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by Patricia L. Harman

Cleaning & Restoration – June 2010 –

Along the edge of Boone Lake in Johnson City, Tenn., sits the chateau known as Crantzdorf Cascle, a 21-room, home owned by Steve and Ashley Grindstaff. It took 10 years of collaboration between the Grindstaffs, their craftsmen and architects to create this more than 20,000 square foot house that includes soaring ceilings, stained glass windows, Italian marble floors and hand-cast moldings.

On January 10, 2009, one of the castle’s turrets was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm, igniting a fire that engulfed the roof and top floor of the three-story building. The Grindstaffs were out to dinner that evening, celebrating Ashley’s birthday when they received the news.

It took approximately 24 fire fighters about 2 and 1/2 hours to contain the fire and about 70,000 gallons of water to extinguish it. They had to stop at least twice to let the water drain out of the home to protect its structural integrity.

Since the home is self-insured, insurance would not cover the damage, reconstruction, restoration or lost contents. The home is filled with priceless antiques appraised at $5 million and more than $200,000 worth of Oriental rugs. In addition, there are a variety of hard surface floors throughout the house, an indoor basketball court, a home theater, a replica of the Bristol Motor Speedway, complete with six cars, irreplaceable sports memorabilia, fireplace mantels from Europe, decorative tapestries and a bar that came from an Irish pub in the billiard room.

The majority of the damage from the fire was on the third floor of the home and the roof. In the main portion of the house are the grand entry hall, library, great hall, guest quarters, office, kitchen, dining hall, billiard room, sitting room and the third-floor exercise gym, all of which sustained some damage. The south wing, which includes the master suite, children’s rooms, extra guest rooms and the exquisite theater designed by Theo Kalomirakis, also suffered heavy water damage from putting out the fire and the continuing rain. And, while the north wing was initially spared, an arctic blast froze the pipes in that section of the house, which flooded the four-car garage area.

Several companies came to walk the loss and provide estimates on what it would cost to rebuild after the house was gutted down to its studs. Only one, however, said they could dry out the structure, restore the contents and save most if not all of the wood detailing throughout the house, as well as the floors, woodwork, rugs and furniture – that company was Spotless Carpet Cleaners and Janitorial Services, Inc.

“The toughest challenge we faced to complete this project was to get the homeowner on board with the restoration idea,” explained Bob Pakrul, president of Spotless. “He had been told by everyone to this point that the entire house would have to be gutted to the studs, maybe further in some areas, because water had ruined everything. Our approach on drying and restoring was the first time he had even considered it!”

Despite having some doubts about the success of the restoration and drying operation, Grindstaff agreed to give it a try after Pakrul brought in drying specialist and instructor, Chuck DeWald, Jr., to explain specifically how they would be drying the structure and its contents.

Within 24 hours, Spotless had converted the basketball court into a drying chamber for the most heavily damaged contents such as upholstered furniture and Oriental rugs.

Finally, a moving-van style truck was used to carry the items 300 yards from the main house to the indoor court.

Big items, like the massive glass top for the dining room table, were unattached, carried by as many as eight men and moved to the drying area as well.

The antique pool table got the same meticulous treatment and the exhausted transport group doggedly moved each piece to safety.

The huge medallion in the ceiling of the entryway was saved, the wood floors were saved, the antiques, the china, the contents of the pub, the theater, the furniture, the mantel – everything that Bob Pakrul said could be saved, was.

When asked how much money he saved for Steven Grindstaff and his wife, Pakrul just said, “Out of respect for Mr. Grindstaff’s privacy, I’m not going to share that, but I will say that if you go online, have a look at his home and see what thousands of other people have seen in recent months, you will have a pretty good idea of how well things turned out.”

Why did Steve choose Pakrul’s company over all the others – especially when all the experts said it was a foolish move? Some people think it was because he recognized a kindred spirit.

Pakrul doesn’t question it. He just knows he will do it again – when the job calls for it.

The Total Contentz. philosophy has always been “restore more, replace less.”

And now we would like to add our praise to the RIA’s highest honor – Bob Pakrul is this year’s Phoenix Award winner for “Innovation in Restoration.”

Congratulations Bob, Spotless Restoration and all who worked so professionally to complete this job!

Barb Jackson, CR. is president of Total Contentz. ‘With over 19 years of experience in the restoration and cleaning industry, she provides training, consulting and facility design services. For information, e-mail her at