Archive for the ‘Home Maintenance’ Category

The Top 8 Mistakes Homeowners Make with Home Maintenance: Some Advice From Eatonville

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Maintaining your Eatonville home is important, but it must be done properly. Learn these common maintenance mistakes so you can avoid making them yourself.

  1. Forgoing an Annual HVAC Inspection -Your home’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system should be thoroughly inspected each year. This is vital to keeping your house comfortable and energy efficient.
  2. Improper smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector maintenance – Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors should not just be installed properly, but also maintained properly. Test them monthly and replace drained batteries immediately.
  3. Ignoring manufacturer instructions – Not only instruction manuals are they important for proper installation of important equipment in your home, they also contain maintenance recommendations and schedules. Adhering to these instructions protects your investment in your home.
  4. Not replacing filters regularly – Speaking of regular maintenance, remember that the air filters in your furnace and air conditioning units need to be replaced regularly according to manufacturer recommendations.
  5. Not keeping gutters clean – Speaking of water damage, clogged gutters can overflow and cause problems in a hurry. Clean gutters and downspouts at the start of spring and regularly as needed.
  6. Insufficient cleaning (filters, ducts, vents, carpets, furnace room) – Keeping filters, vents and ductwork clean extends the life of your ventilation equipment and keeps energy costs down, as does vacuuming regularly and keeping your furnace room free of debris.
  7. Hasty measuring during repairs and renovations – The old saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.” Failing to measure twice when you are making repairs or renovations in your home can lead to a lot of frustration and waste of costly materials.
  8. Skimping on labor costs – Paying cheap rates for poor labor will cost more down the road when you have to hire another contractor to fix the first one’s mistakes.

There are other ways to err in home maintenance, but this list covers some of the more common doozies. In general, as long as you are careful, diligent and not afraid to call in professional help when needed, you will be just fine.

Things You Should Have Inspected: A Guide From Snoqualmie

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Life would be great in Snoqualmie if we could just depend on things to work and last without requiring any sort maintenance or upkeep. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As good as modern manufacturing and engineering are, our devices, appliances and machines still need attention in order to stay in peak condition.

The Body Is a Machine

To illustrate this, think about the human body. We put a lot of wear and tear on ourselves, which can lead to minor illnesses, injuries and the like, especially when combined with the effects of aging. One way we attempt to stay ahead of the game is to get an annual physical. Once a year, we pay a visit to our doctor to make sure everything is in tip top shape. He checks everything out, lets us know what’s going on, helps us treat anything that may be acting up and then off we go, ready to go for another year.

And So Is Your Furnace

Likewise, your furnace needs annual attention as well. Although newer electrical furnaces can go up to three years without regular maintenance, gas and oil models should be inspected every year, as should older systems. During an annual inspection, an HVAC professional will:

  • Clean out fuel lines, keeping every flowing freely and efficiently.
  • Check for parts that are wearing out or need to be replaced.
  • Clean and inspect the heating ductwork as well as the vents.

These simple and routine maintenance tasks can extend the life of your furnace by years, keeping your home warm and your heating costs low.

The Best Time for Inspection

The best time to get your furnace inspected is in the late summer to fall months. Although you may still be trying to squeeze every bit of enjoyment from those last warm days, the cold weather comes not far behind, and you will want your furnace ready when that happens. A fall inspection ensures that your furnace will be all set when those temperatures start to drop, so your family won’t have to tolerate any chilly nights.

Annual inspections and maintenance are important for health and longevity, both for you and your furnace. You can even schedule your physical and your furnace inspection around the same time so you don’t forget. Make an appointment for your car while you’re at it, too. That makes three things you won’t have to worry about during those cold winter months.

Add Ons – Ready to Go or Just Looking Great?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Add-ons like a jetted tub are fantastic additions to any home. Relaxing, spacious, and luxurious – a jetted tub in your master bathroom can be very appealing when deciding which home on your list meets the right criteria.

But, beware because those jetted tubs are not always ready to use – in fact, in many cases the tub may just be plopped into the master bath to make the home look good and help with the sale. In reality, it’s quite a hassle to have it installed and ready to use when you move in. If you have a second bath or your master bath has a shower to go with the tub, this isn’t as big of a deal. But, if you need that bath to work right away, it can be a major inconvenience.

Checking the Tub and Other Hookups

Any home you look at will have a working furnace, electricity and gas line. It needs to be ready to move into or the selling agent is required to disclose the need for additional work. These require special loans and it can get very messy – so, you can imagine that there are generally not many major issues with gas and electricity hookup when you buy a new home.

But, just because your home has heat, electricity and hot water doesn’t mean it’s completely ready for comfortable living. A jetted tub is only the start. You may not have a proper hookup for your sprinkler system or air conditioner. You may need to replace an old refrigerator or install a new set of cabinets.

Things that appear ready to go when you first look at a home are not always as they seem. That’s why a full inspection of the property is so important. While you will likely have an inspector look at the home before closing, make sure you hire someone you can trust and that will look at everything – even beyond major issues like termite damage and dry rot.

The Pitfalls of Cool Looking Stuff

There are lots of things that simply look cool when you move into a home. Rain shower heads, backyard pools, or hot tubs are all very enticing on paper, but when you move in and find out that they each cost more money to operate and maintain than you expected, the excitement can quickly sour.

Before buying a home just because it has a collection of attractive features, make sure you look into the actual cost of owning and operating those things. Most realtors can help you get a good general idea of the cost of such upgrades, but an independent search is also recommended, especially if you are working with a seller’s agent intent on making a sale.

Label Your Panel Box for an Emergency

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

During an emergency, moving fast is a priority. You need to get your family out of the house fast, but there are certain things you should have done well before the emergency that can help to keep you and your family safe. Specifically, if there is an earthquake, flood, or other major natural disaster that can disrupt your appliances or cause a sudden power surge, you want to turn off your electricity immediately, before anything can go wrong. Emergency workers might also need to access your panel box if you’re not home or if the area is too unsafe to enter.

Specific Instances this Might Matter

Think of what can happen if there is a flood in your basement and you need to go down to save your prized possessions or to stop the flow of water. Walking into a flooded basement with live electricity is incredibly dangerous. So, it’s important to know where your panel box is and what each of the breakers in it is for. This gives you the control necessary to stop the flow of electricity and stay safe, even when knee deep in standing water.

This also makes it possible for someone else to flip those breakers if you’re not home or there is a more urgent disaster like a fire or an earthquake. In the case of an earthquake, you never know when electrical supplies might be tripped or when your appliances will become disconnected from exhaust hoods or vents. Your gas is usually tripped off immediately by an earthquake shutoff valve, but your electricity needs to be manually stopped.

The Risk of Live Electricity

The key to effectively keeping your home operational through an emergency is to take every possible precaution until you can be sure that the space is safe. That means turning off key breakers, checking your home for disconnected appliances or potentially dangerous situations, and if necessary calling in an electrician to take care of any specific problems. In the case of most emergencies, if you’re not totally sure that something is safe, take precautions first by calling a professional and then worry about saving possessions and cleaning up.

Just Say No To Termites

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Termites can wreak massive destruction on your home thanks to their teeming numbers and constant feeding habits. The aggregate cost of termite damage in the United States has been estimated to be as high as a billion dollars annually. Although termites are destructive and persistent, there are steps you can take to stop them from damaging your home. Specifically, termites flourish in some very specific conditions, so below will be discussed some ways to control those in your favor.

Starve Them Out

Termites love to eat wood. To be more precise, they love any source of cellulose, which wood happens to be rich in. Once a colony finds a food source, it eats constantly, hence the large potential for damage to your home. Here are some suggestions for keeping cellulose to a minimum:

  • Use treated lumber for your home and for any other ground structures, such as decks or sheds. You can also consider resting such structures on concrete supports, instead of directly on the ground.
  • Keep stored wood away from your house, ideally in a shed. Additionally, do not bury left over wood as a means of disposal.
  • Keep your yard free of fallen limbs, dead trees, stumps or other wooden debris.
  • Do not use wood mulch on plants near your home. Instead, either move the plants further away, or check your local garden supply store for rubber mulch, which does not attract termites.

Dry Them Out

Just like other pests, termites require a source of water to live. Even with bountiful cellulose around, a termite colony cannot take hold without water. Here are some steps you can take to limit the chances that they will find a water source around your home:

  • Fix all leaks promptly, no matter how small they seem at the time.
  • Fill in any dips or depressions in your yard to prevent water from pooling.
  • Likewise, repair any cracks or holes in your driveway. These can promote termite growth by both collecting water, and improperly draining water toward your home, making the trip easier for the termites.
  • Keep the area around your home free of brush and other heavy vegetation, which can cause areas of heavy moisture, acting as a safe harbor for hungry termites.
  • Clean all gutters and other drainage lines and keep them in good repair.

These preventive measures will go a long way toward keeping your home free of destructive termites. Additionally, you should have your home checked by a professional for signs of termites annually.

Spring Drainage Reminders

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The good news is that it’s spring time, and the dreary cold of winter is behind you. The bad news is that there’s water everywhere—a lot of it. Between the melting snow and the spring showers, the water on the ground can accumulate quickly, which can lead to problems for your home and family if it is not drained properly. Below are some reminders that can help avoid a disastrous basement flood.

Start High

Your roof is a good place to start. You should check your roof in the spring anyway, so here’s your chance to take care of two birds with one stone. Start by checking for loose or damaged shingles that may cause leaks. Repair all leaks immediately, no matter how small they seem at first. Once you have taken care of the shingles, inspect the eaves for deterioration. This can be the first sign of leakage or gutter damage.

Start by cleaning out all the gutters. They’ve had all autumn and winter to accumulate leaves and ice, so a good cleaning is vital. While you’re up there clearing out the gutters, check them for any damage—bent or broken pieces, popped rivets, etc. Make any necessary repairs. Once you are done with the roof gutters, inspect the downspouts. Make sure they are clean and free of clogs, and that you have splash blocks in place at each one to keep water draining away from the foundation.

Check the Ground

Next, take a walk around the yard, keeping an eye out for any depressed spots which may cause water to pool or drain back toward the house. Fill these spots in and seed them. As an added benefit, this will help keep mosquitoes under control. When you are putting out your sprinklers, make sure they are aimed such that they do not spray the house. The water can pool around the foundation and leak into the basement.

Repair any holes or ruts in your driveway, especially if it is gravel. This will keep water running down and off the driveway, rather than pooling or flowing back toward the house.

This may all seem like a lot. Basically there are three simple principles to keep in mind in order to keep your house safe from flooding and water damage. Repair leaks promptly, keep drainage routes clean, and water should always stay away from the foundation.

When in doubt, just keep those principles in mind, and you’ll go a long way toward keeping the basement dry.

Keeping Your Home Toxic Chemical Free

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

So, you have decided you want to try to go chemical free in your home. Whether you want to be friendlier to the environment at large or just foster a healthier home environment for yourself or your kids, eliminating toxic chemicals is a big step. Below are some tips to help you go about it the right way.

Removing Toxins

The first step is to eliminate some of the major toxic chemicals that may already be in your home. First, make sure your home’s ventilation system is functioning properly. Clean vents regularly and inspect the system and change the filter annually.

Consider using a water purification system to remove chemicals like chlorine — which is used to kill microbes in many water systems — as well as drug residues and heavy metals. Remember as well that lead is a dangerous toxin, so have your home inspected for it. Remove and replace any paint, pipes, or other materials made of lead. This is especially important if your home was built prior to 1978.

Finally, have your home checked for radon and asbestos. These are both harmful toxins that can easily be breathed in without being noticed. Check for radon especially if your home has a finished basement, or if your family spends a significant amount of time in the basement.

Keeping them Out

Now that you have expelled these contaminants from your home, look for ways to avoid inviting other potentially dangerous chemicals in. Most of us use toxic chemicals every day without even realizing. To help keep these toxins out of your home, you should look for cleaning supplies that are chemical-free. Companies that manufacture and distribute chemical-free cleaning products include Method, Seventh Generation and Ecover.

You can take it a step further by using DIY cleansers. Baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and salt are all useful in household cleaning and are much safer for children and pets than chemical-based products. Drain clearing products contain extremely harsh chemicals that can contaminate water supplies and even damage your plumbing. A combination of baking soda, vinegar and boiling water can be just as effective without the toxicity.

Finally, use soap as an alternative to chemical air fresheners. Simply leave a few bars around the house in strategic locations. The soap will absorb nearby odors. For added effect, use scented soap.

Start with these simple steps and you will be off to a good start in keeping harmful chemicals out of your home and away from your family.

7 Tips for Creating A Durable Home With Less Maintenance Needs

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Owning a home is a joy in and of itself. There is an undeniable satisfaction that accompanies being the master of your own domain. Unfortunately, that also means being the master of all the maintenance in that domain. Being proactive in doing regular, preventive maintenance is the best strategy to keep your house in shape and reduce costs, but that can grow tiresome.

So, it behooves you to try to create the most durable home possible by using materials that require less maintenance. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a maintenance-free home – the term “sweat equity” exists for a reason – but here are some tips to make your home more durable:

Flooring:

  1. Carpet is very durable and, with advances in stain resistance technology, easier to keep clean than in the past.
  2. For homes with small children or pets, ceramic tile is a good option, as it easier to clean than carpeting and is also very durable.
  3. Use treated lumber for outdoor decks, and add a water seal after building. The former will deter termites; the latter will prevent rotting due to water damage.

Roofing:

  1. Choose the right shingle for where you live. Asphalt shingles come in a variety of thicknesses, each designed to withstand more wear. You might also consider shingles made of another material, such as metal or clay, where appropriate.
  2. For areas that get a lot of snow, consider a sheet metal roof. Usually made from aluminum or steel, metal roofs stand up better to harsh winters. Snow also slides off the metal easier, meaning less time clearing snow off the roof in the winter.

Windows:

  1. Energy-efficient windows help keep the elements out, putting less of a strain on your heating, cooling and ventilation systems, so they will require less maintenance. They also contribute to lower energy costs.
  2. Select window frames made from durable aluminum or hardwood, both of which are less likely to deteriorate and need repair over time.

Sealants and insulation are other areas where you have the opportunity to choose more durable materials. You should consult a professional on these, however, as not all materials are appropriate for all applications. For example, cellulose insulation works well in walls, but should not be used to insulate ducts and pipes. Be sure to go with a solution that is not only durable, but appropriate for the task at hand. Consult a professional with these or any other questions you may have.