PREPPING YOUR HOME FOR A SUMMER SALE

Seasonality plays an important role in the housing market. Home buying and selling activities swell during the spring and summer months of the year, and trail off during the fall and winter, according to Housingwire.com.

As a homeowner, you want to get top price for your property. This means presenting your house in its very best light. It’s important to prioritize repairs and upgrades so that you aren’t spending money unnecessarily on things that aren’t going to provide a good return on the investment or even impress prospective buyers. Your goal is to have everything looking good without spending an arm and a leg in the process.

Your home’s exterior is the first thing buyers will see. If you’ve got a fence enclosing the yard, make sure it’s in good shape: replace any sagging or missing boards, and be sure there are no stains or chipped and missing paint.  Keep the grass neatly trimmed and add sod if there are brown or dead patches.  Porch decorations and furnishings should appear clean and new; otherwise, store them out of sight.  Remove weeds and trim bushes and branches.  Keep your driveway and your walks free of leaves, dirt and other debris. Plant a few flowers for added curb appeal.

Replace missing shingles and make sure your gutters, siding, and shutters are clean and in good shape.  Fresh paint on trim will go a long way toward revitalizing your home’s exterior.

Summer Sale_blogKitchens and bathrooms are big selling points in any home.  It isn’t necessary to buy all new appliances or to do a complete renovation, since it’s likely a new owner will want to put their own “touch” on these spots once they move in, but replace fixtures, drawer pulls and perhaps even cabinet doors if these are outdated, scuffed or showing wear of any kind. Consider upgrading your lighting, particularly if it’s original to the house. It can go a long way in making a room look brighter and more welcoming.

Study your bathrooms carefully, as though you’ve never walked into them before now, looking at them through the eyes of a potential buyer.  Make sure the grout around the bathtub and shower is clean and mildew-free.  If necessary, regrout around tub and tiles; it’s a quick and relatively easy procedure, and it will make a huge difference in the room’s appearance.  Polish away any rust or water stains in sinks, tubs, and toilets.  Replacing just the seat can make the entire toilet look new.  If the walls look dingy or faded, a good paint job will bring the room back to life.  As with your kitchen, give some thought to upgrading the lighting.  And don’t forget to polish the mirrors!

Make sure all wooden floors shine and all rugs and carpeted areas are freshly shampooed and vacuumed.  Hardwood floors remain the most popular choice among homeowners, but there’s little point in replacing your old carpeting—unless it’s looking particularly worn or outdated—since a buyer will almost certainly have his or her own specific choice in mind once they’re ready to move in.

Check to be certain that all the “little things” are working the way they should.  Are any doorknobs loose or difficult to turn?  Is the garage door working well?  How about the garbage disposal?  Make sure there are fresh lightbulbs in every socket and even new batteries in the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  Wipe fingerprints and smudges off of the thermostats and light switches.  “The devil is in the details,” they say.

Many of these suggestions are things you can tackle on your own, but remember that your local Handyman Matters TEAM is always available to help with any and all household “honey-dos,” small or large.

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SUMMERTIME TOUCH-UP JOBS AROUND YOUR HOME

The warmer months lend themselves to a handful of household improvement tasks that can be accomplished with a minimum of fuss and preparation, still leaving you with plenty of time for pursuing more enjoyable pastimes.

For starters:
Ideally, gutters should be cleaned twice a year, in the spring and again in the autumn, freeing them from debris and clogs that can cause back-up and flooding in summer and ice dams in winter.  Cleaning gutters requires no particular skill beyond owning a ladder and avoiding unnecessary risks (it’s always wise to alert a family member or friend to what you’re doing before you climb up a ladder, just to be safe). Tackling this job in the spring allows you to also inspect for leaks and breaks and, if need be, arrange to have them replaced while the weather is still good.

Take time to inspect all of your windows, checking to see how well they’ve come through the brutal winter months, and, if needed, now would be the time to re-caulk the casings and frames.  This serves a dual purpose since it both keeps warm air out and cool air inside (and the reverse in winter, reducing your energy bills) and prevents rain and hail from seeping into walls, potentially causing mold or rot.

While we’re on the topic of windows, summer is the ideal time to wash them—a task nobody particularly enjoys–but here’s a tip for making the job a little easier and less frustrating:  Prewash the glass with soapy water, rinse and then wash again with a solution of 50% distilled (white) vinegar and 50% hot water.  Vinegar is non-toxic and naturally antibacterial and is great for breaking down the film that often forms on the glass.  Afterward, rinse with plain water and dry right away, preferably with a damp squeegee, running it from the top of the glass to the bottom.  Remember, too, not to wash your windows when the sun is shining directly on them.

Consider landscaping ideas that are both attractive and practical.  Well-placed trees provide not only shade but protection for your home against chilly wind blasts in winter and sun beating down on windows in summer.  Consult with your local nursery for xeriscaping suggestions, matching plants to your home’s soil conditions and those that require minimal watering.

Additionally, trim existing bushes and relocate plants that may be growing close enough to your home’s siding or foundation to cause damage.

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Finally, while this doesn’t fall precisely into the “simple and quick” category, keep in mind that summer is a convenient time to tackle interior painting and flooring jobs, since warmer weather allows you to have the windows open so fumes from paint, varnish, and glue don’t overwhelm you, your family, and pets.

You can tackle all—or just a few—of these suggested tasks and then retire to your patio or garden with a cool drink in hand, knowing you are enjoying a well-earned rest!

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Inspecting Your Yard for Hazards

With summer fast approaching, your family will be spending more time in your back yard, and you’ll likely be entertaining guests there during the warmer months, as well.  Now is the time to conduct an inspection of your yard.

Get Your Outdoors Ready_R2CFor starters, check your lawn and surrounding areas for holes that may have developed.  Not only do they present tripping hazards, but if they collect water, it can create an environment attracts mosquitoes or other pests.

Remove fallen tree branches and additional clutter that winter may have deposited on your property.  Keep grass trimmed and bushes pruned.  Check also for dangling tree limbs that haven’t yet fallen, but are likely to do so soon, and arrange to have them taken down before they can fall and cause injury.  If you keep a woodpile for a fireplace or stove, make sure the kindling is securely stacked and check to see that it hasn’t become a home for various critters that might pose a problem for your kids or your pets.  Remember, too, that spring is tick season, so take precaution by giving your dog a flea collar and checking him, your kids and yourself regularly after you’ve spent time outdoors.

Examine decks and stairs for warping and splintering that can cause stumbling or falls.  Check concrete slabs and steps for crumbling and loose sections.  If your deck has not been sealed or waterproofed in a few years, it’s time to apply a new coat to prevent rotting and other damage.

If you have an outdoor grill, give it a thorough going-over to make sure it’s still in good condition.  Take care to store combustible and flammable items securely and out of reach of children and pets.  The same applies to pesticides or any other chemicals you may have been using.

Finally, if you’ve got small children or a dog for whom the back yard is a regular play area, make sure the fence is in good condition and that winter and winter conditions have not left “escape areas.” If your dog spends prolonged periods of time outside, make sure there’s ample shade available for him during those hot summer afternoons as well as a source of water.

If you’re planning to do some landscaping and to add new plants and flowers, take time to check out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website (www.aspca.org) which provides a list of plants that are toxic to dogs (including common things like daffodils, azaleas and more).  Before spreading mulch, consult the bag to make sure it doesn’t contain items such as cocoa beans (a frequent component of mulch) which can also be fatal to your four-footed friend.

Following these few simple steps can ensure that you, your family, guests, and pets will enjoy a safe and healthy summer on your deck, patio, and garden.

As always, when help is needed, look no further than your locally owned and operated Handyman Matters.  We are here to help you love your home.

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“Pet” Projects to do Around Your Home in Honor of National Pet Month

May is National Pet Month, so what better time to undertake projects around your home that will benefit not just you, but your beloved four-footed family members, as well?

At the top of that list would be installing a pet door, or perhaps replacing an older one that has seen better days.  Doggy doors endure a lot of use, particularly if you share your home with an enthusiastic, rambunctious canine who likes to make dozens of trips in and out during the course of the day.  Pet door products have grown by leaps and bounds in sophistication since their early days; the newer models are energy efficient and designed to stand up to rigorous use.  They include safety features that protect both your animals and your home.  Current models now allow you to adjust the door so that it allows entry from both directions or, when circumstances dictate, to allow your four-footed friends to enter from outside but not go back out once they are indoors.

Pet doors can be installed on virtually any surface: in brick, in standard frame walls, in French doors, screen doors, storm doors, cobblestone, and even cement.  Check out our partner, Hale Pet Doors at HalePetDoor.com to get an idea of the variety and scope of doors available for installation.

Mud rooms have been popular for several years now, and there’s a growing trend to incorporate a “pet element” to these.  Not only do kids and visitors track in mud and melting snow and slush, but dogs do the same.  More homeowners are adding a pet cleaning station in their mud room or near the back door that includes a shower pan and drain where muddy paws can be cleaned before your dog tracks residue through the rest of the house.  Experts advise considering your pet’s size and mobility before selecting the style of pet shower or tub, and recommend porcelain tile or stainless steel, both of which are durable and water-resistant.

Tired of having pet food bowls and dishes and food bags on display in your kitchen?  Consider installing slide-out cabinets for food storage and bowls when not in use. Some homeowners are opting for custom cabinetry that includes shelving with built-in dog or cat dishes that can be rolled out at mealtime.  Similarly, there’s a trend toward hidden cat litter box zones by converting entry closets into feline bathrooms or securing them under benches or shelving, where they are still easily accessible, but much less noticeable.

Are you thinking of redoing floors?  Keep in mind the pets who share your living quarters before you undertake this project.  Consider how much traffic—both human and animal—when deciding on new flooring.  Wood is a practical and durable choice but can scratch easily.  And, of course, carpeting can harbor bacteria and mold.  Tile, stone or slate flooring may be a better option to prevent doggy toenail scratching and damage, as well as providing for easier clean-up.

Heated floors (which tend to cost around $7 per square foot) are a great option if your household includes geriatric pets who suffer from joint or arthritis problems.  While this may seem overly indulgent (and potentially expensive!), remember that heated floors are great energy savers as well. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this type of radiant heating is more efficient than forced air heating. Therefore it wouldn’t be just your dog and cat who benefit from this type of upgrade, but, in the long run, your heating bills will, as well.

May is the perfect month to do an inspection of your backyard fence to determine how well it’s come through the winter months, and whether there are any spots that could provide an escape route for the dog.  Posts may have warped, slats pulled free, or nails may be sticking out.  Check for holes your dog may have dug, and inspect the latching on your gate to see that it’s still holding securely.  Consider installing something more substantial than a standard built-in latch; you might even want to look into replacing your old gate with a self-closing model to ensure that it can’t be left open.

Make sure you’ve provided ample shade for your dog so that he can be protected during the heat of the day while you are away.  Also, if you are preparing your garden and flower beds for spring, keep in mind there are a number of plants that are toxic to animals.  These include azaleas, lilies, daffodils, sago palms, some mushrooms, tulips, and black walnuts.  While they may not generally appeal to your pet, if bored or left to his own devices long enough, he may be tempted to chew on them, with disastrous results.

Celebrate National Pet Month by undertaking a few projects that will make life more enjoyable for you and your four-footed family members.  And, as always, your local Handyman Matters office stands ready to assist you with these or any other household repair and remodel projects you have in mind.

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GETTING YOUR DECK READY FOR THE SUMMER SEASON

As things green up and the air gets warmer, our thoughts turn to the summer months, and to sprucing up our yards and entertaining guests.  If your home has a deck, now is the time to tend to any repairs it may need, and to decide what kind of upgrades you might want to have in place before you invite company to your first outdoor get-together of the season.

The harsh colder months can take their toll on patios and decks, so begin with a preliminary inspection of how well everything came through winter.

Check all wooden surfaces for discoloration, which can be a sign of rot, mildew or mold, issues which need to be addressed immediately if they are found.  Look for loose or broken boards and any nails or screws that protrude.

Conduct a tour of your yard, walkways and decks as if you were a stranger, visiting your home for the first time.  As a resident, you may have become accustomed to the quirks and potential hazards that a guest to your home wouldn’t necessarily notice, so try to view the area through a newcomer’s eyes, looking for the places someone might stumble or trip.  Is there any uneven planking or are there other possible hazards?  Are there crumbling flagstones, bricks or other rock work that could cause an injury?  Is there something on which an unwary guest might bump his head? How well-lit are your yard and deck?  Install a few solar-powered lights along paths and near any possible tripping locations. You want to make sure that everyone who visits will be safe and can enjoy your hospitality to the fullest.

Reseal your wood, if you haven’t done so in a year or two.  Or consider a good power wash to remove accumulated grime and stains.  Once all of the maintenance tasks are out of the way, you can decide what new touches to add so that your deck presents a welcoming and comfortable place to relax. Power Washing_285

Old furniture can look new with the addition of a few throw pillows or cushions.  Strategically placed flower pots add a pop of color a nice fragrance.

String lighting not only brightens an area but lends it a look of enchantment.  Hurricane candles achieve the same effect; just take care to position them where they aren’t likely to get knocked over.  Tiki torches can illuminate an entire yard, adding to the entertainment space.

The sun remains high in the sky until late in the summer months, so provide ample shade with an umbrella table or canopy for you and your guests.  By the same token, the temperature drops rapidly when the sun does the same, so consider ways to ward off the chill.  Deck heating units come in a variety of options—table units, free-standing propane-powered ones, or electric wall-mounted radiant heaters.  You might want to look into adding a fire pit.  Fire pits add charm and atmosphere and provide a great gathering-around spot.

Rather than a portable grill, think about installing a stationary unit.  They’re larger, more attractive, and can generally cook more food at a time if you are entertaining a bigger group of people.

Finally, remember you are designing the deck for yourself and your preferencesAt the end of the day, it should be the place you want to kick back and enjoy yourself, incorporating those special touches that make it a place you want to spend time every summer evening and weekend.

Need assistance in making your yard and deck look its best?  You can always count on the Craftsmen at Handyman Matters to give it exactly the look you would like it to have.

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THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT PROCEEDING WITH DO-IT-YOURSELF HOME PROJECTS

It’s true that a lot of home repair and home remodeling projects are going to require a financial outlay, and the immediate impulse may be to say, “Why pay someone else to do these things when I can tackle them myself?”

It’s a fair question to ask.  But the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recommends you ask yourself a few more questions.  They offer a quiz on their website that helps homeowners gauge whether undertaking the job themselves really pays off in the long run.  Among them are such points as these:

  • Do you have reliable work habits? Once the project is started, will it get finished?
  • Do you have the time available required to complete the job?
  • Is it a job you can do completely by yourself, or will you need assistance?
  • Are you familiar with local building codes and permit requirements?
  • Do you have all the tools needed, as well as the skills required?

And perhaps most importantly:

  • Will it matter if the project remains unfinished for a period of time?
  • Are you prepared to handle the kind of stress this project will create in your family relationships?

The quiz asks several more questions, but even these few should give you a good idea of the things you should consider before committing to a do-it-yourself project.

You want to keep your home in good shape, not just for comfort and safety, but also to maintain its value.  If your skills are “passable” and your attitude is “I can fix this in the short-term,” or “It may not be pretty, but it’ll work,” then you are approaching a project with the wrong attitude.

A professional handyman has access to many things a homeowner doesn’t: tools, a qualified and dedicated team, and the ability to purchase materials wholesale, to name a few.

Many jobs, like those involving plumbing and electric work, must be performed by licensed professionals in order to be up to code.  Contractors know what kinds of permits will be required and are practiced at getting them quickly; they’ve done this before, many times.

Professional work comes with a warranty, giving you both security and recourse should something not be up to par.  If you’ve done the work yourself and something goes wrong, the time and money you’ve invested is simply gone, and you’re still looking at a job that remains unfinished.

Bottom line best advice:  Be realistic.  This is your home—and the safety of your loved ones, your pets and yourself we’re talking about—and if you have the slightest hesitation or doubt about your ability to complete the job safely and in a timely fashion, it is better left to the professionals.

You’ll come away with a peace of mind that outweighs the cost involved.

Contact your local Handyman Matters office and speak to their Customer Service Representative.  They and their dedicated and professional Craftsmen can help you decide how best to proceed with your home repair and remodeling projects.

There are any number of small jobs that most of us can tackle.  If it’s painting a room, pulling up old carpeting, changing door and drawer handles, rehinging cabinet doors, sanding and staining, landscaping or refinishing wooden furniture, these are things the average homeowner can tackle, and aren’t something that needs to be done on a strict timetable.

But if you’re looking at jobs that will leave an area of your home in disarray for an extended period of time and create any kind of ongoing inconvenience, or if they pose any kind of hazard.

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MAY IS NATIONAL PET MONTH –  FOUR HOME PROJECTS FOR THE PET YOU LOVE

Your pet or for some of you pets are members of your family.  May is the month set aside to Celebrate your Pet and the joy and happiness they bring. There are easy projects around your home you can do to show your pet how much you love them!

Project #1: Install a Pet Door
Adding a Pet Door is a great way to improve the life of your pet and at the same time remove a bit of stress from yours.  When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.  Installing a Pet Door provides the freedom your pet needs (and most likely wants!), to let himself out when the time comes!

There are many types, sizes, brands and qualities of Pet Doors.  You should do your homework to find the right one for you and your home and your pet.  We recommend a quality door, such at Hale Pet Door, for most homes.

When the time is right, consider the Pet Door Package from Handyman Matters.

Project #2: Build a Fence or Repair a Dilapidated one
Constructing a fence around your yard or ensuring a current fence is capable of keeping your pet from wandering away is key to owning a pet.  All pet owners want to ensure their pets are not only safe from getting out and possibly getting lost, but a nicely fenced backyard or pet area also offers your pet their own space as well.

When considering a fence, there are plenty of options, with wood and vinyl being two of the top ones. As always, do your due diligence and choose what’s best for you, your home, your budget, and your needs.

Equally as important, ensure any fence and gates you have are properly taken care of, and any repairs needed are done immediately.  Fence installation, repair and gate maintenance helps to ensure the investment you made in the fence is protected!

Project #3: Update your flooring
Your home’s flooring is another area to consider when owning a pet.  Pets, specifically dogs, can put quite a bit of stress on flooring.   Installing hard surface flooring, like laminate, tile or wood floors is a top choice of a lot of homeowners.

Flooring choices are numerous, so from installing new or repairing your homes current flooring, keeping them up is not only good for you but safer for your pet as well!

Project #4: Build a Ramp
Specifically, for those aging pets, an easy way to make life easier is to build a ramp from a patio or deck so getting to a back yard or pet run is easier on older joints and bones.  When planning for a ramp, always try to consider where to build one, the ramp slope (so it’s not to steep!), and construction materials needed.

To do it myself or hire a Professional?
There are times and places to DIY a project and others when its best left to a professional.  For the sake of your pet, ensure any of the projects listed are done with high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail.  Your pet will thank you!

Sometimes it’s the small things between being done right and being done that matter the most!

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Dog Door- BEFORE
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Dog Door- AFTER

Home Projects & Summer – Why Now Might Make More Sense

Over the years, we have noticed a lot of homeowners tend to put off their home improvement or remodeling projects until late Spring or Summer.  It just seems natural to wait for most.  While most homeowners wish to wait, we advise considering scheduling now for one big reason.

All home improvement companies typically get very busy in the summertime.  Well, at least the reputable and good ones, and Handyman Matters is no exception.  That may mean your desired timeframe to start and/or complete a job could be hard to attain.  All locations do their best to have availability but supply and demand simply take over sometimes.

Compare that to the Winter and even into the Springtime, when there is usually more availability, with most locations having more flexibility now than in the summer time.

If you have those home projects and plans in your head or on paper, now is a great time to contact us at Handyman Matters.  Not only can we help put that project into reality, but we can also ensure it’s done right, professionally and with the best quality around.  We even guarantee it!

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PUT SOME (OR ALL) OF YOUR TAX REFUND TOWARD HOME REPAIR

It’s the time of year when many of us are eagerly looking forward to those tax refund checks and entertaining ourselves with ideas of how we want to spend them.  It’s money we’ve worked hard to earn, and now we want to treat ourselves.

Nobody disagrees with that notion, but financial experts advise proceeding cautiously.  And just about everyone agrees that putting some of that money into home repairs and upgrades is not just a sound economic move, but it will boost our spirits, besides!

There are several ways to invest some of that cash on low-cost improvements that greatly increase your home’s value while giving your living space a great facelift.

Give a room in your home a new look with a fresh coat of paint.  It’s a project that can be accomplished in a single weekend, from covering the floors to sanding the walls to final coat, all for just about $150.

Replace old carpeting or other flooring with something more modern and appealing.  Real estate brokers estimate that investing $800 or so for new flooring offers up a return of up to $2000 in your home’s resale value, according to This Old House.

There are a number of ways to increase a home’s curb appeal without spending a fortune.  Rent a pressure washer to clean accumulated dirt and mildew from your house’s exterior.  The cost is about $100 to do it yourself, or slightly more if you decide to use a professional.

Paint or replace your front door.  Primer and paint will run you less than $100.  For about $1000, you can replace the door entirely.  Remodeling Magazine says this is one of the best returns on investment a homeowner can make.  Generally replacing a front door will recoup you more than 90% of the cost.

Painting your home’s exterior can run you into the thousands, but consider painting just the fascia boards (the trim along your roof).  It protects the wood from rot as well as giving your home a sharp new look for around $600.

Experts concur that updating lighting fixtures is another great way to boost your house’s value while giving rooms an entirely new look.   Consider installing a lighted ceiling fan which serves the dual purpose of illumination and circulating air, keeping a room cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  It can generally be connected to the existing cable from the old light.  New fixtures will run you anywhere from $100 to $200 apiece, and the average overhead fan will run you just slightly more than that.

So before you take your refund check and spend it all on a tropical vacation or a new car, take a few moments to contemplate allocating some of that money toward home improvements projects that will give you new pride in your house and boost its value at the same time.

If you don’t feel you’ve got the time or skills to implement any of the above ideas yourself, keep in mind that an expert and reliable craftsman from your local Handyman Matters office can step in and do the job for you without too much added expense.  The odds are, you’ll still have funds left over to enjoy a fancy dinner out and maybe even a weekend getaway!

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10 Small Upgrades to Up Your Home Enjoyment While Increasing Home Value

 

  1. Paint Kitchen Cabinets – Adding a couple coats of paints creates an instant new and updated look in your kitchen!
  1. Lighting & Light Fixtures – Modernize and brighten up simple with upgrades throughout your home.
  1. Change Cabinet Handles or Knobs – Swap out current hardware and handles for new ones with the endless number of options, to add an instant fresh look to your kitchen.
  1. Ceiling Fan Installation – You’ll be amazed by what a ceiling fan can do to help cool or heat your home.
  1. Kitchen Backsplash – Perhaps the quickest way to add elegance, life and beauty to a kitchen.
  1. Add or Upgrade Molding – There are several molding types for your home, like Crown Molding, which immediately adds style, class, and value.
  1. Front Door Freshen-up – A fresh coat of paint or a new door will complement your home’s curb appeal and make your home more inviting.
  1. Upgrade Your Bathroom Fixtures – Both beautiful and functional, quick upgrades to your fixtures brings a bathroom back to life.
  1. Bathroom Caulk – A Fresh New Bead – Removing old caulk and adding a fresh new bead in your bathrooms not only looks much better but also helps prevent leaks.
  1. Flooring Update – Replacing worn carpet with Laminate or Prefinished flooring is one of the biggest upgrades you can make in your home.

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