Jim Kinzer believes in quality, enjoys a challenge and hopes Kinzer Builders’ work speaks for itself.

Jim Kinzer believes in quality, enjoys a challenge and hopes Kinzer Builders’ work speaks for itself.FOR KINZER BUILDERS owner Jim Kinzer, creating a custom home goes far beyond choosing from a few pages of cabinetry finishes or light fixtures.

Customization, he says, starts with the land.

“There are a lot of custom builders out there who have stock plans,” he says. “They build spec houses and models from plans in stock, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But to me, it’s not custom. My definition of custom is: You buy a lot and then you design a house — with what you are looking for in a home — to work best on that lot. I live in a house that was based on a model. It’s fine. I like it. However, the house isn’t optimized for the lot I’m on, other than the view when you walk in the front door.”

As a carpenter by trade, he knows well the ins and outs of turning plans into a structure that realizes the intent of the architect and project owners.

“A carpenter or framer is working with all the trades,” he says. “If you’re framing a house, you have to make sure there’s room for all the duct work, make sure everything is going to fit in the walls and it’s ready for electric and plumbing lines.”

As a hands-on builder in Tucson, Arizona, Kinzer says he knows his greatest strengths are in the action of homebuilding.

“When I meet with a potential client, I tell them that I’m a builder, not a salesperson,” he says. “A lot of builder friends of mine are great salespeople. They probably get more work because of it, but once the job starts, I believe I have the advantage and that my clients will be very happy. I’ve been in business for 10 years and I get referrals from all my clients.”

Kinzer has been in construction since the late ’70s and worked for another builder before launching his own company. He found what he liked — creating — and what he didn’t like — production housing.

“When I started working for my previous employer it was a company of three - the owner, me in the field, and an administrative person,” he says. “We built custom homes and specialty commercial projects. By the time I left, there were close to 60 employees, doing mostly production housing. I decided to start my own business because I really enjoyed the variety of custom building and enjoy doing different projects.”

With Kinzer Builders, Jim Kinzer has been able to stretch his creative muscle with projects such as a meditation center for a high-end resort and contemporary-style desert home with a butterfly roof, which doubles as a mechanism for collecting rain water and draws the eye to the Santa Catalina Mountains behind it.

Both were designed by Eglin+Bresler Architects, also based in Tucson and a frequent partner with Kinzer on new structures.

“They know I’m not going to deviate from the plans unless something is not working as far as nuts and bolts,” Kinzer says. “Then I can call the architect and we can find solutions that achieve the same goal.”

At the health resort and luxury spa, Canyon Ranch, the design for the newly opened meditation center was simple but with elements meant to inspire.

“We did a standalone building,” Kinzer says. “Two walls are glass and the roof is on an angle. It’s a very cool building with exceptional hardscape and landscape.”

Working with the Land

For the desert house, the Kyle/Richardson home, Kinzer left the landscaping to nature.

“When we sited the house on the lot, we had surveyor come out and meet with the owners,” Kinzer says. “We tweaked the placement about three feet, just to dodge another little cluster of saguaro cacti.

“Those little things that can affect your view,” Kinzer adds. “It’s about what you take out and what you leave.”

When the homeowner bought the space in 1983, it was a simple 3 1/3 acre. By 2008, it was classified as a riparian habitat, along a body of water, the Agua Caliente River. There were restrictions for a building envelope inside the habitat.

“That’s how the house evolved,” Kinzer says. “They have a little trail and can walk out their backyard 50 years and hike into the mountains. Right now in the springtime, the Agua Caliente is running, too.”

The home caught the attention of the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association, whose members awarded Kinzer the organization’s 2013 Custom Builder of the Year award, noting the attention to detail.

“The judges pointed out things like how the tile deco band in the bathroom lines up perfectly with the switches and receptacles,” Kinzer says. “All those little details make it custom, too.”

A Continued Focus on Creation

Though about 75 percent of Kinzer Builders work now is renovations, Kinzer says he hopes to see increased custom builds as the economy continues to improve. He works to avoid placing a style label on his work — instead catering to client desires and adding his own creativity.