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Andy Wojtowski

Podcast: Home Maintenance with Daniel Felt from Kura

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For this episode, we interview Daniel Felt, the owner of Kura Home Maintenance.  We talk about some of the most important home maintenance things that are neglected by homeowners and talk about some of our least-favorite chores.

TRANSCRIPTION

The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Daniel Felt: We provide all of the materials and all the expertise needed to maintain everything in your home. So we’re changing furnace filters, we’re delivering softener salt, cleaning your AC unit, cleaning air changers, basically everything. We have a list of about 35 items that our clients pick from, and then we take care of those when we visit their home.

[music]

Bill Oelrich: Welcome everybody to this week’s episode of Structure Talk. I’m Bill Oelrich, alongside my co-host, Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. And today in the studio we have Daniel Felt with us from Kura Home Maintenance, and we’re gonna talk about home maintenance. Fall is when you get to get all of this stuff done, the big stuff on a regular basis. But Daniel’s gonna talk to us about why you need to do this on a regular basis. Not just fall, winter, summer, spring, the whole deal. And just like hockey season never ends, neither does home maintenance.

[chuckle]

BO: So Daniel, if you could just take a minute and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your company, and how you got into the home maintenance business, that’d be awesome.

DF: Yeah, thank you for having me. So we started in 2016 to essentially prolong the life of homes and help them be more efficient. So we visit our clients, typically it’s once a quarter. If you have a needy home, we like to call them, we will come monthly, but that’s pretty rare. And for some really simplistic homes, we’ll come bi-annually. But a majority of our clients, we visit once a quarter. We provide all of the materials, and all the expertise needed to maintain everything in your home. So we’re changing furnace filters, we’re delivering softener salt, cleaning your AC unit, cleaning air changers, basically everything. We have a list of about 35 items that our clients pick from, and then we take care of those when we visit their home.

BO: So are you on a first name basis with everybody when you roll up, they’re like, “Hey, come on in and check this out” or how does it all work?

DF: Not at this time. So we do have a team, we have… Currently, we have three crews that are out running. Everyone is trained by me, but I still go out and I give the initial walk-through. ‘Cause we have a really nice client form that they can actually pick and choose the items, it looks like report card for your home. And so, they pick and choose the items that they want to have. So if everything goes really well, you just deal with our office and our techs.

BO: I mean, Reuben can talk about this. He has searched for years to find a reputable maintenance company to tell our clients about. So Reuben, I’ll let you talk about that, sir.

Reuben Saltzman: We have people knocking down our door to get exactly what it is that you offer. We’ve had so many people say, “Well, alright. Well, you guys do all this stuff for us. But you’re telling me I gotta do this with my furnace, and I gotta do this with my water softener, can I hire you guys to do that?” And people have been asking us this for 20 years. This was kind of a pipe dream of my dad’s back… Over 20 years ago now. It was a discussion to have this type of service, and we just never found a way to really make it fit what we do. We’re inspecting houses, or we’re working on houses, it’s one of the two. And we’ve drawn a really clear dividing line, but we get so many people wanting all of this. And so when I met you the first time I was just like, “What, you do what? Tell me more.” I was just delighted with all this.

DF: Thank you.

RS: And so I love the fact that we can refer your guy’s services. And I gotta say this, too, you’ll hear it at the break. We now have a commercial for you guys that we’re running. Bill, explain the commercial.

BO: I hate home maintenance.

[chuckle]

BO: I can’t think of anything I would rather do less than do something on my house. And so, I think you fill an amazing need because let’s face it, if you’re a modern family, and you’ve got two-and-a-half kids, and you live outside of the ring, the 494/694 ring, you probably have a newer house, you probably have a house that needs regular attention, and you’re probably at an ice rink more than you are in your living room. So things fall through the cracks. Tess, you talked about this story recently. You opened a HRV, and it was like a snow shower on you from… What, moths or something? It’s just gross. And nobody understands what these boxes are for. So that’s where Kura comes in, and I love it, I love it.

RS: And one other thought on this, I guess I didn’t specify, but when I talk about that commercial we’re doing, usually when people have commercials, it’s a paid advertisement. I just wanna be clear, that’s not what this is.

[chuckle]

RS: We’re just telling people about Kura, because we love them. We have no financial arrangement with Daniel whatsoever, we don’t advertise on his website, he doesn’t advertise with us. We just like his service, and we’d like to tell people about it. That’s all this is.

BO: Well, yeah. And like Tess I know from a building science perspective, you’re like, “This is absolutely necessary.”

Tessa Murry: So necessary.

BO: So why?

TM: Well, if you don’t maintain your systems properly, and we’re talking about your furnace, if you don’t change the filter regularly, your HRV/ERV, if you don’t change the filters and clean the intakes, then your mechanical systems won’t work the way they’re supposed to and that could have an impact on your air quality, the life span of these mechanical systems, moisture build-up in the house, all sorts of things, really, really important. And we haven’t even talked about dryer ducts yet. I’m sure Daniel has some great stories about maybe some dirty dryer ducts, but it could even be fire hazards if you neglect some of these things, you know.

DF: Yeah, 100%. We find dryer vents are actually completely clogged. We turn the dryer on, and we go outside to test the airflow, and there’s nothing there. So essentially, you guys are 100% right. Over time, if you’re not cleaning your dryer vent, it’s going to become a hazard, and we run into some pretty close calls where maybe it wasn’t gonna happen today or tomorrow, but the air was not getting outside of the home from that dryer exhaust vent.

BO: In some of these dryers, the natural gas, there’s a fire occurring naturally in this unit to dry your clothes. And then there’s just this massive… It’s almost like a firecracker wick all the way out to the outside of your house. If you don’t clean it out.

RS: Yeah, a lot of people don’t understand what’s going on under the hood in your clothes dryer. But you have a straight up flame inside there. They’re shooting a flame at a drum basically. And this is no joke. This’ll start things on fire.

TM: You just scared me, I have a gas dryer in my house, I need to check that, make sure it’s clean.

RS: The first time I was on an inspection, the cover was missing. And they saw it, they’re like, “There’s something really wrong with this.” I’m like, “No, the cover’s just missing. That is what they do.” They’re like, “Are you kidding?” “Yeah, absolutely.”

TM: That’s a gas dryer. Yeah yeah crazy. Daniel, do you get on roofs, do you check dryer ducts that vent through attics? So people that have laundry rooms on the second floor, do you do that?

DF: Yep, yeah, we most definitely. We clean them outside, all the rough weed. When we do go up in the… Considering that we know that most people, like you said, build in the suburbs, stuff like that, they’re not going up there frequently. You’re not. I know you have good intentions, but all of a sudden four years have gone by. So, yeah, we’re cleaning out the top vent, and we get all the debris out there. So we just make sure that we’re getting all the way down in the dryer with our tools to get that clean for you.

BO: Daniel, I wanted you to kind of dig into what it is you do. So tell me about a typical house, 1990 year or newer, that’s got some things that need attention. What are you walking into?

DF: So, if you called our company, starting from the very beginning, I would come on, me with you. It takes about 20 minutes and we walk through your kitchen, your laundry room, and your utility room. So in the kitchen, we are cleaning your refrigerator coils, we’re changing that water filter in the refrigerator for you.

RS: How often you need to do the refrigerator coil? ‘Cause I’ve never done one before. Tell me more about this?

DF: Yeah, so it’s recommended to do that annually.

RS: Okay, alright, okay, sorry, go on.

TM: I’m a couple of years behind.

DF: Yeah, so recommend doing that annually. Refrigerator… It’s by gallons, but as a standard, you should do that… Change that about every six months for standard use for that refrigerator filter, cleaning the garbage disposal, just gets all that junk out of there. Not only does it help with the smell, but so it’s not corroding on the edges, it’s kind of similar to, if your water heater corrodes, it’s ’cause there’s sediment building up on the bottom in there, so.

TM: How do you clean that out, with a chemical or with a device?

DF: It’s actually so easy, that just… No one does it, but we…

TM: You don’t wanna give it away.

DF: No, I can give it away, I can give it away. So, we actually… We take a handful of ice cubes and that’s gonna help sharpen it and clean, get that junk off and then about a half couple of vinegar, you pour those in together, and you run that garbage disposal for about 10 seconds. The smell is miraculously gone, I just did it to my house this weekend and yeah, ’cause my wife was frustrated… My house is like…

TM: That’s a cool trick, yeah.

DF: The plumber’s pipes leak type deal, so the wife was complaining about a smelly garbage disposal. So in the kitchen, we’re cleaning the range hood, that definitely needs to be cleaned, we clean it every time we go, so quarterly basis and we can clean steel granite counter tops. That’s not as necessary for the home, but a lot of people like the cosmetic look of that.

RS: I wanna dig into all of these, these all sound like things that people could use more information on ’cause I feel like there’s a clear dividing line, there’s gonna be people who absolutely love this and they wanna hire you. There’s gonna be other people who say, “I wouldn’t dream of hiring this out. I’m doing this myself,” and for those people, I just wanna share your tricks ’cause they’re not gonna hire you anyways.

DF: Yeah, most definitely.

RS: When you talk about cleaning the hood fan, it’s true, right? When you talk about cleaning the hood fan, what do you do for that?

DF: Yeah, so there’s several different makes and models, the really simplistic ones, there’s just a little filter there typically about 6 by 10 inches, you take… They pop off, you can spray them, some people put them in a washing machine. We don’t have time for that ’cause we’re not gonna stay for… Twiddle our thumbs while your washing machine is running. So, we spray a degreaser, a green clean product that is just gonna degrease that, it’s kid and pet friendly but that’s gonna clean that. For more industrious, when you get into higher end homes. You’re… We’re having to take down a few more things. We actually remove covers, and we take the fan blades out actually and degrease those. No matter what the make or model is, we take it all down, we put it in the sink and we’re cleaning in that area.

DF: So, a lot of it’s degreasing. If it’s never been cleaned, we’ve had people calling us just to degrease a range hood, and it can take our guys, we’ve had to use a heat gun actually to melt it off, because it’s built up for so long, and that can take about 2 hours with two guys, so four-man hours. And these guys are professionals with the right tools. But once you do it once, if you’re doing it quarterly, it should be about a 15 to 20 minute project, and that’s the whole basis of our company is just by doing it routinely, when you’re supposed to, it’s gonna… That fan isn’t working as hard, so it’s gonna last longer, and it’s not getting junk build-up, so that’s just what’s one little machine in your home?

RS: Sure.

BO: It’s one of these things, it boggles my mind. People change the oil on their car, and they understand that you need to maintain that and they just will completely neglect the biggest investment they’ve ever made. And I’m guilty of it too ’cause the last time I changed my furnace filter it was in for nine months.

RS: You’re the worst. We know how you operate your home after we did our fall maintenance podcast.

BO: Yes, yes, correct. So, Daniel, start-to-finish on a normal house. Are you there for 45 minutes, two hours?

DF: So the first visit, it’s gonna be a little bit longer. We typically have two techs there for about two to three hours on our average home. After that, we’re hoping that two guys can come in for about an hour and 15 to an hour and a half, so about three man hours every quarter. We’re bringing all the materials, everything so it’s really cool ’cause when we give an estimate, it actually tell us the approximate amount of time. Like if you wanna deliver… Get softener salt it’ll probably take you about 35 to 40 minutes to go to Home Depot or whatever store, get softener salt and bring it back. So our average person would take about 11 to 14 hours to maintain their home in what we can do in about an hour and a half.

TM: He sold me.

DF: It’s a huge time saver. And Bill, you said it earlier too about that, are your average client… A lot of people when they hear about our company, they’re like, “Oh, this is gonna be great for my 70 year old mom.” Realistically, we have four or five people that are retired, almost every one of our clients is simply just too busy…

TM: Working professionals.

DF: Yeah, yeah, they’ve got a few kids, a dog running on the backyard and they’re busy. A lot of them are dual income or a stay at home parent, and these are busy people that they know it’s supposed to be done and they just, they have the intent. We have people that we’ll give an estimate like a year ago and they call us like, “We literally haven’t done anything since you were here last, we do wanna sign-up now.” It’s very, very common and your home sells for more when it’s been maintained. Everything last longer, it’s very affordable to maintain the appliances in your home.

BO: So, I did spend an afternoon with one of the techs and saw how the whole operation worked and we got to the furnace. You guys changed the humidity filter, but that thing was so gunked up in four months. I was like, “What does it look like if somebody pays absolutely no attention to this?”

DF: Yeah, we’ve seen, we call them humidifier filters or water panel, we have seen those completely calcified over, just done for. There’s no way, ’cause water’s supposed to trickle through that, so that air can flow through and humidify the home. And I know I’ve had a conversation with Ruben about how much we all don’t like humidifiers but if they’re working properly and the filter is being changed, they can be great in some of these larger homes, but there’s so many things that we find completely neglected. The HRVs, every time. We can go a couple of weeks without seeing… It’s like, well, these aren’t that bad. And about two weeks ago, we had two of them in a row that were completely molded over and they were running, so you were just pumping mold into the home. And people have no idea, they never… Like you said, they never open that box in their utility room. Because I don’t know what that is.

BO: I wish we had more time to educate everybody and to be able to balance these houses. I would say it’d be nice to have a couple hours after they move in to be like, “Okay, now we have your full attention, this is on you. And so indoor air quality is gonna run through this metal box. So not only do you need to call Kura, but you need to understand that dial, and what you’re doing when you’re turning it. I thought we could get through all of what you do in one segment, but that’s clearly not possible. So we’re gonna take a quick break and when we come back, we’re gonna jump back into the utility room and then go off to the washer and dryer and all that fun stuff.

BO: So Daniel, before we left off, we had talked about the kitchen and then talked about HRVs. But what else? You’re in the laundry room, you’re in the mechanical room.

DF: Yeah, so, laundry room, really quick, washing machines, front-loaders they need to be cleaned on the inside, we don’t clean the inside but there’s a filter on some, makes the model. So if you look on the lower left right-hand corner, there’s a little square and it looks like a postcard about that size, there’s a filter that needs to be cleaned. It might be one of the smelliest things we do, so a lot of home owners love to leave that to us. So, we clean that out every visit that we’re there. For dryers, we…

RS: So wait, hold on, for that filter…

TM: Yeah, that blew my mind, I did not know that washers had filters on them. Did you, Reuben?

RS: No.

DF: Yeah, so it’s catching all the debris that’s going…

RS: No.

DF: Out so it doesn’t clog your drain.

TM: Oh my gosh, how often are you supposed to check that or change it?

DF: I highly recommend frequently, we do it every three months.

RS: Weekly, weekly.

DF: If you’re the perfect home owner, you’re probably doing it about once a month.

TM: Oh my gosh, and do you just clean it or do you have to replace it?

DF: No, it just needs to be cleaned out, correct.

TM: Clean.

BO: It unscrews and then you pull all the gunk…

TM: Not looking forward to that, not looking forward to that.

DF: And mucky water comes out, you gotta clean it up, that’s really fun.

RS: If you have a washing machine that smells like sewage, is that probably it?

DF: It can be one of things I mean ’cause that’s… It reeks when you pull that out.

TM: Does yours smell like sewage, Reuben?

RS: No, but I’ve done some inspections where I run the washing machine and all the sudden, it’s just like, “Yuck.”

DF: Yeah, they’ve got a lot of junk and filth.

BO: You can smell it before you get there. You walk up the stairs and the laundry room is right there and you’re like…

DF: So you should always leave that open when you’re not operating it and then change that filter, clean that filter out as frequently as you think about it. So, at least every quarter, and it’s gonna really help with that smell. So for the dryer, we’re cleaning… If they’re… It’s a front loader as well, we can clean the interior of that dryer, so we take that little take out the little filter, there’s some screws in there, we take that, we can clean around the drum to help prevent that. Obviously, after each load. I hope everyone knows, you should be cleaning that little lint trap out, but… And then on a annual basis, we’re cleaning the exterior dryer vent, if we’re in a home, we see four or five, six little kids running around, we’re gonna clean that biannually for them just because we know it’s being used a lot. So, I come from a family of six, I know that the laundry is run every day.

BO: Never shuts off.

DF: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, that’s about it for the laundry room, those filters and just cleaning up things really common but getting into the bathroom area, we’re cleaning bathroom fans on a annual basis. A lot of people want the exterior to be cleaned as well. We have done that for them, but we never find anything, really common misconception.

RS: Oh, the bath fan trouble.

DF: Yeah, on the bath fan, yeah.

RS: Agreed.

DF: Some people just want that cleaned, and we tell them, but if you want it, you want it. But cleaning that bathroom, so taking off the cover or getting up in there helps that bath fan run more efficiently, and all, it’s just quieter, and all that stuff. So I know you guys have a lot of stories about Bathroom fans too.

TM: You wrote a blog recently, Reuben, about a fire.

RS: Yeah, about one that started on fire during our inspection, that was scary.

DF: I read that blog with… Yeah. I read that blog with my jaw open. So I was completed. And then cleaning drains, another huge one, it’s really gross, really easily neglected. You don’t see it. All of sudden the water is not flowing anymore, and those need to be cleaned as well.

BO: Do you take them apart?

DF: We can, so we have a three steps. If This Then That, type deal, there’s a really cool product called Power plumber. You can get it for about 10 bucks and it actually shoots a little blast of air through. You just have to make sure you cover out that… What’s it called?

BO: The overflow?

DF: The overflow, yeah.

TM: Overflow. So it doesn’t shoot back at you.

DF: Yeah, so it doesn’t shoot back at you. Experienced that the hard way, but that’s actually…

TM: Gross.

DF: Then that leaves little enzymes in there, that’s actually cleaning and eating away at that as well. It’s really nice green friendly way to do that. We don’t drive around the cities with 50 gallon barrels of Drano by any means, we don’t use Drano.

TM: Question, is that okay to use on galvanized steal drain pipes like older drain pipes, do you know? Is it… It’s like a chemical?

DF: No, it’s just like a little enzyme that’s eating, so it should be just fine, we’ve never had an issue with it. And we use it every day in multiple homes.

BO: My guess though, is you’re not in a bunch of old old houses with old galvanized drains.

DF: We’re not. No.

BO: These are the modern ones like the fancy cars and stuff. I don’t mean the people who have these houses have fancy cars. What I’m saying is it’s a more technical building than my house, which was built in the 40s.

DF: Yeah, I’d say a lot, our average home that we’re in is less than 20, 25 years old, for sure.

BO: Okay.

DF: We’re in a lot of the suburbs, we do a lot of work in Edina area too, but we’re basically, full circle around the metropolitan area. That’s where we do most of our work where homes are built in the last 25 years.

BO: Makes sense.

DF: So yeah, other than that, we use a few other items but Reuben, you touched on earlier, kind of finding where your sweet spot is and. The line between routine maintenance and handyman is so fine. And so we try and stay… We stay really far away from handyman stuff. We’re not a handyman company, we do the routine maintenance that you’re supposed to be doing if you were the perfect home owner.

BO: Sure.

DF: Those are all the things that we’re doing, so we’re not gonna remodel that bathroom for you by any means that’s not us.

BO: Will you offer suggestions?

DF: Yeah, we have.

BO: A nice white subway tile over here. With…

DF: Maybe. My wife would be really good with that.

RS: Design services.

DF: Not me so much, but we have a lot of referrals that are highly vetted that we know the owners or the sales people that are working there, and we highly trust them enough to put our name behind them so we try to have a referral for everything, but as you guys know, you can’t have an answer for all but it’s really nice to be able to give your clients answers when you’re there.

BO: Okay, so after people hear this, and they’re like, “Yep, I’m out of the home maintenance business. I’m gonna sub that out.” Where do they find you? What’s the best way to get a hold of you?

DF: Yeah, so you can find a lot of information on our Facebook, search in Kura Home, our website kurahome.com. The best way to figure out exactly what we can do for you in your home, shoot our office a call and from there I will personally come out, walk through your home, it takes about 20 minutes to show you everything we offer. I try to have a very informational walk-through, so that worst case scenario, at least you’re more prepared to be a better home owner and we’ll create that little client form you. It basically looks like a report card for your house. You can fill it out for each quarter everything. And now we actually made some edits and since you guys have seen that report card, and it actually tells you how frequently you’re supposed to do everything. I mean, this is like the answer key to being a home owner.

BO: Do you offer them the card with just all Fs on it to begin with and so you move in this direction?

DF: No we… We try to not make people feel bad. I try to kinda just act like it’s totally normal. We see some pretty crazy stuff, but I mean people there’s a reason why they’re calling us it’s because they need home maintenance, and we’re not judging, we’re not judging them for that. So yeah, we see really crazy things. And utility rooms are the one area where no one brings a guest ever. Every time I walk into someone’s home they’re like, “Excuse the mess.” I’m not kidding. That’s a good guarantee. I’d bet on it, every home that I walk into. And they’re not even that bad. If I can walk through each room I’m pretty happy.

RS: I aways joke that when I go into a house, people always say, “Oh, excuse the way it looks.” And I always say, “The people who need to be forgiven for how it looks, never apologize.”

DF: Yeah.

TM: Yes, it’s true.

RS: Don’t worry. Your house is fine.

DF: Yeah.

BO: We gotta put a bow on this one. But thank you, Daniel, for coming in and talking all about home maintenance. If you wanna find him you can catch him on Facebook, Kura home maintenance. It’s the easiest way to get a hold of him. And if you want homeowner status, like homeowner of the year award, high status as a home owner, call Kura. They’ll take care of you. Until next time, you’ve been listening to Structure Talk.