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Handy Tips

Outdoor Fireplaces | Warm Up Your Deck or Patio with a Gas Fireplace

Throughout the country, homeowners are increasing their usable living space by finishing outside areas, such as with decks and patios. Some even add the heat of a roaring fire for when temperatures drop at the end of the day. If you wish to do the same, learn more about the different fireplace and fire pit options, then discuss your plans with a professional handyman.

Check Laws

Construction of a permanent outdoor fireplace or firepit may fall under city building codes, depending on where you live. There also may be guidelines in place to control the size of the fire, its location, what gets burned and monitoring of the fire. Air quality and burn bans may apply on certain days. Consult your city planning department and local fire department to find out what rules exist before making any decisions.

Decide on a Fireplace or Fire Pit Design

outdoor-stone-fireplacePhoto by: All Oregon Landscaping, Inc. on Flickr

When choosing among the many options, first consider space and budget. A large back yard with finished patio may lend itself to a freestanding fireplace set toward the rear as a focal point. This allows to you set up a living room - complete but for the walls and roof - outdoors. You also may have space for a built-in fire pit. Brick, concrete and/or stone typically make up the materials for permanent fireplaces and pits. In terms of design, the options are seemingly endless and limited only by safety considerations.

copper-fire-pitPhoto by: pwinn on Flickr

If your outside area does not have room for a larger, permanent structure, consider adding a portable fire pit. They come in a variety of materials and designs. Copper and cast-iron fire pits are a common sight in stores, with circular shapes the most common. The housing and grate lid can be simple or ornate in design.

In terms of cost, a permanent structure requires the most investment. These can be simple in design or feature elaborate stonework that increases the cost. Keep in mind, though, that as permanent structures on your property, they can increase the value of your home. Portable fire pits are the least expensive option and also range in price greatly. Expect copper to cost more than cast iron, as copper offers more appeal both in terms of appearance and longevity.

Gas vs. Wood

If opting for a permanent structure, you also must choose what you use to fuel the fire. Let's look at the pros and cons of gas and wood.

Gas Pros:

  • You start fires and put them out in most cases with the press of a button.

  • They burn clean and leave behind no residue.

Gas Cons:

  • Gas-fueled fires are smaller.

  • They require installation of a permanent structure, including a gas line if opting for natural gas, which can be cost-prohibitive to many homeowners.

Wood Pros:

  • Wood-fueled fires are larger.

  • Wood can be burned in permanent fireplaces and firepits as well as portable fire pits.

  • Portable fire pits cost must less than permanent structures.

Wood Cons:

  • Starting fires requires much more than the press of a button, as does putting out the fire.

  • The smell of burning wood lingers on the structure and people.

  • Smoke can be bothersome.

  • Regular cleanup involves disposing of ashes and cleaning out fireplace or fire pit.

  • Wood storage outside can attract insects and wild animals.

  • Burn bans apply.

Once you decide the scale of your fireplace or fire pit project, consult your professional handyman. He or she can guide your plan, helping you make best decisions on location, design and type of fuel. Your handyman also will know the local laws regarding building permanent structures and help you avoid unknowingly breaking the law because you did not fully understand the codes and regulations.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service now online.


Choosing the Right Energy Efficient Lighting: LED vs CFL

Remember when buying light bulbs required little thought on your part? Now you must choose between LEDs, CFLs, and conventional incandescent light bulbs. Learn the pros and cons of each in order to make the best decisions for your home and wallet.

light-emitting-diode-bulb                                                                                               Photo by EarthLED on Flickr

Light Emitting Diode - A diode is a semiconductor of electrical current that generates light, hence the name "light emitting diode." These diodes got their start in single-bulb applications, such as in displays for electronics and in Christmas tree lights, and were first clustered for use in flashlights and headlamps.

Today, LEDs get clustered in as many as 180 in light bulbs, use diffuser lenses to spread the many lights into a wider beam and feature a base that allows for their use in standard household fixtures.

Pros of LEDs:

  • They last 50,000 hours, as compared to 10,000 hours for a CFL and 1,200 hours for an incandescent light bulb.
  • They use 300 to 500 kWh of electricity over their life span, while a CFL uses 700 and an incandescent light bulb uses 3,000.
  • They do not have a filament, which means they are not as easily damaged as incandescent light bulbs.
  • They do not cause heat buildup, helping to reduce air conditioning costs.
  • They do not contain hazardous materials, such as mercury.

Cons of LEDs:

  • They cost £20 to £35, but that investment more than gets recouped in energy savings over the lifetime of the light bulb.

compact-fluorescent-light-bulb                                                                                                   Photo by sfhazwaste on Flickr

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb - The name for this type of light bulb describes its form, but CFLs also feature a base that allows for their use in standard household fixtures. These newer fluorescent bulbs also give off a light similar to that of an incandescent, as opposed to the cool white hue of their predecessors.

Pros of CFLs:

  • They last 10,000 hours. While not as long as the 50,000 hours of an LED, a CFL lasts far longer than the 1,200 hours of an incandescent light bulb.
  • They use 700 kWh of electricity over their life span. While more than the 300 to 500 of an LED, a CFL uses far less than the 3,000 kWh of an incandescent light bulb.
  • They cost less than LEDs, even factoring in that one LED equals five CFLs in terms of life span.

Cons of CFLs:

  • They have a warm-up period of one to three minutes before achieving full brightness.
  • They can have a far shorter lifetime if turned on and off frequently. Dimmer options are available, but they also have a shorter life span.
  • They contain 4 to 5 mg of mercury, which can cause harm to humans and the environment when not disposed of properly.

The EarthEasy.com website offers an excellent cost and savings comparison chart for LED, CFL and conventional incandescent light bulb options. It looked at all three bulbs over 50,000 kWh and found that LEDs and CFLs don't differ by much, but that both prove far more cost-efficient than and offer significant energy savings over that of incandescent bulbs.

Making the Switch
If you do decide to switch from conventional incandescent light bulbs to LEDs or CFLs, you have plenty of options. LEDs are commonly available as diffused, dimmable, track lighting, flood, candelabra and tube bulbs. Colors include red, green, blue, white and amber.

CFLs come as spiral, triple-tube, standard, flood, globe and candelabra bulbs. Colors include warm and cool white.

Now armed with the above facts, you have the information you need to hit the light bulb section at your local hardware or home improvement store with confidence. If you have any additional questions, your professional handyman can offer excellent lighting advice.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service now online.


Save Energy with 5 Inexpensive Home Improvements

energy efficient lightingFix that leaky tap!

Most of our home energy can be modified with inexpensive improvements around the house. These home improvements can save energy, reduce energy bills and increase the size of your wallet. Try these five simple energy-efficient tips to get started today!

  • Fix a leaky tap - Fixing a single plumbing leak in your kitchen or bathroom can save 800 litres of water a month. There are many different types and styles of taps that are attractive and inexpensive. Before purchasing a replacement tap, make sure to take the proper measurements for the tap - center to center. To avoid mistakes in purchasing the wrong size or style tap, take the old fixture with you to the store.
  • Replace your current shower heads with low-flow heads - A low-flow shower head can save you between 10% to 16% of your water heating costs and reduce your water usage by 75,000 litres per year. There are thousands of styles, shapes and sizes to choose from. The hardest part of this project will be choosing the one that works for you!
  • Replace your current light bulbs - An energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb lasts 8 to 12 times longer than an average incandescent bulb and can save you £20 over its lifespan. Simply replacing five light bulbs around the house could save you 50% of your annual lighting bill and will take less than 10 minutes.
  • Install a hot water heater timer - Installing a timer on your water heater will allow your hot water to turn off at night when it is not being used and turn back on during peak usage times. This fairly simple task is inexpensive and will pay for itself in approximately a year.
  • Install ceiling fans - An easy to install ceiling fan can work to circulate warm air from the ceiling back down to the floor to save on heating costs.  A ceiling fan can also cut down on air conditioning costs by up to 40% in the summer.  In most homes the ceiling fan is located in the middle of the room and can provide smooth air flow to make a difference in your homes climate.

With the cost of energy usage going up every year, any tips to help lower that cost can save you time and money in the long run.

Mr. Handyman can help you maintain your home with one call and really does take care of everything on your to-do list. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service now online by using our postcode search to find your local Mr Handyman.

3 Ways to Make More Space in Your Home

Living in a "cozy" home can have its challenges during the holiday season when oftentimes friends, family and neighbors stop in for parties, meals or a simple cup of coffee.

Photo Credit: John Loo on FlickrIf you're looking to maximize your small spaces here is a list of our top three ideas:

1. Look up! Floor space is always a hot commodity in "cozy" living rooms and kitchens. Instead of looking down at your floors for more room, look up and see how you can leverage your wall space. Installing cabinetry storage and bookcases and shelving are great ways to create space. And hanging pots and pans from a rack in the kitchen helps create more storage space in your kitchen cabinets.

2. De-Clutter. Clutter from magazines, newspapers, shoes, toys and more is a great way to make your small space look even smaller! Utilizing storage pieces like magazine racks, toy boxes, and shoe racks make a designated place for the items that seem to pile up most.

3. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. Utilizing large wall-hanging mirrors is a great way to create the illusion of more space in any room.


A Guide To Enhancing Your Home

Top 5 Child Safety Tips for the Home

It's amazing what can happen in the matter of seconds. One minute, you're watching your little one banging on pots and pans on the kitchen floor, you turn your back for one second, and some how she's managed to crawl to the top of a stairwell. Eeeek! It's a frightening feeling when you see your child on the brink of what could have been a serious accident. Not sure where to start when baby proofing your home? Here are our top five child safety tips:

Prevent Opening Doors/Cabinets. Once children are tall enough to reach doorknobs or understand the concept of opening/closing, it may be time to consider installing doorknob stoppers and childproof locks, which will prevent your children from opening doors and cabinets but allow parents to (somewhat) easily open.

Cover Electrical Sockets. Kids love to poke, prod and point. Their fingers are small enough to get into many things, including electrical sockets. Cover all sockets in each room of your home.

Soften Sharp Corners. Whack! Waaaaaaaahhh! How many times have you heard your young one slam into the corner of the coffee or dining room table and start crying? Cut an X into a tennis ball and cover each sharp corner, which can help prevent future "Waaaaaaahhhhs!"

Prevent falls. Always install safety gates at the top of stairwells to prevent falls. Use the gates that actually bolt into your wall as they're more secure that pressure gates.

Sound the alarm. Check all smoke detectors and install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.


Creative Pumpkin Carving Ideas for 2012

Pumpkin Carving Techniques using Power Tools

Scary Jack-o-Lantern FaceLink to: Free, Printable Pumpkin Carving Patterns:

12 printable patterns, including Bats, Cat, Crescent Moon, Howling Wolf, Cute Jack-o-Lattern, Scary Jack-o-Lanterns, Skull, Ghost, Scarecrow, and more.


Pumpkin Carving Ideas for 2012

Pumpkin Carving with Power Tools: 

Step-by-Step Instructions on how to replicate the techniques seen in our video Pumpkin Carving with Power Tools (Video embedded below)

Home Window Repair

October 5, 2012 tags: broken window pane, Energy Efficiency, window condensation, window restoration, window sash cord

Windows get repaired or replaced for a variety of reasons: foul-ball strike, wood rot, dislodged parts, moisture and condensation, or a desire for greater energy efficiency, just to name a few. Know whether to repair or to replace by learning more about these common issues.

Reasons for Window Repair or Replacement
Home Window Repair Mr. Handyman TechnicianCracked or Broken Pane - Whether a ball or bird in flight damaged your windowpane, you have no choice but to repair with this issue, unless you don't mind living with an unsightly cardboard patch keeping out the elements. This task does require a certain amount of skill, as you must remove the window, then take out the glass and putty, before prepping the window for the new glass. After the replacement pane goes in, you must then refinish the frame itself.

Wood Rot - Lack of gutters or leaking ones can cause rainwater to collect on windowsills and frames, resulting in wood rot. Repair of minor wood rot can be completed by digging out the dry rot, then adding epoxies to fill in the void. You must then sand, prime and paint the wood. If wood rot proves extensive, consider replacement instead.

Dislodged Parts - If a window won't open or close easily, or at all, any number of parts could have become dislodged, such as a broken locking mechanism or a snapped sash cord. In both of these cases, unless you have experience, assign the task to your professional handyman who can fish out the broken lock part and replace it or who can replace old pulleys with spring-loaded replacements that use a retractable steel tape instead.

Moisture and Condensation Between Panes - In a double-paned window, if the seal between the panes fails, moisture and condensation can occur. To repair this issue instead of replacing the window, certainly the less expensive choice, you must bore tiny holes in the insulated glass units, spray cleaning solutions in between the panes and install vents in the holes. Of all the tasks on this list, this one benefits most from professional expertise.

Energy Efficiency - One way to improve the energy efficiency of your home involves replacing older windows with Energy Star-qualified windows that can lower household energy bills by up to 15 percent.  That said, replacing the windows in your home proves an extremely costly project. Have your professional handyman take a look at your windows to determine whether they require replacement to improve energy efficiency or simply need additional weather-stripping to better insulate your home from outside elements and to reduce heat or cooling loss.

When it comes to improving energy efficiency, your handyman proves a much better starting point than, say, one of the many window retailers in your area, who will likely recommend replacement of all windows in your home. And while replacement often results in the highest savings in terms of utility bills, the total cost of the window replacement project may far exceed those savings, especially if you do not plan to stay in your current home long-term.

Retaining the Aesthetic Value of Older Windows

Another issue to keep in mind is the aesthetic value of your current windows. If you own an older home and prefer the charm of the original windows to more modern replacements, repair of any issues combined with improved weather-stripping might be your best bet. Again, discuss with your handyman whatever issues the windows have and ask for estimates for repair and replacement. Once you know how much each costs and what the project will involve, you can make a more informed decision.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.


Sliding Glass Door Replacement | Do I Need Professional Installation?

tags: attic insulation, gutter cleaning, programmable thermostat, replacing sliding glass doors

Several tasks qualify as DIY for homeowners with basic handyman skills. Replacing a sliding glass door might not be one of them. Let's take a look at what it takes, including transportation, time and tools, to determine whether or not you can go it alone or whether you should hire a professional handyman for best results.

Photo Credit by Jim Moore on Flickr

Typical sliding glass doors measure 5 feet by 60 inches or 6 feet by 72 inches. Your average car can't safely transport such a large item, but a truck could. Keep in mind that you will need to ensure the door, or doors if replacing both, have adequate padding in the packaging to make the trip home in one piece. You won't want to replace your new sliding glass door before you even get it home and in place. If you do not have the appropriate transportation, consider assigning this to-do item to a handyman for completion.

Basic tools such as a screwdriver, pry bar or putty knife, level, caulk and caulk gun, and hammer will get this job done, as long as you only are replacing the door, not doing any work to the threshold or trim. Many sliding glass doors reveal dry rot during replacement, turning this job into a much bigger one than expected. Using a different size door also will require additional tools and materials you might not have on hand, increasing the cost of the project. Opting for professional help might save you money in the long run.

Experience and Time
The time this task takes depends on both skill level and the amount of help you have; physically, you might not be able to handle the weight of the door solo. Also, keep in mind that if you have never replaced a sliding glass door before, or jobs requiring similar experience, it will take you much longer than it would a professional handyman at an hourly rate. Also consider how much your time is worth. Would you rather spend a Saturday afternoon with your family or friends than struggle with this job?

To-Do List
If you do decide to hire professional help to replace your sliding glass door, get the most out of the handyman's visit by creating a list of other tasks that need to be done. From adding insulation to the attic before winter arrives to replacing windows while installing a new sliding glass door, Mr. Handyman has you covered. Other seasonal tasks that should land on your to-do list include:

  • Gutter cleaning and repair - Prepare for falling leaves by cleaning out anything that blew in over the summer and preparing the gutters for freezing weather.
  • Insulation of your hot water heater - Not only do you cut CO2 emissions, but you can save up to 9 percent in water-heating costs.
  • Installation of a programmable thermostat - Setting it properly and leaving it alone can result in significant savings in your utility bills.
  • Addition of door sweeps and shoe gaskets to stop energy leaks.

Simply add these to the to-do list and hand it to your handyman when he or she arrives to replace your sliding glass door.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

Entry Doors with Glass: Adding Style to Your Front Entry

While a plain, multi-panel door looks perfectly fine with just about every type of architecture, a front door with glass makes a much more stylish statement. Learn more about this type of entry door and your many options before starting to shop.

Elements of an Entry Door With Glass
Glass Panels - The options are seemingly endless when it comes to the shape, size,  location and design of glass panels on front doors. Glass panels come as squares, rectangles, ovals and arches. Some run the length of the door, while others just take over the top half. Clear and stained glass are options, as are beveled leaded glass in a variety of patterns. The most stylish entry doors with glass complement the architectural style of the house.

Sidelights - These are the vertical windows that sit parallel to the door on each side. They also run the length of the door, as one solid piece or in multiple panels, or just take over the top half, and they typically are in the same style as the main glass panels on the entry door.

Transom - This is the window atop the front door. It runs the width of the door and sidelights, if present, and also typically is in the same style as the main glass panels. It can be a simple rectangle or have an arch.

If you currently do not have sidelights or transoms, but wish to add them as part of a makeover of your entryway, it may be possible. Consult your professional handyman about the possibilities before making any purchases, as you will not only want to ensure it can be done within the framework of your front area, but you also will want to ensure you stick to an appropriate size and style for your home.

Clear vs. Decorative Glass
Choosing clear or decorative glass is a matter of personal preference in terms of privacy and design. An entry door with a multi-pane panel at the top featuring clear glass will allow you to see out, but it will those outside to see in if you do not have some sort of window treatment in place. A front door with decorative glass, such as beveled leaded or stained, allows you to incorporate the beauty of glass in your door without having to give up privacy. You also can opt for a glass door with wrought-iron design on the exterior.

Examples for Inspiration
These solid-mahogany double doors feature two panes of glass at the top of each door, plus multiple glass panels in the arched transom and sidelights. Such a design allows in plenty of light, and the wood frames throughout the entry door area provide privacy.

This front door design shows how glass can make an impact when only in the arched transom and sidelights, which incorporate the use of joining strips to create a design within the glass.

When shopping for new entry doors, transom and sidelights, don't rush the process. This is a major purchase for and addition to your home, and care should be taken when make a final decision. After all, it will serve as the opening design statement for your home.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

Organise for School: Get Your Home Organised for Back-to-School


While you likely welcome the start of school, getting ready for the first day requires both organisation and cooperation from your kids. Use the following checklist to get everyone on the same page.

School Supplies
The school typically provides a list of must-needed supplies. Find it, then head to the office supply store to fill up your cart. Save yourself time and keep your stress level in check by going first thing in the morning or at night when crowds are light. Divide the list into as many sections as you have family members and make shopping a scavenger hunt. The first person to get everything on his or her list wins a prize! Create teams if you have children too young to shop alone, with an adult on each side.

Once home, take everything out of the packaging - recycle what you can and toss the rest - and put everything in its proper place, whether inside a brand-new backpack or in your child's home study area.

Home Desk
Speaking of where your kids will do their homework, they should have their own space, preferably a small desk in each of their bedrooms. This allows them to focus on the task at hand without the distraction of family hustle and bustle. Providing each of your kids with a bulletin/dry-erase board for assignments also will help keep them organized and on track.

School Lunches
Just as you shopped for school supplies as a team, do the same for the first week of school lunches. The We Can! Program, sponsored by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, offers plenty of tips on how to make lunches both fun and healthy. It suggests picking a theme for each day of the week, such as Dip Day, on which you will pack baked chicken breast strips with honey mustard for dipping, as well as carrots and broccoli with a healthy ranch dressing. The website also suggests mixing up the sides you pack, including snap peas, cucumbers or air-popped, low-fat popcorn instead of the traditional unhealthy chips.

Since you likely will be the one making lunch for your kids, and since you likely will do so early in the a.m., make the task easier by creating an area for school lunch supplies in your fridge. Put everything in a bin so you can just grab and go with ease, especially if you perform this task before your first cup of coffee.

Family Calendar
Just as you gave each of your kids a bulletin/dry erase board, give one to the entire family so everyone knows the schedule for any given day or week. Hang it in the kitchen so kids can check before they leave. Not only does this help everyone stay on schedule, it reminds him or her to grab his or her athletic equipment/musical instrument/supplies for whatever the after-school activity will be.


Door Hardware | Make your Door Look Its Best by Picking the Right Hardware

The hardware on your front door connects the architectural style of your home with its interior aesthetic. Therefore, it should complement both. Make your door look its best and set the tone for your home décor by picking the right hardware.

Door-with-Thumb-Latch-HandlePhoto Credit by jayhawksean on Flickr

Hardware Type & Style
The first decision you make may already be partially decided for you. If you plan to use an existing door, you will need to choose hardware that lines up with the holes already present in the door and frame; you may also need to partially refinish the door if the shape of the entry hardware you choose does not match that of the previous one. If you need entry hardware for a new door, you have multiple options:

Thumb-Latch Handles - This type allows you to open the door by pressing down on the latch with your thumb and gripping the handle with your hand. The lock sits separately and above.

Knobs - Unlike interior door knobs with the only lock built into the knob, this type can include a lock on the knob and above, either separate from the knob or included in a plate.

Levers - This type of door requires you to push down on a lever to open. It also can include a lock on the knob and above, either separate from the knob or included in a plate.

All of these types of door hardware come in a wide variety of styles. If your home has more of a traditional architectural style, a hardware set such as this would work well. Or you could choose something more decorative but still within the traditional category. If your home qualifies as modern or contemporary, opt for a hardware set that mimics its clean lines.

Hardware Finish
The decision of which hardware finish to choose for your front door may be another one already partially decided for you. If you plan to use an existing door and wish only to swap out the entry hardware, leaving the hinges, then you should stay within the same finish. The most popular finishes are bronze, nickel, brass and chrome. Brass may suit a traditional home best, while the others could fit most any architectural style.

Many homeowners also prefer the hardware on their front door to match or complement the hardware inside their home. For example, if they had shiny brass hardware on the front door, they would continue the style inside as opposed to switching to nickel.

Additional Hardware
You may wish to add a knocker to your front door as well, and it should be in a style that complements the other hardware. Again, you can opt for a traditional knocker to match a traditional home, or you can have a little fun with it. This lovely pine cone knocker would fit right in on the front door of a rustic home in a wooded setting. This classic starfish knocker would work well for a beach house. And bully lovers would appreciate this bulldog knocker. You also can choose a doorbell to blend right in with the other hardware on your front door.

No matter which type, style or finish you choose, consider assigning the installation to your professional handyman. Getting the pieces to line up can be a tricky task, and must be done correctly to ensure your security, and any spot refinishing can be done much more quickly by someone with experience.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.


Entry Doors | Picking the Right Style Door for Your Home

Front-Door-with-Stained-GlassPhoto Credit by Ken Doerr on Flickr

Your front door makes the first impression for your home. It should be both secure and stylish, and it should complement the architecture of your house and the chosen exterior colors or stains. Knowing the materials from which doors are made also helps you choose the perfect one.

Door Styles
As noted, the architectural style of your home will narrow your preferred options significantly. If you have a Colonial, Cottage, Craftsman, Ranch or Victorian home, for example, you will want to choose from wooden doors with the same architectural details. But if your home leans more toward modern/contemporary, you can opt for less traditional styles and materials, such as steel.

Door Materials
Wood - The most common type of doors, and typically the most expensive, they come in solid wood and engineered-wood core with a wood-veneer skin. Cherry, fir, mahogany, maple oak, pine and walnut, as well as pine and western hemlock, all make excellent door material. Solid wood doors cost the most within this material range, with the combination doors proving a less-expensive alternative. Also, the more detail on a door, the higher the price. If you plan to paint your wood door, choose a high-gloss sheen. Prefinished doors also are available if you prefer to keep the grain of the wood visible.

Aluminum - This type of door comes in just below solid wood in terms of cost because of its longevity, around 20 years, and lack of maintenance. It features an insulation core covered by a metal skin, and the baked-on finish keeps the door from rusting or needing to be repainted. A wide range of styles and colors are available.

Fiberglass-Composite - Another maintenance-free option, this type of door can provide the appearance of wood, through both the texture of the door and applied stains, without that material's cost or upkeep. It serves as one of the least expensive options available.

Steel - This type of door offers the ultimate in security, durability and affordability. Again, the surface of the material can appear wood-like in texture, or it can simply be smooth. Finishes range from baked-on polyester that requires periodic repainting to laminated-wood veneer at the premium level.

Other Factors to Consider
If you decide to choose a door with glass, either on the door or above or to the side, look for glazing and coatings that resist break-ins, muffle sound and protect your interiors from UV rays.

Steel and fiberglass offer superior energy efficiency over wood, with double-paned glass aiding in the efforts.

Before You Shop
Consider meeting with your professional handyman to discuss your options and get his or her advice.  The weather in your area, the location of your door in terms of shelter and your desired level of required maintenance all should be considered when making this important decision. Your handyman also can take a look at your existing frame and let you know if you simply need a new door or if installation will require additional pieces in order to create an energy efficient and a secure entryway to your home.

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

Deck Materials: Pros and Cons of Wood vs. Composite Decking


Photo Credit by Fiberon on Flickr

One of the first questions your professional handyman will ask as part of the deck-designing process is: What type of material do you want to use? Your first thought might be wood, but composite lumber also has its benefits. Never heard of composite lumber? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of both decking materials to help you choose what will work best for your particular deck design.

Cedar and pressure-treated woods are your options in this area. Cedar, with its deep red, looks the most natural and proves rot resistant. It also doesn't absorb moisture. The same holds true for pressure-treated woods, but they come in a wide range of grades. If you do opt for pressure-treated wood, choose from the higher grades, which often are kiln-dried before and after being pressure treated.

Composite Lumber
This material most often features a composite of recycled plastic and bamboo fibers, wood chips or sawdust. It also resists rotting and warping due to moisture.

Pressure-treated wood costs the least, with cedar just above it, with how much above it depending on the grade of pressure-treated wood purchased. Composite lumber costs the most, and many consider it well worth the investment.

Cedar requires pressure washing and resealing every one to two years, but no matter how well you maintain cedar, it will fade. It also requires somewhat delicate use, as cedar is a soft wood that gets easily dinged. Pressure-treated wood, on the other hand, cleans easily and holds up well to abuse. Again, opt for the higher-grade pressure-treated woods for the best results. Composite decking requires the least amount of maintenance, as it can be cleaned with a regular hose and sprayer. You can even stain composite decking if you desire.

A cedar deck will last 15 to 20 years, with decks built close to the ground or in the shade coming in at the bottom of that range. Certain pressure-treated decking products come with a limited lifetime warranty, and composite lumber decking products typically offer a limited 20-year warranty.

When choosing a decking material, keep in mind the climate in your area of the country, how much maintenance you will have time and resources for, and the desired look. Your professional handyman will offer an opinion in each of these areas and help you make the right decision. He also can help with upkeep from year to year, from pressure washing to staining to repair if necessary.

One final thought: If you strive to use only eco-friendly products in your life, a composite lumber will best suit your style. For example, the previously mentioned CaliBamboo uses 30 percent recycled bamboo fibers and 70 percent recycled plastics in its product. It holds certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a voluntary rating system for green building performance in the Uk, U.S., Canada and other countries around the world.

This article is part of the Deck Repair and Maintenance Series

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.

Why is Tile Repair Important?

Did you know repairing the tile in your home can maintain its value? Overtime, grout discolors and erodes, which can leave your tiled floors and countertops susceptible to damage and mould.

Photo Credit: bitrot on Flickr

We've all seen grout discolorations in bathroom and kitchen tiles. No longer is it the crisp, clean, white grout it once was. Instead is looks dirty and poorly maintained, even if you've cleaned it many times, the damage may be done, and tile grout repair is needed.

To prevent tiles from chipping and cracking, repairing your tile grout is the best option. It's also the most cost-effective option as tile installation is a larger project.

Plus, repairing tile grout will make your floors and countertops look good as new!

When is the last time you thought about tile repair? If your grout is starting to look a little dingy, you may want to start thinking about it sooner rather than later.

How to Make a Small House Seem Bigger

Do you live in a "cozy" home where you feel just a wee bit cramped and wish you had more room to stretch out? Want to know how to add value to your home and simply make more room without breaking the budget?

Instead of thinking of what you should do to the inside of your home, think about what you can do to the outside. Maximize your small home by leveraging your outdoor space; it will provide more value to your home and allow for you and your family to go from "cozy" to "comfortable."

We suggest one of two approaches: deck or patio.
A new or revitalised deck is a "must-have" in order to expand your home in the summer. A deck is essentially an expansion of your home from the inside out, and the outside in. If you already have a deck but are in need of deck repair or maintenance before use, Mr. Handyman can help.

If you're on a budget, the most "wallet-friendly" approach would be to pour a concrete patio. Once the patio is poured and completed, it will allow for you to add comfortable patio furniture, grill, and other outdoor accoutrement for your family to enjoy during these warmer months.

How to Get (and Keep) Insects Out of Your Home

keep flies outPhoto Credit: ingridtaylar on Flickr

Summer is insect season. And nothing is more annoying than something (fly, bee, mosquito or otherwise) buzzing in your ear. Want to know how to get rid of those insects? Here are a few helpful hints:

Work from the Outside In

Remove all standing water that attracts flies and mosquitoes. Have a bird bath you can't live without? Just be sure to move it as far from the entry points into your home as possible.  Do you compost? Again, make sure to place your heap as far away from the house as possible. Also, do not let dog wasteinsects pile up as it attract flies.

Check Entry Points

Reduce entry points for small bugs by checking all doors and windows to make sure they are secure and have no holes or blemishes; seal any you find with putty.

Trap ‘Em

Flytraps come in a variety of types and price points, but one easy (and cheap) trap requires only dish soap and a mason jar. Fill the jar with one-inch of fruit-scented dish soap and one-inch of water, flies should then get trapped in the pool. Then, clean, rinse, and repeat!

Use Some Elbow Grease

If you're a little late on spring cleaning, you might want to get the ball rolling on that yourself or hire help. A thorough cleaning will get rid of things insects love like crumbs or gunk stuck to countertops crevices. Wipe countertops after each use and sweep floors regularly to maintain a clean space. Also, keep food in tightly sealed containers. If you recycle, wash all containers before placing them in bins. Be sure to pick up pet food dishes when not in use.

Repel Naturally

Hang pine bough (small branch of a pine tree) at entry points throughout the house. Flies dislike the smell of pine oil. You also can make fly repellant sachets using tea bags and cloves. Also you can set potted false indigo, lavender, elderberry, basil or mint plants at entry points to repel flies.

Sliding Patio Doors or Exterior French Doors? | An Ordering Guide

With the right patio doors, you can incorporate the beauty of your outdoor space into the design of your indoor space. Glass doors provide a view to the outside and can even serve as a design element themselves. You have two options when it comes to ordering glass patio doors: sliding and French.

Sliding Glass Patio Doors

While traditional two-panel sliding glass doors remain readily available, other options now exist. You can choose to install three panels, four  panels or more, depending on the manufacturer, and in any number of sizes. The panel configuration also can be customized. Pocket panels slide into the wall and disappear completely from view. Stacked panels, on the other hand, slide and stack within the frame of the door. With the stacked configuration, you even can choose to have the outermost panels slide toward the center, creating two openings in the doorframe.

Sliding glass patio doors come in wood, vinyl, fiberglass, steel, and aluminum frames, and you can add grills to the glass to create a windowpane effect. The number of interior and exterior finishes proves seemingly endless, allowing you to easily customize doors to match or complement existing interior and exterior design elements.

In terms of the glass itself, you can choose from single and double panes, with the latter being the standard as it provides greater energy efficiency, of course. You can also opt to temper, tint and/or obscure the glass on sliding patio doors. Tempered glass proves stronger than regular glass and when broken shatters into pebble-sized particles, not into slivers. Tint comes in a variety of colors, such as bronze, gray and green among others. And obscured glass comes in many patterns, including cascade, fern and reed. One manufacturer, Anderson, even offers art glass that features decorative panels between the glass panes. The company makes three series of this art glass: Frank Lloyd Wright, Classic and Historic. If you wish to make your sliding glass patio doors a design element themselves, an art glass pattern exists to suit your current architectural style and décor.

Exterior French Doors

Just like sliding glass