May 10, 2016
Carpenters Construction Company, Inc
I am delighted to offer the following narrative about our two-year long adventure together.
Despite having spent an entire adulthood trying to avoid remodeling a house, when I moved to Tallahassee at the end of 2013, I faced the prospect of not one, but two houses in need of repair, restoration and renovation. Two years later, both are finished, both done by Kip and his team. It is worth detailing this journey, since doing so points out just how strong and resilient Carpenters Construction has been.
House 1 is in the Myers Park historical district, built around 1940 into the side of a hill, with the front (historical section) supported on piers, and the 1960’s addition—an enclosed Florida room with a flat roof —sitting on an uneven concrete slab. My original intent was just to do a kitchen renovation; however, the floor was too uneven to permit installation of ceramic tile. It turned out that the supporting piers were both too few and too short to support the floor throughout the original part of the house. Worse, ineffective attempts had been made in the past to correct progressive sagging, and the plaster and lathe walls—and even the doors—had all required paring and patching on more than one occasion. The kitchen renovation turned into a staged project: jacking the floor, making concrete pads for new masonry supports, and adding sufficient support beams to prevent any future sagging across the width of the house, and then repairing all the masonry cracks resulting from the lifting. Thereafter, the kitchen remodeling could be done, with a new tile floor, custom floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, and new appliances. Kip and crew took each problem in hand and worked out the most efficient means to stage a restoration that simply could not be avoided. The result was a beautifully restored—and level—period house with a spectacular new kitchen.
Having such success in half the house, we turned to the 1960’s rear addition, a screened porch later converted to a fully enclosed space. The vertical wood beams supporting the roof were rotting away, the louvre windows leaked, and the bare slab floor had severe pitch, roll, and yaw across its large expanse. It also abutted the newly renovated kitchen. In the end, we removed the entire structure and its slab, poured a new, reinforced foundation, raised the height of the ceiling (adjacent to the older structure), added a new pitched roof and made a library, master bedroom and ensuite bath with cabinetry matching that of the kitchen. And added a concrete driveway just to be complete.
The result is a house that is completely functional throughout, with a lovely period front that segues into a completely modern kitchen-library-master suite. Despite the very different feel from front to back, great care was taken to make doors, door frames, walls, ceilings and windows, and fittings match. Since the house is intended for me to age in, the design permits every activity to be done on a single level, without stairs or mobility barriers, including a roll-in shower. It is really spectacular.
House 2 is a 1960’s ranch farmhouse above Lake Jackson. It badly needed a new kitchen with some structural alterations, but alterations that had to match the very characteristic materials and finish of the
original house. This required moving one wall and adding ceiling support between dining room and kitchen, while using all original paneling and matching the few additions that were required. As an even greater challenge, we wanted the original cabinetry kept and refinished, even to the point of using the old drawer fronts for new drawers. We also elected to surface the kitchen and its vast new island with monolithic soapstone, which entailed subcontractors coming from a distance to cut and install it. Despite the constraints we placed on both design and execution, the ride was essentially “bumpless” and the result outstanding.
Obviously, there are many other details, altered plans, add-ons (“while you’re at it…”) and compromises. House 1 was so successful, despite Kip’s having to contend with a sub-optimal construction sequence, that we never considered anyone else for House 2. Not only that, but Kip stands behind everything he and his crew do, irrespective of when an issue is discovered. This is the sort of peace of mind cannot be bought. More than being pleased with results, I trust Kip’s abilities, integrity, and counsel. I would not consider anyone else.
Stephen A. Jennings, MD, FACS