In the middle of a long, drawn-out winter, many homeowners seek to spruce up their home environments.
Barley Rantilla of Cortland worked for Hugh's Construction in Liberty for 10 years. Today, Rantilla is a self-employed home improvement professional. Rantilla takes on everything from painting, installing doors and windows, cutting and tiling floors, installing drywall, plumbing and framing.
"I chose to do construction and home renovations so I could learn a trade that teaches me to take care of my own house. The more one learns in those trades, the more self-sufficient they become," Rantilla said.
Paul Geisler, owner of Paul’s Home Improvement LLC in Hubbard, is shown looking through kitchen countertop materials.
Todd Hall, owner of House Medic in Warren, said that the most common repairs that homeowners attempt in an effort to save money are gutter cleaning and washing, cleaning decks, caulking bathtubs, basic plumbing and painting.
"In most cases, we'll do the drywall work, but our customers will sometimes do their own priming and painting. Homeowners with mechanical abilities can handle the basic repairs," Hall said.
For example, Hall said that gutter cleaning can be a risky task and that the best way to prevent gutters from corroding is to invest in gutter guards.
Home repairs to do yourself
n Gutter cleaning and washing (with care)
n Cleaning decks
n Caulking bathtubs
n Basic plumbing (including toilet adjustments and cleaning screens on faucets)
Hall said the best way to find a reliable handyman is to check with the Better Business Bureau or even Angie's List.
According to Hall, some home improvement techniques that homeowners should know how to do include toilet adjustments, basic plumbing, cleaning screens on faucets and caulking around bathtub areas.
"When caulking around a bathtub, homeowners should purchase caulking with a silicone base. Silicone-based products are designed for extended exposure to wet areas," Hall said. "Silicone caulking can prevent water from the tub from seeping into the wall. Homeowners should never use general purpose caulking because it will deteriorate due to dampness. Before applying the silicone caulking, it's always important to remove old, loose and corroded caulking around the tub."
Another simple home improvement technique that is pivotal for homeowners is winterization. According to Hall, this is making sure that the water lines to your outside spigots are turned off during the cold weather months, and also caulking windows to remove drafts. It's also important for homeowners to make sure that all attic access folds are well insulated. This is where homeowners can lose the most heat.
As an all-purpose handyman, Barley Rantilla enjoys taking on projects for customers.
"I work at a lot of houses where the customers have started a home improvement project but cannot finish the task. Most of my customers are talented in carpentry and construction," Rantilla said.
Paul H. Geisler, owner of the Hubbard-based interior / exterior renovation company, Paul's Home Improvement LLC, cautions that homeowners should be aware of other problems that may be uncovered during a home improvement project.
"I recently finished a roof, and while I was working on the job, I discovered that the garage was sagging, and I found broken rafters through the crawl space," Geisler said.
He said the garage had cracked rafting in the overhead, causing a dimple in the roof, which was sagging. He stopped and showed the customer how this rafting issue was causing the bricks to bow in a concave shape and also discovered these bricks can cause the rafters in the walls to blow out.
"The point is," Geisler said, "if homeowners do not get the problem corrected as soon as possible, far worse problems down the road may occur."
Rantilla says he always encourages homeowners to try to accomplish as much as they can on their own when it boils down to home improvement projects.
"I hate to have to charge people, but aside from the labor comes the costs of materials, and sometimes labor doubles the price of materials," Rantilla said. "At times, I have to ration material and labor costs. Customers will cut costs in materials so they could afford the labor. That's why I try to encourage homeowners to do as much as they can on their own, so they could find a happy medium accomplishing their home renovation without wasting time and money."
Ken Hecker, owner of Progressive Electrical Contractors in Niles, has been in the business for 35 years. Hecker says that he has had many customers who have tried to repair electrical issues on their own.
"The electrical industry is not an industry for amateurs. If homeowners do not understand the basic electrical codes and local ordinances, it is time to call an electrician. Everyone wants to save money and be efficient themselves, but homeowners have to balance efficiency with the safety for their family," Hecker said.
Some common electrical repairs Hecker has noticed during the brutal winter months include water leakage into electrical outlets, issues with GFI (ground fault interrupter) receptacles because of the cold weather and electrical fires due to overloading.
"I have found that when most customers try to repair the problem first, they get into a jam and call us," Hecker said.