What is MechoShade?

Have you browsed our website or noticed on our business cards that Firebelly Renovations is a MechoShade dealer? If you have, then you’re probably wondering, “What is MechoShade?” MechoShade is a brand of window coverings usually used in commercial spaces. We want to bring MechoShade into your home. MechoShades have many more benefits besides, shade, privacy and/or insulating against the heat and cold.

The primary benefit of MechoShades is that they are “Green”. Why “Green”? Because all of the benefits of MechoShades and MechoSystems are either green or add to their “Green” benefits.  MechoShades allow for natural sunlight to light a space while blocking the heat and the damaging UV rays. So you can turn off your lights, enjoy the great view, and reduce your HVAC costs just by purchasing window shades.

Let’s look at all those “Green” benefits a little more closely and I’ll try to keep the technical jargon to a minimum.

Use less artificial lighting – You can turn off your lights and enjoy filtered natural lighting  Not only does this action save you money on your electricity bill, but you’re also reducing your carbon footprint by using less energy.

MechoShade – See the world, even when the shades are drawn!

An indirect benefit of using natural sunlight to light your commercial or residential space is that you will feel better!  Studies have shown that people’s moods are greatly improved by exposure to sunlight.  Exposure to sunlight also improves sleep and promotes vitamin D production in the body.  Do you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder?  Then you probably know that a decrease in exposure to natural sunlight is what triggers it.  MechoShades are a way for people to get more natural sunlight exposure in the winter months.

Use Less Energy – In addition to spending less money on lighting, you’ll also use less energy cooling your commercial or residential space if you select a Thermoveil shadecloth.  MechoShades, when selected in the lighter colors, will filter the sunlight to lower solar heat gain.

Can Reduce *Visible-light Transmittance” – which is a big name to say that the strength of the sunlight is too harsh.  The harsh sunlight causes you to close your traditional blinds; now the room is dim and it’s difficult to see.  So you turn on the lights.  MechoShades are engineered to allow natural light through while still shading the space from glare and brightness.  With MechoShades you can turn out your lights, have your blinds down and you can still see out the window!

*Depends upon the shading coefficient of the shade cloth you select.

Visually Transparent Shading – You can see the world outside!  This benefit alone makes these blinds head and shoulders above traditional blinds and shades.  During the day, you can see out, but the outside cannot see you.  After nightfall, the outside can see in, but there are privacy options that can be added making these blinds extremely versatile. There are varying transparency percentages from 0% – 15%.

Indoor Air Quality Certified – The makers of MechoShades take the green initiative very seriously and they have received the “GreenGuard” Indoor Air Quality Certification.  This certification gives consumers the assurance that the products they are using in indoor spaces meet strict chemical emissions limits, which contribute to the creation of healthier interiors.

MechoSystems are MechoShades that are automated by remote control, a SunDialer, etc. or all shades are managed on a network to optimize natural light, reduce heat, and allow occupants to still see the outside world. Since MechoShades’ inception, different levels of MechoShades have been introduced to create an optimal a home or commercial space that can experience the benefits of natural lighting, energy efficiencies and sustainable green solutions.

Give us a call at 703-635-7722, if you are interested in purchasing a MechoShade or MechoSystem from us.

Honey-do Lists as “Love Notes”?

A friend of mine, who is quite handy, recently traveled for work and this is the note he received when he returned to an empty house:

Honey-do list

Honey-do list or love note?

My friend said, “I feel so missed… a week away on business and this is the love note I get upon my return.”

This note is the perfect example of how quickly little home maintenance tasks can pile up and if you’re not as handy as my friend, this wouldn’t be a joke with your friends about how, and I quote, “At least she has a reason to keep me around”.

This is the reason that Firebelly Renovations prioritizes home maintenance as well as the big home renovation projects, such as kitchens, baths and basements. Ideally if you properly maintain your home, then you won’t “have to” renovate your bath due to water damage. You’ll eventually want to remodel your bath because you’ve used it for 20 years and now it’s “dated”.

So if you’re a busy professional, and you’d rather find a real “love note” rather than a “honey-do” list and NOT spend the weekend after you return completing a honey-do list, then you might want to hire us or sign up for a Home Services Contract.

Get Caulky! Part II

Get Caulky! Part II is all about How to Caulk.

Let me start by saying, there is NO magic tool that will make you caulk better, so don’t waste your money buying those “as seen on TV” caulking tools.  Caulking requires a bit of finesse but mostly it is about the right caulk, caulk gun, a utility knife or razor blade, an old cup, an index finger, and the right angles.  You may also want to have some paper towels or an old rag handy as well.

First, invest in a “Pro” caulk gun.  It’s going to be marginally more expensive than the cheap ones and worth every penny.  A “Pro” caulk gun is going to have a better grip (e.g. trigger has finger grooves) to help you keep consistent pressure on the gun when applying the caulk.

Second, use the right type of caulk for your project (see our previous post “Get Caulky”) and follow the instructions for applying it.  For example, almost all caulk types call for a clean surface before applying.  This doesn’t mean you should apply new caulk over your old caulk after bleaching the shower.  It means remove your old caulk and then clean the underlying surface, so your caulk can adhere directly to the surfaces you are caulking.

Third, prep the area to be caulked.  I want to stress how important a clean surface is to this process.  You should remove your old caulk with a utility knife and/or razor blade.  I prefer an 8 in 1 painters tool and a razor blade/utility knife.  Getting caulk off is an “elbow grease” kind of job, but it also requires finesse because you don’t want to remove the grout either.  I find that the 8 in 1 painters tool is a good choice because of the sharp straight edges, and the flexible, yet inflexibility of the tool.  It also has a pointed corner that comes in handy when initially trying to get underneath the caulk and in corners.  Once you have removed all of the old caulk it is important to clean the surfaces, I use rubbing alcohol.

Then, there is the angle of the caulk tip and the angle at which you apply the caulk.  Pay attention to the angle and size of the opening you cut into the caulk tip.  The angle that you cut into the plastic caulk tip should be about 45 degrees.  It should also be fairly small.  It’s better to make the opening smaller and adjust later to bigger than to make it too big before you even begin.  Now that your caulk tube has been opened put it into the caulk gun and you are almost ready to caulk!

You are now ready to apply some caulk.  Using steady pressure apply a 1/8″ to 1/4″ bead of caulk at a 45 degree angle.  Next, dip your finger into a cup of water and run your wet finger along the bead to press the caulk into the seam and smooth out the caulk.  Wipe off the excess caulk from your finger on your paper towel and then wipe up the excess caulk from the tile and tub.  Repeat until all seams have been caulked.

Once you are done caulking, don’t go and jump into the shower right away, you should let the caulk cure for 1 day or 24 hours.

Happy Caulking everyone!


Are You Crafty?

Are you crafty?  I am.

Let me explain.

Today, I did some handyman work for a Landlord on one of his properties.  His tenants were complaining of pink clothes.  I was there to inspect the washing machine, but the units were stacked so I had to take the dryer down to inspect the washer.  While removing the dryer I noticed that dryer hose was not connected, but more than that, it was no longer venting outside.  All of the dryer lint was coating the exterior of the machines and the surrounding walls. It was like a fuzzy wall.  After vacuuming up all of the errant lint, I began to investigate further. I realized I would have to run a new dryer vent tube to the exterior of the house.  I called the client to let them know what I had found and they were surprised as this was a new washer and dryer that they had paid to have installed properly.  More on this later…

Okay, back to the washing machine.  Usually when colors are running on a consistent basis it is due to the hoses being reversed; which means when the washer wants hot water it receives cold and when it calls upon the cold the answer is hot.  I was right, the hoses were reversed; I hooked them up to the correct valves.

Back to the dryer situation which required a trip to the local big box quasi-monopoly store. I procured a new dryer hose, some clamps, and an exterior vent. Upon my return I fished a wire from the exterior hole to the interior hole (an 8’ distance) to hook it up to the new vent tube. I pulled from the outside snaking the tube through the cluttered and cob webbed space. I could see it, just out of arms reach when it snagged on a nail.  I looked around the yard and found a rake with hole on the top to hang it up. I jammed a stick in the hole and went fishing inside the wall. After a few well chosen words of frustration, the tube was coaxed from the nail. I needed to get the tube out of the hole far enough in order to clamp it on the exterior vent.  Unfortunately, the exterior hole wasn’t perfectly round to accommodate the dryer hose.  Nothing, a with a few taps from the hammer and chisel to smooth out the rough spots on the interior of the hole in the brick, couldn’t fix. Finally I was able to secure the vent to the tube. I then caulked the exterior vent.

I went back inside to reconnect the dryer. I noticed when I pulled the dryer down, that it was missing its protective cover plate that shields you from touching the electrical hook-up connection points. This is bad. If you touch the connection points while the dryer is plugged in you can receive severe to fatal electrical shock, fire and/or burns. A dryer is usually hooked up to a 240 volt outlet. I looked around and could not find the cover that should have come with the dryer, so I took a piece of sheet metal, cut and bent it to create a protective cover and screwed it into hole provided for the original cover. This ought to protect anyone who has to remove that dryer in the future from a zap.

Once the dryer was in position I clamped on the vent tube and plugged it in. I turned the dryer on and check the exterior louvers for movement and…Success! Huzzah! I vacuumed up the remaining lint on the floor and moved on to the final handyman task.

The last item I addressed was replacing a ripped window screen. I removed the old screen and its spline. I laid a new fiberglass mesh screen over the frame and ran a new spline in the groove with my handy-dandy spline rolling tool. I stretched the mesh taut as I rolled the last bit into its groove and it was time to re-install the newly mended screen. My list completed and my tools packed up, I was on my way to the next job. I completed everything, including a trip to the store in 4 hours.

Let me take a moment to return to the installation of the new washer and dryer.  When you purchase a new appliance from a store and it includes installation, there are usually caveats.  The primary caveat is that there is an existing washer and dryer, so the existing (and working) hook ups can be used.  In this case, the existing hook-up for the dryer was non-functioning.  Unfortunately for the landlord, it is not the job of the installers to repair the problem or even notify the landlord that there was a problem.  The second problem, and the tenant’s primary complaint was that the washer was turning their clothes pink.  This could have easily been avoided, had the installer paid closer attention to which was the cold and hot water connection.  In the installers defense the space was small and tight and not very well lit, so I could have simply been an innocent mistake. The third issue was the missing protective plate, this really should not have occurred.  This plate is critical to the homeowner’s and in this case the tenant’s safety and should not have been left off by the installers.  The lesson to take away from this, is that “installation” of new appliances” does not include troubleshooting and repair of the existing hook-ups and nor does it guarantee that they will do it correctly.

So, are you crafty like I am?  Even if you are, do you have the time and tools?  If you don’t you may want to consider using our handyman services or signing up for one of our Home Maintenance Contracts.  If you do have the ability, time and tools, I say do it. It will be rewarding and make you feel crafty too.  If you cannot or balk at even the thought of completing home maintenance tasks, call me I am happy to be crafty on your behalf.

Do You Find Home Projects Daunting?

I haven’t blogged in awhile, because honestly, I find the task of sitting down each week and writing an article daunting.  So this week as I break my procrastination streak and blog again for the first time since January, I am also finding my inspiration for this article.

It occurred to me that homeowners may feel daunted by home projects just as I am about blogging.  Even though you know it is important to maintain your home, you just don’t know where to begin.  So, I as I begin again with blogging, I hope to give you some pointers and ideas on how to begin with your home projects.

Most home projects fall into 1 of 2 categories, home maintenance/handyman projects and major renovations (bathroom/kitchen/basement remodels).

Home Maintenance Projects

Home maintenance projects are the little issues that most homeowners let build up because they want to do them, but they just can seem to find the time.  Ideally you deal with each little home issue, when it happens, but usually this just isn’t possible for most homeowners.  Therefore, the best recommendation I have for this is to designate a “house day” or a “house weekend”, 2 or 3 times a year.  Mark it on the calendar, make sure the whole family knows, and if necessary ask a friend to come over and help.  Then, at least a week before your “house day/weekend” make a list of all of the odd jobs that need to be done.  It may look something like this:

  1. Patch drywall and re-hang towel rack in the guest bathroom
  2. Replace cracked tile in the master bath
  3. Fix the screen door
  4. Repaint the front door
  5. Replace the front door knob
  6. Re-caulk the tub/shower in the kids bathroom

The next step is to visit your local hardware/home improvement store and purchase the supplies and tools that you are going to need to complete the projects.  You’re probably going to want to do this before the weekend begins.  You’ll probably still end up going to the store at least once on your designated house day, but it is a little less daunting on a Saturday morning when you have everything you need to begin.

Research how you’re going to complete each repair.  These days you can find a YouTube video on how to do almost anything.  Recently, I learned how to “fold” a box spring by watching a YouTube video.  You may also want to check out manufacturer’s websites when applicable.

So now you’ve done all of your homework and have everything you need for a home maintenance day.  Go for it and “Do right by your home!”

If you are still daunted, and you live in Northern Virginia, you may want to consider one of our Home Services Contracts or a Handyman Services Gift Certificate to deal with all of those daunting home maintenance tasks.

Home Renovation Projects

Major home renovations are not typically completed by the homeowner, despite all of the fervor of DIY home improvement television shows.  Why? Because it is very daunting endeavor even for those who have had a major home renovation previously.  A major home renovation usually means pulling the proper permits, which creates the need for “plans”, which are usually drawn up by an architect.

In addition to the architect, if you are renovating a kitchen, you’ll probably want to hire a kitchen designer or at the very least have a kitchen design drawn up at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Then, once you have a plans, you need to hire the contractors.  Usually you’ll want to hire a General Contractor (GC) to oversee all of the other contractors with special skills (plumber, electrician, etc) that will be doing different parts of your renovation.  The GC will also coordinate the subcontractors for your renovation.

Hopefully, this article has helped home improvement projects to seem just a little less daunting.  So, go ahead and get started on those home projects sooner rather than later.

Get “Caulky”!

Water intrusion is a leading cause of damage in homes. An easy way to prevent this is to take some time a few times a year to inspect your caulk.  While caulk can last for a long time when properly selected and applied, it does eventually breakdown.  For example, while the caulk you should use in your shower is permanently waterproof, it may not standup to harsh cleansers and frequent scrubbing.  Therefore, periodic inspections of the caulked areas of your home is critical to the maintenance of your home.

You should be looking to see if your caulk is cracking or if there are holes or pieces missing.  If so, water is getting into your walls; the bigger the hole, the more water that infiltrates. The best way to prevent this is to take notice of the condition of the caulked areas in your home and to be sure you are using the right kind of caulk for the right situation.

First let’s start with what caulk is.  Caulk is a flexible material used to seal gaps and cracks. The most common types of caulk are acrylic and silicone. There are other variants such as blended caulk, kitchen and bath caulk, butyl rubber caulk, and asphalt caulk.

Below are brief explanations of the different types of caulk:

Silicone caulk is the most common caulk. Silicone’s greatest attributes are that it does not degrade and it is very elastic. The elasticity of silicone allows it to contract and expand as the weather changes. Silicone is also waterproof. It costs $5- $8 per tube. For bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas exposed to moisture it is the best choice. Its biggest downfall is that you can’t paint it.

Acrylic caulk is for jobs that need to be painted and won’t be exposed to water or outdoor elements for a significant length of time.  This type of caulk is ideal for interior molding and baseboards; when you will be painting the surfaces and possibly the caulk itself.  This caulk is usually costs less and is easier to apply. It is more prone to cracking and not waterproof.

Blended caulk is a silicone based caulk that is paintable like an acrylic. Some projects require a caulk that is waterproof and paintable. If the area will be exposed to water or the outdoor elements, a permanently waterproof and shrink-/crack-proof caulk is needed. If the caulk is not permanently waterproof and shrink-/crack-proof, the area could be left vulnerable to water damage, mold growth, and air leakage. If the caulk needs to match the exact color of the adjacent surface, it also needs to be paint-able.

Kitchen and bath caulk is permanently waterproof and will not shrink, crack, or deteriorate over time. Moisture and repeated water exposure can take a toll on sinks, tubs, and showers. Kitchen caulk is impervious to water, meaning water can’t get through it and will never break it down. When caulk doesn’t perform in this way, the moisture from water and humidity can attack it and break it down. And, when an area repeatedly changes from wet to dry, water-based caulk, like acrylic, can degrade more rapidly. Its cracking may accelerate and its ability to adhere to a surface can lessen. When caulk dries out, shrinks, or cracks, gaps may form, which can lead to water damage and mold growth.

Butyl rubber sealant is a high quality sealant that is ideal for outdoor jobs requiring a durable, watertight seal. Butyl rubber sealant is designed specifically for use on metal buildings, windows, doors and aluminum gutters. It remains permanently flexible and is suitable for below-grade applications.

Asphalt Caulk is perfect for playgrounds, driveways, pavement, and parking lots. It provides a durable, elastic seal with excellent adhesion. Repairs are ready for traffic in about 24 hours.

Backer Rod is a non-absorbent, closed-cell polyethylene pre-caulking material (aka foam insert). This is used before caulking to fill gaps and openings larger than 1/2″ x 1/2″. Backer rods prevent 3-point bonding, which can ruin the caulk seal when expansion and contraction occurs in the seams.

Now that you know entirely too much about the types of caulk, you can use this knowledge to pick the right caulk for the right project.

Next blog we’ll talk about applying caulk.   If you need to have something in your home caulked, but don’t have the time, give us a call!

Garbage Disposal Woes

Your disposal is more than a noise making device hidden in you sink cabinet. It is a useful device used many times a day by homeowners. Many people abuse their disposals, by throwing all types of waste into them and do not realize the potential damage that can be done.

First you should try to avoid throwing the following items into your disposal:

  • Bones
  • Shells from seafood
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Anything that is fibrous or stringy such as celery, banana skins, corn husks
  • Egg shells, which are commonly thought to be good for cleaning your blades are not good (unless you are careful to remove the thin membrane inside the egg shell, which can wrap around the disposal blades.

Many of us are guilty of putting things we shouldn’t into the garbage disposal causing it to “seize up” or become stuck.  Below are two easy things you can try to clear the obstruction.

  1. There is a red reset/circuit breaker button located on the bottom of most units. If this button has popped out it will stop power going to the motor. Press this button back in. Try the disposal again; if it works, Great! If not, move on to step two.
  2. There is a place in the bottom center of the disposal, where you can use an Allen wrench to manually turn the motor.  You probably don’t have the hex key that came with your disposal, so you might want to invest in an Allen Wrench Set.  I personally like the kind that fits in your pocket and the wrenches fold out much like a Swiss army knife.  Figure out which size Allen wrench/hex key you need and use it to turn the motor a few turns to get it unstuck. Remove the Allen wrench and try to run the disposal again. This may need to be repeated numerous times to clear the debris from the disposal.

Firebelly Renovations provides Handyman services and many times we have been called in to replace a garbage disposals only to find that it could be easily fixed using the above tips.  If you have tried the steps above and your garbage disposal still isn’t working, call us at 703-635-7722 to replace it for you.