The Best Local Hardware Stores In Upstate New York

With big box retailers in every corner of the country, local hardware stores, once an indispensable part of a community, have become harder to find.  This is especially true if you live in a larger city or in the suburbs where you will often have multiple big box retailers that are within driving distance.  The problem with the big box retailers is that they are not truly a “local” company like the corner hardware store or have the high-quality customer services that local hardware stores are typically known for.  Local hardware stores are also much more convenient to many who may not live close to big box stores and may also have many products or services that some big box stores may not provide.  These extra services can be as simple as helping you assemble the charcoal grill you just bought or renting a snow blower before a big snowstorm.  It’s always great to support local companies, so the next time you need to fix your home and need to find local hardware stores and you find yourself in the upstate New York area, start with these:

Buffalo, New York

Gersitz Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 901 Kensington Ave, Buffalo, New York 14215

Phone: (716) 832-6006


Hectors Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 1955 Clinton Street, Buffalo, New York 14206

Phone: (716) 823-1700


Valu Home Centers

local hardware stores

Address: 1841 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14207

Phone: (716) 873-2397


Rochester, New York

Blacks Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 610 East Ridge Road, Rochester, New York 14621

Phone: (585) 544-9896



Weiders Paint and Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 1800 Monroe Ave, Rochester, New York 14618

Phone: (585) 270-6035


Mayer Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 226 North Winton Road, Rochester, New York 14610

Phone: (585) 288-7666


Syracuse, New York

City True Value Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 214 South Geddes Street, Syracuse, New York 13204

Phone: (315) 479-9020


Bob’s True Value

local hardware stores

Address: 4805 South Salina Street, Syracuse, New York 13205

Phone: (315) 469-4065


Albany, New York

Phillips Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 235 Delaware Ave, Delmar, New York 12054

Phone: (518) 439-9943


Robinson’s Ace Hardware

local hardware stores

Address: 1874 Western Ave, Albany, New York 12203

Phone: (518) 456-7383


Young’s Ace

local hardware stores

Address: 14 Boulevard Avenue, Catskill, New York 12414

Phone: (518) 943-3505



The Best Kitchen Cabinet Brands

When selecting what type of kitchen cabinet to use, you are making a long term and often expensive decision.  The quality of those cabinets will not only an expression of your style and taste, they are also an investment in your home.  We sifted through the information of hundreds of kitchen cabinet brands to find the best quality and highest rated ones.  The top seven kitchen cabinet brands are:

#1 Smallbone

kitchen cabinet

Smallbone is a very high-end kitchen cabinet designer and creator. I say creator instead of manufacturer because these cabinets are meticulously hand crafted.  That quality comes at a price: the average cost of a Smallbone kitchen in in excess of $50,000 USD.  If money is no issue and you want view some of their selections in person, they have showrooms in Great Britain, Russia, and the United States.

#2 StyleCraft Cabinetry

kitchen cabinet

Based out of Terre Hill, Pennsylvania, StyleCraft Cabinetry manufacture custom cabinetry with some of the best craftsman in New England.  They primarily sell their kitchen cabinets on the East Coast of the United States.  They also do custom work for bathrooms, bedrooms, and dens.

#3 Aran Cucine

kitchen cabinet

Produced in Abruzzo, Italy, Aran Cucine offer kitchen cabinet styles that range from traditional to more modern.  They not only design kitchens, they also have some fabulous living rooms, tables, and chairs.  They have some pretty amazing products, but it looks like you will have to go pick up what you buy in Italy (good excuse for a vacation)!

#4 Snaidero USA

kitchen cabinet

Another Italian company, but this one is based out of Los Angeles with showrooms all across North America.  There work can be found in some of the most iconic buildings in the United States, including Trump Tower in Chicago and the MGM in Las Vegas.

#5 Artistic Cabinetry

kitchen cabinet

Based in Smithtown, New York, Artistic Cabinetry has some of the highest quality indoor and outdoor kitchen accessories.  While doing research for this list, this company was one of the few that prominently displayed examples of their outdoor kitchen cabinets that they produce, which look really nice!

#6 Wood Mode

kitchen cabinet

With showrooms all across the United States, Wood Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry will have the styling, color, and quality for practically any taste.  They have products for pretty much every room in your house, including entertainment areas and home offices.  Their well-built site also makes it very easy to browse different pictures of their products.

#7 Marsh Furniture Company

kitchen cabinet

Another great company that sells their products all over the United States.  Marsh Furniture Company is a family company based out of North Carolina that has been in business ever since 1906 so they must be doing something right!  They utilize some of the most cutting-edge machinery in the construction of their cabinets, but still hold true to many of the traditional methods of cabinetry construction.  Their cabinets have also met all the standards of quality construction set forth by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

Top 10 Home DIY Podcasts

By Peter Schick

#1 Young House Love Has A Podcast

top 10 home DIY podcasts

John and Sherry of Young House Love have put together an amazing podcast.  The husband-wife duo out of Richmond, Virginia talk extensively about the projects that they have actually done, which are in excess of 3000, around the houses that they have owned.  The shear volume of projects they have done is pretty incredible!

#2 Ace On The House

top 10 home diy podcasts

This podcast will make you laugh, really hard!  Hosts They talk about pretty much everything under the sun and home improvement.  Very entertaining, one of my favorites!

#3 Fix It Home Improvement

Jacy and Cindy have a great set up!  They have shorter episodes (around 20 to 30 minutes in length), perfect for morning or evening commutes.  Each episode they discuss in detail how to fix common household repairs and projects ranging from skylights to high-efficiency toilets.  They consistently publish a new podcast every week so you will always be getting fresh info!

#4 Today’s Homeowner

top 10 home diy podcasts

Danny has a fabulous website with not only his podcast episodes, but also videos with home DIY tips, as well as a multitude of other resources to help homeowners with projects of any size.  All the content that Danny has put out has been exceptionally high quality and enjoyable to watch and listen to.  His show has been going on for over 20 years so he must be doing something right!

#5 The Money Pit

When I first heard the name of this podcast it made me think of the movie the Money Pit!  Unlike the movie, they discuss how to avoid getting into the situations that they found themselves in the movie!  Follows a similar format to many radio shows: take calls from homeowners with questions and answer them in detail.

#6 The Handyguys Podcast

Brian and Paul drop tons of knowledge in the Handyguys Podcast.  Their episodes are concise, to the point, and not saturated with commercials.  The banter between them is also pretty entertaining too!

#7 At Home With Gary Sullivan

top 10 DIY podcasts

Gary Sullivan does a fantastic job of bringing in expert guests for discussions on a wide range of topics from sump pumps, air quality, to countertop installation.  Each subject is discussed in detail and in terms that even a layman would understand, which is something most homeowners would appreciate!  He takes calls from his radio audience as well, which are also aired on his own home DIY podcast.

#8 Home Repair Tutor

top 10 home diy podcasts

Jeff Patterson out of Pittsburg puts out a solid solo hosted podcast.  He is very good at articulating and describing some of the more complex DIY problems he runs into at his rental homes.

#9 Fix It 101

top 10 home diy podcasts

Straight from Mississippi Public Broadcasting is Fix It 101 (not to be mistaken with Fix It Home Improvement).  Follows the same general theme as the podcast with a similar name, but typically longer episodes and more co-hosts.  Great detailed information with longer episodes, usually around 45 minutes.

#10 The Home Repair Clinic

top 10 home diy podcasts

Of course we have to mention this home DIY podcast as well!  The House At Work Home Repair Clinic starts Jim Salmon, a home inspector who hosts the Home Repair Clinic on WHAM 1180 in Rochester, NY, and Peter Schick, a local real estate salesman.







Questions and tips you need to consider for boiler installation

It is not an easy process to replace an old boiler with a new one. Of course, it is the task of a qualified plumber; but you still should be aware of the questions that you need to ask them. Here is a list of tips that you need to follow for boiler installation East Aurora NY:
boiler installation

Should the old boiler be replaced or not?

You don’t need to replace the old boiler just because one person has told you to replace it. You should definitely get a second opinion.

Choose a qualified heating engineer

Choose a heating engineer who is highly-professional and ask him to provide you with registration details so that you can conveniently check with the relevant organization. You definitely want someone who is updated with the latest safety requirements.

Ask for the efficiency rating of new boiler

It is important that your supplier provides you with a percentage efficiency rating. You can also check it on the boiler efficiency database. Acknowledge what type of boiler is the best for your circumstances. It solely depends on the number of people living in your house. So, consider the overall efficiency of the system when choosing the type of boiler.

Whether a power flush is required

Check whether or not a power flush is required for your central heating system prior to installing it. Look for guarantee clauses that will make sure it is covered while installing the boiler.

Issues with condensing boiler

If you are dealing with the condensing boiler, ask the heating engineer whether it is necessary to install the condensate pipe inside your house so that it won’t freeze in the winter. After all, these frozen condensate pipes are a great reason why boilers break down in the winter.

Check for the discounts available before paying

Check for various discounts that may be available to help you pay for your new boiler.

If you are looking for a professional contractor for Boiler Installation Pittsford NY, visit House at Work. Just add the details about the project and they will help you find contractor. You can then choose one that suits you best. For more details, please visit the website

Waterproof your basement before the situation gets out of hand

If you notice standing water in your basement, it obviously needs to be waterproofed. However, there are other tell-tale signs that you need to rectify water issues as they can get worse over time. If you find dampness, odor, condensation, staining or mold, it’s high time to address the problems in the early stages. Here are some tips that will help you deal with basement waterproofing without much hassle:

Start with the roof

It’s better to start with the roof. Gutters and rain spouts are the main culprits in leakage. When the gutters get clogged, water will seep in and pool around the basement perimeter. That’s why you need to have a proper mechanism to carry water at least five feet away from the house.

Look at the soil

Check the soil around the perimeter of your house. Make sure that plants are at least a foot away from the foundation. After all, tree roots are responsible for basement water issues especially when they penetrate the foundation of the home and cause cracks.

Fix cracks as soon as possible

If you find any cracks in your basement, fix them as soon as possible. They can also be a major reason behind water intrusion.

Pay heed to standing water

If you find there is standing water in your basement after a heavy rainfall, you need to pay heed to it. You need to address the areas where the water issues occur and then take the required steps to take care of the standing water.

Repair damaged plumbing pipes

Check and repair damaged plumbing pipes that run through the walls around the basement. You should also check the floor joints for any leakage. These can be some of the other reasons that lead to unwanted water in your basement.

If you are looking for highly-skilled and professional contractors for basement waterproofing contractors Victor NY, visit House at Work. Just add the description about the project and soon accredited contractors will submit their proposals. You can then choose one that suits you best. For more details, please visit the website

Consider these factors when installing a new door

Every homeowner knows that the front door is one of the most important parts of the home. After all, it is the main point of entry and exit. This is why it needs to be strong enough to keep intruders out. In addition to the strength of the door, there are other factors you should consider when installing a door:

Look for a strong lock
A door is simply incomplete without a good strong lock. Look for a lock that is strong enough to make you and your family feel safe. Apart from lock strength, also look for a good quality lock. It should be of very high-quality with great durability and reliability. If you are planning to install a stylish door, look for a lock that adds beauty. Remember to perfectly match the lock with the door prior to purchasing it.

Prefer the best latch alignment 
Look for a latch that will grip the door perfectly. It is there so that when you open and close the door it will be a smooth transition. That’s why it’s important to buy a high-quality latch because you don’t want to end up changing the latches frequently.

Take care of door maintenance 
Some doors, especially wooden ones, need special maintenance. So, it’s better to choose a door that requires minimal maintenance. Consider choosing a metal door over others.

Ensure the aesthetic look of your home
Make sure the door enhances the beauty of your house. If the door color and size perfectly match the exterior and interior of your house, it will work best. Otherwise, it might create an awkward look.

If you are looking for highly skilled and pre-screened contractors for door installation or repair services in New York, House at Work is the best place to visit. Just add the details of your project and soon you will be flooded with a variety of contractors. For more details, please visit the website

These easy decorating ideas can give your home a makeover

Moving into a new home is a very exciting time. You just need to put in some effort to turn the empty shell of your house into an amazing home. Here are some tips for giving your new home a unique makeover:

Start with your bedroom

If you are on a tight budget, just purchase new bedding that you can afford. If you are able to spend more, paint the bedroom walls to complement your new bedding. You may also want to install better windows. If you can be extravagant, you can make your bedroom look awesome. Choose everything carefully because these items will  reflect your personality.

Give your furniture some breathing room 

For a spacious room, avoid overcrowding it. This is the best option, especially when you are running out of cash. You really don’t need to worry about filling your room with furniture. You can also look for better quality furniture to make your room look better.

Choose the right height for artwork

Choose the appropriate height to hang artwork. If you are unable to determine this, take a picture. Use photo shop to draw on the picture. By doing this, you can get a better idea about the height of the artwork and whether you need a smaller or larger piece of art.

Add more layers of lighting 

You can make your kitchen look better by adding more lighting. Layers of lighting are generally added to create more interest and variety.These tips will help you transform your house into your dream home. If you need some help, you will find highly skilled, professional contractors. If you need a pro for a variety of home improvement services, visit House at Work. Just post the details about your project and soon you will be flooded with accredited contractors. Then, just choose one that suits you best. For more details, visit the website


Ep 12: Home Heating Considerations

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

In this episode, Jim and Peter discuss different furnaces and heating mechanisms available for homes as well as considerations for each.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim Salmon:                      Hi everybody and welcome to the Home Repair Clinic podcast. My name is Jim Salmon and you are at the home improvement capital of the world with yours truly and Peter Schick.

Peter Schick :                    Peter Schick.

Jim Salmon:                      How are you?

Peter Schick :                    Good, good.

Jim Salmon:                      These podcasts are becoming a lot of fun.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I like them.

Jim Salmon:                      I mean, I’m really looking forward to this.

Peter Schick :                    I like them. Yeah, you know, just kind of chew the cut on things, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You know, well, I hate to say it but again, winter’s right around the corner …

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it is.

Jim Salmon:                      … And everybody in our part of the world, the northeast, needs some kind of heat in their house.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you do.

Jim Salmon:                      Now there’s all kinds. There’s oil, propane, natural gas, corn, pellet, wood, outdoor boilers, electric.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      We thought we’d go down the list and talk about some of the good points and some of the horrible points about all of those things.

Peter Schick :                    Yes we can. Let’s do it.

Jim Salmon:                      The most efficient way to heat your house is electricity. It’s 100% efficient. A watt is a watt. It goes in at a watt and it comes out at a watt.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, we talked about that with water heaters earlier.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    We were discussing, “Okay, you have your gas water heaters, then you have your electric water heaters,” and I remember hearing this rumor or whatever, urban myth of, “The electric is not as efficient,” but it actually is.

Jim Salmon:                      It is.

Peter Schick :                    [crosstalk 00:01:29].

Jim Salmon:                      The problem is the price per kilowatt hour. The price for the power itself and then the distribution cost. How do you get it because that’s so convoluted in the world, in the country that, “Who owns that line? Who owns this pole? And whatever,” and you’re paying this one and that one and it’s just a mess.

Peter Schick :                    Electric heat from what I understand is also very expensive.

Jim Salmon:                      Gargantuanly expensive.

Peter Schick :                    Yes, so it may be more efficient but it takes a lot of it to actually heat a home.

Jim Salmon:                      Now this podcast listened to all over the world actually and in parts of the world and in parts of our country, electricity is a fraction of the cost of what it is here. It may not apply to you. I mean if you’re paying one or two cents a kilowatt hour, that’s a win all day long.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s very true. That’s very true and so that’s definitely, that’s a local consideration.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    Like we had discussed before, where like Fairport has their own electric, which Fairport is a suburb, well, it’s an outlying village around Rochester, New York. They have different electrical service there, which I understand is cheaper for the most part.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, they go on, they buy their own power so they broker it and they fix their own lines and whatever so as a of right now, it’s a deal.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so that may not necessarily, in some areas it’s going to be cheaper but in other areas, it’s going to be more expensive. It’s just one of those things you need to know based off of your locality.

Jim Salmon:                      The bottom line with heating with electricity, depending on where you live, it can be pretty expensive to heat your house with that so generally around here, we try to upgrade away from electricity. The only drawback to it is well, when the power goes out, you have no heat.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s true for most heating systems except for a wood-burning fireplace or whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yes, and it’s interesting because we keep going back to the wind storm we had back in March when power was out, winter storm was coming and I mean, I was one of the lucky ones. You were really lucky because you had a generator, so you’re sitting there all warm like, “Oh yeah, that really sucks for all you guys.”

Jim Salmon:                      Sorry Peter.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, but unlike you, I didn’t have a generator and our power was out and that big storm was coming but we still had hot water but we had propane. We had like kind of like a propane heater for emergencies. I ended up getting one of those kerosene ones.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, we had those. Those are great.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, and never had to use it because the power turned on right at the, right before the storm hit so thank you RG&E for making that happen.

Jim Salmon:                      Back in the old days when the kids were little, we would fire up our kerosene and turn the lights out and sit around it and hang out with the kids or whatever, just because we couldn’t afford anything else so it was all good.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Electricity, expensive but easy, very inexpensive to buy. Baseboard electric heating is, you know, once in a while people have a little room that doesn’t get enough and they stick an extra one in there.

Peter Schick :                    In terms of maintenance for that baseboard, there isn’t that much maintenance that goes with that.

Jim Salmon:                      No, the only thing is maybe a Shopvac-ing out of lint and dirt, especially if you have pets and stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you would need to clean it, obviously there’s some sort of maintenance.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s very zero maintenance. Even an electric four-stair furnace, which has a couple elements and it heats your house that way is very low maintenance.

Peter Schick :                    Okay, because I always thought if I had a place where if I was going to need it heated, and I was like we had talked about it in a previous episode, “Hey, you’re not going to live there all the time or you’re going to somewhere else for winter.” If I was going to have a place that was going to be heated by something, I was thinking electric baseboard because it’s just, there aren’t so many move in parts like there are with a boiler or with a furnace or with anything else. It’s just turn it on, leave it at this setting and walk out the door as long as you have consistent power to it, you should be good to go.

Jim Salmon:                      Except for paying for it, it’s a win.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      Moving on to oil. When I was young lad back in the 50s and 60s, pretty much everybody had oil around here.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      I mean there was that, there was central gas.

Peter Schick :                    You still see a lot of houses with the oil tanks still in the basement.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, absolutely. Number two fuel oil is the same as what runs a semi across the road, a tractor trailer or if you have a Dura Mack diesel pick up truck.

Peter Schick :                    Like diesel?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, it’s the same fuel.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      Same exact stuff. What they do is they color it. I think-

Peter Schick :                    Is it red?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I think there’s a red dye.

Jim Salmon:                      Because there’s-

Peter Schick :                    I think they do that with kerosene too. I think they have a different colored kerosene as well.

Jim Salmon:                      Exactly.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Now there’s a road tax that’s put on diesel fuel when you’re putting it in the truck and whatever and driving on the road and then there’s number two fuel oil, which is heating oil, which is the same stuff but without the road tax.

Peter Schick :                    It’s used for, yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      Actually, I have a friend who I don’t respect a lot but he pumps fuel oil out of his fuel tank into his Dura Mack diesel. Of course, that’s against the law and don’t please, if you’re listening to this in New Orleans and you’re FBI, don’t call me. I’m not going to tell you who it is.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Number two fuel oil, mostly fuel oil tanks are in the basement.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Once in a while, I’ll get to maybe a mobile home or a house that’s a hybrid and they added onto it or whatever, where the tank is outside. If your fuel tank is outside, you need a winter and a summer mix. In other words, they’ll cut your fuel oil with a certain percentage of kerosene when it’s stored outside.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so it doesn’t freeze at a higher temperature.

Jim Salmon:                      It would gel, and it just wouldn’t work under a certain temperature. Kerosene cuts it and makes it thinner and now you lose a little bit of efficiency on that if you have an oil-fired furnace but back in the day, the oil bills were $5 a month or whatever. You get a delivery, you get a whole tank for $40. When it was up to $4 a gallon or $5 a gallon, it was not unusual for it to be $900, $1,200 to fill an oil tank.

Peter Schick :                    Do they even make oil furnaces anymore?

Jim Salmon:                      Oh yeah.

Peter Schick :                    All the oil furnaces I’ve ever seen have been in much older homes.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, those are the old Sunbeams, the big old green whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they’re these big monstrosities and they’re like, “Well, it’s still kicking, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it,” kind of deal, and it’s still kicking.

Jim Salmon:                      Oil-fired furnaces are still made, they’re pricey. They really are because the technology is so much better with them now.

Peter Schick :                    What would be the advantage to having that? I could understand maybe if I’m living out in the sticks or something, I don’t have a gas line or whatever, I just go get oil, I out it there, whatever. I could understand that.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s right.

Peter Schick :                    That’s the main-

Jim Salmon:                      That’s it.

Peter Schick :                    Okay.

Jim Salmon:                      I mean, you have two choices then if you’re not on natural gas.

Peter Schick :                    Because I’ve seen it in farms. That’s where I’ve seen it the most. There is a client I had who owned a farm and they’re buying a new home, I was representing them on the buy but I kind of walked through their home with them because they were selling their, they were looking to sell it. They had the big monstrosity oil furnace and God, I think it was over 30 years old. This thing was really old.

Jim Salmon:                      What happens with that is, a furnace like that is going to be a gallon, gallon and a half an hour nozzle on the end and most people don’t understand how oil furnaces work but there’s a pump and it takes the oil and it pumps it through a little tube, which goes into a nozzle and out of that nozzle comes spray oil like hairspray, out of a can of hairspray.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, and there’s something that ignites it then, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, there’s two electrodes there and then it sparks, there’s a CAD cell with 12,000 volts and it lights off the end of it and it’s like a giant blow torch. Then each one is tailored to the furnace because there’s difference in patterns and widths of the pattern of oil flow, so it’s somewhat complicated. It’s very dependent on cleaning and maintenance. Oil is more cleaning and maintenance dependent than any other type of heating.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, I could believe it. Especially because when you see with a regular four-stair or you see it with a boiler, those have to get ignited and well, it’s operating on gas obviously, to have an ignition system similar to that but there’s still maintenance with that. I could imagine with an oil one, it’s exponentially more maintenance with it.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s a, on every oil furnace right on top of the CAD cell near the burner, you take the door off, there’s a red button.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, that’s the starter.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s the reset button.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      When your oil furnace hasn’t been maintained well and the end of the nozzle is all clogged up so it’s kind of like peeing off to left instead of going straight out, doesn’t ignite right or whatever, once in a while they have a gulp and it doesn’t ignite when you call for heat.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      It’ll go off on reset and as a home inspector, I’ll come into a house sometimes and where the homeowner is selling the house and there’s only a little bit of oil left in the tank, the filters haven’t been changed or whatever, it’s all dirty in there so this thing’s misbehaving. They keep hitting that reset button over and over and over again and what happens every time you hit the reset button is it pumps oil into the burner chamber, so then somebody like me comes around and figures out how to actually get it ignited and all of a sudden kaboom, the whole thing is just a massive amount of smoke coming out of it. It’s a mess.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, because that makes me think like with a boiler system, you have your pilot light and one of the things I’ve always seen with the boilers is the pilot light just stops working. Now you have to replace that pilot light and actually, a lot of the times it doesn’t even need to really be replaced, I mean it just has the soot on it. You just clean it off.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, it’s a mess, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s the simplest thing. It’s usually the simplest thing, but with the oil piece, you have that all over the place so when it does ignite …

Jim Salmon:                      Boom.

Peter Schick :                    … Boom. There you go. It’s not like the gas that just dissipates, you know?

Jim Salmon:                      You need to go a nozzle every year, a new nozzle. It has to be the right nozzle too, they’re all different. Width of the pattern and the size of the nozzle. You need to adjust the electrodes and make sure, there’s a little plastic tool you put over the end of your nozzle and it tells you-

Peter Schick :                    I’m glad you could talk intelligently about these oil furnaces because I know nothing, next to nothing about them.

Jim Salmon:                      I had oil in the house, a 150 year old farm house that I bought in 1988 and I used it for the first couple of years. Took it apart, did my own nozzles and electrode because I’m fairly handy and then on like the fourth year, I don’t know, it was probably the first of September, I went up to it and the burner fell right off. The bolts rusted right off of it. It fell right off in my hand.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow.

Jim Salmon:                      I thought, “Well, we’re done with this one.” Then I went to propane but oil equipment, there’s two aspects of it that can kill you too, and that’s not changing the filter. There’s a filter module right at the oil tank and it looks just like a car filter and if you don’t change that periodically, it’s like anything else, all of a sudden, now the first goes down the line, clogs up the nozzle more. One of the things that happens to the oil equipment, the oil tank legs rust because every basement is wet.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah, the moisture down there, yep. I usually see them on stands.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    I usually see like puts it on top of bricks. That’s how I usually see it. I don’t even see those oil tanks in the basement of houses, even if it’s not run on oil, somebody was just like, “Well, when they built it, it was just stuck there.” They didn’t want to have to like cut it half and bring it out, so they said, “Ah, screw it. We’re just going to leave it down there.”

Jim Salmon:                      On my website at by the way, I might as well get that in, is a picture somewhere in there of an oil tank just hanging by the filler valves. Can you imagine that a lot of times, people will take oil equipment out and replace it either with natural gas if it gets run down your street or propane, but they’ll leave the old oil tank and the filler valves there so the Agway guy is driving around and he thinks he’s at number 29 Smith Street and he’s really at number 30 Smith Street and he starts pumping oil into your thing and next thing you know, it’s all over your basement floor.

If you have old oil equipment that has been decommissioned, get rid of the tank and the filler valve. I’ve got pictures on my website of the tank hanging by, the legs are completely gone.

Peter Schick :                    I’ve always seen it where you wanted to get it out, a lot of the times, like I said, you got to cut it in half because it’s not going to fit through the door. I think that’s one of the big challenges a lot of home owners run into is actually just physically, getting something that large out of the basement and that’s the big challenge I’ve always seen homeowners run into.

Jim Salmon:                      Right now the price of number two fuel oil is probably, I don’t know, what, 2.25 something like that. Maybe even less than that so it’s a deal right now and it’s well worth doing. It’s a viable heat, it’s been used for 100 years. The drawbacks are that if things go to $4 a gallon, it’s tied to the price of oil and it’s oil so that’s an issue and there’s more maintenance to it.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, there is.

Jim Salmon:                      Properly maintained oil heating equipment, you should never smell that smell of fuel oil or burning fuel. It’s much more complicated to calibrate and adjust those furnaces.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      You really need somebody who knows what they’re doing with that. One other comment I’d say-

Peter Schick :                    You just love your oil furnaces.

Jim Salmon:                      In the old days, there was, it just blasted it out and it was what it was, okay, BTUs. Probably, I don’t know, 15-20 years ago, they invented what’s called a flame-retention burner. It was an oil burner that actually was more of a blow torch. It sent the oil out in like a swirl pattern, so it got more BTU out of it somehow or another from an engineering standpoint. Flame retention burners are much more expensive. They require a little bit more maintenance but you get a little more efficiency.

Peter Schick :                    More efficiency.

Jim Salmon:                      There was back in the day, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this and I promise we’re done with oil here …

Peter Schick :                    You promise.

Jim Salmon:                      … There was a high efficiency oil furnace that vented with plastic. I don’t know that there is one now on the market that works. I don’t know the answer to that, there may be by now but I had one and it’s called a Yukon high efficiency oil burning furnace.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      It was a piece of junk. It never worked. It was inconsistent in its operation. Unable to be depended on. It was a massive failure.

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      If you go into a parts house or you talk to an older heating guy that was back there during the late 70s and 80s and you mentioned Yukon high efficiency oil equipment, he laughed-

Peter Schick :                    Be like, “Oh, I don’t even want to deal with it,” yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, so anyway, oil is viable in a lot of parts of the country. Moving on to propane. Those of you that live out in the country where you don’t have natural gas service-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, the big propane tanks, yep.

Jim Salmon:                      I have two of those on my property, they’re both 500-gallon tanks. One I buried because it’s over in an area where the patio is and all that, I don’t want to look at it. You buy a different type of tank. It’s a double-walled tank.

Peter Schick :                    How long does that typically last, because I see those and I wonder like how much time, like if I got that filled up or if I got a new one, how long is that going to last for your house of, how much square footage typically?

Jim Salmon:                      The house is about 2,000 square feet. It’s not a huge house but in that house is the Tree of Life gas fireplace in the sunroom.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so you got that, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s the propane furnace.

Peter Schick :                    Got your pellet stove.

Jim Salmon:                      Propane water heater.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Cooking stove. Regular is propane. The full automatic standby generator is propane. I think that’s about it.

Peter Schick :                    You have a lot of things running.

Jim Salmon:                      A lot of things on it so when they top it off. They’ll usually top it off probably around the first of September.

Peter Schick :                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Salmon:                      It’s 500 gallons to start. They’ll be back in February and top it off again and I usually use between the heating season starting and first of February, probably 250-275 gallons.

Peter Schick :                    Wow, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      The only drawback is it just doesn’t come to the house by itself like natural gas.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      Which I wish-

Peter Schick :                    It’s just the pipe and then boom, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I float it out to various propane companies every year because I don’t all of a sudden want, just because I’ve been loyal to a guy for years-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they’re going to start jacking up the price.

Jim Salmon:                      Next thing you know, it’s $4 a gallon but propane went nuts four years ago, five years ago, all of a sudden went crazy.

Peter Schick :                    Why’s that?

Jim Salmon:                      It was a long complicated story but it had to do with where propane’s manufactured and the trucks it was on and the trucks were stuck in a storm and next thing you know, the whole country was, it was one of those rolling perfect storms that wound up being propane $4 a gallon.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I could see so like the distribution method of the propane got held up and then there’s kind of a cascading effect across the country and that messed with prices. I see what you’re saying.

Jim Salmon:                      Propane equipment is very low maintenance. Here’s a difference between natural gas and propane. Propane-

Peter Schick :                    I’m glad you’re getting into that because I was going to say yeah, I think some of our listeners want to hear that.

Jim Salmon:                      Propane is heavier than air so propane will settle to the bottom. Okay, so you have to be careful with that. I mean you have to know what you’re doing. You don’t want any leaks. I do my own water heater installations and furnace installs and so forth but you have to make sure that, propane’s different than natural gas. Natural gas is heavier than air so it’ll wind up up in the floor joice where propane drops down. Anything drops down is closer to the pilot lights.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, there’s some safety considerations.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, but either one of those, natural gas or propane are available in modern four-stair furnaces, which can be 85, 92, 95, 97% efficient.

Peter Schick :                    Well, how much of a difference is there between a regular natural gas four-stair and a propane? Is there a lot of retro-fitting if I wanted to turn it to propane?

Jim Salmon:                      No.

Peter Schick :                    Okay.

Jim Salmon:                      Some you can’t. Some are made natural gas, some are made propane.

Peter Schick :                    I see.

Jim Salmon:                      The higher end furnaces generally, all it is is a nozzle change. The nozzles, I think I’m right on this. The nozzles for propane are bigger than the nozzles for natural gas. It’s a different size. If you were to put propane into a natural gas furnace, you’d burn down your house. It’s got to be done right. It’s got to be done competently. Same thing with a cooking stove. The cooking stove we have is propane but it came natural gas so we had to take those nozzles out and put in the other ones.

Peter Schick :                    Okay, so it’s really, yeah, there is some considerable differences between them and maybe a layman may not necessarily know, maybe a layman homeowner may not necessarily know the difference between propane and natural gas and they just kind of equate the two.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s a big-

Peter Schick :                    I’ve heard those used interchangeably with homeowners since that’s the main reason I ask that.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s a big dumb unfortunate mistake that you could make to put a natural gas water heater in a propane house or vice versa.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      If you’re not comfortable knowing the difference, hire it done.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      Either one of those furnaces, I mean that high efficiency four-stair furnaces of today, propane and natural gas are crazy cool. Especially, you have like my house is an old farm house, it’s been added onto in 20 different rooms and angles and so forth, so the distribution of heat and cool was either feast or famine. You were froze over here, you were too hot over there. With these modern furnaces, they’re two-stage, which means slow and faster variable speed, which is like a furnace with a gas pedal, so it pushes the air. There’s also an outside monitor that says, “Okay, the temperature outside is ‘X’, I need to get to this, so we’re going to move it through-”

Peter Schick :                    Oh, it’s going to readjust it.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s so smart.

Peter Schick :                    That’s awesome.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s so smart.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, we still have old school boiler system in our house.

Jim Salmon:                      Do you? Okay.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so that, it’s not well-distributed I’ll say. With how you talk about it, it’s all this technology and everything, we got this old school boiler.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    I mean, it’s not very well-distributed.

Jim Salmon:                      How old is it?

Peter Schick :                    It’s around 20 years old.

Jim Salmon:                      Okay. You know what brand it is off hand?

Peter Schick :                    Ah geez, what was it?

Jim Salmon:                      What color is it?

Peter Schick :                    It’s like, I think it’s Carrier. No, it’s not Carrier.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, it could be.

Peter Schick :                    No, I’m thinking about another house I was just looking at today. I don’t know why this is escaping me right now.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, I just wondered because brand has a lot to do with boilers. Crown boilers are good, Buderus boilers are good, Weil Mclain boilers are great. Some of the older boilers have been around since the 20s and they still work.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      The problem is the efficiency.

Peter Schick :                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Salmon:                      Back then, who cared? You paid your $4 a month and the heat came in and they melted the snow off the roof and who cared, right?

Peter Schick :                    There you go.

Jim Salmon:                      We’re not on that anymore.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I mean that’s real important. Modern boilers are capable of so much. Boiler mates, which allow you to heat your hot water on your boiler for showers and cooking and so forth.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I’ve heard of those, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Then there’s boilers that are go into warm floor technology.

Peter Schick :                    Oh really?

Jim Salmon:                      I’m 62 and I have warm floor technology in my sunroom and in one of the bathrooms.

Peter Schick :                    Wait, how does that work if you don’t have a boiler system, if you have a four-stair?

Jim Salmon:                      Well, those are electric but you can get it hydronically too.

Peter Schick :                    Okay. That’s pretty cool.

Jim Salmon:                      What happens is you set the floor for 85 degrees, it comes on at maybe five in the morning, heats the floor in the bathroom up to 85 degrees, then back down at nine after you’ve gone to work and it’s something about an 85-degree ceramic tile that just puts a smile on your face.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah. Yeah, so you’re not putting it on cold tile.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    No, that is actually really cool. That’s really cool.

Jim Salmon:                      Then there’s the whole outdoor boiler thing. You know those little green and brown and black little sheds you see out the back with the chimney sticking out of them?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Those are outdoor boilers. People put all kinds of stuff in there. Firewood, and pallets and tree stumps and whatever and that allows you to heat your house. There’s a forced air component of that or hydronic hot water boiler.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      They’re great.

Peter Schick :                    You know a lot about this. I didn’t even know about this outdoor, because I’ve been living in the city here and so I usually see boiler forced air, boiler forced air, what’s that?

Jim Salmon:                      I’m surprised you haven’t been killed yet. No, I’m just teasing.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Fort Apache to Rochester.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, really.

Jim Salmon:                      You know, [inaudible 00:25:13] boilers are really cool. You’ll see them a lot on farms and whatever and people, and generally you wouldn’t see them in a suburb because there’s a smoke component and most municipalities now have rules for outdoor boilers. I was the chairman of my planning board in the town where I lived for four or five years and just as I was getting ready to leave that, there was a whole bunch of disagreement about outdoor boilers and the smoke that gets put near the ground into villages and people don’t like that. Most municipalities have rules now where the chimneys have to go up.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it’s a Bryant.

Jim Salmon:                      Okay.

Peter Schick :                    That was the one. Yeah, that’s the one because I was trying to remember the brand and I’m like, “Oh, what was it,” because I was thinking about the Carrier because that was another place that, because that was the place I was talking about the flip I was doing.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, okay.

Peter Schick :                    We have four-stair and that, so that just popped into my mind, it’s a Bryant. I knew I was going to-

Jim Salmon:                      Bryant boilers are a, I think those are made actually by Crown. I might be wrong with that but Bryant boilers are good. They’re good equipment. It needs to be serviced every year just like anything else should be.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, we have that. Like I said, that’s the one where I usually have that issue with the pilot flame on it. That usually has to be taken care of.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m a big proponent of hot water boiler system antifreeze. I have a good friend of mine, well, he’s not a good friend, I can’t stand him, but he’s a whiner type guy and whenever something goes wrong in his house, I’m the first guy he calls. He said, “Well, water’s leaking all over my ceiling because one of my hot water zones froze.” Well, it was zero out, the wind was blowing 30 miles an hour and it got into that area where it was and it froze the pipe where the heat wasn’t on. $100 worth of boiler additive when your guy does your heating and cooling, or your boiler service in the fall makes a world of difference in my opinion.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I don’t see why you wouldn’t do that. We had that done. I mean I don’t see why you wouldn’t because that’s the last thing I want blowing up to be quite honest in the middle of winter.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, exactly. We’ve talked about electric, we’ve talked about outdoor boilers, indoor boilers, oil, propane, natural gas, whatever. With the exception of electric, all of the other types of fuel that you could use to heat your house, absolutely most positively need yearly cleaning and maintenance. Otherwise, you’re asking for no [crosstalk 00:28:00].

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it’s going to compound. I’ve seen that with places where they, some people are very good with it, other people are not and you’re just asking for problems if you don’t have, I know a lot of HVAC companies that actually, they say, “Hey, for this yearly, you’ll get this yearly maintenance if you sign up for five years.” There you go. You don’t even have to think about it. They’ll just come, they’ll do it, boom. Out of your hair.

Jim Salmon:                      What I tell all my home inspection clients, “When you get in this house, search out and find a heating contractor in your area that you’ve done research on, has a good reputation and get some pricing on what it costs to come and clean and maintain and what if you have an emergency?” Sometimes you can pay three times what a normal cleaning and maintenance would be but that also includes any kind of middle of the night emergency services time, you know?

Peter Schick :                    There’s this one HVAC company, not going to say any names. They came and they do the maintenance on our boilers and he always tries to pitch me these different-

Jim Salmon:                      Something.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, tries to pitch me the, “Oh yeah, get the gold maintenance plan that goes for like 10 years and we do all these extra things.” I’m like, “Look, I’m happy with what I have…”

Jim Salmon:                      Just clean the thing.

Peter Schick :                    … “Just clean the thing. I just want this. I know you’re just trying to make it. You’re hustling doing your thing, I get it, you need to make money but dude, I just want it cleaned. Like I don’t need your big gold plan. I’m just good with bronze or whatever it is that I already have.”

Jim Salmon:                      Then to finish off the heating segment here on this podcast, there’s the goofy heating. There’s the corn.

Peter Schick :                    Corn.

Jim Salmon:                      Corn stoves are pretty popular with the farmers that actually grow and dry corn. It has to be dry.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so you have the cobs that have all the corn that’s off of them, you can just throw it in there.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. Well, it has to be dried to a certain degree.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s like if you’ve ever seen cow corn, it’s very hard.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, the feed corn is a lot different than the sweet corn, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I think it has to be dried down to about 15%, which is darn dry.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, so that’s bone dry.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, almost bone dry. Some of the pellet stoves also an do corn and then there’s of course the pellet stoves, which we’ve talked about ad nauseum in that last-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, we talked about them previous, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      We hate their guts.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Then there’s wood. Most wood-burning fireplaces, you don’t get much efficiency out of. If you have a wood-burning, wood stove insert, that’s another whole animal. Those things are extremely effective.

Peter Schick :                    Well, yeah, that’s capturing all of the heat from the fire. If it is a wood-burning stove, that thing’s all iron, it’s getting all the heat that that fire’s creating and it gets really warm with those. I mean I’ve been to houses with those and it heats up very fast and it almost gets too hot when it gets going from what I’ve seen.

Jim Salmon:                      Too hot is good when it’s zero out.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, I think we pretty well exhausted our discussion on heat.

Peter Schick :                    I think we have. I have learned so much about oil furnaces.

Jim Salmon:                      Oil’s fun.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I’ve learned so much about that today, Jim.

Jim Salmon:                      Here’s what you need to know about oil, don’t bother buying it ever.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Peter’s going to tell you how to send us an email if you’d like to suggest a particular podcast or send us an email with a specific question we could help you with.

Peter Schick :                    Send it to [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      Boy, that was simple.

Peter Schick :                    There we go.

Jim Salmon:                      All right, folks, thanks for putting up with us today. We appreciate it and we’ll be back on the other side with another Home Repair Clinic podcast.

Tips for hiring a contractor

It is always advisable to hire a pro rather than doing a project by yourself, especially for larger, more complex projects. What matters most, however, is the quality of contractor you are hiring, as selecting a shady contractor will trigger delays and sometimes even cause legal problems. Here are some tips that will help you choose a professional contractor and thus ensure a good business relationship:

Ensure that the contractor is bonded and insured

A contractor’s credibility depends solely on whether or not they are licensed and have insurance. The license proves that the contractor has taken the exam and knows how to build to code and all required processes. And, if the contractor is not insured, you could be the one responsible if someone gets hurt while working on your project.

Look for a contractor that suits your project

It is best to search for contractors who has expertise in the type of project you need completed. After all, you need a contractor who knows exactly what is required to complete a project. They should have the skills to address potential problems and perform work to your standards.

Create a detailed contract prior to starting any work

A contract is required to cover costs, and should include a complete set of drawings with written specifications.  It should also have a time table for when the work should be complete.

Give proper instructions prior to working

If you want your project to be completed by a specific date, talk to your contractor prior to hiring him. It then depends upon the contractor whether he wants to accept the job or not.  Go into as much detail as possible before work is started so you can avoid problems later on.

Have a look at their past  work

Consider the contractor’s past  work, which will also give you ideas for your own project. Samples are even more crucial than references and will let you check the quality of their work. Browse through their various designs to boost your own creativity.

If you are looking for highly-professional contractors for a variety of services, visit House at Work. Just add the details about your project and soon, accredited contractors will submit their proposals for your project. House at Work has its services available in New York in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, and Ithaca.  For more details, please visit the website