Alteration Specialists stay in the spotlight

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Alteration Specialists Ltd’s extension of an elegant 1930s Georgian home in Palmerston North was the well-deserving winner of the PlaceMakers Renovation Award up to $250,000 in the Registered Master Builders 2007 House of the Year.

In accordance with the client’s brief, the charming style of the two-storey home was maintained throughout, with the use of wide rimu skirting and architraves, tongue and groove rimu flooring and wooden joinery.
“It is impossible to tell where the original house ends and the renovations begin. I am very pleased — it’s as an alteration should be,” Alteration Specialists Ltd managing director Steve Brown says.

The project began in March 2006, and Mr Brown says he always had a good feeling about it.
“Half way through the job I knew I just had to enter it in the House of the Year competition. When the renovation was finished in November, I walked away feeling there was nothing I would have changed or could have done better,” he says.

Although the extension only increased the building’s floor area by 15sq m, the alterations made a dramatic improvement to the downstairs living areas.
“We expanded and relocated the kitchen to create a space perfect for entertaining, and the awkward access through the living areas was transformed to create a seamless flow between the kitchen, dining area and family room,” he says.
“We built the clients a temporary kitchen for use throughout the renovation, as they lived in the house while it was being renovated,” Mr Brown says.

As many materials as possible were reused in the renovation process, including doors, windows, architraves, skirting and wooden floorboards.
Alteration Specialists Ltd faced a few minor challenges throughout the extensive renovation project, but the biggest hurdle was getting every small detail right. 
Competition judges said the renovation was extremely well planned and organised, and the workmanship was impeccable.

“Every aspect of this renovation fitted superbly with the original character of the house. The detail in the plaster and finish work engaged a craft that was practised 40 to 50 years ago, and the workmanship of this feature was impressive.” 

Approximately 12 people, including subcontractors, worked on the project, including four from Alteration Specialists Ltd.
When asked how he got into the construction industry, Mr Brown admits it was his mother who got him the job.
“I wanted to take a year off after high school, but she wouldn’t let any son of hers “bum around for a year”, so she went out and found him an apprenticeship in Palmerston North, where he has lived since the age of 13.

Mr Brown has run Alteration Specialists Ltd for 25 years, and says the biggest challenge he has faced in this time was making the change from working in the business, to working on the business.

“About five years ago my wife Rachel (Keedwell) convinced me that I wasn’t going to go any further continuing as we were. So she got me a business coach to help me develop the business and become more of a company owner, as opposed to being a builder,” he says.
“Now, the company employs seven people and I run a really successful award-winning business. It’s all due to Rachel.”

Success in the House of the Year competition is becoming a habit for Alteration Specialists Ltd. In 1999 they were the regional winner of the New Homes under $250,000 Award and one of the first builders from Manawatu to go through to the national finals.

Then in 2006 they were a gold reserve finalist in the regional competition and again went through to the nationals.
This year Alteration Specialists Ltd will be entering a small alteration completed in 2007. “It’s a quaint old extension, which really transformed the back of the house,” Mr Brown says.

“I try to enter something every year to keep us on our toes. More and more people are reading the House of the Year magazines, and keeping an eye out for the winners in the newspaper.
“It’s just great for the business and really gets us out there in the spotlight. We’re looking forward to further success in the competition in years to come.”

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