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HANDYMAN

If you have a small project around the house that's maybe a little over your skill level, you may need a member of the Neil Kelly Handyman Home Repair Team
by: Mikel Kelly, THE HANDYMAN — Larry Romick, who has been working for the Neil Kelly Co. for about 16 years, works with a router on a cabinet door for a client of the company’s Handyman Home Repair Team last week. The team will take on almost any project around the house.

When Anna Mary Banner decided to update a cabinet in the hallway of her Hillsboro home this spring, she knew exactly who should do the job.

She wanted Larry Romick, a member of the Neil Kelly Handyman Home Repair Team, because he's the person who remodeled her kitchen five or six years ago.

'The cabinets were these old brown things, and I wanted it light,' said Banner as she showed off her still-new-looking blond kitchen cabinets with their modern euro-style handles.

She also pointed out the pull-out shelves and easy-open drawers on rollers.

'Everything works so easy,' she said.

She also liked the way they went about the project. To keep dust down in the rest of the house, they screened off the kitchen with a plastic wall.

'And they clean up well after themselves,' she added.

This time around, Banner has a much smaller project in mind: an old dark-brown cabinet in her hallway needs a facelift. She wants new shelves that pull out like her kitchen cabinets, and she'd like glass in the doors up above, where she stores her china and glassware.

'This is my spring project, getting this done,' she said last week while Romick set up his table saw in the driveway.

'This is all I've ever done,' confessed Romick as he ran a router over Banner's cabinet door, carving out a place for the glass to fit. 'I'm 46 years old, and I've been with Neil Kelly, oh, I think, 16 years now.'

In fact, Romick predates the Neil Kelly Handyman Home Repair Team by a half-dozen years.

'The Home Repair Team started about 10 years ago,' said Walt Harwood, general manager of the newest of Neil Kelly's four divisions.

Well known in the community for its Design/Build/Remodel Division, its Custom Homes (with an emphasis on green building) and a Home Performance Group (dealing with energy efficiency, audits, air quality, gas leaks and the like), the Neil Kelly Co. took a while to recognize the potential in small jobs.

The company had been doing top-quality work since its inception in 1947, said Harwood, but the tiny projects that required no design were slipping under the radar. In fact, those were being passed along to smaller contractors.

'Then we thought, geez, we ought to be doing this ourselves,' said Harwood. 'That brought us about a million dollars worth of business, and it's been growing ever since.'

The company does about 550 of these small projects a year, he said, and they include installing or repairing windows, doors, gutters, siding, roofs, ceilings, floors, decks, patios, fencing, concrete, plumbing and electrical, lighting, drywall, painting inside and out, cabinets and counters - pretty much anything in a home that might need help.

No job is too small, he added.

'If somebody wants somebody to clean their gutters, we'll do it,' said Harwood.

'We have a number of people in this division, which we call small jobs,' he said. 'We do some bigger jobs, but generally in the case it doesn't require design work.'

Neil Kelly employs about 150 people overall, and approximately 50 of those are carpenters.

'We have 20 to 25 people just doing these small jobs,' said Harwood.

The important thing for potential customers, he said, is the fact that Neil Kelly goes to great pains to assure that its workers go through extensive background checks, including drug screening and sexual predator investigation, and have to have clean driving records 'before we send them into our clients' homes.'

On top of that, he said, 'We back up what we do. We use journey-level carpenters.'

That level of quality doesn't come dirt cheap, he acknowledged. A Neil Kelly handyman will run $80 an hour, and clients will pay for materials plus 33 percent.

But the customer is given a good idea up front what it's going to cost, and the work is guaranteed.

A prime consideration for the customer, said Harwood, is the fact that Neil Kelly carpenters bring years of experience to the job.

'I would challenge anybody to find a problem that somebody in our company hasn't done,' he said.

And, he added, Neil Kelly has been honored nationally by the Better Business Bureau for ethics in the workplace.

'There are a lot of people living alone, like I am,' said Anna Mary Banner. 'And they need a screen door hung or something.'

Banner's favorite handyman, Larry Romick, expected to be on this job only a couple of days. From there he would move on to another house, to install some skylights.

'Skylights are one of my favorite things to do,' said Romick. 'You get the most bang for your buck.'

Some home projects wind up being invisible, he pointed out, recognizing that the security of having a new roof or more efficient windows have their appeal. But a skylight sheds a whole new light on things - and leaves the homeowner feeling really good about the changes.

Banner said she would not hesitate to recommend the Neil Kelly Handyman Home Repair Team to anyone and added that the peace of mind that comes from a company that goes to such pains to protect its clients is worth more than just money.

'If I can find someone, I'm perfectly willing to pay for it,' she said.

'If you don't have a lot of time, or the skills, we're going to do it, and we're going to do it right,' said Harwood. 'So we'll do the work, and hopefully you'll be another satisfied Neil Kelly customer.'

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To contact the Neil Kelly Handyman Home Repair Team, call 503-288-7461. Or visit the company's Web site at www.neilkelly.com.