The Professional Choice

A companion overview to the popular "Ask Mr. Handyman" radio program airing on Christian Talk Radio, KCRO 660AM Saturdays @ 9:30AM.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter Road Safety Tips

Winter weather survival includes being prepared for automobile accidents and weather-induced delays. Accidents can be multi-vehicle but frequently sliding off into a ravine due to road conditions is the most dangerous. Being prepared for winter conditions can make the difference between life and death if you find yourself in this predicament.

Important things to remember:

It starts with the basics; give your car a thorough pre-season check every fall. If you don’t know how or don’t have the time, have an automotive professional do it for you. Check fluid levels, wiper blade condition, belt condition, headlight and taillights, and similar items. Keep the fuel tank full and the cell-phone charged.

When traveling in harsh winter weather be sure someone knows when to expect you at your destination, and what route you will be taking. If conditions become dangerous and appear to be getting worse, STOP. If it is sensible to return the way you came, do so.

If stranded and you must use your car engine to heat the vehicle, always check to make sure the exhaust tailpipe is clear. A blocked tail pipe can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and death. Be sure to open a window when you are running the engine, and try not to run the engine over 10 minutes in every hour. Use foil or space blankets and duct tape to cover windows and reflect your heat back to you.

Use a bright cloth, rags or tape to mark the car’s antenna and any signs or posts nearby. A vehicle in the snow quickly becomes invisible unless you make an effort to be seen.

DO NOT leave your vehicle unless you can SEE a building or home to evacuate to, or it is unsafe to remain in your vehicle. If you leave your vehicle to go cross-country or down the road, leave a note in the vehicle so rescuers know which way to proceed.

Know the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite. Be sure to wear a wool cap or other insulating hat to prevent heat loss. Be particularly careful with children, who aren’t as aware of the danger they may be in or their body symptoms.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home Maintenance Savings

Nationally syndicated columnist Liz Pullman Weston's has a recent article about preventive home maintenance and saving for the bigger ticket items (furnace, roof repairs, etc.).

I'm not the only person proclaiming it! Save a lot of dough $$$ by performing the preventative maintenance!

My motto is....."Spend hundred$ now on home maintenance or thou$and$ later in repairs!"

Read Liz's article here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October - Fire Safety Month

Fire safety month is here once again. Please do not put these very important tasks off. Do them now while it's fresh on your mind. Too many souls are lost each year to improper planning and lack of fire safety knowledge.

Clean and change batteries in all smoke and fire detectors. Use the canned air you can purchase for computer keyboards and blow each one out. Change the batteries and push the test button to ensure proper operation.

Have at least 2 fire extinguishers available for use in an emergency escape from the home. Check the gauges to ensure they are fully charged. Replace any that are in the red on the gauge. Buy a new ABC (CO2 extinguisher) for most home applications. One should be kept near the kitchen for small stove fires and at least one near the bed rooms for use during an escape.

Have a plan of escape for the family and practice it blind-folded at least twice a year with the whole family. Gather at a predetermined neighbor's home and check that all got out. Visit the National Fire Protection Association website for cool educational games for the children and tips for parents at

If you have a 2 or 3-story home consider an emergency escape ladder. Mr. Handyman only installs PEARL Protected ladders because they are the best and most cost-effective escape ladders on the market. Go to their website for more information. We keep several in stock at our office. They make great gifts for family members with children and a 2 or 3-story home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September is National Disaster Prepardness Month

The three basic steps to prepare for any type of disaster that may affect your family's well-being are.

1. Create an emergency preparedness kit. This should include one to draw from in the event you may be stuck in the home for extended periods of time (need for food, water, flashlight, radio, blankets etc) or one that you will need to bolt from the house (in the case of a local chemical leak, flood, etc.)

2. Make a plan to follow when disaster strikes. Discuss the plan with family members and keep copies that you may take with you. It should include point of contacts and places to go in an emergency event.

3. Stay informed. Keeping up with local radio, TV and emergency hotlines may save your life. The hand-crank radios are a great addition to any emergency kit.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tip$.... On the House

Texture Matching on a Ceiling

Matching texture on a ceiling is difficult task, one that I (Dan) do not posess. I have hired folks that are good at it but sometimes it might not be perfect. Attempting to match it and failing, or not being completely satisfied is better than removing all of the texture from the ceiling and starting over. It depends on your expectations. Mr. Handyman has technicians that are skilled at it and it is well worth allowing them to attempt it prior to removing it throughout the whole ceiling. It is not a task I recommend doing yourself if you want good results.

Stains on Concrete

Oil and grease can be removed with some kitty litter. Rub the clay litter into the stained spot with the bottom of your shoe. Use a de-greaser if needed. Pressure wash and reapply if needed.

Squeeks in a Floor

Some squeeks can be solved with a screw that you break off under the carpet layer. There are several different types available at hardware stores. Some times the squeek is actually from the junction of the wall and floor. You may need to tap in a few shims under the wall structure to solve those. It takes some time to investigate and resolve them so be patient.

Remodeling Cost vs Return

If a homeowner was to remodel a kitchen, how much of that project cost would be returned should he have to sell immediately? Remodeling Magazine has an online interface that displays the research on projects such as this. The Omaha area is specifically listed as one of the research areas and the data is current for this year/economy. Even though the return on investment has decreased some over the past few years (nationally) remodeling today is a good value.

If you have ever wanted to update a bathroom or kitchen this data shows that you will recoup most of your hard-earned cash to proceed with the project. If you plan to remain in your home for 3 years or longer chances are that you will recoup ALL of your investment for MOST upgrades/additions. So enjoy your home more, fix it up they way you've always dreamed. If the workmanship is of a professional quality with quality products you almost cannot go wrong!

The link directly to the Omaha data is:

I thought the data was a bit hard to decipher so here is my take. The first chart (Midrange), first item (Attic bedroom) shows if you spent $48K on the addition of the attic bedroom it would return $31K when you sold your home. The second chart (scroll down) is for higher quality additions and remodels.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Deck Maintenance

Your deck gets used most during the warmer weather so take a few minutes to inspect the structure for signs of deterioration and maintenance needs.

Look for any loose, soft or cracked wood that could be unsafe if not corrected.
Replace any decking boards that have too much give or feel spongy when you walk on them.
Handrailings should be secure and not wobbly.
The deck posts should not show signs of rot at the bottom. Push a screwdriver into any areas that show damage. If the point of the screwdriver goes into the wood it is time to get it repaired.
The deck board against the house should not have any gap between the house. It should also not have any rot or deterioration.
Ballasters (verticle slats on the rails) shouldn't be greater than 4 inches apart.
Apply sealer to any exposed wood. Pressure wash if necessary to clean deck prior to sealing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Sweating" tank on a toilet

If you have moisture on the outside of your toilet tank you may have a moisture problem in your home. The excess moisture can cause the floor under the toilet to fail and will be very costly to repair if that happens. Prevent it by following the simple suggestions in the order listed.

Turn the vent fan on and leave it on for at least 20 minutes after you take a shower or bath.

Check the humidity level in your home. Run the A/C longer or purchase a dehumidifier if needed.

Purchase a new toilet that has a plastic tank inside of the ceramic tank housing.

Have a plumber install a mixing valve which will send warmer water to the toilet.

Excessive moisture in the bathroom can cause the grout and caulking to mold quickly and may lead to costly wall and floor repairs. Preventing the problem is the least costly and will help keep your home safe from mold and mildew.

Garage Organization

Helpful tips to keep your garage clean and organized.

Pare down. Get rid of items you no longer need. Recycle by donating to the Goodwill.

Install a pull-down attic ladder to increase your storage space.

Purchase "knock-down" heavy-duty plastic shelving from one of the "big-box" stores.

Install a pully system to raise your bikes up and out of the way. (Great for winter storage)

Hang garden tools and ladders on the walls with specially designed hooks & racks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Free “Green” Money from the good uncle

Do you like to get some “green” back at tax time? Tax credits are available for some home improvements. Don’t miss out! The program is short lived and may not be re-authorized by congress. If you need new windows, exterior doors or need to add insulation you are throwing away money if you do not take advantage of this program.

Here is a brief overview.

  • Improvements must be placed in service before December 31, 2010.

  • Improvements must be made to your (taxpayer’s) principal residence.

  • Tax credit is equal to 30% of product cost (not installation).

  • Maximum tax credit is $1,500 over 2 years (2009 and 2010). You have less than 18 months to plan, save and leverage this program.

  • You must have Manufacturer Certification Statement and receipts to qualify. The Energy Star web site states "Taxpayers must keep a copy of the certification statement for their records, but do not have to submit a copy with their tax return."

Here are the Energy Efficiency Improvements that qualify through the end of 2010:

  • Insulation - primary purpose must be insulation, i.e. insulated siding doesn't qualify.

  • Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors and Storm Windows and Doors - but check carefully as not all qualify (see table on Energy Star web site, right column).

  • Roofing - includes all Energy Star qualified metal roofs plus reflective asphalt shingles.

  • Central A/C- should be properly sized, and check for supporting documentation.

  • Furnaces - there are oil, natural gas and propane eligible furnaces but make sure you're picking a model that is eligible for the tax credits. It includes some air-source heat pumps.

  • Water Heaters - there are select models of natural gas, propane, oil and electric hot water heaters that qualify.

More novel Renewable Energy Improvements are eligible for 30% of the total cost (no $1500 cap), and can be added to your home up to December 2016.

  • Solar Water Heating – use the sun to heat your bath water.

  • Photovoltaic Systems – solar panels that produce electricity for your home.

  • Residential Wind Turbines – produce energy for your home from the wind.

As always, with any government program, there are some strict rules to qualify. Visit or consult the manufacturer to ensure the requirements are met prior to purchasing any of these items.

Tip$....On the House.

Deck cleaning without pressure-washing
The preferred way to clean a deck in preparation for staining and resealing is with the use of a pressure washer, can also use a deck wash (purchased at a big-box home store) and a stiff-bristled brush. Oh, and don't forget a whole lot of elbow grease! Pressure wash the underside to remove algae, dirt and mildew at least every 2nd to 3rd sealing/staining.

Chair Rail Height
Generally chair rail should be installed approximately 1/3 the height of the ceiling. Use 2 inch blue painter's tape to test the location and apply it around the whole room to visually verify your height desire. This will help you avoid obstructions such as light switches, ledges, window sills etc.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Green" Uses for Vinegar

Some people are earth friendly in almost everything they do. Some of us are just learning to be. Here is a less harmful way (environmentally) to accomplish tasks around the home without chemicals.

Soap scum on shower walls: Spray on vinegar, scrub and rinse.

Hard-water rings in the toilet: Turn off the supply valve to the toilet then flush it to lower the water level. Pour vinegar on the ring, sprinkle in borax and scrub a green scrubby.

Shower head lime/calcium deposit: Pour vinegar into a plastic bag, tape to the shower head and leave overnight. Brush the shower head to remove remaining deposits. You can remove the shower head and soak it in a tupperware bowl. You will need to apply teflon tape when re-installing it.

Drain Cleaner: Remove the stopper, pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain, then pour in 1 cup of vinegar; the mixture will foam, clean and deodorize. Use whenever needed to unclog the drain or when the drain starts to smell badly.

Mildew in the tub/shower area: Use full strength, scrub with a green scrubbie to remove mold and mildew. Evaluate the caulking and re-caulk if needed. Inspect tile grout. Repair if needed to prevent future water damage.

Fabric Softener: Fill dispenser with 1/4 cup white vinegar to soften laundry without leaving odors.

Cleaning vinyl floors: Add 1/4 cup vinegar to 1 gallon hot water for spotless floors.

Cleaning windows: Mix 50 percent white vinegar with 50 percent water in a spray bottle. Spray glass surfaces and wipe dry.

Neutralize pet odors: Mix 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. Pour on stained areas and blot; never rub to remove stains and odors.

Greasy dishes: Mix 2 tablespoons white vinegar to liquid dish soap to boost its cleaning power.

Coffee Pot: Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the full level for the coffee pot and run it through. Be sure to run another of just water to rinse.