No Song and Dance

Talk to David Warth for a few minutes and it’s evident that he’s no song-and-dance man, his involvement with a local community theater notwithstanding.

The NAHB Remodeler of the Month and owner of Warth Construction, Inc., in Highlands, N.C., hasn’t “trod the boards” in actor parlance, but he’s certainly nailed a few boards in place at the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center, where he volunteered to build an addition and remodeled the backstage area. Work on the arts center is just one example of Warth’s community involvement.

Like his remodeling business, his work on the theater came about as a result of the connections he maintains with previous clients; Warth had done remodeling work for the theater director.

Indeed, most of Warth’s work comes from former clients or friends and relatives of those homeowners, he says.

Part of that certainly has to do with the unique demographics of the community in which Warth operates. Highlands is located in western North Carolina about 130 miles from Atlanta and could accurately be categorized as an affluent retirement community. “We have two grocery stores and eight high-end country clubs,” Warth explains. Credit is not an issue to many of his clients, he says, adding, however, that he has also done his share of more modest, bread-and-butter kitchen and bath remodeling.

Warth describes his management style as very hands-on. “In fact, some of my superintendents might say I’m on the job too much,” he quips. Nevertheless, he finds that homeowners like knowing the owner of the company knows first hand what’s going on.

That close relationship with clients is particularly important to Warth. “Listen to your clients,” he says. “I see so many contractors who don’t listen, and if you’re not willing to listen to your clients, how are you going to give them what they want?”

He recalls a letter that he received early in his career from a client who wrote he “really enjoyed waking up” with Warth’s crews each day during the project. It’s something that Warth has never forgotten. “You really are ‘waking up’ with the homeowner every morning, and you have to be very careful,” he says.

One special service that Warth provides is a three-ring binder that includes all of the information about the project. The binder is divided into three areas: The first includes instruction manuals for everything from how to adjust the heated floors to changing the batteries in the remote for the outdoor fireplace. The second section contains information such as the home’s paint colors, broken out by room with instructions for mixing special colors if a touch-up is needed. The third area has names, phone numbers, and addresses of all the subcontractors that worked on the client’s home.

“We believe that having all this information organized and put together in an easy-to-use binder makes the client’s life easier so he or she isn’t scrambling for information 10 years down the line,” Warth says.

He notes that presenting clients with a binder is more professional than just throwing the instruction manuals in a drawer, plus it heads off some of the service calls he might get about how to change a filter or program an appliance. He adds, however, that, binder or no binder, he’ll always personally assist clients with those issues.

Another way Warth builds and maintains his company’s image is through virtual tours on his Web site. These go beyond passive slide shows and allow visitors to the site to interactively pan, tilt and zoom. The technology is like that used on some high-end realty sites.

An important part of Warth’s philosophy is to rebuild and reuse structures and materials, avoiding the environmental impact of demolition. The reuse of old wood and hardware is a priority for clients, many of whom prefer what Warth calls “rustic elegant” décor in tune with the Appalachian Mountain geography of the area.

David Warth

  • Company Name: Warth Construction, Inc.
  • Location: Highlands, N.C.
  • Years in business: 15
  • Professional affiliations: National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI); Western North Carolina Green Building Council
  • Community involvement: Member, Highlands, N.C., Chamber of Commerce; constructed addition to the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center; participated in the Macon County Relay for Life; named American Cancer Society “Rookie of the Year” team.