Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 10/31/2018

1. Prep your pipes

The term "winterization" is a bit of a misnomer: Yes, you're prepping your home for winter, but the hard work needs to happen in autumn. And that's especially true when it comes to your pipes.

DIY: "Shut off all faucets and valves, and drain any outdoor piping, like sprinkler systems, before the temperature drops," says Jane Li, a senior project manager at Mercury Insurance. To be extra careful, Li recommends putting away any outdoor hoses and wrapping socks around outdoor faucets.

Call in the pros: If your winterization efforts uncover a leaky pipe, hire a plumber to fix the mess before the temperature drops. On average, a plumber will cost $300, but a broken pipe could run you upward of $5,000, depending on how much water damage there is. In other words, consider this money well spent.

2. Keep out the critters

Just as you'll spend more time indoors when the weather cools, rodents and pests will seek out a warm place, too—like your home.

"Mice especially are flexible little creatures and can get through holes that aren't much bigger than a dime," says Karen Thompson, an editor at InsectCop.net, which researches and evaluates pest-control products and methods.

DIY: Take a tour of your property, seeking out any cracks that might let a critter sneak inside. Seal any openings with spray foam or steel wool.

"As a bonus, doing this will let you not only avoid rodents, but also ants and fleas," Thompson says.

Call in the pros: If there's evidence these pesky little guys have already infiltrated your space, consider bringing in a pro. An exterminator will charge between $90 and $250 for an initial consultation, and costs will scale from there depending on what you need.

3. 'FALL'-proof your space

Whether you're getting up there in years or frequently hosting elderly parents, use the fall season to prevent, um, falls.

"Falls make up almost one-third of all nonfatal injuries in America, and a little prevention can go a long way toward keeping you safe," says Jason Biddle, who runs The Helping Home, a resource for aging in place.

DIY: Use the "FALL" mnemonic to make sure your place is slip-proof:

  • Floors: Scan your floors for fall risks. Look for clutter, slippery stairs, and loose rugs. Add sticky padding to prevent slips.
  • Activities: What does your daily routine look like? You might need grab bars in the shower, or a second handrail by the stairs.
  • Lighting: Is your home bright enough to see any potential hazards? "A well-lit home can help [you] avoid tripping on dining table legs, floor planters, and out-of-sight power cords," Biddle says.
  • Leaving: Examine your porch and outdoor paths. Are there any broken steps or overgrown shrubs that might trip you up when leaving your home?

Call in the pros: Your home might require a major aging-in-place adjustment, like installing a lift or wheelchair ramp. Costs for a motorized stairway lift start at $3,000, and a wheelchair ramp could run $1,500.

4. Remove or cover your air conditioner

Unless you live in the desert or the deep South, you probably don't run your air conditioner during autumn. But you might be letting your system waste away if you leave it sitting out in the elements all fall and winter long, which can damage the fan and coils.

DIY: "Window units should be removed, covered, and placed in an area like the garage for safekeeping until they're needed again," says Richard Ciresi, who runs Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. Outdoor AC units should be properly covered.

Call in the pros: If you've noticed your HVAC system running sluggishly all summer, now's a great time for an inspection, which will probably cost a little more than $300.

5. Check the fireplace

Your wood-burning fireplace has been sitting dormant for months now. Make sure it's good to go before you light it up

DIY: Before getting your fireplace inspected, make sure you're not putting any living things in danger.

"Check the top of the chimney for areas where birds may have nested," Ciresi says. But check local laws first: It might be illegal to relocate active nests. Once the birds have moved on, however, you can break up the nest freely. (Just be sure to wear gloves.)

Call in the pros: Most chimney sweeps can help break up a nest, too. Besides, you'll be needing their help for another fall must-do: sweeping the chimney. A professional inspection and sweep will cost between $100 and $250.

6. Prep your firewood pile

Nasty pests like carpenter ants or termites love hiding out in your firewood. Don't let them hitch a ride inside.

DIY: If you're building a firewood pile this autumn, make sure to keep those logs at least 20 feet from your home.

"This ensures that even if the wood has pests, they are less likely to transfer from the wood to your home," Thompson says. Firewood should also be elevated during storage, which makes it even more difficult for bugs to sneak inside the wood.

Call in the pros: If you spot termites in your firewood pile, call in the pros before hauling a single log inside. Treating a local infestation might set you back $150.

7. Switch your ceiling fans

Your ceiling fans are designed to cool you off during the summer—but they also serve a need during the chilly seasons.

DIY: "Many people don't realize the difference made with the simple reversal of your ceiling fans," Ciresi says. "Hot air always rises, and ceiling fans are uniquely designed to direct airflow exactly where you need it most."

Every ceiling fan has a switch hidden on its base. When the mercury level drops, flip that switch so the fan is moving clockwise.

"This updraft allows hot air to get pushed down into your rooms," Ciresi says. "This is especially useful in rooms with very high ceilings."

Call in the pros: Pay attention to your home's temperature on chilly days. Are you still cold? Consider an energy audit, which will cost about $400—but may help you save tremendously on your energy bills over the next few years.





Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 10/9/2018

Doing a home improvement or renovation is a great way to add value to your home while learning something new. If you decide to DIY, you can enlist the help of your family and learn together.

But, when you’re taking on a task you’ve never done before, there’s a lot that can go wrong. You might go over budget, or the project might take significantly longer than expected. Sometimes we start jobs that we don’t have the expertise (or permits) to finish and have to call in a professional sinking more time and money into what was supposed to be an inexpensive renovation.

To help you avoid some of these common pitfalls, we’ve provided these tips for running a successful home improvement project so you can focus on your renovation and not on the headaches that come with it.

1. Know when to call the experts

Undertaking a do-it-yourself project can be fun and rewarding. However, some tasks are better left to the professionals. Plumbing and electrical mistakes, in particular, can be dangerous and costly if you get it wrong. You don’t want to disregard the safety of you, your family, and your belongings just to save money on hiring a professional.

2. Call the best expert for the job

Call multiple professionals for a quote before accepting an offer.

If you received what seems a very low quote for a job, make sure to call other experts in the industry to see how much they would charge for the job. Getting an unusually low offer could be a sign that the contractor will rush the project or use cheap materials.

Alternatively, if you receive a quote that seems too high, the contractor may have a busy schedule or might not really want the job, so they’ve offered you a price they don’t expect you to take.

Regardless of who you choose, see if you can find reviews and testimonials to make sure you’ve selected a contractor who is professional and has good customer feedback.

3. Aim high with your budget

When homeowners take on a renovation, they tend to underestimate the costs. To avoid being shocked by going over budget, estimate what you think the total costs would be and then at another twenty percent. That twenty percent could account for damaged building materials, mistakes, or last-minute changes and customizations--all are frequent on DIY projects.

4. Don’t work without a design or blueprint

Even for simple home improvement projects, it’s best to start out with a plan. Having detailed measurements and drawings to refer to will help you avoid costly mistakes. We’ve all felt the temptation to “eyeball it” when working on a project--taking the extra few minutes to measure and refer to your plan will save you time in the long run.

5. Relax and focus on the results

Home improvement projects can be a source of frustration for many families. If you aren’t an expert, it’s easy to get angry when things aren’t going as you planned. If you find yourself frequently hitting a wall-literally or figuratively--step back from the project and refocus on the end goal, improving your home for years to come.




Categories: Home improvement   renovation   DIY  


Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 11/9/2017

 

Approaching your 10th home-iversary? Congrats! It's probably time for a little maintenance.

No matter how much you love and care for your home, things are bound to wear out and need fixing — especially when you hit the 10-year mark.

To keep your house in tiptop condition, consider making these updates every 10 years or so.

Get new carpet

The average medium-grade carpet has a life expectancy of approximately 10 years. Of course, that depends on several factors, including the number of people and pets.

Signs that you need to replace your carpet: rips, tears or stains, and odors that remain even after a good cleaning. And even without any of those, you carpet might just look old and worn out. An update wouldn’t hurt.

Replace hot water tank

A water heater may not show many symptoms before it leaks or fails, so it’s important to know its age. If the manufacture date isn’t shown, then it may be embedded in the serial number on the tank.

A good rule of thumb: Any tank that’s been around for 10 years or more is a candidate for replacement.

Update ceiling fans

A mid-range ceiling fan should last about 10 years, if it’s running frequently. A common sign that it might be time for a new one: the light bulbs seem to burn out more quickly than usual.

And since a ceiling fan is about style as well as function, you may just want a more modern model.

Buy a new dishwasher

Like your water heater, consider replacing your dishwasher if it’s 10 years old. You’ll likely get a more energy-efficient model that’ll pay for itself over time.

Signs that you should replace your dishwasher sooner rather than later are an unresponsive control board, poorly cleaned dishes and cracks in the tub.

Replace garbage disposal

You’ll know you need a new garbage disposal when it doesn’t work as well as it used to. This is because the blades dull over time.

The average garbage disposal should last about 10-12 years with regular use, so if yours is around that age, consider replacing it.

Replace washer and dryer

The average lifespan of both appliances is about eight years. So, if your set is 10+ years old and running without any issues, consider yourself fortunate! That said, think about replacing them before you have any real problems or leaks.

Repaint inside and outside

There’s no hard and fast rule about when to repaint your home. It depends on where you live, humidity and many other factors.

People often repaint certain areas, such as a heavily used living room, every three to five years. But if some areas of the home haven’t been repainted in 10 years or more, now’s definitely the time to do it.

Re-caulk showers, bathtubs and sinks

Few jobs offer as much bang for your buck as re-caulking. Whether you just haven’t gotten around to it yet or you’re moving into a 10-year-old home, go ahead and re-caulk the tub, shower and sinks. You can easily do this yourself, and it makes everything look so much brighter.

Re-glaze windows

Re-glazing old windows is easier and more cost-effective than replacing them. And generally speaking, re-glazing should be done about every 10 years or so.

But check your windows every year before the cold weather arrives to make sure you don’t have any leaks or cracks.







Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 7/27/2017

HGTV Elbow Room's Chip Wade weighs in on the most common home repair questions in the HGTV Magazine series, Talk to a Toolman.


 

How Do I Replace a Doorknob?

Give It a Go. Chip says, use a long screwdriver to remove the screws that hold the doorknob in place — they'll be tucked below the knob on one side of the door. Then, pull apart the entire doorknob assembly. Unscrew the strike plate on the side of the door, and slide out the latch (the metal bar that goes into the strike plate when the door is locked). Your new doorknob should come in a kit with all these pieces. Slide in the new latch first, then align both knobs on either side of the door and screw them in. If your new knob doesn't match up with the old screw holes, patch them, then pre-drill new holes for the new knob and screw it in. Finish by screwing in the new strike plate.

Can I Add a Retaining Stone Wall to My Yard on My Own?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, you may think you can just start stacking stones, but if your wall doesn't have a properly installed footing (a.k.a. foundation), it can topple over. In fact, any wall that's more than two feet high, which is as low as most walls get, requires engineering to be supported properly. That's why I suggest calling in a landscape contractor. He or she will make sure the wall — whether it's made from concrete, stones or natural boulders — has a solid foundation, then they will build it up to just the height you want.

What Should I Do About Scuffed Hardwood Floors?

Give It a Go. Chip says, the only way to really fix a scuff is to refinish that portion of the floor. A pro job can cost hundreds of dollars, so if the area is small, do it yourself. First, clean the spot with a degreaser. Then, sand it with a sanding sponge or an orbital sander, going from coarse grit to a fine grit. Wipe the wood with a damp cloth, then restain it by applying the stain in light coats with a foam brush then wiping with a rag. Let it dry, then use a paintbrush to apply a protective finish such as polyurethane, extending it a bit beyond the repairs so it blends in. If it looks too glossy after it dries, buff away some of the sheen with superfine steel wool.

What Should I Do About Worn Kitchen Tile Grout?

Give It a Go. Chip says, first scrape away at least 1/8-inch of the old grout with a grout removal tool— you can get a handheld one for about $5 or a bit that attaches to the end of an oscillating power tool starting at about $15 at the hardware store. Clean the area with a disinfectant to kill any mold or mildew, then start regrouting: If your tiles are spaced 1/8 inch apart or less, use non-sanded grout. Otherwise, use sanded grout. Spread some on a rubber grouting trowel, then hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread it over the wall, forcing it into the gaps between the tiles. Scrape away any excess, then let the grout set for 10 minutes and wipe the tile with a damp rag. After the grout dries, spray it with a sealant.

How Do I Add Radiant Heating to My Bathroom Floor?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, you'll have to rip up your existing floor, so it's best to hire an experienced tile installer. I suggest an electric radiant heat mat — which is like an electric blanket under your floor — as opposed to a hydronic system, which uses pipes filled with hot water and requires a major remodel, costing thousands of dollars. To install the heat mat, the tile pro will remove your floor down to the subfloor, then lay down a backer board, a compressed stone or fiber cement covering that shields the subfloor from moisture. Next, he or she will add the heat mat and encapsulate it in mortar. Once it's dry, they will install the new flooring. In a standard-size bathroom, the job should take three or four days.

Can I Get Rid of a Popcorn Ceiling?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, if the "popcorn" was added before 1979, you must first check that it doesn't contain asbestos by either sending a sample to a lab or calling in an asbestos abatement pro. Depending on the result, you should either have the asbestos expert remove it, or, if it's asbestos-free, you can hire a general contractor to do the work. The job will be dusty and messy, so before the pro arrives, clear everything from the space and lay down drop cloths to protect your floors. The pro will then scrape the ceilings clean and apply fresh drywall. The entire process should take two days.

How Can I Boost the Water Pressure in My Shower?

Give It a Go. Chip says, check that the shower is the only place where you have low pressure — if that's the case, your showerhead's spray jets are likely clogged with mineral deposits. To clear them out, soak the head in a solution of one part white vinegar to three parts water. Let it sit overnight, then poke a toothpick or pin in the spray jet holes to remove buildup. For stubborn gunk, you can also scrub the inside of the head with a toothbrush. Then, rinse it clean and screw it back on. If the water from your faucets also dribbles out, you may have a problem with your pipes, so call a plumber.

How Do I Get Rid of Stains on Granite Countertops?

Give It a Go. Chip says, granite may look solid, but it's actually porous and can absorb spills if not sealed well. If you have non-oily stains, such as coffee, use concentrated hydrogen peroxide, found at beauty supply stores. For oily stains, like salad dressing, use concentrated acetone. (It's different from nail polish remover.) Wearing rubber gloves, soak some paper towels in the peroxide or acetone, then layer them over the soiled area. Cover with plastic wrap, taping the edges. Let sit for 24 hours, then peel up the plastic, leaving the towels in place until dry. Repeat until the stain is gone, then wipe with granite cleaner and coat with granite sealer.

My Basement Air Feels Damp. How Can I Fix It?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, you can use a dehumidifier to make the area more comfortable, but to really treat the problem, you need to get rid of the source of the moisture. Check the basement's ceiling, comers and walls. If the problem is localized, like a wet spot on the ceiling, have a plumber look for leaky pipes. If you see condensation or wet spots on the walls, call a foundation repair company. They'll check that settling cracks aren't letting ground water seep in, and they'll make sure the earth around your house slopes away from the foundation so water isn't trickling into your masonry.







JoAnn M. Drabble