Who I am, and How I work!

I do custom tile, bath, and kitchen home renovation in Austin, TX. If you’d like a straightforward tile tub surround or kitchen backsplash or a whole new custom bathroom or custom kitchen from the studs up, then that’s what I do. Handling any needed carpentry, drywall, drain-side plumbing, finishing trim, painting, etc work personally is the value added that I provide.

Other home renovation contractors in Austin sub out work. With me, you deal with the person who actually does all of the day-to-day work on your project.

I’m also sometimes available for general handyperson repairs/improvements needing diverse skills and experience. And, I spend free time between for-hire jobs entertaining myself by working on my own rental rehab house and puttering around making plain plywood furniture, hosting backyard drive-in style movie screenings, etc.

Here’s the bottom line. I prefer the 1980s Austin style, back when it was just a weird college town. So that’s how I choose to work. If you’d like to work with that kind of throwback reno contractor, then get in touch. If you’d like more context, then just keep scrolling down this page!

Quick Bio

I began doing tile installation and other bathroom renovation, kitchen renovation, and whole house renovation work part-time on my own house while teaching full time at Texas Tech University (guns up!) in Lubbock, TX. After then subsequently helping my Lubbock friends (and then friends of friends, and then friends of acquaintances, yada yada) with home renovation projects as basically a side hustle hobby, I finally decided to make reno work a full time vocation here in Austin.

Formal degrees in chemical engineering, biochemistry, and technical writing. Practical experience in all aspects of home reno and repair.

All of my for hire jobs come with a fixed labor cost, no up-front charges, and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re looking for someone who can offer advice with humor and options with clarity, then just email me at “art.fricke@gmail.com” for a consult and pricing writeup! You can also call me at 512-806-4455 but keep in mind that you’ll need to leave a voicemail first. I’m pretty popular on the interwebs, so all unknown numbers go straight to voicemail. It’s an unavoidable annoyance.

A Different Approach

Normally, you have three choices when it comes to renovation projects: either hire a general contractor to oversee everything, hire a bunch of individual contractors (demo, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, drywall, tile, trim carpentry, paint, etc etc etc) and manage them all yourself, or DIY it.

Hiring a general contractor is the retail approach. It adds ~40% to the cost of your project for the convenience of someone else managing all of the details for you. The upside is, obviously, not having to deal with everything yourself. The downside? That’s a big chunk of extra cash added to a bathroom or kitchen renovation cost.

Hiring your own individual contractors (basically, being your own general) is the wholesale approach. Going this route could potentially save you a bunch of money, which is a nice upside. But finding (and scheduling) even just one good subcontractor can be difficult. Multiply that by five (or more for a complex reno project) and you really run the risk of a bad sub screwing up the entire project. That’s the downside.

Doing all the work yourself is, of course, the (maybe) lowest cost option for a reno project but simply isn’t realistic for most folks. Installing tile, for example, isn’t rocket science but does take skill and practice.

The Benefits: Peace of Mind

I offer the best of all three of these traditional options. When you hire me for a renovation project, you get a single contractor who actually does all of the work themselves. And, you get the benefit of working with someone who started out as a DIY homeowner. The result is peace of mind knowing that each task will be done correctly (since no homeowner should live with cut corners) and the convenience of coordinating with just one worker.

Basically, I’m a communal marxist. The only labor I exploit is my own, and I believe that homeowners should be very involved in their home work. I am not a traditional contractor. I am a collaborator, ideally an extension of your own hands and vision.

More Benefits: Shared Priorities

Most every traditional renovation contractor manages multiple projects at once. Sometimes just a few, but sometimes half a dozen or more. That’s why coordination can be a real nightmare for them, which is a problem that can get passed on to their clients. Traditional reno contractors are sometimes distracted or perhaps even downright unresponsive during (or especially near the end of) a particular reno job because they’re continually juggling priorities at multiple projects.

I only schedule one project at a time. This keeps life simple for me, and simple for you. It also ensures that my priorities are also your priorities. For example, want to completely finish your reno project quickly so you can enjoy the results as soon as possible? So do I, so that I can move on to my next project asap!

Most every subcontractor also juggles more than one job at a time, or is at least working for multiple general contractors at once. That’s why subs sometimes seem to flake out for a few days or weeks or even disappear completely. This can be even worse if they’re working for a general contractor who’s squeezing margins (which every traditional general contractor is set up to do, since every dollar of your reno budget saved on subcontracted labor is an extra dollar for them).

I only use subcontractors when necessary to meet code (licensed electrician or plumber) or to save clients’ money (pro painters who work faster than I do, for example). Also, since I’m the one responsible for all the subsequent project steps once the rare sub is done, I’m just as personally invested in the results as my clients are. You want reputable, capable, and effective subs working on your project? So do I, since it’ll be me who will be personally dealing with fixing any problems before the next renovation step can happen.

My QC inspector. Her job is easy!

Finally, I started out myself as a DIY renovator frustrated with conventional general contractors and flaky subcontractors. Again, my first major project was rehabbing my own 1940s craftsman bungalow in Lubbock and then helping out an expanding list of friends and acquaintances with their own rehab jobs. I was driven to learn how to do proper quality reno work after being super annoyed by the low quality or high cost of conventional alternatives. And we had to literally live with the results, so cutting corners wasn’t an option. Neither was it for the friends who helped me down this vocational path in the first place.

Everyone deserves good home work. Everyone.

So, that’s a brief description of how I started doing my own reno projects to begin with and how I work with folks now.

Keep it Simple. Do it Well. Make it Last.