Kistler & Knapp Builders Inc.: Ongoing Leaders in Custom Homebuilding
- Written by: Kistler & Knapp Builders Inc.: Ongoing Leaders in Custom Homebuilding
- Produced by: Kistler & Knapp Builders Inc.: Ongoing Leaders in Custom Homebuilding
- Estimated reading time: 6 mins
Choosing the right builder to help realize a dream home is an essential component of the construction process. Homeowners that select Kistler & Knapp Builders Inc. (KKB) gain access to a company with a team of professionals who have established one of the best reputations in the Greater Boston area for completing high-quality work on custom-designed residential homes. Founders Dennis Kistler and David Knapp have assembled one of the region’s most talented rosters of employees who successfully complete challenging projects on time and on budget.
KKB originally started as a handyman service that Kistler formed shortly after graduating from college in 1972. “We have a very humble beginning. I had a background in carpentry and cabinet making and I would take whatever little projects I could get,” reveals Kistler. “David was a racing yacht builder, who joined me shortly after I started. What grew the company was the quality of our work, our ethics and our approach at keeping the lines of communication open between all parties involved – the architects, the owners, the subs – to ensure everyone was on the same page.”
A History of High-quality Projects
Over the years KKB has become established as a full-service construction firm ready to handle the most demanding architectural concepts, which are approached from a foundation of comprehensive management, transparent accounting and fiscal prudence. And to assure all parties are satisfied KKB keeps its eye on the process from the get-go. Every KKB customer appreciates that the firm works diligently to avoid surprises, using its core principles of proactive management and detailed documentation to keep the clients informed as they make ongoing choices and ultimately to achieve the best value
“Quality starts with the foundation of the home,” says Kistler. “When we first started out, we noticed that the site work wasn’t being completed in a satisfactory manner. If you start off with a nice level hole, it makes it easier for the foundation guy to get his product plumb and level, which helps the framer get his product square and true and ends up with the finish carpenter – whose product everyone sees. It’s easier for him to shine if it’s started out right. So, in the beginning of our business, we took over the site work to ensure that everything was done right, down to the fact that David was one of the first builders in New England to put venting under the slab, so that if radon ever became an issue, the solution was a simple as turning on a fan.”
Under Kistler and Knapp’s leadership the company has constructed single-family homes, additions and renovations, town houses, auxiliary buildings, and even light-commercial buildings. An unswerving eye for quality control has been possible because of the KKB attitude of selecting and training employees to foster a positive energy in the building community.
“We’ve attracted the incredibly talented staff that we have because we have focused on much more than just compensation,” says Kistler. “We understand that our employees have families and want to be part of their lives. No amount of money will ever replace the recital you missed, or the graduation ceremony you were too busy to attend. We allow our staff flexibility and foster an environment of camaraderie, and in return we get employees who are more efficient, level-headed and do an amazing job on our projects.”
Knowing that eventually they wanted to retire, but not willing to see the company that they had built over the years close its doors or diminish its capabilities, Kistler and Knapp turned to the company’s dedicated staff as they focused on succession. Doug Stevenson joined KKB 17 years ago, starting as a project supervisor and working his way up the corporate ladder to his current position as vice president of operations. KKB’s owners also recruited Renee West, currently KKB’s vice president of finance, around the same time as Stevenson.
“I came from an insurance background and I was ready for a new challenge,” relates West. “Dennis and Dave had been clients; their integrity and work ethic attracted me to KKB. The specifics of the construction business were new to me, but I felt if I didn’t like it, I could pursue other avenues. It’s been 17 years now and I still love my job.”
Today, West and Stevenson are successfully overseeing KKB’s day-to-day operations, inspired by a tradition of hands-on, lead-by-example management. “Dennis and David are still very much a part of Kistler and Knapp,” says Stevenson. “You can still often find David operating machinery with our site-work department.”
One In the Office, One In the Field
An unfortunate job-site accident early on in the company’s history relegated Kistler to the office for a period, while Knapp was most frequently found on the company’s job sites. The owners decided to follow a similar model with their successors, as West manages the company’s office and financial operations from within the corporate headquarters in Acton, Mass., while Stevenson directs the construction and field operations.
“I don’t really have a typical day,” reveals West. “I take care of the employees, their pay, benefits, whilst putting out fires all day long. They build the homes and I take care of everything else.”
Recognizing that Kistler and Knapp have put into place highly efficient procedures over the years, contributing to an impeccable reputation, neither Stevenson nor West has the desire to make significant changes to the company’s business model when they fully take over operations. “We’ve had 35 to 45 employees for the past five to 10 years, and we’re comfortable with that range,” says Stevenson. “We’re big enough to have the horsepower to complete larger projects, but we’re also still small enough so that our clients know that they can reach the owners and upper levels of management if need to.” Or, as West simply states, “Dennis and David have built a company with a solid foundation. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
West admits that when she started work at KKB, she felt some apprehension being a woman in a traditionally male environment, but she says that as soon as the company’s employees realized she is “one of the guys” she quickly developed a rapport with her co-workers. “They are exceptional craftsmen and have a great work ethic. They are willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”
Stevenson echoes her sentiment. “The employees here at Kistler and Knapp are all outstanding workers. We have brought on board a dedicated, hard-working team of professionals – from the carpenters to the office staff. It makes it easy to go to work knowing that everyone here is contributing to make Kistler and Knapp the best it can be.”
These qualities have allowed KKB to complete incredible projects throughout the region. Pictures of the company’s work can be found on its website, kistlerandknapp.com. No matter the company’s level of success, however, KKB still operates on the same belief that all work should reflect the finest in craftsmanship – whether it comes from a preferred subcontractor or the company’s in-house workforce. The company garners much of its work from referrals and through repeat business with the area’s top-ranked architectural firms.
Dennis Kistler and David Knapp deserve to be proud that Kistler & Knapp Builders Inc. is widely considered one of the region’s top custom homebuilders. The company’s discerning clients and its reputation for constructing fine homes that will be cherished for generations attest to the company’s position in the industry. Working with respect for company tradition and a proactive attitude, Renee West and Doug Stevenson will continue to build the legacy.
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