Troy Williams knows what money looks like: For him, it’s blue and comes with a toilet seat.
Williams provides the Bluegrass with Blue Moon portable restroom units — more popularly known as portapotties — and if you’ve recently driven down some of Lexington’s hottest streets inside New Circle Road, you know his work.
Portable toilets are the accessory of necessity for the big remodeling projects on some of Lexington’s biggest, most architecturally detailed homes.
“The last two years, everything has kind of taken off,” Williams said. “... It seems like there’s just more money out there.”
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Rob Hundley, owner of Back Construction, said the remodeling uptick reflects a return of disposable income following the 2008 recession, when consumers battened down the hatches on spending: “People put plans on hold until economic conditions got better. (Now) they see that home values have appreciated in that area.”
While homeowners were holding tight to their money, homes aged. Styles changed. Open concept, in which a living area and kitchen are linked, became a thing. So did hardwood floors, granite and quartz counter tops, and stainless steel appliances.
While it’s difficult to tell precisely how many homes are being remodeled, there are multiple renovations taking around Ashland Park and Chevy Chase, and in the Chinoe/Turkeyfoot/Shadeland area. Just take a leisurely drive around the area and the contractors’ signs pop right out, huge dumpsters and portable toilets.
While some homeowners may be about aesthetics, Hundley said he’s seeing projects where the master suite is going in on the main floor to spare older homeowners from the stairs. “Aging in place,” he said, has become a reality for baby boomers, and they’re ready to put their savings where they live: onto a single floor.
Nick Keitz, owner of Keitz Construction, has three projects in the area inside New Circle: “Lexingtonians have always loved the 40502.”
Area with upscale homes outside New Circle, such as Beaumont and Andover, “are all at that 20-year mark,” he said.
That’s the time when homeowners look around, realize that their bathrooms are full of brass fixtures and aging finishes, and decide it’s time to upgrade to current amenities. While Keitz has re-done a lot of bathrooms, kitchens and family rooms and finished a number of basements, projects now are becoming even more ambitious, he said.
Hunt Ray, who is working with Keitz on an extensive renovation of his late parents’ house on California Park, has had a lot of experience with remodeling over the last two years: In 2016, he and his wife Peggy remodeled the kitchen of their house less than a mile away.
The house that’s now being renovated will get some of the same kitchen touches that the current house has. The Rays’ current house is going to be home to the couple’s son, his wife and their four children. The senior Rays will move into Hunt Ray’s late parents house when it is completed.
“He grew up in the house he’s moving back into and I grew up in the house I’m moving back into,” Hunt Ray said.
Bill Pickett of Pickett Homes Construction and Interior Design has worked extensively in the 40502: He has a renovated house up for sale at 508 Chinoe Road and has worked on houses on streets including Hart, Melrose, Marquis, Columbia and Tremont.
For 25 years he has worked with his wife Barbie. He handles construction, while she concentrates on interior and exterior selections, space planning and design. He finds special challenges in working with older homes: The house on Melrose was built in the 1920s; the Chinoe remodeling was of a 1950s house.
Now he’s working on former Lexington Mayor Pam Miller’s house, redoing it completely for the new owners. Miller moved to Massachusetts earlier this year.
Josh Gregory of Gregory Custom Cabinetry in Georgetown said the in-town, upscale neighborhoods, along with horse farms, are “our demographic for what we do.”
“Over the last two years we’ve really seen the bump in the remodeling sector,” Gregory said. “... This last year was one of best years since 2008.”
Jay Moorhead of Versailles-based Prajna Design & Construction said that after the 2008 recession, business “is back to the way it was before, and more. ... It seems like every other house has something being done. I think people are bouncing back and putting money in for comfortable living.”
Moorhead’s company is working on a renovation and an addition in the Ashland Park area along with other contractors; there’s a Blue Moon toilet out front.
The remodeling boom isn’t limited to the inside of the home.
Kyle Adamson of Red Oak Outdoor Lighting said that his company has had three projects in nine months on South Ashland Avenue, with two others scheduled for later in the year.
“South Ashland is pretty amazing,” Adamson said. “It’s one of the more beautiful streets in Lexington, and they’re improving on what is already there.”
His business “has really gotten bigger every year for the last five years,” Adamson said. “After the recession hit, people said, ‘Well, if we’re going to stay in our house, let’s improve it.’ My busiest time is the fall. People realize it’s getting darker earlier. They don’t like to come home to a dark house.”
All the remodeling and reconstruction isn’t limited to the area inside New Circle.
“If you went out to Hartland and Cumberland Hill and Andover you would see the same kind of thing going on,” said Todd Johnson, executive vice president of the Building Institute of Central Kentucky, which includes the BIA Remodelers Council. “It’s kind of more concentrated in the Chevy Chase and Ashland area, where homes are older and have less storage space.”
The big rebound in remodeling started in the Lexington area around 2014, Johnson said.
Mike Warner of Koller Warner Construction, which recently moved to 801 Winchester Road, found the remodeling market so inviting he decided to take on a particularly knowledgeable client: himself.
Warner is remodeling a home he and his wife Lea own on North Hanover.
Looking for a contractor?
Todd Johnson, executive vice president of Building Institute of Central Kentucky, said that homeowners seeking a contractor should look one who has general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. He said that remodeling is not for amateurs: “The vast majority of complaints we get are people who are not using a professional remodeler or a member of our association.”