How can I find out if there is a violation on my property?

Open violations on your property can prevent you from selling or refinancing your home and property. You may not know that your property has been issued a violation, especially if you rent your property to a tenant, however, that does not preclude you from remedying the infraction. Many violations carry fines and penalties, so it is important that they are addressed quickly to avoid accruing additional costs.

The NYC Construction Codes require owners of property in New York City to build and maintain their properties in safe condition. It also requires property owners to legally file any alterations or changes made to the structure, electrical or plumbing systems, and the construction of new structures within their property lines. These filings require the use of a licensed architect, engineer, or contractor, and in some cases all three.

There are two types of violations that can be issued to your property; an ECB (Environmental Control Board) violation and a DOB (Department of Buildings) violation.  An ECB violation is the most common of the two and are issued by classification.

A Class 1 ECB Violation is issued for an immediate hazardous condition. These conditions pose a threat that severely affects life, health, safety, property, the public interest of a significant number of persons, to warrant immediate corrective actions. A more moderate violation can receive a Class 2 categorization, and a lesser violation would receive a Class 3 categorization.

With any ECB violation, they must be corrected immediately. Notification of the correction must be provided to the Department's Administrative Enforcement Unit. In some cases, you will need to attend an ECB hearing and pay any applicable penalties and fines. Resolving these matters can be complicated. It may be in your interest to get a professional architect and attorney involved to remedy these outstanding violations correctly and efficiently.

DOB violations, like ECB violations are public information and can be accessed on line through the NYC BIS (Building Information System) at You can search your property by block and lot, or street address to find out if your property has received any type of violation. If you are not able to access the system, you can call 311 or consult with an architect to see if your property has been cited for any violations.

The BIS system is also a good source for obtaining documents related to your property.  You can access your Certificate of Occupancy, or copies of any permits that were issued on your property.  You can also access information in the files related to a filed construction permit.

If there are DOB violations that exist on your property, the DOB will not issue a new or amended Certificates of Occupancy and may delay the issuance of Letters of Completion, until the violations are remedied. This will require you complete the work required to remedy the violation and bring your property up to code. It will also require you to provide support documentation to the DOB as proof that the work has been completed, and may require you to pay fines and penalties associated with the violation.

When considering a purchase on a home or commercial property it is prudent to retain the services of an architect prior to the purchase of the property to identify if any violations exist. It is also important to know that all additions to the existing structure, decks, swimming pools or fireplaces made by prior owners have been legally filed. When purchasing a property, any existing violations to the subject premise will transfer to the new owner.

Whenever you embark on a home improvement project, an electrical or plumbing renovation, or construct an addition on or to your property, you should consult with an architect to file permits with the Department of Buildings. If you are altering any interior walls of your home, relocating plumbing fixtures, finishing your basement, adding a deck or swimming pool to your backyard or adding onto your home you need to follow specific procedures, which should start with consulting and hiring a licensed architect.

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

(718) 720-3478

How Do I Know When I Need A Handyman And When I Need A Contractor?

If the projects around your house are starting to pile up, it may be time to hire a professional to get the work done. A small crack in the ceiling, a small drip from a pipe, a broken cabinet, a shifting toilet bowl, or a loose railing may individually be something you can live with, but as these minor repairs build, they can drive you crazy.

It may be useful to start compiling a list of items in disrepair so that none are forgotten. This list will also be useful to identify the type of professional you may need to get this work done. Perhaps the items on your “to do list” can be performed by a qualified and insured handyman, or you may need the services of a licensed contractor.  In some cases, you may even need to hire a licensed electrician, plumber or HVAC technician.

Most homeowners have small projects that pile up for years.  We always say we will get to it when we have time, but that rarely happens. Before you know it, a small fix or two, becomes days-worth of work that needs to be completed.

As with any home project, it is important to select a company that is insured, even if the work is being provided by a handyman. If the company isn’t insured, you could be financially liable if any damages occur, or if anyone gets hurt in your home. 

An added benefit is to find a handyman that is licensed and insured, as their licenses can be checked with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). A business that is licensed by the DCA is registered with New York City.  They have produced proof of insurance, have successfully completed a licensing test, have agreed to uphold consumer contract requirements enforced by the City, and must maintain the current address for their business with the agency.

Typically large projects like kitchen or bathroom remodels, additions, the relocation of walls and room entry ways, window and door replacements, roofing, the renovation or installation of a new deck, or the refinishing of a basement, require a licensed home improvement contractor. In many cases some of these projects also require permits. 

Smaller projects can be handled by a qualified and insured handyman. Often handymen charge less than a contractor because many small projects do not require additional laborers, heavy duty equipment and overall, these companies tend to have less overhead costs. 

Handymen are very well versed in a variety of small tasks since they are exposed to many different types of challenges on a daily basis. A handyman can paint, install a new door lock, re-grout a bathtub, tile a back splash, replace a countertop, repair a small crack or hole in a wall or ceiling and clean up an overgrown yard. 

Before hiring a handyman, take the time to review their businesses on line or search websites like Houzz, Porch, Angies List and Yelp to see what others are saying about the company.  Ask if you can check their references by contacting other clients, and see if there are any complaints with the Better Business Bureau. It is important to choose a handyman that you are comfortable with because you will be working closely with them around your home.  

If someone comes knocking on your door who states they are a handyman and can help you with some projects around the house, do not let them in.  Ask them to place a business card in your mailbox, then check their qualifications and reputation. Many out of state contractors, and out of work people go door to door looking for homes that need a little TLC in hopes of finding a homeowner that will hire them. In many cases, these individuals are not competent, are unlicensed, have no insurance, and may be on a search for their next victim.

When hiring a handyman, make sure to ask for a written agreement that details the job, the cost and the payment schedule, and make sure to get a guarantee in writing. Be wary of handymen, or contractors, that try to ask for full payment before doing any work.

The risks of hiring an unlicensed and uninsured handyman or contractor run deep. Utilizing an unlicensed and uninsured company can leave you and your family exposed to fraud, inadequate workmanship and potential harm. Typically these companies do not carry General Liability or Workers Compensation insurance because of the expense which they cannot afford to carry.  As they are not licensed, no one is checking.  

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

Michael DeFillippo – President     Handyman For You Home Improvement Co.

(347) 683-0792

What Resources Should I Use To Check A Potential Contractor? 

One of the most difficult tasks for a homeowner, when remodeling their home, is to find a reputable, reliable and knowledgeable contractor to provide the materials and services provided in your scope of work.  It is important to know that a potential contractor can be trusted in your home, that they are capable of executing the complete project, whether with or without subcontractors, and that they are as dedicated to the project as you are. It is also imperative that they are licensed and insured to provide remodeling services in your local area.

The more knowledgeable and prepared you are as a homeowner, the more capable you will be in choosing the right contractor, which is pivotal to the success of your project.  Vetting a contractor could be a lengthy process.  A good place to start is by consulting with your architect. They are familiar with the work that local contractors provide to their clients, and speak from experience.

Many architects that provide architectural services for homeowners will follow their projects through to completion. They have the opportunity to see the craftsmanship of the contractor at project end, and have the opportunity to speak to their clients about their experiences with the remodeling contractor.

Another good resource is a friend, neighbor or relative that has recently had a contractor provide work in their home. Word of mouth is one of the best sources of advertisement for a contractor. If someone you know had a good or bad experience with a company, they will have no problem telling you. It is also an easy way to see for yourself the results of the contractors work.

The online world makes it easy to gather information about potential contractors.  Google, Yelp, Houzz, Angie's List and Home Advisor are good resources for homeowners to identify how the contractor is rated by other consumers.

Many contractors also use social media as a way to connect with their customers. They interact with their followers by posting photos of their work and can receive reviews on their pages.  Consider checking the reviews made by other clients to get some insight into the way they respond to their reviews, whether good or bad.  A conscientious company will address customer complaints graciously and look to correct a bad customer experience.  

Check with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 311 or by visiting their website at to make sure the contractor you are considering is licensed. The contractor should hold a valid Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) license and the salesperson that comes to your door should hold a valid Home Improvement Sales (HIS) license. The proposal that you receive should also list the same HIC and HIS license numbers.

Electricians and plumbers are not required to hold a HIC license, rather they hold a New York State license, with a license number assigned to the Licensed Electrician or the Master Plumber.  These licenses can be checked through the applicable New York State agencies.   

You can also contact the Better Business Bureau at to check the businesses rating and to see if any other consumers have made a complaint with the bureau.  Any complaints will be posted on the contractor's page and the status of the claim will be noted.  

Contractors maintain credentials beyond licensing such as certifications with industry organizations. When speaking with a contractor, ask about their certifications and the associations that they belong to.  This can provide some additional resources for reference checks.

Some contractors will also take the extra step to become certified installers with national manufacturers to install their specialty products like; heating and air conditioning equipment, windows, doors, flooring or appliances. If there are certain manufacturer's products you want to include in your project, consult with the manufacturer to identify if the contractor you are considering is a trained and certified installer.

When considering a contractor for your remodel, it is important to request an estimate from at least three contractors. Although it is not necessarily any easier to make a choice, you will have the opportunity to see how each contractor differs in the services they provide and to see if their personalities align with you and your family.

Once you have identified which contractors you will be interviewing, make a check list of all the questions you have about your project and ask the same questions to each contractor.  Questions should include timelines, payment schedules, subcontractor information, insurance and licensing information, and an acceptable communication plan. You should also ask for references from the contractors last few projects, and visit active worksites.

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

Lana Seidman, Executive Director - NARI-HIC of Staten Island Inc.

(718) 356-2323

Do I Need To Hire An Architect For My Home Improvement Project?

An architect is needed for any home improvement project that requires a work permit filed with the Department of Buildings. You may not have a choice whether or not to hire an architect if your project includes the alteration of any interior walls, relocation of plumbing fixtures, basement build-outs, and any type of addition, to name a few.

Working with an architect can make your project flow more smoothly. Their knowledge of local building code requirements, coupled with their understanding of the products and materials available on the market, can provide you with all the information you need to make your project a success. Architects facilitate your home project, providing design guidance, and the knowledge and information you need to identify the right contractor. 

It is important to identify an architect that has a portfolio of projects similar in style and budget to fit your needs. The AIA (American Institute of Architects) website can provide you with a list of reputable architects in your area.  

An initial consultation or interview with an architect should determine if you and your project are a good fit with his or her practice. During this meeting, it’s best to communicate your ideas clearly and ask lots of questions. Find out the architect’s approach, fee schedule, deliverables, and what they think is important about your project. Furthermore, assess whether the architect listens to your needs and confirms that he or she understands them.

Once you have selected your architect, the design phase will begin. It is important that your architect understands your preliminary budget prior to beginning his or her design drawings. Your architect will then analyze your home, or the project’s site conditions, and come up with conceptual drawings or ideas that integrate your goals, coupled with the architect’s aesthetic direction and schematic approach. 

During this phase, you should provide your architect with photos and ideas so that he or she understands your likes and dislikes. Initially your architect should provide you with a couple of design concepts, intended to spark your feedback and hone in on your design aesthetic. Once the general design direction is settled, your architect will produce more extensive drawings.

Keep in mind that there is still design work that needs to be completed. Interior finishes, lighting and storage design, and plumbing fixture selections are only a few of the choices the homeowner will have to make.

The application process starts when the local jurisdiction reviews the drawings the architect has submitted on your behalf and determines whether the proposed work is in accordance with local safety and building codes. Every project requires specific documentation and applications to facilitate an approval. The length of time it takes for approval will be determined by how complete the submission package is, the workload of the buildings department and if the project is being self-certified or waiting for plan examiners approval.

During this phase, it can feel like the project has stagnated because of the procedures within the Department of Buildings. 

Once your project is approved, there are two parts to the construction stage. The first is finding a contractor to do the work. The timing of this step will depend on whether you have made the choice in advance of hiring an architect, or if you will need the architect’s help selecting a contractor. The latter might entail a bidding process, wherein the architect helps the client select two or three contractors to submit bids for the proposed work, and the client chooses the best proposal.

If you have selected your contractor first, it can be helpful in identifying the real time costs throughout the design process. It can also jump start your project once you have received your approved plans back from the architect. If you wait for approved drawings before selecting a contractor, it can delay the process as choice contractors can be back logged with work, and your project may not be scheduled for months.

Once the contractor starts work, the architect’s role is not diminished. There can be a lot going on behind the scenes, such as the contractor calling the architect to make sure they are executing the design correctly or the architect needing to troubleshoot when problems arise. During this stage, many architects will engage in weekly site visits to the project with the contractor and client, and go over instructions with subcontractors in order to get the details right.

Your architect can also be involved in reviewing progress and payment requisitions submitted by your contractor. This will protect the homeowner if a contractor is requesting more money than the services and materials provided and installed to date. Prior to final payment or release of retainage, a Release of Lien should be provided by the contractor for his work and that of the subcontractors that provided goods and services for your project. 

When considering a home improvement project, make sure to do your homework. Search for on line reviews and ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals.  Professionals take their reputation seriously. It is important for you to identify the right architect for your project so that it is designed for you and your family’s needs. 

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

(718) 720-3478

Will The Value Of My Home Increase If I Invest In My Homes Curb Appeal?

It is a proven fact that homes with greater curb appeal command higher prices and will take less time to sell. The way your home looks from the street can significantly add to or decrease the value of your home, regardless of the interior condition. The first impression a potential buyer receives when approaching your property is one of the most important factors in selling your home.

When we say increasing your curb appeal is a good investment to make in your homes perceived value, we do not necessarily mean you have to embark on a major home improvement project.  You do not have to replace siding, windows and doors to gain greater curb appeal, rather make your home look like it has been cared for and loved. 

Take as much time as needed, and spend the least money possible to maximize your homes curb appeal.  Consider these few tips to make your homes first impression one that lasts.

Remove the clutter – Remove any weathered toys, broken swing sets, old holiday decorations, rotting patio furniture or cruddy planters. This will open up your yard space and make your property appear larger. 

Clean up the outside of your home – grab a bucket of soapy water and a long handled soft bristled brush to remove any dirt and dust on the complete façade of your home, including garage and entry doors. Walk around the perimeter of your home and remove any debris. Wipe away any cobwebs that may have formed. Hose out your downspouts and clear away leaves that may have gathered.  Lastly, wash your windows inside and out.

Check the outside of your home – nothing looks as worse from the curb as missing bricks, peeling paint, damaged siding, cracked windows or missing trim. These maintenance issues not only affect your home’s value, they can also damage the structure of your home. Be sure to refasten sagging gutters, repoint bricks that have lost their mortar, reseal cracks in the asphalt, replace cracked windows, replace damaged or missing siding, or trim around doors and windows, and make sure all your windows and doors open and close securely.  

Give some TLC to your front door – the most common advice a realtor will provide a seller is to make sure the front door is in the best shape possible. Whether that means painting it, cleaning it, re-staining it, or placing a decorative wreath on the door, your door is the main factor in your home’s curb appeal.

Check your roof – Whether it’s you or a professional, have your roof checked for missing, curled or faded shingles.  Make sure you roof is clear from debris, and your gutters are attached to your roofline. A messy roof can make even a relatively new roof look like it needs to be repaired or replaced. 

Clean up the yard - a freshly cut lawn, pruned shrubs, a few flowers and some mulch can boost the curb appeal of almost any home.  Replace or remove overgrown bushes with leafy plants or colorful annuals.  Walk around your property and remove any weeds or overgrown vines from the sides of your home. Whether it’s you or a professional landscape contractor, green up your grass with lawn food and water, and cover bare spots with seeds.

Add a splash of color – Although some realtors recommend your door red or green or blue, this may not be your thing.  Consider instead adding a few pots of colorful flowers near the front door, or a colorful Adirondack chair on the front porch. Although adding color to your home will not increase its value directly, it will enhance your homes curb appeal.

Replace or add a welcome mat – add a welcome mat that reflects your homes style.  This is a great way to add color to the outside of your home, while providing a place for potential buyers to clean their shoes before entering your home.

Add some finishing touches – Replace old house numbers with new clearly placed address numbers so that your home is easy to find.  Consider replacing or painting your mail box a bright color to add some pizazz. The better your home looks, the easier it will be to sell.

If your home needs a lot more than a freshening up, consider hiring a licensed and insured professional who can take on some of the larger projects. It is suggested that you get about two to three estimates for the work you want to do. Then compare the services and materials listed for your project so that you are comparing apples to apples. During this process, you should also check references and on line reviews of the companies you are considering.

Homeowners are protected by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs when using one of their licensed contractors. It is important that the contractor you hire has a valid and active Home Improvement Contractors license issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs. You can call 311 or visit to verify their license, and to find out if there are any active complaints against the company.

Your home may be the most valuable asset you own. If you are considering selling it or have it on the market now, consider some of the items on this checklist so that your home gets sold at the highest price possible

Fran & Frank Reali, Owners -BHGRE Safari Realty

(718) 442-5200

Is It Important To Get My Heating System Serviced Before The Winter?

Yes, it is important to get your heating system serviced before the winter. The purpose of a heating system service is to keep your heating system up and running all season long, with no surprise breakdowns, while allowing it to operate at optimum efficiency.

At the start of the heating season, your system should be cycled and checked to make sure its operating safely. Like cars, heating systems require routine maintenance to keep them running longer. 

Routine maintenance will provide lower energy costs and longer equipment life. A neglected system slowly loses its ability to keep your home comfortable at the same level of efficiency it once did. Routine maintenance will also ensure fewer repairs.

Most importantly, a complete checkup of your system will provide you peace of mind in knowing that your heating equipment is operating safely. Faulty electrical wiring, a blockage in your flue piping, or a crack in your heat exchanger can be dangerous to the health and safety of your family.

A prescheduled preventive maintenance call will provide you the best value for the money. During this visit, a technician will check all mechanical and electrical components of your heating system, and will identify any issues. By preventing future repairs, your annual maintenance will pay for itself. Furthermore, who wants to be without heat for even a few hours during the winter? Preventive maintenance will help avoid breakdowns.

There are a few maintenance items that can be performed by homeowners, however, many of the tasks will require the assistance of a professional.

Homeowners can replace air filters in their forced air heating system. Just be sure to use filters that are properly fitted for the space they occupy. A filter that is too small will allow dust and dirt particles to pass through into the heating system. A filter that is too large won't fit and if you jam it in, it can obstruct air flow, causing inefficiency and potential breakdowns.

Filters should be changed every month or two, depending on how dirty they get. Standard replacement filters cost a few dollars each, while higher efficiency filters can cost around twenty dollars. It is important to keep up on filter replacements to allow your system to operate at maximum efficiency.

If you have a programmable thermostat, check the settings and schedule to make sure you are comfortable with the time and temperatures you have preset. Since you last used your heating system your schedule may have changed, or your comfort level may have adjusted. You should also get into the habit of changing your thermostat battery once a year to ensure your thermostat operates without interruption.

Inspect and clean the grills and registers, or if you have a hot water system with baseboard radiators, check to make sure they are clear from obstruction. Make sure to remove all dust or debris on or around them so that the full output of your heating system can be felt.

It is important to get a professional involved when it comes to the electrical and burner sections of your heating system.  A thorough tune up will require skills, tools and knowledge that only an experience service technician can provide.

Your service technician will check and tighten electrical connections, check the sequence of operation, check and clean the blower section, check gas connections, burner combustion and the heat exchanger. This service should also include a check to make sure there is no carbon monoxide being emitted from your heating system during operation.

The added value of a heating system maintenance call, is that you have a professional in front of you that can make recommendations on how to improve your system operation, should you have any concerns. Leaks in your ductwork can cause added inefficiencies and will reduce your comfort.

The heating season is fast approaching. The best time to have a professional visit your home to service your heating equipment is now. The later it gets in the season, the more difficult it is to get an appointment and the more it will cost you. Look for pre-season discounts to provide the most bang for your buck.

As with any home improvement or home service, make sure your service provider is licensed and insured. Homeowners are protected by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs when using a local, licensed contractor, so it is important to ask for their license information and check the references they have provided.

Jim Hall, President – Jim Hall HVAC

(718) 948-2456 

What Do I Need To Know About Closing My Pool For The Winter?

Labor Day has come and gone, and the Summer of 2017 is behind us. The cool fall weather is fast approaching, making September the best time to close your pool. Since this is a key element in the successful annual maintenance of your pool, it is important that you plan ahead. Make sure you have all the tools, parts and supplies you will need, as this is not a 1-2-3 job. 

Closing your pool requires preparation, a good understanding of how to balance the chemicals in your pool, and a full day dedicated to the task. The true test of a successful pool closing will occur when it is time to open your pool in the Spring. A failed pool closure will rear its ugly face as soon as you uncover your pool and attempt to turn on your pumps for the first time.

Properly winterizing your pool will limit the chances of equipment and piping from freezing. It will also limit the need for repairs or the lengthy delays getting your pool water clear when you open it again.  

The first step in closing your pool is cleaning it. Well actually deep cleaning it. Take the time to vacuum your pool, brush your pool walls and clean out your skimmer baskets well. Consider purchasing a telescopic pole with a scrubber at the end to scrub the bottom of the pool floor. This is the perfect time to take extra care of the small areas with some build-up of dirt to prevent the growth of algae and to improve the overall aesthetic of your pool. 

When done cleaning, make sure to empty the things in your pool, like ladders and any other objects that are normally kept inside the pool water during the summer. 

After you’ve worked to get your pool sparkly clean, be sure to balance the chemical levels in your pool.  Your pH, chlorine and alkaline levels must be stable. This will help your pool get off to a good start in the Spring. In addition, you should consider shocking the pool to prevent stains occurring on the walls and floor of your pool. When looking for pool shock, consider ones made just for pool closures, as they contain scale preventer and an algaecide as well.

Backwashing your filter is another part of the pool closing process. However, it is important that you allow your pool pump to run a complete cycle first.  This should take about eight to ten hours. After you backwash your filter, make sure you open both the drain at the bottom of the tank and open the air relief valve, if you have one.  This will allow the water in the tank to drain.

As there are many types of filters available on the market (cartridge, sand and DE filters), it is important you consult with the manufacturer or a local pool supply company to learn the right way to backwash your filter. When speaking with a professional, ask about new products on the market that make pool closings easier, or that limit the potential for damage during the winter. Broken skimmers from poor winterization are one of the most common winter related pool failures, and could be limited by adding protective devices that will fail first before your pool equipment. 

One of the first instincts of many pool owners is to empty the pool completely for the winter. That is not suggested as the soil under and around your pool can freeze, expand, and then move your pool out of place.  The weight of the water in your pool keeps the pool in place. As the northeast experiences temperatures below freezing, it is recommended to drain your pool 4” – 6” below the skimmer.

One of the last steps in preparing your pool for winter is blowing out your pool lines.  This is one of the most important tasks.  Failure to properly blow out your lines will cause your pipes to freeze and crack, creating an unnecessary expense and mess, especially if the piping is located underground. You can use a simple shop vac to blow water from the skimmer, through the equipment, back into the pool. It is important to remove any directional fittings and install freeze plugs. Pumps, filters, heaters and chlorinators should also be drained.  

Some pool owners use antifreeze in the piping leading to the skimmer to help prevent freezing.  Keep in mind this is NOT the same antifreeze you use in your car.  Pool antifreeze is made for a specific purpose; to keep your skimmer and piping from freezing.

Don’t forget to turn off all your pum, heaters and any other equipment associated with your pool. Store parts that you will need for Spring in one place.  This will make opening your pool easier and less stressful.

Lastly, cover your pool. Consider using a combination of a safety or standard winter pool cover, and a leaf cover.  By placing a leaf cover on top of your heavier pool cover, it will allow you to remove the leaves and debris that gathers over the winter first, and then remove the heavier cover with a lot less effort. 

Most of the hard work in opening your pool is removing your pool cover filled with water, leaves and debris.    

There are many how to videos available on YouTube, as well as some of the pool manufacturer’s websites, if you are insistent on taking on this project by yourself. However, it is always good to consult with or hire a professional who has knowledge of your pool equipment. They can assist you with closing your pool or help guide you in the right direction. As with all home service contractors, it is important to make sure they are licensed and insured.

Stuart Roaker, President – The Pool Therapist

(718) 370-7000    

How Can I Freshen Up My Kitchen Without Doing A Complete Remodel?

Your kitchen is one of the most used rooms of your home. It is actually said to be the heart of the home, as it is the place where family and friends gather to share special times. Whether small or large, it is important to keep this space updated and clean so that at any time, you are ready to prepare a meal, or entertain, without much fuss.

A complete kitchen remodel could cost thousands of dollars, and requires your time and effort to research the perfect cabinetry, flooring, countertops, backsplash and appliances for your project. If your kitchen looks tired and dated, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to get results. If you are not ready for a complete remodel, consider updating some of the key components of your kitchen to provide a completely new look.  

If your kitchen cabinets and floors are in relatively good condition, consider replacing only your countertop and backsplash. Replacing this major element of your kitchen can transform this room instantaneously. As this can be one of the biggest expenses in freshening up your kitchen, consider a Formica laminated surface. Formica products have come a long way and offer a broad range of looks at an affordable price. Or consider upgrading to granite or a synthetic product, like Corian or Quartz. These types of surfaces will not only change the way your kitchen looks, it will change the way your kitchen functions.

If considering a countertop upgrade, it is important to speak to a professional to see what type of surface will work best for you, and to see if your existing sink or appliances would be affected by this change.

Consider painting your kitchen cabinets or the walls to bring a new, fresh look to your room.  If you are lucky enough to have solid wood cabinets, consider refinishing them.  This will take a little more effort and some consultation with a paint supply professional, like your local Benjamin Moore dealer, however, the results could be astounding.  Your dark and dreary cabinet faces can be transformed with the use of some trending brighter colors. Or you can take a plain wood cabinet and bring in some richness with a new colored stain.

For a more simple way to update your cabinets give them a really good cleaning, and replace the knobs and handles.  With today’s wide variety of pulls, cup pulls, knobs, handles, latches, etc. there is no end to the combination of hardware you can use to give your kitchen a new look, all at a very low cost.

By adding new dishtowels, wall art, fresh flowers or decorative plates, you can add life and a new look to your kitchen.  You may even want to consider some new low cost window treatments, a new kitchen faucet set or seat covers to add to the beauty of your newly redecorated room.  

Although this not the least expensive option when updating your kitchen, replacing your appliances will not only provide a whole new look, it will also provide energy savings. Manufacturers of kitchen appliances are always looking for ways to provide consumers with innovative technology and greater energy efficiency for their homes.  

Homeowners can capitalize on this opportunity by purchasing “last year’s” model at a discounted cost.  It may not be the newest appliance available on the market, but it is certainly an upgrade in efficiency from a 15 to 20 year old appliance, whereby making the investment a smart choice.  Replacing your older, inefficient refrigerator, dishwasher, oven or range will save you money on your gas, electric and water bills, whereby making the replacement of your kitchen appliances not only a visual upgrade, but also worthwhile investment.

Replacing an existing light fixture or adding a decorative one can completely change the appearance of your kitchen or dinette area.  With so many different options in the lighting industry, you can bling out your kitchen with a crystal chandelier, hang a pendant light over your island, install a ceiling fan with a light kit, or even install under counter lighting to provide your dark and dull kitchen with a new look.

Many homeowners today are replacing their existing inefficient recessed lighting with newer dimmable LED retro kits which provide flexibility in the way light is used in the kitchen, and at the same time provides a modern, clean look without having to change the housing and trim.  

In general, updating your kitchen can be one of the best investments of time and resources in your home.  You will create a more comfortable place to live, a nicer environment to entertain your guests and best of all, increase its market value.  

Should you decide that your kitchen remodel requires a little more effort, you should consult with a local licensed, insured and qualified home improvement contractor.  These professionals can provide you with some cost effective options for a kitchen renovation that can change the way you live, entertain and enjoy your home.

Michael DeFillippo – President     Handyman For You Home Improvement Co.

(347) 683-0792

Registration now open for the 56th Staten Island Chamber's Building Awards!


The Chamber's Building Awards Program, now in its 56th year, celebrates excellence in Staten Island's building and design industries. Each entry will be judged on its own merit by a panel of judges who represent a cross section of building-related industries. Entries can be submitted for commercial, residential and mixed-use projects including: new construction, renovations, alternations/additions, historical renovations, Superstorm Sandy renovations, kitchens, bathrooms and other single rooms.

  • WHO CAN ENTER: A project's owner, architect/engineer, builder, general contractor, certified interior designer, interior decorator, craftsman, and/or landscape contractor/designer.
  • CATEGORIES INCLUDE: exterior, interior, interior decorating, outdoor space, and specialty craftsmanship, as well as discretionary awards such as historical renovation, adaptive reuse, and neighborhood improvement.
  • FOR COMPLETE DETAILS, click here. Application deadline is Friday, Sept. 15.

How do I know if I need to upgrade my electrical panel?

In today's age of connectivity, the search for an electric outlet seems to be top priority. We aren't only plugging in our TVs, washers, dryers and refrigerators. We are plugging in to charge our cell phones, computers, iPads, and voice activated home assistants. We are adding outdoor living spaces to our homes, which may also require additional electrical power. We love to use energy, but can our electrical panels handle the load?

Building code requires that new homes be built with adequate electrical service, taking into consideration the size of the home, and the electrical demands of the design. Most homes are built with 200 amp service, but can include up to 400 amp service to meet the electrical demands of today's homeowner.

Many of the existing homes on Staten Island connect to the power grid with 100 amp 240 volt service, and utilize a 100 amp circuit breaker panel. If there are no plans to add significant equipment to your home, if there is adequate room in your panel and if your main breaker does not occasionally trip, you are in good shape. Meaning, the 100 amp service is adequate for your home and there is no need to upgrade your service.

Some homeowners may think if they are experiencing individual breakers tripping, that it's time to upgrade. That is not necessarily the case. A breaker's purpose is to protect the electrical circuit from damage when there is an overload or short in the circuit. In this case, you may just need a repair, not a complete upgrade of your service or panel replacement.  

Power enters our homes through the electrical panel, and is then distributed to outlets, switches and junction boxes. This panel contains either fuses or circuit breakers and can only handle a certain amount of electrical amperage. If the appliances, and electrical demands exceed your panel's capacity, it is time to upgrade your electrical service.

If your electrical panel utilizes fuses instead of breakers, you may want to consider converting to circuit breakers. Many insurance companies have identified that fuses are unsafe and may be a fire hazard, and therefore will not write policies for homes where they are utilized. It is also important to check with your existing insurance company, if your panel has fuses, to make sure they will cover a loss in the event there is a fire due to faulty electrical service.

You should consider upgrading your panel when; you are adding additional equipment or appliances that require independent circuits and there is no more room in the panel; if there is an overload in the existing panel which is causing circuits to trip; if you are adding a sub panel, which requires the use of more amperage than is available; or if you are doing a major renovation to your home, as it may be cost effective to include that in the electrical workload. If you are not planning this type of work, or you do not have circuit breakers tripping from overload, and the breakers in your panel are not overfed, then chances are your existing service is adequate.

If your home utilizes a Federal Pacific brand panel, you should have a licensed electrician evaluate your electrical service immediately. Federal Pacific panels are dangerous and can cause a fire in your home. These panels are easily identified by name and the bright orange circuit breakers inside the panel. 

This company is no longer in business and lost their UL listing license in the late 1960s. A UL license ensures that a lighting product or electrical components has a safety-related certification and has been tested, and inspected for the safety of its users.

These circuit breakers do not have short circuit protection, which means when a circuit is shorted they will not immediate trip the breaker. They will arc and continue to burn until the circuit opens. This is a potential danger to your home and should be replaced immediately. Currently no major home mortgage lending institution will allow the sale of a home with a Federal Pacific panel.  

If you are concerned about any type of lighting or wiring inconsistency in your home, you should consider having a licensed electrician evaluate your home electrical system.  Be proactive and protect your family. A routine home evaluation is complimentary and can provide you with peace of mind.

Donald Pagano, President - DRP Electrical Contracting Inc.

(718) 477-7275

​What Do I Need To Know Before Planning My Home Remodel? 

The planning and research phases of a home improvement project are the most critical steps in the remodeling process. The more knowledgeable and prepared a homeowner is, the more successful they will be in identifying the right contractor, and sourcing the best materials for their remodeling project. A home improvement project is a huge investment of time and money, so making sure it is done right the first time is extremely important. 

Please use this top ten list as a guide when preparing for a home remodeling project or home improvement:

1. Research Your Project – For a good sense of what is involved, such as cost, scope of work, return on investment, and product and/or material options, speak with an architect or designer about your wants and needs for the project. They will be familiar with what can and cannot be done according to local building code,  as well as provide you with projected costs.

2. Plan Your Project Around the Long Term – How long do you plan to stay in your home? How might your family's needs change over time? Life can change quickly – these questions should be answered early on to ensure your project will fit your lifestyle long after it is completed.

3. Set Your Budget – Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential. The total cost needs to include; the proposed cost for architectural services; any permits, filing fees or fees for controlled inspections; the cost of the contract provided by your contractor, and any sub-contractors that have been hired for specialty work; all products and materials you are responsible to purchase independent of the contract; and lastly, a slush fund for unforeseen expenses that were not included in the contract. Don't be afraid to share your concerns about your budget with your contractor.  Professionals are respectful of a client's budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.

4. Use Advanced Searches for Professionals – The online world makes it easy to gather information about the contractors you are considering. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals, then spend time researching your short list on line. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training.

Check on line reviews and social media to see how they have interacted with past clients and peers. Contact both the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (by calling 311) or visit their website at, and call the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any recent consumer complaints made against the contractor.

5. Ask the Right Questions – Ask your professional remodeler about his educational background, or familiarity with specialty materials included in your project. Ask how the project will affect your schedule, and ask what is expected from you in this remodeling process. Lastly, ask how long it will be until they can schedule your project, and how long they anticipate it will take until they are completed. 

6. Verify Your Remodeler – Don't take their word for it. Check the information given to you such as references,  license numbers, insurance information and certifications by calling those providers to verify. 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 in working with a homeowner.  Ask for a Certificate of Insurance and verify that the contractors and subcontractors he will be using are properly insured and have active licenses.

7. Review Contracts Word By Word – A remodeling contract protects you and your remodeler. Homeownersshould review their contract carefully. Professional remodelers provide contracts to protect themselves, and the limits of their responsibility for your project. Homeowners are not as familiar with the remodeling process and should ask about terms that they don't understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment schedules, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. If it's not in the contract, it doesn't exist.

8. Keep Design in Mind – Your design guides the entire project. Think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Use websites such as and to gather design ideas. Make sure your designer, architect or contractor understands your needs and what you would like the end product to look like. Professionals may not be able to recreate a photo you have provided, but they can incorporate some of the features, functionality, style and value into your design.

9. Make Your Selections – Deciding on products and materials is a larger process than most imagine. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons for project timelines to be extended. Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Try to include your selections in the contract so that there are no surprises, and to keep your budget intact.

10. Create a Communication Plan – A common downfall between contractors and homeowners is the lack of communication between during a home renovation. Your remodeler should lay out a clear communication plan at the beginning of the project, if not, ask them to do so. This plan should clarify the roles of everyone involved, communication methods, and the availability and frequency of communication that is expected.

For helpful tips and guidance with your remodeling project, visit NARI at where homeowners can find useful information about the remodeling process. If you have a question about your remodeling project or a contractor, visit

Lana Seidman, Executive Director - NARI-HIC of Staten Island Inc.

(718) 356-2323

What Key Aspects Should Be Included In My Remodeling Contract?

Finding the right remodeling contractor your home improvement is a difficult task.  Understanding what you are agreeing to in a contract can be even more challenging.

It is not only important to identify a contractor that you are comfortable with, who communicates well, provides a sensible payment schedule, who has great references, and who is fully licensed and insured, it is equally important to make sure the contract is forthright and inclusive of all the materials and labor you are expecting from the project.

Be sure your contract includes what the contractor will and will not be providing.  In addition it should contain the following items:

Your contractor's business name; physical street address (not a PO Box), phone number and NYC Home Improvement Contractors license number.

A comprehensive scope of work that will be provided for your project, including a detailed list of materials covering size, color, model, brand and product information (when applicable).

Study your design or architectural plans and make sure all of the materials that you expected the contractor to provide is included in detail in the contract. If there are allowances, make sure it is noted, and a realistic price has been allocated for those materials.

A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year should be written in the contract. The warranty terms should be noted as "full" or "limited". The name and address of the party who will honor the warranty should be identified; contractor, distributor or manufacturer.

The contract should include approximate start and completion dates, along with the financial terms of the contract, including total price, an acceptable payment schedule and any cancellation penalty.

A binding arbitration clause is also a good inclusion, in the event a disagreement occurs.  Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation.

Never make any payments to any third parties or any individual names, or anyone whose name is not exactly the same as the one that appears on your contract. (If this request occurs that should raise a large red flag and you should immediately re-think your contractor selection.)

Thoroughly review the entire contract and be certain you understand it before signing it. It is important to ask questions about terms, or unfamiliar processes if you are not clear what they mean. Pay attention to details about change orders, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. If it's not in the contract, it doesn't exist. When it comes to your remodeling project, and protecting your family and home, you can never ask too many questions. 

Review the scope of the project and make sure all items you have requested from your contractor, and the design in its entirety, is included in the contract. If you do not see a specific item in the contract, consider it not included. And, never sign an incomplete contract. Make sure both you and your contractor have signed the agreement, including initialing any changes, and always keep a copy of the dually executed document for your records.

If changes occur during your project, put all changes to the scope of work, materials, labor and schedules in writing and ensure your contractor issues you a change order. Both you and your contractor should sign the change order and continue to keep one copy for yourself. It is not uncommon to have many change orders generated during a project; it protects both the consumer and contractor.

Lastly, make sure your contract includes a notice of cancellation.  NYC code requires contractors to provide a 3-day cancellation clause in their contracts which provides homeowners the right to cancel, without penalty, within that time frame.

It is a good idea to keep a job file which should include the contract, plans, specifications, invoices, change orders and all correspondence with the contractor. You may need to refer to these documents in the future.

At the end of the project, before you make your final payment, request a contractors Waiver of Mechanics Lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for non-payment of materials or subcontractors.

or any questions about a contractor, or the requirements of a contractor agreement, you can contact the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (by calling 311) or visit their website at

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

Cliff Siegel, President -   Cee Jay Real Estate Development Corp.

(917) 771-7710

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