Fall Home Maintenance Tips: From Raking Leaves to Mitigating Frost Heaves

Fall is the season of change, from the color of leaves to daylight hours to temperature. And during this time, homes face the effects of drastic fluctuations in weather as summer slowly fades away.

Before snow creeps its way into the forecast, take the time to prepare your home in advance for colder days ahead.

Assess drainage

Foliage is beautiful, but those fallen leaves can be pesky. Take time to unclog gutters to ensure snowmelt efficiently drains off of your home without causing damage to its exterior.

While you’re at it, have a professional address any leaks in the roof now before wetter weather identifies them for you. And at the end of the fall, don’t forget to drain outdoor hoses and faucets to prevent them from freezing, breaking or bursting.

Get the HVAC system in order

Don’t wait until the first frost to test out your heating system. Schedule a maintenance appointment with an HVAC professional this fall to guarantee you can be toasty in a moment’s notice. Check up on the filtration system while you’re at it – experts suggest replacing the filter in your heating system every two to three months to prevent buildup.

Invest in outdoor furniture covers

Once days grow cold, using patio furniture will be on pause until spring. To keep furniture in good condition – and to preserve your grill – look for heavy duty, waterproof covers. Purchasing these for preservation can help prevent having to replace items down the road, potentially saving you big bucks.

Autumn also marks the time to store away other lawn ornaments, like ceramic flowerpots, to prevent cracking.

Fix driveway cracks

Existing cracks in pavement will only expand and even crumble when water – or snow – seeps in. Concrete sealer is readily available at hardware stores and can ultimately save you from needing to repave the whole driveway once those frost heaves start creeping up.

Stock up on snow supplies

Ever been running late and can’t find your scraper after a snowfall? Stock up now on snow supplies like a shovel and sand for the driveway and a sturdy scraper for the car windshield. For those without a garage or covered parking, check out windshield covers that line the windshield end-to-end preventing snow and ice buildup.

If you live in a remote area, consider preparing a car kit for winter emergencies, including items like snacks, a flashlight, blanket, ice scraper, jumper cables and any other essentials.

Clean your fireplace

Deep clean the base of your wood-burning fireplace before it gets to work this coming winter. Schedule an appointment with a chimney sweeper to ensure all apparatus – including the flue – are safe and functioning accordingly. The National Fire Protection Association of America recommends having a professional inspect your chimney at least once per year.

Control airflow

Assess your home, especially windows and doors, for drafts. With weather-stripping, film wrap, physical blockers and other DIY methods, you can prevent the cold draftiness that often results from having older windows. While keeping you more comfortable, doing so can also help save money on heating costs.

A lesser-known tip for controlling airflow within the home is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fan. In the summer months, the ceiling fan should spin counterclockwise pushing down cold air. In the fall, reverse its direction using the button on the fan’s base to counterclockwise, which will pull cold air up and keep the lower half of the room warm.

Prep Your Home for Summer with These Exterior Maintenance Tips

Warmer weather has many locales feeling like it’s summertime already. But before you dust off the grill, remember the annual upkeep that ensures your home’s outdoor space is the perfect place for entertaining.

There are many quick and easy measures you can take to ensure your house is equipped for both the joys of summer and the elements (ahem, falling leaves and dry grass) associated with the months that follow.

If you’re spending time at home this long weekend, consider these home maintenance tips to get your space in tip-top shape for the summertime.

Sand the deck

Summer is the best season for outdoor entertaining. Most grilling (a BBQ essential) is done on the deck, so don’t let pesky splinters ruin the time you and your guests spend enjoying the sunshine.

If you’re dealing with aging or rough wood, sanding your deck may be a good idea. A smooth deck allows for a more enjoyable outdoor entertaining experience for everyone, guests and hosts alike. Hopefully, after a long evening in the backyard, your guests will all head home smiling and splinter-free.

Stock up on grilling supplies

Speaking of barbecues – take inventory of your grilling supplies before hosting the first cookout of the season. If you are using a gas grill, make sure your propane tank is filled up and ready to go, and if your grill of choice heats with charcoal, ensure that you have enough coals on hand.

Whichever grill you own, make sure to clean it before burgers hit the grates. Gas grills require high heat followed by brushing, while charcoal grills can be scrubbed with the standard sponge and dish soap.

Complete simple landscaping

The four seasons pose many challenges to lawn-upkeep: leaves in the fall, frost and snow in the winter, laying seed in the spring and watering through a hot summer. Use this time to get ahead on the landscaping that you haven’t given much attention to in recent months, like trimming shrubbery and fixing dead patches of grass.

Landscaping projects can be as small as mowing the lawn, adding a fresh coat of mulch to plant beds, plucking weeds from the pavement and planting new flowers.

Check the sprinkler system

The sprinkler system contributes greatly to your home’s curb appeal. Whether you have a built-in system or one that you arrange yourself, check that the mechanics are operating smoothly. For automatic watering systems, check that the sprinkler heads are unobstructed from rising out of the ground.

If you place sprinklers above ground yourself, check that all the plants needing water are being reached. Your lawn ultimately does a good job of telling you when you’ve missed a patch.

Have the roof inspected

Did you know it can be a good idea to get your roof inspected every year? If you haven’t yet, make note to have a roof inspection conducted soon. Not only could it save you money in the long-run, it’s also far better to catch a leak in its early stages than to fix the damage in the aftermath.

Temperatures Are Dropping – Here’s How to Save on Energy Costs This Winter

Winter is here with shorter days, afternoon sunsets and frosty temps.

With an increase in work-from-home flexibility and remote learning for children, chances are that in 2020, your electricity costs are higher than usual. And, depending on the climate where you live, it’s time to assess how prepared your home is to accommodate more time indoors due to frigid weather and dwindling daylight hours.

Snow is on the way and Wi-Fi use at an all-time high, so you may be looking for ways to operate a more sustainable residence. Consider these tips for reducing your household’s energy bill.

Schedule an energy audit

You can hire experts to inspect energy outputs throughout your home while looking for ways in which you can conserve energy. The goal is to ensure your home is running as efficiently as possible. To make that determination, the expert will take a close look at appliances – like your water heater – as well as structural components – like the insulation between walls – and determine if these features are working to the best of their abilities.

An energy audit serves as a roadmap, helping you navigate where to invest time and money in order to make your house as energy-efficient as possible.

Swap out lightbulbs

Nowadays, it’s easy and affordable to swap out traditional incandescent lightbulbs, the kind that produce electricity from heat, for more efficient options. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are two of the most common energy-efficient bulbs on the market.

Additionally, “smart” lightbulbs are becoming increasingly more popular as well, with options to set timers and schedule lighting to avoid wasting energy. Sometimes, these smart light fixtures can even be paired with voice assistants or controlled through smart phone apps for the utmost control over your home’s lighting.

Invest in an advanced thermostat

The modern advancements in heating and cooling technology mean your HVAC system can actually work with you to maintain a comfortable temperature and avoid wasting heat when no one is home. “Smart” thermostats are designed to internalize the homeowner’s living patterns and adjust the temperature accordingly and automatically.

Many of these smart thermostat devices are controllable via a smart phone app, which means that if you left the heat on high, you can turn down the temperature while away from your house.

Seal off windows and doors

You’d hate to be cranking the heat in your home only to find out the hot air is seeping out the front door. If your home feels drafty or has trouble retaining warmth, assess whether you need to better seal doors and windows. This can especially be an issue in older homes.

Found at most hardware stores, draft guards and DIY window and door insulation methods can seal any gaps to trap in heat in the colder months.

Switch the direction of your ceiling fans

Did you know that the direction your ceiling fan spins determines whether it’s helping cool or heat a room? As winter approaches, reverse the direction of your ceiling fan’s spinning to clockwise to encourage cold air to rise, as opposed to the summertime setting of counterclockwise where cold air gets pushed down.

To change the direction, turn off the fan (wait for a complete stop!) and then flip the switch that is often found on either the motor housing or the base.

Regularly replace air filters

When furnace and air filters become clogged, the build-up causes your HVAC system to work harder and use more energy to simply heat the house.

Regularly replacing the air filters not only takes a burden off of your heating system, but it also ensures you and your family are breathing cleaner air.

Give Back This Fall: Upcycle Your Unwanted Goods

We’ve spent a lot of time at home this year. A lot!

This means your storage space is likely cluttered with new hobby apparatus and unworn clothing – and, it’s most definitely due for a deep cleaning.

Good news: Fall cleaning is the new spring cleaning. As the holiday season kicks off, it’s the perfect time to find responsible, sustainable ways to dispose of unwanted goods. Consider these options for donating and upcycling household items that others may need.

Clothing, toys, other goods

When in doubt, remember that smaller thrift shops and donation centers as well as national chains like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and The Salvation Army accept nearly all household goods and personal items.

As you sift through closets and tackle the basement, keep in mind that you can donate most things: unwanted clothing, shoes, furniture, household appliances, children’s toys, sports equipment and much more.

Composed Living lists ways to dispose of other household goods, including electronics and paint.

Many donation centers have an outdoor drop-off option or an at-home pick-up service to safely upcycle goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food

While you can’t salvage all food, you can typically donate most canned goods and unopened, sealed products to organizations such as food banks, rescues, pantries and/or homeless shelters.

Peanut butter, pasta, rice and canned goods are the most common donations. If you have perishable food to give, you can contact the organization to check if it will accept your items.

For food that donation centers won’t accept (but is still safe to consume), get creative and try to use it rather than tossing it in the trash. For instance, you can freeze overripe bananas and use them later in banana bread.

Linens

Your local animal shelter can always use old sheets and towels as bedding for the pets they house. Especially during the cold of winter, your extra bedding can keep dogs and cats warm. With nervous chewing and accidents – you know, general puppy mannerisms – shelters and rescues go through a lot of blankets.

If possible, wash and dry any linens before you donate them.

Books

Most charity centers and local libraries will accept new and used books. In the U.S., chain donation organizations as well as veterans’ associations and retirement homes are always on the lookout for reading material.

Becoming Minimalist lists 20 useful places to donate books that benefit people of all ages.

As you clean your home in preparation for the winter, it’s always nice to consider those you can help this holiday season.

5 Gifts to Gift Yourself for Your Home

  1. Statement wall art

Is there a blank space that’s begging for some decoration? Whether your taste is a farmhouse clock or a stylish floating frame, opt for a statement piece that will make you smile every time you step into the room. A great way to commemorate where you’re from or where you’ve just moved is a vintage-inspired map.

  1. An upgraded bookcase

Create a Pinterest-worthy reading nook or at least stop storing your books on those beat-up shelves you’ve had since college. Avid reader or not, bookshelves provide storage and give space for personal flair. Between stacks of colorful hardcovers, you can add photos, succulents, pottery or other mementos that speak to your style. To shake things up, swap out a traditional piece for a modern, open bookcase or go DIY with floating shelves for a unique look.

  1. Your signature home scent

Few things can make a house feel like a home more than the right aromas. If you don’t already have a favorite scent, try a Capri Blue Volcano candle. It boasts a sweet citrus scent, and the jar will look great on your coffee table. Prefer essential oils over flames? Upgrade to a hand-blown glass diffuser.

  1. The perfect coffee or tea maker

Where is your favorite place to enjoy your cup-a? Complete the morning with your favorite hot beverage from your porch, table or the comfort of your couch. Are you a coffee connoisseur? Try an espresso maker or add steamed or frothed milk to your pour-over coffee with an electric milk frother. If you prefer tea, check out a variable temperature tea kettle or an automatic tea maker that allows you to wake up to a fresh cup.

  1. That cleaning appliance you REALLY want

When buying for yourself, you don’t have to debate the etiquette of gifting a cleaning product. Have you been eyeing a cordless Dyson for years? Do you fantasize about an automatic robot vacuum sweeping up while you head off to work? Now is the perfect time to invest in keeping your home clean.

4 Ways to Make a Small Space Feel Bigger

Square footage determines how big a home is, but painting, furnishings and decorating can affect how big a home feels. Looking to make a small space feel bigger? A few simple cosmetic changes can help.

Consider these four ways to make any small space in your home appear more spacious.

  1. Incorporate mirrors

Create the illusion of expansive walls with the addition of a mirror. This elegant touch can save a room from art-overload, which happens when too much pattern and color collide in a small space. A mirror also creates depth, which is always a plus.

Best of all, mirrors reflect natural light, potentially doubling the amount of sunlight streaming into the room. That alone will make the space feel bigger.

  1. Try lighter colors

Especially in small spaces, lightness means brightness. A fresh coat of light-colored paint in a cramped room creates an inviting atmosphere by mimicking natural light. For those who enjoy brighter colors, white walls are a fresh blank canvas for other elements.

If repainting needs to stay on the to-do list for the time being, try adding pops of light color on décor around the room. In a small living room, for example, give the sofa a makeover with white linen throw pillows and a neutral throw blanket – or opt for other quick fixes like bright new lampshades.

  1. Streamline furniture

If you’re looking to make a bigger change to a small space, reconsider the size of the current furniture. When every piece is chunky, a room tends to look crowded. A few sleek pieces of furniture will open up floor space and let you showcase larger items like an heirloom hutch or statement coffee table. Aim to make your furniture proportionate to the size of the room.

Also, don’t underestimate the impact of window accessories. Long drapes are popular for making ceilings look higher – hang them well above the window frame to show-off the full length of the wall. Sometimes, simply replacing old, heavy curtains with unobtrusive shades can make a major difference.

  1. Get rid of clutter

While purging clutter around the house benefits your well-being in multiple ways, it also makes your rooms appear bigger and less stuffy. Go minimalist and simplify surfaces like walls, bookshelves and end tables, reserving those areas for a select few favorite pieces.

In the end, making a small space feel bigger is mostly about the balance between personal flair and a clean, uncluttered ambiance.

5 Areas in Your House Causing Stress – and How to Organize Them

Here are 5 common areas in a household notorious for causing stress, and how to fix them once and for all!

1. Pantry and refrigerator

With more food staples on hand, now is a good time to clear everything off the shelves and put it all back in a stacked, organized and easy-to-reach manner. A pantry, or fridge, will have greater capacity – and be easier to navigate – once the contents have been rearranged to save space. Check dates for expired condiments, which hog room along the door shelves, and consolidate loose items like granola bars into boxes or jars so no snack gets left behind.

2. Underneath the bathroom sink

This location may not be causing stress, but its underutilized storage capabilities can help alleviate stress by clearing up space in other messy zones.

The cabinet underneath the bathroom sink isn’t just for items like Band-Aids and plungers. Perhaps you have excess paper goods on hand – ahem, toilet paper – so optimize this area by stacking goods in the back you use less frequently and keeping common items toward the front. This hidden gem storage space is the perfect spot for concealing odds and ends.

3. Entryway

So many shoes by the door but nowhere to go! The entry way is likely cluttered with slippers, sneakers, as well as rain jackets and bags hanging on hooks. Store away items used infrequently and allow one pair of shoes per person to live by the door, moving the rest inside a closet – out of sight and out of mind.

4. Kitchen table

Is your kitchen table now functioning as a home office, place to eat, homework spot for kids, craft zone, etc.? By day, this multifunctional area is a hub of the house – so try to keep it as orderly as possible, not allowing clutter to linger when the workday or school day is done.

Unless you’re in the midst of a great big puzzle, clear off the kitchen table at the end of each day so your house feels normal again when it’s time for rest and relaxation.

5. General dust and dirt

Even when order has been instilled upon shelves, countertops and closets, you may still be feeling stress from general dirtiness – especially if you have light-colored floors or carpet. Get in the habit of running a vacuum through high-traffic areas, like the living room, every few days so visible dirt never piles up. Though life is out of routine at the moment, stick to regular maintenance such as wiping down kitchen counter surfaces daily and giving the bathroom a good scrub on the weekends.

Home Furnishings Trend: Brass is Back

After years of chrome, stainless steel, and nickel being the shining stars of interior metals, brass is back and starting to steal the show.

As with many home furnishings trends, the comeback was inspired by what’s occurring in fashion. In this case, gold and rose gold watches became influencers a few years ago, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal Design, who thinks that home furnishings styles tend to be cyclical. Now he’s adding small brass details to rooms in the same way a gold watch might peek out of a shirt cuff.

Using brass now is an easy, affordable way for homeowners to customize and stay on trend.  “Many people want a warmer look, which is also visible in fabrics as warmer colors return,” Segal says.

Erin Imhof, showroom supervisor at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Lansdale, Pa., has noted an increase in brass finishes. She attributes it to how they complement a wide range of colors and other finishes. “Many of today’s top color trends for kitchens and bathrooms, including all-white, blue, and black, pair beautifully with brass fixtures,” she says.

Others concur that brass is a universal mixer. “Our designers like to integrate brass into their designs, whether it’s an accent like a decorative bowl, object of art, light fixture, or metal base on an end table,” says Julie Sprouse, design sales manager at Ethan Allen, the home furnishings chain based in Danbury, Conn.

Caitie Smithe, a design coordinator and stylist at the Walter E. Smithe Furniture + Design retailer based in Itasca, Ill., also considers brass a material that can be used throughout a home, including light fixtures, hardware, and even light switches and vent controls. Other good places to use brass include bathroom hardware, plumbing fixtures such as sinks, and accessory details like candleholders or picture frames.

Here are five tips for using brass that you can pass on to your clients.

1. Use sparingly. Brass works best when used in small doses. Too much can create a “too matchy-matchy” look, according to Smithe. Overuse can make it start to look cheap, says Segal. “Moderation is key,” he says.

2. Mix finishes. Brass appears more timeless rather than trendy when it’s matte, brushed, or aged, which helps soften its sheen, Segal says. But be careful, Smithe says, when mixing brasses in a single space from different manufacturers. “There is a huge range in color and brightness. Some take on a bright yellow color while others can be more of an aged gold,” she says.

3. Combine warm metal colors. Brass, gold, and bronze can work well together since they share similar warm values versus shiny nickel, which leans toward the colder side, says Sprouse.

4. Mix metals. Some designers also think brass, satin, brushed nickel, stainless steel, and oil-rubbed bronze can be used together. But Imhoff still offers some caution. “Go with similar warm, muted undertones for some consistency,” she says. Chicago designer Summer Thornton likes mixing metals, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms where she might use brass, nickel, and steel combinations.

5. Consider longevity. How long brass will stay fashionable is unknown. When it becomes too ubiquitous in retail stores, shelter magazines, and on design websites, it may be time to move on. The good news is that brass touches are easy to add in and switch out.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

Home Offices Expected to Become Essential for Buyers

As more people shift to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate professionals predict that a home office will become a hot amenity for the long term. Fifty-five percent of homeowners and practitioners recently surveyed by remodeling website Houzz say they have a home office. A quarter of respondents say they work from their dining room or kitchen table, and 11% work from their sofa.

Respondents report that the top challenges of a sudden shift to working from home include finding a private or quiet location away from high-traffic living areas (30%), securing a computer with a strong Wi-Fi connection (25%), and creating a comfortable work space (25%).

Houzz U.S. editor Anne Colby offers tips for setting up an efficient work space at home, including:

  • Pick the right location. If you don’t have a dedicated space for a home office, consider transforming a spare bedroom, dining room, den, or even a backyard shed. Consider whether you want to be near family while working or need a quieter corner, Colby suggests.
  • Pay attention to the lighting. Diffuse the lights and position fixtures just right to avoid eyestrain from glares on the computer screen, Colby says. Layer lights from multiple sources—like an overhead light, desktop light, and natural light—to create the right ambiance.
  • Make it ergonomic. Keep your home office efficient and safe with the arrangement of your chair, desk, computer, keyboard, mouse, and phone. Make sure you’re comfortable. It will keep you working more productive and also prevent repetitive injuries, Colby says.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

A few home upgrades you can do without leaving

With the uncertainty in the world at the moment, you’re likely spending a lot more time than usual in your home. Sharing smaller spaces with family 24 hours per day might be emphasizing areas of mess or chaos around the house. Use this time to do some much needed, always dreaded home maintenance. But no need to change out of your house slippers – all of these upgrades can be done using what you already own.

  1. Spring cleaning

While staying safe indoors, there’s really no way to avoid spring cleaning this year. And spending more time at home may reveal how much unnecessary clutter is taking up space. It’s the perfect time to purge clothes, knick-knacks, papers, books, etc. Give your closets and drawers a proper cleanse and prepare boxes or bags of clothes to donate in a few weeks.

On top of typical surface sanitation, deep clean areas in your home that need some extra TLC. Scrub the shower grout, make the windows shine, and wipe down the inside of cupboards that haven’t seen daylight in years – just to name a few.

  1. Paint touch-ups

Did you hold onto the can of paint you used on your home’s interior? If so, unearth it from the depths of the garage and touch up spots like baseboards, wall corners, nail holes, or anywhere else that has been subject to wear and tear.

  1. Rearrange furniture and decor

Experiment with the layout of your furniture and décor. Chances are, your living room is positioned the same way it was when you first moved in. Give your space a fresh new look by moving around wall hangings and art, and even rearranging staple furniture pieces.

Deconstruct – then reconstruct – your bookshelf. Remove every book, then rearrange them in an updated, creative way. Try stacking some shelves with books vertically and some horizontally. Bookshelves also function as a display case for treasured keepsakes, lamps, photo frames and decorative candles.

  1. Change smoke detector batteries

This is a tedious task – but it’s better than being awakened at dawn to the screech of the smoke alarm on low-battery. Use this time to complete less-fun chores like swapping out smoke alarm batteries. If you also have spare bulbs on hand, replace light bulbs that have been dimming, flickering or even burnt out.

  1. Keep track of any items you’ll want to fix later

Walk around the house and inspect each room for future fixes to complete at a later date when it’s easier to get to your local hardware store. Create a checklist, including tasks like: steam clean the carpet, repaint the front door and swap out cabinet hardware.