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Apr 21 2015


Basement moisture can often cause problems for homeowners, as it often happens with little warning before it becomes a major issue.  This is very common in the spring time as snow melts and has no place to go with frozen the ground.  Moisture can cause rust, paint damage, and mold, which can aggravate allergies and cause other indoor air quality problems, creating a whole different set of home issues.

1 – Have the correct dehumidifier with setting options
It is important to have a working dehumidifier that is properly sized for basement square footage.  It’s suggested to keep the setting on “normal” and keeping it turned on year-round.  The dehumidifier will only operate when there is enough moisture to engage the unit.
Homeowners should consider purchasing a dehumidifier that drains automatically, rather than units that drain into a bucket and require regular emptying.  If you forget to empty the bucket, the unit will stop running and will increase the risk for conditions to create mold.  A unit that drains automatically keeps the air quality and humidity at the desired level, plus it’s one less thing to have to do.
2 – Check the sump pump and water discharge
A properly set sump pump will activate when the water level is just below the bottom of the drain tile inlet(s).  Homeowners should check the unit periodically to see that it is operational.
After a heavy rainfall, monitor the volume of water that discharges into the sump crock, as it will provide an idea of how often the sump pump should cycle.
Invest in an adequate battery backup.  A sump pump is needed most during a storm with heavy rainfall, and storm conditions can often cause power outages and fuse shorting.  Investing in a battery backup system can ensure the pump’s job gets done when it’s needed the most.
3 – Keep up on the Palmer Valve maintenance
Palmer valves were installed typically on homes built from 1925 – 1955.  They are a one-way check value in the floor drain that allows water to drain from the drain tile system into the sewer lateral, taking the water directly to the street sewer.  It should be checked and lubricated once per year.  If the valve is stuck or you aren’t sure if it’s working, contact
Brillo Home Improvements or have a qualified plumber inspect it.
4 – Inspect for moisture buildup and seepage
Inspect and monitor the interior perimeter of the basement with a good flashlight to see if there’s any evidence of moisture build up or if there is seepage by the bottom of the wall.  This may indicate that further evaluation by a professional may be necessary.
Monitor the basement’s humidity level, aiming for 50% or less helps immensely to control mold growth, as well as moisture and seepage.

1 – Check for proper grading once every two years
Over time, the ground around the house may settle.  A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the pitch of dirt away from the foundation.  It’s recommended that there be at least one inch of pitch for each foot away from the building.
Stone or mulch shouldn’t be confused with proper grading, since both materials are permeable to water and will not shed water away during a rainstorm.
2 – Check concrete surfaces around the building
Due to seasonal freezing and thawing, concrete walkways, patios, and driveways can move quite a bit.  Make sure the slope is sufficient for water management by using a garden hose.  Lay the hose in the middle of the surface and see what direction the water travels, and then determine if the water is moving away fast enough.  If unsure of the quality of the current concrete surface, contact Brillo Home Improvements to further evaluate the area.
3 – Check gutters and downspouts seasonally
A good rule of thumb is to make sure the extensions release water approximately six feet out from the building.
Older homes typically were built with undersized gutters and down spouts. A good rule of thumb if water displacement is lacking would be to change existing gutters to 5" and downspouts should be a minimum of 4".
Monitor the gutters and downspouts at least four time a year making sure that there are no blockages or obstructions that may cause the system to back up or over flow.

Mar 06 2015

Growing Up Brillo

Growing Up Brillo by
Michael J. Bovee

As the son of one of the three owners, I have a unique perspective on Brillo and what it means to me. For as long as I can remember being excited about home remodeling and construction has been a part of my life. As young kids, my dad had a log in the basement with a can full of roofing nails and a hammer for my brother and I to pound nails. We were driven to baseball and soccer practice in the front seat of a Brillo van. Boy scout projects included things like building our own bird houses. I always felt like I had an unfair advantage in the pine wood derby car races because my dad had cool power tools.

In school I enjoyed shop classes and activities where i got to use my hands and creativity. One summer, the owner's kids were commissioned to paint a load of cedar siding. In high school summer work got steadier at Brillo, and the work load got a bit heavier. We would dig holes for deck and porch footings, or break up old concrete patios.

When I went to college for a couple of years, life didn't feel quite right.  I did, however, always feel at home when I was away from school working for Brillo. It made more sense to get paid for work and learn things that directly affected my career.

Over a decade later, I feel perfectly comfortable taking on any task in any house. The lessons learned from the three owners and Lead Carpenters in the past have shaped my life and the future of Brillo. 

The above picture of me was taken during the new construction of a house.  I was about 9 years old.

Aug 21 2014

Brillo Partners with Cell Phones for Soldiers in Honor of Patriot Day

Milwaukee, WI – August 25  - In honor of Patriot Day, Brillo Home Improvements, Inc. and nonprofit Cell Phones For Soldiers Inc. are asking employees, neighbors, customers and friends to help troops call home by donating gently – used cellular phones.  Currently the military landscape is ever changing and as many as 200,000 troops are serving in the United States military overseas around the world.  By donating to Cell Phones For Soldiers, we can provide troops with a precious connection to loved ones back home.
Recycled cell phones can be dropped off during business hours only (9am -3pm) between August 25th – September 11th at Brillo Home Improvements, located at 5315 N. Lovers Lane Road, Milwaukee, WI 53225.  

Brillo Home Improvements is a local, regional and national award-winning full-service residential and commercial remodeling firm serving the greater Milwaukee area.  Incorporated in May of 1977 as a small roofing company by childhood friends, the company now specializes in all facets of home improvement including additions, kitchen and bath remodels, attic conversions, window and door replacement, and basement remodels.  The company also performs commercial remodeling including additions and office renovations.  Brillo Home Improvements is a member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Kitchen and Bath Association and the Better Business Bureau.
For information: or
Phone: (414) 442-2230 ext. 100

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Aug 11 2014

New Angie's List Review Posted on August 7, 2014

Thank you to Linda G. of St. Francis for taking the time to post an online review about your experience with Team Brillo:

Linda G
St Francis, WI 53235
Ceramic Tile
Marble & Granite
Remodeling - General
Remodeling - Kitchen & Bathroom
Services Performed: 
* More Weight is given to a review where work has been completed.
Work Completed Date: 
April 30, 2014
Hire Again: 
Description Of Work: 
Total bathroom remodel on a top floor condo.  Tub removed and tiled shower stall with bench installed, new toilet, granite vanity, bathroom mirror, light fixture, heated ceiling vent, etc.
Member Comments: 
After getting two bids to have my bathroom remodeled, I contacted Brillo to get my third and final estimate.  I met with Scott Gretzon.  He came prepared with a Brillo folder and a 3-page single-spaced list of references.  He urged me to call several of them.  Days later, I looked at that list and actually found someone I knew listed, so I called him for a reference.  Brillo got a rave review.
To say that Scott Gretzon has been wonderful, would be a gross understatement.  Frankly, I’m used to dealing with sales people who lie and say anything to get the job.  When dealing with Scott, I actually believed what he said. 
When I decided to go ahead, I emailed Scott. I decided to use Brillo because of Scott, not because Brillo had the
lowest price (because it didn’t).  I liked dealing with Scott because he is very kind, not pushy, and he used to do
installations himself till he had physical problems.  I had LOTS of questions, and he needed to
explain a lot of things to me, which he did in a very kind, patient manner.  That meant a lot to me.  If I was going to shell out thousands of dollars for a remodel, I wanted to understand everything.
My next major decision was whether to stay in my condo while the work was being done, or going on vacation.  I had a huge “trust” factor to contend with.  Letting people loose in my home while I’m gone was a major issue for me.  On the other hand, as I only have one bathroom in my condo, I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the inconvenience.  So I went on vacation.  My neighbor Heather was my eyes and ears while I was gone for two weeks. She sent me photos of the demolition (glad I missed that) and the work as it progressed.  She met Paul, my contractor, and emailed me about him. Heather is VERY fussy and particular, and she had nothing but great things to say about Paul and his work. This allowed me to have a very nice, stress-free vacation.
When I returned from vacation, my bathroom was in the middle of the remodel.  I met Paul and he would tell me what was
going on daily as I left for work in the morning.  During this entire time, Scott and Paul were nothing but kind, professional and made this whole remodel truly a breeze for me.
The final product, my gorgeous bathroom, looks spectacular.  It is the bathroom of my dreams.  I got everything I wanted, and more.  I have since referred two my friends to Brillo.  There were a few snafus along the way, and Scott and Paul quickly remedied them.
Since my bathroom, I had Brillo install a new patio door, and am currently waiting to have my kitchen painted.