It is inevitable here in the North East that at least once a winter we will get pummeled with a good storm and the associated power outages. Here are some storm preparation tips courtesy of the CDC.
Make sure you have at least one of the following in case there is a power failure:
Turning on the stove for heat is not safe; have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies. If you live far from other people, have more supplies on hand.
If your pipes freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
Minimize travel, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your vehicle:
Check out their entire Winter Preparedness Checklist here:
We all have the ability to improve our home’s value even with the ever changing real estate market. Simple well thought out home improvements will pay off years later with a little planning.
Things that affect your home’s value:
Weekend DIY Projects: Some inexpensive ideas to add value to your home now!
- Add some mulch
- Tend to your plants, shrubs, and trees
- Refresh your paint where you see peeling or chipping
- Clear the clutter from the yard and garage
Home Improvements worth paying for in 2018:
- Manufactured Stone Veneer
- Garage Door Replacements
- Entry Door Replacements (steel)
- Deck Addition (wood)
Read about the 2018 Cost VS. Value report from Remodeling Magazine: www.billpearnmasonry.com/blog/home-improvements-2018-cost-vs-value-report
Conserving water isn't something we immediately think of when the spring melt off is in full swing and everyone's minds are turning to their concerns about their damp basements.
However, since the spring home improvement season is in full swing this is a great time to take a critical look at your water consumption to reduce your use all year long.
Conserving water may save on water bills (if you are on a shared system) or home maintenance costs (well systems) since less use will reduce the wear and tear on your well pump, holding tank, hot water heater, etc.
Check out this info-graphic by SanifloDepot for great DIY home maintenance tips on how you can reduce your water needs.
Our top 10 Spring home maintenance checklist for 2018!
Here is your Spring home maintenance checklist to start getting your home ready for Spring and Spring home improvement projects.
We also have the printable Spring Home Maintenance Checklist PDF attached at the bottom with areas for homeowner notes, contractors to call, and ideas for home improvement projects.
Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
1. Roof Maintenance – look for:
• lost or damaged shingles
• damaged or warping of flashing
• water stains
• any sagging in the roof line.
2. Gutter Maintenance – look for:
• leaking gutters
• clogged gutters
• improper downspout drainage
3. Chimney Maintenance – look for:
• damage to chimney and cap
• damage to cricket
4. Concrete – look for:
• signs of movement
• improper drainage
• surface damage
5. Outside Faucets – look for:
• freeze damage
• damage to hoses
6. Yard Tools – look for:
• discolored gasoline
• check batteries and chargers
• clean equipment
• sharpen blades
7. Foundation: Check foundation walls, floors, concrete, and masonry for:
• loss of or loose mortar
8. Deck and porches – look for:
• loose spindles and rails
• rotted wood
• damage or rust on ledger board and bolts
9. Wood burning Fireplaces – look for:
• rust and damage on damper
• missing mortar joints between fire brick
• rust or damage on spark arrestor
10. Exterior Walls – look for:
• water stains
• check for openings
• damaged areas or knots that have popped out
Here is our latest top ten tips for winter home maintenance!
There is always plenty to do this time of year so check our other blog posts for our winter tips lists from years past.
Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!
When done correctly, a finished basement is a cost effective way to add valuable living space to your home. This blog is a general guide to help you save money and have a successful home improvement project. Every home is unique, however, these basic principles will apply to almost every home in our service area.
If you are planning this type of home improvement project, you will save a lot of money in the long run by first properly examining your basement for potential areas of failure and necessary upgrades. For example, here in the Pike County PA area moisture penetration, insect/animal activity, and high levels of radon are all common issues for home owners. It is much cheaper for the home owner to address these issues right in the beginning their project.
Let’s look at your basement from the bottom up.
Anyone looking to finish a basement should already have a concrete basement floor. Take a good hard look at the quality of the concrete work and any defects in the floor such as: cracks, moisture penetration, or uneven areas. Those items need to be addressed prior to framing and with a consideration of what type of flooring will be going on top of it. You can use concrete stain and sealers to finish your existing floor if it is in good enough shape, or, you can use it as subflooring for another type of flooring system. If you do not already have a concrete basement floor, give us a call and we’ll make sure your project gets off to a great start.
You need to understand what your foundation is made of, and when it was built, so you can assess the remaining lifespan of that material. No home owner benefits from paying for a finished basement if it floods or molds over in a year because of a failure in the foundation.
Whether your basement is made of cinder block, concrete block, poured concrete, or stone you are looking for the following issues: cracks, rotation, disintegration, moisture, missing mortar, and caulk. No one should be using caulk to fix defects in the mortar. That is a band aid fix that will fail much faster than simply replacing the mortar.
Basement Windows and Basement Doors
Now is the time to make decisions about whether or not to change or upgrade the windows and doors. Prior to considerations about insulating your basement or adding basement heaters: look at how the age of the windows or doors will affect heating efficiency. In addition to that, also look for rotting of the frames and look at the general functionality of the items. Do you have good ingress and egress? Do your existing windows and doors match your idea of how you’d like your finished basement to look?
Take a good look at the sill plate, floor joists, and main beam for rotting or warping and for insect or animal activity. Also take a look at the main beam supports. Check the spans on your supports and make sure you have proper support for your beam, especially if you plan on later renovations upstairs.
Electrical and plumbing issues for the entire home should also be taken into consideration at this point. Any work that may need to be done there to bring things up to code is far more efficiently done prior to finishing the basement. The same goes for moving any utilities (water heaters, holding tanks, etc.) that are currently housed in the basement.
Take a look at our Basements page for repair options and great basement finishing ideas!
When you have those areas of your basement ready you will be in a good position to continue with your project.
The specific needs of your home should dictate the types of construction methods used to frame and finish it, but, these videos from This Old House are good overviews for what comes next.
How to Frame Out Basement Walls - This Old House
How to Frame Walls for a Basement Room - This Old House
Follow this home improvement blog for all your DIY or professionally done projects.
If you have a specific topic you’d like to see us cover, leave a comment below.
I know there are a zillion how to articles on home improvement websites that deal with this topic but I’d like to add my two cents anyway. We meet people of all walks of life every week. We have worked in this industry in our little corner of the world for over 12 years now and I've seen some patterns that leave consumers unhappy at the end of their project. Here are my top 3 ways to have a happy construction project.
Consumer Tip #1 – NO NOT shop by price only! To many home owners fall into the lowest bid trap. All contractors are not created equal. Their experience, process, and the materials used will make the price of a project fluctuate. You may in fact find that the lowest proposed price is the best option for you. You may find that the highest price is the worst quality..... BUT you will only know this if you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.
For example: If you need your front step repaired and you get three proposals (I say proposals because they are hard numbers and not akin to estimates which are a faster guessed type of price) and those proposals are $500, $1,000, and $1,500. Ok so what you need to know is why there is a price spread. Do not assume that the plan for repair is the same across the board. It may be very likely that the $500 proposal is to caulk the steps. That may be it. Just caulk. You could caulk it yourself for about $30. The $1,000 proposal may be for joint repair where that contractor is planning on repairing all the joints. This is a good thing! This is a better long term option than the $500 proposal so it will save you money over time. Now the $1,500 proposal may be repairing all the joints PLUS fixing the water issue that caused the problem in the first place. That is even better! Ideally (budget allowing) this is what you want to have done.
Proposals are not always as straight forward as I described. The caulk contractor may be the $1,000 person and the joint repair may be the $500 person because they live a mile away and the overhead is less. So to be able to compare apples to apples ask to have a description of work and materials used in the proposal. Those items need to be in the PA contract anyway so it’s not a big deal to ask for a quick summary on the proposal. Most contractors work up these numbers between work, kids, household responsibilities, emails and phone calls so it’s easy to leave it off simply to be timely in getting the price to the consumer who is often in a rushed state. Which brings me to #2…..
Consumer Tip #2 – DO NOT be in a rush! Plan early when you have a project in mind so that you can shop for the best contractor to work with. On numerous occasions we have had customers that decide on …oh say… Thursday that they want to have a chimney repaired by Sunday. So they call a list of names they find on the internet and just hire whoever has the time to do it. These are the Home Improvement Gamblers. They MAY get lucky. They MAY get a reputable person who happened to have the time to fit you in but the odds are against them. The most likely scenario here is that the consumer will find a person who is not busy, because they have a poor work history or little work history, or they will find someone whose plan is to send over an inexperienced crew member just so the job can get done and the monies collected. Do not be a Gambler. Simply plan ahead a bit. If you find you do have a more urgent need but the contractor you liked the best is busy for a few weeks ask them if they can do a short term repair to prevent more damage. It may simply need a tarp put on it or have some temporary supports put in. Maybe the temporary fix will be nominal charge (and possibly credited back in the contract) to cover costs but in the long term it will likely be money well spent…..and well spent money is spent LOCALLY.
Consumer Tip #3 – BUY LOCAL! Your local small businesses are your best bet to avoid problems. There are a number of reasons for this but I will elaborate on my top five.
A) Small local businesses care about their communities. You want to hire a person who owns a home in your general area such as your county or a neighboring county. They will have a vested interest in staying established and doing things well to maintain a good reputation. Look around you. Look for contractors you see at school functions, at local government meetings, at the local stores, at the doctor/dentist/vet, etc.
B) Do you see someone who is a good potential business? Learn about them online. Hopefully they have a website with some information. Check their PA Home Improvement Contractor status. ***Check to be sure they have NOT changed business names very often!!*** I have seen this numerous times up here. If someone changes their business name from Bill Pearn Masonry (a sole proprietor name) to Pike County Masons LLC that is OK. They upgraded from a sole proprietor to a corporation. That is certainly a normal course of business. If they change it from something like Pike County Masons LLC to something like Pocono Masons LLC be very wary. It is costly to do a lateral type change like that so it is likely that it means they went bankrupt. Now bankruptcy is not necessarily their fault. Things like injuries/illnesses and divorces can cause issues where financial reconstruction is necessary, but, I know one home improvement business up here that has changed names FIVE times in 12 years. Do not EVER hire someone like that. The nice thing about local businesses is that it is easier to look this stuff up. Out of state guys….well, you never know ……..
C) Big box stores are a rip off. Period. They will only sell you products they inventory and they only hire the lowest bidder. Then you pay their percentage markup on all of that. You’re paying a medium price for a lowest bid product.
D) Hire someone you like. Good tradespeople do not necessarily make good business people because they have been hard at work learning their trade. Good business people do not necessarily make good tradespeople because they have been learning to sell and not learning how to actually build things. You need to find a person who you like overall and whose vision is in line with yours.
E) Check references, check references, check references! You’re looking for local references with projects done over a span of years. Maybe one person had work done this year, one was last year, and one was five years ago. That is a good span because it lets you find out if the work holds up over time and if the long term customer service level is in line with what you’re looking for.
5 Tips for preventing frozen pipes:
1. Drain the entire house's systems if you won't be using it for the winter and the heat will be off.
2. If your home will be unattended and you'd like to keep the heat on - keep it at a minimum of 55 degrees.
3. Drain all unused outside lines such as hoses and hose spouts.
4. Insulate or add heat tape to all hot and cold water lines in unheated or poorly heated areas of your home.
5. Keep access doors and windows close but do open cabinet doors under sinks.
5 Tips for dealing with icicles:
1. Whenever possible remove snow from your roof with a snow rake.
2. Keep gutters, drains and downspouts clear of buildup.
3. Knock icicles down with a long pole and use personal safety precautions.
4. Do not use open-flame or electrical heating devices to melt the icicles.
5. Consider roof ice melt systems the next time your roof is replaced.
Bill Pearn Masonry Blog
Quality construction does not only build structures, it also builds: town pride, small business opportunity, beautiful neighborhoods, home equity, and ultimately better lives.
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