Copyright (c) 2019 Rod Graham Handyman & Painting Services

TIP: Ahhh longer, warmer days

One last visit to the heating bill, the January bill should arrive soon. I found a newsletter from Puget Sound Energy. To quote them:
“Keep your home at the lowest comfortable temperature. For most home, the heating bill drops by about 2 percent for every degree you lower the thermostat.”

A must: change the filter. They are only good for a little while and changing them will clean up your air. Not every last bit, but it will help.

February Gardening
We have weeds. Their seed is in the air. Piling chemicals on the yard won’t do it, and the chemicals will poison things that make a healthy garden and a healthy environment in general.

One way to keep down weeds is to mulch. Gardeners and garden supply people recommend six to eight inches for weed control. Quite a lot of material. Check what may be there already. If the mulch is thick enough, other problems arise: wood chiggers, mold, and drought while the wood doesn’t supply the nourishment the desired plants need to grow. Additionally, FHA requires a six-inch gap between the top of the mulch and the siding on your home. The gap keeps out pests and moisture. Don’t laugh at this, I have seen the first few courses of siding rotting away from the mulch covering it.

The best weed control is to pull weeds regularly, and that’s not just pull off the tops, you need to pull up the roots, to. Blackberry and dandelion roots are somewhat of an exception. Blackberries are runners and dandelions go deep. 

TIP: Winter Heating Bills

I can't stop looking at the heating bill in January. This January and February are going to be high bills considering the uncharacteristic cold we have been experiencing. I found something on Snohomish County's PUD calendar for this month that might be useful: "We recommend you set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you're home/awake and 55 degrees when you are away/asleep." 

TIP: Cold Weather

These cold days are good to walk through your home on the ground floor, barefoot.

If you feel cold spots it is probably because the insulation has fallen. Further, the insulation has probably fallen due to rodents getting in and on the insulation. Their weight causes it to fall.

This cold will also bring high heat bills. The furnace in your home can be a major contributor to the size of the heat bill. Casey Davis of Washington Energy Services told us today at the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce Business Networking Lunch. She described other inspections Washington Energy Services does in their Home Energy Audit they offer. Call Casey at 206.786.9282, to discuss the various available audits.

With snow in the week end forecast I know there will be drivers that will want to put sand bags in their vehicle for traction or reducing tire inflation, another supposed method to increase traction.
Considering that everybody involved in automobile manufacturing pays engineers thousands of dollars to overcome the effects of ice and snow, there is little a driver can do except stay alert, know the conditions and learn inclement weather driving.

Adding weight, changes the balance of the vehicle. (Looking at the builder's plate on the driver's side post will show the vehicle is balanced. The vehicle should always sit level. Adding sand bags can potentially put the driver in the condition similar to driving a Corvair.

Softening the tires will do little more than shorten tire life and reduce stability.

All the elements of the vehicle are designed to get the vehicle through the challenges of winter driving.

So for now: drive carefully and call for a Home Energy Audit. Then call or email me to do the work.

TIP: Goals Dreams and the New Year

"It’s hard to separate goals and dreams,” Rosemary told me one New Year’s Eve. Then continuing: Dreams are bigger than goals; dreams are more fanciful.

I like to spend New Year’s Day planning the New Year. Oh, I don’t mean spend the whole day sequestered, missing dinner and the games. For the day, I carry a notebook to save ideas that arise. I stop for an hour or there abouts to focus and jot down my goals and dreams for the New Year and longer term goals.

I also review last year’s goal sheet during this planning time. Some items I congratulate myself on accomplishments, some items I move forward and some items I dispose.

Some goals go on year after year without accomplishment. I drop some of those goals from the list, the remaining goals I look at, and try to understand why I don’t complete them. My most enduring goal is to sort and file the family’s letters and pictures I hold. I know one reason I don’t do it is that I rather wish to get your job done before I play. I DO need to make a living, after all.

Every book I read on successful living puts goal setting at the top. Don’t be embarrassed by what is written down: this listing helps you to know what is important.

I review my goal sheet in June to see the progress.

I find that I do better achieving goals when I perform this ritual.

Happy New Year

TIP: Paint Dries Inside

With the holidays nearing and the dark coming earlier, we are turning activities into the home. Now is a good time to decorate for the holidays.

One decorating idea is to paint the dining room or for that matter: paint multiple areas if not the whole home interior.

I mentioned this to a good client the other day and was surprised at the reply considering I have painted numerous interiors for this client and at this time of year.

The reply was a question: Will it dry?
Yes, the paint will dry at this time of year. Some paints are dry to use in one hour others, the No VOC, no odor paints take four hours. The point is they all dry even though it is raining outside. Now is a better time to paint since the paint cures slowly thus forming a good and strong bond with the wall.

The new No VOC no odor paints leave the home smelling fresh and clean without that heavy paint odor so many of us remember.

Please, call us today for a free visit and quote.

TIP: Handling the Snow

I have six inches of snow and now the forecasters are predicting six to fourteen more inches. This can cause some serious issues around the house, especially considering all the rain that is sure to follow and the melting of the snow we have. So much water will be flowing soon; it is worth attempting some prevention.

First item is awnings, carports, and flat roofs. Anything done must be done safely, you just can not set a ladder and expect it to stay in position, especially if snow is under the feet, so be very careful about a proper setting and if you haven’t been trained in ladder use? Probably best to call in someone that is paid for this type of work. Carports may need the weight reduced depending on their construction. Don’t climb on the roof, it already is stressing. It’s best to pull off the snow that can be reached with a patio broom. If possible, make channels to drain the melting snow and rainwater toward the downspouts. If you are not accustomed to working with ladders and climbing on roofs, best call in someone. Careful is more important than any other consideration: it would be better for the roof to collapse than taking a fall.

Add temporary supports under the roof using 2” X 4”s. Someone told me, someone who should know, that a single 2” X 4”, standing on end, will support 2,000 pounds of compression.

Check the downspouts for things sitting in the way of the outflow. You don’t want the water stacking up in the downspout or splashing back on the house. Especially, try to determine the outflow will move away from the foundation. This may require only turning the end a little to get it away from the house, may need to add a splash block or an extension to get the water away from the house.

Frost King titles one extension Automatic Drain Away. This item slips over the end of the downspout and unrolls as it fills with water. Quite candidly, I haven’t put any in, however they look like a good idea.

If you aren’t accustom to lots of hard work, now would be a good time to call your landscaper and see if he has a dozer blade and can clear your driveway rather than trying to shovel it yourself. I have also seen some snow melting granules, although I have not had a chance to look up the effect on the environment.
Be careful and be ready.

TIP: The New Year Approaches

It’s hard to separate goals and dreams. Dreams are bigger than goals, dreams are more fanciful.

We hope your Holidays have been good! & Filled with joy!

The first goal to achieve is taking down the Christmas Tree, and put away the decorations. Some cultures consider it bad luck to leave the tree up past New Year’s Day. Maybe this is just folk wisdom, because the tree has been out of the woods and in the warm house for some time.

January 1st is good for planning, going to the Polar Bear Swim (1 pm at Marina Park in Kirkland), relaxing and watching the game, I find always spend half an hour to an hour, planning for the upcoming year on January 1st. Only day I actually seem to do it, and surprisingly I have found this planning drives the year to a higher success level than any other Day of Planning. Highly Successful people cite a Day of Planning as a key activity to a Year of Success.
I find that planning and writing down these plans, in however, simple and sketchy manner does more for making dreams become goals than any other activity. Writing these goals down rather than typing them seems to make them more real, operative, so find a pencil and piece of paper to save them on.

Nothing seems to be too small nor insignificant:
1) Read a book: The Last of the Mohicans
2) Save 10% of my income. Stating a purpose for this, such as visit Bali and dividing the 10% by the number of paychecks works well
3) Paint the house, living room or garage.
4) Repair the siding

Store this goal sheet so you will find and read it over in June. What is fun in June and December in reading the goal sheet is that some items aren’t important (I forgot about it or I don’t want to do that) some are there (making progress) and others complete. (oh I’m glad I got to do that.)

One Banner Bank branch manager adds to this simple plan. Some day in January, he gathers his staff together for a Calendar Burning Party. Everyone has days in the year they’d like to forget, to get rid of. Each person pulls those calendar pages out to burn in the burn barrel. Such a fresh start for the New Year!

Happy New Year! and be sure to keep to check back for the next tip.

TIP: Feels better with the warmer weather, doesn’t it?

While we use very little salt out here, we still need to take into account the roads were salted. It could be a good idea to have the car underside washed.

I have found the Finn Hill Shell and Car Wash at 12206 Juanita Drive Northeast to be very good to work with over the years. They offer an underside car wash on their Platinum and Gold washes. Moreover, you earn a discount off the price of the car wash for a $35.00 gasoline purchase.

Even at these warmer temperatures, we need to have somewhat a Plan B. One never knows when the faithful car may stall or be stymied some other way. I always carry water and something extra to wear. A sweater, an old blanket or sleeping bag may provide the little bit of warmth needed to reach safety (Who knows, maybe you won’t need it for anymore than kneeling on while putting on chains or traction to get moving again.). I carry a compass, I did carry two at one time, but I have learned to trust my instruments so only carry one now. Don’t point to your GPS: won’t work if the battery is dead.

Ever suffer hypothermia? How do you know if you are in danger?
Sometimes you have to trust your gut and sometimes you have to ignore it. If you feel really warm, even hot and everything around you is frozen: this is a symptom of hypothermia.

DON’T start peeling off layers.
DON’T start thinking you are going to get wet with sweat and then get really cold.
DON’T think you know what you are doing.

At this point, you have very little time left in a lot of ways. Hard to know what a situation will present the innocent, but it is wise to think about eventualities and plan some alternate solution.
I recently read a book titled The Complete Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. An easy read, even if you only read a few scenarios. Like the one teaching us to rap an alligator on the nose if it has something in its mouth that we want! Or another that cautions to lie still if caught in front of stampeding elephants. It then cautions to be careful when the elephants come back to see if you are ok. Apparently their skin is so rough it will cause severe abrasions on our skin.

OK, be careful! Keep the car ready, mist the Christmas tree and check back next week for the next tip.

TIP: A warmer weather note

Many homeowners have covered their crawlspace vents due to the cold blast of last week. Now that the weather is warmer and wetter, the vents should be uncovered. The vents are critically needed for two reasons:

1. Dry out the crawlspace. Without a good cross flow of air, the crawlspace will not dry out. With the continual presence of moisture, you get rot and probably even worse the infestation of mold and mildew. Once these get into a home, you are pretty much committed to an expensive remodel to remove it.

2. Studies show 75% of the air in the home comes from the crawlspace. Obviously, a good reason to keep the vents open.

While clearing your vents, you should find somewhere around a dozen vents. I have been to a number of homes, the vents were so covered with leaves that I could not see them. Be sure you find the vents. While cleaning them, be sure the screen is still in tack so that vermin can not get in.

As a by the by, I can go to your property to check the vents and crawlspace for cleanliness for $89.

TIP: Now is the time to walk around the house

garage, shop, what have, checking for openings. With the warm weather coming, animals, birds, and insects will be looking for nests to have their families. You are looking for tears in the bird blocks in the soffits, the vent screens in the foundations and window screens. Look in the roof vents also. Look in the attic for wasp, bird and rodent nests.

If you don't mind, now is a good time to go into the crawlspace. Look for fallen insulation, generally a pretty good sign that you have rodent invasion. If this is just another of those things that get lost in how busy you are, I can do this for you, with photographic back up if you wish, for $89.

TIP: How do you get a straight line with tape?

Painting questions seem to come up the most. It’s hard to do a good job on something done once in a while.

I was talking with some friends the other night. What do I put on the web site I moaned.

“Taping,” one friend instructed. Others nodded in agreement.

“How do you get a straight line with tape. How do you stop the peaks that invariably show up?”

Good question. Can’t really avoid the peaks along the line that was planned to be perfectly straight with one exception. A skilled hand, a highly skilled hand, can produce a pleasing profile.

Now I know some will say: “Get sign painter’s tape.” Doesn’t really solve the challenge. Signs are made of a different material as are the coatings which allows the tape to seal the edge giving what appears to be perfect.

So other than hiring a highly skilled hand or practicing for years to produce a perfect line, how does one improve the appearance?

First look at the surface you are painting. If you are looking at a Level 5 Smooth Wall, your odds are good for a clean line using the tape. The reason is that the tape will lay down tight to the surface. When you are taping such a surface, you want to press the tape to the wall, similar to the method engaged when applying sun screen to your window. Go back to the beginning and slowly running your finger along the tape, you can warm the tape so the adhesive draws the tape down to the surface tighter. This careful application of the tape will reduce the wicking of the paint. Wicking is evidenced by the peaks that makes your straight line jagged.

Still not home free. Now you go to the brush. I prefer a two and a half inch sash brush. Can’t spend too much on a brush. About $ 12 is a good choice. Work the paint into it so that it is well saturated with paint. Wipe the brush over the edge of your bucket so there are no drops or paint build up. Gently draw the brush along the paint line. Hold the brush gently, it won’t get away. You are not going to get a perfect line the first time. So, read the can and put a second coat on the line when the can says recoating is ok, generally two to four hours.

While it might not seem necessary, get a good sized bucket when you are buying your paint. I prefer a 5 quart bucket. Just a plain bucket, with a spout if easily possible. The spout is intended for pouring. Don’t know how you use such a small spout for pouring. I hold the bucket on one side and wipe the brush on the other. Don’t look for a clean spot to wipe the brush every time, because before you get across the first wall, your bucket will have paint all around it and you’ll be covered with paint that is better put on the wall. Back to the spout, when you set down the bucket and brush, lay the handle of the brush in that spout. Works great.

I know what you’re thinking: The store has all kinds of buckets to do this and that. Your right! You’re welcome to spend your money and use them, I worked with one homeowner that believed he was saving so much money because he discovered the butter tub in the refrigerator. The time he spent struggling with that butter dish and consequent spills and drips, really seemed to offset any savings. Best to keep it simple: a 5 quart bucket.

Almost no one has Level 5 Smooth Wall nor well defined corners in their homes. Most people have some texturing and corners with ridges or minute cove. The greater the size of the texturing, the harder to make a perfect line. First the tape won’t fit down into the valleys between the texturing and second the paint will show on the sides of the texture, third the brush can not reach the bottom of a corner if the mudder left a valley.

So don’t make yourself crazy, remember: this is a detail of the overall room and a perfect, while unattainable is not an element of your skill set. Furniture, wall hangings, lighting, activity in the room, will draw your eye away from it.
Depending on my schedule, I may be able to go over and help you get started."