Browse Month

April 2016

Cleaning Out Your Drains

Most homeowners know how to work a plunger and pour chemical drain cleaners down a clogged drain. Yet, sometimes these measures are insufficient for drain cleaning. Either the drain remains clogged or the drain perpetually re-clogs. When this happens, often because something unusual was pushed or flushed down a drain (think children), more dramatic measures are needed.

Drain Cleaning
If a liquid drain cleaner doesn’t take care of the clog, physical drain cleaning is usually the only way to get rid of the clog. A plumbing snake should be fed down the pipe to see if the clog can be reached. For clogged sinks, you should also try cleaning the trap and feeding the snake down the pipe that way. Covering the overflow valve for sink drains can help build pressure and may help bust through the clog.

If this doesn’t work, a power auger that can more effectively cut through the clog will be needed. This machine should only be used by people who have some basic plumbing knowledge to avoid further harm to your draining system. Pipes aren’t indestructible. Nobody particularly revels in calling a plumber, but sometimes it’s the wisest and even the most frugal course of action. Be as specific as you can with the plumber on the phone and you may want to take the time to have him or her inspect all your house drains to reduce the risk of a return visit.

Drain Cleaners and Maintenance
Many companies don’t want you to hear this, but for many homes drain cleaning chemicals are unnecessary. Baking soda and boiling water or baking soda and vinegar will often do the trick. Some drains may become clogged with hair, and even if baking soda doesn’t work, hair removal product will and is far less toxic than drain cleaner. For drain maintenance, using an enzyme culture once a month can help ensure your drain stays cleared. They will also help reduce any odor in your garbage disposal. One thing you should never do is mix different drain cleaners. These chemicals can often react violently with other compounds and do serious damage to your pipes and/or your septic system.

The Cost of Professional Drain Cleaning
Have you tried and tried to get that drain cleared, only to find it’s of no use? Well, it may be time to call in the pros. The average cost to hire a professional plumber to clear your drain is $251, according to data collected from homeowners across the country. This may sound like a lot to the average homeowner, but if it’s time to call a plumber, there is a good chance it’s not an ordinary clog. This cost average includes a handful of projects that were less than $100 and a handful that were more than $1,000. Typically if the problem extends down to the sewer line, this can cost anywhere from $300 and up to clean. The average also fluctuates considerably depending on where you live. Expect to pay a bit more if you live in Chicago or a bit less if you live in Houston, but the condition of your drain will still create a large X factor for cost.

Floor Cleaners

Keeping your home floors clean is a necessary part of maintaining your home’s appearance. It requires diligence, especially in areas with a lot of foot traffic. Carpets are notoriously difficult to keep clean, but hardwood and laminate flooring must also be maintained to make sure your floors are looking their best. Investing in floor cleaners and floor cleaning equipment will reduce the time and energy you need to spend cleaning your floors and, in general, result in cleaner floors.

Floor Steam Cleaners
The most difficult type of floor to maintain is carpet. Many floor cleaners are specifically designed to clean carpet for this very reason. Floor steam cleaners can remove the typical dirt and grime that gets tracked into your carpet fibers. The process isn’t too difficult but it’s more involved than would be practical for part of your weekly cleaning chores. Most homeowners who know this try to keep dirt off their carpet as much as possible, vacuum weekly or several times a month, and only occasionally break out the steam cleaner. If this is your situation, you might not even want to purchase your own floor steam cleaner and, instead, hire professional carpet cleaners to come in twice a year to revive your carpet.

On the other hand, while floor steam cleaners are most often used for carpets, they can be used for other types of flooring as well. Investing in a high-powered, adjustable steam cleaner will allow you to clean, not only your carpets, but can even get the oil stains out of your garage floor. The major disadvantage of floor steam cleaners is that they require deft handling. Improper use or employing steam cleaners that have fallen into disrepair can damage your floors. Your floors will also have to be protected as they dry after the cleaning, although most steam cleaners will leave floors that dry after 2-6 hours.

Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaners
Hardwood and laminate floors are not only classic, elegant installations, they’re also the easiest to maintain and clean. The first, big step you can do is simply to sweep or vacuum the floor regularly—although if you’re vacuuming, use a soft brush extension. There are expensive floor cleaners out there, but vinegar and water can work just as well on laminate flooring. Whatever you use, try the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area the first time before proceeding to the rest of the floor. If you’re in doubt, the flooring manufacturer is usually the best source of advice. If they try to sell you an expensive cleaning product, however, watch out for a scam. These cleaning products are often unnecessary.

Hardwood floors usually require nothing more than water, unless your hardwood has been stained. The biggest danger with hardwood flooring is moisture damage, so use the water or cleaning solution as sparingly as possible when cleaning your floor.

The First Step of Floor Cleaning is Choosing Your Floor
One of the most common mistakes in home improvement is becoming obsessed with the look of a new home improvement installation. As infatuated as you might be with your new home or home remodel, the ability to maintain that look is probably more important in the long run. Pick a floor that you can afford, but also one you can afford to maintain. This may mean actually splurging on your initial floor installation, but can be worth it in the long run. Carpet is a cheap floor covering, but your floors may have to be re-carpeted several times over in the same lifespan as a hardwood or laminate floor. In fact, it may be worth it to take out a small homeowner’s loan to ensure a floor that won’t require further financial investments down the road.

Thanksgiving Home Maintenance

If you’re not already set on hitting the shopping mall during Thanksgiving weekend, you might think about taking a look around your home. As busy as this time of year can be, neglecting home maintenance just before your friends and family arrive is a recipe for embarrassment. If you don’t inspect your home now, December is almost always a lost cause. Whether you’re broiling, basting or baking this Thanksgiving, here are a few ideas to get you started on your maintenance menu and plans for your budgetary leftovers.

1. Turkey and Stuffing: Furniture and Beds

If you have less-than-comfortable furniture, the turkey’s tryptophan is going to make you feel like you’re sitting on a bird’s rump. Lumpy, unforgiving or poorly designed is going to seriously hamper guests’ ability to doze and drool, as the Pilgrims intended. Once broken in, furniture can actually become more comfortable but left to age too long, and you get a filthy, broken-down safety hazard—especially after grandpa has gone back for his third plate. For the bedroom, you might want to think about platform beds. They will modernize your bedroom decorating and provide incredible opportunity to increase your bedroom storage.

2. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy: Insulation

The old family recipe for mashed potatoes may have worked in years past, but it’s a good idea to look at your utility bills and your home’s insulation. Gravy may be a necessity for mashed potatoes, but the moisture of roof or plumbing leaks will cause bigger problems than lumpy insulation. If you can’t afford the cost of insulation, at the very least make sure your home is airtight this winter. Check windows, doors and cracks in your walls for air leakage. If nothing else, you may need to install caulk or weather-stripping. You can call this the instant-mashed-potato version of insulating.

Just as russet potatoes and fat-free buttermilk can make for healthier mashed potatoes, there are healthier insulation choices. Cotton insulation, for example, is not only made from recycled denim, but it also doesn’t use glass fibers that cause skin and respiratory irritation, nor does it use formaldehyde, which can leach into your home.

3. Green Bean Casserole: Energy-Efficient Appliances

Whether it’s salad, creamed spinach or green bean casserole, every Thanksgiving dinner needs something green. For your home’s makeup, green should be a dominate theme. If you haven’t replaced your major appliances in the last five to 10 years, chances are your home is needlessly burning through cash. It’s hard to justify replacing an appliance until it goes kaput, but it’s a good idea to look around now, before the situation becomes urgent.

To maximize energy efficiency and value, look for concrete ratings and performance standards. Looking at ENERGY STAR-rated appliances is a good start. Washing machines save you between 38 and 55 percent on water (and water heating) consumption. For dishwashers, you stand to save 25 percent on water and heating. For heating and cooling, which is half of your home’s energy consumption, ENERGY STAR air conditioners and furnaces can save you about 20 percent over most models and even more over older units. Overall, these appliances can save you $1,000 or more every year.

4. Cranberry Sauce: Stain Removal

There are dozens of tricks, home and commercial remedies, but many stains—including cranberry sauce—can be a lost cause to remove from carpet and upholstery. As frustrating as stains can be, too many homeowners think the only reasonable course of action is to rearrange the furniture to cover the carpet or haul stained couches out to the curb. The truth is you probably have more options than you think. Even if you don’t have spare carpet runs, manufacturers may still be producing your carpet and repair professionals have more than one trick up their sleeves. The average cost of carpet repair is $220, and you can hire professionals to come in to do the job quickly and efficiently so you can focus on other to-do list items.

5. Pumpkin Pie: Cleaning Services

Pumpkin pie is meant to be savored without the dread of a mountain of dirty dishes. If you’re playing host this Thanksgiving, you probably aren’t going to be thrilled with the house cleaning that hits full-force that night and the next morning. By planning ahead and scheduling maid service, you can optimize your time management, and when you tell guests not to worry about helping you clean up, you can mean it. You can probably find a maid service to clean your kitchen and living area for around $200.

This is only a few of the more popular home maintenance projects. The point is to use this last breath before the holiday season crush truly arrives and evaluate what your home needs to make it through the winter. Both you and your home will be jollier for the attention.

Removing Pet Odor

If your home has pet odor problems, you’re in for one of the toughest odor removal projects known to man. That doesn’t mean you should give up hope. It just means that depending on the nature of the odor, and the material, this isn’t going to be an easy task.

General Pet Odor Removal
If the extent of your pet odor problem is just a general pet smell (not urine), you’ve just encountered a best-case-scenario when it comes to pet odor removal. It’s not pleasant, and it’s still going to take some work to remove the odor from your home, but there are a number of pet odor removal solutions out there to take advantage of.Clean, Clean, Clean
The first step is the most obvious. Clean any affected areas as thoroughly as possible. That doesn’t mean a quick vacuum or running over your hardwood with a Swiffer. Pet odor removal is only effective if you give affected areas a good, deep cleaning. Scrub and mop hard surfaces as thoroughly as possible, and think about using a vinegar or baking soda solution as you do so. Both are rumored to work wonders when it comes to removing pet smells. And if you’re dealing with pet odor removal from carpeting, hire a professional. Make sure they use the hot water extraction method (also known as “steam cleaning”), since it provides the deepest clean, and ask if they use a truck mounted unit. These units do a much better job of getting down into the carpet pile, where much of the pet smell resides, than other professional carpet cleaning techniques, or any homeowner operated unit you can rent.If Your Home Smells Like More Than a Wet Dog . . .
If your specific issue is trying to remove pet urine odor, you’re in for another treat altogether. Pet urine odor is one of the most difficult smells to remove from any surface, and at times requires you remove the flooring altogether, and replace it, if none of the less substantial solutions do the trick. Still, it can be done. Here’s how.

Use an Enzymatic Based Pet Urine Removal Solution
About the only proven way to remove the smell of pet urine from your flooring is to purchase an enzymatic based cleaner from your local pet supply store. Don’t use this like carpet shampoo, however.

You need to soak the affected area thoroughly, and allow the solution a long time to dry, whether you have carpet, wood floors, or masonry flooring. No fans or open windows are needed here. In fact, it’s a good idea to place a piece of cardboard over the affected area to slow down evaporation. The solution works to eat away at the natural enzymes that are causing the odor in the first place, and they need time to do their work. If after all this, you still have pet odor problems, you’re going to need to take more drastic measures. With carpeting, you’ll probably need to replace it. And if the pet urine has made it into the subfloor, you may have to replace that as well. The same goes for wood flooring. It can be a timely, and costly, project. But when compared to living with the smell of pet urine, it’s often worth the trouble.