NISKAYUNA — Waiting for his shattered wrist to heal gave a Niskayuna resident time to think about what to do with it once it was functional again.
He opted to step away from his wholesale wine sales career and go into business for himself, averting crises and waste in laundry rooms.
“During the downtime, the boredom set in. I always always wanted my own business,” Jordan Catino said. “I decided to go with the owner-operator model.”
On April 1, Catino launched the Dryer Vent Wizard franchise covering southeast Saratoga and northeast Schenectady counties. He’s the sole employee, but plans to add staff as the business grows.
Dryer Vent Wizard is one of more than a dozen brands in the Neighborly family of franchises, all of them focused on home and commercial repair, maintenance and improvement tasks that are necessary or desirable but stop short of major surgery.
Cleaning out a dryer vent is not rocket science, Catino said, and not even particularly hard for a short run to an exterior wall. It’s the longer and hard-to-reach ducts that are harder to clean thoroughly.
“Why you should hire a professional is because the tools needed to do it can be quite expensive,” he said.
Quality of materials also matters, Catino said. The plastic-and-wire hose vents he finds hooked up to some dryers are best reserved for bathroom fans, he explained, while some of the cheaper metal ducts will dent easily if the dryer is moved or melt in a fire.
He replaces them with a thicker-walled duct that can withstand three minutes under a blowtorch.
Along with fire safety and aesthetics, there’s economics. A clogged vent will slow the drying process, he said, extending the run time of an appliance that’s already one of the most expensive in the home to operate.
Catino also pitches his ability to spot problems, such as the dryer that was installed incorrectly or vented unsafely, and the washing machine hose that’s about to burst.
He went to one house where the vent simply emptied into the attic. With one or two or even more gallons of water in each load of wet laundry, that put a lot of moisture in the attic, creating a breeding ground for mold.
“That can be very very costly for homeowners,” Catino said.
Another homeowner complained of continually having to vacuum up lint. It turned out her dryer had been installed incorrectly and wasn’t venting at all, he said. So along with lint all over her floor, there was a large buildup of the flammable fluff inside the dryer cabinet.
The U.S. Fire Administration, part of FEMA, says there are about 2,900 home clothes dryer fires per year, a relatively small percentage of all U.S. home fires. But many are preventable — cleaning inadequately or not at all is the leading cause of dryer fires, blamed for 34% of incidents.
The National Fire Protection Association reports a much higher number of dryer fires — about 14,000 per year — but blames almost exactly the same percentage on failure to clean the dryer: 32%.
Neither gas nor electric dryers seem to have an edge on safety, NFPA reports: 79% of clothes dryers in American homes heat with electricity, and 78% of dryer fires involve electric models.
Catino, 36, grew up in Rotterdam, the son, grandson and nephew of local basketball legends.
The basketball jones never really took hold of him as a boy, though, and some of his later athletic efforts proved downright painful. There was a ski accident that left him with a concussion, then the bike crash last year near his home that hospitalized him with a compound wrist fracture.
Catino recalls fading in and out of awareness after he hit the pavement.
“I was most concerned about my head but when I stood up and looked down at my hand, it was facing the wrong way,” he said.
One titanium plate, nine screws and 12 months of physical therapy later, Catino was ready to go with Dryer Vent Wizard in March 2022 … and came down with COVID.
So he launched in April.
Threading brushes, blowers and vacuums through the bowels of a dryer and its vent requires some hand strength and dexterity. He credits Dr. Laura Scordino and the team at Ellis Hospital for putting his wrist back together and physical therapist Tom Houghtalen for getting it back in working order.
It still hurts a bit, is still numb where the bone broke through the skin, but it gets the job done.
“Doing the work was actually really good therapy for my hand,” Catino said. “It’s definitely gotten stronger just from doing the work consistently.”
There’s also a bit of a mental boost from some calls he makes with his new business.
Catino recalls digging a charred gob of lint out of one dryer and knowing he might have prevented a future disaster in that customer’s home.
“You’re right there on the cusp of having a fire,” he said.