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.

6 Common Mistakes Made When Selling a Home, and How to Avoid Them

Selling a home can be a complex process. To keep it hassle-free from for-sale to sold, consider these common mistakes people make when selling their homes – and avoid making them yourself.

1. Skimping on necessary repairs

Some sellers ignore major repairs in hopes of closing the sale before anyone notices. However, if the home inspector catches detrimental damage, it will likely halt the sale until repair – or an agreement – can be made.

To save yourself the hassle and to streamline the selling process, assess any serious repairs before listing your home. It may feel unnecessary to repair a home you’re soon to leave, but it could help you pass inspection – and possibly get top dollar – on your property.

2. Not prepping the house for showings

Your home is bound to be filled with mementos, photographs, kitchen magnets and all of the wonderful details that make it unique to you. But an important part of preparing your home for showings is to minimize knick-knacks.

To do so, store away any clutter that would distract an interested homebuyer when they enter a room or open a closet or cabinet. Tidy up all surfaces, including bookshelves, end tables and kitchen countertops. By cleaning up messes, you’ll help rooms appear larger, so buyers will be able to envision their own belongings in the space.

Don’t forget about curb appeal. Buyers will likely form an opinion of your home before they enter the front door. When you clean and stage the interior of the home, head outside and give a bit of TLC to the exterior too. Depending on the season, this could include anything from weeding mulch beds, putting out planters or touching up chipped paint on the house’s exterior.

3. Using inadequate listing photos

Listing photos can make all the difference when attracting homebuyers who begin the homebuying process online. Digital listings for even the most magnificent of homes will receive far fewer clicks if they aren’t presented with high-quality photos.

For example, photos with ample lighting can help a room appear spacious. As mentioned above, prepping the home before listing it for sale by cleaning and decorating helps ensure that photos capture each room looking polished and sophisticated.

4. Listing it FSBO

Sellers who list their homes for sale by owner, otherwise known as FSBO, could face major setbacks along the way and may even end up receiving significantly less money in return. In order to ensure the sale is legally sound, and that you’re receiving competitive offers, it’s important to hire a real estate agent.

As your representative in the sale, a real estate agent will offer guidance and make sure the process goes smoothly. Qualified agents dedicate their lives to helping people navigate the buying or selling process – so why attempt it alone?

5. Setting an inflated price

Be realistic and timely when setting an initial listing price. Read up on your local housing market to learn the current trends of buyers and sellers. For example, selling in a seller’s market may mean that you list your home for sale at a higher price to account for the increased demand.

Hiring a real estate agent, who can help guide you to a fair listing price, can be critical. Sometimes, setting a price that is disproportionate to the value of the property means that the home will sit on the market for days on end. Accordingly, buyers who see a home sitting on the market endlessly without any movement may question the integrity of the home.

6. Underestimating costs associated with the process

Before your home hits the market, make sure you’re aware of the costs associated with the process. While your initial investment may be some routine repair, staging and professional listing photos, bear in mind that, as the sale progresses, you’ll typically be paying for closing costs, moving expenses and fees associated with hiring a real estate agent.

Consider these costs to be investments. The return is when you receive higher value back on your home due to how it was presented to interested buyers or how it was represented by an experienced real estate professional. That said, make sure to budget for these costs in advance to avoid any surprises.

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.

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.

Home Maintenance Resolutions for 2020

Homes need continuous maintenance to keep them in good condition. Plan to invest one to four percent of your home’s value in maintenance costs each year to avoid losing home value!

1. Interior
If you invest time in some simple maintenance, you can keep the inside of your home looking like new. Some tasks your home may need include repainting the walls, restripping and resealing wood, or restaining trim and built-ins. Some more complicated repairs may involve replacing worn or outdated floors or rebuilding fixtures.

2. Exterior
Taking time each year to maintain the exterior of your home will help ensure your home doesn’t take in excessive damage-causing moisture. Some tasks you should complete each year include cleaning and repairing your gutters/downspouts, inspecting and repairing your roof, and repainting, cleaning, and repairing your home’s siding.

3. Systems
Part of keeping your home in good condition is ensuring your systems are running safely. Cleaning your chimney flue, replacing air filters, and other inspection and cleaning projects can keep your home and family safe by helping to prevent floods and fires caused by poorly maintained systems.

4. Landscaping
Keeping your outdoor structures and landscaping in good condition is also important. Keep an eye out for erosion issues, rodent infestations, and dangerous trees. You should also refinish your deck, fence, and other wood structures semi-annually.

5 De-cluttering Tips for Your Kitchen

Is the chaos on your countertop out of control? Here are a few tips to conquer the clutter.

  1. Use it or move it
    If you don’t use a mixer, food processor, or other tool more than once a week, stash it in a cupboard. Counter space is precious real estate.
  2. Wall-to-wall organization
    Mount a rack on your wall for storing all those things that tend to pile up on your kitchen table and counters – like mail, to-do lists and receipts.
  3. Look up
    The space on top of your wall cabinets and fridge are great places for wire baskets that let you see the contents, or fabric bins that hide things from view.
  4. What’s behind Door #1?
    Place over-the-door storage racks inside pantry doors to free up counter space.
  5. Hang ten
    Or even a dozen. Keep lightweight items such as aprons, oven mitts, large utensils and towels off counters by mounting wall hooks.

8 Tips for Quick Cleaning Before Guests Arrive

No doubt you’ll want your home to look its best for visiting family and friends during the holidays. Here are a few cleaning tips to minimize the time you have to spend making things sparkle.

  1. Grout and tight corners
    Cleaning nooks and crannies doesn’t require elbow grease. A toothbrush is much more effective.
  2. Showerhead residue
    Fill a plastic bag with vinegar, tie it around the head and leave it overnight to dissolve mineral deposits. A vinegar-soaked rag held in place by a rubber band works, too.
  3. Microwave build-up
    Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a small bowl of water and microwave for about five minutes. The lemon scent eliminates old food smells and condensation from the lemon water loosens caked-on grime, making it much easier to clean.
  4. Garage floor
    Don’t bother sweeping – a leaf blower is much quicker.
  5. Pet hair on furniture
    Wet rubber dishwashing gloves are magnets for pet hair. Put on a pair, rub your furniture, and leave the vacuum extension tool in the closet.
  6. Ceiling fan
    To avoid a shower of dust and dead bugs, use an old pillowcase to clean the fan one blade at a time. Slide the case over the blade and pull it back slowly and the case will capture the dirt.
  7. Toilets
    Dump a spoonful of Tang into the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. The citric acid scrubs so you don’t have to.
  8. Garbage disposal
    Run baking soda and lemon juice, or ice cubes and lemon peels, through your garbage disposal to eliminate odors. White vinegar will do the same for your dishwasher.