General Home Improvement

Expert Interview Series: Allison Hester of eClean Magazine

Allison Hester has been writing for the exterior cleaning industry for over 20 years, and her publication, eClean Magazine, has quickly become the online resource for professional exterior contract cleaners.

We recently checked in with her to learn more about her magazine and how homeowners can clean their homes more thoroughly. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about eClean Magazine. Who should be reading it? What will they find?

eClean Magazine is a publication designed for the professional exterior contract cleaner (i.e., pressure washing, window cleaning, gutter cleaning, roof cleaning/soft washing, etc.). While knowing how to properly clean is important, so is knowing how to properly run a successful business, which is why eClean Magazine provides a mixture of both technical and business related articles.

What are the most-neglected areas of the home when it comes to cleaning?

When people think of cleaning their home, they primarily think of the interior. But keeping the exterior clean is also important.

Pressure washing and window cleaning not only make the house look better, they help protect the home from germs and bacteria and mold/mildew. Roofs and gutters especially need cleaning to prevent damage to the home. Also, oil and other spills in the driveway can cause slips and falls.

Wood decks and fences can add huge amounts of value to a home, but they must be properly cleaned AND sealed with a professional-grade sealer to protect against the sun and other weathering effects.

What are the risks of not giving these spaces/places TLC?

Not cleaning gutters can cause major problems like flooding; stained walls/siding/floors; rotting doors and other wood elements; cracking walls and foundations; warping or bowing floors; plus it can lead to mosquito and pest infestations; frozen gutters (i.e., “ice dams); and damage caused from heavy gutters ripping off of the home.

Those ugly black streaks on roofs are are actually caused by bacteria that are eating away at shingles, destroying the roof in the process and potentially increasing electric bills in the summer.

Decks and other wood surfaces will decay if not properly protected. Plus, cleaning and sealing wood makes a huge aesthetic difference and adds value to the property.

What are the biggest mistakes homeowners make when cleaning?

Homeowners will often attempt to clean their homes, decks, driveways, patios and roofs themselves using a pressure washer. The problem is that in untrained hands, a pressure washer can do more damage than good. Homeowners tend to focus on maximizing the pressure, which can cause damage to surfaces. Water can shoot up behind siding and cause the siding to warp. Too high of pressure or improper procedures can cause damage to wood surfaces and concrete. And high pressure can destroy roof shingles.

The other concern for homeowners is the danger of working from a ladder. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment every year due to ladder injuries. Homeowners are risking injury or death when they choose to clean gutters, windows, etc., from ladders.

What cleaning tasks should homeowners consider enlisting the help of a professional?

There’s the potential for damage any time a pressure washer is used in untrained hands. Beyond that, though, there’s also the risk of falling any time a ladder is used. I recommend hiring a professional for all these tasks.

What should homeowners look for when hiring a professional? What types of training/certification should they be on the look out for?

I would start by making sure the contractor is insured. They should not only have liability insurance, but care, custody and control coverage.

As for training and certification, those are generally not required by the industries I serve. There are trade associations that offer some certifications, but there are no uniform industry standards for gaining certification. Hiring a certified pressure washing contractor indicates that they have training and/or experience, but there a lot of good contractors who have not been certified. Likewise, there are various trade associations, and if a contractor is a member of such a group, they have likely gained some sort of education through these groups. But this isn’t always the case, and again, there are a number of quality contractors out there who are not members of any organizations.

When selecting a contractor, I would say look at their website, look at their uniforms, look at their trucks and equipment. Do they appear to be professionals, or do they look like they bought a pressure washer and threw it in the back of the truck in order to earn a few extra bucks? Ask them about their cleaning processes and see if they seem educated in what they are doing.

Again, are they insured? That will also help you know how serious they are about their business.

What should a good home maintenance schedule look like? What areas of the home should homeowners be addressing regularly?

Gutters should ideally be cleaned twice a year, usually in the Spring and the Fall. As for the rest of the home’s exterior, it’s going to vary from location to location, but generally falls into the once a year or once every other year. Window cleaning is going to vary by client, climate and personal preference.

Contact us for help protecting your home.

General Home Improvement

Mowing, Raking, Weeding, and Rain Water Harvesting

Warmer weather means greener weather for homeowners across the U.S. Lawns go from sparse to lush to overgrown as grass tangles with weeds for supremacy, flowers bloom in garden lots and pots, and trees and shrubs fill out to the point where they demand pruning. But none of this can happen without water — which is why rain water harvesting just might prove your secret weapon in the battle for a beautiful home.

Mowing the lawn or weeding the garden is nobody’s idea of fun, but they make all the difference between being the envy of the neighborhood and receiving nasty letters from your homeowners’ association. Raking up those piles of cut grass can be a hassle too, but it’s important — not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because fleas and ticks love to breed in them. While you’re huffing and puffing away at these activities, think about the exercise you’re getting — and count yourself lucky that you have the water to keep cultivating all this landscaping.

Folks in some parts of the country rarely see rainfall, which means that they have to spend lots of money on watering (on those days they’re allowed to water). But even if you do see a decent amount of rain, you don’t necessarily want to wait around for the next storm.

Rain water harvesting
Not if you want your lawn to look like this, anyway.

How Rain Water Harvesting Keeps Your Green Thumb Green

That’s where rain water harvesting comes in. Collecting rainwater on a regular basis couldn’t be easier. All you need is a solid barrel that’s opaque enough to prevent algae formation (algae loves sunlight), a downspout running from your gutter to the barrel lid, a debris filter attached to one end of the downspout, and a runoff pipe that will re-route any excess water so the barrel never overflows. If you attach the runoff pipe to a second barrel, and a third, and so on, you can capture an enormous amount of rain water without having to monitor your system all the time.

What do you do with all this water? Well, you’d have to run it through a purifier before you can drink it — but there’s nothing stopping you from irrigating your lawn, garden, or orchard with it. Keep it in storage as insurance against the next draught, and you can keep on watering while your neighbors wait for the privilege of driving up their utility bills on their designated water-use days.

At this point you might be thinking, “That sounds great, but we might be lucky to get half an inch of rain once in a blue moon.” But stop and think about how much captured water that half-inch might represent. The City of Chandler, Arizona points out that a “mere” half-inch of rain running off of a 1,500-square-foot can result in up to 500 gallons of captured water — and if you live in an arid spot, that 500 gallons can make a critical difference to both your landscaping success and your water bill.

Rain water harvesting
Rain water harvesting gives new meaning the term “going green.”

Smart Gutter Tips for Greener Gardens

Your gutters can play a crucial role in the health and wellness of your plant life. Not only do they perform the essential task of diverting water from your roof to your barrel for efficient rain water harvesting, but sections of old gutters can also double as planters (so don’t throw these sections away after you’ve upgraded to shiny new gutters).

The choice of gutter cover can also help you keep that harvested rainwater flowing smoothly. The installation of a Moonworks Gutter Helmet can prevent leaves, twigs, and other debris from entering the gutter and possibly clogging the downspout’s debris filter. Call Moonworks at 1-800-975-6666 to learn more about ways to integrate smart gutter technology into effective landscape management — and enjoy living in a home where “the grass is always greener!”

General Home Improvement

Rhode Island & Massachusetts Home Improvement & Recycling

RI & MA Home Improvement & RecyclingApril is Earth Month and what better way to celebrate than recycling all of your old or hazardous household items?  Not only will you be spring cleaning, but you will be safely disposing of toxic materials and recycling items you no longer want or use.

While most people have the intention of de-cluttering their home, they don’t know where to bring everything once they have sorted it out so they never start.  The company 1-800 lets you search for disposal and recycling locations based on the product and your location.  This site makes it easier than ever to get rid of all the clutter from your home while still helping the planet.

Recycling is also a great way to kick off any spring home improvement project and make your home look fresh. From paint and electronics to yard waste and printer toner cartridges, this site covers most items that are crowding your basement, attic or garage.  There is even a section to suggest an item.  This Earth Day, make recycling the beginning of your spring home improvement projects.

Need more than just a spring cleaning?  Moonworks product line includes Gutter Helmet, Roofing, Siding, Insulation, Renewal by Andersen windows and doors and Repower Solar Hot Water and Solar Pool Heating.  Or, take a look at our photo gallery for some inspiration.