Earlier this month, we brought you the story of a man who just completed his 100th home renovation in Northside. Doubtless an incredible milestone, it proves hard work and determination, as well as the proper know-how, can lead to an extraordinary amount of success.
So when I learned of Tom Covert and his newest project in Covington, it put success into perspective. Here's a guy who's done a handful of renovations in a relatively short amount of time after graduating from DAAP, and he's only building (pun intended) steam. Success actually starts at the beginning; it's not only granted after a certain number of homes have been flipped. And judging by how perfectly Tom's renovation of 911 Philadelphia Street turned out, I'd say he's already successful.
Tom is young, driven, educated, and knows exactly what it takes to conjure the soul of a dormant house back into the realm of the living. I had to learn more about his background, his projects, and how he feels about resuscitating homes that have flatlined.
Cincinnati Refined: Who are you and what do you do?
Tom Covert: I am a father/husband/designer/builder/tinkerer/dreamer. I like to imagine what things can be, whether it be buildings, spaces, landscapes, scenes, or relationships.
CR: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into renovating homes in the area.
TC: Upon graduating from high school with little direction except the sunshine and surf, I moved south for college. I was really interested in art, but to be honest, I felt pressure to do other things. After a year or so of boredom with school and uncertainty regarding a major. I took a summer job for a contractor and home builder. I originally sought out the job thinking it would align with the interests from my childhood. My brother and I were into building forts, helping my parents with the house maintenance, and running amuck in our family’s 100-year-old furniture store.
That summer really changed me. I finally found my passion and calling. Being a carpenter for five years eventually steered me toward thinking about design. I found myself sketching, drawing, and tapping back into all those art classes that I took before. At that time, I moved back to Ohio and decided to pursue a career in design and architecture. I earned a CAD degree from Shawnee State University, moved to Cincinnati to complete my bachelor of Architectural Engineering, and earned a historic preservation certificate and a Master of Architecture from DAAP.
CR: How many homes have you renovated?
TC: I have been involved in several renovation projects, but four projects have been my own, a ranch in South Carolina, a foursquare craftsman in my hometown of Portsmouth, OH, and two victorian homes in Covington, KY.
CR: Do you plan to do more?
TC: Yes, Definitely.
CR: What do you look for when you consider which homes to renovate?
TC: At first glance, I look at the lines — roof line; is the ridge sagging or straight? Are the eaves wavy or rotten? Is the foundation cracked? Are the walls plumb? I also think about the potential of the house, the character that is existing or that can be created, and of course all of the possible floor plans to meet the demands of modern living.
CR: What inspires you to take on these projects?
TC: The challenges of bringing a structure that is in such disrepair back to its original beauty, revealing the craftsmanship and detailing that is so absent in today’s market. I love transforming houses that no one wants or see potential in back to their original grandeur.
CR: How do you think your renovation(s) help the community?
TC: Well, I’d like to think that my work helps others in the neighborhood and community recognize what they have. During the renovations, I’ve had so many people compliment and take interest in what is going on. I think word of mouth helps with improvement city wide.
CR: What’s the biggest challenge when taking on a project?
TC: Trying to integrate modern amenities, utilities, and demands of living into an often tight, unforgiving footprint of historic buildings.
CR: How does it feel to complete one?
TC: It feels like I’ve brought the house back to life. It also makes me itch to start another project.
CR: What advice would you give to others who are also interested in renovating homes?
TC: Don’t be fooled by vinyl or aluminum siding, poorly done window replacements, or to flat out get dirty. Some of the most striking homes are hidden under poor material decisions of the '60s and '70s. That’s one of my favorite parts of the challenge. I work to see a home... really see what it is, use what I have learned, and transform it into what it could be.
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Check out the gallery of photos of 911 Philadelphia Street, which Tom recently finished restoring, in the gallery above! For more on Tom himself, visit his website or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.