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J.K. Holton, a construction company in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, began in 1991 as a business specializing in log homes, and eventually grew into the full-service building and remodeling company it is today. Current owner Tim Holton took the reins from his father in 2015 and has since shifted the company’s focus.
“I worked for Dad since I was 16,” Holton says, “and by 2015, I’d reached a point in my career where I was either going to start my own company or take over the family business. We decided that I would take over the company and he would step back in a support role. He’s still part of the company when needed.”
Today, the company’s focus is almost entirely on additions and renovations. Holton has found that they can be more specialized this way. They also appreciate the opportunity to make improvements to existing homes instead of fighting over new construction jobs and dealing with the scheduling hassles inherent to a project that includes as many as a dozen different subcontractors.
“I live by three concepts that I inherited from my father,” Holton adds. “You can’t outlive a bad reputation. Under-promise and over-deliver. And cheap work ain’t good and good work ain’t cheap!”
Simple concepts in theory. But J.K. Holton has forged a great reputation in Southeast Pennsylvania by living up to promises while providing crystal clear communications with everyone involved, from the homeowner to subs.
“It’s rewarding to visit a customer after a renovation and they’re just over the moon excited about how we’ve artfully refreshed or expanded their living space,” Holton says. “For example, the most recent log home we worked on hadn’t changed in a long time. The upstairs bathroom we remodeled hadn’t been touched since 1978.”
One of two bathrooms in the 2,400 square-foot home, the upstairs guest bathroom is 80 square feet and had a simple bathtub and surround. The owner wanted to update it completely with new floors, vanity, tiled shower and floor warming.
“We rarely take on small bathroom projects,” Holton adds. “As a company, we specialize in larger remodeling work, which usually includes bathrooms. On average, 60 percent of our projects include a bathroom remodel. But we took this job between two bigger ones.”
J.K. Holton uses Creative Ceramics, LLC, Newark, Delaware, for much of their tile work. The company has been in business for nearly 20 years and is typically booked-out six months. Given the log exterior wall in the bathroom and the use of an electric floor warming system, Holton preferred to sub-out the shower and flooring.
“Mark Matchen, who owns Creative Ceramics, is without question the best tile setter I’ve ever seen,” Holton says. “Dad taught me early on to let people who specialize in a trade do that trade. I’ve seen Mark quickly and meticulously scribe natural stone tile to intricate crown molding. His work is always impressive.”
The bathroom was demolished and new plumbing was roughed-in before Matchen arrived to install underlayment.
“I always get the customer involved during the design,” Matchen explains. “I prefer they see the tile laid out before it’s installed. We have one shot at getting it right. This homeowner really wanted two things; patterned tile and warm floors.”
Matchen used the SunTouch electric system to provide the floor warming that the customer wanted. Due to the small size of the bathroom, he selected the SunTouch TapeMat. Electric wire is woven into the mat, allowing mortar or floor leveler to bond to the subfloor. After adhering the mat to the subfloor, he poured floor leveler to bring consistency to the old log home’s bathroom floor. Then he ran wires to the touchscreen SunTouch thermostat on the wall.
There are a number of options when installing a SunTouch system beyond using the woven mat. WarmWire can be purchased on a spool and fastened directly to the floor. Or the HeatMatrix uncoupling membrane can be installed, which allows the installer to snap wire into place. The polymer membrane has a fleece backing, which adds protection from expansion and contraction, especially when using large tiles.
“The SunTouch system is easy to install, and you can make it fit any application and any size you need,” Matchen explains. “Floor warming is really the cherry on top for a bathroom remodel.”
After the floor leveler cured, Matchen installed the eight-inch patterned porcelain tile and completed the shower. A plumber arrived to install fixtures, and Holton completed the vanity, trim and other finishes.
“Warm floors in any space, but especially a bathroom, takes the project to a whole different level,” Holton says. “About half of our bathroom renovations have warm floors. Five years ago, not nearly as many. People are investing in premium comfort, and not just within super high-end residences. We’ve also installed floor warming in kitchens and sunrooms.”
The owner of the log home has been thrilled with the result, from both aesthetic and comfort standpoints. Holton admits installing warm floors and coordinating with a very busy, professional tile setter are just more steps in the process, but steps that are well worth it. After all, bathrooms and kitchen sell homes, or keep occupants happy in them.
According to Holton, there are few other steps in the renovation process that, with relative ease and modest expense, add as much “wow” factor, and contribute to lasting comfort as a radiantly-heated floor that’s easy to control.
“The experience of bare feet on a warm tile or stone floor is hard to match when it comes to homeowner satisfaction,” Holton adds.
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