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Simple Summer Tasks

Whether you’re cooling off indoors or working on your tan, take the time to perform some simple, routine home maintenance. Rising temperatures and sunny days make summer an ideal season for getting work done around the house. You’ll have a safer home if you catch problems and wear-and-tear before they become hazards.

 Keeping Cool Inside

Energy efficiency is a top priority when electricity bills climb as high as the temperatures outside. Hopefully you’ve had your air conditioning system checked in the spring, as repairmen are often busy in the summer and you may have to sweat it out until your appointment.

Ceiling fans provide an energy-efficient way of circulating cool air. Dust them if needed and balance any wobbly blades by tightening loose screws. For additional energy efficiency, check windows and doors for air leaks and seal with weather stripping or caulk as needed. You’re paying for the cool air, so take steps to be sure it’s not escaping outdoors.

Home Exterior Care and Landscaping

Take advantage of the warm weather and wash the outside of your windows and clean the siding. While it might be tempting to use a pressure washer, a garden hose is best to avoid potentially damaging the exterior of your home. Apply a coat of fresh paint if needed, and repair any damaged vinyl or aluminum siding.

Be aware of termites while you’re outside inspecting your home. Termites can easily go undetected until significant damage has been done. Look for telltale signs like flaking wood or mud buildup and tunneling systems in the exterior wood of your home. Professional pest control inspections are recommended if you have any suspicions of possible infestation.

Well-tended landscaping and a trim and tidy house are as welcoming to guests as the smells of a barbeque. Garden beds look their best when mulched and weeded. Summer annuals can be induced to produce more flowers and bloom longer when you deadhead them. Removing spent flowers also prevents the plant from going to seed. Check garden plants, trees, and shrubs for insect infestations. Unhealthy plants should be removed so that others may thrive.

Lush green grass is of course desirable; however, it is not always realistic or water-efficient. Encourage healthy grass growth with regular mowing, but remember: Keeping grass cut longer in the summer months will prevent roots from drying out as quickly.

Grass and plants should be watered in the morning to allow the water to soak through the soil throughout the day in order to completely nourish their root systems. Check to see if your municipality has water conservation restrictions before watering your lawn or garden.

Trees provide shady ambience and should be well cared for to avoid potential damage to your home. Keep their branches pruned and at a safe distance from your home to avoid storm-related damage. Inspect trees for signs of decay, such as cracks or hollowed limbs, and keep branches clear of your home and power lines. Arborists or tree care professionals can assist with the cutting and removal of large or high limbs.

Also, before planting additional trees and shrubs in your yard, take into consideration the plant’s size when mature and whether or not roots might intrude upon underground pipes or paved surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways.

Garage Upkeep

Hazardous materials such as paint and solvents should be disposed of properly. Don’t store heat-sensitive or combustible materials in the garage, as the temperature will be rising throughout the season. Inspect the floor for grease spots from leaking car fluids, and have your car serviced promptly if you find any.

If you have children, instruct them not to go in the garage unaccompanied. Store your hand tools and power tools behind a lock and key. Fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides should be stored out of a child’s reach or behind a locked cabinet. You might also consider organic gardening, which employs nontoxic alternatives to these poisonous chemicals.

Driveways And Walkways

Inspect the pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This goes a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips, and falls. It also works to avoid larger repairs or resurfacing in the future. If you see weeds popping up between cracks in the pavement, resist the urge to pull them up. You’ll remove the upper part of the weed, but the root system will remain intact and new growth will return within a few weeks. For a cost-effective and chemical free solution, boil water in a kettle, carefully carry the kettle outside, and pour the water on any weeds to kill them off for the season.

 

You Don’t Have to Spend to Save

Here we are, noticing our summer tans fading, dark roots growing out from our scalps, and waiting for the first winter snow fall amidst the freezing rain and blowing wind. Winter is rearing its ugly head and so are heating costs. The television and web are full of great ideas on how to save money on energy costs, but more often than not it takes money to save money. For many, spending money on major home improvement projects to make a home more energy efficient just isn’t in the cards this year.

I am here to tell you that you still have options. You do not have to spend a bunch of money to cut your heating costs. Below you will find nine tips on how to save money on energy bills without breaking the bank. Each tip should cost from nothing to very little. Follow these ideas that all of us should have thought of a decade ago, and say good-bye to shocking heating bills.

  1. Bundle up! Running around with shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter just doesn’t make much sense. Winter is winter because it is cold, so act like it even if you’re just sitting around the house. Put on a sweater or sweatshirt, wear socks and fuzzy slippers. Place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch to cuddle up in while watching TV, reading or chatting with friends. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice cold surfaces. It doesn’t cost anything to wear warmer clothes inside and by doing so you can keep the temperature inside the house a few degrees cooler and save big.
  2. Not all doors are used in the winter, nor are the windows, so plastic up the windows and doors that are going to go unused. There are window kits for sale for about $5 per window. These can help to eliminate drafts to keep in the heat! Can’t afford the kits or plastic sheeting? Hang blankets to help insulate! If you are creative enough, you can hang it to look shabby chic!
  3. Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. This doesn’t mean turn the heat to 40 degrees, but turning it down to 60 overnight or while you’re away can make a big difference. Think about it; why keep it 70 degrees when you’re either sleeping or out of the house for more than 12 hours a day? You can adjust the thermostat manually for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks a programmable thermostat is a great investment.
  4. After baking cookies or making dinner in the oven, leave the door open a crack. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms meaning the furnace has to run a little bit less.
  5. Use a space heater only in the current room you are hanging out in. This will take the nip out of the air to make you feel more comfortable without heating all of the other rooms in the house and wasting energy.
  6. Use silicone to fill any cracks in doors, windows, etc, including the basement floor and walls. You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of caulk or silicone will only run you a few dollars and it’s an easy weekend project.
  7. Close any vents going to rooms that are not used regularly. That guest room that sits empty when you don’t have any guests? Close the door and the vents. Doing so can easily cut 100-200 square feet off of your energy footprint.
  8. Put weather stripping around windows and doors. Weather stripping helps quite a bit, especially in older homes. You’d be surprised how the seals around your doors and windows can deteriorate over time.
  9. Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.

All of these tips are good, old fashioned, common sense thoughts that don’t take but a few minutes and maybe a few dollars to implement. True these thoughts won’t save you thousands like all new windows would, but they will help you to save as much as possible with what you have.

10 Fall Projects You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less

Fall home maintenance projects are all about protecting your home, preserving safety and comfort indoors, which help you get your home ready for winter. Grab a few tools and a half an hour now to tackle one of the following chores, and you’ll thank yourself warmly a few months down the line. 
  1. Find your valves:  Water leak emergencies are all too common over the cold weather month. Use half an hour now to locate and label every important water valve in your home, including the main water valve, water heater valve, hose valves and icemaker valves. Familiarize other family members with their locations and operation in case you’re away when disaster strikes.  If you are heading out of town for a few days, get in the habit of turning off your main water valve on the way out the door, to limit any pipe breaks to the water in the pipe, as opposed to the water in the local reservoir!
  2. Drain the water heater:  Your family will be depending on an efficient, consistent hot water supply in the coming Fall months, so prepare your hot water heater for duty. Sediment buildup on a water heater’s bottom can interfere with performance. Maintenance every six months by using the tank’s drain valve to carefully discharge a few gallons of the hot water inside.
  3. Tips on Fall Home Maintenance ProjectsLubricate locks and hinges: Creaky hinges and sticking locks can spook you at exactly the wrong moment, so make the rounds with a can of WD-40. It’ll clean and lubricate metal mechanisms in one shot.
  4. Clean and reverse ceiling fans:  Now that they’re done spinning out cool comfort, resetting fans for the winter routine is an important fall maintenance project. Give fan blades a thorough dusting, and then switch them to a clockwise spin in order to push warm air downward from the ceiling. 
  5. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors:  This biannual maintenance is especially important before you turn on your heating system. Vacuum detectors to remove excess dust, replace the batteries, and get in the habit of using the devices’ test buttons to check their function once a month.
  6. Clean the humidifier:  Indoor heat makes for a dry environment, and your home’s humidifier needs to be ready to balance things out. Over time, humidifiers can get clogged and stop working, or even worse, send bacteria and mold throughout the house. So go through the cleaning routine as recommended by your unit’s manufacturer. Soaking the evaporator pad in a solution of white vinegar and water often works well to dissolve mineral salts left behind as water evaporates; just be sure to rinse well after the soak so your home doesn’t end up smelling like a big salad.
  7. Check for roof leaks:  Winter rains are comforting until they start landing inside your home, so check and protect the most likely leak points in your roof. After the first big Fall rain storm, grab a flashlight and inspect areas where protrusions such as chimneys and plumbing vent pipes meet the roof. Then pick up your binoculars and inspect the same spots from the outside, also scanning for missing shingles and loose flashing that require replacement.
  8. Tips on Fall Home Maintenance ProjectsQuiet kitchen cabinets:  Before the Fall is over, your kitchen will soon be bustling with holiday dinners, baking projects, and house guests, so don’t let little annoyances get in the way of big plans. Clean and lubricate drawers and hinges on kitchen cabinets, and replace any catches that no longer catch.
  9. Steady all handrails:  Negotiating a snowy step or a busy indoor staircase is tricky enough without wondering if the handrail will hold steady. Make sure all inside and outside handrails are secure, and repair loose railings, posts and spindles. Indoors, loose wood spindles can be repaired by dipping a wooden toothpick in glue and wedging it in where the spindle goes into the handrail. Once the glue is dry, break off the excess toothpick or trim it away with a utility knife.
  10.  Caulk the chimney crown:  You can avoid major repair costs with a little maintenance of your masonry chimney’s crown – that cement area between the outside edge of the brick and the terra-cotta clay chimney liner. Cracks in the crown allow water to leak into the chimney, where it can cause bricks to freeze and break. An annual dose of caulking will prevent such an expensive disaster and help maintain the chimney’s structural integrity. 
Fall home maintenance projects are important to make sure your home is ready for winter and the holiday events that are just around the corner. Get them done with these quick tips over the next few weekends and you’ll be ready to hibernate!

 

Detecting Mold within Your Home

Mold, at times, can be tricky to detect, but, by following a few easy tips, you can often times detect a mold problem without having to call a professional.

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?  The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

  • Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.
  • Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
  • Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
  • Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.

Should I test for mold?  No.  It is not recommend that homeowners test for mold themselves. Instead, simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors and call a professional. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.  Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns.

Click here for more information about Mold and here for Tips on Mold Clean-Up and Removal.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like a Mold Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.

Mold Clean-Up and Removal Tips

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust.  Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors.  The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  If there is mold growth in your home, just remember that you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

How do I clean up the mold?   To clean up and remove indoor mold growth, follow these steps, as they apply to your home.

1.  Identify and Fix the Moisture Problem – the most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and correct the moisture sources that allowed the growth in the first place. Common indoor moisture sources include:

  • Flooding
  • Condensation (caused by indoor humidity that is too high or surfaces that are too cold)
  • Movement through basement walls and slab
  • Roof leaks
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Overflow from tubs, sinks, or toilets
  • Firewood stored indoors
  • Humidifier use
  • Inadequate venting of kitchen and bath humidity
  • Improper venting of combustion appliances
  • Failure to vent clothes dryer exhaust outdoors (including electric dryers)
  • Line drying laundry indoors
  • House plants – watering them can generate large amounts of moisture

To keep indoor surfaces as dry as possible, try to maintain the home’s relative humidity between 20-40 percent in the winter and less than 60 percent the rest of the year. You can purchase devices to measure relative humidity at some home supply stores. Ventilation, air circulation near cold surfaces, dehumidification, and efforts to minimize the production of moisture in the home are all very important in controlling high humidity that frequently causes mold growth in our cold climate.

2.  Begin Drying All Wet Materialsas soon as possible, begin drying any materials that are wet. For severe moisture problems, use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors. HIP offers services for emergency flood Check with equipment rental companies or restoration firms to see if you can rent fans and dehumidifiers.

  • Run your sump pump. If you don’t have one, it would be helpful to get one now to drain your basement of any leftover water. If your basement has a floor drain, mop all the water to the drain. If your basement does not, mop up the excess water.

  • Turn on a few large fans and a dehumidifier to dry out the basement. Typically this will take at least 24 hours, but you’ll be too busy to notice. It is important to quickly dry your basement to prevent mold, mildew and extra bacteria growth. Bacteria love moist areas. 

3.  Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials – items which have absorbed moisture (porous materials) and which have mold growing on them need to be removed, bagged and thrown out. Such materials may include sheet rock, insulation, plaster, carpet/carpet pad, ceiling tiles, wood products (other than solid wood), and paper products. Likewise, any such porous materials that have contacted sewage should also be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth may be saved if they are cleaned well and kept dry.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself – the amount of mold particles in air can increase greatly when mold is disturbed. Consider using protective equipment when handling or working around mold contaminated materials. The following equipment can help minimize exposure to mold:

  •  
    • Rubber gloves
    • Eye goggles
    • Outer clothing (long sleeves and long pants) that can be easily removed in the work area and laundered or discarded
    • Medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask (these can be found at safety equipment suppliers, hardware stores, or some other large stores that sell home repair supplies) — at a minimum, use an N-95 or equivalent dust mask
    • Take Steps to Protect Others – plan and perform all work to minimize the amount of dust generated. The following actions can help minimize the spread of mold spores:
      • Enclose all moldy materials in plastic (bags or sheets) before carrying through the home
      • Hang plastic sheeting to separate the work area from the rest of the home
      • Remove outer layer of work clothing in the work area and wash separately or bag
      • Damp clean the entire work area to pick up settled contaminants in dust

Haul up soggy and destroyed belongings while the basement dries. This is the hardest part of a flood cleanup effort. Always lift with your legs because wet boxes and belongings way much more than dry ones.

  • Discard anything that cannot be properly sanitized. Paper products like books, boxes and cards should get thrown away. Anything that can be hosed down with bleach and water, place in your yard or driveway to clean later.
  • Scrub the walls and floors that got wet with a solution made of 1 cup of bleach and 5 gallons of water. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and work clothes.
  • Run the fans and the dehumidifier once again. Again, this could take 24 hours or more. Although the moisture in your basement is now clean moisture, you don’t want it to attract bacteria. Your basement should no longer look or feel moist and humid.
4.  Clean Surfaces – surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned. Cleaning must remove and capture the mold contamination, because dead spores and mold particles still cause health problems if they are left in place.
  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner
  • Collect excess cleaning liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge
  • Rinse area with clean water and collect excess rinse water

5.  Disinfect Surfaces (if desired) – after cleaning has removed all visible mold and other soiling from contaminated surfaces, a disinfectant may be used to kill mold missed by the cleaning. In the case of sewage contamination, disinfection must be performed. Contact your home inspector for advice.

  • Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces where mold growth was visible before cleaning. The solution can be applied with a spray bottle, garden sprayer, it can be sponged on, or applied by other methods.
  • Collect any run-off of bleach solution with a wet/ dry vacuum, sponge or mop. However, do not rinse or wipe the bleach solution off the areas being treated — allow it to dry on the surface.

Always handle bleach with caution. Never mix bleach with ammonia — toxic chlorine gas may result. Bleach can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Provide fresh air (for example, open a window or door). Protect skin and eyes from contact with bleach. Test solution on a small area before treatment, since bleach is very corrosive and may damage some materials.

6.  Remain on Mold Alert – Continue looking for signs of moisture problems or return of mold growth. Be particularly alert to moisture in areas of past growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning steps and consider using a stronger solution to disinfect the area again. Regrowth may signal that the material should be removed or that moisture is not yet controlled.

When can we rebuild after mold clean-up and removal?  Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have dried completely. Be patient it takes time to dry out wet building materials. 

Click here for more information about Mold and here for Tips on Detecting Mold.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like a Mold Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.