September 22, 2017

Fall Home Inspection Guide!

Fall is the time to give your house its annual physical before winter's harsh weather sets in. Use this detailed checklist (provided by the writers of This Old House) as a guide while you look around for leaks, cracks, breaks, wear, and every other conceivable problem that can develop over the year. Then make a repair list to keep up on the maintenance of your home during the coming months.

INTERIOR (COMMON AREAS)
Now that summer's humidity is gone, check doors for swollen spots and sticking.
Look for loose hinges and doorknobs.
Check the floor for popped nails, loose boards, loose tiles, and springy spots that could be a sign of joist trouble.
Look at ceilings for stains, which could indicate a roof or plumbing leak.
Make sure ceilings and floors aren't sagging or cracked in new places, which might mean a bigger problem causing a shift in the house. Look above doors for cracks.
Check walls for popped screws and nails on drywall or new cracks in plaster.
Point a flashlight into the fireplace and up the chimney, checking for loose bricks, cracks, signs of animal nests, or excess soot that could spark a chimney fire.
Make sure the damper operates properly.
Check around ceiling fans to be sure they're well secured to the ceiling and not working their way loose with all the summer use.
Jiggle the stair balustrade to test its sturdiness, and take note where balusters and banisters have come loose.
Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries immediately if something doesn't work.

KITCHEN
Look at all the cabinet doors and drawers to make sure they open and close properly. Check for loose hinges or sticking drawer slides.
Try all the stove burners to be sure they turn on quickly and properly, without sparking or bursts of flame. Make sure gas stoves give off an even blue flame.
Check the oven door gasket for signs of wear and tear.
Turn on a gas broiler to make sure it lights properly.
Make sure the gas shutoff valve is working. It should be able to turn until it’s completely perpendicular to the pipe.
Open the dishwasher and spin and lift the washer arm by hand to make sure it isn't stuck. Check that nothing has dislodged the drain hose; it should arc up to prevent backwash from the drain into the dishwasher.
Test the drainage of the sink and look for signs of leaks on the faucet.
Turn on the disposer and listen for signs of obstructions or problems with the motor.
Look for signs of leaking under and around the dishwasher.
Make sure water filters have been changed recently.

PLUMBING (BATHROOMS and LAUNDRY)
Look for signs of leaks in all exposed pipes, and in areas where pipes run through the walls or foundation.
Look for signs of corrosion, which could indicate a problem with the water, or with the pipe itself. Watch for green stains around brass and copper fittings and on shutoff valves, a sign of either corrosion or electrolysis caused by mismatched metals. This will cause leaks and bad connections if left uncorrected.
Check the water pressure. Low pressure could mean a problem with the line, or just sediment buildup in the faucet aerator or shower head.
Check drains for speed of drainage; a slow drain may have a clog or a blocked vent pipe. Look for a full swirling drain; bubbling drains are a sign of a problem.
Flush the toilets to make sure they operate properly. Open their tanks and look for worn or missing parts. Then wait around for a few minutes to see if the toilet runs after a pause, a sign of a slow leak.
Look inside the burner chamber of the water heater for rust flakes. Check the flame; it should be an even blue, with no yellow. A yellow flame indicates soot or a problem with the gas-air mixture, meaning the jets need cleaning.
Drain the water heater to remove sediment that has settled to the bottom. Sometimes leaks in faucets are caused by hard water wearing out the washers.
Watch out for cracked tiles in the shower area or around sinks. Tap on tiles looking for loose or hollow ones, which could be masking rotted backerboard behind them.
Check on the state of the tub and shower caulking to see if it’s time to replace it.
Look for evidence of mildew where water has a chance to stand for longer periods.
Manipulate the toilet base to be sure it doesn't rock, which might mean a leak has damaged the floor around it.
Look for cracks on the toilet tank or bowl or on sinks.
Slide shower doors do check for sticking, rust, or obstructions. Examine the gaskets around the door glass for gaps and tears.
Turn on the shower and bath faucets and check for leaks around handles and valves. Are they easy to use, or harder to turn on and off? Check set screws around escutcheon plates.
Unscrew the shower head and look for collected sediment in it that could be lowering the water pressure.
Examine vent fans for obstructions or dust. Turn them on: If it sounds really loud, the bearings may be worn out or a flapper may have gotten stuck.
Check washer hoses for signs of aging (cracks or brittleness) or leaks.
Check dryer vents for tears. Vacuum or brush out lint in hose and around lint screen inside unit. Look for link around the floor or on the wall, indicating a clog in the vent hose.

ELECTRICAL
Open the panel and look for new scorch marks around breakers or fuses. Also, check outlets for scorch marks, which could be a sign of loose and sparking wires.
Look for loose outlet covers, receptacles, and loose boxes, which may have to be refastened to the studs while the power is turned off.
Test all GFCI outlets by plugging in a lamp and then hitting the test and reset buttons to see if it turns the light off and then on again.
Go around with an electrical tester (or lamp) to make sure all outlets work.
Check trees around the house to be sure they're not threatening wires.

HEATING
Take a flashlight into the furnace flue and look for a buildup of soot or rust. Tap on it to see what falls; rust is a sign of condensation, which is caused by an inefficient furnace. Have a pro service the system regardless of what you find.
Make a solution of dishwashing soap and water, then brush it on ductwork joints-wherever there are leaks you’ll see bubbles in the soap.
Check registers and vents for loose or missing covers and screws.
Check around radiators for leaks, or damaged floors, which could be a sign of a leak or an incorrect pitch toward the return.
Look for overall deterioration, rust, loose parts, and other signs of a failing system.

DOORS AND WINDOWS
Examine weatherstripping around exterior doors and windows for tears and wear.
Look for cracks in window glass and glazing around panes.
Check the action of the windows for sticking points.
Look for peeling paint and other signs of wear on window frames and stools, usually in the bottom corners. Check that weep holes in the sill outside haven't been caulked over, inhibiting drainage.
Take a look at thresholds for cracks that could let water reach the sill.

ATTIC
Look around the attic space during daylight hours, with the lights turned off. Look for holes in the roofing that let light in.
Keep an eye out for signs of animal activity or entry points for animals.
Check around vents for gaps. Look at fan motors for frayed wiring or loose screws.
Feel around insulation for damp spots where leaks might be occurring. Look for missing or torn insulation, which could be a sign of animal activity.
Examine joists and rafters for structural damage.

GARAGE
Check the action of the garage door and look for dents in the tracks or cracks in the door.
Make sure tool storage and hanging rakes and shovels don't create a falling or tripping hazard.

EXTERIOR
Check for cracks in asphalt or concrete on driveway, sidewalks, and paths. These can be a tripping hazard, and can invite water that will do more damage during the colder months.
Make sure retaining walls have no bulges or loose areas. One heavy rain or snowfall, and you could have a mud slide on your hands. Make sure the weep holes built into the wall are clear.
Examine porches and decks for sagging ceilings, loose rails or boards, and damaged steps. Check to make sure the posts are still firmly in the ground and not loose, or worse yet, rotted completely out of the footing.
Inspect all fences, gates, and stone walls for leaning and loose parts, which could fall or blow off during a storm.
Look for stains on the siding, which could be a sign of a water problem or a roof issue.
Look for signs of insect or bird nests in soffits, eaves, or attic vents. If you see signs of animal waste in a certain area, look around for the possible nest or culprit.
Take note of where paint is peeling, brick mortar is missing, or stucco is cracking on the house's siding.
Look for leaning on the chimney. Check that the flashing is in good condition, and not peeling up or missing.
Check gutters and downspouts for debris or improper pitch, especially during a rain storm. Look for stains on the soffit, which could be a sign of a leak.
Examine the foundation for cracks and bulges.
Take a look at the sill, checking for rot and insects. Look for raised mud channels, which indicate the presence of termites. Use a sharp knife or other probe to see how much the wood gives.
Make sure the grade of the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house.
Look at the roofing. Are there cracks, missing shingles, or crumbling pieces? Check asphalt for dry, blistering, alligatoring, or curling shingles; wood for rot and splits; slate and tile for broken pieces; and flat roofs for holes. Be especially vigilant under trees, where falling branches or jumping animals could have done damage. Once the leaves have fallen, look more closely at where branches touch the house.
Examine the flashing and vent/chimney caps for missing or damaged parts. Look for rust.
Look for moss and other debris on the roof.

Now, take a look around your home and see where improvements need to be made. Should you need assistance with any of your home improvement projects, contact us at (412)965-9361 or ck@ckremodeling.com for a free consultation and estimate. Please visit our website for more information and direct access to our online portfolio. Also, we encourage you to follow us on all of our social media sites to keep up to date with our latest activities. While it's clear we enjoy building products, we also enjoy building relationships; so we respectfully "follow back" every person or small business that chooses to follow us on our social media sites.

Happy Fall!

Charles Kirby, Owner of C.K. Remodeling & Design

June 27, 2017

Summer Projects!

Summer is a great time to tackle any home improvement or repair project you may have been putting off. Since the weather is nicer, you can now address issues both inside and outside of your home. Below is a list of just a few ideas to help get your home looking its best, while ensuring the safety and comfort of your family members and guests. Most projects take only a day or two to complete, and the results will last a long time.

Change outdated lighting fixtures or ceiling fans.
Update old fixtures in the kitchen and bath.
Recaulk bathtubs and shower surrounds to give them a fresh and clean look.
Design and install a creative backsplash in the kitchen.
Add character and to any room by installing decorative molding or a chair rail.
Give your fireplace a facelift by restoring the mantle or retiling the panel and hearth areas.
Reposition your furniture for a new look or to optimize space.
Apply a fresh coat of paint to brighten up any room.
Replace torn screens in the windows and add a locking screen door to let the fresh air in.
Build or install shelving units in the basement and garage to store away unwanted clutter.
Add vertical storage and a folding table in the laundry room.
Reorganize closets by adding shelving units.
Swap out damaged or worn closet doors.
Fix loose railings and banisters throughout the inside and outside of your home.
Install safety bars or rails to the shower for family members and guests needing additional assistance.
Add non-slip pads or a carpet runner to stairs.
Install tile or hardwood floors to any room.
Tighten or replace door knobs and cabinet hardware.
Childproof all cabinets which contain harmful chemicals or hazardous materials and equipment.
Install baby gates inside the home or a fence outside to keep children and pets confined to safe areas.
Maintain the curb appeal of your home by powerwashing the outside of it and landscaping the front yard.
Add lighting that detects motion around the outside of your home, including steps and high-traffic areas.
Build a deck to increase the amount of usable living space for your home.
Feeling ambitious? Do a complete basement, bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room remodel.

Now, take a look around your home and see where improvements need to be made. Should you need assistance with any of your home improvement projects, contact us at (412)965-9361 or ck@ckremodeling.com for a free consultation and estimate. Please visit our website for more information and direct access to our online portfolio. Also, we encourage you to follow us on all of our social media sites to keep up to date with our latest activities. While it's clear we enjoy building products, we also enjoy building relationships; so we respectfully "follow back" every person or small business that chooses to follow us on our social media sites.

Have a happy and safe summer!

Charles Kirby, Owner of C.K. Remodeling & Design

April 24, 2017

Spring Fix-Up!

Spring is finally here, so it's time to start tackling those home improvement & repair projects you've been putting off all winter. As the weather gets nicer, you can now address issues both inside and outside. Below is a list of ideas to help you get your home looking its best; while ensuring the safety and comfort of your family members and guests. Most projects take only a day or two to complete and the results will last a long time.

Apply a fresh coat of paint to brighten up any room.
Replace torn screens in the windows and add a locking screen door to let the fresh air in.
Build or install shelving units in the basement and garage to store away unwanted clutter.
Add vertical storage and a folding table in the laundry room.
Reorganize closets by adding shelving units.
Swap out damaged or worn closet doors.
Change outdated lighting fixtures or ceiling fans.
Update old fixtures in the kitchen and bath.
Recaulk bathtubs and shower surrounds to give them a fresh and clean look.
Design and install a creative backsplash in the kitchen.
Add character and to any room by installing decorative molding or a chair rail.
Reposition your furniture for a new look or to optimize space.
Give your fireplace a facelift by restoring the mantle or retiling the panel and hearth areas.
Fix loose railings and banisters throughout the inside and outside of your home.
Install safety bars or rails to the shower for family members and guests needing additional assistance.
Add non-slip pads or a carpet runner to stairs.
Install tile or hardwood floors to any room.
Tighten or replace door knobs and cabinet hardware.
Childproof all cabinets which contain harmful chemicals or hazardous materials and equipment.
Install baby gates inside the home or a fence outside to keep children and pets confined to safe areas.
Maintain the curb appeal of your home by powerwashing the outside of it and landscaping the front yard.
Add lighting that detects motion around the outside of your home, including steps and high-traffic areas.
Build a deck to increase the amount of usable living space for your home.
Feeling ambitious? Do a complete basement, bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room remodel.

Now, take a look around your home and see where improvements need to be made. Should you need assistance with any of your home improvement projects, contact us at (412)965-9361 or ck@ckremodeling.com for a free consultation and estimate. Please visit our website for more information and direct access to our online portfolio. Also, we encourage you to follow us on all of our social media sites to keep up to date with our latest activities. While it's clear we enjoy building products, we also enjoy building relationships; so we respectfully "follow back" every person or small business that chooses to follow us on our social media sites.

Happy Spring!

Charles Kirby, Owner of C.K. Remodeling & Design

February 2, 2017

10 Ways to Improve Your Home Using Your Income Tax Refund!

If you're getting some money back on your tax returns, one great way to spend that cash might be to have some simple home repairs done. Many household projects that can have a big impact are actually relatively cheap and easy to do. And, by spending a little money towards improving the look of your home, you can significantly increase your home's perceived value when it comes time to sell! So, if you're among the millions of Americans who are getting money back on their tax returns, here are ten great ways you can use part of that money towards improving your home.

1. Paint – Yes, it's that simple. A can of paint usually costs under $50, but can make a dramatic improvement to your home's appeal. So, strip off the old wallpaper and sand off the walls for fresh coat of paint. Keep in mind though, that if you're looking to sell your home soon, neutral colors are better for potential buyers.

2. Refinish the kitchen cabinets – Replacing kitchen cabinets can be pricey, but striping the finish and painting or refinishing it can give a new look without the cost of new cabinetry.

3. Replace bathroom fixtures – Bathroom and kitchen fixtures may work fine over a long period of time, but the finish will corrode and lose its shiny coat. So replacing these knobs will naturally give the bathroom or kitchen a more updated look.

4. Replace laminate with tile – Compared to many other materials, tile is relatively cheap and easy to install.

5. Install decorative molding – Have cracks and imperfections around corners and edges in each room? Get thick molding to cover those spaces while adding a bit of character to the room.

6. Install organizers – Messy basement? Maybe too much stuff piled into the garage? Build simple shelves and organizers for neat storage. This way, buyers will focus on how much space the home has, instead of what and how much stuff is in it.

7. Yard work – Sure, people are coming to see the inside of your house when you want to sell it, but curb appeal makes a huge difference on first impressions. Mowing, weeding, and growing some basic plants are all cheap but time consuming projects that will contribute to a better package deal for buyers.

8. Powerwash the outside of your home – Keep the outside portions of your home clean and add a coat of paint if needed.

9. Build a deck – Decks not only improve the outer look of your home, but they also significantly increase the amount of usable living space.

10. Complete remodel – If you hit the jackpot with your refund, then now is the perfect time to completely remodel your basement, bathroom, kitchen, or other living spaces throughout the home. Most buyers want to purchase a home that is move-in ready. If the work is already done, the chances of a buyer choosing your home over another will increase significantly.

These 10 tips are just the starting point of all the options you have to brighten up your home and increase its value. So, why not put your income tax refund to good use? You'll enjoy the updates while you live in your home, and (more importantly) you'll reap the rewards of increasing its value if you decide to sell it. Remember, a home is usually the biggest investment a person makes in their lifetime. So, be sure to give your home the attention it deserves.

Should you need assistance with any of your home improvement projects, contact us at (412)965-9361 or ck@ckremodeling.com for a free consultation and estimate. Please visit our website for more information and direct access to our online portfolio. Also, we encourage you to follow us on all of our social media sites to keep up to date with our latest activities. While it's clear we enjoy building products, we also enjoy building relationships; so we respectfully "follow back" all individuals and small businesses that choose to follow us on our social media sites.

All the best!

Charles Kirby, Owner of C.K. Remodeling & Design

January 2, 2017

A New Year’s Resolution for Homeowners!

A traditional New Year’s resolution may focus on your career, finances, health, personality, physical appearance, relationship status, or social circle. However, this year we challenge you to go against the norm and set a goal that caters to the needs of your home. By doing so, you not only create a sense of achievement for yourself by tending to simple tasks; but you also create the potential to significantly increase the value (and safety) of your residence. Believe it or not, a resolution pertaining to the care or upgrade of your home can easily be started by taking a walk around your house with a pen and a piece of paper. Make a list of all of those small repairs that you have been meaning to do, and then make time this New Year to get them done. It is much easier to accomplish these tasks if they’re written down, and making small repairs now is much less expensive than making large repairs later due to neglect. Along with tending to minor repairs and cosmetic upgrades, consider adding true value to your home by renovating your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or other basement and recreational areas of the home. Home renovations cost a lot less now than just a few years ago and it may be a good alternative to moving, lol.

Need some inspiration? Well, here is a whole list of ideas to get you started!

• Fresh paint. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for the look and value of your home.
• Move your furniture for a new look and to optimize space. Changing the layout of your furniture will change your mood. If you feel stuck, it might be time to repurpose some rooms.
• Create a space for fitness in your house. Almost everyone places "lose weight" and "exercise more" at the top of their New Year's resolution list. You don't need an expensive home gym, just a little reorganization and an exercise mat.
• Reorganize your closets by installing a shelving unit. Take some time and sort through old clothes, papers, and possessions. Clothing can be donated to a charity. Papers and boxes can be recycled or thrown out. Nothing says, "I'm getting my life together" like a clean house.
• Declutter your basement and attic. Clean storage spaces mean fewer pests and fewer hazards.
• Clean out the garage and make your home bicycle-friendly. Common sense says that if you could get your bike out of the garage, you'd ride it. Biking is a green solution that promotes fitness, and more people would do it if their homes were more bike-friendly.
Swap out old light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs. An ENERGY STAR qualified fluorescent light bulb can save money and reduce your electricity bill.
Install GFCI outlets. Get your house up to code and prevent electrical fires. Even if you have to hire a local electrician to do the work, it will probably cost you less than you expect.
Seal drafty windows and doors. Sealing windows and doors can save on heating costs by reinforcing drafty window frames.
• Install programmable digital thermostats. By replacing your thermostats with programmable models, you can save on heat and improve your home’s energy efficiency.
• Wrap your pipes: It's cheap, simple, and prevents freezing and bursting over the winter.
• Clean the lint from your dryer hose. It’s easy to do and will significantly reduce the risk of fire.
• Install on-demand hot water or a solar thermal water heater. Stop wasting energy and money on keeping your water tank hot 24-7.
Service your heating and/or air conditioning. Professionally service your home’s HVAC equipment every year to maximize efficiency and avoid any major maintenance issues.
Clean Gutters. Gutters should get a good cleaning every fall, but this is a chore that is often procrastinated.
Install gutter guards. They'll make your biennial gutter cleaning much easier. This year, embrace preventative home maintenance.
Ventilate the attic. Roof vents and gable fans are two of the most overlooked and most effective ways to keep your house cool in the summer.
• Inspect Your Roof. Many roof repairs are simple. Identify and fix leaks early by inspecting your roof before and after winter.
• Landscape the exterior of your property. Give your home some added curb appeal to make a great first impression to potential buyers. Otherwise, you may as well place a sign in your front yard that says, “The inside of the house is as dumpy as the outside.” Hence, that’s exactly what buyers will think as they drive past your home and move onto the next listing.
Secure your home. Don't wait until someone breaks in before finding the peace of mind that comes with knowing you've done everything you can to keep intruders out of your home. While most of the steps you need to take can be performed by a handyman or security professional, there are a few you can do yourself. Start by increasing the visibility of your windows from the street by cutting down shrubs and bushes, so intruders have no place to hide. Replace door locks at any access points to your home. Leaving outdoor lights on overnight or installing motion-detection sensors can also help ward off bad guys. A handyman can help with the following: Building a hidden safe into a wall or floor; Upgrading single-pane to double-pane windows with security glass; Adding metal screen doors or decorative wrought-iron gates (they provide security while adding value to your home); Covering up unused doggie doors or replacing them with a secure, locking version; Installing solid-core doors or sturdy steel models to replace hollow entry doors; and Cutting a mail slot into your door or garage instead of using an outdoor mailbox (preventing thieves from stealing checks and credit card numbers); and drilling a peep hole into your front door if you don't already have one. A security professional can install an alarm or upgrade your current system to include some of the exciting innovations in smart-home automation. Together with a few well-placed exterior and interior cameras, you can easily monitor the action around your home while you're away by simply taking a look at the screen of your smartphone, notebook, or iPad. While it used to be a luxury of only the very wealthy, mobile home security monitoring is now within reach of any homeowner’s budget.
Hire a home inspector to check your house for structural problems. Rotting beams, hidden termite nests, an old electrical system that's about to go on the fritz, leaking pipes, etc....most structural problems are hidden until they reach the breaking point and become expensive and disruptive repairs. Find them now and plan your home repair and maintenance schedule accordingly.

Now that you have plenty of ideas to choose from, it’s time to get started! Do a survey of your home to discover what projects are essential for your safety and peace of mind. Pace yourself - - there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by trying to get them all done at once. Schedule projects based on your availability and budget. While most of the projects listed above can easily (and safely) be accomplished on your own, don’t be afraid to seek out a professional to deal with those involving electricity, plumbing, heights, or the use of dangerous tools and equipment. Should you need assistance with any of your home improvement projects, contact us at (412)965-9361 or ck@ckremodeling.com for a free consultation and estimate. Please visit our website for more information and direct access to our online portfolio. Also, we encourage you to follow us on all of our social media sites to keep up to date with our latest activities. While it's clear we enjoy building products, we also enjoy building relationships; so we respectfully "follow back" every person or small business that chooses to follow us on our social media sites. We wish you all the best in this coming year and hope that our suggestions add value (and safety) to your home!

Happy New Year to all!

Charles Kirby, Owner of C.K. Remodeling & Design