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Avoid Irrigation Irritation

Fall is the time to drain and winterize your irrigation system.  sprinkler-pop_up_headBuried irrigation lines can freeze, leaving you with burst pipes  and broken sprinkler heads.  A few simple steps can save you some spring time Irrigation Irritation.

  1. Using the main valve, turn off the water that feeds the system.
  2. Turn off the automatic controller
  3. Remove water from the system by opening the drain valves.
  4. Remove above-ground sprinkler heads, shake any remaining water out and replace them.

Perhaps you don’t have drain valves or are unfamiliar with the system – Hire an irrigation professional to use an air compressor to blow out the system.  The $75-$150 charge is worth making sure the job is done right and not having repairs to make in the spring.

Safely Away From Home

Summer is synonymous with vacation.  Travel, be it for a weekend or a month often means vacancy at home.  Having a trusted neighbor or family friend periodically check on the home can also be helpful in preventing any problems. Don’t leave your home unprotected.  Here are a few safety tips to be sure your home is ready for your vacation too.

Keep it Looking Occupied – An empty house is an invitation for burglars.  To avoid leaving your house looking empty;

  • Park your car inside the garage – it’s even a great idea to pack the car in the garage.  Nothing says vacant like packing luggage in the driveway for all to see.
  • Stop the newspaper and mail (or ask a neighbor to pick them up).
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.
  • Install a motion-activated sensor on an outdoor floodlight.
  • Put at least one light on a timer.
  • Make sure your lawn stays trimmed.

Plumbing & Electrical Precautions – beyond the expense factor for utilities, not protecting your appliances could also leave to damage and unexpected costs.

  • Unplug small appliances and electronic devices.
  • Put the water heater in vacation mode.
  • Turn off water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and all sinks.
  • Set the thermostat to a temperature that is less comfortable, but still protects your plants, pets and furniture.
  • Electronics should be plugged into a surge protector.
  • Install and test a battery backup on the Sump Pump if you have one.

General Preparation Tips – Don’t forget the simple items before you leave.

  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Leave your emergency contact information with a neighbor.
  • Run your garbage disposer with a half cup of vinegar and some water.
  • Toss out any food that will go bad before you return from vacation.
  • Take out the kitchen trash, or any other trash that could get smelly.

Lastly, don’t rush.  Enjoy your time away and make the most of the memories you’ll create!

Horrible Hornets

Hornets are among the most troublesome pests that homeowners can encounter. Their stings can be extremely painful—even deadly for those who are allergic to their venom. If you find hornets on your property, take these steps to help get rid of them safely.

Eliminate protein sources. Hornets are attracted to protein-rich food sources such as pet food and compost. Don’t give hornets free snacks! Keep your pet’s food in sealable containers, put compost materials in a bin and securely fasten garbage can lids.

NEVER swat a hornet. While it’s tempting to stomp on a hornet or swing at it with a fly swatter, a threatened insect will release a pheromone to warn other hornets of danger. This could cause them to attack you as a group.

Vacuum hornets indoors. If a hornet makes its way into your home, vacuum it up. Even if it survives, it will succumb to dehydration or starvation after a few days of being trapped in your vacuum container.

Kill the nest. You can exterminate a colony of hornets using aerosol insecticides developed for killing these pests. Wait until evening when most of the hornets are inside the nest and less active. As a precaution, put on a jacket, long pants tucked into socks, a hat and gloves. Spray the nest’s entrance first, then totally wet the nest with the insecticide. Most sprays kill hornets on contact, but repeat the next day if you notice activity. After about two days of no activity, the nest can be removed. Hornets nests can be difficult and dangerous to remove. If you don’t feel comfortable removing the nest, call a professional exterminator.

Keep them away for good. Once you have removed the nest, wipe down the area with an enzyme cleaner. This destroys the hornets’ pheromones, which could otherwise attract new hornets to the spot. Another option: Put up insect mesh to deter hornets from nest-prone spots such as under household eaves.

Be sure to review our other articles for great information on other summer specific pests & maintenance!

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!

 

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Different regions have different kinds of falls. In some places, it’s cool and rainy, and in others, it’s sunny and dry. Often, fall is a time for gathering in the harvest and preparing for festive holidays indoors. No matter what kind of fall you have, these steps can help during the transition from summer to winter.

Inside the home

Fall is a good time to complete indoor projects.

  • Repair vinyl and wood floors
  • Examine and repair indoor staircases
  • Test the furnace to make sure it works properly
  • Maintain locks, lubricating as necessary
  • Repair and replace caulking in floors and baseboards and around windows and doors
  • Remove and replace crumbling caulk around the bathtub, sink, or toilet, and also make sure there is no moisture under the bathtub or shower stall
  • Test for radon gas
  • Lubricate squeaking doors
  • Evaluate insulation
  • Have ventilation ducts cleaned, inspected, and repaired
  • Check for mice and rats—put out traps in areas pests might sneak into the home
  • Patch and paint holes and cracks in walls and ceilings, watch for indications of water damage
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries if needed
  • Repair indoor woodwork
  • Check the stove exhaust fan and remove dust and grease build-up  
  • Install plastic sheets on windows that require extra wind protection
  • Add weather stripping around doors

Outside the Home

With shorter days and the approach of winter, take some time to check the exterior of your home.

  • Check the roof for summer wear and tear
  • Clean gutters and downspouts
  • Drain the evaporative cooler
  • Inspect and service the heating unit
  • Repair cracks in siding and shingles
  • Repair any damaged masonry
  • Insulate water pipes that are exposed to extreme cold
  • Cover outdoor water faucets
  • Remove screens, clean them, and store away for the winter
  • Seal any concrete walkways
  • Check exterior ventilation flaps, making sure they are intact and functional

In the Garage

During the fall, take time to prepare your garage for the upcoming winter.

  • Protect and cover lawn equipment and garden tools
  • Drain lawnmower of gasoline and oil
  • Check for leaks in the doors and repair
  • Examine and repair the weatherstripping at the bottom of the garage door

In the Yard

The freezing and thawing of the impending winter can cause damage to outdoor furniture and your swimming pool.

  • Cover and protect your patio furniture
  • Drain the pool
  • Trim tree limbs that could break under the weight of snow and ice

In the Garden

With the arrival of fall, you can begin your early garden work and check any grading issues.  Keeping landscaping in check can help prevent leaking and foundation damage. 

  • Trim trees, bushes and other ground cover that may be near the foundation
  • Add a protective layer of mulch to your perennials, shrubs, and trees
  • Clean flower beds of spent summer blossoms and plants
  • Turn the compost
  • Remove the garden hose and place inside for the winter
 

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Fall Maintenance

As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take the time this autumn to prepare for the oncoming cold weather. Ready the furnace for the months of work it will have ahead, and clean out the fireplace. Test them both to ensure they’ll be working when you need the heat. Don’t wait until it’s snowing to clear out your gutters. With upkeep in the fall, you’ll have peace of mind in the winter and more time to hibernate.

Inside The House

Heating System Checkup

Be sure to change the air filter in your furnace and check its efficiency before the cold weather begins. Call in an HVAC contractor to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system. Stock up on several air filters for the winter, and change them every month. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, purchase one for the system to help lower your energy costs.

After your furnace has been tuned up to its maximum efficiency, take a moment to inspect your heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them over the summer. Then check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency. If you feel cold air coming in, purchase a plastic sealing kit from the hardware store and place the plastic around the window to keep the heat from escaping. Be sure to check your doors as well, and fix their weather-stripping if needed.

Check The Fireplace & Chimney

Most chimney sweeps recommend an annual sweeping, but depending on how often you use the fireplace, you might be able to wait on a full sweep. But if you will be using the fireplace often, call a chimney sweep for an inspection. For further information, read the Chimney and Woodburning Fireplace Safety guide.

Hopefully you will have your older, seasoned firewood now ready for use after sitting for the spring and summer. It’s recommended to keep the firewood at least 30 feet from the house and covered. Seasoned wood is best for fires, as it burns cleaner and longer.

Review Home Fire Safety

The introduction of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home. Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary, and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Also go over the home fire evacuation plan with your family.

Outside The House

The Gutters

It’s best to inspect and clean the gutters a few times during the fall, especially if there are many leafy trees around your house. If gutters remain clogged, water will spill over them and onto the ground next to the foundation, which may cause damage to the foundation. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and should direct water away from the foundation, as well as from walkways and driveways, so that they do not become slippery or icy.

Yard Maintenance

The orange, yellow, and brown colors of the autumn leaves don’t look as nice on the ground as they do on the trees. Rake the leaves into piles and scoop them into yard waste bags. Most areas have ordinances about burning leaves, so check with your local area government first. When sweeping the leaves off your patio, don’t forget to clean, pack up, and store any patio furniture for the winter. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.

In The Garage

It is recommended that you empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment stored in the garage, such as a lawnmower, because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children’s reach and have it ready for use in your snowblower or emergency generator, if need be.

Test Your Emergency Generator

It’s a good idea to have an emergency generator if you live in an area that sees a lot of ice storms, as these are a major cause of blackouts during the winter. So if you have one, haul it out and give it a test run to see if it is in good working order. Make sure you never run the generator in any enclosed space – like your garage – as it will present a carbon monoxide hazard.

 

Information from State Farm Insurance:  Visit www.StateFarm.com  for more details. 

Pest Prevention Tips

Here are a few easy steps you can take right now to stop pests and termites from invading your home:

Pest Tips

  • Seal cracks in your home’s exterior to help keep pests like ants, spiders and cockroaches from getting inside.
  • Be sure all doors and windows are properly sealed with tight-fitting screens and weather stripping.
  • Don’t leave uncovered food sitting out. It can attract flies that might land on it and spread harmful bacteria.
  • Consider storing clothing in plastic boxes or pouches to prevent fabric pests from getting to them.
  • Ensure that the attic and crawl space have sufficient ventilation. Proper ventilation creates an environment unsuitable for cockroaches and other pests. It also improves the heating and cooling efficiency of the home.
  • Do not allow pet food to sit out overnight, indoors or outdoors.
  • Remove any piles of debris, stones, bricks, etc., around your home. They serve as a harborage for pests, especially rodents.

Termite Tips

  • Repair any roof or plumbing leaks as soon as possible. These leaks can allow termites to survive above ground in a house.
  • Eliminate any wood-to-soil contact around your foundation and remove wood debris near your home.
  • Prevent mulch and soil from touching the siding of your home. They make it much easier for termites to enter.
  • Store firewood away from your home.
  • Use mesh screens on all windows and doors, as well as in ventilation openings for attics and crawl spaces.
  • Seal nail holes and cracks in exposed wood to help prevent easy access by drywood termites.
  • Contract with a professional pest control company to regularly inspect your home. This will help detect termite activity and allow for prompt and proper treatment.

Termite Infestation

How Do I Know If My House Is Infested?

Large carton nests in trees, attics, wall voids, etc., are obvious signs of an infestation. Sometimes the damage caused by Formosan subterranean termites is not so obvious. Soft spots, damp or moist patches, bulges, and blistered paint or wallpaper in walls, doors, floors, and other areas may indicate termite activity underneath. Probing these areas with a screwdriver may reveal damaged wood, soil, carton, and live termites. Formosan subterranean termite infestations are recognized by the presence of lots of soldiers.

Subterranean termites crawling above ground build mud shelter tubes because they do not like being exposed in the open to light and air. The tubes keep the termites from drying out and shield them from predators, such as ants, and natural enemies. Shelter tubes are often found on walls coming up from the ground or floor. They may also be found sticking out or dropping down to the ground in crawl spaces, under porches or stairways, etc. Tubes and carton may be in places where they are difficult to see such as stucco or plaster cracks, tree holes, tree crotches, etc. You can break the tubes open to check for termites.

Remember that Formosan subterranean termites swarm during the evening from April through July. Keep in mind that swarmers outside around your home could be emerging and flying in from somewhere else. Check carefully around the premises to see if they are coming from your property.

What Should I Do If I Have Formosan Subterranean Termites?

The best thing to do is to have the infestation professionally treated. There are two types of control available: soil termiticides and baits. The treatment used depends largely on the type and size of the infestation, and which one the homeowner is most comfortable with.

Soil Termiticides

Pre-treatment. Treating soil with a liquid termiticide creates a chemical barrier beneath the structure. Depending on the chemical, the termites will either avoid tunneling through treated soil or die soon after they come in contact with it. Soil termiticides have been the standard preventive treatment for subterranean termites up until the mid-1990s. Termiticides are applied before the foundation slab of a structure is poured. Under ideal conditions, protection should last from 5 to 7 years; but under less than ideal conditions or because of improper application it can be much less. The slightest break in the protective barrier is all that is needed for termites to reach a structure. They can tunnel through areas in the soil where no termiticide is present. Expansion joints, cracks, and utility and plumbing lines are common termite entry points through a concrete slab. Termiticide breakdown, soil erosion, improper application, and careless construction practices (such as leaving wooden grade stakes in the slab or disturbing treated soil) are several ways that the chemical barrier can be broken.

Post-construction treatment. When infestations occur after a structure has been built, termiticides are applied by one of three methods: rodding, drilling, or trenching. In the first, termiticide is injected directly into the soil at specific intervals around the perimeter of the house and beneath the slab with a rodder, an injection tool with a long, hollow, metal rod with an open tip. Drilling involves making holes through concrete slabs, walkways, patios, walls, and floors in order to treat the soil beneath the slab or inside wall voids. Trenching involves digging a shallow trench (about 6 X 6 inches) around the base of the home, applying termiticide to the trench and the backfill and then refilling the trench.

Baits

Baiting systems provide an alternative to liquid termiticides. Developed in the early 1990s, they are also effective against the Formosan subterranean termite. Baiting involves placing bait stations in the soil around the outside of the house. The stations contain small pieces of wood (in some products the stations are installed with both wood and bait) and are checked regularly for termites. When termites are found in a station, the wood is removed and replaced with the bait. The bait is either a paper- or cardboard-like material or textured cellulose that contains a substance that slowly kills the termites. The idea behind baiting is that the termites feed on the bait and get a dose of the active ingredient. Although this does not kill the termites immediately, it gives them enough time to feed the other termites in the colony. Eventually, all the members of the colony are affected. The termites begin dying and the population of the colony is severely reduced or eliminated.

Several different baiting systems are now being used by pest management professionals or are commercially available. Some have insect growth regulators (known as IGRs) as their active ingredient (AI). These are chemical compounds that act like termite hormones and keep the termites from developing normally. Other AIs prevent the termites from getting energy from their food.

Aboveground bait stations are also available and are used when termites are found in walls, doors, posts, flooring, etc. The stations are placed directly on areas where termites are present so that they can begin feeding immediately on the bait.

Advantages of baiting are:

  • It is non-invasive (the baits are odorless and no liquid is involved so the soil remains pesticide-free).
  • Technicians usually do not need to enter the house (unless in-ground stations are needed indoors).
  • Drilling through floors and walls is usually not required.
  • There is no exposure to the active ingredient because it is self-contained within the bait station.
  • Only a small amount of an active ingredient (sometimes less than 1/20 oz.) is used for an entire treatment.
  • The active ingredients are relatively harmless to humans and so little is used it makes it even safer.

The main disadvantage is that control is not immediate. It may take from several months to over a year to rid the home of termites.

How Can I Keep My Home From Being Infested?

There are numerous ways you can reduce the chance of your home being infested by Formosan and other subterranean termites:

  • Remove any wood or cellulose-containing material (such as cardboard) that is in direct contact with bare ground.
  • Carefully inspect wooden items, especially railroad ties, for termites before buying them.
  • Do not leave wooden items such as planters, tubs, trellises, railroad ties, firewood, and stakes on top of or in bare ground.
  • Anchor wooden posts for fences, decks, porches, sheds, etc. in cement so that no wood is contacting bare ground.
  • Structural wood at or near ground level should be pressure-treated with a wood preservative. Preservatives mainly protect against wood-decaying fungi but are also effective against termites.
  • Maintain a zone of at least one foot around the outside of your home that is clear of plants and other landscaping materials. This reduces soil moisture and makes it easier to inspect for shelter tubes coming up from the ground.
  • Install rain gutters to prevent water from dripping down around the perimeter of your home.
  • Keep rain gutters clear so that water drains quickly and does not accumulate and soak the upper walls and roof of your home.
  • Fix or replace leaky outdoor faucets and water lines.
  • Gutter downspouts and air conditioner condensate lines should empty out at least one foot away from the base of the home.
  • The ground next to your home should slope away so that water does not pool next to it.
  • Keep sprinklers from wetting the walls of your home.
  • Fix leaks in the basement, roof, water heater, appliances, and other sources inside your home. These leaks moisten wood and create damp environments that Formosan and other subterranean termites like to live in.
  • Remove all wooden grade stakes, form boards, supports, and scrap wood after finishing construction or remodeling.
  • Remove dead trees and plants including the roots and stumps, if possible, from your yard.
  • Eliminate or reduce the use of mulch and wood chips around the foundation of your home. This eliminates cooler and moist soil conditions favored by Formosan and other subterranean termites.

Intersted in learning more about ways you can improve your property and avoid Insect Infestations?  Call us today!

Spring Home Maintenance

Spring is here! That nice bright sun and warm fresh air are a welcome relief from the long, dark winter. Unfortunately, springs arrival means that your home is in need of a little spring cleaning.

Over time the value of your home appreciates, so you should treat it with as much care as possible. Homes change and move over the seasons. After the winter everything from the roof to your sump pump will need to be examined. Spring is the best time to give our home the “tune- up” it needs.

Here is a checklist to help you target the areas that need maintenance so you can get those chores done quickly. Following these simple tips will get you outside and in that warm spring sunshine in no time.

  • Inspect brickwork and stucco. Check for chipping, deteriorated mortar and unsightly deposits.

– Spalling is a chipping or popping away of a brick’s face, leaving the brick’s interior susceptible to moisture and crumbling. Any deteriorated mortar should be assessed immediately before more damage occurs.

– Efflorescence is a plaguing of the brick resulting in unsightly white deposits caused by soluble salts left behind during water evaporation. If efflorescence is found, removal is best recommended by dry brushing in warm dry weather.

– If you discover water penetration in the brick, consider sealing the brick surface with an appropriate sealant.

  • Replace rotting siding and trim; paint as needed. Hire a professional to tackle siding maintenance.

– Brighten up your home with a good power washing. This will give your home a fresh look and may also show damaged areas that were hidden behind the grime of winter weather.

– If painting is needed, be sure to tackle the whole project. Don’t treat sections and move on. Leaving  any wood exposed could lead to the surface rotting. Make sure the whole surface is done to ensure proper resurfacing and color consistency to your home. Be sure to sand the surface and prime any bare wood before painting with a high quality  product.

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. Multiple freezes and thaws can result in sags and dips.

– Make sure gutters and downspouts direct water away from the home. improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. They should point at least two to two and a half feet away from any foundation wall.

– Check that they are flush to the roof with no sags or dips.

– If you live in a two story home, a professional cleaning is recommended. Do-it-yourselfers will be safer cleaning a ranch style home.

– Consider installing gutter guards to protect them from environmental debris.

  • Inspect your roof. Check for damaged shingles, which can make your roof susceptible to leaks.

– Shingles that curl up (turn up) and claw (turn down) can make your roof inefficient and susceptible to leaks.

– Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced.

– Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.

– Pooling or ponds of water that fail to drain from flat roofs may indicate low areas of inadequate drainage.

– Call a minimum of three roofers before committing to one for repairs. You will educate yourself in the process and end up with a better deal in the end.

  • Get a chimney check- up. Hire a pro that can quickly check for cracks or leaks.

– Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. This includes any active or decorative chimney.

– A professional should also check the chimney flue and cap for cracks or leaking.

  • Prune landscaping and create good drainage. Maintain your plants and shrubs to prevent soil erosion.

– Landscaping helps against soil erosion, but should be planted to form a negative grade, which means wiater will flow away from the house.

– Trim overgrown trees and hedges away from your home to discourage the growth of mildew and moisture. Branches should be a minimum of seven feet away from the exterior of your home to prolong the life of your siding and roof.

– Remove out of control vines,as they can help crack siding and allow moisture and pests entry into your home.

– Check for low areas in the yard or next to the foundation. If any are present they should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage.

  • Give concrete a little TLC. Seal your driveway, power wash your patio and have a professional service your pool.

– Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs, with the exception of pool decks, should drain away from the home’s foundation.

– Seal and inspect asphalt or concrete driveways. This is usually done in the fall, but spring is an ideal time to seal them.

– Power wash concrete patios; inspect decks for rotting wood and secure railings. Seal if necessary.

  • Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage.  Take a peek at your home plumbing.

– Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely that the pipe inside  the home is damaged and will need to be replaced.

– Check any garden hoses for dry rot, replace if necessary.

– Anything dripping in your home is a bad sign. Check for leaking faucets or sweating pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.

– Look at washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or dampness.

– Check under the kitchen sink for leaks, and make note of wetness around the dishwasher.

– Check the shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture to make sure they are functioning properly. Know the location of all valves and what equipment and water lines they serve. Teach all  members of the household of their locations.

  • Inspect the water heater.

– If you have a gas- fired water heater, make sure it is venting properly. Light a match next to the vent and wave it out (don’t blow it out). See if the smoke is pulled up into the vent. If it isn’t, have a professional inspect and repair it. Otherwise, carbon monoxide and other combustibles can build up in your home.

– Check around the base of your water heater for evidence of leaks. If your water heater is over five years old, it should be checked monthly for any leakage or rusting at the bottom. If evidence of a leakage or rust is found, the water heater should be replaced.

  • Don’t overlook your attic. Check for proper ventilation, obstructions and leaks.

– Check your attic fro proper ventilation and birds nests.

– Look for obstructions over vents, damaged soffit panels, roof flashing leaks and wet spots on insulation.

– Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect yourself from insulation when checking the attic.

  • Check out your heat/ air unit; change batteries in detectors. Change filters and clean the air purifier, but leave the rest to the pros.

– Have your ducts professionally cleaned. It will make your indoor air quality healthier and your furnace more efficient.

– Have a professional clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. An efficient air conditioner removes moisture and humidity from your home, which in excess, can damage its foundation.

– Change air filters on a monthly basis. Some are reusable and are supposed to be taken out, washed with a hose and re- inserted. A unit free of dust and dirt runs more efficiently, saving you time and money on your energy bill.

– Check the hose connections for leaks and any algae blockage. Make sure the drain pans are draining freely. If you suspect a problem, contact a certified technician.

– Clean the outside condensing unit screen of leaves.

– Listen for any unusual noises. This may be your first indication of a problem.

  • Check your electrical system. Only a qualified electrician should remove the front panel cover.

– Look for burn marks at the main electrical panel; they can be a sign of arcing inside the panel, which can easily lead to a fire.

– Trip and reset the circuit breakers regularly.

– Remove any combustible materials such as paper boxes or flammable liquids from the area near the main electrical panel. Sparks caused by arching can ignite any material stored nearby.

– Check all electrical outlets for loose- fitting plugs. This is an indication of worn out receptacles, and should be replaced as they cause overheating and fires.

– Check all electrical outlet switches to be sure they are working properly. If there are any that are not working properly, have a qualified electrician determine the problem and fix it to avoid any fires inside the walls of your home.

– Install safety covers to help protect children from electrical shock.

– Unplug any appliance or tool that gives off even the slightest shock. Take to a qualified electrician or repair shop to be checked.

  • Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.

– Keeping this clean of cooking grease will help keep a stovetop fire from spreading.

  • Tackle those kitchen/ bathroom tiles.

– Pay attention to the grout between floor tiles in the bathroom or kitchen. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair in the future.

– Get in the habit of wiping down the shower walls and tub after each use to eliminate soap and scum build- up.

  • Don’t forget about the sump pump.

– Make sure the sump pump is operating correctly. To ensure that it is always in proper working order, install a battery back up pump. If your sump pump does fail, you will not know until it is too late. If your sump pump fails, an alarm goes off, letting you know the backup is working. A few hundred dollars now will save you from thousands later, especially if you have a finished basement.

Preventive maintenance is crucial to the value of your home. Keep your place in tip- top shape with regular check- ups to save you the headache and cost of emergency repairs. It’s the inspections you make in between that really matter.