Jamie Breneman founded his Chattanooga Exteriors construction business nine years ago, but he’s been in the home renovation game since he was 8 years old.
“My dad had a construction company, and I worked with him from 8 years old to 18 every summer,” Breneman says. “He paid me a dollar a day and all I could eat, and he said he always came out on the losing end of that deal.”
After a globe-trotting stint as an airplane mechanic in the Air Force, Breneman landed back in his hometown in 2002 and earned a business degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He put that degree to work in business development across three states for James Hardie, the manufacturer of fiber cement siding and other home exterior products, but ultimately had the entrepreneurial itch – and good connections.
“I’ve got three other partners that had a construction company, and I partnered with them,” Breneman says. “They were already doing high-end kitchens, baths, interior remodeling.”
Breneman stood up a business specializing in the outside of the house, and between his Chattanooga Exteriors and his partners’ HGH Construction, covered just about every base in terms of home renovation.
“A lot of people come see us and say, ‘Hey, I want to do my exterior,’ and then after that they want to do the interior and we can hand them off to them,” Breneman says.
* Founded: 2013
* Employees: 20
* Location: 179 Hamm Road
* Online: chattanoogaexteriors.com
The business, which specializes in creating high-end, nearly maintenance-free home exteriors, boomed from the beginning, Breneman says. In fact, he had to cool the jets a bit after an early period of runaway growth.
“It exploded at first and we had some growing pains because it grew too fast and we kind of had to hold the reins back,” he says. “It grew 20% a year, and now we’re at the point of about 10% a year, so it’s good, steady growth.”
Spring is always busy, and is particularly brisk coming off Chattanooga Exteriors’ participation in the Tri-State Home Show in February at the Chattanooga Trade and Convention Center, Breneman says.
“We’re seeing a lot of people that want to do things for the spring, but we stay busy year round,” he says. “The mistake a lot of people make is, if they want something done in the spring, don’t wait until the spring to talk about it.”
In additon to the spring rush, the pandemic has created entirely new challenges for the industry and his business, Breneman adds.
“We could double the company this year if we had the people,” he says. “We don’t have the labor to do the work, and then we don’t have the products we need – that’s the problem we have right now is it’s impossible to get materials when people expect them.”
Because Chattanooga Exteriors works exclusively with Hardie Board siding and Trex composite decking products, there’s no wiggle room to improvise when those products are slow to arrive, Breneman says.
Home, improved: Chattanooga Exteriors enjoys steady growth as demand for high-end, low-maintenance exteriors skyrockets
“What we were used to pre-pandemic, we usually could get windows, siding, decking, all these things, for the most part you could say four weeks,” he says. “Now we are looking at 12 weeks to, well, I’ve got a door I’m waiting 40 weeks on.”
But there’s no compromising on those products, which are the best in the industry, Breneman says.
“Our whole focus is on creating a low maintenance, beautiful exterior, and those two things really have to go together for us,” he says. “We want to create something that really wows somebody and is very low maintenance.”
And the people who tend to hire Chattanooga Exteriors are long-term planners, Breneman adds. These jobs aren’t cheap, running from $50,000 into six figures, but they set homeowners up to have a beautiful result and a home that requires almost no maintenance, he says.
“I would say most of our clients, probably 75%, are people that are nearing retirement and they have realized, I’m going to stay in this house, and they want while they’re still working to tackle these big expenses and they call us,” he says.
The goal is to have a home that is more pleasure than headache, Breneman adds.
“Let’s own the home,” he says. “Let’s not let the home own us.”