Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Year’s Resolution Ideas for your Home

As we list out our own personal New Year’s resolutions, there may be some other areas that are in dire need for some attention in 2011 too.  Like your home. Whether you haven’t had the time or the energy, 2011 is a great year to get some of those home projects in motion.  HomeTeam Inspection Service business owner Ed Miehlke offers some expert tips on simple projects to make your home a priority this year.

New Year’s Resolution Ideas for your Home
By Steve Coomes

 "He who owns a home deserves it!"
Author unknown

While most homeowners regard their domiciles with pride and joy, there is wisdom to be inferred from the wizened wisecrack above: homeownership implies regular work.

Be it patching cracked plaster, attacking a weedy lawn or something major, such as replacing the HVAC system, the need to invest in a home—be it with money or mere sweat—never ceases.

But experts insist that homeowners who stay ahead of the game with regular preventative maintenance not only work less on their properties, but can avoid costly expenses that zap the already burdened budgets of many.

"There's a lot of truth to the old saying that a stitch in time saves nine," said Harry Rimmer, a Wayne, Pa., franchisee of House Doctors, a 90-unit professional handyman service. In other words, "there are so many minor things a homeowner can do on his own to keep him from facing major repairs."

But while Rimmer believes many homeowners are capable of performing small maintenance tasks, many become overwhelmed by what appears to be a lengthy and almost insurmountable to-do list. His advice: Start somewhere and scratch items off the list.

Ed Miehlke, a franchisee of 175-unit HomeTeam Inspection Service, agreed and advises homeowners to triage that task list according to the season.

"Right now we're in the fall, so you need to be sure your gutters are really clean," Miehlke began. "That ensures you don't have water backing up and ice forming inside them when winter comes."

Planning on selling your home? As an inspector, Miehlke said neglected basic home maintenance leads to sellers having to spend major dollars fixing in order to make their properties sellable. On the other hand, performing these duties regularly and keeping a journal of when you did the work can assist in the speedy sale of any property.

Miehlke and Rimmer teamed up on a "12 Months of Maintenance" checklist homeowners can address seasonally and a little at a time. Several of the items can be addressed outside of months they suggested, but both stressed each point should be addressed well ahead of the applicable season.
  • January: Clean and/or replace clothes dryer vents. Not only will it reduce fire hazards, it will boost the performance of your dryer which saves money on energy use. Remove all holiday lights and decorations, both because your neighbors want you to, it makes the yard safer for playing in the snow.
    • Beauty tip: Frame and hang some of those photos you shot last year
  • February: Inspect the outside of your house prior to a snowfall. Why? "Because you'd be surprised at what can get caught in a snow blower and damage it," said Rimmer. Once you retreat from the cold, it's a good time to inspect drywall for cracks that need patching. The arid air from your furnace will help the mud dry quicker and allow for painting sooner.
    • Beauty tip: Since the weather outside is frightful, choose just one room to paint so you don't become overwhelmed by the thought of it.
  • March: Check to be sure your sump pump is working properly before spring rains arrive. If you live in a storm-prone area, experts recommend a battery backup system to cover you if you lose power. Now is also the time to apply lawn fertilizer to get a jump on weed control.
    • Beauty tip: Spruce up your landscaping. Wet soil makes for easy planting of bushes, shrubs and trees.
  • April: Now that the rainy season has arrived, check downspouts around the outside the house to be sure water is flowing freely and away from the foundation. Water gathering at edges of the house can damage the foundation.
    • Beauty tip: Check for winter-damaged surfaces, such as shutters, gutters and landscape lighting. Some touch ups here and there will invigorate the exterior look again.
  • May: Service air conditioning compressor and blower unit when temperatures are at least 70 F to ensure normal Freon performance. Schedule biannual visits with HVAC provider "so they call you, and you don't have to remember to call them," Miehlke said.
    • Beauty tip: Mild weather is perfect for more significant jobs such as laying a brick paver path or building a gazebo. It's also a good time to plant perennials.
  • June: Now that somewhat drier weather is here, it's a good time to clean and seal your wooden deck. Our experts recommended pressure washing the entire surface, allowing it to dry for two days and then coating it with a high quality water-resistant stain or seal. Well kept decks add tremendous value to homes, but poorly maintained ones can wipe out that same value.
    • Beauty tip: Make your home inviting to guests by considering new deck furniture or chairs for your porch.
  • July: In the heat of the summer, it might be wise to find inside chores such as simple appliance maintenance. Dusting the refrigerator condenser and cleansing its fan of debris increases its efficiency and lowers energy consumption. Same for washing or replacing the filters in your range hood. If you have a down-draft exhaust system, request a professional service visit to check the vent pipe.
    • Beauty tip: Sometimes deconstruction, such as removing an old swing set, will serve as a facelift for the property. If you have fences, it's a great time to paint them.
  • August: Traditionally this is the hottest and driest month of the summer, which means it's a good time to seal asphalt driveways. Sealing reduces the chance of water seepage into cracks, which can feed roots under the drive and, just as damaging, allow ice to form and expand.
    • Beauty tip: Your lawn is growing again, which means it's a great time to aerate and fertilize. You'll love the boost of green the lawn will get.
  • September: Take a good look at your roof to ensure all shingles or tiles are in place. According to Rimmer, a small number of loose shingles can be repaired easily by a pro, but if left unfixed, the result could be water damage and further loss of shingles. The milder weather provides a good chance to restore door gaskets to before the cold sets in—and don't forget the bottom of the garage door! And speaking of those, take the time to grease its bearings and adjust chains that do loosen over time.
    • Beauty tip: Plant fall flowers, such as mums, to brighten your landscaping.
  • October: Have your furnace and humidifier serviced by a professional to ensure optimal combustion and air flow. Ask the service tech if it might be time to get your vents cleaned as well. Now that the air in the attic is cooler, visit the space to see if it could use some more insulation. Examine your windows closely to see if they need recaulking.
    • Beauty tip: Now that the sun is setting earlier, consider landscape lighting to add a dramatic appearance to your home.
  • November: Remove all leaves from lawn to reduce grass kill, and to avoid ice buildup, remove all hoses from outside faucets and shut off their valves inside. Rimmer said frost-free "bibs" placed on outside faucets can help as well, but that hose removal and water shut-off are best.
  • December: Guests are coming for the holidays, so make sure your toilets, showers and sinks and garbage disposals are all functioning properly. Clean lime from clogged shower heads, and replace toilet flappers if leaking.
    • Beauty tip: Take the plunge and join your neighborhood decorating contest. But no need to be this year's Clark Griswald. Sometimes less is more when lights are smartly strung to accent the house's features rather than wash them out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Home Improvements to Make During Any Economic Climate

During such a tough economic climate, homeowners are often faced with difficult decisions on which home improvements are most necessary for their homes.  HomeTeam Inspection Service would like to recommend a few key areas that should always be a key focus, no matter what the economic climate, to help ensure the structural safety of the home as well as the resale value. 

Starting with the exterior, you should:
  1. Check all windows and doors to make sure caulk is not cracking and separating.  If it is, remove the old caulk and re-caulk with a good quality exterior caulk to ensure your home remains insulated from the outside elements.
  2. Have a professional check your roof, including chimney flashing, skylights, plumbing vent pipes and attached antennas, every two to three years to check for cracks and breaks in sealants to avoid water entering the home and causing interior damage.
  3. Replace old or damaged weather stripping as soon as possible. 
  4. Check exterior water supplies and make sure they are shut off during winter months to avoid cracks or breaks in pipes.
  5. Close any holes, openings or other points of entry where mice or other rodents can enter the home.   

In the interior, homeowners should pay close attention to:
  1. Repair leaky faucets to avoid running up your water bill.  It’s important to make sure that all faucets from all water sources in the house are in sound working order.
  2. Repair running toilets, which will have the same effect as leaky faucets, so if you have a toilet in question, upgrade to a new, low-flush option that will minimize water usage and save you money.
  3. Check caulking around tubs, vanity sinks, kitchen sinks, and replace as needed. Keeping up with caulking will keep water from leaking into unwanted areas.
  4. Check doors and windows for air leaks.  Replace weather stripping as needed to heating and cooling systems working to their maximum efficiency.
  5. During the winter, rid of moisture on windows.  The change in temperature outside to in creates condensation on the windows, so wipe off the moisture consistently to ensure the water doesn’t start rotting any wood around the windows. 

Making home improvements is one of the many responsibilities of being a homeowner.  It’s important to pay attention to the repairs that need to be done in your home to ensure that any small repair doesn’t turn into a major problem.  When you notice that a repair that needs to be made, obtain the advice of a professional who can discuss with you exact requirements for the job. 

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