I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Ben Gertz of Gertz Building Company out of Bay Village to learn about his family business as well as the home building and renovation industry. I first met Ben about a year ago when we were both completing the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Tri-C.
Gertz Building Company is based out of Bay Village and it was started in 1982 by Ben's father, Doug Gertz. The company started by doing new construction on smaller, starter homes in Sheffield Lake. By the mid-1990's they were building larger, custom homes in Bay Village and Rocky River. Around this time they also began doing more renovation and remodeling work. Today they build 100% custom homes as well as custom remodeling work.
Ben started working with his dad in middle school and high school doing odd jobs such as sweeping up job sites. After graduating from The Ohio State University, Ben was helping a few of the tradesmen to earn extra money. He quickly realized he enjoyed the work and decided to make it his career. After spending time working with the framing crews he shadowed his father to learn the entire business and how to manage all of the trades. Currently, both Ben and Doug work actively in the business.
Gertz Building Co. does not do commercial work and Ben said they aren't very competitive on finishing basement rec rooms although they have done a few. They mostly build new homes on customer's land or their own land as well as doing a lot of high quality kitchen remodels.
Ben said that while every kitchen remodel is different, a homeowner can budget around $65,00 to $80,000 to remodel an existing kitchen with high end finishes. Most projects in this price range take about 10 to 12 weeks to complete from start to finish. The first step is having Gertz bring a kitchen designer to work with the customer to find a design that they like. Then Gertz Building puts together a proposal with all of the selected options. This typically takes a few weeks as decisions are made. Once the quote is approved, Gertz takes the plans to the city for approval. This varies by city between a few days and a few weeks.
Ben advises homeowners to budget an additional 10-15% for contingencies. For example, they were recently working on remodeling a bathroom and after removing the flooring realized that the floor joists had previously been notched out. This made the floor joists completely unsafe. "I'm surprised the bathtub didn't fall through the floor!" Ben said, only half joking. He also warned against using popular tv remodeling shows as a budgeting guide. Often times the show has received a lot of free products that drastically reduce the cost.
When I asked Ben if he had any advice for someone thinking about building a new home, he emphasized the importance of the foundation. Specifically, he said homeowners should be concerned about the quality of the fill material used to fill in around the foundation walls. Only premium gravel should be used around the walls and under the garage and not dirt. This is important for drainage to avoid water damage in the future. Finally, he suggested if you're working with a builder, be sure to say something if you are unsure or have questions. If you are not getting the answers or resolutions you want, you can involve your local building department but most builders should be able to resolve questions pretty quickly.
When you are planning your next remodel or if you have that custom dream house on the horizon, contact Ben at Gertz Building Company. We've had the pleasure to work with them on a few projects over the last year and they do high quality, beautiful work! You can learn more on their website or by calling 440-554-6355.