12 Steps To “Going Green” In Your Home

go green at homeIt’s easy to talk a good game about going green, but not always as easy to walk that talk.  But here, with the assistance Dan Fritschen, the owner of remodelormove.com and a practiced hand at implementing reasonable ways to be greener at home, is a list of easy-to-implement practices and products for reducing your home’s carbon footprint:

  1. Don’t rebuild or remodel from scratch without considering re-purposing what you already have on hand.  Remember to weigh disposal costs and landfill burden.  In the case of cabinets, for example, re-face, don’t replace.  When possible, use other’s cast-offs.  Check out www.freecycle.org to find everything from free cabinets to windows to light fixtures.
  2. Choose sustainable or recycled materials when updating floors.  Farmed oak, bamboo and cork all offer greener, comparatively affordable flooring choices.  Tiles made of ground-up discarded porcelain sinks and toilets also look better than you’d think.
  3. Use Low-VOC paints. These have fewer volatile organic compounds and are easier on the planet.  Also, you won’t get a paint headache while using them.
  4. Opt for green sheets. Linens made of organic cottons are usually pesticide-free.
  5. Save water with every flush. This is an oldy-but-a-goody, and well worth remembering.  If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, then put a brick in your toilet tank.
  6. Consider motion-sensitive lights or put outdoor lights on timers.  Even better, install solar lights outside.  These soak up the sun’s rays all day and give them back at night.
  7. Put dimmers on light switches. For every ten percent you dim the light, you save the same amount in electricity and you double the life of the bulb.  If you dim by 50 percent, you cut your lighting bill in half and extend the bulb’s life five times.
  8. Switch disposable for reusable. Use cloth instead of paper towels and napkins, and washable plastic containers instead of disposable plastic bags for lunch.
  9. Be a borrower and a lender. If you’re going to need a tool or a piece of equipment only once or temporarily, borrow or rent it.
  10. Look for Energy-Star rated appliances. They save on energy bills and are easier on the environment.
  11. Buy antiques or secondhand furniture. The world has enough stuff.  Let’s fix it up and pass it around.

What Do You Want In A Kitchen?

..it depends on when you were born.

A 2011 survey conducted by Masco Cabinetry of Taylor, Michigan yielded some interesting results.

The company surveyed 1,027 households among homeowners, aged 18 to 65 with the assistance of Harris Interactive. It turns out that, while there are a number of features desired by just about everyone of any age when it comes to the ideal kitchen, there are also some marked differences.

Everyone—Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Generation Y-ers, favor an open floor plan, something with wider walkways and easy access to everything. The reasons may be slightly different, however. Baby Boomers are seeking easier mobility, whereas Generation X-ers appreciate uncluttered space.

Generation X-ers, born between 1966 and 1978, like to have a computer near the kitchen, enabling them to attend to cooking while simultaneously having access to their social-media accounts and, when necessary, answering homework questions.

Generation Y-ers, those born between 1979 and 2002, want a kitchen that meets the needs of a household with small children, like high chairs and such.

X-ers rely on friends for advice more than any other group, while Y-ers look to the internet for advice, so a kitchen design for older groups (X-ers and Baby Boomers) is likely to come by way of friends or facilities they’ve seen in other homes.

X-ers prefer taller (bar height) tables, while Baby Boomers are transitioning to a preference to standard-height tables.

All groups appreciate both organization and easy access to supplies and utensils, but the definition of “easy access” varies from group to group. Baby Boomers want things within quick reach, whereas X-ers prefer creative places for hiding small appliances, rather than having them on countertops or in plain view. Y-ers have a preference for pull-out drawers and, interestingly, want a specific location delineated for spices, in particular.

So, taken as a whole, what relevance do these facts provide?  Well, it’s believed that building and design professionals who have a strong understanding of solutions that meet clients’ multigenerational needs will be more likely to have in creating kitchens for universal living.

Info compiled from ‘Multigenerational Kitchens’ article by Sarah Reep, Qualified Remodelers Magazine.

When it Comes to Windows and Doors, Play it Safe!

Window and Door SafetyBelieve it or not, windows and doors can present potential hazards in your home. According to the National Centers for Disease Control, up to one-third of home accidents can be prevented with modifications and repairs. The following are recommendations for window and door universal design elements to help ensure safety in your home:

  • Doorways and hallways should be a minimum of 36 inches wide.
  • Place doors to allow for 18 to 24 inches clearance on the door handle side to easily open and close doors.
  • Door thresholds should be no more than 1/2 inch high above the adjacent floor. If you prefer, install mini-ramps or transition wedges.
  • Door locks should be sturdy yet easy to operate. Consider keyless locking systems for maximum convenience.
  • Install a pocket door if you don’t have the floor space necessary for a hinged door.
  • Select front doors with a view panel to make it easy to see who’s arrived at your door.
  • For added privacy on sidelights and patio doors, consider options like the cordless between-the-glass blinds and shades on Pella’s Designer Series sidelight collection so that you can enjoy a view and still conveniently cover the opening at desired times.
  • Make sure windows are easy to unlock, open, close and lock, and require minimal maintenance.
  • For greater safety and convenience, select double-hung windows that tilt in for easy cleaning, or casement units that open with the maximum clearance to allow easy access to both the exterior and interior glass surfaces from inside the building.

Your home houses what is most important – your family! Keep them safe by following these helpful tips, and don’t forget, if you need assistance making these modifications and updates to your house, your local Handyman Matters is just a phone call away. 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Replacing Window Treatments

Changing window treatments isn’t something you do all the time. It’s one of those rare home remodeling events like getting new floors or upgrading the kitchen, which usually only happens because you are either moving somewhere new or something broke apart. Maybe you have even been responsibly saving to make changes for a while and finally gathered enough funds to get it all done now. In any case, you should take some time to plan this project and make the most of your investments.

How you go about adding new window treatments will depend largely on your own situation and whether you’re moving into a new place that has bare windows or if you’re redecorating those found in your current home. Either way, and especially if you want to keep the same look that your old windows had, be sure to take photos before and after you take down the window coverings, even if they aren’t in the best shape. If you’re working with the same windows, it’s also a good idea to take the measurements of your drapes or blinds along with the actual window measurements for reference. Take the photos and measurements with you to a local window treatment or home furnishings store to find replacements more easily. You might also want to bring a sample of the fabric you’re intending to match or a cutout from a magazine that you like for inspiration.

Aside from the design and appearance there are a few other important things to consider when selecting your replacement window treatments.

Lighting

The main purpose of any window covering is to block light, but also to allow light through, and depending on the fabric or style of window treatment you choose you’ll be able to adjust the amount of natural light that comes in through the window. You also have different options depending on which part of the house you’re working on. If the room is on a side where windows are naturally covered on the outside by trees or another building or if they face away from direct sunlight, you should be able to simply use thin semi-translucent sheer drapery to cut back the glare. On the other hand, if the windows are receiving direct sunlight at any point of the day, it will be much better to use a thicker and darker colored drape instead for better room darkening and energy efficiency. This is also generally what you’ll want in your bedroom to ensure a comfortable and private sleep environment. Living rooms and kitchens tend to benefit from lighter window treatments that help illuminate the spaces, but still provide privacy. If you can afford it, the best practice is always to pair a dark heavier drape with a light sheer one behind it to have better light control.

Operation

Window shades and blinds are commonly operated by a cord and clutch, and often a continuous cord loop system, to raise and lower a shade or open blinds. However, there are other options that might be better for operating your new window treatments.

  • Cordless Control One thing you should consider very carefully regarding window treatment operation is the safety of children. Whether you have a family or are planning to have children in your home at some point, you need to be aware of the risks involved with window cords. There have been numerous accidents involving babies and young children who have become entangled in window cords and tragically strangled to death. There is a documented history of these incidents over the past 20 years and subsequent industry recalls and modifications, but the safest solution remains to use cordless window treatments. Simple curtains, sliding panels and shutters are good alternatives that don’t require any cords to operate. However, if you’re intent on having blinds or shades, these are also available with manual or wand options instead of cords.

 

  • Motorization A motorized shade system is also cordless and allows you to wirelessly control any number of shades, blinds or curtains by wall panel switch or remote. This can be a more expensive option, but the benefits of ease and convenience are great, especially when controlling multiple or large hard to reach windows. Motorized shades like any home automation component may also help add value to your property if you ever plan to sell or rent it.

 

Evaluate what will benefit each of your rooms and consider all the options available for lighting control and window covering operation. Preparing and planning for your home renovations like this will save time in the long run and ensure they will be a long lasting part of your home.

Four Fast, Fashionable And Fabulous Home Fixes Anyone Can Do

When it comes to home improvement, there are many simple projects that can dramatically update your home and stay within a tight budget. The bathroom is one area of the home that most wish was more of an oasis – it’s time to get the space you’ve always wanted with the professional help of Handyman Matters.

Vamp up your vanity

Just by its name, the bathroom vanity should exude beauty to make a style statement in your bath. However, if your current vanity features chipped paint or a dated color – it’s time for an update. Rather than buying new, you can easily make your current vanity look clean and fresh with a coat of paint. You pick out the paint that you want and the professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters will paint it for you and have it looking like new in no time. This is one fast update that will give dramatic results!

Don’t fear your faucet

We use it all the time in our bathrooms so why shouldn’t it be in style like the rest of the bathroom? It is very easy to replace and will give you that look you’ve been wanting. There are many designs and color finishes to choose from so pick one that suits your style and compliments the colors. Handyman Matters will take care of the rest!

Swap out your showerhead

Changing out the showerhead will not only increase the look of your bathroom, but will make a big difference when showering. Having the right showerhead can make your bathroom feel like a true oasis!

All about the accessories

One of the easiest ways to add a decorative touch and functionality to the bath is with accessories, such as towel bars, towel rings, robe hooks, tank levers, shelves, soap and toothbrush holders and even curved shower rods. Luckily, accessories are simple to install and there are many lines available to perfectly match or complement your new faucet style and finish. If you’re having trouble getting those towel rods mounted – call the pros at Handyman Matters to help you out.

Conserve Water In Your Home With Minimal Effort


Summer is just around the corner, and water conservation will undoubtedly be brought to the forefront for those who are impacted by seasonal droughts and water usage restrictions in their towns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at least 36 states anticipate local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.

Simply by making small changes around the house and to our daily routines, we can make a significant impact on our water supplies without feeling as though we’re sacrificing our comforts or experience.

A good place to start is with the home bathroom, where the water-saving potential is great. The EPA estimates that Americans use roughly 3.3 billion gallons of water each day just for showering. Handyman Matters believes it’s easy to bring that number down by taking a slightly shorter shower or using a water-saving showerhead.

It seems to be abundant, but water is a relatively scarce resource. Less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use. Here are a few tips that Handyman Matters professionals have put together for you to follow in order to help reduce your water consumption in the bathroom:

  • Install a water-efficient showerhead. By installing a water-efficient showerhead, the average four-person household can potentially save an estimated 11,000 gallons of water per year. Here’s an example:
    • 8-minute shower x 2.5 gallons per minute (standard showerhead) = 20 gallons used per shower.
    • 8-minute shower x 1.5 gpm (water-efficient showerhead) = 12 gallons used per shower.
    • 8-gallon savings x 4 people per day x 365 days yields approximately 11,680 gallons of water savings per four-person household, per year
  • Fix a leaky faucet. According to the EPA, a leaky faucet dripping at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
  • Learn to reuse and recycle. Don’t pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering plants or cleaning.
  • Turn off the water. According to the EPA, a bathroom faucet usually runs at 2 gallons of water per minute. By turning off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving, you can save more than 200 gallons of water per month.
  • Take showers instead of baths. The average bathtub can hold up to 70 gallons of water when full. By taking an 8-minute shower instead of a bath, each person can save approximately 50 gallons of water per day.
  • Switch to a high-efficiency toilet. A high-efficiency toilet uses less than 1.3 gallons per flush, leading to an average of 20 percent less water per flush when compared to the industry standard of 1.6 gallons.

In March 2010, the EPA established its WaterSense specifications for showerheads to promote water efficiency in the shower, and product performance and quality. To earn the WaterSense designation, a showerhead or handshower must flow at a rate of no more than 2.0 gpm, tested at a flowing pressure of 80 psi, and is tested against the following attributes to ensure performance and user satisfaction:

  • A consistent flow rate across a range of pressures
  • Spray force
  • Spray coverage

As the world’s population increases, the conservation of water has moved from being more than just a good idea; now it is an imperative. Handyman Matters professional craftsmen can help you take some of these water conserving tips and apply them to your home. Click here to find a location near you and information on kitchen and bathroom updates and remodels that include water-sensible features and fixtures.

How To Keep Your Yard and Garden Primed Throughout The Growing Season


spring flower gardenEven though spring is upon us, there are still a variety of things you can do to keep your garden and yard primed for the growing season and into the summer. Your house isn’t the only place that needs a good spring cleaning; the exterior of your home could use it as well. Grab a notepad and take a walk through the vicinity, making notes here and there. Not only is this a great way to organize your “attack” on the ground, but it’s an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, get a little exercise, and anticipate the summer days ahead.

Here are some things you can tackle right now:

Shrubs and Trees

Prune off broken or cracked branches damaged in winter. You can tackle damaged twigs with pruners, but those branches that are 2 inches in diameter or larger need to be removed in sections so that the weight doesn’t tear the bark as they fall.

Perennials

Dig up and divide perennials that were getting too large last year. Signs that these had “outgrown” their livings space include reduced flowering, pale, off-color leaves, or smaller, puny stems. Break apart root-clumps using a knife or shovel blade and then replant smaller, healthy sections. If these are spring bloomers (tulips, iris, etc.), wait until they’ve finished flowering. Late summer bloomers can be divided and replanted by April.

Seed Heads

Snip the stalks and dried seed heads from plants left from last autumn. Remove these and dead leaves so that overwintering insects and disease aren’t a problem. Clip the stalks about two inches above the sleeping foliage.

Roses

Rose bushes are a class unto themselves, and they aren’t “one size fits all.”  All need pruning, but know your rose-types. Keep in mind that the timing is crucial, because trimming will stimulate new growth, leaving the plants vulnerable to subsequent frosts. If your rose flowers just once a year, then it’s best to wait until the blooming is done to do your pruning. Clip the branches at a 30- to 45-degree angle, and do so a quarter of an inch above a live bud.

Ornamental Grasses

Use caution when cutting these down. Wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves. Most ornamental grass leaves are finely toothed and readily able to cut unprotected hands and fingers. A good technique for trimming is to wrap a bungee cords tightly around the grass so that it lifts the leaves up high, resembling a sheaf of wheat. Then prune by lopping the grasses about six inches from the ground. Hand pruners or a small saw will work well for this.

Lawn

Corn gluten can be an effective pre-emergent weed killer and also serves as a nitrogen fertilizer for your grass. Apply this two to four weeks ahead of  the typical weed-emergent dates in your area. Use a core aerator to punch 3-inch deep holes in the lawn to fill in bare spots in the grass and reduce thatch, then use a drop spreader to spread grass seed immeidately after the aerating. Sprinkle your lawn with water every day for several weeks until the seeds sprout.

These are a few handy tips for “pre-preparing” your yard and garden for the spading, tilling and planting that will follow, and will make those steps of the process easier for having paved the way with some organized spring cleaning first. And of course, if yardwork and gardening isn’t exactly your thing, keep in mind your local Handyman Matters location. We’re happy to help out.

Bring Spring Into Your Home – Inexpensively!


Bring Spring IndoorsSpring is a time of new beginnings. Flowers and plants are blooming, the sun is shining and the weather is finally getting warmer after winter’s chill. So why not bring some of spring’s beauty into your home so you can enjoy it day after day?

Some homeowners may think they have to purchase new accessories to refresh their home for spring. Handyman Matters knows of some easy, affordable ways to bring spring into your home by ‘upcycling’ the things you already have. These simple projects are fun ways to give a new beginning to the things you have sitting in the garage or basement, while keeping them out of the land fill. It’s a win-win for both you and Mother Nature.

Here are some tips from the professionals at Handyman Matters on how to bring the freshness of spring into your home:

Bring your flower garden indoors

A great way to perk up a home for spring is by decorating rooms where you spend the most time – like the living or family room or kitchen – with flowers. By spray painting flower pots you already own bright yellow, purple or green and grouping them into indoor “gardens,” you will give them new life, while bringing the great outdoors inside. Or, place your “new” pottery on wrought iron plant stands or pedestal tables painted in coordinating colors to add a burst of color to any room.

Winds of change

Adding color to a ceiling or oscillating fan is a great way to add a pop of color in an unexpected way. Rediscover a fan you have stored in the attic. Or find a good deal on a fan that compliments your personality at a flea market or discount store and bring it home for a facelift. Covering the fan in just one coat of inexpensive spray paint in a fresh spring color will create a conversation piece that will last throughout the year. If you’re having trouble with this project, not to worry, Handyman Matters professionals are here to help. No job is too small and they are experienced in over 1,162 different projects around your home.

Bring the outdoor patio furniture inside

Remember the old wicker chair and loveseat you picked up at Aunt Ida’s garage sale? They’re not just for outside. Throw a coat of paint on them in a bright spring color like Aqua or Green Apple and suddenly you have new seating that is perfect for your sunroom, front porch or foyer.

Restore and renew flea market finds

Flea markets are full of treasures that sometimes just need a little TLC to give them new life. Save that dingy chandelier, tarnished lamp or outdated bookcase from the trash by restoring it with a fresh coat of paint, which is sometimes all that is needed to turn garage sale or flea market finds into treasures.

Following these simple and inexpensive tips for bringing spring into your home and before you know it you’ll have splashes of sunshine, spring color and great conversation pieces throughout your home. Say goodbye to the winter blues and hello to some springtime cheer and let Handyman Matters take care of all of your home repair and improvement projects. Find a location near you!

DIY – Update Your Kitchen With a New Tile Backsplash

If you want to give your kitchen a facelift, consider replacing or adding a new tile backsplash. This can give your kitchen a bright modern appearance without a lot of effort. The nice thing about adding a new backsplash is that it is not very hard to do.

If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, it’s quite straightforward. Even if you have an old tile backsplash, it is still not difficult – just messier in the beginning.

Planning the Project

If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, you can install your new tiles right over the top. Just sand the area to rough up the surface and get ready to install. If you have an existing tile backsplash, your best bet is to remove it totally. This will involve actually cutting the existing backer (usually drywall) and getting rid of both it and the attached tiles.

For the best results consult with a professional to determine if you need to replace the drywall before installing the new tile. Handyman Matters can help answer all of your questions.

Determine the length of your backsplash, and then measure the distance from the top of the counter to the bottom of the wall cabinet to calculate the area you’ll need to cover with your tiles (length x width = area). Now that you know how much space you have, figure out your tile pattern. Use graph paper and draw a scale outline. The most common tiles used for backsplashes are 4 x 4, 6 x 6 or 3 x 4 subway tiles. You could also use 1 x 1 tiles attached to a back mesh if you like the appearance better–the choice is yours.  Find the one that best fits your style. Just be sure that the tiles are glazed when you get them; this will help prevent stains, moisture and grease from ruining your tile. When you calculate your tile quantities, don’t forget to add about 10 percent for cutting and waste.

Installing the Backsplash

  1. Remove the stove and range hood and anything else that will be in your way when you are working on the backsplash. Shut off the power to any outlets or switches and remove the cover plates.
  2. If your tiles are going to be running over any gaps (like where the range will be), install a temporary ledger board along the base of your tile line to help hold them in place during installation.
  3. Mark the visual focal point of your layout and use a level to draw a starting line through it. You’ll use this to line up your tiles vertically. Now, lay out your tiles on the countertop or the kitchen floor so you can follow the pattern.
  4. Starting at the center, begin the bottom row by applying tile mastic (a ready to use tile adhesive) or thinset mortar to a small section of the wall using a grooved trowel. Put the edge of the first tile on the vertical line leaving a gap of about 1/8″ on the bottom – this leaves space for a bead of caulk later in the process. Press and wiggle the first tile into place, then put in a temporary 1/8″ spacer (vertically for easy removal when the mastic dries).
  5. Install the second tile using the same process. Continue installing tiles working away from the centerline, wiggling them into place and putting spacers between each. Follow your pattern and install any decorative/highlight tiles as part of the field.
  6. When you get to a place where you need to cut or trim a tile (under a countertop, end of a row, around an electrical outlet), cut the tile as part of the installation – don’t leave an opening and plan to come back.

Cutting a Tile

Cutting tile can be a hard task; the easiest way to cut a tile is using a tool called a scoring cutter. Using one is a two-step process – mark the tile where you want to cut it, then place the tile in the tool and score a mark in the tile surface. Then, using a sharp motion of the tool handle, the cutter will break the tile along the scored line.

Cutting openings for an electrical outlet can be more challenging. Depending on where an electrical outlet fits into your pattern, you may be need to cut two tiles using the scoring cutter, and then use tile nippers to cut out the opening and put them on each side of the outlet.

Grouting

After the tiles are installed and the mastic has been allowed to set up overnight, it’s time to grout. Use a sandless grout (to avoid scratching the tile surface) and mix it according to manufacturer’s directions. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Push it well down into the gaps between the tiles, then holding the float at a 45-degree angle remove the excess.

Finishing Up

Allow the grout to set up for about an hour and then clean off the hazy surface on the tiles. Use wet sponges, rinsing them often in clean water to wipe away the film. Buff the tiles with a clean dry cloth to bring out their natural beauty. You will likely need to install box extenders to your electrical outlets before you can reattach the cover plates.  Finally, apply a bead of tub and tile caulk (the same color as the grout) all along the bottom seam where the backsplash meets the countertop.

Following the steps above will help you install a new backsplash into your kitchen. Make sure you pay attention to details and follow each step, but if you happen to come across a problem, the professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can finish the project for you, or help you along the way. Click Here to find a location near you.

Eco-friendly Bath Updates on a Budget

Bathroom on a BudgetGreen remodeling is more popular today than ever before. But creating an environmentally friendly home isn’t the only reason homeowners are undertaking green remodels. Green renovations and upgrades can be a daunting task for most homeowners and with the growing popularity in these upgrades Handyman Matters is available to support all of your needs, whether it is a small home improvement to a full remodel in some rooms in your house. According to the Wall Street Journal, certified green homes garner a higher resale value and are on the market a quarter-less time.

Think you need to be extreme to go green and make a lasting impact? Think again! There are small steps you can take to go green on a budget — and the bathroom is a great place to start. In a short timeframe and with a small investment, you can increase your home’s value and easily turn your bathroom into a healthier, eco-friendly environment.

Freshen Up

If you’re planning to add some color to your bathroom or freshen up the walls with a new coat of paint, be sure to use one with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to reduce gaseous pollutants in your home. These non-toxic paints are not only healthier for you, your family and the environment, but they are vibrant and durable as well.

Eco-Fabulous Faucets

Bathroom faucets are the culprits of much water waste. Luckily, you can easily save water by investing a new lavatory faucet with a water-saving aerator. The professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can install any faucet your choose specific for your bathroom.

Shower Savings

After toilets and washing machines, showers are next in line as residential water hogs. Today, flow-optimized showerheads are being produced and to help ensure they are installed properly, Handyman Matters can complete any projects you may have.

Not-So-Bright Ideas

Lighting is one of the largest uses of power in your home. Installing a dimmer in your bathroom will not only help you to set a serene mood after a long day, but also reduce energy and show green savings on your monthly electric bills. Finding the right lights can be tough and installation can be even more difficult, make sure all lights are installed correctly with Handyman Matters. Replacing incandescent light bulbs in your bathroom with compact fluorescent lighting is another small change that will make a big impact. Fluorescent lights use one-third the electricity of standard bulbs and also last up to 10 times longer.

Lean, Green and Clean

Now that you’ve finished some green updates in your bathroom, make sure to keep it clean with non-toxic organic soaps and cleaners. There are websites that list the latest lines of environmentally-friendly cleaning products. It’s a win-win situation for both your family and the environment.

Being green doesn’t mean going to extremes. With these lean bathroom updates, you’ll see the green benefits for the environment and your wallet. Handyman Matters can help you plan for upgrades and repairs that are eco-friendly. The professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can execute all projects from repairs to remodels that suite your needs. Click Here to find a location near you.