Get Ready to DIY!

While everyone’s staying at home, a lot of people are hesitant to bring in outsiders for things like painting or smaller construction projects. This could be the perfect time to tackle some of those tasks as do-it-yourself jobs! There are many things around the house that you can do without having to bring in outside help. Or at the very least, you can get started and bring in someone else to finish later. One common pitfall for aspiring DIYers is not quite being prepared for the task at hand. Since the current goal is to limit trips out of the house to only the essentials, it’s a good time to take stock of what you have on hand and determine what if anything you might need for those DIY projects. Here are some common things that you should check so you’ll know if you need to make a trip to stock up.

Common Supplies

There are a few things that will come in handy for almost any DIY project. These are items like sandpaper, wood glue, cleaners, rags, tape and lubricants. While not all of these will be used for every project you might tackle, if you don’t have any of them on hand then you’ll likely need to restock before your tasks are finished.

Tools

It’s hard to do it yourself if you don’t have anything to do it with. At the very least you’ll likely need tools like a drill, a hammer, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, wrenches and other common tools. If you have specific tasks in mind that require specialized tools, then you’ll need to make sure that you have those on hand too. You should also check to make sure that your tools are in good condition; too much rust or other corrosion can cause serious problems and possibly even result in broken tools once you get to work.

Screws, Nails and Fasteners

Chances are, you’ll need to have some screws, nails or other fasteners for the work that you’re doing. Don’t just assume that whatever you have on hand will work for any job, though. Screws for example come in different lengths, materials and head types, and if they don’t match the job that you’re doing or the tools that you have then you’re not going to be happy with the results.

Brushes and Rollers

Will you be doing any painting, staining or other similar applications? Make sure that you have the right type of brushes, rollers and other application tools for the job. Different types of paints, stains and glues/pastes all apply differently, so you’ll need to match your tools to the type of material you want to put down.

Shovels and Garden Tools

Working outside is a pretty common DIY task, but make sure that you have the right tools for the job. Shovels, hoes and rakes are all common outdoor tools, but you may also need a tiller or other equipment as well. You should also make sure that you have the right type of shovel or rake for your needs. A flat-nose shovel is good for spreading gravel, for instance, but won’t do you a lot of good if you need to dig a hole to plant a shrub.

Getting Ready to DIY

Once you’ve taken an inventory of the supplies you have with you, make a list of the DIY tasks you’d like to tackle around the house. See how your current supplies will meet the needs of those tasks, writing down anything that you seem to be missing. Take your time to plan out your various DIY projects, prioritizing those things that you can do without any additional materials. If you absolutely must get additional materials for your projects, do your best to make a list of everything that you’ll need so that you can wrap up your DIY shopping with a single trip. Or, better yet, place an online order that’s shipped directly to your house.
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Activities You Can Do With the Whole Family

With the current state of the world, people are spending more time at home than ever. This provides for some great opportunities to bond as a family, and also gives some of us a bit more time to get things done around the house. Spending more time with your family can lead to some questions, though. One of the biggest is “Exactly what are we supposed to do now that we’re together?” Without the breaks afforded by work, school and other activities, trying to come up with activities for the whole family can seem a bit overwhelming. If you need some ideas on how to spend that family time, here are a few suggestions to get you started. Not only will these ideas help you to spend some quality time together as a family, but some of them might help you with some of those tasks around the house as well!

Planning (and Planting) a Garden

Even though the year has gotten off to a rocky start, time waits for no one. We’re already getting into gardening season, so it’s time to start prepping the soil and starting your seeds. Since you’ve got the family all there at home, try to get everyone else involved as well. Plan out the size and shape of your garden plot and make a list of everyone’s favorite fruits and veggies to help decide what to plant. You can even get younger kids involved by letting them make row markers featuring pictures of everything you plan to grow.

Family Game Nights

Game nights are a classic, but sometimes it can be hard to fit them in. Timing isn’t as much of an issue these days, however, so let’s play some games! These could be anything from board games to multiplayer video games or even tabletop role-playing games. Let the family decide on the specifics and plan out a new game night every week to help keep everyone entertained.

Movie Time

Going to the movies is a popular family activity. Just because the theaters are closed doesn’t mean you have to give up on enjoying a film together, though. Make some popcorn, break out some snacks and cue up a favorite film on the TV. Several studios are releasing movies for sale or rental early, and some have even put new releases up for rental on streaming services even though they should still be in a theatrical run, so you can still catch some of the films that you might have planned on seeing as a family anyway.

Plan Some Redecorations

Were you hoping to redecorate this spring? You still can, and you can get the family involved in the process as well. Let everyone help pick out paint colors and decorations, especially in their bedroom or other rooms where they spend a significant amount of time. Even if you can’t get everything that you need for the project right now, this will let you plan things out in advance so that you’ll be ready to start once it’s go time.

Activities From a Hat

If you aren’t sure what to do, have everyone get together and make a list of three things that you’d like to do as a family. Once you’ve got the lists made, put them all on a hat or other container and draw one of the lists out. Look at the listed items and let the family vote on which activity you’d like to do from the list. If you’re worried that the same person might win too many times, the next time you do it, have the person who won sit out the suggestions and be the one to draw the winning list instead.

Time Alone, Together

Sometimes, one of the best things that you can do as a family is just relax and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t assume that you have to fill up every available moment with activities. Take some time to read books, give the kids some screen time or do some other individual downtime activities. You can take this downtime in the same room, spending casual time together without having to be “on” and actively doing things together all the time.
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New to Working From Home? Our Top Tips

Working from home can be a challenge, especially when you’re not used to it. There are a lot of distractions that can interfere with your work, sometimes causing you to get so off track that you end up behind on important tasks. While many consider working from home to be a great perk, if you’ve never worked from home before then you might be surprised at just how stressful it can be! Fortunately, you’re not on your own. These are stressful times, and HomeKeepr is here to help you get through them. To that end, here are some tips that will make working from home for the first time a lot easier.

Set Up Your Space

When you think of working from home, you might picture yourself lounging on the couch in your pajamas with a laptop on your lap. While some people do choose to work like this when working from home, for most home workers this sort of setup is going to kill any productivity they might have. Instead of taking a “work wherever I end up” approach, set up a desk or office space that’s intended solely for work-related activities. This will help you to stay on task when you’re at work and will keep work activities from bleeding over into leisure time.

Check Your Equipment

If you’re used to having in-person meetings during the week, getting used to remote meetings via a video service like Zoom or Skype can be a bit of an adjustment. To make this easier, check your equipment beforehand to ensure that everything will work correctly when it’s time to start a meeting. This includes checking your webcam, your microphone and your speakers to make sure everything functions properly. There are websites and software solutions that help you with this, and some platforms like Zoom have built-in tests as well.

Keep to a Schedule

One common misconception about working from home is that you automatically gain the freedom to work whenever you feel like working. While this may be true for some industries, if you’ve been working 9 to 5 for the last 10 years then that isn’t likely to change much just because your office is now in your guest room. Keep as close as possible to your regular schedule, allowing for possible reduced hours or other differences brought about by working from home. It can help to print out a copy of your “office hours” as well, both as a reminder to others that you’re busy with work and a reminder to yourself that you’re supposed to be on the job.

Avoid Distractions

It’s said that one of the hard things about working from home is the fact that home is where we keep all our favorite distractions. This includes a lot of things, ranging from games to books to the TV. It also includes family members, who can be hard to ignore when you’re supposed to be on the job. As much as possible, try to avoid interacting with the people and things in your home unless you’re taking a break from work activities.

Don’t Make Deals

It’s easy to tell yourself that if you do something unrelated to work now, you’ll make up the work that you’re supposed to be doing later. Unfortunately, this tends to snowball, and the next thing you know you’re behind on everything you’re supposed to be doing. Avoid making these sorts of deals; instead choose to do those things or have those conversations during your next scheduled break, just like you would do if you were still going in to work. If there’s something you want to do that won’t fit into a regular break, try to get your current tasks done BEFORE you take the time off instead of bargaining that you’ll wrap it up after.

Stay Connected

Isolation is difficult, especially if you’re used to working closely with your coworkers. You can fight this by calling them up, collaborating over video or even sending out daily emails or texts to check on everyone. Even though it’s not the one-on-one interaction you’re used to, the contact you have with your coworkers can still make a huge difference.
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Look to the Helpers: Maintaining Your Mental Well-Being

Things are pretty scary at the moment. When you turn on the news, read a paper or just scroll through your social media feed, most likely you’re seeing one person or another talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. It can have a profound negative effect on your mental health, even if you live in an area where there hasn’t been any local sickness. How do you handle it, when it seems like there’s just so much to bear? For at least one possible answer, let’s look back a few decades. Fred Rogers, better known as the one and only Mister Rogers, gave some advice that had been passed down from his mother: “Look for the helpers.” We’re all in this together, and with a slightly different mindset you can remember this even in the darkest of times.

Look for the Helpers

Mr. Rogers is highly quotable, but his comment about looking for the helpers is probably one of his more famous quotes. Though there are a few different versions from different things he’s shared over the years, one of the most poignant and relevant to our current situation comes from a newspaper piece he wrote back in 1986: There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong. If you’re tempted to give into despair, just think of all the doctors, nurses, police officers, volunteers and everyone else who are still out there and still doing their jobs. Remember that they’re not doing it just because they need a paycheck; they’re doing it because friends and neighbors in their community need them to. They’re doing it to help.

Nobody Is Alone

Everywhere we turn, the message seems to be about social distancing and self-imposed isolation to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. This is good and noble advice, but it can also be very lonely. Even if you have a family there with you at home, seeing only the same people day in and day out is difficult when you know that you’re not supposed to interact with others. It’s okay to feel that way, though… everyone else does. It’s easy to forget that other people are feeling the same fear, the same sense of isolation and the same uncertainty. They are common emotions that unite us all, even if we don’t realize it. A great way to fight these feelings is to reach out over the phone or a video chat and check in on friends in town, across the country or around the world. Talk about what you’re feeling and encourage your friends and family to talk about it as well. Confronting this fear is the first step in overcoming it.

Everyone Is Enough

If you watched Mr. Rogers on TV as a child, you’re familiar with his recurring mantra that “you’re special just the way you are.” In the current situation, this means acknowledging that you still have worth, even if the best that you can do right now is to stay indoors. You don’t have to be a doctor or deliver meals to the elderly in your neighborhood; if all that you can do is stay out of the way and ensure that you aren’t spreading the virus, then that is more than enough. Not everyone has to give their all with each part of this: You’re special just the way you are, doing just as much as you’re able to do. Take care of yourself and encourage others to take safe steps as well. If you can get out there and help firsthand then do so, but don’t despair if you can’t. Look for the helpers, and you’ll remember that there are a lot of ways to help. We can do this together, and you’re an important part of that effort.
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What You Need to Know About Cleaning for Coronavirus

There has been a significant amount of concern raised recently about COVID-19, a relatively recently discovered disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. A lot is still unknown about the virus and the disease that it causes, and this is causing some people a great deal of anxiety about it. Major conferences and events are being canceled, people are buying up supplies (even if they shouldn’t), and the internet is filled with memes teaching people how to wash their hands. COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious illness. Here’s some info that can help you to protect yourself, especially if you’re confused by some of the contradicting advice that you might have seen online.

What Is COVID-19?

Even though it’s mostly referred to simply as “coronavirus”, the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually a novel coronavirus that’s been designated “SARS-CoV-2” and sometimes referred to as “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 itself is a potentially severe respiratory illness that typically presents with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 recover, the disease can be severe and even fatal. Those at greatest risk from COVID-19 are individuals older than 60 years of age and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

Decluttering to Prevent Illness

If you want to clean up to try and prevent coronavirus infection, a good first step is to declutter your home. This will eliminate surfaces where the virus could linger, making it easier to disinfect your home and keep it clean. Decluttering can also have a positive effect on mental health and anxiety levels, which can improve your overall wellbeing and even provide a bit of a boost to the immune system.

Disinfecting Surfaces

The US Centers for Disease Control recommend disinfecting surfaces with regular household disinfectant wipes and sprays. While many of these have not been tested specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2, they are effective against some other common coronaviruses and are likely to at least reduce infectiousness if not kill the virus completely. Other household cleaners and disinfecting practices are also likely to be at least partially effective.

Handwashing Stations

One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is good handwashing practices. As such, make sure that you have soap available by every sink and clean towels ready for use after washing your hands. Printing out a guide to proper handwashing and placing it near your sinks can also be a good idea, especially if you have young children who are still learning how to wash their hands properly. If you have any, having hand sanitizer accessible for times when you can’t wash your hands is also helpful.

Don’t Panic

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Don’t stockpile supplies that you don’t need, buy sensible amounts of the things that you do need, and take reasonable steps like avoiding large crowds and not shaking hands. One of the best ways to stay safe from COVID-19 is to keep yourself clean, keep your home clean and apply some common sense to your preparations for the disease.
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What You Need to Know About Cleaning for Coronavirus

There has been a significant amount of concern raised recently about COVID-19, a relatively recently discovered disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. A lot is still unknown about the virus and the disease that it causes, and this is causing some people a great deal of anxiety about it. Major conferences and events are being canceled, people are buying up supplies (even if they shouldn’t), and the internet is filled with memes teaching people how to wash their hands.COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious illness. Here’s some info that can help you to protect yourself, especially if you’re confused by some of the contradicting advice that you might have seen online.

What Is COVID-19?

Even though it’s mostly referred to simply as “coronavirus”, the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually a novel coronavirus that’s been designated “SARS-CoV-2” and sometimes referred to as “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 itself is a potentially severe respiratory illness that typically presents with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 recover, the disease can be severe and even fatal. Those at greatest risk from COVID-19 are individuals older than 60 years of age and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

Decluttering to Prevent Illness

If you want to clean up to try and prevent coronavirus infection, a good first step is to declutter your home. This will eliminate surfaces where the virus could linger, making it easier to disinfect your home and keep it clean. Decluttering can also have a positive effect on mental health and anxiety levels, which can improve your overall wellbeing and even provide a bit of a boost to the immune system.

Disinfecting Surfaces

The US Centers for Disease Control recommend disinfecting surfaces with regular household disinfectant wipes and sprays. While many of these have not been tested specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2, they are effective against some other common coronaviruses and are likely to at least reduce infectiousness if not kill the virus completely. Other household cleaners and disinfecting practices are also likely to be at least partially effective.

Handwashing Stations

One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is good handwashing practices. As such, make sure that you have soap available by every sink and clean towels ready for use after washing your hands. Printing out a guide to proper handwashing and placing it near your sinks can also be a good idea, especially if you have young children who are still learning how to wash their hands properly. If you have any, having hand sanitizer accessible for times when you can’t wash your hands is also helpful.

Don’t Panic

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Don’t stockpile supplies that you don’t need, buy sensible amounts of the things that you do need, and take reasonable steps like avoiding large crowds and not shaking hands. One of the best ways to stay safe from COVID-19 is to keep yourself clean, keep your home clean and apply some common sense to your preparations for the disease.
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Your Spring Landscape To Do List

As the last winds of winter blow and the days become longer, it’s time to start thinking about the spring. In addition to cleaning up around the house, there are several landscaping activities that you generally want to do in the springtime. The question is, where do you start? If you’re not sure how to tackle your spring to-do list, here are a few suggestions. These are some of the most common landscaping tasks that need doing once things start to warm up, and knocking them out early can make other landscaping tasks easier as the year goes on. Who knows, taking care of some of these items might even get you inspired to take on a larger landscaping project later in the year.

Clean Up That Winter Refuse

The winter can be rough on your lawn, with clumps of leaves that haven’t quite decayed, sticks and branches that fell in a winter storm, muddy spots where ice formed and thawed and formed again … it can all leave a bit of a mess behind. Spend some time cleaning up the mess left by winter before you get into any other tasks and you’ll find that the rest of your spring to-do list will be much easier.

Prune the Trees and Shrubs

Early spring is a great time to prune most of your trees and shrubs, since it’s before they get into a strong growth period. Early pruning allows you to shape them the way you want them to be and gives you a chance to eliminate unwanted overhangs and encroachment. If you wait until there’s new growth you can actually stunt some of that growth and make it harder to control how your trees and shrubs are forming.

Prep Your Lawn

If you want your lawn to look its best, you need to show it some love in the spring. Aerate the lawn to help break up soil packed by snow and ice in the winter, dethatch it to help it grow in thicker, and sow some seed to fill in bare spots once it’s warm enough. If your lawn has an uneven surface after the winter, bringing in a roller to go over the lawn wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Clean Up Your Flower Beds

If you’ve got flower beds around your home, chances are they could use a bit of picking up after the winter. Get rid of any damaged plants, pull any weeds or grass that tried to get established during the winter, and tidy up any debris or other crud that might have found their way into your beds. You should also pull away the winter mulch surrounding your perennials and divide them to get your beds off to a good start.

Feed and Protect

While you’re working on your lawn and your flower beds, go ahead and take the time to prep them for spring growth. Add new mulch to your beds as needed, give your lawn a nice dose of fertilizer, and make sure that all your other plants are similarly fed and protected. Everything’s going to be doing a lot of growing in the coming months, so you want to make sure that they have everything they need.

Plan Your Summer

This is also a good time to prepare for late spring and summer projects as well. If you’re going to have a garden, take the time to start prepping it now by tilling the soil, working in compost and starting some of your spring seeds indoors. If you’re going to undertake a construction project or add new features to your lawn, go ahead and start clearing the area. The work you put in now will make things so much easier later in the year.

Ready to Get to Work?

Depending on what you have planned, you may need a bit of help to get your landscaping in tip-top shape. Luckily, HomeKeepr is here it help. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today to connect with landscaping pros who can help you design and implement the perfect landscaping plan for your lawn.
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Stranded Without a Kitchen Island?

When it comes to home improvements, there are few things that are requested more often than kitchen islands. Having a kitchen island can totally change the way that you work in your kitchen, and in some cases they can even add new functionality that you might not have had before. Because they’re such a hot commodity in a lot of homes, having a kitchen island in place can even increase the value of your home if you decide to put it on the market! So what makes for a good kitchen island? Long gone are the days when a kitchen island was just an additional surface to set things on while working in the kitchen. If you’re thinking about installing a kitchen island of your own, here are a few things you could consider adding to it to make it a modern, functional island.

Cooking Surfaces

Many modern kitchen islands contain burners, full stove tops or other cooking surfaces. Some even contain griddles or electric grills, giving you cooking options that your standard cook top might not offer. This both allows you to cook in different ways and gives you more surfaces and heat sources to work with when you’re fixing a large meal. Depending on the design of the kitchen island and the specific cooking surfaces added, you can either give the island an electric connection or hook it up to an existing gas line.

Island Appliances

Cooking surfaces aren’t the only things that people include in kitchen islands. You might also see appliances such as ovens, mini refrigerators or dishwashers included in the island as well. In some homes you might see less common appliances included as well such as a steamer, warming bin or wine cooler. If there are electrical outlets built into the island, you might also include countertop appliances such as a stand mixer, toaster or can opener.

Kitchen Prep Areas

One common reason for installing a kitchen island is to add a prep station to the kitchen that is separate from other kitchen surfaces. This can involve adding additional features, such as a small refrigerator to keep prepped items cold until you’re ready to cook. Some must-haves for a prep area on your kitchen island include a sink and some form of cutting surface. Ideally the sink should be deep enough to wash vegetables and other food items and should have both hot and cold running water. The cutting surface can take a variety of forms, though butcher block is a popular option. Having a rack or storage for cutting boards and possibly a built-in knife block are also popular options.

Additional Storage

If there’s one thing that almost every kitchen needs, it’s more storage. Your kitchen island can help with this, giving you a place to add additional drawers, shelves or cabinets. Spice racks or other ingredient storage is also a popular option to add. If you want to make the most use of your kitchen island space, you can also add a hanging rack above your kitchen island for pots, pans and other cooking items.

Stow-Under Seating

Some people want to be able to use their kitchen island as a place to enjoy a quick meal, especially at breakfast or lunch. Stools or other small seating options that store under a lip on the kitchen island can make this happen, providing easy access seating that stores out of the way when not in use. A seating space can be added on top of other features, typically by letting the side of the island that faces away from the main kitchen be used for seating while the interior-facing side is more functional.

Ready to Build Your Island?

If you want to find a pro to build your kitchen island or hook up your various fixtures, trust in HomeKeepr. Sign up for a free account today and start connecting with the professionals who can make your dream kitchen island a reality.
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Home Detective of Minnesota Home Inspection Services

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Be Snow Storm Ready!

Winter weather has a way of catching people by surprise. Even if you know a snow storm is coming, the amount of snow or speed of accumulation can sometimes take you by surprise. Unexpected snow can create a number of dangerous situations, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible in case a snow storm hits. To that end, here are a few ways that you can be ready to face snow storms or other hazards that winter might throw your way. Some of these tips may be useful for facing down other types of bad weather as well. Regardless of what the weather’s doing, though, make sure that you stay safe first and foremost.

Get Travel Done Early

If you need to go to the store, help relatives get ready for the snow or otherwise get out on the roads, try to get everything done as early as possible. If you can, try to be back home before the snow falls. If that’s not an option, head out at your earliest opportunity and avoid the temptation to break the speed limit. You shouldn’t waste time, but trying to rush increases your likelihood of an accident, so avoid going too fast while you’re behind the wheel.

Stay Inside

Ice and low temperatures typically accompany snow storms, so it’s best to stay inside where it’s warm. This will also eliminate the risk that you might slip on ice and injure yourself in a fall. Also remember that this rule applies for pets, too; either bring them inside or provide a safe and warm place for them while the weather outside is frightful.

Stock Up

Dry goods and canned foods are important staples to have when the snow is coming down outside. They might not be as tasty of an option as fresh-cooked meats and other meals, but the tastier options are sometimes harder to cook if your power is flickering due to the snow storm. Be sure that you include pet food, bottled water and similar items that you might not always get on a shopping trip! (And no, you most likely won’t need bread and milk unless you’re running low on those items anyway).

Stay Warm

Power outages can be a real hazard during snow storms. Make sure that you have multiple blankets available to cover up with in case the power should go out for a while. Home generators or even portable generators can be very useful if the power goes out, but remember to keep them outside as they often produce dangerous exhaust. The same goes for gas-powered heaters; you shouldn’t place them in the house since it can be hard to ventilate the gases that can build up when using those heaters indoors.

Have a Plan

Before a snow storm hits, take the time to develop a plan for your family in case of snow emergency. This should include making sure that everyone in the house knows where emergency supplies are located, how any generators you have work and other details like whose responsibility it is to go on a grocery run or evaluate potential damage after the snow stops falling. Make sure that you include something in your plan about checking in on your neighbors as well, since it’s important to make sure that nobody gets stuck in the cold once the snow starts to fall.

Is Your Roof Snow Storm Ready?

One part of your home that takes a real beating during snowy weather is your roof. To help prevent leaks or other roof failure during the winter, have your roof checked out by a professional each year. HomeKeepr can help you find a roofer to check the integrity of your roof and make any repairs that might be necessary. Sign up for your free account today to get your roof checked before the big snow hits.
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