Paula Southerlin has been working on home construction projects since 1990
But corporate America just wasn’t for her. So she began repairing roofs after a hail storm, but she had to prove she was as good as any man doing the job.
So Southerlin and another woman would race guys working on other roofs on the block to prove they could do it not only as well as but faster than the men.
Currently Southerlin is working on Matt Maynard’s house in Perry Heights. She’s already built a new luxury bathroom and closet for Maynard and his partner Shane, and she figures she’ll be done with the new entrance to the house in about three weeks.
While she knows “lesbian with power tools” is a cliché, Southerlin said there are really very few women doing what she’s doing. Women have hired her because they’re impressed that she’s so good at what she does or because they’re comfortable having her in their house.
But men are often confused.
While Southerlin was doing brick work on Maynard’s home, she asked a bricklayer doing a large addition to the house across the street come look at her work. She thought she might hire him to help build the new brick arch over the new entrance.
“Where’s the guy who did this?” he asked her, impressed with the work.
“I did it,” she told him.
“No, the guy who did the actual work,” he wanted to know.
When she explained that she laid the bricks herself, the man just looked at her in disbelief.
Maynard raves about Southerlin’s work and is glad he found someone who loves his house as much as he does.
“We eyed this neighborhood for two years,” Maynard said, adding that he and his partner even put a bid in on the house before it went on the market and were only able to buy it when another bid fell through.
Maynard said Southerlin appreciates the historic value of his 90-year-old home. She rescued a piece of original wallpaper hidden under several layers of paint and sheetrock, and he’s planning to have the antique wallpaper fragment framed.
A full master bathroom and closet redo was the first project Southerlin completed for Maynard.
That includes a washer-dryer hooked up in the spacious new dressing-room closet. The walk-in shower has six body jets, recessed shelf with lighting and a vent system to keep moisture way from the closet. The custom-made vanity has granite countertops and a back-lit mirror. Italian tile and Kohler fixtures finish out the bathroom.
The current project is the entryway. Southerlin enclosed the porch, is widening the stairs and saved the original brickwork from the old patio. Arched brickwork will go up around the door that will mimic other houses built in the same period in the neighborhood. She’s breaking through a wall from the newly-enclosed area to the living room, redoing the fireplace in the living room and fixing sections of the hardwood floors.
How did Southerlin get so good with such a variety of specialties?
She said she started her construction career with roofing but when hail on one house ruined the ceiling, she began doing drywall. When she needed to do some carpentry, she learned carpentry. When a client needed tile work, she learned how to do it. She can do some minor plumbing but relies on a licensed plumber for extensive repairs and renovations. Her son, Brad, works with her as the licensed electrician on the job.
She said she’s picked up one trade after another over the years by contracting certain jobs, watching and picking up tips from experienced craftsmen.
Despite the surprise from a number of people that she’s the one doing everything from bricklaying to carpentry to roofing, she said she doesn’t think she’s ever lost a job because she’s a woman.
“My prices are fair,” she said. And most of her work is on referral, so potential clients know what she can produce. Maynard said he stole her from a neighbor and she has more work lined up down the street when she finishes his current project.
But Southerlin said she’ll be back. Their next project in Maynard’s house is opening the kitchen to a bedroom in the back of the house to enlarge it, modernize it, update the fixtures and cabinetry.
Maynard laughs and said he and his partner have begun saving for that project and they wouldn’t have anyone else work on their house.
“She takes care of it as if it’s her own,” Maynard said.
Southerlin uses her initials — P.S. — as part of her company name — P.S. Contractors — with the tag line, “You’ll never be an afterthought.”
Contact Paula Southerlin at 214-715-6679
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.