When it Comes to Renovation, Who do the Hospitality Hot-Shots Turn to?

Zelham, Inc.
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Zelham Inc. specializes in renovating hotels. Trusted by multinationals like Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Zelham fields a team that knows how to create the least disturbance in an operating hotel, all while delivering on time and on budget.

As the company behind hundreds of successful hotel renovations since its founding in 2004, Zelham remains the “renovator of choice in this industry,” and the title is justified.

The company is headquartered in Boise, Idaho, and licensed in twenty-seven states. Company President Dan Hamilton and Vice President Ed Anderson each have decades of experience in the industry, and the skill, experience, and industry knowledge within Zelham appear formidable.

Accustomed to working with top designers, Zelham offers a range of services, from conceptualization to pre-construction and all the way to completion and project handover. “We are finish experts,” says Director of Estimating Ben Davis, who has been with Zelham for twelve years, nine as lead estimator. “We will take the building from sheetrock to completion.”

To get an idea of the breadth of ability resident in the company, it’s worth listing some of the skills – from consultation to full project management – that Zelham’s 62-strong staff brings to the hotel servicing table: assistance with design development, estimation, property improvement plans (PIP) analysis, budgeting, brand conversion, handling permits, value engineering, tub to shower conversions, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) conversions, coordinating FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment), implemented with scrupulous attention to safety requirements.

A seamless experience
To attain the seamless renovation experience that’s so commercially vital to a functioning hotel, Zelham’s first commandment is: Ensure constant communication between property managers and hotel owners from start to finish. As well as the specialized project manager, clients work alongside a project manager assistant and on-site superintendent; in the case of a larger project, an additional superintendent is assigned.

In general, Zelham happily takes on projects from about $20,000 – for long term customers – to about $12 million at the top end. Although known as hotel renovation specialists, in recent years Zelham has partnered with other general contractors on new builds and is now excited to be embarking on two new builds itself, for the first time in the company’s history. Because of jurisdictional requirements in some states, Zelham occasionally uses local contractors, but ideally handles its work through its own traveling crews.

Founded on integrity
With “Excellence Elevates Relationships” as its motto, a drive for quality is the force behind every hotel renovation Zelham undertakes. Before Hamilton and Anderson formed Zelham in 2004, they knew one another from their work in the industry over the years and had talked at length about forming their own company. “Dan Hamilton’s probably the only guy I would’ve done it with, and it’s worked out really great,” says Anderson of his business partner. “He has a lot of integrity and honesty.”

With the company’s proven ability to retain its staff at all levels, Zelham is in the happy position of having a high proportion of employees with years of experience. And turning the recession of 2008 into an opportunity, Zelham was able to hire highly-qualified workers from companies that went under or downsized. “We snatched up some really great guys,” says Anderson. “They are happy to be working for us, and we are pretty lucky to get them.”

Putting it together
With its full complement of pre-construction and project-management services, Zelham saves hotel businesses the time, effort, money, and inconvenience of searching for qualified individual trades and dealing with multiple bids. Invariably, in these cases – dealing with a single company instead of many – projects are expedited and there is greater accountability with continuity and cleaning.

This last ‘accountability’ issue is of critical importance when working in or near spaces occupied by guests. It can be make or break for the hotel.

“We definitely operate in a different stratosphere than other contractors,” says Davis. Since hotels operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Zelham’s construction crews also tend to work longer and harder, often every day for the duration. Hotel renovation projects take ninety days on average, with employees getting much-deserved time off after the long haul and successful completion.

Since major hotel chains who are clients, such as Marriott and Hilton, require properties to be updated every six to seven years, Zelham is constantly working on everything from a fresh coat of paint to a new vinyl floor, laying carpet, updating tile work, reconfiguring or updating lobbies, ADA upgrades, changing soft-good furniture, and everything in between that’s needed to keep a hotel looking fresh.

No disruption
Because of the complexity of the planning, Zelham precisely maps every move well in advance to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption.

“Usually it’s a couple of floors at a time so you can get a nice flow going,” comments Davis. “Getting materials up and down — with elevators that are also possibly serving guests — can be a real challenge. Even getting stuff out of the building can be difficult, if you have a door that guests also need to use. But those are things we will discuss before the project with the property, and make a plan. We pride ourselves on doing a pretty good job with all that.”

With a chain like Marriott having dozens of brands under its umbrella, the sourcing of work and the nature of the work is not an issue for Zelham. Having focused on budget-friendly limited service hotels for a time, such as Courtyard by Marriott or Residence Inn by Marriott (which have food services but not full restaurants), the company’s capabilities have now expanded to embrace many large hotel properties.

The upshot is simple – a win-win for everyone. With steps laid out, and precise planning from project inception to completion, with great communication with customers and a high degree of in-house knowledge, accountability and professionalism, Zelham is well-known and trusted by hotel chains across America.

Renovation re-imagined
The truth is, in an industry where efficiency in completing projects and finishes is sometimes lacking, Zelham excels. “We understand this industry very well,” Davis says. “You can trust us with issues small to large, from simple painting to converting tubs to filling in swimming pools and converting them to meeting rooms. We are general contractors, so we will do whatever is needed, including additions.”

With solid and tested processes firmly in place for hotel renovation, Zelham is investigating other construction types where similar models can be utilized, such as senior living — which is experiencing a boom across the United States; apartment buildings such as timeshares; and even military barracks and employee-housing dorms in national parks.

Currently rebranding a property for Sheraton amongst its other projects, the company has received recognition for the consistent quality of its work including “Contractor of the Year” for Marriott Courtyard in Providence, Rhode Island.

Nevertheless, the people who are making it happen at Zelham believe that gaining repeat business from existing clients is their biggest reward. “It all goes back to our motto, ‘Excellence Elevates Relationships,’” says Davis. “It’s all about the relationships.”



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