Josh Beaver: Leaving a footprint
Kannapolis native finds his engineering niche at the beach
By Phil Fuhrer
From Wilmington, south through Leland and down into Holden Beach, Josh Beaver is leaving quite a footprint.
An N.C. State grad with a degree in mechanical engineering, Beaver turned down fancy office jobs working on nuclear projects to trudge through the muck and mire of our coastal crust, planting the foundations for new homes populating beach communities.
“My roommate at State and I both majored in mechanical engineering,” said Beaver, 33. “Sure, he’s wearing khakis and polo shirts, sitting in an office in Charlotte, and working on some pretty interesting stuff.
“But I wouldn’t trade that for what I’m doing. One, I like the change of scenery. Two, I’m a perfectionist and I need to be in complete charge of my work. Three, I’m making more money than him.
“I was just riding home on the ferry from Fort Fisher to Southport the other afternoon after I finished pouring some concrete. It’s hard to beat that in a cubicle crunching numbers.”
Beaver, who grew up in Kannapolis and attended high school in China Grove, also likes to be in charge of his own schedule. This allows Beaver and his wife and sidekick, Katy, who works at First Community Bank in Holden Beach, where they live, to carve out a weekend of boating if they wish, or drive his 4-wheeler in Midway Park in Oak Island, or plan one of their treasured cruises to the Caribbean, leaving all the cares and woes of footers, rebar and threaded rods dockside.
Beaver owns B&B Footers, and for the past six years he has become a favorite of area builders because of his dogged precision. His job: excavate troughs to hold 2-foot-wide concrete slabs laced with three rebar strips, and that project vertically the thread rods that tie a new home to its foundation. This underground concrete footprint outlines the new home; inside the outline he carefully places concrete piers that will support the load once the framing and building starts.
“I want things precise,” Beaver said. “I don’t like to do things twice; it costs people money. That is why I think most of my contractors like using me. I double and triple check things and try not to let mistakes by that would end up costing me and them money. I spend maybe a slight more amount of time making sure things are right as opposed to having to redo it in the end. No one can be perfect, but I like to be pretty damn close.”
It’s only after Beaver and his crew of four finishes sloshing about in the mud and have the foundation just right that a new home can start to rise, first with the 8-inch cement blocks that begin the wall above Beaver’s foundation, and that guide those thread rods so they can connect to the wood floor joists the framers prepare. Then the house is on its way.
Beaver got on his way while working for Felton Footers of Brunswick County, where he learned at the foot of owner Mike Jackson.
“Mike taught me so much,” Beaver said. “I was confident I could go out on my own.”
It also meant help from a second mentor, Craig Bright, a veteran brick layer who Beaver worked with and “who personally knew my work ethic. So we teamed up and it has evolved into a successful small business.”
That formed the B and B name. It took $100,000 in seed money from Bright to turn Beaver’s work ethic into a hefty book of business.
“I needed the money Craig put in” to secure everything from an excavator to a rebar bending machine to the liability insurance coverages, Beaver said.
The insurance cost is high because if Beaver makes a mistake with a foundation, the house could not only come tumbling down structurally, but a misreading of the blueprint of the different codes and restrictions in each town and neighborhood might force the whole process to start over – at a cost that would have many managers tossing and turning at night.
“I actually like knowing that the pressure is on me to make everything right,” Beaver said. “Also, because of this, I don’t have to worry if someone else did their job right. I could probably have several crews running and foremen for each crew, but the benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks in this economy. This allows me to sleep much better at night.”
So he manages one four-person crew, in communities he knows, with no sweat.
“The majority of my work is centered around the Leland area. Logan Homes, Pyramid Homes and Herrington Homes are my three largest builders with another handful that I work for on a regular basis,” Beaver said. “I live in Holden Beach, and unfortunately there is not an abundance of work around the area. I would prefer to stay relatively close to home, but I go where there is work, be it down toward South Carolina or north to Jacksonville.”
Despite the sudden rush in home starts now, he and Katy hope to go cruising the first of the year.
“We love going on cruises because it is the ultimate in relaxation,” Beaver said. “No phones, Internet or anyone bugging you. It’s easy to get attached to the technologies we use every day (phones, Internet, email, Facebook).
“I think it’s good to do without those for a while.”