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Catch the Renovation Bug!

Still looking for your dream home?

Sarah and John Gambino of Westchase have some advice:

Don’t hesitate! Renovate!

In 2009 the Gambinos were looking for their first home. Sarah knew she wanted to live in Westchase but John, a middle school math teacher, thought the Westchase homes might cost more than their budget allowed. John, however, was confident in one thing: his ability to renovate a home to Sarah’s liking.

Growing up he had always enjoyed learning about and helping both his father and grandfather with their home projects. So they decided to focus on finding a fixer-upper. “The first house we bought was 1,700 square feet,” said Sarah. “Four teenage boys and their mom had been living there plus two or three dogs. There were holes in the walls and it smelled bad.”

John, however, promised Sarah, who was 4 months pregnant with twins at the time, that he could turn the house into the perfect starter home.

Within a month, with help from John’s handy family, the couple was able to move out of their apartment and into their new home in time for the birth of their daughters. For the next three years the couple continued to make updates and renovations. Then after the birth of their third child, the Gambinos decided they needed more space.

Bitten by the renovation bug, they looked for another home in need of repair. While jogging through The Fords, the couple found a home that was a short sale and in need of updating. Emboldened by the success of their first renovation, they decided to take the plunge again. With three children and full-time jobs, the two redid every bathroom and overhauled and expanded the kitchen during the evenings and on weekends.

But John had formal training in contracting, right?

Not really. The Gambinos are the definition of Do-It-Yourselfers, or DIYer.

The couple admits they don’t even know the technical terms for every tool they use.  They, have, however found a wealth of resources online and through You Tube videos. Most home improvement stores also have informational books on how to tackle particular jobs, offering step by step directions with plumbing, tiling and trim-work basics.

After a little self-education, they got to work.

To expand the small kitchen at their second home, the Gambinos enclosed a sliding glass door and were able to add more cabinets and counter space. John says he has really enjoyed the renovations and has been surprised by what he has been able to accomplish. When a project comes up, he now thinks, “If someone else can do it, why can’t I?”

Their neighbors have even started asking them for advice about home repairs. For Sarah one of the highlights has been cutting tile, something she’d never done before.

The family enjoyed four happy years in their second home and welcomed a fourth daughter. Once the new paint smell had begun to fade, they started thinking about their next renovation – a home in Brentford that had been abandoned for six years. It has been their most challenging one to date.

“The house was not livable,” said Sarah. “We had already sold our other home so had to live in an apartment for two months before we could move in.”

John took a leave of absence from his teaching position at Davidsen Middle School to devote himself to the project. With this renovation the couple said they’ve had fun getting their daughters involved by allowing them to pick paint colors for their rooms and help make other decorating choices.

“Fresh paint can go a long way,” said Sarah. “Not only does painting a room make a huge difference but it even does wonders for cabinets and doors. In our current home the doors were beat up. I did not think we could use them but John sanded and repainted them and now they look beautiful.”

The Gambinos are always looking for inexpensive ways to get expensive looks. They have become experts at determining how much a project will cost them. At their current home they’ve spent $10,100 on a kitchen renovation, including all new appliances, that they estimate would have cost them up to $35,000 if they had used a contractor.

One money saving tip: they’ve found that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on custom cabinets to get a custom cabinet look. John has purchased the cabinets for all of their kitchen remodels from Lowe’s, but has stacked two different sizes of standard cabinets on top of each other and changed hardware to create a customized look.

There are just a few small details left to fix up at their Brentford home but the Gambinos are already planning their next project.

They hope to put their house on the market this spring and already have their eyes on a few other Westchase fixers-uppers.

By Marcy Sanford

2017 Home Improvement Guide Summaries

WOW thanks the following home improvement specialists for helping to bring you the Home Improvement Special. The listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with the Home Improvement Special. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the businesses and ask all relevant questions prior to engaging their services.

A All Animal Control
(813) 563-9453
Specializing in animal removal, four legs or less. From rats and bats to coyotes and bobcats, we can solve your problem.

A Superior Plumbing
(813) 852-1118
A Superior Plumbing Solution provides quality, on-time, 24-hour residential and commercial plumbing services.  Proudly serving Westchase and the greater Tampa area since 2004. Your satisfaction is guaranteed!

Advanced Cooling Systems, Inc.
(813) 855-6006
Focused on 100 percent customer satisfaction. Offering the best air conditioning warranty in the industry, 12 years parts and labor on qualifying systems. A+ rated on BBB and all A's on Angie's List.

AG Outshines
(813) 909-5112
Family operated business of exterior enhancement in the Tampa area since 1984.  Call us for all your pressure washing needs.

Anderson Aluminum
(813) 961-1764
Make your dreams a reality with Anderson Aluminum. Specialists in shingled insulated roof systems. We offer screen rooms and pool enclosures.

Authentic Concepts Kitchen & Bath Design
(727) 785-3097
Let us design your dream kitchen or bathroom then bring it to reality with our full kitchen and bathroom remodeling team.


C&C Painting
(813) 886-7100
The trusted interior and exterior painting professionals for over 15 years in Westchase. Call us for a prompt and professional quote.

Carlson Construction
(727) 744-8397
We are a painting and pressure washing contractor with over 2,000 projects completed in Westchase. Interior and exterior. Sherwin Williams approved.

CertaPro Painters
(813) 936-9242
We do painting; you do life. Interior and exterior, residential and commercial painting. Call for your free proposal today.

CGM Services Air Conditioning & Heating
(813) 247-2665
We have built our reputation through making sure that nobody is better trained, nobody works harder, and nobody cares more about customers or the community…than we do.

Done Rite Roofing
(813) 530-8458
Serving the entire Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater-Pasco areas for over 18 years. Done Rite Roofing is an approved applicator of Lifetime roofing products and workmanship warranties.

Ely Contracting
(813) 431-9412
Specializing in bathroom and kitchen remodels and all of your “honey do” needs! Owned and operated by Pat Ely, a Florida Certified Building Contractor.

ImageWorks Painting, Inc.
(813) 570-8800
Love where you live by letting us provide top-rated painting for the interior and exterior of your home. Call now for a detailed estimate.

Florida Forever Floors by Home Floors
(813) 854-5677
We look forward to serving and assisting you through your next flooring project. Whether it is an exotic hardwood floor, carpet or tile, we go the distance to handle your project with care.

Gulf to Bay Pool Service
(855) 485 3766
Gulf to Bay Pool Service is Tampa Bay's fastest growing pool service. With over 700 clients in Tampa, we are number one in Westchase.

Lynch Plumbing
(813) 855-2565
Lynch Plumbing is family-owned and operated, proudly providing residential plumbing services to the Tampa Bay area for the past 30 years.

Motts Contracting
(813) 931-7596
Serving you since 2004, specializing in residential remodels and additions, interior and exterior painting, roofing and other specialty services including carpentry, flooring and pavers as well as handyman projects.

MY Shower Door, Tampa/St.Pete
(813) 962-6008
An award winning, nationally acclaimed company, serving the whole Tampa Bay area with the highest quality, frameless shower enclosures. State Licensed and fully insured.

Roberts & Anderson AC
(813) 966-0982
We have a simple motto at Roberts & Anderson Air Conditioning: If you want promises, call anybody. If you want reliable service, call us!

The Screen Guy
(813) 240-2109
One call for all your screen repair needs! From a single screen panel to an entire three-story re-screening. There is no job too big or small!

Screens ‘R’ Us
(813) 295-1217
Energize and enjoy your outdoor space. From single panels to full rescreens, we will help you rejuvenate your outdoor space to take full advantage of your screened patio.

(813) 885-6900
Stone-Mart is your source for premium travertine at the most competitive cost. We maintain an on-hand inventory of over 4 million square feet.


Suncoast Roofing
(813) 283-2544
With more than 40 years of experience in the roofing industry, our team is ready to help you find the roofing solution that fits your need.

Tampa Bay Air Conditioning
(813) 949-2114
Let us help keep you warm all winter and cool all summer. Specializing in service, repair and installation for all makes.

Westchase Roofing Services, Inc.
(813) 814-ROOF
Specializing in residential shingle roofing systems with lifetime warranties. Customer satisfaction is our priority; owned by a Westchase resident.

Westfall Roofing
(813) 264-5690
“We would like to thank the Westchase community. It has been our pleasure serving all of your roofing needs. From our family to yours.”


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