Sometimes Smaller is Better

For Dan Kinsella of Kinsella Building in Portsmouth, R.I., the key to success is a hands-on approach. When clients hire Kinsella to build their custom home, they soon learn that the guy at the top will be on the scene, making sure certain critical details aren’t missed or misunderstood, and monitoring progress from start to finish.

A hands-on approach

“When I started this business we had a lot more employees and I found out quickly that I was losing contact with my clients,” he says. “So we dialed back. Now I have only four employees. I get to work with a lot of great people. I also get to have my hands in the project. I’m on the job just about every day. I see everything that’s happening. That’s what I enjoy.”

Photo by Chris Vaccaro

Photo by Chris Vaccaro

Kinsella Building has specialized in custom homes in Portsmouth, Jamestown, Aquidneck and Bristol since 2003. Backed by nearly 20 years of experience from its owner, who previously operated Structural Building Construction in Middletown in the mid-1990s, the company handles every aspect of a project.

From building forts to building homes

Kinsella knew he wanted to be a builder at an early age. As a youngster, he would hammer nails into the porch of his childhood home and spend his free time building forts in the backyard. “I’m one of five boys and I’m the only one doing this. I was just born with it,” he says.

He learned a little about everything at age 14 when he took a job working for a property owner who kept up an apartment building and a bed & breakfast. “He always had something to fix, whether it was sheet rock, wiring, hanging doors, roofing or landscaping,” Kinsella recalls. “I learned a lot from him.”

Custom-made built-ins done by Kinsella Building.

Custom-made built-ins done by Kinsella Building.

He gravitated toward shop class in high school, learning about drafting, electrical work and carpentry. Upon graduation he took a job as a carpenter’s assistant. “That’s when I knew what I wanted to do,” he says.

A little of everything

Although Kinsella usually hires his own sub-contractors, he’s amenable to clients who prefer a different approach. “If a client has a kitchen or flooring person they’ve worked with before, I’m open to bringing them in,” he says.       His multi-faceted background, which includes an electrician’s license, allows Kinsella to be involved with every aspect of a construction project. “I’m a nuts-and-bolts guy who likes to be in the field, and I know what looks right and what doesn’t, what works and what doesn’t,” he says. “Lots of times I’ll meet with sub-contractors and they’ll shuffle their feet when they’re asked if you can run a wire a certain way or if the plumbing will work, and I’ll say, ‘You know what, I know it can happen. Make it work.’”

In the final analysis, Kinsella says the most important elements to a successful building project are maintaining the budget, delivering the finished product on time and providing the client with a pleasurable experience.

“Building can be so chaotic, especially with new construction,” he says. “I can police all of it.”

Building: Kinsella Building Corporation

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