INEXPENSIVE HOME PROJECTS FOR SUMMER

Gutter CleaningEven in the best of times, most of us are operating on a tight budget, and, let’s face it—2020 hasn’t exactly presented us with the best of times. Thanks to COVID-19, social isolation, and general uncertainty about what tomorrow brings, we’re all trying to stretch a dollar further than ever before.

Brighter days lie ahead, but that doesn’t mean that things around our homes are going to wait for a more convenient time to wear out or to break down. Now, with the warmer, sunnier months at hand this is an ideal time to tackle those jobs you’ve been putting off for a while. Here is a list of several things that can be handled without having to spend a lot of money:

Clean your gutters. Mother Nature has had months to deposit dead leaves, dirt and other debris in them, where they decompose, hold stagnant run-off snowmelt and rain, and, over time, start to damage the gutter itself. Cleaning them out is not a pleasant job, but it can be done fairly quickly and efficiently.

Re-stain or seal your wood decks. Winter and water are not wood’s best friends, so providing your deck and wooden walkways with a layer of protection against the elements extends its life and adds to its natural beauty.

Power wash your home’s exterior. Pressure washing eliminates years of the unattractive build-up of mildew, soot, dirt and grime from your house’s exterior. It’s equally effective on brick, stucco, aluminum, steel and wood. It’s also a great way to prepare your home’s exterior for painting.

Mulch your lawn and garden. Experts recommend mulching right after spring planting. This helps control weeds, retain moisture, enrich soil nutrients and insulate plants from frost and heavy rains.

Repaint exterior trim, fascia and doors. These can all be painted easily without a huge outlay of time, effort or cost, and they have a big impact on your home’s appearance.

Repaint or replace your mailbox. This is another task that can be managed in a short amount of time. We don’t typically give a lot of thought to our mailbox’s appearance… it’s one of those things we look at every day without ever really looking at it. It may be time to give that reliable old thing a facelift.

Wash your windows. Yes, this is a task that nobody particularly likes to do. But it transforms both the exterior and brightens up your home’s interior.

These are all tasks that don’t require any specialized skills to accomplish—just a commitment of time and effort. And remember, too, that your local Ace Handyman Services office has half-day or full-day packages that allow you to bundle together several minor repair jobs in a single visit. Call and speak with the office manager who will listen carefully to your specific needs and help you put together a list of to-do items that one of their friendly and professional Craftsmen can tackle on your behalf.

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Insulating Your Home’s Exterior for the Warm Summer Months Ahead

We tend to think of insulation as something we do to keep heat inside our homes, but the fact is, it’s nearly as important to keep “the cool” inside during the summer months. According to www.energy.gov, heat consistently flows from warmer to cooler—however it can manage it: through interior ceilings, walls and floors—wherever there is a difference in temperature. So, in summer’s soaring heat while your air conditioner is cranking away, the warmer outside air is like a persistent intruder, constantly looking for ways to break into your house.

As we transition from winter into spring, now would be a perfect time to look at ways to keep the refreshing cool air from escaping your home, replaced by the baking temperatures of summer.

Caulking and weatherstripping are two easy and effective air-sealing techniques. Caulking fills cracks and openings around stationary elements such as window frames, while weatherstripping addresses and seals components that move, such as doors and operable windows.

Your home probably already has double-pane windows, but if not, this would be an excellent time to install the low-emissivity types. Window-tinting, particularly on west- and south-facing panes can also assist in both keeping warm air outside in the summer and cold air outside in the winter.

An equally effective means of insulating your home is to plant shrubbery or trees in front of those same west- and south-facing windows. Of course, the challenge there is that it will take a few years for these to grow tall enough to do the job; but when they are fully matured, greenery provides not only efficient protection against heat- and coolant-loss, it lends beauty to your home, as well. So even while you employ other, more immediate means of keeping your house’s temperature moderated, consider these longer-term gardening measures, as well.

Perhaps the biggest culprit when it comes to energy-loss (warm or cold) is your attic. Attics can be black holes, sucking up heat in the winter months, and hoarding cooler air in warmer ones. The reasons for this can be numerous—the space is unfinished, there are gaps around pipes, flues, exhaust fans, recessed lighting, or, over time, there’s been damage to your roof. The best way of determining how to fix this particular problem is to conduct an energy-audit.

That’s a project that will likely have to be postponed in this current climate of social distancing. However, the other measures can easily be accomplished right now. You probably have the extra time on hand to undertake projects such as new window installation, caulking, weatherstripping and tree-planting. But if not, Ace Handyman Services is ready and equipped to tackle these challenges for you. Our craftsmen are following stringent guidelines during these uncertain times, working with face masks and gloves, and focusing on exterior projects that will keep you and your family at a safe and respectful distance, all while bringing helpful to your home!

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“Pet” Projects to do Around Your Home in Honor of National Pet Month

May is National Pet Month, so what better time to undertake projects around your home that will benefit not just you, but your beloved four-footed family members, as well?

At the top of that list would be installing a pet door, or perhaps replacing an older one that has seen better days.  Doggy doors endure a lot of use, particularly if you share your home with an enthusiastic, rambunctious canine who likes to make dozens of trips in and out during the course of the day.  Pet door products have grown by leaps and bounds in sophistication since their early days; the newer models are energy efficient and designed to stand up to rigorous use.  They include safety features that protect both your animals and your home.  Current models now allow you to adjust the door so that it allows entry from both directions or, when circumstances dictate, to allow your four-footed friends to enter from outside but not go back out once they are indoors.

Pet doors can be installed on virtually any surface: in brick, in standard frame walls, in French doors, screen doors, storm doors, cobblestone, and even cement.  Check out our partner, Hale Pet Doors at HalePetDoor.com to get an idea of the variety and scope of doors available for installation.

Mud rooms have been popular for several years now, and there’s a growing trend to incorporate a “pet element” to these.  Not only do kids and visitors track in mud and melting snow and slush, but dogs do the same.  More homeowners are adding a pet cleaning station in their mud room or near the back door that includes a shower pan and drain where muddy paws can be cleaned before your dog tracks residue through the rest of the house.  Experts advise considering your pet’s size and mobility before selecting the style of pet shower or tub, and recommend porcelain tile or stainless steel, both of which are durable and water-resistant.

Tired of having pet food bowls and dishes and food bags on display in your kitchen?  Consider installing slide-out cabinets for food storage and bowls when not in use. Some homeowners are opting for custom cabinetry that includes shelving with built-in dog or cat dishes that can be rolled out at mealtime.  Similarly, there’s a trend toward hidden cat litter box zones by converting entry closets into feline bathrooms or securing them under benches or shelving, where they are still easily accessible, but much less noticeable.

Are you thinking of redoing floors?  Keep in mind the pets who share your living quarters before you undertake this project.  Consider how much traffic—both human and animal—when deciding on new flooring.  Wood is a practical and durable choice but can scratch easily.  And, of course, carpeting can harbor bacteria and mold.  Tile, stone or slate flooring may be a better option to prevent doggy toenail scratching and damage, as well as providing for easier clean-up.

Heated floors (which tend to cost around $7 per square foot) are a great option if your household includes geriatric pets who suffer from joint or arthritis problems.  While this may seem overly indulgent (and potentially expensive!), remember that heated floors are great energy savers as well. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this type of radiant heating is more efficient than forced air heating. Therefore it wouldn’t be just your dog and cat who benefit from this type of upgrade, but, in the long run, your heating bills will, as well.

May is the perfect month to do an inspection of your backyard fence to determine how well it’s come through the winter months, and whether there are any spots that could provide an escape route for the dog.  Posts may have warped, slats pulled free, or nails may be sticking out.  Check for holes your dog may have dug, and inspect the latching on your gate to see that it’s still holding securely.  Consider installing something more substantial than a standard built-in latch; you might even want to look into replacing your old gate with a self-closing model to ensure that it can’t be left open.

Make sure you’ve provided ample shade for your dog so that he can be protected during the heat of the day while you are away.  Also, if you are preparing your garden and flower beds for spring, keep in mind there are a number of plants that are toxic to animals.  These include azaleas, lilies, daffodils, sago palms, some mushrooms, tulips, and black walnuts.  While they may not generally appeal to your pet, if bored or left to his own devices long enough, he may be tempted to chew on them, with disastrous results.

Celebrate National Pet Month by undertaking a few projects that will make life more enjoyable for you and your four-footed family members.  And, as always, your local Handyman Matters office stands ready to assist you with these or any other household repair and remodel projects you have in mind.

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Have You Been Checking Your Home on a Monthly Basis?

While you may not realize, there are a number of benefits to performing monthly maintenance checks around your home. It is a worthwhile way to prevent more extensive, more expensive problems from occurring in the future. By regularly reviewing critical areas of your home, or hiring a home improvement expert to check all is running properly, you can catch potential issues and schedule repairs before conditions worsen.

One area we pride ourselves in is bringing honesty and integrity to the Home Improvement industry. That said, we take our customers’ confidence in us seriously. As a result, the expertise and advice we provide to you, our Home Owners, is based on what is best for you, your home, and your wallet. Consider these important reasons for checking your home each month:

Your Home is Your Most Valuable Asset
By keeping up with your home’s minor repairs each month, you are performing a great service to your investment. Rather than waiting until there is an urgent problem, regularly keeping up with minor fixes and home maintenance will help avoid emergency repairs down the road. The minimal cost to prevent problems will seem like nothing compared to the unanticipated price you will pay in the event of an urgent home improvement matter. For example, consider the small expense associated with having an expert check the shingles or tiles on your roof compared to the thousands of dollars it would cost to repair or replace your roof altogether due to a lack of maintenance.

Your Time is Valuable
In addition to saving money, you will also save yourself a giant headache in the future if, you let things go around your home. There is not enough time in a day as it is, so imagine having to squeeze in time to deal with a nightmare home repair, like tearing out walls to replace a leaky pipe that could have been avoided. Now there’s a messy problem to address! Had your plumbing been inspected more frequently, a smaller, less troublesome issue may have been detected sooner

Enjoy the Beauty of Your Home
Maintaining your home on a monthly basis not only helps keep things around the house in order and functioning correctly, it also improves the aesthetics and beauty of your home. No one enjoys seeing cracks in their caulking or holes in their drywall. Spend your time at home with the peace of mind knowing that your place is attractive and at its best rather than stressing about all the things that need to be done.

Our multi-skilled Craftsmen can do it all including tackle your monthly to-do list. Save yourself time, money, and the headache of trying to get to it all yourself. Call or book online today.

 

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KEEPING YOUR HOME SAFE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

While the December holidays evoke a spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill toward all, not everyone embraces that philosophy, so just to be sure, it makes sense to take a few extra steps to keep your home and your loved ones safe this upcoming season.

We’ve become pretty well-schooled in the idea of having packages delivered to our offices if no one is going to be home, or having a neighbor bring in any parcels that are left unattended on our porches or by our front doors.  You don’t want items stolen any time of the year, but particularly when these are intended to be gifts.  However, your precaution shouldn’t stop there.

Most folks like to display their Christmas tree in front of a living room window where they can be enjoyed not just by family members, but by neighbors and folks passing in front of your home.  But if you’ve also placed gifts under the tree, this inadvertently creates an invitation to burglars.  Better to either keep the gifts hidden elsewhere or move your tree to a spot away from windows or other places with a view.

If you will be traveling during the holidays, it’s best to notify a trusted neighbor or engage a reputable housesitter to keep an eye on your property while you are away.  Arrange to have someone shovel your walks if it snows in your absence, and rather than discontinuing your mail or newspaper delivery, which can be a signal that no one will be at home, have someone collect these and keep them safe for you until your return.  Put a few lights on a timer, or better yet, have a friend or neighbor come over to leave on different lights on different nights so that a “pattern” isn’t readily obvious to anyone who might be checking out your place.

In this age of oversharing of information on social media, keep your travel plans offline.  Don’t post that you’ll be out of town, or where you are going, or for how long.

One of the best deterrents, of course, is to install a home security system that triggers alarms and that can alert you to any suspicious activity taking place, no matter where you may be when it occurs.  Some of these systems are easily installed with a minimum of fuss; others—hardwired security, for instance—can present more of a challenge, and may require the assistance of a professional service such as Handyman Matters who have Craftsmen well-versed in such installations.

There’s a lot of things going on this time of year that require our attention; worrying about the security of our home shouldn’t have to be one of them.

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ENJOY YOUR JULY FOURTH FESTIVITIES (AND THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER) WITH SAFETY IN MIND

Summer is here, at last, with all of its enjoyable warm-weather activities: picnics, hiking, fishing, gardening, swimming, boating, bar-b-ques, and, of course, celebrating the anniversary of our nation’s independence on July 4th.  And, unfortunately, it’s a fact of nature that all of these are accompanied by a certain amount of risk.  Handyman Matters is here to help you have a safe and wonderful time this summer.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to reduce the risk of spending any time being treated for injuries from easily avoidable accidents.

PROTECT YOURSELF – Stay hydrated and use sunscreen!  This seems pretty obvious, but it’s ridiculously easy to step outdoors for what you think will be just a few minutes, only to wind up distracted by some task that will have you boiling underneath the sun’s harsh rays without even realizing it.  Both sunburn and dehydration sneak up on you, so don’t give them a chance.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS – With the advent of spring and the return of green grass and flowers comes the temptation to spruce up things around your home and yard.  Maybe you’re eyeing a landscaping project, taking down storm windows, cleaning gutters, sanding and re-staining patio furniture, washing all the second-story windows, or something else.  Whether it’s a large project or small, don’t jump in until you’ve fully considered the amount of time you can dedicate to it, as well as your personal skill level.  Don’t compromise the project—or your safety—by biting off more than you can chew.  You’ll wind up frustrated (or worse, yet—with a frustrated spouse!) and a home improvement project only halfway done by autumn, and looking nowhere near the way you pictured it in your head!

BE SAFE, BE SAFE, AND BE SAFE – Don’t mount a rickety ladder to wash windows, clean gutters or to check the condition of your roof.  Don’t undertake any of these or any other outdoor activities when a thunder and lightning storm beckons.  Make sure you alert someone before attempting any task that involves working with power tools or takes you up into a tree or onto a ladder—the statistics on people lying injured while unaware family members are just steps, away are staggering.  Don’t be one of them!

Don’t prune trees or shrubbery anywhere near power lines.  Don’t dig on your property until you know precisely where any utility cables are buried.

BE CAREFUL AND CAUTIOUS IN YOUR CELEBRATING – The Fourth of July holiday comes with some uniquely potential hazards:  grilling, open flames, fireworks, and, in many instances, alcohol.  Adding to the mix are children and pets dashing around, a heightened recipe for disaster.  It’s important to exercise caution and to resist temptation.  Leave the fireworks to the experts.  Don’t leave grills, bar-b-cues or open flames unattended for even a few seconds.  If you are entertaining a small group of friends or family, be vigilant.  Have fun, and relax—just don’t relax too much—it’s the responsibility comes with being a good host.

Handyman Matters wants you to have a summer to remember—but for all the right reasons!  We stand ready to assist you with any summertime projects that can help you enjoy your house and yard to their fullest.  After all, we’re in this for the long haul—we want you to be a customer for life!

You can always reach us by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.

GETTING YOUR YARD AND PATIO READY FOR SUMMER ENTERTAINING

With spring close at hand and summer not far behind, it will soon be time to conduct a back yard inspection to make sure that your home is ready for entertaining family and friends over the next several months.

patio-ready-summerOftentimes, just a little “sprucing-up” is required to have your backyard looking its best again, but it all begins by conducting a careful inventory, looking at everything through the eyes of a guest.  Prepare to make a few notes as you walk around the areas where you will be entertaining, and ask yourself four questions:

  1. What needs cleaning/trimming?  Is the grass overgrown?  Are the lawn cushions looking soiled or faded?  Are your windows streaked or muddied from a winter’s worth of storms?  Do you have trees and bushes that could use a good trimming?  Are the gutters clogged or overflowing?
  1. What needs repairing?   Stand in the middle of the yard and turn around slowly, taking in everything you see.  What could stand a fresh coat of paint or stain?  Are there boards dangling or missing from the fence?  Do your kids have a tree house or playground equipment that has seen better days?   Is the gate sagging or are the hinges loose?  Is it a struggle to open or close the sliding patio door?
  1. What needs replacing?  Is the bird feeder cracked or dangling by a frayed thread?  Are the vinyl straps on the patio furniture loose or broken?  Has the umbrella over the deck table seen its last season?  How old and how reliable is your grill?
  1. What presents potential hazards?  Most importantly, determine whether there’s anything around the yard or patio that could cause injury.  Are there loose flagstones in the garden, crumbling or loose bricks on the low patio wall?  Are there wobbly deck railings, or cracked boards on steps?  Are there dark corners, stumbling hazards, low-hanging beams or any other hazards where adding outdoor lighting could reduce the risk of injury?

Entertaining company on summer afternoons and evenings should be a laid-back, stress-free experience.  And, in truth, people are there to enjoy one another’s company.  Things don’t have to perfect for everyone to have a good time.  But a little clean-up and repair ahead of time will go a long way towards enhancing your time with friends and family.

For assistance in sprucing up your home and yard for the summer months, you can always rely on the friendly and capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters to help out with any project, large or small.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the number of the location nearest you.

THAT EVER-GROWING LIST OF SMALL REPAIRS

Human beings are not only creatures of habit, we tend to be an extremely adaptable species.  For proof, look no further than your own house.

The odds are there are several small items in need of repair that you have put off fixing, and in the process, you’ve learned to work around the inconvenience they present.  In fact, you’ve put up with the situation so long that, most of the time, it doesn’t even seem like a problem any longer.  For example:

  • The wobbly towel rack that’s worked its way loose from the wall
  • The warped drawer that’s difficult to open or close
  • The sliding shower door that’s come off of its track
  • The ripped screen in the screen door
  • The cracked floor tile in the entryway
  • The “ding” in the wall caused when a piece of furniture banged against it

Without even thinking about it, you’ve become accustomed to stepping over or around the cracked tile.  You brace yourself in order to tug extra hard when you need to open the drawer.  You’ve stopped using the wobbly towel rack altogether.  You’ve moved a chair in order to conceal the damage to the wall.

You’ve told yourself that any one of these jobs is just too small to worry about right now.  You’ll get around to fixing all of them one of these days.  But more days go by, and instead, the list has just gotten larger.  You could probably go along like this for quite a while, finding new ways to live with the problems.  But, as with so many things in life, these situations don’t go away, or get better on their own.  It’s time to address them head-on.  You either need to set aside the time to handle the repairs on your own, or call in an expert.

That’s where Handyman Matters can come in, well… handy.  Their qualified craftsmen can handle more 1,162 home repair projects, large and small.  You tend to consider calling in an expert when you have one big job that needs fixing.  But why not bring in someone to tackle the half-dozen or more “honey-do” items that have been stacking up around your house?  In a single visit, a Handyman Matters craftsman can address the many little and mid-sized repair projects that have disrupted the orderly flow of life around your home.

Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the phone number of the office that serves your area.

PREVENTING ELECTRICAL MALFUNCTIONS IN YOUR HOME

An estimated 47,700 home structure fires in the United States every year, all due to some form or electrical failure or malfunction. It’s imperative for every property owner to take the precautions necessary to prevent needless damage and injury resulting from such disasters.

Though some of the below tips may seem like no-brainers, check to make sure you aren’t guilty of any of these infractions:

  • Never remove the grounding pin (the third plug) to make a plug fit into a two-prong outlet.
  • Don’t nail or staple electrical cords to walls, floors, or other objects.
  • Extension cords are designed for temporary use; don’t utilize them as permanent household wiring.
  • Replace missing or broken wall plates so that wiring and components never remain exposed.
  • If an appliance is repeatedly blowing a fuse or trips a circuit breaker, unplug it and have an electrician check out the problem.
  • Outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, workshop and laundry rooms should always be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters, and these need to be tested on a regular basis.
  • Check electrical cords regularly to make sure they haven’t become frayed or cracked. Also, they should not be placed under carpeting or rugs.

And when working outdoors, take care to keep yourself and all equipment a safe distance—at least ten feet—from power lines and service connections. Check for power lines before setting up ladders or using long tools. Additionally, never use electric tools in the rain or if the ground is wet.

For additional information on preventing electrical hazards, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Your local Handyman Matters office can send out a craftsman to do an assessment around your home to determine if there are any potential electrical hazards that need addressing, and they can assist you with making any necessary corrections. Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website to locate the office nearest you.

REPLACING OR INSTALLING A MAIL BOX

Installing a new mailbox or replacing an old one is a relatively simple and straightforward task. But there are a number of factors to take into consideration ahead of time.

The depth required for placing the post of a mailbox in the ground is generally two to three feet. This isn’t deep enough to worry about cutting into any buried electrical or utility lines, but sprinkler lines are placed at a much shallower level. If you—or your home’s previous owner—have installed a sprinkler system or outdoor lighting cables, check to make certain you won’t be damaging any of these when you place a new post or foundation for your mailbox.

Most posts are secured into the ground around a cement foundation. These can be extremely difficult to remove; in many instances, you will be better served by either utilizing the same post or cutting it off at ground level and placing the new post a short distance away, in fresh ground.

Remember as well that before you undertake the project, it’s important to review postal regulations to make sure that you are complying with the rules regarding mail delivery. Even the post supporting the box requires approval from the local post office. It must be accessible from your carrier’s vehicle so that the letter carrier does not have to leave his/her car in order to place the mail in the box.

Many homeowners like to create their own mailbox, designing something that complements their home and property. Again, the post office must approve your design. Something that looks charming but is difficult to open or creates some other challenge or hazard will turn your mailbox into nothing more than a piece of decoration that serves no practical purpose… other than perhaps becoming a bird house!

Both the post and your mailbox need to be constructed of durable material that will withstand changing weather conditions, traffic mishaps, and, sadly, the possibility of being vandalized.

Wood, of course, is the traditional choice for mailbox posts. Cedar and redwood are attractive choices and insect-resistant, but more expensive than other selections. Pressure-treated wood is perhaps the best option since it is both resistant to rot and to insects, though the section of post that sticks above ground should be treated with sealant to prevent cracking or splitting. Stone, brick and concrete bases are extremely weather-resistant, but must conform to local and state building codes, as well as postal regulations.

Putting a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole before installing the post will improve drainage and prevent standing water from collecting around the base. And be mindful as you set the post into the ground to keep it upright; having a level on hand is crucial to ensure that you won’t wind up with a mailbox that is forever positioned at a tilt.

Use galvanized or stainless steel screws when fixing the box directly to the stand. You may prefer to mount a board on the post and affix the box to this. It’s important that the board be mounted tightly to the post and the box tightly to the board.

Finally, while you do not have to have your name on the mailbox, you must put the street address number on it on the side facing the approaching mail carrier.

The entire process of installing a new mailbox or replacing an old one is pretty straightforward. But if you don’t have the time or inclination to undertake the project yourself, Handyman Matters is more than happy to assist you with this and in any other home repair, remodel and restoration projects on your to-do list. Call 1-800-FIX-MY-HOME or find us online at handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the location that services your area.