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.

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.

KEEPING YOUR HOUSE SAFE FOR KIDS-AND PETS-DURING THE HOLIDAYS

December tends to be a particularly busy and hectic month with all of its special events and celebrations. Most of us are already aware of a number of the potential dangers that present themselves during holiday preparations, but here are reminders of a few particularly geared towards keeping your children and pets safe.

Pretty decorations are enticing to big and little people alike—and frequently to our four-footed friends, as well. Many are fragile and breakable; some carry the threat of a potential shock or fire hazard; others can be poisonous.

Holly and mistletoe berries resemble candy, but they are toxic. Artificial snow and “flocking” can also look tasty. The fluid inside bubble lights may contain methylene chloride and small children may be tempted to sample the liquid, should one of them break.

“Angel Hair” is a spun glass decoration that looks deceptively soft to the touch, but can cause skin and eye irritation to both kids and to pets—and adults, as well!

Even edible items, left unattended, can be dangerous. Too many cookies or too much fudge or other holiday delights can lead to an upset stomach, or worse. Be sure to clean up immediately after hosting a holiday party. Leftover glasses of alcohol or food that has been sitting out overnight offers temptation to the youngest household members. Remember also that chocolate can be toxic to dogs and should be kept out of their reach.

Children should be warned to stay away from glass-fronted fireplaces and screens in front of a blazing yule log. Likewise, take care when using space heaters. It takes only a second for a burn-related disaster to occur. Remind your kids and any children who might be visiting to keep a safe distance from all of these, and monitor them closely, since—believe it or not—kids don’t always listen to their elders! And when you visit friends or family, keep in mind that other people’s homes may not be as child-friendly as yours.

Inventory your tree and all other decorations to see if any ornaments and other items present particular dangers. Children will naturally want to touch twinkling, flashing or moving objects. Teach them that extension cords and electric lights are no-nos. Burning candles should never be left unattended, especially when investigative youngsters are around.

Kitchens present their own set of challenges. Keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of tables and counters. Individual baking and cooking ingredients should be kept away from curious little hands eager to sample whatever might be available. Frozen meats should be defrosted slowly, in the refrigerator. And when handling raw poultry, remember to disinfect any surface it may come in contact with, including washing your hands thoroughly afterwards. Nothing puts a damper on a holiday celebration quite like a case of food poisoning.

Keep emergency numbers, such as fire department, police and the National Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) posted in convenient, easy-to-reach spots for you and for anyone who might be watching the kids while you are away.

Take that extra step to make sure that your holiday celebrating remains a joyous—and safe—occasion for everyone involved. And remember to take time to step back, relax, and enjoy time with friends and family in the midst of everything happening around you.

Remember, too, that your local Handyman Matters office stands ready to assist with holiday decorating as well as all remodel, restore and repair projects taking place around your home.

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!

Leaving Home for the Holidays? Don’t Forget to Take Care of These Things Before You Go!

If you’re heading out for the holidays this year – especially for an extended period of time – you might want to consider taking the time to do a little pre-work so that your home stays in top condition during your absence. Here are 4 quick to-dos that can help you avoid any serious winter damage during your extended holiday travels.

  1. Turn your heat down. Make sure to double-check the thermostat before you head out on your trip . It’s always smart to turn down the heat, but don’t turn it completely off. If the weather dips too low, your pipes could freeze and burst, causing serious problems when you return. A good rule of thumb is to set the thermostat to 55 or 60 degrees.
  1. Get rid of perishables in the fridge. Take out and throw away any foods that may go bad during your time away. You generally don’t need to empty out your fridge completely, unless you’re heading away for more than a month, then you might want to clean out everything and unplug your refrigerator.
  1. Close and latch all openings. Doors, windows, and fireplace flutes all need to be closed and latched before heading out the door. Depending on winds and weather, outside elements could make their way indoors if your doors and windows aren’t properly closed off.
  1. Disconnect and drain hoses connected to the outside. Any hoses that are connected to faucets outside of your home should be drained and disconnected to prevent any potential freezing and water or ice damage.

Enjoy your time away this holiday season by preparing your home ahead of time. If you’re looking for additional tips and tricks or need help getting your home ready for entertaining this holiday season, look no farther than here. The professionals at Handyman Matters are here to keep your home safe and prepare it for family gatherings.

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!

 

Choosing an Outdoor Kitchen Design Worthy of Your Summer BBQ’s

There are certain sectors of the home that hold unprecedented potential for entertaining.

A billiards basement, the dining room, a large, open kitchen… It seems like that’s it, and then you step outdoors. For much of the year, a backyard is mostly defined by its taxing upkeep.  It can be hard to remember the glory days of summer, until spring arrives, and you find yourself spending more time outdoors.

With the right additions to your home, anyone can create an outdoor kitchen perfect for warm weather entertaining.  From affordable alterations, to entire upgrades, here are some outdoor kitchen designs for those summer BBQ’s.

Grills

The center of all outdoor kitchens is the grill. The grill that you choose will have the power to shape the rest of your outdoor kitchen design.

  • Charcoal Grill – If you’re willing to clean more and cook longer for the satisfaction of a smoky flavored meat, this grill is for you.
  • Gas Grill – For the less committed griller on the go, easy to use and clean, and fast.
  • Smoker – The crock pot of the back yard. These are for all day BBQ projects, and are ideal for the true foodies out there.
  • Wood Oven – Similar but different. This appliance is more expensive but perfect for the pizza enthusiast looking for a texture a typical grill cannot fully provide.

Seating

Envision a BBQ… where do you see your guests sitting?

Is there a standardized picnic table, or does your outdoor kitchen design cater toward something a little more built in?

Similar to their indoor counterparts, bar and bench seating can be a cozy way to border your outdoor kitchen with guests.

Counters & Bar

Ask yourself how much of the cooking process will take place outdoors.

  • Do you need extra counter space for prep work?
  • Do you want a spot for guests to relax and eat appetizers while you grill?

Counters also provide for a more traditional looking kitchen, building a grill into the rest of the kitchen set-up.

Appliances

The final amenities to your outdoor kitchen design.

  • TV – are you planning on watching the game outdoors? Installing a TV under an awning enables you to have the comfort of the living room, while grilling in the sun.
  • Heat Lamps – Nighttime BBQ’s can experience a drop in temperature. Or perhaps you’re looking to construct more of a year-round kitchen; heat lamps will allow you to grill in any weather.
  • Fire Pit – For the less traditional seating area in your outdoor kitchen there’s the fire pit. Roast marshmallows or have a controlled summer bonfire while eating your favorite grilled dinner.

Need Help?

Looking to create an outdoor getaway within your own home – Handyman Matters can help!

From deck installations, to constructing patios, counters, or cabinets, our craftsmen can work with you to plan the outdoor kitchen design of your dreams.

For a free project estimate just call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Pet-Friendly Additions For Your Home (Watch Out, They’re Really Cute)

At Handyman Matters, we love our pets.  Whether they are dogs, cats, fishes, pigs, bunnies, hamsters, birds… pets make the best housemates.

If you didn’t already know, May is National Pet Month in the US, and it’s our free pass to go a little crazy. We’ve decided to pull together a list from our Pinterest of our favorite home additions for dogs.  Forget repairs and home to-do lists, and come indulge in a little puppy pampering with us…

Dog Baths


One of the most functional additions to a home is the dog bath. A great mudroom addition that will keep your pups clean without all the maneuvering. Especially with the extendable shower-head and splash guard, this shower will save pet owners a lot of headaches.

Dog Windows

Pooches are curious creatures. Put them in front of a window, and they could be there all day. But there may not always be window of the correct height for your pup.

Do you have a tall backyard fence because you need to keep in a large dog? Consider a mid fence cut out.

Or maybe you have an especially little dog. Windows of normal height can be complicated to get up to without assistance.  Add extra light to your home by installing a modern, floor level window.

Dog Gates

  

There may be a portable gate, but when it comes to larger dogs, these gates usually fold under the pressure.

For persistent dogs, you will need a sturdier, installed gate.  Whether it be a pop-out wall gate, a hinge gate, or a dutch door, these barriers will help you divide and restrict rooms in your home.

Baseboard Drawers


Yet another use for these cabinet hacks.  Install a baseboard drawer to hold your pup’s water and food dish in place.  You could even use the cabinet above the drawer to store crunchies, chew toys, and other treats.

Porch Potty


For the apartment and condo dwellers out there, the best and most convenient home addition is the porch potty. It’s a faux lawn with a draining system that allows your dog to go without having to go on a walk around the neighborhood.

Dog Mansion

cape cod outdoor dog house

Really looking to go crazy?  Put this awesome outdoor dog house in your backyard. There are other smaller options as well.

For assistance installing your home’s new pet accessory? Give us a call – 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Need-to-Know Repairs to Prepare your Deck for Summer!

Large barbecue cooker on cedar deck

One of the best aspects of owning a home is the yard that comes with it.  What is better than sitting out on your deck, relaxing, and enjoying the scenery?  Absolutely nothing.  Having an inviting outdoor space this time of year can’t be beat.  Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun and read, host a BBQ, or perhaps throw a backyard wedding or graduation – here are some repairs to consider so you can enjoy all the summer days ahead…

Power Washing

Decks can often look weathered by the end of the winter season.  When grime builds up it can be hard to tell what areas of your deck need to be repaired.  Perhaps your boards are discolored – this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sand or re-stain your deck.  Start this process with power washing.  A high pressure cleaning is unbeatable when revealing what is a smudge and what is a stain.

powering washing live

Checking For Wood Rot

Checking for rot is as easy as wielding a screwdriver.  With your screwdriver, drive it into the wood, and pop up a splinter.  If the splinter snaps and reacts with the quality of dry wood, you’re in the clear; if it bends and doesn’t really snap, you will need to replace that board.  Make sure to check in the surrounding areas to see if the rot has potentially spread.

Areas of the deck that are in direct contact with the ground underneath are more likely to experience rot because of ground moisture.  If your deck isn’t elevated, it may be worth looking into to avoid future, costly damage.

Panel Replacement

Is your deck surface even?  Walk around, notice if you have any uneven steps, or if you find yourself tripping over cracks.  Warped wood is a common problem for most decks, and can ruin outdoor get-togethers.

You don’t want your company tripping and falling and neither do we.  Luckily this problem has a quick fix, as deck panels screw in individually and can be easily swapped out.

Sanding and Sealing

When it comes to wood decks, maintaining a consistent stain can have a drastic effect on the value of your home.  If you’re noticing discoloration this will help bring it back to its natural color.

  • First, sand your deck to help break down the variance in tone.
  • Next, instead of painting the wood, try a sealant.

Sealing does exactly what it sounds like as it absorbs into the wood to seal in color as opposed to covering it up.  This process will also help to protect your deck from the elements during next year’s winter.

 

Enjoy the sun, and let Handyman Matters do the rest.  We specialize in a variety of exterior maintenance projects, from deck repair or additions, to landscaping, to gutter cleaning… Let us be your ally in achieving the perfect summer home.