A Builder shaking hands with a client.
When you hear builders say a house ‘has good bones’, they’re talking about foundations. Sometimes a house – particularly an older one – might seem a little battle-wounded from time or struggle, but the structure is still sound.  There’s strength in the footprint and resilience in the walls; there’s history, craftsmanship and artistry in the wood and bricks, and all it needs is a little time, some hard work, and care to show its mettle and let it thrive.

Builders understand this, because builders are like that, too.

Stentiford Construction has been in Marion County for 20 years offering construction services, building custom homes, and providing safety solutions for Central Florida. They can build anywhere in the state, but they like to work close to home as much as possible.  As a family-owned and operated business, there’s a long history and a commitment to making things better for the community that goes back three generations.

“My grandfather was a union carpenter from England,” explains Tyler Stentiford. “He was very old-school – he built things carefully, by hand. That’s where my dad got his start – working in the shop with Grandpa.”

Carpenter using a hammer
Bob Stentiford, the family patriarch, moved the family from Long Island to Ocala in the 1970s and made a name and reputation for himself as a solid, reliable builder who could talk to anyone and make friends easily, no matter who they were or what their background was.

“My grandfather was a union carpenter from England. He was very old-school – he built things carefully, by hand. That’s where my dad got his start – working in the shop with Grandpa.”

–  Tyler Stentiford, Vice-President of Stentiford Construction

A man using a hammer and chisel
“My dad loves the story about Grandpa talking with this random guy at the 1964 World’s Fair, asking about the progress of some project or other, having this great conversation and then walking away,” Tyler laughs. “Turns out it was Walt Disney! Grandpa didn’t have a clue who it was.”

“He was like the Energizer Bunny,” Tyler’s father, Paul Stentiford recalls. “He designed and built his own 1600 square foot house when he was 77 years old. Hung his own drywall, tile, and cabinets. He was a hardworking man.”

Paul learned about the importance of quality work and treating people right from Bob, and he saw firsthand the dividends it paid.

“He learned carpentry skills with chisels and handsaws,” Paul says. “He taught me how to do things like read the woodgrain, how to be creative. As a kid I was always helping him. He was a perfectionist and had a curious mind.”

Obviously, everyone wants their work to be profitable and generate income, but there’s something to be said for taking the extra time to be thorough, to show a willingness to do more than just what is necessary to complete the job. Paul Stentiford wanted his company to follow in the footsteps of his father’s ethic and be known for doing quality work and delivering solid, enduring homes that you could go back and look at decades later and find in pristine condition.

When the housing crisis hit in 2008, the company was hit as hard as everyone else in the region – and the country. Paul was determined to maintain their standards and their reputation, refusing to default on any bills and do whatever was necessary to keep the engines running.

“I figured we were either going to get through it, or find another occupation.” Paul looks back on that time as one of faith and perseverance. “I started studying for my real estate license as a backup.”

He had to scale back on some of his employees for a while, and diversified the company’s projects from their initial commercial/industrial focus by developing residential work. He didn’t change the company name – as so many did at the time – he stayed bonded, never had a litigation, and paid every last bill that was owed.

Marble tile with spacers

“It took a couple of years, but he did it. He’s held it up to this day.” Tyler says, and his pride and admiration is obvious.  “We were asked to be a builder at Golden Ocala, and Dad just took that same model of quality and integrity he’d always had and applied it to homebuilding.  We do custom homes that way every time, with the same level of research as we do a commercial or industrial build.”

Ma Barker house on Lake Weir

Many of their projects are ones Ocala residents will recognize, including the Ocala Skate Park, the 1880s-era Gause & Son Jewelers building, and the India Association (which they completed in an astonishing 90 days).

The historic Ma Barker House – of the infamous Barker Gang, nemesis of the FBI – was moved by barge across Lake Weir from Ocklawaha to Carney Island in a genius feat of aquatic engineering.

“The county came to me and said they’d asked a bunch of other contractors, and would I be interested?” Paul chuckles. “I’m always up for a challenge, so I said yes.”

Moving it by land would have cost upwards of $1M just for restoration costs of the property alone, so they came up with the new – and some might say crazy – plan of moving it across the lake on a pontoon-like system. Logistics took about a month; it took 30 minutes to push it across the water.

“It took another week or two to set it up on the other side,” Paul explains. “But we completed the whole thing four days before the deadline and under budget.”

(Editor’s note: We actually talked about this epic house move in a recent Discover Ocala podcast episode with the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department, and it was fascinating!)

Currently the team at Stentiford is developing a new spec house at Jumbolair Aviation and Equestrian Estates, which happens to be one of the very first places Paul Stentiford worked when he first moved to Ocala, remodeling a mansion and ballroom on the property.

The company is adamant about working closely with architects and knowing how things will work – or not work  – and how to make it last. Sometimes an idea looks great and exciting on paper, but in practicality might require an adjustment from time to time, so they make it a priority to know the design elements as intimately as humanly possible.

Cessna airplane on the runway.

“We’ve never had to leave to keep working; Marion County has been really good to us, and we’re proud to be here.”

–  Tyler Stentiford, Vice-President of Stentiford Construction

It shows in the final results – like their mind-blowing Ma Barker move. Almost every home the company built twenty years ago is still in great condition, and they’ve kept such a level of trust with their clients that some even give the Stentiford crew the location of spare keys to their homes. It’s a testament to the reputation Paul carefully built and nurtured.

Tyler joined the company in 2018 as Vice President after living and working in Tampa, and says he couldn’t ask for a better boss.

“It’s a great working relationship. There’s a give and take, not just between us, but between us and the employees. Dad is open to evolution and change, to adapting to new innovations, because he had the same dynamic with his father,” he says. That expansive, inclusive attitude keeps the company vibrant and progressively creative, allowing them to improve on new ideas while also safeguarding tried-and-true craftsmanship and blend the two together.

Typically, their residential clients come to them via word of mouth and referrals, with the occasional bidded-out project – but most of it is because of their history in the community. They’ll go anywhere in the state if requested – they’ve done six build outs for one client outside of Marion County – but if they have their druthers, they like to stay focused in the Ocala area.

“We’ve never had to leave to keep working; Marion County has been really good to us, and we’re proud to be here.”

If you’re planning a new build, your realtor can put you in touch with Stentiford and arrange a meeting, and if you would like to learn more about Stentiford Construction and some of their amazing projects, visit their website at www.stentifordfl.com.

Check out some of our previous Community and Business Spotlight Posts!

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