By GARY S. ANGELO
Tribune Chronicle correspondent
Warm weather in northeast Ohio is often the prompt for home improvement projects, and this year has been no different.
“When the weather got warmer earlier in the year, we saw the usual upswing in calls,” said Andy Kohler, lead painter of Reliable Contracting Inc. in Chagrin Falls. “It happens every year. The weather gets warm and people want to schedule improvements.”
Tod Hall, owner of House Medic Handyman Service in Warren, said that he has seen an increase in the number of home improvement estimates and jobs.
“We are doing a lot of bathroom remodeling, and with spring, we are getting into a lot of deck projects, exterior painting and fence projects.” Hall said. “The economy affects everything with the way people are spending. People now are feeling more comfortable with spending money on home improvement projects.”
But as many parts of the nation are reporting large upticks in new housing starts, home improvement rather than new construction may be more unique to the Mahoning Valley and northeast Ohio.
John Hershberger of Square One Builders in Cortland said his company is seeing that first-hand.
“We used to build custom homes, but these days, we get no more than one or two calls for new homes in a given year,”
Hershberger said. “Overall, new home building has fallen sharply in the last 10 years. Most of our work now is in home improvements such as kitchens, baths, siding, roofing and decks.”
Hall agreed. “Because of the cost of housing and the house market, people are staying in their homes and remodeling them,” he said.
Homeowners venture into home improvement projects to improve their quality of their personal environments that they may plan to live in for many years.
“Some homeowners will correct deficiencies in their homes if they have any, to sell their house,” Hershberger said. “Most people today are improving their homes because they want to love the space they are living in, and we help customers to achieve that. Different improvements have different paybacks in different percentages of the investment. You might be doing this project because you want that new kitchen or you want to recoup that money when you sell your home.”
Gary Casey, part owner and vice president of Warren Glass & Paint in Warren, agreed that remodeling projects are on the upswing.
“I believe the economy is causing people to remodel their existing houses,” Casey said. “More homeowners today seem to be staying put in their own homes, in lieu of moving into newer homes or developments. We see more homeowners upgrading to increase their home’s value and to increase their comfort levels. Homeowners do not do it because of amenities, but they remodel their existing home in place of building a new home.”
As with many areas, the home industry has changed significantly over the years.
“In the late 1990s and early 2000s we saw a lot of new developments being built, but now that stopped in the late 2000s. Currently in this area, we are seeing more remodeling instead of new home building,” Casey said.
“For young homeowners in newer homes, finishing attics, bonus rooms (unfinished rooms over garages), and basements are very popular projects,” Kohler said. “Many times, these new spaces are utilized as hobby or play areas for children, as well as theater areas for large-screen TVs.”
With home improvement as a popular option, Kohler describes some projects that homeowners in the area choose.
“Smaller popular projects include installing kitchen tile back splashes, replacing older showers and bathtub surrounds, and stripping wallpaper and repainting rooms,” he said. “Though the large home improvement stores try to sell the do-it-yourself philosophy, the reality is that most people don’t have the time, proper tools or experience to do a professional job, let alone shut down an important part of their home for days or weeks at a time.”