In terms of scary, real-world adult things, second only to purchasing a home is renovating it. For those of us not well-versed in the minutia of tile and trim and fixtures (which, let's be real, is most of us), it's a beyond intimidating task, compounded by the fact that contractors can be non-communicative at best and dishonest at worst. But what if you could go online, choose from a range of pre-developed renovation templates, get an instant price estimate, and have a company ensure you'll get a professional who knows what they're doing — you know, just like you can with tasks ranging from finding a good doctor to picking out a cute prom dress? In the great tradition of whole-industry disruption, that's the idea behind Block, which launches today in New York and New Jersey.
"Doing renovation is such a terrible experience, it's almost a trope," says co-founder and CEO Koda Wang, a former executive at Rent The Runway. "It goes way over time, it goes way over budget. You have folks making one the biggest, highest-stakes, most expensive, irreversible decisions they're going to make for years, and essentially, they're kind of hoping and trusting, you know, two guys in a van to get this done."
Block is starting with bathrooms, in an effort to, Wang explains, "go narrow and deep, and provide a ton of value." But they hope to eventually expand to other parts of the home, as well as to other areas of the country. Wang's co-founder, Luke Sherwin, also co-founded the direct-to-consumer mattress company Casper, and the same simple, streamlined, millennial-friendly approach that has made both of their former companies such success stories is apparent with Block. I mean, just look at this website. (Sidenote: Remember when picking out a mattress was stressful and fraught with up-selling?)
But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Block method — particularly for those of us with Champagne tastes and beer budgets — is that each of the bathroom renovation templates was designed by one of Block's "partner architects," which means that, in addition to getting a contractor guaranteed by Block, you're also getting the eye of a design professional, something many home renovations are sorely lacking.
Block also sources all the necessary materials, which eliminates guess work and ensures you're getting the best possible deal. According to the company, the average DIY home renovation costs about $25,000, while their version is closer to $19,000. Okay, so not exactly what most of us would call "affordable," but it's a start.
Block has partnered with local contracting firms throughout New York and New Jersey, who are vetted by them. They also provide construction supervisors who are on-site during jobs to make sure things meet given standards. Because they're able to bring contractors jobs, it's kind of a win-win.
"You want someone who's got your back," explains Sherwin. "You're not going to be paranoid that you're going to spring a leak six months from now, or that something's going to crumble a few months from now."