When Ron Scarpa’s potential clients want to see an example of his work, he simply invites them to his own home.
Scarpa, remodeler, builder, and president of Barefoot Brothers Construction in Winter Park, Florida, says showing clients the custom home he built for himself helps them envision their own projects.
“With Houzz and Pinterest and all the online places for homeowners to go, it’s pretty easy for them to look for ideas,” he says. “But when you talk about seeing it work in action, that’s a different animal. When they look at your cooktop, or your summer kitchen, even though they’ve seen a nice photo of it, they still don’t know how it would work in their application. When you put somebody in a bedroom or a kitchen or a bathroom and say, ‘This is the size,’ it really helps you visualize what’s there.”
Because the home is built with propane, it also helps Scarpa put his clients at ease about an energy source he commonly uses in his projects. “Whenever I’m doing a project and somebody doesn’t have natural gas, they’re like, ‘Well, we really wanted gas.'” When he suggests propane, clients often have questions about safety and delivery. “So I get to bring people there, and I’m like, ‘Look, this is not a problem.'”
Moving from a home with natural gas to a site in Winter Park without access to the gas main, Scarpa knew propane was a necessity to fuel all of the amenities he desired in his home. His two propane Rinnai tankless water heaters, for instance, are efficient, save space, and allow him to get hot water quickly without the expense of a recirculation system. “I always try to locate one near a master bathroom and one near a kitchen,” he says. “Those are my two areas where I’m trying to deliver hot water as quickly as I can.”
Scarpa grew up in a restaurant family and has built several restaurants himself, so he knows the importance of gas cooking. He installed a six-burner commercial-style propane range in his kitchen, and he says gas cooking is popular even for clients who want the latest induction cooking technology. “Some people are doing combinations of those in bigger kitchens, where they might have an induction burner because of the speed and then the control of gas.”
The house also has a propane dryer and fireplace, although the best place to get cozy by the fire might be on the patio, where Scarpa converted an old sugar kettle into a propane fire pit with seating area. “It’s really cool because it’s something I used as a wood-burning firepit for a long time, and it was very inconvenient to try and clean it and remove the ash and everything else,” he says. “You can fit six people or so around it, and I’m actually going to make a tabletop for it so we can use it like a low coffee table as well as a fire pit.”
Scarpa piped the patio for gas cooking, but says he instead wants to build his summer kitchen in a detached pavilion area. He owns a wood-burning charcoal smoker, but seldom uses it because of the inconvenience. “But I can tell you I do use my hot water every day, and I do use my cooktop every day, and I use my fireplace a lot more when it’s convenient,” he says. “And that’s the single most important thing that makes propane so attractive.”
While many homeowners in Florida don’t use gas for space heating, it’s “everything else” that makes propane or gas an attractive option for his customers, Scarpa says. “It’s hot water, it’s the summer kitchen, it’s the fireplace, it’s decorative lamps, and all of that,” he says. “And then coupled with being a very clean source of energy. One thing lends itself to the other, and it becomes a whole [propane] project, and it’s nice when you do it that way.”