Contractor Tips Blog


How to Safely Pressure Wash Your Deck

A deck is not only a beautiful addition to any home, but it also provides an excellent outdoors area to entertain guests and for family relaxation.  Like anything else exposed to the elements it will accumulate dirt, grime, mold and mildew.  Periodic cleaning of your deck will help keep it looking great and providing enjoyment for years to come.

Many people try to use a pressure washer to clean their deck.  While it is possible for an experienced pressure washer contractor to clean a deck using a pressure washer, it is much more difficult than it looks to get a deck clean without damaging it.  Unfortunately, in the hands of most homeowners and even some professionals, pressure washing a deck can do as much harm as good. 

A typical pressure washer uses water pressurized to between 2,000 and 5,000 psi to blast away dirt and grime.  However, wooden decks are made from relatively soft woods that can be damaged very quickly by a stream of high pressure water.  In the blink of an eye, a pressure washer can turn a perfectly good but dirty deck into a clean, but severely damaged deck.

The stream of high pressure water from a pressure washer can take off a quarter inch layer of wood very quickly.   At best, a typical pressure washer will leave the deck surface “fuzzy” with wood fibers raised by the pressure washing process.

 A better method of deck pressure washing involves cleaning it with a low pressure washer. In this method, environmentally save chemicals are applied to remove the dirt and grime, then the chemicals and dirt are removed by the application of low pressure, high volume water.  The result is a clean deck with no damage.


Pressure Washing with Low Pressure

Most people who need to clean the outside of their home, a driveway, basement or have any other large outdoor cleaning project use a pressure washer that cleans by blasting away dirt and debris by using water that has been pressurized up to 5,000 psi or more. 

You can buy or rent a pressure washer and do the job yourself or hire a professional pressure washer.  In either case, however, it is easy to do a lot of damage to your home or commercial building with an ordinary pressure washer.  Water under very high pressure can very quickly damage siding, concrete, bricks, mortar, and stucco.  It can drive water underneath siding and shingles and can damage the glazing or seals around window panes, causing the window to leak.

Inflicting damage with a pressure washer is most common with inexperienced homeowners, but even a professional can create a lot of damage before realizing it.  To get good results with a pressure washer without causing damage you have use the right tip on the spray wand and use the least amount of pressure needed to get the job done. 

Even then, sometimes damage is inevitable. For example, if you are washing bricks with soft mortar, the amount of pressure needed to clean the brick could severely damage the mortar. 

Fortunately, there is a better way to clean large outdoor surfaces.  Low pressure washing uses environmentally safe chemicals to clean the surface, followed by a large volume of low pressure water to rinse away the cleaning solution along with the dirt and debris.  Low pressure washing techniques are safe for all surfaces and avoid the problems inherent with high powered pressure washers.


Paver Driveways

Posted in Paver Driveways

If you are building a new home, or looking for a way to add to the attractiveness of your existing home, consider installing a beautiful new paver driveway.  Not only do interlocking paver driveways add to the beauty and value of your home, they have many advantages over concrete or asphalt driveways.

Interlocking pavers are concrete, brick or stone blocks that are manufactured in a wide variety of shapes, colors and styles.  Each paver is designed to interlock with the adjacent pavers to minimize movement and maximize weight distribution. 

Interlocking pavers require less maintenance than asphalt or concrete driveways and because they allow for some movement, they can expand and contract with heat and cold and will not crack like concrete or asphalt. 

Pavers are also much easier to repair than concrete or asphalt driveways.  Repairs involve removing the affected pavers and replacing them.  If the ground has shifted or if the area had to be dug out under the driveway for some reason, the ground can be leveled and the pavers reinstalled.  Unlike a concrete or asphalt driveway, the repair will be virtually invisible. 

Installing a paver driveway is something best left to an experienced landscaper.  Pavers are relatively easy to install and many do-it yourselfers install their own patios and walkways, but for a large project like a driveway that will be bearing a lot of weight you will get a better, more durable driveway by having it installed by a professional.  When you are ready to install an attractive new paver driveway, call a reputable local landscaping company that specializes in installing interlocking pavers.


Paver Driveway Repairs

Posted in Paver Driveways

Paver driveways add an aesthetically pleasing element to any home or business.  Interlocking pavers are available in a huge array of colors, textures, and styles and the arrangement of the pavers is only limited by your imagination. 

One of the many advantages of interlocking paver driveways is that they are easily repaired.  Paver driveways need very little maintenance and usually give great service year after year, but the soil under almost any driveway will shift or settle over time. Tree roots can also grow under the driveway over the years.  

With a concrete or asphalt driveway, the result will be cracks and breaks in the concrete or asphalt that can only be repaired by cutting out that section and replacing it.  The repaired section will be obviously different than the rest of the old driveway.  In addition, sometimes a water line or other utility line that runs under a driveway needs to be replaced or repaired and the only way to get to it is to break up the driveway and pour new asphalt or concrete.

With paver driveway repairs, a repair can easily be made by a professional landscaper or paver driveway company that will not be noticeable.  Interlocking pavers allow for some movement between the pavers so the pavers themselves rarely crack or break.  Shallow ruts or depressions may form where the ground has settled, or a high spot may develop where tree roots have grown under the driveway, but the pavers are usually still in good shape. 

To repair these areas, the pavers in the affected areas are carefully removed and the bed is leveled as needed and then compacted.  The pavers are then reinstalled and the repaired driveway is ready for many more years of great service.


Paver Driveway Maintenance

Posted in Paver Driveways

If you have a paver driveway, you know how much curb appeal it adds to your home.  Your beautiful paver driveway is attractive, functional, and best of all it needs very little maintenance. 

However, a paver driveway needs a little maintenance over the years to keep it looking and working great.  Proper maintenance of your paver driveway will help it last for many years and preserve its beauty. 

Over time, a paver driveway can be expected to develop low or high spots.  These are the result of the ground settling or tree roots growing under the driveway.  One of the great advantages of paver driveways is that unlike a concrete or asphalt driveway, these high and low spots can be repaired without leaving any signs of the repair.  A paver driveway contractor or landscaper can remove the pavers, level the area, and reinstall the pavers.  Once the repair is made, the driveway will look like new again and be ready for many more years of service.  The repair will not be noticeable.  There is no unsightly repaired area like you would have with a concrete or asphalt driveway. 

A paver driveway may also be infiltrated by grass and weeds.  Periodic treatment with grass and weed killer will keep this under control.  Be sure to properly trim the grass along the edge of the driveway to keep the lawn from growing over the edge. 

Other maintenance includes removal of oil stains and sealing the pavers.  You should leave these jobs to a professional to avoid bleaching or altering the color of the pavers.  When you need paver driveway maintenance, contact an experienced paver driveway specialist or landscaper.


Contractors Insurance Considerations

Posted in Contractors

When hiring a contractor to do any kind of work around your home, you should always make sure that the contractor has sufficient insurance coverage.  At a minimum, a contractor should have both liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. 

Workers compensation insurance will cover claims for injuries to the contractor’s workers that happen while the worker is at your home.  Some types of home improvement projects are inherently more dangerous than others, but any work that a contractor is hired to do involves some risk of injury to the worker.

If your contractor is hired for a roofing project or light construction, the risk of injury is pretty obvious, but workers can be injured on any type of home improvement projects such as an interior renovation or home theater installation.  Hazards posed by exposed electrical wiring, use of power tools, or any physical exertion such as heavy lifting or hammering can cause a worker to be injured. 

Liability insurance covers damage to property caused by the contractor or his workers.  For example, if the contractor cut a tree down that fell on the neighbor’s car or accidently started a fire while performing electrical work, the contractor’s liability insurance would cover any claims. 

Your homeowner’s insurance would probably cover most types of claims if the contractor was uninsured or underinsured, but you would be responsible for any deductible and also for dealing with the insurance company. 

A reputable contractor will have good insurance coverage and will be happy to provide you with proof of insurance.  Good insurance coverage is also a good sign that the contractor is a legitimate, professionally operated business.  Before you hire any contractor, be sure that they have proper insurance coverage.


Finding a Good Contractor

Posted in Contractors

No matter what type home improvement project you are considering, one of the most important choices you will need to make is which contractor to use.  From roofing to construction to new kitchen design, the internet and telephone books are full of contractors all claiming to be the best, the cheapest, the most experienced, or the most reliable.  How can you choose a contractor that is right for you? 

Start out by asking your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers if they have used a contractor for similar work in the past.  If so, they may be able to recommend a good contractor or tell you which ones to stay away from. 

Make sure the contractor is a legitimate business.  Ask to seek a copy of their business license and proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance.  Does the contractor have a permanent business address and telephone number? 

Next, ask for a few references from satisfied customers.  For most contractors, a happy customer is the best source of business.  The contractor should be happy to provide you with the contact information for a couple good references.  Follow up by calling the references and asking what type of work they had done, were they pleased with the work, and would they use the contractor again.

Check the Better Business Bureau and online rating sites such as Angie’s List or to see if any complaints have been filed or if the contractor has any positive feedback.  Keep in mind that anyone can post on these websites including unscrupulous competitors or the contractor themselves so be sure to critically evaluate any comments.


Bucket Test For Leaking Pools

Posted in Swimming Pools

If you suspect your swimming pool is leaking, it’s important to get it taken care of right away.  Water leaking from your pool not only costs you money, but water leaking into the soil can cause serious damage to your foundation or to any structures on your property.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if you even have a leak.  A big leak is pretty obvious, but it’s not easy to tell the difference between a small leak and water loss due to normal use and evaporation.  One way to tell is by using the bucket test.

Fill a bucket almost to the rim with pool water.  Sit the bucket on a pool step so that the pool water level is at least a couple inches below the rim of the bucket.  If the bucket tries to float away, put a couple bricks or rocks inside the bucket to hold it down.

Mark the water level inside of the bucket with a pen or magic marker.  Mark the outside of the bucket at the pool water level.  Wait at least 24 hours and compare the water level inside the bucket with the pool water level marked on the outside of the bucket.  If the pool water level has gone down more than the water level inside the bucket, your pool is probably leaking.

At this point, your best move is to call a pool service company that specializes in leak detection and pool and spa repairs.  A good leak detection company will have computerized leak detection tools that can not only confirm that you have a leak, but also calculate how big the leak is.


Pool Leaks

Posted in Swimming Pools

Are you concerned that you may have a leak in your pool?  Most pools will develop a leak at some point.  Leaks can develop in the pool floors and walls, but more commonly leaks occur around pool fittings such as skimmers, drains and light fixtures.  Pool plumbing lines and equipment can also leak. 

Pool leaks can be difficult to locate, but if you think your pool is leaking, it is important to take care of it right away.  Even a small leak can send hundreds of gallons of water a day into the ground around your property.  Not only is it expensive to replace this water, but it can do serious damage to your home’s foundation and to any structures on your property.  It is also more difficult and expensive to regulate the pH level, chlorine, and other chemicals.

Some leaks are noticeably obvious.   If the water level in your pool drops several inches every night, you have a pretty good sized leak somewhere.  Smaller leaks are harder to identify.  Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a leak and water loss due to evaporation and water splashed out of the pool during normal use.  You may notice that you have to fill your pool more often than normal or if your pool has an automatic fill device, your first clue may be a water bill that increases steadily each month. 

If you think you have a water leak, your best course of action is to call a pool service company that specializes in pool leak detection and repairing pool leaks.  They have the experience and sophisticated tools for identifying, finding, and repairing pool leaks.


Home Automation

Posted in Home Automation

Home automation sounds futuristic, but it is a popular and affordable way to provide your family with increased security, comfort and convenience.  Someday, all new homes will have home automation features, but you can have home automation installed in your existing home today. 

Recent technological advances have led to the increased availability  and much lower cost of residential automation.  With the advent of the internet and cell phones, you can control almost anything in your home from almost anywhere in the world.

Home automation covers a wide range of things that you can control in your home automatically, remotely or both.  These include things like your lights, heating and air conditioning, appliances, windows, doors, shades, and surveillance cameras.  All of these things and more can be controlled automatically or from a remote location by using a telephone, computer, or panels either inside or outside your house. 

For example, home automation provides the ability to set your lights to come on at a certain time and your heating and air conditioning system to warm or cool your house on a certain schedule.  You can also remotely turn your lights off and on and adjust the temperature in your house from your cell phone or computer. 

You can remotely operate your oven, turn on or off your television, and open or close your blinds.  You can also install surveillance cameras which not only provide security while you are at home, but allow you to keep an eye on your home when you are away. 

The possibilities for home automation are almost unlimited!  For more information, call a reputable local home automation contractor.  They will be happy to create a home automation plan that fits your needs and your budget.

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