Ah, spring! The birds are singing, the flowers are budding and you’ve got chores galore to do around the house. Would you be better off hiring a pro or doing the job yourself?
Turning on the built-in lawn sprinklers
WHAT’S INVOLVED Turning on the water source for the sprinkler system, checking that valves in manifold areas are holding water, running each zone to ensure that nothing’s leaking and all heads are intact, says Mike Amarosa, owner of Ammo Irrigation in Port Jefferson. “We adjust the heads, set the timers,” explains Amarosa. “If there’s anything that needs to be repaired at that time, we notify the customer and then we can make the repairs while we’re there.”
USING A PRO “You’ll want to be able to go outside and check through each individual zone to make sure everything is functioning properly,” Amarosa says. Though changing sprinkler heads is not a very involved process, sometimes homeowners can create problems and incur expenses trying to repair them themselves, says Amarosa, adding that professionals are trained to ensure that all zones are pressurized properly and that there are no leaks in the system. "We will also check to make sure that with shrub and plant growth, no heads need to be moved or raised."
COST At Ammo, it's $55 to $65 for turn on, $50 to replace a rotary head, $25 for mist head and $100 for valve. Prices include installation, says Amarosa.
DIY COST You’ll pay $12.94 for a Hunter PGP rotary head, $4.95 for a Hunter mist head and $17 for a one-inch Irritol valve, says George Vaneron, a sales associate at Huntington Plumbing Supply in Huntington Station.
Opening the pool
WHAT’S INVOLVED Removing the pool cover, vacuuming the pool, hooking up all the equipment and testing everything to make sure it’s working properly, says Barry Vineburg, owner of Long Island Swim-Pool Service in Island Park.
USING A PRO “You have to be very careful taking off the cover, otherwise you let all in the dirt that’s accumulated on top and that falls into the pool,” says Vineberg. “So you need to know what you’re doing.” Dirt dumped from the cover can take a month to clean up, he cautions. Many people don’t know how to hook up their own equipment, nor have the time to do the work, adds Vineburg.“ And what we can do in an hour-and-a-half will take them a whole weekend, and, we’ll do a better job.”
COST $380, plus any chemicals, supplies, a new pump, at Long Island Swim-Pool Service.
DIY COST Massapequa’s Island Recreational offers a free step-by-step pool opening guide and recommends Advanced Solutions Liquid Magnet Mineral Remover ($9.59 per quart).
Cleaning the gutters
WHAT’S INVOLVED Manually removing any and all windblown debris from the gutters and leaders, says Erika Cruz, office manager at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Brentwood. “My guys will safely get up on a ladder and work from the roof,” says Cruz. A crew will use a blower and hose to remove any debris from the downspouts and make sure water is circulating properly through the gutters and leaders.
USING A PRO "Safety is the reason you hire a professional," says Cruz. “We have so many customers that are not properly equipped and they’re not used to being on ladders. We’ve had so many phone calls that our customers say they do it themselves for the season and end up falling off, breaking a leg.” A professional can also assess whether or not you need any repairs to your gutters, leaders or roof, adds Cruz. "It’s basically the barrier to water damage on your house.”
COST On average the company charges $200, but prices can range from $99 to over $1,000, says Cruz.
DIY COST At Costello’s Ace Hardware in Bellmore, a Gutter Getter cleaning scoop costs $6.99 and ladders run from $99 for a 16-foot one to $450 for a 40-foot, professional-grade ladder, says Andy Pergament, assistant manager.
Power washing the house
WHAT’S INVOLVED Power-washing using scrub brushes, bleach, water and soap for every type of home siding, which includes brick, shingle, stucco and wood, says Jeff Sellars, owner of Gold Coast Power Wash in Glen Cove. “We do a lot of a technique called ‘soft washing,’ which is basically soaping down a house and rinsing it off with the machine, “ says Sellars, adding that this method is less damaging than using a higher-pressure system.
USING A PRO Even though many people have their own power washers, they find it more convenient to hire someone, says Sellars. “Typically I hear things from a homeowner like, ‘Well, my husband did this last year and it took all weekend. And you guys were only here for two hours.’ Meanwhile, our results were better than the homeowner doing it, just because we’ve developed some systems that help us speed the process, from doing it for 30 years.”
COST Gold Coast charges $250 to $399 for a mid-sized home, Sellars says.
DIY COST Power washers run from $300 to $949 and cleaning solutions average $15 a gallon at County Line Hardware in Huntington Station, says manager Mike Morahan.
Resealing the driveway
WHAT’S INVOLVED After a cold winter, a driveway might be full of cracks, and seal coating it brings curb appeal to the house, says Dorian Dyckman, an owner of Seal of Approval, in Copiague. To seal coat a driveway, his company cleans it with a wire brush, clearing off any dirt, debris and oil stains. For any cracks that are an eighth of an inch or larger, they use a fiberglass crack filler. “And then we seal over the entire driveway,” says Dyckman. “We use VelveTop, which is one of the best brands.”
USING A PRO Dyckman maintains that using a professional means you’ll get a better finished product. “You’re not going to see swirls in the driveway,” he says, adding, “It’s a dirty job. Believe it or not, it’s cheaper, in most cases, to hire a seal coating company. After you buy the brushes, you buy the tools, everything gets ruined. When we’re buying seal coat, we’re buying it in bulk. We’re buying a few thousand gallons a week. We’re getting at discount.”
COST Seal of Approval typically charges $175 to $275 for a four- to eight-car driveway, although pricing depends on the size and condition of driveway.
DIY COST Adam Novick, owner of Alper's True Value Hardware in Port Washington, recommends starting with sweeping, blowing and removing weeds and grass from the driveway before you begin resealing it. He says you'll need driveway cleaner ($9.99 per gallon) to remove oil and grease stains; squeegees ($5.99 each); Black Jack crack filler ($12.99 per 3.6 quart; one gallon fills about 75 linear feet of quarter-inch cracks); two coats of driveway sealer ($17.99 for 5 gallons; covers about 350 square feet of driveway in average condition).
WHAT’S INVOLVED Cleaning just exterior or both interior and exterior windows. “We love to do in and out, only because if we’re doing outdoor only, we’re doing just 50 percent of the job,” says David Cifarelli, owner of Crystal Clear Window Cleaning in Mattituck. “We do wash screens,” Cifarelli says. “Normally, what’s included, is we wipe the sill.” Cifarelli maintains that the key to the quality of his company’s work is using a wash pad, squeegee and Glass Gleam 3 cleaner.
USING A PRO “With professional window cleaning, there’s no streaks, no smudges,” says Cifarelli, adding, “My philosophy is, If you can make more money doing what you do, stop taking all this time to do things you can’t really do.”
COST Crystal Clear charges $200 to $1,000, depending on the size of the home and type of windows.
DIY COST At Barney's Hardware in Elmont, a quart of Windex Outdoor Window Cleaner, which hooks up directly to a garden hose is $15.99; a squeegee (with a sponge on one side) goes for $4.99 and an extension pole that goes from 4 to 8 feet sells for $26.49, says owner Don Katz.
Property clean up
WHAT’S INVOLVED A spring clean up of your landscape entails removing leaves, fertilizing and spot seeding the lawn, edging and aerating the beds and adding pre-emergent weed killer and mulch to the beds, says Peter Mistretta, owner of Middle Island Landscaping in Greenlawn.
USING A PRO A professional landscaper can assess what’s going on with a property and make recommendations, says Mistretta. “You’ll always see the difference between a professional landscaper who takes care of a property and a homeowner. It’s the fine details, the trim. You’ll always notice the way it’s edged properly, the proper amount of mulch, the proper amount of seed.”
COST $300 for $400 for a quarter-acre through Middle Island Landscaping.
DIY COST Don Caroleo, who owns The Garden Department in Coram, suggests the following materials from his store: Barricade Pre-emergent, $34.95 for 50 pounds; “Farmingdale” grass seed, $79.99 for 25 pounds; 18-24-12 starter fertilizer, $29.99 for 40 pounds, and black mulch, $10.50 for 4 by 2 cubic feet.