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 28, 2011


Home repairs can break your bank. Keeping your home maintained is a less-costly way to keep ahead of the repair costs.

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 seasonal 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. Spending that $100 keeping it maintained will save you thousands in future repairs.

A new year is upon us, plan to put up some of your tax return for home maintenance and add to the kitty with each paycheck. If you do not have cash on hand for some of the smaller maintenance tasks you certainly will not be able to afford the future repair costs.

If you follow Mr. Handyman’s seasonal maintenance tips on our blog site your monthly maintenance and repairs costs will go down. 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 around 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 our blog site as well. Just look for a related article on the right side of the main page.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whole-house humidifiers can make your home more comfortable

Winter weather can be harsh outside of the home. Heating your home can remove so much moisture from the air that it can be somewhat uncomfortable. Low moisture content in the air can cause excessive static electricity, dry coughs, dry skin and can dry out your sinuses to the point of causing bloody noses. Dry air is not good for furniture, pets or people with allergies.

Getting enough moisture into the home can be a daunting task when your heater cycles on so much in the coldest parts of the winter.  Room humidifiers can help maintain the moisture level in individual rooms. Requires filling daily and cleaning very often to ward off bacteria, mold and other contaminates. Usually $30-$150.

A whole-house humidifier may be your 2nd best investment for winter conditioning of your living space, right behind that heater unit itself.

What are the benefits of a whole-house humidifier?

1. Can save costs in making your home more comfortable
2. Easy annual maintenance
3. Set and forget, no bottle filling, no chemicals, whole-house coverage
4. Cost to have one installed would run $350-$700 depending on the model

If you have a whole-house humidifier you should perform the maintenance NOW

1. Turn on the water source and verify the water line is not plugged
2. Inspect the water pad (filter looking element) and replace if mineral deposits are evident
3. Turn on the switch or humidistat (thermostat looking device in main living area)

Hang a sheet or towel in the shower area and keep it wet and the shower curtain open. Moisture evaporates and gets into the air. Swap out the sheet or towel at least every week. This trick may make the coldest, driest months more comfortable.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Keep the Chill Out! Shrink-Wrap your windows

Several listeners have asked how effective shrink-film is on windows.

I can attest that shrink-film does work! I have used it for several years on leaky, drafty windows. The extra layer of plastic adds another barrier to the harsh winter cold infiltrating into your home.
Not to tout one brand over the other but my service technicians contend that 3M sells the better product. The reasoning is they have the better quality double-stick tape for attaching the film on the window trim, which is the usual point of early failure.

To have a great installation that will last throughout the winter season follow these simple guidelines.

1. Purchase more than what is stated on the box. The box I bought stated it would cover ten windows. It actually only covered six. You can always save the extra for next year.

2. Wipe off the trim where the tape will go with denatured alcohol or the alcohol pads that come with the kit.

3. When you cut and install the film onto the tape do not pull it tight, allow some sag. Make sure that the film does not bunch up at the tape lines though.
4. When using the hair dryer to shrink the film do not hold it too close. If the film shrinks too much it will pull the tape off of the trim.

Sealing up the windows for winter is a great way to make your living space more comfortable and cut down on your heating costs. That cold, harsh "Old Man Winter" will be here soon enough!

This is just one very inexpensive way to take a bite out of the harsh cold weather while enjoying the warmth of your home. Go GREEN and save a little green at the same time. It should cost just a couple of dollars to cover each window.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Indoor Air Quality

The air we breathe leaves much to be desired. Power plants belch harmful carbon dioxide, automobiles churn out tons of exhaust fumes, and cows add methane to the air. Pollen tickles millions of people’s noses and lungs. Sometimes just looking out your window at all the pollution may be enough to make you shun the outdoors. Can it be even worse inside your home?

Indoor air pollution, the degradation of indoor air quality by harmful chemicals and other materials, can be up to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution. This is because confined areas enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces do. You can easily visualize this if you think about dumping a gallon of oil into the ocean versus dumping a gallon into your bathtub. The oil in the ocean will dissipate and be diluted within the massive volume of water. A gallon of oil in your bathtub will linger because it has nowhere else to go. The same thing happens with pollutants released into a small enclosed area, like your home or office.

You may think indoor air concerns doesn't apply to you, but indoor air pollution comes from some places you wouldn't normally think of, like materials used to build your house, carpeting, the land it's sitting on and everyday items you bring into the home. In addition, if you consider that people spend approximately 65 percent of their day inside their homes, you can see why indoor air pollution is an important issue.

Some of the side effects caused by indoor air pollution are little worse than those of the common cold, but long-term exposure could lead to health issues, lung cancer and even death. Got your attention, yet?

Learn more about the air you breathe inside your home with a simple air quality test kit. For about $80 you can purchase an Indoor Air Pollution test kit and see the results yourself. One of these is TerrEssentials' Home Air Quality Test Kit, which tests for the presence of mold, fungus, bacteria, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Testing for Radon is requires a different test ($16 online, at but should be performed because exposure to radon is known to cause lung cancer.

After such a wet, hot and humid summer the mold levels in homes may be alarming. If you have a constant sniffle or congestion, especially when you wake up in the morning, indoor air pollution could be a source. Once the test results indicate a cause of the contamination, corrective measures can be taken to reduce the amount of air pollution in your home.

The solution may be as simple as a high-quality furnace filter, changed more regularly, having the air ducts cleaned or replacing the moldy carpet in the basement.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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. The standards for the amount of insulation have changed in the last decade. If your home is 10 years or older you may not have the recommended amount of insulation for this area in your attic. A value of R39 is recommended which is about 19 inches of the blown-in type. Adding insulation will pay for itself in a few years so it is a great long-term investment. Also 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 added insulation in 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.

Controlling the Humidity Level in Your Home

Do you have a humidity problem in your home?  How can you keep the humidity level at a comfortable level during these hot and humid summer days.

Humidity is measured with a hygrometer.  Some of the least expensive hygrometers are part of a thermometer assembly on a clock.  See photo.  They are not the most accurate but they are great to get an overall picture of the humidity level in your home.
If it reads above 50% you should take steps to reduce the moisture content in your home to keep mold, mildew and the attraction of pests down in your living space.

Here are a few tips:

Run the bath vent fan during a bath or shower then for 20 minutes after

Grill out more and boil noodles and other food items on the grill.

Keep the toilet lids down (GUYS!!!)

Be sure the downspouts direct the water a minimum of 4-6 ft away from the foundation

Crack a window in the basement

Install a humidity-ridding device such as a dehumidifier, Humidex or Easy-Breathe type systems

Keep the AC turned down to the desired temp, do not bump it up and down.  Your AC system does a great job of removing humidity from the home but only when it is running!

Place large plants outdoors if possible, if not water them sparingly.

If you have a sidewalk or patio right up against the foundation, be sure the crack between them is completely sealed.

Remember a home that is too wet — where the humidity is greater than 50% — can be a breeding ground for mold, rot, pests such as termites and cockroaches, and condensation. It can cause health problems for you and your family, pets included.  Keep it under control by implementing these tips and observe your humidistat daily to see how you are doing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Firework Safety - Home Fires

Every year thousands of people visit the emergency rooms in incidents related to a firework injury.

Each year homes catch fire from the burning embers of a downed firework casing resulting in the following statistics:

• In 2009, fireworks caused an estimated 18,000 reported fires, including 1,300 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in no reported civilian deaths, 30 civilian injuries and $38 million in direct property damage.

• In 2009, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,800 people for fireworks related injuries; 53% of 2009 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 42% were to the head.

• The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 10-14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.

• On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for more than half of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
Be careful where you light fireworks. There doesn't seem to be a lot of dry grass in the Omaha area this year but there may be areas that could ignite. Use a flashlight to inspect your roof at the end of your lighting ceremony, or the neighbors, for that matter. Have the hose prepared with a spray nozzle that could reach the peak of your roof line.

If one of your "high-in-the-sky" fireworks goes off course, at a low angle, follow up to be sure it did not catch your neighbor's home on fire. Be sure it is snuffed out.

Enjoy the celebration but be aware and take some measures to avoid becoming a statistic. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Prepare in Times of Disaster

The threat of rising river water and more flooding has people evacuating that had never thought the river could rise to the level it has. It may go even higher in the next few weeks. Preparing for an evacuation should be done prior to the rising waters so when they come the family can continue to thrive after the emergency.

Ready in 10 Minutes Kit.

If a disaster was eminent, such as flooding, a chemical leak or a tornado bearing down on your community and you only had 10 minutes to evacuate, what would you do? It is vitally important to have a plan and an evacuation kit that is ready to go at any moment.

Ready in 10 evacuation plan must include a way to instantly locate and safeguard the vital information, documents and keepsakes that you’ll need to have access to after the emergency has passed. To start the plan you need to know:

• Who will be going with you, of course your immediate family and pets but others may be considered.

• Where you will go for the different disasters that may take place

• Where you will stay for both short term and long term stays. It may be a while before you can return or you may not have a home to return to.

• How will each of you get there?

The ready in 10 plan should also include a checklist of vital items to escape with:

• Medical records and medications for each person

• Insurance and deed information

• Wallet, purse, cell phone, chargers, keys, contact information for others

• Vital information documents, birth certificates, marriage license etc.

• Toiletries and a change of clothes for a couple of days

• Food and water necessities for the trip out

• Battery powered radio, flashlight.

• Keepsakes or treasured items

• Financial documents

A person or family can never fully prepare for a disaster but being able to pick up their lives after the emergency is the second most important task behind surviving it in the first place. Taking time to prepare your evacuation plan prior to any emergency situation may save your life and make it much easier as a survivor.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tips for Tornado Season

June is tornado month in Nebraska. More tornados occur in June than any other month in our state.

With the recent terrible loss of life in Missouri and Alabama there are some tips we can do to protect ourselves in case of a tornado.

1. Have a plan. If you do not have a plan your chances of surviving a direct-hit tornado are slim. Retreating to the basement is not enough. Many times the force of the winds can pull you and your family right up out of the basement. If you do not have a basement find the location of the nearest storm shelter and become familiar with the route and time it takes to get there.

2. Create a shelter area in the basement with very strong walls and ceiling over your head. Many folks will use the area under the stairwell or in a corner. Beef if up, mount the walls and ceiling into the concrete structure of the basement. Follow the FEMA guidelines at for creating a “safe-room” in your home. It may cost up to $2000 to create the safe-room but the cost is minor compared to loss of life.  Think of a tornado as a vacuum cleaner.  How could you survive if a huge vacuum cleaner was placed above your home?

3. Keep in mind that the average length of time spent in a storm shelter is ½ hour to 2 hours. Have something for the kids to do to take their minds off the situation. Make sure you have a battery powered radio, flashlight, blankets, water and snacks and a whistle, air-horn or other means of alerting for help.

4. Don’t be one of the people that think “it will never happen to me.” Many people in Missouri and Alabama may have had that same attitude. It happened to thousands who are without a place to live right now and over 500 so far this year have lost their lives just in tornado related deaths.

5. There may be some state or federal monies available to assist in the purchase and installation of a safe room or storm shelter.  Look to FEMA or your state Emergency Management Agency for more details.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Home Elecrtical Concerns

Here is how you know you need an electrician to visit your home

If you have one or more outlets that have loose prongs. They will be outlets that when you plug in your appliance the plug does not want to stay in the outlet, it droops or falls out.

If you have a light switch that arcs when it is turned on. Sometimes it may spark and sometimes it will make an arcing sound. Too much build-up of carbon can lead to resistance in the switch and can cause overheating and possibly, fires.

If you have lights that dim when another appliance is turned on. An example may be when you run the microwave, vacuum cleaner or the air conditioning cycles on. If the lights dim there could be an overload, or low voltage on that circuit which could lead to shorter-lived equipment or appliances, light bulbs and possibly a fire.

If you have a light fixture that you consistently replace the bulbs more so than other fixtures. It could mean an under voltage situation or an overloaded circuit breaker.

If you have a GFCI outlet in the house that keeps tripping, forcing you to reset it. GFCI outlets are the ones with the manual reset switch on the outlet itself. A GFCI outlet is required in bathrooms or in outlets where an appliance could come in contact with water. Others may be protected in the breaker box.

If you have more than 2 extension cords currently in use in the home because you do not have enough outlets for all of the fixtures or appliances you wish to have.

If you have any outlets with a charred face or burnt-marks. It may end up only being cosmetic but it may be worth it to have it checked out.

If you have any wires that are sticking out from electrical boxes or cover plates. All wiring should be concealed in conduit, in the panel, or box or in the “romex” sheath (2 or more wires in a thin, white plastic covering in use in most homes today).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Contractors - Know Who You Are Hiring

Each year Mr. Handyman receives calls from distraught homeowners stating they were taken for a lot of money and left hanging. They had hired a "fly-by-night' contractor without checking up on the company, individual or references.

Many homeowners only look at the lowest price. Let's face it, we live in a "Wal-Mart" world where we are conditioned to associate lowest price with a good value. In reality it almost never works out that way.

How do you check out a particular contractor?

First of all is he an individual or a company? You can follow the advice and tips from one of our previous posts to perform a general reference check on him/his company. See the blog post at:

Second, you can ask for and check up on references. Ask him for a list of several other customers he has serviced and ask that it be similar work for which you are requesting him to do for you. If he is a thorough and honorable businessman he will have a growing list of satisfied customers who will gladly provide a good reference.

Third, follow up with the local chapter of the BBB. The BBB is a well-known business rating service that ensures a good rating for businesses that follow basic general rules of behavior and interfacing with their customers. Angie’s List is another rating/ranking service but beware, I have seen many reviews on there that seem more like an ad for a particular company than an actual review by a consumer. When the rating includes details the person/company CAN do for you rather than what they ACTUALLY did for them, beware.

Fourth, look at their online presence. If they offer a website, check it out but remember what's on the website is information they want you to know about them. Look for a third-party rating service that validates customer reviews. Many unscrupulous companies sugar-coat their ratings and have their parents/siblings rate them for a better “presence" on the web.

View this video and be prepared. It was an investigation by MSNBC a while ago but is a pretty good idea of the types of contractors out there lurking.
Fifth, hire a professional. They may be slightly more expensive up front but will guarantee their work and actually cost a bit more because they do the work the right way the first time. There is a reason others quote you a cheaper price. What are you really getting? What will be left out?

Mr. Handyman is Licensed, Bonded and Insured for your protection as well as ours. We perform background checks and drug screen our employees. We hire professional that have been in the trades for over 15 years and we stand behind their workmanship. Mr. Handyman has a third-party validate our ratings and reviews. Systino emails out a survey after the work is completed and compiles that data for us and displays it for you to see. We do not manipulate the data in any way. We also receive ratings on Service Magic that we cannot modify. We do all of this because we are professional and want to be honorable to you. Mr. Handyman is a proud member of the BBB and has only fielded one complaint in our four years of being in business, which was corrected right away. One complaint in over 5400 jobs/projects in four years in this type of business is an awesome feat!

The next time you have a project, call us and see why over 65% of our revenue each year is from repeat and referral business!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top Bathroom fix-ups

Omaha is listed at number 24 in 'Remodeling Magazine's' top 100 hottest remodeling markets for 2011. The bathroom is the most requested room in the home people want to upgrade. If you are considering some type of bathroom remodeling project this year here is a listing of the most requested bathroom fix-ups.

Custom tile tub and shower surrounds, floors and wainscoting

New cabinets, vanity & granite tops with undermount sink

Decorator mirrors

New quiet vent fan

Anticlog toilet

New lighting with dimmers

Grooming mirrors

Electric mirror defogger

Glass vanity or wall shelves

****drum roll***for the forgetful guys....a self-lowering toilet seat!!!

Towel warmers

Heated flooring

Vessel sinks

Verticle Spas - multiple shower heads, body jets

Ceiling or wall speakers

When enlarging the bathroom - double sinks -his and hers

Supplemental heat - an electric heater that looks like a heat register in the wall.

Hidden electrical outlets - Get rid of the clutter on your vanity counter tops. With strategically placed and hidden electrical outlets placed behind drawers in your vanity you can plug in hair dryers and curling irons and put them back in the drawer when you are done with them, leaving them plugged in.

Just think what you could do to your bathroom with unlimited funds!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

April & Springtime Home Maintenance

April is here!! Well Almost.

Spring is here!!! Well almost. It sure doesn't feel like spring. This is Nebraska, maybe tomorrow?

Here's a good amount of work to try to tackle in April to keep your home repair cost down.

1. Clean and inspect insect and critter screens. Spring is officially here even if winter is still trying to hang on. Window screens should be inspected for cuts, rips and bent frames. The bugs will be trying to get in once you open up the windows for fresh air. An intact screen will keep them out. To clean window screens, carefully remove them, 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 them to dry thoroughly before re-installing them. Eve and roof vents help to ventilate your attic and will keep critters out of the attic. Inspect and clean them as well.

2. Inspect the outside of your home and other wooden structures for deterioration -- especially signs of rot. Use a screwdriver to probe suspect areas of wood rot. If the tip exposes any soft, mushy areas it should be added to this year’s maintenance and repair list and tackled very quickly to prevent more costly repairs in the future. Areas to check include railings, window sills and trim, wood siding and corner trim and the bottoms of the trim around doors as well as the threshold. For the higher areas like the top of the chimney you may prefer to hire an insured professional like Mr. Handyman.

3. While performing the inspection for wood rot or deterioration, check the caulking around windows and doors and apply where necessary.

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

5. Shut off the water to the washing machine, remove the water supply hoses and examine them thoroughly. Laundry room floods are very costly. Replace cracked or checked hoses and always install a new washer on each end of each hose. Every year at this time inspect and clean your dryer vent ducting. A plugged dryer vent is the #2 cause of home fires in the US. Keeping the dryer vent system clean will also allow your dryer to operate more efficiently and can save you up to $80 per year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Garage Door Maintenance & Repairs

One of the most overlooked components of your home is the garage door. It usually operates flawlessly several times a day but when it gets neglected and sub sequentially fails it can interrupt your daily routine.
Because a garage door is a very large, heavy, moving part, it’s prone to fall out of adjustment with daily use. When this happens, the door becomes harder and harder to lift and lower.

A garage door looks rather simple but it has many moving parts that need yearly attention to keep it in great working order. The best way to prevent a failure and high repair costs is to inspect it every year for loose or worn hinges, springs, and other hardware and, when you notice a problem, address it immediately before it has a chance to deteriorate.

Then lubricate the moving parts. Apply penetrating oil to all rollers and hinges at least once a year. If you notice any loose screws, bolts, or nuts, tighten them so parts won’t fall out of adjustment.

The most common garage door problem is that the door becomes difficult to lift and lower. This may be something that can be resolved with a few simple adjustments and basic maintenance, or it may be more serious. If the door is connected to an opener, determine if the problem is with the door or the opener. The first step is to disconnect the opener mechanism from the door by pulling the release cord or lever. If the door works fine manually, the problem is with the electric opener.

A door that seems unusually heavy to lift may have a problem with spring tension. Garage door springs are under extreme tension because of the loads they must lift, and this makes them dangerous to adjust. If your door’s springs are out of adjustment, do not attempt to work on them yourself. Call in a professional. If the door seems to bind in the tracks an adjustment and maintenance may be all that is needed. If it sags in the middle when opening or once it is fully open it may need a few bracing members.

With proper care and maintenance a quality garage door should last 30-40 years. The key to this longevity and lowest cost benefit is to spend about an hour a year on the maintenance if you can do it yourself or $100-$130 to have a professional service it. Again, spend hundred$ now in maintenance or thou$and$ later in repairs (or replacement). An average mid-grade replacement double wide door will run around $1800-$2700 installed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring is ........nearly here!

The Chill of February is behind us and coming up – March Madness!

The weather in March bounces from cold and wet to semi-warm days that bring out the longing for spring. March is the perfect time to get a great jump-start on sprucing up your home…….. Almost spring cleaning, or spring cleaning-‘lite.’

If you have accumulated quite a bit of winter debris and do not know where to start….begin with the curb appeal, specifically, your front porch or entryway area. Knock down the cobwebs; hose down the dirt on the front of the house and clean the area friends and neighbors see first. Caulk and paint any exposed wood and repaint the front door if needed. It’s a great start and will invigorate you to proceed with another section when you see the results.

Another task to accomplish during these random periods of great weather is to perform a thorough evaluation of the exterior needs of your home. You may have some tax money returned to you so knowing the financial needs of your home maintenance will be key to making sure you do not ‘unwisely’ spend that windfall on something desired rather than on something very much needed. Some bubbling or spongy siding or trim should be placed first on your list of repair tasks to keep the costs to a minimum.

Remember…for every dollar you spend maintaining your home you get to keep about $10 off your repair bill.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Storage 'Stuff"

Spring cleaning is right around the corner. If you are like most Americans you have accumulated quite a lot of “stuff” over the winter months and the holidays. The newer, shinier and sleeker stuff probably has displaced the older, yet still good “stuff” that you are still very fond of and are not quite ready to ship out or get rid of.

When it is all said and done we Americans accumulate a lot of “stuff.” Our homes can only handle a fixed amount of this “stuff” before it becomes a mess or potentially a fire hazard. We like our “stuff” and we hesitantly get rid of it. Cyndy Salzmann, 'The Clutter Coach,' states “If you don’t love it or use it….lose it!” But let’s face it; we seem to love all of our “stuff.”

The good news is that as we accumulate all of our “stuff” we can live out our normal, structured lives if we learn to keep our “stuff” somewhat organized.

The two most popular and least costly means to add structure to the mounds of “stuff” are to add storage shelving and/or storage shed. Many will opt for the rented storage units instead of building or purchasing an on-premise storage shed but the concept is the same, it’s just a convenience and cost issue.

Adding shelving space is an inexpensive way to allow us to accumulate more of our “stuff” and to keep it organized and at our fingertips when/if we do decide to use it. Mr. Handyman has built many shelving units in garages, storage rooms, basements and attic crawl spaces for dozens of our customers over the past 4 years. The key to turning that empty space into a valuable storage option is planning and budgeting. You cannot expect inexpensive shelving materials to hold up to heavy use with heaping, full storage totes. In the same regard, the least-expensive pull-down attic ladder will not last if it is used many times each year.

Adding that extra storage space could be as easy as purchasing and installing a heavy-duty shelving unit or having one custom tailored for a particular spot in the basement or garage. The pull-down attic ladder with planking and shelving installed in that unused area is the most requested storage option we have accomplished. The long-term costs are favorable compared to renting an off-premise storage unit. Oh, and maybe some focus on pairing down on how much “stuff” we think we need to retain.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Prepare for the spring melt down

We've had quite a bit of snow this winter and a possibility of more on the way between now and spring. With the potential for a lot of moisture soaking into the ground around your home a wet basement is the last thing you will want to complicate your life.

Many newer homes are built with the addition of a sump pit in the basement but usually do not come with a pump. It is left for the homeowner to determine if they need one and to have it installed.

With the spring thaw (can't wait!!!) a few weeks away one of the most important maintenance tasks a homeowner can accomplish to prepare for the melting snow is to ensure their sump pump is operational. A sump pump is normally located in a "sump pit." This is usually in the basement under a round plastic lid and has an electrical cord and a drain pipe routing through it (if a pump is installed). The purpose of the pump/pit is to collect water that normally would enter the basement and pump it out to a location in the yard keeping moisture out of the basement. Not all homes have a sump pump though.

The sump pump system is very susceptible to failure due to long periods of inactivity and "critters" such as rodents and bugs clogging the drain pipe. The maintenance is very easy for most homeowners.

1. Remove the lid to the sump pit and remove any debris that might clog up the pump.

2. Slowly pour at least 3 gallons of water into the pit to verify the pump automatically operates and evacuates the water from the pit. If it does not operate have the pump serviced or replaced before the big meltdown.

During warmer weather it is a good idea to run a garden hose to the pit letting a slow stream of water run and allow the pump to operate more than a few moments at a time. This will also lubricate the seals and knock off any build-up of calcium that may have accumulated inside the pump.  The drain end (outside) can be a nice nesting place for bugs and critters so a screened end cap is recommended.

The Truth about Doggy Doors

Twice over the past few weeks a customer has called to ask how to seal up their doggy door because the cold wind is blowing right through.

There are many more options for doggy doors than what is available at the local big-box and pet stores.

The options available online and at some local pet stores include:

Keyed entry dog doors. Your dog wears an electronic collar that unlocks the doggy door as the pet approaches for entry. These units will help to keep stray pets and wild animals out of your home. There are ways to lock-out the doors so they remain locked.

There are pet doors that install in the door, the wall, a sliding patio door, screen doors and window units in the case of a few cat doors.

There are pet doors that are double-paned to assist in keeping the cold weather out of your home with high quality weather stripping to seal the edges.

The "Cadillac" pet door is made by Plexidoor and opens like a saloon-style door with 2 side doors and spring-loaded so it closes automatically.

Cutting a hole into your door or wall and installing the "cheaper" style doggy door may cost you more money over time in lost energy than installing a high quality door from the beginning. As it goes with most things in life, the cheapest price does not add up to the best overall value. The $30 doggy doors could cost you an extra $30/month in energy loss during the extreme cold or hot months. Add that up over a few years and you'll quickly see that the best doors are the real bargain.

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Maintenance tasks

There is not a whole lot of winter time maintenance to tell all of our listeners about except a few items to be aware of. The amount of snow we received last year in the Omaha area lead to many homes with ice damming, roof leaks, interior damage and insurance claims. It should be a high priority to get the snow removed from the lower 3 ft of roof to prevent the damage.

Other maintenance tasks that should be accomplished this month include:

1. Change or clean the furnace filter (should be accomplished each month. Save money with the type you can clean and reinstall. I would advise to purchase two, one to clean/let dry and the other installed in the system and rotate them.)

2. Check the operation of your whole-house humidifier. Inspect the unit to be sure it is not leaking water onto the furnace or floor and be sure the wick (filter looking device) is not clogged up with too much calcium deposits.

3. Clean and inspect any room-type humidifiers you may have throughout your home. They also have a wick that should not contain so much calcium deposits that it restricting the flow of water. Keep an eye on a humidistat in your home to be able to tell if either humidifier type is working. If you do not have a humidistat you can purchase an inexpensive one at a local hardware store. Many times they are attached to a thermometer. (the kind that show temperature, humidity and barometer, see photos of older and newer style units). The goal is to keep the humidity near 35% through the winter but it also depends on your comfort level.

4. VERY IMPORTANT! Inspect your home for leaks, build-up of ice on the inside of the home and for any visible gaps or cracks in the foundation, walls, siding or drywall. Especially look in the basement around the pipes that protrude to the outside of the home (water spigots). If any are frozen and split they can be isolated (shut-off and/or add a valve to keep them from flooding the basement when they defrost later). The whole point of this inspection is to limit further damage by noticing something that has the potential for failure.

Here are other tasks that usually get neglected and can be completed easily in January:

Take photos or videos of all of your personal property like furniture, stereo equipment, computers, bedroom sets etc. If you ever have a fire or other major damage you'll have a record of the items in your home. Make a listing of model and serial numbers of appliances, tools, electronic equipment etc. Also make an account of #'s of clothing items, CD and DVD listings, etc. It will be so much easier dealing with the insurance company with a good record of your household items. Make a couple copies and have relatives store them for you or keep it in a safety-deposit box.

Set up your annual savings plan to tackle your home maintenance and repairs. Industry experts suggest 1-3% of the home's value per year should be set aside for maintenance. To figure out your home value you can visit the county tax assessor's website (Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawatomie counties are online). Multiply that figure by .01 to .03 to get the annual savings amount. Take that new number and divide it by 12 to get the monthly amount you should put aside to have that kitty of money for home maintenance and repairs. I'd keep it in a separate savings account so you'll be less inclined to spend it for other items. If your home is new or very well maintained I would save near the 1% figure; If it is older or not well maintained I would save at the 3% level.

REMEMBER: Spend hundred$ now in maintenance or thou$and$ later in repairs. The sooner you notice maintenance needs the less likely it will turn into full repairs. It is usually about a 10:1 ratio. What you could spend for $100 in keeping the home maintained will cost you $1000 to have repaired if the maintenance is neglected. Visit this site monthly and complete (or have someone like Mr. Handyman complete) the maintenance for you to save you thousands over the life of your home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Preventing Ice Dams


With the possibility of snow piling up in the next few weeks ICE DAMMING has become a very big problem in the Omaha Metro area. Ice damming happens when snow is not removed from the lower 3 ft of roof line. These lower feet of roofing are over the eaves of the roof where there is no insulation or warmth underneath. What happens is the upper part of the roof starts to melt (due to the sun, poor insulation or inadequate ventilation in the attic) and the moisture drains down to the lower section that will not melt (in these temperatures) and gets "dammed up." Basically water pools above the ice and backs up into the home (comes through the roof). Roofs were made to drain off water, not pool water.

Extensive damage can happen in homes if ice damming occurs. Replacement of ceilings, walls and insulation can be very costly alone without considering carpeting, wood floors, furniture etc. Insurance will probably cover some of these costs but deductibles, replacement time, time off work, coordination hassles etc. will make it well worth the expense to prevent ice damming in the first place.

Fresh snow can be pulled off the edges of the roof with a roof rake, or snow rake. They are available at some of the local hardware stores. I have never found one at any of the "big-box" stores, but if the need is there I would not be surprised if they started carrying them. If you wait several days before you attempt to pull the snow off with a snow-rake you may have a more difficult time ahead of you. The snow may build up ice crystals and be very tough to remove.

With the expected accumulation of more snow the rest of the winter I would highly advise you MAKE THIS A HIGH PRIORITY! The added weight of all that snow on a roof can cause a collapse let alone water leaking into the ceiling and walls. This amount of snow this early in the winter could be still on the ground (and roof) until April.


If you have some old panty hose laying around the house you could fill them with "Ice Melt" (must be calcium chloride, not rock salt) and lay them vertical on the ice dam. The point is to make several vertical breaks through the ice dam so melted snow has a place to drain off the roof. This is a great trick but the best overall method is to remove the loose snow right away.


Heat wire or heat tape is an effective method to prevent ice dams. A heated electrical wire is attached to the lower sections of the roof and is manually plugged-in or turned-on by the home owner to heat up that part of the roof to melt off the ice and snow. These are somewhat inexpensive (relative to costly repairs or your insurance deductible) but should only be used as a last resort in correcting the ice dam problem. The heated wire does not have a long life and the underlying issue causing the ice damming is still unsolved. I would only recommend using heat tape if all other methods of correction have been used and the issue is still not solved for a particular problem area (may be related to tree cover, shading, wind direction, etc.)
The best approach to solving ice damming should be attempted in the following manner for cost savings and the best long-term results:
1. Correct attic insulation issues
2. Correct attic ventilation issues (whole attic space should be same temperature as outside)
3. If the only time you have ice damming issues is after a very heavy snow - purchase a snow rake and use it immediately after a snow fall removing 3 ft up from the edge.
4. Use the pantyhose trick if you did not get the snow off the edge of the roof.
5. Install heat tape (do not wait until your roof is a solid sheet of ice to try to accomplish this task)
If you cannot do the work yourself or would like a professional to accomplish these tasks for you please give Mr. Handyman a call at 402-502-5212. We've had many, many requests to do these tasks in the last few weeks -thank you KCRO & KGBI listeners! We've also heard of other companies attempting to perform ice/snow removal for homeowners and causing roof damage. Be very careful who you hire.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ten Things Every Homeowner Should Know

1. Water Shut-off Valve Location - Every person in the home should know the location of the water shut-off for the whole house. Most sinks and toilets have a shut-off valve under the fixture but knowing how to kill the flow throughout the home is imperative if needed in an emergency. If a leak pops up shutting off the flow will limit the amount of damage, repair costs AND headaches.

2. Gas Shut-off Valve Location - Same issue as the water valve but with greater emphasis towards safety. A gas leak can cause a fire or explosion so shutting it off at the sign (smell) of a leak or other danger could have life or death consequences.

3. Electric Box Breaker Switches - Be sure everyone in the home knows the location of the electric panel. Each breaker should be labeled for efficiency and safety. This will save you frustration and time during electrical issues.

4. Repair water leaks ASAP - A huge percentage of home repair costs involves water damage. Once you have detected a water leak have it repaired immediately. The longer you let it continue the more dollars required for the repair.

5. Foundation Blocks and Concrete Slabs - One of the most costly home repairs is leveling the house. To help avoid this costly repair you should keep the slab nourished during spells of very dry weather. Install flowerbeds along the sides and keep them moist. If you have no flowerbeds then you should actually water the edges of the slab. Do not over water...just be aware that cracks in the dirt can be a sign of future problems in your home's foundation.

6. Install Gutters/Downspouts - Water should be directed away (4-6 ft) from the foundation, sidewalks or patio/driveway slabs. Just like too much dry weather is bad for your foundation...too much water is bad also. Never let water pool at base of house.

7. Keep Gutters Free Flowing - The gutters and downspouts cannot push the water away from the house (and away from the basement) if they cannot do their function. Clean the gutters and downspouts several times a year or install gutter protection (look at Gutter Stuff Pro on this blog).

8. Keep Debris Off Roof - If you have trees dropping leaves on your roof you need to clear them off. Water is will work its way through your shingles and ultimately through to your ceilings. When you see the water stains in your walls or ceilings, you should repair the leak immediately.

9. Weatherproof Your Home - Repairs to doors and windows is another costly area. When you take the time to caulk and weather strip your doors and caulk around all your windows (in addition to saving money) you will remain aware of developing issues. Your job is to know your home.

10. Know Your Neighbors - Chances are your home was built at the same time as your neighbors'. Keeping tabs on their home issues can go a long way in predicting issues at your home!