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“The New Normal”

Every so often a phenomenon occurs that interjects new terminology into the vocabulary of our world.

This terminology can consist of individual words or groups of words that no one may have previously heard before and now seemingly overnight one cannot escape their presence.

These words and the actions associated with them can be due to something fun & exciting (such as the term “lit” which many in the younger generation use to describe something as being extraordinarily “cool”) or they may be associated with something that is overwhelming tough to bear (such as the term “social distancing” which is described as the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from someone else).

 

A phrase that (due to all that has been in the news lately) has become increasingly popular is “the new normal”.

Although I have heard it used sporadically in the past, the rate I can recalling having heard it pales in comparison to the pace that I have been currently coming across it.

When I have heard it recently, it references a number of different situations, all shaped by a variety of government rules, regulations, and “strong” suggestions of what society should be doing to help in “flattening the curve” of the way that the Coronavirus is affecting all of our daily lives.

From distance learning to a multitude of closed small businesses (restaurants, hair salons, etc.), “the new normal” indeed is a way to describe how we are all learning to live life as we work through things.

Thankfully, given the time of year, “the new normal”, although certainly having an effect on our business as a whole, still allows us to function as a business as long as we approach the work we are doing on a day in and day out basis with the best interests of our Clients & Employees in mind.

Ironically, this “new normal” way of approaching things, does not really change the way we have been going about discussing potential projects and landing new work than we have been doing already.

 

 

 

When someone reaches out to us to talk about work they were thinking about doing on their home or business, our staff has always spent time on the phone discussing what needs to be done, arranging for photos to be sent in of the areas to be worked on, and then setting up time for me to talk through the project on the phone with the potential Client and provide some idea of what they are looking for from a pricing standpoint.

 

 

 

 


From there, the biggest difference would probably be the social distancing that is now commonplace on my on-site meetings where I would schedule time to meet with someone to tighten up the paperwork on a project that they were looking to book.

But heck, even that could be done virtually to a degree as we could arrange to get the paperwork signed electronically if need be and then figure out whatever payment arrangements make the most sense given someone’s existing situation.

The biggest challenge for us with everything currently going on, is walking through the way we approach things and ensuring the comfort level of the Client aligns with reserving the work and locking in a spot, even if it is for some time down the line.

 

 

This is really important because our schedule (thankfully!) is becoming more full by the week, and I would hate to not get someone in there and be able to help them simply due to a delay in paperwork being completed.

 

 

 

 


“The new normal” certainly describes the way life is being approached these days, probably more relevantly than it has ever been used to previously define a specific way of existence.

With that being said, I believe there is an essential need that exists for people in order to prevent their homes and businesses from enduring rotted wood leading to long-term structural damage, peeling paint creating prospective health hazards, water leaks sourcing as ripe environments for mold growth, etc. even though the process of approaching such scenarios to correct them, may be drastically different today than it was even a very short time ago.

 

 

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Essential Home Improvement

 

Given everything that is occurring in our world these days, the term ‘Essential Home Improvement’ sure may seem oxymoronic to many folks.

After all, what the heck type of Home Improvement could be considered ‘Essential’??

Contrary to this particular opinion, there are seemingly tons of Home Improvement projects which we are able to help people with on a regular basis that are actually pretty essential.


I will provide a few examples…


Recently we helped a Client through a situation where their previous Contractor dug out an old bulkhead in her yard, leaving a HUGE hole in its place, as well as a fairly flimsy interior door at the entrance of her home underneath this area; EVERYTIME it rained, her basement flooded.

We stepped in, custom-made and installed a bulkhead along with a custom steel door at the entranceway and now she no longer has her heart drop in her stomach each time rain is in the forecast.


Lately, we have had a number of projects which we have been working with Clients on that are SUPER important and cannot come to completion soon enough; this is because of a position that has developed within their family makeup, where a family member from a medical standpoint, needs the home to be modified in order to accommodate a specific health condition – often with urgency attached to it.  

 

 

Examples of these types of projects typically tend to be adding a handicap ramp or modifying a bathroom or bedroom to provide critical living space changes that are suddenly necessary and often appear to come out of nowhere.

 

 

 


Yet another illustration of an Essential Home Improvement need would be someone that has something occur from a disaster standpoint which must be addressed IMMEDIATELY!

 

 

We are currently helping a number of families through these predicaments that range from a compromised roof letting through a bunch of water in a storm and significantly damaging the ceiling below it, to a situation where mold has been discovered in someone’s home and we are working with a mitigation company, ensuring the mold is removed and things are properly put back together again afterward.

 

I could go on and on…

Although at first glance, with VERY good, obvious reasoning, the Home Improvement industry in general is certainly not as important as some of the other industries that are at the forefront of things, particularly these days, when it comes to relating it to illnesses, life threatening scenarios, and anything first responder related.

 

 

If you were to ask any doctor, nurse, or first responder, however, if they thought a good Home Improvement Contractor would be helpful to know as their basement were flooding due to the unfinished work of a Contractor which had abandoned them, as their elderly parent was going through an unexpected life change that required a “sooner rather than later” living space correction, or as their ceilings were caving in due to a roof that had begun massively leaking from a storm, I believe they would say – ABSOLUTELY!!!

 

 

 

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😷 Hand Sanitizer Paint 😷

 

Have you ever read on a bottle of Hand Sanitizer how it says it kills 99.9% of germs (or some variation of this statement)?

My thought is if you had not heard that prior to very recently, perhaps now you may have with everything going on with the whole Coronavirus wave of media attention as of late.

Imagine if there were a paint that existed which behaved similarly to Hand Sanitizer?

Believe it or not, there does.


I make it a point to never solely have blinders on when it comes to manufacturers and deciding on which paint to recommend to a Client for whatever situation they may need their paint for.

In other words, I am not married to any specific paint manufacturer.

Conversely, I tend to recommend what I believe to be the best product to help in each specific situation given what a particular Client is working to achieve.


That being said, not too long ago, Sherwin Williams came out with a product called ‘Paint Shield’.

Paint Shield is an amazing product as it exhibits two unprecedented features

(as referenced from the Sherwin Williams website):

  • First EPA-registered microbicidal paint that kills greater than 99.9% of Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E. coli (Escherichia coli), VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis), and Enterobacter aerogenes within 2 hours of exposure on a painted surface.
  • Continues to kill these disease-causing bacteria for up to 4 years when the integrity of the surface is maintained.

Basically, the Hand Sanitizer of paint products.

This product has come out fairly recently and is certainly pretty impressive.


Although originally meant for hospitals, healthcare facilities in general, nursing homes, public gyms, etc., given the recent hysteria relating to COVID-19, if more folks were to find out about it, my sense is that its usage could have a lot more of a potential market.

While its technology is obviously groundbreaking, it appears to have quite the ways to go to be fully positioned in the light as a household name.

As with anything, the more Sherwin Williams is able to promote the proven benefits that are associated with this product, the more folks will find out about it, and the more Paint Shield may become a viable resource for people who, possibly more so than others, might be a bit more concerned about the types of scenarios the product was developed for.

 

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What is the Difference Between a Carpenter Ant and a Termite??

 

While working on people’s homes and businesses, it is not unusual for us to encounter insect damage, either actively occurring or from some time in the past.

 

Most often this damage is done typically from Carpenter Ants or Termites.

 

 

It is not unusual for people to unintentionally use the terms ‘Carpenter Ant’ and ‘Termite’ interchangeably when describing or referring to the type of damage they have incurred.

While I totally appreciate this, especially in the heat of the moment when a massive amount of insect damage has surprisingly been uncovered on someone’s property, it is obviously incorrect as they really are two different types of insects that are definitely distinct from each other.

There are at least a few similarities in that both Carpenter Ants and Termites swarm while mating (swarming is the only time that both Carpenter Ants & Termites have wings), are attracted to moisture about your property, and cause damage to wood as we have mentioned.

There are absolute differences between the two however.

Carpenter Ants DO NOT eat wood, instead they make their homes in the wood by burrowing, creating tunnels, and the like; one may often recognize Carpenter Ant damage by the wood shavings they leave behind.


Termites on the other hand, actually eat the wood (they need the cellulose contained in the wood to survive), they certainly would not leave any shavings behind.

Carpenter Ants will wander about looking for food (their diet consists of sugars & proteins), you may very well see them gallivanting around your property as they are hunting for food.

Termites may not ever be spotted (unless you happen to encounter a swarm), you are more likely to see signs of termite damage than actual termites.


Finally, their body types are both very different.

  • Carpenter Ants have a narrow waist, segmented elbow antennae, and, when winged, have large forewings & small hind wings.

  • Termites have a broad waist, straight, bead-like antennae, and, when winged, have two sets of wings that are uniformed in size.


Whether you come across Carpenter Ants or Termites when working in or on the outside of the home, it is NEVER a fun situation.

Knowing a little bit about their similarities and differences though, could be quite helpful in navigating through the process of how to correct things.

 

 

🤷‍♂️ What is Efflorescence? 🤷‍♂️

 

Way back when I first started my career in the Home Improvement industry, I heard the term ‘efflorescence’ and it immediately intrigued me.

 

I don’t know if it is because I enjoy the way the word rolled off my tongue (say it – ‘efflorescence’ – pretty fun, no?.

 

I don’t know if it is because when I learned what it was, started pointing it out in meetings with Clients when I happened to notice it, and then felt pretty fancy knowing something of this particular nature.

Or perhaps there is no real rhyme or reason for it, I simply magnetically gravitated toward this specific issue.

If you have ever noticed a white, powdery substance on any masonry (brick, cinderblock, cement, etc.) on the inside or outside of your home or business, it could be on bare masonry or it could be on masonry that has been painted in the past, chances are that it is efflorescence.

So what EXACTLY is efflorescence??

Efflorescence is something that occurs when soluble salts and other water dispersible materials come to the surface of concrete and mortars.

Efflorescence is prompted by low temperatures & moist conditions (think condensation, rain, dew, and water).

Efflorescence is something that gradually builds up over a period of time.

I have seen it in the form of a light coating and I have seen it super chunky.

Efflorescence by itself is not a harmful situation, but it can be an indicator that there is some issue with moisture developing behind or within the areas it is stemming from.

How does one get rid of efflorescence?

Well, assuming that you are convinced that there is not an ongoing moisture challenge behind where the efflorescence is congregating, there are a number of methods that could be used.

Though if there is the possibility of a moisture problem causing the efflorescence, my recommendation is to remedy the moisture challenge prior to removing the efflorescence or you may be spinning your tires as the efflorescence may soon return.

Once you have determined the approach from a dealing with the moisture challenge standpoint, the efflorescence can be addressed by a variety of different means.

You can try washing it off with a mild detergent and a stiff scrub brush.

You can also attempt carefully powerwashing it off.

 

If it is deeply embedded within the masonry however, your only real option may be to glassblast (or some other type of media blast) it off, at which point you should probably have a professional come out to evaluate it.

If it is a painted surface or even if it is not, you may prefer to prep & paint the surface after the efflorescence has been removed.

Efflorescence.

For me, certainly a fun word to say, although the process of addressing the phenomena itself, obviously may not be as enjoyable!


 

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🤔Ever Wondered About the Plastering Process??🤔

 

If you live in New England, I don’t really have to tell you that our part of the country is very unique when compared to other areas of the United States.

 

This applies across many fronts – cultural, architectural, religious, environmental, culinary…

You name it!


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One facet that is different than other places around the country is our construction processes.

 Many of our construction processes are quite similar to what you may find elsewhere.

 Some aspects of it though certainly appear to be utilized more in our area and are not as customary in other regions.

 

 

 

One specific example of this is the plastering process.

 

Although other areas of the country absolutely use the plastering process, it is not nearly as dominant as it is in New England.

Most areas of the country use drywall, taping, and compound as a means to construct and maintain their wall systems.

 

In fact, in our area, this is the system that is most often used in commercial settings.

In residential settings however, the plastering process definitely reigns.

Why is this?

 

 

Most probably because if the plastering process is done correctly (properly mixed & applied), the finished product is a much more durable finish than regular drywall would allow you to have.

As an end product, plaster is more resistant to being damaged by being hit or knocked into than drywall.


So if plaster leaves a higher quality finish, why isn’t this taken advantage of more often throughout the country?


Great question and there is certainly some good discussion to be had as to the roots of each system (plastering vs. drywall) and their histories.

 

From a cost standpoint, what we would bill out to blueboard and plaster a room would be very similar to drywalling, taping, and compounding one.

 

 

I am just philosophically opposed to not using blueboard & plaster.

 

A number of years ago, we were called in to assist with a rare, new, residential home on Cuttyhunk Island in Massachusetts.

The Contractor working on building the home was from California and his Client insisted on drywalling, taping, and compounding thru every room in the beautiful structure.

 

I, literally, told him that I truly believed that blueboard & plaster was the correct route to go in their situation and I stuck to my guns.


 The project was one that we did not end up working on because of this insistence and although it would have been an awesome home to incorporate into the portfolio, I simply had no interest in doing something that I did not believe was the right solution given the circumstances.


Don’t get me wrong.

We use tons of joint compound in the process of fixing repairs that we believe warrant it.


For larger expanses however, I really do believe utilizing blueboard and plaster is the way to go.

 

Certainly if one is looking for a harder finish on their walls, NOTHING beats a true, well done plaster finish, regardless of what area of the country one may live in!

 

-Tom

 

 

 

 

🔧 FIX YOUR LEAKY PIPES!!! 🔧

 

Recently we had a Client reach out to us who experienced a huge flood in her home.

 

I felt very bad about her being in this particular predicament.

 

Apparently, her upstairs tenant had been experiencing a slow leak under the sink in her kitchen, but neglected to inform our Client of this.

 

 

 

The tenant had a small container underneath the sink which she allowed to gradually fill up, and then would empty it and put it back under the sink until it filled up again.

The tenant probably was only minorly inconvenienced by the slow drip and didn’t think too much about it.

 

 

 

 

Had she informed our Client, our Client could have addressed the issue.

 

Instead, what happened was the problem with the pipe gradually compounded to a larger challenge, even to the point of affecting piping beneath from where that specific pipe ran out of.

The next thing you know, our Client had a waterfall in her kitchen and rear entrance that were located directly beneath the tenant’s kitchen.

Subsequently, there was a tremendous amount of damage to the ceiling and wall areas where the water had come down and situated.

 

Next thing you know, our Client messaged us to see if we can help and we were over the next day tearing open ceiling and wall areas to allow the plumber to be able to go in and fix things.

Even if a situation like this is covered and put through your homeowner’s insurance, who wants to endure horribleness like this if they do not have to???

 

Answer to this dilemma?

Fix your leaky pipes!!

 

Even more importantly, however, would be to coach those around you to let you know if they ever have an issue with things needing to be fixed.

In this situation, it was a leaky pipe, but it obviously could always be something else – a light that does not activate when a light switch is turned on, a piece of rotted wood, etc.

Whether it is a tenant, a family member, or anybody else who may be in the position to let you know of a smaller issue, it is critical that they do so as smaller issues can easily develop into bigger issues over time.

 

Pipe situations are notorious for this.

Pipe leaks do not fix themselves.

 

Sometimes we get spoiled as there is evidence of something bad happening in the form of water staining, discoloration in your paint coatings, or something along those lines.

 

In our Client’s instance, she really would have had to rely on her tenant providing the heads up that she had noticed a pipe leaking.

 

Because this did not happen, a disastrous mess ensued.

 

 

That being said, it is impossible to fix something that you are not aware is broken and it is hypercritical to perhaps check with the other folks in your property once in a while, to make sure that all is ok.

Short of the tenant thinking that she should have reached out to our Client and let her know that she had a problem with her sink leaking, there was nothing our Client could have done to prevent this.

Unfortunately for our Client, not only is she forced to fix the pipes that were the original culprit, but she now has a very expensive mess on her hands that is certainly going to take some time to correct and put back together.

 

Why Are GFI Devices Used?

When renovating a Kitchen or Bathroom, there are a wide variety of things that should be paid attention to which are very different than every other room in the home.

One of the most notable of these items is obviously the plumbing aspect of things that is always associated with Kitchens & Baths.

Whether you are just changing out a sink or gutting the Kitchen or Bathroom entirely, plumbing is a component that is often connected to someone’s main desire to embark on one of these types of projects in the first place.

 

 

An important facet to pay attention to, that is directly related to these kinds of projects, even though it is an entirely different trade than plumbing, is the appropriate electrical applications being laid out that safely wire up your newly improved Kitchen or Bathroom.

 

 

 

One of the more important components of the electrical portion makeup of your Kitchen or Bathroom, is the proper utilization of GFI (or GFCI – Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets.

 

 

 

 

So, why are GFI outlets used?

 

GFIs protect us from being electrically shocked from faults in the electrical devices we use in our home.

GFIs work by comparing the input current on the “hot” side to the output current on the neutral side.

It is electrical code for a GFI outlet to take the place of a standard outlet at any location that may be exposed to moisture.

GFI outlets can be recognized by the addition of two buttons that control the GFI functionality – labeled “Test” and “Reset”.

The “Test” button is to, literally, test if the GFI is working. By clicking the “Test” button and plugging something into the outlet, if the device you plug in does not work, the GFI is functioning correctly.

 

 

To make the outlet active again, either after a test or after the GFI “pops” in a real application scenario, click the “Reset” button and you will be good to go.

 

The GFI will not allow itself to be reset if it were not safe to do so.

 

Although I see debate all the time as to people trying to rationalize which outlets in a Kitchen or Bathroom require a GFI and which “technically” do not, I refuse to participate in them.

 

Maybe it is my deep down fear of electricity.

 

Whatever the reasoning, I always say that if the electrical outlet has the slightest chance of being exposed to moisture, be sure a GFI is there – especially because of any relatively small, incremental cost in using a GFI than a traditional outlet.

 

I would much rather prefer to err on the side of caution.

 

GFI outlets are there to protect us, should be approached as such, and, in my opinion, if anyone is trying to talk you out of using one in a place where they should really be used, they should be ignored and the proper, safe action of installing the GFI should absolutely be done.

 

When Should You Replace Your Front Door??

 

Whether it is your front door, or any other exterior-facing entry door of your home, there is typically a “useful” life component attached to any type of question as to how long one of these should last, before needing to be replaced.

There are a variety of factors that play into when it makes the most sense to look at replacing an entry door.

One area of focus could be whether it seems like you are losing energy through the door.

 

Whether it is heat in the Winter time or cool air in the Summer time, most folks would prefer the energy to stay within their household and not release it into the neighborhood if at all possible.

Do you notice any major warpedness or disconfiguration with the door?

Although it is not necessarily unusual for doors to change their original form over a period of time, there certainly is such a thing as “too much” of a shape change.


Rotted beyond repair door rot is also one of the easiest ways to recognize that your door needs to be replaced.

I am not referring to the trim around the door, as usually the trim can fairly easily be changed out if ever necessary.

I am instead referring to either the door itself, or, what most commonly happens, the exterior-facing portion of the door jamb (which is the side of the door frame that the door runs into perpendicularly).

The rotted door jamb conversation often gets me into, what I consider, a losing-battle discussion with highly capable Master Carpenters, who plead with me that the rot in the jamb can be surgically removed and a new piece of wood installed in place of the rot.

 

 

Technically, they are correct.

My mentality however is that when the jamb starts to go, the door is “toast”.

 

 


With the door products that are available on the market today, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), it is more cost-efficient to pay for a new door and change it out than it would be to buy some time by repairing the old jamb which, in my mind, is only temporarily delaying the inevitable.

 

The exception to this would be a really “solid”, older door where you simply would not be able to replace it with what is on the market today.

The age old saying, “They don’t make them like they used to” is highly applicable in having a dialogue about door replacement.

As an example, a solid wood door made 50 years ago, will be light years ahead in terms of durability in comparison to anything that most consider reasonably priced on today’s market.

The reasons for this are a combination of the raw door-making materials not being as readily available in the modern world, along with the fact that it is nearly impossible for manufacturers to produce these doors in a manner that would allow them to sufficiently sell them to consumers, at a volume which would make it worth it for them to do so.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of when it is best to change an exterior entry door out, there are absolutely various signs that one can rely on which help determine when it might be time to do so, subsequent to any LARGER issues developing that extend outside of the door in question itself.

Natural Wood Cabinetry Refinishing & Restoration

 

As cabinetry ages, whether it is in the Kitchen, Bathroom, or another room, it typically begins to show the signs of wear and tear.

This is especially true if it is cabinetry that gets a good amount of use.

Assuming this occurs and the owner of the cabinetry grows a bit concerned of this happening, a tough decision is often involved at this time.



Should the cabinets be replaced?

Should the cabinets be repainted?

Should the cabinets be refaced?

 

Or, along the lines of what I personally have found to be the most gratifying solution, should the cabinets be refinished?

Certainly, any of these options could be a great choice.


Replacing the cabinets provides the “sky’s the limit” type of option as you could really take this anywhere you wanted with regard to what the cabinets are replaced with.

Repainting the cabinets, if done correctly, could change the entire look of the room they are located in and provides its own “WOW!!”-factor.

Refacing the cabinets is a nice option, though probably my least favorite (although they absolutely may come out awesome, I am just not particularly a fan…).

This brings us to refinishing.


From a cost perspective, assuming we are, minimally, having a conversation about “good” cabinetry, it is most in-line with the painting systems we would utilize when painting cabinetry, possibly a little bit more.

Restoring natural wood cabinetry typically would cost a lot less than replacing them, but is usually a bit more than refacing them.


Why do I like the refinishing option so much?
 
That is actually a really tough question to answer.

Maybe it is solely the purist in me.



I love when our craftspeople can take something that is seemingly worn out and with a bit of time, energy, and effort, literally resurrect things to brand spanking new fashion.

Even cabinetry that only has bits and pieces of its set a bit tired looking, can, with the correct individual performing the restoration work, be brought back to look right in-line with the existing finish of the rest of its set.


Restoring cabinetry is A LOT Of work.


From the stripping, sanding, and overall prep, to the staining and polyurethane finishes, cabinetry restoration is not for the faint of heart.

Cabinetry restoration is also, unfortunately, a dying art form where there are a limited number of people who truly are 100% in tune with what is involved with actual cabinetry restoration and are able to professionally execute it from start to finish.

With all the above being said, if you are someone that would very much prefer to have your cabinetry restored versus one of the other options available, if the right person is performing the restoration work, the results can be remarkably stunning and leave the owner of the cabinetry with a feeling of satisfaction and pride, that would tend to simply not be there with replacing, repainting, or refacing the cabinetry.