Home Improvement Experts

The Secrets Behind Autumn Leaves

fall leaves

Snow may be right around the corner, but there are still plenty of beautiful orange, red, and yellow leaves dotting the trees and lining the roads. While you’re probably used to the leaves changing colors and falling every year, you may still have some unanswered questions about it all…

Why do leaves change colors?

Every year, we revel in the warm colors of autumn but many of us don’t know why exactly leaves change colors before they fall. The entire process is a chemical one: During the spring and summer, trees absorb nutrients (via photosynthesis) through their leaves, which are rich in chlorophyll. While the leaves have other colors in them, the chlorophyll is what gives them their green color.

Once the temperatures drop and the days become shorter, the leaves stop providing nutrients and the chlorophyll breaks down. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the other colors in the leaves begin to shine through and mix with another chemical process that produces anthocyanins, which are red pigments.

What makes some leaves red and others yellow?

Ever wonder why the leaves on one tree are all purple while the leaves on the tree next to it area all yellow? It all simply depends on what pigments naturally occur in the tree. If one tree naturally has more yellow than another, you’ll most likely see yellow leaves on it come autumn. It also depends on how much anthocyanin is produced during the color-changing process. The more anthocyanin, the redder the leaves can appear.

Why do leaves fall?

As the chlorophyll drains from the leaves, their nutrients are absorbed by the trunk and roots of the tree, which is what helps get them through the winter months. Once all the nutrients are absorbed, there’s no real need for the leaves anymore, so a layer of cells develops where the leaf connects to the tree. Once the cells are done developing, the tree seals the connection and the leaf falls. Come spring, the tree will grow new leaves to start the nutrient process over again.

Which trees change colors first?

When it comes to the order of color-changing trees, it’s not so much the type of tree that determines when it will change, but the health of the tree. Unhealthy or stressed trees will often be the first to change colors. They can be affected by drought, excessive heat or cold, excess moisture, insects, and more. When you see a lone tree late in the season that still has its autumn leaves, it’s most likely the healthiest of the bunch.

Did you know?

Weather affects the color intensity of autumn leaves. If the weather is overcast or rainy, you’ll see more brightly colored leaves. If the temperatures are low, but above freezing, leaves will be more red than usual. And if there’s frost, you’ll see weakened colors.

While autumn leaves are beautiful to look at, remember that they can fall into your Maryland gutters and cause clogging issues. Keep your gutters clean by calling the experts at P.J. Fitzpatrick today.

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What You May Not Know About Garage Doors

garage doors

While we at P.J. Fitzpatrick are very proud of the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland doors that we sell, we’re also equally proud to offer residential garage doors crafted by Richards-Wilcox.

You’ve probably spent your entire life with a garage nearby, but have you ever wondered where the idea of a garage came from?

Carriage Houses

You could say that the idea of a garage door dates back to around 450 BC, when people stored their chariots in gatehouses. But as far as a garages for cars go, the idea surfaced in the early 1900s, just after cars were available to the masses. At the time, many people kept their horse-drawn carriage in a carriage house – an outbuilding separate from the house. Depending on the wealth of the family, a carriage house could hold just one small carriage or it could hold an array of carriages and even have room for living quarters for the staff members who managed the horses.

Parking Garages

Some people converted their carriage houses into car garages, while other, wealthier folks didn’t want to keep their cars near where they kept horses. So, large garages were built (similar to our parking decks, but smaller) and car-owners were charged a monthly fee for parking their cars there.

Modern Garage

Once the garages were full and there was no more room for cars, people resorted back to the idea of a carriage house. In the early 1910s, they build their own carriage house for their car. This is when the modern home garage (from the French word garer, meaning “to shelter”) was essentially invented.

Sliding Tracks and Folding Doors

Garages started out like barns, with a double door that opened outward. However, these doors got so much use from opening and closing every day that the hinges and screws would fall out. That’s when the first garage was built with a door on sliding tracks. The tracks allowed the door to slide sideways in front of the garage and eliminated the need for extra space in front of the structure.

Not long after the sliding tracks came the invention of the folding garage door (around 1921). This door was cut into sections and joined together with hinges. It could be folded upwards and sit parallel to the top of the garage.

Electric Doors

Just a few years later, in 1926, C.G. Johnson, of Hartford City, Indiana invented the electric garage door, however, sales of the garage door didn’t take off until after World War II, when the Era Meter Company of Chicago offered one that could be opened via a keypad at the end of the driveway or via a switch inside the garage.

Today’s Models

Today, the majority of homes use the original “folding door” garage door, however, these doors come in many different looks and styles. The New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland garage doors that we offer are made with environmentally friendly (and insulating) Neufoam that makes the doors structurally sound. We also carry garage doors that are built to resemble carriage house doors and doors that are made from steel, but have the look of real wood.

If you’re interested in any of our quality garage doors, give us a call today to get started!

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10 Tips for Remodeling Your Bathroom

bath remodeling

Thinking about remodeling your bathroom? With the holidays coming up (and family probably visiting), now is the perfect time. However, you may not be sure where to start. If that’s the case, check out these 10 tips for the project. And if you have any other questions, feel free to give us a call.

1. Create a budget.

The first and foremost thing you should do before renovating your bathroom is establish a budget. There’s always the chance of a renovation bringing surprises, and it’s better to be prepared than to spend more than you want to.

2. Go green.

When you choose to go green, the environment won’t be the only thing that benefits from it - you will too. Environmentally friendly products not only look great, but they perform well, are better for your health, and can save you money on your water and energy bills.

3. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

You may be a handy person, but if you’re unfamiliar with any stage of a bathroom renovation, don’t try to do it yourself; you could end up causing more harm than good. Instead, trust the job to a bath solutions expert at P.J. Fitzpatrick.

4. Keep your plumbing

While you may be tempted to swap your sink and your toilet, you’ll save a lot of money if you just keep them where they are. Moving plumbing fixtures can not only be a hassle, but can quickly add up in cost.

5. Call us for your shower or tub replacement.

At P.J. Fitzpatrick, we can replace your shower or bathtub (or convert your tub to a shower) in just one day! You won’t have to come home to a mess of a bathroom for days on end. Plus, our bathtubs and showers are made from crack-resistant, mold-resistant, long-lasting materials.

6. Don’t forget your lighting.

You don’t want to end up with a completely renovated bathroom paired with outdated lighting fixtures. Save the lighting task for last so you can get a feel for your new bathroom. Then, consider all your options, including ambient lighting, accent lighting, vanity lighting, and more.

7. Try vertical storage.

Bathrooms usually aren’t the biggest rooms in your home, so take advantage of the smaller space you have and try some vertical storage options. You’ll use your space more wisely and open up your bathroom so it looks larger than it is.

8. Pick one or two things to splurge on.

When planning out your budget, pick just one or two areas that are most important to you and spend a little extra money there. Maybe you’ve always wanted a certain style sink, or you’ve dreamed of a walk-in shower. Whatever you pick, you’ll be happy every time you step into your bathroom.

9. Choose a durable floor.

You’ll want to choose a floor that’s impervious to water and long-lasting. Ceramic, stone, and marble floors are all great for durability, but can get a little slippery when wet, so consider your options.

10. Find a bold mirror.

If your bathtub or sink isn’t the bathroom pieces that makes a statement, find a bold mirror to add some pizzazz. Mirrors will also make your bathroom look larger, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

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How to Weatherstrip Your Windows

 

Windows18

Have you ever turned your heat up in the winter and after a little while, had to turn it up even further? If you have areas around your Maryland windows that are letting in cold air, you could be making your heater work harder than it has to. In turn, that means you’re paying more than you should for your heat.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to fix your cold air problem – all you have to do is install some window weatherstripping. Weatherstripping is relatively inexpensive and will form a seal to help keep cold air from coming in.

Step 1

Determine where your window air leaks are. If you can’t do this by simply feeling around the area for a breeze, light a candle and hold it near the area. If it flickers, you have a leak.

Step 2

In order to figure out how much weatherstripping you need, add up the perimeter of all of your windows and add about 10%, just in case of mistakes. (Remember: If you’re measuring single-hung windows, you’ll only need to measure the bottom portion. If you’re measuring double-hung windows, you’ll need to measure all the way around.)

Step 3

After that, determine which type of weatherstripping you want to use. There are many different types, however, felt, foam, vinyl, metal, and rubber are the most common. Which you choose depends on your budget, what kind of windows you’re dressing, and the type of weather in your area.

Felt and foam weatherstripping generally cost the least and are easy to install, but they may not be as effective as others like metal or vinyl. If you’re not sure which to choose, call one of our Maryland window repair experts. We’d be happy to help.

Step 4

After you’ve chosen your weatherstripping, wash the sash with soap and water and let dry. Cut the weather stripping to the correct length, then attach to the bottom of the sash to create a bond (this may mean pealing back the adhesive, stapling the stripping on, etc.). Trim any excess ends so that the stripping is flush with the sash.

Step 5

If you have any large holes or gaps around the outside of your windows, be sure to fill them in with caulk. Holes and gaps are the perfect way for cold air to leak in.

Step 6

You can also go a step further and purchase clear, removable caulk to fill in the thin spaces between your window and the window jambs, head, and sill. This will help seal your windows even more and can be removed once summer comes around again.

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Local Expert Gives Advice on How to Save Money Now

save money

Fall is here and high energy bill are close. Gary Bell, our Repair Manager, gives homeowners advice on little things that can create savings on energy costs. Here are several items that can be done for little money but you can see a difference with energy costs and comfort in your home:

First, purchase a simple non-contact laser temperature gauge from your local hardware store for less than $20. Go around you home and check for drafts. Common places to lose energy are your electric outlets, light switches, doors, windows, attic access, dryer vents, range hood vents and exterior water spigots.

• Check weather stripping around windows and doors (including garage door) and replace if worn or torn.
• Make sure your doors and windows are locked, if not they do not seal properly.
• Caulk around exterior windows and doors.
• If you have storm windows and storm doors, make sure the solid glass panel is in place.
• Replace any cracked or broken glass in windows or doors so air does not infiltrate.
• Add window well covers on basement windows as a buffer.
• Add a storm door over an entry door as an added buffer.
• Make sure exterior vents (dryer, range hood, etc) are free of dirt so they close correctly.
• Insulate or cover exposed exterior pipes.
• Take off your interior outlet and light switch covers and insert an insulating plate.
• Go into your attic and measure the amount of insulation with a yard stick. The ultimate amount of insulation should be between 12” and 15”.
• Make sure the attic access door or hatch is insulated or install an attic tent.

If you have any questions or need assistance, you can always Live Chat with us, Ask The Expert on our website, or call us and an Energy Repair Expert can evaluate and complete necessary energy saving repairs.

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Vinyl Siding: 11 Fun Facts

vinyl siding

As a Delaware siding company, we’ve installed vinyl siding on many different homes. We highly recommend it because of its cost and its durability. Here are some things you may not know about vinyl siding:

1. Vinyl siding is usually more affordable than traditional wood siding, fiber cement siding, and even stucco.

2. Vinyl siding was first produced commercially in the 1930s, but didn’t become a popular material for homes until the 1970s.

3. If you’re going to wash your siding, a soft brush, garden hose and mild cleaner is all that should be used. However, check with the siding manufacturer to very what they suggest to keep you warranty valid.

4. Unlike steel siding or wooden siding, you won’t have to worry about your vinyl siding chipping, rusting, or rotting.

5. At P.J. Fitzpatrick, we’ll remove your home’s old siding before installing your new vinyl siding (as opposed to installing your new siding on top of the old siding).

6. Vinyl siding can expand and contract up to 3/4 of an inch in hot and cold weather. For this reason, professional siding installers will hang siding so that it has room “move” once temperatures change.

7. The color of vinyl siding will last much longer than traditional exterior house paint.

8. Vinyl is the number one siding material choice among homeowners in the U.S., mainly because it’s affordable, durable, and looks great.

9. Most brands of vinyl siding are able to withstand winds of up to 110 miles per hour.

10. When it comes to environmentalism, our Delaware siding experts install CertainTeed vinyl siding, which is made from recycled materials and can be recycled once it reaches the end of its lifespan.

11. A “square” of siding refers to a measure of 10 feet by 10 feet (or 100 square feet).

If you’re interested in high-quality vinyl siding for your home, give us a call today!

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What To Know About Contractor Fees

contractor fees

If you’ve ever had work done by a home improvement contractor, you may have gotten a free estimate, or you may have been charged a diagnostic fee. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference and what you should expect from your contractor. Here is some insight from our home improvement company:

Free Estimate vs. Diagnosis

If you’d like to know how much a project will cost, most companies will give you a free estimate so that you know how much to expect to pay. If you have a problem and want to get to the source of it, however, most companies will charge a fee for a diagnosis. This is because they have to take the time to correctly identify what’s wrong before they can fix it.

For example: If you want to know how much a gutter repair will be, you can usually get a no-cost estimate. If you’re not sure why your gutters are leaking, however, you’ll probably have to pay an expert for a diagnosis.

Also keep in mind, if you need to submit something to an insurance company there might be a fee to prepare the paperwork.

Mark-ups vs. Profits

If you’ve never been a contractor before, you may have fallen under the assumption that “mark-ups” and “profits” are the same thing. In reality, they’re not. If a company has a 1.5 mark-up, it means that a $10,000 project will actually be quoted at $15,000 ($10,000 x 1.5). However, while many people think that extra $5,000 is a profit, it actually goes toward overhead expenses. This includes salary, job supervision, insurance, legal fees, taxes, licenses, and other necessary expenses the company needs to pay. A company will charge a mark-up simply so that they can perform the work under the right conditions.

Job Sizes

Many fees are based on the actual size of the job. If you need to repair one of your windows, a contractor might give you a free estimate and then perform the work for a certain price. If you need new windows, however, a contractor might charge you a fee for measurements and assessments, then perform the work for a certain price. A simple rule of thumb is the more complicated the job, the more costly it will be.

Asking Questions

Like any other homeowner, you’ve probably contacted several different companies to get estimates for your home improvement project. This is always a good idea. In addition to simply getting an estimate, you should also ask questions like:

  • What does the estimate include?
  • How long will the job take?
  • Can the company provide the right licenses?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • Who’s responsible for each part of the project?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your home and any contractor should know that it’s important to you. Contact us today – we’d be happy to help clarify anything you’re unsure about.

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6 Plumbing Tips for the Fall

gutter cleaning

Yes, it’s fall and you know what that means – winter will be here before you know it. Right now is a great time to make sure your home is prepared for the cold (which includes cleaning out your New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland gutters). Here are some other plumbing tips for the season:

Disconnect and Store Outdoor Hoses

Make sure all of your water spigots are turned off, then disconnect your outdoor hoses. If temperatures get down to freezing and your hoses are still connected, the water inside could freeze and cause problems for your indoor pipes. Also, store your hoses in an area that doesn’t dip below freezing on a regular basis – when rubber freezes and thaws over and over, it’s prone to cracking.

Clean Gutters Regularly

Fall means lots of pretty-colored leaves, however, many of those leaves could end up in your gutters. If your gutters aren’t cleaned out on a regular basis, those leaves could pile up and cause major problems once winter hits. Gutters that are clogged with debris could prevent water from draining correctly (which means water could end up leaking into your home).

Insulate Exposed Pipes

Take a look around your home and note any pipes that are exposed to the air. These pipes have a greater chance of freezing and bursting during cold temperatures, so make sure you insulate them properly in order to keep them warm.

Clean Out Your Septic System

Many people forget about their septic systems, and fall is a great time to give yours a thorough cleaning. Have your septic tank pumped and your sewer line snaked to remove any built-up debris and prevent clogs during the winter. Cleaning your septic system can be tough to do yourself, so trust a local plumbing professional to do to the job right.

Prep Before You Leave

You’re probably going to want to get away at some point this winter (we’re betting somewhere warm), but before you leave, make sure you prep your home for the cold temperatures. Turn off your main water valve and open up your faucets at the highest and lowest points of your home in order to drain the leftover water. This will keep the water in your pipes from freezing and expanding, which could lead to pipe damage. Also make sure that your home thermostat is set to no colder than 55 degrees. This will help keep your plumbing warm.

Flush Your Water Heater

Since you water heater works harder during the cold months, flush it out before winter sets in. This will help get rid of build-up, which can cause corrosion and reduce the water heater’s efficiency. Check with the manufacturer of your water heater for instructions on how to properly flush it.

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Window Replacements: Things to Keep in Mind

 

window replacement

At P.J. Fitzpatrick, we know there’s more to windows than just style – there’s also the issue of longevity, durability, and energy efficiency. That’s why we offer Infinity by Marvin windows. These windows are ones that we can stand behind and ones that we’re proud to offer our clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

If you’re in the market for replacement windows, here are a few things to keep in mind:

* Look for window styles that tilt inward or outward, which makes them very easy to maneuver and clean.

* Energy-efficient windows can help you save hundreds of dollars every year.

* Look for windows with fiberglass frames. They’ll be stronger, more efficient, and virtually maintenance-free.

* To make sure your windows are installed correctly, trust a professional window replacement company to do the work instead of trying to do it yourself.

* Low-E windows will reflect heat to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

* Look for a window installation company that offers lifetime window guarantees. You’ll avoid any headaches if something goes wrong with your windows.

* Before you decide on your new windows, know the pros and cons of windows made from different materials (such as wood, vinyl, ect.).

* Know the difference between having to repair your windows and having to replace them.

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Fix Your Roof Before Winter Hits

 

Pennsylvania roofing repairs

We know it’s only the end of September, but winter will be here before you know it and when it comes to your home, our Pennsylvania roofing experts recommend being prepared. This means that any maintenance you need to do on your roof should be done before the cold sets in to strengthen your roof and help prevent winter weather-related damage.

Shingles

Cracked, broken, or missing shingles can leave your roof exposed to elements like snow, rain, sleet, and hail, which could all be damaging. If water gets into the cracks of a shingle and freezes, it could make the cracks even worse. And if you’re missing shingles, water could seep into your roof and compromise its strength.

Gutters

During the winter, gutters can also pose a threat to your roofing (as well as your interior walls and ceilings). If your gutters are damaged, melted snow and ice won’t be able to drain properly and can get trapped. This trapped water can back up into your home and cause water damage, which is why it’s important to make sure your gutter system is always clean. Check your system on a regular basis – especially after the fall season when leaves tend to accumulate and cause potential backups.

Flashing

If the flashing around your roof or chimney is separated, damaged, or broken, you could already be letting water seep in underneath it. Once winter comes, that water could freeze and make your flashing situation even worse. Have one of our Pennsylvania roofing experts inspect it and fix where necessary. You’ll have a strong, reliable seal for protection during the winter.

Mold/Mildew

When an area is constantly moist and dark, it can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. This goes for your roofing as well. If your shingles are loose or cracked, they could be trapping water underneath them and mold or mildew could be growing. While these fungi tend to grow better in warmer temperatures, trapping water underneath your shingles during the winter gives them a head start for growth once spring rolls around. If you let mold or mildew grow too long, it can compromise your roof’s sturdiness and even cause health problems for those who live under it.

Fixing your roof before winter begins gives your home and your family a stronger protection against bad weather, cold temperatures, and the weight of snow and/or ice. Call us today. We’ll come inspect your roof and make any necessary repairs to have it prepared for the winter.

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