Home Renovation’s No Reality TV Show

Most people would rather walk blindfolded through a minefield that go through a major home renovation. There is so much to research, so many people to trust and so much money to spend. At the center of every job is the general contractor, who does the majority of the work, bringing in subcontractors when needed for specialty jobs.

Contractors who take the lead in home remodeling and construction are most often carpenters. Carpenters, by definition, work with wood, but the modern contractor works with a wide range of building materials and may be installing marble countertops one day and hanging drywall another. You name it— floors, ceilings, walls and even roofs— and they are probably doing it. A growing number of home renovation contractors market themselves as custom carpenters, and there is definitely a distinction.

“In general, a custom carpenter will tend to get more involved in the details than a general contractor,” explained Alan Bowes, a custom carpenter whose business, Alan Michael Carpentry, claims projects throughout New York City and the tri-state area. “They bring a more artistic and creative approach to the table and can customize just about anything to a specific project.”

Armed with a degree in Civil Engineering from Cornell University, Bowes was a project manager for major construction projects in New York City when he changed courses in his career and started his own business. What do people treasure more, aside from family, than their home? He knows that what he does will affect the lives of his clients for decades.

Bowes said that it is essential, in his business, to “understand what homeowners are going through.” It can be a stressful process for them, and he sees television shows about flipping houses and home renovating as being both a plus and a minus. On one hand, an educated homeowner is easier to communicate with, but this brand of reality television can be unrealistic.

“HGTV has done for home renovation what CSI has done for solving crimes,” he explained. “They make it look easy and a whole lot faster than it really is.”

In the real world, he points out that quality work takes time and planning. The truth is that extensive remodeling can be dirty, noisy and disruptive to family life. It’s not a matter of leaving for a long weekend and coming back to a magically transformed house.

“I know it is a process and can be very overwhelming,” says the Westchester, NY, resident. “It’s important to set the homeowners expectations properly so they can better understand the process.”


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