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Summertime, and the living easily fits into remodeling

| Saturday, July 7, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Tribune-Review
John Bazella stamps cement at the home of Regis McQuaide on Saturday, June 23, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
The finished stamped cement at the home of Regis McQuaide on Saturday, June 23, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Brian Beaufort finishes cement at the home of Regis McQuaide on Saturday, June 23, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Regis McQuaide, owner of a Castle Shannon home renovation firm, knows when summer arrives.

“People go on vacation and the phone stops ringing,” he says.

McQuaide, president of Masteremodelers, agrees with Dan Fritschen, a home renovation writer/advocate from northern California who observes that home renovation projects drop off in the summer.

Fritschen is the author of a book that laments summer doldrums in house projects.

McQuaide says his job leads always dwindle this time of year. This year, they were down to five for June after being at 30 in May. Like Fritschen, he thinks passing by summer for home renovations is a great mistake

Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders, agrees there is a strong element of what he calls “seasonality” in work on homes.

Joe Emison from BuildFax, a national database for building permit information, sees a decline, but less seasonal change than Melman and Fritschen do. He says the low point in national building permits in 2011 was at 1.9 million in February. It climbed from then and didn't drop off until the peak at 2.9 million in August.

That contrasts with Melman's national spending report which sees a peak at $129 billion in May 2011, but then a drop to $104 billion by July.

Emison suspects the difference could be that he is dealing with jobs that are more suited for summer, such as deck-building or room additions.

“There just may be more things to do in June than in December,” says the vice president of research and development for North Carolina-based BuildFax. “And I would agree that summer is a good time to do this work.”

All the renovation experts agree planning sometimes gets in the way.

“We'll be talking to people about a job and will be ready to go,” says McQuaide. “And it will be the beginning of May and the people will say, ‘But we can't do that now. Let's do it in September'.”

He says summer often is filled with vacation plans, children home from school and desires to avoid messing up the house.

But all of those elements can work to your advantage, Fritschen says.

Fritschen generally believes there is no time like the present to get some jobs done. At the very basic level, he says, the past few years have not been great ones economically, so contractors and builders are looking to keep business rolling.

Interest rates also are low, he says. But Melman warns while rates are down, lenders can be cautious with their money.

But that fact aside, Fritschen believes there are plenty of great reasons to think about a summer project. Among the top ones are:

• Do it while you're gone. Plan the work to take place while you are on vacation and, behold, you come back to a new place, too.

• Long days create more time to work, an advantage McQuaide likes. “We like to work four 10s,” he says, talking about 10-hour days. “This gives us a chance to do it.”

• Warm weather allows al fresco dining, a benefit if the kitchen is torn up for remodeling.

• Warm weather also is a good time to replace doors and windows because the house will not get too cold from the open portals.

• Noise is not as big an issue. The neighborhood is full of noise during summer, from grass being cut to kids playing, so the work at the remodeling will not be as big an issue.

Fritschen is the author of “Remodel or Move? Make the Right Decision,” a book that looks at what to do with personal property. He also is the founder of a group called remodelormove.com. He says the website has been organized to “empower and educate homeowners on the best ways to make decisions in remodeling.

“There are ample ways to make mistakes, and we want to help them avoid that,” he says.

On that website, there are decision calculators that are driven by algorithms set into play by a series of multiple-choice questions. Those answers then determine whether a project is wise.

“We are trying to help people make the right choice,” he says.

Planning, of course, is a major part of making that choice.

McQuaide says it is his strategy to try to get homeowners “to work about six months in advance” so they can look at jobs that need to be done — or can't be — at certain times of year. For example, he recently had some concrete stamping done at his home “and this is the best time” to do that job, he says.

“But I wouldn't want to be on a roof this time of year,” he says. “Or in an attic. If it's 90 degrees, it's 125 in an attic.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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