Choosing an Outdoor Kitchen Design Worthy of Your Summer BBQ’s

There are certain sectors of the home that hold unprecedented potential for entertaining.

A billiards basement, the dining room, a large, open kitchen… It seems like that’s it, and then you step outdoors. For much of the year, a backyard is mostly defined by its taxing upkeep.  It can be hard to remember the glory days of summer, until spring arrives, and you find yourself spending more time outdoors.

With the right additions to your home, anyone can create an outdoor kitchen perfect for warm weather entertaining.  From affordable alterations, to entire upgrades, here are some outdoor kitchen designs for those summer BBQ’s.

Grills

The center of all outdoor kitchens is the grill. The grill that you choose will have the power to shape the rest of your outdoor kitchen design.

  • Charcoal Grill – If you’re willing to clean more and cook longer for the satisfaction of a smoky flavored meat, this grill is for you.
  • Gas Grill – For the less committed griller on the go, easy to use and clean, and fast.
  • Smoker – The crock pot of the back yard. These are for all day BBQ projects, and are ideal for the true foodies out there.
  • Wood Oven – Similar but different. This appliance is more expensive but perfect for the pizza enthusiast looking for a texture a typical grill cannot fully provide.

Seating

Envision a BBQ… where do you see your guests sitting?

Is there a standardized picnic table, or does your outdoor kitchen design cater toward something a little more built in?

Similar to their indoor counterparts, bar and bench seating can be a cozy way to border your outdoor kitchen with guests.

Counters & Bar

Ask yourself how much of the cooking process will take place outdoors.

  • Do you need extra counter space for prep work?
  • Do you want a spot for guests to relax and eat appetizers while you grill?

Counters also provide for a more traditional looking kitchen, building a grill into the rest of the kitchen set-up.

Appliances

The final amenities to your outdoor kitchen design.

  • TV – are you planning on watching the game outdoors? Installing a TV under an awning enables you to have the comfort of the living room, while grilling in the sun.
  • Heat Lamps – Nighttime BBQ’s can experience a drop in temperature. Or perhaps you’re looking to construct more of a year-round kitchen; heat lamps will allow you to grill in any weather.
  • Fire Pit – For the less traditional seating area in your outdoor kitchen there’s the fire pit. Roast marshmallows or have a controlled summer bonfire while eating your favorite grilled dinner.

Need Help?

Looking to create an outdoor getaway within your own home – Handyman Matters can help!

From deck installations, to constructing patios, counters, or cabinets, our craftsmen can work with you to plan the outdoor kitchen design of your dreams.

For a free project estimate just call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Pet-Friendly Additions For Your Home (Watch Out, They’re Really Cute)

At Handyman Matters, we love our pets.  Whether they are dogs, cats, fishes, pigs, bunnies, hamsters, birds… pets make the best housemates.

If you didn’t already know, May is National Pet Month in the US, and it’s our free pass to go a little crazy. We’ve decided to pull together a list from our Pinterest of our favorite home additions for dogs.  Forget repairs and home to-do lists, and come indulge in a little puppy pampering with us…

Dog Baths


One of the most functional additions to a home is the dog bath. A great mudroom addition that will keep your pups clean without all the maneuvering. Especially with the extendable shower-head and splash guard, this shower will save pet owners a lot of headaches.

Dog Windows

Pooches are curious creatures. Put them in front of a window, and they could be there all day. But there may not always be window of the correct height for your pup.

Do you have a tall backyard fence because you need to keep in a large dog? Consider a mid fence cut out.

Or maybe you have an especially little dog. Windows of normal height can be complicated to get up to without assistance.  Add extra light to your home by installing a modern, floor level window.

Dog Gates

  

There may be a portable gate, but when it comes to larger dogs, these gates usually fold under the pressure.

For persistent dogs, you will need a sturdier, installed gate.  Whether it be a pop-out wall gate, a hinge gate, or a dutch door, these barriers will help you divide and restrict rooms in your home.

Baseboard Drawers


Yet another use for these cabinet hacks.  Install a baseboard drawer to hold your pup’s water and food dish in place.  You could even use the cabinet above the drawer to store crunchies, chew toys, and other treats.

Porch Potty


For the apartment and condo dwellers out there, the best and most convenient home addition is the porch potty. It’s a faux lawn with a draining system that allows your dog to go without having to go on a walk around the neighborhood.

Dog Mansion

cape cod outdoor dog house

Really looking to go crazy?  Put this awesome outdoor dog house in your backyard. There are other smaller options as well.

For assistance installing your home’s new pet accessory? Give us a call – 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Need-to-Know Repairs to Prepare your Deck for Summer!

Large barbecue cooker on cedar deck

One of the best aspects of owning a home is the yard that comes with it.  What is better than sitting out on your deck, relaxing, and enjoying the scenery?  Absolutely nothing.  Having an inviting outdoor space this time of year can’t be beat.  Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun and read, host a BBQ, or perhaps throw a backyard wedding or graduation – here are some repairs to consider so you can enjoy all the summer days ahead…

Power Washing

Decks can often look weathered by the end of the winter season.  When grime builds up it can be hard to tell what areas of your deck need to be repaired.  Perhaps your boards are discolored – this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sand or re-stain your deck.  Start this process with power washing.  A high pressure cleaning is unbeatable when revealing what is a smudge and what is a stain.

powering washing live

Checking For Wood Rot

Checking for rot is as easy as wielding a screwdriver.  With your screwdriver, drive it into the wood, and pop up a splinter.  If the splinter snaps and reacts with the quality of dry wood, you’re in the clear; if it bends and doesn’t really snap, you will need to replace that board.  Make sure to check in the surrounding areas to see if the rot has potentially spread.

Areas of the deck that are in direct contact with the ground underneath are more likely to experience rot because of ground moisture.  If your deck isn’t elevated, it may be worth looking into to avoid future, costly damage.

Panel Replacement

Is your deck surface even?  Walk around, notice if you have any uneven steps, or if you find yourself tripping over cracks.  Warped wood is a common problem for most decks, and can ruin outdoor get-togethers.

You don’t want your company tripping and falling and neither do we.  Luckily this problem has a quick fix, as deck panels screw in individually and can be easily swapped out.

Sanding and Sealing

When it comes to wood decks, maintaining a consistent stain can have a drastic effect on the value of your home.  If you’re noticing discoloration this will help bring it back to its natural color.

  • First, sand your deck to help break down the variance in tone.
  • Next, instead of painting the wood, try a sealant.

Sealing does exactly what it sounds like as it absorbs into the wood to seal in color as opposed to covering it up.  This process will also help to protect your deck from the elements during next year’s winter.

 

Enjoy the sun, and let Handyman Matters do the rest.  We specialize in a variety of exterior maintenance projects, from deck repair or additions, to landscaping, to gutter cleaning… Let us be your ally in achieving the perfect summer home.

Prioritize Your Home Improvement To Do List

hand-written home improvement to-do list

Last night, after work and dinner, I sat down to realize that I still haven’t even begun to scratch my home improvement list.  Perhaps I was overly enthusiastic when I wrote it, because what originally was a mere 3 or 4 projects has now become a total overhaul.  So for those of us who have taken to hiding our to-do list in a drawer, I have made a strategy to get the list back out.  Let’s get to the bottom of all of our whizzing needs, dreams, wants!

  • First things first – Prioritize.  Read through your home improvement list and rank the tasks.
    •  Needs.  These are time-pressing repairs, overly noticeable damages, seasonal needs, or anything that impedes your day-to-day life.  For example: broken faucets, large holes in drywall, adding insulation for winter, or a broken front step.
    • Wants.  They are not unreachable goals, but they aren’t pressing.  Things like updating the paint in a room, re-caulking the bathroom, creating more storage in a laundry room, removing old wallpaper, etc.
    • Dreams. Looking through Pinterest, or Better Homes & Gardens, typically these kinds of magazines breed extensive projects.  New kitchens, or appliances, knocking down a wall, building an extra bedroom, finishing a basement… These projects are the remodels.
  • Now, once you have divided your list, things will become a lot easier to plan and strategize. Each month pick 2-3 items from your list of Needs, and 1 item from your list of Wants.  Then set aside a couple of days throughout the month to accomplish these tasks.

As far as your list of Dreams go – these will be your most time consuming and costly tasks.  Plan these out by year, save up for the expense and then set aside a fairly large chunk of time to complete them.  You can also use them to help shape your Want list, to create a more gradual build-out of the plan.

For Example, do you want to redo the kitchen? Consider breaking up the tasks into gradual repairs that you can occasionally check off of the want list.

Paint the kitchen walls one month, replace the sink the next, install a fridge after that… Adding small tasks to your want task that are geared toward a dream will make it ultimately more attainable.

Busy schedules can make home improvement tasks tough.

If you need help, call a company you can trust – Handyman Matters, 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

We have a new half-day package that is perfect to help you shrink that newly organized to-do list.

De-Clutter Your Home With These Organizing Tricks!

De-Clutter your Home

When clutter gains a foothold, it turns into an unstoppable force that resists all challenges to tame it.  It’s an energy-drain and if left unchecked, becomes a self-sustaining monster.  But all is not lost!  Here are a few tips for tackling the beast and beginning to de-clutter (or tame) it a little at a time.

First off, don’t think big.  That’s the stumbling block that has felled any number of people in their well-meaning efforts to de-clutter.  The accumulation didn’t happen in a day, and it isn’t going to go away that quickly, either.

If you attempt to tackle the entire project as a whole, frustration will quickly cripple your efforts.  Instead, allow yourself a specific amount of time to tackle a single cleaning task.

Focus on one area of one room—a desk, a cupboard, a bookcase.  There’s great satisfaction in taking back control of even just a small space.  Break all of the tasks into small, manageable chunks you can finish in an hour or two:

  • Organize first, buy second.  There’s little point in buying storage containers or any supplies intended to assist with the cleaning-out process before you know what will remain after the purging.  Purchasing containers is just giving yourself the temptation to store even more things you don’t need.  For the same reason, this is certainly not the time to contemplate building new shelving or adding more storage space—it only enables you to hold on to items that should be departing now.
  • Complete cleaning tasks entirely.  Experts advise approaching cleaning with three goals in mind.  As you begin to de-clutter your home, everything should be designated for one of three destinations:  Trash, donate, or keep.  Once everything has been classified, act on it immediately.  Trash goes directly to the curb.  Keepsakes go back onto the shelves or into the drawers.  Donated items must leave your house ASAP.  The longer you allow the boxes or bags of things destined for a charity or thrift shop to sit around, the less likely they are going to leave at all.  Make a firm agreement with yourself that once separated, no items remain in limbo for more than a day.  Haul those things to be donated out to your car right away, and don’t leave them in the trunk!  Place them in the back seat where they are a constant reminder—and an inconvenience—until you’ve dropped them off at your local thrift store.
  • Leave sentimentality out of it.  Don’t de-clutter your home when you’re feeling nostalgic.  The “if you haven’t used it—or even seen it—in eighteen months, then out it goes” rule is harder to enforce when emotions are ruling your decision-making process.  If something is merely going to go back into a box or a drawer or cupboard and not be seen again for another five years, then ask yourself how much you really need it.  You probably don’t.
  • Keep an eye on the new clutter.  Once you’ve winnowed down your stuff to a manageable level, you need to stay disciplined so that it doesn’t begin to take over your life once more.  One tip for keeping “the paper monster” in check is to place all mail and assorted paperwork in a tray or shelf in plain view—neatly stacked, of course—on a desk or an entryway table.  Never allow the stack to grow higher than half an inch.  When it approaches that mark, promptly set aside the time to tackle what’s there and then send it on to its permanent destination.

Only after you’ve made a good, solid sweep of organizing and eliminating clutter, will you realistically understand your present and future storage needs.  This is the time to determine whether additional closet space or extra shelving is appropriate.  Consult with your local Handyman Matters office to see what tips and assistance they can provide to expand your home’s storage capabilities.  But above all, stay on your guard!  Clutter has a way of creeping back in when you least expect it.

Locate your local Handyman Matters by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.

Preparing Your Guest Room For The Holidays

Ikea Trundle BedOne guest room with a queen sized bed is great, but depending on the number of you out-of-town guests you may need more of a resort. So how do you make the most out of the typical single guest room? Instead of turning away company, let’s explore some potential solutions!

Beds

More is always better when it comes to beds.  While bunk beds make most of us cringe, these space savers are not just for kids. Most modern furniture stores carry some take on the buck bed, often renamed as the “lofted bed”. For the best results, shoot for a queen on bottom and the twin as the loft.

Another option is trundle beds. These save space, pulling out the extra bed only when necessary.

Or, if there’s space for a lounge area, consider pairing a bed with a pull out couch.

Storage

The nice thing about guest rooms is that the available storage requires far less organization. If you are pressed for space, don’t worry about putting a dresser in this room, as it will likely be unused.

Instead, focus on the hotel basics. Make sure there are nightstands, a closet or wardrobe to hang up nicer items, and a surface to place luggage at waist level.

Amenities

While the furniture in an extra room can be fairly sparse, amenities should not. Store extra blankets, bedding, towels, and water cups in a convenient, noticeable place.

floor length mirror

Make sure you have at least one mirror, and that one of the mirrors is floor length, so guests can get dressed without stress. For those of you looking to go above and beyond, lay out extra tooth brushes, toothpaste and floss, and leave a phone charger in case the guest forgot.

Repairs

Finally, there’s no excuse for cold or drafty guest rooms. Take a nap or read a book in the guest bed. Make sure you’re in there for an extended period of time in the evening so you can inspect the temperature. If you do find that the heat is a little uneven, no need to panic. You can bite the bullet and repair your heating systems or windows, but there are also affordable alternatives. Buy a space heater, hang heavier curtains, or supply extra cozy items (slippers, socks, blankets).

Building new beds, making repairs, or finding solutions can be very time consuming. If you are pressed for time this holiday season, let Handyman Matters take care of your to do list. For a free estimate, give us a call, 866-FIX-MY-HOME!

How To Decorate For The Holidays

Don’t find yourself so overwhelmed with preparations and repairs that by the time the holidays are over, you’re left with the feeling that you didn’t have a chance to sit down and simply enjoy them.

holiday centerpiece

It’s that time of year when decorating, preparing bountiful feasts and hosting friendly get-togethers are uppermost in many people’s minds.  It’s also a period of potential stress and frustration when people realize their to-do lists are long and the time to accomplish everything on them is short.

Don’t find yourself so overwhelmed with preparations and repairs that by the time the holidays are over, you’re left with the feeling that you didn’t have a chance to sit down and simply enjoy them.

Plan Ahead

  1. Find a quiet time free of distractions and sit down with a cup of cider or the beverage of your choice and a notepad.
  2. Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish during the holiday season.
  3. Then take a second look.  Prioritize, and be realistic.
  4. Set aside those things that can’t reasonably be accomplished by the end of the year, and focus on those that can.

New furnishings or other big purchases are nice, but save those change-ups for later. Instead spruce up the details.

Now is not the time for repainting an entire room.

Focus instead on the smaller, more specific things your guests will notice.  Right away, you’ve narrowed your expectations and saved yourself some worrying.

Consider the amount of time you have available versus the amount of tasks to be handled, and allot the time accordingly.  Be realistic, and don’t try to overreach your limitations.

When you feel that impulse to tackle something big, remind yourself that your family and your friends will value the time they spend with you far more than they will remember overly extravagant decorations or new carpeting or food with fancy names they can’t pronounce.

Heading the list should be the simple task of de-cluttering.  It’s amazing how items manage to stack up in such a stealthy way that, somewhere along the way, you’ve stopped even noticing it.

Begin With The Front Porch & Entryway

Are there planters housing last summer’s dead geraniums? A coat rack inside the door playing host to far too many items?

Conduct a quick perusal of every flat surface in your home:

  • Magazines on coffee tables?
  • Bottles of lotions and soaps on the bathroom vanity?
  • Knickknacks taking up space on kitchen counters?

Less Is More

Remember, less is always more impressive.

This holds true with holiday decorations as well.  Go minimal:

Here are a few more holiday spruce up tips to keep in mind:

  • If some re-painting is in order, pick smaller projects in areas that your guests are more likely to notice.
  • Replace outdoor light bulbs with ones of higher wattage. This is an easy task that will instantly change the look of the outside of your house.
  • New bathroom towels and a fresh soap bottle changes up a bathroom significantly.  If you want to go an extra step, consider new fixtures or perhaps a new mirror.
  • Consider safety over style.   What are the potential hazards that might trip up a guest? (those things you are now so accustomed to stepping over or avoiding that they no longer seem threatening to you)
  • Is there a door that sticks?  Tile or carpeting coming loose?  Precariously hung paintings or mirrors?
  • Will there be a fire in your fireplace, and if so, how sturdy is the screen, and how long has it been since you’ve have someone clean the flue?

Decide which tasks you have the time and capability to handle yourself, then begin to delegate the rest.

Remember, these are your holidays too. Don’t spend too much of them with a paintbrush or screwdriver in hand at the expense of enjoying time with friends and family!

Handyman Matters and its craftsmen stand ready to help in any way they can with repairs, remodels, hanging decorations and lights or even assisting with putting up trees.

Thanksgiving Kitchen Hacks That Will Have You Giving Thanks

Is your kitchen conducive to cooking a holiday meal?  November through the New Year is typically when a storm of guests visit and dinners are enjoyed.  The sheer volume of everything is what catches most kitchens off guard.  Will the turkey fit in your oven?  If you run two appliances at once, will your fuse short-circuit?

Cooking requires a surprising amount of prep space, especially if you’re cooking multiple courses at a time.  Make sure you have enough kitchen resources to get your through the holidays.  Here are a few Thanksgiving kitchen hacks to help get you there…

Get an over the sink cutting board

Save counter space by overlapping your cutting board and your sink!

Hang pots and pans from the ceiling

Why sacrifice your cabinets when you can hang your pots from the ceiling like a chef?

Pot Hanger in Kitchen

Add temporary shelves

Another Thanksgiving kitchen hack is adding temporary stainless steel shelf as extra storage space for the holiday.

Kitchen Shelving

Install a kitchen island

With temporary or permanent island additions, you can increase the counter and storage space in your kitchen.Rolling Kitchen Island

Install extra, easy-access outlets

You’re going to be using a lot of appliances, make sure they have a convenient outlet to pug into.

Repair or replace your garbage disposal

A free flowing sink during food preparation is essential.  A clogged sink can seriously inhibit your ability to defrost a turkey, clean dishes, or to keep a clean kitchen.

Make sure your garbage disposal is prepared for leftovers and heavy use.

Increase the size of your sink

A lot of company means a lot of dishes.  Having a larger sink will help you get through cleanup quicker!

Large Kitchen Sink

Here at Handyman Matters, Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays.  Enjoy your guests and your home to it’s fullest by making sure you are fully prepared and ready for the holidays.  Get a jump-start on your to-do list today with these Thanksgiving kitchen hacks or help from one of our home improvement experts.

How To Clean Your Gutters Before Winter (6 Easy Steps)

Gutters

Having a lawn with a lot of trees is like having a dog with long hair: your house and lawn is destined to be covered with leaves.  Now that it’s mid-October, it is time to think about winterization and cleaning out your gutters before any heavy snowfall – my least favorite task.  It is best sometimes to just pull the band aid off quickly.  Don’t think, find something old and long sleeved, grab gloves, and let’s power through this.

What you will need

  • Long sleeved, work clothes
  • Plastic scoop
  • Heavy duty gloves
  • An extendable ladder
  • Trash backs
  • A hose

6 Simple Steps To Clean Gutters

  1.  Extend ladder and place it near the top of the downspout. If possible, buy a standoff stabilizer to attach to the top of your ladder.  This will make it so that you are balanced against the roof instead of on the gutter. Check out our recommended ladders and stabilizers for gutter cleaning.
  2. Fasten a trash bag to the ladder near the top, and begin scooping out leaves near the downspout and work backwards.
  3. After cleaning out the whole of the gutter, we will test for leaks and blockages using the host. Run the hose from the furthest point, towards the downspout. The stream of water will be a good indicator of what to do next.
  4. If the stream flows steadily towards the downspout but doesn’t drain, that means more attention is needed to clean out this funnel. Luckily, there is a hose attachment that can do this. Take the attachment and instead of running it top down, feed it in from the bottom and run water through it to try and clear the clog.  After a minute or so of this, try running the water from the top of the spout.  If it still doesn’t drain, repeat this step.
  5. If step three led to stagnant water in parts of your gutter, they may not be hung correctly. In order to drain, gutters need to decline at the rate of ¼’ per ever 10 ft towards the downspout.
  6. Finally, while preforming step three, keep an eye on leakage. Note the spots where you find a heavy drip.  If the leak is occurring at the seam of 2 gutter lengths, this is fairly easy to repair with gutter sealant along the crack.  Same goes for end cap leaks.  However, if the leak comes from a full on hole and not a crack the repair process will be more extensive.

Clean gutters are the first step to preparing your home for inclement weather.  Need help with the weatherization process? Give Handyman Matters a call at 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Halloween Decorating Tips & Tricks For Your Home

In recent years, more and more homeowners have begun decorating their homes for Halloween as enthusiastically as they do at Christmas time.  A stroll down the seasonal display aisles at your local general merchandise retail store will quickly confirm this.

There are all manner of decorations available, from simple to incredibly complex—and expensive!

You can go the “retail route,” or you can come up with your own unique way of “haunting” your home and yard this season.  Here are some tips—and some cautions—to keep in mind:

Safety comes first

Don’t allow your decorations to be hazards.  Keep trick or treaters and all other visitors safe when they visit your property.

This means avoiding things that can be tripped over or bumped into.  Mood lighting—or flashing lights—create great atmosphere, but can also cause visibility issues.  Keep in mind that many trick or treaters wear costumes that limit their field of vision.

Go for “safe” over “scary” and even over “creative” if there’s even the slightest doubt that you are creating something that could cause injury.

Secure your decorations from goblins and other pranksters

It can be “dispiriting” to go to a lot of effort to create spooky effects, only to have them disappear or be damaged.  Unless you can monitor your decorations closely, don’t set out expensive items or things you’ve gone to a lot of effort to create if they can be swiped or destroyed when your back is turned.

Keep these items secure by displaying them in windows or out of easy reach.  You might consider bringing more valuable things indoors each evening before you go to bed.

“Simple” and inexpensive Halloween decoration ideas

You can put together either fun or frightening displays without spending a lot of money or even going to a lot of effort:

  • Rake up a pile of leaves on your front lawn and take a pair of old boots or galoshes and position them so that it appears someone has been “buried” beneath the leaves with just their feet protruding.
  • Dangle handmade cardboard bats and ghosts from tree limbs with black thread and let them flutter in the wind.
  • Use cardboard, Styrofoam or planks of old wood to create a cemetery of tombstones on the grass.
  • Wads of cotton can be gently pulled apart in strands to create cobwebs which can be strung through tree branches or stuck along porch railings and pillars.
  • Straw or fabric stuffed into a pair of old jeans and a shirt can make a scarecrow, with a pumpkin or jack o’lantern added for a head and face.  Position “him” in a rickety old chair on your porch.
  • Gather a bunch of withered plant stalks and tie them together to make miniature corn shocks, or twine them together to make a dead wreath, festooned with wilted flowers, to hang on the front door as a grisly greeting.

Not only are these easy and inexpensive things, but if they get swiped, you aren’t out a lot of money for your efforts.

Go elaborate, but exercise restraint

Just as more people are going all out on their costumes, a lot of folks are doing likewise with their decorating—lights, sounds effects, moving figures—the Halloween sky is the limit!  Trick or treaters and other passersby will enjoy these displays.  But be mindful and respectful of your neighbors.

Ear-splitting haunted house noises and strobe lights tend to get old and tiresome pretty quickly.  Check with those who live nearby to let them know what you will be doing.  Keep the volume level and the mood lighting to a sensible level, and within a reasonable time frame—from dusk until 8pm or so is good; earlier if small children with earlier bedtimes live nearby.

Maybe you like to greet your trick-or-treaters in costume, as well. We’ll leave that particular design choice up to you. But if you need help with the “exteriors,” particularly if they involve climbing a ladder, stringing spooky lights or positioning sound equipment in trees or on the roof, your local Handyman Matters ghouls and gals stand ready to help you “scare-ify” your home and yard quickly and safely, and to take everything down the day after Halloween, as well!