By Robert Swart on August 19, 2021
For the past 30 years, Dennis Gehman and his Gehman Design Remodeling team have designed, build, and remodeled dream spaces in homes in south-eastern Pennsylvania.
“What makes us different is our ability to listen to what our clients want and the creativeness in our design team coupled with the engineering and trade skills.
Most of the work is done by our employees rather than using subcontractors, especially when we’re doing kitchens, bathrooms, and sides to the house where people are living. People really appreciate that the same people are there from start to finish.
Fewer balls get dropped because the project manager who started on day one tearing out the old cabinets is the same guy putting the finishing tile on at the end. It is the same guy that sees the project through from start to finish.
We focus on residential, which seems to be what we do best. Occasionally we do a small commercial project, but I feel that we bring the best value to our clients when it’s a project that has some design, structural or construction challenges.
We offer a 5-year written warranty on our workmanship which is not standard practice in our industry. Most of the time we don’t get any phone calls but when we do, our clients know how we respond and how quickly.
People are surprised that we come out after 4⅟2 -5 years to address something. They are so amazed that they tell people that the guy that did their kitchen 4⅟2 years ago just came out to fix something and he didn’t charge them nor did he try to get out of it.
A testimonial like that is priceless.”
The Gehman Design Remodeling team’s unique approach has also earned them rave reviews from their clients as can be seen from some of the reviews below.
“Gehman Design Remodeling is an excellent company if you are planning a remodel. They remodeled our basement into a beautiful family room space for games, hobbies, and TV. They have the qualities you want when it comes to working on your home. Honest, professional, courteous, and stellar craftsmanship”. – Beth
“After using Gehman for our home remodel a couple of years ago, they were the only place we could think to call when we needed a repair to floor and drywall following water damage. Nobody will match their quality! It’s also a bonus that they are responsive, have great attention to detail, and treat our home like their own.” – Laura
“Gehman Design Remodeling just finished a kitchen remodel for us. Within 10 minutes of Tyler, our Remodeling Consultant, arriving he proposed a change to the kitchen design that provided much more open space and flexibility. Moving forward Tyler and Aaron helped us fill in many of the details we didn’t consider and presented us with a visual design that was perfect! None of this process was rushed. One of the best aspects of Gehman Design Remodeling was assigning a permanent Project Manager from start to end of construction. Josh was our Project Manager, and he was the best! He was a master in all construction areas yet paid attention to all of the fine details as well. He and his crew delivered a great kitchen that met all of our requirements and makes the kitchen a new centerpiece of our home. We would definitely use Gehman Design Remodeling again!” – Jason
Dennis, married for 43 years to Glenda, his high school sweetheart, the President of Gehman Design Remodeling is a Pennsylvanian native, born and raised. He grew up about 20 miles from Harleysville and his wife is from this area. An interesting fact is that his wife grew up just across the street from where they are currently living.
They were part of a group of 10 that was asked to start a new church in December 1986 and were part of that congregation ever since that first service.
Dennis is involved in the local NARI Bucks-Mont chapter and the Chamber of Commerce.
Dennis is what we like to call a Local Biz Hero, a self-made entrepreneur who brings true value to his community. High standards of professionalism and the strong work ethics of small business owners like Dennis are the foundation of the Harleysville economy.
Dennis and his wife are involved with Joni & Friends, a local Christian ministry that envisions a world where every person with a disability finds hope, dignity, and their place in the Body of Christ. When people with disabilities or their caregivers need some modifications to their homes, they will give Dennis’ contact details to them.
Dennis sits on the board for their church camp at Spruce Lake Retreat, a year-round Christian camp and retreat center in the Pocono mountains.
We sat down with Dennis for a quick interview –
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: “From childhood, I always wanted to be a carpenter. My Dad never worked as a professional tradesman but would do things around the house and I enjoyed helping him. I think that is where I got my start.
In high school, I thought that since I wanted to become a carpenter, I would go to the vocational-technical school for carpentry. I couldn’t get into that class. So, I took architectural drafting which now fits in very well since we do design-build.
Right out of school I was not ready to sit at a desk and be an architect or designer. A friend of my dad’s had a construction company, and I was fortunate enough to be hired as a laborer and was able to learn the trade.
It was a three-person framing crew and I was the laborer, so I did a lot of carrying, measuring, and cutting. I only stayed with them for one year, but it was a good experience and I still know the two men.
Remodeling is a people business and I enjoy the interaction with people, and it still gives me great satisfaction and fulfillment to see people’s reactions when you have completed their dream space. Although my sons are actively involved in the business and have taken over much of the responsibility, I still enjoy the creative process and solving challenges to bring my client’s dream to fruition.”
Q: How did you get into this profession?
A: “As I mentioned before, I always wanted to become a carpenter. After my year working as a laborer with the construction company, I signed up through our church mission program for one year of what was called voluntary service.
They had a mobile builder’s unit and for three months we were working at a church camp in Illinois. For the rest of the nine months, we were actually at the church camp, Spruce Lake Retreat, where I grew up.
We built two log cabin kit buildings in Illinois and then here in Pennsylvania built another log cabin and another steel structure maintenance building. Here I was able to use the skills that I had acquired and certainly continued learning.
I then worked for almost two years doing more commercial/industrial construction work with concrete and steel which I am glad I have learned, but I enjoyed working with wood more which is the residential kind of thing.
That was the time we got married and while I was working there, I started doing some side work for friends and family. I got more involved in the kitchen and bathroom side of it and more the cabinetry and installing them. I worked in a cabinet shop for a while and learned how to make cabinets. I enjoyed that.
It was around 1985 that I start having conversations with my wife and made plans to give notice and start my own business. After I gave notice, I received a phone call from another contractor that got hold of me through a mutual friend. I told him that I wanted to start my own business. After we met for lunch, he made me an offer that I accepted and then worked for him for about four years.
During that time, I built a new house for our family during the evenings and Saturdays. It took me about seven months. Then I started to receive phone calls from people who thought if I could build a house for my family, I could build this and that for them. These side projects just got bigger and bigger until one night, my wife asked me whether I still wanted to start my own business. We talked and prayed about it and so with my wife being a stayed-at-home mom with four children and we had a brand-new house mortgage, I quit my job.
We started working from the dining room table in the house and then moved to the basement and then had to add an addition for the office. Now, After 8 years in business, we moved to our current property, which we bought, remodeled, and converted into an office and showroom.
I probably earned less per hour but thankfully we never missed a payment. I realized that I needed to learn how to be a businessman and I credit a lot of that to my involvement with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). My involvement with NARI grew over the years and I am currently the President of the national organization.
We have been blessed over the years having received a number of rewards as recognition for the work we do. The first was in 1995 when the Remodeling magazine named us as one of the big 50 contractors from around the country. It’s kind of the Hall of Fame, once you’re in there you are in for life.
For each year since 1996, we have received a NARI Contractor of the Year (COTY) award. The winners at the county level progress to the regional level and we have received close to 20 regional awards. (Pennsylvania north thru Maine) Just this year we have received two regional awards.
We also have two National Contractor of the Year awards in our name.
The one national award was for the building that we’re in, which was a barn built in the 1860s that we renovated to become our showroom and offices. The second was for a brick chapel in Harleysville that was a couple 100 years old and that we converted into a graphic design studio for a local company.”
Q: Being in the design and remodeling business, Dennis works directly with many people, we asked him what’s the most unusual situation that ever happened to him on the job?
A: “A couple of projects came to mind. We worked on a project where the house got flooded every year or two as the stream rose. We had to jack the house up and put in a new foundation so the house doesn’t get flooded anymore.
We are currently working on a whole house and addition project in Lansdowne, PA and part of that was a swimming pool going into the backyard. We had to be finished by end of April, which we were, and then the swimming pool people had to install the pool during the next two weeks. They never installed the pool and the owner asked us if we could install the pool. We told the owner that we never did install a swimming pool, but the owner still gave us the job to install the pool.
Although heated floors are fairly common in bathrooms these days, we have a project coming up where the client requested that we put heated seats in the shower.
In our own office building on Main Street, we had to dig the floor 3 feet deeper on the ground level to underpin the foundation. That was also a fun project.”
Q: If you could share one tip with the readers for choosing a residential designer remodeler, what would it be?
A: “I think it is always a good idea to ask friends, family, and coworkers for a referral. When you have those names, you go online and check out their website, their online testimonials, and Google reviews.
Pick a few from your list to have a conversation with. If you feel good about the initial phone call, I recommend meeting them in person. There are always many good contractors in an area. Find a person or a company where the personalities click. Pick someone that you feel like if there was an issue you could have an honest conversation with and believe that they would give you a straightforward, honest answer. If you don’t feel that you could have that conversation up front, it is not going to get easier when your house is torn apart, and your stress level is through the roof, and the contractor is busy.
The engagement normally starts with a phone conversation. Typically for us, we kind of have the thought here in the office that the more time we spend on the initial phone call with them, the more likely we are going to do business together. It is about getting to know one another. Ask as many questions as possible about their history, experience, what went well and, what went bad. More importantly, is how they dealt with a situation when it went bad.
If you feel that your personalities don’t click then you just say, No thank you, wish each other well, and move on. Moving on doesn’t make anybody a bad person – it is just respecting that God has made us with different personalities.
Ask the contractor for references and follow up with them asking them the same questions just from their experience point of view.”
Q: What do you love about your community/city?
A: “Definitely the wonderful friends that I’ve made over the years from employees, clients, competitors, suppliers, and vendors. I just sincerely love interacting and working with people.”
Q: Do you have any Hobbies?
A: “Between the business and my involvement at the Spruce Lake Retreat, I don’t have much time left for hobbies. However, I do enjoy reading and gardening. My wife does flowers, but I love vegetable gardening and taking care of the lawn. I like keeping things nice. I grew up in a camping family and did a fair bit of camping with our children as they were growing up. I also have been a motorcycle rider and sold it some time ago, but I think I’ll get another one before long.”
For those of you who are looking for a professional contractor to design, build or remodel your home, Dennis and the Gehman Design Remodeling team should be your first choice. Call Dennis at (215) 513-0300, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gehmanremodeling.com – Seriously Award-Winning Designers, Builders, and Remodelers!
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