By Maureen Werther
Whether it is high-end luxury homes or older homes in need of renovations or additions, most residential builders and remodelers in Saratoga County are doing well in 2017, with no signs of slowing down.
Jim Sasko, owner of Teakwood Builders, has been in business for 21 years and he has seen his company grow from hands-on carpentry—dismantling and restoring historic homes—to building high-end luxury homes.
Sasko said he learned a lot about how older homes are built during his first few years as a small operation. He also learned that there were better craftsmen out there than he was when it came to historic restoration. So, he began to hire those highly skilled people as his business progressed.
Today, Sasko has a team of 10 carpenters, an interior designer, estimators, administrative staff and a client coordinator, which he says is a key position in the company.
The coordinator “keeps order in all aspects” of a construction project, said Sasko. She is responsible for ensuring open lines of communication between the homeowner and the construction team.
Sasko’s team also utilizes a technology called Builder Trend, a cloud-based software with a portal for clients. Each client has his or her own page and they can log in daily to read the carpenter’s daily log, check on budgets, schedules, product selection and other aspects’
This year, Sasko said their projects are divided nearly in half, with 50 percent of the work coming from remodeling, renovation or additions and the other 50 percent coming from new, high-end luxury home construction.
He said new trends and designs originate from the west coast. An examples is “board formed” concrete, which uses textured boards in foundation molds. When the concrete is poured, it creates an interesting and attractive texture and design in the foundation façade.
Sasko also mentioned a trend toward highly polished concrete floors in homes. This type of flooring is common in commercial construction, but it is gaining in popularity in people’s homes. There are stains available that can make the flooring even more attractive.
Exposed architectural metals are also a trend Sasko is seeing in the higher-end homes.
He has two homes currently under construction that have a lot of exposed steel beams and steel stringers as a unique accent on wooden staircases.
Dave Bernacki, owner of Capital District Contractors and Decks, said he periodically takes on new construction projects, but his business has continued to flourish in the areas of remodeling, renovation and additions.
While his company’s name implies that they build a lot of decks, Bernacki said the demand for decks began to wane around 2010. He said he spends a lot of time studying his competition’s advertising and marketing strategies.
“Sometimes I agree with them, and sometimes I don’t,” he said. Currently, he is focused on where the consumer needs are. Those needs center around remodeling.
“We are doing a lot of in-law apartments on the first floor. In the last year, we built six of them and we are currently pricing out a few more,” he said.
He said there is also a call for second-floor additions, as more millennials become home buyers. They are buying “starter homes and then adding onto them as their families expand. Baby boomers, on the other hand, are looking to downsize and they are opting for smaller, one-floor homes.
Bernacki, like Sasko, is fortunate to have a large team of employees, many of whom have been with him from over 15 years. He supplies his team with their own vehicles, something he sees as empowering and confidence-boosting.
“They see their jobs as careers,” said Bernacki.
He has 20 employees and he works to keep them busy year-round and he credits his ability to keep his team working consistently to branding and advertising.
“You have to brand yourself,” he said, adding that people recognize his company’s name because he has been so consistent in keeping it out there through radio and print advertising.
One of the negative trends Bernacki sees is a shortage of young people going into the trades.
“If I was retired tomorrow, I would go around speaking to high school and college kids, telling them that college isn’t always the answer and that there’s a big demand for plumbers, electrician and other trades.”
He said that 75 percent of the existing trades workforce are over 50 years old.
“You just don’t see a lot of people under 30 pursuing these jobs.”
In general, though, Bernacki sees a strong uptick in the building and remodeling industry. He calls the construction industry “extremely healthy,” and he doesn’t see any signs that it is slowing down. In the last several years, he has expanded his geographic reach as far south as Selkirk and north to Queensbury.
The Capital District region will always need remodels and expansions, he said.