How to Protect Your Building: Avoiding Holiday Mishaps

WBIR Hickory Construction Ben Pinnell

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The holidays are a time of joy and cheer as we decorate, cook and invite loved ones into our homes. Some of the things we enjoy most during the holidays can create dangerous hazards in homes and buildings. Each year, over $16 million in direct property damage occurs as a result of holiday decorating. This costly damage can be avoided.

The most profound hazards that people tend to ignore are overloaded circuits, electric decorations that can create the risk of a fire, inadvertently leaving appliances on or candles lit and icy sidewalks and steps that can be an injury waiting to happen.

Hickory Construction President Ben Pinnell provides these tips to help ensure your home or building investment is protected, and that you and your guests remain injury-free:

1. Inspect Holiday Lights and Circuits

Ensure circuits aren’t overloaded with too many plugs, and plug in GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) circuits. Before stringing lights, inspect them for cracked sockets and frayed, loose or bare wires or loose connections. Unplug light strings before replacing bulbs or fuses.

2. Turn Off Electric Decorations

Before leaving the house, be sure all electric decorations are turned off to prevent the chance of a fire. Due to the recent drought, many Christmas trees are dry and may have brown or brittle needles which are even more prone to fire.

3. Turn Off Oven and Warming Trays

When entertaining, it’s easy to forget to turn off the oven or warming trays. Double check, especially before you go to bed or leave the house, that these appliances are turned off.

4. Prepare for Icy Sidewalks and Steps

Start now and prepare your home for any ice or snow that visitors can slip on. Don’t use salt, instead use a product that says it’s safe to use on concrete surfaces. (Pet and environmentally friendly options are available at home improvement and hardware stores).

For more information on how to protect your building investment, watch our monthly interviews with WBIR Channel 10. If you’re interested in a renovation or new build, contact us today.

How to Protect Your Home or Building: Invasion or Theft Prevention

Holidays are a time for cheer as many travel to visit family or welcome friends and loved ones into their homes. But the holidays are also a time when homes and businesses are vulnerable: FBI data shows an 18 percent increase in burglaries and theft during the holidays.

Hickory Construction President Ben Pinnell shares the following tips to protect your building investment from the threat of an invasion or theft:

For more information on how to protect your building investment, watch our monthly WBIR interviews. If you’re interested in a renovation or new build, contact us here.

New Blount County War Dead Memorial Plaza Unveiled

On Friday, members of the community flocked to the Blount County Courthouse to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice—and to see a historic event: the unveiling of a brand new War Dead Memorial.

51 years ago, a new War Dead Memorial was dedicated to the fallen heroes of Blount County and their families, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Over time the memorial began to deteriorate, and required restoration. Now, a lasting memorial and tribute to fallen soldiers stands.

The unveiling and dedication took place at the annual Blount County Veterans Day program on Friday, November 11, hosted by the United Veterans of Blount County.

The original War Dead Memorial, dedicated in 1965, holds a bronze statue of a solider cast in Italy and displays the names of fallen soldiers. As the memorial showed signs of aging and degeneration over the decades, members of the community joined local veterans to form a committee to address the rebuilding of the memorial.

The committee turned to Erik Hall of Red Chair Architects, and Hickory Construction, Inc. a licensed general contractor based in Alcoa, to lead the project.

The new memorial is more than revitalized—it now incorporates a plaza with walkways connecting all four monuments on the courthouse lawn and a bench to sit and reflect. These commemorative walkways, named The Veterans Walk of Honor, are lined with bricks engraved with the names of honored men and women who have served our country.

“The dedication and unveiling of the new memorial is a significant and historic event. We are honored to have built a legacy for the courageous heroes who have served our nation. It is a lasting tribute for their loved ones and members of the community to remember and commemorate these fallen soldiers,” said Hickory Construction President Ben Pinnell. “This is a project that will remain in our minds and hearts for many years to come.”

The dedication and unveiling of the Blount County War Dead Memorial Plaza was just one element of this year’s Veterans Day program.  The program honoring deceased veterans also included a moment of silence, reflections from key members of the community and refreshments

The master of ceremonies for the event was Veterans Service Officer for Blount County Nathan Weinbaum.  A ribbon cutting was held by Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell along with Immediate Past Commander of the United Veterans of Blount County James Lawson, who originally spearheaded the rebuilding initiative for the memorial, and Steve Tipton, owner of Tip Signs, whose father was responsible for the building of the original 1965 memorial. Speakers included War Memorial Committee Co-Chair James Warner, who will speak on the history of the monument, and Fundraising Committee Co-Chair Marion Westerling, and major sponsors.

“We are thrilled to have shared this exciting new tribute with the community that is dedicated to our nation’s courageous heroes. We are grateful to those who helped fund this project, and who have worked to see it through to fruition. We feel the outstanding work of RedChair Architects and Hickory Construction honors the vision for this project,” said Memorial Fundraising Chair Marion Westerling.

More information on the Blount County War Dead Memorial and the Veterans Walk of Honor, including the purchase of commemorative bricks, can be found at www.blountwarmemorial.com.

How to Protect Your Home or Building Investment: Fire Protection

During the fall, candles, fireplaces and autumn cuisine provide ambiance and inviting scents in your home or building, but can create a fire hazard. Each year there are 365,000 home fires according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Hickory Construction President Ben Pinnell shares the following tips to protect your building investment from the danger of fire:

For more information on how to protect your building investment, watch our monthly WBIR interviews. If you’re interested in a renovation or new build, contact us here.

How to Protect Your Building Investment: Prepare Your Home or Building for Winter

As weather turns cooler, it’s important to protect your home or building investment from wasted money and damage. With heating accounting for nearly half of the average home or building owner’s energy bill, improving efficiency can save thousands of dollars over time.The biggest problems that can be faced from not properly winterizing their home or building include:

Building owners can prevent this from happening with these four tips:

1. Insulation and sealing

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Walls, doors, windows, crawl spaces and attics should be properly insulated with special attention to the plumbing supply lines. At least annually, perform filter changes, duct cleanings and coil and heat exchanger maintenance. Seal up gaps and cracks to prevent pest intruders.

2. Water Supply

Homes and buildings often have exterior hose bibs (outside faucets) to provide water for the outside. Disconnect all gardening hoses. If you plan to be away from your home or building for an extended period, keep the temperature at 68 and shut off water supply valves to your washing machine. Plant the seed early as prior planning prevents future pain points.

3. Thermostat

Trip your thermostat into heat mode to make sure that the system will respond appropriately before the temperature plummets. This will allow you time in advance to service it. For chimneys, check and verify that it’s ready to burn wood. If an HVAC system is old and in need of replacing, what advice can Hickory Construction provide?

4. Gutters

Gutters are important to the overall health of a home or building. They ensure that water flows away from your home so that it can’t do any damage. If it’s clogged, it can’t do its job. Clean gutters and inspect for damaged shingles before it’s too late.


For more information on how to protect your building investment, watch our monthly WBIR interviews. If you’re interested in a renovation or new build, contact us here.


How to Protect Your Home Investment – Guarding Against Water Damage

Here in East Tennessee, the dog days of summer aren’t just notorious for their searing heat; they’re also known for sudden, heavy storms. On average, Knoxville receives more rain in July than in any other month.

At Hickory Construction, we have been building and renovating premium homes and businesses for more than 40 years. A vital part of our construction process is using top-notch materials and meticulous building practices to secure structures from water damage.

As a homeowner, you also have a role to play in the fight to protect your basement and foundation. Here are three steps you can take to make sure water isn’t slipping through the cracks:

1. Pitch away from your house, not toward it

Water flows in the direction of least resistance, so if your yard is sloped toward your house, beware – it will exploit every weak point in your foundation. This is especially true during flooding, of course, which can happen all too often (and quickly) in the summer months. Even a modest rainfall can create a harmful flow if the slope is steep enough.

To avoid this danger, make sure your yard is pitched away from your house, not toward it. If you do have a slope issue, trees and gardens can help soak up moisture before it reaches your foundation.

2. Water your yard correctly

Summer storms and flash floods are a deadly combination, but standing water isn’t the only dangerous foe. You can also do significant damage by watering your yard at the wrong time of day – or in the wrong direction.

If you point sprinklers and irrigation systems toward your house, water can find its way under your house through small entry points. Don’t give it a chance to do so – water away from the house.

As a side tip, make sure you’re watering your yard in the early hours of the morning, or water could cause a different kind of damage – burned grass. If you use your sprinkler in the hot summer afternoon, water will heat dramatically when it hits your yard, searing your grass and plants in the process.

3. Install high-quality gutters and downspouts – and make sure they’re clean

Gutters are a great line of defense against liquid danger, but only when they’re cleaned regularly. If they’re clogged, water will overflow and pool in inconvenient places. Properly installed downspouts are also key, since they will direct water into safe areas rather than allowing it to seep into your house in vulnerable spots.

Clean your gutters often, especially this time of year, when storms can blow twigs and leaves into them. Even small obstructions can divert water and risk damage to your yard and foundation.

Quality and maintenance aren’t just important for gutters and downspouts; they’re also vital when it comes to your siding. Longer-lasting siding, and regular care for it, will keep your home sealed and strong. Consistent painting and staining is important. Most importantly, if you detect a leak, get on the fix right away: Lingering moisture issues can and will make things worse over time.

At Hickory, we are passionate about crafting and renovating dream homes and businesses, but water damage can turn even a palace into a nightmare. By taking these three steps, you can safeguard your home investment and keep water away.

For more information how to protect your home investment, or if you are interested in a renovation or new build, take a deeper look at our website.


East Tennessee Construction Firms Take Advantage of Industry’s Growth

As Tennessee’s construction sector enjoys a period of rapid growth, area builders are seizing an opportunity to add talented workers to their arsenals.

The state’s construction employment base is up 11 percent from last March and at a five-year high, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The long-term outlook is healthy, too: The bureau expects the nation’s construction sector to grow 10 percent over the next ten years, a higher rate than any other major industry.

That creates an opportunity for firms like Hickory Construction, a fixture in the East Tennessee building market for nearly 40 years.

“As the demand for high-quality construction work grows, so does the importance of hiring the best workers,” said Hickory Executive Vice President Jim McMillan. “In order to meet the needs of our expanding client base, we have to be proactive about recruiting top-notch talent.”

Hickory is currently focused on hiring estimators, project managers, site supervisors and subcontractors to grow the thriving business, which features robust commercial and residential divisions.

“We hire the best because we expect the best – just as our customers expect of us,” McMillan said. “Our quality has to be consistently reflected within the Hickory family by the folks on our team.”

Construction job openings are at a post-recession high, according to a February Bureau of Labor Statistics report. As competition for workers intensifies, firms like Hickory must be deliberate about instilling positive company cultures that attract and retain top talent.

For its part, Hickory offers a slew of benefits intended to keep its employees satisfied and productive. Perks include bonus programs, safety incentives, professional development opportunities and retirement plans.

“If we invest in our workers’ futures, they will invest in us,” said Hickory President Ben Pinnell. “We appreciate our builders’ dedication to their craft and want them to know they are valued.”

The strategy appears to be working: Nearly half of Hickory’s employees have been with the company longer than nine years.

“We’re proud of the culture we have built and glad our employees want to remain part of it,” said Pinnell.

Hickory’s challenge – filling its construction teams with elite personnel – presents an opportunity for men and women alike who want to launch a rewarding career path.

“We are excited about what the industry’s growth means for our company,” said Pinnell. “We’re eager to hire the best talent the market has to offer.”

Any individuals interested Hickory’s job openings should visit https://hickoryconst.wpengine.com/hickory_career/ or contact Mary Rice at mary@hickoryconstruction.com for further information.



Camp Buck Toms Dedicates Renovated Training Facility

Camp Buck Toms, a Boy Scout camp in Rockwood, Tennessee, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to unveil its newly renovated training building. The enhanced facility will enable the camp to offer a wider array of training programs to East Tennessee Scouts.

Hickory Construction of Alcoa completed the renovation, which was designed by Knoxville’s Johnson Architecture. Generous gifts from many donors funded the project, including lead gifts by UT-Battelle and United Way of Greater Knoxville.

The project involves major cosmetic and functional renovations to the camp’s STEM training center and multi-use facility. The renovated space features a full commercial kitchen, bathrooms and living quarters, as well as new exterior siding and windows. The main room now has vaulted ceilings and exposed trusses to give it a more open feel. Upgraded electrical service enables the camp to offer the welding merit badge.

“We are eager to use this major renovation to better serve Scouts throughout East Tennessee,” said David Williams, scout executive for the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America. “The improved facility will help us train youth to achieve success in every area of their lives.”

Camp Buck Toms, which is operated by the Great Smoky Mountain Council, provides one of East Tennessee’s finest summer camp programs for Scouting and Venturing. It features courses of instruction for over sixty merit badges, a first-year camper program, a wilderness course and much more.

“I spent many summers at Camp Buck Toms, which helped me a great deal on my way to earning the rank of Eagle Scout,” said Hickory Construction President Ben Pinnell. “The camp has played an important role in the development of Scouts for decades, and I think these renovations will enhance that capability.”

Other world-class facilities at Camp Buck Toms include a private swimming cove of Watts Bar Lake, numerous hiking trails and a ham radio shelter. The camp also offers shooting ranges, a mountain bike program, a wilderness COPE course with over a dozen complex elements, a fishing pier and a climbing tower over sixty feet tall.

“My own son will probably be in Scouts someday, so I’m excited that another generation of our family will be able to share in that experience,” Pinnell said.

For more information on Hickory Construction, visit hickoryconstruction.com.


Hickory Construction Announces Promotion of Key Leaders

Hickory-Staff-Burke Pinnell-edit Hickory-Staff-Ben Pinnell-edit Hickory-Staff-Jim McMillan-edit Hickory-Staff-Chris Duncan-edit

Hickory Construction, Inc., a licensed general contractor headquartered in Alcoa, Tenn., announced today the promotion of several key employees to new roles – including the transition of executive leadership from father to son in the nearly 40-year-old firm, which includes 70 employees overall.

Burke Pinnell, who served as company president and one of its partners, has been appointed to chairman of the board. Pinnell has played a primary role at Hickory Construction for many years, since joining the company in 1978 to its current status as one of the most respected general contractors in the region.

Burke Pinnell graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in landscape architecture and has served on the board of directors of the Girls Club of Blount County, the Maryville-Alcoa Home Builders Association, the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, the Foothills Land Conservancy and currently serves as a board member of Clayton-Bradley Academy and the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America. As chairman of the Hickory Construction board, Pinnell will maintain an active role in the company.

Ben Pinnell, who was named company vice president in 2015, has been promoted to president. More than a decade ago, Ben Pinnell started his career with Hickory Construction as a carpenter and worked his way up the ranks, serving as a superintendent and later as a project manager.

Named one of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” in 2012, Ben Pinnell’s credentials include a certification as a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Green Professional and as a Live Roof Certified Installer. His sustainability background helped spearhead Hickory’s green building processes and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects. Ben Pinnell holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and serves on the board of directors of The Children’s Center of Knoxville.

Jim McMillan has been promoted from vice president of operations to executive vice president of the company. With over 30 years of experience at Hickory Construction, McMillan has been instrumental in developing the company’s direction, strategic plan and many other key roles, working his way from an apprentice carpenter to foreman to field manager before entering his nearly twenty year career heading human resources and operations. McMillan is a Navy veteran and a volunteer and past member of the board of directors for Blount County Habitat for Humanity.

Chris Duncan, formerly a project manager, has been promoted to vice president of commercial operations. Serving in the construction industry for nearly 30 years, Duncan joined Hickory Construction in 2005 as a project manager. Prior to that, he spent seven years working in a similar capacity for another regional construction firm. Duncan is a graduate of Northwestern Business College in Ohio.

These leaders join Vice President of Marketing John McMillan in serving as the executive leadership team of Hickory Construction.

“It’s tremendously rewarding to see such valued members of our team ascend to these critical roles in our company, based on the impressive merit of their contributions over the decades,” said Chairman of the Board Burke Pinnell. “We feel this transition will enable our company to grow and continue its sustained reputation as a premier general contractor, on the basis of trust and performance.”

“Hickory Construction has been part of my entire life – certainly during my growing-up years in seeing how my dad made his living, and then 10 years ago with my own opportunity to be part of this company as well,” said President Ben Pinnell. “The opportunity to serve the quality team we have at Hickory Construction is a career milestone that I take very seriously, and I look forward to advancing this team with the same spirit that originated with the company almost 40 years ago.”

For more information on Hickory Construction, visit hickoryconstruction.com.



Hickory Construction Offers Safety Tips in Honor of National Safety Month

A construction project is only as successful as its workers are safe.

That’s the mentality of Hickory Construction, an East Tennessee-based firm with more than thirty years of experience in commercial and residential building. As the construction industry celebrates National Safety Month this June, Hickory and other builders are taking time to reflect on company policies aimed at protecting their workers.

“We pride ourselves in producing high-quality results, and on of the cornerstones of quality work is providing safe environments for our builders,” said Hickory Chairman Burke Pinnell.

One in five work-related deaths in the United States in 2014 occurred in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As the industry enjoys a period of steady growth, the stakes have never been higher for firms experiencing an influx of new workers. Thus, in honor of National Safety Month, Hickory has compiled five safety tips that result in protection and productivity for its team – guidelines that apply to contractors and do-it-yourselfers alike.

  1. Strong leadership sets the tone

Safety standards are vital, but they are meaningless if company and project leaders aren’t committed to upholding them. Careful adherence to safety policy starts at the top.

“As an employer, one of our most important roles is setting policies and procedures to help ensure that employees understand the importance of safety on the job site,” Pinnell said.

Do-it-yourselfers can make sure their quest for efficiency does not trump their focus on following safety procedures, whether they are working on their own or with a group of friends.

  1. Training and tracking may be time-intensive, but they’re worth the investment

It takes time and energy to train employees on safety protocol, but Hickory says it’s time well spent, particularly since 60 percent of construction workplace injuries occur in the builder’s first year of employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers can work toward the goal of achieving high safety standards by requiring that all employees undergo drug-free workplace protocol, engage in weekly “tool box talks” on safety-related activities, take CPR training and receive thorough equipment training.

In addition, it is important to track safety results in order to reward success and refine future practices, the company says.

  1. Proper form decreases the likelihood of injury

It may sound basic, but Pinnell says construction workers cannot afford to underestimate the importance of following basic best practices when performing key building tasks.

“Simple steps like properly lifting heavy items and using ergonomically correct tools can make a big difference in keeping workers safe,” Pinnell said.

OSHA reports that one in 10 construction workers is injured on the job in each year, and many incidents result from a failure to adhere to well-known safety benchmarks.

  1. Good housekeeping makes for good working conditions

Keeping a work site clean and organized can safeguard workers, too. Sweeping away spills, dust and dirt, keeping walkways clear and moving equipment out of the way minimizes the risk of careless accidents.

Falls are the greatest source of fatal project injuries and lead to a large number of nonfatal incidents as well, according to The Center for Construction Research and Training. Making sure scaffolding is sturdy and obstacles are cleared maximizes builders’ likelihood of staying on their feet and returning home safely.

  1. Personal protective equipment is a major tool for success

Helmets, gloves, eyewear and foot protection are vital shields in the fight against injury. Even when workers use their own personal protective equipment, employers are responsible for its adequacy, maintenance and sanitation.

Even the smallest precaution can help builders avoid significant negative consequences in the event of an accident, according to the company.

Following these and other safety protocols will help construction firms and do-it-yourself builders enjoy greater productivity and fewer injuries, according to Pinnell.

“Hickory is happy to commemorate National Safety Month, but we’re committed to upholding high safety standards every day of the year,” Pinnell said.

For more information about National Safety Month, visit the National Safety Council’s website, www.nsc.org. To learn more about Hickory Construction, visit www.hickoryconstruction.com.



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