Category Archives: home improvement

Ice Dam-age

As Old Man Winter continues his iron-fisted reign over New England, you should be wary of potential, costly damage to your home. So let’s talk about ice: the good, the bad… and the pretty.

Okay, so besides being pretty to look at, there’s not a whole lot of “good” when it comes to icicles. Beyond their attractive shine, icicles are a sign that something bad could be happening to your roof.ice dam

Icicles are the byproduct of an ice dam: a buildup of ice in gutters and roof overhangs. Ice dams form when it’s warm enough for the snow on the top of a roof to melt, but still cold enough for water to refreeze once it runs onto the eaves of the roof. Once refrozen, the ice blockage causes water to be pushed back up under the shingles, often resulting in damaged shingles, sagging gutters, stained ceilings and peeling paint.

Dam Removal

If icicles are hanging from your roof, there’s a high chance an ice dam is clogging the gutter. To remove the ice dam, there are a few recommended techniques:

  1. Use a roof rake from the ground to carefully chip away at the ice. Be careful not to damage your roof.
  2. Fill a nylon sock with calcium chloride – a melting agent – and lay it across the ice dam. The agent will create a channel by melting the ice and allowing water to drain through the dam. Calcium chloride can be found at your local hardware store. Do not use rock salt because it can be harmful to the roof.

Since working on or below a roof during the winter can be dangerous, the safest option is to call a professional to take care of any ice dams.

Prevention

The most effective way to deal with ice dams is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Immediately following a snowstorm, a short term solution is to use a roof rake to clear off the first three to four feet of snow to prevent it from refreezing in the gutters – be sure to also clear debris out of downspouts so the gutters can properly drain.

A long term solution for ice dams is to keep the attic cold. By keeping the air in the attic cold, the snow on the roof is less likely to melt and run down to the gutter.

In order to keep the attic cold, it must be sufficiently insulated. An inadequately insulated attic will have cracks where the roof meets the exterior wall. This is where warm air leaks through, keeping the roof heated. So, inspect this area and if you find cracks, seal them with spray foam or sheets of rigid foam insulation.  There is more information online to help you prepare:

Although foam insulation can get pricy depending on the size of your attic, the benefit of preventing ice dams – and potentially water damage to your home – is worth the cost.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home, condo and renters insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in property and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Bunker Hill’s Tips to Winterize Your Home

As the weather continues to cool and homeowners begin to crank the heat, make stovetop chili, and sit by the fireplace, we at Bunker Hill Insurance want to make sure that our customers have the information they need to prevent house fires and keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

For this reason, we’ve created a video highlighting common safety hazards in the home that can easily go unnoticed—from smoke detectors with dead batteries, to dirty dryer exhausts, to outdated wiring.

Check out our video to help you avoid these hazards, and stay safe!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

5 Tips for Hiring a Contractor for Your Next Home or Remodeling Project

Finding the perfect contractor for your next home improvement project or remodel can feel like the quest to find your ideal soul mate:

  • Are they good listeners?
  • Will they show up when they say they will?
  • Are they committed to you?
  • Do your friends and family members like them?

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection are great resources for home improvement tips.  For more information, check out their websites.

Some meaningful things pulled from these sources that you should consider are:

Male Contractor in Hard Hat Discussing Plans with Woman in Room.Licensed to drill. Is your contractor licensed with the state and do they have the skills to do the job? Are they bonded and insured? Always ask for your contractor’s license number before you sign any contracts. Massachusetts law requires contractors to list their license number on any advertising, so if you don’t see a number, don’t bother contacting them.

But, just because a contractor is registered with the state doesn’t mean that they’ll do a good job. Which leads us to…

Get those references. It may be time-consuming, but it’s worth doing some legwork before you start any project on your home—after all, it’s one of your biggest (non-living) investments. Use your neighborhood email listserv, if you have one, or just ask  neighbors about their experience if you see them getting work done.  You can also use the web to research contractors through sites such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau.

Get it in writing. According to consumer advocate Mitch Lipka, any job over $1,000 should be in writing and detail the job duration, start and anticipated end dates, overall job specs, and payment schedule. It’s typical to pay about one-third to one-half of the total price up front, unless you negotiate (and sign!) a different payment agreement with the contractor.

Once you do hire someone, make sure they understand your expectations about working in your home, such as your preferred (and practical) start and finish times and whether you’re okay with them using your bathroom.

Trust your instincts. Finding your contractor-soul mate involves careful research, but it also requires you to look within for those subjective impressions that should guide your decision-making process.. If, after looking at a list of closely qualified contractor candidates, you’re still not sure whether or not to hire someone, ask yourself: How does this person make me feel? Am I comfortable with them — and the idea of them working in my home? Do I trust them?

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Bunker Hill – 6 Moving Tips for an (almost) Stress-Free Moving Day.

September is the month for moving Boston area. College kids are moving en masse to Mass, which means headaches (and some great trash picking) for the rest of us.

Get packing. Click around on The Learning Channel’s extensive moving day website, which features tips on everything from moving abroad to planning stress-free moves for plants, kids, and pets.

Also worth checking out: the popular website Buzzfeed posted some great tips on how to make your move a smooth one. The readers’ comments have some good ideas as well.

Six quick moving tips you will findMoving_Day on these sites include:

  1. Less stuff means less to pack (and unpack). Start to donate or sell your unwanted items online or at a moving sale at least two months before your moving day.
  2. Transplant plants into plastic pots at least two weeks before you move. Don’t water for 10 days before moving day. Or better yet, save the hassle (and potential deadly plant trauma) and give your greens away to friends and family—put down new roots (literally and figuratively) in your new place.
  3. Save on packing materials. Pack glassware and other delicate items in your clothing and socks—just make sure they’re clean first!
  4. One month before…Submit an address-change form with the Post Office; let friends and family know your new contact information; Organize essential documents and papers and store them in a safe place or bring them with you on moving day
  5. One week before…Transfer or close your bank accounts; transfer prescriptions to new pharmacy.
  6. One day before…Pack a carry-on bag with 1-2 days of meds, clothing, chargers, and other must-haves so you’re not stuck rummaging through boxes by flashlight on the first night in your new home

Make sure you have insurance. Chances are your landlord’s property insurance doesn’t include coverage for your belongings. Renters insurance is inexpensive and can replace your stuff if it’s stolen, lost or damaged. Find a local, independent Bunker Hill agent near you for more details. You can also take advantage of companion discounts if you have renters or homeowners insurance with Bunker Hill and car insurance with our affiliate, Plymouth Rock.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation provides auto insurance to personal and commercial auto insurance customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They are members of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.

 

Uncovering storage spots at home: Ideas for decluttering

REQUEST - Garage Decluttering- Landscape

Decluttering

Brutal is best. Be ruthless and consistent about decluttering throughout your home. It’s the best way to free up storage space and keep your home clean and clutter-free. If it’s broken, old, or unused, get rid of it.

Start small. Go room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, 15-20 minutes a time if you feel overwhelmed. Hire a certified professional home organizer or consultant if you can afford it.

First step: Consolidate your cleaning supplies. Store cleaners and rags in buckets or cleaning caddies in each room’s storage area or in the closet closest to the broom, vacuum, and mop. That way you can grab what you need quickly for fast touch-ups or deeper cleans.

Kitchen

  • The broiler drawer on the bottom of your stove is a good spot for random cookware: pizza stone, cooling rack, baking pans, skewers
  • In the kitchen, shed your pans down to these 5 essentials: sauce pan, large (12-inch) sauté pan, cast iron skillet, small frying pan, stock/pasta pot
  • Cabinet doors can hold racks for pan lids and small cutting boards
  • Free up counter/prep space: Mount your microwave under a cabinet, leave frequently-used small appliances like your toaster and coffee maker on the counter. Stash that big mixer unless you use it often
  • Double usable space in cabinets with wire racks or plastic risers
  • Spinning spice racks make finding spices and other frequently used condiments a snap in small spaces
  • Cookbooks create visual clutter; save the one or two go-to books you rely on the most and donate the rest

Bathroom

  • In the bathroom, toss worn-out, expired cosmetics and outdated makeup colors
  • Rip worn and old towels into rags and use for cleaning
  • Clean and consolidate soaps and shampoos in your shower caddy; recycle empty plastic shampoo bottles and other toiletries
  • Consider adding storage and shelving to walls, under the sink and over the toilet; woven baskets or open storage boxes look good and help decluttering.

Bedroom

  • Rotate and organize your wardrobes at least once a year: cold and hot weather is usually easiest
  • Get rid of clothing that’s worn, old, shabby, doesn’t fit and/or is out of style; as well as anything you haven’t worn in more than a year
  • Donate or consign clothing in good or great condition that you or your children no longer wear; try thredup.com, an online service that’s easy and free to use
  • Clean and store your off-season clothing for free for a small fee at many dry cleaners. Don’t store anything in the basement or attic, where temperatures can reach damaging extremes (or dampness)
  • Never store clothing unless its clean; moths and other critters love the sweet (to them) smell of sweat and food stains
  • Put clothing in cotton or vinyl bags; remove wire hangers and dry cleaners’ plastic bags
  • Recycle wire hangers: collect strays from all your closets and give them back to your dry cleaner, along with any plastic dry cleaning bags. Wire hangers ruin clothes and take up more space than you’d think; opt for padded or wooden hangers instead. Your clothes will last longer and look better on you
  • Large plastic boxes under the bed are great for off-season shoes and clothing

Garage/Basement

Learn more about decluttering: Useful links…

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Enviro Paints and Beyond: What Makes Up Low- and no-VOC Paint

Enviro PaintsVolatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs for short, are paint solvents that are released into the air as paints dry. VOCs emit low-level toxins as they do, hence the recent growth in popularity of low- and no-VOC paints.

Despite their label, even zero-VOC paints still emit some toxins: less than 5 grams per liter of VOC emissions, an amount that is still far lower than conventional petroleum-based paints and solvents. While eco-friendly paints are more expensive than regular paint, you may want to consider them for nurseries and children’s rooms (at the very least).

The eco-friendliest of them all: Natural-based paints. Natural-based paints are made from raw, all-natural ingredients including: milk protein, talcum, beeswax, chalk, minerals, clay pigments, plant oils and resins, and have the lowest VOC levels and odor.

People who are highly allergic or extremely sensitive often prefer natural-based paints since those types of paints are free from petroleum and man-made chemicals. As you can probably guess, these paints are usually the most expensive.

What about ceramic paint? Ceramic paint contains microscopic spherical balls of ceramic that creates a perfectly even pigment extender, the powder-like substance that creates the color you see in the paint itself.

The uniform consistency of the ceramic balls means that paint pigments bond together better when mixed and applied, creating a tough acrylic surface—which often results in the need to paint less frequently, a plus for exteriors in New England, to be sure.

An additional perk is that manufacturers claim that you can scrub clean ceramic-painted surfaces without damaging them.

Another bonus: the microscopic ceramic spheres are tightly packed together, making the paint resistant to bacteria, mold and mildew. If you’re allergic to mold and mildew, you may want to look into ceramic paints for your home’s interior and exterior.

Before you paint: Read this first

Green is sexy. The Sexy Green Home is packed with everything you need to know about “eco-friendly products and solutions” for your greenalicious home.

The Green Seal of approval. Look for the Green Seal label on your paints, building materials and other products; go to greenseal.org to learn more.

Non-profit ConsumerReports.org has the low-down on VOCs in paints: what they are, and what low- and no-VOCs on the label really mean. They also have tips on common painting mistakes to avoid.

Stay healthy. Before you crack open your low-VOC or run-of-the-mill-paint cans, it’s worth taking a few minutes to read up on how to avoid harmful exposure to fumes and other indoor paint-related hazards on EPA’s Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Volatile Organic Compounds.

Chemical attraction. Better Homes and Gardens’ DIY Advice.com is filled with resources on Paint, Painting, and even the chemistry of paint.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.