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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

5 Easy Ways to Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays

‘Tis the season for having family and friends gather at your home to celebrate what you’re all thankful for. We are here to help you make sure that loving your home is something you’re thankful for.

There are many quick and easy ways to get your home ready for the holidays and ready for entertaining.

  1. Interior Paint: One of the best ways to completely transform the way a room looks is to paint it. You can paint an accent wall, create a nice design or the entire room for that jaw-dropping transformation. Wallpaper is another great way to spruce up your home. Wallpaper is great for bathrooms and to help make small spaces look larger.
  1. Updating Kitchen Backsplash: Your kitchen is the heart of the home and where most people will spend their time when they come over. Why not give your kitchen a quick updated look with a new tile backsplash. There are many options to choose from with mosaics tiles, classic subway tiles, or creating a whole new design with a mix of colors and textures.
  1. Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets: While you’re in the kitchen, why not take the time to refinish those kitchen cabinets while you’re working on the backsplash. There are many colors to choose from to match your style. We can help make sure your style and ideas come together to transform your kitchen into everything you’ve dreamed of.
  1. Renew Your Guest Bathroom: You don’t want your guest bathroom to be drab when you’re hosting a party, so why not take the time to quickly update your space. You can update the paint, add a new mirror or a frame to your existing one, update the faucet and hang some cozy and inviting decorations to the space.
  1. Transform Your Entry Way: The entry way is the first thing your guests will see when entering your home. There are many quick fixes you can do for your home that will make a large impact. Change your entry way light fixture to a beautiful chandiler that will set the tone for the style of your entire house. Update the paint on the walls in your entry way. Or create a gallery of photos to show off your family and style.

Take the time this season to make sure your home is ready for the joy of entertaining. The last thing you want to do is worry about little things you could have done around your home. Take the time now to update, so you can enjoy the holidays worry-free!

The Cost of Home Improvement Fraud & Scams

Handyman Matters is here to help you love your home and with that comes protecting our customers and their homes. Fraud is a big deal in the home improvement industry. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that Americans lost more than $4.1 billion to fraud and scams in the last 5 years alone. Those numbers are terrifying for any homeowner.

The home improvement industry is a $200 billion industry each year and poor workmanship is the number one fear that homeowners have when hiring a contractor. We have put together some tips to help you make an informed decision the next time you’re looking to hire a contractor for home improvements.

  • How to not become a victim:
    • Thoroughly research any contractor or handyman company before doing business with them
    • Make sure they are bonded and insured
    • Check out any online reviews to ensure other customers have had good experiences. One can learn a lot from reviews, as well as how a company responds to reviews, good or bad!
    • It is also a good idea to take a look at the Better Business Bureau for any reviews and to make sure the company is in good standing.
  • When interviewing a contractor follow these guidelines:
    • Get the contractors full contact information
    • Make sure the contractor is appropriately insured, licensed and bonded in your state
    • Ask how much experience the contractor has
    • Ask for the contractor to break down the estimate by costs
    • Ask when the contractor will be able to start and how long the project will take to complete
    • Ask the contractor if they will be using sub-contractors. Make sure those workers are properly licensed, bonded and insured
    • Ask the contractor if they have a warranty on their work
  • Once you have selected a contractor:
    • Always get a written and signed quote for the job no matter how big or small it is. Collaborate directly with contractor for any possible change orders if it becomes necessary.
    • If a building permit is necessary, have the contractor secure it in their name
    • If you are dealing with an insurance claim, check with your insurance company to see if an inspection needs to be done prior to the start of the project.
    • Pay for the job with a credit card or check and get a receipt. Never pay in cash.
    • Do not pay for the job up front. Ask to be billed after it’s completed. Or if it’s a deposit for a larger job, just ensure to get a receipt.

It is important to research a contractor or company before having them work on your home. Handyman Matters can do it all, and we can back it up. We are trusted, licensed and guaranteed.

Decorating Your Home and Yard for Halloween

In recent years, more and more homeowners have begun decorating their homes for Halloween as enthusiastically as they do at Christmas time. A stroll down the seasonal display aisles at your local general merchandise retail store will quickly confirm this. There are all manner of decorations available, from simple to incredibly complex—and expensive! You can go the “retail route,” or you can come up with your own unique way of “haunting” your home and yard this season. Here are some tips—and some cautions—to keep in mind:

Safety comes first. Don’t allow your decorations to be hazards. Keep trick or treaters and all other visitors safe when they visit your property. This means avoiding things that can be tripped over or bumped into. Mood lighting—or flashing lights—create great atmosphere, but can also cause visibility issues. Keep in mind that many trick or treaters wear costumes that limit their field of vision. Go for “safe” over “scary” and even over “creative” if there’s even the slightest doubt that you are creating something that could cause injury.

Secure your decorations from goblins and other pranksters. It can be “dispiriting” to go to a lot of effort to create spooky effects, only to have them disappear or be damaged. So unless you can monitor your decorations closely, don’t set out expensive items or things you’ve gone to a lot of effort to create if they can be swiped or destroyed when your back is turned. Keep these items secure by displaying them in windows or out of easy reach. You might consider bringing more valuable things indoors each evening before you go to bed.

“Simple” can be effective. You can put together either fun or frightening displays without spending a lot of money or even going to a lot of effort. Rake up a pile of leaves on your front lawn and take a pair of old boots or galoshes and position them so that it appears someone has been “buried” beneath the leaves with just their feet protruding. Dangle handmade cardboard bats and ghosts from tree limbs with black thread and let them flutter in the wind. Use cardboard, Styrofoam or planks of old wood to create a cemetery of tombstones on the grass.

Wads of cotton can be gently pulled apart in strands to create cobwebs which can be strung through tree branches or stuck along porch railings and pillars. Straw or fabric stuffed into a pair of old jeans and a shirt can make a scarecrow, with a pumpkin or jack o’lantern added for a head and face. Position “him” in a rickety old chair on your porch. Gather a bunch of withered plant stalks and tie them together to make miniature corn shocks, or twine them together to make a dead wreath, festooned with wilted flowers, to hang on the front door as a grisly greeting. Not only are these easy and inexpensive things, but if they get swiped, you aren’t out a lot of money for your efforts.

Go elaborate, but exercise restraint. Just as more people are going all out on their costumes, a lot of folks are doing likewise with their decorating—lights, sounds effects, moving figures—the Halloween sky is the limit! Trick or treaters and other passersby will enjoy these displays. But be mindful and respectful of your neighbors. Ear-splitting spooky noises and strobe lights tend to get old and tiresome pretty quickly. Check with those who live nearby to let them know what you will be doing. Keep the volume level and the mood lighting to a sensible level, and within a reasonable time frame—from dusk until 8pm or so is good; earlier if small children with earlier bedtimes live nearby.

If you need help with “haunting-up” your house, particularly if it involves climbing a ladder, stringing spooky lights or positioning sound equipment in trees or on the roof, your local Handyman Matters ghouls and gals stand ready to help you “scare-ify” your home and yard quickly and safely, and they are available to take everything down the day after Halloween, as well!