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Rehabbing in Hawaii

One thing about Hawaii is we feel more secure in knowing someone who knows someone they used rather than just calling a company from the yellow pages.  It isn’t always true that the one with the biggest and best ad is the best company.  I rather use tried and true, and if we have had good results at a fair price from one person or company, we will use them again.  I also trust in the recommendations of friends who have had good experiences.

On this page, I will share some of those with you.  ** Update:  please see note at the end of this page regarding using recommendations based on people’s friends.

Lowe’s has 10% off coupons on RealtyTrac and you can also get them from the US Post Offices if you ask them for a change of address packet.  Good way to save money on your rehab or repair projects.  While you are there, stock up on incandescent light bulbs. is a great free website that can be used whether you are buying or selling just about anything.  I like to post free stuff – beats throwing things away when someone else can make use of it.  Good place to search for building materials.

Re-Use Hawaii is a non-profit recycling company that has stuff nobody else has.  Old stuff as well as newer stuff.  I am still looking for 5′ redwood fencing material, and if I keep checking often, I am sure they will have it.  They also accept donations of materials and even come pick up if it is a big load.  Hard to find and easy to miss.  Head makai (towards the ocean) from the old Comp USA.  It is Ewa of the UH Medical school.

My pal Wanda has the most beautiful master bath counter that I have ever seen.  It looks like a 4″ thick block of celadon clear jade with inclusions.  Drop dead gorgeous, no seam in sight or touch, a work of art.  On the pricey side, but worth every penny.  Nice young man who used to do marble/tile/stone work for homes in Beverly Hills – Jason Carroll.  Phone #(808) 478-8453, email   He will be installing a slab and a half of a different kind of onyx in our bathroom – a mysterious looking jade-like stone with yummy splotches of burgundy and wine.  I just have to get down and dirty and redo the flooring, walls, and bring in a vintage looking console for the slab counter top.  It will be beautiful!  Maybe even more beautiful than Wanda’s!

Tile suppliers and showroom:  In my quest to have a 4″ hole cut in the middle of a piece of porcelain tile, I missed International Tile Inc. and I kind of got lost near the Nimitz area.  I headed back to town and saw a big sign “Pacific Stone Center, Inc.” 140 Puuhale Road (808) 847-3412 and buzzed in hoping that they could cut the hole.  Florence Fernandez helped me at the desk, and unfortunately they did not cut porcelain tiles.  However, on the wall were the most gorgeous natural stone samples – one had me drooling – some kind of Picasso marble or stone that looked like it had fossilized leaves in colors and layers of unreal beauty.  I rank this company A+ in customer service because of the way they treat anyone who walks in.  She did give me directions to International Tile on 2223A Hoonee Place.

International Tile Inc. moved from their former location years ago.  The president of the company, Richard Thompson took a look at the tile, said they could cut it, and I was so pleased that here is another company with excellent customer service and the willingness to help me with a small dinky little job.  When we re-do our bathroom, I will look to these guys first.  They are not as convenient as Home Depot or Lowes, but the level of expertise and workmanship, along with such excellent people in place deserve my future business.  They also have MUCH more choices to choose from.  Delightful dilemma.


C&W Plumbing – good work, very reputable.  Clyde Watanabe is the man.  Shop is located in Kalihi, phone number is 842-0222.


Mike Wall of Haleiwa Electric, 226-7617.   Mike is usually busy because he is always in demand because he is a terrific electrician.  One of the most reliable and “correct” contractors out there.  He follows codes – they are there for your safety and important to pay attention to.  Such a hard worker, and reasonable prices for top quality work.

Cary of Power Wise Electric.  Good work, mostly for commercial jobs, also makes fantastic seasoned pork strips.  He is another busy electrician – most of the good ones always are.

Framing, carpentry:

Gary Iwane, 864-1911.  Gary was referred to us by Alvin Arasato, the best house painter around.  Gary does beautiful neat work and leaves the workplace clean and tidy.  This is a true craftsman at a fair price.  Almost makes me wish I had more things needing to be renovated.

House Painter:

Arasato & Sons.  737-2419. Alvin’s sons don’t work for him anymore, one is a world class boxer and the others have gone on to excellence in other fields.  If you want a cheap paint job, don’t call this company.  However, if you want the best for a reasonable price, Arasato & Sons will fit the bill.  The hardest and longest process of painting an old house is the preparation – extensive sanding, filling in, removing of old to prepare for primer and however many coats of paint necessary.  Use the best paint if you want the best results.  What I like most about Alvin is that he not only has a wonderful sense of color, he also appreciates and values good construction.  He has an eye for making everything look its best, i.e. trimming out doorways and details, giving suggestions on problem areas, figuring out how to get those old stuck cabinets to work better.  He is like an encyclopedia of good taste and high quality.  He also has great references for plumbers, woodworkers, etc. that will work with him on the job.  After Alvin is done, the house looks brand new and gorgeous.  [Aunty has heard that Alvin has retired from the business, boo hoo.]

Wood floor installation and refinishing:

Nishimura Floor Service 737-4721.  Peter will come to your place, look around, measure, and jot a number down on the back of his business card.  That’s the price he will do your job for, and he does it very well with employees that have been with him for years.  Beautiful quality work, your wood floors deserve him, and his price is so very reasonable!  Pricing that will fit on a business card.

Vinyl/alternative flooring:

Call Mike Tai See from Homeowners Design Center on Kohou Street in Kalihi.  Phone 847-0216 or email him at  He knows his flooring and if you tell him what you want, he helps narrow down your choices by looks, budget, and application.  We found the most wonderful vinyl sheet with great texture, warranty, and appearance at a reasonable price with installation.  If I had a company that sold things, I would definitely want Mike on my team.  He was even an AYSO bronze team soccer coach in Waipahu when his girls were younger – that shows real character in my soccer book.

Driveway contractor:

Darryl Imai 772-2769.  We had several estimates for a huge driveway.  Lots of problems with big big rocks that needed to be busted and removed, a slope down towards the house which could result in a river of water hitting the front door, and tree roots everywhere.  Darryl gave us the best price without hesitation or delay, and then began work coordinating dumpster, excavator rental, operator, concrete pour and finish.  We now have a beautiful smooth driveway with a gentle imperceptible rounding in the center that diverts the water flow away from the house and off to the side.  He and his crew sometimes have pau hana hour after the job each day, so just be sure to let him know if you don’t want them hanging around after hours having a few beers.  On the very last day we bought a catered menu feast from Gina’s BBQ, 2 cases of beer and some poke´as the local way to say mahalo for a job well done.  My reward was a hug and “Tanks Aunty!”  Almost makes me wish we had another driveway to pour – the end result is beautiful and perfect.

Grass supplier:

Quality Turfgrass in Waimanalo, phone 259-8191.  Don’t limit yourself to those trays of grass at Home Depot, Lowes, and the like.  When I want “fresh” healthy grass, I call Gumi  of Quality Turfgrass and ask them to bag up rolls of grass that can be cut into 2’x4′ sheets.  Not that much of a price difference from the trays, but you do save a little and tend to get more.  The quality is great, and a good excuse for a lovely drive into Waimanalo’s beautiful valley.  Prepare your ground with good dirt and sand, then lay the sheets down.  Keep dogs and people off until it takes, water at least twice/day for the first 2 weeks.  I also cut them (use those small branch trimmers) into plugs and plant them that way when I feel cheap, lol.

Tree Trimmer:

Tai 372-7660.  One day Uncle and I were feebly trying to cut a limb off of a mango tree up front.  It was taking a very long time partially with a dinky home electric chain saw, and then with a saw blade on a pole.  Along comes T in his truck and asks if we want him to cut the tree for us.  After a bit of macho maneuvering on Uncle’s part, a fair price was struck – well actually, T gave a very reasonable price and Uncle said “okay”.  Then T hops up on the tree and starts trimming from the bushy to the branches to close to the stump with his gas chain saw.  Very impressive.  The next day he returned to remove all the rubbish.  A man walking by with his 2 dogs commented about the bolohead tree and said he had the same thing done.  Uncle told him what a good price we had it done for – $250, and the dog walker said his tree was bigger and he got it done for $280.  “Samoan guy”, he says.  “Yup” says Uncle.  Turns out T had also cut the dog walker’s tree too!  Small world, small neighborhood.  If you need your tree trimmed/cut, call Tai.  He decided not to relocate to Reno and came by the other day to let us know that, as well as ask if we needed any stone wall built.  We didn’t, but we are glad he is back to cut trees again as needed.

Stone wall builder

Tai again.  372-7660.  We had a stacked rock back yard wall holding back 5′ of dirt height erode after a big rain and we were in a pickle because at least half of it was inaccessible due to the back neighbor’s home made shed.  Tai to the rescue, and in a few days, a new stone wall with new pipe posts was put up for a super reasonable price.  He also cut off a few huge limbs of the mango tree again.  Very happy.  Now Aunty has a new redwood fence that replaced the ugly weedy chain link fence on top of a brand new retaining stone wall!

General contractor:

If you have worked with a general contractor that you have had great results from, please leave a comment below.  Aunty usually works with sub-contractors, but it is good to know someone who does it all.

*if I don’t have the contact info or phone number, etc. for any of these contractors, write to me at and I’ll give you the info.  I am still in the process of checking with them if I can put their phone numbers on my website.

**Uncle and I are in the process of rehabbing a property here and have been very pleased with the great work of the people we have hired.  The transformation of the house has been wonderful and neighbors walking by love to comment and get tours of the inside.  The only glitch so far has been our gutters.  Rather than go with an established gutter company with a good reputation, we went with someone’s recommendation of a friend.

Lesson learned:  make sure the craftsman knows exactly what you want (i.e. cover up the ugly stuff and keep the integrity of the style) and be there at the beginning and at the end of the job for final approval.  Also, the recommendation that “my friend does gutters” is not good enough.  “This person did my house and it came out really really well” is a much better recommendation than friendship.  We will get this re-done, maybe not by the moonlighting gutter man since he was already paid (big mistake), but this eyesore will be taken care of one way or another, and we consider this the price of education.

About The Author

Aunty is a new senior citizen and loving this phase of her life. Less responsibilities, less fear of being weird, able to do more of the things that I want to do! Older, yes, slower, yes, but life is even more wonderful in my golden years and I look forward to even goldener ones.

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