end up not doing the job for a potential client, it’s OK as long as we have educated them and enabled them to make the decision that’s right for them.”
Twelve years in, Fisher, now 38, takes the same straight-shooting approach with clients, making total honesty and ethical customer care main objectives of the business. For the most part, BDB Walls doesn’t advertise, and it doesn’t employ a single salesperson either, the majority of its work coming instead from word-of-mouth referrals. Also, though there are bigger companies, none will offer BDB Walls’s 25-year warranty—or the presence of a company owner at each and every foundation lift. Fisher finds himself constantly preaching to his crew about the importance of being courteous and treating the homes they’re working on like their own. According to him, these are just some of the perks of going with “the little guy.”
“This is how we make our living, but we’re not going to gouge our clients because of it,” Fisher says. “We genuinely like to help people. Buying a house is the biggest investment a person makes, and people usually seek us out when they’re in trouble. We try to give the most economical fix in the most timely, cost-efficient way. You can look us in the eye and know we’re trustworthy.”
BDB Walls has encountered it before: people who own beautiful $300,000 houses they can’t sell because they didn’t pay attention to the warning signs. When windows and doors won’t open or close or when cracks are present in the drywall, chances are serious foundation problems are on the horizon, and things can go from bad to worse in no time. If left untreated, homes can become uninhabitable and then be condemned.
Because of the company’s location on the low-lying Midwestern plains, Fisher and his partners find themselves dealing with flooded basements quite often, especially after the flooding of the Missouri River in early 2011. Afterward, BDB Walls was able to save customers thousands of dollars by using a drain-tile system developed by Fisher’s friend and mentor, Jessie Trebil of Safe Basements Waterproofing. By placing tile wall-edging around the affected area, wall water drains into the tile and is then pumped out. The system also uses a polyethylene vapor barrier that eliminates the radon and moisture vapor that usually flows into the space.
According to Trebil, most national basement waterproofing systems are designed for ease and not customer satisfaction, but BDB uses its own system whenever necessary. It’s yet another service that stems from the company’s focus on considerate customer care. “It is by no means an easy system to use, and when the flooding took place, it was nearly impossible to install the drain tile, but we did it because we knew it would help our customers,” Fisher says. “It’s characteristic of what we’re trying to do as a company. We’re always willing to take that extra step.” ABQ