- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Home contractors worked furiously during the dry patches yesterday to make up for a month’s backlog of orders.

“It’s horrible,” said roofer Tom Petrilli while working at an Alexandria home yesterday. Mr. Petrilli and another worker with Lyons Contracting Inc., an Alexandria roofing company, were replacing parts of the home’s multisection roof.

“We have about 45 jobs that have yet to be done,” and the company works on two to three roofs a week, said Mr. Petrilli, the manager.

The company stopped doing flat roofs until there is a break in the rain.

“You need two solid days without rain to do those kinds of roofs, and we haven’t had that for a month,” he said. Instead, Mr. Petrilli and a crew of seven are focusing on repairing divided roofs, which can be replaced in segments.

“It’s part of some suggestions a friend and roofing contractor in Seattle has sent to me. It’s the best option right now since the rain doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon,” Mr. Petrilli said.

Short breaks from the drizzle and dreary, gray skies are expected on Monday and Tuesday, said John Newkirk, program manager at the Washington/Baltimore office of the National Weather Service. Showers and thunderstorms with temperatures reaching the mid-70s are likely for the rest of the week.

The Washington area hashad 5.91 inches of rain in May, 84 percent more than the average 3.2 inches, on top of 28 inches of snow in February, Mr. Newkirk said.

“It’s been a rough 12 months where we’ve gone from a drought to a blizzard to consistent rain,” he said.

The snow increased orders for leaky roofs 50 percent at Jack’s Roofing Co. Inc., but now the Silver Spring company is havingtrouble handling the bottleneck, said Keith Decker, co-owner and president.

“It’s been nice this afternoon, so we’re hoping to take care of some repair” on a backlog of 75 service calls, he said. In the last three weeks, the company’s 30 employees barely worked 18 hours a week because of the rain, Mr. Decker said.

The company is still taking orders but not estimating when work can be completed. Mr. Decker said six major commercial contracts are on hold indefinitely.

“We aren’t keeping a schedule anymore. The best we can do is work when we can, hope for good weather and be ready to work like crazy when it comes,” Mr. Decker said.

Sam Hwang has a similar plan for his Alexandria general-contracting company, Autumn Contracting Inc. Mr. Hwang and five employees have worked weekends and evenings to make up for a 40 percent loss of production in the last two months.

“I thought that we’d be more profitable in our first year with all the calls from snow damage, but now we’ll be lucky to break even,” he said.

Mosan Mariani, a Bethesda painter, suspended exterior jobs until mid-June.

“I only have two outdoor jobs right now, so it’s no great worry. But I am trying to push back those jobs until I know I have a full week of good weather to finish them,” he said.

Michael Carliner, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, projected that most home contractors in the area would break even by the end of the year.

“Because there is still a soft economy, contractors will be able to hire temporary laborers and work overtime to make up all the lost time,” Mr. Carliner said.

He said most outdoor contractors are coping with the turbulent weather and working between rains. “Working around the weather has always been the challenge for this industry,” he said.

But not all outdoor contractors are taking a hit.

Robert Guaglianone, co-owner of Airston Homes, a Centreville home builder, said crews are working on two houses in Northern Virginia despite the occasional downpours.

“It may slow down the framers, but once the foundation is in place, the rest of the job can go along relatively well,” said Mr. Guaglianone, chief operating officer.

Like most home builders, Airston Homes adds at least 30 days to its completion date to account for inclement weather.

“The real issue is getting the ground work in place because you can’t dig a basement or grade in the rain,” he said. “But we take that into account and just try to work around the weather.”

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