Some projects you can do yourself, some call for a pro

Nathan Law

Visit any community group on any social media channel, and you’ll find lots of neighbors asking for recommendations for professionals to do a variety of home improvement projects – construction, electrical, plumbing, etc. These requests frequently include something like, “I need someone who will call me back,” or “The last […]

Visit any community group on any social media channel, and you’ll find lots of neighbors asking for recommendations for professionals to do a variety of home improvement projects – construction, electrical, plumbing, etc. These requests frequently include something like, “I need someone who will call me back,” or “The last person I called didn’t show up.”

Clearly, many people are struggling today to find skilled tradespersons. Why is it so hard to get someone to redo your bathroom, or pave your driveway, or even call you back to give you a quote?

It is a complex problem.

Roofing is a job that is best left for professionals to handle.

“First, contractors not calling you back is often an issue of staffing and business structure,” said Doug Bierer, owner of DBC Remodeling & Construction, 8391 Wattsburg Road. “At DBC, we place a very high priority on communication, so answering calls and returning emails as quickly as possibly is something that we place a lot of effort and staffing behind. We want to give people answers quickly, even if we can’t help them.”

At smaller companies, there may not be office staff to handle calls and schedule estimates and the contractor may be trying to handle those things between jobsite work.

This four-season sunroom was built by DBC Remodeling & Construction in Conneautville.

Many reasons, and one big one

Bierer, whose company specializes in basement finishing, sunroom additions, decks, awnings, and full kitchen and bath remodels, said some jobs are just harder to schedule than others for a variety of reasons.

DBC Remodeling & Construction workers work on building a sunroom in a Millcreek home.

“Some of that has to do with demand, some of it has to do with supply chain issues, and a lot of it has to do with the incredible shortage of people in skilled trades,” Bierer said. “Our current culture and education system have not elevated the trades to young people and we’re seeing the results of that now. The demand will continue to outpace the supply of people skilled enough to do the work well. We believe working in the trades is honorable and satisfying work, and we are invested in seeing more young people in the Erie area take the route of skilled trades as their profession.”

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Bierer who employs nearly thirty of those skilled tradespersons who work at DBC, said they value their employees and have no trouble keeping them busy with jobs big and small. Bierer points out that even “small” jobs require more work than homeowners may realize.

Professional bricklayers are shown installing new tiles or slabs for a sidewalk or patio on a leveled foundation base made of sand. Home improvement projects you should leave to the professionals include any structural changes that involve load-bearing walls, electricity, plumbing and concrete work.

“The cost is often higher for ‘small’ jobs than a homeowner may expect, but that is due to many factors including time, materials and difficulty,” he said.

Additionally, jobs that require materials that a client must choose, such as a kitchen or bathroom, often take longer to schedule.

“Cabinets take a long time to get, no matter what,” Bierer said. “So, we are booking weeks out on those types of jobs, but other projects, like decks and basements, we can often move very quickly to get done.”

Bierer advises homeowners to do research when picking a contractor and urges caution when deciding to do projects themselves.

Owen Zellefrow, a mason with Randolph Masonry of Erie, lays brick on May 6 at an apartment building under construction at 331 E. 12th St. in Erie. Skilled construction workers are in high demand.

Choose DIY projects carefully

“As a company, we admire the many DIY people out there willing to learn and attempt what we do every day, but our word of caution would be to evaluate your ability and available time to accurately finish the job all the way to the end,” Bierer said, adding that few contractors will accept the task of finishing a DIY project gone wrong.

Two people paint a room together.

Home improvement projects you should leave to the professionals include any structural changes that involve load-bearing walls, electricity, plumbing and concrete work. But there are some home improvement project that most people can handle.

‘If we don’t have it, you don’t need it’:Kraus Department Store, an Erie original

Start with paint

If you’re itching to make some updates while you wait for the pros to handle the big stuff, Michelle Hannold, 46, a Wesleyville resident and longtime DIY devotee has some advice for you. She has been doing home DIY projects, including painting interiors and furniture for others, for many years.

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