The Professional Choice

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

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.