Contractor Tips Blog


The Importance of Gutter Cleaning

Posted in Gutter Cleaning

Keeping you gutters clean is an important home maintenance task for almost every home.  Gutters do an important job of collecting rainwater runoff from your roof and directing it safely away from your home’s foundation.  If you allow your gutters to become clogged with leaves and debris, the gutters will overflow with water which can cause some serious problems.

Rainwater that accumulates around your foundation can leak into your basement or lower level and cause flooding, mold, mildew, and other issues.  Water also weakens the support for your foundation which can lead to cracking and settling.  In addition, moist soil around the home is haven for bugs and termites.  Keeping your gutters clean will allow them to do their job of directing water away from your homes foundation and keep the soil around your home relatively dry.

Clogged gutters can also lead to roof damage.  Moisture an enemy of your roof.  Clogged gutters not only allow water to pool in the gutter, the leaves, pine needles and other debris hold moisture.  These damp areas can lead to rotted wood deck and fascia.  The excess moisture also harms composition asphalt shingles by promoting the growth of mold and mildew.  Water that gets under shingles causes wood rot and can lead to ice dams and other problems.

You can avoid all of these problems by cleaning your gutters whenever they show signs of clogging, but at least twice a year.  You will need to clean them more frequently if you have a lot of trees in your area.  If you are not comfortable cleaning the gutters yourself, have them cleaned by a reputable gutter cleaning service.


Outdoor Fire Pit vs. Outdoor Fireplace

Posted in Landscaping

With fall in the air, you may be thinking about adding an outdoor fire pit or fireplace for outdoor entertaining and enjoyment.  Both of these are excellent alternative for providing a warm, attractive focal point for gathering and enjoying the crisp fall weather.  Imagine an evening under the stars sharing cocoa with friends and family next to a warm, inviting fire crackling in your beautiful stone fire pit or fireplace!

Outdoor fireplaces and outdoor fire pits both have advantages.  The right one for you depends on your situation and what you plan to do with it.  A fire pit can be made in a wide range of attractive styles. There are portable fire pits made of copper or cast iron, but a permanent fire pit is usually made of stone or brick and since they offer 360 degrees entertainment, they often become the centerpiece of an outdoor entertainment area such as a patio.

Fire pits offer warmth and the ambiance of soft lighting and can even be used for cooking if equipped with a grate.  Fire pits are generally less expensive to build than fireplaces and require little, if any maintenance.

An outdoor fireplace is generally a more dramatic outdoor hardscape feature.  They are larger and more expensive than fire pits, but in addition to being freestanding, they can be incorporated into other structures including covered outdoor entertainment areas such as screened porches.  Like fire pits, they provide warmth, light, and ambiance and can easily be equipped for cooking.

An outdoor fireplace usually offers 180 degrees of entertainment although they can be constructed with the front and back open and placed in the middle of an area rather than the side or corner.  Fireplaces are less affected by breezes and less likely to blow smoke and ash on you and your guests.


Considerations for Outdoor Kitchens

Posted in Landscaping

Outdoor kitchens are all the rage these days and for good reason.  A custom outdoor kitchen is an excellent addition to any home for outdoor entertaining.  They add beauty and value to your home while providing years of enjoyment and pleasure.

Before you call your contractor, take a few minutes to consider what you want to get from your outdoor kitchen.  Careful planning now can avoid overspending for an outdoor kitchen that is more elaborate than you will ever need or failing to incorporate features in your outdoor kitchen that will limit your enjoyment.

First, think about how much you plan to use the outdoor kitchen.  Will it be for regularly entertaining large numbers of guests or just occasionally entertaining a few friends and family?  An outdoor kitchen can cost anywhere from one thousand to fifty thousand dollars depending on the size and amount of equipment included in the design.  You want a design that complements the beauty of your home, but try to align your budget with the amount of enjoyment you anticipate getting from the outdoor kitchen over the years.

Next, decide where you want to put the outdoor kitchen.  Most outdoor kitchens are located close to the home to allow for convenient outdoor entertaining and to minimize wiring and plumbing considerations.  However, try to place the grill where the smoke will tend to blow away from the house and your guests.

As you begin construction, don’t try to cut corners on the equipment, plumbing or electrical installations.  Outdoor equipment has to withstand exposure to the weather and your plumbing and electrical components should be specifically designed for outdoor use.  An experienced outdoor kitchen contractor will be able to help you design and build a beautiful, durable outdoor kitchen that meets your needs within your budget.


Kitchen Remodel Survival Guide

Once you have settled on the perfect kitchen design, hired a good remodeling contractor, and set up your budget, it’s time for the contractor to tear your old kitchen apart and start installing your beautiful new kitchen!  It’s an exciting time, but also a messy, inconvenient time.  Unlike on television, a major kitchen remodeling project will not be completed in an hour or even a weekend.

Your remodeling contractor will be able to give you a more accurate estimate, but depending on the scope of your remodeling project, plan on being “kitchenless” for at least several weeks while your contractor gets the job done.

Work with your contractor to minimize your kitchen downtime.  Try to put off demolition until most of the new fixtures and materials have been delivered.  Special order items like custom cabinets can take weeks for delivery and there is no sense in getting started until they have been delivered or at least until they are nearing the delivery date.

The easiest way to deal with living without your kitchen is to take a vacation or move into a nearby hotel for a while.  Unfortunately, moving into a hotel or going on vacation is not a practical or cost effective solution for most people.  However, you may be able to schedule the renovation to coincide at least partially with a vacation or a visit with family members.  Just a few days away from the mess and inconvenience of the renovation can provide a welcome “sanity” break.

During the time that you will be living with the remodeling project, you will probably be eating out a lot or living on take out or delivery food.  You can cut down on eating out by creating a “mini-kitchen” with a microwave, coffee pot, toaster, and small refrigerator in whatever space you can find such as an extra bedroom or a corner of the living room.  You may be able to temporarily put your old refrigerator in a garage or other area so you can use it during the remodeling. In addition, this may be a good time to consider brushing up on your grilling skills.

No matter how inconvenient, remember that your remodeling project will be done in a few weeks and you will be able to enjoy your new kitchen for years to come.


Planning a Kitchen Renovation

A kitchen renovation is a great project that can add value to your home and provide years of enjoyment.  Planning your renovation involves more than wandering through the aisles of your local home improvement center. For anything beyond a minor project, you will need to choose a good kitchen designer and a kitchen remodeling contractor.  Sometimes these are the same person or firm.

You may have a good idea of what you want to achieve from your remodeling project, but working with a great kitchen designer is usually worth every penny.  They know from experience what works well together and how to achieve the look and functionality you desire.  They will also have insights into the materials and fixtures that are available and will be able to offer suggestions for the design that you may not have even thought of that will result in a fantastic new kitchen that exceeds your expectations.

Some kitchen designers also function as the remodeling contractor.  If not, you will need a good contractor with experience in kitchen remodeling.  The contractor deals with and all the tradesmen who will be involved with the job.  You can attempt to do this yourself, but kitchen remodeling involves many different trades including plumbing, flooring, electrical, cabinet making, countertops, tile, masonry and general carpentry.

Finding and coordinating all these trades is much more difficult and time consuming than it seems.  A good remodeling contractor has the organizational skills and experience to efficiently manage your kitchen remodeling project.  They also have a good set of contacts and know who they can depend on to do good work.

When choosing your kitchen designer and remodeling contractor, you will want to be sure they have the appropriate qualifications and a good reputation.  Ask for and follow up with references and be sure the contractor is licensed and has sufficient liability insurance coverage.


Advantages of a Central Vacuum System

A central vacuum cleaning system is a great choice for almost any home.  Modern central vacuum cleaning systems can be installed in most existing homes by a professional installer in less than a day without damaging your walls and they have many advantages over portable vacuum cleaners.

A central vacuum cleaning system is much more powerful than a portable vacuum so it does a far better job of picking up dirt, dust, mites, dander, and other debris.  The size and power of the motor in portable vacuum is necessarily limited to keep the weight of the vacuum down.

A large powerful motor would be too heavy for a portable vacuum cleaner.  A central vacuum cleaner does not have this problem.  The motor for a central vacuum cleaner is permanently installed in one place and can be as large as necessary for powerful vacuum performance.

Central vacuums are much more effective at cleaning due to these powerful motor and also because the exhaust and dust is directed outside the living area.  A portable vacuum works by attempting to capture the dust and dirt in a canister or bag and uses filters to try to limit the amount of dust and dirt exhausted back into the room.  The problem is that there is a limit to the efficiency of these systems and some dust and dirt will simply get stirred up and blown around the room.

A central vacuum does not have this issue.  All of the exhaust and dirt is sent to a central location outside the living area, typically in garage, storage area, or other space.  As a result, the air in your home is much cleaner when you use a central vacuum system.  Allergy sufferers in particular find that their symptoms are much reduced after installation of a central vacuum system.


Consider a Central Vacuum System

Once considered a high end luxury item, central vacuum systems have become more affordable and are now considered a cost effective home cleaning solution.  Prices of good quality portable vacuum cleaners have increased as more and more features have been added.   Meanwhile, the cost of a fully installed central vacuum system has declined.  The result is that the gap between the cost of a central vacuum system and a portable vacuum has decreased to the point where a central vacuum system should be seriously considered when purchasing a vacuum.

The initial cost of an installed central vacuum system will be several times the cost of a good quality portable vacuum cleaner, but a central vacuum will last far longer than any portable vacuum.  Central vacuum systems typically last at least ten to twenty years with minimal maintenance.

During that time, most portable vacuums will have been replaced many times making the total cost of the central vacuum system the same or less than purchasing several portable vacuum.  In addition, the central vacuum system increases the value of your home and provides far superior cleaning.

Central vacuum systems are not just for newly constructed homes.  In fact, most central vacuum systems are installed in existing homes.  An experienced professional vacuum installer can install a complete system in most homes in less than a day without having to destroy walls or any other damage.  Central vacuum systems are specifically designed for ease of installation in existing homes.

Some homeowners have even installed central vacuum systems themselves, but for an effective, powerful system that will look professional and last for years, it’s well worth the cost of professional installation.  Get estimates from two or three reputable central vacuum system contractors and make sure the contractor you choose is experienced and fully licensed and insured.


Flood Protection With Home Elevations

Posted in Home Elevation

If you own a home located in a flood prone area and your home has been damaged by flooding, you are facing an important choice.  You may be required to take steps to reduce your future flood damage.  Some homeowners simply move away, but if you want to stay in your home there is an excellent alternative.

A home elevation can permanently protect your home from future flooding.  In a home elevation, a shoring contractor with house raising experience will lift your entire home and build a new foundation under your house. As a result, the next time floodwaters rise, your home will be above the floodwaters which will pass harmlessly underneath.  Home elevations are a very effective way to reduce future flood damage.

An experienced house raising contractor can lift almost any type of home including homes built on a slab, homes built on blocks, and homes built on pilings.  The lift can be anywhere from a few feet to more than ten feet.  In some cases a useable parking or storage area is created below the home. No matter how high the lift, make sure the contractor uses a modern unified jacking system that will evenly and safely raise the home.  If the house is not raised evenly, cracking and other damage can occur.

Depending on where you live, you may qualify for federal grant money to help pay for the home elevation.  Residents in flooded areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Kings County Washington, and other areas may be eligible for federal or state grant money to help raise their homes.  A reputable home elevation contractor will help you find any grants you are eligible for and assist you with filling out the paperwork.


When a Roofing Contractor Knocks on Your Door

Posted in Roofing

The May 25 hailstorms have brought waves of fly by night roofers to the Dayton, Ohio area, especially hard hit Centerville and Xenia.  These storm chasers have a reputation for shoddy work, high pressure sales tactics, and unscrupulous practices.

Conventional wisdom is to avoid using any roofing contractor that shows up uninvited at your door.  Most of the time this is good advice.  Storm chasers don’t have a local reputation, they don’t get any referrals from satisfied customers, and they are not in an area long enough for advertising to be effective. The primary way storm chasers get business is by sending high pressure salesmen to knock on doors and use scare tactics to sign up new roofing contracts. 

On the other hand, the reputable local roofing contractors are so busy they don’t need to use door to door salesmen to get new work.  Good local roofing contractors with a solid reputation for high quality work get most of their business from referrals from satisfied customers. 

With that said, there may be some instances when a reputable local roofer is working in a neighborhood and takes a few minutes to knock on the doors of neighboring houses if it looks like they may have had hail damage but have not had their roof replaced. 

The bottom line is to use your common sense in these situations.  Don’t sign a contract with the first roofer that knocks on your door.  Get their business information and check them out like you would any other business.  Look at their vehicle to see if the name of the business name and license number is painted (not just a magnetic stick on sign) on the side.  If everything checks out, then you can hire them with confidence.


Choose a Roofing Contractor Wisely

Posted in Roofing

Thousands of Ohio homeowners in Fort Collins CO and the surrounding areas are faced with the task of choosing a roofing contractor to repair or replace their hail damaged roofs.  The hail storms that hit the area in May and June caused widespread damage to roofs throughout the area and homeowners have been scrambling to find a good roofer to handle the repairs to their roofs.

Unfortunately, a large number of “storm chasers” have moved into the area and are busy going door to door soliciting roofing work.  Storm chasers are roofers from out of state who move around the country like gypsies, traveling from one storm ravaged area to the next, undercutting the local roofers, then moving on when the work runs out, too many disgruntled customers begin to complain, or their creditors catch up with them.

To be fair, some storm chasers are good roofers, but the majority of storm chasers either do poor quality work or are just downright dishonest.  When you use a storm chaser to replace your asphalt shingle roof, you are taking a significant risk that the roofer will either simply disappear with your money or, if they hang around and install a new roof, they will do a poor job and the roof will start leaking with the next heavy rainfall. 

Your roof is too important to take this risk.  When you choose a roofing contractor for an asphalt shingle roof replacement, try to pick a contractor with a permanent local office.  Ask to see proof of workman’s compensation insurance and liability insurance.  Ask for references and check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have a history of unresolved complaints.

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