From repairing chimneys to reconditioning aged buildings, varied masonry services boost company

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From repairing chimneys to reconditioning aged buildings, varied masonry services boost company

There isn’t much that Robert Skujins doesn’t like about what he does. For more than 30 years, his company Dunbar Masonry & Construction Ltd., has served the masonry needs of Vancouver. “My brother used to have a company that did chimney repair, and I bought it off him,”he says. “Then I started to do my own work.”

And he has done it ever since. It wasn’t long after Skujins bought his brother’s business that he hired a masonry repair specialist from England, leading the company to take on repairs as its main focus.

“What happened was the residential construction out here started to change, and we found that the commercial market was very, very tight,” Skujins says. “A lot of
homeowners here in the west side of Vancouver have old stone houses that need fixing. We ended up doing a lot of stonework and specialty repairs. We did a lot of chimney
repairing, and we cleaned chimneys. We blended that all together, and our crew grew to be able to do a little bit of everything. We were able to keep busy because we were
able to do a lot of different things.”

Skujins and his crew of 14-20 (depcnding on the weather) diversify their work, handling small jobs, like fixing a fireplace, and large ones, like renovating a building, all with the same fervor. “We also do a lot of old buildings where we recondition them,” he adds. “The fellows have a lot of experience in building and rebuilding, so when
we get a job reconditioning an old building – there’s a lot of old buildings out here – pretty [much] the whole downtown corridor is being cleaned up. The buildings are
fairly old, and the government is spending a lot of money to repair [them]. It puts us in a very competitive mode. We sort of specialize in it; we can do a fireplace repair all
the way to rebuilding a building.”

In fact, the company just finished renovating an old hotel in downtown Vancouver. The hotel was more than 100 years old, and each brick had to be cleaned before it could
be reassembled. All mortar joints were ground down, and the paint was stripped from the entire facade. What made this job different was the extreme environmental care that had to be taken. The paint, which had traces of lead in it, had to be removed with a special environmentally sound stripper, requiring the workers to wear special equipment. Despite these obstacles, Skujins says, the building is now a jewel in the crown of Vancouver.

Skujins says that this ability to handle difficult jobs is just one ofthe things that sets his company apart. “We have great service,” he says. “lf you phone us, there’s always
someone who answers the phone. If you have a problem, we are there. We can do the tough stuff that other people don’t have the ability to do. When you get into something
where you’re restoring it, it’s two or three times the work. People know when they hire us that they get the work done on time and done right.”

And Skujins feels that it’s this customer satisfaction that will continue Dunbar Masonry’s success. “We get lots of referrals,” he says. “We’re lucky. When other people’s
phones aren’t ringing, ours are busy, and we’re very fortunate that way.”

By Christy L. Bonstell

Case Study – Ranier Hotel
Full street facade restoration including a repair of the upper sheet metal cornice, masonry restoration of a wooden storefront, and the reinstatement of a historic neon sign

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