Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring Exterior Home Maintenance Tips

Examine any gutters and downspouts.

Make sure the sections are tight and the assembly is in good repair.

Clean leaves and other debris from inside gutters and ensure that water flows away from your home properly.

Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage. Also, when water pools in these low areas in summer, it creates a breeding ground for insects.

Make sure in-ground sprinkler systems—are in working order. Once the ground thaws completely, start preparing new garden beds for summer plants. And take stock of your garden tools and lawn-maintenance equipment, including lawn mowers, trimmers and hoses.
Examine the exterior of the chimney for signs of damage. Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.

If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones. Have any fallen out? Is there vegetation growing out of them? Each signals water infiltration. Also, look for efflorescence—a white calcium-like deposit that indicates your masonry joints are no longer repelling water but absorbing it, re-seal masonry with a clear, impermeable or water-resistant barrier material. Brush it on, small areas at a time; let it absorb for 15 minutes, then reapply—it may need a couple of applications.

From the ground, examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during winter.

You don’t need to climb up there yourself; with binoculars and a keen eye, you can probably spot trouble. Do you see any shingle-shift, suggesting that some fasteners may have failed and need replacing? Any cracked or missing shingles? What about nail-pops? All will need to be addressed to keep your roof at peak performance. (Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. does not recommend climbing up on the roof yourself. Please trust a construction professional to do a full roof inspection.)

Have a professional contractor check flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys.

Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified contractor.

Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement.

All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home's foundation.

Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk.

When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.

Check the condition of your sidewalks, driveway and other formal paths and walkways such as wheelchair ramps. Seal concrete or blacktop as necessary to prevent cracking, buckling and other deterioration. Stairs and walkways are some of the most dangerous areas in and around your house. Ensure they are in good repair – without uneven surfaces, moss patches or holes.


Inspect the exterior of your home. Is any paint chipping? Is any siding damaged from winter? Are there any holes in your brick?

Whether you have wood siding, stucco or brick, look for trouble spots, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains normally indicate that your gutters are not adequately containing roof runoff. If you have wood siding, check for openings, damaged areas or knots that have popped out, making way for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through.

Replace missing or damaged siding. Brick and masonry surfaces should also be solid, without any whitish powder (efflorescence) appearing on the surface. Freezing temperatures are particularly hard on masonry and mortar as moisture soaks in and expands. Efflorescence is a collection of soluble salts, left behind as the water evaporates. Brush the surface to remove it, and then seal the brick or masonry to prevent further problems.


Time to schedule service of your home’s central air conditioning system.

Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. Change interior filters on a regular basis.

Check your home’s outside faucets for frost damage.

Faucets installed by Martin Brothers are frost proof and should not freeze, if garden hoses were disconnected in the fall. Follow the proper winter procedure: disconnect garden hoses, turn off water supply, drain the water line, and leave the outside valve open.

Clear dead plants/shrubs from the house.

This could double as a gardening tip, but if you didn't trim trees or shrubs in the fall, do so now. Plants can weasel their way into cracks and holes on the exterior of your home, causing damage and shortened longevity. Nip that in the bud before it’s an issue. If you have decorative vines on the exterior, pay close attention.

Repair/replace damaged window screens.

You don’t want bugs making their way in because you missed a hole in a window screen. And no, duct tape doesn’t count. It can be a quick fix, but don’t leave it for long. It just looks bad.

Examine your home’s foundation from top to bottom for masonry cracks.

Look for cracks and discolorations that point to a water leak or moisture source. Seal and treat as necessary. Small fissures are generally normal, but large or gaping cracks signal potential foundation failure. Consult a professional if you notice any signs of structural damage to your home’s foundation.


Inspect your home’s deck for warped, loose or splintered boards.

Is your deck or balcony in good condition? Perform a thorough examination. Push on railings to test for stability and bounce on decking boards to determine solidity. Look for popping nails and missing boards. Check where the deck or balcony connects to the house to ensure the flashing is in good repair and you don’t see evidence of rot or damage. Underneath, try digging into the wood with a screwdriver. Soft, spongy, easily gouged wood indicates dry rot.

Sweep the deck to remove any leaves and debris accumulated in the space between boards. Whether it’s wood, plastic or composite, a deck should be cleaned every year to extend its life. If the finish on your wood deck is faded or worn, now is the time to clean, stain, and reseal it. If you have composite decking, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on seasonal care. The same is true for wood and composite fences, pergolas, trellises and other structures. If you have a stone patio, a simple hose down provide be all the maintenance required (unless you detect moss or staining, in which case a more serious cleaning may be necessary).


Clear out your home’s basement window wells of excess material.

Excess material encourages animal and insect activity and could be a safety concern as well.

Trim back or remove tree limbs hanging too close to your house.

In spring storms, heavy limbs can do significant damage to your home.

If  your gas grill has remained idle over the winter months, check burner jets for clogs and obstructions.

Be sure that gas hoses and connections are sound and secure. You’ll also want to check for propane. For charcoal grill owners, make certain your grill is clean of ash and free of grease residue. It’s a good habit to adopt throughout the grilling season, not just in the spring.

Walk around and through outbuildings, checking for structural issues and other damage.

Roofing, siding, windows and doors along with water or pest damage are primary issues.

Inspect caulking on windows and weather stripping on doors.

Walk around each door and window, looking at caulking, weather stripping, thresholds and other transitions. Fix as appropriate; caulk, expanding foam insulation and weather stripping are simple to apply and save you significant heating and cooling dollars.

For a "free" printable copy of the above tips, please visit our website.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Clean Challenge - Days 23 Thru 30

Spring-Clean Challenge Continues - Days 23-30
We are back to bring you more of our Spring Cleaning Challenge.

We're in the LIVING RM on Day #23 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean walls & fixtures.

To clean recessed light fixtures:

Dust weekly with a long-handle duster, such as a Swiffer, that traps dust and cobwebs. For a more thorough cleaning, wipe the insides of canisters and the bulbs with a microfiber cloth or a slightly damp rag.

Caution: Before cleaning, make sure the electricity is off and the bulb is cool.

To clean the inside of the fixture, please refer to this helpful video. Home Remodeling Tips : How to Remove the Trim Piece on an Inset Can Light.


We're in the LIVING RM on Day #24 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean windows, blinds & window coverings.

Marvin Windows and Doors provide these window cleaning tips.

For best results, do not clean glass when it is exposed to direct sunlight.

  1. Start cleaning glass at the top of the building and continue to lower levels.
  2. Soak the glass surface with a clean water and soap solution to loosen dirt and debris.
  3. Use a mild, non abrasive window washing solution and apply with a non abrasive applicator.
  4. Immediately after washing the glass, remove all of the cleaning solution with a squeegee, taking care not to allow any metal surface of the cleaning equipment to touch the glass surface.
  5. Dry all cleaning solution from window gaskets, sealants and frames. Also, make sure that no abrasive particles are trapped between the glass and the cleaning material. Window and door gasket, sealants and frames are susceptible to deterioration if the water and cleaning solutions are not dried away immediately after cleaning.
Use of razor blades or knifes is not recommended on any coated glass such as Low E II. WARNING: Do not use scrapers for cleaning glass. Glass scratched by a scraper is not covered under the Marvin Window and Door warranty.

For more cleaning tips from Marvin, please refer to their care and maintenance support line.

We've moved to the STUDY/OFFICE on Day #25 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean desk, chair, walls & declutter.
When cleaning wood, consider the finish:
  • If it's a painted enamel surface, you can use a regular liquid household cleaning agent.
  • Hand-rubbed finishes, stained-wood or natural finishes require special care using a product that will not dull, discolor or stain the surface. The type of wood is not important, except when color is a consideration.
  • Genuine wood and synthetics can be cleaned the same way, as long as there's a protective coating of varnish or another sealant.
  • With uncoated raw wood, such as some cedar paneling, cleaning can be risky.
For more in depth discussion on cleaning wood surfaces we suggest reading this helpful article by Mrs. Clean entitled Dusting and Cleaning Wood Paneling.

We've moved to the STUDY/OFFICE on Day #26 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to wipe down bookshelves & donate unwanted books.

We here at Martin Brothers are big believers in recycling, as such; we ask that you donate unwanted books either to your local library or to company that supports literacy, like Better World Books.






We're in the LAUNDRY RM on Day #27 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean the washer & dryer.

To clean a Whirlpool Duet Washer:

Cleaning the Inside of the Washer

This washer has a special cycle that uses higher water volumes in combination with affresh® Washer Cleaner or liquid chlorine bleach to thoroughly clean the inside of the washer. Steam washer models also utilize steam to enhance cleaning in this special cycle. NOTE: Read these instructions completely before beginning the cleaning process.

Begin procedure

1.   affresh® Washer Cleaner Cycle Procedure (Recommended for Best Performance):
a.   Open the washer door and remove any clothing or items.
b.   Add an affresh® Washer Cleaner tablet to the washer drum.
c.   Do not add the affresh® Washer Cleaner tablet to the dispenser drawer.
d.   Do not add any detergent or other chemical to the washer when following this procedure.
e.   Close the washer door.
f.    Select the CLEAN WASHER cycle.
g.   Touch and hold START to begin the cycle. The Clean Washer Cycle Operation is described below.
2.   Chlorine Bleach Procedure:
a.   Open the washer door and remove any clothing or items.
b.   Open the dispenser drawer and add liquid chlorine bleach to the MAX level in both the bleach compartment and the fabric softener compartment. NOTE: Use of more liquid chlorine bleach than is recommended above could cause washer damage over time.
c.   Close the washer door and the dispenser drawer.
d.   Do not add any detergent or other chemicals to the washer when following this procedure.
e.   Close the washer door.
f.    Select the CLEAN WASHER cycle.
g.   Touch and hold START to begin the cycle. The Clean Washer Cycle Operation is described below. NOTE: For best results, do not interrupt cycle.

Description of Clean Washer Cycle Operation:

1.   The Clean Washer cycle will determine whether clothing or other items are in the washer.
2.   If no items are detected in the washer, it will proceed with the cycle
A    If any items are detected in the washer, “RL” (remove load) will be displayed. The door will unlock. Open washer and remove any garments from the washer drum.
b.   Touch POWER to clear the “RL” code.
c.   Touch and hold START to restart the cycle. After the cycle is complete, leave the door open slightly to allow for better ventilation and drying of the washer interior.

For other models and complete tips for the Whirlpool Duet, please refer to the machine’s handbook.

We're in the LAUNDRY RM on Day #28 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean out cabinetry.

Ayr Custom Cabinetry recommends cleaning off any heavy or sticky residues with a warm, mild solution of Murphy's Oil Soap or equivalent. Touch up scratches with Old English Scratch Cover or a paste wax shoe polish. Dry with soft clean cloth immediately.

Empty plastic containers for recycling. To find the nearest recycling center please visit www.recyclingcenters.org.



We're on the PATIO/DECK on Day #29 of our Spring
Clean Challenge & it's time to clean the outdoor equipment.

Wolf recommends the following care procedures for a stainless steel grill. For full cleaning recommendations, please visit the website.

STAINLESS STEEL EXTERIOR
         Outdoor grills, modules and grill carts.
  • Never clean the stainless steel exterior when it is hot. After the initial grilling, certain areas of the outdoor product may discolor. This is a normal discoloration caused by the intense heat given off by the burners.
  • After the grill has cooled, use a mild abrasive pad such as Scotch Brite with a mild stainless steel cleaner to scrub the stainless steel parts of your grill. Always scrub in the direction of the grain.
  • Specks of grease can gather on the surface of the stainless steel and get baked-on. These can be removed by using a mild abrasive pad with a stainless steel cleaner. Do not use steel wool to clean stainless steel.

We're on Day #30 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean the vacuum and restock cleaning supplies.

Congratulations on completing the 30-day challenge. If you have a central vacuum system, empty the dirt canister and refer to the owner’s manual for other maintenance items. If you own a regular vacuum, consider taking it in for servicing.


Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. ALWAYS recommends referring to the owner’s manual BEFORE performing any task.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Clean Challenge - Days 18 Thru 22

We are back to bring you more of our Spring Cleaning Challenge.

We've moved to the LIVING RM on Day #18 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean the fireplace, mantel & built-ins.

Gas Fireplaces:

  • Clean glass, surrounds & decorative fronts
  • Change batteries in remote controls
  • Inspect venting
  • Oil door hinges
  • Schedule annual inspection by qualified service technician

Woodburning Fireplaces:

  • If your fireplace does not have an ash pit or box, shovel the bulk of the ashes into a bag and vacuum the remaining lightweight ashes.
  • Gently scrub the walls of the firebox opening with a stiff-bristle brush (not a wire brush) only to the height of the lintel (the heavy steel brace that supports the masonry above the fireplace opening).
  • Be gentle with firebrick because it crumbles easily. Be careful not to bend any edges on a metal firebox where it joins the flue. Bent edges leave openings to the wall stud or supports where fire could spread.
  • Schedule the chimney to be professionally cleaned.

Refer to your fireplace operation manual prior to cleaning.

We're in the LIVING RM on Day #19 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean throws, rugs, chairs & tables.


To keep your furniture clean, it's necessary to conduct routine maintenance including vacuuming and immediate attention to spills, coupled with periodic cleaning by a certified technician every one to two years. Furniture and fabric manufacturers recommend that consumers not wait until severe soiling occurs before cleaning because the greater the soiling, the less the likelihood of restoring the fabric's original color, appearance and texture.

Regular cleaning of fabric and leather furnishings by a trained, certified technician can help restore your furniture's appearance, extend its life and keep it looking like new. Moreover, certified technicians can offer simple suggestions to maintain a clean and healthful home or business environment overall. For more information visit IICRC

We're in the LIVING RM on Day #20 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean your TV & electronic system.

For general cleaning of both the frame and screen of your Plasma TV, use a soft, clean, lint free, dry cloth. Most televisions come with a microfiber cloth that you can use for this purpose. Never use cleaning fluids, wax, or chemicals except as described below. Do not use water unless the instructions that came with your TV say otherwise, and only use water on the portion of the TV that the instructions say to use it on.

Never use any type of window cleaner, soap, scouring powder, or any cleanser with solvents such as alcohol, benzene, ammonia, or paint thinner. Never use abrasive pads or paper towels. If you do, you can scratch the screen or strip the anti-glare coating off the screen and cause permanent damage.

We're in the LIVING RM on Day #21 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to declutter & toss unwanted items.

Please recycle as many unwanted items as possible. To locate the nearest recycling site in Elkhart County, please visit Elkhart County Residential Recycling Sites.

We're in the LIVING RM on Day #22 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to vacuum or clean floors; clean under furniture.

Proper vacuuming is the easiest and most effective way to keep your carpet clean, according to the CRI. Regular vacuuming can also have the largest impact on the air you breathe.

  • To get the most out of your vacuuming regime, remember these few easy tips:
  • A quick once-over doesn’t do much. Slow and steady does the trick.
  • When vacuuming, don’t ignore those corners and crevices where dust builds.
  • “Top-down” cleaning saves you the step of vacuuming again after dusting. Dust blinds, windowsills, and furniture surfaces first and then vacuum away any fallen dust.
  • Remember to replace or empty vacuum bags when they are half to two-thirds full.
On Monday we will be bringing you more challenges, or you may simply follow our Instagram or Pinterest for these helpful hints.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. ALWAYS recommends referring to the owner’s manual BEFORE performing any task.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring Clean Challenge - Days 13 Thru 17

We are back to bring you more of our Spring Cleaning Challenge.

We're in the BEDROOM on Day #13 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean mirrors, windows
& window coverings.

Marvin Windows and Doors provide these window cleaning tips.

For best results, do not clean glass when it is exposed to direct sunlight.

  1. Start cleaning glass at the top of the building and continue to lower levels.
  2. Soak the glass surface with a clean water and soap solution to loosen dirt and debris.
  3. Use a mild, non abrasive window washing solution and apply with a non abrasive applicator.
  4. Immediately after washing the glass, remove all of the cleaning solution with a squeegee, taking care not to allow any metal surface of the cleaning equipment to touch the glass surface.
  5. Dry all cleaning solution from window gaskets, sealants and frames. Also, make sure that no abrasive particles are trapped between the glass and the cleaning material. Window and door gasket, sealants and frames are susceptible to deterioration if the water and cleaning solutions are not dried away immediately after cleaning.

Use of razor blades or knifes is not recommended on any coated glass such as Low E II. WARNING: Do not use scrapers for cleaning glass. Glass scratched by a scraper is not covered under the Marvin Window and Door warranty.

For more cleaning tips from Marvin, please refer to their care and maintenance support line.

We're in the BEDROOM on Day #14 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to organize closets, drawers & declutter.

We refer you to this really great article from Houzz entitled Get it Done: Clean Out Your Bedroom Closets. The author, Becky Harris, suggests it will take you at least 3 hours for this task.





We're in the BEDROOM on Day #15 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to deep-clean mattresses, wash pillows, linens & comforters.

Sealy recommends the following care recommendations for their mattresses: Keeping your Sealy bedding clean is simple with the use of a protective mattress pad. Vacuuming is the only recommended cleaning method. If you must clean a stain, use mild soap with cold water and apply lightly! Don’t ever soak a mattress or foundation, and don't use dry cleaning fluid of any type on your mattress—these chemicals could damage some of the comfort and upholstery materials.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. recommends that all other bedding be cleaned by a professional dry cleaner or according to the wash instructions provided.

We're in the BEDROOM on Day #16 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to vacuum or clean floors; clean under furniture.


With today’s advances in wood flooring stains and finishes, cleaning your wood floors has never been easier. Regular maintenance requires little more than sweeping with a soft bristle broom, and vacuuming with a soft floor attachment if your wood floor includes a beveled edge that could collect debris. You also should clean your floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional. There are other steps you can take to minimize maintenance and maintain the beauty of your wood floors as well. Please refer to our article entitled Natural Wood Flooring Care for more the recommendations.

We're in the BEDROOM on Day #17 of our Spring Clean Challenge & it's time to clean furniture, walls & fixtures.

Please refer to the literature provided by the lighting manufacturer before cleaning any light fixture. Hinkley Lighting states: Initial care for finishes requires only periodic cleaning with a soft cloth, dampened with water. A mild non-abrasive soap may be used along with a soft cloth and water if the fixture is very dirty. Particular care should be taken to avoid abrasive materials and strong cleaning agents as they will quickly destroy the protective coatings and subject the finish to rapid oxidation and discoloration.

On Monday we will be bringing you more challenges, or you may simply follow our Instagram or Pinterest for these helpful hints.


Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. ALWAYS recommends referring to the owner’s manual BEFORE performing any task.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Clean Challenge - Days 8 Thru 12


We are back to bring you more of our Spring Cleaning Challenge.
We are in the KITCHEN on day #8. Clean the stove top, kitchen surface areas and floor.

Instructions for cleaning a Wolf Gas Cooktop, Stainless Steel Riser or Backsplash. To remove burn marks or heat stains, apply Penny Brite® cleaning paste to a sponge and lightly rub with the grain until burn marks are gone. Wipe any remaining residue with a clean, damp cloth or sponge. Apply a polish to maintain luster and protect the surface from future stains. Refer to the Wolf Cleaning Guide for additional instructions.




We are in the BATHROOM on day #9 . Clean the medicine cabinets and storage.

Please refer to the article How to Dispose of Unused Medications provided by the FDA.












In the BATHROOM on day #10. Take expired Medications to the MedReturn Box.

To find a MedReturn location near you go to the MedReturn Location Finder 


Medications may be dropped off at any Elkhart County police station lobby 365 days a year. You may also drop off any sharps (needles, syringes, scalpels, etc.) during a HHW Drop-off Day but they must be in a puncture proof container.  Please DO NOT dispose of medications in any form in the trash or down the drain!




In the BATHROOM on day #11. Clean the showers, tubs, shower doors and walls.


To clean your Kohler Acrylic Bath/Whirlpool

  • Wipe out bath/whirlpool after each use with soft cloth or squeegee.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners.
  • Avoid using aerosol products on the bath surface.
Care Tip

To restore dull or scratched units: Apply white automotive polishing compound with a clean cloth. Rub scratches and dull areas vigorously. Wipe off residue. Follow with a coat of white automotive paste wax. Do not wax areas where you walk or stand. Damaged surfaces can be repaired. Check the Yellow Pages under "Fiberglass-Repair."

Products to Consider
  • Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
  • Fantastik Antibacterial Heavy Duty
  • Green Works All-Purpose
  • Green Works Bathroom Cleaner
  • Lysol Bathroom Cleaner
  • Mr. Clean Disinfecting Bath Cleaner with Febreze Freshness
  • Tilex Bathroom Cleaner
For Rust Removal
  • Super Iron Out Rust Stain Remover .

In the BATHROOM on day #12. Clean the toilet, bathroom surface areas, mirror and floor.
To clean a Kohler toilet.
  • Soft abrasive cleaners may be used when necessary to clean KOHLER vitreous china products. Strong abrasive cleaners will scratch and dull the surface.
  • Most toilet bowl cleaners are safe to use on vitreous china. Follow label directions and use toilet bowl cleaners on the inside of the bowl only.
  • Do not use in-tank cleaners as they can damage the flush valve or other working parts.
  • Wipe any splashes of cleaner solutions from plastic or plated surfaces immediately.

Success with cleaners and procedures is dependent upon such factors as the hardness and temperature of the water, using exact measurements of ingredients, changes in cleaning formulas and the condition of the product being cleaned. Since there are variations within these factors, Kohler cannot guarantee the effectiveness of the formulas mentioned.

Refer to the Care and Cleaning Guide on the Kohler website for additional tips for tough cleaning jobs.

KOHLER does not recommend using chlorine drop-ins in toilet tanks. Chloramines, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, will deteriorate plastic components and cause rust formation on metal components. The use of chloramines in a toilet tank voids the one year warranty on the product.

On Monday we will be bringing you more challenges, or you may simply follow our Instagram or Pinterest for these helpful hints.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. ALWAYS recommends referring to the owner’s manual BEFORE performing any task.