The Professional Choice

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Burglaries are up Nationwide.

Is it the economy?  Or are there just a lot of down and out people?  I think in either case I do not want to be one of their victims.  The best defense is a deterrent.  If the thief cannot break in your door he cannot steal from you.  Or if he does not have unfettered access to your garage he will look for another victim.

Here are two devices to reduce the chance of your home being the next victim.

1. StrikeMaster II Pro - doorframe reinforcement

According to the FBI, the easiest way for a criminal to get into your house is just to kick in your door! The FBI says every 12 seconds a home is invaded by going right through the front or back door. This is caused by doorframe failure. Two o'clock in the afternoon is the biggest break-in time.  What makes these thieves so brazen to burglarize during broad daylight?  Because kicking in a door is so easy!

A deadbolt lock alone does not secure your door! The door jam needs to be reinforced to offer any sort of protection. The weakest point is almost always the lock strike plate that holds the latch or lock bolt in place. Home security devices like deadbolts and steel doors are not the problem. The average door strike plate is secured only by the doorjamb material. These thin ¾ pieces of softwood can be torn away with a firm kick or shoulder slam. Chiseling and removing wood to fit the locks will also result in a much-weakened doorframe.

Unless extra reinforcement is taken to strengthen the doorframe, a forced entry or kick-in burglary will split open the wooden doorframe around the lock. FBI statistics show 70% of all break-ins are from doorframe failure.

For far less than the deductible on your insurance you can have one of these StrikeMaster II Pros installed.  The manufacturer's stated warranty includes paying up to $250 towards your deductible if it should fail.  So far after over 15,000 sold throughout the US, none have failed. 

For more information about the StrikeMaster II Pro visit their website  Cost is around $220 installed or $ 110 outright purchase plus tax.

2. Garage Door Minder - automatically closes garage door when left open

Another burglary statistic shows that busy suburban families sometimes forget to ensure their garage door is fully closed when they depart for work or go to bed in the evening. It is an easy invitation for a thief casing the neighborhood.

The garage door minder closes the door after a preset time period and at dusk. It can be bypassed or switched off for activities in the garage and it will not interfere with the safety devices on the door.

Cost is around $160.00 installed or $50.00 outright purchase.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

$25 off Mr. Handyman Service

Monday, December 20, 2010

Check on Your Senior Parents or Relatives

Senior living centers receive more calls after the holidays than any other time of the year. It is when relatives get together with their family that they see how difficult a time their senior parents are having getting along in life.

Today, more seniors are remaining in their homes longer, and usually alone. Many adult children do not recognize how much of a struggle their loved one is having in completing daily tasks until a bad fall or other scare triggers a good evaluation and information quest. Most seniors are either too stubborn or proud to admit they need help or assistance until it’s too late.

Planning to live your senior years in relative comfort is like planning your will, an uneasy task for most but very much a necessity. The old fear that a "nursing home" is the only option has been diminished with in-home care, senior living centers, assisted living and specialized care facilities. Once the determination has been made to remain in the home there are some common home modifications that need to be considered.

Falls are a major problem for senior citizens. Sixty percent of falls happen in the home. Bathrooms are the main concern and in fact, are the most common area to require modifications. Reducing the chance for falls in the bathroom is the most important task to consider. These modifications may be extremely minor, like adding grab bars or putting a riser on the toilet to completely revamping the bathroom for wheel-chair access, a walk-in tub or pedestal sink.

Replacing old knob-style faucets for the newer, lever-style ones is a simple change, and is especially helpful for people with arthritis. Showers are generally safer than tubs for senior citizens because there is a smaller sidewall to step over. A hand-held shower adaptor and a portable stool is an inexpensive modification that can be installed in a few minutes but it will not relieve the risk of stepping over the side of the tub.

Grab bars are essential but they must be properly affixed to the wall. Suction cup grab bars are not recommended regardless what the TV commercials state! Non-slip flooring is a must!

Kitchen modifications are usually most necessary when the occupant has true physical handicaps. If you are remodeling your kitchen anyway, consider installing sliding shelves or drawers in lower cabinets, reducing or eliminating upper cabinets and placing microwave ovens and toaster ovens at a convenient height.

Wheel-chair ramps, stair-lift units and other home entry modifications are most often thought about when thinking of ‘aging-in place’ but the bathroom is the place most falls take place. The most important factor is to plan ahead. Add these “senior-friendly” home modifications BEFORE they become a “must-have” item. If you witness your elder parent struggle a bit this Christmas season, consider having some of the basic items installed by a professional to assist them prior to a major fall awakens you to their condition. Act rather than react! You may just save them and you a whole lot of pain and suffering.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How To Create Your Own Roadside Emergency Kit

When it comes to commuting or traveling any lengthy distance, a roadside emergency kit can mean the difference between surviving to see your family again or perishing in the harsh winter weather. Take on the resolve to prepare your vehicle before you make that journey.

Some of the basic items include:
Vehicle assist items: (keep in a box in the trunk)
· 12-foot jumper cables
· Four roadside flares
· Tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat)
· Multi-tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife
· Rags and hand cleaner

Survival items (keep in passenger compartment)
· Blanket and foil / space blankets
· First aid kit & reading materials / playing cards
· Flashlight and extra batteries
· Water-proof matches / lighter & alcohol stove cans
· Roll of duct tape
· Extra Ice scraper
· Pencil and paper
· Granola or energy bars
· Bottled water, coffee can w/ lid & toilet paper
· Extra clothing items, gloves, hats etc.
· and heavy-duty nylon bag or sturdy box to carry it all in.

Prior to departing, imagine being stranded. What would you do for food, drink and how will you replicate a toilet. Do you have extra clothing, gloves, socks, dry shoes? Water freezes, do you have an extra can to melt snow? DO NOT EAT SNOW, it lowers your body temperature. Do you have extra prescription drugs on hand? If you wear contacts, do you have your spare glasses? Proper preparation may save your life!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December Home Maintenance Tasks

Now that the cold winter nights are upon us there are a few maintenance tasks that are probably staring us in the face or at least, making us less comfortable in our homes. Be sure the November tasks are completed then tackle this list for December. The following are “must do” tasks:

1. If your home feels drafty try this tip: When the wind is blowing, check for leaks around doors and windows with a candle or burning incense stick.  Watch for the smoke trail. You will be able to see where the cold draft is entering when the flame flickers or smoke blows away from the leak source. If needed install shrink-film on windows and new weather-stripping on leaky doors.
2. Remove any liquid materials (paints, caulking) from unheated sheds or garages.
3. To prevent a slip on ice seal up any leaky gutters that are dripping onto sidewalks or driveways.
4. If you turn the heat down when on a multi-day trip over the holidays leave the cabinet doors open under the sink to help prevent frozen pipes (especially sinks against outside walls)
5. Storm doors need an adjustment in the winter months to close properly. Most modern doors have a winter setting on the door-side mounting pin. The pin should be in the outer-most hole on the closer mount for winter.

The following are convenience tasks, tasks that have been proven to be most beneficial at this time of year: On a warmer December day consider tackling the following:

1. Fertilize your lawn and shrubs now so the melting snow can feed the deeper roots.
2. Prune trees and shrubs
3. Run a hose to deep-water evergreen trees and shrubs. If the snowfall level is low this winter you may just save them from winter kill.
4. Apply your pre-emergent weed killer/crabgrass preventative.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keep the Chill OUT!

Did you know that a 1/8 inch gap under your door can lead to the same heat loss—and higher energy bills as you’d get if a 3 inch hole was drilled into the side of your home? If the gap is large enough bugs and critters may even seek the comfort of your home this winter though this opening.

To check to see if your threshold or bottom door weather stripping is functioning properly hold a burning candle or incense stick next to the bottom of the door during a windy day to see if the flame or smoke diverts indicating the wind is getting through. If so, it is time to take some action.

Adjustable type door thresholds need periodic adjusting, and will require replacement weather-stripping every couple of years.  They take some trial and error in adjusting it to the correct position so be patient. The trick is to make very small movements up towards the bottom of the door.

A door shoe is the type of rubber weather-stripping mounted on the underside of the door. It will require the removal of the door to replace. Most door shoe products sell for under $30 but could save you hundreds over the life of the item.

Door sweeps mount either on the inside or the outside of the door, at the bottom edge, and provides a seal as the door closes or sweeps closed. Door sweeps usually sell for under $20.00.

Weather-stripping along the sides and top of the door should also be checked with the candle method and replaced if needed. There are many different styles and types, but not all of them are effective. Check to see if an exact replacement type is available for your door.

Mr. Handyman can install weather-stripping to close those gaps and increase the energy efficiency of your exterior doors.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Home Maintenance Tasks to complete during this wonderful weather!

Here is a quick check-off list for the most common maintenance tasks to accomplish in October.

After each use detach hoses in case of freezing temperatures.

If you want to keep them, remove all paints, caulks and liquid materials from garage or garden sheds.

Inspect weatherstripping around doors and windows and repair or replace if necessary. The time to caulk around windows and doors is NOW!

Set thermostats and automatic sprinklers for winter.

Clean gutters after all the leaves have fallen. Consider a gutter protection system to never clean them again! Make sure downspout extensions are securely attached and direct the water at least 4-6 ft away from the home. 90% of the ice damming damage was caused by a clogged-up gutter.

Clean and seal your wooden deck. Freezing temperatures do the most damage to your deck.

Seal the cracks in your driveway to prevent damage.

Clean and change the wick in your whole-house humidifier.

These are just some of the maintenance tasks a homeowner should complete to prepare for the winter weather. Why not take advantage of this beautiful warm weather to get them done while you can?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Protecting Your Home from Fire and Flood

As a reminder to area homeowners, Mr. Handyman is offering two simple suggestions that most homeowners can manage themselves and that will greatly reduce the risk of damage to your homes, and maybe become more energy efficient.

Dryers: If you have to run the dryer a second or even third time to get clothes fully dry, your dryer vents may need cleaning. While most homeowners clean their lint traps between every load, dryer vents must also be cleaned regularly. It is recommended that dryer vents be cleaned every 1-2 years, depending on the frequency of dryer use and the distance from the back of the dryer to where the vent exits the home. Lint buildup in vents increases the risk of fire and reduces the efficiency of the dryer.

It’s a fact: Thirteen thousand fires start in laundry rooms in the U.S. each year, causing 10 deaths and $97 million in property damage. One-third of these fires arise from lint buildup.
Besides reducing the risk of fire, clean vents allow for efficient drying. Savings estimates range from $.50 to $3.00 a load, depending on the size of the load, the energy efficiency of your dryer and the severity of obstruction in your vents. Reduced wear on the dryer will also extend its life.

Washing machines: Most washing machines come with a set of black rubber hoses for hot and cold water. These hoses are under constant pressure and will eventually fail.

It’s a fact: Washing machine-related failures are a leading source of home water damage losses, costing an average of $5,308 per incident. Water supply hoses account for most failures. Most manufacturers recommend replacing hoses every 3-5 years.

At the first sign of cracking or dry rot, replace your hoses. Replacement hoses re-enforced with steel or nylon braiding are available and reasonably priced to further protect your home. When you leave home for vacation or extended travel, shut off the washing machine water supply to protect against rupture and flooding.

For those people who can’t remember the last time their dryer vents were cleaned and have never inspected their washing machine hoses, Mr. Handyman recommends immediate action. If you are unable or do not desire to take-on these projects yourself, Mr. Handyman is fully prepared to handle these and any other home repair and maintenance tasks that require attention while we’re in your home. If you have home improvement projects you are considering now or for the future, Mr. Handyman would also be happy to discuss these with you and offer you a free estimate while in your home. This makes Mr. Handyman your best value.

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Bed bugs. I used to laugh and joke about them as a kid but I never had any experience with them, nor had any of my family or friends knowingly had them.

They are real, they are a nuisance, they DO BITE, and they are a bugger to get rid of.

Most folks will revert to the professionals, an exterminator or try to DIY with some chemicals from one of the big-box stores. I have another solution that is very effective and very safe. The ONLY precaution is breathing of the dust when applying. It is Diatomaceous Earth, or DE. It can be purchased at any local health food store and is fairly inexpensive. There is no chemical smell and it is an all-natural "green" product.

Wear a dust mask and apply a ring around your bedposts, in any wall or floor cracks near your bed and dust along the decorative piping at the edges of your mattress. The DE will cut these little critters each time they crawl through the fine powder and they will eventually dry-up and die. You can put it down as a precautionary measure as well.

If you have visitors for the upcoming holidays I would dust all areas where they could unknowingly bring these awful critters into your home. There are huge outbreaks in the Manhattan, Chicago, Denver and Detroit areas as well as others.

If you travel and stay in a hotel I would take some precautions to ensure you do not pick up a hitchhiker. Inspect the bed you will lay your head down on. Keep your suitcase on the countertops or table tops and vacuum it when you return. I would put out the DE just to be safe.

Bed bugs are not known to carry diseases but they can leave you with some itchy welts and a lot of headaches. It is best to pre-treat with the safe DE and hopefully they never come for a visit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Top Ten Bathroom Remodel Additions

Most American’s want a bathroom to be functional, clean and enough space to be comfortable when relaxing for a bath or getting ready for a big day. The baby-boomer generation has set a trend that is really focusing on the creature comforts of the bathroom. The top bathroom additions in the 2010’s are:

1. Large airy showers. Some are replacing the tub area with a larger, open-style shower area with glass swinging doors and multiple showerheads.

2. Noisy Jacuzzis are being replaced by soaking tubs. Baby boomers did the Jacuzzi thing and now want the peace and quiet of a relaxing, soaking tub.

3. Let the light shine in. More, ample lighting and skylights are the trend.

4. Larger vent fans can vacate the heat and moisture more quickly and more efficiently and clear the steam off the mirror in a few minutes.
5. The addition of more, smarter storage space. Smaller drawers with dividers and some vertical storage space adds style and class.

6. Dual vanities are making a comeback. His and hers are once again popular, each with their own storage space as well.

7. The aging baby boomers are adding grab-bars and safety items long before they tend to rely on them for getting around. The right preparations for the remaining years in their home can make aging more comfortable.

8. Heated flooring is the best thing since sliced bread, especially on those cold winter days.

9. Elegant tile work and designer colors. Vinyl is out. Tile floors and walls are in.

10. Entertainment zone. For the guys that don’t want to miss that one play, or the lady that wants relaxing music while she soaks. TV’s and radio options are available for the bathroom.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hot & Muggy Weather Tips

With this terrible muggy weather we have had numerous customers ask Mr. Handyman what can be done to make their homes more comfortable. Here are some tips to keep cool during this season.

If it feels warm and muggy in your home and the A/C seems to remain on throughout the day it is time to take some action.

1. Have the A/C unit serviced. You may have condenser coils that need cleaned. The system may need a charge or the evaporator coil may need checked. The service man can look for other reasons the A/C unit is getting a workout this summer (duct work that can be directed to pull more warm air from the upstairs to be cooled).

2. Check the attic. You may not have enough insulation in the attic to keep the cool air in the home. Insulation can be added and the homeowner may quality for the 30% tax rebate on the purchase price. The attic may not be vented properly trapping the hot air and allowing that hot air seep down into the living space. My mother-in-law saves over $60/month because we insulated her attic.

3. Doors and windows may be leaking that cool air and allowing the warm muggy air into the home. Inspect and evaluate all windows and doors for signs the weather-stripping is doing its job. Replace any that is suspect. Weather-stripping is inexpensive compared to higher utility bills and it could save you $$$ each month.

4. Reduce the use of "heat-producers." Grill out more instead of turning on the hot stove or oven. Boiling water for pasta puts a lot of heat and moisture into the home. Use the microwave more. Run the dishwasher and dryer at night when the heat load is reduced.

5. Block the hot sun from coming in. Keep blinds and shades pulled on the South and west sides of the home during the day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Concrete Maintenance

Concrete lasts forever doesn't it? It won't if it is not maintained properly. There are several things that can go wrong with concrete. Keeping it maintained will hold your long-term costs down. You do not want to spend $6,000 to $12,000 to replace it (average costs of tearing out and replacing a driveway these days) so again........spend hundred$ now in maintenance or thou$and$ later in repairs.

Common problems with concrete are:

Heave or Undermining

Moisture in the form of snow melt and rain channel into the seams of a driveway or sidewalk and wash away dirt under the slab causing the pad to fall an inch or two and crack (Undermining). Moisture can also get under the pad swelling the dirt, freeze in cold weather, expanding upward to form a trip hazard (Heave). Both conditions can be avoided with proper maintenance (applying a top-quality seam sealer).


Moisture will also seep into the very minor surface cracks, freeze and break-out small amounts of concrete. This usually looks like small "pok" marks, divots or craters like the moon's surface. Though not as critical as the other two conditions it is an eyesore and will continue to deteriorate at a fast rate once it begins. It can be avoided if properly maintained by applying a good quality surface sealer.

Mr. Handyman has professional service technicians with many years of experience in performing this type of task. We also use the best quality products so the life expectancy of the repair is the greatest. Our surface sealer comes with a 5 year manufacturer warranty and the seam sealer we use is expected to last about that long as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

$$$ For Clunker Appliances Nebraska Version Started July 6th.

Updating appliances will save you $$$ in operating and utility costs over many years!

Rebates expire soon (or will run out of funding) for retiring a “seasoned” appliance and replacing it with an up-to-date energy-efficient one. Nebraska will use a system that requires the consumer to fill out a mail-in form to claim the rebate on Energy Star appliances available only at verified retailers. The program had been delayed but rebates are available now, until funds run out ($1.7 Million, almost $1 million already allocated in the first day July 6th). In Iowa, the same program ran out of funds in a matter of hours so be on the ball if you want to take advantage of this program.

Nebraska will recognize the following products as eligible for rebates:

Eligible Products Rebate Amount
Central Air Conditioning $100
Heat Pumps $250
Refrigerators $100
Natural Gas & Propane Furnaces $250
Clothes washers up to $200 (depends on model)
Dishwashers $50

All products must meet strict state specifications with the exception of central air conditioners, air source heat pumps, and gas furnaces, which must meet the stricter Federal requirements.

Purchase must be made from "registered" retailers within the state of Nebraska, and after July 6th. Purchases made before the program start date do not qualify. Consumers must "self-certify" the new unit will replace a clunker unit. For more information visit the Nebraska Energy Office website. There is a limit of (2) rebates per household.
Residents are encouraged to utilize Nebraska Public Power District and the Omaha Public Power District programs to recycle clunker refrigerators.

Nebraskan’s can also receive a 5-year, 5% bank loan at a certain lenders that participate in the program.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beware, More rain, more MOLD!

How mold can be controlled? (Tips for controlling mold problem).

Moisture is one of the most important factors for the growth of mold. By making sure that the level of moisture is under check you can keep molds at bay.

(Relative humidity i.e. RH can help in finding out when you need to dehumidify your building/house)· If there is any water leakage/intrusion, pipe leak, roof leak, condensation problem etc; it should be corrected first.

Ensure the air conditioners, HVAC systems, and air/ventilation ducts are clean. Normally mold formed in these systems is more dangerous as it easily escapes the human eye inspection.

Bathrooms are the most prone places for mold formation and growth. The tiles, curtains and appliances inside the bathrooms should be properly cleaned/removed in order to avoid mold formation.

If possible, use air purifiers to cleanse the air inside your house. Air purifiers can help in reducing the airborne particles of mold spores. There are many paints/anti mold products available in market that can resist moisture and/or mold at certain level. Using such products can also help in prevention of mold.

If mold is allowed to remain intact and grow it could be the costliest and deadliest intruder you will ever encounter in your home. Children, babies and pets are very susceptible to the hazards of moldy conditions. Get a jump start on mold before it becomes a problem. Killing it early will save you hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

BEWARE: Burglaries on the rise in the Omaha area!

Burglaries in the Omaha area are on the rise again this year, after a significant increase last year. West Omaha and the Millard areas are increasingly victimized. The unfortunate folks that have suffered a break-in may no longer feel safe in their own home. Kids are especially impacted.

The best protection for your home is to prevent the break-in in the first place. Here are some tips to keep an intruder out of your personal space:

Of course, keep doors, windows and the garage locked when not actually exiting or entering the home. Never leave house keys under the door mat, in the mail box, etc., burglars check these places. If you have an automatic garage door opener, never drive off until you witness the door close all the way.

Trim back shrubs and bushes around the perimeter of the house.

Increase lighting around the perimeter of your home.

Alarm systems are effective in many cases but thieves have become emboldened and can kick-in a door, "snatch & grab" most of your valuables in a matter of minutes and be long gone before the police arrive.

Mr. Handyman sells a wonderful product called StrikeMaster II that prevents the kick-in all together. It installs on the frame of the lock side of the door and it is guaranteed to prevent a kick-in. The manufacturer has sold over 15 thousand of these units and has never had one fail. For less than the cost of your insurance deductible you could install a StrikeMaster II on each exterior door and protect your family and possessions. Visit the manufacturer's consumer website for more information at
Call Mr. Handyman if you have any questions or would like to purchase one or to have us install the StrikeMaster II for you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Decks Cost Thou$and$ to Replace....Extend the life with these tips.

It often only takes a year or two for a fresh-looking deck to become dreary. Where you once enjoyed relaxing and chatting with friends, you now dread to tread. Often, however, what looks like severe damage can be fixed with a little elbow grease and the right products.

Give your tired-looking deck a facelift sooner rather than later. Wood that is left unprotected will soak up moisture, leading to serious damage. Because decks suffer abuse from the harsh sun, foot traffic, rain, snow, and ice—you may need to treat your deck on a regular basis, perhaps even once a year.

1. Inspect the deck. Just about any wood can rot if it stays wet for long periods. Take the time to examine all the wood carefully to see if any boards are rotten. Unfortunately, most wood rot occurs in places that are hard to see—under the decking boards, at the ledger (the board that is attached to the house), on the underside of stair treads, and so on. If possible, crawl underneath the deck to make your inspection.

2. Make repairs. Any sign of rot calls for the replacement of boards. Hire a carpenter, or use a flat pry bar to carefully remove rotten boards. Replace them with like materials If nails or boards are popping up or coming loose, do not simply pound the old nails down again; remove them and replace them with longer nails, special decking nails, or decking screws.

3. Ensure against future rot. If any part of your deck stays wet for a day or more after a rainfall, take steps to see that it can dry out. You'll probably need to use a leaf blower or a broom to sweep away leaves and dirt from between boards, or where the deck meets the house. Perhaps a bush or tree limb needs to be trimmed back, or a gutter downspout moved to direct water away from the deck.Debris between deck boards looks bad and soaks up water, promoting rot. Use a putty knife or-a plastic wallpaper knife to clear out the debris.

4. Clean a discolored deck. If the deck has taken on a dull gray color, the problem looks much worse than it is. Chances are it's covered with a thin film of mildew and needs only a cleaning. Dark stains may be due to mildew; cleaning with soap and water or bleach may clear up the problem. Ensure that your deck can dry out so the mildew does not return.

To clean a deck, purchase a commercial deck wash/cleaner or TSP heavy-duty cleanser and follow directions—usually, this means a lot of scrubbing, rinsing and elbow grease.
For a quick cleaning, rent a pressure-washer and equip it with a fan tip. Work carefully so you do not make indentations in the wood. Hire a professional if you do not have experience using a pressure washer, you could damage the surface of the wood.

5. Seal and finish. After cleaning a deck, allow it to dry thoroughly before sealing it but don't wait too long--don't give it time to get dirty again. To determine if it needs to be sealed, sprinkle a few drops of water on the wood. If it doesn't bead up and instead soaks right in, the deck needs to be sealed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April (Spring) Maintenance Tasks

Inspect screens (both house and vent screens to attic or crawl space) for tears and bent frames and clean them with a vacuum.

Clean window screens. Lay them flat on a picnic table or a pair of sawhorses and scrub them with a soft bristle brush and a mild detergent solution. Rinse with a garden hose and allow it to dry thoroughly. Clean the inside of the windowsills.

Inspect outdoor structures like decks, pergolas, and trellises for deterioration --especially signs of rot. Use a small awl or screwdriver to probe posts, railings and windowsills for soft spots. If you find any, plan to replace or repair them when the weather turns fair.

Winter settling of your home has occurred. Inspect around windows, doors and check the foundation. Caulk any open joints.

Inspect the crawl space or basement after rains for water accumulation or excessive moisture. Look for signs of water damage on the sub floor and joists beneath bathrooms, the kitchen and laundry. Find and fix leaks now or pay the price later.

Shut off the water to the washing machine, remove the water supply hoses and examine them and the washers. Replace worn and damaged ones.

Use a spray lubricant to oil the rollers and pivot points on your garage doors. Do not use WD-40, but 3-in-1-type oil is best.

Winter is over. Turn off the water supply (and flip the switch if supplied) to your whole-house humidifier.

6 Rules to For Remodeling Your Home

Some additions or remodels do not pay off. See photo.

Homeowners that have a remodeling project in mind should consider these 6 rules, fresh from Money Magazine, to get the best "bang-for-their-buck" should a future home sale be in the works.

1. Repairs can bring the biggest returns. EVERY potential buyer will be turned away if costly repairs are needed to bring the home up to standard. Spending money to keep it maintained is paramount and is the best return on your investment.

2. Remodeling tops an addition. Updating existing square footage returns a better value than adding square footage.

3. Eco-friendly upgrades can save the homeowner cash. Going green with compact fluorescent lighting, low-flow toilets and showerheads, more insulation, energy-efficient windows, doors, and newer HVAC and water heaters really works and can save hundreds every month. Tax-credits for many of these items make it a great value. Tax credits end at the end of this year.

4. Keep up with technology. Add cable and Ethernet cabling to each room when tackling a project. If you have modular type light switches in one room, change them out in all rooms.

5. Keep up with the Joneses. If most of your neighbors have granite countertops, do the same. You do not want your home to be sub par compared to others in the neighborhood. Keeping to neutral colors helps.

6. In reality, the payback time period is 5 years. If you know your plans are to sell within 5-7 years and you need to update, start now! Remember, keeping the home maintained is the best overall value for your dollar. If you need repairs completed hire a professional. There are many that will sell you short in these trying times.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Better Quality Means Higher Price

Here is a quote that sheds some light on quality verses price from a previous century. There were some wise ole' folks back then!

"It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better."
John Ruskin - 1819 - 1900
English Author, Architect, and Economist

I can relate with Mr. Ruskin's point. I just returned from a business trip where I purchased some beauty products for my wife. I bought them at a kiosk in a mall and paid a higher price than I would have in any other situation. I have read comments from online posters that these folks (beauty product vendors) are ripping people off because the products could be purchased online for far less (about 50% lower costs online). These online vendors do not have the overhead of a mall kiosk, a staff of sales persons, nor sample products to demonstrate on potential customers, nor theft issues. Is there any wonder that their sales price is greater than a warehouse environment at an online vendor? Potential customers get to sample the products at the mall kiosk and receive wonderful customer service each time more products are needed.

I think we all have been accustomed to a Wal-Mart World where we think the cheapest price is the best but it is rarely the greatest overall value. There are many "handymen" in the Omaha area that will work for food (on the table) but when it comes to customer service, warranty, and professionalism, they cannot compare to a reputable company like Mr. Handyman. Do you think they will be straightforward about the guy they send to your home if he has been a convicted felon (we perform background checks on all employees). Buyer Beware! Will they have insurance to cover YOUR LOSS if a mishap took place? Ask for proof or hire the professional choice, Mr. Handyman.

I'd rather pay a higher price to get that kind of protection than pay a cheaper price and get wiped out. If you can grasp the financial hardship an unlicensed, uninsured serviceman can cause you if some type of calamity should occur, what about the emotional and physical devastation your family will endure if you found out too late that the individual was a convicted child molestor. What would saving $20 per hour feel like to you then?

Like Mr. Ruskin stated, it is best to pay more as long as you know the value added overcomes the added risk of the lower price. It costs the professional company more to lessen the overall risk to you but it is only a few dollars compared to thousands of dollars potential loss and quite possibly loss of life to you and your family. In the more but make sure you get more. You'll be much happier and safer.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sell your Home & all the Maintenance & Repairs along with it!

An overwhelming trend in today's society is for a couple to purchase a home and live there well into their retirement years. A home is a major expense even if the mortgage had been paid-off many years ago. The annual property taxes, preventative maintenance, utilities, yard and exterior clearing and repairs may put the cost of staying in your home outside of your fixed income. Many choose to purchase the priority items (prescription drugs, health care, and food) and let the home deteriorate.

A 'seasoned' couple (or singles, for that matter) can sell their home and move into a roomy apartment or condo (where maintenance & repairs are tasked to someone else) and live very comfortable, both financially and physically, without any unforeseen major expenditures for home repairs or the annual maintenance costs that keep the house in great shape. On another note, let’s face it, most repairmen, contractors and auto mechanics do not have a great reputation in giving the elderly great value for the services they provide sometimes taking them for a huge sum because of the situation they find themselves in.

Many are choosing to move to the downtown Omaha area where the shops, nightlife and nostalgia are unparalleled. On a recent drive one evening to the Civic Auditorium for a hockey night with the girls, I witnessed many elderly couples walking around downtown catching the nightlife and enjoying life in general. They were laughing and cutting-up even in the brisk wind!

One such apartment complex is the Orpheum Tower Apartments in beautiful downtown Omaha. It has 16 stories packed with numerous floor plans to accommodate a wide variety of potential apartment dwellers. Availability is limited as they average a 97% occupancy rate throughout most of the year. Their website is .

Ask for a little sweetie named Sara. If she doesn't have availability at the Orpheum there are other properties in the downtown area she can help you discover.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Licensed, Bonded, and Insured- What does it mean?

Licensed, bonded, and insured. We see it in advertisements and hear it on Radio and TV spots. Articles urge homeowners to make certain of these items before having work performed. Yet many are unsure exactly what these terms mean or how they can protect us from unscrupulous or incompetent contractors. For a better explanation, read on.

Licensing: The State of Nebraska requires both residential and commercial builders and contractors to be registered with the state as a contractor providing services. There are separate licensing requirements for Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC and the state requires that these licenses be kept current. You can confirm a contractor has the required registration credentials by searching the Nebraska Department of Labor website. Mr. Handyman is a registered contractor in the State of Nebraska.

Bonding: Fidelity bonds protect the homeowner from dishonest acts incurred by a contractor’s employee. Mr. Handyman also performs a thorough background check and subjects employees to drug screening for your safety and security.

Insurance: This is the most familiar of the three requirements, but there are differences from what most of us understand as insurance. Workers’ compensation is vital to protect homeowners from liability for injuries incurred while workers are present in their homes. Commercial General Liability insurance (GCL) protects the homeowner for bodily injury, property damage, or personal injury. In the event there would be damage or loss to a home or structure due to a contractor’s negligence, the homeowners’ property insurance may not be in force. It would be necessary for the contractors General Liability Insurance to offer the coverage. Most insurance companies would highly recommend an “insured contractor” be hired for all work within the home to protect you, your home’s value, the mortgage lender and your homeowner’s insurance policy. Consider the consequences if a large loss were to take place and you can understand the benefit of hiring the right company. Mr. Handyman is fully insured and can produce the insurance certificate if needed.

While the contractor registration and license is issued by the state, the bond and insurance is backed by an insurance carrier. Contact information, for verification purposes, is listed on the insurance certificate; as is the expiration date of the policy.

Ask to see licenses, bonds, and certificates of insurance if you have any doubts about the contractor you’re thinking of doing business with. Reputable companies like Mr. Handyman are happy to provide proof of their adherence to the laws and regulations designed to make certain that contractors, employees, and homeowners are protected during the completion of a project.

In these tough economic times, homeowners need the protection offered by properly credentialed contractors. “Contractors” that cut corners on licensing, bonding and insurance are much more likely to cut corners when working at your home. If that contractor cannot afford the appropriate insurance and other credentials, how will he cover the expenses of any theft, damage or injury should that occur? Be skeptical and do not be fooled by a “cheap” price. The value offered, quality of workmanship and minimum hassles far outweigh a low price any day. A contractor is in your home for a few hours to a few days yet you have to live with the end results for many, many years.

If you know a friend, relative or neighbor with a contractor or project horror story at their home, more often than not it was with an un-credentialed contractor.

Mr. Handyman is Licensed, Bonded and Insured for your protection, as well as ours.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Save $ with a DIY Radon Testing Kit

Test your home for radon with a DIY kit.

Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that is known to cause cancer. The Surgeon General states that radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the US. It can build up in your home when windows and doors are sealed tight, both during the winter or summer months when the A/C or heat is running all day long. Checking for radon in the winter months is an excellent time since you're indoors a lot more often and sealing those windows and doors to stay warm.

To check for radon, you will need to purchase a home testing kit (will usually cost around $25). Follow the directions carefully so the results will be as accurate as possible. Or you can choose to have a professional come out and test your home for you (can cost up to $300.00).

You must leave all windows and doors closed almost exclusively except to quickly exit the house. You should not use the bathroom vent fan or a range hood fan (only if it vents to the outside) during the testing period (3-7 days for the short term testing kit).

I found a great, cost-effective radon testing kit at It should run about $16.00 for the kit and about $10.00 for the return postage to get the test kit to the lab. They will email or fax the results to you in about one week.

Once you get the test results you can determine if you need to have a radon mitigation system installed. It will pull air from your basement (or sump pit area, if installed) and vent it outside to minimize the radon levels in the home, thus reducing the negative effects of radon on your family's health. You may not need to have a dedicated radon-mitigation system installed to reduce the levels to a safe level. There are other methods to accomplish the same task. Knowing what your options are will allow you to make a better informed decision.

Monday, February 8, 2010

February Maintenance Tasks

Burrrrr. It's still cold out there. Spring is not too far away and we'll be planting, gardening and enjoying the great outdoors in due time. Here are a few maintenance tasks that could be accomplished in February while the snow has you feeling blue.

Clean the garbage disposal by dumping 2 trays of ice cubes and 1 cup of white vinegar into the opening and running the disposal. The ice will sharpen the blades and the vinegar will clean the chamber and drain. I have also heard folks dumping a cup of baking soda and then pouring 2 cups of vinegar down the opening. After a few minutes, run the disposal as normal with the water running. NEVER POUR WASTE OIL like drain-off from bacon or hamburger down the drain!

Wipe down and disinfect door knobs, toilet handles, kitchen drawer and door pulls etc., especially if any family member was sick this winter. While you are at it use some furniture polish or Old English scratch remover on wood-stained cabinets to bring out the shine and beauty of those kitchen cabinets.

Dust the ceiling fan blades and the motor housing screening material with a vacuum and brush attachment. Also use the brush attachment on the heating and air-conditioning vent covers. If you have floor vents, remove the cover and vacuum down in the ductwork as far as you can reach. Look for those lost toys and other "treasures" your kids lost down there first.

Learn the location of the gas, water and electrical shut-offs. You never know when you may need to flip the switch or turn off the water to the house in an emergency situation.

Check and clean your range hood filter. The dishwasher is the best way to clean these.

And lastly as with each month, change your furnace filter. Those of you that use a blow-dryer on your hair, clean the filter on it as well. It will last longer that way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Clever Way to Spend Your Tax Return

Go Green! Free 'Green' Stuff from Uncle Sam.

As a primary homeowner a tax payer could receive up to a $1500 tax credit for increasing the energy efficiency of their home. If you use your tax return to purchase energy efficient doors, windows, HVAC equipment, water heaters, skylights or insulation and roofing materials you will get 30% of that money returned to you as a tax credit. If you need some of these items anyway taking advantage of this tax credit just makes financial sense.

There are certain requirements and some paperwork to keep but it is money returning to you. If you do not take advantage of it this year you will miss out. I'll put it this way. If you received a tax return of $1000 this year and expect to get about the same back next year, you could spend this years return on a $1000 home improvement (materials costs only) and next year you'll receive $1300 back instead of the $1000 because of the tax credit. You could spend up to $5000 on these home improvement projects to max out at the $1500 limit.

Not all windows, doors and HVAC purchases qualify for the tax credit. Consult a tax professional or go to for more detailed information. You can call Mr. Handyman for more information as well.

Save up to $80 per year with this small task

Mr. Handyman service technicians have been in dozens of home's attics this winter inspecting roof and ice damming damage. What we have noticed in 90% of the attics is that the access door in not insulated in any way. Most of these access panels were in the living space, a closet or hallway. These homeowners are paying good money heating the air that is escaping through the uninsulated access panel. Most of these panels are made out of a piece of plywood or drywall and they are pushed up out of the way to gain access into the attic.

For about $30-$40 a 'somewhat handy' person could purchase enough 1 1/2 inch foam insulation, construction adhesive (liquid nails) and a roll of sticky-back foam weather-stripping to do this small project on their own. You could use the panel as a template to cut 2 layers of the rigid foam, glue them to the top side of the panel so it it two layers thick. Then apply the weather-stripping to the framework of the panel to form a nice fit when it is put back in place.

The added insulation and weather-stripping could save you upwards of $80.00 in heating and cooling costs per year as well as helping your home stay more comfortable when it is really cold out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Handyman Dan and daughter Jordyn

Someone with a quick triggered camera got this photo recently.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Tax-refund season is upon us so do you 'want' that big-screen TV or 'should' you put some money away for future home maintenance? Wants or needs, it boils down to these very simple principles. I want this but I know I'll need that fairly soon.

Experts in the home repair industry typically recommend spending 1-3 percent (per year) of the home's value on maintenance tasks alone, not considering repairs. Repair cost estimates could be 5-10 times that amount. The trick is to spend as little as possible in home repairs while you live there so you end up in a positive cash situation if/when you sell your home. The only way I know to keep repair costs down is to spend properly and efficiently on your home's yearly maintenance tasks. As stated many times before "Spend hundred$ now in maintenance or spend thou$and$ later in repairs." It is generally about a 10:1 ratio.

If you follow our monthly maintenance advice and complete the items we suggest you will ultimately save on maintenance and repair costs. If the maintenance involves tasks that you cannot complete yourself or if it requires a professional (replacing wood trim around the windows, HVAC maintenance, or properly caulking by the tub, kitchen sink or around windows) then give Mr. Handyman a call. We have the expertise and knowledge to accomplish most home maintenance tasks.

With the tightening of the money belt in today's economy and the possibility of inflation causing your hard-earned dollar to buy less in the future, saving where you can just makes great financial sense. We have offered several tips to save with energy-efficiency items on this blog site as well. Just look for a related article on the right side of the main page.