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Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter..the best time to evaluate your roof.

Roofing: Just saying the word usually brings dollar signs up in your head! But lets start from the beginning. First of all you need a good roof inspection. As a home owner it is wise to get at least one roof inspection per year in a Florida climate. However, in colder climates, many roofers recommend two roof inspections each year. An inspection in the fall helps ensure that minor problems don't become major problems under the pressure of rain, ice and snow, while a spring inspection helps evaluate any damage done during the winter that may prove costly following heavy spring rains. As a realtor or a seller, it is usually a good idea prior to the sale of the house.

Who should inspect your roof?
Choose a licensed professional with a state roofing certification. Roof certifications are separate from home inspection certifications. Home inspectors for the most part, do not perform thorough roof inspections. Instead, roofing inspectors climb up to the roof and issue reports on:
  • Possible movement
  • Condition of roofing materials
  • Ridges, caps and drip edges
  • Soundness of drains, downspouts, and gutters
  • Flashing around roof pipes, chimneys, vents, valleys and mounting of HVAC units

How long is a roof inspection?
It varies depending on the size, materials and complexity of the roof. A general roof inspection will take from 45 minutes to several hours depending on number of roof penetrations, condition of roof and complexity of roof. After the roof inspection a report should be generated by the roofing inspector.
A roofing inspector will climb up to the roof and locate the various dormers, chimneys, gutters, and any flashing points to see if they require remedial work. He will examine the condition of the roofing surface material. He will also inspect inside the house looking carefully at the eaves, interior chimney surfaces, fasteners, roof braces, and support material.

What is the cost of a roof inspection?
The cost of a roof inspection from a certified roofer will range from $150 ~ $500 depending on the size and type of roof. This is well worth the cost as a good inspection should give you enough information to make some choices about your roof.

What are my choices?
Depending on the inspection report, unless the roof is in very poor condition, there are more cost saving choices you can make other than total roof replacement. The most cost effective is just repairing the areas that are not conforming. This could be replacing flashing or roofing material in certain locations. Of course replacing the roof is another choice when all other options are not available. Even with a new roof option depending if it is residential or commercial, there are many types and cost ranges. You should explore all your roofing material options as they can vary greatly in cost depending on type and warranty.

With commercial roofs there is a a new accepted (although its been around awhile) alternative to new roof replacement. It is called a 'Cool Roof' and is a 'green' roof coating system that provides a cost effective alternative to total roof replacement on commercial roofs. The roof coatings are usually an elastomeric acrylic coating that is seamless and lightweight and goes over the existing roofing with a minimum 10 year renewable warranty. It is usually about 1/2 the cost of a new commercial roof. One of the best I have found is the 'Conklin' roof coating system. Click on the following video for a look at a commercial application:

This cool roof also qualifies for federal tax incentives as well as most utility companies offer rebates when installing these roofs. So there are several benefits besides cost savings when choosing a 'Cool Roof' system.

So, there are many decisions to make when dealing with your roof or a clients roof. The best time to make roof choices for Florida is in the winter months! You have less rain to deal with and prices are most competative. Make sure you explore all your roofing options!   

Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Steps to Sell an 'Ugly House'.

I am sure you have seen the handmade signs on the side of the road:
'2 bed- 2 bath cheap house, $90K call 955-UGLY.'

For the purposes of this article, let's define an 'ugly house.'  For most of us these days it is probably a house that needs some kind of aesthetic work done if you want to sell it profitably or at all. The work required could be at many different levels from architectural elements, functionality, space planning, interior finishes, custom millwork, appliance selections, landscaping, cleanliness, clutter, etc. They can all play a part of 'ugly.'

With all the design, remodel and real estate shows on TV everyone has become more educated about renovating their homes, buying homes or flipping homes.....or have they? On TV they make it look so easy!  

On the show 'Flipping Out' (my favorite) you can see some of the trials and tribulations that designer Jeff Lewis goes through trying to get things done. 

And he does this for a living in front of an audience!   By the way, what are his design credentials anyway? ...sorry, off track. It's easy to get some ideas off these shows but it is a whole other story to try and execute it in your particular home. Every home is different and has different parameters than the show you see on TV - scale, natural lighting, utility locations and code requirements to name a few.
So you want to buy or you have a client with an 'ugly house' ...what should you really do to make a profitable sale? Here are 5 steps I recommend to be successful.
1. I would suggest you get a professional designer to give you a free consultation on some ideas that will help the house out of 'ugly.' This can be as easy as changing wall colors to adding some new walls to better define a space or removing some walls to open a space. It's called a 'Designer's Eye' for a reason....we can see things how they will be, instead of how they are. Simply put, get a professional.
2. Set a budget and implement the designer's renovation suggestions within that budget. Be sure to at least repair anything that is broken or not functioning. Get written estimates for all the repairs and renovations and then make decisions with your designer and realtor on those that will most affect your success in selling the home. Make your home stand out from the rest in that price range.

3. Remove as much clutter out of the house as you can. You want prospects to see as much of the walls, floors and ceilings as possible. The scale of furniture and accessories is important in helping the spaces look larger and having a prospect envision them living there. Your designer can really help you here.

4. Get the house cleaned. I mean super clean! Clean the windows, walls, rugs, floors, mirrors and anywhere else where dirt reigns supreme. The smelly carpets should be out by now and that fresh coat of paint will give the home a new feeling when your clients walk in!
5. After you've made designer improvements, offer a good deal.  Buyers are very knowledgeable these days of home prices in their area.  Make sure you are priced competitively, but be sure you are educating them on the advantages of your particular home. The designer's improvements will be evident when they walk in the home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Pura Vida' - A Costa Rican experience.

I just returned from a business trip in Costa Rica last week. Being in their business environment gave me some great perspective. It seems that things in San Jose were humming along, people going to work, crazy....I mean CRAZY traffic, busy restaurants (many of them American chains), and the Architecture/Development office I was working from, no one was idle....not even for a minute! Seems like sales of new mid-rise condominiums are going very well, and I see more than a handful from my office window under construction. After settling in I was thinking to myself, wow... does not look like the recession has hit here. But after talking with the president of a major development company he stated that things were moving forward but they were still very cautious. They are definitely feeling the affects of the great recession but you would not know it by everyone’s attitude.

While there I visited some retail stores and restaurants and not one person complained about a poor economy, they were just moving forward. BTW, the average income in Costa Rica is eight times less than the U.S. average. The saying amongst Costa Ricans is "Pura Vida"...translated 'Pure Life' or 'Full of Life'. Basically they 'enjoy life' regardless of their circumstances. Seems like their culture has a strong faith in God as I heard many times such references. On one of my taxi rides, because of a different currency, I apparently gave the driver too much money and as I was getting out he practically chased me down to tell me I overpaid by 4 dollars.....honorable people. I also attended a 'Home Show' in a make shift convention center. It was so well attended that we had to park in an open grass field a distance away from the center. When we got out of the car, my Costa Rican friend who drove us was walking back and forth looking for something or someone. When I inquired who he was looking for, he stated he wanted to make sure to pay someone to park there. To my amazement, after much looking around he finally found a guy that accepted his 5 bucks. Believe me if he would not found this guy it would not have tow trucks that I have seen in Costa Rica. But it mattered to him....honorable people.   

Back to the 'Home Show'. Funny how when I walked in the set-up looked like any home show in the United States. They had all the different booths lined up with different vendors; builders, banks, tile companies, developers, homes and condo's for sale....same old, same old.....but wait! There was a line around several Bank booths...I mean a loooooong line. Like a line of people waiting for tickets to a 'Beetles' Concert! I asked my friend...what are they in line waiting for? What could be so important? Is it free food or a raffle? No, other booths had all that too. It seems they were waiting to apply for a new loan or refinance existing loans. Apparently the banks are lending money a lot easier than before....sound familiar? My friend tells me that more people are qualifying for car loans these days in San Jose....everyone drives....oh no! I just hope it is not an indication of irresponsible lending practices that got the U.S. in trouble. Lets hope not......'Pura Vida'.

I also observed that there was real relationship between my Costa Rican friends. They seemed to really have each others best interest in mind. They ate over at each others houses.....a lot....socialized.... a lot. I have to mention the food... just crazy good! Seems like relationships were more important than business....they made me feel like a 'Tico' and a friend....honorable people.

On my return, as I sat in the Miami airport (good thing I speak spanish) after my cancelled flight because of hurricane Irene, I thought back to my Costa Rican friends. Instead of stressing over my 5 hour delay, I thought.....when was the last time I got to do some duty free window shopping and hang out at 'Fridays' on a Thursday for 5 hours? .....Pura Vida! I think from now on I'll incorporate that more into my thought process.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I am starting a project....and the question is?

The most asked question I get as a designer and builder is...........wait for probably guessed it by now........"How much will it cost?" This question is asked at all stages of a project and rightfully so! However, most owners want this question answered before the project has even started! "I'm not going to hold you to it, but what do you think it will cost?" Every project, especially renovation projects have their own unique issues or owner desires that affect cost. For example, if I asked you 'how much does a car cost?' Your answer would would probably start off by asking details about what kind of car, what size engine, etc. Same for a building, there are so many variables that it is unrealistic to ask cost before the details are known. In reality the owner should state their budget initially and let the designer/builder develop a program to that budget. This process will let the owner know if their desires match their budget.    

Any project should have a process to develop the project successfully. If it doesn't, that's when things go wrong and it all starts to unravel for the owner. After 27 years of developing, designing and constructing, here is a 3 step outline of a process to develop an accurate cost for your project with the right builder.

1. Develop a 'Program'. I define architectural programming as the research and decision-making process that identifies the scope of work to be designed. This can be as simple as a list of the spaces you want to develop for your project. Or it can be more complex for a new home or commercial building. For design programming for a new building, we propose a six-step process as follows:
  1. Research the project type
  2. Establish goals and objectives
  3. Gather relevant information
  4. Identify strategies
  5. Determine quantitative requirements
  6. Summarize the program
Ultimately your program should reflect a list of spaces with sizes and finishes you want in that space as well as the relationship between them. Once a program is developed it is now more realistic for the builder to start putting budget numbers together based on square footage. But more importantly it allows the designer/builder to start developing a preliminary or schematic design for your project.

2. Develop a 'Preliminary Design'. From the program that has been developed, it is now easier to develop a design which should as a minimum a floor plan, building elevations and site plan. This will allow the owner to visually see the program that was developed as well as the aesthetics of the proposed design. From this preliminary design the builder can now develop a more specific construction budget. At this point the owner can make decisions based on his original budget. Is the original budget realistic for the program we desired? This is where you can adjust your budget and/or your design. It is a lot less expensive at this point to know that your desires don't meet your budget!

3. Develop "Design Development Drawings". These drawings will now develop the preliminary drawings in more detail. There should be wall sections describing the construction type as well as finish schedules describing finishes selected such as flooring, wall finishes (tile), etc. Finish selections can be one of your projects most varying costs based on what selections are made. There should also be descriptions of structural, electrical, a/c and plumbing designs as well as exterior finishes if applicable. From these DD drawings any builder with experience should be able to develop an accurate construction cost for your project. This is the point you will have a realistic cost for your project and can make the final decision on your budget and design.

Once you have approved the DD Drawings you are now ready to get started in the construction process which will first require developing 'Permit/Construction Drawings' to submit to your local building department for approval and receipt of a Building Permit to commence construction. 

So there you have it, three steps to get an accurate cost for your project before you spend alot of money on permit/construction drawings and construction. As anxious as you may be to start construction on your project, a little planning goes a long way in saving you money and headaches down the road!     

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Green"...what does that really mean?

Go Green! Ok...sounds good...if nothing else politically correct, right? We all want our planet to be healthy and contribute to it,  but what does that really mean to you? There are so many companies that lay claim to that buzz word..."Green", especially in the construction industry. Just google 'Green Construction" and 606,000,000 results come up including "green buildings", "sustainable design", and the new LEED certified construction culture for their measurable "green" classifications. Hey all good intentions, but why does it always cost us more to buy and participate in the new 'Green' sub-culture? Well..... obviously there is always money to be made when it becomes an "industry".

But if it is so important, why are not all Architects specifying white reflective roofs and why in climates like Florida are home and commercial building owners not demanding white roofs? Scientist have known for centuries that putting white roofs on homes and commercial buildings is a simple and effective way to reflect the sun's powerful rays. Similarly, cool-colored pavements aid in the reduction of  "urban heat islands". Some states are starting to demand it, check out this article: Global Cooling

So, what does 'Green' mean to you? In environmental terms it is the practice of using methods that contribute to the health of this planet we all share called Earth. Green living incorporates conservation into our daily life, whether it be through consuming less non-renewable energy, recycling reusable materials, or even eating less meat.

With regard to your home, here are some simple steps from the bottom line newsletter you can take to conserve energy that will directly put money in your pocket. Most families could trim their energy bills significantly without sacrificing any quality of life. Using the following easy ­energy savers could cut as much as 40% from home-energy expenses, you could save $2,000/year in your energy bills!

Use an electric space heater when everyone in the home is gathered in one room. Turn the home’s thermostat down to 55°F or 60°F so that the vacant sections of the house are not heated unnecessarily.
Savings: This could trim your heating bills by 10% to 30% if done regularly. Some families in cold climates, who pay as much as $5,000 per year for heating, could save $500 to $1,500.
Unblock heating registers. Move furniture, rugs and drapes clear of your system’s vents. Impeded airflow can undermine a system’s efficiency.
Savings: Depends on your overall system and how badly airflow was blocked. You might save very little, or you might save hundreds of dollars a year.

Set your water heater to 120°F. Most household water heaters are set between 130°F and 145°F, but 120°F is hot enough for washing dishes and showering.
Savings: It’s been estimated that every 10 degrees of temperature reduction can reduce water-heating costs by 5%, so lowering the water heater temperature by 20 degrees could save the typical family $30 to $50 per year.
Install a modern low-flow shower head. Most shower heads use about three gallons of hot water per minute. The best low-flow shower heads offer equally enjoyable showers using just 1.5 to two gallons per minute. Quality varies, so read product reviews on shopping Web sites such as Helpful: A low-flow shower may initially feel less satisfying than a three-gallon-per-minute shower, but give it a week or two. After an initial adjustment period, most people agree that it’s fine.
Savings: Varies greatly, depending on how much time your family spends in the shower -- but it has been estimated at as much as $150 a year.
Wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket. Do-it-yourself wrap kits are available at hardware stores for less than $25. The blanket pays for itself in less than a year and offers savings after that. It is worth wrapping any water heater that does not carry a label specifically warning against this.
Savings: Usually around 4% to 9% of total water-heating costs, according to the US Department of Energy. That translates into an annual savings of $12 to $45 for most households.

Replace your refrigerator if it is more than 15 years old. Avoid models with through-the-door ice and water dispensers. They detract from energy efficiency.
Savings: A new refrigerator could save you about $80 per year in electricity costs compared to a similarly-sized refrigerator made in the early 1990s or earlier.
Clean your refrigerator’s coils at least once a year -- every six months if there’s a dog or cat that sheds heavily in the house. Dirt, dust and pet hair on refrigerator coils can impede airflow and make heat transfer less efficient, forcing the appliance to work harder. Refrigerator coil brushes are available at home centers and hardware stores.
Savings: The Sacramento Municipal Utility District estimates that coil cleaning can cut a refrigerator’s energy use by 6% -- a yearly saving of about $15 on an old fridge and $5 on a modern one.
Set your refrigerator’s temperature to between 30°F and 40°F. Set your freezer temperature to between 0°F and 10°F. Colder temperatures increase your electricity bills without significantly improving food freshness.
Savings: Setting your refrigerator 10 degrees higher and freezer five degrees higher has been estimated to cut the appliance’s electricity consumption by at least 20%. This could save you $50 a year with an old fridge and about $10 with modern one. If you don’t have a temperature dial in your refrigerator, place an ordinary household thermometer inside for 10 to 15 minutes. Read it the moment you open the door.

Replace your dryer’s flexible plastic-vent ducting material with a four-inch rigid (not corrugated) metal duct. This creates less airflow resistance, allowing your dryer to dry more efficiently.
Helpful: It might be necessary to use a small section of flexible ducting material to connect the back of your dryer to this smooth metal duct so that you can move the dryer away from the wall for cleaning or service.
Savings: As much as 20% of drying costs, or $10 to $40 per year for the average household.
Clean lint from your dryer vent at least once a year by disconnecting the vent from the dryer and the wall and reaching in as far as you can to pull out lint. Clean lint from the dryer’s lint trap before every load of laundry. Lint buildup can increase drying time and energy consumption by more than 50%.
Even better: Hang clothes from a clothesline outside, weather permitting.
Savings: Serious lint congestion could cost you more than $50 per year if you do a lot of laundry. Hanging laundry from a line could save you as much as $200 per year.

Use name-brand compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent consume one-quarter to one-third as much electricity as incandescents. Stick with brand-name bulbs -- store-brand or no-name-brand bulbs might be cheaper but are likely to burn out sooner.
Savings: Your annual savings might be less than $20 if you typically have just one or two bulbs burning -- but more than $150 if your house tends to be lit up like a jack-o’-lantern.

So, what does "Green" mean to you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is your roof ready for the "monsoon" season?

Summer time is coming and every Floridian knows what that means: here comes the rain.  Although Florida does not have true monsoons by definition, the summer months are wet nonetheless, with Sarasota experiencing an average rainfall (Link to Country Studies) of 8.5 inches per month from June to September.  Is your roof ready for the daily pounding?

Inspecting your roof
One of the first steps in preparing for the rainy season is to check your roof for any necessary repairs.  It’s always a good idea to inspect your roof in the spring, before summer rains cause additional damage, possibly leading to a complete roofing repair job.  Extensive water damage combined with the increased humidity can also lead to other problems, such as mold.

Fortunately, inspecting your roof for possible damage is not as hard as it sounds.  Roof inspection involves inspecting both the inside and outside of the house.

Tools you’ll need
  • Flashlight
  • Chalk
  • Ladder
  • Screwdriver
  • Thin wire

Inside inspection tips
The first step is to go inside the attic (if applicable).  While in the attic, perform the following:
  • Examine the rafters, the roof sheathing (plywood) and the ridge beam (the beam at the topmost part of the roof).  Look for signs of water stains or dry rot, which often looks discolored in appearance.  A simple test for dry rot is to insert an ice pick or similar sharp instrument into the wood.  If you are able to easily insert the tool into the wood, you may have dry rot.  Mark any suspicious areas with chalk for later reference.
  • Assuming you are using a flashlight, turn off the flashlight and wait for your eyes to adjust.  Look for any areas where sunlight is seeping through the roof.  Insert a long wire through any holes that you find, marking those for later reference.

Important safety tips for outside roof inspection
Before we get into what to look for on the outside, we should review some crucial safety tips:
  • Always have a buddy – never inspect a roof alone!  Always have somebody with you that can call for help in an emergency.
  • Have the right ladder – if your ladder does not extend a foot or two past the edge of the roof, don’t use it!  Find a replacement ladder or call a professional.  When setting up the ladder, provide enough of an angle to prevent falling over backwards, and have your buddy hold onto the base of the ladder while you climb.
  • Wear proper shoes – preventing slips while on the roof is critical.  Tennis shoes or work boots are best.
  • If you are unsure, call a professional – we understand the desire to check for yourself but, if you are unsure of any part of the process or concerned about your safety, always remember that House Calls Maintenance provides free inspections.  Don’t risk it!

Outside roof inspection tips
Regardless of the type of roof you own, there are some common inspection points that pertain to all roofs:
  • Eaves and overhangs – inspect these areas for signs of water damage.  Poke any boards along the eaves and overhangs with a screwdriver to test for rot.
  • Flashings – flashings are metal pieces installed around protruding sections of the roof, in roof valleys, and in other areas meant to deflect water from seams and joints.  Look for tears and/or buckling in the metal.

When inspecting the rest of the roof, what you are looking for depends on the type of roof that you have.  The following are some inspection points, depending on the style of roof.
  • Metal roofs – look for signs of pitting, corrosion or rust.  Also inspect the roof for any loose or open seams.
  • Asphalt roofs – look for signs of shingle warping, tearing or curling.  Inspect the roof for any bare spots (no gravel), or for unusual amounts of gravel in the rain gutters.
  • Clay, slate, and cement – although these types of roofs should last a lifetime, note any broken or cracked pieces that you can see from your ladder.  Warning: Do not climb on these roofs, as the chance for slipping and falling is very high.
  • Wood shake or shingles – inspect individual shingles for warped or rotted pieces.

Roof damage should be fixed right away, especially before the rains come.  However, if you find more damage than you anticipated, or you find that the damage is beyond your abilities to repair it, give us a call.  Our experts can repair your roof at a fraction of the cost of roofing contractors utilizing many cost saving methods.
An affordable solution for your roofing problem

After conducting an inspection of your roof, you may discover that you need some serious roof repair.  In these troubled economic times, coming up with the cash to pay for such a job may be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.

House Calls Maintenance has a solution that you need to hear about.

As a result of House Calls strategic partnership with Stroop Design and Construction Inc, House Calls is pleased to offer an affordable solution for flat roofs and low slope metal roofs: Conklin Roof Coating Systems.

Conklin Roof Coating is a liquid applied elastomeric acrylic applied to the existing roof of your house, condo, or commercial building.  Our experts utilize foam applicators, meaning better energy savings for you.  Conklin Roof Coating has many benefits:
  • Lightweight and seamless
  • Far less cost versus roof replacement
  • 30% or more decrease in energy costs
  • Potential utility rebates (Energy Star rated)
  • Pays for itself within 4-7 years
  • Adds structural strength and can be applied to most roof surfaces
  • 10-15 yr. non-prorated renewable warranty.

If you have roof problems, or you would like to find out how you can cut down on your energy bills, contact House Calls Maintenance today for more information and a free estimate.  For more information on the web, visit Stroop Design and Construction (  or visit Conklin’s Website (Conklin Roofing)

House Calls Maintenance is a full-service home remodeling and maintenance company serving the greater Sarasota and Manatee county area since 2004.  Whether you are looking for a home remodeling contractor, need a full service maintenance company for your investment or commercial property, require some home repair work, or just need a handyman for that small repair job, House Calls Maintenance is a one-stop center for all of your needs.

Questions, comments, or concerns?  Contact us at

A New Strategic Partnership

House Calls Maintenance forms strategic partnership with Stroop Design and Construction

As part of our continuing mission to offer our clients a wider range of home maintenance, home remodeling and home repair options, House Calls Maintenance (House Calls Website) is proud and excited to announce their strategic partnership with Stroop Design and Construction, Inc. SDC. (Stroop Design Website).  With over 27 years of experience, SDC is committed to the same professional quality workmanship and convenience that has made House Calls Maintenance so popular to its clients.

“House Calls Maintenance has always specialized in high quality, low cost repairs to properties,” said owner and manager Scott Corbridge.  “Now with the addition of Ed Stroop to House Calls, we have much more flexibility in pulling permits and adding higher quality renovations as well. Ed comes to House Calls with one of the best reputations in the Sarasota/Bradenton area for quality and integrity.”

SDC is a certified general contractor (CGC 1514781) and a proven industry leader in commercial and residential remodeling, additions, and consulting.  Successful projects include office construction, condominium renovations, medical offices, veterinary clinics, and churches.  SDC is a member of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the National Home Buyer’s Alliance (NHBA).

“I am very excited about our partnership with House Calls Maintenance,” said Ed Stroop.  “I believe it will offer clients economical solutions to all of their residential and commercial construction needs!”

From maintenance issues to home repair, and from handyman services to full residential or commercial remodeling and design, House Calls Maintenance, along with Stroop Design and Construction, can handle your project!