Thursday, March 28, 2019

Our Laundry Room Make-over

The "new" laundry room 
There was no question that our little laundry room was looking tired. It had worked hard ever since we moved here nearly fifteen years ago, serving as laundry central, cat central and as the place for flower arranging, etc. The original Formica counter top had gotten nasty and the white laminate shaker style cabinets didn't really suit the rest of the house which has cherry wood kitchen cabinets and cherry stained doors and trim throughout. The laundry cabinets were good quality and in great condition, but their color and style were just wrong. We weren't about to change them, but it was long past time for a makeover to make them feel less out of place.

I admit that sometimes I wish Roger could drop everything and work on our latest project because having the house torn up for long periods of time is no fun, but that's not the way it goes with us. Painting for our clients always takes precedence! And even though the laundry room is a small space, there was a lot of time-consuming work involved, so the transformation wasn't going to be a quick fix.

Roger had to paint the ceiling and walls, the interior of two double storage closets with wire shelving units and three banks of cabinets. There was a lot of packing up and dismantling to be done before he could even start painting. Everything seemed to move at a snail's pace to an impatient sort like me, but Roger knows the right way to do things and that takes time. Because the cabinets were to be done in oil enamel, we also had to allow plenty of drying time once they were painted before the shelves, doors and drawers could be re-installed.

Here's what the cabinets looked like when we started. The new counter top had just been installed and Roger had taken the first two sets of doors to the workshop.

Sink side cabinets before
Washer/dryer side cabinets before

Getting Started

The first step was to replace the Formica counter top with quartz, and we were lucky to find a remnant of Cambria "Clyde" which worked well with the limestone floor, the only fixed element in the room that I had to consider. The counter top was the only thing we changed. Everything else was updated with paint.

As Roger removed the cabinet doors and drawers he labeled where they came from to save time putting them back correctly. He also removed the shelving units in the closets and took down the light fixture, drapery hardware, etc. Once the room was cleared it was time for cosmetic repairs. After covering up, taping and masking off, Roger fixed some bad drywall tape and nail pops in the ceiling and filled the holes in the walls as I didn't necessarily want to put the accessories back in their former places.

The Painting Phase

Then it was on to painting. The ceiling and walls went quickly. As you might expect, the cabinets took a lot more work. Each shelf and cabinet door had to be primed because we were putting paint over laminate and then painted two more times on both sides, plus they had to dry properly between coats. After it was all done there was more waiting.

Here's what we used (all paint by Benjamin Moore):

Ceiling:  Shaker Beige HC-45 - Ceiling Paint
Walls and Closet Interiors: Shaker Beige HC-45 - Aura Interior Matte
Cabinets: Rushing River #1574 - Satin Impervo oil enamel

Some Details

I wanted to coordinate the folding table to the left of the dryer, so Roger painted the legs in Rushing River. He also primed and painted the cabinet shelf supports in Rushing River to give the interiors a finished look. We recycled the old chrome and ceramic cabinet knobs and the black light fixture by spraying them in an oil rubbed bronze. Roger painted the metal dryer vent in Shaker Beige to camouflage it. Paying attention to these details really helped.

The (Almost) Finished Product

It seemed to take forever, but we're finally back in the laundry room, operating as usual and really enjoying it. The beautiful look of Satin Impervo, a better color, not to mention Roger's expert craftsmanship, transformed those glaring white cabinets. Even though the Shaker style remains, in the new color they now look more as if they belong with the rest of the house.

Roger isn't quite done yet. He still has to refinish three sets of double doors: one set of entry doors and two sets for the closets. Then it's on to our next project.

The white plastic shelf supports 
have disappeared.

Cabinets after on the sink side.
Cabinets after on the washer/dryer side.
Dryer vent painted the wall color.

If your cabinets look tired and you're ready to give them a new lease on life, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule an estimate with Roger. I highly recommend him!

Friday, March 1, 2019

How to Hire a Pressure-washing Service

Residential and Commercial Pressure-washing
by Sterling Property Services
Many people have learned the hard way about the pitfalls of amateur pressure-washing. If you plan to hire a professional and want the best result, how can you find the right company for the job? Here are some suggestions.

Step One:  Identify Prospects.

  • Ask friends, family and neighbors for recommendations. 
  • Use Google to search for pressure-washing companies, then look at their reviews on Google Maps and visit their web site, if any. 
  • Check Angie's List, Yelp and Houzz. 

Step Two: Telephone Interview 

Describe the work you want done. Describe any access problems or other special issues, such as building height over two stories, a steep slope, or the need to provide the water to do the job, as this will automatically eliminate certain bidders.    

Ask questions to learn about the business. Here are some possibilities, ranging from basic to technical. Choose the ones that work for you.
  • How long have you been in business? Experience counts.
  • Do you have a web site when I can learn more about your company? Having a web site is a sign of openness, accountability and a business-like approach.
  • What type of equipment do you use? Professional equipment can supply a force of 3-4,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). It will have an engine with 11-15 horsepower and water flow of 3-6 GPM (gallons per minute). These figures are sometimes combined into CU's (cleaning units), which is PSI x GPM. Professional equipment has a rating of at least 12,000 CU's. Listen for a clear, knowledgeable response. 
  • What pressure do you use? The answer should be the lowest pressure that will get the job done without causing damage, no more than 1,000 PSI.
  • What chemicals or cleaners do you use? Are they biodegradable and environmentally safe? Could they harm the siding, pets, plants, etc.?  If the answer is “bleach”, beware. Professionals don’t use bleach alone because it isn’t an effective cleaner and can cause injury or damage. They also will work in sections so the cleaner isn’t on the house too long. Listen for product knowledge and awareness of the potential for damage. 
  • Do you carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance ?  If yes, get the name of their insurance agent and confirm the details if you hire them. If an uninsured worker is injured at your house, you could be liable. Sole proprietors with no employees are not required to carry this coverage.
  • Who will be on the job doing the work? What training and experience do they have? This is important. It’s usually best not to hire trainees or temporary workers like students. 
  •  Will you provide a written estimate with a detailed description of the work?  Not all contractors, even some experienced ones, can provide written estimates, but it’s preferable.
  • Can you provide references?  If you have any concerns, call and verify them. Look for reviews on Google Maps, Houzz, Yelp, etc.
If the answers to these questions are satisfactory, make an appointment for an estimate.

Step Three: Get the Estimates

More questions and things to consider:

  • Is the estimator on time for the appointment? Is he business-like and well groomed? Is his vehicle clean and professional with signs? His approach and how careful he is with his own appearance and vehicle will tell you a lot about how he operates. 
  • Walk through the project and describe the work you want done in detail, with any special instructions, such as access issues, areas that need care like a trellis with a delicate plant or fragile ornaments 
  • How will you protect my plants? Covering them with plastic or a drop for more than a few minutes could damage or kill them. We rinse plants before, during and after washing.
  • Does the basic estimate include the exterior of the gutters, the downspouts and foundation?   
  • Can you include an option for inspecting, cleaning and flushing the interior of the gutters and downspouts by hand? 
  • Can you wash my roof? Many companies, including ours, will not wash certain roofs for safety reasons and because of the potential for causing damage.
  • Does your estimate including washing my windows?  Basic pressure-washing does not include more than rinsing windows.
  • Who will remove and replace large container plants and furniture?  What do you want me to do before you arrive?  If you’ll need help, be sure to say so.
  • Are there any special procedures or cautions for cleaning your type of siding? For example, older cedar shakes can easily be damaged by too much pressure and using the wrong tip.  
  • Discuss everything you’re concerned about and agree on what steps the contractor will take to avoid problems.
  • What are the realistic results to expect from washing my house? (See below.)  

Step Four: Evaluate the Estimates

Each estimate should contain:
  • The complete scope of work, including the areas to be washed, the preparation that will be done, the products to be used and the clean-up and replacement of furniture and other items that will be done after washing, if included. 
  • Total cost for labor, equipment and supplies, and when payment is due. 
  • How long the estimate is valid.

Once you have all the estimates, confirm that each bidder is using an identical scope of work. Then you can evaluate and rank them. Compare prices, but be aware that an unusually low bid likely represents the least professional result. Check references.

Sterling Property Services
pressure-washing a house in Flat Rock
Washing Day

Now that you’ve found the right person for the job, you can relax. Wrong! There are a few things left for you to do.
  • Arrange to be there when the work is done. 
  • Plan ahead for the best result by removing all small and/or delicate items from the work areas. 
  • Park your car (s) in the garage or down the street. 
  • Make certain all doors and windows are closed. 
  • Bring your animals inside or keep them well out of the way. Even with modern equipment, pressure-washing is noisy, and that can be very distressing to some pets. 

Monitor the work as it progresses to be certain you're happy with the results, but don’t get in the way! 

Realistic Expectations

It’s good to have realistic expectations about the results of pressure-washing and to be aware of some of the things that can occur, even when the work is done properly.
  • Pressure-washing may dislodge loose paint or caulking, but if the paint or caulking is sound, it won’t. 
  • Sometimes spots might remain on the siding after it’s washed. They could be bug droppings that have baked into the surface, a common fungus known as artillery or shot gun fungus, or granules from the asphalt shingles that ran off the roof and caused permanent stains. Don't expect washing to remove them. 
  • Windows might have water spots, but no more than there would be there after a rainstorm. 
  • Black streaks might remain under the eaves or on some aluminum gutters. They are permanent stains caused by constant moisture or rainwater. 
  • Pressure-washing isn’t a substitute for repainting. After your home is cleaned, you may decide that it’s time to get painting estimates.