Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

New Online Options Coming in April Learn More

Tag: Homeowner Tips

As summer winds down, the kids head back to school, and we realize that fall is soon to be upon us. Soon those warm temperatures will turn cool, leaves will fall and the seasons will change.

Just like we prepare our closets and change out our summer wardrobe to fall and winter clothes, we need to prepare our homes for fall weather. Home maintenance is the key to keeping your home running properly, prolonging the life of appliances and protecting your investment. By following the steps below, you can prepare your home for fall so that it works as it should throughout the season.

•Seal Leaks and Drafts Every time a season changes, it is important to check window and door frames and all around the home for any cracks or holes that could lead to leaks and drafts. Nothing is a bigger home energy waste than leaks and drafts. Keep your home toasty warm this fall and keep those heating costs down by sealing any leaks or cracks before the temperatures change.

• Clear The Gutters Before the fall leaves start dropping, clear your gutters of any dirt and debris. Dirt and debris will stop water from freely flowing through the gutters and if temperatures drop, the water could freeze and cause damage. Start the season with clear gutters and check them periodically to make sure there is not too much buildup.

• Check Your Water Heater If you have not done routine maintenance on your water heater recently, now is the time. You can find more about water heater maintenance by searching this blog site. With your water heater maintained it will be ready to keep those hot showers coming all fall and winter long.

• Prepare Your Lawn Now is the time to sow winter grass, before the cold temperatures hit. By doing it now, your grass will have a good amount of time to grow and get healthy so that it can last through the winter.

• Inspect Your Roof Before cold weather, rain and snow hits, it is wise to inspect your roof for any damage. If there is damage to your roof, the bad weather that comes with fall and winter will only make it worse and could cause permanent damage that is not only frustrating, but very costly. Catching the problem now will give you time to repair the damage before the weather changes.

Clean Your Fireplace Chimney cleaning is something that is usually best left to the professionals. If done incorrectly, it could lead to major damage for your home and could harm individuals living in the home. A clogged up chimney is never good so it is wise to get a seasonal check by a professional to ensure that it is safe to light that fire when it gets cool.

All those nights of grilling out in the yard have produced some delicious meals.  There is just nothing quite like food right off the grill.  And with all of that use of your grill, it has probably left it looking dirty.  With such high temperatures, it seems like little cleaning would be involved to keep your grill up and running.  But, just like cooking on the stove, spills happen and need to be cleaned up.  While there the day to day cleanup of your grill is pretty basic, it is good to give your grill a good cleaning so that you can cook the best food for you and your friends and family possible.

Step 1:  Wire Brushing When you cook your food directly on grill grates, it is bound to leave some charred food residue on the grates.  Purchase a stiff-bristled grill brush at any hardware store (and probably most grocery stores).  After you have brushed all of the debris off the grill grates, soak your grill brush in warm soapy water to clean. Step 2:  Oil the Grill Grates Spray your grill down with cooking oil or wipe it down with cooking oil once it has cooled.  This will help prevent food from sticking to the grill each time you use it. Step 3:  Use Soap & Water to Clean While it may seem like a grill might require more intense cleaning products, soap and water really do work well.  HowStuffWorks explains how to use soap and water to clean your grill, “If you’ve let your grill get out of hand and it’s coated in cooked-on food, you may need to remove the grate and take care of it with some soap and water. This is always a good idea to do at the end of your grilling season. If your sink is large enough, you can use it for your soak, otherwise you’ll need to use washtub or plastic bin. Or maybe even your bathtub. Fill the sink or bin with warm soapy dish washing liquid and let the grates soak for at least two hours. The longer you soak it, the easier it will be to get the gunk off. After the soak, remove the grate and scrub it with a stiff wire brush, rinse it and let dry. Make sure you never use any harsh chemicals like bleach or a chlorine powder. After all, this is what you cook your food on. You can also look for an all-natural, chemical-free liquid soap for your soak.” Step 4:  Clean the Burners Food and grease fall on the burners while you grill and buildup over time.  Burners need to be cleaned properly so that you can achieve even cooking temperatures.  Scrub the burners with a wire brush once cooled to remove grease and debris.]]>

kitchen-islandWith home ownership comes the responsibility of cleaning your home.  Every home needs a well stocked arsenal of cleaning supplies for whatever messes may arise.  Whether you are just moving into a home and starting your cleaning supply stockpile or trying to better round out your existing cleaning supplies, it is always good to have a variety of cleaning supplies at your reach.   You never know when or where a (or what kind of) spill may occur, and just the regular maintenance of your home will require a variety of cleaning tools.  Below is a list of essential cleaning tools that every home should have. 1.  Microfiber Cloths Microfiber cloths are very handy for a variety of uses, but primarily, for dusting.  Any homeowner knows that furniture and decor accumulates dust…quickly.  While dusting is nobody’s favorite job, it is one we must all do.  Microfiber cloths are incredibly effective at dusting.  Not only can microfiber cloths clean a surface almost entirely on their own, but they will not scratch or leave any marks on the surface. 2.  Broom, Dustpan and Mop Yes, technically that is three things but they all work together.  Every floor needs to be mopped, but before it can be mopped effectively, it needs to be swept.  A good broom and dust pan will remove any debris, loose dirt  and more from the floor and make it an ideal surface to mop until it is so clean it is sparkling. 3.  Vacuum If you have carpet or area rugs, a vacuum will be an essential tool in your home.  Many vacuums even have a hard floor setting so you can use them throughout your entire home.  Dirt and dust that settles into carpet can cause many problems for allergy sufferers and is just downright gross so your vacuum will be a very handy tool. 4.  Bucket A bucket has many uses in a home and is an important tool for cleaning.  It can hold water for you while you mop, be placed under plumbing if you need to do work and can even hold your cleaning supplies while you clean around your home. 5.  Scrub Brushes A good medium-bristled brush can do most tasks around your home but it may be a good idea to get a variety.  Soft-bristled brushes and hard-bristled brushes all have their uses around the house.  For scrubbing up messes on the floor, to cleaning the shower, to scrubbing the grout clean, scrub brushes are very handy. 6.  Sponge A sponge is a useful cleaning tool in almost every room in the house.  It can be used to clean the kitchen or bathrooms, rinsed out, and used again. 7.  White Cotton Towels White cotton towels are incredibly versatile and can be used in many ways.  They can be used to dry your dishes, clean up spills, mop up the floor and more.  The beauty of white cotton towels is you can easily tell when they are dirty and if they get stained, you can simply bleach them.]]>

With home ownership comes the responsibility to take care of your home and make small (or large) repairs.  Whether you consider yourself a novice at home projects or are considering starting a side business as a handyman, every homeowner will probably have to do some home repairs at some point.  In order to do those repairs, it is necessary to have some common tools. You do not need to have a complete workshop in your garage to be able to do some basic repairs, but you will need the essentials.  Below is a list of essential tools that every homeowner should have in their arsenal. 1.  Hammer A hammer is a basic tool that every homeowner needs to have.  Whether you are hanging pictures on the wall or assembling furniture, hammers come in very handy.  Get a claw hammer so that you can rip nails out of things as well. 2.  Screwdrivers Everyone needs screwdrivers to be able to assemble things, unscrew battery cases on electronics and more.  But, you will need two kinds of screwdrivers, a Phillips head and a Flat head.  You can buy screwdrivers with interchangeable bits so that you can have different style bits and different size bits for whatever your need may be. 3.  Tape Measure You know what they say, “measure twice and cut once.”  An accurate measurement will save you time and frustration from having to do the job twice because measurements were inaccurate.  With a tape measure you can determine how far apart paintings should be hung, where you need to hang your curtain rod or just about any other project you can think of. 4.  Level There is nothing more frustrating than hanging something and realizing it looks crooked.  Small levels are handy but a nice 3 foot level will be ideal for many projects. 5.  Electric Drill An electric drill, whether or cordless or corded, may not seem like an “essential” tool for every homeowner but you never know when you will need a drill and when the occasion arises, you will be happy to have it.  An electric drill can drill, sand, grind, stir paint and handle almost any job. 6.  Handsaw While you probably will not use your handsaw every week or even every month, it is a good tool to have on hand.  If you need to cut branches of trees in the yard or saw a project you are working on, a handsaw is an important and inexpensive tool. 7.  Flashlight Whether the power goes out or you need to work under the sink on the plumbing, a flashlight is handy in a pinch. 8.  Wrench An adjustable wrench is an essential tool.  It will adjust nuts and bolts and allow you to work on things like plumbing if there is a problem. 9.  Locking Pliers Pliers are handy for gripping something and plying it out of place.  But, locking pliers have even more uses.  They can lock into place and be used as a vice or clamp. 10.  Utility Knife While you need to handle this with great care to avoid injury (as you do with any tool) a utility knife can be incredibly handy.  A utility knife is a great tool for opening big boxes or cutting rope.  You may not need it often, but when you do, you will be glad you have it.]]>

When you have a child, nothing is more important than their safety.  Any parent has probably read about childproofing or their pediatrician has advised them about childproofing.  Most people know to plus the outlet covers and lock the cabinets that contain anything dangerous to children like chemicals, cleaning products, silverware or other things.  But, one thing many people do not give as much consideration to is how to childproof their appliances.  You may think, “they are a baby (or toddler, or child)…they are not really capable of opening the refrigerator, or getting into the washing machine.”  But, what if they do, and injure themselves?  When it comes to childproofing, better safe than sorry should always be the approach.  Read more about how to properly childproof your appliances below. Refrigerator:  Depending on the configuration of your refrigerator, you can secure your refrigerator doors with latches.  If it is a side-by-side refrigerator, install latches (you will need two) on the doors that are out of reach of the children.  If it is a traditional refrigerator with one door and a freezer on top, secure a latch for the freezer and one for the door separately.  If you have a refrigerator that has side-by-side doors on top and a refrigerator drawer on the bottom, you will need three separate latches to properly secure your refrigerator.  If you store medication in your refrigerator, keep it on the top shelf so that it is out of reach of children in case they do manage to get into the refrigerator. Oven:  If knobs are on the front of your oven, and children can reach them, you should install knob covers or locks to prevent little hands from reaching up and turning burners on the stove on.  When cooking, use back burners whenever possible to prevent children from reaching up and trying to touch the top of the stove, resulting in accidental burning.  If you are using the front burners, turn the handles of your pots and pans away from the edge and towards the wall so that children cannot reach up and pull a hot pan down on themselves. Dishwasher:  Dishwashers have two things you do not want your children to get into: chemicals and sharp objects.  Install a dishwasher lock to keep curious little hands out.  Also, keep silverware pointed down so that sharp edges are not sticking straight up.  Lastly, start your dishwasher as soon as you put dishwasher detergent in to prevent your children from getting into it and accidentally ingesting it. Washer and Dryer:  Many modern washers and dryers contain “childproof” settings that can be enabled to prevent children from opening the machine during a wash and dry cycle.  It will also prevent them from making any changes during cycles because they try to press the brightly colored buttons on the front.  You can also install an exterior safety lock on the machine that will be one additional preventive measure against children getting in.]]>

Every home owner knows they need to keep some common tools and safety items around the house to keep the house running properly.  Everyone should have a hammer, measuring tape, fire extinguisher, bandages, etc.  But, what about being prepared for an emergency?  Nobody wants to think an emergency could happen when they are home but, if one does, will you be prepared? Earthquakes, storms, tornados, floods, fires, hurricanes and natural disasters can and do happen and when they do, every home should be prepared.   Every home should have an emergency preparedness kit and you do not need to go out and buy a pre-made kit.  You can assemble a kit to keep your home, and your family, ready in case of emergency. Start your emergency preparedness kit with a rolling suitcase.  Or, if you have a large family, a few rolling suitcases.  This is a great option because it can hold everything you need whether it is safer to stay in your home, or, if you need to quickly leave your home, it is ready to go. Keep copies of any important documents you think you may possibly need in the suitcase as well as extra sets of important keys. In an emergency, it is helpful to have everything ready in one place. In the suitcase you want to keep a complete first aid kit.  It is also important to keep a flashlight and extra batteries in case you lose power.  A battery powered or hand crank radio can also come in handy and phone chargers. If anyone in the house regularly takes any important medications, it is wise to keep a back up supply in the kit in case you run out of medication.  An emergency blanket reflects heat back at you which will be important if you lose power during the winter.  Also, keep a small tool kit, pocket knife and whistle in case you need to fix something or try to help someone hear you. One of the most important things you can have is non-perishable food (if they are canned goods, be sure to include a can opener) and bottled water.  Try to plan to have enough to feed and hydrate each person for three days.  A change of clothes and durable weather-resistant shoes.  And you should also pack some emergency cash in case you need to leave quickly and purchase something. This is a list of just the basics you could and should include in your emergency preparedness kit.  There are many more things you can include in your kit if you have the room or want to go more in depth but if you pack these things you will be prepared for most emergencies.]]>

bathroom Many people love having tile installed in their home for the ease of cleaning it offers.  But, with tile comes grout and grout can really show dirt over time.  Whether it is on your floor, as back splash in your kitchen or used in your bathroom, grout needs to be cleaned over time to look its best instead of dirty and discolored.  There are products available for purchase that can clean grout but it is actually quite easy to make a cleaning solution right in your home with ingredients you likely already have.  Unfortunately, no one has invented a solution that does not require some scrubbing so you will have to put in a little elbow grease but with a home solution the dirt should come off easily. Cleaning your grout can be accomplished using simple ingredients right from your own cupboard.  The basic recipe to clean your grout is to mix equal parts white vinegar and water.  Fill a spray bottle with the solution and spray on the grout lines.  Allow the solution to sit for about 10 minutes and then, with a sturdy-bristled brush, scrub away the dirt.  That is the basic solution for cleaning grout but, unfortunately, some stains and dirt are a bit more stubborn. If you are still finding some trouble spots that need a bit of extra attention, there are some other options to use.  Try making a paste of baking soda and water and scrub the paste into the grout and then spray the grout lines with your solution.  The combination of vinegar and baking soda will create a foam so give it a minute or two to foam up and work its magic.  Then, scrub away the mess!  If you are still finding stubborn stains, try scrubbing with hydrogen peroxide and for the worst of the worst stains try oxygen bleach (for example: oxiclean) or chlorine bleach.  These should only be used for the worst situations but can prove quite effective towards those stubborn spots.  Once clean, rinse thoroughly with warm water so that the dirt does not settle right back into the grout lines again. Now that you have beautiful clean grout, the last thing you want to do is spill on it and make a mess again so soon after cleaning it.  While spills and messes are inevitable, you can avoid having to constantly clean your grout lines by sealing them.  Tile and grout sealer is available at most hardware stores and can easily be applied to the newly cleaned grout.  Once the grout is sealed, you can keep up with your regular tile cleaning routine and should see a vast improvement in the appearance of your grout.  Now you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful appearance of your tile and grout and can easily treat dirt and stains regularly with common household items.]]>

Ohio State University explains how common termites are and  just how important it is to prevent termites from entering your home, “Termites are the most economically important wood-destroying organism in the United States, with approximately $2 billion per year being spent for their prevention and treatment. This high-dollar amount could be reduced if homeowners implemented a number of relatively simple, inexpensive, practical measures around their home and outlying structures that reduce the risk of subterranean termite infestations. Such preventive measures are very cost effective given that a home typically represents one’s largest monetary investment.” lawncontrolTermites love moisture so it is important to try to prevent moisture from accumulating around your home.  If you have any leaky plumbing around your home, it is important to have the plumbing fixed right away because each drip from the plumbing is like an open invitation for termites to enter your home. Termites travel through the moist underground and find sources of cellulose (wood) and start making their way into the structure of the home.  Do not let any wood around your home touch the ground and do not pile up wood next to your home because termites will use it as their superhighway into your home.  In fact, keep piles of wood at least ten feet away from the exterior of your home. Next, clean up any debris around your home.  This includes fallen leaves, branches and more that have accumulated near your home and could help moisture retain around your home. If you are building anything, such as a deck, involving wood, used only pre-treated wood to help deter termites.  Also, if you are planting a garden or doing lawn work, avoid using mulch near your home because it contains moisture and wood, two things termites love.  By following these simple steps, you can avoid finding those dreaded termite tubes or being told that you have termites.  It is also important to maintain regular pest control because they will be able to keep an eye out for termites and help offer tips and guidance when they see problem areas around your home that could potentially lead to termites. If you are concerned about potential termites, you can use what are called “bait and monitoring systems.  Bob Vila explains how bait and montioring systems work, “Bait and monitoring systems such as Sentricon and Exterra reduce pesticide use dramatically by placing wood bait stations at regular intervals around the perimeter of the house. “We drill our stations every 10 feet around the house and use raw wood to bait the termites,” says Teri DiBella of PestAgon in Sarasota, FL. Once installed, specialists monitor the bait stations every two months to check for the presence of termites. Once termites are detected in a station, the bait is switched with termiticide bait that they carry back and feed to the rest of the colony, eventually killing it off. The process is slower than soil treatment, but it applies pesticides only when needed and does not involve the use of liquid chemicals. “Once a bait station has a hit, we drill auxiliary stations near it to assure that the colony is dealt with immediately,” adds DiBella. Bait and monitoring systems are effective preventive measures against termites, but they are limited in their ability to eliminate present problems. “Termites already feeding on the home have no reason to switch to the bait,” explains McAndrew.  If you think you may have termites, call your pest control service right away to remove termites and prevent damage to your home.  ]]>

As the summer temperatures soar we often watch our lawn and gardens turn from beautiful vibrant and alive to dried out, brown and dead. The scorching summer sun and heat make it difficult for lawns and gardens to thrive and often, no matter what we try, we have to give up and wait it out for cooler temperatures. But, there is hope! You do not have to give up on your yard, you can have a beautiful lawn and garden to enjoy all year round.


We all know about fertilizer but how often should we do it? Fertilizer can breathe life into a dying lawn or garden and only needs to be done a few times each year. Today points out why it is important to fertilize and makes some recommendations for fertilizing your lawns, ” I only fertilize my lawn a couple of times a year, once in the spring and then again in midsummer with a food specially blended for lawns. You’ll find these blends higher in nitrogen than other elements (the first number in a series of numbers on the fertilizer bag). Nitrogen is what stimulates vigorous growth and deep green color. I feed only a couple of times a year because I discovered that fertilizing more often meant too much growth — I was working myself to death trying to keep it mowed and watered. So, by reducing the amount of fertilizer, I’ve saved myself time and energy. Also, by allowing my grass to grow longer, just by an inch or so more in summer, I’ve reduced my watering a bit more. The taller blades of grass cut down on water evaporation from the soil. Fertilizing can be confusing because there are so many different blends out there to choose from. For instance, there are some that actually have pre-emergent herbicide mixed with the fertilizer to keep weed seeds from germinating. Turf growers have told me that if you are going to use pre-emergents, it’s better not to use the blends because they’re not as effective as applying pre-emergents separately from the fertilizer.”


Don’t worry about mowing as often as you do during the winter when things are thriving. But, do not be neglectful of your yard either. Grass needs to be mowed and maintained to grow properly and stay healthy.

Garden By Climate:

Do not go by traditional gardening calendars, go by your climate. If your spring is more like everyone else’s summer, adjust your schedule. If it says to plant certain plants in the summer because of favorable conditions but you live in a climate with extreme heat, it is probably not wise to plant. When you adjust to your climate’s natural calendar, your lawn and garden will be much healthier.


Be consistent with your watering and adjust for extreme heat. Most lawns and gardens need one inch of water per watering so be sure to keep up a consistent watering schedule. Do not drown your lawn and garden though, increase frequency of watering not how much water you use at each watering.]]>

The following five questions address one potentially harmful home product that many homeowners may not be aware of. Home maintenance means more than caring for your home, but also becoming aware of the potential health and environmental hazards that exist within that environment. By understanding the levels of VOC found in a typical can of paint, you will be one step closer to protecting your family and the world around you. 1.     What are VOC’s? In a typical can of interior wall paint, there are many different chemicals and materials that have been mixed to create the right consistency and pigment. As research has shown, many of these cans of paint contain chemicals referred to as VOC’s. What are VOC’s one might ask? VOC’s, or volatile organic compounds, are compounds that contain carbon which easily vaporizes into air when released. When the VOC’s make contact with the air, elements react, and ozone is produced. When using paint high in VOC’s you are creating an environment in which these potentially harmful chemicals are released directly into the air of your home. This wet VOC-containing paint has been shown to release a high amount of chemical substance into the air while still wet, and even one year after the paint has dried, may still give off a portion of the same toxic substance. Now that you know what VOC’s are, you may be wondering what risks are involved. 2.     What are the Potential Risks? The dangers of VOC’s include many potential risks to health and environment. From a simple headache to potential cancer-causing toxins, the effects of VOC’s have been shown to be extremely harmful to humans and pets alike. When planning your home maintenance routine, you may want to now include awareness of toxins to your list. VOC’s not only affect your health, but can have a dangerous effect on the environment as a whole. 3.     How do they Effect the Environment? As VOC’s make contact with the air, ozone is created and adds the pollution already existing in the environment. While the health of your individual home and family is important, the environment affects everyone and everything around you. If each consumer made the effort to change simple home maintenance procedures, the earth might be spared a little more pollution. 4.     What are the Available Alternatives? Alternative interior paints have been created with much lower levels of VOC’s. These lower levels of VOC allow you to reduce the pollutants in your own breathing air, as well as the air in the environment. Keeping your family safe from these toxic chemicals is one home maintenance step that can affect the long-term health and well-being of your family. 5.     Where can these Safer Alternatives be found? Low-VOC paint can typically be found wherever paint is sold. Ask someone in the paint department of your local hardware store to direct you to eco-friendly paint alternatives for your interior home maintenance and painting needs. Because paint-related products are some of the worst environmental pollutants in our society today, doing your part to reduce to pollution on the earth, as well as in your own home, can make a bigger impact than you may think.]]>