Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tip of the Week

Fall / Winter Home Repair and Maintenance Checklist

Every home owner has a To Do List, but most of us never get around To Doing it. Check out our suggested Fall and Winter home repair and maintenance list. Simple things that can be done to eliminate the need for a large repair bill down the road.

Windows and Doors
Repair cracked windows
Putty, caulk or add weather-stripping as needed
Clean and lubricate window channels for smoother sliding
Clean and install storm windows and doors

Basements or Garages
Check for and seal cracks and leaks in walls and floor
Clean vents and ensure proper operation
Test, clean and lubricate sump pump or clean French drains
Discard accumulated junk

Water Heater
Insulate outside of tank
Insure earthquake strapping, overflow tray & bonding is installed

Porch, Patio and Deck
Clean and seal deck
Check wood for signs of rotting, replace boards where necessary

Exterior Walls
Check for missing or loose siding
Caulk joints and minor cracks
Look for deteriorated finishes to preserve wood
Touch-up painting or paint entirely

Exterior Plumbing
Drain and shut off sprinkler system and other lines (where appropriate)
Remove all hoses from outside spigots

Repair damaged soffit panels

Clean gutters and downspouts
Install gutter strainers and gutter guards

Smoke Detector
Test and replace batteries

Check vent openings for nests and other blockage
Make sure vents and/or attic fans work properly
Look for signs of roof or flashing leaks on rafters and insulation

Reseal driveways



9 Ways to Ready Your Home For Summer

1.     Care for your air conditioner ~ clean the filter and the a/c coils regularly

2.     Create a breeze ~ you can save up to 14% on your energy bills with a ceiling fan and lowering your thermostat

3.     Close the blinds ~ block the suns warming rays

4.     Change light bulbs ~ CFL’s are more energy efficient and burn cooler

5.     Turn off the tap ~ keep a pitcher of cool water in frig versus running the water to cool it

6.     Water wisely in your garden ~ adjust sprinklers to water plants only, water in early a.m.

7.     Conserve at the pool ~ use a pool cover, it lowers evaporation by 95%

8.     Cook with the power of the sun ~ consider a solar oven, you can make your own!

9.     Audit your waste ~ yep, audit your trash, are you recycling? Reusable alternatives?



What Does Color Mean?
How Does it Affect You?

The Language of Color

Are you curious about how color influences mood? Do you know which colors to pick if you want the environment to be cheerful or dramatic or comforting? Use this guide to decide what language YOU want to elicit in your room, home or office. (Color guide provided by Manage My Life.)

Here are a few color examples and what language they each are speaking:

Pink: soothes, acquiesces; promotes affability and affection.

Yellow: expands, cheers; increases energy.

White: purifies, energizes, unifies; in combination, enlivens all other colors.

Black: disciplines, authorizes, strengthens; encourages independence.

Orange: cheers, commands; stimulates appetites, conversation, and charity.

Red: empowers, stimulates, dramatizes, competes; symbolizes passion.

Green: balances, normalizes, refreshes; encourages emotional growth.

Purple: comforts, spiritualizes; creates mystery and draws out intuition.

Blue: relaxes, refreshes, cools; produces tranquil feelings and peaceful moods

Do you know what mood you are wanting to create? Keep in mind that paint is the easiest and cheapest way to change the mood of an environment.

Check out our “Sweetheart Special” for the month of February by clicking HERE if you wish to have help painting that room to change the mood!


Color CAN Change How You Feel About a Room!
Let Go of the Winter Blues with Color

Did you know color can affect your mood? Some colors brighten up your mood; other colors subdue or relax your mood. Many colors are meant to make you sleepy and others excite. What mood or tone do you want to set with the colors in your home?

Choosing the right color can be intimidating. I know I often feel  overwhelmed as I stand at the color display at the paint store. What color is best? If I pick a color, which tone of that color is the right one? Do I need a bright color or muted? Oh my, so many decisions to make!

Maybe a little bit more knowledge about color may help you make a more informed decision, one that you won’t regret!

Ask yourself this question first ~  What mood am I wanting to create in the room? Once you decide the mood, then pick the right behavior and color language for that room.

Did you know that colors behave in three basic ways? The three ways are: active, passive and neutral. But what is the difference in those three?

Active ~ These are the warm colors, the ones on the upper right side of the color wheel. Yellow. Orange. Red. These extroverted colors reach out and greet you, and in some circumstances dominate. Good places to use these colors are where you want the creative juices to flow such as a home office or kitchen.

Passive ~ These are the cool colors. Blue. Green. Purple. Passive colors tend to bring on quiet, calm and restore depleted spirits. You will want to use these colors in bedrooms or meditative retreat areas of your home.

Neutral ~ These colors neither pacify or activate but combine and cooperate. They are neutral. Brown. Beige. Gray. White. Taupe. You might consider using a neutral in a living or dining room or even a bathroom. Another great place is to bring coordination between one space and another, a transition area.

As you can see, knowing in advance the behavior or function of the room will help you decide which color behavior will work best. It certainly narrows down the selection a bit!

Keep in mind that one of the quickest, easiest and least expensive ways to change the mood in your home or a particular room is with color. Chase away those winter blues and doldrums by adding a new fresh splash of color. Spruce up a wall or two and you’ll be glad you did when you notice along with it your mood was lifted!

Check out our “Sweetheart Special” for the month of February by clicking HERE if you wish to have help painting that room to change the mood!




Are You Ready for the Change In Light Bulbs?
Getting Up-to-Date on the New Legislation

One of the problems with new legislation is the misunderstandings and counter-legislation that often arise out of the new law. But the 2007 Energy Bill was passed with the idea of not only saving us, the individual taxpayer, money, but saving our nation’s tax dollars spent on energy. Although this bill encompasses way more than merely CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights) – that is our focus today. According to Green Tech Media, these are just a few of the benefits of the law:

  • It will cut our nation’s electric bill by $13 billion a year
  • Eliminate the need for 30 large (500 MW) power plants
  • Prevent more than 100 million tons of CO2 emissions, the main pollutant responsible for global warming

There are issues, of course. For some reason, as consumers, we cannot get our heads around the initial costs of CFL’s, possibly not looking at the over-all savings which do not seem evident when first purchasing the bulbs. However, with care, and over time, you can make the switch to safer more efficient light bulbs without breaking the bank.

Here’s what the law (in part) actually requires:

“The law simply requires new bulbs, beginning in 2012, to use 25 percent to 30 percent less power than today’s conventional incandescent bulb. The law is technology-neutral and allows any type of bulb to be sold as long as it is a reasonably efficient one.  Consumers will still have lots of choices, including energy-saving halogens, CFL’s, LEDs, and even new and improved incandescent lamps.” (quoted from Green Media Tech)

SO, what is the actual impact to you? There are a few key things to remember.

1. Special switches are needed if you want to utilize dimmer lighting techniques. Most standard dimmer switches do not work with CFL bulbs.

2. Specific bulbs are required for 3 way lights, just as they are with “Edison” bulbs. You can use a ‘one-way’ CFL in a 3-way light, which will negate the 3-way capability.

3. When using CFL’s – use them in light fixtures that will stay on for 15 minutes or longer to get the best life out of the bulb. Because of the inherent warm up time with CFL’s, consider LED’s or other lighting for closets or areas where you only want the light for a few moments.

4. You need to know what the compatibility issues are when using CFL’s in photocells, motion sensors or electric timers. Modern technology may require some retrofitting of fixtures

5. For outside use, you will get longer life from bulbs in protected fixtures.

Each of us must assess our individual needs and various lighting requirements throughout our homes and offices. For many of us it may be just a simple change of a light bulb, switching the use of an incandescent with a CFL. For others it might require changing the fixture in an area, putting in a new dimmer switch for compatibility or adding more light fixtures for better lighting. The inconvenience may well be worth it when you notice the difference in your energy bills!

Whatever your need, we would be glad to help you install new switches, adjust motion sensors or replace fixtures. Why not make it easy on yourself and just Call John today! He is an Electrician, and can make those changes for you safely and efficiently! Call 925-432-7570 or email us today.


Do You Need Storage Solutions?
How About Shelving?

Sorting and Storing are both necessary components of a good storage plan. Why? Because as we sort, we can re-file, re-package and re-label so the end result is a viable system of storage.

We have found that, both personally and professionally, storage works best in the garage. But of course, not everyone has one of those! Still, the basic ideas are the same, and most of us have a place somewhere to implement them. Think about closet space, shelving room in the laundry room, or even attic or basement areas.

You have several choices on shelving; wood, metal, heavy duty plastic. Wood shelves for storage are usually custom built; metal or heavy duty plastics are available through your local home hardware store. John specializes in creating and installing custom shelving, and has done several remarkable units. Or, if you are the DIY type, just remember these three basic tenets of storage shelving.

1. Get the right kind of shelving for what you are storing. Household extras (toilet paper, light bulbs) can easily go on plastic shelving. Boxes of books or Christmas decorations should go on wood or metal.

2. Secure shelves to wall studs for added security. (Remember California is earthquake country!)

3. Make sure that you keep your master list up to date. It is helpful to have a master list of everything you have stored on your shelves. That way you do not need to open every box or look at every item on the shelf to know what you have or where to find it. (For more help on the master list, seeThe Quick Tip Below for information on creating a master list.)

If you have a question or comment about DIY projects, handyman work, or a general question you would like to see answered in our newsletter, please drop us an email. We enjoy hearing from our clients, & appreciate any and all opportunities to educate & inform!




Quick Ideas for an Organized Life
also known as “where the heck did I put…”

Did you know that “Getting Organized” is one of the top Resolutions each year? Yup. And believe it or not, it is a LOT easier than losing weight, which is the other top Resolution! Here are a few tips to make your life so much simpler, and combined with our great offer to help you with shelving and other home fix-it needs!

First step is simple – sit down! With a pencil and paper, write down the key areas you need to organize, what changes you would like to see in how that area is kept, or even WHERE you you will keep that particular area. Some of the areas to consider are: Pantry, Office, Seasonal (often kept in the garage) linens etc. Take it room by room, and see what pops up as needing to be organized.

Next – decide what you will need to make it happen. Although organizational items are rampant in the stores at this time of year, you don’t have to have fancy bins, elaborate labeling systems or expensive do-dads. Consistency is the key. Use one color of pen ink for each area, so if something is misplaced ANYONE in your family will know where it goes! For example – all your Christmas items on your garage shelving could be marked in RED. “Tree decorations,” “Outdoor lights,” “Christmas China,” etc.

Whether you use well-labeled cardboard boxes or plastic bins, the idea is to simplify your storage needs,and label everything well (all four sides of the box, for example) so that keeping up with it doesn’t become a burden.

Last but definitely not least, having a master list is a must. Write down the category and the location of your stored items in a notebook, and consider keeping it attached to a drawer or your refrigerator with a string. List things like light bulbs (where are they?!) and guest bedroom linens (for those unexpected in-law visits) so that you household will flow comfortably and easily. An added bonus to this organizing is that one person doesn’t always have to be the go-to person for  information, your master list will take care of that!

If you have a question or comment about DIY projects, handyman work, or a general question you would like to see answered in our newsletter, please drop us an email. We enjoy hearing from our clients, and appreciate any and all opportunities to educate and inform!


Water Water Everywhere!
Keeping it outside, where it belongs…

Besides taking care of your downspouts, reinforcing them, cleaning them and keeping the roof water flowing away from your house and windows, here are a few steps to protect your foundation from water leakage.

1. Grading around your home

There should be a gradual slope away from your house. A good rule of thumb would be to have a ½ inch or greater per foot. You should pay close attention to the most common direction that water or rain comes from on your property.

2. Lengthen your downspouts

The farther away from your dwelling that you can move the water from your rain gutters the better. You can install a longer downspout, if you can do so without it getting in the way. Or you can get a retractable tube that unrolls with the pressure of the water then rolls up when there isn’t any more water flowing. Another more time-consuming but permanent solution is to run the downspout into a buried corrugated-type pipe buried underground. Sometimes a simple gutter downspout extender, made of heavy plastic or cement, will be all it takes to move water away from areas where it can do damage. Check with your local home store for more ideas to move that water away from your foundation areas.

3. Consider your foundation plantings

Be mindful of the landscaping that you put directly next to your house. Many people like to plant ferns or other plants that like shade next to their foundation as ground cover. This can increase the amount of moisture next to your foundation. You are better off putting a layer of plastic down with decorative stones on it next to the house. Then 2-3 feet away from the house you can plant foliage. Bushes can also be a problem if you plant them too close since the roots can potentially damage your foundation causing areas for water to seep in.

Remember our mantra ~~ “Water OUT, Heat IN!”

If you have a question or comment about DIY projects, handyman work, or a general question you would like to see answered in our newsletter, please drop us an email. We enjoy hearing from our clients, and appreciate any and all opportunities to educate and inform!




Fast Facts About New Year’s Resolutions

  • 63% of people say they are keeping their resolutions after two months
  • 67% of people make three or more resolutions
  • Top four resolutions:
  • Increase exercise
  • Be more conscientious about work or school
  • Develop better eating habits
  • Stop smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including caffeine)
  • People make more resolutions to start a new habit than to break an old one.

(From website on “10 Tips for Keeping New Years Resolutions.” Click here to read entire article.)

Pssst … Maybe one of your resolutions in 2011 is to fix up your home the way you would like it?!!

Share the secret … pass it along!



Last minute Safety Reminders
Have a Great AND Safe Holiday!

If you have a live, or fresh, tree, be sure to keep it watered. Dry needles are a fire hazard!

Holiday lights dry out trees, so only have them lit when you are in the room, or at home.

Make it a part of your daily routine to check the plugs and cords on your holiday lights for fraying, signs of disintegration or melting. If you have your tree placed in water, be sure none of the cords or lights droop down into the water receptacle.

Keep candles burning safely by placing them on or in non-flammable surfaces, not leaving them lit when you are not in the room, and keeping “boughs of holly” and other decor away from the flames. You might want to consider the many battery operated candles available today.

Remind children and grandchildren of basic safety precautions around decorations and lighting. Remember, do not string lighting cords across pathways, or covered with rugs.

Keep toxic holiday plants away from children and pets. These include Mistletoe, Holly, Poinsettias, and Christmas bulbs (Amaryllis for example). All are dangerous to the young, the elderly and the four-footed.


Ladder Safety (All Year Round!)

Inspect ladders for loose or missing screws, hinges, bolts, and nuts.

Exercise caution when decorating near power lines. Contact with a high-voltage line could lead to electrocution. Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet from lines.

Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when hanging lights outdoors. Metal ladders conduct electricity.



Are you Dreaming of a “Green” Christmas?

More and more of us are becoming aware and involved in the need to be more environmentally careful, which is not often the most inexpensive alternative. However, by taking small steps, we can be Green – even at Christmas!

As you are going through your Christmas lights, lighted wreaths and displays, consider their condition and age. Electrically speaking, old, frayed, damaged lights are accidents or fires waiting to happen. As you replace strands of lights, look for the newest solutions, such as LEDs. They use less electricity, are often plastic, so breakage is less likely, and their longevity is really great. Need help with installation outside? Take a look at this month’s offer

Other ways to be more Green at Christmas…

  • At home with family, reuse wrapping paper, ribbons and bows. Wrap in reusable resources, such as fabric, or just use brown or white Kraft paper (available in rolls) and decorate with stamps and stickers. Remember Wrapping paper is not recyclable because of the coating or finish on the paper. Even plain white paper can make a dynamic statement when paired with colorful ribbon!
  • Consider a living Christmas tree, which can then go into the yard or on the patio, rather than in landfills!
  • Buy reusable tins, instead of paper or plastic plates, for giving your baked goods to friends and neighbors.
  • Host a cookie party, where everyone brings 3-6 dozen already made cookies, and swaps them for an equal amount of others’ cookie offerings. Saves having to buy lots of ingredients, or having just one kind of cookie .




Quick Holiday Fix-It Tip of the Week

If you only have time for one holiday “makeover” for this year, make it your refrigerator! Clean it, inside and out. A freshly cleaned refrigerator (inside) opens you to the possibilities of the season, and the joys to come in baking, preparing special meals, and having things to share with drop-in holiday visitors. Not to mention it runs more efficiently too! If you are a parent or grandparent whose refrigerator is a year-round art gallery, or if you keep recipes, lists and photos on your refrigerator doors, now is the time to start with a clean slate. Label and put away the special treasures that normally reside there, and make room for holiday art, notes, photography and tomorrow’s Picasso!



Quick Fix-It Tip of the Week

Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey

Courtesy of Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA

Onions were a staple of the English garden and cooking pot. They were one of the few vegetables that could be stored against winter and their “temperature” (based on the Doctrine of Humours, onions were considered “hot and dry”) made them especially desirable in the cooler weather. Carrots, parsnips and turnips were also eaten in the cooler months for as long as they could be dug out of the ground. Storing vegetables in root cellars was several generations away.

Modern Recipe

6 medium onions, sliced thinly
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons of coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup breadcrumbs (optional)

Follow your favorite recipe for roast turkey. Remove the turkey to a platter reserving the pan juices. Place thinly sliced onions in a pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook until the onions are tender but not mushy. A good deal of the water should have boiled away. Set aside for a moment.
Place the roasting pan over medium heat and stir to loosen any brown bits. Stir in the onion sauce, sugar, vinegar and breadcrumbs if desired. Add pepper to taste and adjust seasonings. To serve, pour over sliced turkey or serve alongside in a separate dish.


Quick Fix-It Tip of the Week

We have been talking off and on for a while about GOING GREEN. What are some of th e ways you can make this happen? Last week we discussed water savings. How about this tip – posted on author Deborah Adams’ blog, with guest blogger Miles Walker?


Our bodies are 70% water; do you want that water to be contaminated or wasted? Less water wasted, or even used, means less water contaminated, means more water available for the ecosystem where it is naturally found. Use your roof to collect rainwater, and use it to water your garden or plants instead of several hours with of the sprinkler. There are many ways to collect that water, a container at the bottom of your downspout being one simply way!

Take advantage of our special for the month – let us help you stop high water bills and wasted water! Spend your money elsewhere besides water bills!



Four Quick Ideas for Conserving Water

1. Take shorter showers.

One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water.

2. Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush

There is no need to keep the water running while brushing your teeth. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.

3. Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads

Automatic dishwashers and clothes washers should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Most makers of dish-washing soap recommend not pre-rinsing dishes which is a big water savings.

With clothes washers, avoid the permanent press cycle, which uses an added 20 liters (5 gallons) for the extra rinse. For partial loads, adjust water levels to match the size of the load. Replace old clothes washers. New Energy Star rated washers use 35 – 50% less water and 50% less energy per load. If you’re in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying a water-saving front-load washer.

4. Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units

In-sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste.


Quick Fix-It Tip of the Week

November 7th, Sunday

Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. The risk of house fire and carbon monoxide poisoning increase during winter months, so make sure that your family is protected.


Here’s a fun idea! Host an hour-long dessert potluck fest, to honor the change in the seasons and the change on the clock. Have friends bring their favorite desserts, and spend an hour talking about what you did this summer!



Fireplace Clean-up & Safety

Quick Tip #1. Fireplace doors a little grungy and soot stained? Dip a damp cloth in your fireplace ashes and scrub the inside of the doors with a circular motion. It’ll polish away the soot! When you can see them coming clean, wipe the doors with a damp cloth. Crumpled newspapers work well for this task as well.

Quick Tip #2. Keep a box of baking soda near the fireplace. It serves two functions: you can use it to smother out of control flames or settle hot coals, and you can absorb excess odors between fires by setting a metal cup or container filled with a little baking soda on the grate.

Quick Tip #3. If you hate the trail of bark and dirt that your firewood leaves on your floors and clothes when you transport it, try this: Build your “fire” in a brown paper bag, put some crumpled paper in the bottom, follow that up with some kindling, some more paper and then a few logs; then curl up the top to seal the bag. As you carry your ready-made fire starter inside (with both hands, keeping it level) you won’t leave any mess on your way and you can simply set the bag on the fire grate and light the bag!




Pesky Cabinet Latches

A cabinet that won’t latch can just be a nuisance. Don’t put up with it, because it is really very easy to fix. Most likely the problem is the small catch inside the cabinet.

Try tightening the screws. If the screws loosen up, the catch won’t hold the door properly.

If the cabinet door still won’t stay closed, the screw holes may be too big for the screws. If that’s the case, trace around the catch plate with a sharp pencil and then remove the plate. Use some wood filler and a putty knife to fill in the old screw holes. This will ensure the new screws will stay right in place. Allow putty to dry thoroughly. When the putty has dried, sand the area for a nice even finish. Put the catch back into place (it will be easy to position because you marked the area with your pencil). Tighten up all the screws.

VOILA! You did it yourself!



This Halloween Season ~ Safety Comes First!


When decorating for Halloween, be sure you do not over-burden your plugs, or extension cords. Do not use candles unsupervised. Instead, consider using battery operated candles for jack-o-lanterns and be battery operated candle sure that if you drape pumpkins or solar lighting with cheesecloth or spider-webbing that you do not leave them lit for hours at a time. One of the best tips is to never leave your home with Halloween decorations lit or turned on. Fire is a constant danger at this time of the year!

For further Halloween Safety information, check out this great website; it has been around for 10 years, providing a wide variety of safety and personal ideas for a great holiday. Halloween Safety Starts Here!

Safety begins with preparedness ~ Be sure to ask for our help with any electrical needs. We are licensed and insured!




Don’t Cut SALT out of your House’s Diet!

Salt can be used in many different ways around the home. It acts as a more environmentally friendly product, compared to harsher synthetic chemicals. It is also very cheap, so you can save money in the process. Presenting here a list of helpful and simple ways to make most of the humble table salt:

1. Food spilled over in oven: Suppose while cooking in the oven, food spills over. Don’t panic! Sprinkle salt heavily in oven where food has spilled over. This will help to clean the spill faster . An added benefit is that salt absorbs the burnt smell.

2. Soothe a bee sting: Wet the sting area immediately and then cover it with salt.

3. Cleaning glass tea and coffee pots: Salt can be effectively used to clean glass tea and coffee pots. Add some salt to the pot, drop in some ice cubes, swivel the mix and lo, the pot will come out sparkling clean. For removing tea stains in china crockery, rub these with salt.

4. Cleaning artificial flowers: Artificial flowers can be cleaned by putting them in a bag of salt and shaking. The dirt will get transferred on the salt.

5. Salt as fire extinguisher: Keep salt close at hand as an emergency fire extinguisher for grease fires. It makes for a good backup.

What are YOUR favorite quick home tips? Share them with us, and you may see it published in our newsletter! Write us!