Home Diocesan News Local contractor offers practical ideas on upgrading the home you love
Local contractor offers practical ideas on upgrading the home you love Print E-mail
Written by Debora Shaulis Flora, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 23 February 2018 15:19

POLAND – Lee and Christine Ricottilli offer simple words of advice to those contemplating home improvement projects: Start with a plan, choose classic design over trendy looks and think about the future.

Lee Ricottilli is a co-owner of Ricottilli Construction, a family-owned company for more than 40 years. Christine, his wife, oversees billing, job bidding and invoicing. The company is best known for custom-built housing. When the new construction market withered a decade ago, Lee pivoted to home remodeling, additions, new garage construction and other improvement projects.

While new housing starts are improving, remodeling interest also appears to be increasing because “people want to upgrade their homes,” Lee said.

Members of Poland Holy Family Parish, Lee and Christine were working with a small budget when he built their home in Poland more than 20 years ago. Lee recently replaced the carpeting and tile with hardwood floors that are easier to clean, he said.

Having a plan is essential regardless of budget, the Ricottillis said. Make a list of priorities, do some research on costs, and add 10 percent to the project budget for contingencies.

“Bathrooms and kitchens always add value and retain value,” Christine said. As for designing those rooms, “Stay away from trends. Classic design and neutral [colors] are more durable timewise.”

Simpler projects “can make a big difference,” such as painting walls and/or cabinets, installing new countertops, and changing fixtures, she added.

When hiring contractors, homeowners should ask for proof of insurance and references. “Most of our work is through word of mouth,” Christine said. Her husband doesn’t have a showroom, but he has developed relationships with clients who permit him to bring potential clients to their homes afterward.

“If [contractors] are willing to sit down with you and show you their work, that’s who you want to work with,” she said.

Owners may stretch their home improvement budgets by doing their own demolition and painting, Lee said. Some plumbing work also could be done by homeowners, if the plumbing is being replaced and not relocated, Christine noted.

Another budget-conscious idea is for homeowners to purchase the fixtures that contractors will install for them. Lee makes contract provisions for customers who want to shop around to get the faucet that they want at a good price, he said. Beware of lesser-grade fixtures that may contain plastic components, he cautioned.

Planning also means anticipating all project needs. For example, whenever a project changes the footprint of a house, construction permits must be obtained from the county building inspection department. Some projects will require special tools, Lee noted, citing the current popularity of glass tile and the need to cut it with a wet saw.

With the population aging, people often call Ricottilli Construction to make changes that will enable them to live in their home, safely and independently, for as long as possible. To that end, some homeowners are foregoing bathtubs for accessible showers or installing first-floor bathrooms in their homes. “A dining room can easily be converted to a bedroom,” Christine pointed out.

Doorways are being widened to 36 inches instead of the standard 32 inches, Lee said. Button-like door locks are being replaced with S-shaped levers, and traditional light switches are giving way to wider rocker switches, because both are easier to work with, he said.

Concerning ramps for persons who use wheelchairs or walkers, building codes require a gradual increase of slope with every 12 inches of run, Lee said. While costs vary depending on the length of each ramp, he estimated the cost of a 4-foot x 4-foot ramp – one that would be used to get from a garage or driveway into a house – at about $1,000.

Asked which types of projects are his favorites, Lee named basement-level entertainment areas and workout rooms. “It’s always a challenge to get the materials down there, so you have to think ahead,” he said.

“The best part of doing a job is when it’s complete,” he added.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In our Home Improvement section, we often feature Catholics in our diocese who work in the home improvement trades. These articles are offered for information only and in no way serve as an endorsement of the services or products offered by the individuals or businesses profiled.


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