Ask the Home Experts
Q&A with some of Columbia's experts in the home and garden industries.
Q: Why is maintenance so important with my air conditioning system?
A: Most maintenance visits, when professionally performed, reduce the operating cost of the equipment substantially and extend the longevity of the equipment. Often the cost of the maintenance agreement is recovered by savings on your utility bill. A maintenance agreement keeps the homeowner advised of the condition of the equipment, cleans and improves overall operation of the system by keeping your unit running efficiently. It is also important to know the condition of your ductwork since it is the main transport of airflow in your heating and air system. Many professional service providers offer discounted repair rates and priority response time when failures do occur. It’s a good idea to have a maintenance agreement covering your system when living in Famously Hot Columbia, S.C.
Jeff Lawler, 2nd Wind
Q: What will aeration do for my lawn?
A: As lawns age or sustain heavy use from play, sports activities, pets, vehicle traffic and parking, soil compaction can result. Soil compacting forces are most severe in poorly drained or wet sites. Roots require oxygen to grow and absorb nutrients and water. Compaction greatly reduces the pore space within the soil that would normally hold air. It has a negative impact on nutrient uptake and water infiltration, in addition to being a physical barrier to root growth. This results in poor top growth and lawn deterioration. Core aeration can benefit your lawn by increasing the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch, increasing water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil, improving rooting, enhancing infiltration of rainfall or irrigation and helping prevent fertilizer and pesticide run-off.
Blue Moon Landscaping
Q: What are the advantages of using a builder who offers design and construction services?
A: When using a design/build contractor, the homeowner works directly with a home designer and builder, participating in the entire custom building process. With the designer and builder working together to secure the best products and services, the build typically is faster and more economical with a firm construction schedule.
As a design/build contractor, Dunbar Builders assists with space planning and home design in addition to normal contractor services, including estimating costs, setting schedules and supervising construction to ensure a project that is on time and on budget. Dunbar Builders works with several leading Columbia area designers and architects to identify the right fit for creating a custom home to match individual lifestyles and budgets.
Patrick Dunbar and Pat Dunbar,Dunbar Builders, Inc.
Q: How do I choose the right wedding photographer?
A: Photography will be the cornerstone of your wedding. Without the right pictures, memories might be lost forever. Here are a few things you can do to help make sure you are hiring the right photographer for you.
• Start searching early. Most good photographers will book a year in advance.
• Look at samples. By looking at the photographer’s work, you can see the quality and get a better idea of whether this photographer is for you.
• Visit their website. Most professional photographers will have websites displaying their work, contract, pricing and information.
• Meet with the photographer. Chemistry is important, and having a photographer that you click with will help in stressful times.
• Make sure there is a contract. This is protection for you as well as the photographer. Read the contract. Ask questions. Make sure if something happens, you aren’t left with nothing.
• Ask how the photographer works and how they price the wedding charges. Most will ask for a deposit upfront. That’s fine. Just make sure the deposit is credited to the full price of the wedding.
• Verify what’s in the wedding package. Make sure you ask enough questions to know exactly what you are buying.
Jerry Bilton, Eagle Photography
Q: What is the best way to make sure my grass is green and healthy?
A: For green and healthy grass, the best approach is a blended organic base bridge fertilizer product that takes advantage of the soil’s natural ability to help maintain a beautiful lawn. Soil, a complex living system, requires organic matter to carry out its plant support functions. Conventional lawn care programs have neglected the soil’s environment, so choose an organic-based program that will work to give you a dynamic soil system.
A healthy soil provides an increased supply of water, oxygen and soil-borne nutrients. It can even help foster natural resistance to heat and drought and create an environment that is less favorable to pest and disease. Be sure to seek a service that knows how to bridge products that fuel soil organisms. These organisms, from ants and earthworms to microscopic bacteria and fungi, establish an active and nutrient rich base for healthy lawns. A good lawn service will also focus on careful monitoring and judicious use of the latest lawn care products.
Louis Carta, Grass Root Technology
Q: How do I prepare for the initial consultation with my interior designer?
A: Do your homework ahead of time and your first design consultation will pay off. The most important thing you can do is to photograph all the pieces you wish to keep, print them out for your designer and be sure to add the measurements. Do the same for any rugs or artwork. When photographing rugs and artwork, be sure to take a close up shot for a good color reference. A crucial step to a perfect design is to prepare a scaled floor plan of the space. If you are good with a tape measure, measuring your space ahead of time and doing a quick sketch of the room, including the window and door openings, will be a time saver for your designer. For inspiration ideas check out Houzz.com and create an idea book of all of your favorites. Your designer will thank you!
Linda Burnside, LGB Interiors
Q: We have a disaster plan at work. Is there anything I can do to prepare for a disaster at my home?
A: Behind the death of a loved one, a fire or water damage can be the most stressful event of a person’s life. Preplanning now can go a long way to reducing headaches and expenses in the future. First, consult a local insurance agent to review your coverages. Most basic policies don’t cover many of the most expensive losses: groundwater floods, sewage backups or mold contamination, so you may need additional coverage. Second, if something unexpected occurs, understand that you can and should hire the most professional people you can find. A certified industry professional like PuroClean has the technology and training to save carpet, pad, drywall and even hardwood floors. Ask your friends, neighbors and your local insurance agent about prior experiences and who they would trust in these situations. We can save you a tremendous amount of time and aggravation.
Walker Williams, Puroclean
Q: Can I really save money by using a natural gas tankless water heater?
A: Yes! In fact, you can save up to $6,400 in energy costs over the expected 20-year life of a natural gas tankless water heater. That’s over $300 annually and a seemingly endless supply of hot water, too. No more running out of hot water during a shower or scheduling the dishwasher against bath times. Plus, natural gas tankless water heaters are up to 25 percent more energy efficient site to source than standard electric water heaters, and they last longer requiring little maintenance. That means fewer large tank water heaters going to a landfill. Their compact design allows for flexible installation locations without giving up valuable floor space in your home or garage. Check with SCE&G on rebates and incentives of up to $450 for customers who convert from electric or propane models to a natural gas water heater. You’ll be glad you did.
Joel Reese, SCANA
Q: Why should I buy hardware from a local vendor versus an online vendor?
A: An online store does not offer you the opportunity to see or touch the hardware in person. Many customers have come to our showroom certain of the finish color and/or design style they are ready to purchase only to find something they like better and end up make a completely different purchasing decision.
Further, online vendors do not offer you the sales expertise or service that you get with local vendors. Our years of expertise in building doors gives us the ability to assist customers in selecting the right hardware design and functionality that will serve them well over the years to come. We will also be your liaison with the manufacturer should any hardware issues arise throughout the warranty of the hardware. A local vendor knows the right questions to ask homeowners to guide them in making the right hardware choice without breaking their budget.
Bill Barrett, Southern Custom Doors
Q: We recently bought an older home, and of our first projects is a new master bathroom. How can we make sure we are hiring the right plumbing company for the job?
A: First and foremost, when choosing a plumber or any contractor, make sure they are licensed for their field of expertise and adequately insured. Experience is also extremely important because with knowledge from personal experiences comes a better understanding and ability to handle a variety of situations. Find out which plumbing company your friends and neighbors have used and ask if they are happy with their choice. Superior Plumbing & Gas has been a licensed plumbing company for more than 10 years in the Midlands area, which has helped build recognition and customer satisfaction, earning the honor of being the Midlands best rated plumbing company. Superior guarantees quality, professional work and is very familiar with Shandon, Heathwood and other downtown neighborhoods.
Jeff Godby, Superior Plumbing and Gas
Q: Do I need to have my chimney inspected if I have gas logs or don’t use it?
A: Your chimney and fireplace are probably worth between $10,000 and $20,000, more if you have multiple fireplaces or a two- or three-story home. Protecting this investment is very worthwhile and can be easily accomplished by having an inspection performed by a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (www.CSIA.org). A level one inspection will report the condition of the firebox, smoke chamber and flue areas and let you know the condition of the exterior of your chimney and/or chase. These areas are exposed to weathering and, if not properly protected, can allow severe deterioration to your flue, smoke chamber and firebox, as well as areas around the chimney. Your certified chimney sweep should be able to give you recommendations on how to best protect your investment.
Brick and mortar deteriorate from rain and weathering. A masonry chimney is best protected by a large chimney top covering the complete top of the chimney, with the lid having overhang similar to your roof. Prefabricated fireplaces have metal chimney pipes with a metal chase cover. Generally, within 10 to 15 years the chase will begin to rust, sag and eventually leak. This can lead to even more costly repairs.
Even if you have gas logs or don’t use your fireplace, you should have your chimney inspected by a CSIA certified chimney sweep. Besides, according to old European superstition, chimney sweeps bring good luck, so call one today.
Ron Rust, Top Hat Sweepers