A Special Edition of #TipsFromTom



For the past few years, we have offered our newsletter readers monthly homeowner tips from Tom Bobotas of our remodeling team. He has many years experience in home repairs, fabricating custom wood products, construction and has been an incredible asset to our remodeling team.

We would also like to thank Tom for lending his time and invaluable knowledge to all of our readers, clients and SandStar team. It is truly appreciated and we have all grown a little wiser this year!

If you have missed any of of Tom’s helpful tips from this past year, below is a compilation of 2019!


January 2019


As with any mechanical equipment your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) has a single or multiple filters that require changing regularly.

These filters prevent dust and particles from entering and clogging and damaging the components within the air handler (i.e. blower fan, heating elements and coils). They can commonly be found behind either a labelled removable panel (at the air-handler) or behind the larger wall or ceiling vents commonly known as a return.

Returns typically look distinctively different than the feed vents which are smaller and can be adjusted. The filters, once removed, typically have the size printed on the cardboard border or frame. Be sure to replace it with the same size filter. The new filter should also have an arrow showing the direction of air flow, also very important. Remove the old one and install the new filter, re-attach the cover or grate and you’re ready to go. If you’re unaware or unable to locate the filters it’s best to call a licensed handyman or HVAC service technician to help.


February 2019


Hinges, guides, slides and rollers can be found on most swinging, bi-fold and by-pass doors? They also get the least amount of care…until they shrill or creek due to their “dry” condition. A quick and simple solution is to incorporate a semi-annual maintenance routine of providing the working surfaces a quick spritz with a “dry silicone based lubricant” spray and wipe with a clean cloth. Once applied open and close the door a few times to allow the lubricant to work and re-wipe.

The lubricant will keep things moving properly and help prevent corrosion. Dry silicone sprays are readily available at hardware stores.


March 2019


Your windows and lanai screen frames have weep holes designed to allow water to drain from their bottom tracks?

So, in keeping with my “regular maintenance” segments of late, we’ll turn our attention to weep holes. For the reason stated above, making sure that weep holes (slots or holes in bottom tracks of windows frames) are free of debris will diminish the amount of water that may collect in the tracks. Visibly inspect the holes every six (6) for collected dirt and or debris. If blocked use a small screwdriver (or the like) to loosen and even open the slot or hole then flush or wipe away the debris. Don’t forget the lanai screens that typically have drain holes drilled every so often along the bottom rail. As you might imagine their location makes them susceptible to insect nests so be sure to push a screwdriver or dowel all the way through.

Remember… an ounce of prevention…


April 2019

I’ve always started my tip segment with “Did you know,” but not this month…

Instead, we’ll continue on the heels of last month’s theme, maintaining the workings of doors and windows. Much like the importance of weep holes and their cleanliness, the same can be said for sliding glass door tracks.

The easiest and most vivid analogy is that of a new movie theatre floor–clean, shiny and easy on the feet. Now let’s fast forward to some future time with minimal sweeping and mopping making it a challenge to walk across, sticky with spilled soda and Jujubes stuck to your shoes.

The rollers (commonly referred to as trucks) on the bottom of a sliding glass door can collect and accumulate moisture-saturated dust causing build-up over time. Regularly cleaning the tracks and inspecting them twice a year can help keep them moving easily.


May 2019


Some roof leaks can be avoided with a little attention to your gutters and roof valleys?

Cleaning your gutters at least twice a year allows them to disburse water efficiently. When water flows unobstructed there is less chance of overflow. Preventing overflow minimizes the chance of water getting into (backup from overflow) the soffits and walls.

Roof valleys also collect and direct water (usually to a gutter) much like gutters. They too should be cleared of debris and branches allowing water to flow and keep the debris out of the gutters. One possible solution to avoid this continual task? Install gutter screens, but I’m sorry to say the valleys will still need occasional attention.

A reminder: these tasks require ladder use and ladder safety is imperative. As always, be sure to contact a building professional if you have any reservations about using and climbing a ladder. Until next month…


June 2019


Your HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning) systems should have an annual physical?

Like visiting the doctor once a year for a check-up, a licensed professional will need to check the HVAC system’s vital signs such as refrigerant levels, system balance and cleanliness/condition of coils.

In between “physicals” it’s important to regularly change the filters behind the return vents as well as making sure the vegetation (grasses, bushes) are kept away from the compressor units allowing them to move air efficiently.

In case you were wondering, coils within the air handler (located in a closet, garage or attic) and in the compressor (outside) are similar to an automobile radiator containing refrigerant and allows air flow over the lines to remove heat and keep you comfortable. Clogged filters and over grown vegetation can decrease their abilities and consume more electricity while trying to do their job. As always, when in doubt it’s best to contact a licensed and insured professional. Stay cool, my friends. 


July 2019


As with anything that is exposed to the elements in this environment, screening (doors, windows, pool cages) should be inspected on a semi-annual schedule.

Things to look for are tears, areas of deterioration or weakness from pressure washing and even spline (chord that holds screen in place) that may need replacing. Additionally, mainly with aluminum window screens, inspect the overall condition of the screen frames for bends. The bends will prevent the frames to seat properly and allow entry for insects. This is rarely a problem with vinyl but if pushed to it’s limit could become damaged. Aluminum replacement kits are available at hardware outlets and they provide all necessary items to fabricate a new screen.

As always and with higher (even lower) location screens, repairs may require the expertise of a professional who has the equipment and specific tools to get the job done. A final word regarding your pool cage: The screened pool cage and its doors are considered to be a fence that prevents unwanted entrance to the pool whether critter or human. It is important that the screens and closers are in good condition.

I hope you all have a wonderful, bug-free summer. 


August 2019


Paint, stain and urethane as well as varnish coating can be a long-lasting finish?

Ultraviolet light and moisture (or lack thereof) can deteriorate these finishes over time. Take note every six (6) months or so as you inspect your castle grounds. Look for fading, “chalking” flaking and cracking (clear finishes). If caught early, refinishing can be simple and relatively inexpensive. However, unattended to areas can potentially cause issues beyond a simple light sanding and coat of finish.

“An ounce of prevention…”


September 2019


Those pesky random sprays of water coming from your faucets, sprayers and shower heads are caused by minerals and particles? You know, your arm is nowhere near the spout or head and your sleeve/arm gets wet or the kitchen They can be avoided in one of two ways. Aerators (the screens installed on your faucet or spout) can be replaced easily. Pull-out sprayers and shower heads, metal or grey rubber, also need occasional attention. Metal shower heads can be revived with cleaners that remove calcium, lime and rust. For grey rubber surfaces, use a cloth or your fingers with a mild cleaner to remove any build-up.


October 2019


At your exposed piping shut-off valves and connections lately? I see that look you’re giving me, eyebrow raised, but it’s true. Grab a flash light and mark your calendar to visually inspect plumbing components for any signs of weeping or dripping semi-annually. Operate the shut-off valves (see the March ’17 eNewsletter), make sure they operate smoothly, feel the around valve and connections to be sure everything is dry. While you’re looking, you might even come across a lost treasure that you put away for safe keeping (don’t we all have that place where we won’t forget?)

But on a serious note, this quick inspection provides a pro-active approach to homeownership instead of a reactive scenario. We look for stop signs or red lights to prevent problems while driving… look for them in your home as well.

Have a wonderful month, all.


November 2019


That another simple inspection done twice a year can potentially save you from costly water damage and renovation?

Water and moisture can cause lots of issues, which is why it is recommended you inspect grout lines wherever located, especially shower/tub areas. Cracked or missing (voids) in the grout allow water to penetrate and enter behind the tile. With prolonged exposure, moisture can deteriorate adhesion of the tile, composition of sheathing and promote the growth of mold.

So, any voids and cracks should be re-filled with the appropriately colored grout (typical application is non-sanded for walls, sanded for floors). If you happen to find any possible issues and have questions or do not want to make the repair yourself, be sure to call a qualified technician. A watchful eye can save money.