Here's a problem that comes up around this time of year.
Make sure you take your garden hose off of the hose bib... even if you have a "frost free" spigot. The freezing temperatures can still cause them to leak.
Frost-free valves have a built-in siphon which draws the water back up the pipe a few feet into the relative warmth of your home. It seems that if there's a full hose attached, the siphon doesn't make a difference because it's just sucking up more water.
And these spigots are tricky to replace. Depending on the kind of pipe you have, you may even need a plumber.
If you haven't done this yet, it may be too late here in Asheville. If you think your spigot was damaged by the cold, look for a cutoff valve so that you can turn the water off behind the spigot.
Here's where I usually tell you to call me to get this fixed. But you're gonna need a plumber for this one. Fortunately, my wife keeps a "little black book" of good local service providers, including a great plumber. So call us anyway.
Winter is here, along with lots of snow and ice, so I thought I'd take a moment to remind you that "sidewalk salt" can do major damage to your sidewalk.
Those pits and cracks are expensive to fix! The instructions on the bag are informative: as usual, the large print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.
As the small print says, you should only use this stuff on concrete that's sealed and well-cured. Also be sure to remove the slush right away, and clear concrete stairs by hand instead of using salt.
Speaking of slush, that stuff is terrible for pets. Consider walking your dog away from roads and sidewalks, and maybe even get him a pair of boots.
Or you could skip the de-icer altogether and use sand or kitty litter to add traction instead.
While you're doing your winter maintenance, don't forget to get your woodstove or fireplace ready for the chilly season.
And once you're cozy and warm indoors, why not get started on all of those indoor projects you've been putting off all summer? We'll be glad to help.
Ah, the delights of winter. Warm sweaters, hot soup and a cozy fireplace or woodstove.
With the onset of cold weather, lots of people are lighting the first fire of the season. I've heated my homes with wood for over a decade now, so I thought I'd share a few tips I've picked up over the years for safe, comfortable home fires.
Is It Installed Correctly and in Good Condition?
Regular Cleaning Prevents Chimney Fires
The Right Wood Burns Better
If you only burn your stove occasionally, you can pick up a tiny bundle of firewood at the grocery store. It's expensive, but it's an easy luxury.
However, if you're going to burn regularly, get a stash of well-dried hardwood such as oak or locust. You can also mix a few softwood logs in there, like pine. The soft woods are nice when you're starting a fire because they burn easily and heat the room up quickly.
However, the hard woods are better for long-term, regular use because they create less creosote. Hardwoods also burn longer, so you don't have to keep adding logs all the time.
In a perfect world, you'll get your firewood a few months before winter sets in, so the wood has time to dry and is easy to light. For the best results, cover it from rain and snow.
Prevent Hot Rolling Logs of Flaming Death
Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but when you're burning a fire, it helps to keep in mind that hot logs or sparks can come out of the front of the stove.
Pay attention to what's in front of your stove. If you have hardwood floors, get a fire resistant hearth rug to protect the floor. An ordinary rug like this one should be moved away from the stove before you light the fire.
If you like to leave the stove door open, you may also want to get a fire screen to keep sparks from popping out.
Get the Right Accessories
Now that you've got your woodstove in order, what other winter projects would you like to get done? I'll be glad to help with your "to do" list.
It's not even November yet, and I've already gotten a couple of calls from clients who are ready to winterize their homes. And according to the almanac, it's going to be a looooonngg cooooolldd winter. (Brrrrr.)
With that in mind, I thought I'd show off a few options for preventing drafts and saying warm during our Asheville mountain winters.
Especially in historic homes with old-fashioned fittings, it's quite possible that your front door is letting in a draft. Storm doors can stop drafts, and they also let in light on sunny winter days. I can measure the door for you, pick it up at the hardware store, and install it. You don't even have to lift a finger.
The newer doors are also very subtle and attractive.
Interior "Storm Windows"
This is another great way to stop drafts without having to replace all of your windows. Bonus: I've recently learned that they're the preferred choice in historic districts such as Montford, because they won't change the exterior look of your home.
These aren't the heavy, expensive Plexiglass windows that are so hard to put in and take out. The latest product is a super-heavy-duty plastic film stretched on a frame that friction fits into your window opening. And as the title implies, they're "installed" from the interior, so you can take them out if you want to open the window.
They're also very subtle in appearance, and they come in white or bronze. Here's an example of a white one:
You can barely tell the difference.
Here's what they look like up close:
I really like these as an alternative to the old Plexiglass windows. They're cheaper, they're easier to install, and they work.
Another common winter problem is drafts around otherwise solid doors. In those cases I recommend weatherstripping.
Now, you may harbor a few grudges against weatherstripping. It's true that the cheap stick-on stuff is awful. It's made of a low-quality foam that quickly degrades and leaves an ugly mess.
However, I can install a heavy-duty silicon rubber weatherstripping that lasts a lot longer and really stops the drafts. I can also install a permanent metal-and-rubber door sweep along the bottom of the door to prevent breezes from blowing in under it.
If you live in Asheville, Weaverville or Mars Hill, and you want to keep Old Man Winter at bay, give me a call, I'll be glad to help you stop those chilly drafts.
I know... I know.... that's a grandiose title. I'm just trying to be fun here. But as a matter of fact, that's what it feels like to be handyman.
Some of my coolest jobs seem boring from the outside, because there's not a big difference between the "before" and "after." But I really enjoy doing them. It's a small but tangible way of making the world a slightly better place to live.
Case in point: these handrails. Before, they were "okay." They could help you balance yourself as you walked up the stairs, but they weren't very sturdy.
But take a look at the "after." Now that's a handrail you can trust!
When I look at these pictures, I imagine an apartment dweller going up the steps on a rainy day. I like to think that they notice and appreciate the firm grip these railings offer. It might not look exciting, but it's a good day's work, and that's why I love my job.