Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist – 2013

Is your home ready for winter’s frosty temperatures and severe weather?

We all know about “spring cleaning”, but it is just as important to clean and prepare your home in the fall-before winter is here. This checklist, from Better Homes and Gardens, covers all the necessary maintenance for your home and will help homeowners prepare and protect their home this winter.

  • Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts to protect exterior surfaces and keep water out of the basement

  • Seal any gaps or cracks around windows and doors with weather-stripping and caulk to reduce drafts and to keep the heat in

  • Inspect roof for damaged or curled shingles, corroded flashing, or leaky vents-putting this off can be detrimental and disastrous (it’s much harder to find and fix the leak when its under snow and ice)

  • Repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps-look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, loose railings on steps, disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths-these may not seem dangerous now but when it gets cold and icy out they can be hazardous

  • Drain and winterize all outdoor faucets and irrigation systems-it’s easier than dealing with a busted pipe later!

  • Clean or replace dirty/old furnace filters-filters that are clogged can make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature and can increase your utility bills during the winter months

  • Have a professional inspect your HVAC system

  • Check fireplaces for build-up; hire a professional chimney sweep (better)-accumulations in a flue or chimney can result in a devastating chimney and/or house fire

  • Inspect any gas-fired room heaters-an improperly maintained gas heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, which can be very dangerous

  • Inspect wood stoves before firing up-cracks in wood-stove-stovepipes can release toxic fumes into your home,  so check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints often

  • Test smoke and CO monitors and replace the batteries

  • Inspect (or install) fire extinguishers-there should be at least one fire extinguisher in your home

  • Review fire escape plans

  • Rid your home of old newspapers and other fire hazards

Be sure to do regular cleaning and maintenance along with the specific chores on this list to ensure that your home and your family are prepared and protected this winter. For more great tips from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, click here!

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Money Saving Landscaping Tips For Homeowners

Landscaping is a great way to increase your home’s curb appeal and create a perfect hang-out spot for family and friends. So, whether you’re looking to sell or stay, landscaping is an important area of your property to focus on. However, if you’re not careful, landscaping can also be a very expensive investment. Here are some tips from Better Homes and Gardens for saving money on your landscaping this year.

1. It’s very important to plan before you buy. You should sketch out a complete, detailed landscape design before you buy anything. If you don’t know exactly what you want and what you want to do with it, you could end up wasting a lot of money, so plan first!

2. Decide how much design you actually want. Keeping things simple by building a deck or just a square patio helps keep the cost of landscape designing down, but if its not what you want and you aren’t going to get use out of it, then it’s a waste of money. If instead, you want a lot of design elements (a gazebo, a rock pathway, a small pond, an outdoor kitchen, etc.) it may be useful to hire a landscape architect or designer to help you create a perfect space that you will love and actually use.

3. Consider a consultation. Even if you’re not looking to hire a professional landscape architect or designer to work on your yard, it can be very helpful to simply set up a consultation with an expert. From $50-$100, you can typically get an hour-long consultation with someone who can help you figure out exactly what you want to do and who can give you tips, which will save you from making costly mistakes later.

4. Take your time in buying. Most people aren’t so well-off financially that they can afford to design and landscape their property all at one time. It’s easier and more cost-effective to divide your landscaping project into phases and buy what you can when you can. Only spending what you can at the time will save you from having to make loan or credit payments later. Dividing the project into phases will also help you reassess the project as it moves forward.

5. Buy reasonably priced, quality materials. Warehouses that specialize in landscaping materials often will have items for the lowest price, but the quality may not be the best. Typically, more specialized stores will offer a greater selection and higher quality materials. Plus, such stores usually can provide a more personal service, expert advice, and better guarantees for their products than many warehouses can. Better Homes and Gardens says, “Plant prices may be higher at specialty nurseries, but many offer money-back guarantees on trees, shrubs, and bedding plants”.

6. Make use of online and mail-order sources. Shopping through catalogs and websites can exponentially increase the choices you have for landscape materials. These sources are typically the best if you’re looking for rare plants or specialized products, since most warehouses and stores don’t carry rare or specialized materials. Sometimes you can get a great deal on a product by shopping online or through a catalogue, but don’t forget about the shipping prices.

Read the full article from Better Homes and Gardens here.

10 Tips to Make Your Home More Green

Going GREEN isn’t only for the environmentally friendly; it’s also a great way to save money on energy costs and keep your home and family happy and healthy. Some of the most popular methods for going green include recycling and using less-harsh cleaning materials, but here are some more tips for making your home more green.

  1. Replace your old appliances with energy-efficient ones. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing your old refrigerator with an “Energy Star” rated refrigerator can save you up to $150 a year. The EPA recommends that you replace any appliance that is over 10 years old with an Energy Star (more energy-efficient) appliance, which uses roughly 10-15% less energy than older models.
  2. Be more efficient when heating and cooling your home. Heating and cooling accounts for nearly 50% of your home’s energy consumption. You can take a few simple steps to reduce your energy consumption and thus, reduce your energy bill. Start by keeping your thermostat set higher in the summer and lower in the winter; clean your furnace’s air filter regularly (or consider replacing it if it’s older); utilize ceiling fans and shade eastern and western facing windows to help keep your home cooler during warm months.
  3. Practice water conservation. Low-flow toilets use less than half as much water as models designed before 1994 per flush-which will really help conserve water in your home. You may also want to consider putting an aerator on faucets in your home, which will reduce water consumption by 50% each year. You can also change some of your personal behaviors, such as turning the faucet off when brushing your teeth, to help save water.
  4. Start using energy-efficient light bulbs. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) can be found at your local grocery store, and each bulb will save you, on average, $30 in energy costs (switching from a 100-watt incandescent bulb to a 32-watt CFL). Additionally, CFLs last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.
  5. Install bamboo flooring. Bamboo is considered to be an environmentally friendly flooring material, since it takes only 4-6 years to mature, while typical hardwoods take 50-100 years to mature, and falls under the category of “hardwood” flooring. This means you can have the sleek look you want, while keeping your home green.
  6. Use zero- or low-VOC paint. Paints high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are very harmful for the environment and your home. VOCs cause smog, pollute the ozone, and reduce indoor air quality in your home, which can then cause health problems, warns the EPA.
  7. Use compost and native plants in your garden. Compost provides your garden with the nutrients it needs without adding the chemicals that synthetic fertilizers contain. Compost is also more likely to produce healthy plants, which can eliminate pest problems. You can also opt to use native plants, which require less water than non-native plants, plant perennials that will live more than one year, and use organic pesticides, versus chemical pesticides, which are dangerous to plants, animals, and humans.

For more tips on making your home more green, check out this article from MSN.