GIVING THAT SMALL ROOM A BIGGER LOOK

The longer you live in a home, the more possessions you acquire, say nothing of how your family itself may have grown through the years.  Whether you live in a small place, to begin with, or a larger one that somehow seems “more full” than it did once upon a time, there are ways to open up those cramped rooms. These options do not require actually having to expand the walls, and many can be accomplished without spending a fortune in the process.

Dark flooring, walls, and paneling can give a room a cozy appearance that feels great on a chilly winter’s evening but creates a claustrophobic atmosphere the rest of the time.  Consider taking advantage of our Accent Wall package by adding a decorative accent wall using reclaimed wood, similar to the one shown in the image below, or painting one wall in a cooling shade of blue or green, or simply changing out curtains, fabrics, and a piece or two of furnishing for ones with lighter tones.

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Mirrors are an excellent way to create a comfortable illusion of added space, particularly if your room’s configuration allows for mirrors that can face each other from opposite walls.  In tiny kitchens, reflective surfaces such as stainless steel appliances serve the same purpose.

Too many decorative elements “shrink” a room, as well.  As an experiment, remove a third of the knick-knacks that occupy shelf and table space to see how much of a difference their absence makes, and whether you can—or you want to—live with the difference.  Inspect your furnishings, as well.  Is there a chair that remains unoccupied most of the time, or an end table or lamp that don’t really need to be there?  Or you can always trade these out for taller, narrowing furnishings which tend to give the illusion of added volume.

If the budget allows, there are other options.  Could small paneled windows be traded out for a larger single pane which will bring more light into the space?  How about installing a bay window to add square footage to a room?  Could shelving be narrowed or recessed without taking space away from adjoining areas?  Can you “go more vertical,” installing double-height cabinetry, which allows for more display areas without sacrificing already-limited space?

These are some of the more straightforward options for “expanding” a room.  Your local Handyman Matters office can assist you with any of these types of alterations. Or, if you have bigger ideas in mind for enlarging your living space (like, combining two smaller rooms into a larger one) they are happy—and qualified—to help you with those options, as well.

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.

WINDOW DESIGN CAN IMPROVE YOUR HOME’S ENERGY EFFICIENCY

PSHD (Passive Solar Home Design) is the term used to describe the process that takes advantage of a building’s site, climate and materials to minimize energy usage.  A passive solar home gets at least part of its heating, cooling and lighting energy from the sun, and windows—and their ability to either retain or lose heat—play a large role in regulating that energy.

The efficiency of existing windows can be dramatically improved by utilizing weatherstripping or caulking, and by adding storm windows or window treatments and coverings.  In some instances, the better option is to replace older, less efficient windows with new ones that are better-designed for energy-saving purposes.  They quickly pay for themselves in reduced utility costs.

Before installing new windows, it’s important to determine the type that will work best in your home’s configuration.  Consider that south-facing windows will collect the most solar heat.  This is advantageous in the winter months, but less so in summer months, particularly in warmer climates.  In those areas, overhangs, glazing, or other shading devices will help to prevent excessive heat gain.  In colder climates, owners will welcome the additional warmth that southern-facing windows can absorb.

Windows on east- and west-facing sides of your home admit less sunlight.  It is more difficult to control the heat and light that come through them; ideally, they should have a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC).  This is a scale that determines the fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window or shading of some type.  You can learn more about this scale at www.energy.gov.

Northern-facing windows collect no solar heat and generally are used only for lighting.  They can’t be counted on to provide sustained warmth.

Consider, too, the type of window operating system you want to install, since different styles have different air leakage rates.  Fixed panes do not open at all, making these generally airtight, but no ventilation is available, either, which can reduce their appeal.

Single- and double-hung windows have two separate panes of glass.  In single-hung windows, only the lower half of the window opens, sliding upward.  In double-hung windows, both halves are moveable.  Both types have a much higher air leakage factor, since they don’t seal as efficiently as other styles.

Similarly, single- and double-sliding windows feature glass which slides horizontally, and they, too, have higher air leakage.

Casement windows are hinged at the sides and open outward.  Both these and awning windows, which are hinged at the top, are more airtight since the sash closes by pressing against the frame.

Naturally, your selection is going to come down to the style that looks best on your home but, armed with this information, you can make a choice that balances aesthetics with energy-efficiency.

Even the most energy-saving windows must be installed correctly to ensure their efficiency.  The craftsmen at Handyman Matters are always available to assist with this important home upkeep task.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME 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!

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.

Window Design that will Improve your Home’s Energy Efficiency

Windows are an important part of passive solar home design (PSHD).  PSHD describes the process that takes advantage of a building’s site, climate and materials to minimize energy usage.  A passive solar home gets at least part of its heating, cooling and lighting energy from the sun.  And window design can play a large role in regulating that energy efficiency.

You can dramatically improve your energy efficiency by utilizing weatherstripping or caulking, by adding storm windows, or by installing window treatments and coverings.  In some instances, however, the better option is to replace older, less efficient windows with new ones that are better-designed for energy-saving purposes.  They quickly pay for themselves in reduced utility costs.

Before installing new windows, it’s important to determine the type that will work best in your home’s configuration.  Here are some factors to take into account…

  • Consider that south-facing windows will collect the most solar heat.  This is advantageous in the winter months, but less so in summer months, particularly in warmer climates.  In those areas, overhangs, glazing, or other shading devices will help to prevent excessive heat gain.  In colder climates, owners will welcome the additional warmth that southern-facing windows can absorb.
  • Windows on east- and west-facing sides of your home admit less sunlight and available solar heat.  It is more difficult to control the heat and light admitted through these, and they should have a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC).  This is a scale that determines the fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window) or shading of some type.  You can learn more about this scale at www.energy.gov.
  • Northern-facing windows collect no solar heat and generally are used only for lighting.  They can’t be counted on to provided sustained warmth, as they have very little SHGC capability.

Consider, too, the type of window operating system you want to install, since different styles have different air leakage rates.

  • Fixed panes do not open at all, making these generally air tight, but no ventilation is available, either, which reduces their appeal.
  • Single and double-hung windows have two separate panes of glass.  In single-hung windows, only the lower half of the window opens, sliding upward.  In double-hung windows, both halves are moveable.  Both types have a much higher air leakage factor, since they don’t seal as efficiently as other styles.
  • Similarly, single- and double-sliding windows feature glass which slides horizontally, and they, too, have higher air leakage.
  • Casement windows are hinged at the sides and open outward.  Both these and awning windows, which are hinged at the top, are more airtight since the sash closes by pressing against the frame.

Naturally, your selection is going to come down to the style that looks best on your home but, armed with this information, you can make a choice that balances aesthetics with energy-efficiency.

Even the most energy-saving windows must be installed correctly to ensure their efficiency.  The craftsmen at Handyman Matters are always available to assist with this important home upkeep task.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME to locate the office nearest you.

Considering the (Hidden) Costs of Finishing a Basement…


The popular concept is that refinishing your basement is a good way to obtain additional living space, as well as increasing your home’s resale value, and this is certainly true.  But before you plunge full-tilt into a remodeling project, it’s important to check carefully for all the possible—and expensive—stumbling blocks that you might not unearth until you are midway through the renovations.  When it comes to home improvement, research is key.  Consider these hidden costs before you begin finishing a basement…

  • How many support pillars are present in your basement?  What kind of remodeling do you have in mind, and will the current structure support the changes you want to make?
  • Window egress.  If your remodel plans include adding a guest or bedroom, ample egress is legally required.  There must be easy escape from these rooms, so if the basement doesn’t already have these, add the cost of installing additional windows to your bottom line.
  • Are the floors level and the walls straight?  How much reconfiguration will be needed to install flooring, paneling, etc. so that it doesn’t warp or shift with time?
  • What potential drainage and ventilation issues might you encounter?  Particularly humid climates may require the addition of a dehumidifier to keep the location dry and usable.
  • How much of the pre-existing materials can be used in the remodel?  How much new materials will be required?

Know what you’re up against before you begin finishing a basement.  When you have the answers to these questions, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how much you need to budget for the home improvement project, and whether the ultimate cost can support your plans.

And remember that Handyman Matters stands ready to assist you with this and with any other remodeling or repair projects around your home.  Contact us at 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website to start your home improvement project’s free estimate!

Affordable Window Repairs and Maintenance Tips that can Keep your Home Cool this Summer

Window Repair and Maintenance Tips for your Home

Where is your cool reprise from the hot spring and summer weather?  For Handyman Matters, we believe that place should be your home.  While installing cooling units can be a quick fix, it’s also one of the most expensive.  The lesser known truth is, cooling your home can be affordable.  These are the window repair and window maintenance tips that will make your home more energy efficient in the summer.

  • Re-caulk Window – When the windows of your home are closed, can you feel air leaking through the caulk of the window? If so, this is a sign you need to re-caulk.  Check both the interior as well as the exterior as this leak can be on either side of the window.  With a putty knife, scrape off the caulk remains, and then reapply. Make sure to perform this repair during the most shaded and cool part of the day so that the fresh coat does not melt.
  • Repairing Window Seal – This isn’t a problem you’re going to find on single paned windows, but for those of you with double or triple pane – here’s what you need to know. Look closely at your windows, if you can spot condensation forming in-between the panes, you are losing energy.  Your next steps will be to replace the window sash.  To find out more on replacing a window sash, check out this tutorial.
  • Stuck Wooden Window – Oddly enough, keeping your windows closed during the day, with blinds drawn will help keep your house cool, but sometimes there’s a cold front, and it can be nice to open your windows and let in some air. If you are trying to open your window and you find it’s stuck, it’s likely due to excess particles in the track.  The best way to solve this problem is to remove the window and clear out excess dust, old caulk, and to clean off the tracks.
  • Installing Blinds – Control the amount of natural light in your home by teaming up with some blinds. Adding blinds, especially to larger windows makes it possible to keep a little light, while restricting the heavier rays from heating up your home.
  • Hanging Curtains – If blinds aren’t doing the trick, heavier curtains have been known to work similarly to window panes, trapping heat, and they also reduce sunlight. For larger bay windows consider hanging floor length curtains to acquire more coverage.

Stay cool this spring and summer.  These window repairs and window maintenance tips are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping out the heat.  For more information on how to increase your home’s energy efficiency, give Handyman Matters a call at 866-FIX-MY-HOME!

 

 

Preparing Your Home for a Storm

Home Repair

It’s on the weather channel, it’s a storm, and it’s headed your way.  Is your home ready?  Especially when it comes to nature, certain events can seem overwhelming and totally out of your control.  While you may not be able to change the forecast, you can take measures to prepare your house.  Handyman Matters has helpful insights for equipping your home for a storm.

  • Step 1:  Landscape

There should always be a clear path leading from the entrances and exits of your home.  This means pruning trees and removing potentially problematic branches.  It also means laying down some preparatory rock salt (if needed), and removing any potential obstacles.  Additionally, check your gutters and downspouts to see that they’re functioning correctly – you don’t want water build up or any flooding.

  • Step 2: Bunker

You don’t necessarily need a storm shelter, but you and your family do need to find a safe meeting spot within the home.  An ideal safe spot would be on the lowest floor (preferably in the basement), with no windows, and without any shared walls with the outside.  This will be the place where you wait out the storm.

  • Step 3: Stock Up

Turn your safe space into a true bunker by stocking it with the emergency essentials.  Think non-perishable foods; back up essentials like medications, batteries, and first aid; and lots of water.  The ratio is one gallon per day per person.  You also want to stash a change of clothing – layers in case it’s cold – and sturdy shoes.  If you have any animals, remember to keep some of their basics in the room as well: food, leashes, and a carrier.  Lastly, trash bags are a must to keep things from getting too gross.

  • Step 4: Heating

Think about the heat sources in your house if you’re facing cold weather.  More specifically, think about the heating that doesn’t require electricity to function.  If you’re in a rural area, a backup generator may be a great investment for your home so you don’t have to worry.  If you’re in a city, think smaller, less noisy, alternatives. Does your home have a wood burning stove or fireplace?  If so, stock up on wood.  If not, consider getting some battery powered space heaters to store in your safe room.

  • Step 5: Lighting

Anything that does not require electricity will fulfill this need: candles (just have the fire extinguisher nearby), battery powered/solar/crank lanterns or flashlights.  There’s a blackout light that’s especially handy in weather related scenarios because it’s a light that stays plugged in, and only turns on when the power is out.  Place these around your home so you can easily navigate through the dark during a blackout.

  • Step 6: Emergency Gear

The last items to consider keeping in your safe rooms are the ones that may come in handy in inclement conditions.  Chainsaws may be necessary to cut apart fallen trees blocking exits. Shovels for the snow, a fire extinguisher for unexpected fires.  Finally weatherseal tape is great for sealing cracks in your home as they happen during a specifically rough storm.

  • Step 7: Reinforcements

When a storm hits, the last thing you want is a leak in your home.  Reinforce your home by making sure it has a secure roof, sturdy walls, and sealed windows.  If you have a crack – now is the time to fill it.

 

Handyman Matters is here to help you prepare for the everyday and the unexpected.  Don’t wait until the day-of a storm to try and prepare your home, think ahead, and save yourself time and money.  For help weather proofing your house, give us a call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.