At a Glance
Sun Valley, ID
New construction and remodeling of high-end residential spaces
Can you describe your background in construction and what led you to choose this career?
John Lee: I’ve always been interested in construction and wanted to be an architect. I moved to Sun Valley because there are a lot of great things to do. I started as a laborer and worked my way up. We’ve all built houses from “concrete to doorknob.”
Mike Gilman: My background is very similar to John’s. I started in construction when I was 18 and took a liking to it. I enjoy the process and seeing what you can get done in a day and a week. It’s very rewarding to me. I went to school for a few years and ended up back out here—working with John again, working as an owner and eventually partner.
Nick Gilman: Mike and I are brothers and grew up in Maine. We moved out here after becoming interested in the mountain
lifestyle and living in a resort town. I’ve been involved and dedicated to construction and contracting since day one. My first job in the Valley was working for John on a foundation as a laborer.
What are some of the greatest challenges to running a construction business?
Nick: One of the main challenges is the marketplace in general. Things have tightened up in the market and constricted considerably. Although we’ve all been in the business for quite a while, we’re a relatively young firm. That can be a challenge with name recognition, but we see that as a bit of an opportunity as well.
John: Through the boom in the early 2000s, the number of contractors and the people in the industry grew tremendously. As the downturn came on and margins tightened, it became challenging to win work. Many contractors who low-balled numbers didn’t make it.
Can you tell us about one of your most exciting
John: In 2009, into 2010, we built a very unique, mostly concrete home. The home, [featuring] structural insulated panels, is a very green house. The original houses on the property had burned. In response to that, the owner wanted a concrete house that wouldn’t burn. The floors and a lot of the finish features are concrete. It’s basically 4,000 square feet. Its layout and architectural style and landscaping are also unique. There’s a waterfall feature on the back porch.
Nick: Because it was an insurance job, there was a finite amount of money. Over 16 months of construction, John managed the construction and the design process and brought it to completion at the original budget. The client was more of an artist than anything else and knew what he wanted and how he wanted things to look.
Mike: Our firm is proud of the project crew, who had a hand in every piece of the house. It’s very cutting-edge all the way to the foundation and the
finishes. Our guys took ideas from the client and executed. The end result is fairly spectacular. Our guys took great pride in what they did and how they did it professionally.
What are some of the current trends in your industry?
Nick: Last year we wrapped up a series of remodels for clients. Through this process the level of budgetary compliance requirements is just super critical. They have a very specific amount of money they want to spend, but you never know what you’re going to find when you open up the walls.
John: We’ve completely gutted houses and redone floors, walls, finishes and have taken [homes] from the late 1970s and early ’80s into the new millennium. A lot of what we’re seeing in these homes is getting rid of all those rooms and opening up of spaces in a move toward the mountain lifestyle for the house.
What building and business philosophies does Lee Gilman Builders adhere to?
John: We have very set philosophies we stick to. As owners and guys that run the company, we’re very involved in every project. It’s important that we spend time on all the jobs.
Nick: We have a hands-on, lead-from-the-front management style. We’re very committed to transparent accounting and very open-book. The client always knows exactly where they stand. In our very small town, word of mouth counts more than anything around here. We’re exceptionally dedicated to the clients we serve.
Mike: When our project is done and everything is closed up, we know we’re going to see our clients. We like to maintain those small-town and long-term relationships. ABQ