All that rain has delayed outdoor work, home repairs and landscaping

Waters at Smithville Lake have receded since hitting a historic high on June 8, but they remain about 7 feet above normal. The rainfall trend has continued into July.
Waters at Smithville Lake have receded since hitting a historic high on June 8, but they remain about 7 feet above normal. The rainfall trend has continued into July. kmyers@kcstar.com

We’ve seen many more wet than dry days since April 1.

So where new homes are going up around Kansas City, some interiors are nearly finished while exteriors are overdue for paint, driveways and landscaping.

Owners of existing homes are waiting several weeks, if not months, for roofing crews to show.

Hoping to replace that cracked-up patio? Better Concrete Construction Co. president Mike Backman says he’ll look you in the eye and be straight: “If it doesn’t quit raining, we may not get to it until next year.”

Rain delays — they’re not just at Kauffman Stadium. The wet weather has produced backlogs for all kinds of companies doing outdoor work.

For many customers, the waiting is just an inconvenience.

“They get a little antsy” if they want to put their house on the market but must wait six weeks for house painters to arrive, said Ramiro Cruz, a franchise owner of CertaPro Painters of Northern Jackson County.

“But you know, people understand. I’ve lost zero customers because I couldn’t get to them fast.”

Since April 1 through Friday, rain gauges at Kansas City International Airport have recorded at least a trace of moisture on twice as many days as they’ve been dry. By far the soggiest month was May, with only four dry days, but April and June also posted more days of precipitation than not.

In that three-month span, Kansas City received about 21 inches of rain — 7 more inches than normal. And we’re more than 2 inches above normal so far for July.

“We’ve just been stuck in this wet pattern,” said Chris Bowman, a National Weather Service meteorologist at the Pleasant Hill station. “It’s the opposite of 2012, when we couldn’t buy any rain. Now we can’t buy any dry days.”

As a result, Carlos Montalbo has a harder time buying anything.

He loses wages when his supervisor calls to say conditions are too wet for landscaping. An employee of Lenexa-based Hermes Landscaping, Montalbo says he has spent too many days at home this year waiting for the skies to clear.

“It’s really difficult for the workers,” said Montalbo, 35, of Kansas City, Kan., on one such day this week. “We have to pay our bills. We have to pay for food. I’ve got my son, my daughter and my wife to care for.

“But what can you do?”

Company owner Dalton Hermes said even when rain isn’t falling, wet soil slows the work.

He said it takes twice as long to plant a tree in wet ground than in dry dirt. “So your labor costs double,” Hermes said, but at least the job gets done before the next downpour.

The rainy conditions haven’t hampered most projects underway in Kansas City, said Sean Demory, the city’s spokesman for public works. Crews building the downtown streetcar line have worked through the rain just as they worked through the snow.

Work on the city’s 3,000 crosswalks, however, often gets rained out. Demory said public intersections are repainted annually and need at least eight hours to dry.

“Our goal in the summer is to get all the school crosswalks done by the first day of school,” he said. “We’ve got a crew of six to do it. It’s a push.”

Because of delays in finishing new homes, some buyers of Willis Custom Homes have had to renegotiate rental agreements to extend their stays in temporary housing, said company owner Patrick Willis.

“We’ll dig a hole for a foundation, get a torrential rain and it becomes a pond we have to pump out,” he said. “It’s just a race to get a roof on.”

Once the roofing is done, contractors can keep crews busy finishing interior rooms.

There are ways outdoor jobs get done despite the elements.

CertaPro Painters will power-wash houses in a driving rain. Public park employees sharpen blades and oil their vehicles when they can’t mow.

If a new cement driveway can’t be poured because of expected rain, Backman of Better Concrete will just send crews to an old driveway that needs breaking up.

“I’ve pretty much mastered the art of working around the weather,” he said.

In Brookside, the rains present a twofold problem for Diane Strong.

The gutters on her home are leaking, causing some wood rot in a corner. But she’s having trouble finding someone who can fix it before summer’s end.

“This was going to be our year” to do exterior work, Strong said. “But I’d rather wait and get it done correctly than hire someone who says, ‘OK, let’s speed it up.’”