Get your snow rake today

The first snow will mark the beginning of ice dam season. One of the best ways to prevent ice dams on roofs is to remove the snow before it has a chance to melt and freeze and turn into ice. You do not have to clear the whole roof, even getting a few feet along the edge will male a big difference.

You can shovel your roof with a roof rake. They can be purchased at most building materials stores and they are not very expensive especially as compared to repairing water damage caused by water pooling on the roof because of the ice dams.

We are still looking for someone to repair some drywall that was ruined by a roof leak caused by an ice dam.

For those who like to shop online, it looks like Amazon had roof rakes too. The reason I am writing this now is because roof rakes are seasonal items and the stores seem to run out of them as soon as there is a major snowstorm.

To learn about snow and ice dams go to the University of Minnesota Extension web site and read up. Knowledge is power.

Related article Damn Ice Dams

Ice rake
roof rake

Closets can be improved

When making home improvements or when getting a house ready for sale don’t forget the closets!  If you have an old house in St. Paul your closets are

paperwhites

probably fairly small.

There is one closet in my house that had not been touched in 30 years. Over the weekend I emptied it out and painted the inside white, added some small wire wall mounted baskets and put shelf liner on the shelves.

As I went through everything I had in the closet I was able to move some of it to other storage areas in the house and eliminate about 25% of it. I have to say I love the end result. I borrowed some ideas from Marie Kondo.  Also, look for ideas on Pinterest and YouTube.

The closet was packed to the point where I couldn’t really see what was in it. Now it has plenty of space and the white walls make it look larger and more appealing.

Local home improvement stores offer many affordable shelving options, storage containers, paint and shelf paper.

White is the perfect color for closets unless they are lined with cedar and there are a zillion shades to choose from.

 

Old exterior 1980s interior

brick turret
Historic brick and stone

What is historic on the outside may look like it was built in the 1980s on the inside. There must have been a lot of condo conversions in the 80s.

The original woodwork was replaced with blond oak and the floors are carpeted. The “old world” charm can not be found on the inside. In fact, sometimes there isn’t anything charming about the interior.

There are several buildings in downtown St. Paul that were factories or warehouses that were converted into condos. The kitchens are all new but the buildings still have exposed brick and timber. They retain their historic charm.

The developers restored unique historic features rather than just gutting the building and starting over. River Park Lofts, The Great Northern, and the Rossmor in downtown St. Paul were all converted from industrial buildings to condos while retaining original walls, windows, ceilings, and flooring.

There are a few great old buildings that are disappointing on the inside because they were chopped up and made into small apartments that don’t make sense. Who wants a north facing condo with one window? The original flooring is gone and brick walls are covered with drywall.

Historic preservation districts have rules about how the outside of a building has to look but no rules about the inside.

The roof, the roof . .

Last week we had a new roof put on the house. I hated to see the old one go to the landfill but it did last 31 years. Repairs were made to it, flashing was added, vents were added but eventually, the roof just wasn’t up to the job. When it rained outside it also rained inside.

Nothing like a new roof to make a house look nice and tidy and almost newish. That is the thing about old houses, they can be retrofitted.  Making an old house more energy efficient in most cases is more environmentally friendly than building a new energy-efficient house.

Tearing an old house down just to build something newer and larger should be a crime but it isn’t.

Over the years our old house has been updated and retrofitted many times. It was built before there was indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse instead of a bathroom. It now has two bathrooms and a kitchen sink and one in the basement, a washing machine, and a hot water heater.

It was built before the telephone was invented and used to have telephones in it. At one time it had cable TV too but I won’t go into that. It has had Wifi for many years.

The house did not have electricity in it until it was at least 30 years old. It was well over 100 years old when we added central air. It would have been hard to add central air before the house had electricity.

Sure there are times when I think that a new house would be wonderful but I know they don’t build them like they used to and building a house is very expensive and not as environmentally friendly as recycling and retrofitting.

If you like old houses you will love St. Paul, Minnesota!

Plan your pollinator garden

Pollinator gardens are all the rage. It is about having a bee and butterfly friendly yard. Planting or allowing native plants to grow can help make a better and more sustainable garden. A yard doesn’t have to be mostly grass that needs a lot of water and mowing.

Why are pollinator gardens so popular? Because the bee population is declining and has declined by as much as 40% according to some news sources. Pesticides, fungicides and the way we garden are all at least partly to blame.

You may see a lot of bees in your yard or this time of year you may see a lot of them on sedum, aster, and goldenrod because those plants attract bees.

It isn’t enough to plant flowers that attract pollinators. Best practices include growing native plants and not disturbing bumblebee nests and leaving some of the flower stalks in your garden over the winter.

Gardening isn’t something that can be done once and forgotten about. There is ongoing maintenance and some plants will take a few years to establish themselves.

Monarch butterflies – on blazing star

If you are interested in making your yard more pollinator-friendly a great place to start is the University of Minnesota Extension website.  

There is a survey on the site and useful information about landscaping and gardening in Minnesota. There is information about bees and plants.

Landscaping is a good investment that will increase the value of your home. Landscaping that attracts pollinators may also attract homebuyers.

honey bee on aster

Late summer and early fall are a great time for planning a garden and some perennials can be planted.

The world of home improvement contractors

roof
Roof – Not my roof

I live in an old house and it has an old roof that has been leaking on and off between and after repairs for some time now. It is time for a new roof. I know people who roof houses so I make some calls and get some people to give me a bid for a new roof.

There are a few other things the house needs but I am learning to keep my mouth shut about that and do one thing at a time.

Maybe my standards are too high. After all, I have been supporting my family for some time working as a salesperson on a 100% commission basis.

The first salesperson spent most of our time together answering questions that I didn’t have. My husband and I were forced to listen as he would not deviate from his script.  He did provide a written estimate but did not share any measurements. I ended up getting my own measurements so that I have a clue.

After his pitch, he wanted to know if he could wait out on the porch while we made a decision. He even promised a discount for an on the spot decision because making one less trip to our house would save him money.

We pretty much ruled the contractor out because we don’t want to see him three more times and we intensely dislike sales pitches and high-pressure sales tactics.

Another person we met with we called because they do roofs and windows. We asked them questions about replacement windows and they refused to give us any bids on the windows because it was a window company that recommended them to me. The reason why they were recommended is because they also do storm windows, the company that recommended them does not.

The salesperson believes he is being “ethical” since I want more than one bid and at that point, I didn’t have any bids I thought he was being a jerk. He actually told me that the company in question doesn’t do a very good job.  I would never talk to a potential client the way he talked to me. When I am asked to do something I think is unethical I just say no and I won’t bad mouth a competitor, not ever.

Another contractor stopped by at or invitation and actually brought a ladder and a roofer with. I didn’t have to ask about vents and gutters and flashing. He told me about it all and answered most of my questions before I even asked.  They promptly sent an estimate that was lower and far more complete than those of their competitors.

When they left our house my husband and I both felt better a little less worried and more confident about re-roofing.

When I meet with homeowners I like to be positive and assure them that I can do the work. People are far more interested in their own house and their own needs than they are in my company. I like to leave them a little information about who I am but I don’t use a script. There is no one size fits all script for every situation.

I would never make someone wait for an answer to a question while I give a sales pitch. I try to keep my focus on the needs of the homeowner because it is about them. They have a lot of choices because there are too many real estate agents in the area and many who can do an excellent job. In fact, it is a privilege and an honor to be invited into someone’s home.

Does anyone really like to be sold to? I don’t think so. I know from experience that there are ways to promote my services without ever using a hard sell, talking down to someone or being a jerk. When I offer my “free no-obligation consultation” I mean it and so do all agents affiliated with my company.

The clock is ticking and we need a roof before the ice dam season. We are waiting for three more estimates and hope that the company we choose can actually re-roof the house.

Some of the storm windows that are falling apart but I think we can make it another year which is probably how long it will take me to find someone who can do the work without being a jerk.