Many of us make optimistic resolutions for the New Year. Whether it’s deciding to take a class, stick to a budget, or to finally drop those 20 pounds, we’re full of ideas on how to make ourselves and our lives better. Because your home is such an important part of your life, why not make some worthwhile resolutions for it as well? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Keep Current On Routine Maintenance
One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to make sure routine maintenance is part of your plan. Catching problems early can often help you avoid larger issues down the road. What is now a minor plumbing or roof leak can cause major problems if not detected and fixed promptly. Check around your home for cracked or peeling paint, have the chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned, and make sure the driveway and walkways are not cracked or lifting.
Update Your Home Inventory For Insurance Purposes
If you’re like many homeowners, it’s probably been a while since you’ve reviewed your home insurance policy and reassessed the value of your home’s contents. An updated home inventory of your possessions can help you determine if you have the proper type and amount of insurance. There are a number of mobile apps available to help you organize and record your inventory, and many insurance carriers offer their own apps. Should you have an insurance claim for property loss or damage, a current and accurate inventory can help make the process and correct valuation easier.
Audit Your Home For Energy Savings
There are simple things that every homeowner can do to improve energy efficiency and save on utility bills. Check around your home for any fixtures that still have incandescent bulbs and replace them with LED bulbs wherever possible. This saves money and makes things easier for you, too; for example, bulbs in awkward places will need replacement far less often. Make sure windows and doors are caulked and in good repair, which will save energy in both winter and summer. If you’re planning to replace any appliances this year, shop for and compare efficient, energy-saving models.
Create An Emergency Safety Plan For Your Family
Everyone knows the importance of having a plan in place for emergencies including fire, flooding, blizzards and more. But each year, tragedy strikes homes and families who didn’t think about it or who promised to make a plan “one of these days.” The basics include emergency kits, an escape plan for every room, and prearranging a meeting place for your family. GetPrepared.ca has tips and resources that you can use to keep your loved ones safe. Give yourself some peace of mind by making 2019 the year to put a plan in place.
For more information about home inspections and for additional resources, please contact your local Pillar To Post office.
Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, homes with or without basements. The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. have elevated radon levels. Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by avoidable radon exposure is preventable, but only if radon issues are detected and mitigated prior to prolonged exposure in homes and buildings. There is real risk in not knowing if a home has a high level of radon.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring odorless, colorless, radioactive gas formed by the ongoing decay of uranium in soil, rocks, sediments, and even well or ground water. While radon that escapes into the atmosphere is not harmful, dangerously high concentrations can build up indoors, exposing occupants to possible health risks.
How Does Radon Get Into a Home?
Radon can migrate into the home in several ways. Openings or cracks in basement walls, foundations or floors are common avenues. Sumps, basement drains, and spaces between gas or water fittings can also allow radon into the structure. Other entry points can include gaps in suspended floors and cavities within walls.
How Can I Make Sure My Clients and Their Families Aren’t at Risk?
We encourage homeowners to add radon testing to the home inspection process. Your Pillar To Post Home Inspector will set up the monitoring equipment in the home and report on the results. If an elevated level of radon is detected, steps can be taken to reduce the concentration to or below acceptable levels inside virtually any home. This can include a relatively simple setup such as a collection system with a radon vent pipe, which prevents radon from entering the home in the first place. Professional mitigation services can provide solutions for a home’s specific conditions.
Contact Pillar To Post Home Inspectors to schedule radon testing when you book your next home inspection.
Residential fires take their toll every day, every year, in lost lives, injuries, and destroyed property. But many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home and can save property and lives should disaster strike.
Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many multiple strands can be joined together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home, and turn them off before going to bed at night.
Candles add a welcoming, festive feeling, and need to be placed in stable holders and located away from flammable items, drafts, pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time.
Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree which should be discarded immediately. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights, even LED types, on a dried-out tree.
Electrical items including lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpet or rugs even temporarily as this creates a fire hazard.
Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, paper – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.
Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Most municipalities require the use of working smoke detectors in both single and multi-family residences.
Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
Kitchen fires know no season. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Don’t wear loose fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Turn the handles of pots and pans away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are widely available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a plan. Local fire departments can also provide recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.
Your local Pillar To Post office wishes you and your clients a happy and safe holiday season!
Feeling anxious about the holidays? Try these tips to bring on the calm:
Don’t feel like you have to say “yes” to every invitation, menu demand or gift request.
Ask others to pitch in on tasks such as shopping, baking and wrapping. And if someone offers help, accept it!
Set a budget for gift purchases and stick to it. A mountain of new debt is no way to start the new year.
If you’re hosting a meal, ask guests to bring side dishes or desserts. If they ask to do dishes, hand them a sponge!
A 15 minute walk each day will leave you refreshed and help clear your head.
LIVING RIGHT AT HOME
Brighten Up Your Living Space in Winter
The shorter days will still be here for months to come, and spring can seem a long way away. But winter doesn’t mean your home needs to feel drab for months on end. Here are some easy ways to bring some springtime into your home and life right now.
Rooms of blooms
Choose a bouquet of colorful fresh flowers or a flowering plant to display in the kitchen, family room, or wherever you spend a lot of time. Or divide a large bunch of blooms into several smaller vases that you can place in a bathroom, by the kitchen sink, and on your nightstand.
If you live in a mild climate, a pot or two of bright flowering plants outside your front door provides instant cheer. Your neighbors (and the mail carrier) will appreciate it, too!
Punch up the color
Give your powder room or laundry area a lift with a fresh coat of paint in a fun new color, or create a bigger impact with an accent wall in any room.
Give it a spin
Whirl chunks of pineapple, mango, and banana with plain yogurt in the blender to bring a taste of the tropics to a dark morning. This healthy treat will give your day a delicious jump start and bring a smile to your face.
Be a quick change artist
Try new throw pillows or pillow covers in bright, fun fabrics to liven up your sofa and chairs. There are so are many great-looking, inexpensive options available you won’t have to splurge to give your room a fresh look.
Before and after the storm
No matter where you live, winter storms can wreak havoc on property. Preventive steps can reduce the chance of serious damage to homes and lives.
Before the storm
Outdoor furniture, grills, toys, birdbaths and the like should be stored away. Secure and anchor large objects such as prefab sheds and play structures to prevent them from falling or blowing over.
Trees can look like they’re in good shape but may be diseased or have other problems that can cause them to fail unexpectedly. Trees stressed by drought or that are rooted in saturated soil can be more susceptible to problems when storms hit.
Local ordinances may require that trees be trimmed a minimum distance from driveways, structures and power lines. For safety’s sake, a qualified professional should perform this work.
Using binoculars, check your roof for missing or damaged shingles. Flying shingles can damage structures, while missing shingles can allow water to leak into the home. Any roofing repairs should be done professionally to ensure the work is done safely and correctly.
After the storm
Look for downed or sagging power lines and report them immediately to your utility company. Always assume a downed power line is live, and never approach or touch it.
Check around for fallen branches or other damage to trees and structures. This is also a good time to reinspect the roof for storm damage; any repairs should be made as soon as possible to prevent further problems and leaks.
Note any areas where water may have infiltrated siding, the foundation, or windows and have repairs done before the next storm hits.
Why get a pre-listing home inspection?
A pre-listing inspection can uncover previously unknown problems – major and minor – allowing the opportunity to make repairs, updates, or replacements as needed or as the seller wishes. Addressing these issues before the home goes on the market can result in cleaner offers and a smoother transaction for both parties. Having well-informed sellers and buyers will work to everyone’s advantage.
Be sure that the home inspection is comprehensive and that you’ll get the report immediately upon completion of the inspection. This will allow sellers to get the information they need right away, so they can decide on their next steps prior to listing. Photos should also always be part of a professional report so that the full documentation of conditions is available to both the sellers and potential buyers. This is especially important when it comes to issues that might not be addressed or repaired prior to sale.
Having a pre-listing inspection in hand is a great way to inform potential buyers and give them peace of mind once the home hits the market, leading to a faster sale!
Home sweet home security
We all love coming home at the end of the day to a place we feel safe. Here are some tips for keeping your home and valuables secure.
Secure Entrances – Thoroughly evaluate all entry points to your home. Make sure all doors have a secure lock and reinforce the door frames. Windows should be closed and locked at all times when you are away.
Secure Lighting – Lighting is a basic but important burglar deterrent. Indoor and outdoor lights can thwart intruders by making it look like the house is occupied when you are not home, and minimize the places burglars can hide at night.
Secure Garage – Garages are a favorite target for thieves because they contain easy to sell valuables like bicycles, tools and sports equipment. Garages can also provide easy access into the home. Keep all garage windows and access doors securely locked. Look into installing tempered glass in windows, or cover the inside of the windows with a sheet of durable Plexiglas.
Security System – There are lots of options available for homeowners who want to take this extra precaution. The latest systems can be operated using a mobile device or speaker-based “assistant,” allowing you to arm the system and remotely monitor indoor and outdoor security cameras. More conventional alarm systems include third-party monitoring, and unmonitored alarms that simply make a loud noise when triggered.
PLACES AND SPACES
The right tree in the right spot
One of the most common problems with home gardens is plants, particularly trees, that grow too large for their location.
Here are keys to avoiding this:
Research how tall and wide a particular kind of plant or tree will be at maturity. That cute sapling at the nursery could grow up to be a giant you don’t have space for.
Avoid planting a tree too close to the house. At full size it may damage the roof and gutters and need to be cut back.
If the tree is deciduous (loses its leaves each fall), will the winter sun cause the rooms nearby to be too bright?
Trees with aggressive and/or shallow root systems shouldn’t be planted near the house, pavement or other surfaces as they can potentially cause serious damage to the foundation.