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AdviceEdit

See also: Home Remodeling

Duct CleaningEdit

Definitely made a difference in both dust accumulation and the amount of air flowing out of the vents. Several rooms had little to no air flowing from the vents before the cleaning and are now blowing strong. The tech showed us what came out and my wife and I were both aghast at the 40 gallon drum full of dust and dirt. If you get the vents cleaned, change your air filters about a week later.

FireplacesEdit

Just a reminder that fireplace ashes can contain coals that are flammable for quite some time after the fire goes out. Some sources say 24 hours but it can be 2 or 3 days. Every year there are a large number of house fires from putting ashes that look extinguished into a garbage pail or a garbage can near the house or in the garage, especially when the ashes are put into plastic garbage containers.

The best place to put ashes is in a fire proof metal can with a tight lid, and placed at least ten feet away from the house, garage, deck or shed.

Don't use a paper bag, cardboard box, or plastic trash bag to dispose of ashes. Don't use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes. Don't place the metal container next to the firewood pile, against the garage, on or under a wooden deck or under a porch.

This article talks about why it is helpful to leave some ashes in the fireplace between fires, but why it is important to remove all ashes at the end of the winter season to prevent rust and corrosion damage:

GuttersEdit

Consumer Reports has a good article about the various types of gutter cover systems. My wife and I were just researching what to do about the very same problem you have. Gutter clogging is a year around problem for us because of all the trees close to our house. www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/september/home-garden/gutter-guard/overview/index.htm

Heat PumpsEdit

In the Winter, don't forget to shovel the snow off it before you use it.

Insulation Do-It-YourselfEdit

With the kind assistance of a neighbor, I blew in my own cellulose insulation (fire-retardent treated newspaper shredding). Very green, Home Depot sells it, and a day's use of the blower to do the installation is included in the price. It was kinda fun, like my very own personal blizzard in our attic!

Recommended VendorsEdit

Appliance RepairEdit

Jeff's Appliance Service
11104 Cherry Hill Rd
Beltsville, MD
(301) 937-6003

Customer Recommendation(s):
+++++Repaired fridge for a reasonable price and provided free advice on the dishwasher on the same visit; also services washers/dryers. *Highly* recommended in Washington Checkbook.(originally posted to FE listserve, Jan. 2010)

Attic FansEdit

Amicus
Kensington, MD
www.amicusgreen.com

They sell the solar attic fans, but also will have loads of helpful advice to offer on all the ways you can make your attic more energy efficient. Nice group of people work there and they are all very experienced and helpful. And very close and lacking the headaching inducing overload that always comes with a trip to the big box stores. Also they have loads of other stuff, like low VOC paint, great cabinetry made in the US from FSC certified wood, etc.

CarpentersEdit

Jim Janssen
www.janssencarpentry.com

+++++ We recently worked with Jim Janssen on a  carpentry project in our home and were very happy with his work. He is a straightforward communicator, creative problem solver, has excellent attention to detail, and is technically skilled. He lives in the Forest Glen/Four Corners area. 

Chimney CleanersEdit

Priddy Clean Chimney Sweeps
Bethesda, MD
301-530-4262

ContractorsEdit

HomeConnections of Washington, DC
This website is a central location for local contractors for a variety of home maintenance and improvement projects. You can enter in information about your project and get back multiple quotes.
washington-dc.homeconnections.com

Deck Cleaning and RefinishingEdit

Deck Medics
1057 Taft Street
Rockville, MD 20850-1309
(301) 762-9274

Customer Recommendation(s):
++++We've used Deck Medics for the last 2-3 years. They do a decent job, and of course, send yearly postcard reminders which are annoying, but helpful for the short-term memory challenged, such as ourselves! Two things to tell/remind them before they come out: how wide is the gate opening to your backyard (so they know if they have to bring smaller equipment), and that the water pressure may require them to bring a pressurizer (we have to have that on Belvedere).14:28, February 28, 2011 (UTC)

Oasis Pressure Wash
Gaithersburg, MD

Customer Recommendation(s):
+++++We just had our deck power washed and stained by Oasis Pressure Wash from Gaithersburg. 100% excellent comments in Consumer Checkbook, decent price, and we were happy with the work. Antoinette Eates, 1606 Myrtle Road

Duct CleaningEdit

Potomac Services
(703)444-5155
www.potomacservices.net === Customer Recommendation(s) ++++We've used Potomac Services to clean our chimney and our air ducts. They did a great job on both. Techs that came out were very courteous and professional and went extra steps to keep the house clean (took off boots, vacuumed any mess). They charged about $150 for chimney (1 hour) and about $300 for air ducts (5 hours) depending on the size of the house, but I think they have coupons/discounts on their website. 7/13/2010

ElectriciansEdit

See Home Remodeling

GAS FIREPLACE REPAIRS AND INSTALLATION:

Tim Whistler plumbing and gasfitting LLC- specializing in gas fireplace repairs and installation. Based in Forest Estates, fully licensed and insured. 301-648-9676 or tjwhistler@gmail.com

See under PLUMBERS below also.

Gutter CleaningEdit

John Tripp

240-277-9158

Fast, good, affordable, and usually can do my gutter within 24 hours of calling him.  AND he alerted me to a soft spot on my roof that required major repair BEFORE I had a serious leak in the house or needed a new roof, so he saved me a lot of hassle and expense. (12/14)

Dave’s Lawn Service / DNA Tree Service

301-482-2626, www.dnatreeservice.com (12/14)

Larry Tyler
See under Handymen below.

HandymenEdit

Larry Williamowsky

301-526-9013

Larry is honest and fair. He will consult for free and give instructions if you want to do the work yourself. (12/14). Seconding the recommendation! Replied quickly, offered free advice & fixed the problem within 2 days. (8/15)

David Arevalo

301-379-2430

We’ve used him for all sorts of work: home repairs (not a big renovation, but lots of smaller jobs);  painting; and cleaning gutters.  He taps his extended family to help, and we have had nothing but very positive experiences with David and crew.  His prices are very competitive, and he is reliable and skilled. (12/14)

Jeeves Handyman Services

800-371-5730, www.jeeveshandyman.com

I have used them for years. They have done everything from plumbing, house painting, building a new closet to tiling our fireplace. The only problem I had with them is they did not seal the new grout when they tiled one of our bathroom floors, but that was a simple fix and I was able to do that myself with grout sealant spray. (12/14)

Antonio Barzola
(301) 949-6935
(240) 505-7234

Tom Biby

tombiby@hotmail.com

Maximino Joya
Contact: Ena Waters (Daughter)
(301) 351-4972

Marc Sauro
(301) 758-8426

Larry Tyler
(301) 370-2178
When my gutter fell down after the first snowfall back in December, it was replaced very efficiently (and economically) by Larry Tyler. I think he can handle most types of gutter repairs. He does work for local real estate agents too.

Heating, Furnaces and Air ConditioningEdit

BMC/Clower

301-562-9001, www.bmcclower.com

We used them to replace our whole HVAC about three years ago.  Very good experience, very good service. They walked us through the best high efficiency system for our house and helped us get rebates from the County … Great service; good people; good prices. (12/14)

Mindte AC
Rockville, MD
(301)424-8786

We use them for all our AC/Heating needs.  We like the reliability service and the friendliness of the workers.  (12/14) ... I just had a very good experience with Mindte AC in Rockville. They came on the day that I called and the guy was great. My experience was very positive. Mention to them that you got their name from Bill Glasser, who shared the info on the neighborhood listserv ... I second this recommendation. We just had them replace our furnace and AC. Over all it was a good experiance and a good price. The are the ones who installed the 26 year old AC and furnace that was being replaced. (Rebecca Miller on Woodman Ave. - Dec 2010)

HVAC Dynamic, Inc. -- Max Gabin

301-593-6499

Replaced my furnace and air conditioner in 2013.  Great service.  (12/14)

 

MP Energy Services

301-774-2299, http://www.mpenergyservices.com/

We used them to install new furnace, heat pump, ac condenser and tankless water heater. After getting quotes from about 8 hvac companies, MP Energy came in at the second lowest price for the top of the line equipment.  A few of the companies sent outrageous quotes (~$30k, about twice the price of MP Energy) without looking at our house or current system. Marlon was also the only one that took time to take into account the duct work and airflow dynamics in our house. He was also the most honest person I talked to. His crew completed the work quickly, cleanly and quietly. I do recognize that MP Energy is a very small business, just Marlon and his wife, so scheduling with them can be a bit frustrating up front. (12/14)

Argent ++++I recently had our full HVAC system replaced by Argent. They also replaced our HVAC in our condo in DC about a year and a half ago. They tend to charge more than others, but I'm happy with their knowledge, the quality of their service, and their willingness to get the job done right (even if it requires a little extra time). Although we were able to get them out to our house in one day to assess the situation, it took another week before they could start the job -- so, we were out of A/C for a total of 8 or 10 days. In the middle of record-breaking heat and humidity, when A/C systems are biting the dust left and right, I think I'd actually be suspicious of any HVAC company that has the capacity to start a job like this "tomorrow." Same reason why I'm suspicious of eating in a restaurant that's empty during the dinner rush. 2010-07-22

Home InspectorsEdit

Chip Castell
Castell Home Consultants
301-928-5964 (cell)
rcastell@verizon.net

+++++I have worked with for 15+ years --Kathy Whalen

Barry Stohlman
301 346-8804

+++++Know him well....good contractor background, really understands what is and is not a problem. You will be in competent hands. -- Pat Kilner

Ron Meely
Building Inspector of America
301-916-0300

FARO Systems, Inc.
Scott Chappell
301 588-3260

InsulationEdit

A C & R Insulation Company
301-937-4710

They also work with a lot of contractors.

Accurate Insulation, LLC
Dave Burgess
(301) 627-6506 Office
(301) 536-2136 Cell

Customer Recommendation(s):
+++++On the advice of a neighbor, we used Accurate Insulation to blow in cellulose, and it was honestly one of the best home improvement experiences we've had. We worked with Dave Burgess who was just the nicest, most helpful rep. He went through all the different options to improve our efficiency without ever being pushy or condescending. Highly highly recommend this company, and Dave specifically. (7/7/10)

Amicus Green Building Center
Kensington, MD

PaintersEdit

Francisco Sorto 301-434-3660  (h), 240-838-1179 (c)

He painted the entire inside of our house on Tilton Drive before we moved in. He gave us detailed estimates for each part of the job, came each work day at the time he had said he would; painted very carefully; cleaned up nicely each day.  We thought his prices were reasonable. Mr. Sorto is a pleasant person.  His English is not the best, but we managed OK. (12/14)

PlumbersEdit

AAA Drain and Video
(301) 806-6935
I recommend them because they were the least expensive but the most thorough and the most conscientious about their work and the service they provided.

They conducted a clean out and video diagnostic of our sewer line, all the way past the county line and into the main street pipe. After which, thy submitted the paperwork and DVD recording of the video to WSSC. Subsequently, WSSC reimbursed us for the amount we paid to AAA and for the previous clean out due to the fact that the source of the problem was on their side of the line. It did take several weeks and friendly, hat-in-my-hand, followups with WSSC to get reimbursed by them. The WSSC folks there were friendly and service oriented. AAA's cost for their service: $600. The best price I could find. And, they also have an excellent rating with the Better Business Bureau. Very nice guy. He and his assistant tarped up the entire pathway between the front door of our house all the way to the bathroom and the surrounding areas. Drain clean out is, after all, a messy job. Especially if it has to be conducted through the toilet drain in the floor. He also gave me a free 4lb can of RootX.

April 2014 -- I called AAA and found him to be great. He came quickly, did the job well and at a fair price. Strong recommend.

Tim Whistler Plumbing LLC

301-648-9676 or timwhistlerplumbing.com,

Residential plumbing and gas fireplace repairs and services. 1810 Sherwood Rd. Silver Spring, Neighborhood references available. Licensed & Insured WSSC master plumber and gasfitter.

+++++++July 2014 - Tim whistler just did good work for me on an install (toilet and sink) and a repair (on another sink).  He was very easy to work with (responsive to telephone, email and text; punctual; with great follow-through), fair priced and did a quality job exactly on schedule.  Plus he lives right here ...  301-648-9676 or tjwhistler@gmail.com

Tim Whistler is “the goods.” Very good guy and he does good work, plus he is as pleasant a person as  you could hope for … Tim Whistler is the ultimate plumber. We've had two problems that were fixed in no time at reasonable rates ... Tim Whistler is the best plumber you'll ever find, and he lives in our neighborhood … We used Tim to replace our hot water heater; he was amazing. (12/14)

+++++ (I figure 5 stars is the highest...) I highly recommend Tim Whistler. He responded very quickly to my voicemail, and was able to come over right away. He fixed our problem (clogged drain) quickly and efficiently, and for a reasonable price. Was very nice to deal with a small (and local) owner-operated business, rather than a huge national company. - Mark on Dublin (Sept 2015)

Aspen Hill Plumbing
Dave Glick
301-933-0801 office, 240-855-1400 cell, www.aspenhillplumbing.com

+++++I highly recommend Dave Glick also. He was recommended by this Listserve last fall when my water heater sprung a leak. He came right away to take a look, and came back quickly once he picked up the new heater. He came a third time when my sink backed up. Very responsive, great guy, reasonable prices.

+++++We just used Dave Glick of Aspen Hill Plumbing. He's responsive, very reasonable and was right on time. He's done a lot of work in our neighborhood, so I'm sure others can vouch for him as well.

++++ We had good experiences with Aspen Hill as well. They came during the window they provided, fixed the problem quickly, and charged a reasonable amount. On one of them, we were worried that we had a bigger problem, so we're glad to have an honest, fair plumber.

++++May 2014 Found Dave to be very professional with a strong understanding of the job, willingness to help, got back to me quickly and came to do the job on time and quickly (which is harder to find than you'd think).

Very good. David Glick (owner) graduated from Einstein HS and hires local kids. (12/14)

WH Lewis & Co.

301-545-1170, http://www.whlewisandcompany.com/

Mike is one recommended plumber with this company. (12/14)

Drainmaster Kevin
(240) 372-3373

Terry Foley
10111 Greeley Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20902
(301) 681-8068

AVOID Brett Hill and Best-Hill Services - per Crimeguru March 4, 2014

Nicholson Plumbing is excellent.  I've used them for a variety of items and they are so wonderful & responsive each and every time.  301.949.6801   Per Peggy Laferty March 4, 2014

JH Peterson, Inc. 301.585.3006 www.PetersonPlumbing.com We had them come for some major work replacing original supply and drain pipes in the walls during renovation. They did a terrific job with the work and cleanup over multiple days and staged it so we had water each evening. They scheduled and were here to meet WSSC inspector. Per Mary Snieckus April 20, 201

RoofersEdit

Thomas C. Johnson, Inc. Roofing & Solar
17509 Park Mill Rd.
Derwood, MD 20855
(240) 731-2176
Highly recommended by Maida Schifter + Ralph Tryon on Belvedere

Michael Koczot
www.gotchacoveredroofing.com

301-774-7563 or cell 301-641-8106. 

His business was formerly “Gotcha Covered Roofing” but he is now working with his brother’s roofing business and I cannot recall the name.  In October he put a new roof on my backyard shed, great job and reasonable. (12/14) … I’ll second his work. Very honest man. You can see his work on our home (1823 Tilton) (12/14)

Mike Fann of EZ Management

301-871-9200

Was able to patch a small leak for me quickly and inexpensively (12/14)

Mike Fann is a great guy, very willing to help and comes out to help fix small roof issues. He and his crew replaced our roof this spring. They finished on time and on budget at a competitive price. (4/15)

Noble Exteriors

301-208-3201, www.nobleexteriors.com/

Just put a new roof on our house and did a great job. Very good customer service at competitive prices. (12/14) … I second Noble. (12/14)

Kellyco Roofing

301-942-6288

Highly rated on Checkbook, fast service, quality, and fair price. We had our entire roof done and when we thought it was leaking again they came by again to check.  Turns out it was an old spot. (12/14)

Katchmark Construction

703-817-0200, www.katchmark.com

Recently replaced one of our roofs.  They did a good job.  Price was reasonable.  (12/14)

J & J Improvements
John Meyer
(301) 593-7984

Our basement flooded twice during the rains last May/June, and John Meyer of J & J Improvements figured out the problem and corrected it.

S&K Roofing
Tom Ciambruschini
(800) 396-7404

Earl Stephenson
301-253-9246
This is the guy who replaced our roof a few years ago; he came highly recommended, and we were very pleased.

Scates Roofing
www.scatescorporation.com/index.cfm

They came recommended by a friend who had used the company twice, including one time when she thought she would have to redo the whole roof and Cary Scates recommened a patch job that held up for the remaining 5 years of the roof's life. We used them and they were pleasant, professional, and detail oriented. Their price was among the lowest of the 4 bids we obtained.

Water ProofingEdit

+++++Regarding Kart Landscaping for re-grading and another neighbor's experience with water remediation companies. We had water in our basement earlier this Spring for the first time in years and had Kart come out to do re-grading and replace an old drain at the bottom of our driveway that was no longer functioning. So far, so good.

+++++You may need to have that waterproofing work (and that's kind of a misnomer, because what you're really doing isn't keeping the water out but directing the outside water into an inside French drain system, then pumping it back out) done, but if you haven't already you may want to talk to a landscaper, too. We had some issues when we first moved in ten (!) years ago and got estimates from several waterproofing companies. We also talked to a landscaping company that specializes in grading, Kart Landscape & Lawns. For a fraction of what the basement waterproofing would have cost, we paid Kart to try to solve the problem by re-grading our yard to direct water away from the house. Knock wood, we haven't had those problems since and so far haven't had to install a sump pump.

+++++We went through the whole damp basement and water proofing saga in 2012... First, you can solve many water problems by regrading around your house, extending your downspouts 8-15 ft away from the house, covering window wells, cleaning out basement walk out stair drains, and running a dehumidifier at 55% or lower. The next step if your basement is unfinished is to clean/etch the cinder block interior basement walls and then paint several coats of Dry-Lock oil base sealant paint on the walls. It also helps to seal the concrete basement floor with a penetrating epoxy type concrete paint. At best this may buy you 2-3 years of a semi-dry basement. For general security, better energy efficiency, and a fix of window leaks, replace old original single pane/steel basement windows with new windows. If these steps don't work, you need interior footer drains and a sump pump.

One option is exterior waterproofing... After 60-70 years, the water proofing tar on the exterior foundations all the houses in the neighborhood has deteriorated, thus allowing water to penetrate and fill the hollow cinder block basement walls in our houses. Unless you want to spend $30-50K to dig up to whole exterior perimeter around the foundation to re-waterproof with sealant and tile drains, you are best off by having interior drains installed. Put off any basement remodeling plans until after you have "waterproofed" the basement!

The drains and sump pump install runs $5-$15k typically for our size house. Plan for the additional cost to replace all of the basement flooring (tile, carpet etc) and to rebuild any finished exterior walls (interior framing against the exterior cinder block). The job involves jack hammering out a 1-2 ft wide and 2 ft deep trench in the basement floor around the perimeter, digging out another foot down around the wall footers, laying a graded gravel base, installing perforated drain pipe at the right slope down to the sump pump, installing a waffle board on the footer and up the basement wall to channel moisture to the drain, digging out a pit for the sump pump, installing sump drain to the outside, filling the trench with gravel, and then reinstalling concrete to smooth out the basement floor. This is a labor intensive job that you should definitely not attempt to DIY.

However, it is very difficult to find a reputable and honest "waterproofing" company. I got quotes from 15 companies to install interior footer drains, a new exterior stair drain, and a sump pump. I'd say about 90% of the companies out there are fly-by-night scams or incorporated by the same person under say 5 different company names, so BEWARE and do your research. Many of these waterproofing companies change company names every 3-5 years when the state revokes their licenses and/or when the Angie's list reviews get too negative - AA Waterproofing, AAA Waterproofing, AAAction Waterproofing, World or World Wide or WWW Waterproofing, ValuDry, EverDry, All Waterprofing, AllAspects, Every Aspect, come to mind and are/were owner by the same guys.

Beware of the sales people that come out to your house and claim you need interior drains and a sump, without first inspecting the outside of the house and suggesting exterior grading. Beware of companies whose services all have witty trademarked names. IE, They recommend you need a Waterproofing Solution™ using the SaniDry™ widget and for extra you can get the SmartSump™, the SuperSump™, the UltraSump™, or if you really care about your children you can buy the TripleSafe™ system with the WaterGuard™ TrenchDrain™ that FlexiSpans™ across your DryTrak™ basement walls. Seriously. Finally, beware of the sales people that give you a price, and 10 minutes later, claim that if you sign the contract today, that he's got a crew that is in between work later that week and could come do the work ASAP, oh and magically the price would come down a few thousand $$$, but you have to sign the contract RIGHT now! I heard the same sales tactic from 8 sales reps...

IMHO, the most distasteful company was, Mid-Atlantic Waterproofing AKA Aquaguard Waterproofing, who called and harassed me for weeks after I declined them. They also tried every sales pitch and sales tactic in the book. They changed their price 6 times. They sent additional sales people to my house knocking on the door at random days/times for several months. Not to get political or cynical, but they are also owned by Pat Buchanan's (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Pat_Buchanan) immediate family and his brother, Jack, is the CEO. A little ironic or ingenious that a family, which believes gays and Jews are responsible for hurricanes and earthquakes and thinks climate change is a hoax, would own a waterproofing company...

Also beware of the companies that install a triangular shaped tube pipe on top of the footing and promise minimal floor/wall cutting. The system goes under the name of "WaterGuard" and the company that sells it around here is JES inc. (http://www.jeswork.com/ppc/local/basement-waterproofing-md-dc-va.aspx?gclid=CNv7ioWDtLgCFcie4AodkWYANA) This type of system doesn't work long term, but worst, it compromises the structural integrity of the foundation wall. I got confirmation from 3 building engineers that this system can compromise your house...

Beware of companies that use black plastic sheeting (like a trash bag) on the walls down to the drains. Beware of companies that do not have any certifications or promise in their contracts to full seal the work area and filter the work dust.

We ended up going with TRIAD Basement Waterproofing to do the work. Our other top choice was NV Waterproofing, which does most of it business in the commercial and government construction sectors. Both came in around $7500 and had nice, honest sales reps and professional, insured crews. A distant third choice would be a BDry franchise (the WalMart of waterproofing companies, would have ran about $13k for our basement). Our next door neighbors used BDry 10 years ago and have had no subsequent problems. However, the other 12 companies I interacted with, I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy. Miraculously, Triad did the work in 2 days, albeit with 5 guys laboring over two 18 hour days. The project involves very strenuous, backbreaking, dirty labor.

Yes, your house and entire street block will be vibrating from the jack-hammering. Yes, our basement foundation floors are not uniformly thick, meaning that some areas will take them much longer to jackhammer through. Yes, there will be pulverized concrete dust everywhere in your house afterwards, regardless of all dust sealing efforts. Yes, you will have mold spores in the air if your basement was finished and had water/flooding damage - expect the finished exterior walls to be full of mold and rotten wood. Yes, you should get the battery backup option for your sump pump - the system is worthless in a thunderstorm/power outage without a battery. Overall, the project is worth it if you can sleep better through rain storms, knowing that your basement isn't flooding.

Triad left the basement clean and did a great job. After monthly flooding for 3 years, our basement is now perfectly dry and we haven't had any problems for about 2 years. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

TRIAD Basement Waterproofing
http://www.triadbasementwaterproofing.com/

NV Waterproofing
http://www.nvwaterproofing.com/