THAT EVER-GROWING LIST OF SMALL REPAIRS

Human beings are not only creatures of habit, we tend to be an extremely adaptable species.  For proof, look no further than your own house.

The odds are there are several small items in need of repair that you have put off fixing, and in the process, you’ve learned to work around the inconvenience they present.  In fact, you’ve put up with the situation so long that, most of the time, it doesn’t even seem like a problem any longer.  For example:

  • The wobbly towel rack that’s worked its way loose from the wall
  • The warped drawer that’s difficult to open or close
  • The sliding shower door that’s come off of its track
  • The ripped screen in the screen door
  • The cracked floor tile in the entryway
  • The “ding” in the wall caused when a piece of furniture banged against it

Without even thinking about it, you’ve become accustomed to stepping over or around the cracked tile.  You brace yourself in order to tug extra hard when you need to open the drawer.  You’ve stopped using the wobbly towel rack altogether.  You’ve moved a chair in order to conceal the damage to the wall.

You’ve told yourself that any one of these jobs is just too small to worry about right now.  You’ll get around to fixing all of them one of these days.  But more days go by, and instead, the list has just gotten larger.  You could probably go along like this for quite a while, finding new ways to live with the problems.  But, as with so many things in life, these situations don’t go away, or get better on their own.  It’s time to address them head-on.  You either need to set aside the time to handle the repairs on your own, or call in an expert.

That’s where Handyman Matters can come in, well… handy.  Their qualified craftsmen can handle more 1,162 home repair projects, large and small.  You tend to consider calling in an expert when you have one big job that needs fixing.  But why not bring in someone to tackle the half-dozen or more “honey-do” items that have been stacking up around your house?  In a single visit, a Handyman Matters craftsman can address the many little and mid-sized repair projects that have disrupted the orderly flow of life around your home.

Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the phone number of the office that serves your area.

Is Hardwood Flooring Right For You?

Hardwood flooring has been the latest craze in flooring and decorating for practically forever. From cozy beach cottages to swanky city apartments to grandiose suburban dream-homes, it seems like everyone is jumping on the hardwood bandwagon, and demand hasn’t slowed down since it began.

Still, after installing hardwood flooring for thousands of homes, our expert handymen don’t think that hardwood is perfect for everyone. For one, it requires a LOT of maintenance. There are also other, much lower-maintenance alternative flooring that can make your home stand out from the crowd. Here is a quick guide to decide if hardwood flooring is right for your home:

1) Do you have large pets? While a kitten or two probably won’t do much damage to the floor, dogs (especially the larger breeds) can scratch up the surface quickly. Unlike cats, dogs can’t retract their claws and end up leaving microscopic scratches everywhere they walk. This could leave a high-traffic area or a sharp corner covered in scratch marks. And if you let your dog go outside regularly, be prepared for additional upkeep as dogs can track mud and dirt through the house.

2) Do you have young children? Having children shouldn’t automatically preclude you from choosing to put in hardwood floors. Still, they will require additional maintenance with kids running around. Children will often run through the house with their outdoors shoes still on, and are harder on floors than most typical adults. If you have kids, be ready to mop several times a week at minimum.

3) Like wearing heels or throwing fancy dinner parties? Now, it would seem that you would be perfect for the elegance and style of hardwood flooring, BUT… High heels and formal mens dress shoes have much harder bottoms than typical shoes, and will cause your flooring to crack, chip, and dent much faster than under regular use. Moreover heels are generally very narrow and concentrate the force of your foot into a small area, making it much more likely that your floor will get the kinds of dents and dings that require regular resurfacing. If you still want wood floors, make sure you put runners and rugs in high-traffic areas, and be ready to spend money on refinishes once every few years, or more often, depending on how often you throw parties.

ELIMINATING MILDEW IN YOUR BATHROOM AND HOW TO PREVENT ITS RETURN

Once mildew arrives in your house, it can take hold and begin to spread quickly. Ironically, the advances in better home insulation have had the side effect of allowing mildew and mold to grow more readily, particularly in poorly ventilated areas, so newer homes are often subject to the invasion of the various fungus that cause these problems. Prime areas for moisture to collect and to provide fungi with an ideal breeding ground are crawlspaces, basements, attics, kitchens and, of course, your bathroom.

The first and most important step in mildew mitigation is to increase ventilation, especially in your bathroom, where water is run regularly and collects most frequently.

Leave the bathroom door (and windows, if possible) open after you shower or bathe, and always use the exhaust fan. If you don’t have an exhaust fan, it’s important to have one installed.

Once mildew has taken hold in your bathroom, it can be nearly impossible to eliminate it or to prevent its return. However, this can be accomplished with the following preventive measures:

First, clean walls thoroughly with a mixture of 50% bleach and 50% water. Allow all surfaces to dry thoroughly and then re-paint with a fast-drying primer followed by the application of a specially formulated bathroom/kitchen paint. This paint will contain a mildewcide ingredient. Oftentimes, you can request that a mildewcide agent be added to the paint there in the store.

Mildew will also form inside caulking, so it’s important to remove old caulk and replace it with a mildew-resistant form of grout. Pay particular attention to the areas around the tub and shower enclosure where water can collect and stand for a longer period of time.

Keep in mind that, depending upon how long mildew has been present, there may be moisture damage to the wood and framing as well, and these are issues that must be addressed.

If all of this seems intimidating or too complicated for you to handle as a do-it-yourself project, your local Handyman Matters office is always willing to step in and tackle these repairs and restorations for you. Call 1-800-FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com to find the phone number of the office nearest you.

 

PREVENTING ELECTRICAL MALFUNCTIONS IN YOUR HOME

An estimated 47,700 home structure fires in the United States every year, all due to some form or electrical failure or malfunction. It’s imperative for every property owner to take the precautions necessary to prevent needless damage and injury resulting from such disasters.

Though some of the below tips may seem like no-brainers, check to make sure you aren’t guilty of any of these infractions:

  • Never remove the grounding pin (the third plug) to make a plug fit into a two-prong outlet.
  • Don’t nail or staple electrical cords to walls, floors, or other objects.
  • Extension cords are designed for temporary use; don’t utilize them as permanent household wiring.
  • Replace missing or broken wall plates so that wiring and components never remain exposed.
  • If an appliance is repeatedly blowing a fuse or trips a circuit breaker, unplug it and have an electrician check out the problem.
  • Outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, workshop and laundry rooms should always be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters, and these need to be tested on a regular basis.
  • Check electrical cords regularly to make sure they haven’t become frayed or cracked. Also, they should not be placed under carpeting or rugs.

And when working outdoors, take care to keep yourself and all equipment a safe distance—at least ten feet—from power lines and service connections. Check for power lines before setting up ladders or using long tools. Additionally, never use electric tools in the rain or if the ground is wet.

For additional information on preventing electrical hazards, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Your local Handyman Matters office can send out a craftsman to do an assessment around your home to determine if there are any potential electrical hazards that need addressing, and they can assist you with making any necessary corrections. Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website to locate the office nearest you.

How to Maintain Your Hardwood Floors to Last a Lifetime

Wood flooring has been a must-have addition to any luxury home for as long as people have been building luxury homes. The elegance added by a hardwood floor simply can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, as with most things beautiful and luxurious, hardwood floors need a lot of maintenance to keep up their great looks. Here is a how-to to make sure your hardwood floors stay clean, shiny, and beautiful:

  • Clean Often and Clean Right: The single most important thing to do to keep your wood floors shiny for years is to clean them often. It isn’t enough to just mop and vacuum once a month. Particles like dust and dirt can do some major damage to your wood flooring if left to their own devices, so experts recommend you clean your floors weekly.

When cleaning, use a cleaning solution that is specifically made for your type of hardwood floor. Using non-wood-floor cleaners can cause the cleaner to not bond or improperly bond with your flooring’s finish which could lead to peeling. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the old wives tale of using vinegar to clean wood floors is a major no-no. Vinegar is highly acidic and will dull the finish on your flooring faster than just about anything else.

When vacuuming your wood flooring, make sure you have the brush set to the “Floor” setting to prevent the spinning bristles from damaging your floor. Similarly, make sure you use a broom with soft bristles to keep from scuffing it up.

  • Repairing Wood floor damage: Repairing a lightly damaged wood floor is a lot easier than most people think. For most minor scuffs, a simple rub-down with some water or hardwood-cleaner will do the job. More persistent or deeper scratches that don’t penetrate through all the way to the wood can be repaired with a procedure called “buff and pad”. This is an extremely simple procedure: simply rent a floor buffer from your local hardware store (or get a trained handyman to bring over theirs), buff-sand the affected area, and apply a couple of coats of wood finish. The whole process will last just a couple of hours and leave your floors looking brand new. For deep dents and pockmarks caused by furniture or heels, you might need to go through with the more expensive and difficult sand-and-refinish process. Sand down the finishing material on your wood floor all the way to the wood, then refinish it with wood sealer and finisher (follow the directions on the finisher closely for best results).

REPLACING OR INSTALLING A MAIL BOX

Installing a new mailbox or replacing an old one is a relatively simple and straightforward task. But there are a number of factors to take into consideration ahead of time.

The depth required for placing the post of a mailbox in the ground is generally two to three feet. This isn’t deep enough to worry about cutting into any buried electrical or utility lines, but sprinkler lines are placed at a much shallower level. If you—or your home’s previous owner—have installed a sprinkler system or outdoor lighting cables, check to make certain you won’t be damaging any of these when you place a new post or foundation for your mailbox.

Most posts are secured into the ground around a cement foundation. These can be extremely difficult to remove; in many instances, you will be better served by either utilizing the same post or cutting it off at ground level and placing the new post a short distance away, in fresh ground.

Remember as well that before you undertake the project, it’s important to review postal regulations to make sure that you are complying with the rules regarding mail delivery. Even the post supporting the box requires approval from the local post office. It must be accessible from your carrier’s vehicle so that the letter carrier does not have to leave his/her car in order to place the mail in the box.

Many homeowners like to create their own mailbox, designing something that complements their home and property. Again, the post office must approve your design. Something that looks charming but is difficult to open or creates some other challenge or hazard will turn your mailbox into nothing more than a piece of decoration that serves no practical purpose… other than perhaps becoming a bird house!

Both the post and your mailbox need to be constructed of durable material that will withstand changing weather conditions, traffic mishaps, and, sadly, the possibility of being vandalized.

Wood, of course, is the traditional choice for mailbox posts. Cedar and redwood are attractive choices and insect-resistant, but more expensive than other selections. Pressure-treated wood is perhaps the best option since it is both resistant to rot and to insects, though the section of post that sticks above ground should be treated with sealant to prevent cracking or splitting. Stone, brick and concrete bases are extremely weather-resistant, but must conform to local and state building codes, as well as postal regulations.

Putting a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole before installing the post will improve drainage and prevent standing water from collecting around the base. And be mindful as you set the post into the ground to keep it upright; having a level on hand is crucial to ensure that you won’t wind up with a mailbox that is forever positioned at a tilt.

Use galvanized or stainless steel screws when fixing the box directly to the stand. You may prefer to mount a board on the post and affix the box to this. It’s important that the board be mounted tightly to the post and the box tightly to the board.

Finally, while you do not have to have your name on the mailbox, you must put the street address number on it on the side facing the approaching mail carrier.

The entire process of installing a new mailbox or replacing an old one is pretty straightforward. But if you don’t have the time or inclination to undertake the project yourself, Handyman Matters is more than happy to assist you with this and in any other home repair, remodel and restoration projects on your to-do list. Call 1-800-FIX-MY-HOME or find us online at handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the location that services your area.

MAKING YOUR KITCHEN SENIOR-FRIENDLY

Safety concerns and the challenges of staying in our home increase as we age. We all value our privacy and our independence, but these shouldn’t come at the expense of our health and well-being. Of particular importance are adjustments to our kitchens, since that’s a room in which we spend a good amount of time and engage in a variety of potentially risky tasks.

The costs of a kitchen remodel can range from small to large; the following list provides some helpful ideas of senior-friendly alterations, and how involved and expensive each is likely to be.

Slip-Resistant Flooring – Falls account for a majority of injuries sustained by seniors in all areas of the house. Remove any mats or rugs that present a tripping or slipping hazard. A rug in front of the sink may be keeping your floor cleaner, but it’s hardly worth the risk you face of taking a serious spill. Likewise, flooring should have enough texture to grip your feet. Consult with the clerk at your local hardware or home repair store for suggestions on the best types of slip-resistant flooring available.

Increase Lighting – Another fact of life is that as we grow older, our eyesight becomes poorer. In the kitchen, where a lot of tasks require using knives, gripping pans, and transferring hot items, maximum lighting is essential. This may be achieved with something as simple as increasing bulb wattage, or with something as complex as installing motion-sensor lights, or light switches that can be operated with a simple nudge.

Allow more than Adequate Clearance Space – Kitchens are particularly prone to acquiring clutter. Look around to see what items (step stools, chairs, pet dishes) may be impeding your movements, and determine better locations for these things to “live.”

Make Appliances and Utensils Easier to Reach – One of the common laments voiced by seniors is the difficulty of reaching into both upper and lower cabinets. Obviously, everything can’t be kept at waist level, but the most commonly used items can be made more accessible. Place the microwave at or just below counter height. Consider installing pull-out shelves which allow you to retrieve items without stretching or bending.

A side-opening oven door enables you to insert and remove items without having to lean across the standard lowered door, especially when the surface is hot.

Shallower sinks make it easier to rinse dishes, fruits and vegetables. Single-lever faucets reduce the risk of scalding with hot water.

Replace smaller knobs and handles on drawers with larger, easy-to-grip ones.

When the time comes to replace an appliance, look for newer models with larger, easy-to-read controls.

If you are contemplating making changes to your kitchen—whether to make it “senior-proof” or for any other reason—the Handyman Matters craftsmen stand ready to consult and to assist in all aspects. To find the office nearest you, call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME, or go to www.handymanmatters.com and enter your zip code.

 

 

A FEW HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS TO CONSIDER DURING THE WINTER MONTHS

When the snow begins to fall and temperatures take a nosedive, it’s tempting to just hunker down inside your house in front of a hearty fire and wait for spring before you contemplate any more home improvement projects.

But winter is actually an ideal time to accomplish and handful of those smaller indoor projects that tend to get overlooked in the rush to fix the bigger, more demanding items.

For starters, now is the ideal time to install a programmable thermostat. It’s one of the easiest and least expensive home improvements you can make, and it will make an immediate difference in the size of your fuel bills.

Another easy task to accomplish without putting on gloves, galoshes or a coat would be to replace lighting fixtures and light bulbs. Installing new fixtures is an easy and simple way to update the style of any room. You might also want to contemplate adding dimmers, which allow you to adjust the mood of a room by increasing or decreasing light as needed.

What about new window treatments? Is it time to trade out curtains for blinds, or simply trade one fabric and color for another?

Or take it a step further and consider replacing your windows themselves. You can find some great deals on quality replacement windows because this is the time of year when prices are greatly reduced. Additionally, home repair and maintenance business tends to slow in the colder months, and it’s much easier to schedule a handyman to come in and do the job for you.

Take a few minutes to walk through your home and see if any of these—or larger tasks—are projects that could perk up your home during the dreary, dark days of winter!

CONSIDERING THE (HIDDEN) COSTS OF A BASEMENT FINISHING PROJECT

Refinishing your basement is a good way to obtain additional living space, as well as increasing your home’s re-sale value. But before plunging full-tilt into a remodeling project, it’s important to check carefully for all the possible—and expensive—stumbling blocks that might not come to light until you are already midway through your renovations.

-How many support pillars are present in your basement? How extensive is the remodeling you have in mind, and will the current structure support the changes you would like to make? Here are some things to consider before you get in too deeply:

-Window egress. If your remodel plans include adding a guest or bedroom, ample egress is legally required. There must be easy escape from these rooms, so if the basement doesn’t already have these, add the cost of installing additional windows to your bottom line.

-Are the floors level and the walls straight? How much reconfiguration will be needed to install flooring, paneling, etc., so that it won’t warp or shift with time?

-What potential drainage and ventilation issues might you encounter? Particularly humid climates may require the addition of a dehumidifier to keep the location dry and usable.

-How much of the pre-existing materials can be used in the remodel? How much in the way of new materials will be required?

When you have the answers to these questions, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how much you need to budget for the project, and whether the ultimate cost can support your plans.

And remember that Handyman Matters stands ready to assist you with this and with any other remodeling or repair projects around your home. Contact us at 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website at www.handymanmatters.com to get the phone number of the Handyman Matters location nearest you!

Beefing Up Your Home’s Security Factor

These days, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to ensure our homes are well-protected. Many of us have installed alarm systems, and that’s an excellent first move. But you should take a thorough tour of your property to be certain that you aren’t overlooking other factors that are keeping your house and family at unnecessary risk.

For example:

Privacy walls or tall hedges and shrubs look great and afford a nice sense of seclusion from the rest of the world, but they also give intruders the opportunity to break into your home without being noticed. Compensate by installing motion-detector lighting, which experts agree is a reliable deterrent to unwanted visitors. In general, porches and entryways should be well-lit and free from clutter. This includes any trees or shrubbery that could enable an intruder to conceal himself while you are entering or leaving your home.

If you have a free-standing garden or tool shed, keep it locked, particularly if it holds items that a burglar could use to break into your home. The same holds for your garage.

Some homeowners take the precaution of unplugging garage door openers if they are going to be gone for an extended period of time, but it’s better to have an actual physical lock on the door itself, especially if this is an attached garage that allows direct entry into the house. If your door doesn’t have a lockable latch, drill a hole in the track just above one of the rollers and insert a padlock . This will prevent the door from rising.

Don’t keep the garage door opener in your car, even if you keep your vehicle locked; use a key chain remote, instead. Access to your car can often mean easier access to your home. Remember: if a thief should break into your car even when it’s parked miles away, the registration card in your glove compartment provides him with your home address.

If you have an in-window air conditioner, take steps to make sure it’s extra secure. These wall units provide an additional point of entry into your home.

Secure pet doors at night or when you are away on vacation.

If you have a home security system, don’t put a put a sticker on your door or window that advertises the brand of the system you’ve installed. This information can be enough to allow a practiced intruder to disable it. Instead, utilize a generic sticker.

If you’ve recently bought any high-end items like a big screen television or a gaming system, do not allow the discarded boxes to sit out by your curb for an extended period of time awaiting trash pick-up. This signals to passersby that there’s something new and expensive inside the home.

Finally, balance aesthetics with practicality. For example, floor-length windows alongside your front door, especially the stained or leaded-glass kind, are attractive, but they can be smashed to reach the interior doorknob.

If the security-check of your property turns up any areas of concern, remember that you can always contact your local Handyman Matters office for assistance in addressing these issues. Their licensed, bonded and experienced craftsmen can make any adjustments or improvements you desire to ensure your home and family are well-protected. Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME today.