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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bye, Bye, Birdie!!!

For more than 20 million years, pigeons have roamed the Earth.  And as far as some of us are concerned, these urban denizens have just about worn out their welcome.  But "persuading" these flying rats to kindly find a home other than your roof, window ledge or balcony can be quite difficult.

Pigeons are not only pests, they can be downright dangerous.  Pigeons often carry fleas, ticks, mites and, as a result, diseases.  Their droppings not only put your family's health at risk, they dirty up your home, porch, and patio, and they can even remove the paint from your car!  They are also noisy little pests; early rising noisy little pests.  So if you see them setting up house on your roof, or on homes nearby, you are wise to do all that you can to keep them from getting too comfortable.

Getting rid of pigeons is at best difficult, at worst nearly impossible, so you are definately going to want to engage the help of a professional.  There are basically two different courses of action: the natural way, which is pre-emptive and aims to not harm the birds, and the "terminator" way whose aim is to get rid of the pigeons at whatever cost.

Natural pigeon control can take effort and often creativity.  To get rid of pigeons without harming them, it's important to figure out what it is that attracts the pigeons in the first place.  Therefore, it is best to make your property non-pigeon friendly and scare them away instead of trapping or harming them.

Natural pigeon control takes many forms.  Some popular pigeon control techinques are:

  1. Removal of the nest, which will likely prompt the pigeons to leave and find a new nesting area.
  2. Eliminating standing water, or cutting off access to water sources.
  3. Eliminating waste, such as old food or garden clippings that pigeons enjoy eating.
  4. Putting all pet food in containers and using a feeding system that is out of reach or difficult for the pigeons to get near.
  5. Adopt a "scarecrow"; preferably one that moves such as a weathervane.
Pigeons tend to nest and congregate in out of reach spots, such as window ledges and balconies.  Should pigeon control be needed in a generally out of reach area, or in a spot that will need contant monitoring, the above steps won't do much good.  More drastic measures are needed, such as:
  1. Stringing clear fishing line back and forth in the area that pigeons tend to land.
  2. Install spikes on ledges, window sills, roof peaks, or other flat or curved surfaces that pigeons might land or nest on.  These spikes come in different materials, but by far the best ones are stainless steel and shaped like a W (plastic spikes are useless as they tend to break after just a little while.)  Spikes make it nearly impossible for pigeons to land where spikes are present.
  3. Special nets with UV coating can also be used for larger areas.
  4. Using pigeon repellent, a chemical used to remove pigeons from a certain place.  However, as with any chemical, this practic can be dangerous, so again, it is best to leave this job to a professional.
Incidentially, contrary to pigeon lore, "strategically" placed CD's, sticky spray, and fake snakes DO NOT work, and their continued use very possibly makes the pigeons laugh uproariously; not with you, at you.  So contact a professional, like Handy Randy & Son, who can get the job done so you can say "bye, bye, birdie" permanently.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter, Winter, Where Are You?

While it still feels like summer here (a really long hot, sticky summer!), winter is definitely on its way. In fact the first official day of winter is coming up in just a couple of weeks: December 21st, to be more precise. So don't let this freaky out-of-season hot weather fool you. Winter will get here eventually and it will most likey bring with it the usual biting cold, gusting winds and pouring rain (b'ezrat Hashem!). So before all that nasty stuff catches you by surprise, let's talk about winterizing your home.

There are a few basic steps that you need to take to make sure our home is ready to greet the cold weather. Not all of them may apply to you, but the more you can do, the more you will keep your family comfortable and your heating and electric bills down.

Clean Your Gutters

All the natural debris and garbage that has accumulated over the last few months must be removed - by hand, by scraper, by a small shovel, and finally by a good hose rinse - so that the winter's rain can drain. Clogged drains can form dams, in which water backs up and seeps into the house. As you're hosing out your gutters, it's very important to look for leaks and misaligned pipes.

Seal Those Leaks

One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out. First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside your home checking common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets. Then, use door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and silicone to seal those drafty areas. Outlet gaskets can easily be insulated in electrical outlets that share a home's outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. Even the smallest of cracks are worth sealing up.


Although it may cost a bit of money, adding insulation to the existing insulation in your attic is a huge energy-saving move. A minimum of 30 cm of insulation is necessary for optimum protection from the elements.

Check Your Ducts and Vents

A home with centralheating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That's a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house.

Ducts aren't always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape.

Ducts and vents should also be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the tons of dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause repiratory problems.

Insulate Your Windows

Upgrading your windows can be cost prohibitive. But there are ways to make your present windows more weather proof. Windows can be insulated with plastic sheeting, double stick tape and... a blow dryer! It's temporary and it's not pretty, but it's inexpensive and extremely effective.

Reverse That Fan

If you remember from our previous article that if you reverse the direction of your ceiling fans from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping you more comforatable. (Here's how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise.)

Check Those Alarms

If you don't have smoke alarms in your home, this is a great time to install them. If you do have smoke alarms, make sure you check their operation and change the batteries. Test the detectors with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the "test" button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and that it works.

Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.

By the way, most of these steps should be handled by trained professionals for best results. Handy Randy and Son can take care of all of these things for you quickly and efficiently!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Break-ins, and Robberies and Thefts.... Oh, my!

Did you ever hear some colorful old-timer reminisce about the "good old days"? Back in the day, he'd say, you could leave your front door not only unlocked, but wide open, your cash on the front table, and your keys in the car and you would come home at the end of the day to find everything just as you left it; except of course, for the freshly baked apple pie the nice lady two doors down left on your kitchen counter while you were at work.
Well, we know those days are long gone. There are probably no more than a handful of places like that left in the world, and our little town, (Bet Shemesh), is not one of them. In fact, lately there has been an increase in the number of break-ins and robberies in the area. But don't go building a barricade just yet. There are a lot less drastic, and just as effective methods of protecting your family and your possessions.
There are basically two types of thieves that roam our area. The first are not professional and try to get easy access to a home. They are looking to get in or out very quickly without alerting anyone. The second type is the professional thieves. They are harder to stop. If they want to get in and have already staked out your home by either having worked in your house or walked in when you left the door open for a minute, they have tools and ways of getting in that are harder to prevent.
So what to do? First of all, by far the best security measures you can invest in are high quality locks for your doors and windows. One of the most secure and break-in proof locks are bayonet locks. These are pin locks that are drilled through both window and door aluminum frames. When they are engaged, there is no way to open them. Some people place wooden dowels in the tracks. Technically, this works in the same way but is nowhere near as effective. The locks should be installed by trained professionals, like Handy Randy & Son, for optimum efficacy.
Here are some other things you can do or have installed to deter thieves and prevent break-ins; some are more effective than others. But obviously the more you use, the better your chances of avoiding a break-in:
  • Make sure doors and windows are locked at all times
  • Install outdoor lighting with or without motion detectors
  • Get a dog
  • Invest in an alarm system
  • Put up signs indicating there is a dog or alarm system
  • Install sorageem (security bars)
  • Keep bushes and trees around windows and doors neatly trimmed
  • Do not leave keys and valuables in plain sight
  • Valuables should not be put in obvious places where they can be found quickly by thieves
  • Use a safe for valuables that is SECURED to a solid surface
  • Install light timers for when you are away
  • BE VIGILANT! Immediately report to the police anything or anyone that seems wrong to you

One added issue in our community is the people that come to our doors at all hours of the day and night collecting for charity. We need to draw the line between chessed and the security of our families. If at all possible, install a chain lock that allows you to open the door just a bit. Never let anyone that you don't know into your home, especially if you are alone. Most importantly, teach your children to never, ever, open the door to someone they dont' know.

Keep Safe!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Crown Me!

What makes a king special? The land he possess? Nah, anyone can own a chunk of real estate. The palace he lives in? Not really, the heating and cooling bills alone are a nightmare! The hundreds of servants at his beck and call? Are you kidding? It's so hard to find good help these days. So, if it's not the land, the palace or the servants, what is the thing that makes a king so special? Give up? It's his crown. The crown makes him special; it shows that he is different than everyone else. It gets him attention, singles him out and makes everyone wish they had one too.

So too, decorating a particular room in your house with crown molding sets it apart and makes it unique. Crown molding makes a space special, elegant and distinctive; different from all the other spaces in your house.

Crown molding encompasses a large family of moldings which are designed to gracefully flare-out to an elegantly finished top edge. Crown molding is generally used for capping walls, pilasters and cabinets and is also used extensively in the creation of interior and exterior cornice assemblies and door and window hoods.
In Israel, crown molding is generally referred to as "cornice", although technically cornice molding is more elaborate and made of sturdier materials than crown molding. Cornice molding generally refers to horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element, for example, the cornice over a door or window, or the cornice around the edge of a pedestal.

Inside residences, crown molding is typically applied along the seams where ceiling meets wall. Usually it is not placed flush against the wall nor against the ceiling. Instead, when viewed from the molding's end (or as a cross-section), it, the ceiling, and the wall form a "hollow" triangle. This adds major difficulty to the installation process, namely the need for complex cuts to form corners where two walls meet. Because of this, it is strongly recommended to bring in specialist installers, such as Handy Randy & Son, rather than attempt it as a DIY project.

Traditionally crown moldings come in either plain or decorated plaster or wood. In recent times, however, crown moldings have made their appearance in cheaper, lighter materials such as plastic and foam. In Israel, crown molding is only available in foam. The use of foam makes the installation less messy and quicker; any size room can be done in just one day!

Crown moldings also come in several widths and can be painted (crown molding must be painted) to suit any decor. The versatility and affordabilty of crown modling make it a great addition to any room. Crown molding can also be used to add visual interest to a bare wall. You can use crown molding to create a large "frame" that can be kept empty or used to highlight a particular piece of art.

All this makes the elegance and beauty of crown molding easily available not only to the king, but to all of his royal subjects!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cleaning Air Conditioner Filters

It seems that not much time passes before your air conditioner filters get all grimy and dusty - especially in the sandbox that is Israel! Most people when cleaning their filters, only rinse them under water, dry them and put them back in. These filters are the perfect environment for allergens and dangerous bacteria to grow and multiply! The following simple cleaning steps will help to ensure that your filters are clean and germ free! (Not only that, a clean air conditioner filter helps to keep the cooling system working at top efficiency.)

Six easy steps:

  1. Remove the washable filter from the air conditioner and vacuum off any visable dust and grime. It won't all come off - just do the best you can.
  2. Use a pan, basin or bathtub big enough to submerge the filter.
  3. Mix a solution of 1/2 vinegar 1/2 water in the container. This will kill and remove any harmfull bacteria that has collected on the filter.
  4. Submerge the filter into the solution and leave it to soak for an hour. If you have not cleaned them in a while, several hours is better.
  5. Remove the filter from the cleaning solution - but do not rinse.
  6. Allow the filter to air dry before returning it to the air conditioner.

It's very important to clean your filters regularily, meaning several times per month - if possible.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Removing Broken Light Bulbs

So... you broke a bulb in the socket, and now what do you do?

I'm sure you've heard of the ol' potatoe trick. Cut a potatoe in half, push it into the bulb base, and twist it out. Does it really work? It might, although we've never tried it. Why not? I guess because we don't carry potatoes in our tool boxes!

How many potatoes does it take to electrocute a handyman?
Only one if the power is on!

Now the how to:

1. First make sure that the power is off to the light. If you can't figure out the correct circuit, then turn all the power off.

2. Put down a sheet to collect any residual glass that may fall.

3. Wear protective gloves if there is any remaining glass in the bulb.

4. Wear eye protection, especially if the bulb is in an overhead light.

Two options for removing the bulb base:

Option 1
  • Insert pliers as far into the broken base as you can
  • Spread the plier handles apart, exerting force against the sides of the bulb base with the plier tips, and turn the pliers counter-clockwise.
  • Continue turning until the base is out. If you meet resistance, turn base back in slightly and then back out.

Option 2

  • Using needlenose pliers, insert one tine between the bulb base and the light socket, and the other tine on the inside of the bulb base, pinching the bulb between the tines.
  • Keeping a firm pinch, turn the bulb counter-clockwise until it moves.

How to avoid broken bulbs? Don't overtighten them!

When you replace a bulb, turn the bulb in just until you feel slight resistance. Turn on the switch. If the bulb lights without flickering, you are done. Do not turn the bulb any further. If the bulb didn't light, then turn only a 1/4 turn more and try again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How To Clear a Clogged Drain

The following are the steps to take when trying to solve various types of drain problems.

1. If a drain is simply moving slowly, a clog may be starting to form or the vent system may be blocked. You can use a chemical drain cleaner to open a slow-moving drain, but beware - the caustic nature of most drain cleaners can damage certain kinds of pipes. And if the drain becomes fully clogged, the caustic solution can back up into a fixture, making it hazardous to plunge the drain.

2. Plunge the drain at the fixture.

3. Try to clear out a hair blockage in a sink or tub drain with the help of a straightened coat hanger with a small hook at one end.

4. Try to clear the blockage with a snake.

5. If all else fails, call in a Handyman or Plumber.

It's much easier, of course to prevent a drain blockage in the first place than to clear a clogged drain. Scalding water can clear drains of grease. Install a strainer in kitchen and bathroom sinks to prevent hair and soap, small utensils, and other objects from slipping down the drains.