Home To Do’s in JUNE

Gene and Katie Hamilton
Gene and Katie Hamilton

This is a busy time of year with graduations, family events and change of season chores, but use this list of 10 items – basically cleaning, maintaining and inspecting – to get off to a good summer of enjoying your home.

Some of these items are quickies, like giving the well-used garbage cans a good washing so it’s clean and odorless or replacing an Air Conditioner filter so the unit works efficiently. Others take a little time, like power washing the siding and cleaning out the garage. All the chores will keep your home and all its systems running smooth and efficiently throughout the season.


* Replace air conditioner filter
* Clean out and organize the basement
* Wash bedspreads and blankets
* Clean garbage cans
* Inspect electrical cords and plugs for signs of wear
* Check the color of the flame on gas water heater and range
* Inspect exterior exposed pipes for leaks and corrosion
* Clean dirty or mildew-covered siding and deck with a power washer
* Inspect and tune up garage door and opener mechanism and rubber seal gasket on bottom of the door
* Maintain lawn and garden beds by watering, mowing and weeding

Visit us at to find the cost of hundreds of home improvement jobs and compare doing it yourself with hiring a pro.


Landscape Advisor

The property around a home, whether it’s a small bungalow or a sprawling estate, requires regular maintenance to ensure its appearance and upkeep. Routine work is needed for any landscapes whether it’s a modest garden or a lavish landscape. These articles will help you consider improvements and enhancements to make the most of property and beautify the landscape surrounding it.

Make your lawn the best it can be with suggestions from the lawn professionals. Grass Growing Advice from the Pros

Learn about the ins and outs of installing an irrigation system to guarantee a consistently well watered lawn Adding an Irrigation System

Take a tour around your home and property and appraise what needs to be done before the growing season. Spring House and Yard Tune Up

Play it safe working around the yard and garden when you’re using outdoor power equipment.Safely Using Outdoor Power Equipment

Use this information to find the cost of landscaping and gardening jobs so you can decide to do it yourself or hire a contractor. Spring Maintenance Chores and DIY Costs


Mosquitoes and How to Use Drainage Solutions to Get Rid of Them

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Here’s advice from Dr. Drainage, civil engineer Ryan Larsen, at NDS, Inc. with suggestions for homeowners to prevent mosquitoes from ruining outdoor spaces. These budget-friendly ideas will spare you the nuisance and discomfort of pesky mosquitoes outside your home.

1. Eliminate standing water wherever it occurs

Keep gutters clear of debris and check for any discarded cans, buckets, pots, overturned children’s toys and anything that can hold water. Cover trash containers. And change water in outdoor pet dishes daily and change water in bird baths several times a week.

2. Place herbs and scented oils around your backyard

Certain plants, herbs and essential oils can naturally repel mosquitoes like the scents of citronella, lemongrass and chrysanthemum are non-toxic and keep mosquitoes at bay. Scented oils and candles placed on your outdoor tables will keep any bugs away from food.

3. Scatter coffee grounds

Yes, coffee grounds are a mosquito repellent when you sprinkle the grounds wherever you discover standing water in your yard. It will kill any mosquitoes before they hatch and prevent them from breeding further.

4. Grow insect-repellent plants

Discourage pesky flies with plants like lemon balm, mint, chrysanthemums, marigolds, basil, garlic, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and more.

5. Install a drain in planter boxes

Consider using a drainage solution in planter boxes like a catch basin connected to a drainage pipe. Excess water enters the basin through a raised atrium grate, which prevents leaves, mulch and other debris from entering the system, and connects to a drain pipe where the water can drain to a safe location.

6. Install insect-repelling lights around your yard

Consider installing mosquito repelling lights, such as yellow bug lights or LED lights, in your backyard to deter those irritating bugs away from your barbeque.

7. Spray your yard with an organic treatment

Nontoxic bug control solutions can work wonders and will kill off fleas, ticks and other insects, while not harming the family pet. Choose products labeled natural or organic and pet friendly, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions completely.

8. Install a French drain

A French drain consists of a slightly sloped trench filled with gravel surrounding a perforated pipe. It provides an easy channel for water to flow through, collecting water over the entire length of the drain instead of one particular spot and redirecting the surface and groundwater away from your home.

For more information about how to spot and fix common homeowner drainage problems, visit NDS’s Home Drainage Center.

Ryan Larsen is a civil engineer at NDS, Inc., which manufactures a wide range of stormwater and drainage products. He known as Dr. Drainage, host of NDS’s YouTube video series about how to correctly use drainage and stormwater management products.

Visit to compare the cost of doing a home improvement job or repair yourself with hiring a pro.


Prevent Thunderstorm Damage to Your Property

Thunderstorms are most likely in the spring and summer months so the experts at American Modern Insurance Group offer homeowners these tips to protect their properties and families. “When it comes to thunderstorms, thoughtful planning and preparation are essential,” said American Modern’s Heather Bolyard, Assistant Vice President, Claims Support. “For example, one simple yet effective measure homeowners can take is to secure items found in the yard which can become airborne and dangerous if not properly tied down or stored away.”

Here are things to do to protect your property and family from a thunderstorm.

Check Gutters: Clean gutters and downspouts so rain water can flow freely. A plugged gutter or damaged drain pipe can create a dam and subsequent roof leak.

Trim Trees: Remove or trim damaged trees and limbs to keep your property safe.

Store Items Inside: When alerted of a thunderstorm, bring in anything from the outside that could become windborne debris such as lawn furniture, bicycles, trash bins and trampolines. Also secure any loose siding or fence panels.

Keep Food Cold: Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep it closed as much as possible so food will last longer should you lose power.

Prepare for an Evacuation: Discuss an evacuation plan with family members to minimize confusion that may result from the need to evacuate quickly. If there’s a power outage many gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps so keep your car with a half full tank of fuel.

Visit to compare the cost of hundreds of home and garden projects whether you hire a contractor or do it yourself.

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Disrupt Your DIY Mindset

Gene and Katie Hamilton

When it comes to home improvements I’ve changed the way I look at doing-it-myself. That’s quite a statement since we’ve thrived on remodeling and reselling houses and writing about it. Yes, of course, it saves you money to paint a room or mow your lawn when compared with the cost of hiring out the work. But not every upgrade is a good choice for a handy or wannabe-handy homeowner.

So if you’re a diehard DIYer, I’m suggesting you disrupt your idea of always doing it yourself and consider evaluating the job without assuming the DIY approach is the best way to go. Definitely always do the grunt work. But for more nuanced jobs learn the steps, and read the directions to determine its complexity. Find out how difficult the job is, what’s involved and what skills and tools are needed. And don’t forget to consider how much time it will take to complete the work. Time is money, so consider what you have the most of. Once you have a handle on the full scope of a project you’re in a better position to decide to tackle a job or call in a pro.

Do this, not that.

If you want to work outdoors, tackle yard projects like weeding, edging and pruning. Or apply caulk around doors and weatherstrip around windows; these are doable jobs that any handy homeowner can learn and successfully complete and pocket a nice saving. For those with a creative streak, install molding, wainscoting and wallpaper to customize a room and express yourself.

Replacing existing light fixtures and faucets are jobs you can do because you’re swapping an old unit for a new one. Walk down the aisles of a home center and you’ll see manufacturers continue to make products DIY-friendly, designed for a homeowner to install. They often suggest a DIY and a Hire a Contractor price so you can crunch the numbers and compare.

Hire a pro.

But if a new electrical service or a plumbing line is needed, it’s best to call a licensed professional. Check with your local building department to learn exactly what work requires a licensed pro and what you can do yourself. The pro knows the local building codes and what they require so the upgrade or installation will meet the approval of an inspector. And a pro has the experience and specialty tools to complete the job more quickly and correctly than a homeowner who doesn’t.

Think safety, too, especially if you have roof work. Admittedly you can save almost half of what a roofer charges to repair or install a new roof, but it’s dangerous and strenuous work for only the most rugged individuals. Just hauling shingles up a ladder is a tough job, not to mention walking and working on the precarious and unfamiliar surface of the roof of a house.

Visit to compare the cost of hundreds of improvement projects whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor.



A Modem and BBS, Not Mark Zuckerberg, Created Social Media

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tim Berners-Lee and researchers at the U. S. government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) are credited with the technology that launched  the World Wide Web leading to the Internet. That may be so, but I think the Smartmodem deserves credit for bringing the Internet into the lives of everyday people. In the 1990s the small black box connected a home computer to a telephone line allowing early adapters to download free software called “shareware” and send messages to others and subscribers to listservers connecting users across the globe.

As modems improved and increased their baud rate speed the bulletin board system (BBS) connected a community of early computer enthusiasts. These communities spurred software developers to create technical businesses and services that developed into commercial enterprises and social groups.

In 1991 we created HouseNet BBS, a special interest board distributed by modems and modestly supported by subscribers. The focus and content was based on our magazine articles, books and Do It Yourself or Not, a Tribune syndicated column that analyzed the cost difference between hiring a contractor compared with doing it yourself.

At BBS conferences sysops (system operators) like us learned about faster modems and developing software and shared advice, often surprising others that our board was about home improvements since many of the most profitable boards offered downloads of pornography.

It’s almost laughable that even today’s slowest Internet speed connection measured in micro seconds is light years faster than early connections measured in minutes.

When we launched HouseNet on the Internet we found our online content – words and pictures – had value. In a 1995 issue of Newsweek magazine we were featured in an article “Online on a Shoestring.” Not long after, the site became part of America Online as their home improvement channel with chatrooms hosted by contractors, who we offered free time on AOL. As part of AOL’s Greenhouse program we were in good company with early adapters like The Knot and The Motley Fool.  It was a frenetic time as special interest boards, led to website, led to the dot-com boom.

Early modems may have introduced people to the online world, but they’ve long been replaced by media companies to provide that link. The ability to talk to others about your passion, your life and challenges spurred countless niche sites  and the Internet became a part of all of our lives. Organizations of every ilk went online, manufacturers and publishers soon followed.  Many of their initial forays were unsuccessful because their initial return on investment was less than expected because their sites replicated their print content. Missing was a key ingredient – connecting potential site visitors with the real people behind their organization who could answer questions and allow them to voice their opinion.

And then social media and all its permeations evolved into what it is today and will become. The influence of the social network as a dynamic part of the online experience – where it’s been and where it’s going – makes me wonder if the early creators and adapters only saw the upside of that connection.  As we go forward and see the impact – good and bad – of that social encounter, it’s difficult to predict where we’re headed.

Gene and Katie Hamilton created HouseNet BBS with a 1200 baud smartmodem in 1991 and later sold to R.R. Donnelly & Sons.  Today they produce Do It Yourself or Not, a weekly column syndicated by Tribune Interactive and




10 Easy Ways to Age Proof a Home

Rug tape
Rug tape

Thinking about age proofing your home? Here are common sense ideas to make your home an easy place to live whether you’re young or old, able or disabled.  Every home should be accident-proof so it’s a safe haven for everyone who lives there. These are simple solutions to make your home family-friendly so so you can stay in control – and in your home – as you age.

The picture is me with the help of Samantha, our grey tabbly, adding a rug tape to secure a throw rug.

1. Use nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways
2. Secure extension and appliance cords to the base shoe molding at the bottom of a wall with u-shaped staples
3. Tame the tangle of home electronic cables and wire with cord managers, covers and cable protectors
4. Remove throw rugs (especially at the top and bottom of a staircase) or secure them with a rug grip or rug tape
5. Install a grab bar in a tub or shower for safe footing
6. Increase bathroom lighting for putting on makeup or reading the tiny print label on medicine
7. Add under-cabinet lighting for chopping food or reading a recipe in the kitchen
8. Add rollout storage shelves in cabinets to easily see what’s inside
9. Add a second hand rail on the wall of a staircase and increase the lighting to assure safe passage
10. Bridge the gap between different floor levels of two rooms by installing a multi-level door threshold reducer so they are level

Visit us at to find the cost of 100s of home improvement costs so you can decide to do it yourself or hire a contractor.


2 Minute Test at Your Favorite Home Center

The recent J.D. Power study of 2,972 customers of five home improvement retailers – Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, and True Value – reveals they expect to receive assistance from a store employee within two minutes from entering the store. That’s the key take-away from the 2018 Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Survey. That’s surprising from someone who has wandered aimlessly down long aisles for much longer than two minutes without seeing anyone remotely interested in helping me.

Here’s how the retailers ranked: 1. Menard, 2. Ace Hardware, 3. Lowe’s, 4. Home Depot and 5. True Value.
***Menards ranks highest in customer satisfaction among home improvement retailers and performs particularly well in the merchandise; price; and sales and promotion factors. Ace Hardware ranks second, performing highest in staff and service. Lowe’s ranks third, performing highest in merchandise and store facility.
***In major metropolitan areas where these big boxes are located near one other, customers have a choice of where to shop. Undoubtedly they choose the retailer where they will be helped right away. However, in remote areas like where I live, there’s only one DIY retailer. I’ll be curious on my next run and will check my watch to see if they pass the “2-minute” test. I can only hope.

Visit us at to compare the cost of doing an improvement or repair job with hiring a contractor.

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Easy Does It August Home Checklist

Here are 11 checkups and inspections to make your home and property work better and more efficiently in August. These are mainly cleanup and checkups, so nothing major heavy duty or extensive.

  • Replace air conditioner filter
  • Inspect for open joints around windows and caulk
  • Inspect for gaps around doors and thresholds and weatherstrip
  • Vacume coils of refrigerator condenser
  • Turn mattresses and upholstered furniture cushions
  • Sharpen blades of garbage disposer with ice cubes and refreshen with lemon
  • Clean pet area and accessories
  • Make calls to have furnace tune up and heating ducts cleaned
  • Flush whirlpool pump to remove bacteria and mineral build-up
  • Sharpen lawn mower blade
  • Maintain lawn and garden beds by watering, mowing and weeding

Click on these Related Job Costs to compare doing it yourself with hiring out the work.





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Easy Yard Fix Ups

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Make your property more attractive and enjoyable with these simple repairs. These are no-brainer jobs any homeowner can tackle with a small amount of time, money and energy. Compare the cost of hiring a professional with doing it yourself and you’ll be encouraged to tackle the jobs.

Bare spots and patchy clumps of weeds and thatch are an eyesore in any lawn. With a little work over a month’s time you can rejuvenate the area. Compare restoring 100-square-feet of lawn yourself for $215 with hiring a landscaper $495. Read more Restore a Lawn.

Manicuring shrubs and brushes with a routine pruning will keep them healthy, growing and looking good. Pay a gardening service $95 or do it yourself for $45. Here’s more about it Prune Trees and Shrubs.

Don’t throw away a perfectly good garden hose just because the end is damaged. Replacing a hose head is s a quick fix anyone can do that costs $12 or less compared with buying a new hose for $45. Read more Repair a Garden Hose.

You’d be amazed at how cleaning a dirty deck will give it new life. Rent a pressure washer for $130 for the afternoon and do it yourself or pay a service $232 for a 15×20 foot one level deck. Here’s more about the job Pressure Wash a Deck.

Visit us at and compare the cost of hundreds of improvement and repair projects so you can decide whether to do it yourself or hire a contractor.