Archive for the Home Maintenance Category

Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency with Technology

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical, Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on March 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Today’s home owners and buyers are looking for ways to incorporate home technologies that increase the long-term value of their house but also provide convenience, safety and comfort. Energy management is a highly-desired feature in both newly-built and existing homes, along with multi-zone heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and lighting controls. Not only are these features easy-to-use, but they also provide energy-efficiency.

By incorporating the following technologies, home owners can save money on their utility bills:

  • Automated HVAC systems can maintain a more energy-efficient temperature while the home owners are away at work, but switch to a more comfortable temperature prior to their arrival home.  Zones can also be created to heat or cool only the areas most used by the occupants, keeping other areas, such as guest bedrooms, shut down until they are needed. They also can combat the problem of heat rising, keeping upper floors cooler in the summer without freezing the lower floors in a home. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, programmable thermostats can save consumers about $180 per year in energy costs.Programmable Thermostat
  • Water heaters with a timer can be turned off when the occupants are traveling, then can turn on and begin heating the water in preparation for their return home. Tankless gas water heaters — which only activate when residents start to use hot water and immediately de-activate when they are done — are also a great option and can reduce water heating costs up to 35 percent annually.
  • Lighting can make up 10 to 20 percent of the total electrical usage of the home. Installing an automatic dimmer, which adjusts to the home owner’s needs based on time of day or occupancy, will lower electricity bills and increase the life expectancy of light bulbs.
  • Blinds and drapes can be programmed to close during the hottest part of the day to block out the sun; keeping the house cooler. In the colder winter months, they can open up to allow the sun in to warm the house, which helps regulate the room temperature.

By incorporating technologies that help make your home operate more efficiently, Energy Star estimates that home owners can save $200 to $400 annually on their energy bills.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

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Thaw after Deep Freeze Can Wreak Havoc on Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by Pat Hansen

A February thaw is here and while it will undoubtedly be a relief from the recent temperatures, the rapid warm-up also comes with some hazards, especially for homeowners.

House, snow (jeltovski | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: jeltovski | morgueFile.com

The build-up of ice along roofs and gutters can lead to sudden problems when the ice melts. When it refreezes, it causes ice damming and that ice damming can cause things like water stains inside the home. Water dripping through the soffits can push gutters off the home and can also push shingles off.

What can you do to prevent an ice dam from building up?

Proper insulation

Attic in need of insulationKeep your attic space at the same temperature as the outside air. As heat rises from your home into the attic, it will cause the snow and ice on your roof to melt quickly, which when it refreezes causes the ice dam. Using proper insulation will keep the heat in your home, but more importantly it will keep it from escaping into your roof shingles through your attic. If there are air leaks, warm air will pass through traditional insulation. The leaks need to be sealed for the insulation to do its job. To do a proper job in sealing air leaks, all insulation should first be removed.

Insulation also prevents moisture from forming inside your attic, which can create mold and mildew.

Roof raking

Some experts say whenever there is a big snowstorm, homeowners should use a roof rake to scrape the first two or three feet of their roofs free from snow. They recommend doing this within 24 hours of the snowfall. This frees up the bottom area of the roof so that as the water does run down, it doesn’t get stuck in the snow and gets right off the gutter and also right off the roof.

Be careful not to chop at your roof with the rake as this can damage shingles.

Heater cables

If you can’t reach the first few feet of your roof to rake it, you may choose to install heater cables. The cables line the first few feet along the eaves of your home and even run through the gutter, to help ice and snow melt and keep the moisture free-flowing.

Ice can pose a danger to gutters as it is heavier than water and snow, causing gutters to droop under the weight. Expanding ice can also push apart gutter seams and push gutters away from the fascia which attaches them to the home.

Do you have an ice dam? What should homeowners look for?

  • If you see Ceiling Water Damagewater spots inside your home this could just be tip of the iceberg – you may have inches of damp insulation in your attic.
  • If you see water pouring off of the soffits of your home, it is likely running out through the attic and could be rotting out the wood.
  • If you see water running between the gutters and the fascia board, there may also be problems.
  • Have the chimney inspected. Cracks and pieces of brick lying on the roof indicate that ice and water have gotten in between the mortar and expanded.

How to Remove Ice Dams – Hire a Pro

There are plenty of hack methods for removing ice dams such as using an axe, ice pick, salt tablets, heat cables and a pressure washer. If ice dams need to be removed, hire a pro to steam them off. Don’t let anyone near your roof with a pressure washer or the shingles might end up discolored.

Prepare Your Home for Severe Winter Weather

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Homeownership, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on January 15, 2014 by Pat Hansen

While not all parts of the country experience snow and ice storms and severe cold during the winter months, many do, and it is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

Snow Covered (Fairfield Home Plan | Clarkston, Michigan
The National Weather Service
calls winter storms “Deceptive Killers” because people don’t often die as a direct result of the weather, but due to hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold or in traffic accidents caused by hazardous driving conditions. Winter weather can also knock out heat, power and communications services to your home, sometimes for days at a time.

Here are some tips from the Department of Homeland Services’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help you keep your home and family safe and comfortable during the cold winter months and extreme winter weather.

  • Attic in need of insulationExtend the life of your fuel supply by winterizing your home. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and install storm windows. An economical alternative to storm windows is to cover them with plastic on the inside.
  • To help prevent pipes from freezing, insulate them with foam wrap or newspaper and turn on your faucets so they drip a tiny bit.
  • Debris in gutter needs to be clearedClear rain gutters so that they don’t fill with water, then freeze and tear away from your roof due to the added weight. Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home during a storm.
  • Make sure all your fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, and the vent openings are clear of debris and snow.
  • Learn how to shut off your main water valve in case your pipes do freeze and burst.
  • Furnace inspectionHave your heating equipment and chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of your roof to sustain the weight of accumulated snow or water (in case the drains don’t work on flat roofs).

During the winter, many people turn to alternate heating and power sources. There is an increased risk of electric shock, house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning if the necessary safety precautions are not taken:

  • Keep fire extinguishers around the home, and make sure all family members know how to use them.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning device inside your home, garage, basement, crawl space or any partially enclosed area. Don’t place the unit near a door, window or vent where carbon monoxide could come indoors.

To learn more about routine maintenance, energy efficiency, safety and more in order to protect and properly care for your home, go to nahb.org/forconsumers.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Preparing Your Home for Winter

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Worth Repeating with tags , , on October 16, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Fall is the time of the year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter. As the temperatures drop, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape throughout the winter. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for winter:

Furnace Inspection:

  • Furnace FilterCall a HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean the ducts.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
  • If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider getting one.
  • Set the humidifier to the winter setting.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

Get the Fireplace Ready:

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out critters.
  • If the chimney hasn’t been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.

Inspect the Roof, Gutters and Downspouts:

  • Adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
  • Check flashing to ensure that water cannot enter your home.
  • Replace worn shingles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from you home.

Shingles/Gutter
Check the Exterior:

  • Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes and seal them.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows. If you replace the entire window, prime and paint any exposed wood.
  • If you have older, non-insulated windows, install the storm windows.

Check the Foundation:

  • Rake away all debris and vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal entry points to keep small animals from crawling under your home.
  • Tuck point or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.

Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:

  • Smoke Alarm/Detector Buy smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and water heater.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.

Prevent Plumbing Freezes:

  • Locate water main in the event you need to shut it off.
  • Drain all garden hoses. Turn off water to outside hose bibs.
  • Have your irrigation system blown out and shut off.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • If you go on vacation, leave the heat on set to at least 55 degrees.

While these tips may seem like common sense and part of your fall routine, it is easy to become preoccupied with weekend football games and other fall activities; therefore, forgetting the necessary maintenance.

Window Cleaning Without Streaks

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Worth Repeating with tags , on September 18, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Recently, I was parked in front of a restaurant where I pulled over to talk on my cell phone, and saw a window washer doing a wonderful job of washing a large window without leaving a single streak. When I got off the phone, I went Windowup to him and asked him what he used — he pointed to his bucket and said, “Dish Soap”. I thought he was joking since I thought I’d heard every way to clean a window, but I had never heard of anyone using dish soap. But here he was, and there was no argument that he knew of what he spoke as the window sparkled. No newspaper, no vinegar, no ammonia—just dish soap. Then he explained his window cleaning process to me.

First, you need to assemble your window cleaning tools. He said you need to purchase a mop and a squeegee, but they shouldn’t cost more than $10. You’ll need a bucket, water, dish soap, a clean, dry, lint-free cloth such as really old t-shirts and a window mop and squeegee. He suggested a squeegee that is covered with cotton terry cloth or lambs’ wool. He mentioned that unless you intend to use these only to clean picture windows or sliding glass doors, bigger is not always better. He likes the one about 12” wide. If the squeegee is wider than most of the windows you’ll be cleaning, it will be more difficult to get a streak-free shine quickly. He said they are available at hardware stores or in the cleaning section of a supermarket and K-Mart or Wal-Mart.

Next, you must know when the right time is to clean windows, or rather when the wrong times are. If it is very windy, the sun is shining directly on the window, or if it is raining, you will fail in your quest for streak-free glass. So, if it’s overcast or you are cleaning windows on the shady side of the house on a dry day, it’s a “go”.

Fill your bucket half way with cool water. As long as you can dip the window mop in, you’re fine. Now put 1-2 drops of dish soap in and mix it up. You don’t need bubbles. If you put in too much soap, you will create streaks and smears. Even if the windows you clean are really dirty, don’t make the solution stronger because it will be difficult to get the residual soap off. If you are trying to clean particularly dirty windows, just change your soap water solution more often.

The key to shiny, clean windows is to not allow the solution to dry on the glass, so don’t soap up more windows than you can squeegee off before they dry (which is why you don’t clean windows in direct sunlight or on windy days). Now, dip your new window mop in the soap water and mop the windows. Don’t just wet them down; go over the surface 3 or 4 times. Fly specks and bird splatters will not come off with just one pass of the mop.

Next, place your squeegee squarely against the top of the pane and with even pressure, pull it downward. Remove the squeegee and tip it over the bucket to allow the water to drain off. Use your cloth to wipe the squeegee dry. This is key—if your squeegee is not dry, you’ll leave stripes. Return to the top of the window and overlap the squeegee by about an inch on the already dry surface, then draw it downward to the bottom. Repeat until the entire window is squeegeed (coined). Using a dry portion of your cloth, wipe the outside perimeter of the window. If you happen to notice that you’ve missed a spot or left a streak, use another dry portion of your cloth to rub it, it should clean off without trouble. You should now be looking through your perfectly clean window—of course you have to do both sides.

The technique is not difficult, but it might require some practice for you to be comfortable. Once you’re comfortable with it, you will probably find that this is the fastest, easiest and surest way to get your windows sparkling and streak-free.

I Wish I Had Thought About That – Master Baths

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Homeownership, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Building a new home or remodeling is an opportunity to consider some new concepts or products for your new Master Bath.  Creating a wish-list will help you identify the must-have items and help eliminate those last minute, budget-busting extras.

Here are some of the ideas you may want to consider:

Euro-Shower-with-seat-and-Oil-rubbed-BronzeShowers

  • Larger showers with frameless enclosures
  • Coated, clear glass enclosures for easy cleaning
  • Dual shower heads; wall-mounted, hand-held shower heads with sensor temperature controls
  • Shower fixtures in oil rubbed bronze, Tuscan bronze, black, brushed nickel and more
  • Pulsating water jets that provide spinal and foot massage
  • Warm, neutral tile tones with colorful glass tile accents 
  • Recessed shelves for shampoo, etc. tall enough for Costco-size containers
  • Built-in benches

Soaking-TubBathtubs

  • Tubs separated from showers
  • Smaller soaking, jetted and non-jetted tubs
  • Sunken Roman tubs
  • Eco – friendly stone and wood bathtubs
  • Artificial stone bathtubs available in various shapes

Toilets

  • Pump powered, pressure-assisted quiet, dual-flush system
  • Comfort height versus regular height toilets
  • Water efficient models
  • Heated seats

Armoire-Linen-StorageSinks

  • Vessel sinks in glass, porcelain or metal
  • Geometric and free shaped modern sinks
  • Hand painted sinks integrated into vintage furniture  vanities
  • Stainless steel sinks

Cabinets

  • “His” and “Hers” separate vanities; his with additional height.
  • Separate vanity locationsFramed-Mirror
  • Storage garages for hair styling equipment
  • Coffee bar cabinets with refrigerator
  • Side storage cabinets above countertop
  • Armoire cabinet for linen storage

Mirrors

  • Antique framed mirrors above furniture vanity
  • Contemporary, stainless steel custom frames
  • Wall-to-wall, countertop to ceiling or crown molding
  • Steam-resistant glass

Tile

  • Glass tile in ocean colors
  • Metallic accent pieces for ceramic tile
  • Combination of glass and porcelain tiles creating borders or accents

Today’s homeowner is looking to make the master bath more comfortable, stylish and personal. For homeowners who aren’t confident in their design capabilities, it is best to consult a professional. It is better to get expert advice ahead of time, instead of after a project has gone wrong.

New Roof: How To Tell If Your Home Needs One

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance, Homeownership, Worth Repeating with tags , , on July 17, 2013 by Pat Hansen

A new roof is probably one of the largest home maintenance expenses homeowners will experience. How do you know if you really need a new roof? There are several signs you can look for in determining whether or not that time has come.

Ceiling Water Damage

Water Damage to Ceiling

The most obvious sign of roof failure is continuous and growing leaks. Less obvious, but just as incriminating, are changes in the texture or color or your roof shingles. If you have asphalt shingles, a sure sign of failure, are edges that are curling and becoming brittle. New shingles are pliable and bend to a degree. If you fold the edge of the shingle and it snaps off in your hand, the shingle is most likely starting to fail. Likewise, if your roof is faded or appears faded, this may warrant further investigation.

Depending on the climate in which you live, your roof will experience varying “stresses” that affect its longevity.

Shingles - Curling, BrittleAnother sign of deteriorating shingles becomes apparent when cleaning out your gutters. If you find large amounts of asphalt particles and debris in your gutters or around the perimeter of your roof, it may be starting to fail.

With the rise of heating costs, everyone is taking measures to keep the heating bill as low as possible. Many people are making sure to properly insulate their homes, caulk their windows and set the thermostat a little lower than normal. Did you know that a large amount of your home’s heat goes right through the roof? If your roof is failing, you can be sure your heating costs will increase. Replacing your roof will help to insulate your home, thereby reducing your heating expenses in the winter.

Most shingled roofs have a life expectancy of 15-25 years depending on climate, shingle color, weight of the shingle, pitch of the roof, and even how well your attic is ventilated. Most roofing companies will provide you with a free roof evaluation along with an estimate for replacement. If you feel it is time to make the investment in a new roof, make sure you get at least three quotes from reputable contractors. Compare all quotes side-by-side as shingle types and warranties vary. And remember, the cheapest bid is not always the best when replacing something as important as your home’s roof.New Roof Installation

Start now before you have no choice. Don’t wait until water is unexpectedly pouring into your home by way of a leaky roof. Start protecting your home by using some simple observation skills. If you find problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace your roof. Many repairs can be made before a major roof rebuild is necessary.

If you do need a new roof, be aware that this isn’t an average “do it yourself” type project. It’s tough work, especially if you’re taking off the old roof. It can be dangerous, too.

Most people list “having a roof over my head” as one of life’s essentials, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not just a matter of practicality or aesthetics – though both of those play a part. Your roof is what keeps you and your family safe from the sun and snow, lightning and rain. Be comfortable with the knowledge that once your roof is in tip-top shape, it will stay that way for years to come.
Lot 400, Manors of Deerwood, Clarkston, MI

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