Local service tips from the pros
Story by Bailey Gilliam
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make. To protect your investment, it’s important to keep your property well-maintained and properly cared for. Proper maintenance will maintain the value, not to mention, save money from major repairs due to poor maintenance. Living in the Lowcountry comes with unique challenges and elements that make homeownership a little different compared to other areas. But don’t worry. We gathered the best advice and tips from local home service professionals for keeping your home in the best possible shape inside and out. Keep things working and looking like new with this handy home service guide.
Clean and maintain
When you purchase a new car, maintenance is required to keep your vehicle running smoothly for as long as possible. Appliances are the same. Many parts and pieces need to be maintained to prolong appliance life. Fortunately most of us can handle many appliance maintenance tasks independently before involving a service provider. According to the appliance experts at Billy Wood Appliance, keeping appliances clean can help a homeowner maintain appliances for years to come. By keeping your appliances in good working order through regular maintenance and cleaning, you give yourself the best chance to avoid replacement in a short time.
Here are a few other cleaning and maintenance tips from Billy Wood Appliance:
- Clean the tub of dishwashers and washing machines with a cleaner like Affresh. Remove and clean your dishwasher filter regularly to avoid drain backups and more significant plumbing issues.
- Clean built-in or stand-alone ice makers every six months to ensure water can move easily through the lines and drains.
- Change your refrigerator water filters and clean its water lines, coils and gaskets regularly.
- Keep your dryer well maintained by continuously removing the lint trap before each new load. Clean your dryer ductwork at least once a year.
- Use the right cleaning products and tools for your range or cooktop to avoid scratching the cooking surface.
- Don’t self-clean the oven too often. Every 6-12 months should be fine, or less often if you don’t use your oven as much.
- Make sure air can circulate properly in your refrigerator and freezer. Follow the storage guidelines in your use-and-care manual, or research where to store a given product based on temperature and humidity.
- Even if your grandmother did it before you, NEVER put aluminum foil on the bottom of your range or wall oven. Chances are a service company will not be able to easily replace the inner lining of your range or oven after the aluminum foil is burnt onto the enamel. Clean spills as they occur to avoid the need to self-clean.
- Always read your use-and-care guide when purchasing an appliance and before you call a service provider. There may be an easy troubleshooting tip that could resolve your issue without service intervention.
- Consider replacing your washer hoses more often to avoid a leak.
Repair or replace?
When it comes to appliances, there’s always the dreaded question when things go wrong: repair or replace? Luckily Pete O’Reilly of Apple Appliance Center shared some tips on getting the most out of your appliances:
- We say that if you spend more than half of what you initially spent to purchase the appliance, you should look for a replacement.
- Don’t wait to service: Specific to laundry, if you hear something or feel that something is off, get it serviced. Continued use without service can lead to further, more expensive repairs.
- Trust the experts: Our technicians are honest and straightforward. We will tell you the repair cost, but don’t hesitate to ask for our opinion.
- Measure, measure, measure. As appliance design evolves, it is important for you and the appliance provider to understand the dimensions of the space so you can zero in on the appliance with the most important features.
- When replacing older appliances, always look for the Energy Star logo. Energystar.gov offers numerous resources to find energy-saving appliances and rebates.
- Authorized appliance dealers and technicians use OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts when repairing appliances. This ensures that the parts meet the manufacturer’s specifications and come with a one-year warranty. Non-OEM may work but risks a much higher likelihood of failure.
Weather the storm
It just wouldn’t be summer in the Lowcountry without random storm systems popping up every once in a while. Luckily, Curtis Hubner of Advanced Integrated Controls (AIC) shared his top five tips for keeping your home running smoothly during summer storm season.
1. Surge protection: While little can be done if your home is on the business end of a lightning strike, having your electronic equipment plugged into high-quality surge protection can reduce your chances of losing valuable electronics during an electrical storm.
2. Battery backup: These simple devices also referred to as UPS (uninterruptible power supply) can keep your equipment up and running during small power outages. Often when your home loses power, your internet will remain live. If you have your modem or router on a battery backup, you can still use your phones and tablets for emergencies as well as some entertainment for your little ones
3. Smart thermostats: Installing a Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat not only will let you cut down on some electricity bills but also can remind you to change air filters and other maintenance based on how many hours the unit has run.
4. Label your equipment: Oftentimes when you lose internet and call the local internet service provider, they will have you power cycle different pieces of equipment. Placing a label on these pieces of equipment helps make sure anyone who is rebooting these devices is unplugging the correct equipment. This can save many hours of headaches and eliminate the need for a service technician to come to your home.
5. Keep your equipment cool: Your equipment doesn’t like to be hot during the summer, just like you. Making sure your equipment gets some airflow and that things aren’t stacked on top of them can help extend the life of your investment.
Smart home technology provides many options for controlling the basic functions in your home like lighting, shades, audio-video, thermostat settings, pool equipment and security. Seamlessly controlling all of these different functions in an easy-to-use format is the tricky part. Luckily Sandy Benson from Custom Audio Video shared how to combine all of the functions you want and get the most out of your home’s automated system. The best answer is to create a network with intentional design and build.
“A well-designed home automation system includes necessary hard-wiring, multiple access points, space for a central ‘home brain,’ and options for future expansion,” Benson said. “Giving your a home a ‘brain’ may sound futuristic, but having everything in one place that is easy to access offers more control, greater stability and the option to conceal bulky equipment.”
Because technology is always changing, it is important to approach home technology with a futuristic view so you don’t end up with an outdated system as quickly. Choose experienced professionals to design a system that is suited to meet your needs today and in the future.
Get your permits
Steven W. Jeffcoat Sr. of Steven W. Jeffcoat Construction cautions homeowners to check the law regarding building permits. Depending on local ordinances, just changing out countertops could require a permit. There is considerable risk involved when using an unlicensed person or a “contractor” to perform a project without going through proper channels. “Always ask for and verify their SCLLR builders license, workers comp and liability insurance certificates,” said Jeffcoat. “I receive numerous calls regarding someone using an unlicensed contractor or performing a project without inspections that have caused insurmountable damage.”
Jeffcoat recommends calling your local jurisdiction and asking if a building permit is required for the specific job you are doing. “A specialty contractor license is NOT a licensed builder,” says Jeffcoat. “Verify with SCLLR.”
Paint it white
Studies show that painting a room white can make it feel open, clean, spacious or quiet. White is always the go-to when it comes time for us to paint our interiors. “With apologies to Mick Jagger, paint it white! We love taking walls with bold or even dated ‘neutral’ colors and making them fresh with white – all white,” said Beverly Serral, the founder, CEO and design lead of BESTNEST by Beverly Serral Vacation Rentals. “Our favorite white at the moment is Sherwin Williams’ Snowbound; it is a white devoid of pink or yellow undertones and is an ideal backdrop for pops or hints of color in furnishings, art and accessories.”
Serral recommends using Snowbound on walls, trim and even ceilings. Mix in other whites, creams, and tans for a serene, soft and timeless room.
Window to the soul
Windows provide our homes with light, warmth and beauty. We got a few tips on window selection from Court Atkins Group architect Jen Foster.
“Windows play an integral role in the design of Lowcountry homes,” Foster said. “Clients wish for spectacular views and request larger windows with maximum exposure to the stunning surrounding habitat. While steel frame windows have been the popular choice in recent years, many brands don’t provide a ‘thermal break’ in the window structure, causing the windows to sweat and allowing more heat in the home. The trending choice is a direct set window that emulates the sleek profile of the steel frame. An additional recommended feature is ‘impact glass,’ which can be installed with clad window and door systems. It’s hurricane proof and promises the optimal amount of glass surface,” she says.
Patience is a virtue
Building a home isn’t a simple process. It takes time. Having patience and understanding of the many steps and processes involved in home building is important to keep in mind when taking on the endeavor. Nina Symonds and Allison Bonner of Pearce Scott Architects say that the most common question asked of architects is, “Why is this process taking so long?” Symonds explains that they are charged with designing, presenting and revising the overall concept of their client’s vision for their new home. “We work in tandem with landscape architects, structural engineers, interior designers and any other specialized trade,” she explains. “Each has timelines that can pose a delay as we do our best to sync schedules on the client’s behalf.”
In addition to the number of individuals involved in a project, everything must go through the builder. “We take the design through concept, preliminary and final approval, checking in with the builder as we go,” Symonds said. “The builder is then responsible for pricing and sourcing materials.”
While it seems the process is constantly “hurry up and wait,” there is a reason. And the answer? “It’s a process.”
Clever storage: it’s what makes our kitchen spaces function more efficiently. Here are some storage tips from Arlene Williams of Arlene Williams Kitchen Design:
- Deep-drawer storage pegboard systems allow you to make the most of deeper drawers by providing a way to organize pots, pans and dishware.
- Top-drawer organizers keep cutlery, cooking tools and even spices organized and within reach.
- Innovative pull-down shelving makes out-of-reach wall cabinet space accessible with shelves that move down and forward.
- Maximize storage in tall, narrow cabinets with pull-out storage by Kessebohmer.
- Keep your spices and cooking oils at hand with a base cabinet pullout — store taller items on the shelves and spices on the top tier.
There are many window treatment options and even more things to consider when choosing the best system for you. Regarding blind installation, Bob Engler of Budget Blinds of Hilton Head recommends getting a professional involved as early in the process as possible, especially if they are looking to install motorized shades. “Although there are battery-powered options, it is best to consider hardware for new construction,” Engler said. “In addition to motorized shade considerations, there are things to discuss during the process to help us understand the project and set expectations.”
The need for storage and organization solutions is at an all-time high between 2021 and 2022. A median of 60 percent of homeowners asked for more storage options. Clients want more customized solutions and feel the need to make the most out of their space. Nancy Schmitz of Signature Closets of the Lowcountry knows it’s important to specify clients’ storage and organization needs at the beginning of a project.
And when it comes to design, functionality is critical. The world is focused on wellness, and this is reflected in home design. “A well-organized space can improve the comfort of daily living and well-being,” said Schmitz.
Closets are more than clothing storage. Closets should inspire and motivate those who enter. Bart Strong of Closets by Design believes that closet accessories are the key to organization. “Valet rods are perfect for creating outfits,” she said. “The rods slide back when not in use and are especially helpful when planning your travel wardrobe.”
Of course, other accessories help with organization. Valet rods, laundry hampers, belt and scarf hooks and tie hooks are just some of the solutions in organized closets. Bosworth notes that tie hooks are great for other small accessories, since no one seems to wear ties anymore.
For those with natural stone, cleaning can be a bit tricky. While certain products may do an excellent job cleaning, they may damage the surfaces. Common household cleaners, organic cleaners and trendy DIY cleaners like vinegar and lemon juice aren’t suitable for natural stone. Scott Odom of Sir Grout of the Lowcountry recommends using specially formulated stone cleaning products. “Since stone surfaces are quite an investment, using a specialized stone-safe cleaner is better for the long-term preservation,” he said. “If you don’t have a specially formulated stone cleaning product, then use a pH-neutral cleaner since it’s not too acidic and won’t cause any negative effects.”
Be sure to use different rags for different cleaning products. Odom recommends using various colored rags to differentiate. “If you only have one rag, make sure it’s properly sanitized,” he said. “Clean your rags in the washer at a temperature of at least 140-150 degrees, or boil them in a large stockpot.”
Under the rug
Area rugs are the perfect accent for your home. Whether adding a bit of carpet to hardwoods or some style to a space, we all have that ideal area rug that just “makes” a space what it is. Be sure you’re correctly caring for your area rug with these five tips from Kathleen P. Mayers of KPM Flooring:
- For all-wool rugs, blot, don’t rub, the stain with a clean white cloth. If needed, use cold water or a water and mild soap mixture. Vacuum regularly without the beater bar and have it cleaned periodically by a professional.
- Rugs made of polyester or recycled PET can be cleaned by blotting and then using a mixture of mild soap and equal parts white vinegar and water. Vacuum without the beater bar.
- Rugs that are viscose or have a high viscose content are beautiful with the sheen the fiber creates but have particular cleaning needs. As a rule, avoid spots in your home that are subject to moisture, and place these rugs in low-traffic areas. You can vacuum without a beater bar. If you have a wet spill, blot with a clean white cloth and call a professional.
- Fiber blends – wool, silk, viscose, cotton, jute – used in rugs will have cleaning instructions that vary. As a general rule, vacuum without the beater bar and consult your rug retailer or a cleaning professional for any in-depth cleaning.
- Natural fiber rugs should be vacuumed regularly without the beater bar. Even without the beater bar, “sprouts” or small tufts of the rug may appear over time. It is a normal phenomenon and does not diminish the quality of the rug. Carefully snip any sprouts that appear level with the rug. Blot spots and clean them with a dry powder system.
Our lives wouldn’t be the same without our beloved pets. After all, we love them. But they don’t always love our floors. Between scratches and stains, pet owners need a floor that can handle the mess that comes with owning a pet. Steve Fisher from Floors To Go recommends the DiamondWalk collection for pet owners. HGTV designer Christina Haack created this stylish, affordable and durable flooring line. “The luxury vinyl flooring is perfect for high-traffic areas,” said Fisher. “It is scratch-resistant and waterproof, making this luxury vinyl flooring perfect for high-traffic areas.”
In the gutter
Working gutters are essential for a safe home. Spartina Seamless Gutters recommends seamless gutters, which are gutters that are installed in one continuous piece and custom-fitted. As for materials, copper and aluminum are the highest quality materials on the market. But no matter what type of gutters you have, cleaning them regularly and checking them for damage is essential. “There are several natural occurrences that may damage your gutters – from storms to unexpected clogs, to other instances where you may find that your gutters require repair,” says Andrew Snodgrass of Spartina Seamless Gutters. “Gutters should be cleaned yearly to prevent clogs and leaks, but standard aluminum gutters can last up to 20 years.”
Not all fencing is created equally, and there are a few things to consider when choosing a fence material for your home. Dan Evans of Hilton Head Fence says the first thing to consider is what your HOA or POA allows. Different neighborhoods and plantations allow different materials. The other thing to consider is the climate. “In this area aluminum is your best bet,” Evans says. “It lasts in this coastal climate; we even use a product rated for coastal areas.”
Mosquitoes and the Lowcountry go hand-in-hand. Luckily, there are ways homeowners can help keep down mosquito populations. Brian DeChirico of Hilton Head Exterminators recommends eliminating any areas that accumulate standing water. Standing water in puddles, clogged rain gutters, tarps used to cover pools or grills and even smaller, inconspicuous places where water gathers like old tires, flowerpots, buckets or wheelbarrows are all places to watch for. “Even water in an old tire can breed hundreds of mosquitoes,” he said. “Most homeowners can help control mosquitoes by looking for standing water in various areas around the home.”
If you have a pool, you know what an investment it is. Keep your pool in tip-top shape with these four service tips from Step Cornet of Clearwater Pool Service:
1. Backwash your pool filter regularly. Your pool filter is like your kidneys. It filters debris and prevents it from returning to the pool. Backwashing the pool filter keeps it clean and able to do its job – backwash, backwash, backwash. Even if your pool water looks clear, your filter may be having issues and can be unable to keep working properly.
2. Keep your skimmer basket and pump basket cleared of debris. Your skimmer and pump basket are the last lines of defense for preventing debris from clogging your pool pump. The pool pump is like your heart. You want to keep it clear of debris and blockage to provide proper water flow. The more debris in the system, the less water flow you will have for your pool. Proper water circulation is key to good water condition.
3. Let your pool pump do its job. Pool water needs to circulate, regardless of whether swimmers are in the pool. The average size pool for this area needs at least 12 hours of circulation. That is roughly the time it takes for the water to cycle through the filter twice. Running pool pumps 24/7 provides far superior water circulation and filtration and puts less wear and tear on the pump.
4. Monitor chemical levels on a regular schedule. Your pool chemicals will be depleted at different rates, based on the amount of heat, rain, sun and bather load. For that reason check these chemicals regularly. The amounts of almost all chemicals are based on the size of your pool. There are formulas to determine water amounts that can be found on the internet. The point: Know your pool’s needs. Don’t just throw chemicals at it and hope they work.
Part of living in the Lowcountry is spending vast amounts of time outside enjoying the scenery and wildlife. Keep those outdoor spaces looking fresh with these tips for refreshing your patio or pool deck from the Exteriors Team at Savannah Surfaces.
1. Clean and seal: Power wash your surface to remove debris and dirt, use a soft brush and mild detergent (Dawn) to remove any stains, let dry and seal with an invisible penetrating sealer to prevent new stains and dirt from being absorbed.
2. Update concrete surfaces: Install “thin” pavers over existing concrete surfaces for a fresh “new” look.
3. Replace pine straw or mulch with low-maintenance river rock or shell: Try a decorative stone and washed-shell aggregate.
4. Add steppingstones or a patio to areas where grass won’t grow. Tabby, sandstone and porcelain pavers make great steppingstones.
5. Add a walkway in a heavily traveled area for stability and visual appeal: Install a stable base and top dress with decorative aggregate, pavers or a combination of the two.
Make an entrance
The driveway might be the first thing people see when they approach your home. Make sure it is well-maintained and clean by avoiding excess water contact. While water is good for your lawn and plants, it is detrimental to a paver driveway. Dominick Biangone of Seacoast Driveways urges homeowners to ensure their home’s irrigation heads and nozzles are properly directed. “When your sprinklers overspray your paver driveway, it creates several unwanted problems, including mold and mildew growth, vegetation growth in your paver joints and eventually washout depressions,” he said. “Remember that your paver driveway is susceptible to water absorption that weakens its integrity and shortens its life.”