Today, the Boston Globe reintroduces a popular series that answers homeowner questions about projects or problems related to their homes. This new iteration is called Ask the Remodeler, and when I was asked to be the point person for your questions, I jumped at the chance. During my career in the building and remodeling industry, it’s become clear that while every home is different, all of our houses share many of the same issues. I’m eager to hear about your house-related hopes and dreams, and all of the unexpected problems that can vex and test a homeowner’s resolve. Over time, I hope to address many of your concerns, inspire fresh solutions, and help both letter writers and all of you reading at home.
My name is Mark Philben, and I’ve worked with Charlie Allen Renovations, a residential remodeling company in Cambridge, for two decades. I haven’t always been a remodeler; I first cut my teeth in the building trades doing new-home construction during the booming ’80s. While that was a great way to learn construction techniques, it lacked diversity and creativity. I went from new-home construction directly into residential remodeling, which felt far more challenging and rewarding. The challenges, especially here in New England where so much of our housing stock is older (even “historic”), are obvious: bringing modern amenities into existing homes without losing period charm is quite a bit different than building new. I also found that working directly with homeowners from start to finish, while sometimes stressful, was greatly rewarding. Ultimately, the satisfaction from transforming someone’s existing home into a new space that better fit his or her needs and desires was intoxicating. I knew I had found my niche.
Of my 40 or so years in construction, 30 have been in residential remodeling. The industry is constantly evolving, always testing us to do more and do better. As our homes get older, the available technology gets more sophisticated, and the choices for homeowners seem to grow exponentially. Changes in our lifestyle and in the larger world around us also have an impact: through our local trade organizations, the Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Association for the Remodeling Industry and Builders and Remodelers of Greater Boston, contractor professionals like myself have become certified in everything from “Aging-in-Place” solutions to “Green Remodeling,” which emphasizes local sourcing, reuse of materials, and sustainable products and technologies. That all makes for a very robust, challenging, and exciting moment, and I expect that we’ll see more and better solutions and opportunities for our homes in the years to come.
It is a great time to be a homeowner and a great time to be in the remodeling industry. I look forward to collaborating with you and contributing to your understanding of and excitement for home maintenance and renovation. Please let me know how I can help!