Category Archives: Homeowner’s Tips

Changing Things Up


Sheltering at home meant stocking up on extra supplies. Everything from non-perishable food items to cleaning supplies overloaded many a kitchen and pantry. If you find yourself dodging rogue rolls of toilet paper (no overstocking shame intended!) every time you open the closet, you may be due for a storage upgrade. Even the novice DIY’er can make simple, yet significant space saving improvements.

Stand back and take a good look at the closet or pantry. Is there open space above the items on each shelf? If so, this unused space could be easily converted to more storage simply by adding a few extra shelves. Relatively inexpensive closet organizing kits and a la carte items can be found at your favorite home improvement store. Everything from shelving, cubbies, and slide-out wire baskets can be easily installed in less than a day with a few basic hand tools.

If you really want to maximize efficiency a custom storage system can be professionally installed. ShelfGenie is one solution. Systems are custom designed for your existing cabinetry and what you plan to store. Glide-out shelves for those hard to reach pots and pans, dividers for baking sheets and lids, to spice cabinets sized specially to meet your needs, are just a few options.


I  was lucky in this respect, as my business was already home-based. Many of you have not had it that easy. Some are still working from the couch or dining room table. I suspect that is getting old and uncomfortable.

There are many ways to get creative with some underutilized space that may not be living up to its potential. One of my favorites is the home office armoire. A friend of mine lives in a lovely yet compact, one-bedroom apartment on Queen Anne. Her computer and work supplies are tucked away in a beautiful, antique armoire. When work calls, she has everything she needs at her fingertips. At quitting time, her home office quickly reverts to a lovely antique, simply by closing the doors. Adding some shelving/cubbies and a pull-out shelf for the keyboard will help house and organize electronics and other supplies. An antique armoire can be converted to accommodate modern day equipment, or you can purchase a new armoire already outfitted for the task.


Just as the home office was a challenge for many, those of you with school age children had to quickly convert a space for the kiddos to study full time from home. The same area used for homework during normal times likely needs to be modified for long term use.

Reducing distractions and organizing the space to reduce clutter is paramount for home school success. Proper lighting for different tasks, access to electronics for remote learning, and variety (think family room for reading and a separate desk with computer for online sessions) are all considerations to keep kids interested in learning and help them stay focused.

Click Here for some useful ideas to help create a productive learning space.


For many, sheltering at home meant a lot more time preparing meals at home. Even under normal circumstances, the kitchen is often the most utilized and highly trafficked room in the house. Preparing meals at home daily and sitting down as a family to enjoy them put many a kitchen and dining area to its maximum efficiency test.

Even small modifications, such as re-organizing storage, improved lighting, or upgrading appliances can make a big difference in how well your kitchen functions. If you need more room, consider what is adjacent to the kitchen. Capturing space from an underutilized formal dining room is a popular way to open and enlarge the kitchen. Modern families often gravitate toward more informal seating. A well-placed breakfast nook or dinette area saves space while still providing a place to sit together. Adding an island provides additional storage, prep space, and even seating. An extra wide counter with bar stools creates a useful, multi-purpose space.


Plumbers have had no shortage of business while families shelter at home. Older piping or outdated fixtures pose a variety of problems under high use. Upgrading outdated systems can save money and headaches by avoiding emergency services or damage from an overflowing toilet or plumbing leak.

Upgrading the plumbing is a good time to replace outdated fixtures. Low-flow toilets, tankless or instant hot water heaters, and vanities with more functional counter space and storage, are just a few upgrades to consider.


Being able to get outside and enjoy the weather has helped keep cabin fever at bay. Imagine how much harder staying at home would be if it were not spring.

If your outdoor space is not quite living up to its full potential, perhaps this is an opportunity to consider upgrading or adding a patio or deck. The options are endless from stamped concrete or paver patios, to a new or refurbished deck. Traditional wood decks are less expensive to build but require regular maintenance. Decks made from engineered products, such as Trex or Azek cost more initially, yet longer-lasting and easy to maintain.

If you want to get more elaborate, consider an open-air roof or covering to protect you and your furnishings from inevitable rain showers and sun. Outdoor kitchens fully equipped with a plumbed sink and gas range are gaining popularity. Lighting, a heat source, and even a fireplace are more significant creature comfort improvements to make your outdoor living space a year-round gathering spot for friends and family. The options are endless, limited only by budget and available space.

Contractors In High Demand

Contractor Hotline was founded in August 2006, when the economy was strong and demand for home improvement services was high. Those days were much like the present, when good contractors stayed busy with their customer’s home repair and remodeling needs. But, those days didn’t last long before the recession pretty much brought business to a grinding halt.

Prior to that time, we knocked on a lot of doors trying to get the attention of good contractors interested in new business. By the end of 2008 the tables began to turn and many of those same contractors were seeking out our services. Over time we retained a lot of those original contractors, recruited many more, and built a solid network of quality home improvement professionals. We have been through these times together and value the relationships we have with each other.

Fast forward, we now find ourselves in an interesting housing market. If you have sought out the services of a contractor lately, you likely discovered delays are imminent, especially on larger scale projects. Several factors contribute to current conditions.

Real estate inventory continues to be modest, helping drive home values higher. Many homeowners whose property values were dramatically reduced during the recession are experiencing significant appreciation. This opens up the opportunity for many to make long deferred home maintenance improvements. Others are updating or remodeling their existing homes, rather than waiting to find the next ideal home to purchase. For those who are selling their homes, repairs or updates are sometimes necessary to prepare the home to show well and sell quickly for the best price. New buyers often make improvements such as painting or replacing flooring, before moving in. Each of these circumstances, in addition to an upsurge in new construction, all contribute to an increased demand for good contractor.

Remodeling contractors report they are the busiest they have been in ten years. Some are booking work as far out as 6-12 months. While this can be good news for contractors, it puts an increased strain on the consumer. Homeowners pressured to get work done sometimes take risks, knowingly or unknowingly. Just like the days prior to the recession, stories of illegitimate contractors posing as licensed, bonded, and insured professionals are becoming more common. Contractors disappearing with a homeowner’s deposit, abandoning a job midway, or doing shoddy work are on the rise. Some employees of contracting firms decide to grab the brass ring and strike out on their own. What many of them fail to understand is that it takes a lot more than being a great mason, painter, or remodeling contractor to run a successful business. What goes on in the background such as paying off vendors, obtaining lien releases, and keeping current on insurance premiums and taxes, can impact their customers.

Hiring a contractor during high demand times not only requires due diligence, but also planning as far in advance as possible. Setting unrealistic goals can be stressful and lead to disappointment. Allow 6-12 months for larger scale remodels and home additions. In a soft market when contractors are readily available it can still take weeks and sometimes months to go through the process of meeting contractors, procuring proposals, and obtaining permits. The better prepared you are from the start will help expedite the process. Larger projects may require building plans before contractors can provide bids. Finish materials need to be decided upon and a budget established. Reviewing proposals, checking references, and finalizing a contract are all important steps, prior to getting on the contractor’s schedule. It’s easy to see how it can take months just to reach this point.

Some improvements are seasonal, such as exterior painting for example. Waiting until the weather is ideal is often too late to get on a good painter’s schedule. Starting the process in late winter or early spring helps to ensure there will be multiple contractors to choose from and that your project will be completed during the optimum season.

If you plan to sell your home in the next 6-12 months, now would be the time to have a professional home inspection. A thorough inspection will likely cost less than $500 and well worth the money spent. It should include the structural components, basement or crawl space, foundation, drainage, attic, electrical, plumbing, heating & air conditioning systems, and the full exterior. Allowing plenty of time to address any problem areas in advance will help make the sale of the home go more smoothly. You will also have the option to share the report with prospective buyers, which can be a positive selling point.

Buyers often want to make improvements to their new home before moving in. If the seller is agreeable to allowing prospective contractors into the home prior to closing, this will help expedite the bidding process. Deciding on a contractor and getting your project scheduled prior to possession will save valuable time. Focus on the projects that would be most difficult to complete after you have moved into the home. Painting and flooring are much easier to complete in a vacant house. Larger remodels may require a delayed move-in date or completing in stages so a portion of the home can be closed off from the construction area.

It is realistic to expect the demand for home improvement professionals to remain high for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the size of your next project, it is imperative to plan ahead and be patient.


Spotlight on Edmonds Real Estate

Thank you Wayne Purser of Coldwell Banker Bain in Edmonds and My Edmonds News for the opportunity to be a guest on Spotlight on Edmonds Real Estate. Tune in to Wayne’s monthly real estate weather reports for valuable real estate sales data and important factors affecting the local Edmonds economy and the greater Puget Sound.



Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

Ready to get a jump on your spring home maintenance projects? The following checklist will help you get started.

Inspect home’s exterior for winter storm damage and needed repairs

Flush and inspect gutters & downspouts

Power wash siding, porch, deck, patio, walkways, and driveway

Trim trees/bushes near buildings & power lines; remove dead/damaged branches once new growth is apparent

De-thatch lawn with a good raking prior to first mowing; mow lawn down to 2 inches before grass is over 2 ½ inches tall, leaving no less than ½ inch of growth; lightly apply quality fertilizer with weed killer

Clean carpeting

Wash windows inside & out (check for mold around windows and moisture between panes); remove storm windows and install screens

Organize garage or storage areas

Replace furnace filters monthly, or as recommended by manufacturer during heating season

Test smoke alarms & carbon monoxide detectors monthly

Water Leak Detection

Leak detection device

Leak detection device

Water leaks can cause extensive damage to your home and potential health risks.  In a matter of minutes, a burst pipe or hose can flood a room with several gallons of water. Slow and undetected leaks can also cause significant damage and oftentimes harmful mold and bacteria growth.

We hear regularly from folks who have had the unfortunate event of failed plumbing or hot water heaters. The process to demo, dry out, clean, and reconstruct a home as a result of water damage is messy, time consuming, and costly.

Ask any home insurance provider and they will tell you how expensive these kinds of home repairs can be. Unless it’s a sudden and unexpected occurrence, often homeowner’s insurance will not cover the cost of repairs. Slow leaks in hidden areas like crawl spaces, attics, and closets can go undetected for a long time.

Detecting a leak quickly is key to minimizing damages. One of the simplest and inexpensive ways to help avoid this kind of problem is to have a leak detection alarm. These inexpensive devises can be placed in many locations where a leak is likely to happen including under sinks and near hot water tanks and washing machines. It won’t help if the problem is somewhere in the walls or difficult to access, but many times damages are caused by a failed water line to the refrigerator, a burst washing machine hose, or leaking hot water tank.

After receiving an unusually high number of calls this fall from customers needing water damage related repairs, it really got me thinking about looking into something to help protect my own home. I live in an upper level condo. If I have a water leak I am not only responsible for my home, but if it causes damage to the unit below me, I am responsible for their repairs too. My hot water tank is hidden behind a panel in a closet in the spare bedroom and has always been a worry. If this fails, it could easily cause significant damage to my unit and the unit below.

Purchasing the Watchdog Water Alarm at Home Depot has got to be the best $10 I have spent in a long time and could potentially save thousands of dollars in home repairs. I decided to purchase two and placed one by the washing machine (also in another out of sight location) and the other in the pan where the hot water tank sits. It may not help if I’m not home or some other plumbing fixture or piping fails, but these two locations have the highest risk of failing in my home. I feel much better knowing I have increased my chances measurably of detecting a leak quickly and before it becomes an expensive home repair.

I wanted to share this with all of you too. Do yourself a favor and play it safe!

If you need the services of a contractor who specializes in water, smoke, and sewage damage, we can help. We have trusted emergency responders in our network who specialize in restoring your home from damage caused by water, fire, and sewage.

Home for the Holidays

I keep hearing people say, “I can’t believe it’s already Thanksgiving!” If you are one of them, and you have guests coming to your home for the holidays, you may be wondering how you will possibly be ready in time.

Don’t worry, you can do it! This coming weekend try and get as many of these tips completed. You’ll be amazed what you can do in a day with a little planning and organization.

1. Spruce up the Front Entry. Remember the saying: You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression? This is so true when it comes to your home’s main entrance. Sweep off the entire front porch/entry area from tip to toe. Hose it down if needed. Put away any unused hoses or planters that won’t be needed until spring. Hang a holiday or winter wreath on the front door. Add a festive potted plant or flowers to either side of the entry.

2. Clean the Carpet. Whether you rent a carpet cleaning machine and do it yourself, or hire someone to do it for you, few things can change a homes appearance as quickly and inexpensively as a clean carpet. Your guests will want to kick their shoes off and relax in the comfort of your clean home.

3. Clear out the Clutter and Clean the House. While you are at it, make room in the coat closet for your guests’ bulky coats and scarves. This is also a good time to clean out the fridge. You will be filling it up with a lot of extra dishes and will need to make room for extra beverages and dishes that your guests may be bringing. A few special touches like plush guest towels in the bathroom and scented candles will make your guests feel special and make your home smell inviting.

4. Inventory your Dinnerware. This includes plates, glasses and silverware and make sure you have enough for all of your guests. If you find yourself running short, make arrangements in advance to borrow from a friend or purchase some inexpensive spares.

5. Count your Chairs. Make sure you have enough places for everyone to sit for dinner. If you’re running short on seats at the table and have kids coming, set up a special table just for them. A card table, covered with a nice cloth, and folding chairs will work fine and the kids will have love it!

6. Remember your Pets. Make sure your pets have a safe and quiet place to exit from the festivities. Your bedroom is a good place to move their beds for the evening, and a spare bathroom works great for food and water bowls.

7. Prepare in Advance. Last but not least, do as much of your meal planning and shopping as possible the weekend before. Prepare as many dishes as you can the day before so you can relax and enjoy the holiday alongside your guests.

Have fun and enjoy the holidays!


Top 5 Things To Do Before Vacation

Returning home after a well-deserved break, only to discover a flooded laundry room or kitchen is not how most people want to end their vacation. Follow these simple steps to avoid coming home to a big mess and costly repairs.

1.  Turn off the water

Water leaks can cause devastating damage to your home in a short amount of time. A failed hose connection, plumbing fixture, pipe fitting, or appliance can leak gallons of water in no time, resulting in costly repairs.

  • Turn the main water supply off completely unless someone will be watering plants or pet sitting in your absence. Turn off the individual water supply to sinks, toilets, and washing machine.

Most hoses that come standard with new washing machines are low quality, often lasting less than five years. High quality burst proof replacement hoses, such as those available at Floodchek, can be purchased for around $40. This small investment can potentially save thousands of dollars in damages.

2. Unplug appliances and electronics

Defective household appliances, electronics, and wiring can be a fire hazard. Some are also prone to damage from power surges. In addition to fire risk and damage they can draw power and waste electricity, even when not in use.

  • Unplug kitchen appliances and household electronics like the TV, DVD player, and computer.
  • Ensure electrical outlets are not overloaded.
  • Replace damaged or frayed electrical cords, plugs, and power strips.
  • Turn down heat or air-conditioning to conserve energy or turn it off completely if practical.

3. Secure your home

Nothing speaks louder to a potential intruder than an overgrown lawn or newspapers piled on the porch. Secure your home by taking some simple steps to make it look lived in during your absence.

  • If you have a home security system, contact the service provider with the dates you will be gone and how best to reach you in case of emergency. Instruct the house sitter how to operate the system.
  • Place a hold on mail and newspaper delivery. Visit the United States Postal Service website to cease mail delivery for the dates you specify.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye out for door flyers or packages. If possible, ask the neighbor to park their car in your driveway.
  • If leaving garbage bins out to be emptied, arrange for someone to remove them from the curb once the garbage is collected.
  • Arrange for the grass to be cut in your absence.
  • Store tools and ladders out of sight and lock outdoor shed or storage area.
  • Remove outdoor spare keys.
  • Keep trees and bushes trimmed away from windows and doorways.
  • Install timers for interior and exterior lights and set them to mimic your regular habits.
  • Ensure all windows and doors are locked, including basement windows and the door from the garage leading into the house.
  • Move expensive electronics, jewelry, etc out of sight from windows and doors. Secure valuables in a home safe or safe deposit box.
  • Leave a house key, contact information, and itinerary with a friend or neighbor.
  • Notify the local police station with your plans so they can include your home on their neighborhood watch list.

4. Think before sharing

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have made it easier than ever to publicly share personal information. It is very popular to share pictures and personal information of where we are, who we are with, and what we are up to. This information can then be shared with friends of friends, potentially hundreds or more often complete strangers.

  • Think twice before publicly sharing pictures and trip highlights on social media while you are gone on vacation. It might be better to play it safe and wait until you return home.
  • Keep the same greeting on your home phone and turn off the ringer. A ringing phone left unanswered is a tip to an intruder that no one is home.

5. Last but not least

  • Throw out all perishable items in the refrigerator.
  • Take out the trash, making sure lids are secure on outdoor garbage.
  • Water plants (indoor and outdoor).
  • Have a worry free vacation!


Pest Control and Prevention

Did you know April is designated as National Pest Management Month? Spring has sprung and with warmer temperatures we start to notice all the creepy, crawlies around our home like ants, bees, wasps, and spiders. It is also when birds, squirrels, rats, and other rodents seek out safe places to nest and have their babies.

Many serious health risks are involved with insect and rodent infestations that get out of control. Additionally, termites, rodents, and carpenter ants can cause significant property damage. It is important to be proactive in the prevention of pest infestation. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends home and property owners follow these steps to prevent pest infestation:

  • Trim tree branches and plants away from house and buildings
  • Seal openings along the foundation that allow access to the crawlspace or basement
  • Eliminate standing water and repair any leaks such as a dripping outdoor faucet
  • Keep trash receptacles clean, both indoor and outdoor, and make sure outdoor containers have tight fitting lids
  • Avoid leaving pet food outdoors for prolonged periods
  • Use screens on windows and doors and repair any torn or damaged screens
  • Keep all food containers tightly sealed
  • Keep kitchen counters clean by wiping regularly and empty garbage frequently
  • Sweep and vacuum floors regularly

If you suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional immediately. If you need a recommendation, please give us a call at 425-775-9085.

How To Get The Most Value From Your Home Improvement Project

Remodeled kitchen

Kitchen Remodel, Bothell

We all want to get the biggest bang for our buck, especially when it comes to home improvement. While it might be tempting to hire the cheapest contractor you can find, that can and often does backfire. There are many other ways to cut project costs. Following are some useful tips that can help you save money without sacrificing reliability and quality of workmanship.

1. Shop carefully for materials. You can save a lot of money shopping sales and comparing materials at different suppliers. For example, if you’re installing hardwood floors, you may be able to save several thousand dollars on materials by choosing flooring that runs $10/square foot vs. $14 that is just as good.

Habitat for Humanity’s Home Improvement Outlet Stores can be a valuable resource. They are open to the public and offer deep discounts on a wide variety of home furnishings including appliances, doors, windows, flooring, countertops, plumbing fixtures, and much more. At the same time your purchases help finance low-income housing for qualified Habitat families. Two nearby locations:

The Habitat Store Snohomish County

2302 Broadway

Everett, WA 98201

The Habitat Stores King County

21 S. Nevada St.

Seattle, WA 98134

13500 Bel Red Rd.

Bellevue, WA 98005

Additional bargain shopping opportunities:

Second Use

3223 6th Ave S

Seattle, WA 98134

The RE Store

1440 NW 52nd St

Seattle, WA 98107

2. Consider doing projects in the off season. Most contractors start getting busy in the spring and slow down during late fall and winter during the holidays and colder winter months. If you plan your project when their schedules are open you won’t be competing with other homeowners who may have bigger budgets or bigger jobs.

3. Consider doing your project in stages. If you’ve found a reliable contractor but his bid is too high and there’s no room for negotiation, consider doing the project in stages. A good contractor will recognize that gaining a customer for a smaller job with prospects for future work is worthwhile.

4. Talk to References. Before hiring any contractor, ask to speak with other homeowners who hired the contractor for a similar project. Ask them about their experience and where they felt they could have saved a few dollars.

5. Consider doing prep work yourself where you can. For example, if you plan to have the exterior of your house painted, you can save money by clearing the area around the house yourself and power washing just prior to when painting is scheduled to begin.

6. Reconsider your plans. Review the details of your project with your contractor and ask if there are any design elements in your home that can stay and be incorporated into the job rather than replaced. For example, perhaps you can save money (and not compromise too much on design) if you paint and reuse doors rather than purchase new ones.

Spring Lawn Care

Spring Lawn Maintenance

Spring Lawn Maintenance

Spring cleaning for your yard is just as important as it is for your home. If you want your lawn to be healthy all summer there are a few things you want to do this spring to help it along. First of all, remove branches, leaves, litter and other debris from your yard. Next, you’ll want to de-thatch your lawn with a good raking. Generally, a thatch build up of more than a ½ inch is considered excessive.

The next step is to mow, being careful not to ‘scalp’ the grass with the first mowing. Experts advise mowing down to two inches, but never removing more than ½ inch of growth at a time so you want to start early enough in the spring and preferably before the grass is over 2.5 inches tall. The shortened grass will allow fertilizers to reach the soil better and stimulate new growth for the coming months. And don’t concern yourself with collecting all the clippings during this mowing. They will decay quickly and actually help fertilize your lawn, which is the next step.

After you have mowed, applying a good quality fertilizer that contains an effective weed killer will promote new growth and help keep your lawn looking beautiful. Fertilizing should be limited to late spring, early fall and late fall. Fertilize lightly in late spring for a lush, green lawn in summer and then concentrate most of the fertilizer application in fall. Too much fertilizer in spring can lead to disease and more weeds.