With Winter fast approaching, there are a few maintenance and safety tasks every homeowner should tackle:
- Protect wood floors and carpet: Place a floor mat and/or boot-scrapper just inside the main entries to keep water and mud from being tracked onto expensive and easily damaged floorings and rugs.
- Seal cold-air gaps: Air gaps around windows and doors make it harder, and more expensive, to keep your house warm.
- Clean the gutters: Now that the trees have lost most of their leaves, give the gutters a thorough cleaning before they heavy rains arrive.
- Check your detectors: During the winter months, there’s a sharp increase in carbon monoxide poisoning and home-heating fires. To protect your family, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are less than 10 years old and have fully charged batteries.
- Revisit your emergency supplies: According to FEMA, every home should have enough food, water and medicine on hand to last for two weeks in case of an earthquake, major storm or other natural disaster.
Another winter maintenance to consider is Holiday Lights Safety. Wrapping the house and yard with lights is a beautiful holiday tradition, but it needs to be done with care to ensure there are no accidents.
Here are five tips from professional lighting designers:
- Enlist a helper to hold light strings, steady ladders and more.
- To avoid shocks: don’t work when it’s raining; use a fiberglass ladder and wood poles; wear gloves and rubber-soled shoes.
- All lights should be plugged into a legitimate outdoor outlet with a built-in GFCI circuit breaker. A 15-amp circuit can handle a maximum of 1,800 total watts; a 20-amp circuit can handle 2,400 watts.
- There are special clips available for hanging lights on just about any surface, so avoid staples, nails and screws. for rough surfaces (like concrete and brick), try using hot glue.
- Put all the lights on timers to ensure they’re safely turned off at the end of each night.
Source: Windermere Real Estate November Home Update.
If you think it’s okay to let your roof languish, know this: Doing so could nullify your homeowners insurance coverage. If your roof is nearing or past its expiration date – or if you’ve notice leaks, water stains on the ceiling or other telltale signs of a possible leak – no is the time to take action.
Inspect it before winter
It never pays to wait and see if a worn roof still repels the rain. So make time in the fall, before winter kicks in, to ensure it’s fit for another winter. The safest way to assess its current condition is to use binoculars to look for curled shingles, cracks, loose or missing shingles, moss growth and other signs of damage. If you have access to the attic space, check the underside of the roof for water stains, especially around chimneys, vents and roof valleys. If you find signs of leaks or serious wear, ask for evaluations from a couple of reputable roofing companies – or an independent certified maintenance professional. I’m happy to provide a referral if you need it.
Determine the number of layers
If you currently have just one layer of asphalt shingles on your roof, and they need replacement, you may be able to simply add another layer. However, if there are already two layers, you must remove both before installing new. A roofing contractor can assess the situation and explain your options.
Stick with the style you have
Switching to a different roofing styles can be an expensive, involved process. Before considering such a radical change, take a look at the options available for the style of roofing you already have.
Higher quality is your best option
The most expensive aspect of a roofing project is the cost of labor. so it’s to your advantage to choose higher-quality, longer-lasting materials – which will allow you to rest easy knowing you won’t have to re-roof again for decades.
Keeping cool with better venting
When heat gets trapped in your attic during the summer months, it prevents the interior of your home from cooling down, even after the outside temperature has dropped. To keep that heat blanket from forming, consider installing more roof and attic venting – especially if you’re having a new roof installed.
New gutters are optional
If your gutters are damaged or of poor quality, it’s a good idea to replace them when the house is re-roofed, but it’s not necessary. Your gutter system is separate from the roofing system, and both can be repaired or replaced independently, by different companies.
Also not included…
Don’t expect roofers to make chimney repairs (that’s a job for a mason). The roofers also won’t paint the trim around your roofline, prune overhanging branches, or perform other maintenance chores around the upper areas of the house.
Alert the neighbors
Be proactive and tell the neighbors about your roofing plans. Depending on the space between homes and the access required, your roofing contractor may need to get their permission before setting ladders and other equipment on their property. Even if that’s not the case, your neighbors will no doubt appreciate the notice.
A final note for prospective sellers
If you’re thinking of selling your home anytime soon, you’ll want to be sure to tackle any necessary roof repairs before the inspection. For other pre-sale preparations tips, contact me.
*Source: Windermere Home Update September 2018
I’m house-sitting. Actually dog and turtle sitting. The house is fine without me.
The first morning I came out to check on Hermie, the turtle. He was staring at the temperature and humidity gauge in his aquarium. Staring does not properly describe it — his neck was stretching towards the gauge with great attention.
Hermie sensed his owner was gone and he was at the mercy of my furtive fending for his needs. I’m convinced that he was staring at that gauge and thinking: “My owner is gone. This woman does NOT know what she’s doing. If those gauge indicators move outside of the required ranges, I will die. I’m terrified!”
OR — Hermie believes in the great gauge god in the sky.
Either way. Hermie’s owner has successfully overseen her turtle out of hibernation. Just in time for me to force him into existential angst.
Environments are tenuous. Any little change can cause damage, chaos, … a renewed focus on a higher power.
This is true when you buy a new home. Maybe more people are now living in the home. Systems are used differently. A period of vacancy dried out the o-rings in your [insert plumbing fixture here] and you are 3 uses away from total failure and flooding.
Home warranties cover major systems in a home for the first full year of ownership. The one time fee for coverage can be negotiated as paid by the Seller, too. In Walla Walla, American Home Shield is a common provider — www.ahs.com.
So — when it comes to care of your new home, don’t just hope and pray. Hermie needs all the support he can get from the gauge god in the sky and there’s a better resource for home owners in a home warranty.
Source: Melissa Tetz
Preparing for Holiday Visitors
Take time now to ensure your home is properly prepared for the onslaught of family and friends who may be visiting during the holiday season this year. The secret to being a memorable holiday host is having a house that’s not only welcoming, but also safe and well-maintained. Following are some suggestions for quick, pre-visit improvements.
LIGHT UP THE OUTDOORS
Installing exterior lighting can quickly transform your house from a dark object to an evening oasis. For dramatic effect, beam lights along the sides of your house. To bring your landscaping to life, mount upward-facing lights at the base of large trees and bushes. Beckon your guests (and make their final approach infinitely safer) by posting lights along walkways and stairs.
PRESSURE-WASH THE WALKWAYS AND DRIVEWAYS
Mossy steps and walkways are very slippery at this time of year. And the best way to remove these organic build-ups is with a powerful pressure washer.
BOLT THE BOOKSHELVES
Bookshelves more than five feet high can be accidentally pulled or pushed over by the well-meaning guests – with potentially serious results. Anchor them to the walls with brackets and bolts specially designed for the task.
GIVE YOUR TOILET(S) A TUNE-UP
To ensure your loo can accommodate the additional users…
- Use a small, handheld mirror to see if the all-important water holes on the underside of the toilet bowl rim are plugged with mineral deposits and grime. If so, use a length of wire clothes hanger to clear them.
- Treat your toilet with one of the products that dissolves built-up paper and organic waste in the pipes (a product called “Toilet Care Tune-up” is sold at hardware stores, Walmart, big box home-improvement stores, and more).
- Make sure it’s still securely bolted to the floor: Grab both sides of the bowl and try to rock it back and forth. If there’s any movement, tighten the floor bolts (but not so tight that you crack the fragile porcelain).
CLEARN THE ENTERTAINING AREAS
If guests have to maneuver around pet food bowls, recycling containers, potted plants, piles of reading materials and other obstructions, there’s a very good chance someone is going to trip or slip.
HAVE THE CHIMNEY INSPECTED
If there’s even a chance you’re going to have a real-wood fire, and you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned in a couple of years, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep now.
CHANGE THE FURNACE FILTER
To help those guests who may have allergies to dust, pollen and pet hair, change your furnace filter.
If your current home is no longer satisfying your needs, including holiday hosting duties, take some time this winter to seriously consider your real estate options. Spring is a great time to sell. And I would be happy to provide some initial information regarding pricing, market trends and the state of the mortgage industry.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update.
Garage Door Maintenance
If just one part of your garage door fails, the consequences can be significant. If it won’t open all the way, your car could be stuck inside until a repair crew arrives. If it won’t close completely, everything stored in your garage – as well as your home – could be vulnerable to burglars. And should it override the built-in safety features, anyone standing in its way could be badly hurt. The key to avoiding problems with your garage door is regular maintenance. Once a year, take an hour to perform the following checks and services.
Warning: Garage doors are heavy and dangerous. Always unplug the opener before performing any garage door inspection or maintenance. And do not attempt any significant repairs on your own.
LOOK & LISTEN – Stand inside your garage and watch the garage door go up and down a few times. Listen for any grinding or scraping noises. Look to make sure the door operates smoothly and makes a tight seal with the ground.
CHECK THE “OBSTRUCTION SENSORS” & “AUTO-REVERSE” – To ensure no one gets trapped under a closing garage door, all automatic garage door openers manufactured after 1992 are equipped with “obstruction sensors” and an “automatic-reverse” feature. Make sure both are working correctly.
- Place a bucket directly under the open garage door, and push the “close” button. The obstruction sensor beam should recognize that an obstruction is present and not allow the door to close.
- Next, place an old chair under the open door (positioning the legs so they’re out of the way of the sensor beam). Then push the button to close the door. When the bottom of the door meets the chair, the door should immediately reverse and open again.
INSPECT THE ROLLERS & CLEAN THE TRACKS – The little wheels attached to the sides of the door should roll freely and not wobble. Spray them with silicone lubricant spray (not WD-40) occasionally to keep them well lubricated. The tracks that the rollers rest on should be clean and free of debris.
LUBRICATE THE SPRINGS & CHAIN/BOLT – Spread some white lithium grease on the chain or long metal bolt that connects the opener motor and the door (if it’s a rubber belt, do not lubricate it). Spray the springs mounted above the door with silicone lubricant.
REPLACE THE WEATHER STRIP – If it’s brittle or cracked, the thick rubber strip on the bottom of the garage door should be replace.
TASKS BEST LEFT TO THE PROS – The following maintenance and repair tasks are dangerous and require an experienced hand. In other words, they should always be handled by a professional garage door electrician.
- Professional inspection & adjustment (every 3-5 years)
- Replacement of worn or broken springs
- Replacement of worn or bent tracks
- Replacement of worn or broken rollers
- Repair of frayed cables
FINAL NOTE – Many homeowners (and most renters) don’t have enough storage space, which has led to a dramatic increase in off-site storage rentals. If it’s time you had more on-site space for cars or storage, allow me to show you some homes in your area that might be a better fit.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update October 2017
Four Fall To-Dos
For many people, fall is the best season of all – not too hot, not too cold; lots of color in the leaves; and a little less hectic at home with the kids back in school. What a great time to tackle a few important fair-weather home-maintenance tasks at home. In just a matter of weeks, fall will be upon us. If you want your home to be well prepared for the coming rain and cold, focus your attention on these four tasks:
DISCOVER WHERE YOU’RE WASTING ENERGY
An energy audit is a step-by-step analysis of your major appliances, your heating and cooling system, your lighting, the major air leaks in your home, the amount of insulation in your walls and ceilings, plus more. The U.S. Department of Energy website (energy.gov) offers referrals to local energy auditors who can perform this task, as well as instructions for a preliminary do-it-yourself energy audit.
GET AN EXPERT OPINION ON OLDER TREES
Winter is when older trees are prone to falling, which can be very dangerous for any people in the area, as well as any surrounding structures. Now is the time to ask a professional arborist to assess the significant trees on your lot and let you know if any are weak, diseased or otherwise prone to toppling anytime soon.
CONSIDER GUTTER AND DOWNSPOUT GUARDS
This is a great time to consider installing leaf guards to prevent your rain gutters and downspouts from clogging once the rain and leaves start falling. Downspout guards are inexpensive metal spheres about the size of a baseball that fit into the openings of your downspout and prevent leaves from washing down the downspout and creating a blockage. Gutter leaf guards are a bigger investment. They fit over the top of your gutters and keep leaves from ever even entering the gutter (or downspout). While often advertised as a solution that can eliminate gutter-cleaning for good, the truth is, if you live under large deciduous trees, you should check to make sure the guards are working correctly about once a season.
CHECKING FOR CRACKED BRICK MORTAR
If you have brick walls or a brick chimney, you’re going to want to check the condition of the mortar (the filler between the bricks). If that concrete filler is cracked, falling out or already missing in spots, get a bid from a brick mason for its repair. Because, once rain starts oozing inside a brick structure for an extended period of time, the metal supports inside can rust, and the entire structure can start leaning and sinking.
A FOOTNOTE FOR THOSE CONSIDERING SELLING
These are important tasks that are well timed for fall. But if you’re considering selling your home anytime soon, you may not want to commit to such long-term maintenance projects. I would be happy to way the pros and cons with you as well as provide references to get you going in the right direction.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update September 2017
HOME MAINTENANCE ON A BUDGET
There’s no escaping the need for a home maintenance and repair, so you may as well budget for it. Assume some aspects of your house will need work and put money aside each year to cover the costs. When you’re a homeowner, there’s no landlord. It’s up to you to fix or otherwise address whatever breaks and needs maintaining. It’s one of the responsibilities that many new homeowners tend to under-estimate. Even those who have owned a home for decades are often guilty of putting off necessary maintenance projects until the proverbial “next year”.
The daily- lift disruption these projects can cause is one reason why homeowners tend to delay or ignore the work. However, the money involved is often the major hurdle. The best solution, say experts, is to create a budget – plan ahead by putting money aside each year.
How much should you budget? That depends on your home, its size, age and condition. However, as a general rule, experts recommend you set aside between 1% and 4% of your home’s purchase price. For a house that cost $350,000 to buy, that means the maintenance/repair budget should be between $3500 and $14,000 per year. The lower amount would be appropriate for a new home or condominium; owners of homes 50+ years old should target the high end of the scale.
To develop a custom budget based on the cost of specific projects, see the “cost guides” provided for free on the ImpoveNet.com website. But remember, your budget must also include funds for unexpected repairs (e.g., broken appliance, broken window, leaking toilet), not just the known maintenance projects.
DO IT YOURSELF
Because labor makes up most of the cost of many home repairs and maintenance projects, you can save significant money by doing some of the work yourself. YouTube has become famous for its how-to videos. And the big-box home-improvement stores (Home Depot, Lowes, etc) offer all of the necessary tools and supplies.
REGULAR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE KEY
The best way to manage your maintenance/repair money is via a separate savings account. Try funding it by making regular contributions: for example, contributing $300 per paycheck until you reach your budget amount for the year. If you don’t make the contributions a common practice, it’s too easy to spend the money elsewhere.
Not only is a well-maintained house less expensive to operate, it will also sell for more money. When it comes time to list it, you’ll be glad you saved, budgeted and quickly tackled maintenance problems. For more suggestions that could increase your home’s value, contact me directly.
Source: Windermere Home Update December 2016.
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