At a Glance
Virginia Beach, VA
Renovation and remodeling of historical homes
As any contractor knows, older homes need new technology, too, and installing wiring and electronics into these historical structures can be quite challenging. So, after 25 years in the residential construction business, Patrick Gunn decided to start his own company, and for the last seven years he has been cultivating the craft of retrofitting. Gunn Contracting, LLC now works primarily in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, an area rich with vintage architecture. “The goal of my company,” Gunn says, “is to continue to blend the old-school best practices with the ever-changing new-school best practices to create something that provides true value and that my clients can be proud of.”
An example of Gunn Contracting’s full capabilities is the Gresham project, an interior-exterior renovation project located on the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Virginia. Through the years, the home had gone through subtle changes in its design, but it became apparent to the owners that the home needed a major update. “What was created is what the owner-architect fondly refers to as a neo-bunga-lonial design,” Gunn says, “which blends the modern, bungalow, [and] Colonial Revival aspects of the structure.”
The redesign incorporated a new gabled carport that conceals the home’s HVAC equipment, a kitchen bump-out to accommodate a breakfast nook, a rooftop shed dormer that efficiently removes excess heat built-up in the attic in the summer months, and a bedroom bump-out to allow a view of the Lafayette River. The home was completely resided with HardiePlank siding, and the cornice work was replaced with PVC trim elements by AZEK Building Products, Inc. “Updating the insulation throughout the home created a tighter envelope and a much more efficient structure,” Gunn says.
Gunn Contracting typically performs all demolition and carpentry work in-house, much of it done by Gunn himself. And over the years he has cultivated relationships with subcontractors who tackle all the other aspects each project. “I choose my battles,” he says.
“I strive to maintain a strong field presence during a renovation project because many things can occur during a normal day that require quick attention. So if I am there, I may as well be working. I also know that I need to put the right people in the right place to handle the parts of the project that I have no business touching. It helps the job run smoother also without taking me in too many directions.”
Working in historical renovation can often mean working under baroque building restrictions and ordinances, and one of the newer guidelines affecting today’s marketplace is the EPA’s new Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule, started in April 2010. It outlines a strict protocol for renovators “performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978” structures, according to the EPA’s website, and it includes criteria for proper certification, testing, record keeping, site containment, worker protection, and clean-up, among other things. But Gunn doesn’t let it overwhelm him and his team. “The new RRP rule can be a game-changer for a homeowner or contractor deciding whether to move forward with a project,” Gunn says. “The extra labor, time, and necessary materials and tools required can significantly add to the cost of a project. The EPA has been telling us for a while that this rule was coming, so it is not a surprise. … The thing to do now is to get on board with the program and adjust your practice to reflect these changes.”
Even as Gunn works to ensure his firm is capable of adjusting to new industry regulations, though, he still evidences a fondness for those traditional construction values no set of rules could do away with. “In my many years in the construction business,” he says, “I have been fortunate and thankful to work with old-school people with old-school practices, associates who believed that if it isn’t worth being done right, it isn’t worth being done at all—and that the quickest way is not always the best way. I believe this mantra, no matter how worn out it can be, helps me create quality projects.” ABQ