Tackling Some Post-Holiday Projects Around Your Home

The holidays have passed, the decorations are down, the guests have returned home, and we’re still looking at a few more months of cold temperatures and long dreary nights…  It’s easy to let the winter doldrums take hold.  But it’s also a great time to tackle a handful of those household repair projects that you haven’t been able to get to the rest of the year.  And the odds are it will boost your spirits when you can finally cross a few of those items off your to-do list.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Select just two or three projects you’d most like to tackle (as well as the budget and time you have to allot to them), and see these through to completion.  Focus on indoor projects that won’t be delayed or made more complicated by the weather.  Here are some suggestions, ranging from small to larger tasks:

Check doorknobs, hinges, cabinet pulls and drawer nobs around the house that may need tightening.  Change out your furnace filter.  Upgrade your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Reorganize a closet and other storage areas with an eye toward decluttering.

January is a great month for updating your home’s lighting.  Maybe you’ve been contemplating adding recessed lights or under cabinet lights.  Now would also be a fine time to install a ceiling fan.

Organize Your Garage
Organize Your Garage

Organize the garage, the area that most notoriously becomes a convenient dumping ground for everything that you couldn’t find anyplace else to store.  Consider putting up shelves and possibly a peg board for hanging tools.  Inventory those boxes, gardening implements and sporting goods to see what should remain and what needs to go away.  Take the time to clearly mark boxes when you place them on shelves or return them to overhead storage so that you can know at a glance what they contain.  It saves time and reduces frustration later.

Handyman Matters Collection by Surfaces
Handyman Matters Collection by Surfaces

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious and your budget will permit, winter is the perfect time to renovate your kitchen or your bathroom.  Go as simple as adding a backsplash, painting walls, adding new cabinets, or if you like, go for something bigger—an entire remodel!  If you’ve got more than one bathroom, then an upgrade is a minor inconvenience, at best.  If you’re looking to change up your kitchen completely, then that will require a little more advance planning.  Ensure that all the supplies are on site and that you have back-up cooking preparations in place before you begin, so that you don’t find yourself stranded in mid-remodel.

The best way to begin any winter home project is with a pencil and a pad of paper.  Conduct a walk-through of your home, identifying and writing down all the things that could use some attention and tender loving care.  Once the list is complete, prioritize the tasks you’ve identified.  As mentioned earlier, pick the two or three that seem most important to you personally, and tackle those.  Keep the list for reference further down the road.  When these upgrades are complete, you can move on to the next items you’d like to see finished.

Handle those chores that you are most comfortable undertaking on your own; if your free time is limited or you have any doubt about your abilities to successfully complete the projects you’ve selected, call in the experts to ensure things are done quickly and correctly.  Your local Handyman Matters office has qualified craftsmen who can efficiently undertake virtually anything you might have on that list.

Handyman Matters Named One of America’s Best Customer Service Companies by Newsweek

Handyman Matters has been recognized as the top Brand in the Home Referral Services and Home Repairs category as part of Newsweek’s inaugural list of America’s Best Companies for Customer Service. We attribute this honor and recognition to the laser focus our owners have placed on Customer Experience & becoming the Home Ally.

Handyman Matters rated one of America's Best Companies for Customer Service
Handyman Matters rated one of America’s Best Companies for Customer Service

In collaboration with Statista, Newsweek sanctioned the independent study that was based on several criteria used to measure the customer service experience.

  • The five evaluation criteria were:
    • Quality of communication
    • Technical competence
    • Range of services offered
    • Customer focus
    • Accessibility

The results were published in the 11/30/18 issue of Newsweek and can be seen here. The independent study used data from a vast sample of more than 20,000 US customers and a total of 132,954 customer evaluations collected.

Owner and founder, Andy Bell stated, “What an honor! We cannot be more thrilled for the recognition our Owners earned by being ranked first in our category. It’s so gratifying to see the efforts our Owners’ focus on our customers day in and day out rewarded by those they are serving.”

“This recognition is validation that our objective to Redefine Home Improvement is gaining the traction it so well deserves!” echoed Chris Bue, CEO of Handyman Matters. “With enhancements like “On My Way” Text Notifications and the ability to Book Online 24/7, we will continue to meet and exceed our customer needs.”

Committed to helping you love your home, we are locally owned and independently operated locations which provide professional and multi-skilled Craftsmen trained to handle a homeowners’ to-do list in addition to larger, more critical projects like a bathroom refresh or remodel. At the end of the day, “We Do It All!”

Handyman Matters guarantees our work and offers a “like it’s our home” Promise. Check out why Handyman Matters is different here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DIKDccSp7o

KEEPING YOUR HOME SAFE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

While the December holidays evoke a spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill toward all, not everyone embraces that philosophy, so just to be sure, it makes sense to take a few extra steps to keep your home and your loved ones safe this upcoming season.

We’ve become pretty well-schooled in the idea of having packages delivered to our offices if no one is going to be home, or having a neighbor bring in any parcels that are left unattended on our porches or by our front doors.  You don’t want items stolen any time of the year, but particularly when these are intended to be gifts.  However, your precaution shouldn’t stop there.

Most folks like to display their Christmas tree in front of a living room window where they can be enjoyed not just by family members, but by neighbors and folks passing in front of your home.  But if you’ve also placed gifts under the tree, this inadvertently creates an invitation to burglars.  Better to either keep the gifts hidden elsewhere or move your tree to a spot away from windows or other places with a view.

If you will be traveling during the holidays, it’s best to notify a trusted neighbor or engage a reputable housesitter to keep an eye on your property while you are away.  Arrange to have someone shovel your walks if it snows in your absence, and rather than discontinuing your mail or newspaper delivery, which can be a signal that no one will be at home, have someone collect these and keep them safe for you until your return.  Put a few lights on a timer, or better yet, have a friend or neighbor come over to leave on different lights on different nights so that a “pattern” isn’t readily obvious to anyone who might be checking out your place.

In this age of oversharing of information on social media, keep your travel plans offline.  Don’t post that you’ll be out of town, or where you are going, or for how long.

One of the best deterrents, of course, is to install a home security system that triggers alarms and that can alert you to any suspicious activity taking place, no matter where you may be when it occurs.  Some of these systems are easily installed with a minimum of fuss; others—hardwired security, for instance—can present more of a challenge, and may require the assistance of a professional service such as Handyman Matters who have Craftsmen well-versed in such installations.

There’s a lot of things going on this time of year that require our attention; worrying about the security of our home shouldn’t have to be one of them.

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BACKSPLASH:  A DECORATIVE AND PRACTICAL ADDITION TO YOUR KITCHEN

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen is both an economical and functional way to upgrade your kitchen.  It’s a remodel that can be done with a minimum of fuss, time and expenditure of money.  Not only will it give the room an attractive facelift, it makes one of the more challenging areas of your kitchen easier to clean.

Wallpaper and paint tend to absorb odors from cooking and can easily stain from both grease spatters and other liquids hitting them.  A tile backsplash removes all of these challenges.  Additionally, tile can cover small gaps when countertops don’t sit flush against walls.

Kitchen Backsplash - Handyman Matters Collection
Kitchen Backsplash – Handyman Matters Collection

Installing a backsplash is a simple task that’s relatively easy for even a “beginner handyman” to undertake.  The first step is to select the tile material you want to use.  For the budget-minded, your best choices are ceramic or porcelain.  Somewhat pricier options are glass, marble or granite.

You’ll want to begin by deciding the height you’d like to incorporate into your design, and the total area you want to cover.  Make certain the surface is thoroughly cleaned before applying mortar or mastic adhesive.  Most tiles will come with a set of manufacturer’s instructions, enabling you to follow a simple and direct series of guidelines that will result in a professional-looking finished job.

However, if you are considering a more complicated installation, something that involves tiles with more intricate designs and patterns or ones that will require the use of a tile saw, or if perhaps it’s just simply a job you don’t have the time or the inclination to undertake yourself, it’s far better to spend the additional money to ensure that the backsplash installation done efficiently, precisely, and correct the first time.

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FIRE CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE. AT ANYTIME.

Fire can happen anywhere, anytime.

That is the 2018 slogan—and the warning—of The National Fire Prevention Association.  And while October 7-13 is officially National Fire Prevention Week, we should be vigilant all fifty-two weeks of the year.  Fire is a devastating and quick-moving danger, and mere seconds can mean all the difference between safety or tragedy.  How ready are you—and your family—to handle this kind of a crisis?

Every home should be equipped with at least one smoke detector on every floor and one near every bedroom.  If battery-operated, the batteries should be changed every six months and the detectors themselves tested monthly.

Is anyone in your home hearing-impaired or are they heavy sleepers?  There are smoke detectors designed to awaken people in other ways besides sound.  Investigate these types if there’s a risk that anybody in your house might not be alerted to the alarm a standard smoke detector produces.

ThinkstockPhotos-177031254_smallKeep a fully-charged fire extinguisher on every level of your home and inspect it regularly to make sure it remains in good working condition.

It’s important to plan not one, but multiple escape routes from your home.  Every single member of the household should have a clear plan in mind for getting out of the house as quickly as possible, and to practice the route several times.  It’s a good idea to keep your phone by your bed in the event that you aren’t able to escape.  By the same token, when staying with friends or in a hotel, take a few minutes to spot fire exits, fire extinguishers and the best route for getting out of unfamiliar surroundings as quickly as possible.

Everyone should conduct a thorough safety inspection of their house and to do so often.  Chimneys and furnaces should be inspected and cleaned regularly.  Make certain that all objects—flammable or not—are never closer than three feet to any heat source.  There should be a clear and unobstructed path leading out of every single room.  Never leave portable heaters running when you are asleep or out of the house.

These are just a few of the fundamental things to keep in mind to ensure that your home is as “fire-proofed” as possible.  Take the time to visit The National Fire Prevention Association’s website at www.nfpa.org   where you can click on “Safety Tip Sheets” for much more valuable information on the steps to keeping yourself, your family and your pets safe.

Remember, too, that you can rely on the professional and friendly Craftsmen at your local Handyman Matters office to assist you with the installation of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and any other tasks—large or small—that will make your home a safer and happier place to live.

 

GIVING THAT SMALL ROOM A BIGGER LOOK

The longer you live in a home, the more possessions you acquire, say nothing of how your family itself may have grown through the years.  Whether you live in a small place, to begin with, or a larger one that somehow seems “more full” than it did once upon a time, there are ways to open up those cramped rooms. These options do not require actually having to expand the walls, and many can be accomplished without spending a fortune in the process.

Dark flooring, walls, and paneling can give a room a cozy appearance that feels great on a chilly winter’s evening but creates a claustrophobic atmosphere the rest of the time.  Consider taking advantage of our Accent Wall package by adding a decorative accent wall using reclaimed wood, similar to the one shown in the image below, or painting one wall in a cooling shade of blue or green, or simply changing out curtains, fabrics, and a piece or two of furnishing for ones with lighter tones.

Reclaimed Wood Accent Wall
Reclaimed Wood Accent Wall

Mirrors are an excellent way to create a comfortable illusion of added space, particularly if your room’s configuration allows for mirrors that can face each other from opposite walls.  In tiny kitchens, reflective surfaces such as stainless steel appliances serve the same purpose.

Too many decorative elements “shrink” a room, as well.  As an experiment, remove a third of the knick-knacks that occupy shelf and table space to see how much of a difference their absence makes, and whether you can—or you want to—live with the difference.  Inspect your furnishings, as well.  Is there a chair that remains unoccupied most of the time, or an end table or lamp that don’t really need to be there?  Or you can always trade these out for taller, narrowing furnishings which tend to give the illusion of added volume.

If the budget allows, there are other options.  Could small paneled windows be traded out for a larger single pane which will bring more light into the space?  How about installing a bay window to add square footage to a room?  Could shelving be narrowed or recessed without taking space away from adjoining areas?  Can you “go more vertical,” installing double-height cabinetry, which allows for more display areas without sacrificing already-limited space?

These are some of the more straightforward options for “expanding” a room.  Your local Handyman Matters office can assist you with any of these types of alterations. Or, if you have bigger ideas in mind for enlarging your living space (like, combining two smaller rooms into a larger one) they are happy—and qualified—to help you with those options, as well.

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ENJOY YOUR JULY FOURTH FESTIVITIES (AND THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER) WITH SAFETY IN MIND

Summer is here, at last, with all of its enjoyable warm-weather activities: picnics, hiking, fishing, gardening, swimming, boating, bar-b-ques, and, of course, celebrating the anniversary of our nation’s independence on July 4th.  And, unfortunately, it’s a fact of nature that all of these are accompanied by a certain amount of risk.  Handyman Matters is here to help you have a safe and wonderful time this summer.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to reduce the risk of spending any time being treated for injuries from easily avoidable accidents.

PROTECT YOURSELF – Stay hydrated and use sunscreen!  This seems pretty obvious, but it’s ridiculously easy to step outdoors for what you think will be just a few minutes, only to wind up distracted by some task that will have you boiling underneath the sun’s harsh rays without even realizing it.  Both sunburn and dehydration sneak up on you, so don’t give them a chance.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS – With the advent of spring and the return of green grass and flowers comes the temptation to spruce up things around your home and yard.  Maybe you’re eyeing a landscaping project, taking down storm windows, cleaning gutters, sanding and re-staining patio furniture, washing all the second-story windows, or something else.  Whether it’s a large project or small, don’t jump in until you’ve fully considered the amount of time you can dedicate to it, as well as your personal skill level.  Don’t compromise the project—or your safety—by biting off more than you can chew.  You’ll wind up frustrated (or worse, yet—with a frustrated spouse!) and a home improvement project only halfway done by autumn, and looking nowhere near the way you pictured it in your head!

BE SAFE, BE SAFE, AND BE SAFE – Don’t mount a rickety ladder to wash windows, clean gutters or to check the condition of your roof.  Don’t undertake any of these or any other outdoor activities when a thunder and lightning storm beckons.  Make sure you alert someone before attempting any task that involves working with power tools or takes you up into a tree or onto a ladder—the statistics on people lying injured while unaware family members are just steps, away are staggering.  Don’t be one of them!

Don’t prune trees or shrubbery anywhere near power lines.  Don’t dig on your property until you know precisely where any utility cables are buried.

BE CAREFUL AND CAUTIOUS IN YOUR CELEBRATING – The Fourth of July holiday comes with some uniquely potential hazards:  grilling, open flames, fireworks, and, in many instances, alcohol.  Adding to the mix are children and pets dashing around, a heightened recipe for disaster.  It’s important to exercise caution and to resist temptation.  Leave the fireworks to the experts.  Don’t leave grills, bar-b-cues or open flames unattended for even a few seconds.  If you are entertaining a small group of friends or family, be vigilant.  Have fun, and relax—just don’t relax too much—it’s the responsibility comes with being a good host.

Handyman Matters wants you to have a summer to remember—but for all the right reasons!  We stand ready to assist you with any summertime projects that can help you enjoy your house and yard to their fullest.  After all, we’re in this for the long haul—we want you to be a customer for life!

You can always reach us by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.

WAYS TO KEEP YOUR HOME COOLER DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS

Summer brings a lot of great things our way—more daylight, beautiful gardens, cool drinks and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, trips to the local pool, among other things—and it also brings considerably warmer temperatures, particularly inside our homes.  Air conditioning is a blessing, but it’s also a significant energy- and money-grabber.

Here are a handful of other suggestions for cooling your house during those pleasant, but overly warm days.

Energy experts suggest you look for the ways to reduce solar gains—the natural heat your residence collects from the sun.  Conduct an inspection of your windows, particularly the south- and west-facing ones.  Consider putting up awnings or look into installing reflective window film.  The latter not only helps to cool your home in summer, it also blocks the ultraviolet rays that tend to fade fabrics and furniture.  Manufacturers like Indow Windows (www.indowwindows.com) make a window insert that blocks hot summer air as well as reducing exterior noise.

Maggie Finnerty-vintage-2-RGB

Planting trees and bushes to block the sun’s heat through windows is a good organic solution, but may require a considerable length of time for these to mature enough to become a solar blocker.  This is a step you might want to take in conjunction with quicker solutions.

Check to see if there are seals or cracks around windows and doorframes.  These permit warmer air to enter in the summer months as well as to escape in the winter months when you want to be retaining as much heat as possible, so fixing these with weatherstripping, grouting or other means addresses two problems in one.

Install efficient lighting that runs cooler.  Only 10 to 15% of the electricity that your incandescent lights consume produces light—the rest is turned into heat.

You can always open your (screened) windows during the summer months, but do so strategically. You may think that opening all of your windows will create a nice cross-draft, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  Instead, open only the windows on the shaded downstairs side of the house and the upstairs windows on the sunnier side, creating a breeze that will carry the cooler air throughout your home.

Avoid using heat-generating appliances as much as possible in the hotter hours of the day.  Do laundry and run the dishwasher in the early mornings or late evenings.  Do as much of your meal preparation as possible in the microwave, or grill outdoors.  Turn off lights when not in use and confine baths and showers to early morning hours.

Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer.  The less difference there is between the inside and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.  Lowering your thermostat while simultaneously running your air conditioning is an energy-burn that forces your air conditioner to work harder than it needs to.

Of course, installing a ceiling fan is a good way to get heavy warm air moving in a room.   Portable fans work, as well, but keep this in mind:  Neither of these actually changes the temperature of the air.  Fans cool people and pets, not rooms.  Leaving a fan running when you are somewhere else does nothing apart from boosting your energy bill.

Need assistance in implementing any of these steps?  Handyman Matters stands ready to assist you with any cost-saving or energy-saving measures you may want to take, as well as any other improvement or repair jobs you are considering having down around your home.

Potential Household Disasters that are Easy—and Too Expensive—to Ignore

For most of us, it seems as if there either isn’t enough time or enough money to tend to every little item that needs repairing around our home.  Moreover, it’s easy when you notice the small things—like the slow-running drain or toilet, the water trickling out around the base of faucets, cracks in stucco, chipped caulk around windows, small water stains—to say to yourself, “I’ll get around to those pretty soon.”  But it’s remarkable how quickly “pretty soon” turns into weeks or months, and suddenly you find yourself facing a much bigger problem than you’d ever anticipated.

So, painful as it may be to spend the money now, it’s likely to be a much bigger savings over what you might find yourself shelling out later when that small issue becomes a larger one.  Let’s take a look at the warning signs that precede potential disasters, focusing on those areas where problems commonly show up.

Clogged Gutter_small

GUTTERS – Is rain water or melting snow spilling over the sides of your gutters and pooling around the base of your home?  This is a double-edged problem.  The gutters are probably clogged with dead leaves and other debris.  Left uncleared, the material begins to mold and rot, causing damage to the gutters.  And the water pooling on the ground, can cause your home’s siding to rot, mildew, or, in a worse-case scenario, there might be extensive damage to the foundation.  Not only is a gutter-cleaning in order, you might also want to consider extending the downspout further away from your house.

LAUNDRY ROOM/FACILITIES – Are you finding it takes your dryer two cycles before heavier fabrics such as towels are thoroughly dried?  This may be the result of a clogged dryer vent.  It’s important to clean the lint tray after each use, and it’s worth considering replacing plastic or foil vents with aluminum ones.  The smaller expense now is well worth it if it cuts down on your energy bill or prevents a fire later.

BATHROOMS AND DRAINS – Some bathroom issues are easy to spot.  Water pooling around a faucet or around toilets is clearly an indication of a leak.  Some of these are easy and inexpensive to fix, if they require little more than re-caulking or tightening connections.  Others are trickier.  A slow draining sink is obviously a problem (and pouring heavy-duty drain declogger down them rarely fixes the problem; at best, it simply postpones it), but other drainage issues often come without warning and can be disastrous.  Depending on the age of your home’s pipes, it’s possible you face the challenge of tree roots growing in through them, causing clogs you don’t even know about until the day that water backs up and floods the bathroom and points beyond.  It’s well worth the expense to have a plumbing company annually snake out your drains; it’s much cheaper than replacing carpeting or wooden flooring later!

ROOF – Naturally we don’t find ourselves up on top of our houses that often.  The first indications that there may be a problem up there is when we discover ceiling stains or dripping water during rainstorms or snow melts.  If you look closely, you might detect bowing in the roof, dampness or staining on attic ceilings or cracks in the masonry around the fireplace.  Regular roof inspection is critical, paying particular attention to broken or missing shingles and checking the flashing around chimneys.  Roofs take a beating, no matter where in the country you live, and when your roof is in peril, so is everything beneath it.

FIREPLACES – Have you noticed that the glass doors on your fireplace get especially sooty after every use?  Is there a smoky odor even when you haven’t had a fire in a while?  Is the air around the hearth cooler than elsewhere in your home?  A faulty damper permits drafts and allows heat to escape.  Smoky smells indicate a build-up of creosote, which prevents proper venting.  Crumbling masonry may be a sign that moisture is permeating your chimney flashing.  Untreated, these situations can cause anything from carbon monoxide poisoning to water damage to a devastating fire in your home.

These are just a few of those things that start out as minor problems but can quickly escalate into full-blown disaster.  And while it can be painful to the bank account to spend the money, the dividends it pays off down the road are well worth the short-term costs.

Remember, too, it’s easy to schedule a visit from a qualified craftsman at your local Handyman Matters location to give your home a thorough inspection, looking for indications of small problems waiting to become big ones.  An ounce of prevention today is worth the proverbial cure somewhere down the road.

GETTING YOUR YARD AND PATIO READY FOR SUMMER ENTERTAINING

With spring close at hand and summer not far behind, it will soon be time to conduct a back yard inspection to make sure that your home is ready for entertaining family and friends over the next several months.

patio-ready-summerOftentimes, just a little “sprucing-up” is required to have your backyard looking its best again, but it all begins by conducting a careful inventory, looking at everything through the eyes of a guest.  Prepare to make a few notes as you walk around the areas where you will be entertaining, and ask yourself four questions:

  1. What needs cleaning/trimming?  Is the grass overgrown?  Are the lawn cushions looking soiled or faded?  Are your windows streaked or muddied from a winter’s worth of storms?  Do you have trees and bushes that could use a good trimming?  Are the gutters clogged or overflowing?
  1. What needs repairing?   Stand in the middle of the yard and turn around slowly, taking in everything you see.  What could stand a fresh coat of paint or stain?  Are there boards dangling or missing from the fence?  Do your kids have a tree house or playground equipment that has seen better days?   Is the gate sagging or are the hinges loose?  Is it a struggle to open or close the sliding patio door?
  1. What needs replacing?  Is the bird feeder cracked or dangling by a frayed thread?  Are the vinyl straps on the patio furniture loose or broken?  Has the umbrella over the deck table seen its last season?  How old and how reliable is your grill?
  1. What presents potential hazards?  Most importantly, determine whether there’s anything around the yard or patio that could cause injury.  Are there loose flagstones in the garden, crumbling or loose bricks on the low patio wall?  Are there wobbly deck railings, or cracked boards on steps?  Are there dark corners, stumbling hazards, low-hanging beams or any other hazards where adding outdoor lighting could reduce the risk of injury?

Entertaining company on summer afternoons and evenings should be a laid-back, stress-free experience.  And, in truth, people are there to enjoy one another’s company.  Things don’t have to perfect for everyone to have a good time.  But a little clean-up and repair ahead of time will go a long way towards enhancing your time with friends and family.

For assistance in sprucing up your home and yard for the summer months, you can always rely on the friendly and capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters to help out with any project, large or small.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the number of the location nearest you.