Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Year’s Resolution Ideas for your Home

As we list out our own personal New Year’s resolutions, there may be some other areas that are in dire need for some attention in 2011 too. Like your home. Whether you haven’t had the time or the energy, 2011 is a great year to get some of those home projects in motion. House Doctors Professional Handyman Service business owner Harry Rimmer offers some expert tips on simple projects to make your home a priority this year.

New Year’s Resolution Ideas for your Home
By Steve Coomes

"He who owns a home deserves it!"
Author unknown

While most homeowners regard their domiciles with pride and joy, there is wisdom to be inferred from the wizened wisecrack above: homeownership implies regular work.

Be it patching cracked plaster, attacking a weedy lawn or something major, such as replacing the HVAC system, the need to invest in a home—be it with money or mere sweat—never ceases.

But experts insist that homeowners who stay ahead of the game with regular preventative maintenance not only work less on their properties, but can avoid costly expenses that zap the already burdened budgets of many.

"There's a lot of truth to the old saying that a stitch in time saves nine," said Harry Rimmer, a Wayne, Pa., franchisee of House Doctors, a 90-unit professional handyman service. In other words, "there are so many minor things a homeowner can do on his own to keep him from facing major repairs."

But while Rimmer believes many homeowners are capable of performing small maintenance tasks, many become overwhelmed by what appears to be a lengthy and almost insurmountable to-do list. His advice: Start somewhere and scratch items off the list.

Ed Miehlke, a franchisee of 175-unit HomeTeam Inspection Service, agreed and advises homeowners to triage that task list according to the season.

"Right now we're in the fall, so you need to be sure your gutters are really clean," Miehlke began. "That ensures you don't have water backing up and ice forming inside them when winter comes."

Planning on selling your home? As an inspector, Miehlke said neglected basic home maintenance leads to sellers having to spend major dollars fixing in order to make their properties sellable. On the other hand, performing these duties regularly and keeping a journal of when you did the work can assist in the speedy sale of any property.

Miehlke and Rimmer teamed up on a "12 Months of Maintenance" checklist homeowners can address seasonally and a little at a time. Several of the items can be addressed outside of months they suggested, but both stressed each point should be addressed well ahead of the applicable season.

January: Clean and/or replace clothes dryer vents. Not only will it reduce fire hazards, it will boost the performance of your dryer which saves money on energy use. Remove all holiday lights and decorations, both because your neighbors want you to, it makes the yard safer for playing in the snow.

Beauty tip: Frame and hang some of those photos you shot last year.

February: Inspect the outside of your house prior to a snowfall. Why? "Because you'd be surprised at what can get caught in a snow blower and damage it," said Rimmer. Once you retreat from the cold, it's a good time to inspect drywall for cracks that need patching. The arid air from your furnace will help the mud dry quicker and allow for painting sooner.

Beauty tip: Since the weather outside is frightful, choose just one room to paint so you don't become overwhelmed by the thought of it.

March: Check to be sure your sump pump is working properly before spring rains arrive. If you live in a storm-prone area, experts recommend a battery backup system to cover you if you lose power. Now is also the time to apply lawn fertilizer to get a jump on weed control.

Beauty tip: Spruce up your landscaping. Wet soil makes for easy planting of bushes, shrubs and trees.
April: Now that the rainy season has arrived, check downspouts around the outside the house to be sure water is flowing freely and away from the foundation. Water gathering at edges of the house can damage the foundation.

Beauty tip: Check for winter-damaged surfaces, such as shutters, gutters and landscape lighting. Some touch ups here and there will invigorate the exterior look again.

May: Service air conditioning compressor and blower unit when temperatures are at least 70 F to ensure normal Freon performance. Schedule biannual visits with HVAC provider "so they call you, and you don't have to remember to call them," Miehlke said.

Beauty tip: Mild weather is perfect for more significant jobs such as laying a brick paver path or building a gazebo. It's also a good time to plant perennials.

June: Now that somewhat drier weather is here, it's a good time to clean and seal your wooden deck. Our experts recommended pressure washing the entire surface, allowing it to dry for two days and then coating it with a high quality water-resistant stain or seal. Well kept decks add tremendous value to homes, but poorly maintained ones can wipe out that same value.

Beauty tip: Make your home inviting to guests by considering new deck furniture or chairs for your porch.

July: In the heat of the summer, it might be wise to find inside chores such as simple appliance maintenance. Dusting the refrigerator condenser and cleansing its fan of debris increases its efficiency and lowers energy consumption. Same for washing or replacing the filters in your range hood. If you have a down-draft exhaust system, request a professional service visit to check the vent pipe.

Beauty tip: Sometimes deconstruction, such as removing an old swing set, will serve as a facelift for the property. If you have fences, it's a great time to paint them.

August: Traditionally this is the hottest and driest month of the summer, which means it's a good time to seal asphalt driveways. Sealing reduces the chance of water seepage into cracks, which can feed roots under the drive and, just as damaging, allow ice to form and expand.

Beauty tip: Your lawn is growing again, which means it's a great time to aerate and fertilize. You'll love the boost of green the lawn will get.

September: Take a good look at your roof to ensure all shingles or tiles are in place. According to Rimmer, a small number of loose shingles can be repaired easily by a pro, but if left unfixed, the result could be water damage and further loss of shingles. The milder weather provides a good chance to restore door gaskets to before the cold sets in—and don't forget the bottom of the garage door! And speaking of those, take the time to grease its bearings and adjust chains that do loosen over time.

Beauty tip: Plant fall flowers, such as mums, to brighten your landscaping.

October: Have your furnace and humidifier serviced by a professional to ensure optimal combustion and air flow. Ask the service tech if it might be time to get your vents cleaned as well. Now that the air in the attic is cooler, visit the space to see if it could use some more insulation. Examine your windows closely to see if they need recaulking.

Beauty tip: Now that the sun is setting earlier, consider landscape lighting to add a dramatic appearance to your home.

November: Remove all leaves from lawn to reduce grass kill, and to avoid ice buildup, remove all hoses from outside faucets and shut off their valves inside. Rimmer said frost-free "bibs" placed on outside faucets can help as well, but that hose removal and water shut-off are best.

December: Guests are coming for the holidays, so make sure your toilets, showers and sinks and garbage disposals are all functioning properly. Clean lime from clogged shower heads, and replace toilet flappers if leaking.

Beauty tip: Take the plunge and join your neighborhood decorating contest. But no need to be this year's Clark Griswald. Sometimes less is more when lights are smartly strung to accent the house's features rather than wash them out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

House Doctors listed by Business News Daily as 1 of 8 Low-Cost Franchise Opportunities for 2011

The New Year is the time for a fresh look on life and many people take it as a time to reevaluate their career paths since it’s such a huge component to anyone’s life. BusinessNewsDaily just published an article about 8 Low-Cost Franchise Opportunities for 2011 and House Doctors was featured for their low initial investments and being home-based franchises. Check out a portion of the story below or read the full article here:

8 Low-Cost Franchise Opportunities for 2011

If you’re thinking 2011 is the year you’re going to start your own business, you might consider the thousands of franchise opportunities available. The International Franchise Association (IFA) web site is a good place to start pursuing your franchise ownership dream.

The organization relaunched its web site yesterday, adding functionality that makes it easier to access information about its 1,100 franchise members. (Read More)

Friday, December 10, 2010

House Doctors Featured in Washington Business Journal

The Washington Business Journal just published an article about franchisee Hugh Sutherland of House Doctors in Alexandria, VA. The article discusses why Hugh decided to start his own professional handyman service, House Doctors, which was a result of a lack of professionalism of handyman services in his market. Now, Hugh’s business has grown substantially since he started, expecting about a 25% sales increasing this year, where he has successfully created and provided a professional handyman service in his region. Check out the full article here.

House Doctors of Northern Virginia takes regular pulse of the region’s home improvement sector
by Tierney Plumb

Hugh Sutherland went from horror story to problem solver with his home repair and improvement business, which expects a 25 percent jump in revenue this year. The key, he says, is being extra choosy when it comes to hiring.

Hugh Sutherland used to hire handymen to work on his rental properties in Alexandria, Charlottesville, Va., and the Outer Banks, N.C.

One handyman he hired to pour a concrete slab showed up a week and a half late. Others were completely unresponsive. “They were terrible. They wouldn’t show up on time or return phone calls,” he says. “It was a bunch of ‘Chuck in a truck’ guys. I just sort of tolerated it and put up with it.”

Until, that is, he opened up his own home repair franchise. Fed up with the poor service, Sutherland, president and founder of ...

(Read More)

Monday, December 6, 2010

House Doctors Franchisee Used as an Expert Source in Green Bay Press Gazette

Mike Harrison’s House Doctors location in Green Bay was recently featured in the Green Bay Press Gazette in an article about childproofing for the holidays in which Mike was used as an expert source. Below is a portion of the article and it can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Kid friendly: Get ready to host families during the holidays by childproofing your house
By Sarah Ludeman

Christmas Chaos
To ensure your house is toddler-friendly this Christmas, Collier recommends keeping poisonous plants such as mistletoe and poinsettias out of children's reach and blocking off the Christmas tree.

"Children are fixated by the bright bulbs and glass ornaments, so the tree itself is always a problem," Collier said. "The best thing to do is make sure the child does not have access to the tree. I usually recommend blocking the room off or putting up some sort of gate."

Another area of concern during the Christmas season is the fireplace.

"If you use a fireplace, you have to have something around it to keep the kids away," said Mike Harrison, owner of House Doctors. "Otherwise they could fall into it, burn a hand or a number of other things. Putting a gate around the fireplace is a good way to avoid this."

Electrical Outlets
When it comes to electrical outlets, Harrison recommends purchasing outlet caps and cord covers.

"There are a number of plastic outlet covers and electrical cord covers to choose from," Harrison said. "If you're having people with children over for the holidays, this is a simple and inexpensive step you can take to help protect kids from receiving unwanted shocks or worse."

(Read More)

Deck the House and Let it Shine: Holiday Light-Hanging 101

Decorating Tips from a Professional Handyman; How to Light Up Your House Like an Expert

It’s that time again! Time for presents, family bonding, holiday cheer, and of course, the often dreaded and death-defying task of decorating the house for the season. Hanging holiday lights on the outside of your house can be not only difficult, but downright dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, Jarid Kossen, Franchise Development Manager for House Doctors Professional Handyman Services and all-around home improvement expert, is here to give some much needed advice to those who’d like to avoid broken bulbs and broken bones this holiday season.

Now it’s time to make some big decisions: what kind of lights do you want to hang? This is important because the right style for your home depends not only on the look you want to create, but also your budget. This includes the cost of the lights themselves, as well as the amount of electricity they require to operate.

Lights designated “C-7” and ”C-9” have 5- or 10-watt bulbs similar to those used in conventional nightlights, whereas the more common “mini-lights” utilize tiny 1.5 or 2.5-volt bulbs that burn cool and are both cheaper to buy and cheaper to operate, since they use much less energy than the C-bulbs.

The one benefit to the heavy-duty C-lights is that they are more durable and reliable—so you won’t have that domino effect of one broken or missing bulb causing the entire string to go out.

“Note, however, that with the mini-lights, a burnt-out bulb should not affect the rest of the string,” says Kossen. “The domino effect only happens when the chain is physically broken.”

However, this happens more often than you’d think. So, while you may be tempted to go for the long strings, which can include up to 200 bulbs, Kossen recommends buying the shorter, 50-light strings and just plugging them together end to end. This way, if one string is defective, you can just unplug and replace it, rather than having to take down and rewire your entire design.

“Successful light-hanging is all about proper preparation,” says Kossen. “So be sure to make thorough measurements beforehand. The last thing you want to discover when you’re teetering 10 feet off the ground with your ladder planted in a precarious-looking snow bank is that your extension cord is too short to reach the outlet!”

That is, if you need an outlet at all. The newest option in holiday lighting requires no electricity at all: Solar-powered LED lights are powered by a single solar panel, which is connected to a ground spike and powered by the sun. These lights come with a higher purchase price, but are likely to save money in the long run since they won’t affect your electric bill. Plus they’ll give you some good karma—a valuable commodity during the holiday season, to be sure!

“Regardless of the type of lights you buy, be sure to choose lights that are UL-approved for outdoor use, and always follow all of the manufacturer’s cautionary directions on the package,” says Kossen. “Also, be sure to test out your lights before you hang them.”
You will also need something to hang your lights on, such as plastic S-clips that are made specifically for hanging from gutters. Steer clear of the adhesive hooks unless they’re specially designed for outdoor use, otherwise they’ll likely come unstuck in inclement weather, warns Kossen. Also, steer clear of staples or nails when you’re attaching lights directly to the house—they can pierce or wear away at your house’s protective insulation, creating an electrical hazard.

Now it’s time to start hanging. If your home’s eaves are low, you may be able to use a stepladder; otherwise, an extension ladder is your best bet. Place it firmly on flat ground and lean it against the eaves, extended well above your eye line and leaning at an angle that will be comfortable and safe to climb—neither too steep nor too flat. Always have a spotter stand below to hold the ladder steady and monitor in case of an unforeseen accident. If you must lean the ladder against the gutter, Kossen suggests placing a short piece of 2 by 4 inside the gutter to reinforce it.

For attaching lights to window trim and similar vertical surfaces, you can use tube light clips or nail-on plastic clips, because they won’t be puncturing the house itself. Space your clips about 12 inches apart if you’re expecting snow, and up to 24 inches apart if you’re not.

“Above all, be careful and go slowly to avoid careless errors, which can lead to serious injuries,” says Kossen. “And when in doubt, you can always call in the professionals! House Doctor’s professional handymen are holiday light-hanging experts, so if you’d like to ease your burden this holiday season, just give us a call, and we’ll take care of it.”

You can leave the plate of cookies and glass of milk on the front stoop.

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