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About Kerby & Company

How We Build

Many homeowners, and – horror – many tradesmen, see a house as a box with finishes applied like clothes on Barbie. Kerby & Company doesn’t share this view. To us, a house is a complex machine, and a poem co-written by its craftsmen and inhabitants. On each project we aim to tune all the components of the home as finely as possible. Every individual piece must be precise and deliberate. When these details are orchestrated well, rooms will fit together like gears in a watch or stanzas in a sonnet: functional and pleasing in themselves, yet contributing to the beauty and purpose of the home in its entirety.

Thinking of a home this way demands that we strive to escape the idea of craftsmen as mere laborers. A stupendous amount of thought and information can be invested in a home – it isn’t always – so we consider it insufficient to do no more than install cabinets, pull wires, or glaze windows. Our ideal of being a craftsman is to engage in an ongoing effort to do those things well, with true knowledge of how each contributes to the home as a whole.

For a craftsman, having an awareness of the home in its entirety is being halfway to a successful renovation. The other half is in executing each step in the project with painstaking commitment to details. In order for the paint on the crown molding to appear flawless throughout its life, the framing, the wall surfaces, the foundation, the air conditioning, and the building envelope must all be as flawless as possible throughout their lives. Achieving this requires the craftsman to treat every task and material, however mundane or invisible it will be in the finished home, as though it were going to sit atop the dining hall mantelpiece.

We hope for each of our projects that someday another craftsman will smile in appreciation of our efforts, just as we often do when working on the old homes of New Orleans. Doing our jobs well, using quality materials, is only one part of reaching that goal. No home will be cherished and maintained into the future if it swallows its owner’s bank account with repair costs or quickly outdated finishes, or one that doesn’t accommodate the owner’s changing needs.

Another factor is the long-term sustainability of a home’s construction and resource consumption. “Green building”, a hot current topic in our profession, means promoting energy and water efficiency, creating less waste in the building process, and using fewer products that contain harmful chemicals or non-renewable resources. These are noble goals that all builders should aspire to, though we believe that they should be secondary to the goal of achieving longevity. Our favorite renovations are those that aim to increase the home’s efficiency and enhance its longevity, while maintaining its character.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” wrote the poet John Donne. This idea surfaces throughout the approach Kerby & Company takes to its projects and to its business relations. Our projects are not islands. They are members of a block, of a historic district, and of their entire city. Their characteristics affect the overall nature of their surroundings, and we would like their contribution to be positive.

This begins with developing a healthy relationship with the homeowner. Because we have treated each of our clients as partners, and because we treated their homes as our own, we can be proud of the fact that many of them have become close friends.

We consider ourselves members of the same neighborhood as our clients and conduct ourselves accordingly. We attend to the concerns of other community members. For the safety of all, Kerby & Company has undergone the training to become an EPA-certified Lead-Safe Renovator. We also favor local suppliers over box stores, encourage including post-project landscape and streetscape improvements in the initial budget, and we will not vanish after collecting payment. Indeed, we schedule return visits to check on our projects, make adjustments, and chat with our neighbors.

How We Bill

We love working on old homes because each is unique. Each day of a renovation, big or small, presents new surprises, and each stage of the project requires custom solutions to the inevitable, invisible challenges. That’s why we believe that all parties benefit from an honest and diligent “time and materials” billing procedure.

An accurate and effective bid for a job requires complete construction and it forces homeowners to either not change their minds or to pay the builder “change-order” fees for straying from the original plan. While bids are effective on new construction, especially for cookie-cutter houses, they are unwieldy and risky in custom renovations. To us, working on bids is a lot like poker: one of the players will win and the others will lose, whether because the builder grossly underestimated the costs hidden behind hundred-year-old walls or because the homeowner didn’t realize how quickly change-order fees can break his budget. Moreover, for a builder to earn a living on bids, she must minimize time spent on projects and use the cheapest materials and subcontractors, which encourages shoddy, “just-good-enough” workmanship.

We offer price-range estimates before we begin a project, which we strive to make accurate, but without demanding complete construction documents and the weeks of estimating it would take to bid on a large project. Although we’re always happy when a project costs just what we estimated – or better yet, less – it is nearly inevitable that the scope of the project will change as it progresses. Working on time and materials, we can nimbly accommodate a client’s developing vision of their home.

Hiring a builder on a time and materials agreement can have its pitfalls. Homeowners must choose based on the builder’s reputation with colleagues and previous clients; on their own judgment of the builder’s craftsmanship and sincerity; and on their personal compatibility.


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