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.

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.

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!

5 Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger

small bathroom

Whether your bathroom is small and cramped, or it just feels like it, there are ways that you can increase its size, at least perceptually. Here are five tips to steer you in the right direction.

Walls and flooring – keep them soft and light

The color of its walls and flooring can have a big impact on how you perceive your bathroom. Colors will not only affect the ‘mood’ that your bathroom conveys, but they will also affect how you see your bathroom size-wise. Lose the contrasting colors and crazy wallpaper and replace them with a simple, light-colored theme and a soft wall pattern, if any. If your bathroom is too ‘busy’ or has starkly contrasting colors, this tends to make it look smaller.

Bring in the lights

Lighting isn’t just good for the eyes; illumination can also help to make your bathroom seem larger than it really is. If you can, incorporate natural lighting, such as through a skylight or through generous use of windows. If those options are not available to you because of budget, space, or privacy reasons, adding more light to your bathroom, specifically in low-light areas, can really open things up, especially when used with lighter colors in your bathroom.

Use mirrors to your advantage

Just like the mirror in Snow White had magical properties, mirrors can work their ‘magic’ to make your bathroom seem more expansive. If possible, place a mirror opposite an outside window, or place mirrors opposite each other to improve your bathroom’s perceptual space. If you’re an abstract thinker type with a penchant for the scientific side of life, you can even use your mirrors creatively to bounce light off from each other to further brighten the space.

Replace your low-setting, wide cabinets with tall, skinny cabinets

Just like vertical lines on your clothing will make you look taller and slimmer, opting for tall, skinny cabinets vs. clunky, wide-based cabinets will give your bathroom the perception of being taller than it really is.

Remove the knick-knacks and doodads

small-spaces-bathroom-idea
While decorating your bathroom to make it feel more ‘homey’ may appeal to you, too many decorations, ornaments, floor mats, wall-hung candles, and pictures will actually clutter your room, making it feel more restricted. Allow the room to “breathe” by removing some of the bric-a-brac.

Regardless of budget, these small and simple remodeling project ideas can make a big impact on how you—and your guests—perceive your bathroom’s available space.

4 Benefits To Installing Low-Flow Appliances In Your Home

It’s never a bad time to make your home a little bit greener. The benefits are overwhelming, and most common upgrades will pay for themselves within a year or two, and then again when it comes time to sell your house. One easy way to make your home more efficient is to install low-flow fixtures and appliances.

Low-flow fixtures come in many different shapes. Some, like aerators for showers and faucets, are either screwed right on to the opening or installed somewhere in the plumbing near the actual faucet or shower head itself. Others take the shape of full appliances that can be replaced wholesale. No matter the shape, though, low-flow upgrades offer many benefits for your home.

1 – They Save You Money

This is doubly Low-flow water fixtures help to save on energy coststrue for appliances and fixtures that are used all the time. Showers and faucets, for example, which are used multiple times per day, will pay off the cost of upgrading in less than a year. The EPA estimates that if everyone in the country switched to water-efficient appliances, the country would save $8 billion annually.

2 – They Save Energy

When most people think of conserving with low-flow appliances, they generally think only of the savings on the water bill. That’s not the whole story. In fact, switching to water-efficient appliances and fixtures will also save money on energy costs, as you end up using significantly less hot water. You also extend the life of your water heater.

3 – They Save the Planet

Few people realize that one of the biggest quality of life issues facing the world today is a severe shortage of fresh water in many regions. Switching to low-flow appliances and faucets lets you do your part to help out. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make sure that we leave the planet a little better off than when we found it.

4 – Many Communities Offer Incentives

If all of these reasons weren’t enough, many communities, municipalities, counties, and even states offer incentives for installing low-flow and water-efficient appliances and fixtures. And since the EPA claims that ultra-high-efficiency WaterSense products perform better than traditional counterparts, a tax incentive is basically free money to upgrade to higher quality fixtures and appliances.

The expert craftsmen at Handyman Matters can help you save energy and money by installing low flow fixtures and appliances. Enter your zip code above to find a Handyman Matters in your area or call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule your appointment.

Ever-Growing List Of Small Home 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.

Types Of Shower Doors For A Bathroom Remodel

A focal point of any bathroom is the tub or shower, so when planning a bathroom remodel, it’s important to take into consideration how you may want to “change up” a shower door to its best effect.

Shower doors primarily fall into two types:  Bypass doors and pivot doors.

Bypass Shower Doors

Bypass are also known as sliding doors, and consist of 2 or 3 panels that slide past each other on tracks situated at the bottom and top of a shower unit.  They take up less space, which is why they tend to be the most popular.

Bypass doors are also more of a challenge to clean and to keep clean, as the tracks tend to collect water, soap and other debris, creating an environment where mold and mildew can grow, so they require more frequent maintenance.  If you’ve had this type of arrangement in your bathroom for a while, it might be time to consider making a switch.

Pivot Shower Doors

Pivot doors—also called hinged or swinging doors—generally take up more space and therefore are generally utilized in larger bathrooms.  It is possible, however, to mount them so that they open inward, although this is often less practical.

A less commonly seen shower door is the rounded type.  This is curved glass, operating on a hinge, just as pivot doors do.  These work well fitted into corner spaces in smaller enclosures.

Most shower doors are framed, the glass surrounded by an aluminum or composite casing, and these latch into a track.  The more modern trend is toward frameless doors which require less upkeep and fit well into contemporary bathroom design.

Types of Glass For Shower Doors

There are a variety of choice in the types of glass available in shower doors:

  • Clear glass is most popular.  It allows light to penetrate and lessens any sense of feeling confined in a too-small space.
  • Frosted glass provides a stronger sense of privacy and is available in different colors, designs and patterns.
  • Rain glass is textured on just one side, smooth on the other, and offers the same features as frosted glass.
  • Tinted glass provides a sense of privacy and comes in such a wide variety of colors that it’s easy to choose one that will complement the décor of the rest of the bathroom.

Do I Need A Shower Door?

Some modern bathroom designs eliminate the need for a shower door altogether.  There are many wraparound shower ideas that incorporate block glass and stone or tiled walls separating the enclosure from the rest of the room.  These lend the bathroom a more open or expansive feel, and they are easier to enter and exit than through a standard shower door.

Need Help?

Ultimately, the ideal shower set-up for your home is the one that finds an ideal compromise between function and your personal taste—what looks good and feels right for your bathroom?  Consult with your local Handyman Matters office where their craftsmen are happy to listen to your ideas and share their expertise.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code at handymanmatters.com to schedule a service call or to get more information about our services.

Remodeling Your Bathroom For Accessibility

Unless you have an unlimited supply of cash, or you figure you won’t be staying in your current home much past retirement, you will want to approach a bathroom remodel or upgrade with an eye towards what is both attractive now and functional as you grow older.

The image of an accessible bathroom as something clinical- or sterile-looking is outdated. It’s not only possible to have an appealing and charming powder room that incorporates accessibility features, it’s become easier than ever, thanks largely to the aging Baby Boomer population that has begun requesting such things.

Grab bars, head rests and other assistive technology are far less blatant and cold in appearance than they once were. And if homeowners aren’t ready to incorporate all of these elements into a current bathroom scheme, remodels can still be designed to add these elements with a minimum of fuss and disruption later.

Walk-in tubs and showers have crossed over from being viewed as “old people’s” things to being trendy and convenient for everyone. And the technology of lighting design has advanced to such an extent that bathroom illumination can be flexible, so as to allow for adjustment from recessed to bold and all degrees between, depending on individual need at the time.

There’s a potential financial bonus to bathroom design, as well. Bathroom upgrades ensure greater resale value. And if a member of your household has any type of physical challenge, and if the remodel is focused on making the space compliant with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations, there is a possibility that Medicare of Medicaid will cover some of the cost if the remodel includes things like environment accessibility adaptions or assistive technology. Don’t assume these are covered, however, without checking with your doctor or local Medicare policies.

Don’t reject the idea of accessible bathroom design out of hand without first exploring the new technologies and products available to add both style and increased quality of life to one of the most important rooms in your home. For additional advice or assistance in any of your home upgrade or repair projects, call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com to enter your zip code and find the Handyman Matters office nearest you.

5 Simple DIY Home Maintenance Tips

Home Repair

Here are a few suggestions that even the most inexperienced DIY-ers can feel comfortable tackling around your home.

  • 1.  Sluggish/Clogged Shower heads – Hard water can be a shower head’s worst enemy, since its mineral content will build up inside and impede water flow.  You can partially fill a sturdy plastic bag with vinegar and wrap it around the bathroom shower head.  Take pains to secure it with duct tape or twine and leave it overnight.  The vinegar will significantly clean out the deposits, and you will have a much better water flow.
  • 2.  Water Stains on the Ceiling – If your ceiling has just one or two minor water stains, you may be able to avoid re-painting the entire thing by trying this simple method.  Fill a spray bottle with a solution containing 10% bleach and 90% water and spray the spots.  Within a couple of days the stain will likely disappear.  This works on both flat and textured surfaces.  Note:  Be sure to wear protective eye gear when trying this!
  • 3.  Sticking Vinyl Windows and Doors – When sliding vinyl windows and doors refuse to open and close easily, it’s likely because debris has become lodged in the channels.  A simple solution is to spray polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) spray lubricant onto the contact points and then wipe them out with a rag.  PTFE is the same substance used in coating non-stick cookware.  This Teflon spray product can be purchased in any home improvement store or even online.  Caution:  Do not use oil lubricants, since they can attract dirt, as well as damaging the vinyl surface.
  • 4.  Filling Old Nail and Screw Holes – An old tip for repairing these holes, courtesy of Popular Mechanics, is to pop a wooden golf tee into the opening.  Then saw the tee flush with the wood’s surface, sand and finish.
  • 5.  Removing Toilet Bowl Stains –Once again, vinegar comes to the rescue.  Create a paste by mixing vinegar with baking soda and apply it to the stains in the toilet.  Allow the solution to set for an hour or longer, then scrub with a brush, and the stain should lift away.  Because it’s biodegradable, the vinegar and baking soda combination is also environmentally friendly.

Not all home repair and restoration projects can be managed as easily or as quickly as these.  For the more extensive and challenging tasks that need to be addressed, remember that you can always count on Handyman Matters.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME to locate the handyman nearest you.