Easy Ways to Increase the Value of your Home

In the past, we’ve talked about ways to improve the value of your home. This is especially important if you’re trying to sell in today’s economic climate. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can improve your home’s value and increase the likelihood of a sale. Even better, the expert craftsmen at Handyman Matters can help with all of these home value-increasing tips.

Keep reading for ways to boost your home’s value with these quick and easy projects around your house.

Spruce up the Color with a Fresh Paint Job

One of the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase the value of your house is to repaint. Focus on the interior paint – especially in the most social rooms of the house (i.e., the living room, dining room, and kitchen). This will give your home an updated and clean look, and will likely move an appraiser to increase the value of your home.

Replace Appliances with Energy Saving Appliances

Old appliances that are less energy efficient can end up causing a homebuyer to spend more money each year in utility fees. Make your home more appealing by replacing toilets and showers with low-flush and low-flow alternatives that use much less water. Also, consider replacing kitchen appliances with more energy efficient models and replacing windows with better insulated versions.

Make Household Repairs

Have a loose cabinet door or a light switch that doesn’t function? Making small replacements can be a big difference when it comes to your home’s value – especially when you have an outside appraiser visiting.

Invest in Some Strategic Landscaping

The outside look of the house is extremely important for a home valuation. It provides the first impression and can add to the overall appearance of your home. More importantly, an overgrown lawn and messy yard can detract significantly from a home’s value since it makes it appear older and poorly maintained. Add a flower bed or some shrubs to accent your home’s exterior.

These handy tips can help boost the value of your home significantly without any major renovations or remodeling. If you’re trying to increase your home’s resale value, consider giving the home experts at Handyman Matters a call at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to set up a consultation or, enter your zip code above to find a location in your area. We can help you figure out what improvements your home needs and which are the most vital to your home’s ability to sell in an ever-changing market.


3 Benefits to Performing a Monthly Maintenance Check of your Home

Oftentimes, homeowners don’t see the benefits of a monthly maintenance check until it’s too late and they’re already out time and money. However, having a monthly checklist and having someone complete a quick look over your home is a smart way to make sure everything in your house is running like a well-oiled machine. In fact, it can save you a decent chunk of money by making you aware of potential problems and helping you prevent home repairs and replacements before they happen.

At Handyman Matters, we want to make sure our customers’ homes are safe and not prone to accidents all year round. That’s why we’ve listed out the top 3 benefits to performing a thorough monthly maintenance check of your home.

1. Save money over the long-term

While looking over your property each month and making small repairs and changes can cost you money, the savings compared to having to fix unexpected emergencies can be pretty huge. Many homeowners end up spending thousands of dollars on emergency home repairs when the problem could have been avoided if it had been noticed earlier and taken care of.

2. Saves time and effort

Time is a valuable asset. Working during the week and finding enough time to spend with your family in the evenings and on weekends can be a tricky balancing act. By hiring a handyman or other home expert to look over your home once a month for any maintenance problems, you save a little more time for the more important things in life.

3. Benefits and expertise of a professional

Imagine being able to have a plumber check your home’s water pipes every month to make sure there were no leaks, a roofer check your home’s roofing tiles, and an electrician to make sure there were no loose wires or wiring problems. By having a specialist check your home’s safety and make sure everything is in good shape, you’re leveraging years of quality experience to your benefit.

The experienced craftsmen at Handyman Matters can complete your monthly to-do list to save you time and money. Call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule your appointment or enter your zip code above to find a Handyman Matters near you.

4 Reasons You Should Switch to CFL Lighting in your Home

CFL lights have gotten lots of exposure lately due to their cost-saving abilities and their environmentally friendly energy usage. Given that they use, on average, 80% less energy than a normal light bulb, they’re a much better option for cost and energy conscious homeowners. But there are many other reasons for making the switch over from standard incandescent bulbs to CFL lighting.

1. Reduce your carbon footprint. A single CFL bulb can reduce a half ton of CO2 over the light bulb’s life. That’s a huge environmental benefit and helps you cut your carbon footprint without almost any work involved.

2. A variety of shapes and sizes. At one time, it was difficult to find CFL bulbs that would match up to certain interior specifications. But now, CFL bulbs can be found that work with all types of lighting, including lamps, overhead lighting, track lighting, etc.

3. They’re higher quality. A common complaint when CFL bulbs were new to the market was that they didn’t have the soft light that incandescent bulbs provided. Nowadays, they offer CFLs with all different levels of brightness, including soft white, and many people have said that the quality exceeds that of a standard bulb.

4. They last longer. CFL bulbs typically burn for 10,000 hours – but they’ve been known to last up to 50,000 hours. Compare that to a typical incandescent light, which burns from 800 – 1,500 hours, and you can see why CFLs are an obvious choice.

CFLs are a great option for homeowners who are concerned about their environmental footprint and who want to cut down energy consumption. For more information about how CFL bulbs can improve your home’s energy efficiency, contact Handyman Matters at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

Updating Your Fireplace Mantle

Whether you’re thinking of selling a house in the near future, or just want to update it to keep pace with your changing tastes and styles, there’s one great remodeling option that can instantly change the entire character of your living room or den:  An update of the fireplace mantle. Unlike most remodeling investments, an updated mantle is one of the few that will usually add more than the price of the remodel to the value of your home, and it is a great way to make your whole house feel new and exciting all over again.

There are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind when considering a new fireplace mantle. The main thing most people think about is whether or not the new mantle will match their current home decor. This is actually not terribly important, and here’s why: a fireplace mantle will almost always become the centerpiece of the room, owing largely to its size and positioning. Since it’s such a large part of a room’s character, it will naturally set the tone for the rest of the room, meaning that it takes a lot less work to “make it fit in” than most people think. In fact, often something as relatively minor as painting the room to match the new mantle will be enough to make it fit.

One of the few times that you DO have to seriously consider the design of your mantle before upgrading is if your home is built in a very pronounced style. For instance, if you have an art-deco style home with lots of straight angles and minimalist design, a heavily embellished mantle will stand out. Or vice versa, if you live in a Victorian home with lots of molding and scroll-work on the walls, getting a sleek, modern mantle might not be doable, if you don’t want it to stand out.

You should also seriously consider your choice of material. If it’s a non-working fireplace, you can get creative with various woods and other non-standard materials; however, if it’s an actively used fireplace, your first consideration should always be function followed by form. Marble, granite, and other glossy stone will add brightness to the room, and will give the fireplace a more formal feeling. Slate, shale, and wood, on the other hand, often have the opposite effect, making a room more warm and inviting. Either way, a fireplace mantle remodel can be a fantastic way to turn your living room or den into the room you want it to be and set the mood for the entire house.

Handyman Matters can help you update your fireplace mantle to become a centerpiece in your living room or den. Enter your zip code above to find a location near you or call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule your appointment today.

The Value of a Home Inspection

The purpose of a home inspection is to inform the individual buyer of the current condition of the home. The purchase contract the buyer and seller signed is contingent on the home inspection. A buyer will generally have the option, based upon the inspection, to opt out of the purchase, ask for repairs or credit towards repairs or a purchase price reduction.

Many home buyers do not adequately research the profession before hiring an inspector.  What should a home buyer be looking for in a home inspector?

Licensing: Some states require home inspector licensing while others do not. In states that do require licensing, ask for the inspectors’ FULL license number and write it down. This includes any letter-type distinctions in front or in back of the number. This will help tell you if he is a fully licensed home inspector or an intern or apprentice.

Insurance: Does the home inspector carry Errors & Omissions and or liability insurance, and can they provide proof of insurance upon request?  Not all states require insurance. Inquire as to the state insurance requirements and be sure the inspectors have the proper type and amount.

Training: Has the inspector had formal training from a recognized training school? State regulation in the home inspection profession is relatively recent (Many states still do not have licensing or regulation!), so formal training has been mostly optional. Many “old timers” were carpenters, electricians or builders and learned to perform home inspections “on the job.” However, there is no single trade that qualifies someone to move into the field of home inspection without extensive training.

Experience: This is can be a misleading qualification if the right questions are not asked. Years of experience are not as important as the total number of home inspections completed. In a 2005 national home inspection business operations study conducted by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), over 80 percent of respondents said they were full time home inspectors. Yet almost 40 percent said they perform less than 100 home inspections a year. This discrepancy may indicate that many home inspectors are working at other jobs or are semi-retired individuals. Be sure to ask how many inspections the inspector completes a year:  At least 200 or over would be a good standard. It is also still important to ask overall years of experience and total number of home inspections.

Continuing Education: Even well trained, experienced home inspectors must continually update their skills and knowledge. Licensing requires a minimal amount of continuing education for inspectors to renew their license. Look for home inspectors who go beyond the necessary minimum and spend the time and money to keep their skills current.

Association Membership: Home inspectors who have made the commitment of time, training, testing and money to belong to a reputable professional home inspection society are generally more committed to doing a high quality job for their clients. But be careful; not all home inspection organizations are equal. Some ask for little or no training, knowledge or experience to become a member, while others are very rigorous in their qualifications for membership. A membership logo means little; it’s what’s behind the symbol that counts. Inquire about and research this area fully.  It will provide you with great insight into the home inspectors’ abilities and dedication to performing a top notch home inspection.

The Inspection: How long does the home inspection take? As previously mentioned, short inspection times mean poor quality. A thorough home inspection on an averaged sized home, (1500-2500 sq. ft.) should last 2-4 hours. Also ask if the inspector would like you to attend the home inspection. If they say no, this should alert you that something is wrong with this particular company. A good home inspector should insist that you attend the home inspection if at all possible.

The Report: This is why you hire a home inspector, to provide written detailed information about the house. The first and most important question:  When and how will you receive the report? On site, within 24 hours, a week, by email, regular mail or delivered by the inspector?  What type of report does the inspector use, what is the approximate length, are there pictures included?  Be wary of short reports, 10 pages or less, and long report turnaround times.

Other Qualifications: Ask if the home inspector has additional certifications or licenses in services that you may need in addition to the home inspection. For instance, radon testing is a very common ancillary service provided by many home inspection companies, but many inspectors are not certified or formally trained. Some states may even require certification or licensing in these services. If you are looking to have other services done, be sure to ask about the inspectors’ qualifications to conduct the tests you require.

Miscellaneous Items: There are some things you should confirm when calling to hire a home inspector. Be positive that the inspector that will be doing your home inspection possesses the qualifications stated by the person on the phone. This is especially important when talking with multi-inspector firms. Also will the home inspector be readily available for follow up questions?

Price: The very last question you should ask, not the first. Put quite simply, you get what you pay for. Good home inspectors demand higher prices because of experience and money invested into training to improve their skills and their business for the benefit of their clients. Remember the money you pay a good inspector is an investment. You will very likely receive back from the seller monies well in excess of the home inspection fee. Be certain to choose your inspector wisely.

Having a good home inspection will provide you with valuable information on your prospective purchase and ultimately piece of mind going forward.


The Risk from Chemical Odors

Chemical odors in the home can be harmful to your health. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 50% of Illnesses are Caused or Aggravated by Pollutants. Chemical odors are given off from a wide variety of products. They include mothballs, paint, solvents, pesticides, fragrances such as perfumes and air fresheners, adhesives, smoke, dry-cleaned clothes, and cleaning agents, to name a few. Researchers say that these types of odors can cause a number of medical problems, including respiratory problems.   

Effective green deodorizers will break down harmful chemical odors into harmless byproducts without masking them and result in a safer and healthier environment. By continually destroying chemical odor, you will improve your indoor air quality and prevent exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals.

With a little investigative work, and using safe, non-toxic products, you can eliminate harmful odors and chemicals. The end result is a safe home that is healthier for you and your family. 


Trim Heating Costs, Create Ambience

Take the chill out of the air and the burden off of your primary home heating system with a supplemental heat source. Space heaters are handy, but often not very attractive – and can be dangerous if used improperly. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2006, 73 percent of home heating deaths were attributed to improper space heater use.

Consider adding a home fireplace or making an existing fireplace functional. Wood-, pellet- and corn-burning fireplaces are options for those with the ability to add a chimney. In order to effectively augment your regular heat source, these options require regular addition of wood, corn or pellets. And don’t forget the need for regular cleaning and maintenance of not only the fireplace, but also the chimney.

To reduce the need to purchase materials to burn, improve the efficiency of fireplace heat and avoid messy maintenance chores, many homeowners convert existing traditional fireplaces to gas or electric units. If your home does not currently have a fireplace, chimney or gas line access, you can easily purchase and install a freestanding electrical fireplace.

The unpredictable nature of gas prices combined with ease of installation means frequent spikes in electric fireplace purchases. After all, the only technical know-how needed is the ability to plug the unit into the wall. As an added bonus, electrical fireplace heat is not lost to the chimney as with traditional wood or pellet-burning units. The steady heat source is easily turned on or off as needed; many units even include an automatic shutoff or sleep timer.

Other than the occasional need to dust the unit and change the light bulb, electric fireplaces provide trouble-free, safe ambient heat and light. Fire safety experts note the importance of making sure the electrical outlet and set-up in your home can handle the new addition to your family room, living room, basement or other space in need of additional heat.

If you’ve decided to add a new, energy-efficient heat source to your home, browse your local home improvement centers and the internet for ideas and price ranges. Simple units are available as well as those with the appearance of a traditional fireplace with a wood fireplace surround—a key fireplace safety measure for homes with children or pets. From major furnace manufacturer brands to Amish fireplaces, there is an option to fit your needs. An investment in a finely-crafted electric fireplace can not only improve your home’s warmth, but also its ambiance.


Green Home Market Expected to Skyrocket

Sustainable construction, now that the luster of trendiness has worn off, continues to make inroads as a remodeling market segment with serious growth potential. Findings to support this notion were released Thursday at the National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show in Orlando, in the form the results of McGraw-Hill Construction’s new Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study. Green homes comprised 17% of the overall residential construction market in 2011 and are expected to grow to between 29% and 38% of the market by 2016, according to the study. This means that, by value, the growth will equal fully a five-fold increase, growing from $17 billion in 2011 to $87-$114 billion in 2016, based on the five-year forecast for overall residential construction.

According to the study, construction industry professionals report an even steeper increase in green home remodeling; 34% of remodelers expect to be doing mostly green work by 2016, a 150% increase over 2011 activity levels. Many home builders have shifted to the remodeling market due to the drastic drop in new home construction. In fact, 62% of the builders who do both new and remodeling work verified that the economy has increased their renovation work.

“The housing market is critical to the U.S. economy,” said Harvey M. Bernstein, VP of Industry Insights and Alliances, McGraw-Hill Construction, “and the results of our study show that despite the drastic downturn in housing starts since 2008, green has grown significantly as a share of activity– indicating that the green market is becoming an important part of our overall economic landscape.”

The green home building study, produced by McGraw-Hill Construction in conjunction with the NAHB and Waste Management, is designed to provide key insights into market opportunities, backed by proprietary research surveys and the power of the Dodge database. The study reveals business benefits afforded by green building, such as a competitive marketing advantage: 46% of builders and remodelers find that “building green” makes it easier to market themselves in a down economy, and an overwhelming 71% of firms that are dedicated to green home building report the same.


Air Duct Cleaning

Does your air cooling system need duct cleaning? Ducts have a tendency to collect waste, including mold and fungus, and can cause allergies. This can cause allergies. Clean your duct to remove harmful organisms.

Health is the primary benefit of air duct cleaning. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air contains more than 70 times more pollutants than outdoor air.

Air duct cleaning services eradicate the airborne contaminants like the bacteria, fungus, mold spores, pollen and pet dander. Some of these contaminants may enhance allergies and asthma symptoms.

Ductwork cleaning consists of removing hazards from heating and cooling system. These systems consist of parts like air ducts and registers, heat exchangers, drip pans, fan motors and grills, and diffusers.

Duct cleaning may also involve getting rid of contaminants found in heating and cooling coils, and the air handling unit. The symptoms of polluted indoor air include allergies, illnesses, eye irritation, sinus congestion, headache, and sore throat.

Other conditions may also be attributed to polluted air ducts, such as nausea, cold and flu symptoms, fatigue, cough, tightness in chest, wheezing, and hypersensitivity.

Air duct cleaning cleans and removes moisture. Moisture in these ducts can make them a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which can cause diseases in the respiratory system.

Cleaning them will remove harmful organism. By keeping them dry, the further growth of bacteria is prevented. Another waste removed by cleaning the ducts is rodent droppings, hair, and flakes.

If your place is a frequently visited by mice or rats, they may leave their wastes on the ducts, which can be inhaled when air blows through them. Hence, the air you breathe can already be contaminated.

Besides the wastes, debris, plaster and drywall particles, wood, dust, and insulation particles, can accumulated.  Dust mites and ants feed on such debris and they further leave their waste. Air duct cleaning eliminates all this derby and waste.

When your air ducts in the cooling and heating systems are cleaned and maintained, these systems will last longer. The extended life of these systems is another benefit you can get from employing the air duct cleaning services.

Cleaning ducts on your cooling and heating systems may prevent pre-mature breakdown and aging. It also makes you save on your energy consumption. Well-maintained equipment makes them run better.
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that when your heating and cooling systems are cleaned regularly, their efficiency is maintained. A mere .042 inches of dirt on your heating coil can already decrease the efficiency of your heating system by 21%.

Efficient systems work less; this enables you to save energy and money. Air duct cleaning keeps dust away from your furniture and décor. The dusts accumulated within your systems are blown into your house and disseminated everywhere.


Effective Tips for Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is usually viewed as one of the most dreaded tasks people must undertake each year.  It’s a time to air out your home, get rid of old, unwanted items, and to reorganize those things you still plan to use.  By taking a few minutes to put together a “prep list,” you can organize your plan and in the process, make it seem less daunting.

Here are some items, some obvious, some not so, to help you welcome spring and warmer temperatures into your home:

  • Wash your windows, inside and out.
  • Vacuum or wash the draperies and other window treatments.
  • Wash blankets, throw rugs and bed covers.  This is a more time-consuming than difficult process, and you will be better served by setting aside the appropriate block of time to do all of this in one burst of activity.
  • Check all downspouts and clean them accordingly to reduce the likelihood of clogs and other problems.
  • Arrange to have your air conditioning system inspected.  Spring is the best time to do this, because the hot weather has not yet taken hold.  Also, check and clean air filters and vents.
  • Check and replace smoke detector batteries.  This should be done every six months, so setting up a timetable that has you doing this regularly every spring and fall will help to establish a consistent routine.
  • Drain any sediment from your hot water heater to keep it in top working condition.
  • Use a small foam paintbrush to clean small spaces between cabinets or under appliances.  These are those easily-overlooked areas where dust and cobwebs can accumulate undetected for lengthy periods of time.

Just this short list will make an impressive difference in the freshness and cleanliness of your home and set you on the right course for enjoying those longer days and pleasant, warm evenings.