Q & A with the Pros

By Katy Savage

Courtesy Dutton Construction Corp

Dave Dutton
Dutton Construction Corp, 
Chittenden 

What advice would you give to somebody/or give to people looking to do a major remodel/build project? 

Engage a designer. If it’s a project of any significance, I recommend a designer — even if it’s just a matter of tearing an old kitchen out to bring up to the current century, you need to work with a good kitchen designer. That’s not our forte. We’re mechanics. We like to work from a set of plans. We’re not design consultants.

How has technology changed the way you do business?

We build houses on an iPhone. Many of our clients are remote. We meet once a month, sometimes every other month. We build anything from a modest remodel to an extraordinary high-end custom home with an iPhone. 

What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in the business? 

I think one of the greatest challenges we have is we don’t have a lot of young people entering into the trades. I’m in my early 60s and I’m going to do it for another 7-8 years. There’s a real shortage of tradespeople. I ran multiple ads on social media with a pretty high level of exposure and had zero inquiries. How do you start a small business today in an environment where there is not a lot of labor to draw from? 

Do you see a certain material or way of building that is becoming more and more of a trend? 

One of the newest trends is the electric heat pumps. A lot of people are interested in the concept of alternative energy and solar panels. Many people are under the misconception where they’re going to save money buying a solar array. I really don’t think we’re quite there yet. 

What type of projects do you love to work on the most? 

Timber frame would be our first choice. It’s just such a cool way to build. It’s time tested and proven. It really started maybe 30 years ago. It’s a cool way to build a house with its own beauty. It can be done in traditional design or contemporary design. 

For more information about Dutton Construction Corp, visit: ddbuilder.com.

Courtesy Wright Construction Company

Carl Lavallee
Wright Construction Company,
Mount Holly 

What is the biggest obstacle for the building/design industry in Vermont in the next 5-10 years?

Cost of healthcare and benefits for employees increases every year without fail. These costs have to pass on to clients and will continue to drive the cost of our services up year after year, coupled with inflation and extended construction schedules due to availability of materials and shortage of labor these may drive a reduction in construction work despite the need.

What advice would you give to somebody/or give to people looking to do a major remodel/build project? 

Do your homework and choose a builder that is qualified and capable of completing your project. If the builder is chasing a deposit, be very wary.

How has technology changed the way you do business?

Administratively we can deliver more streamlined estimating and management of the project. Some of the tools during construction such as lasers have helped a lot.

Do you see a certain material or way of building that is becoming more and more of a trend? 

New construction products emerge year after year so we get to learn about new products and how to use them. Of late we are seeing a lot of folks wanting to use repurposed materials for design features such as reclaimed wood for things like feature walls, decorative beams, etc. 

How did your business/industry change during the pandemic outside of labor and demand? Are you seeing younger families move up here/want to stay here? 

We are seeing a surge in residential construction which ranges from remodels and additions to brand new construction. The ages of the folks wanting to relocate to Vermont run the gamut from young families to retirement age.

For more information about Wright Construction Company, visit: wrightconstruction.com.

Courtesy Moore Construction Company

Rick Moore
Moore Construction Company,
Killington

What is the biggest obstacle for the building/design industry in Vermont in the next 5-10 years? 

I think it’s going to be in dire straits. Nobody wants to work. Nobody wants to be an entrepreneur — to start a company and be successful at it. I’m not seeing anybody coming in looking to be hired. Back in the day I had 55 employees. Now, I have five people in the field.

What advice would you give to somebody/or give to people looking to do a major remodel/build project? 

Be honest and fair with people and know what you’re doing. Also, realize it might take time to find your niche. Back in the 1980s, I was doing condominiums and Killington base lodges. In the 1990s, it got a little slow. I found my niche doing mostly residential building. Some have run into the $3 million range. It’s an opportunity to do something that you’re proud of.

How has technology changed the way you do business?

The internet changed everything — to be able to research projects, to purchase products that local retailers don’t even know about — it changed the methodologies of doing construction. We’re also building much tighter houses in terms of energy efficiency. We have various types of insulation and there are all kinds of new products coming in for exterior siding and decking. They’re not proven yet. That’s why you really have to be careful. 

What inspires you in your work? 

My building is my legacy.  I think I’m well respected in the community, I’ve earned that and I’m rewarded.

For more information about Moore Construction Company, visit: richardmooreconstruction.com.

 

Seth Shaw
Goodro Lumber,
Killington 

What is a trend you are seeing in the industry today that you wish was not something that people would be interested in building/style/material?

Economy grade composite decking, inevitably. There is a reason that products are as low cost as they are — it’s because they don’t last long. There was a wave of very cheap composite decking 20 years ago that came through. A lot of those companies went bankrupt and belly up because of products that didn’t hold up the way they were supposed to. There’s been a resurgence in that type of product and I’m not a fan. 

What is the biggest obstacle for the building/design industry in Vermont in the next 5-10 years? 

A lot of the knowledge base that’s inherent within the building trades is going away. There’s not a really good method for the younger generation to learn from the older generation.

What advice would you give to somebody/or give to people looking to do a major remodel/build project? 

Hire a good team. If you’re hiring a general contractor, check their references. If it’s a small project and you’re hiring one person to build a deck for you, make sure you check their references. 

Do you see a certain material or way of building that is becoming more and more of a trend? 

Over the last decade, in colder climates there’s been a major shift in how to put up a structure so you don’t have to pay a lot of heating and cooling over the course of your lifetime. That has everything to do with insulation and window treatments and how to keep a livable space comfortable in a cold climate without having to worry about mold growing. If you make the space too tight and over insulated, you can create a huge mold issue.  The trend that I’ve seen most recently is creating a complete separation between the interior space and exterior space as far as a thermal break.

How did your business/industry change during the pandemic outside of labor and demand? Are you seeing younger families move up here/want to stay here? 

There’s a lot more younger families in town. The retail trend in the last two years has seen a shift toward a lot more people buying hardwoods within the store as opposed to lumber and building materials.

What type of projects do you love to work on the most? 

I love a good cabin. Quaint and minimal is my cup of tea. I think a small space is beautiful. A large space, if it has to be a large space and if it’s done in a way that pays attention to borders and small details that catch the eye, I think that’s also good. 

For more information about Goodro Lumber, visit: goodrolumber.com.

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