Master Builder Crafts One-of-a-Kind Customizations, Reputation
For more than 40 years, Wayne Cossentino and his wife Debi have operated the acclaimed Howard County design-build remodeling business Cossentino & Sons. Together with a team of experienced home remodeling contractors, they’ve delivered incredible commitment and craftsmanship to clients in their own backyard, as well as Montgomery, Baltimore, and Carroll Counties, using a dedicated design-build process that delivers breathtaking results with zero surprises.
Interestingly, the first home Wayne ever remodeled was his own.
Right after his parents left for vacation.
Our House, in the Middle of Our Street
The year was 1980, and the Cossentinos had just backed out of their Ellicott City driveway, headed for parts unknown.
Wayne, 22 years old at the time and a recent graduate from Towson State with a degree in Criminal Justice, was left with a toolbox and a dream.
“I jumped into remodeling their basement,” the now 64-year-old Master Builder says matter-of-factly, as though he had simply microwaved popcorn and popped a movie into the VCR.
“I felt that was a good fit for me,” he adds. “And I was still in the process of doing it when they got back.”
No. Mom and dad had no idea they were walking into an active work zone.
Yes. They were pleasantly surprised with the results.
“It worked out well,” Wayne says.
With one bona fide remodeling success under his belt, Wayne was immediately hooked.
“I just took it and ran with it,” he says. “Over the next 30 years, I gained a lot of knowledge and expertise in design-build remodeling, which is more upscale. Between hands-on experience, education, and reading books, I learned more and more.”
The Drive for Perfection
Meticulous attention to detail has always been one of Wayne’s biggest strengths.
“Just the mentality that whatever I would do for myself – I would do for others. That kept me in good form in terms of quality, follow-up service, and expertise.”
Not only that, but he is renowned by colleagues, clients, and his own family for the insistence on perfection that drives him and every project he puts his hand to.
“I think it’s just something I was born with,” he says of the rep. “That ability to discern between quality and non-quality.”
“It’s very difficult, remodeling,” he adds. “Anyone can go to Home Depot, buy a hammer, and think they’re a remodeler. But we take it a step beyond.”
Remodeling, in other words, takes a certain knack – a certain gift.
“You must be able to communicate clearly with homeowners and take the pressures of the job and know exactly how to run a project,” he says.
Wayne notes his children – the “Sons” of “Cossentino & Sons” – while incredibly talented in their own right, have built a different future for themselves.
“We had hoped to have the kids involved,” he says. “But they went in different directions with different professions.”
“They both went into computers,” adds Debi, who has worked alongside Wayne since day one.
Debi, incidentally, handles all of the business’s administrative work and financials, while Wayne meets with homeowners, puts contracts together, and gets the ball rolling on jobs.
Additionally, Wayne cites his two right hands, project manager Larry Smith and senior lead carpenter Steve Rill, who have been with him for the long haul, for the company’s exemplary track record. Together, the trio boasts more than 150 cumulative years of remodeling experience.
“They learned my style and they work hand-in-hand together,” Wayne says. “And we have a good handle on any kind of subcontractor we use, whether electricians, plumbers, or any other specialty trades. We don’t go rooting through the Yellow Pages looking for a sub. We know exactly who is going in behind us.”
Building Better Customer Service
Over the years, Cossentino & Sons has helped homeowners realize projects ranging from simple powder room remodels to $4-million re-dos on 10,000-square-foot homes.
On one particularly memorable breakfast room redux, steel framing – too heavy to be carted piece by piece – had to be constructed on one side of the home and hoisted by crane over the top of the house.
Talk about going above and beyond.
“When you’re in design-build remodeling, you’ll take on projects that other contractors would run away from,” Wayne says. “It’s been exciting to have challenges. I like the versatility. It’s not the same thing day-in and day-out.”
The greatest obstacles, he adds, are more psychological – discovering whether or not a client understands the value of hiring a design-build contractor – and if they even know what one is, to begin with.
Remodeling, he adds, can sometimes get a bad rap. Homeowners inadvertently hire unlicensed toolmen and get burned by their lack of experience.
“I hear complaints like, ‘I scheduled an appointment, and they didn’t show up on time,’ or ‘they didn’t show up at all,’” Wayne says. “So, I have to constantly try to gain homeowners’ confidence and give them the peace of mind to know that what they’re going to get from Cossentino & Sons is going to be exactly what they want.”
So many people, Debi adds, don’t know the difference between a handyman and a design-build remodeler. “People call us up and ask for an estimate to put their tile flooring in, or they tell us they have a leak. They don’t understand the difference.”
Many homeowners also go for the cheapest price.
“Then they turn around and have nothing but problems, when they would have spent less money, in the long run, going with our company,” Wayne says.
The best collaborators, he says, demonstrate sincerity and commitment to a project, while understanding that cost isn’t the be-all, end-all of a project.
The ideal client, Debi adds, is willing to invest in their home, because at the end of the day – it’s all about their enjoyment.
“What I look for is that we’re a good fit personality-wise and that their project is something that we would like to do for them,” Wayne says. “The most rewarding aspect of remodeling is taking a project from point A to point Z and giving the homeowner what they want.”
For Wayne’s part, he’s partial to whole house renovations.
“It’s one of the really exciting things we’ve been doing over the years,” he says. “I enjoy adding on to people’s homes and giving them the functional living space that they’re looking for, for whatever reason.”
With whole house renovations, everything – the kitchen, the powder room, the mud room, the laundry room – tends to swap places.
“Projects like these are really fun to get into and be creative with,” Wayne says. “Especially when you get to take a step back and look at the final result. The biggest reward is to see the excitement and appreciation on the homeowners’ faces.”
The worst possible outcome, Wayne adds, would be if they were to see the final product, and regret the money they’ve spent.
“So, I’ve gotta listen,” he says. “And I need to make sure we do everything our clients expect of us.”
Achieving that, he says, means having our architect – as well as several other design collaborators who can “help to gingerbread the gaps.”
“A lot of homeowners want things… but they aren’t sure how to coordinate colors or how to match different elements. We take all of that concern and pressure off of them by incorporating a designer in addition to our design-build remodeling.”
Wayne and Debi have also been fielding a lot of calls for aging-in-place projects. This trend is popular among seniors who wish to live in their homes independently, regardless of their age or ability, and incorporates features like an open floor plan, master bed and bathrooms on the first floor, no-slip flooring, bright lighting, lever door handles, and more.
“By taking these steps, seniors can keep their homes,” Wayne says. “They can go out and walk their dogs. They have their neighbors to talk to. They have that home environment versus going into a retirement community and thinking, ‘I have nowhere else to go after this.’ I think it’s a better atmosphere, personally, to spend one’s later years. It’s exciting to see.”
Keep Moving, Keep Building
Wayne’s father, John, passed in 2012 at 94.
Before that, he was helping Wayne help clients build new dreams.
“His motto was ‘Keep Moving,’” says Wayne. “And a glass of red wine.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“I’m not one to sit still,” Wayne says. “I couldn’t imagine it. So, I guess I’ll keep going as long as my project manager and my senior lead are willing. We’re all over 60, but we’ll keep going as long as we can, you know. Keep the business going. The name, the reputation. And keep pumping out good design-build remodeling work.”