Friday, November 30, 2012

The Queen Gets Down and Dirty

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving (and Black Friday, and Small Biz Saturday, and Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday!...I'm out of breath!). I took the week off from blogging but don't worry, I'm back!

I decided it was a good idea that the Queen get out there and actually do some physical junk removal - after all you can't be a complete expert unless you've done the job yourself. Here's an exciting (ok - that was supposed to be sarcastic, but I actually really enjoyed myself) play-by-play:

A Day in the Life of a Junk Removal Professional

The day started out at the shop. We spent some time sorting through what was on the trucks to pull out the recyclables. After that, we were ready to go.

I rode with the King and one of our other workers in Truck 3.

While Truck 1 and Truck 2 went off to other jobs in different areas, we headed down to Belmont and on the way there, hit challenge #1: traffic. When we left the shop, it was prime commuting time and this is what we had to face:

Once we got there, still on time, we did a 1/6 of a truck for a nice man who was starting to clean out his house in preparation to put it on the market.

After this job was finished, it was off to Somerville for a repeat customer. This customer, along with her siblings were in the process of cleaning out their deceased parent's house. We arrived at the job and were expecting about a 1/2 truck worth of stuff based on our previous visit, but as the customer took us around the house showing us the various items, it was clear that it would fill much more than 1/2 truck...more realistically in the 1.25 truckload range.

Since we knew the customer didn't want to stay there any longer than she needed to (ie, we wanted to try and avoid having to make a trip to the transfer station and come back), we had to think on our feet. The King quoted her 1.25 truckloads and we got to work.

First, we pulled out all the metal so we could take it to the scrapyard which was about 10 minutes away. It was my first trip to a scrapyard, kind of a cool place - lots of stuff going on and fun looking machines (yeah, I have a thing for heavy machinery - what do you expect, I used to work in construction!):

After unloading the scrap metal and freeing up some room in the truck, it was back to Somerville and back to work. 

 The Queen in action :)

We packed that truck to the max - all 18 cubic yards and more. I had doubts that we were going to get it all on there, but we did it. It took us a few hours to get all the stuff out of the house and packed into the truck. The customer was very happy with the outcome. Next, it was on to the transfer station. I thought the scrapyard had a lot going on, but it was even more true for the transfer station:
Some of the piles of sorted materials

The scale to weigh the truck (on our way out after we dumped our load) - check out Truck #2 over there on the scale on the left heading in with a full load. 
I like our transfer station because they sort through everything that is dumped and recycle a large percentage of the materials. It saves us time and labor sorting through items and also makes it easier on days when we have a busy schedule and can't sort items ourselves. Of course, in this instance we had all trash - if there are jobs that have items that can be donated, we will bring them to various charities in the area depending on what it is, for example The Habitat for Humanity ReStore:

After the transfer station, we were off to a job in Chelmsford. This customer was doing a bathroom remodel project and had just ripped out all the studs and drywall. We quickly loaded the truck and left another happy customer. Next it was on to an estimate, also in Chelmsford. The customer had a shed that had been damaged by a tree in her backyard that needed to be removed - a victim of hurricane Sandy. We assessed the situation and gave her an estimate.

Phew! The day was done. It really gave me insight into (and appreciation for) what a typical day is like for the guys (and girls! ;) and let me tell you, I was tired by the end of the day - we pretty much went non-stop from 8 am until almost 5 pm. 

Question: Hmm... I don't have a question this week - do you have any questions for me?  :)

Last Words: I always think it's interesting to try something new and while I'm usually on the paperwork/marketing end of the business, seeing what our guys do day to day really gave me a new perspective on the business and how we do things. I look forward to another opportunity to get out there again!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Winter is Coming (Like it or not!)

While the beginning of this week brought some pretty mild temperatures to the Merrimack Valley (I even took the princesses to the playground!), with Thanksgiving only one week away nobody can forget that winter is lurking right around the corner. Winters in New England can vary in intensity. For example, last winter (2011-12) we barely had a winter - there were about 3 snow storms and most days the temperatures made it close to 50 degrees. However, the year before that, it snowed almost every other day; it felt like the minute we were done shoveling another 6 inches fell on top of the freshly cleared walkway.
No matter what, it's hard to predict how the weather will be for any particular year and in the spirit of the famous saying "Better safe than sorry" it makes sense to get your home ready for the possibility of cold temperatures and snow.
In an effort to help you get ready, the Queen has compiled a list of some of the things you should check and get prepared:

1. Check Your Furnace: First and foremost, unless you really know what you're doing it's best to call in a professional to do this job. You want to make sure that the filter, supply lines, and ductwork is checked as well as the thermostat.

2. Clean Your Chimney: If you have a fireplace that you plan on using, it's a good idea to get the chimney checked and cleaned (I recommend by a professional - we cleaned ours ourselves one was...interesting and dirty). Creosote can build up inside the chimney and there's always the possibility that a bird or some other animal built a nest inside. Also make sure the damper is checked. Trust me, the last thing you want is carbon monoxide build up occuring in your home and then your alarm going off at 2 am and having the fire department evacuate you and your pets into the 20 degree air in your jammies, but I digress..

3. Clean Your Gutters: Most people I know don't enjoy this task - you're either on a ladder or clambering around on your roof trying to get all the leaves and debris out of there. I've personally done both of these things - so much fun (or not!). Anyways, fun or not, cleaning the gutters is important because if your gutters are clogged and fill up with rain, then freeze, they can detach from your house or cause the gutters to crack. You don't want to be replacing gutters in the spring, so clean them!

4. Check Your Snowblower (or plow): Here in New England, a lot of people are caught off guard by the first snowfall. We all know it's coming eventually but it's still surprising when it actually happens. The King and I have been stuck with a driveway full of snow and no removal method except our shovels and our muscles. Don't wait to drag that snowblower out and give it a once over to make sure it's ready to go when you need it.

5. Install Weatherstripping: Now is the time to inspect around your doors and windows to see what condition the caulking and weatherstripping is in. If there are cracks or broken pieces, replace them to prevent air leaks. An interesting fact - in the average American home, the gaps around doors and windows are equivilant to a 3x3 foot hole...that's a lot of (expensive) heat escaping!

Last but not least...
6. Assemble an Emergency Kit: Your emergnecy kit at a minimum should contain flashlights, bottled water, blankets, first aid kit, and non-perishable foods. It's also a good idea to have a battery powered or crank radio so that you can keep up with what's going on. Yes, I know most people just use their smart phone now but I realized during the last storm when my cell/4G service went offline for about 6 or 7 hrs that I had no idea what was going on - it's always good to have another link to the outside world during a weather event.

Question: Any lessons learned about winter preparedness that you'd like to share? I'd love to add them to my list!

Last Words: This blog post reminded me that I need to check all these things around our own house. Sometimes life gets so busy that things like this don't get attention until it's too late. I'll make a deal with you - I'll check mine if you check yours - the first serious snowfall and super freezing temps will be here before we know it!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 9, 2012

After the Storm

Hey everyone! The last two weeks have been crazy around here between Hurricane Sandy, the election, and a nor'easter storm that brought the Merrimack Valley it's first snow of the season. The weather seems to be getting more powerful as each year passes and while it most likely can be attributed to climate change; whatever the reason, it's clear we have to learn how to be more prepared for when the storm rolls in and figure out how to better deal with the aftermath.

Depending on the type of storm, there are various types of damage that can happen around your house. Here in New England, we usually face a few different types of storm including thunderstorms (with the occasional tornado thrown in), hurricanes, nor'easters (that bring snow and rain), and the occasional blizzard. All these weather events have the potential to cause significant damage to properties and even if the damage is minimal, most of the time a mess is left behind to clean up. Here's a few of the common situations (a couple of which the King and I have had to deal with personally):

1. Flooding - I'm sure most of you that are from the Merrimack Valley area remember the flooding we had back in 2006. Here's a picture that I took of Rt 113 in Lowell...crazy.
Anyways, with flooding there's a lot to consider:
 - Flood water is almost always contaminated with various things including sewerage and chemicals. Anything that comes in contact with the flood waters, especially food should be thrown out.
 - If your basement is flooded, more than likely you will have to dispose of all the items that came in contact with the flood waters, especially any carpets and drywall. 
 - All items that came in contact with the flood water that are washable should be cleaned and disinfected.
 - You should turn off the main breaker in your home until you're sure (consult with an electrician) that it can be safely turned back on.
Here is a great booklet from the Red Cross about repairing your home after a flood.
2. Tree Damage - Yes, that's our old shed with a tree puncturing the roof - thank goodness it fell on the shed and not the house.

When a tree falls in your yard, you'll definitely hear it (you know vs a tree falling in the woods when no one is around...anyways...) and when you walk outside to investigate, you'll probably be shocked. From the ground, when the tree in the picture above was still upright it didn't look too overwhelming but once it fell down we realized that it was going to be a heck of a lot of work to get rid of it - it took up almost our entire backyard it was so wide. Believe it or not, we tackled it ourselves but it took a very long time and several chainsaws. What was left afterwards were piles and piles of branches, brush, and large logs...some of the logs and larger branches got burned in our wood stove and the smaller brush got thrown into a composting area. The other alternative is to hire a professional tree removal guy. Either way you decide to clean up, having a tree come down in your yard is something that will require work and probably money to get things back to normal.

3. Snowstorms/Ice Storms - Remember the ice storm of 2008? The Queen sure does - I was pregnant with our first princess - 9 months pregnant to be exact!
Anyways, the picture below is from February 2011 when the snow kept falling and falling - as you can see it buried that mailbox (and had some help from the friendly snow plows)!

As we all know with snow and ice storms, power outages can be widespread from snow/ice accumulation on branches and power lines as well as strong winds that accompany nor'easters or blizzards. When the power goes out, the biggest concern afterwards is usually food safety. If it's winter and you don't have a generator, you can usually buy a little extra time with your perishables that you had in the fridge. Heck, if it's colder than 32 degrees outside, move all your "must be refrigerated" items outside into the snow (been there, done that!). If that's not an option and you keep everything in the refrigerator/freezer, then here are some good guidelines for your refrigerator and your freezer on what to keep. One last thing about ice/snowstorms...don't forget to lift with your knees when you shovel that walkway or driveway(or roof!) after the storm, a shovel full of heavy wet snow (vs the fluffy stuff) can weigh quite a bit depending on the water content.

Question: Were you affected by the recent storms or have a good storm story? Share it with us!

Last Words: This is just a brief overview of how to handle various situations that you may be faced with after a big storm hits. As always, I must let you know that Junk King can definitely help with the clean-up so don't hesitate to call the King and Queen!

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Household Items - Did You Know?

                Hi everyone! I hope you’re all recovering well from Hurricane Sandy (if you were affected). We’re still cleaning up here in Lowell but for the most part we escaped unscathed.
Now on to the enticing blog title that has lead you to this page - There are things around your house that you use everyday, but when they break or you're ready for a new one, do you know how you will you get rid of the old one? Some of the items I listed below might surprise you while others are ones you’ve probably heard about before.
1.      Mattresses: I’m fairly confident in saying that almost everybody reading this blog has at least one mattress in their house. While mattresses are usually made to last for quite a while, at some point you’ll probably need to replace the one you have. That leaves you with an extra mattress and finding some way of getting rid of it. The days of leaving it out on the curb for the trash truck to pick up (in most cities and towns) are long gone so what’s the next option? Well, first let’s look at why you can’t just throw a mattress in the regular trash and why you’ll most likely be paying someone extra to take it away for you:

a.       Mattresses have many different materials in them, including fabric, foam, cotton, wood, and metal springs (most of which are recyclable), but separating all those materials can be quite a task - which means someone needs to take the time and do the work, and they're not going to do it for free!

b.      The other issue with mattresses is that most, if not all of them are treated with flame retardant (especially older ones) chemicals that can be toxic to humans and the environment. If the mattress ends up in a landfill, the chemicals can leach out into the groundwater and harm the environment so they must be disposed of carefully and properly.

2.       Televisions and Computer Monitors: Just like mattresses, I’m pretty certain that most people reading this blog have a TV in their house. That being said, this post is targeted more towards the old school TVs and monitors, you know the big clunky ones with the tube inside of them? (I just had the song "Money for Nothing" running through my head... I want my MTV...) Anyways, that tube inside is called a cathode ray tube (CRT) and what’s contained inside that tube is lead… up to 8% of the total weight of the TV in fact. The lead is contained within the glass of the tube and ironically is meant to protect the viewer from harmful X-ray emissions. In Massachusetts, if you want to get rid of a TV, you need to pay someone extra to dispose of it and here’s why: TVs and monitors are usually dismantled by hand to isolate the CRT and send it to the proper recycling facility along with all the other parts of the TV/monitor including plastic, metals, and circuit boards. Similar to mattresses, this requires someone spending time to do this task - nobody is going to "move those color TVs" (sorry, the song popped into my head again) for free!

3.       Tires: Tires are an item we all use, probably every day of our lives to get to and from places but what happens when you need to get rid of them? They are yet another item you can’t just simply place in the trash. It all starts in the manufacturing process of tires. We all know tires are made from rubber but what most people probably don’t know is that tires undergo a process called “vulcanization” (no, I’m not talking about Star Trek here). Without getting too technical, vulcanization involves adding sulfur to the rubber. The process, while improving the strength and resilience of the tire rubber, also makes recycling the tires when we’re done with them quite difficult. Because of the modified properties of the rubber, they can’t just simply be melted down like other rubber substances. Instead, the tires are usually mechanically shredded and processed for use in other materials, which takes both time and resources.

4.       Refrigerators/Air Conditioners: These are probably the items people know the most about since they tend to get the most press. Older fridges and AC units contain Freon, a refrigerant that when released to the atmosphere contributes to ozone depletion. In order to dispose of a refrigerator or AC unit properly, it must be processed (you guessed it, by hand) and the refrigerant removed before the rest of the material can be recycled appropriately. Here is a great link from the EPA that fully explains the ins and outs of disposing refrigerated household appliances.

Question: How many of you have an extra or broken one of these items hanging around your house that you’ve avoided getting rid of?
Last Words: I hope you learned something from this post, I know I did (yes, even the Queen of junk will admit she doesn't know everything!) while I was writing it. I wouldn't be the Queen if I didn't tell you that Junk King can haul away all these items for you and while the King and I do have to charge extra for some of them, I hope this blog post helps you better understand why!

Thanks for reading!