Monday, March 20, 2017

Springtime Homecare Tips

If you live in the Northeast, there are maintenance jobs you should complete in spring or summer to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition.

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy and keep all your home's systems running properly. These maintenance tasks are most important for the Northeast in spring and summer. 

After a long, cold Northeastern winter, spring is an excellent time to get outside and perform a fresh inspection of the whole house.  You should give all your major exterior systems—roof, siding, gutters, drainage—a close examination to make sure they’re working properly and are in good shape.

Key Spring Maintenance Tasks to Perform:

Monitor your gutters and drainage - If debris has accumulated over the winter, you'll find out when the snow melts and spring rains arrive. Remove any blockages and look for signs of bending, damage, and areas where water has been diverted onto the roof or siding. You can usually make minor gutter repairs yourself for under $50 by adjusting or reattaching brackets, gently hammering out bent areas, and replacing damaged sections of gutter if necessary.

This is also a good time to walk around the house and make sure the soil slopes away from the foundation at a rate of at least 6 vertical inches over the first 10 feet. If you have standing water or mushy areas, consider re-grading, adding berms (raised areas), swales (contoured drainage ditches), or installing a French drain (a shallow trench that diverts water away from the house). Try to identify whether your problem is improper sloping or gutter overflow. A home inspector can help you if you're stumped; inspection services run about $80–$100 per hour.

Inspect your roof and chimney for winter damage - Shingles may need repair after a rough winter. Look for loose chimney bricks and mortar, rotting boards if you have a wooden chimney box, or rust if you have a chimney with metal parts and flashing. Inside the house, check your skylights to make sure there are no stains that indicate water leakage. If you suspect a problem, call a roofing contractor or a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America for an estimate for repairs. Minor roof repairs run from $100 to $350.

Examine siding for signs of winter damage - Check for loose or rotting boards and replace; inspect the areas where siding meets windows and doors and caulk any gaps. Give your siding an annual cleaning using soap and water, a brush, and a garden hose. Also, make sure your house number hasn’t been damaged or obscured by dirt and is easily visible to emergency personnel.

Schedule your spring air conditioning service - Get ready for the air conditioning season with your spring tune-up. If your system wasn't running well last season, be sure to tell your contractor, and make sure he performs actual repairs if necessary rather than simply adding refrigerant. Follow your contractor as he works to get an idea of the maintenance checklist he uses and ask questions about what he's doing. Your contractor's checklist should include inspecting thermostats and controls, checking the refrigerant level, tightening connections, lubricating moving parts, checking the condensate drain, and cleaning the coils and blower. Expect to pay $50–$100 for a tune-up. Meanwhile, make sure your air filters are changed and vacuum out your floor registers.

If duct cleaning is part of your scheduled service, make sure you aren't charged extra for it. Some contractors may try to convince you to let them apply antifungal/antibacterial chemicals to the interior surfaces of the ducts; this isn't usually necessary and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says research has not yet confirmed its effectiveness or potential to be harmful. Any chemicals you add to your ducts will likely become airborne, so exercise caution.

Check kids' outdoor play areas - Swingsets tend to get funky over the winter.  Tighten bolts and make sure things are still properly put together and safe to use.  Make sure no sharp edges or splinters are sticking up and clean off any mold growth with a household-strength 1:9 solution of bleach and water.

Check your GFCIs - A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protects you from deadly electrical shocks by shutting off the power anytime even a minimal disturbance in current is detected. They are the electrical outlets with two buttons in the middle ("test" and "reset") that should be present anywhere water and electricity can mix: kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and the exterior of the house. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends monthly testing, which you’re likely to remember if you incorporate it into your spring routine.

To test a GFCI, plug a small appliance (a radio, for example) into each of your GFCIs. Press the test button, which should click and shut off the radio. The reset button should pop out; when you press reset, the radio should come back on.

If the radio doesn't go off when you press the test button, either the GFCI itself has failed and should be replaced, or the outlet is wired incorrectly and should be repaired. If the reset button doesn't pop out, or if pressing it doesn’t restore power to the radio, the GFCI has failed and should be replaced. These distinctions can help you tell an electrician what the problem is—neither job is one you should attempt yourself if you don’t have ample experience with electrical repair.

Pay a visit to the attic - During a spring rain, check for visible leaks, water stains, discolored insulation, and rotting or moldy joists and roof decking. If detected, call a handyman or roofing contractor for an estimate for repairs. If you have areas of rot or mold exceeding 10 sq. ft., call an indoor air quality inspector or mold remediation company for advice. If you have an attic fan, make sure it’s running properly and that the protective screen hasn't been blocked by bird nests or debris.

Clean dirty windows - This is a good task for the end of summer, when it's still nice outside. Clean windows allow more solar energy into the house in the cooler months to come, which will help you save on your heating bill. For streak-free glass, use an eco-friendly solution of one part vinegar to eight parts water, with a few squirts of dish soap; apply to window with a sponge or soft mitt, scrubbing any tough spots. Rinse with clean water and then squeegee the surface dry.

Springtime is a great time to spend a weekend or two on maintenance to prevent costly repairs and alert you to developing problems.  Make it an annual routine! 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Winter

As the temperature in many areas of the country starts to cool down, you might think that the housing market will do the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are 4 reasons you should consider buying your dream home this winter instead of waiting for spring!

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.3% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.2% over the next year.
The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates are Projected to Increase

Your monthly housing cost is as much related to the price you pay for your home as it is to the mortgage interest rate you secure.
Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage are currently at 4.08%. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.
An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage - either yours or your landlord’s.
As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.
Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.
But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?
Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mood-Lifting Ideas For a Cozier Home This Winter

Image result for Mood-Lifting Ideas For a Cozier Home This Winter picsBanish the winter blahs for a radically better outlook this season.

It’s been a long day at work and you just want to get home and relax on your deck. But, it’s already dark outside and that chill in the air is telling you it’s time to pull out your parka. So, you choose to stay inside. But the indoors feel more like a dank cave than a welcoming oasis.
 
You don’t have to succumb to the winter blahs. Just implement a few of these ideas, and you’ll be warm and comfy inside until winter’s worst blows over.

1. Clean Your Light Fixtures and Bulbs

Your home will appear 30% brighter — without turning on more lights.
Related: Did You Know Dirty Bulbs Are Energy Wasters?

2. Keep the Cold Air Out

It’s not just window and door leaks killing your cozy vibe. Don’t forget to plug stealthy gaps around recessed lights, electrical boxes, and wall outlets. Use a lit incense stick or scented candle to hunt down drafty spots while leaving behind a cozy scent.

3. Dig Out Your Slow Cooker

Nothing says warm and cozy like opening the door to an enticing aroma that makes your mouth water. Even better, slow cookers are more energy efficient than electric ovens, typically using less energy than a light bulb.

4. Bring Home Some Nature

Many indoor plants, like golden pothos and gerbera daisies, are particularly adept at sucking up nasty VOCs — the vapors emitted from household cleaners, paints, and dry cleaning. And since plants increase humidity levels, they help decrease household dust.

5. Vacuum With Your Thermostat Fan On

Run the fan to help filter dust that gets kicked up while cleaning. Leave it on for about 15 minutes after you finish vacuuming, and switch it back to “auto” afterward. HVAC blowers aren’t intended to run all the time.

6. Change the Furnace / AC Filter

Change your filter every couple months (monthly if you have pets) to prevent excess dust and allergens from circulating. All that bad air just gets you down.

7. Let the Sunlight In (It’ll Make You Happy)

Clean your windows. Sparkling glass not only lets more natural light into your home, it’s a feel-good task, according to a survey by the American Clean Institute. When ACI asked consumers what clean surfaces make them happy, “gleaming windows” made the top five above a “spotless sink.” Besides all that, daylighting is a great mood booster.

8. Put Your Window Screens Into Hibernation

They trap dirt and can make your home appear darker inside and out. It’s a good curb appeal booster, too.

9. Add an Interior Window

If you’ve got a dark room that’s next to a sun-drenched space, putting a window in the shared wall will let the natural light in.