Thursday, December 15, 2016

Now it's cold- BUT, what does your home think?

Now it's cold!- What is your home thinking? 

Quick, no cost ways to winterize your home. 

By: EFynch.com

Well hello! Just like a thrown cup of cold water in the shower, the cold wind jolted me awake this morning while walking my dog at 5:30am.

Winter has descended on Maryland with a fury and it seems like just last week you could stroll around Baltimore with a light jacket.

If you haven't done so yet- you really need to make sure your home is winterized ASAP.

We surveyed Pros and Seasoned Homeowners for this one. Below are the most common tips to do immediately which all are NO COST:

Homeowner To Do List:


1. Winterize outdoor Faucets. (30 second video here)
2. Inspect roof and gutters (look for water pooling, leaks, damage) from both the outside and from inside your attic. *even if you had them cleaned, try to give it a quick look.
3. Winterize outdoor equipment: (power equipment and HVAC)*
4. Test and/ or get repairs to snowblowers now (not in January).*
5. Check smoke and C02 alarms and batteries.*
6. Put insulation inside or over-top of attic stairs/ access points.
7. If you have a sink or faucet with pipes on an exterior walls- open the cabinet doors underneath to allow warm air circulation. Consider keeping the faucet on a light drip. Check regularly to make sure water is running and not frozen.
8. Check to make sure all windows are closed and LOCKED- securely and tightly closed.
9. Even with a gas fireplace- make sure the fireplace flu is open and test surrounding CO2 alarms.
10. Check forced air vents to make sure they are all open. Unlike summer heat- you do not really want unused rooms getting too cold as this can cause frozen pipes even in neighboring rooms (see #5 below).

*EXPANDED tips:

1. When winterizing outdoor HVAC equipment (not for Heat Pumps)- DO NOT cover the sides as this can trap moisture and cause rust. Just cover the top and securely fasten.

2. When winterizing power equipment, add a fuel saver to the gas tank. Close the gas valve on the bottom of the tank (small engines only), then run the engine until it cuts out (emptying the gas line from fuel). Check oil, grease, spray blades with a rust prevented (i.e. WD-40). RUN EQUIPMENT OUTDOORS TO PREVENT HARMFUL GAS FROM ACCUMULATING INSIDE YOUR HOME/ GARAGE.

3. A Smoke and CO2 alarm should at least be on every floor. Check Batteries. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE AN ALARM you can purchase a battery operated one from all Hardware Stores and even some local Pharmacies. You can also contact and get a free alarm from most local governments (call 611 in Baltimore City).

4. If a frozen pipe has been found cut the water to that pipe immediately- do you best to locate the area that is frozen. Open the faucet to release pressure and determine whether or not the pipe has ruptured, only then consider thawing. IF UNSURE, CONTACT A PLUMBER IMMEDIATELY. Paying for a service call is much cheaper than repairing water damage.

5. Although your rooms are separated by doors and walls, the inside of your walls (especially interior walls) are sometimes poorly or not insulated and cold air can transfer from one room to another. Most interior walls are nothing more than Gypsum Board (Sheetrock) and wooden 2 x 4's. Cold air can freely move around transferring heat (or lack of heat) from one room to another. In the case of the spare room which you closed off during the summer, make sure those vents are open, allowing heat to still circulate into that room. You can still keep the doors closed and allow the temperature to drop in that room, but even having minimal heat can save energy and protect other rooms and plumbing.

Just for FUN- in 2008 EFynch.com Co-Founder climbed Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. This mountain is notorious for holding the highest recorded ground wind speed for many years (231mph). When EFynch Co-Founder, Teris Pantazes, took this video- it was -20 with an 80 mph wind. Doesn't feel too far off from today! Click Here for the video.




EFynch.com is a Maryland Based Software Company that also supports the Homeowner Community. More information can be found at FYNCHNEST.

Based in Baltimore City, EFynch provides the information above or conversation purposes only and this posting (and all postings on this blog) are designed for entertainment and conversation purposes only. The information contained is not the opinion of EFynch but instead is written as the personal opinion of it's author. If you are unsure of the topics described above or have on prior knowledge of the information, it is highly recommended you contact your local handyman, plumber, electrician, landscaper, roofer, or a qualified home professional. Some of these tasks involve risk and should not be undertaken by a non-proffesional or licensed person. If you decide to act on the information contained here, you agree to hold EFynch.com and the author harmless.

Group deals which may be discussed on this page can be found at Maryland FYNCHNEST for Homeowners. Group Deals.
  














Friday, December 9, 2016

Halftime Home Improvement Challenge:
By: EFynch

When I was younger I remember how Sundays revolved around football. Before any plan, project, trip, or visit was agreed too, the inevitable "what time is the game?" was always considered.

But during Football Sunday, there was always another fun time. . . Halftime.

Each Sunday, as halftime began, even before the players left the field, my Father and I were down in the garage. He already had a game plan in hand and there was always a task or challenge on our list to be that week's "Halftime Project".

These times are something that I remember to this day because we literally took a break from watching a team play on TV, to being a part of our own team. We had a challenge and more often then not, they were so much fun that our 15 minute project would stray to 20 minutes or longer. It was that worth it!


So without further ado, here is your guide to the Halftime Home Improvement Challenge.

1. Quick Painting Project.
What is does: Trim and paint outdoor furniture to protect and preserve.
Why Halftime: Because this requires multiple coats. The first one takes the longest but still under 15 minutes. You can do 2nd or 3rd coats later on.
Prep: Have paint, tape and furniture set together and ready.
 

2. Install a new faucet.
What is does: quick update to the kitchen or bathroom, often under $100.
Why Halftime: A wrench is often all your need. As long as water is turned off- you can't really make an irreversible mistake. Don't over-tighten and when you turn the water back on- go slow.
Prep: Buy a new faucet, have tools ready.




3. Winterize outdoor faucets or equipment.
What is does: Protects and prevents damage.
Why Halftime: Cutting the water to an outdoor faucet can take slightly more time than it takes to walk around your house. When winterizing outdoor power equipment (or testing your snow blower), most of the time spent is allowing the machine's engine to use gas in supply lines or to properly warm up.
Prep: none.
                                                               Video Link Here


4.  Clean you bathroom Vent Fans.
What is does: Quiets engine and helps things run smoother.
Why Halftime: Cutting the water to an outdoor faucet can take slightly more time than it takes to walk around your house. When winterizing outdoor power equipment (or testing your snow blower), most of the time spent is allowing the machine's engine to use gas in supply lines or to properly warm up.
Prep: none.
                                                              Video Link Here

5.  Update/ Change your cabinet knobs.
What is does: Easy way to update cabinets.
Why Halftime: This is an easy job which you can start and stop incrementally (after each cabinet). You can even challenge yourself to use commercial breaks!
Prep: Measure Cabinet door depth, purchase knobs, have a (small) wrench.








I hope that you can find value in the advice above. Although my dad and I now disagree on the better team (He is a Washington Redskins Fan, I am a Baltimore Ravens)- the thrill of 15 (or sometimes 20) minutes together where we worked as a team is something I will always keep with me. The key to picking the right project is to select something that is relatively easy, and can include little helpers if you have them. Also consider something that can begin but paused if an issue arises (this way you can go back to the game).

Good luck!


PS- Other ideas: Bicycle repair or greasing, change HVAC air filters, check smoke alarm batteries, test flashlights, check auto tire pressure, or test outdoor hammock! These are all home improvement projects we normally overlook but can accomplish in a quick time.


Visit our Community page for more information. Info focused on Maryland Home Improvement and Home Ownership Topics and advice.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Posting the right Home Improvement bid request on EFynch.

Communicating with a contractor and requesting a bid estimate can be simple. In order to get an accurate and best response, you just need the right mindset. 

Below is an illustration we put together describing what is needed for your bid requests.
Remember; Imagine you are going to do the work yourself. Include pictures and a description that walk a home pro through the project. Make sure to explaine the history and what is needed to identify the problem.

Give measurements and be sure to describe the location of the repairs (including access to the work area). 

If you have any of the materials or equipment already- take pictures of those as well!

We are here to serve Maryland.


  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Maryland Homeowner Edition: Getting the best Bid/ Estimate for your Home Projects


HOW TO: Posting a new project on EFynch.com and get the best bids for your home.

Thank you for choosing to post your new project on our community site for Maryland Homeowners. It really means a lot that you are working with us because we take Home Improvement very seriously. Your home is more than you investment, it is your castle and we want to help you treat it that way!

Here are a few things to remember in order to get the best, and most accurate listing.

1. Pictures-  The more pictures you post the better. Take them from different angles and in bright light. Try to get pictures up close and far away- the Pro will also want to see the work area and access to give an accurate bid.

2. Descriptions- Don’t be shy if you don’t know accurate terminology- use the pictures and your words to best describe what you see.. Be sure to write anything and everything you can see, feel, touch, smell, and history of the problem. Also include details about your house overall (single family, condo, 2 story, etc.) and describe the area for work to be performed (upstairs bathroom in back of house, narrow hallways).

3. Be prepared to answer questions- There is a difference between sales and questions. Remember in school when you were told “no questions is too dumb”? That is the case here- answer and ask every possible question you can think of. Do it through our chat system so there is a RECORD of the answers.

4. Review ALL Estimates- Remember, each bit of information is important and before choosing a specific Pro, ask what factors may increase or decrease the cost. ASK WHAT THEIR HOURLY RATE or MATERIAL MARKUP WILL BE IF THERE ARE CHANGES.

5. DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION-
when looking at bids be prepared for a few contractors to claim they want to do a quick “driveby". This can be done once you short-list or choose a specific contractor. We have far too many experiences with high pressure, home improvement salesman and EFynch wants to rid the world of this tactic.

6. Finally- Please post, hire, and communicate with the contractor strictly on the EFynch . Some guys may try to circumnavigate EFynch. This is for no reason but a way for them to escape oversight. EFynch is by far cheaper than any other online platform.
If a contractor throws out the old “pay me in cash” routine- RUN! In many cases cash for home improvement is ILLEGAL and any contractor willing to do this has a disregard for MHIC law, imagine what they think of the work inside and behind your walls.

Remember, once you post a project keep watch on the listing. This is your new domain and even if there are non-EFynch contractors you’d like a bid from- ask them to run it through our system (it’s free for them to bid as well). EFynch software is designed to help you compare apples to apples so it is important (and Free) to utilize this!

Enjoy and DOWNLOAD OUR APP!

*check "first post" for disclaimers.


Friday, October 14, 2016

How gutters keep your lungs happy? (especially in Maryland)

“*If water can move mountains, imagine what it can do to your house!”


Synopsis:

- Gutters are more important than you may know.
- Neglected gutters can cause mold and other expensive repairs.
- Gutter damage can go unnoticed and should be inspected twice
        a year (minimum).
- Gutters required your attention and most probably neglect.


Over the summer one of EFynch’s first projects was helping a member install gutter guards  (we made a video about it here!). As a former solar installer I have a familiarity with gutters but never really knew the full function they provide, and why it is so incredibly important to maintain them.

Because gutters are typically ignored until they leak, we often forget to maintain and have them inspected regularly. This is VERY important and can literally save the structural integrity of your home while protecting your health.

First, you should know what your gutters do. Gutters do more than catch leaves and keep you hair dry. They serve the important function of collecting water and keeping it away from your house. Water curling under your roof overhang or running down the side of your home can enter behind or through gaps in facade and literally cause “mystery-like” leaks that seep from the middle of your walls. It can do the same around your foundation which although made from concrete, can deteriorate over time by fighting the constant water battle*. If unnoticed or untreated for a long period, mold may grow. Locating the the exact leak can be extremely costly because the water may have traveled a great distance from entry point to the are where you finally notice it (leaving a trail of spores along the way). This is the type of costly job that even contractors hate doing!

So net’s talk about your gutters and determining what you should be looking for in maintaining them.

There two common types of gutter installation methods. Depending on various factors on your roof and price-point, different mounting methods were utilized.

Know your mounting method:


 1.   Spike and Ferrule (nail). Look at your gutters, this is an older method for hanging gutters typical until the last 15 years or so. If you see a nail going through the outside, this system is what you have. These mounts were less expensive to install and typically use a 7” nail to attached the gutters to the fascia (flat board under the shingles). However they do have some drawbacks.

Weight in the gutters can slowly separate the gutter from the fascia, so can ladders resting on the gutter. If a gap forms water may “curl” under your drip edge of shingles and can enter the interior of your “curtain wall” or “cladding” (part of your house on the outside like siding or brick). THESE TYPES OF GUTTERS SHOULD BE INSPECTED ANNUALLY WHILE HAVING THEM CLEANED 2 OR 3 TIMES PER YEAR (early spring, mid/ late summer and late fall here in Maryland or around Baltimore and Washington D.C.).

2. Hidden Hanger (bracket hidden in gutter). If you do not see nails from the ground, it is safe to assume you have a Hidden Hanger (unless you live in a custom built house, which can have other types). This gutter type is attached to your fascia board with a screw and it less likely to pull from your home but harder to inspect (requires actually going on the roof or to roof level). Slightly harder to install and more expensive, this is a modern way to attach gutters because it is simply stiffer and holds weight better.  Gaps should still be repaired as soon as they are noticed but inspection can occur less often- maybe 1 per year. A cleaning should occur at least twice per year, late spring and fall.

*********

There are other things to know about your gutter and at this point, pictures are worth a thousand words. As a homeowner your sole job is to make sure that gutters stay clean, are straight, and show no signs of gaps from the house. The minute they do- have a Handyman, roofer, or gutter guy come out and check.

A good gutter cleaning includes removing leaves and debris from the gutters AND roof. It should also include the use of water or air to make sure downspouts are clear from debris.

Beyond cleaning and inspections you can consider gutter guards, we will have another entry on this later. They have pros and cons that you need to know before jumping on the list from some guy at the mall.

In closing, I hope we have proven to you that gutters should be monitored. The first home I bought had gutters 25' off the ground and I never looked at them once. This can be a mistake of gigantic proportion. I was lucky and didn't have any problems, but now we both know better.




Other good facts:
- It is recommended that you have a downspout every 30 to 40 feet if possible.


- Gutter screens on the downspouts are okay however they do cause problems when wet leaves are stuck in the gutter- this can rip Spike and Ferrule (nailed)  gutters off the facia board. Screens really make sense when no leaves are present but you want to protect downspouts from rodents or debris.


- 6” gutters can carry more water than the standard 5” however, because of the colder climate here in Maryland, 5”  typically recommended. This is more of a problem in the winter when (and hopefully your gutters and clean and do not have this problem!), water can sit in your gutters and freeze. 


- Water should NEVER sit in your gutters. If you see puddling please have your gutters inspected as soon as possible.


- Snow can also put weight on gutters visually inspect your gutters during snow events and after a full melt.


- Orange gutters are pretty awesome and if you install we have several EFynch decals that you can use for additional decorations!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Remove the Goblins in your basement!

The Basement: The Most Overlooked and Underutilized Room in Your House: A good October Narrative about Baltimore basements!

(by: EFynch)


“Did you hear that? It sounded like something fell.”

“Maybe,” I replied. “I stacked some boxes in the basement earlier. Something probably fell over.”

Our attention immediately went back to the TV. We discounted the sounds as part of the normal weirdness that has become an acceptable occurrence in our basement.

But isn't that the weird thing we actually do?

For years, basements have been viewed as the damnation for HVAC units, sump pumps, exercise equipment, and even the occasional goblin. At the very best, we put up sheetrock and install commercial carpeting to call it “finished”: a place where kids can run free and avoid “messing up the house.”

It is unfortunate, because truthfully the basement can be a great way to expand our homes beyond their normal living spaces. The work we could accomplish are things that would add uniqueness to our homes, and even add tremendous value and character.

In the basement, just like the rest of our homes, we need to teach ourselves and work to be creative. There are options and with the right help, we can reclaim our basements and make them something unique and reflect our lifestyles with character. In fact, those who dare, often feel that their basements can be the most creative space in their homes, because there are no standards for décor. They can simply make it what they want and have fun!

There are some challenges with basement renovations, but in the end – with proper planning and help it can become your favorite room.



Here are our thoughts:

Challenges:
As a former contractor, I can tell you that basements pose unique hurdles when finishing.

- The ground is usually concrete, so running plumbing (mainly drain pipes) is costly and time consuming.

- The basement usually houses all the home utility systems, as well. You don’t want to install a dream home theater right next to a noisy air handler.

- The air environment is sometimes less than pleasant. Most basements do not have opening windows which add to poor air circulation.

- They tend to be underground and water seeping can also be an issue and must be addressed if present.

The Approach:

Think things through. Adding air vents in the basement and dehumidifiers can be a relatively easy fix. Hiring a waterproofing company is vital if there is any evidence water being present. Once you cover a concrete floor with carpet and sheetrock on the walls odd smells will disappear if the water issues are resolved before the finishing work.

So Try This:

Post a picture online of what you’d like. Also, post a picture of the current space, and ask how to accomplish the transformation. All that I have referenced above and shown in pictures was completed via the following:

1.    Fireplace: A gas fireplace can be installed anywhere. You need a propane/gas line, then ventilation outside. The vent can be installed almost anywhere, but if near ground level check with local codes and install a protective cover to keep safe.

2.    Basement Sink (WET BAR!): A basement toilet can be hard to install sometimes because it is designed to drain out the bottom (floor). Lucky for sinks, the drain is usually a few feet off the ground and most homes have a main sewage line out through the basement. When setting up your floorplan, arrange for the sink to be installed near a sewer line and hire a licensed plumber or contractor to perform a drain tap. A licensed pro can easily tap into this line and the job typically takes a few short hours.

3.     Proper Décor: Pictures, pictures, pictures! When designing their kitchen or living room, most homeowners spend countless hours analyzing the situation. The basement, on the other hand, always ends up with your old college posters and/or blank, white walls.  Stop- you are an adult now! Get framed prints. Feel free to expand your creativity in this area and take some risks – want movie posters? Go vintage and get quality frames. Treat this room with more creativity than the rest of your home, but always remember to keep some standards. This will make a difference.

4.     Lack of windows: Install a dehumidifier. Take advantage of the large, windowless walls and install bookshelves or get a bigger TV (think projector).

5.     Take architecture risks: Open the staircase and finish with grandiose. Think industrial: visit a vintage building material shop and use their old recycled materials to build a bar, doors, or bookshelves. Get outside of your normal boundaries and be creative with purpose. Too many people have a literal hole in the wall leading to a dark staircase that nobody likes.

6.     Lighting: Take this VERY seriously. Make sure the entire area can be thoroughly lit when needed. Yes, a dark, cool basement is great for watching movies, but you want to make sure it is dark and cool, not scary and cold!


Conclusion:
The basement could actually be your favorite room in the house! It can be built out to directly reflect your lifestyle.  I was once in a townhouse basement which was owned by avid skiers. When you walked into what was once the infamous “ghost storage room” you were now treated to a plush living space with modern, wood-paneled walls and ski memorabilia. A fireplace was installed with direct outside ventilation. Next to the fireplace was a flat screen TV affixed to the wall and framed with trim, adding a luxurious feeling. A wet bar was installed complete with a mini fridge and a working sink.

They didn’t create a “man-cave”; they built a lodge! They could do this because they took time and got the right help. I always recommend gathering pictures of what you like, and then speaking with a contractor about how you could create a similar environment in your own space.

By the way- follow us online
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Below are some photos courtesy of Houzz.com




First Post


Maryland Home Improvement welcomes Baltimore Based EFYNCH



So if you are reading this you are probably well aware of EFynch.

You may also be a new member?!? (if not register here)
If you aren't, then welcome!

EFynch is a Maryland based (Baltimore) home improvement website and app (software company) that connects homeowners and contractors together, in a semi private community forum.

Here you can post pictures and descriptions of work that is needed around your home then contractors bid to complete it. The great feature is that your information release is limited to a job description, screen name and the town for which you are located. We're doing away with sales calls.  Contractors do not have to pay a 3rd party to bid on your project like with some other home improvement websites (which they have to pass the cost onto you).

EFynch is all about creating efficiencies and empowering you, the homeowner.

So, if you need a Handyman, Plumber, Electrician, Landscaper, Lawn Mowing, Gutter Cleaning, Snow Removal, Laborer, Hauling, Mover, Furniture Assembly, bascially anything to do with your Maryland Home- we are here to help.

EFynch.com is free and we promise to not sell your information and keep it private.

It's home improvement how you would want it to be- without the profiteers lurking around each corner.

Here is a YouTube cartoon explaining how we work!

Above is a screen capture of one feature we offer. Here a homeowner wanted his garage cleaned out. If you called one person you may get the price of $250. By using www.efynch.com, the homeowner found someone as low as $90! That's how we work!


FULL BLOG DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ
The information provided in this blog is for conversation purposes only. Although advice is discussed, EFynch is not a licensed contractor and we recommend you speak with a professional before partaking in any of the discussed topics. EFynch is a software company and only provides a way to communicate with contractors and organize information. From time to time we may interview or include advice from professionals. This information is that person's own opinion and does not reflect the opinions of EFynch necessarily. If EFynch does provide any advice it should be verified and interpreted. DO NOT take direct actions on what you may read in this blog. Some of the topics involve actions which can be dangerous such as climbing a ladder, working around electricity, or operating machinery among other topics. These items, among others, can be dangerous and should have the consultation of a professional and discuss your specific situation BEFORE proceeding to verify any and all items discussed.