McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) - When you see Mary Floyd's home after dark during the Christmas season, it's hard to believe her when she says she used to be a Grinch about decorating the outside of her house.
She claims she once enjoyed coming home to an unadorned "black hole." The single mom, who works in banking and finance, says she began to embrace holiday lights when she adopted two children about eight years ago.
"I did it for them," Floyd said of her two sons, Matthew, 10, and Joshua, 8. "I kind of liked it, once I got into it." Now she's got an estimated 5,000 lights outlining and illuminating her spacious, one-story home in Meridian, Idaho's Bridgetower subdivision. Next year, she may add the gazebo out back to the mix.
"It's addicting _ the next year you want to have more," said Senske Lawn & Tree Care manager Tom Gritzmacher, who oversees the team of lights installers that did Floyd's house this year.
Senske is one of numerous companies that does holiday lights installation at businesses and homes.
The cost for home installation varies and is negotiable, but typically starts at about $150, with many customers paying in the $300 to $500 range. Some homeowners spend thousands of dollars for colorful, crisp and clean rows of bright bulbs and, by request, wreaths, garland and bows.
"No job is too big or small. We're just happy to have work at this time of year," said Jason Doran of Boise's Willowglenn Landscape, which doesn't set a minimum like some companies do.
Tom Morton, one of the owners of SES Landscape & Construction in Nampa, Idaho, said his company once put up 18,000 lights at a Middleton house.
"It was the house, yard, pool, pasture," Morton said of the $7,000 job. "It was pretty extravagant." Many businesses that experience seasonal lulls during the winter, including landscapers, painters and construction companies, have added holiday lights installation to their repertoire of services.
"It does keep people working who wouldn't ordinarily be working," Gritzmacher said.
Senske, which is a Christmas Decor franchisee, has been hanging lights and putting up holiday displays since 2001.
During good years, like 2006, Gritzmacher had as many as 20 technicians installing, servicing (any burned bulbs) and taking down lights through the winter.
Hard economic times hurt business this year, and Gritzmacher has had to lay off workers. He expects to have just four people working the lights through the rest of this season.
SES Landscape & Construction in Nampa has been hanging lights for six years.
"We get calls right up until Christmas. I've gotten calls on Christmas Eve," said Morton of SES Landscape & Construction. "It's not cheap, but we'll do it." Morton and others said last-minute calls for lights occur for lots of reasons, including unexpected visits by family members from out of town.
Boise's Heritage Construction advertised lights installation for the first time this year.
Vadim Stasyuk said last week that Heritage Construction had received a half dozen calls for lights installation after posting the service on the Internet.
"Most of the people who have called us so far have had their own lights," Stasyuk said. "A lot of people just don't want to get up on their roof." Boise real estate agent Gabe Cordova said he interviewed and got estimates from several lights installation companies this year before hiring Bright Concepts Holiday Lighting, an offshoot of Eagle River Painting.
Cordova said he and his partner did mull over spending $300 to $350 on lights installation during such bad economic times. But they opted to do it, in part, because they're hosting a holiday party and want their house to look nice.
There are at least two reasons that they don't hang the lights themselves. One is time _ not enough of it _ and the other is safety. "Three hundred dollars doesn't even pay your deductible if you fall off your roof and get hurt," Cordova said.
Cordova also has lights installed on houses that he sells.
"We always do a walk-through the night before closing," he said. "Having the house all lit up makes it feel a little more like home already." There's a lot of variability in how lights installation businesses operate. You might need to shop around to get exactly what you're looking for.
Many companies will hang lights bought by homeowners, but some won't. Some charge by the foot, some by the bulb; trees are usually a set price. Some store lights, others won't. Some offer LED lights, some don't.
Lights installation businesses often get new customers by word of mouth. The displays advertise themselves to neighbors and passersby.
"I think there's something about Christmas lights that makes people feel good," Cordova said.
© 2008, The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho).
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