Photo by Jay Paul
Faith Dickerson, Smartwire360
Faith Dickerson is a master electrician and project manager for Smartwire360, a Mechanicsville-based business owned by Dennis and Chris Balducci. The 25-year-old company serves a customer base that extends from Charlottesville to Williamsburg, performing services that range from replacing one electrical outlet to completely rewiring a home.
What do-it-yourself electrical project should homeowners never attempt?
Trying to do their own electrical work. Unfortunately, it can hurt you or damage your home. I advise homeowners to hire a licensed/insured electrical contractor to take care of any electrical needs. I had a customer call me and say half of their outlets and lights were not working upstairs in their bedrooms. When I arrived, I found — sitting on the table like a little flower bouquet — a wire nut [a device you twist wires together with] with wires sticking out of it that had been cut. The customer was installing a ceiling fan and saw this in the box and didn’t think they needed it since it wasn’t made up directly to the ceiling fan. So they cut it, therefore killing all the power running through to the other lights upstairs.
What’s your favorite or most challenging task?
My favorite thing is helping homeowners improve their lighting — installing under-cabinet lighting in their kitchen so they can read their cookbooks at the kitchen counter, or replacing that old fluorescent strip light with some beautiful recessed fixtures with LED trims to brighten up the kitchen or living room.
Justin White, Advanced Plumbing
Justin White started Advanced Plumbing in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood in 2002. His services include residential plumbing, gas fitting, sewer replacement, remodeling and renovating. The Falls Church native and his crew mostly work within a 50-mile radius of the city.
What’s the biggest mistake homeowners make with respect to plumbing?
When you buy a house, part of the inspection should always be a camera scope
of the sewer main. It costs about $350 on average, but replacing the main is one of the most expensive things you have to do to a property — [costing] anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000, depending on the circumstances.
What do-it-yourself plumbing project should homeowners never attempt?
Working on a gas line. You should also stay away from trying to install a new bathroom.
What’s the worst mishap you’ve ever had on the job?
I deal with sanitary waste quite a bit. On this one project, the kitchen sink wouldn’t drain. I went to clean out the sanitary stack [where drains tie into the sewer system] and was easing this cap off to see where the clog was. At about a quarter turn, the cap blew off, and about 10 feet worth of sewage blasted me in the face, all over the place.
Bob Windsor, Bob Windsor Construction
Bob Windsor has left an imprint on hundreds of houses in the Richmond metro area. His construction firm, based on Waco Street in Henrico County, specializes in additions, renovations and remodeling. Attic conversions, new kitchens and baths, disaster repair and projects as pint-sized as playhouses have kept the small company competitive with larger contractors since 1969.
What is your company’s specialty?
We do mostly renovations and remodeling. We’ll build a garage or an addition, but no new houses.
What’s the do-it-yourself remodeling project that you believe homeowners shouldn’t attempt?
I’d say probably structural repairs, a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation. It’s hard to pinpoint just one of those. You shouldn’t try a kitchen or bath unless you’re an expert in tile, plumbing, electrical work and solid-surface countertops.
What’s your favorite project?
Renovating older houses. I’ve done a lot of work in older houses around Richmond. Most of them are just built better, made of better materials and are more challenging.
Rick Holtz, H.J. Holtz and Son
Rick Holtz is the third-generation owner of the family painting business founded in 1936; H.J. Holtz was his grandfather, and Rick’s father was the “son.” Rick became sole owner in 2008, building it to a 45-employee operation that serves customers within about a two-hour radius of its home base in Scott’s Addition. H.J. Holtz and Son specializes in residential painting, wallpapering, specialty finishes and furniture-painting.
What’s the do-it-yourself project that you wouldn’t recommend for homeowners?
Hanging wallpaper. I watch my crew do it, and there’s a lot more to it than it seems. Second behind that would be painting the exterior of your own home. It’s not something you want to do if you’re not used to being on ladders.
What’s the most common painting mistake homeowners make?
Coatings have changed a lot over the years. If you’re going from an oil-based to acrylic paint, sometimes you skip the step of priming and prepping properly. This is especially true with old woodwork.
What do you consider to be your company’s specialty?
We enjoy being challenged, figuring out ways to help people realize their vision. Make that piece of wood look like marble or make a piece of painted furniture look like it’s been stained by painting and graining it. We went to Figure Eight Island in North Carolina to do a high-gloss lacquer finish in the kitchen of a beach house — something they couldn’t find anyone
else to do.
Beth Burrell, Giving Tree Gardens
With a master’s degree in ornamental horticulture from Virginia Tech, Beth Burrell has been a garden designer for 23 years. In addition to designing, she teaches at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and stages events and an annual sale at her two-acre garden “laboratory” of more than 10,000 plants in Mechanicsville. Her specialty is helping clients create and maintain four-season gardens.
What’s the most common landscaping mistake homeowners make?
It’s looking at a plant in a container and not realizing what that plant is going to become in the next three or four years. Over-mulching is also a huge problem, particularly here in Richmond. It puts a lot of stress on shrubs and trees and can cause their injury or death. Mulch is primarily aesthetic — it is not meant to be a weed suppressant or a moisture supporter.
What’s the one project that home gardeners shouldn’t tackle?
Pruning. It’s not necessarily harmful, but it’s frequently inappropriate.
What’s the worst gardening problem you’ve had to correct?
I worked on a large property with sweeps of day lilies. I came behind a landscaping company that had sheared down the day lilies and cut down a complete border of narcissus, mistaking it for liriope.