BUILDER OF THE MONTH – NOVEMBER 2010
Laurens TenKate, Builder L.L.C.
Question: Laurens, you’ve taken quite a circuitous journey to become a builder. What finally decided it for you?
Answer: I listened to the builders at HBA talk about what they were doing, how rewarding it was to help make people’s dreams come true by planning and building their homes. My father-in-law was a great encourager, also, and I had a lot of connections with the HBA associates…it just happened. And, I’ve loved the building trade ever since.
Q: What type of architectural style do you prefer to build? Why?
A: I love homes that involve a lot of craftsman work; that is usually more of an Early American type home, with lots of woodwork…trim, cabinetry…I, along with my friend and employee, Tomas Kosmak, do all the framing, trimming and custom cabinetry. I’m on the job site most of the time because, as my clients know, I’m a stickler for detail and I want things to be perfect.
Q: What percentage of your building practice is new construction?
A: Up until 3 years ago, I would build on average, 4 homes a year. Almost all my business comes from word-of-mouth referrals which, I believe, speaks well of my building practices. With the current economic climate and some other changes in my life, I have found that about 90% of my business is now remodels and additions to existing homes.
Q: What has been your most challenging building or remodeling project?
A: I guess the most challenging, yet most rewarding projects for me are the intricate ones…the more complex the more exciting to build. What comes to mind, as an example, is a home I built in Lowell. The homeowner wanted the grain pattern of his cabinet doors to line up and match across the width of the cabinets. It was really fun to make that work for my client!
Q: Do you design your own homes or use designers/architects?
A: Many times the client will have a designer, an architect, or both already in mind when they come to me. If they don’t, I have several I can refer to them. Specifically, I have enjoyed working with Baroque Inc. and Visbeen & Associates. I have utilized, on many occasions, Marilyn Kronemeyer, an Interior Designer, who will supply samples of different wall and floor coverings as well as exterior shingle and siding colors so that everything all ties in together for my clients. She has been a great alliance. She’s always trying to sell me the wood floors but I always use Rivershores for my hardwood floors. I know I’m getting a great product and I always appreciate their prompt and courteous customer service. I’m very loyal to the sub-contractors I use…it makes for a good experience for my clients.
Q: What is your best advice to someone who wants to have a house built?
A: Tie in with a builder that you are comfortable with and trust. Build that relationship. A good builder will also be a great resource to find a lot that fits the type of home you’d like to have. For example, if the client is looking to build out in the country, there are soil and erosion concerns, as well as septic and well issues that a builder will be able to advise on. As far as an architect goes, I recommend using them to draw your home design. Most builders may draw up a few homes a year while an architect designs many. Why not go with the experts who have a lot of new ideas and experience?
Q: Do many of your clients insist on using green products?
A: I do try to use environmentally friendly products wherever possible; also energy efficient appliances, lighting, heating and cooling. And, I am a member of Green Build. However, I don’t get a lot of clients asking for the use of strictly green products. Even though I feel that much of the “green” movement is media-driven, we should be more conscious of these choices.
Q: I know that you have another love in your life. Tell me about that.
A: Well, I have been a runner all my life, even took 28th place in the River Bank Run back when I was running competitively. Then, in 1995, when I began my building business and my family was growing, I gave it up…kind of regret that decision now. When you take 10 years off, it’s very hard to get back to where you were. Anyway, I really appreciated the cross-country program at Calvin Christian and its coach, Kevin Ver Beek…he’s a devoted Christian and a great friend. My daughters ran track at Calvin, also. Four years ago, Kevin asked me if I wanted to take over as head coach and I jumped in. It’s been great. My wife, Jan, is very supportive and actually coaches the middle school program. Cross country has really taken off at Calvin; out of 380 students total, there are 51 students on the high school team and 23 on the middle school team. It’s fun to see the kids get excited about something that’s so good for them. Our team took sixth in state in 2008, second in 2009 and this year, we’re ranked #1 in the state…lots of fun! I’ve tried hard to instill in them the desire to use the skills God has given them to the fullest and many of them have taken that to heart. We recognize all of them…they’re all working so hard. I love doing this; it’s a definite passion of mine. Woodworking and coaching…what more could I ask for?