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Monday, November 21, 2011

A Classic Renovation Helps a Philanthropic Mission

Classic Remodeling recently completed a major renovation project in the downtown area. We were excited about this project for a couple of reasons – in part because of the nature of the work itself, but also because the result of our work would benefit a charitable organization in the community. Our client on this project, the MUSC Foundation, is an organization that supports education, research, patient care and other programs at MUSC.

The Foundation owns a rental property on Ashley Avenue and uses the rental income as one means of support for its programs. The goal for this renovation was to find a way to make the property more attractive to potential renters, thereby maximizing the benefit to the Foundation. That’s where we came in.

Every project has its share of challenges, and projects in the downtown area tend to come with their own unique issues. At Classic, we look at those challenges as opportunities to do what we do best – complete superior renovations on time and on budget.

This property is located within the historic district and falls under the jurisdiction of the Charleston Board of Architectural Review (BAR). The BAR requires that any renovations to properties within this district must be appropriate and maintain the historic character of the building. So, all changes to the home had to be approved by the BAR before work could commence. Navigating the BAR’s approval process can be a daunting task, but through experience we’ve learned the right questions to ask to make the process as smooth as possible. We believe as your renovation expert, it’s our job to manage that process for you.

Our next challenge - transforming this home into a renter’s dream.

Due to the home’s age, we had to be sensitive to the potential presence of lead-based paint. This is a common issue with older homes and should not be taken lightly. Our EPA-certified staff ensured that the project was handled with the utmost care.

The home’s exterior got a facelift, which included repairing siding and adding new windows, a fresh coat of paint, and a new roof.

An addition that was added at some point to the back of the home that housed the bedrooms and kitchens was not structurally sound and had to be completely rebuilt.

Inside, each apartment got a total makeover. The original floor plan included a sitting room, a living room, bedroom, bath, and kitchen. We reconfigured the space to make it more desirable, converting the extra sitting room in each apartment to a much more useful second bedroom.

The existing hardwood floors were refinished and we laid new tile floors in the baths and kitchens. Both apartments were outfitted with new kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.

In spite of the challenges that accompanied this project, the results speak for themselves. We maintained the property’s historic character and transformed the space (without adding square footage) making it more functional and attractive to potential renters. Finally, the project was completed in record time – just under 2 months – a remarkable feat considering the challenges!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Delivering on Classic's Promises

You’ve decided to remodel, hired Classic, made all your design decisions and approved the final plans for your project – now what?

Now Cava Compton takes over. Cava is Classic’s Project Manager, responsible for making sure that what has been designed is delivered as promised.

When a project enters the construction phase, Cava, the project craftsman and I do a walk-through and go over all aspects of the project in the space. Cava then puts together a project schedule and makes sure the budget is followed. Not a small task, but she’s up to the challenge, “I love that each day is different. I like getting out in the field and the quick pace means it’s never boring!”

On a “typical” day you’ll find her checking on the status of each job, meeting with project craftsmen, resolving issues, screening and coordinating subcontractors, scheduling inspections, shopping for and ordering materials and fielding questions from clients. As you might imagine, she keeps pretty busy and is seldom seen without her cell phone.

Says Cava, “I try to be as accessible as possible to my clients. You have to remember that you are working on a home and not a job site. How we treat our clients is one of Classic’s greatest strengths, and the best work comes out of these relationships.”

Cava is also responsible for quality control, and our guys in the field work with her to make sure that everything we do is up to Classic’s standards. She and the project craftsman assigned to the job work as a team to keep the project on track. “Because we can be in a client’s home for a while, depending on the project, we really form a bond – the client, project craftsman and I – and a good relationship makes for a smooth project,” she says.

She stays with the job until it is ready for the client to move in. “When we’ve finished with the walk-throughs and punch list and it’s time to hand over the space to the client it’s a great day, but always a little sad. It’s nice that at Classic most of our clients come back with future projects, so we’re able to work with them again.”

And judging by the feedback we get from our clients they feel the same way. Says a client from Mt. Pleasant, “Cava is a really great project manager. She was always available to listen and to help with any questions. I really felt like she was taking care of us and she helped to make our first remodeling experience an exceptionally great one.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

Home Addition, Take Two

The Turner family came to us with a beautiful house that needed to function better.

The home had an existing addition off the back that housed a master bedroom, tiny master bath, and a strangely long and narrow closet. The space was not optimized and the appearance from the backyard was lacking.

The Turners wanted a new addition that would accommodate a larger bedroom, bath and closet. In addition to this interior work, they wanted to improve the appearance of the back of the property with a beautiful outdoor space that they could use for family time and entertaining.

We worked with the couple to design and build a master addition and outdoor area that met their needs. The project, of course, had its challenges. We took care to ensure that the new addition melded with the old. We were able to tie in everything nicely with the roof lines so as not to detract from the integrity of the home’s original structure. We were also able to deliver more square footage for the master bath while keeping the look from the back of the house symmetrical.

The result is a home that better reflects the Turners and how they live. The master bedroom is larger and includes a sitting area. The luxurious master bath is built for two, and there is plenty of closet space. Outside, where there was once a tired deck, there is now a large living area (truly an outdoor living room), an outdoor kitchen perfect for entertaining and a beautiful stone patio complete with built-in stone planters.

It’s what every addition should be - increased square footage that enhances the beauty and functionality of a home while looking like it has been there all along.

View from the Backyard - Before and After; Outdoor Spaces

Friday, August 26, 2011

Classic’s Small Projects and Repairs Team

Rotten siding, a leaky shower, flaking exterior trim – not exactly what springs to mind when you think of Classic and “Dreams You Can Live In.” These small projects, however, are part of a home’s upkeep and an area where Classic excels. And while we call these jobs “small” we do not mean they are unimportant. We see these projects as opportunities to improve the appearance and functionality of your home - so important, in fact, that we have created a Small Projects and Repairs Team which specializes in these types of jobs.

Managing the Small Projects and Repairs Team is Jason Wagner, who has been with Classic for 11 years and in the construction business for over 20. Jason began working construction in high school, helping his uncles with framing and masonry during the summers. Jason continued in the field after college, working in several disciplines and starting his own construction business in Pittsburgh before deciding to move south.

Jason started at Classic as an in-house painter and dry wall installer, quickly moved on to running his own kitchen and bath jobs, and eventually found himself running large-scale remodels and additions.

Now he is bringing all of this experience to Classic’s Small Projects and Repairs Team. Covering everything from siding and painting to replacing fixtures in a bath, the Team is dedicated to helping home owners with upkeep and sprucing up.

The Process
One of the goals of the Small Projects and Repairs Team is to make the whole process as easy as possible for the homeowner, from the initial meeting through completion. Jason explains the process:

When a prospective client calls we schedule an initial meeting so I can come out to the house and see the job. I bring everything I might need to this meeting and am prepared to do a thorough investigation. Some guys will come to the house, take a quick look and provide an estimate based on limited information only to have to come back, survey further and amend the estimate once the original bid has been accepted.

I’ll go up on the roof, into the crawl space, whatever is necessary to give the homeowner a complete estimate with minimal interruption. Many times I can provide the estimate right then or email the homeowner shortly after to expedite the process. I’ll follow up with a phone call to walk the client through the pricing to make sure they understand everything and to answer any questions.

Then we’ll set a schedule and get to work. When people are doing these types of jobs they want to get it started and get it done! We strive to get the job done quickly and to minimize our impact on our clients’ lives. For example, we order all of the materials needed for the job before getting started – no one wants their house torn up with no progress being made, waiting for deliveries.

We keep everything on schedule and on budget and we don’t leave a job site until our client is happy. No job is ‘done’ until it is completed to our client’s satisfaction and to Classic’s own high standards.

The Difference
We realize that many of these jobs are expenses that people don’t see coming and are issues that aren’t much fun to deal with. Keeping that in mind, we provide an experience that helps put clients at ease. Says Jason,

We do not simply put a band-aid on the problem, quoting the lowest possible price just to get the job. With this approach you get a quick, cheap fix, but you’re stuck dealing with the same issue over and over. We find the cause, and when we fix a problem you don’t have to worry about it again. Anybody can throw on a band-aid. What Classic gives you is a thorough understanding of what is happening and a complete solution.

It is extremely important to us that the client knows what is happening with their project every step of the way. Each job has a dedicated project manager who remains on site for the duration of the job and I stay involved throughout the process. We have learned that different clients like to communicate in different ways, so we make updates available in person, over the phone and in writing.

Classic’s reputation for quality and service extends to small projects and repairs, as does our warranty – 8 years on structural work, 5 years on systems and 2 years on finishes. These are practically unheard of in our industry (many businesses provide 1 year on each), but we’re proud to stand by our work. There’s a saying in the shop, ‘There are industry standards and then there are Classic standards’ – we set the bar pretty high around here.

While these types of jobs might be more necessity than the stuff dreams are made of, with Jason and our Small Projects and Repairs Team at least you can rest easy knowing they have been done well.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Creative Solutions

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of our job as remodelers is developing unique solutions for our clients. We routinely find ourselves carving out more room for storage, reconfiguring walls to improve flow, and reworking spaces to make them more reflective of how our clients live.

While we enjoy all of our projects, every now and then one comes along that really lets us flex our creative muscles. That’s what happened with this spectacular early 1800s Greek Revival mansion in the historic area of downtown Charleston.

We were working on a large project that included rebuilding these beautiful porches, and our client asked us about a solution for her children’s bedroom. The five-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, needed to share an existing space to be close to the master bedroom.

The client’s initial plan was to partition the room, but when we looked at the space we realized there were many challenges involved with going down that road. As is typical in Charleston’s grand historic homes, the ceilings in the room were 11 feet high. To partition the room would have required us to remove a doorway opening 9 feet four inches tall (with transom) along with the intricate moldings around it. We would also have had to interfere with the room's plaster crown moldings and very large wood baseboards. Besides the possibility of these details never being replaced, the final floor plan would have been very awkward, requiring a person to walk through another bedroom to gain access to the bathroom.

Realizing this was not the best plan, I told my client she was a steward of the property, and as such she should not do the project she had requested. I thought I had offended her so badly that I would never hear back from her. But after thinking about it over the weekend, she called me back to find another solution.

And we did – a fairy tale solution. Working within the existing room, we carved out spaces for each twin to call their own – a "princess" area for the girl, and a separate "knight's castle" area for the boy.

Our carpenters built and installed the project in components, like furniture, and finished them out with decorative elements chosen by the client's interior designer. Everything was installed in such a way that when the twins are old enough to move to bedrooms on the third floor it can easily be dismantled, and the room restored to its original full size, with no more work than some touch-up paint.

Needless to say, the client (and especially the kids) were thrilled with the outcome, as were we. And, of course, everyone lived happily ever after.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Meet Classic's Kitchen and Bath Specialist, Russell Scheider

Ask Russ Scheider about kitchen remodels and he will tell you that he has a process honed from years of experience. “I tell clients, ‘My job is to help you get from where you are to where you want to be, even if you don’t know where that is.’”

And Russ does get his clients there. In the kitchen and bath design field for over 20 years, Russ learned the business from the ground up, beginning in high school and college working as an apprentice cabinet maker and production manager before moving into sales and design.

He worked for the prominent kitchen design firms Callier & Thompson Kitchens and Baths in St. Louis, MO and Sea Island Kitchens in Hilton Head. His work has been seen in several publications including Coastal Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Accents and Cooking with Paula Deen. He has also had the pleasure of working with notable clients such as Gregg Allman, Paula Deen and Richard L. Armitage.

One thing that really impressed me about Russ when we first met was his dedication to his clients. You can hear his passion when he talks about how he helps clients bring their dream kitchens to life.


Getting a great result hinges on asking all the right questions. Most clients come to me without a clear picture of what they want from their kitchen, so by sitting down and talking with them I can form a mental image of what they are after.

I begin by asking them how long they have been in the house and who will be using the room. It’s very important to get a feel for their lifestyle and design sense before narrowing the conversation down to colors and finishes – that’s part of the process.

Russ also helps clients focus on and stay within their budgets. Here is how he helps navigate the budgeting process.


We also talk about budget during our initial meeting. Nobody really likes talking about the budget, but I make it a comfortable conversation. A budget is simply a number, and it is our challenge as designers to achieve the best possible outcome for what the client is prepared to spend.

Some clients have an established budget, but more often than not the client is looking to me to give them a feel for what a remodel might cost. I always share as much information with clients as possible to help them arrive at a budget. One helpful tool is the latest Cost vs. Value Report prepared by Remodeling Magazine which shows the average price of various remodels and the value that remodel adds to a home on resale.

When discussing the budget we also talk about some initial selections. Maybe a client has to have granite or they are dreaming of a Viking range – by knowing this upfront I can design the rest of the kitchen to accommodate the costs of any “must-haves.”

Once Russ has the budget nailed down, he gets to concentrate on the creative aspect of the process.


With a budget established, the client and I go through all the design scenarios (usually standing in the space, with me walking things out and waving my arms!), for example, “We could place an island in this space…we could knock out this wall…the double ovens would fit nicely here.” We discuss the myriad options for how the space could function and how it will look.

Armed with all of this input I begin the design process. I give my clients two designs with three-dimensional renderings of each. I prefer giving them thoughtfully edited choices to telling them what they should do. Usually they take pieces from both plans and with a few tweaks we arrive at the final plan.

To deliver a project on time and on budget is no easy feat, and Russ understands that diligence and planning on the front end means happy clients at the end of the project.

Estimation and Timeline

Now it’s time to do the in-depth estimate which includes pricing for all fixtures and finishes. I make selections based on function, style and budget, and I like to present my clients with alternatives for each selection. For example, a client may think they have to have the marble counter tops – and maybe they do – but it’s my job to know about all the latest materials and present any alternatives that fit the client’s style and budget.

At this point I also set the timeline for the project, and the question I always hear is, “When can you start?” What I ask my clients in response is, “When do you want the job to finish?” That’s really the better question because it allows me to work backwards from the completion date, knowing from experience how long each phase of the project will take and how the project should flow. Anyone can come in and tear up your kitchen right away, but that doesn’t make much sense if you’re going to have to live with that mess while we wait on the cabinets.

Then the physical work begins. To his credit, Russ goes above and beyond what is “typical” – he stays in close contact with his clients throughout the construction process.


With all selections decided, I’m ready to share the project with our Project Manager who will take charge of the site through the construction phase. But while most designers would bow out of the process at this point, I like to stay involved. For one thing, I measure and order all the cabinetry myself. Growing up around cabinetry, I know how important this part of the process is. If the cabinets come in and are off, you’re looking at extensive costs and delays, so I like to have control over that process.

Throughout the project I call the client and visit the site at least once a week. I want to make sure that everything I have promised is happening, and that my client is satisfied. At the end of the project, there’s nothing better than seeing a client in their new space, thrilled with the result.

And his clients have been thrilled – here’s what several had to say about working with Russ:

“From the beginning of the process, Russ was very kind and patient with us. We loved the enhancements he brought to the design. From beginning to end, he was eager to help us and his laidback nature blended well with ours. He respected our budget concerns and worked with us to get us where we were comfortable. The best accolade is that our job came in exactly on budget and one week ahead of schedule.” – Dana and Brett Muhlke

“Russ was very helpful in making recommendations and asking the right questions to be sure we got what we wanted.” – Kelly and David Winking

“Russell is very professional and creative. He offered great suggestions, and guided us when we couldn’t make up our minds.” – Sharon and Phil King

We are thrilled to have Russ on our Classic team. His experience and ability to deliver not only a beautifully designed space, but also an extremely accurate timeline and budget brings enormous value to Classic and our clients.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eyesore to Showpiece

Ashley and Scott Falls’ Charleston single was nearly 100 years old when they bought it in 2004 as a rental property. Over the next few years they began to notice that the home needed exterior work, and realized this was keeping them from attracting the caliber of tenants they wanted. During a walk-through inspection when a tenant was moving out, Ashley decided that a change was in order.

The Falls contacted several contractors, but none really clicked. Says Ashley, “I felt like they didn’t take us seriously since we are a young couple. We were thrilled when Bob came over to the house and was such a professional.”

Classic has done this type of work many times, so we know how important it is that the client understands what is involved. Historical structures can have lots of surprises for you due to their age, work other people have done to them, etc. You need to go in with your eyes wide open and the Falls appreciated this, saying, “We were so impressed by the thoroughness with which Bob looked at everything – he got up on the roof, he went under the house to check the foundation, he took photos and asked lots of questions. When we met with him to get the estimate he walked us through the whole thing explaining the work, outlining the process, and making sure we were comfortable with everything. The estimate was complete and accurate due to all of his work on the front end.”

As anticipated, the work was extensive. The entire front of the house was removed and rebuilt. Traditionally, Charleston singles have four windows on the front – two up and two down - but along the way some misguided soul had put in a bay window. When we removed the siding we found the original window sills and happily put things back the way they should be.

The double porches had to be rebuilt. “They were practically falling off,” says Ashley, “but Classic took care to save the columns which were original to the house. We were thrilled that they were able to be reused.”

While working on the porches we discovered that the roof needed to be reframed on that side of the house and some of the tin roof needed replacing. “This was one of the few surprises during the project,” adds Ashley, “and we were worried that it might blow our budget, but Bob was great and came up with a solution to tweak the budget so that we could make the repairs without going over.”

We also painted the exterior, installed custom wood shutters and added a beautiful tabby driveway with brick columns and a custom iron gate.

“Our dream,” says Ashley, “was to take a crumbling, dilapidated old house and turn it into a beautifully renovated and historically accurate home. We wanted to return it to the way it was when it was built, but with all the modern luxuries. Classic made that dream come true.”

We’re happy to report that when the For Rent sign went up Ashley and Scott got lots of calls – many from ecstatic neighbors thanking them for renovating and turning an eyesore into a neighborhood showpiece. Prospective renters called as well, none questioning the asking price. The Falls are welcoming their new tenants as I write this, and I hope they enjoy living in the house as much as we enjoyed working on it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

One Project, Many Dreams

Classic is undertaking a new project which marries two stories we love to tell. One of a client who was so thrilled with the job we did for her that she has now hired us for another job – repeat business means the world to us. The other about Classic’s commitment to our community and our profession. It’s not often that these two come together in one project.

The Levis hired Classic to do a kitchen remodel a few years ago. We’re proud to say that they were so pleased with the results that they contacted us about building on their family property on Wadmalaw Island. It’s a beautiful site that will eventually accommodate a cottage, main house and garage. We are starting with the cottage house – a quaint 900-square-foot 1 bedroom 1 bath with a nice front porch that is begging for some rocking chairs. The perfect spot to relax in the peace and quiet of this picturesque property.

Helping us with the Levi cottage will be students from St. Johns High School, not far down the road from Classic. The students will work directly with Classic employees, learning construction techniques and the ins and outs of the construction process. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to mentor local kids, and when the work is done they will have some hands-on experience for future endeavors.

We will be posting progress updates on Classic’s facebook page, so be sure to check in, become a fan of Classic and watch the cottage come to life.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Bright New Kitchen

We have done all sorts of kitchen remodels. We've knocked out walls, moved windows and doors, and put on additions to bring our clients' dreams to life. But many times, all a kitchen needs is a little love.

Many kitchens have good "bones" - they are laid out well and have a good flow to them, but they lack character. Homes built in the past 20 years, especially, where builder cabinets, countertops and finishes were installed as a matter of course are everywhere. You've seen them, and maybe you have them - the stock white cabinets with pressed-board vinyl-coated doors on them. We know it's no one's dream to have kitchen cabinets where the vinyl is peeling off.

The good news is that this is a very reasonable job to tackle. With the cabinets already in a good location, and with the body of the cabinet being sound, many times we can simply re-face the cabinets with solid wood doors and paint or finish them to the client's liking.

Likewise, countertops can be easily installed since the lower cabinetry remains in the same place and can be easily measured and fitted with a new material. Add in a couple of new finishes like a faucet and knobs and you're done.

This is exactly the type of job our friend Laura Bright came to us with. Her home was 14 years old and the kitchen, with its stock white cabinets, laminate countertops and fluorescent lighting was looking more and more dated by the day. Laura told us, "The final straw came when I started my own marketing company and was working out of the house. I got tired of looking at cheap cabinets - clearly something had to be done, so I called Classic."

Laura's budget was not huge (she was starting a business after all!), so she was thrilled with our recommendation. After looking around her kitchen, we told her that her existing layout and cabinet boxes were workable, and that a simple face lift would have a huge impact on the space.

We presented Laura with several solutions that fit within her budget - cabinet door and countertop choices, options for finishes, even recommendations for paint colors. She was very involved in the process, and the result of our collaboration is a kitchen that reflects Laura's taste, lifestyle, and home perfectly. The cabinets are now a beautiful sage green color, lightly stained to give them an antique appearance. The countertops are a dark granite, picking up the antiquing in the cabinets. And the simple silver knobs and stainless appliances lend a touch of modern.

In addition to being pleased with the outcome, Laura was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the process went. "The workers were amazing. They meticulously taped off everything (and my kitchen is completely open to the two-story living room) so there was no dust in the house - the care they took with this went beyond anything I could have imagined. They were always on time and very respectful and polite. I felt so comfortable with them in the house that I handed over the keys and left on a cruise for five days. I didn't worry about the house once."

And the service didn't stop when we cleaned up and presented Laura with her beautiful new kitchen. "A couple of weeks after the job finished Bob came over for a party I was throwing. He happened to notice a seam on the wall that wasn't quite perfect. There were people there the next day to fix it."

At Classic we work extremely hard to make sure our clients are thrilled with their new spaces. As a result, we receive wonderful client feedback, and Laura was no exception.

After living in my home for ten years, I finally decided to move forward with a long overdue kitchen face lift. While I was familiar with Classic Remodeling and their exceptional work, I felt that my project (and budget) would be too limited for their services. How wrong I was. It was a pleasure to hear their recommendations, meet members of their team, watch their work in progress, and experience the professionalism and integrity of this company. My new kitchen is absolutely gorgeous. It looks far more expensive than it was and has brought huge value to my home. I'm thrilled with the job done by Classic Remodeling & Construction.
Laura Bright
James Island, SC

When you've worked hard to make someone happy, you can't really ask for more than that.

Friday, February 25, 2011

We Build Dreams, Not Nightmares

We spend a lot of time with our clients. Sadly, we hear many - way too many - stories about "nightmare" home renovations. You've probably heard them too: the final price far exceeded what was quoted initially, "unforeseen" construction issues caused major delays, little attention was paid to the cleanliness of the site.

At Classic, whether the project is a full-scale renovation or a kitchen or bath remodel, we work closely with our clients to fully understand the scope of the project, the clients' goals for the space and their expectations of project cost and timing. As professional remodelers (as opposed to new construction builders) we understand the challenges of working with existing structures. Our attention to our clients' needs and our experience allows us to estimate our pricing and timelines very well, so well in fact, that we guarantee it.

Classic's "No Surprise" Renovation.
Our pricing is "all-inclusive" with no surprises. Every project includes:

  • all necessary working drawings
  • building permits
  • professional design assistance with selections
  • all materials and labor to complete the project as designed
  • daily clean-up while work is in progress
  • final clean-up, ready for you to move in and use your new space

When you're in the business of building dreams, you want your clients to sleep easy. Consider this guarantee a warm glass of milk.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hello 2011

While we are looking forward to a brand new year (I think most everyone will be glad to say goodbye to 2010), we can't help but feel extremely grateful as we look back over the past year.

2010 brought its share of highlights and surprises, but what really stands out is the loyalty of our clients.

Our clients have been quick to recommend Classic, allowing referrals to remain an integral source of new business. We've also been happy to see a number of repeat clients, families who have invited us into their homes for several projects and now feel like old friends. And just as our commitment to them does not end with the completion of the job, our clients continue to contribute to Classic's success.

It's wonderful to do what you love for a living, and after 21 years we're proud to know that our dedication to quality and service has resulted in a reputation for excellence that our customers have helped us build.

As we begin a new year we say a heartfelt thank you to all of our clients, and we look forward to another 21 successful years.