How Can I Add Function And Style To My Closet?

Closets and storage rooms can be the most lackluster areas of your home. When you don't have enough of either, clutter can make these spaces even worse. With a little effort, and some organization and updating, these areas can provide great function and style.  

If it's your closet that tests your patience, try some of these personal touches to make your experience, when opening and closing your closet door, more calming and less stressful.  

Color code your closet – When your closet is in disarray, finding something to wear becomes difficult.  Consider grouping your garments by style; shirts, pants, dresses, suits, and so on. Then hang like colors next to each other. Maintaining a streamlined color palate will not only be pleasing to your eyes, it will provide an easier way to select your wardrobe. 

Add a trendy light fixture – a lighting fixture will not only add a special decorative touch to your closet, it can also provide function.  How many times have you had to pull garments out of your closet to see if two pieces match? Or how many times have you tried to match a black shirt with black pants, but can't seem to find two blacks that match each other. There can never be too much light in a closet. Adding a fixture that provides adequate lighting can provide both function and style.

Hang your clothes with care –invest in high quality velvet hangers.  Switch out your wooden, wire or plastic hangers with these slimmer hangers to create more space.  The fabric that coats the hangers will grab hold of your clothes to prevent your garments from stretching, while providing a uniform appearance that will make your closet look organized. 

Use colorful fabric drawers – colorful or patterned fabric drawers can provide a place for small personal items, like ties, belts, scarves and costume jewelry.  Place these drawers on top of shelves to add both function and style to your closet. 

Get creative with unused wall space – create a vision board in your closet.  Use a simple cork board to place photos of your favorite outfits.  You can also use the space for inspiration, or pin up clips from magazines of new styles that you would like to try.  Or, use the wall space for decorative hooks to hang a special purse or hat.

Use storage space on your floor – purchase low profile plastic containers and use them for purses, shoes or big sweaters that you don't use often.  This extra space on the bottom of your closet, if organized wisely, can provide you with lots of extra storage. 

If you are looking to make a real change in your closet, consider a closet system.  These organizational shelving and hanging units maximize your closet space, as well as provide function and style.

here is no limit to the creative ways you can maximize every closet in your home, on a budget that you are comfortable with.  Even if you don't have a closet, custom closet furniture can be created with no construction or need to hire a contractor.

Closet systems can be professionally installed, or for those that are handy, can be self-installed.  With every closet installation though, it is important to properly anchor the closet system to support the weight of the shelving and the contents that will be placed inside.

ohn DeFrancesco, President      Superior Garage & Home Organizing

(718) 727-7022

How Can I Update My Bathroom For Less?

A bathroom is one of the most used rooms in your home, but can be the least thought of when it comes to updating or decorating.  We spend big bucks updating kitchens and living areas, but when it comes to the bathroom, it sometimes seems easier to just shut the door. 

Because of its size, transforming your bathroom can be easier than you think.  Half the battle of making your bathroom more inviting, is making sure it smells good and doesn't have mold growing around all the crevices.  A good bathroom cleaner and some elbow grease will fix that problem.  

Whether you are looking to just update your small space, or you're looking for a total renovation, here are some simple and affordable ideas to help make your bathroom one of the rooms you invite your friends to see, rather than avoid it.

Brighten up the room – remove old, dark wallpaper, or update the paint color. Consider using bright colors, or even whites to lighten the atmosphere in the room. Then, consider adding some bold accessories to liven the room. Exchange your old shower curtain with a new colorful one to provide a bold statement. Install a new toilet seat, flush handle, towel bar and toilet paper holder to provide a new bathroom feel.

Take the modern approach – updating your bathroom with a LED light fixture can provide you with energy savings, as well as a new sleek look. Use a dimmer switch, with a dimmable bulb to add a romantic feel to your bathroom. Add a dramatic mirror, or glass and chrome accent shelves to finish off the look.  

Add decorative wall treatments – wainscoting or decorative paneling on part of the walls, or textured painting can provide a custom look for your bathroom. Use wood trim to accent mirrors, fixtures, or windows to provide a warm, natural feeling.

Re-do your vanity – the vanity can very well be the biggest expense when it comes to a bathroom renovation. If your countertop is in relatively good condition, and the cabinets are not warped or broken, consider refinishing it. A little sanding, some paint and new hardware can provide your bathroom with a completely different look, and will provide you with the least expensive option. 

Update your storage – purchasing new and improved under cabinet storage bins, can provide you with a place for everything you need. Add pullout shelves that provide access to the back of your cabinets. This will provide the maximum use of your space, while allowing you to see everything that you shoved underneath. Use small acrylic or valet trays, or pouches to organize small items or cosmetics. This will keep the clutter off your countertops.

Use a simple bracket and shelf system to add floating shelves on the walls. This will provide space for decorative displays or to place hand towels, or small baskets for storage. The results will provide a stylish and functional space for all your bathroom needs.

Make some simple changes – remove any items from the bathroom that have not been used in a while. Added clutter can make your bathroom appear smaller. Replace an old bathroom mat or rug with a new one, or add a painting or picture on the wall. A few simple inexpensive purchases can make all the difference.

Consider re-caulking around your tub or shower where it has faded or been torn away. Deep clean the grout around your tiles. Dirty, faded or chipped grout can easily be fixed by re-grouting the tile with the same, or different color. However, this may require the assistance of a professional.  

Replace your countertop – vanities will often remain in good shape, but a damaged countertop can adversely affect the way your bathroom appears. For an affordable option, consider a marble or granite remnant for a luxurious look that costs less.

Add some vintage charm – flea markets, salvage yards, antique auctions, and internet sites are great suppliers of vintage tubs, sinks, countertops, flooring, benches and accent pieces. If you are looking for a complete bathroom renovation, it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg for the materials.

If you are looking to renovate your bathroom to include the replacement of toilets, faucets, and shower heads, enlist the services of a professional. A bathroom renovation may require a professional tile installation company, a licensed plumber, and possibly a licensed electrician. In some cases, and if you plan to rework the location of your fixtures, you may need to consult with an architect and file your project with the NYC Department of Buildings.

As with any home renovation where a contractor is utilized, it is important to make sure you hire a licensed and insured, reputable contractor that provides you with good references.

Jeff Troost, President    Troost Bros. Inc. Home Renovations

(718) 667-3131

Is It Important To Use Certain Colors When Decorating?

It is very important to consider color when planning to decorate your home.  In fact, one of the first things you should do when designing a home or office is choose the color or colors you want to use.  This will set the tone of the room and the feelings that will be aroused when you are in it.

You need to think of colors for your walls, the fabrics for your furniture and window treatments, and for all the accessories you will fill the room with. That’s not so simple if you are not experienced with choosing colors that relate well to each other, o to the unique needs of your space.

Though scientists don’t completely understand the link between color and mood, it is a scientific fact that color affects mood. And since the colors we choose to live in can definitely affect how we act, think and feel, we should certainly consider the personality of color when choosing a room’s color scheme.

Color is associated with many different aspects in life and is used to express our moods and personalities. A person can be described as being green with envy, feeling blue, tickled pink, or seeing red. Color evokes feelings, and emotions and has always been used as a means of expression. Decorators spend a lot of time assessing how their clients want to feel when they are in their room and providing a solution through color. Because we see color with our hearts, not our heads, we can use color to affect the way we feel and how we do things.

Ancient civilizations believed in the influence of color on humans. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and Indians used chromotherapy, or healing with color. 

Utilizing colors such as red, yellow and orange will evoke energy, and reate energy. These colors warm, cheer and inspire conversation in varying degrees. 

Red sparks emotions by stimulating the autonomous nervous system, even causing you to salivate. Think of how you feel when you see a little red Corvett.

Orange and yellow stimulate your senses and helps you move faster. Put these colors to work in activity spaces. If you are dieting, red is not a good color – it can cause you to eat more. It is no accident that many of the brands of fast food chains are in red and yellow – red to make you hungry and yellow to move you quickly.

Pink, a lighter version of red, is the most romantic color. It can also be calming or drain you of energy. Many sports teams paint the opposing team’s locker room pink for that reason.

Pacifying colors such as blue, green and purple stay reservedly in the background. They are cooling and calming and re-energize weary spirits. Cool hues release tension. Put them in rooms for resting and refueling. Blues and purples work meditative wonders. Proud, strong blues help foster a sense of responsibility in the people using that space. Weightlifters have been shown to have more powerful performances in blue rooms. 

Purple is the color for dreaming. Do not put purple in a workspace because it works against productivity. Associated with wisdom and spirituality, purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red, taking on the characteristics of either, depending on the shade. Purple can,owever, have a luxurious feel and is associated with wealth and royalty.

Green is safety- it stabilizes and secures, and many people say that it is their favorite color.  Green also symbolizes nature and thus promotes a serene and calming environment. Associated with health, healing and well being, green has a soothing effect on the body and mind, reducing anxiety and promoting concentration.

White or light beige colors have a modern appeal, however, the monochromatic look can create boredom after a short period of time.  These colors do not provide stimulation, and can be attributed to distraction, as minds can begin to wander when not inspired or bored.

You can harness the mood making energies of color, using them to exhilarate you or tranquilize you, warm you or cool you, prompt you to talk or put you to sleep. We all see the same light, but we connect different feelings, experiences and memories to each color. Think of color as the visual spice of life.

When choosing a room's color scheme, remember that balance is best achieved with a mix of warm and cool colors.

If you find yourself challenged with your next decorating project, it is a good idea to consult with a professional designer or decorator who can lead you in the right direction.  The size of your room, the amount of natural lighting, or lack thereof, or existing conditions of the room, like a hardwood floor that you just can't get rid of, create challenges for even the best home designer. 

Using on-line tools and home design software is a great way to start identifying design styles, paint colors and furnishings that you like.  Although you may be able to select items, and colors here and there that you like, it is sometimes difficult to put it all together so that it makes sense. 

The most important part of designing a room is making sure that you have put all of the components together to create the emotion that you are looking to feel when you walk into the room.

onny Golden, President - Golden Key Interiors

(718) 761-2366

When Is The Best Time Of The Year To Landscape My Yard?

Plants, shrubs and flowers thrive when the weather is comfortable – not too hot - not too cold. It is important to understand how and when to landscape your home to ensure the fruits of your labor are a success, and do not result in a bunch of brown, limp foliage.

For many novice gardeners, selecting the right type of plants and the right time to install them can be confusing.  Your objective is to maximize your home's curb appeal. To make your effort the most successful, it is important you know all the facts and particulars about your ground conditions, and each type of plant, shrub or flower you are planning to install.

Factors also include the amount of sun or shade your plants will receive in your landscaping beds, and will that sunlight be projected in the morning or the afternoon? Or do your landscaping beds get any sun at all? What type of soil conditions exist in your garden? And, how good is the drainage of your landscaping beds during rain storms?  Too much sun, not enough sun, too much water, not enough water, and poor soil conditions all contribute to a failed garden.  Knowing every aspect of growing conditions will help you choose plants that will thrive, with minimal care.

Though many of us get the planting bug on the first beautiful day of spring, it is not necessarily the best time to start your landscaping project.  Unexpected heat waves, excessive rain or a surprise snow storm early in the season, can place stress on newly installed plants, shrubs and flowers.

Plant during the latter part of spring or summer, you will need to pay a little more attention to your garden.  The hot and humid days of summer place more stress on your plants, shrubs and flowers, and therefore will require routine watering, and a little extra TLC. 

As early fall lends itself to cooler temperatures and lower humidity, it is the most favorable, and most comfortable time of the year to embark on your landscaping project.  Planting trees, shrubs and perennials in the fall allows for them to establish their root system so they are strong when spring arrives.   More developed root systems help plants perform better in the summer, more so than those planted in the spring.

Timing is not the only thing that makes your landscape installation a success.  Knowing which plants to install and how can be the difference between a beautiful landscaped yard and a bed of dead plants. Most plants that die within a few months of being planted do so because they were not planted properly or because they were not watered correctly; it is rare for a tree or shrub to die from insects or disease within the first year of planting. Planting in fall will help improve your chances of a successful installation, as will knowing the right way to plant and water.

If you are dead set on planting in the spring, make sure you do so when the morning temperatures are not forecasted to go below 45 to 50 degrees.  Frost is a major factor in prematurely killing flowers and delicate seedlings. In our region, the beginning to middle of May is the best time to start your landscaping project. If you are unsure if it is safe to plant, consult with your local garden center expert who should be able to give you some pointers and tips.

The most important consideration when planting during the spring, is making sure the ground conditions are favorable.  Make sure when you dig down the ground is not frozen or too wet from spring rains.  Although early spring is not good for many types of plants, dormant shrubs and trees, as well as some cold crop vegetable seeds, like peas, spinach and onions can be placed in the ground successfully. Some very cold tolerant annuals such as pansies, primroses and violas can also be planted in early spring.

After the threat of frost has passed, you can plant or transplant any type of annual, perennial, vegetable, shrub or tree.  Just keep in mind that an early summer heatwave, will require more attention and care for your plants to survive.  Plants or delicate flowers that aren't tolerant to heat will struggle if planted in the later days of spring or summer.  If that is your plan, speak with a professional that can help guide you to the right type of planting materials that will provide beautiful results.

Once the fall rolls in, you can basically plant anything.  Fall planting is advantageous because of favorable soil temperatures and moisture conditions that promote root growth to sustain plants during the critical first year in the ground.

Shrubs and trees planted in the fall will establish strong root systems by the time spring rolls around.  Perennials will flourish and be ready to bud.  Fall is also the best time of the year to divide perennials and replant them, although it is not encouraged for any perennials that are in mid-bloom. 

As the fall holidays approach, it is a good time to plant cold tolerant annuals like Diasica, Osteospermum, Nemesia and Osaka, the flowering cabbage that seems to be installed in every landscape bed in October.

As with any home improvement project.  It is always best to consult with a professional who is familiar with each type of specimen and the key components they require to grow, bloom and thrive in the landscaping of your home.

 Gary Malandro, President – Gary's Landscaping

(718) 761-2475


On Tuesday evening, May 16th and Wednesday, May 17th, NARI members from around the country converged on Washington, DC for the third and largest NARI DC Fly-In and Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.  NARI members came to meet with their Congressional Representatives about the important issues impacting the remodeling industry.  Each year the fly-in grows and this year’s attendance nearly doubled in size! We were taken on an exclusive and personal nighttime tour of the U.S. Capitol.  Leading the tour was NARI’s government affairs representatives - former U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson, and former Congressmen Albert Wynn and Charles Bass. One notable highlight of the tour included the opportunity to venture out onto the Speaker of the House’s balcony, something only few are able to experience.  In addition to the Speaker’s balcony, NARI members were able to visit the House and Senate floors.

On Wednesday morning, we gathered in the historic Lincoln Room located directly off Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. The Lincoln Room is not generally open to the public and is only offered with express consent from the Majority Whip.  This room was a former cloak room for members of Congress and the location where President Lincoln spent time during his two years in the U.S. Congress.

During our morning session, Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the Small Business Committee, spent time discussing regulatory reform and his commitment to work to provide relief for small businesses – specifically, regulatory relief.  Next, Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) who sits on both the Small Business Committee and Education and Workforce Committee, focused his remarks on regulatory relief and workforce development.  Both guests welcomed input and questions from the group, and they engaged in great conversation.  In addition to the two speakers, Senator Hutchinson and Congressman Wynn provided a bipartisan outlook on the remarkably unusual current political landscape.

The remainder of the morning focused on a “Lobbying 101” session to prepare all attendees on what to expect on the Hill and legislative issues that NARI members would discuss in each of their Congressional meetings.  Those issues included: Workforce Development; Energy Efficiency Legislation; and Tax Reform.  Members of Congress and their staff always expect an “ask” during these meetings where constituents ask for their help.

We then had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with our local lawmakers and their staff.  During the meetings, we asked our members of Congress to support legislation that impacts the remodeling industry.  Federal lobbying is a Constitutional right and many fail to take advantage of this privilege.  Some of the feedback from my fellow attendees is provided below:

Making our individual and combined voices known, directly, to our nation’s Senators and Congressmen, is an important step in making sure our industry and our NARI membership is fairly represented.

“The perspective given by both sitting/retired senators and representatives was most enlightening not to mention the back drop of the rare opportunity to meet in the Lincoln room.  In addition, I was able to sit down with both a Democrat and Republican representative who listened as I explained NARI’s issues. They were both very receptive to us. WE are making a difference and getting noticed in the process.”  Laurence Carolan, NARI National - Chair of Government Affairs

Several attendees also noted that the DC Fly-in is critical to growing and maintaining relationships with members of Congress.  While Congress may not always actively focus on all NARI’s federal priorities, building relationships and educating Congressional representatives and staff will only help further NARI’s goals.  NARI members can be sure they left DC with relationships that were stronger than when they arrived and can be maintained through this Congressional session.  NARI looks forward to expanding this event next year!.

Is There Any Way To Soundproof My Home?

With all the loud noises that surround us day to day, it is no wonder we can't wait to escape it all.  Noise disturbs our sleep, adds to our stressful lives and infringes on our privacy.  Whether it be the sound of phones ringing, construction, traffic, airplanes flying overhead, or music, it seems the only place to get away is in the peace and quiet of your own home.
But is your home quiet? Or do you still hear street traffic from outside, or your children playing video games in an adjacent room, or a noisy neighbor above or to the side of you? Is noise entering your home through the windows, your walls or floors?  How can you just sit in a room without hearing anything else but your heart beat? The answer may not be as simple as you would like.
Open floor plans, lightweight construction, hard surfaces and high tech audio equipment play a significant part in designing a noisy home.  As such, our awareness of noise has heightened and home soundproofing has become more popular.  Not only to keep the noises out, but to keep the noise in; as is the case when building a home theater or music room. 
In new construction, this task can more easily be accomplished.  By adding soundproofing barriers while your home is being built, and while the drywall is not yet hung, you can save time and money on the effort.  Choices for soundproofing in new construction include using denser insulation between walls and floors, or using thicker drywall material, or adding a second layer of drywall, with a noise-proofing compound between the sheets for new construction homes that may already have drywall installed. Adding an acoustical sealant where the corners of the drywall meets, or around outlets can provide additional noise reduction.
Materials used for sound proofing are rated to measure their effectiveness.  These ratings are a measure of how much sound is stopped by a particular material.  They are referred to as STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings.  The higher the STC rating, the better the soundproofing capabilities are of a material.  Windows, insulation and carpeting all carry an STC rating.
In an existing home, there is a limit to the amount of retrofit soundproofing you can do.  If you have older, single paned windows, you probably can hear the birds chirping, or the next door neighbor mowing their lawn. Newer double-paned, insulated windows with an acrylic frame are designed to keep those types of noises out.  They typically have a rating between 28 and 35 STCs; whereas single paned windows only have about a 20 STC rating.
If new windows are out of your budget, consider sound deadening drapes, like the ones used in a hotel.  These drapes help block sound waves from entering, or exiting your home through the windows, and absorb sound in your room. Or for a more effective way to soundproof your windows in high traffic neighborhoods, there are window plugs.  These "plugs" are made from 1" to 2" soundproofing boards that provide a tight barrier over and around the frame of your windows. These sound boards are highly effective in reducing noise, however, block all the light from your window.
With respect to drywall, the same measures can be used to better soundproof your home as with new construction.  Utilizing thicker drywall, multiple layers of drywall and using silicone caulking on the stud side of the drywall and between the layers to insulate screw penetrations, and adding an acoustical sealant, will all help to minimize noise. 
In some cases, adding thicker or higher rated insulation will provide better sound absorption. If you are not renovating your home, you can consult with a professional who can provide alternative options, which may include cutting holes into your drywall and blowing insulation into your walls.
If you don't want to damage your existing walls, consider wall coverings or acoustical wall panels that provide soundproofing capabilities. These coverings come in a variety of materials and colors, and can be customized to match your décor.  They are simply applied and fastened to your walls, and can be arranged as you see fit.
If your noise issue is vertical, due to noisy children, pets or tenants that run around above you, there are a few options to consider.  By installing wall to wall carpet, an area rug in high traffic areas, or placing sound proofing matting on the floors, these measures will reduce the movement of sound through the floors to the ceiling below.  If you just love your hard wood or tiled floors, consider adding soundproofing acoustical tiles to your ceiling or insulating above the drywall ceiling to lessen the noise.
In general, to make rooms as soundproof as possible, place absorbent materials, such as furniture, draperies and carpet in at least 25% of the room area. This will help dampen sound waves and absorb noise.  As hollow doors do not block noise between rooms, consider replacing them with solid core doors, which will reduce sound from traveling. If on a shoestring budget, you can always hang absorbent materials, like an area rug or a plush comforter on the walls to help reduce noise transmission.  
Making your home quiet may take a little work, or the assistance of a professional. But the effort is worth the reward, and when you can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet that surrounds you, you will know it was all worthwhile.   
Gary Grecco, Owner  - EnergyPro Insulation
(718) 984-7211

Should I Invest In A "Smart" Thermostat?

Many homeowners have invested in programmable thermostats over the years, providing a cost savings and convenience for operating their cooling and heating systems.  These thermostats are able to maintain preset temperature settings for weekdays and weekend schedules, but require manual overrides, in the event that you want to lower or raise the setting, or alter the time of a setting. Meaning, you are already experiencing discomfort by the time you get to the thermostat, then have to wait for your heating or cooling system to get to catch up to the temperature you are comfortable with.

Our society has developed a culture of instant gratification, where when you want something, you want it now.  Many businesses are capitalizing on that, and have built their companies around providing consumers with products and services how and when they want them. Thermostat manufacturers are no different. 

Today's thermostat manufacturers have identified that homeowner's need and want comfort on demand. A change in schedule, an extremely hot and humid day, or a day with below zero temperatures, should not alter the comfort level of their home, no matter what schedule they pre-programmed in their thermostat month's prior. "Smart Thermostats" provide the solution to meet those needs and wants in maintaining home comfort.

Smart thermostats promise energy savings, cost reduction, and automatic temperature settings based on your habits and preferences.  Not to mention you can use your smart phone to control your heating and air conditioning system remotely, providing easy access when you are away, or forget to alter the settings before leaving for an extended period of time.

While some of us just consider thermostats a control panel to our heating and air conditioning system, smart thermostats provide comfort based on your lifestyle.  What makes most smart thermostats so "smart" is that they learn your behaviors and adapt to meet your desired temperature settings.  They can adjust themselves to accommodate conditions like humidity, and the time it takes to go from an "away" setting to a "home" setting, so that by the time you arrive home, the desired temperature is met.

You may already be saving money by using a programmable thermostat for home and away temperature settings.  Smart thermostats, however, actually learn these times by sensing when you are home and not at home.  "Smarty Stat" is watching you.  That means if your schedule changes your smart thermostat will change the settings automatically, no re-programming is required.  This can eliminate the desire to drop the thermostat to the lowest temperature possible to "cool your house faster" which wastes energy and doesn't actually work.  There are phone apps for some smart thermostats that even provide insight into how much you are spending on your energy costs. 

The cost of smart thermostats vary widely.  Some require a professional contractor to provide the installation.  This will save you time but add to the initial cost.  Those promoted as self-installed are not "plug and play" so be prepared to invest some time in the installation process.  Don't forget you will need to download and learn the new smart phone application if you want remote capabilities as well.

If you already have a standard 7 day, or 5 day/2day programmable thermostat and you have it set to accommodate your regular routine, you are already saving money.  A programmable thermostat can save you up to $200 per year on your energy bills... if you are using it properly. 

If you are still using a non-programmable thermostat, consider making the investment in one.  It is well worth the cost, and will provide a "set it and forget it" experience. When narrowing your choices, consider the thermostat features, price, and attributes that matter to you, such as color, size, or style, and then read reviews by other consumers.

If you are ready to experience comfort, energy savings and convenience like no other, then you are ready for a Smart Thermostat.  The most common, and reliable smart thermostat manufacturers are Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell.  It is important to do your research on these smart thermostats, as some offer more control than other.

The Nest thermostat, like the Ecobee, offers humidity control, which will alter the way your heating and cooling system operates to reduce, or add moisture in the air. In addition, it has a weather sensor that takes outdoor conditions into consideration when maintain your home comfort levels. In addition, the auto scheduling feature will learn and understand your schedule to maintain optimum comfort, and use WiFi connectivity to allow for remote temperature control.

The Honeywell thermostat also has sensing capabilities, and works with Wifi to provide remote access.  The thermostat provides modifiable wallpaper and a 5-day weather forecast, in addition to an indoor humidity sensor, which can either humidify or dehumidify your home, according to your comfort level. The Honeywell thermostat also has the ability to engage your system fan to enhance the circulation in your room, brining you the highest level of comfort.

Keep in mind that the best place to install a thermostat is on an interior wall and away from vents and other sources of heat and drafts that could distort temperature readings. If you're doing more than a simple replacement, call a heating and cooling professional to assist. This will ensure your thermostat is installed and set up properly, to provide your family with the most efficient and effective way to condition your home.

Tom Scarangello, General Manager - Scaran Heating and Air Conditioning

(718) 984-0805

How Do I Prevent Mold And Mildew From Accumulating In My Bathroom?

Mold and mildew can be located anywhere in our homes, but is most likely to grow in areas that are wet, humid and damp.  It is most commonly found in bathrooms, basements and attics, when a combination of water and insufficient ventilation are combined.

One of the most noticeable areas you will find mold and mildew is in your bathroom because of the high levels of humidity confined in this small space.  Most commonly, mold and mildew are found in the corners and bases of your shower, under your sink, and along the walls near your shower. 

Bathroom mold occurs because it loves damp, isolated and non-ventilated spaces. Leaky toilets, sinks and plumbing pipes also increase the likelihood that mold will accumulate in your bathroom.  Add water saturated wood, wallpaper, grout, drywall and fabric, and your mold will have all the surface area it needs to take over your bathroom.

How do you know you have a mold problem? If you can see it or smell it, you have it. Although bathroom mold is not always clear to see, you should look under sinks, in access doors adjacent to your shower or bathroom fixtures, around exhaust fans, and even in crawl spaces or basement under you bathroom.

The best way to prevent mold is to stop it from happening in the first place.  Use these simple tips to keep mold away:

-Use your bathroom exhaust fan when you shower or take a bath, and leave it on for 30 minutes afterwards.  Removing moisture from the bathroom is one of the best things you can do to reduce the chances of mold growth.

- If you don't have an exhaust fan, try cracking open your window to help circulate air and dry the room more efficiently.

-Try to keep toys, shampoo, body wash and loofas out of the shower, as they provide additional surfaces for mold to grown on.

-Do not leave wet towels in the bathroom.

-Wash your bathroom rugs frequently.

-Use mildew resistant shower liners, and wash or replace them frequently. Try to stretch out your shower curtain after showering to prevent mold from growing in the folds.

-Keep household humidity levels below 50%.  Your air conditioning system or dehumidifier can help.

-If you have a hand shower, rinse the walls and corners of your shower stall or bathtub to remove any extra soap, shampoo and conditioner that may get stuck in the corners.

-Clean and dust your bathroom at least once a week, as dust is a food source for mold.

-Mix 70% water and 30% bleach in a spray bottle, and spray shower area to allow the mixture to settle for 2 to 3 minutes, then rinse with water weekly.

Have mold? As long as the mold is on the surface, and the infestation isn't too large, you can attempt to remedy it yourself by cleaning your bathroom with mold killing solutions and cleaners like bleach, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Just be careful not to mix those products as they may cause a toxic reaction. By stripping away and replacing any caulking or sealant where you see mold, you will completely rid the mold without having to clean it. And lastly, try to open windows and doors after cleaning to provide ventilation and help dry out the surfaces more quickly.

Consider routinely checking your bathroom for leaks by feeling around pipes and seals under your sink and by the toilet. If you notice your hands are wet, call a plumber before it worsens.  Clear your slow drains, as these too can cause mold to grow in your bathroom. 

If it is time to freshen up your bathroom, consider using a semi-gloss paint that is more resistant to stains, easier to clean and creates a harder surface, which makes mold more difficult to grow.

If you have an area affected by mold that is bigger than 10 square feet, it is recommended that you call a professional who can assist in identifying the exact type of mold you are dealing with, and what the proper abatement procedures are.

If you notice mold building up on your walls or insulation, do not handle it yourself.  The improper handling of mold can lead to releasing mold spores through your entire house, creating an even bigger issue than you had in the first place.

Max Mannino, President – Tri-Star Construction & Home Improvement

(718) 815-1800

Is An Attic Fan A Good Investment For My Home?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding attic fans.  Studies have shown if your attic is properly ventilated with a ridge vent and your attic is well insulated, you wouldn’t need an attic fan. A ridge vent is an opening along the ridge of your roof that allows air to enter the lower eves of your attic to naturally take hotter air from the attic up through the ridge vent using natural convection.  

Before providing a simple yes or no answer to this question, you must understand that there are a couple of types of attic fans available on the market. 

Whole-house fans are intended to be used in homes that are not air-conditioned. Whole-house fans are used to bring fresh air into your home, via open windows, and up through your attic.  If you live in the right climate, whole-house fans are a great way to keep your house cool day and night, and only use about 10% to 15% of the power drawn by a central air conditioner.  In the U.S., this type of fan makes more sense in the arid West, rather than in the more humid Eastern part of the country.  

Utilizing this type of fan in our area will introduce potentially humid and unfiltered exterior air into your home.  Many people use their central air conditioning system, not only to cool their home, but also to dehumidify and filter the outdoor air, whereby reducing dust and allergens through a central filtration system.  A whole house fan is the antithesis of your central air system, even if used only at night.  

In most cases, a whole-house fan is mounted in the attic floor, above a rectangular grille in the ceiling of a central hallway.  The fan pulls warm air from the interior of your home and blows it into the attic. Since whole-house fans are relatively powerful, they quickly exhaust the hot indoor air, allowing cooler outdoor air to enter through open windows. Once the house has cooled off, the fan can be turned off and the windows closed. Typically whole house fans are used at night to bring in the cooler air and then windows are closed from early morning until evening, so that the cool air inside the house doesn’t escape.

Even when whole-house fans seem to make sense in your home, they may not be a smart choice due to the following; if your home is located in a neighborhood where open windows may be a security issue; whole-house fans create a big hole in your ceiling which is likely to create a lot of heat loss during the winter, whereby increasing your heating costs; whole house fans are noisy; and lastly, when whole-house fans are used they can cause atmospherically vented appliances located inside your home to back draft, like a gas-fired water heater; whereby potentially creating a carbon monoxide issue. 

A powered attic ventilator (attic fan) has a different purpose: it is designed to lower the temperature of an attic by exhausting hot air from the attic and replacing attic air with outdoor air through roof vents.  The idea is to save energy by reducing the run time of your air conditioner by keeping the attic cooler.  The consideration is that a powered attic ventilator will alleviate some of the heat load on the top floor of your home, whereby providing an energy savings from reduced use of your air conditioning system.

Powered attic ventilators are usually mounted on a sloped roof or the gable wall of an attic. Most powered attic ventilators are controlled by a thermostat so that they turn on when the attic gets hot.  Although the logic behind powered attic ventilators is compelling to many hot-climate homeowners, these devices can cause some problems.  A powered attic ventilator requires make up air to work effectively.  If your roof soffits are not adequate, the attic fan will find other ways to get the air it needs, which can pose a problem.

In many homes, powered attic ventilators pull conditioned air out of the home and into the attic through ceiling cracks. The net result: powered attic ventilators increase rather than decrease cooling costs.  As the cool air is being sucked out of the house through the ceiling, hot exterior air enters the house through other cracks to replace the exhausted air. The net result: the air conditioner has to work harder than ever as it struggles to cool all that entering outdoor air.

Several studies show that using a power attic ventilator does not always save more electric than it uses; even in a newer home with no cracks or air seepage.

A more alarming problem is that powered attic ventilators can also depressurize a house enough to cause gas appliances, like water heaters and boilers used to heat domestic water, to seep hazardous gases into your home. The potential for hazardous conditions is elevated in homes utilizing power exhaust fans during the summer when gas appliances are on at the same time the fan is on.  The negative pressure created by the attic fan causes carbon monoxide to feed back into your home, rather than exhausting up through your chimney.  This can create a potentially hazardous condition for your family.

If your attic is too hot, it isn’t necessarily a problem. If there is no ductwork or HVAC equipment up there, who cares how hot it gets? After all, you should have a thick layer of insulation on your attic floor to isolate your hot attic from your cool house.  If you do have ductwork or HVAC equipment in your attic, make sure you seal any leaking ductwork and make sure your ductwork is wrapped with insulation.

If you believe that your house has a hot ceiling during the summer, the solution is not a powered attic ventilator. The solution is to seal any air leaks in your ceiling and to add more insulation to your attic floor.

Donald Pagano, President – DRP Electrical Contracting

(718) 447-7275  

What Are The Code Requirements To Install An In-Ground Swimming Pool?

As sticky as the hot summer days can be in New York City, the zoning and construction requirements for our backyard oasis can be even more so. 

There are two types of pools that are accessory to one- or two-family homes that DO NOT require a permit from the Department of Buildings. These are: 1) outdoor in-ground pools less than 400 square feet in area, which have an existing slop sink connected to a sanitary sewer for drainage, and 2) above-ground pools that are less than 48 inches deep and do not exceed 500 square feet in area. 

Though a permit is not necessary for these pools they must still comply with NYC Building Code standards. Homeowners can access the NYC Building Code online at, and see Rule 44 and sections 27-488 through 27-493 for specific requirements.

All other types of pools require plans to be filed by a licensed architect or engineer, and the issuance of a permit prior to construction. Whether requiring approval or not, the following general rules apply to all pool installations:

- Permanent markings showing the depth of the shallow end, break points, diving depth, and deep end must be visible from both inside and outside the pool.

- The pool must be located at least five feet from any lot line, unless the lot itself is less than 25 feet wide. In that case, the pool may be located at least three feet from the side yard lot line and must be screened from the adjoining lots by a six-foot-high fence that is continuous, solid and opaque.

- There must be a continuous fence surrounding the pool, at least four feet high above the ground with a closed, childproof, self-closing gate.

- If a fence is metal, it must be grounded to prevent it from becoming electrically charged.

- No overhead electrical conductors should be installed within 15 feet of the pool.

- Should you install a gas-fired pool heater, an architect or plumber must file for Building Department approval and an electrician must file for approval of an electrical pool heater.

- Drainage lines must either connect to a slop sink that is connected to a sanitary sewer or approval must be secured for alternative drainage methods

It is important to note however, that regulations from other agencies may apply to your property if your property is landmarked or is situated in a special natural area, historic, or other designated district. These regulations may concern front, rear, or side yard requirements, tree maintenance, and/or grading requirements that would affect your pool, porch, or deck location choice. You can secure landmarks information from the Landmarks Preservation Commission at, and zoning information from the Department of City Planning at

Upon completion of construction, sign-off inspections may be required, an updated survey may be needed indicating the conditions as completed, and either a Letter of Completion or amended Certificate of Occupancy may be required depending upon the type of approval that was required.

Summer is fast approaching us but there is still time for you to create your backyard bliss. Be sure to check with a licensed architect regarding the regulations specific to your property.  

Use reputable pool installers and licensed home improvement contractors for installation and construction of any accessory structures. Most of all, remember that although these rules and regulations can put a damper on the installation process, they exist for your safety and for the safety of you friends and family. Make a splash and enjoy the summer!

Ronald D. Victorio, R.A. – Ronald Victorio Architects

(718) 720-3478   e-mail:

All our experts are licensed, bonded and insured members of the Staten Island Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (The Home Improvement Contractors of Staten Island).  Homeowners should always consult with licensed professionals, check a contractor's license through the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (call 311 for information) and ensure that their project complies with NYC DOB regulations before embarking on any home improvement project.

To ask your home improvement questions contact:

Ask the Expert: How Do I Select The Right Type Of Wood Flooring For My Home?

With so many options on the market, it is important that you choose a flooring product that fits your style, and that functions well for your family. There are pros and cons to each type of flooring material, so it is important to understand the differences.

When considering a wood, or wood-like flooring product, there are three basic options on the market; hardwood flooring, engineered flooring and laminate flooring.

Laminate floors come in many varieties and styles, but are always prefinished and ready to use when installed. Hardwood, and some engineered products are available prefinished, as well.  If you choose the unfinished variety of either, you will be able to customize the finish and color of your floor, however it will require some additional work after installation.

Before you start ripping your home apart, do your homework on the flooring options available in your price range, find out what the lead time will be to get the materials, and most importantly make sure you understand the manufacturer's suggested installation process.

Hardwood flooring, also known as solid wood, has three categories; strip flooring, plank flooring and parquet flooring. In addition, each is available in prefinished and unfinished versions.

When installing unfinished wood in your home, the finishing process is done on site, after installation. After the boards are carefully installed, they have to be sanded, stained and sealed. This process will require about 3 to 4 rounds of application. Because each application has a cure period, the project can take an additional 3 to 5 days to complete.

Prefinished products are finished at the factory by applying approximately 5 to 10 coats of an aluminum oxide finish to the wood. This process is designed to add a layer of protection to help prevent scratches. It's more durable and solidifies the product. Some manufacturers will apply an aluminum oxide layer to the backing of each board as well, to add moisture resistance.

The benefit of purchasing a prefinished product is the extended manufacturer's warranty. As the manufacturer controls the quality of the finishing process, the warranty is provided anywhere from 10 years to lifetime. The added benefit of a prefinished floor is that once the flooring system is installed, it is ready for immediate use.

One of the downsides of a prefinished floor, is the boards are micro-beveled at the edges. This means you are more likely to see the lines between each plank. If you're seeking a more traditional or sleek look, unfinished products are the way to go. The boards are flat, not beveled, so you will not see the separation of the floor boards, rather a seamless pattern. The only downside to unfinished flooring is that they do not come with a warranty, and if they do, the warranty is typically only good for one year.

What makes hardwood flooring a valuable investment, is it can be re-sanded and refinished 3 to 7 times to look brand new and should last at least 100 years. In addition, it is the only flooring option that can add considerable value to your home.

There are a slew of species of hardwood floors to pick from, ranging from domestic options like red and white oak, birch, pine, maple and hickory to exotics from all around the world like Brazilian cherry, Brazilian teak and Santos mahogany. Each species carries its own characteristics. It is important to research the most suitable species for your living environment.

Each type of solid wood floor is graded by the manufacturer. The wood is not necessarily graded by the quality, durability and stability of the wood, rather look of the wood and its characteristics. The best grades of wood are clear and select. These woods have fewer markings and are more consistent in appearance than the common grades, which may have a variety of markings.

Hardwood flooring can only be nailed down on a plywood subfloor with no moisture — no exceptions. It's typically installed on the first floor with a basement below and can also be installed on second floors and above.

For cleaning, you can use a soft bristle broom or dry microfiber mop — no water. If the floor has beveled edges, vacuum with the beater bar turned off to remove dust between the floorboards.

Engineered flooring, like hardwood, also comes in prefinished and unfinished options. It was originally designed for below-grade levels, like basements, as it performs well in high-moisture environments. Because of this, it can virtually be installed anywhere in your home.

The boards are made of multiple layers of plywood at its core and other moisture-resistant materials. It looks like real solid wood, and can also be sanded and refinished depending on the quality of the material. A wood veneer is applied to the top of the board, which can range from 1 to 4 millimeters in thickness. The thicker the veneer, the better.

Engineered flooring must be glued down when installing. Pricing is comparable to hardwood, and it can last 20 to 100 years, depending on the manufacturer. If the boards have a 1 to 2 millimeter-thick veneer, it can't be sanded and refinished — you'll eventually have to replace the floor due to wear and tear.

The flooring is easy to maintain. You can either use a vacuum with a soft flooring attachment, broom or dry microfiber dust mop to clean.

Laminate flooring only comes in prefinished options. Unlike the other flooring options, there is no wood material. Instead, it's made of a high density fiberboard (HDF) core and can appear like plastic. The boards are installed using a click-lock floating method over a foam pad with no adhesive, nails or staples.

Like engineered flooring, laminate flooring is also moisture-resistant. It's also more resistant to stains and won't expand or contract as much with seasonal changes in humidity. It can be installed on, above or below-grade level, but it's not recommended for full baths. Instead of a veneer, the top layer has a computer-printed image of a wood species, and multiple coats of a finish are applied at the factory.

Laminate flooring isn't a high-maintenance product. You can use a dust mop or vacuum with a soft brush or wood floor attachment. You can also use a slightly damp mop for spot cleaning, just be careful to avoid excessive water.

Quality laminate flooring also isn't easily scratched or dented, performs well in high traffic areas, and is a more affordable option. But unlike hardwood and engineered, laminate flooring only spans 10 to 20 years and can't be sanded or refinished. If you're not planning on staying in your home for a long period of time, laminate flooring is a good option to go with.

When selecting a new floor for your home, consider consulting with an expert in the field. They will be able to provide you with advice on the best flooring options for your home, budget and family needs. As the cost of replacing your flooring can be an expensive portion of your remodeling budget, it is important to do your homework.

When pricing different flooring options, remember that flooring is priced by the square foot. It's a good idea to know your measurements before you go shopping. Once you know the square footage of the area to be covered, you'll be able to compare the cost of the materials for your home project. Just remember that when shopping for flooring materials, costs for installation, and the materials to prepare your floor for the installation, will need to be added to the project cost.

John Kolbaska, President - The Men With Tools Home Remodeling
(347) 815-4151

All our experts are licensed, bonded and insured members of the Staten Island Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (The Home Improvement Contractors of Staten Island). Homeowners should always consult with licensed professionals, check a contractor's license through the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (call 311 for information) and ensure that their project complies with NYC DOB regulations before embarking on any home improvement project.

When Should I Replace The Windows In My Home? The 4 Most Common Signs.

When it comes to home improvement projects, replacement windows are not at the top of most homeowners to-do lists, as they do not provide much of a decorative change. However, if your home is more than 20 years old, it is important to identify some of the warning signs that tell you it's time to consider the project. 

If your windows show signs of age or deterioration, it is important that you consider replacement.  Windows play an important role in your homes efficiency. When windows do not fully close, or have warped, the conditioned air in your home escapes and unconditioned outdoor air enters your home.  When it comes to window replacement, it is important to fix the problem before it worsens, and save yourself money while doing so.

Here are the four common signs that it is time to replace your windows:

Your windows do not lock properly - Is it difficult or impossible for the latches or locking mechanism on your windows to close? Do your windows still open when you think they are locked? This means the security of your home is compromised. Broken locks are not only an access point for intruders, windows that do not close all the way provide drafts, the infiltration of outside elements including water and other debris, and even bugs crawling through the cracks into your home.

Drafty, air infiltration - Is it noticeably colder by your windows during the winter and warmer in the summer? Do your blinds or curtains tend to move by themselves? This is a sign that air is leaking into your home and whether you realize it or not, it's affecting your energy bills all year round.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that drafty windows are only a problem in colder temperatures.  That is why you'll see plastic from those do-it-yourself insulator kits or towels on window sills. Once the season changes, they are gone. Although many homeowners think they are providing a temporary fix, it is not true. Drafts from cold air may be more noticeable, but whether you use your heat in the winter or cooling system in the summer, a drafty window will cause inefficiency during both seasons. If you hear your HVAC system constantly cycling, it could mean your windows are drafty.

Hard to open, close or operate - Opening and closing a window should be a one-finger operation. Do you find yourself needing to use both hands and sometimes a foot planted against a wall to get a difficult window open? When the sashes don't operate properly, you're losing efficiency, and may cause further damage to your window, its frame or the glass.

Condensation - Condensation is the buildup of moisture. It can form on the outside of the glass or in between the panes. It's important to understand the differences between the two.

"Is condensation on the surface of the glass a bad thing? No, it's not," The Men With Tools Owner John Kolbaska said. "If you can wipe the condensation off of the glass, the window is doing its job. It is keeping the warm air out during the winter and the cold air out during the winter.  Condensation on your windows is an indication that the moisture level in your home is high.   

When condensation forms between the panes of your window, this is an indication that your windows have seal failure. Seal failure usually first forms at the bottom of the glass where it will look like dirt that can't be cleaned. Over time, it'll grow larger in size turning into white grime. Eventually you won't be able to see out of your window clearly.

Another less common sign that your windows seals have failed is a rainbow effect forming in the middle of your glass. Both are noticeable signs that it may be time to consider replacing your windows.

If you see any of the signs above, now may be a good time to replace your windows. Today's replacement windows are much more energy efficient. They come standard with Low-E coatings, argon gas and double-pane glass packages. These new options will save you money and return your investment over the long haul. Consult with a professional window installation company about the products, services and offers they provide when considering the replacement of your windows. 

John Kolbaska, President - The Men With Tools Home Remodeling

(347) 815-4151

What Do I Need To Know About Cleaning My Deck? 

Spring cleaning is not only for the inside of your home; it is necessary for the outside of your home, as well.  The mild days of the season provide the perfect weather to clean and prepare your deck for entertaining, or just relaxing with family. 

Over time, dirt, mildew and algae growth can build up on the surface of your deck, especially if it has been a few years since you last cleaned it.  More so than rain, snow or extreme temperatures, UV rays from the sun harm and distress the decking materials.  Routine cleaning, and treating the surfaces of your deck will extend its life and provide long lasting beauty.  Although you do not have to power wash your deck every year, it is suggested that you create some sort of annual cleaning regimen.

If you decide to take on this task yourself, it is important for you to do your homework about the type of decking materials you are working with.  You may have natural wood, like cedar or redwood, or pressure treated wood, or a composite deck.  Each type of deck requires a different processes to clean and restore its appearance.

Natural woods decks are the most demanding, requiring annual cleaning, and application of a new finish.  Pressure treated wood requires cleaning about every two to three years, but also needs the application of a new finish afterward.  Composite material decks do not require refinishing, but the materials are prone to mold and mildew and should be cleaned at least every few years.

Many homeowners think that a power washer is the easiest way to clean their deck.  Although this process is quicker than cleaning your deck with a brush and good cleaning solution, a power washer can be harmful to your deck.  Improper use of a power washer can cause etching in your deck surface, or even worse, cause your deck to splinter.  It is important that you follow the instructions of the equipment, prior to its use and practice on an area that is inconspicuou or, use a professional.

If you choose to power wash your deck, you should keep the nozzle at least 12 to 18 inches away from the surface, and work systematically.  Your strokes should be even and go from one end of the board to the other so that there are no patchy areas.  Because a power washer uses only water, it is harmless to any surrounding vegetation or pets.

If using a power washer on a wooden deck, be prepared to remove all of the old finish and stain down to the bare wood, and then once completely dry, re-stain it.  Power washing your deck, and not re-staining it, will cause worse damage to the wood than if you never power washed it at all.  When applying the new stain, make sure you select a semi-transparent stain that sinks deep in to the wood.  A solid color stain is more like paint and is more apt to peel.  For a more natural stained look, a good heavy oil-based stain will provide a longer wear than a water-based product. 

With any type of stain, it is important that you consult with a professional and do your homework before applying it.  Consult with your local paint store professional on the types of stain available on the market, as well as the types of applicators you should use.  Your results will vary based on the products you use, but most of the time the best way to apply a finish is with a brush to allow for complete coverage.

If power washing is outside your realm of comfort, or if you have a composite deck, consider using a non-toxic cleaner, like oxygen bleach and a deck brush.  The oxygen bubbles in the solution do most of the work, and soak into the dry wood.  The oxygen ions deep clean the wood by breaking apart dirt, algae and mildew molecules.  You can then rinse off the deck with your hose.  Although this is an effective way to clean your deck, it will take more time and effort than a power washer.

In some cases, sanding your wooden deck may be a better alternative than power washing because it flattens and smooths weathered boards, while removing the old finish.  If your deck is larger than 100 square feet, you could rent an orbital sander to complete the task. If you've never used a sander before, you may want to consider hiring a professional that does this full time so that no damage is done by over-sanding it. 

As with any home improvement task, it is important that you know the facts before you start.  If you are unsure about the particular skills needed for your project, speak to a professional. They should be able to discuss your particular job, and provide you with their feedback and an estimate, if needed.

John Amabile, Owner  -  A&J Powerwashing and More

(917) 939-9195

Can I Live In My Home During A Kitchen, Basement, Or Bathroom Remodel?

The simple answer to this question is "yes you can".  Regrettably, the effort involved in making that happen is a little more detailed.  There are some significant realities you will experience during a home remodeling project that are simply not very pleasant.  Besides the inconvenience of losing the use of the room you are renovating, dust and debris can easily spread to other areas of your home that are not part of your remodel.  Although precautions may have been made to isolate dust and debris, like hanging plastic drop cloths around doorways, they are not guaranteed to protect the rest of your home.

When considering remodeling part of your home, it is important that your contractor is aware that you plan on living there while the work is being completed.  It may alter the way that they prepare and perform their services, and may affect the cost of your project.  

Make sure you communicate your plan well with the contractors you are interviewing.  Make sure they are aware of your wants and needs from the remodeling project.  Your expectations of the project should take front and center, not theirs.  The way they usually do business may not be the right fit for your project.  A well prepared and knowledgeable contractor can make a tremendous difference in the overall homeowner experience during a remodel.  

You should ask your contractors if they have standard policies and procedures for creating a live-able environment for their clients during a remodel.  Prior to the start of any work, your contractor should communicate how they plan to contain the work area.  This containment is critical in keeping the remaining rooms in your home dust-free.  

To protect existing floors and furniture in the home, your contractor should be using drop clothes that are clean, or even new, and not filled with dust and dirt from previous jobs.  They should protect every surface in your home, including floors and walkways that their employees will be using to access the renovation area.  Every client deserves respect for their property and home. 

In addition to standard dust containment and surface protection, there are other cutting edge and technologically advanced tools and equipment to help maintain clean and live-able job sites. The use of equipment from manufacturers like BuildClean, the makers of jobsite air purification equipment, dramatically reduces airborne jobsite dust by drawing in air, passing it through a series of filters and returning the “scrubbed” air back into the space. This machine sits in the middle of the work area and is constantly circulating air from 360 degrees, passing it through two filters and exhausting clean air back into the workspace.

Contractors can also use automatic drywall sanders that hook up directly to a vacuum to eliminate virtually all airborne drywall dust.  When cutting wood and other building materials indoors, your contractor should use power tools that connect directly to dust extraction vacuums.  While these practices eliminate nuisance dust during your project, they also reduce daily clean-up time, which should allow your contractor to be more efficient, and respectful of your time.

While controlling dust and debris is a huge part of the homeowners experience, the single most important effort should be identifying a contracting firm that creates and maintains proper communication.  It is important that your contractor feels as passionate as you do about meeting your family's needs, your budget and your expectations.   

Living in your home during the remodeling process means that you will almost certainly be without water, electricity, or HVAC at certain points.  Minimizing the lengths of those times is critical in maintaining a homeowners overall experience.

It is also important that your contractor provide the logistics of the day-to-day operations inside your home; such as where they are going to stage their tools and materials on a daily basis, the times in and out of your home, and what other areas may be affected by the work.  The less surprises you encounter as the homeowner, the happier you will be. 

Taking all of these steps creates an additional cost of doing business for the contractor, but not doing so creates a far worse cost to the homeowner who has to live through a messy and disorganized remodeling project.  When planning on living in the home during a remodel be sure to ask the contractors you are interviewing what their practices are for: dust containment, surface protection, tool and material management, and daily communication.  The answers to those questions will help you determine who has the systems and practices in place to properly protect your home.  Choosing the right contractor can help eliminate much of the stress and anxieties that accompany living through a home remodel.   


Stephen and Robert Fredericksen - Fredericksen Contracting, Inc.

(718) 772-4178

How Do I Go About Cleaning Out An Entire House?

Although it is often difficult to let go of items with sentimental value, it is a necessary evil when cleaning out a house to sell it, or to make room for a change in its use. Whether you are sifting through the personal effects and mementos of a loved one, or throwing out your children’s old sports equipment, the task becomes more difficult when you have an emotional connection to those things.

Clearing out a house that is full with furniture, clothing, appliances, and other personal effects is an overwhelming task that may be too large to handle by yourself. There are many regulations for the disposal of unwanted electronics, large and small appliances, oversized furniture, paint cans and recyclable items. When discarding these things, you need to make sure you follow NYC Department of Sanitation guidelines. Not all of your trash can be placed at the curb, and some items may even need special handling. 

You can contact the Department of Sanitation by visiting their website at  or by calling 311.  The City provides homeowners with the opportunity to discard potentially hazardous items during their SAFE disposal events.  Household products such as pesticides, strong cleaners, mercury-containing devices, paints, automotive fluids, and medications may be brought to the drop-off events. Residents can also bring electronics, which cannot be left for curbside collection due to New York state law.  The next SAFE event will be held on May 6th on Staten Island at the Midland Beach Parking Lot on Father Capodanno Boulevard and Hunter Avenue.

When considering the task of cleaning out an entire house, you should evaluate what it is that you are getting rid of.  Can you handle the job yourself?  Do you need professional advice on how to separate what is valuable and what is truly garbage? What channel should you use to sell those valuable items?

Some of your furnishings may be “antiques”. By taking photos of those items and consulting with a professional antique dealer or appraisal company, you can determine the value of those items. Consider donating items that are not valuable but are useful to someone else. These donations may be tax deductible. What may be trash to you, may be treasure to another.  

If considering a dumpster for your garbage, consult with a licensed and insured container company. If the dumpster cannot fit on the parking pad in front of your house, the dumpster will need to be permitted by the City.  The fines associated with a non-permitted dumpster on the street in front of your home could be significant.

If the task is too large for you to handle, consider hiring a clean out company.  They will be able to remove all the unwanted items from your home safely and in compliance with all regulations.  They will be able to coordinate a dumpster, if required, manpower and the required equipment to properly clean out a house.  Most importantly they will know how to discard even the most difficult and bulky items in your house.


Dave Reali, Owner – Dave’s Kleen-outs


How can I decorate my home to make it look clean and fresh? 

It's no secret that clean, uncluttered spaces help to promote relaxation and can have a positive effect on our cognitive abilities. In a world filled with millions of design options, how can one pare down the selections and create rooms with a more streamlined, purposeful approach? The answer is to embrace simplicity.  Try these ideas for a simplified, clean and fresh look:

Declutter your home – If you haven't used something in the past year or more, you should consider letting it go.  Do you use that exercise bike or treadmill that clutters your bedroom or has it become your clothing rack? Things that take up floor or counter space, that are no longer used, should be thrown out, sold at a garage sale or on a resale website. Find a place for personal items, such as laptops, tablets, mail and keys so that they are not left on countertops or furniture. 

Create one focal point - Multiple focal points can cause the eye to jump around the room. Instead, opt for one standout feature like a series of colorful art panels grouped together for one impactful statement. The room's other furnishings and accessories should fade softly into the background for a functional, non-competitive look. A beautiful window treatment, an unusual piece of furniture or a great lighting fixture could provide the same affect.

Start by selecting your standout feature.  Then choose a color scheme, furniture and decorative items that will compliment this special item, not blur its beauty.   

Take in nature - If you have an amazing view, keep your interior furnishings minimal so that your attention is directed towards the outdoors. Limiting furniture pieces, art, and accessories and opening up your room with large scale windows is an easy way to remain mindful of nature and enjoy a more simplified home.  Plus, you'll have the added bonus of natural light.

To further accentuate the outdoors, consider bringing some of those elements indoors.  Decorate with flowers and wooden or stone accents to create a natural transition between the inside of your home and the outdoors.  Think of the best spa that you have visited.  Didn't the décor scream nature and clean lines?  That was achieved by capturing natural elements, and bringing them inside. 

Cleanse the palette - Pick one palette and use shades within it for your walls, cabinetry, furnishings, and accessories. A monochromatic scheme can invite a calm atmosphere. Limited colors can make design choices less complicated since you have already narrowed the selections to one range of hues.

Try Nordic white walls - While sticking to just one or two colors can help to simplify any design, choosing white, which is associated with cleanliness, is the ultimate in simplification. When used on walls, the color creates a backdrop you're sure to love for years to come no matter how your style or furnishings may change. Select other neutrals (such as grays) for your flooring, furnishings, and ceiling to continue the clean and fresh feel. Use pops of color on pillows or accent pieces to give your room a little life.

Limit accessories - Eliminate visual clutter by using minimal accessories. Remove small appliances from your kitchen countertops and find a place for them in a nearby closet or cabinet.  So many non-decorative items make their way into our living spaces, it is important to find places for those items to be neatly tucked away. Add only special, significant decorative pieces that will enhance your room's décor, not clutter it.

Sonny Golden, President of Golden Key Interiors, Inc.

(718) 761-2366

How Can I Make The Most Of My Limited Closet Space?

One of the most significant needs of a home is sufficient closet space. When purchasing a new home, more and more potential buyers consider storage space one of the key factors in selecting the right home for their family. 

Older homes, townhomes, semi-attached homes or small ranches, like many located on the Island, usually do not provide enough closet space to neatly store all the "stuff" we buy as consumers.  Many larger families, no matter what size home, need organized and efficient storage. Whether it is the lack of pantry space, or storage for clothing, electronics, and tools, sufficient and adequate storage is always a challenge.

When it comes to a point where your belongings are overflowing, and can no longer fit into your existing closet space, it is time to take action.  Living in a disorganized and cluttered space, creates an unwelcoming feeling and can adversely alter your mood, and even clutter your mind.   

Organizing your closets and storage space, does not only include maximizing your existing space to hold all your stuff, it also includes discarding items that you are no longer using or need. This is not an easy task, and may require the project to be completed in stages. 

Tackle one closet or one room at a time so that you're not overwhelmed.  Prepare a staging area where you can empty your closet out.  Then sift through your "keep" items, "donate" items", "sell" items, "store away" items and most important, the items that just need to be thrown away.  This should reduce the amount of stuff that needs to go back into your closets. 

When setting aside your "keep" items, think of things that you use regularly and that still have a place in your day to day life.  A pair of jeans that is 10 years old and 3 sizes too small, may be better suited in the donate, or sell pile.  Clothing or items of sentimental value, that are not used every day, can be place in the "store away" pile, but should certainly not be in closets that you access daily.

When donating clothing, housewares, electronics, toys or tools, remember to ask for a donation receipt.  When tax time rolls around, these receipts can be used to reduce your tax liability. 

Once you've sifted through all your stuff, and narrowed down the things that have to go back into your closets, check to see if your existing closet configuration is adequate to accommodate everything that you are putting back in.  Also consider how you want to use your closet and what items are most often used, so that they are positioned in an area that is most accessible. 

Closet systems, make organizing your closet and maximizing your storage space easy.  Well planned closet systems provide a neat area to place the items you use regularly, and can make the most of every inch of your closet.  With the custom options on the market today, you can make shelves deeper, add drawers that you never had, and utilize every inch of space vertically.  Valet hooks, double rods, shelf dividers, innovative storage containers, baskets and bins are all great ways to customize and maximize your storage space.

One of the easiest ways to get the most out of your closet is to install a 2nd rod under a single rod closet, especially in children's rooms.  Or if trying to maximize a closet for women or teen girls, try separating an area where you can double hang shirts, pants and skirts to double the hanging area, and then set aside a single rod area to accommodate long dresses and gowns.

There is a closet organization system to fit every budget. Coated wire shelves and rods are typically used in many new home closets, unlike the wood rods and shelves of the past. However, with today's new shelving systems, there is no limit to the creative ways you can maximize every closet in your home.  Even if you don't have a closet, custom closet furniture can be created with no construction or need to hire a contractor.

Closet systems can be professionally installed, or for those that are handy, can be self-installed.  With every closet installation though, it is important to properly anchor the closet system to support the weight of the shelving and the contents that will be placed inside. When removing existing wire or wood shelves, there will be some minor damage to sheetrock. Plan ahead to make sure your walls are repaired and repainted prior to your new closet installation.

Closet systems are available in a wide range of price points.  Custom wood systems can create a boutique look in your closet and can be incorporate to match the interior design of your home, but are most expensive.  Coated wire systems are economical and versatile, and offer a variety of add-ons to store shoes, ties, sweaters, belts, etc., however, may not provide the finished look you desire. Melamine systems, comprised of particle board, and then covered with a laminate, offer a variety of wood grain or solid color finishes, and are an affordable alternative to custom wood systems.

No matter what type of custom closet system you choose, there will be options for shelving depth, hanging and valet rods, drawers, shoe storage, jewelry organizers, tie and belt racks, and hooks. Whether you are going to your local big box store to select a closet system, or you consult with a professional closet organizing company to create the closet of your dreams, maximizing the area of your closet is pivotal in organizing your stuff.

Don't forget that shelving and closet systems are also available for pantry closets, and garage or basement areas.  Don't limit the organization of your home to just your bedroom closets. Maximizing every space of your home will allow you to live clutter free and get more organized.

John DeFrancesco, President      Superior Garage & Home Organizing

(718) 727-7022

How Do I Know If My Swimming Pool Is Leaking?

It's hard to keep water in a pool. Every swimming pool, spa, or landscape pond is probably going to leak at some point in its useful life. These pesky problems can be more than just an inconvenience. An un-repaired hole the size of a pencil tip can result in hundreds of gallons of water lost per day. In addition to the replacement cost of the water, leaks in your pool will increase chemical demands, and may lead to more serious structural and mechanical problems. Fortunately, effective leak location and leak repair solutions are available.

Pool leak symptoms resulting from water loss - By far the most common indication of a leak is that the water level is dropping faster than what is normally attributable to evaporation or splash-out. Often leaks are big enough that excess water loss is obvious. If you wake-up to find that your pool has dropped several inches overnight you know you've got a problem. The bigger challenges are the smaller, yet just as serious, leaks that may develop slowly. In these cases it is important to determine what is "normal water loss", and thus avoid wasting time looking for and worrying about a leak that really isn't there. A simple way to account for evaporation and confirm a leak is to do a Bucket Test, or for more accurate results to purchase and use a Check-A-Leak System. 

If you have an automatic fill device on your pool, a dropping water level may not be evident.  However, high water bills may be the first indication of a leak problem. You may also notice an increase in the chemicals required to maintain proper balance, or that there is excess algae growth because the new water that's being put into the pool is untreated. Other pool leak symptoms may be actual evidence of the water that has escaped from your pool. Wet, mushy, or unusually "healthy" spots in the lawn may be evidence of underground plumbing leaks. Structural damage, cracks, and settling to the deck or pool may also be indications of underground leaks. If left un-repaired, these problems can quickly become more serious.

Air in the pump or blown into the pool - A pool leak in the suction side plumbing (from skimmers and main drains to equipment), may pull air into the plumbing lines that will show up in the pump or be blown back into the pool through the returns. Air leaks such as this can be just as damaging to your pool even though you may never notice symptoms of water loss. Evidence of air in the system can also be caused by a blockage or obstruction in the suction lines. Either situation will require professional attention to avoid causing mechanical damage to your pool equipment.

Finding and fixing your leak is the next step - Once you know you have a pool leak it's time for action. The longer a leaking pipe, liner or pool shell is left un-repaired the more costly the eventual fix will be. You have options, some pool leaks can be easy to find and fix yourself. In most cases however a qualified, and experienced pool leak professional using sophisticated electronic equipment will be able to provide more efficient and effective pool leak location and pool leak repair solutions that get you back into the water quickly.

A good swimming pool leak detection expert will follow a systematic approach when locating your pool leak. The process involves collecting and analyzing a great deal of information. Knowledge of swimming pool operation and construction, use of specialized equipment, and on the job experience will all come into play as they locate leaks in your pool.

The first step for any pool leak detection job happens before the pool leak professional ever gets to your pool. You should be prepared to provide information about your pool or spa to the technician over the phone when you first call. When did you first notice the leak problems? How much water is losing, (based on the results of a bucket test)? How old is the pool? What type of pool is it? The more information you can provide about the suspected pool leak the better.

Based on this information, your technician should be able to give you an idea of what type of detection or repair will be required and schedule the job. Keep in mind that due to the nature of leak detection work, this scheduled time may be somewhat flexible. Pool leaks are a seasonal problem in most parts of the country and those who are good at finding leaks are usually very busy.

Leak detection experts generally charge by the job or by the hour. Because of the specialized equipment and expertise required for leak work you should be prepared to pay a little bit more per hour for leak detection services than you would for most regular pool service activities.

Once a technician is at your pool, the first step usually involves a pressure test of your plumbing lines to confirm whether the leak is in the plumbing or the shell of the pool. This testing will be done with specialized test plugs and pressure induction systems that are designed to give quick results. Based on the results of the pressure test, the technician will then use a variety of tests involving sophisticated electronics or diving equipment to pinpoint the pool leak.    

Listening devices may be used to pinpoint the sound of pressurized underground plumbing leaks. Helium detectors may be used to find underground plumbing leaks if the soil conditions are such that noises can't be made at the leak location. LeakTrac Vinyl Liner Leak Detectors use patented electronics to track vinyl liner leaks with a small electric current that is induced into the pool water. Hydrophones (underwater microphones), special dyes, and SCUBA diving equipment are used to find leaks in the shell of plaster and concrete pools.  

Stuart Roaker, President - The Pool Therapist

(718) 370-7000

Is There A Benefit In Replacing My Bulbs Or Fixtures With LEDs?

The quick answer to this question is yes. Replacing your inefficient incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs will provide you with energy savings, as well as the ability to change the aesthetic of your lighting fixtures because of their versatility. 


LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs and fixtures have been on the market for over 20 years, introduced as an energy saving lighting alternative, with a high price tag.   Over time, more information has become available about LED bulbs and fixtures, making it an easier decision for consumers to take the leap.  Most recently, LED bulbs have become better and cheaper, especially when the length of service is taken into account.


LEDs will soon be the primary type of household lighting, providing efficiency, variety and longevity for its users.  LEDs will more rapidly integrate electronically to household intelligence devices like Alexa, Smart Home and Technology Systems, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices.


LEDs are more rapidly replacing incandescent light bulbs, CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and halogen because of their efficiency and flexibility.  LED bulbs come in a variety of color temperatures, brightness and shapes and can change the way your lighting fixtures and lamps appear, just by changing your bulbs to your favorite LED styles.


We are used to choosing bulbs based on wattage, but LEDs are not measured that way.  LEDs are measured by Lumens and Kelvins. For the ease of consumers, the packaging of LED bulbs includes the comparable incandescent wattage.  When you have a lighting fixture rated for 60 watts per socket, you can increase the lumens of the LED bulb.  A 60 watt incandescent bulb is about a 7 watt LED bulb. Therefore you can use a higher wattage LED bulb, which can provide more light from your fixture, should you desire. 

When shopping for LEDs, there are a few things to consider: lumens, color temperature, the direction of light, does the bulb need to be dimmable, and will the bulb be used for indoor or outdoor use.


Lumens are measured by the amount of light given off by one candle.  The more lumens of the LED bulb or fixture, the brighter the light will be.  Color temperature is measured in Kelvins with a range typically of 2200k to 6500k.  The lower the Kelvins the more yellow the light will be.  The higher the Kelvins the more blue the light will be. Direction of light is important because most LEDs are designed to emit light in only one direction, unless designed otherwise.  It is important to take this into consideration when selecting an LED bulb for your fixture.


Not all LEDs are dimmable, so it is important when selecting a LED bulb to consider if you would like to dim it.  You will also need to make sure that the dimmer switch is made for LED use.  Not all dimmer switches will work with your new LED fixture or replacement bulbs.  Lastly, if you are installing a new LED fixture or replacing bulbs on an existing outdoor fixture, you should make sure they are able to be used in damp or wet locations.

LED bulbs and fixtures need sufficient air flow when in operation.  Do not use LED bulbs for an appliance light, like over an oven or dryer and do not use them in an airtight fixture, like over a bath or shower.


The advantages of LED fixtures and bulbs are clear.  They provide higher efficiency, have a longer life expectancy, are shock resistant, provide a high quality of lighting, and can produce a wide range of color temperatures from yellowish to white to blueish.  There are only a few disadvantages to LEDs, which are; their output decreases over time, their output is directional and they are more expensive than other types of bulbs.  It is clear that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.


LEDs can be used almost anywhere, and can easily replace any incandescent bulb, PAR and MR reflectors (used in track lighting), decorative bulbs, under cabinet lighting and more.   More and more, LEDs are being used for exterior home lighting because of their efficiency, versatility and ability to interface with smart home systems. 

When you think LED, most consumers imagine modern and sleek designs.  However in today’s lighting market, LED has been integrated with all types of lighting styles, from traditional to transitional, and have even been incorporated into crystal designs. LED fixtures can be used for bathroom vanity fixtures, kitchen pendant lighting, in ceiling fans and even grand entry foyer lighting.


When you are changing your lighting fixture in its entirety, consider purchasing an LED fixture, for the most energy savings.  The US Department of Energy has estimated that increased adoption of LEDs over the next 15 years would decrease electricity demands from lighting by 62%, prevent 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions and eliminate the need for 133 new power plants.


Once you have replaced your light bulbs or lighting fixtures with LEDs, you can sit back and relax.  Chances are your bulbs will not need replacing for about 15 years.  Many lighting manufacturers provide extended warrantees on LED fixtures because of their reliability and endurance.  An LED lighting fixture is a good investment in the environment and your home energy costs.


Joshua Marshal, President & CEO – WeGotLites, Inc.

(718) 317-6263



How Do I Select The Right Contractor For My Home Remodeling Project?

Finding the right contractor is pivotal for the success of your home remodeling project. Working with a contractor that you are comfortable with, who communicates well, provides you with a comprehensive contract, a sensible payment schedule, who has great references, and who is fully licensed and insured are the key traits of a reputable, conscientious and professional home remodeling company.

Check on line reviews and social media to see how they interact with past clients and peers. sk friends, family and neighbors for referrals, then spend time researching that company on line. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously. ou can never ask too many questions when it comes to protecting your family and home.

Contractors maintain credentials beyond licensing such as certifications and memberships in trade associations. They participate in specified training programs provided by manufacturers, who are also great resources for local contractors that specialize in their products. 

Call the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (by calling 311) or visit their website at o make sure the contractor you are considering is licensed. Call the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any consumer complaints made on the contractor.

When interviewing a professional remodeler, ask about his educational background, training, specialties or past issues with clients. Ask about how the remodeling process will work with regard to your project. Check their references, license numbers, insurance information and certifications by calling those providers to verify the information provided. Request a visit to an active client's jobsite. Make it known that you are checking on the company – a true professional considers that as a positive sign when working with a homeowner. 

A general contracting firm will facilitate your entire project. The scope of work may include subcontractors, including; plumbers, electricians, HVAC installers, tile installers, roofing and siding installers, to name a few.  It is important that you are provided information about all the contractors that will be on your jobsite. Their references and workmanship should be just as good as the general contractor you have hired.

Subcontractors are essential in providing specialized services for your project. Licensed plumbers and electricians may be used if you are completely renovating a bathroom or kitchen, or if you are adding onto your home.  A HVAC company may be needed if you are renovating ductwork or replacing your heating or air conditioning system.

Don't be afraid to share your budget concerns with your contractor. Professionals are respectful of a client's budget and will create a plan around it, not over it. Remember, your budget needs to include; the proposed cost by the contractor and architect, all products and materials you are responsible to purchase independent of the contract, contingencies and the potential of unforeseen existing conditions.

Prior to selecting your contractor, you should consult with an architect to identify if your project will need to be filed and permitted by the NYC Department of Buildings. Construction work without permits can lead to violations and stop work orders that will hinder your project. A reputable, local contractor, who is familiar with building code, will be able to determine if your project must be filed as well.

After selecting a contractor that you are comfortable with, it is important to review your contract word by word. Contracts should provide specific details about your project, the materials that will be used, your responsibilities as a homeowner if you will be providing materials for the job, warranty information, and a payment schedule based on benchmarks of completed items. Your contract not only protects you, it also protects your remodeler.

Homeowners are not as familiar with the remodeling process as the contractor they hire. It is important to ask questions about terms, or unfamiliar processes if you are not clear what they mean. Pay attention to the details about change orders, payments, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. If it's not in the contract, it doesn't exist.

ake sure your contractor understands your concept for the remodel. Use websites such as and to gather design ideas. Make sure you can articulate specifically what you like about that design when talking to your architect, contractor or designe. Professionals may not be able to recreate a photo, but they ca incorporate our concept, functionality, style and value to fit your roject.

Deciding on products and materials for your home remodel is an important process, as some of your choices may create a delay in the project. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons for project timelines to be extended. Included in your contract should be the selections you have made for materials and products, and the allowances your contractor has provided for the materials they are purchasing on your behalf.  

nce you hire your contractor, create a ommunication an. A common downfall f a renovation is he ack of communication betweenhomeowners and contractors. Timelines should be provided for payments to the contractor which directly relay to the progress made on the project. In addition, you should larify he oles f all subcontractors, suppliers, and workers. Make sure you are comfortable with the communication methods, and the availability and frequency of communication that is expected.

or any questions about your remodeling project, you can contact NARI-HIC of Staten Island by e-mail at