The Professional Choice

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

Tuesday, 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.