The Spring Rush

Now that spring has sprung, the sound of birdsong is sometimes eclipsed by the noise of hammers, leaf blowers, and backhoes. Everyone in the trades seems to be rushing to get ready for summer.

Besides the summer countdown, two other reasons seem to have contributed to its getting so busy now: Homeowners just don’t think about maintenance work during winter, a time of hibernation, and this was a winter from hell that created a backlog of items on tradespeople’s to-do lists.

Some contractors, gutter cleaners, and others were too busy in the last two weeks to return calls. Others local tradespeople, however, took time from their schedules to let us know what all that racket is about. A housepainter in Montauk, who had work from Thanksgiving left over because winter temperatures were so low, wouldn’t let us use his name since he’s now working at full capacity.

Kevin Keyser of Silverleaf Landscaping is among the many landscapers revving up their crews. He said he had been “going gangbusters for a month already,” working seven-day weeks, nine-hour days with a full crew. He predicted that “when it’s this busy now it’s an indication that it’s going to be a good summer season with plenty of work.”   

According to Danielle Quackenbush of Quackenbush Cesspools, if there’s one thing homeowners should think about in spring it’s getting their cesspool pumped. “If your cesspool is going to back up, it’s going to do it when you’re having a party or a lot of people over,” she said.

It may be too early to jump in the pool, but Shira Barzilay, the owner of Proper pH Pools, said the company was incredibly busy. “A good percentage of those who open their pools in late March or early April don’t want to see their covers; it reminds them of winter.” If March comes in like a lamb, she gets a head start, but this year, March roared in.

“Last week was our first full week outside,” she said, with the crew doing vacuuming and repairs and starting to excavate for new pools, which requires a minimum of 50-degree temperatures. Those lucky enough to haveheated pools, and there are many, might have good swimming by the end of April, she said.

East Hampton Village’s Village Hardware had a lousy March, but things have picked up enormously, Bernard Kiembock, the owner, said. Trouble is, he said that on Saturday there was nowhere to park between 11 and 3, “If you can’t park, you can’t shop,” a predicament that “almost shut us down last year,” when he said his April sales were down 20 percent. The good news for next year is that village officials have promised to change the parking regulations. “If I have more months like this, where I struggle, I’ll go out of business.”

Business has also picked up for Dick King of Dick’s Plumbing and Heating. “Right now we’re turning on water in houses that have been closed up, installing hot-water heaters, and doing small renovations.” He blamed his slow winter on new homeowners’ “bringing in their own people from UpIsland and not sticking with their old plumber.” Another sorry truth for Mr. King, who has been in business since 1977 and now works with his son, Doug, is that “a lot of my customers are passing away.”

The last thing some of us want to think about at this time of year is air-conditioning, but John Grant of Grant Heating and Cooling said, “We’re encouraging people to sign up for pre-season maintenance,” which entails a complete check of the system. Things can happen over winter, such as “a refrigerant leak or insects getting into the outdoor condensing unit.” And filters need regular changing. Pre-season maintenance, he said, allows him to “find the problem before Fourth of July weekend when your house is full.”

Business usually picks up for C.E. King and Sons, which sells awnings and marine canvas, on April 1. But this year they are still “getting ready for the springtime rush,” said David King, a grandson of the man who launched the business in 1948. Though the sun has peeked out occasionally, there’s still not a huge demand for retractable awnings. Starting mid-April, however, “We’re one-armed paper-hangers till July 15 when it slows from fever pitch.”

Bruce Bates of Bates Electric gets a lot of calls at this time of year from people who reopen their houses to find that things have mysteriously gone kaput. There can be several explanations, but he said the culprit was often an over-wintering rodent chewing on wires. Egads.

If tradespeople are busy, so, too, are those who provide other services for summer residents. Cynthia Kolbenheyer of Open Minded Concierge is helping clients line up chefs, housekeepers, landscapers, wait staff (for all those parties), and personal assistants. “When people get out here, they want to relax and not spend one minute grocery shopping or running errands,” she said.