Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beware of Furnace Fraud

The Denver District Attorney has sent out a warning to watch out for furnace fraud. Here is some of what he has to say:

Fraudulent contractors and furnace salespersons often use scare tactics. They may insist that you must buy a new furnace immediately due to leaking as and the potential of a catastrophic explosion. They may tell you that the "heat exchanger" or "combustion chamber" is cracked or has a hole. Or they may simply say that your furnace is too small and should be replaced with a larger one. If a contractor says you need expensive work immediately, don't panic. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • All heating contractors are required to be licensed and to get a permit from the Building Department before doing any major work. Ask for verification of a license and the permit. To verify if a contractor is licensed in Denver call 720-865-2770 or go to www.denvergov.org/contractor_licensing
  • Check out all contractors with the Better Business Bureau, by calling (303)758-2100 and your city Building Department before inviting a serviceperson into your home for an estimate or service.
  • If you are told your furnace needs to be replaced, get a second opinion from a licensed contractor whom you have checked out with the BBB.
  • Remember that once the old furnace has been removed, proof of its original condition is impossible to verify, making it difficult to recover your losses or to prosecute for fraud.

RESIST if a salesperson gives you a high-pressured sales pitch, especially if you are solicited at your door or by phone by an unfamiliar contractor.

This is good advice. As a handyman I don’t repair or replace furnaces. I do know of some good companies who do though. If you need a referral, give me a call.

Philip

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Window Well Scenes


Recently I installed window well scenes for a customer. I was amazed how beautiful they were and how they changed the window well view. I guess anything would look better than the corrugated metal you usually see.

The scenes were easy to install. The metal had to be prepared and then Velcro was attached to the metal. The scene is then rolled out and stuck to the Velcro. There may be a little cutting to fit the window well size. A 100’ X 60” scene costs around $60. Depending on the condition of the window well and access, installation takes from 30 to 45 minutes.



The scenes are manufactured by a company called Sinergi. They are available at Lowes and I found another company in the Denver area called Window Well Art Company that also carries them.

Here are links to those companies:
Sinergi
Lowes
Window Well Art Company

If you have plain corrugated window wells, these scenes could make a huge difference in your basement view.

Philip

Friday, October 9, 2009

Procrastination


Sometimes when we put things off it ends up costing us a lot more in the end. I received a call on Wednesday from a customer who put off shutting down her swamp cooler. She was reminded when a passerby noticed water spraying from the broken water line on her roof. The Good Samaritan notified her and helped shut off the water.

Today I finished the job by disconnecting the water line, draining and covering the cooler. Next spring part or all of the water line will have to be replaced.

It’s never a good idea to ignore a needed repair if it involves water. In this case freezing weather caused a break. An ignored water leak will usually lead to damage that will cost more than the basic repair would have. Many other needed repairs follow the same pattern. A small repair overlooked leads to a bigger expense later.

If there is a repair you have been ignoring? Give me a call and we can discuss it. You might find out that it will be less expensive to repair that you expected. In any case, you will know what you need to do.

Keeping these thoughts in mind will save you money in the long run.

Philip

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Overcharge


An elderly customer called me a couple weeks ago. She wondered if I could be with her when she met with the representative of an electrical company who had done some work for her. She felt she was being taken advantage of. She also explained that the electrician told her that she needed new smoke alarms without ever looking at the ones she already had.

The company is called Mister Sparky Electric. It’s related to One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.

The issue that had her attention was that she was being told that it was now the law that she had to have a Carbon Monoxide Detector on her furnace. She put down a deposit on the unit that was going to cost around $500. After talking to her daughter and doing some research she found out that it was not the law and the units that Mister Sparky was selling were not even ready for sale yet. This made her angry and suspicious.

The three companies mentioned above are the type that advertises "No Surprise" Straightforward Pricing. What this means is a guy comes out, looks over the job and then gives a price. If you accept it then you sign a contract. It sounds good but what I keep coming across with many companies like this is the price they give seems excessively high. That’s not to say they don’t do good work, it just costs a LOT! A way the company drums up business is by offering “free” electrical inspections.

My customer cancelled the Carbon Monoxide Detector and said she would not be using this company any longer. She showed me the bill from the previous work and I was astonished at the charges. Here is what I saw: After doing an “inspection” the electrician determined she needed her whole house surge protector replaced. Contrary to the claim of pricing being up front, he replaced it and told her after. He also replaced three circuit breakers.

The cost for the whole house surge protector was $258. You can buy the surge protector for under $100 retail. That means the labor charge was over $150. The installation consists of disconnecting and reconnecting a few wires – maybe a ten minute job. The cost for the three circuit breakers was $251. The circuit breakers probably cost under $10 dollars each and about five minutes to replace. To me that is an excessive charge.

He also told her she needed a GFI on her kitchen outlets. He was going to charge $169. The parts would have cost $15 to $25 and maybe fifteen minutes to install. She was wise to turn down the job.

The truth is that most people have no idea how long these jobs should take or what the parts actually cost. They trust the company because the “troubleshooter” recommends them.

In my Handyman business I am fair and honest with my customers. If someone wants an upfront price I will take all possibilities into consideration when I give them the price but would consider it unethical to charge them two or three times what the job is worth.

The lesson is to look beyond shiny trucks, spiffy uniforms and well-known names. Find service people who do good work for a fair price. When you call The Handymen, I guarantee you will get both.

Philip

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Would You Like $1000?


Would you like an extra $1000? Then be careful who you hire for service work. That’s what one of my regular customers learned today.

I received the call last Friday. Would I be willing to clean out a sump pump pit? It seemed that an odor was coming from the pit. It was located under the basement bathroom vanity that may need to be removed to get access to the pump.

When I arrived this morning I heard more of the story. They had called a plumber (AppleTree Plumbing) who told them the pit needed to be cleaned out but it seemed the plumber didn’t want to do the job. He also told them if the pump needed to be replaced it would cost $1200.

When I took a look at the sump pit I could see that it wasn’t very deep and the vanity wouldn’t have to be removed; that was good news. I removed the sump pump from the pit and found out there was a cement pad in the bottom of the pit. That was good because it keeps the pump out of the mud. There was a small amount of debris in the pit but not more than a handful.

I tested the pump and found out it wasn’t working. I picked up a new one and soon had the pit back in working order. The smell was probably coming from stagnation because the old pump didn’t work.

A new pump cost about $100 and with labor the bill was a little over $200. By calling me, my customer ended up saving $1000.

It hear this type of story on a regular basis. Companies take advantage of a customer not knowing what is involved in a job and how much it should really cost. Of course what they do is not illegal but I don’t think it’s ethical. I understand that when a job is bid there is a cushion built in for unforeseen circumstances but I think the difference between $200 and $1200 is what most of us would call a rip-off.

The lesson here is to be careful who you hire. It really means a lot to have a workman who is honest and cares more about helping you than making a quick profit.

Philip

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Shower Head

Are you happy with your shower head?

For very little money you can change your shower head to one you are really delighted with.

I have two types in my home. Upstairs I have the massage type with an extension hose. With a turn of the dial on the head it can be changed from a refreshing rain to a pulsating massage. The extension hose is great if you want to wash down the tub walls and even reaches down if you are sitting in the tub.

Downstairs where some of my kids take a shower I have an extreme water saving model. It only used 1.6 gallons per minute. That’s about half of a regular water saving model. That really helps to save water during long showers.

The super water saver model shower head costs about $13. The type with extension hose and massage head ranges in price from around $30 on up to $60. There are also a lot of other choices in conventional and not so conventional shower heads.

You can see many different shower head possibilities at your local home improvement store. Installation is usually very simple. I’ll be glad to give you a hand with that.

Philip
303-232-3347

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Freshen Up Your Home


Here are some inexpensive ideas on how to freshen up your home.

  1. Buy new towels for the bathroom
  2. Upgrade outdoor lighting
  3. Install new doorknobs and cabinet handles
  4. Make a centerpiece for your dining room table
  5. Buy a new mailbox
  6. Polish or replace your house numbers
  7. Place fresh flowers or houseplants around the home
  8. Buy color-coordinated pillows for the sofa and bed
  9. Replace your worn doormat
  10. Set out subtle potpourri or scented candles

A few simple touches can make your home seem like a different place.

I would be glad to help you with any of these projects or others that you may have. Give me a call and your home can be fresher, better maintained and an easier place to relax.

Philip

Thanks to Garland Thurman for the list.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What About the Warranty?


I worked for a long time customer today. The job was to replace the p-trap under the bathroom sink and to replace the stems in the faucet. It was a fairly simple job although I had to make a run for some specialized parts.

After I was done, we were looking at some repairs that she wanted done in the future. One was that her kitchen faucet was loose. It wasn’t that the faucet was loose from the sink but the body was loose from the mounting plate. Sometimes there are screws that can be tightened and other times the mount has broken. We talked about seeing on the next trip if it can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced.

After I talked to her I remembered that the faucet should have a warranty as it was a good brand. I looked it up and found out that it had a lifetime warranty. I gave her a call and asked if she has her receipt or other paperwork. That will come in handy if it needs to be replaced.

This brings up the subject of warranties. Most products have them but you need the receipt or another proof of purchase for it to be honored. It’s a good idea to have a specific place where you keep paperwork like that. Even if you throw it in a box without any organization it will be there if you ever need it. In the case of this particular faucet the replacement cost is about $50.00. Of course they don’t usually cover labor charges but at least she wouldn’t have to pay for the faucet itself.

On another subject, I talked to a new customer this week about some sprinkler heads she needed moved. As we talked she told me about how she had hired someone to do various work after he came to her door giving his sad story and told her he was willing to do any work to support his family. She said he did several repairs okay and then he asked for some money upfront for some painting he was going to do. Of course you can guess the rest, the painting was never done. Another reminder to be very careful of who you hire and especially if they ask for money before the job is complete.

Philip

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

History Builds Trust


I had similar conversations with two customers in the last week. Both recalled that when I first worked for them, their oldest children were infants. One of those kids graduated from High School last week and the other is in college.

It’s that history that enables the trust they have in me. The customer whose daughter graduated from High School left me a blank check that I filled out when I was done with her jobs. We met in the morning to go over the list and then she left for work.

While we were looking at the jobs she had, she told me that she had recently hired someone to build her a new fence. She paid him up front for the materials and after that he didn’t do the work. I could tell that she was very upset by the loss of the money but more importantly that she had trusted someone and then been ripped off.

When I work for someone it is very rare for me to ask for any money ahead of time. My custom is to complete the job and then collect for labor and material costs at that time.

If you are asked to pay money ahead of time you better be very careful. Why does the person need the money and what assurance do you have that they will buy the materials and complete the work. It seems that when many people get money up front, their motivation to do the work evaporates.

History builds trust both that the job will be done right and in so many other ways. Customers trust me in their homes when they are gone and they trust me to be honest with what I charge them.

It really meant a lot to me when I received a call from my customer who had been ripped off saying how glad she was to have someone who not only does a good job but who can be trusted. I can’t imagine doing business any other way but I know that in this day it can be very hard to find trustworthy workers.

I have been in business since 1984. I have an excellent rating with the Denver BBB and have many customers ready to vouch for my work ethic.

Let me know how I can be of service to you.

Philip

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tax Credit for Home Buyers

I came across some information that I wanted to pass on to you. If you or someone you know is in the market to buy a home as a first-time homebuyer, you could get a big boost with a tax credit.

The following is courtesy of Jeff Galligan who is a realtor in the Harvey Park area.

The government stimulus package recently gave real estate a big shot in the arm with the introduction of the tax CREDIT for first-time home buyers.

The plan works like this:

Qualified First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

  • Must Buy and Close on a New Residence Before 12/1/2009
  • Enjoy Up To $8,000 in Federal Income Tax Credits

How to Qualify:

I. If neither you nor your spouse has owned an interest in a principal residence (in the U.S.) during the last 36 months ending on the date of the purchase of your current residence (if you owned one).

a. But you do NOT buy:

i. From a related party (such as a family member)

ii. Property located outside the U.S.

2. You are buying the property to become your primary residence (not an investment property).

3. Property may be a single dwelling, condominium, houseboat, or mobile home.

How Much of a Credit:

1. Up to $8,000 (not to exceed 10% of the home price) and if your 2009 adjusted gross income (AGI) does not exceed $75,000 for single and $150,000 if you are married filing jointly.

2. No credit if your 2009 AGI exceeds $95,000 for single and $170,000 if you are married filing jointly.

3. Partial credit if your AGI is between $75,000 and $95,000 for single and between $150,000 and $170,000 if you are married filing jointly.

4. If you have no tax liability for 2009 and have a credit, the IRS will actually pay you the credit amount when your 2009 tax return is filed.

Important:

You must continue using the property as your primary residence for 3 years. If the property is sold or no longer your primary residence you are liable to compute and payback the portion of the credit that was not earned and report it on your tax return for the year of change.

Philip

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tub and Shower Caulk

Tub and shower caulk is an item that is on my list of jobs to do on a fairly regular basis. That’s good because if caulk and grout is neglected it can lead to a much larger problem.

The trouble usually starts with a very small spot where a little water gets through the tile. The water will start to loosen up the tile from the wall. As a result, more water gets through. If there is a room below the tub, you may notice damage to the ceiling. Sometimes it doesn’t show up there and you may notice the problem when tile start falling off the wall. When that happens, you have a big job on your hands and it’s going to cost a lot more than regular maintenance would have.

Mold and mildew can be a problem in showers as well. Good ventilation helps prevent it but some bathrooms don’t cooperate very well. A good product to use for mildew is Tilex. It is a bleach based cleaner that kills the mildew. It’s available in most grocery and home supply stores. If you use it you want to be careful not to get any of it on carpet as it will bleach it. Provide some good ventilation as well, the fumes can be strong.

Sometimes mildew will get into the caulk and then the only option is to remove and replace the caulk. It’s usually not a huge job and the shower looks so much better after.

It’s a good idea to check the grout and caulk in your showers on a regular basis. As a handyman, I know what to look for. Give me a call and I will be glad to help you. In the long run, it will cost you less than if you ignore it. Also, having a professional doing the job will insure that the right kind of caulk is used and it will look good when it’s done

Philip

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

25 Years as a Handyman

I worked for a long time customer this morning. She recalled that when I first worked for her, her sons were in junior high school. One of them is now 40 years old.

I remember the first job I did for her. It was rebuilding a mail box that had been hit by a car. It was made of 6x6 timbers. Today the mail box needed another repair. It had been hit by a car again. Thankfully the main post was okay and it just needed a few screws to tighten the crossbeam and put the mailbox itself back on.

Having been in business for 25 years, I have many customers that go way back. It’s interesting to think of how much has changed. Some have moved to new homes, children have grown up and left the home and some customers have passed on.

The customer I worked for this morning lives in an area where most of the older homes are being torn down and replaced by mega-mansions. It’s sad to think that someday this wonderful home, where I have done so much work will be no more. The customer feels the same way. She knows that when she and her husband sell the home it will probably meet the same fate as so many of the other beautiful homes in the neighborhood. She said that it only takes about 48 hours and the old homes are completely gone.

The new mansions sure are impressive in their size but the area seems to be losing the charm it once had. The old homes had plenty of room but they seemed to fit into the country setting better. I guess that’s progress.

Well anyway, I’m glad that I have been able to help keep this home in good repair through the years.

Philip

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do It Yourself?


When it comes to home remodel and renovation, should you “do-it-yourself”?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to see a lot of do-it-yourself projects. Some look real nice and others scream amateur. If you are going to live with it and don’t care, then amateur is okay.

What about when you get ready to sell your house? That’s when the less than perfect job can become a liability. If a prospective buyer, looking at the surface sees that it wasn’t a professional who did the work, they may wonder what is going on with plumbing and electrical hidden inside the walls.

Sometimes the work doesn’t hold up very well. I have seen a lot of tile jobs, both floor and wall, suffering from premature failure. There are paint jobs that have almost as much paint on the surrounding areas as on the intended walls. In the long run, those types of jobs may end up costing you more than if you had went with a professional in the first place.

As a handyman, I do a very wide range of jobs. There are many times I turn down work because I know that it’s going to require someone else with the skill to do it right. Sometimes that may require the swallowing of pride but I would rather do that than have a job end up not being done right or not looking right. The reality is that no one can do everything.

Just today, I ended up declining some tasks for a customer I was working for. One was a drywall repair on a ceiling. If it was not done perfect, it would always show. I thought it would be better they get a drywall expert so it was done right the first time. If a repair is not done right it can be very hard to do a second time.

So there are some things to think about as you consider do-it-yourself work. Make sure you have the right skill and equipment. Speaking of equipment, there is a big difference between a $2.00 and $20.00 paint brush. Many times that bit of advice would have made the difference between a good and horrible paint job.

Philip

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to Save Money with a Handyman

Have you ever been frustrated because you had to call the plumber for one small job, the electrician for another, a carpenter for a third and after paying premium rates you are still left with a list of things that need to be done?

Calling The Handymen is like one-stop shopping. Your list of needed repairs becomes a thing of the past and you can finally relax. I can help you cross those things off your list. Of course, there are times that you will need to call another specialized service person, but less frequently and the difference will translate into a major savings to you.

Almost every day I am helping someone with their repair list. The variety is one thing I really like about my job. I also enjoy the satisfaction of being able to do a wide variety of tasks.

Here is some of what I did yesterday: installed window blinds and a new range hood, repaired a dripping faucet, put closet doors back on track, replaced a light fixture, replaced broken fence pickets, reattached a loose thermostat and replaced light bulbs.

Today I removed a stuck bulb out of a light fixture, installed a hair dryer holder, removed a built-in shelf from a closet, installed a clothes line, assembled a book case, moved some garage hooks, installed peg board, repaired a porch rail, moved a gate latch, and removed lattice off a deck. I then went to another job and painted a kitchen, living room, bath room and two bedrooms.

As you can see, a lot of it is plain handyman work but other things could have required a call to a plumber, an electrician or a carpenter. Because I was able to do all of them, the customer saved a lot of money.

Give me a call and I will help make your repair list disappear.

Philip

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jammed Garbage Disposal


I had two calls this week about jammed garbage disposals. One customer wanted to try to fix it herself, the other wanted me to do it as soon as possible.

I read an article last week about drains picking the worst time to get clogged. The truth is that the drain rarely contributes to the problem, it’s usually our fault. The story was somewhat humorous and recounted the worst times for the bad behavior; dinner parties, baby showers, holiday celebrations, etc. I don’t think there ever a good time. Click here to see the article.

What you do to get a disposal running again usually depends on why it is jammed. Sometimes it is just a little too much fiber at one time. Other times I have pulled glass, screws, coins and other debris out of them; this material can be a little harder to deal with. I have some long-neck needle nose pliers that help to grab the offending object. I also use a long crow bar to spin the disposal once the material is gone. If you don’t hear a sound when you flip the switch you may need to press the red reset button on the bottom of the disposal. If it is still jammed you will hear a hum. If so, it’s time to spin it again and to look in and see if there is still something inside. Make sure the switch is off before you try any of these things.

For the customer who wanted to try fixing it herself, I recommended that she take a wooden broomstick and try spinning the disposal. She called back awhile later to report that she was able to get it running. I was happy for her, the problem was resolved.

Another problem that can happen with a disposal is when the pipe under the sink gets clogged because either too much stuff was sent through at one time or the wrong kind of stuff was ground up. See the above mentioned article for some tips on that.

One last thing that happens with a disposal is it just wears out. Sometimes the motor dies and other times it rusts through and starts leaking. Once that happens, it’s time to replace it.

I can help you with your disposal problems and it is usually less expensive than you would expect. I’m also glad to talk you through it if you want to try to fix it yourself. My goal is to resolve your problem in the least expensive way.

Philip

Thursday, March 12, 2009

National Procrastination Week


Depending on who you talk to, either the first or second week in March is National Procrastination Week. Maybe the second week is for those who want to put things off for another week.

Here is the motto: “To promote the benefit of relaxing by putting off until tomorrow, everything that needn’t be done today.”

I have found that when I put things off, I can never really relax. So, what is it that makes us procrastinate? Here is a list that I came across:
  • We put off unpleasant or difficult tasks.
  • We procrastinate when we’re afraid.
  • We procrastinate when we’re swamped.
  • We procrastinate when we’re overwhelmed.
As a handyman I find that many people procrastinate on home repairs because they are worried about the cost. The problem with that is deferred maintenance many times gets worse and the cost goes up.

The best thing to do is find out what it is actually going to cost then you know if you can get it done right away or if you need to save for the repair. Sometimes an intermediate repair can be done to keep the problem from getting worse.

I have found through the years that my customers are usually surprised to find out that the repairs I do cost less than they expected.

If you really want to relax then put off procrastination by giving me a call. Until then, ponder these words: According to William James, "nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging-on of an uncompleted task." Ben Franklin advised not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today, warning, "You may delay, but time will not."

Philip

Monday, March 9, 2009

Screen Door Repair

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Click pictures for a larger image.

I have a customer who was unhappy with the condition of her patio screen door. The handle didn’t work, the screen was rusty and the paint wasn’t in very good shape. I measured the door and found that it wasn’t a standard size. To replace it would have been very expensive.

I told her that we could fix up the old one. It was a good door except for cosmetic problems. She was happy with that idea.

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I replaced the screen and molding, put on a new handle and gave it a fresh coat of paint. As you can see, the door looks much better now and should last for many more years.

I find that many times a little maintenance and repair goes a long way. Things can be fixed up for a lot less than expected.

Philip

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How much is this handyman job going to cost me?

Most of the work I do is billed by the hour. Sometimes a customer wants a bid on a job. I'm glad to work either way.

I understand why people want a bid - it lets them know how much the job is going to cost.

Whenever one of my customers requests a bid, I explain that, while I am glad to do so, it will cost them more in the end.

Let me explain how a bid works. I am going to go through the job and everything is going to be figured from the high end. I'm going to consider what could take more time than normal and what could cost more. A cushion will be built in. When the job is all done, I don't want to come up short. That's how the process works.

Some people are willing to pay more for the assurance of knowing what the job is going to cost up front. I understand that.

Usually once I have worked for someone, they realize that I am very fast and efficient. They see that doing the job by the hour works in their favor. If I worked only by bid, I would make more money but that's not what I'm interested in. I would rather have a long-term relationship with a customer than to make a lot of money one time.

Another way I do business that benefits my customers is in how I charge for supplies. When I buy materials for their job I give them the receipt and that is how much they pay. I don't mark it up at all.

Recently I have heard a lot of advertising by service companies that encourage "up-front-pricing". In some cases, it is an honest and fair bid but many times the price is ridiculous.

I had a customer some years ago who didn't know that I installed garbage disposals. She called a well-known plumbing company (big orange trucks and the words apple and wood in their name). They used the "up-front-pricing" model. She was given a price of $500.00 for the job. She thought it seemed high but the plumber gave her a spiel of how expensive the disposal was, etc. She ended up approving the work and later realized she was overcharged.

The disposal she had installed retailed for about $70.00 and there could have been a few dollars in other parts. It would have taken between 15 minutes to an hour (if complications) to do the job. Add some traveling time on top of that and the job still wasn't worth half of what she was charged. I felt sorry for her.

Businesses like this are all over town. Many handyman companies, especially the big franchises operate this way. Sometimes it's hard for the consumer to know what a fair price is. That's why it's good to have a company you can trust.

I have been in business since 1984. On my website, I have a list of my satisfied customers. The pleasure I receive from those testimonials is far greater than the short-term gain of overcharging.

Philip

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Home Repair Nightmares

Here is a humorous look at home repair nightmares uncovered by home inspectors.

video

It’s a reminder of why you need a trustworthy, competent person to do your maintenance.

While I don’t do all of the type of repairs shown in this video, you can be sure that the work I do will be done right.

Philip

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Handyman and Knowledge of Limitations – Part 2

This post should be called the dog in the backyard or better yet, the dead dog in the backyard.

In my last post, I pointed out how important it is for a handyman to know his limitations. Sometimes you know right away that you are not suited for a particular job. Other times you have to run it through your mind.

Several years ago, I received a call from a regular customer of mine. She had a job that needed to be done and wondered if I could help her. A year or so before, their dog had died. The fairly large dog was buried in the backyard in a plastic tote box, the kind with the snap on lid. Now they were moving and she wanted to take the dog to the new place.

I was glad this request was left on my phone machine so I had some time to think about it before I had to answer. My first thought was, “no way.” Then I started to think about it. I was glad my customer had thought of me. She knew that a handyman does a wide variety of jobs and she had one that needed to be done.

I started to take the job apart. A hole would need to be dug that was much larger than the tote box. Then I started thinking what would be in the hole. Did the box have drainage holes? Would there be a smell? Whose vehicle would it go in for the trip across town?

I had my answer; I was not suited for this job. I gave her a call, grateful to get her answering machine. I thanked her for offering me the job but explained that I would have to pass on it. I tried to be very sensitive, knowing the emotions involved.

Many times, I have customers who are hesitant to ask me to do certain jobs. It may seem too small, strange, or complicated to them. Recently I was able to fix a furnace cover that kept falling off, light a gas fireplace, repair the legs on an old dresser and screen a kitchen vent to keep squirrels out. All of these were jobs where the customer needed something done but didn’t know who to ask. The only bad question is the one left unasked. It’s always a pleasure to see the customers sense of relief when I am able to take care of a job that nagged at them for so long.

How can I be of service to you? I’m never too busy to help you out.

Philip

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Handyman and Knowledge of Limitations

One of the things that make a handyman good or bad is whether they have a knowledge of limitations. Not everyone can do everything yet some try. I think there are a few reasons why this happens. Sometimes it is pride, “I can do anything.” Sometimes a person isn’t smart enough to know they aren’t smart enough and sometimes a person needs the work so, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

I have been a professional handyman since 1984. During that time, I have had many opportunities to turn down jobs. Sometimes I know that I can’t do a certain repair and another tradesman needs to be called. Appliance repair is an example of something I usually don’t do.

Another reason I turn down a job is if the outcome isn’t certain. An example would be a plumbing repair where disturbing the pipes may lead to a leak that would require a plumber to fix. Some handymen would push forward and if disaster occurs they leave the homeowner without water while trying to find a plumber who can make an emergency visit. On a job like that, I would tell the homeowner of my concerns and recommend that they hire a plumber so that the job can be completed with minimal disruption to their home.

Recently I began working for a customer who had a previous “handyman” replace some switches and outlets in her home. He did okay on some of them but then one light switch was in a box with a junction of wires. For reasons imponderable to mere mortals he ended up pulling all the wires apart and then couldn’t get them back together properly. The result was that the homeowner had a series of lights and outlets that no longer worked. The man left saying he was going to come back but that was the last she heard of him. She hired me for a list of jobs and asked about the “light switch problem.” Over the phone I told her that it may or may not be something I could repair. When I arrived at her home, it became clear that the best solution was to call an electrician as some serious diagnostic work needed to be done by someone who could recognize how all of the wires should be connected. This is a sad example of someone being in over his head even though the job started out simple.

I have customers who have commended me because I’m not afraid to say I don’t or can’t do particular job. They know that my first concern is for their interests and not my own. They rest in the comfort of knowing that the work I do will be done right and at a fair price.

There is an old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I would add, “incompetent at some.” The lesson is to know what you can and can’t do.

I once had a regular customer who told me of her husband’s experience replacing a light bulb. As a lawyer, he was highly skilled and successful in what he did. On this occasion, he met a light fixture with a problem socket. After much trouble he finally said, “Why don’t you just call Philip.” I commend him for realizing his limitation. That’s the mark of a smart man.

Maybe next time I will tell you about the dog in the backyard. I promise it will be a story unlike any you have heard.

Philip

Monday, January 12, 2009

What is a Handyman?

"A jack of all trades; a master of none." That's one definition. My dictionary says: "One who does odd jobs." That's even better because I have done some very odd jobs! Okay, I know it doesn't mean that kind of odd.

So, what is a handyman? Maybe we should first think of who is a handyman. There are some people, who finding themselves without work, decide to be a handyman. Others, needing some extra income, decide to moonlight as a handyman.

Then there is the professional. This is the individual who has chosen the vocation. It is similar to someone who becomes a plumber or an electrician.

So what are the marks of this vocation?
  • I think the first requirement is a natural inclination to understand how things work.
  • Second, is common sense.
  • Third, is a willingness to study how things operate and how to repair them.
  • Fourth, is the acquisition of the tools and supplies necessary to do a wide variety of jobs.
  • Fifth, and most important, is knowledge of your limitations.
A lack of knowledge of one's limits is what has given handymen a bad name. I hear many stories from my customers of their experience from a self-proclaimed handyman. They were anything but handy! In many instances, problems were made worse. The lack of tools, basic equipment and supplies is a big complaint also. Can you imagine someone coming to your home to work and asking if you have a hammer?

As a professional handyman I take my trade very seriously. I am constantly learning more, adding to my tools and supplies and am always aware of my limitations.

There are a multitude of things that I do very well and that saves you money. Have you ever been frustrated because you had to call the plumber for one small job, the electrician for another, a carpenter for a third and after paying premium rates you are still left with a list of things that need to be done?

Calling a professional handyman is like one-stop shopping. Your list of needed repairs becomes a thing of the past and you can finally relax. Let me help you cross those things off your list.

Of course, there are times that you will need to call another specialized service person, but less frequently and the difference will translate into a major savings to you.

I hope you now better understand what I do and how I can be of service to you. I look forward to your call.

Sincerely,

Philip
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