Load Bearing VS Non-Load Bearing: The Essential Guide to Removing Walls in Your Home

PaintingHome renovations often become small demolition projects, especially when it comes to living spaces and kitchens that have too many walls.  Modern day homes are open spaces.  Pretty typically, only the bedroom and bathroom occupy a separated space from the rest of the house.  Layouts are now more determined by the layout of furniture than by actual wall dividers.

So you have decided to join the buzz and tear down a wall.  Before you do that, make sure you read this! Some walls in a house are absolutely essential they are what helps keep that roof up!

Here are the keys to determining the load bearing versus non load bearing walls in your home:

Floor Joists

These are the horizontal supports that appear under a floor, in a ceiling or on top of the houses foundation. Unfinished basements provide the best visibility for spotting these joists.  Go downstairs and just look up!  Once you have them in your sights, take note of the direction that they are running.  Are they north/south, east/west?  Their direction will help signal where a load bearing wall probably is.  Load bearing walls typically run perpendicular to floor joists.

Beams

While you are in the basement, look around to see if you notice any beams. These are typically made of sturdier materials and run vertically from the foundation upwards.  If the beam is coming out of the wall, that segment of wall is load bearing. The same goes for if you see a beam running across the ceiling on one of the levels of your home.  The walls that that beam is connected to are more likely than not, essential to the integrity of your home.

Upstairs

Does your house have more than one floor? If so take note of the walls and their locations on the first floor, then head upstairs.  On the next level notice which walls have the same placement as the first.  If there are more stories, keep going up and note the walls that continue all the way to the top – these are likely your load bearing walls.

Blueprints

If you have the blueprints to your home: your life is easy. Open up your blueprints and look for the structure section often indicated by the letter “S”.  The framing plan will help you have a more reliable look and your homes interior plan.  Look for beams, and the direction of floor joists.  If the wall you’d like to remove is not connected to a beam, or running perpendicular to the floor joists in its room: then it’s more than likely not a load bearing wall.

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Need More Help?

Removing the wrong wall in your home can have disastrous results.  Don’t accidentally demolish your home.

When you are looking to remove a wall, contact a craftsmen to take a look first.  Handyman Matters wants to be your local resource for any home improvement projects or questions.  Give us a call today! 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

5 Steps to Holiday Home Safety

 

Before New Year arrives, let’s do some maintenance on the house.  The biggest thing happening across the country right now is snow.  With snow comes accidents.  And with accidents comes costly repairs or, dare I say, medical bills.  Nobody wants to be the host of the party whose guests have suffered head injuries falling down, or had to leave because the décor caught fire.  Don’t become liable, be the warm, inviting house you know you can be.  When it comes to winter home safety, here are some measures to take.

 

 

  • 1 – Fire Detector Maintenance

Restock the batteries, and give these guys a test.  Before lighting candles, plugging in holiday lights, or baking you should make sure your fire detectors are active and alert.

  • 2 – Walkways

When it’s cold outside, your walkways are going to be the first thing to go.  Clearing these paths of snow or unruly branches is an integral step to preparing your home for company.  Next step – throw some salt on it! As far as company is concerned, ice is only good in drinks.

  • 3 – Vents & Chimneys

It’s winter and your heater has been working overtime.  Whether it’s the traditional vents or a scenic fireplace, you have to look out for buildup.  Cleaning out vents and chimneys is a majorly effective way to prevent house fires (and to optimize warmth).

  • 4 – Stairs

Fix those stairs.  I cannot stress the importance enough of having safe, functional stairs.  This goes for both the outdoors and indoors.  If everything is in working order, check to make sure you also have stable railing and if it’s outside – salt them down as well.

  • 5 – Check Your CO Detector

These are especially important in the winter.  Carbon monoxide can sneak up on you, make sure you have a protective element in place to keep you safe.  Prevent CO poisoning by remembering not to heat your home with a gas range or oven, and to warm your car in an open space and not idling in your car.

Entertaining takes an abundance of preparation.  If you want to focus on the menu, Handyman Matters will focus on the repairs.  Whether it is small or large, we have your back during the holiday season! 866-FIX-MY-HOME

4 Green Ways to Illuminate your Home

Dark evenings are a staple of the fall and winter.  The sun sets early, around 6pm or so, taking us from day to night much earlier than we’re used to.  But that doesn’t mean that we’re staying in.  Especially with events like Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, the fall is a time of dinners and fun. Consequently, it is essential to have a well-lit entryway.

 Outdoor LightingSolar lights are the more efficient fix to this problem.  Not only will you save on your electrical bill, but you will also have a very easy installation process, as these guys don’t wire into anything.  Below, Handyman Matters has 4, green, solar ideas to keeping your house well lit, and your guests safe.

  • Step & Fence Lights

These lights are small, and mountable – which is why they are perfect for steps or a fence!

Step lights are cool, especially if you buy motion sensor.  Place them every other step, so as guests walk up, the lights gradually turn on.  Talk about a stairway to heaven!

For your fence, place them about 5-6 feet apart towards the middle of the fence post to light up the edges of your lawn.  This is especially great for houses near open space, a clever life hack to keep an eye on pets and steer away predators.

  • Lawn & Path Lights

Illuminating the path to your door not only helps guests navigate your entrance, but it can also add curb appeal.  These particular lights are installed through posts, and are a great way to highlight parts of your lawn.  Space them out in pairs around your pathway, or place them closer together to add a sense of enchantment.

Solar, lawn lights are great for strategically decorating.  Around an outdoor table, for a romantic, moonlit dinner; or near a particularly scary Halloween decoration.  Their solar feature makes them very low maintenance, as they come on as soon as the sun sets.

  • Porch Lights

Every main entrance into your home should be framed a light.  Porch lights come in a variety of kinds: our favorite being the solar, motion sensor option.   This light can be mounted anywhere, because it does not need a power source.   There’s also more decorating options as you are no longer restricted where you put them.

  • Flood Lights

Flood lights are the most essential lighting fixture for your home.  However, they are not meant to stay on throughout the night (they are very bright).  Motion sensor is the only way to go.  As people come in and out, the light will turn on, making your entryways more welcoming and your house more alert.

Installing flood lights can be tricky.  They are meant to be placed centered over the garage door, or towards the roof over the entrance. You will need a tall ladder for this DIY task.

Handyman Matters is here for all your home installation needs.  For more information, or to find a handyman in your area just call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above.

Senior Safety Fixes for the Home

Are your elderly parents still safe living at home? Even though they may be mentally sharp, their reaction times and physical abilities are most likely deteriorating over time.  If you are concerned about the safety of your parents in their current home, rest assured that there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to keep them safe and independent for years to come.

As might be expected, elderly people want to stay independent for as long as they can. The last thing they want to feel like is a burden on their families. But according to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of injury death among people 65 and older. Removing potential hazards in your parent’s home will not only give you and them peace of mind, but it will also save money if the alternative is placing them in assisted living.

The bathroom

The bathroom is one of the more hazardous places in the house. More accidents occur there for people of all ages than in the rest of the house. It is especially important to keep the bathroom safe for our elderly parents. Thankfully this can be done without a large expense.

Grab bars should be installed where ever support is needed. When proper support is not available, the elderly will use towel bars or the toilet paper holder, appliances not suitable for such use. Instead, grab bars should be securely placed both inside and outside the bathtub and within reach of the toilet.

As parents age they will find it increasingly difficult to stand up from a low toilet. If replacing the toilet with a higher model is not an option, then replacing the current seat with an elevated one complete with armrests will help them considerably.  Another solution is to attach stand-alone armrests that attach to the floor and wall. These are very stable and won’t wobble as some toilet seat models tend to do. Bath and shower safety devices can be purchased at most home improvement stores or online.

If the bathtub has shower doors, removing these and replacing them with a shower curtain will allow more space to enter and exit the tub. It is also helpful to use non-slip mats or tape in the tub along with non-slip rugs. Additionally, replace the faucet handles with knobs for those with levers. Also place a nightlight in the bathroom.  For added safety, make sure the bathroom doors open out. If your loved one were to collapse against the closed door inside the bathroom, then you or rescue personnel would have a hard time getting to them.

The rest of the house

Make sure the water heater temperature is adjusted to prevent accidental scalding. Replace the home thermostat with a backlit model with a large display. Remove raised thresholds in doorways. Put extra lighting switches in areas where they would be beneficial. The addition of extra outlets may be necessary if power cords on the floor are a tripping hazard.  Replace doorknobs with levers.

In the kitchen, replace cabinet hardware if your parent has trouble grabbing them. The same should be done for kitchen faucets. Make sure the kitchen and rest of the house are free of plumbing leaks. Not only can these pose a serious slip hazard, but they may breed mold in the crawlspace or basement.

If you’re looking to add some additional senior safety to your home, enter your zip code above to find your local Handyman Matters location or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.  

Frank Nielson is a retired medical researcher who now spends his days writing and attempting to tie the perfect fly. Through this writing, he is keen on helping consumers find the best medical supplies at an affordable price.

 

How to Increase Bathroom Safety

Bathroom safety is an often underestimated aspect of owning a home. Although most people would assume their bathroom is a safe place, the mortality rate says otherwise. Falls, being the primary cause of bathroom related fatalities, claim over 6,000 lives in the United States per year and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Fortunately, for homeowners new and old, subtle renovations can greatly reduce the dangers associated with bathroom usage and potentially save the lives of themselves and their loved ones.

Toilets

Toilets may seem harmless, but they are the cause for over 40,000 injuries in the United States alone. Not all of these injuries prove fatal, but statistically, there’s a 1 in 10,000 chance that they will, an alarming statistic given the average person’s amount of visits to the bathroom. If you’re one of the unlucky few that has sustained an injury while using the toilet, there are many ways to prevent it from happening again.

  • Taller Toilets: Installing a taller toilet makes sitting down and standing up easier for those using it, lessening the risk of injury.
  • Conscious Seating: If you share a bathroom, ensure that the seat is down after usage. This is not only polite, but a great way to avoid a broken hip from falling in.
  • Keep it Clean: Always keep personal bathrooms clean and routinely maintained.

Showers

It should come as no surprise that showers have the potential to cause bodily harm. Surfaces are wet and slippery, visibility is compromised and those showering are often groggy and inattentive. Whether rushing to make it to work on time, or enjoying a luxurious rinse, shower users welcome risk into their daily routine upon turning on the faucet, but steps can be taken to lessen these dangers.

  • Shower Chairs: Shower chairs come in all different shapes and sizes. Installing one is relatively easy and can offer a relaxing place to sit while showering.
  • Grab Bars: Grab bars can either be installed permanently, or suction-cupped to the wall. They may not be the most decorative, but they increase shower safety tenfold.
  • No More Tub: If you’re not much of a bather, consider putting in a walk-in shower. This eases entry and prevents tripping over the tub.

Floors

Wet floors are responsible for 15% of the accidental deaths in the US, making them one of the most dangerous surfaces people set foot on daily. In bathrooms, locker rooms and kitchens around the country, wet floors have taken thousands of lives. A wet floor sign may seem adequate when it comes to prevention, but as the death toll continues to rise, it’s apparent that other solutions are needed.

  • Bathroom Mats: Bathroom mats and rugs need to be replaced frequently but can greatly reduce falling on the way in and out of the bathtub and shower.
  • Upkeep: Keep floors properly mopped and clean, and when possible, put up a wet floor sign so that people are aware that the surface is compromised.
  • Awareness: At the end of the day, awareness in the bathroom can be your saving grace. Although it’s easy to zone out on those drowsy mornings, don’t ever let your tired eyes result in your demise. And if you’re someone who shares a bathroom, ensure that it’s safe prior to people using it.

 

“Fortunately, for homeowners new and old, proper bathroom safety products can greatly reduce the dangers associated with bathroom usage and potentially save the lives of themselves and their loved ones.”

Author Bio: Jared Pennington suffered a bruised tailbone in high school after taking a spill in the locker room. He was fortunate enough to laugh it off, but he knows that other people aren’t so lucky. After he was defeated by a wet floor, he swore to never let anyone suffer the same fate in his bathroom at home.

Protecting Your Home and Property With Fire Mitigation

As we hear more tragic stories about loss of life and property due to wildfires, it becomes increasingly important to take steps to implement fire mitigation measures around our homes. With preparation, you can dramatically reduce the risk that wildfire poses to your house, property and community.

As we hear more tragic stories about loss of life and property due to wildfires, it becomes increasingly important to take steps to implement fire mitigation measures around our homes.  With preparation, you can dramatically reduce the risk that wildfire poses to your house, property and community.

Consult with your local firefighting agencies as well as representatives of the nearest State or National Forest Services in your region for the best measures to reduce risk around your home and in your neighborhood.  And you can take the following steps on your own:

  1.  Remove all debris from your home’s rain gutters.  Check all the nooks and crannies of your roof where dried leaves and pine needles may settle.
  2. Do not store firewood immediately adjacent to your home.
  3. Rake and bag up all ground debris—pine needles, cones, and dried leaves, and arrange to have them hauled away from your property.
  4. Prune dead branches from all trees.  Remove dead and dying bushes and other vegetation.  Keep in mind that it is not necessary to clear-cut all vegetation and trees.  Consult with a tree trimming service or someone from your local fire department who can properly advise you as to how to cut back trees, bushes and shrubbery.
  5. If there is a fire hydrant located on your property, clear a 3-foot area around it for fire department access.
  6. Maintain clearly visible house numbers at the entrance to your property and keep the emergency number for the fire department near every phone in your home.
  7. Check with your homeowners’ association or your local Chamber of Commerce to see what wildfire awareness meetings and seminars are available in your community.  Encourage these and other organizations to put such programs into place if they aren’t there already.  Community-wide efforts at fire mitigation ensures even greater success.
  8. Don’t wait to have an evacuation plan in place.  Have an emergency evacuation kit at the ready for quick departure that contains the essentials—water, change of clothing, financial information and other important documents.  And keep in mind:  Ultimately none of this is as important as the safety of you, your family and pets.  If it’s a question of escaping safely with only your loved ones in tow, remember:  Everything else is ultimately replaceable.

For assistance in implementing fire mitigation measures, remember that you can always call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find the Handyman Matters location nearest you.

Steps to Reduce Bathroom Injuries

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that about 235,000 people go to emergency rooms each year with injuries sustained in bathrooms. Such mishaps increase with age, and accidents related to falls getting in and out of the bathtub are particularly hazardous and frequently fatal for seniors. Most of these catastrophes are easily avoidable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that about 235,000 people go to emergency rooms each year with injuries sustained in bathrooms.  Such mishaps increase with age, and accidents related to falls getting in and out of the bathtub are particularly hazardous and frequently fatal for seniors.  Most of these catastrophes are easily avoidable.

Advances in design and technology have brought all kinds of new products to the market, including curbless showers (removing the “stumble” factor), taller toilets and lighting that is layered in such a way as to prevent glare.

Tubs with water-sealant doors are readily available.  Grab bars no longer have to look institutional, but are more easily incorporated into a bathroom’s design and serve additional functions such as soap and shampoo holders.  Flip-up shower seats and hand-held shower heads have been around for decades, and are more functional and user-friendly now than ever.

Motion sensors on lighting and dimmer switches allow for handier access.  Adequate lighting becomes increasingly important as we age:  By 40, the average person begins to notice diminution in vision, and by age 60, we need three times as much light to see as effectively as we did when we were in our 20s.

Other new design features that increase safety and decrease the opportunity for mishaps include no-touch faucets, lever handles to replace doorknobs, drawers that can be opened with a nudge, and counters with knee space beneath, allowing for sitting and wheelchair access.

Lowering storage space to the point of use (shelves at waist-level, for example) is another improvement in bathroom safety design.  Features like these reduce hazards substantially and can allow people to remain living independently in their homes for a considerably longer period of time than they might be able to do otherwise.

For more tips on safety-proofing your bathroom or for assistance in remodeling, contact Handyman Matters at 1-800-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location near you.

DIY Home Repair Tips for May

May – the tail end of spring and the precursor of summer – is the time when homeowners really need to kick their home DIY projects into high gear. With mild weather and sunny days, it’s the perfect time to take care of smaller outdoor tasks that aren’t ideal to handle in winter.

May – the tail end of spring and the precursor of summer – is the time when homeowners really need to kick their home DIY projects into high gear. With mild weather and sunny days, it’s the perfect time to take care of smaller outdoor tasks that aren’t ideal to handle in winter.

Follow these handy tips to keep your home up-to-date with repairs and maintenance during the month of May.

1.  Inspect and Tighten Screws and Nails on Decks and Patios.

Wood changes from season to season, warping and contracting with the changes in weather and temperature. Boards have a tendency to loosen if they aren’t maintained, which can cause accidents if they aren’t taken care of. To keep your deck or patio in top shape, tighten screws and hammer in protruding nails carefully to ensure that you don’t cause the boards to crack by over tightening.

2.  Clean and Seal Decks and Railings.

Decks and railings should be cleaned and sealed every year to extend their life. Usually it’s the top horizontal parts of the railing that need the most attention. It is also important to keep in mind that whatever product you start using should be used continually year over year to prevent any incompatibility issues.

3.  Inspect Concrete for Cracks.

Cracks, chips and shifting can occur in concrete. Make sure that you thoroughly inspect for all of these things. For cracks, you can grind with an angle grinder to a minimum of 1/8” and fill with a DOT spec “Bridge Grade Self-Leveling Caulk”. Only fill halfway, since it will expand as it dries. This will take care of filling cracks.

For any separation between the concrete and a wall over ½”, add a backer rod (a foam, flexible rod) to fill the gap and give the caulk something to sit on top of and stick to. If chipping and/ or missing chunks are the problem, scrape off any loose material and fill it in with “rockite”. Afterwards, texture it to match the surrounding finish for a perfect final appearance.

4.  Test Smoke Detectors.

Always test smoke detectors and CO2 detectors to make sure they’re still in working order. Replace batteries to prevent the possibility of them losing power. Also, push the button to test if the device is working.

5.  Double Check for Carpet Damages.

Stains, popped seams, and rumples are typical issues that homeowners face with carpet damage. Small stains can be removed easily with WD-40 or other household cleaners (test a small area first for discoloration). Popping seams in small areas can typically be fixed with a glue gun and frayed pieces need to be cut and covered with glue to prevent further unraveling. “Rumples” are areas where the carpet has a wavy look. These can be fixed with a “knee knicker” – a tool with a pad and teeth that grabs carpet and tightens it by pulling it further over the tack strip at the outside edge.

6.  Check for Rips, Tears and Curling in Linoleum.

For common rips in linoleum, re-glue with the manufacturer’s recommended glue. For tears that might happen, re-glue with a clear vinyl-seaming adhesive. Curling means that nothing is holding down the outside edge. These edges need to be covered and held down by molding, transition strips, adhesive caulk or other materials to prevent curling and allowing water and dirt under the flooring.

If any of these DIY projects are too much for you to take on or you just simply don’t have enough time in your day, call the experienced professionals at Handyman Matters today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

5 Tips For Preparing Your Home For Aging In Place

While most people notice the change in themselves as they age, many neglect to notice the changes that are needed in their home to keep their homes age appropriate. There are many things that you can do to increase safety and make sure that your home fits the ever-increasing needs in your life. Handyman Matters has put together these 5 benefits for aging in your home.

While most people notice the change in themselves as they age, many neglect to notice the changes that are needed in their home to keep it age appropriate. There are many things that you can do to increase safety and make sure that your home fits the ever-increasing needs in your life. Handyman Matters has put together these 5 tips for preparing your home for aging in place.

1. Reduces the Number of Slips and Falls

Slips and falls are the biggest problem that aging adults face in their home. Whether it’s a slippery hallway or poorly lighted rooms, adding handrails can drastically decrease falls in the home, grab bars and re-arranging furniture in the bedroom, bathroom, hallways and kitchen.

2. Navigation is Simplified

Oftentimes our homes aren’t laid out in a manner that’s easy for walking and navigating. There may be pieces of furniture that jut out into the hallway and make it hard to maneuver around. In addition, a slippery rug in a hallway can create a dangerous surface. By modifying the layout of furniture and different rooms, it’s easy to create an environment that’s easier to negotiate – especially if assistance with a cane, walker or wheelchair is necessary.

3. Cooking Becomes Safer and More Accessible

As we age, we become more susceptible to arthritis, and our grip becomes less effective. This can be overcome by switching door and cabinet handles with models that are easier to grasp, as well as replacing utensils, pots and pans with ones that have larger and more ergonomic shaped handles.

4. Drastically Increases Independence

Installing handrails and bars in bathrooms, installing automatic lights and other home modifications can increase a person’s independence for a longer amount of time. These types of modifications help keep seniors safe and independent while giving them the ability to go about their daily activities.

5. Maintains a Current Standard of Living

One of the biggest fears of most people as they age is a fear of having to leave their home. However, this can be delayed if a home is properly set up and modified to make it easier for aging adults to continue to live their lives.

Handyman Matters offers aging in place services to help you remain independent and safe in your home. By implementing universal design elements in bathrooms, kitchens and through the house, we can help you transform your home into a living space that functions efficiently for all ages and conditions. Let us perform our free 50-point assessment on your home to uncover risks you might be facing. Call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

 

5 Tips for Safety Childproofing your Home

New parents have a million concerns that range from taking care of their newborn to handling hospital bills and managing work and family life. Still, the number one concern on the mind of every new parent is the safety of their newborn child. The good news is that there is plenty of advice on how to keep young children safe in the home. The bad news is that for many new parents, it can seem like there are too many resources, and it’s hard to know which ones to listen to.

To make this process simple, Handyman Matters has compiled a list of the five most important safety measures every parent needs to take. This is by no means an exclusive list, but it’s a good starting point, and will go a long way towards making your home as child-proof as it can possibly be.

1. Install safety latches on cabinets. Dangerous chemicals and cleaning agents should never be left out in the open since they’re often easy for children to get into and are poisonous. Install safety latches on cabinets that house these chemicals, and if possible, always keep them in a cabinet high enough that prying hands can’t reach.

2. Check for lead paint. Lead poisoning is a serious health risk for adults and children alike. Homes built within the last thirty years don’t run the risk of lead paint, but older houses and apartments should always be checked by a professional.

3. Install childproof outlet covers. The most commonly offered bit of advice for childproofing is installing outlet covers to make sure that young ones don’t stick a finger or other foreign object (like a pencil or a toy) into an outlet. Also, make sure you get outlet covers that are specifically designed to keep children safe, as they’re much more difficult to get off than basic outlet covers.

4. Use anti-scald devices on faucets and shower heads. Many homes, especially older homes, may not have proper precautions installed to keep young children from burning themselves. If you have older plumbing or an older hot water heater, you should seriously consider installing an anti-scalding device in your plumbing. While devices come in DIY, faucet-mounted versions, we strongly recommend having a trained plumber install pipe-mounted versions just downstream of your water heater.

5. Bolt bookshelves and other furniture to the wall. Instructions for self-assembled furniture always caution buyers to bolt the furniture to the walls. When you have young children in the house, this goes double. In fact, even wide and low furniture that normally does not need extra anchoring should be secured. Always make sure that you are using the proper screws, and if at all possible make sure that you secure the anchor bolts to a stud. If you don’t feel comfortable that you can find the studs or secure the bolts and furniture well, make sure you call a professional carpenter or handyman.

For assistance, call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or go enter your zip code above in order to locate a Handyman Matters business near you.