Burlington has a lot of old homes that need some love. Dario Guizler is just the man to give it. Renovating aging housing stock takes hard work, and Guizler is nothing short of hardworking.
He grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay, and came to the United States at age 18 in 2003, working 16-hour days at two full-time jobs, one in construction. Two years later, he moved to Burlington, where he learned carpentry from his mentor, Bill Fagan. Over time, Guizler became fluent in English, and in 2008 he started his own business, Dario Carpentry.
He has renovated more than 100 houses and apartments over the years and redone many bathrooms and basements. Guizler often works with recent immigrants from Latin America as apprentices, telling them that if he can make it here, they can, too.
Seven Days senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger recently caught up with Guizler as he tackled an aging abode in Burlington's Old North End. Guizler turns 40 this month and has now lived in the United States longer than in Uruguay. In the latest episode of "Stuck in Vermont," he opened up about his passion for his work and his experience becoming an American citizen.
Sollberger spoke with Seven Days about filming the episode.
How did you meet Guizler?
I first talked to Guizler in early 2021 about renovating my 1890s home. This turned into a much bigger project than I anticipated. Old houses are notoriously hard to work on and full of expensive surprises. Guizler maintained his good humor and calm demeanor, no matter what wrenches the renovation threw our way — from squirrels and toxic vermiculite in the attic to a rotten porch that needed to be rebuilt. Guizler is like many artisans I have featured in my videos: dedicated and slightly obsessed. And that is the sort of advocate an old house needs to fortify it for another 100 years.
Why did you decide to feature him?
Guizler was the first person I had ever met from Uruguay. I learned a lot about his country during the months we worked together. I also got to know a few of his apprentices from Uruguay, Honduras and Peru. Most of them didn't know English, so there was a lot of Spanish being spoken on the jobsite. As I heard about Guizler's experience coming to America and learning carpentry, I thought he would make a compelling story.
Tell us about his current project in the Old North End.
Burlington has many old houses like this one that have not been kept up over the years and need a full gut job to get them livable again. And, like at my house, Guizler found many surprises along the way. He's only been there six weeks, but the progress is huge.
You have to be very brave or a bit foolhardy to take on the renovation of an old property. The floors and walls are not straight, and you often have to improvise. New builds with modern layouts are fine, but I love the unique quirks of older structures. I think there is something valiant about preserving and improving them for future generations. Guizler enjoys the challenge — and lucky for him, there are endless opportunities in this area!
Winter construction must be frigid!
It was 20 degrees outside, and the house is not insulated or heated yet. In the video, you can see Guizler's breath. I was bundled up, but Guizler likes the cold.
I wish I had a photo from behind the scenes of Guizler's interview. We used his work lights to illuminate the ceiling, and I aimed a ring light directly at him. Construction sites don't have chairs, so we sat on a few workbenches. The propane heater made a high-pitched hum, but it still felt like an icebox in there.
Guizler must have an interesting perspective on Burlington.
I have had a few talks with Guizler about Burlington and the much-discussed challenges it has faced in recent years, including a rise in criminal activity, more unhoused people with substance-use disorder and mental heath issues, and a dire lack of housing. He agrees things have gotten worse, but he also thinks it's still better here than where he came from.
Guizler's current apprentice, David Silva, has been in America for one year and sends money back to his family in Peru. Silva works two jobs and doesn't speak English. I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to leave your home and live in another country with a strange language. For Guizler and Silva, though, this is still the land of plenty, where anyone can make it and be successful. It's an important lesson to remember as we face the same problems that many cities are experiencing across the country.