Summer Maintenance Tips

Summer brings sunshine, green leaves, and trips to the beach. But the warm, dry season also offers the perfect chance to get some work done around the house. With just a few weekends’ worth of work, these tips can help get your home in tip-top shape and ready for the rest of the year. When it gets warm, it’s tempting to ditch any housework for the beach or the golf course. Hard as it may be, consider suppressing that urge for a few weekends, because some fairly easy work can improve the state of your home, give it an appearance makeover, and even save you some money.

Keep Your Cool With a Fan

There’s an easy trick to keeping cooler and saving money, and it’s as close as your ceiling fan. Switch the ceiling fan’s blades so the leading edge is higher as the fan turns, so you can feel the breeze from the fan as it rotates. This simple action will push cool air down, enabling you to set the air-conditioning lower and save money on energy.

Clean Your Dryer Vent

Without some maintenance, your dryer could cause a house fire. The U.S. Fire Administration reports nearly 16,000 dryer fires occur annually, which happen largely because dryers’ vents get clogged with lint and dust. Thankfully, you can avoid any unnecessary dryer-caused danger with a few simple steps. First, you’ll need a vent-cleaning brush kit, which can clean your dryer vent tubing more thoroughly than a vacuum cleaner can. Begin by cleaning the dryer’s lint trap housing with a smaller brush to remove as much lint and dust as possible. Then disconnect the dryer duct from the dryer and the wall for a thorough cleaning. Also use a brush to clean the vent on the outside of the house to keep both ends clean and free of lint.

Clean Your Gutters

Water and debris can accumulate in your gutters over the fall and winter, which can lead to water damage in your house. And you don’t want that. So get a ladder that can reach your gutters, but be sure not to overextend yourself. If the gutter is too high, you might want to call in an expert to do the job. If you’re doing the work yourself, don’t lean the ladder against the gutter or near electrical wires. Scoop out the gutter’s wet leaves and debris, and wet down caked-on dirt so you can scoop out the mud with a trowel. Also, use a garden hose to flush the gutters after you’ve cleaned them. This will get the gutters clean, and it will also let you know if you have leaks. Then use the hose to wash out your downspouts to make sure they’re not clogged. But be gentle—downspouts aren’t meant to withstand the same water pressure as a house drain.

Some experts recommend covering your gutters with a wire mesh guard to keep debris out. And remember: Never hang onto a gutter for support. It’s built to hold water and some leaves, not your weight.

Keep Your Deck Healthy

Your deck provides a great place to hang out in the summer, but it needs a little TLC to stay in good shape. Visually inspect the boards to look for curling, cracked, or rotting wood. If you see a board that’s damaged, remove it and replace it with a board that you’ve cut to fit the same space. Go underneath your deck to make sure the support structure is in good shape, and keep an eye out for cracked boards and missing screws or nails. If you see signs of insects or unwanted animals, such as spider webs or chewed boards, call a pest-control expert to take care of the problem.

Lastly, if your deck is sealed or stained, some experts say you should refinish it annually. Start by power washing the deck, then letting it thoroughly dry. Remove the finish or seal with a remover/stripper, and let it dry again. With a sander and medium-grit sandpaper, lightly sand the deck, then remove all of the dust before continuing. Before you apply your finish, do a small test area to make sure you’ve got the right color. If you do, apply the finish with the wood’s grain and don’t stop in the middle—that can cause uneven coloring and streaks.

Two things to remember: make sure you’re wearing a mask to prevent inhaling dust and fumes, and don’t do any of this work if it’s going to rain.

 

Gutter Cleaning Season Again

Now with Fall in full swing gutter cleaning season is here again.  It is a dreaded task shared by many once they see the leaves beginning to turn colors, but properly functioning gutters, after all, help ensure that storm water does not find its way inside. There are several ways to get the job done. No matter your chosen approach, the first step is to assess the state of the gutters, determining whether any clogs exist, and if so, their cause. Twigs and dry leaves are easy enough to clear away, but if your gutters are obstructed by dirt or decomposed organic matter (or even small seedlings), a relatively aggressive removal method may be in order. Here are a few of the most common and effective ways to clean gutters.

Leaf Blowers

Many leaf blowers come with a nozzle attachment designed to release a narrow stream of air, perfect for the purpose of gutter cleaning. Position your ladder so that you can work gradually toward the downspout, blowing out obstructions as you go. (Be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout.) As a final step, remove any lingering leaves or twigs with a hose. Don’t want to stand on a ladder? A specialized attachment can extend the reach of your leaf blower.

Wet/Dry Vacuums

To remove heavier debris from your gutters, experiment with a wet/dry vacuum. Your local home improvement retail store likely carries the hoses and curved attachments you need to reach the obstructed gutters from a standing position on the ground. Stubborn, stuck-on dirt may need to be moistened before it succumbs to the vacuum. Again, once you’ve removed the bulk of the material, flush the gutters and downspout with water from a garden hose.

Power Washers

Has it been a long while since you last cleaned your gutters? A layer of dirt and debris may have built up over time. Blast it away with the fine-spray nozzle of your power washer. (This type of cleaning can get messy; be prepared to rinse the roof and exterior walls afterward.) For clogged downspouts in particular, there’s no better recourse than a power washer. Simply point the nozzle down the hole and rinse the shaft until water can run freely through it.

Garden Hose

So long as they are not thoroughly clogged, you can clean your gutters successfully with a garden hose. If the hose is equipped with the right attachment (a rigid tube with a curved end), you can stand on the ground, not on a ladder, as you work. Again, start at the end farthest from the downspout and flush the length of the channel; remove any residual material by hand before it dries out.

The Old Fashioned Way, By Hand

To clean gutters by hand, you’ll need a ladder, bucket, gutter scoop (or garden trowel), and heavy-duty gloves. Little by little, take out the leaves and debris, placing what you remove into the bucket. Finally, flush the gutters and downspout with water until you are certain both are functioning properly. Tip: If your downspouts are clogged and you don’t have a power washer, try busting through the obstruction with a plumber’s snake, then rinse with a hose.

Consider installing a screen or barrier on top of your gutters to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating over the course of the year. Remember what they say about an ounce of prevention.  And remember, any time you partake in any project using a ladder, use every precaution possible.

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Are Carpet Repair Kits Reliable?

For simple patch up jobs, a carpet repair kit may seem like a good choice to a homeowner, but as with anything else, buyers beware. Over the counter or as-seen-on-TV products often lure people with exaggerated claims, failing to mention the problems with do-it-yourself techniques. Do-it-yourself carpet patching uses inferior materials and equipment to produce a seal, and a professional can be more precise and fix any other problems that might be affecting the flooring.

A carpet repair kit uses a patching process that is similar to what professionals employ, but the quality doesn’t’ compare. During patching, a small piece of carpet is cut out of the closet or utility room and placed where the damaged flooring was. Sealing the patch in place requires a heat activated adhesive and an iron. The problem with do-it-yourself products is that the adhesive is inferior and the iron used in the process is typically a flat iron. Together, these materials are not capable of producing the same secure seal that a professional can get with an industrial glue gun and seam iron. As a result, homeowners who eschew professional assistance will have a patch that is poorly secured. Any heavy foot traffic or active play time with the family dog will quickly rip the seal up and cause the flooring to bunch.

Skilled professionals can also remove odors, stains or other structural issues with the carpeting so a homeowner can resolve several problems at once with professional help.

Did you know that we are the 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 Angie’s List Award Winner for Mold Testing, Mold Remediation, Water Damage Restoration, Fire & Smoke Restoration and Bio-Hazard Cleaning. We are also the 2013, 2014 & 2015 Best of Philadelphia Award Winner. We recently won the 2014 Best Philadelphia Contractors Award from Philadelphia Life Magazine, and we’ve been inducted in the Philadelphia Business Hall of Fame for 2014.

Preventing Frozen PIpes

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

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Fall Maintenance Tips

Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when it builds up in your gutters! Take these tips into account during the cool autumn months.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

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Smoke Odor Removal in Furniture

Seeking out professional help for smoke odor removal, especially in the case of carpets and upholstery, is the first correct step in obtaining proper smell extraction.  This ordeal can be very costly and time consuming for an individual to experiment with on their own, which is why many local professionals are available to help home owners who have suffered the unfortunate fate of this scenario.

First off, ascertaining the severity of the situation is one of the most important aspects in obtaining an accurate quote from a professional beforehand. Additionally, keeping a close watch on the amount of time that has elapsed since the smell had first entered the fibers will also dramatically change the amount of time and overall cost of the cleaning. If weeks have gone by without any professional aid, carpets and upholstery may become permanently damaged, suffering discoloration among other things.

Smoke odor removal professionals will first get rid of any residue that’s physically left on the surface of the fibers.  The first actual deodorizing element to the process is to eliminate any sources of the smell, including any unsalvageable materials that cannot be processed properly and thus, must be disposed of. Next, a thorough cleaning of any salvageable surfaces will be imperative in further eliminating the smell and keeping it from reoccurring.

Since the smell is airborne in nature, professionals will need to create a type of fog that is comprised of cleaning agents and is pumped into the area to eliminate smells that fill the room. If it’s needed, items in the room may be sealed off and quarantined to avoid any exposure to the smell during the odor extraction.

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Tips For Sealing Leaks

Sources of air leaks in your home. Areas that leak air into and out of your home cost you a lot of money. The areas listed in the illustration are the most common sources of air leaks.

Air leaks can waste a lot of your energy dollars. One of the quickest energy– and money-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weather strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside.

TIPS FOR SEALING AIR LEAKS

  • Test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick or a smoke pen next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air may leak. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
  • Inspect dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold. Seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose and install house flashing if needed.
  • Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists, and caulk them.
  • Cover single-pane windows with storm windows or replace them with more efficient double-pane low- emissivity windows. See the Windows section for more information.
  • Use foam sealant on larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where air may leak out.
  • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use.
  • Check your dryer vent to be sure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire.
  • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
  • Keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use.
  • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or drywall and furnace cement caulk.

Fireplace flues are made from metal, and over time repeated heating and cooling can cause the metal to warp or break, creating a channel for air loss. To seal your flue when not in use, consider an inflatable chimney balloon. Inflatable chimney balloons fit beneath your fireplace flue when not in use, are made from durable plastic, and can be removed easily and reused hundreds of times. If you forget to remove the balloon before making a fire, the balloon will automatically deflate within seconds of coming into contact with heat. A reasonably capable do-it-yourselfer can create an inexpensive, reusable fireplace flue plug by filling a plastic trash bag with fiberglass batt scraps and jamming it into the flue. Attach a durable cord with a tag that hangs down into the fireplace to (1) remind you the flue is blocked and (2) provide an easy plug removal method.

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