Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Before & After: Rockin' the Rockaways - Part 1

It’s been awhile, but we’ve been busy! Most of our time has been spent out in East Rockaway, working on innumerable home improvements and repairs on the house you see right up there. The job is a total overhaul, from the dingy basement up to the vacant attic. We’re still a few weeks away from the whole place being entirely presentable – the basement needs more work and two rooms still need to have the wallpaper removed and a new coat of paint. Here are some of the before pictures, just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with. I’ll post more later this week.   

The basement, first of all, needed a thorough clean-up. Debris and dirt were taken out, and we redid all the wiring and a great deal of the heating system. We also did some work on the ceiling and the support beams, making it easier to handle the replaced flooring we're handling above. We're also replacing that refrigerator, which I imagine was the first fridge ever made and purchased in America. Don't take my word on that.

The two bedrooms have needed substantial work. We cleaned them out and then gutted them both. We laid down new hardwood floors, put in new energy efficient windows and new door to boot, and repainted the entire room, which was preceded by extensive patch-up work. We're also checking and correcting the pitch of that radiator. New wiring is being put in as well, with new outlets and switches.  We swung by the site today and I can say, with no false modesty, our guys did a great job; the place looks completely new. Bathroom and first level pictures later this week.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Take Five: An Interview with NYC Electrician Richard Altman

We took some time to talk to Richard Altman, owner and operator of NYC institution Altman Electric and Click and Improve service provider, about his business, what goes into being an electrician these days, where the home improvement industry is heading and what advice he would give to a new generation of electricians.

How did you get started as an electrician in NYC?

I worked all around NYC as a young man. I learned the trade largely as an apprentice, which is really the best way to learn any trade. My father was in the business as well and I learned a lot from him, but it was also informative and important to work under people I wasn’t directly related to. I learned as much as possible and then, in 1964, my dad and I started Altman Electric. We’ve been servicing NYC ever since.

What’s it like running an electrician business?

Any good business should be run as a family business, even if no one in the company is actually related. I consider my employees family: their well being and security is very important to me and I work best knowing that I’m providing them with work and good pay. That being said, I’m quite careful about whom I work with and take trust very seriously in my company. We try to stay busy all year but we tend to be busiest during the warmer months. We even get to do some outside wiring in the outer boroughs.

What made you want to sign up with Click and Improve?

I believe in the business, which is always the key to working with anything that is new and not necessarily inside your comfort zone.  There aren’t many things you can’t order over the internet these days, but home improvement solutions, without the hassle of bidding and interviewing, is definitely one of them. It has to happen, eventually. It’s really just a matter of time at this point. I wanted to be at the front of the line when people caught on, to get more work for my employees,  and Click and Improve was the first company to come up with this idea. It’s a very exciting concept.

What kind of jobs do you handle most often as an electrician?

We recently started learning and working with solar technologies and we’ve surprisingly received a good amount of calls about converting percentages of household energy to solar. Otherwise, we continue to work largely in wiring and energy efficiency, fixing cables and circuits, repairing and upgrading fuse boxes or panels, installing outlets and dimmers. These are very normal jobs that pop up all the time. There are also other common problems that homeowners don’t necessarily know about, such as when a line is over fused. Whatever the job, if it’s related to electricity, we can handle it.

What would you say to any future electricians?

Watch and learn, and try to study as much as possible. The best things any electrician can do are be honest about their business and tell the truth to their customer, always. I’d also say it’s smart to look into green energy and energy efficiency, since that’s the way everything seems to be going. And, of course, I’d suggest looking into working with Click and Improve and creating an online avenue of business as soon as possible.  

DIY Decor: Make Your Own Cleaners & Air Fresheners

Get your beaten jeans, toss-away sweatpants and damaged-yet-comfy t-shirts ready! Spring cleaning is right around the corner, and that means you’ll have at least one weekend in the near future devoted to scrubbing, sweeping, picking up, dusting off and tossing out. Between trash bags and scrubbing brushes, new appliances and garden supplies, you’re spending enough, so why not concoct some easy DIY air fresheners and cleaning supplies instead of loading up your shopping cart and depleting your bank account? Here are a few tips:

·      An easy way to keep your kitchen smelling great is to take a few oranges, lemon, or any major citrus fruit, cut them in half, and boil them in a pot with water filled up about halfway on a stovetop. If you want a more homey smell, add mull spices to make your kitchen smell like hot cider.

·      In your more troublesome smell areas, place small bowls and fill them with freshly ground coffee. Ground coffee is a potent, deep and pleasant odor and it also acts as an excellent absorber of all your most funky and foul stinks. If you live with a smoker or just have one lying around, an ashtray is the perfect place to put the grounds.

·      Take your favorite essential oil and place a few drops in a spray bottle with water. It works just as well as name-brand air fresheners and works without the hassle of recycling each can. You can use it anywhere, of course, but try spraying a little bit on a light bulb before you turn it on: the heat works as a sort of catalyst, so whenever you turn it on, you get an invigorating fresh scent.

·      Not all that keen on spending more money on clog remover? Pour a cup of baking soda, a cup of white vinegar, a cup of salt (generic or sea) and then pour about two-to-three cups of boiling water down, as a reactant. The resulting mixture will likely dissolve any small-to-medium-size clog you’re having trouble with.

·      For window cleaning, mix about a quarter-to-half-cup of vinegar, a tablespoon or two of cornstarch and a quart of hot water. This mixture is a surefire way to get all those annoying streaks off of your windows or your patio doors in a jiffy.

·      Mix a quarter-cup of baking soda and a quart of hot water for a perfect all-purpose cleaner for your floors, countertops, walls and tables. If you want to add some fresh scents, squeeze half a lemon into the mixture or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. This way your house will smell and look fresh, and you can use the money saved on some colorful pieces for your unique d├ęcor.