Archive for Home Maintenance

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.

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Selling Your Home? Consider an Inspection First.

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, New Homes, Sell your Home, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

If you plan to sell your home soon, it may be wise to get a home inspection before you list your home. You can speed things along by getting a home inspection and analyzing the condition of your home and making necessary repairs before the house is under contract.

Whole home inspections cover numerous systems within the house, but there are some hot spots that seem to worry buyers the most:

Roofs and Chimneys

  • Decaying ShinglesDeteriorated shingles or other roof coverings are one of the first things home buyers and inspectors notice. If the elements underneath the shingles are moist or rotted, you can bet repairs will be requested.
  • Make sure flashing around the base of the chimney is watertight, and that mortar and bricks are in good condition.

Radon

  • Radon may or may not be part of a home inspection, but it is a good idea to ask for a radon test since radon has been linked to lung cancer. If an unacceptable level is found, then a radon mitigation system will be required. There are recommended companies that do radon mitigation and they can be found by contacting the MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality).

Mold and Mildew

  • Mildew stains and odors scare buyers, especially since toxic black mold is such a hot topic. Chances are you won’t even get an acceptable offer if mold and mildew are present. Even if the mold is the normal variety, get rid of it and fix the source of the problem.

Plumbing ProblemsShower Inspection

  • Fix leaks long before the home inspection takes place. The inspector will check water pressure by turning on multiple faucets and flushing toilets at the same time. The inspector will also run the dishwasher.

Damp Basements and Crawlspaces

  • Mildew odors signal that a basement is too moist. Buyers and home inspectors will look closely at the walls and floors for patches of mildew and signs of dampness. The inspector might use a meter to determine how much moisture is present in these spaces because moisture deteriorates building materials and attracts insects.
  • Cover exposed earth in basements and crawl spaces with plastic to help keep moisture levels down.
  • Most foundation leaks are a result of poor drainage that funnels water towards the foundation.
  • Make sure gutters are clean so that rainwater flows toward downspouts instead of spilling over gutter sides along the foundation.
  • Point drainage downspouts away from the house.
  • Check water flow through buried drainage lines by flooding them with water from a hose. If water comes back towards you, the line is plugged and should be cleared.
  • If foundation problems do exist and you cannot make repairs, you might need to lower the price of the house upfront, with the understanding that the price reflects the problem. Another option is to give the buyers an allowance to make the repairs after closing.

Inadequate Interior Electrical Systems

  • Electrical PanelThe electrical panel and circuit breaker configuration should be adequate for the needs of the house.
  • The inspector will look for receptacles with ground fault interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms and kitchens. These receptacles contain mini circuit breakers that click off during a short circuit or overload. The inspector will make sure the receptacles are what they appear to be, and not “dummies” that are not wired correctly.
  • The inspector will test a portion of the remaining receptacles in the house.

Other Important Home Inspection Checks

Furnace inspectionHeating and cooling

  • The home inspector will check the heating and cooling systems, making sure they work and will comment on their efficiency.

Structure and Foundation

  • The inspector will take a close look at the structure and foundation.

Appliances and Smoke Detectors

  • The inspector will check the appliances that will remain with the house, including running the dishwasher and testing smoke detectors.

Before the Home Inspection

  • Sample Inspection ReportDo everything you can to get the house in good condition before you attempt to sell it, but don’t be discouraged if the inspection report contains a few negative comments. Home inspectors make a note of everything they see. They can identify problems in the making and suggest preventative measures that might help avoid costly repairs in the future.
  • Home inspections usually take 2-3 hours, or more in some instances. Costs vary from $250 to as much as $500. Home inspectors are not required to be licensed in most states; however, many are certified by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors).

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.

Winter Lawn Tips

Posted in Around Your Home, Landscape with tags , , , on November 20, 2013 by Pat Hansen

In most parts of the country, lawn grass goes dormant in the winter. Lawn care doesn’t quite end in the winter though. There are still some considerations and concerns that one should be aware of even in the winter.
Snow covered lawn (Manors of Deerwood, Clarkston, MI, Lot 400)

  • Clean it up. It is extremely important not to leave debris, leaves or toys out on the lawn. These things can smother the grass, create disease conditions, and invite insects, mice and other damaging pests.
  • Lower the height of your mower by a notch or two (0.5”– 1.0”) the last couple of times that you mow. Excessively long grass can smother itself, cause disease and is at risk of damage from freezing and thawing conditions. However, do not cut the grass too short as you will scalp it thus exposing the crown of the plant to extreme conditions.
  • Be aware of traffic. Under snow cover, or exposed to the elements, dormant grass will tolerate a moderate amount of traffic, but a heavily worn path will be slower to green up in the spring and cause compaction.
  • Monitor weather conditions. Turf is very resilient and can tolerate an extreme winter, but certain conditions can be harmful in the long term. It might be worthwhile to chip away exposed ice in a low spot if you know a winter storm or deep freeze is approaching.

Winter kill on lawns

Winter kill with regards to lawn, refers to any severe damage or death sustained by the turf during the winter months. For the most part, well cared for turf is resilient and strong, but winter weather can be unforgiving to even the best lawns. Winter kill can occur under a variety of conditions.

  • Grass + Snow (doctor_bob | morgueFile.com)

    Photo credit: doctor_bob | morgueFile.com

    Ice cover – periods of snow followed by warm temperatures, then freezing temperatures, can create a thick layer of ice on a lawn. Most cool grasses can handle these conditions, but if ice persists for more than 30 days, damaged or killed turf can result.

  • Snow cover – a persistent snow cover can create warmer, insulated conditions near the soil surface. Gray or pink snow mold may break out in these conditions. Mouse activity may also occur and leave noticeable trails in the grass in the spring.
  • Bare dormant grass – can become desiccated or dried out when exposed to winter winds and extreme temperatures over long periods of time. Foot traffic over bare dormant grass is less desirable than snow cover.

Ice, wind and scalping can inflict the most serious damage by injuring the sensitive crown of the plant. Extreme temperatures, wind and freeze/thaw conditions can inflict the worst damage. If winter kill occurs from these conditions, recovery may take longer than expected.

Winters can often be unpredictable and may put your lawn through any of all of these conditions during the course of a winter. The best thing to do is make sure the grass has hardened off, you’ve put the lawn to bed properly, monitor the weather, and deal with conditions as they occur.

Know Your Home’s Electrical System

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical with tags , , , on October 30, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Your home’s electrical system helps provide your family with heat and A/C to be comfortable, appliances to make everyday tasks easier, entertainment to enjoy together, and light to extend your quality time well into the dark hours. It’s important to know how your home’s electrical system works, and what could be the cause if something goes wrong.

The National Association of Home Builders’ MyHome Press has published a handbook for home owners, “Home Maintenance Made Easy,” and the excerpt below contains advice about the electrical system in your home and how to address any problems that may occur with it.

Circuit Breakers and Fuses

These devices protect the electrical wiring Electrical Paneland equipment in your home from overloading. They are the safety valves of your home’s electrical system. Breakers trip from overloads caused by plugging too many appliances into the circuit, or from a worn cord or defective appliance, starting an electric motor, or operating an appliance with a voltage requirement higher than what the circuit was designed to handle.

If a circuit trips repeatedly, unplug everything connected to it and reset it. If it stays on, one of the items you unplugged is defective and needs repair or replacement. If the circuit trips when nothing is connected to it, call an electrician as soon as possible.

Every house should have a master circuit breaker. It generally is located near the smaller circuit breakers. Tripping the master breaker cuts off electricity to the whole house. Circuit breakers may be reset by first switching the breaker to full off and then back to full on.

Ordinarily, small appliances that require personal attendance while operating may be plugged into any outlet. However, operating many small appliances or one large one on a single circuit can overload it. If this happens frequently, contact a licensed electrician to discuss whether your home needs additional wiring.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

Electrical OutletThe receptacles in your kitchen, bathrooms and outdoors should be equipped with GFCIs. These safety devices are commonly installed where small appliances (such as hair dryers) are used near sources of water, which can “ground” a person and electrocute him or her if the appliance malfunctions or is dropped into water. GFCIs cut the flow of electricity to the appliance within a fraction of a second if they detect a change in the flow of current to (and from) the appliance.

One GFCI breaker may control up to four outlets. If a breaker trips during normal use, an appliance may be at fault. You will need to investigate the problem.

Test your GFCI receptacles monthly by pressing the “test” button. This will trip the circuit. To return service, press “reset.”

For more home maintenance and safety advice, go to myhomepress.com for publications on current topics including social media, home design and more.

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.

Crime Prevention Month Tips to Protect Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety with tags , , on October 9, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Owning a home is the most valued long-term investment most Americans ever make. And owning your home is much more than a material asset, homeownership builds a sense of stability, pride, accomplishment and peace of mind. So protecting your home—and your loved ones that live in it—is a top priority for most families.

During Crime Prevention Month in October, here are some tips from the National Crime Prevention Council (www.ncpc.org) to keep your home and your family safe from crime.

Inside your home:

  • Alarm (pippalou | morgueFile.com)

    Alarm | Photo credit: pippalou | morgueFile.com

    If you have an alarm system, don’t write your passcode on or near the alarm keypad.

  • Install key locks, pins or other secure locks on every window and sliding glass door.
  • Secure windows and sliding doors with secondary blocking devices such as a stick or broom handle.
  • Use anti-lift devices to prevent windows and glass doors from being lifted out.
  • Use high quality Grade-1 or -2 locks with a bolt that extends at least one inch into the door frame to resist prying open or forceful entry.
  • Use automatic timers to switch indoors lights on and off if you’re going to be away from home overnight.
  • Keep a home inventory of valuables including serial numbers, pictures and sales receipts and keep a copy of the inventory in a safe place somewhere other than your home.

Outside your home:

  • Padlock (mconnors | morgueFile.com)

    Padlock | Photo credit: mconnors | morgueFile.com

    Lock gate latches, garage doors and sheds with high-security, laminated padlocks.

  • Keep your yard, porch, garage doors, pathways and entrances well-lit at night, either with permanent lighting or motion-detecting lights that turn on when someone comes within a certain distance.
  • Trim plants and shrubs that could serve as hiding places for criminals away from windows and doors.
  • Cut back tree limbs that could provide a way for thieves to climb into second-story or higher windows.
  • Display alarm company signs and decals on the windows and lawn.
  • Don’t hide a key outside your home. Leave a key with a trusted family member, friend or neighbor instead.
  • If you’re going to be away, stop your mail and newspaper delivery, or ask a neighbor to pick them up for you.
  • Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you’re away.
  • For items that need to be left out in the open, such as grills and bicycles, use a tarp to hide them from view and securely lock them to a stationary point such as a railing or post.

For more information about home safety, visit nahb.org/forconsumers.

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

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