Spring To Do List – Part 1

After a long, hard winter, spring is finally, hopefully, maybe even desperately, expected to arrive. Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.

Weatherstripping

 

The Department of Energy (DOE) says weatherstripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. Weatherstripping is a material you can apply around your window and door frames to help ensure there’s a good seal. During the harsh winter months, it can help keep the warm air inside the house, and the cold drafts out. In the spring and summer, weatherstripping works the opposite way, helping to keep the cool air inside and the warm air out.

If you didn’t install weatherstripping before the winter cold set in, you may want to take this opportunity to seal your windows before you have to turn on the air conditioner. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill. The same can be true of your furnace when winter rolls back around. Thinking about installing weatherstripping? The DOE recommends that you apply weatherstripping to clean, dry surfaces in temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor Maintenance

 

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, an opportunity to sweep the cobwebs from your home, clear out the dust that accumulated during the winter and let the sunshine in. While you’re up to your elbows in soap, washing the windows, defrosting the refrigerator and tackling what seems to be a never-ending list of spring cleaning chores, you might as well make a maintenance checklist, too. On those warmer days, you may want to do the following:

Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze. So, now might be a good time to make sure your fans are clean and ready to start cooling you off this spring.

Replace your AC filter. While the warm weather is still technically several weeks away, you want to make sure your air conditioner is prepared and ready to go. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.

Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air! Winter storms and wind can damage window screens, so it may be a good idea to assess any damage and replace what needs to be fixed.

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Fall Home Checklist

Before the weather grows colder it’s important to prepare for the winter months to prevent costly damage. Below are the fall preventative home maintenance steps that every homeowner should follow.

Gutters and Downspouts

Clean gutters and downspouts frequently throughout fall to prevent build up of leaves and other debris. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems and pest infestations, not to mention ruined gutters. Be sure water is not coming down behind gutters and that all support brackets are securely in place. Ensure that water drains properly and doesn’t pool. Pooling can cause damage to foundations, driveways, and walkways.

Windows and Doors

Change summer screens to cool weather storm windows and doors. Inspect and repair any loose or damaged window or door frames. Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to prevent drafts and to lower heating bills.

Heating Systems

Replace the filter in your furnace. Consider having a heating professional check your heating system to ensure optimal performance and discover minor problems before they turn into costly major repairs. Clean your ducts to better your heating system’s efficiency as well as to reduce household dust and to provide relief to those with respiratory problems.

Plumbing

To prevent pipes freezing and bursting, ensure that the pipes are well insulated. Know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze.

Chimney and Fireplace

Call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney. Fireplaces that are regularly used during the season should have an annual cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Test your fireplace flue for a tight seal when closed.

Attic ventilation

Be sure attic insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.Be sure ridge vents and vents at eaves are free of plants and debris. Check bird and rodent screens for attic vents to prevent any unwanted guests.

Landscape and Yard Work

Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to encourage healthy growth. Trim any tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your house. Heavy snow and ice can cause damage in the winter.

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How to Check For Bed Bugs

If you have an infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.
However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation.A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs.

When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots, which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bed bug adults, skin castings, feces, eggs on a box spring. Canvas strap of old box spring covering that is housing adults, skin castings, feces, and eggs. When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.
If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.

Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.

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Hardwood Flooring & Temperatures

As a natural material, hardwood can be affected by changes in humidity in your home. In bathrooms or rooms below ground level, humidity and the potential for pooling water can create problems. Solid hardwood flooring is not recommended for these areas. It’s natural for hardwood flooring to yellow, darken or lighten over time, depending on the wood species. Exposure to direct sunlight greatly accelerates this process. Discoloration doesn’t always equate to water/mold damage on your flooring.

While wood floors are made from “dead” trees, the flooring reacts to temperature and humidity changes inside your home as if it were alive. Your skin reacts to low humidity, so does wood flooring. High humidity and high temperatures affect your skin. These conditions also affect your wood floors. What is comfortable for you is also ideal for your wood floors. It doesn’t matter if your wood floors are solid wood, engineered wood, or laminate. It doesn’t matter if the wood is oak, mahogany, or bamboo. It doesn’t matter if the wood is nailed down, glued down, or floating. Regardless of the installation method, all wood flooring absorbs or loses moisture as conditions change slowly or rapidly inside your home.

Every wood flooring manufacturer only allows their products to be installed indoors, with a stable, maintained environment. This means that, in order for the wood flooring to perform as designed, the temperature and humidity conditions inside of your home must be kept continuously within a certain range. This range varies slightly depending on the manufacturer and type of wood flooring. Generally, the required range is between 60-80 degrees with a relative humidity range of 35 percent to 55 percent.

Odor Control

81 percent of U.S. homeowners agree that the health of their family is directly related to the cleanliness of floors in the home. While a key component to improving air quality is eliminating carpet and rug odors, which in many cases requires regularly cleaning these surfaces, only 15 percent clean their carpet at least once a year.

The following four-step process is the best way to successfully remove odor from your carpet:

  • Remove the source of the odor, as practical (absorb liquids, scoop solids)
  • Thoroughly clean odor-affected surfaces and materials. Cleaning is basic to deodorizing
  • Treat the odor source with an appropriate odor counteractant (sanitizer, disinfectant, enzyme)
  • Seal restorable surfaces, such as subflooring, if practical

Many sources of odor, including pet urine and tobacco smoke, require specialized procedures and techniques and are best addressed by a certified professional.  Residual mold and water damage can also lead to odors lingering and must be treated in order to remove any smells and health concerns.

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Wind & Hail Preparedness – Part 3

If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials. Remember, personal safety should always come first! Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.

Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate. Arrange temporary housing at a friend’s or relative’s home outside the threatened area. Know at least two exit routes from your neighborhood in case of emergency evacuation. Wear protective clothing; sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face. Take your emergency supplies kit. Tell someone when you are leaving and where you are going. Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.

If you’re sure you have time, take steps to protect your home. Close windows, vents, doors, Venetian blinds or non-combustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Lock your door and always remember if you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

Assembling Emergency Supplies

When wildfire threatens, you won’t have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a disaster supply kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags or trash containers.

Include in the kit:

  • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
  • Food that won’t spoil
  • One change of clothing and footwear per person
  • A first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications.
  • Emergency tools, including battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of batteries
  • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler’s checks
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses
  • Important family documents stored in a waterproof container

Wind & Hail Preparedness – Part 1

Whether you’re building a new house or doing periodic maintenance, upfront planning is key to your home’s ability to dig in its heels against hail damage and windstorms. In particular, your roof, windows, and doors need to withstand the toughest weather that Mother Nature unleashes where you live.

Roof Structures 

During a windstorm, a primary goal is routing the wind’s force from the roof down the walls, then to the ground. If your sheathing and gables aren’t up to the challenge, your roof might end up in the neighbor’s yard.

Sheathing is the wood, plywood, or wafer board nailed to the rafters or trusses of the roof. You can think of it as the part of your house your shingles rest upon. Some sheathing fails simply because nails haven’t been properly affixed to rafters — during installation, the contractor may simply miss hitting the truss with the nail or may inadvertently use nails that are too short to “anchor” the sheathing. You can get a good idea of how your sheathing’s holding up by trekking up to the attic for a thorough visual inspection.

If your attic’s prone to condensation, be sure to check for sheathing that’s delaminating (plywood) or swollen (wafer board). Ask your contractor about secondary moisture barriers that can limit the delaminating and swelling that affect roof sheathing. Take advantage of your contractor’s expertise — find out what sheathing material offers the best wind protection in your area. Paying more now make may sense when weighed against the possible costs of windstorm damage later. Gables are the side walls of the roof. If your gables aren’t properly braced, strong winds can cause them to collapse. The most common method of bracing entails placing 2×4″ wood pieces in an X pattern from the top center of the end gable to the bottom of the brace of the fourth truss and from the bottom center of the end gable to the peak of the roof.

Sheathing’s an important component of a wind-resistant roof, but during hail storms, it’s your home’s shingles that may end up damaged. Impact-resistant asphalt shingles are a popular option against hail damage claims, owing to their ability to weather a hailstorm unharmed. Studies show that impact-resistant shingles can remain undamaged through 1.5-inch diameter hail, even though metal vents exposed to the same hail sustain large dents.