Is your property ready for summer?

by Joshua Carrick

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor. He grew up working as an arborist in his family’s tree and landscaping company. Joshua now specializes in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor. He grew up working as an arborist in his family’s tree and landscaping company. Joshua now specializes in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

If you properly maintained your home last fall, there is a lot to do to get your house out of winter mode and prepared for summer. Turning on the irrigation system and outdoor waters, bringing out your patio furniture and opening your pool for the season are all must-dos before Memorial Day.

However, there are many other preventative maintenance items that need to be done to not only prepare your home for use, but to also protect it against mechanical failure and lost use of your home.

Even though your summer/ weekend house in the Hamptons is used much less than a full time/primary residence, the dryer vents likely build up more lint than normal because of the heavy use washing and drying beach towels and other similar linens. Not only does this lint buildup restrict the exhaust of the dryer, making is harder to get rid of the moist air, thus lengthening dry times and wasting electricity, but it also can lead to lint fires inside your walls. It is strongly recommended to have your dryer vents cleaned each spring.

Similarly, each spring it is standard to have your HVAC system serviced and the air filters replaced. This is usually completed roughly when the weather gets warm enough to turn off the heat and switch on the air conditioning for the season. But often, the ductwork that carries the air throughout your house is ignored. This ductwork can get a buildup of dust from the winter when the house is left vacant and the HVAC turned down very low or left completely off. These cool, dark, damp ducts are usually made of metal, but when there is a buildup of dust, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for mold spores to grown. It is important to ask your HVAC technician to inspect the condition of the ductwork during the spring service. And if needed, the same company that cleans dryer vents can sanitize this ductwork too.

If your home has a generator, this also needs to be serviced each spring. Generators are large engines that require the same kinds of maintenance as your street vehicle. Twice per year, these motors need oil and filter changes, belt tightening, a fluid check/lubrication and a general service to ensure it is running smoothly and properly. And if during the year, you experience any prolonged power outages where the generator runs for multiple days straight, it will need an additional service, like if you took your car on a cross country road trip.

Barbecue grills are another often neglected item. They are heavily used and abused all summer, sitting out in the elements for several months then put away, trapped under a tarp or cover and sit completely unused all winter long. The salt in the air is trapped under those covers and it quickly begins to rust the metal and corrode the inside of the grill. This can especially effect the burner tubes which are raw, untreated metal. And no one wants to cook on a rusty grill grate either. If you don’t get a new inexpensive throw away grill every spring, it is a good idea to have your barbecue disassembled, serviced and sanitized each spring before you start to use it.

Maintenance costs for a part time home can seem unnecessarily expensive, however the long term cost of neglecting a home is exponentially more. When properly maintained, a house and all of its’ systems and components can last for decades. But when left without being properly cared for, they will end up needing to be replaced much sooner. And the replacement cost far exceeds the incremental cost to maintain the same item.

Planning Stage

by Joshua Carrick

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor. He grew up working as an arborist in his family’s tree and landscaping company. After serving six years in the USAF and attending the Business Management Program at Stony Brook University, Joshua founded his own general contracting and estate management firm. Joshua now specializes in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor. He grew up working as an arborist in his family’s tree and landscaping company. After serving six years in the USAF and attending the Business Management Program at Stony Brook University, Joshua founded his own general contracting and estate management firm. Joshua now specializes in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Every year, the early spring is a very busy time in the Hamptons.  After the holidays and cold winter weather, many owners are anxious to spend their end-of-year bonuses upgrading their beach houses before the upcoming summer season. And sometimes that enthusiasm can cause an owner to rush into a project without thinking it all the way through before starting.

Larger scale additions and renovations that require building permits can take several months just to get started, and therefore need to be planned out well in advance. But there are a lot of smaller upgrades that can be done to spruce up your home that do not require any permits and can be done quickly before the summer starts so they will not disrupt your use of the property.

Customizing your closet space with organizational systems is a great way to make the house more comfortable to live in. And adding custom built-in cabinetry, paneling details and trim work throughout your house can give an otherwise simple space a real “wow” factor.

Upgrading your audio-visual and home automation systems is something that should be done regularly to keep up with ever changing technologies. And you can always freshen up an aging home by refinishing wood floors, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls, or even adding wall paper. There are dozens of other things that can be done quickly too that will bring new life into your summer beach house.

The most important advice I can give anyone looking to do a project like this is to always have a definitive plan before starting.  Spending a little extra time and money to make a thorough and complete design allows you to set a specific goal for the project, outline the desired scope of work and set both a time line and a budget. Doing this will save you tenfold in the long run. If your job is a smaller remodeling project, an architect may not be needed. But it is still a good idea to have a design professional, like an interior decorator, put together a detailed plan to work from.  
    It is in your best interest to think the entire project through first and include everything you want done from the beginning.  With this information and a detailed design plan, your contractor can plan for all aspects of the project in the most logical and efficient way possible. I have been on jobs without these plans that started as a single smaller item and then once underway, snowballed into a much larger project.  All of the preliminary work that was completed at the beginning had to be re-done as part of the new scope, and all of the time and money spent on it was effectively wasted. These projects never finish on time or on budget.  
    Having contractors bid off a set design ensures you are comparing apples to apples when evaluating pricing estimates. It also helps to ensure the contractor knows everything that is needed so it can all be included in his proposal instead of coming back to add change orders once the job has already started.
    Doing these small projects can be a lot of fun. Just don’t let the excitement of the completed job make you rush the planning phase; it is the most crucial.

 

WINTER WATCH

January and February are the harshest weather months of the entire year. The wind, snow and bitter cold can wreak havoc on a vacant home.

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Power outages are very common this time of year. The majority last for a few minutes but sometimes they can go on for hours or even days. When power is eventually restored, it is usually accompanied by a spike in voltage or a surge of electricity that can pop breakers on the panel or even permanently damage some electrical components of your home. If your house is vacant, an essential system can remain off even after the power is restored to the house.

Many houses in the Hamptons have a well for their domestic water supply. Without electricity to power the pump, there is no fresh water for the house. Having a surge protector helps limit the damage done by these voltage spikes. And having a standby generator system that detects power losses and automatically transfers to emergency power is the best way to ensure your home is fully powered at all times.

Houses that are heated by electric baseboard or forced hot air cannot operate without electric either. And if the heat is off for any extended period of time, it is likely that the temperature inside the house can drop below freezing allowing the water in the pipes to freeze. When this water freezes, it expands and can rupture the copper pipes inside the walls. Once the house warms back up, that ice will melt and that broken pipe will flood your house. A vacant house with a burst pipe can have water running indefinitely until someone returns to the house to find it. You can install a flood detection device on your water main that connects to your alarm system. When the house is occupied and in use, everything works normally, but when armed in “away” mode, this device detects water passing through it, turns off the water main and notifies the security system. It won’t prevent a flood, but it limits the damage caused by turning off the water supply and notifying you of the issue right away.

During these colder months, the heating system must work extra hard. If it is especially cold out, your home may burn through propane or fuel oil faster than usual. If you run out completely, the heat may not re-start once the tank is filled. It can suck in sludge from the bottom of the tank which can clog the nozzle or it can become air bound from bubbles caught in the fuel lines preventing the actual fuel from flowing to the boiler or furnace. It is best to have your fuel oil and propane on automatic delivery to prevent running out. In the event that it does happen, it is important to have a technician go inside the house to manually re-fire the heating system to ensure it is all working properly.

Another concern is heavy snowfall. Snow drifts against the house can block the fresh air intakes for furnaces or boilers, starving the systems of air and causing them to shut down. Heavy snow on flat roofs and decks or balconies can overload the structures and they can collapse under the weight. Deep snow in the driveway can prevent propane/fuel oil deliveries from being made, your caretaker from accessing the property or even stop a fire truck in the event of a fire. The driveway should be plowed and snow should be cleared from all of these areas after any significant snowfall.

When snow on the roof starts to melt in the warm mid-day sun and then refreezes at night, it can form backward icicles that can work their way up and under the roofing shingles and behind the waterproofing membrane. The heat from inside the house then melts this ice and the resulting water leaks into the house. This is called ice damning, and is one of the most common causes for winter water damage in homes in our area. Ice damning is very hard to prevent and the best way to defend against it is to have your house checked regularly throughout the winter and early spring – especially after heavy snow storms – and any snow that accumulates on the roof should be manually cleared away.

Winter weather can also damage your unused vehicles. Cars left outside and not in a garage should be covered with a form fitting car cover. On-board computers drain the batteries quickly under normal circumstances; cold weather only expedites this, and a battery that is left completely drained and dead for too long can no longer hold a charge and must be replaced. This can be prevented by connecting a trickle charger or battery tender to all vehicles not used on a regular weekly basis. Your caretaker should start the cars at least once per month and let them warm up to circulate the fluids in the engine.

The worst thing that happens to summer homes in the winter is that they are left vacant for too long. Having a minimal service plan with a local caretaker ensures small problems do not become big ones. The cost of this service is only a fraction of the expense and aggravation of an insurance claim to repair damages in the spring. 

Closed for the Winter

Preparing your part-time home for the cold off season can be a daunting task, especially if you are trying to do it remotely from another city. There is a lot to do in addition to closing your swimming pool and winterizing your irrigation system. To properly prepare a vacant home for the harsh winter weather, many things must be addressed.

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

The first thing to do is have your mechanical system serviced. This includes a tune-up of your boiler/furnace, air handlers, ductless units, including changing all of the air filters, as well as servicing your domestic water heater. Steam humidification systems should also be turned on to maintain a minimum humidity level of 45 percent in the house to protect woodwork, electronics and fine art. Many homes have a special anti-freeze in their heating systems to prevent burst pipes in the event the heat goes out accidently. These levels should be tested and also balanced with an inhibitor to prevent internal corrosion of the heating system. This work is usually done in mid-fall when it cools down enough to turn the air conditioner off and the heat back on for the season.

After the heating system is serviced, you should also have the flu pipes for oil fired units swept and inspected to prevent puff backs. Chimneys for wood burning fireplaces and wood stoves should also be swept to prevent chimney fires. Any damaged or missing caps should be repaired or replaced to prevent down drafts as well. Gas fireplaces also need an annual service; if they are not regularly started, cobwebs can form that restrict gas flow or the electric igniters. A gas burner set that is not properly serviced and adjusted can produce thick black smoke that can stain the interior walls and ceiling around them and too much CO2 can be very dangerous to breathe.

By Halloween, all of the outdoor waters should be winterized. This includes draining fixtures, blowing the water out of pipes and adding anti-freeze to the drains of outdoor showers, non-frost free hose spigots, pool houses, detached garages and other non-heated spaces that have unprotected plumbing. Exposed plumbing that must remain on should be wrapped with a heat tape specifically designed to prevent them from freezing in such situations.

Once you are done using the property for the season, outdoor patio furniture should be brought inside or shrink wrapped for the winter. The harsh winter elements eat away at fabric, weather the wood and otherwise reduce the usable life span of such items. Retractable awnings and outdoor kitchens are usually covered with form fitting canvas covers. Outdoor TV sets and speakers should be disconnected and brought inside to a heated space. Free-floating docks and walkways should be removed and brought up on dry land to reduce wear and tear on them. And cars left on site for the winter should be connected to battery tenders or trickle charges to ensure the on-board computers do not drain the car batteries. If the vehicles are not in a garage, they should be covered with a car cover too.

And if you are not regularly using your home, you should strongly consider having a caretaker check on it weekly to find potential hazards and stop them before damage occurs to your home. If your property is properly maintained in the fall and over the winter, it is that much easier to open it up in the spring and prepare it for next summer.

 

Simply Smart: Home Automation Made Easy

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

In today’s instant gratification, technology-based world, everyone wants remote access and control over their homes, especially those vacation homes that are frequently left vacant. Because there have recently been great advances in wireless technology and the ability to create cell phone apps, we can now add many smart home features to an existing home without having to do anything invasive like running wires or installing large servers.

In the old days, each component of a smart home had a separate operating system (one for HVAC, another for lighting, etc) tied together with one master automation system that controlled each system from a central control point. With the systems available today, we can utilize these wireless technologies that run independent of one another to control any aspect of the home we desire, all from our smart phones.

The most common thing people want remote access to is their camera system so they can see who is at their home and what they are doing when they are not there. Luma Surveillance has a system that works with a cell phone app to allow users access to their in-home DVR system from anywhere they have an internet connection. This is compatible with both wired and wireless cameras and is easily expandable if you want to add more cameras down the road.

Similar to the camera system, many people like to also have full remote control over their alarm system. Instead of having to give out codes and passwords to everyone that needs access to their home, owners can simply log into their alarm, disarm the system and even unlock a door with a controlled access lock. Honeywell Total Connect uses technology that utilizes your existing alarm system and connects it to their server over the wifi network.

HVAC system controls are one of the most advertised home automation technologies around. Nest thermostats have made remote HVAC controls almost standard in recently renovated homes. Their thermostats can be connected to your system using the pre existing wires that your original thermostats used. Once installed, you can remotely control all aspects of your heating and air conditioning or program set schedules for the systems to run including automatically adjusting the temperature setting up and down at designated times.

Pool and spa systems have always been controlled with a mechanical clock timer that turns the system on and off at the same time every day but offers no other settings or controls. Similar to the HVAC controls, the Jandy iAqualink allows users to remotely turn on or off your pump/filtration systems, jets/blowers, lights, heaters, adjust temperature settings and any other features your system may have like a water fall. These pool computers can also be programmed for different schedules each day based on your planned use of the pool.

Sonos has the most user friendly audio/video system on the market today and has revolutionized the home audio market with their simple to install/simple to use, plug-and-play systems. Sonos can utilize existing speakers or can include wireless speakers into their system, which uses a cell phone app to pair zones together and stream music from virtually any source.

RadioRa is a lighting control system that uses a network of switches that does not require any special wiring. These switches can be installed in place of any existing light switch and can be controlled by a cell phone app. It can also be combined with other switches to be turned on and off by scene controls that can set any combination of lighting throughout the house to a specific configuration. Zones of lighting can also be programmed to go on and off at a set schedule to make the home appear to be in use even when it is vacant.

Somfy makes wireless, remote controlled, motorized shades for your windows. They get mounted just like an ordinary shade and use a long-life battery for power – no wiring needed – and come with a small remote control that can be kept in a drawer or mounted on the wall. Multiple units can be programmed together to use the same remote and can be paired in a scene selector like the lighting system to be operated in sync with each other using the cell phone app.

These are just some of the options for retrofitting home automation features into your existing home. These systems are installed separately and all work independent of one another. Combined, they can give you full control of all of your home’s systems right from your cell phone or tablet.

 

Taking care of your pool has rewards

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

One of the most frequently used features of a home in the Hamptons is the swimming pool. At first glance, a pool is simple enough – just a hole in the ground with water that you can swim in. In actuality, it is a pretty complex system. Without proper preventative maintenance, the various components of your pool and spa can break down, which, according to Murphy's Law, will be at the worst possible time – Saturday evening on a holiday weekend when you have a yard full of party guests.

Even if you don't plan on swimming until later in the season, it is still suggested to open your pool in late spring or early summer (no later than June 1). If you wait until later in the season to summarize your pool, you will more than likely have algae growth which can quickly stain the pool finish. So if you open your pool and it looks like a dark green swamp, simply filtering the water will not be enough. The pool should be completely drained and the gunite finish should be washed with a special acid to completely remove the algae growth and kill any remaining spores.

If you have your pool serviced weekly by a pool care professional, the basic equipment is already being maintained for you like the pump, filter and the heater. But what about the upgraded options your pool has that requires special attention?

If you have an automatic electric cover, each spring once the pool is opened, the tracks need to be cleaned and lubricated and the tension on the motor needs to be tightened to ensure smooth and proper operations all summer long. Without this maintenance, the cover can bind up in the track or fall out completely, rendering your pool useless until it is repaired.

Pools without covers experience a lot of evaporation, especially those that are heated to a higher temperature. And many of those pools do not have an automatic fill feature, which replaces the water automatically as it evaporates. If the water level drops too low, the filters can run dry and burn out very quickly. Some people manually fill their pool with a garden hose, but it is unsightly to see a bright green hose run across your patio and it can easily be forgotten about and left to run for days, overflowing your pool and causing flooding. An automatic filler can detect when the pool’s water level drops and turns on a hidden underground water supply to add water until it detects it has risen to the proper level. This kind of system can easily be retrofitted to any pool.

Pools also use a ton of electricity to circulate and filter the water and gas for heating. The old mechanical timers help a little, but they can only turn the pool on and off automatically on a set daily schedule. With today’s technology, a pool computer not only allows you to make a more customized schedule that varies day by day, but also gives you remote access so you can log in and control your pool from your cell phone anywhere with an internet connection to turn items such as the heater or light on or off. Instead of letting your heater come on automatically every Friday afternoon, you can log in and turn it on at the right time before your arrival, saving run time for the pump and gas consumption by the heater.

With the right preventative maintenance, your pool can be one of the most enjoyable parts of your home. And with the right features, it does not have to break the bank either.

 

SPRING FORWARD

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Joshua Carrick is a second generation contractor now specializing in custom luxury construction as well as property management and maintenance throughout the south fork.  He can be reached at 631-283-2240 or joshua@patriotcontractingcorp.com

Spring is an active time in the Hamptons. As the days warm up and the snow melts away, many people are anxious to turn on their outdoor showers and open their swimming pools. While all of these seasonal preparations are exciting, there are also many important preventative maintenance items that are often overlooked or ignored. Like a car that sits in the garage for too long without being driven, a house needs special care after a long winter sitting vacant in our harsh local environment. 

Without performing regular maintenance on the various components of your home, you will unnecessarily spend your time and money repairing or replacing things long before the end of their planned life cycle. Over the years as a professional estate manager, I have found that clients are more than willing to do the overt things like replacing the air filters, mulching the landscape beds or changing the smoke detector batteries. But one of the most overlooked items is the exterior maintenance of the house. 

Moisture is woods’ kryptonite. Elevated moisture levels in wood accelerate rot and decay, as well as promote various types of spore growth such as algae, mold or mildew. 

Some wood products, such as cedar shingles and ipe decking (a tropical hardwood material pronounced E-pay), are designed to be left unfinished. These woods are naturally resistant to water absorption, which is why they are used for these applications. However, if these unfinished wood products are in constantly damp areas, spore growth can quickly take over. These colonies of spore growth should be treated with a special cleaner that kills the spore (not bleach as many people believe) and washed away at the first sign of green or black discoloration. High pressure “power washing” can make the spores airborne where they can spread and can also damage the grain on the wood surface. Heated, low pressure water should be used instead. Additionally, low hanging branches and climbing vines that create excessive shade and block sunlight and air flow should be trimmed back away from your house. Keeping the wood surface dry is the first line of defense against all types of spore growth.

Other types of wood used on the outside of your home such as the less expensive, softer wood used for the soffit, fascia and trim, must to be protected from the elements. Most wood products used in local construction are kiln dried to a moisture content lower than what can be achieved by air drying. This means that once this wood is installed on the house, if it absorbs any moisture, it cannot be dried back to the kiln levels. Painting this trim helps seal the wood and protect it from this moisture. However, the salt in the air eats away this paint over time. Thin areas and chips in the paint should be touched up each spring so that no raw wood is exposed. And all unfinished decks should be cleaned and sealed annually with a product specifically designed for the higher traffic deck application. 

The small incremental cost of maintaining your home’s exterior will keep your house rot free. Properly maintained wood can last many decades without replacement.