Tag Archives: maintenance

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

You CAN prevent freezing pipes and the costly damage that goes with them.

Insulation to help prevent water pipes from freezing

Wicked winter weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possibly burst, causing flooding and costly water damage to your home. Taking preventive measures before winter sets in can reduce and eliminate the risk of frozen pipes and other cold-weather threats.

Where the Trouble Lies

“Some pipes are more prone to freezing than others because of their location in the home,” explains Paul Abrams, spokesman for Roto-Rooter.

Pipes most at risk for freezing include:

  • Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.
  • Pipes located in exterior walls.
  • Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.

A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst an interior pipe. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze.

If you don’t have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. They cost only a couple bucks and are worth every penny. Don’t forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, too, to prevent damage.

Exposed Interior Plumbing

Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, and garage, are at risk of freezing.

Often, inexpensive foam pipe insulation is enough for moderately cold climates. For severe climes, opt for wrapping problem pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temps.

Under-Insulated Walls

If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), it’s probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It might well be worth the couple hundred dollars it costs to open up the wall and beef up the insulation.

“When nothing else works, say for a northern wall in a really cold climate, the last resort is to reroute a pipe,” notes Abrams. Depending on how far the pipe needs to be moved — and how much damage is caused in the process — this preventative measure costs anywhere from $700 on up. Of course, putting the room back together is extra.

Heading South for the Winter?

For folks leaving their houses for an extended period of time in winter, additional preventative measures must be taken to adequately protect the home from frozen pipes.

  • Make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees.
  • Shut off the main water supply and drain the system by opening all faucets and flushing the toilets.

In extreme situations (vacation home in a bitterly cold climate), Abrams recommends having a plumber come to inspect the system, drain the hot water heater, and perhaps replace the water in traps and drains with nontoxic antifreeze.

Image: Miranda Landstra/City of Lee’s Summit, MO

© Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

French Drain and Curtain Drain Design: What You Need to Know

A French drain, sometimes called a curtain drain, is a simple system with no moving parts — gravity removes excess water from problem areas in your yard. Give gravity a chance to do its job by making sure your French drain design has the proper slope from beginning to end.

Which End is Up?

The two ends of a French drain system are:

  • The drain field, or high end, where excess ground water enters the drain pipes
  • The drain exit, or lowest point, where water leaves the system

A French drain needs a slope of no less than 1%. That means from the highest point of the drain field all the way to the drain exit, the system should slope at least 1 inch for every 8 feet of length.

Start with Your Exit Strategy

Select a location on your property for the drain exit. The goal is to move water away from your house and foundation, or from the soaked part of your yard, to a drier area.

Good locations for drain exits:

  • A grassy slope that’s exposed to the sun for most of the day. Grasses help absorb moisture and the sun aids evaporation.
  • A spot closest to your problem area so you can keep the system as short as possible, saving costs.
  • The street, so it can be carried away by your municipal storm drain system. But check with your local building department first.

Don’t locate the drain exit:

  • Where runoff is directed toward a neighbor’s yard.
  • Where the water could run onto a sidewalk or driveway and turn to ice during freezing weather. Directing drainage toward pavement often is a violation of building codes.
  • Where runoff could cause erosion, such as a dirt slope with no protective vegetation.

Connecting to an Existing Drain Line

Some houses have rain gutters that empty into an underground drainage system, which ties into a municipal storm drain. Your French drain can tie into this system also.

Local codes might require a backflow valve that prevents water from backing up onto your property if a clog occurs downstream. Expect to pay about $500 for a plumber to install this device.

No Acceptable Exit Point

If you can’t find a good place for your system to drain, you’ll need to empty your system into a dry well. A dry well is a vertical hole, typically about 4 feet deep and 1 foot in diameter, that’s filled with gravel. A dry well lets excess water be absorbed by the surrounding soils.

Determining Proper Slope

If your yard is sloped, it may be easy to spot the high point (drain field) and low points (drain exit) for your system.

If you’re not sure, use a line level to determine slope:

  • Pound a stake into the problem area and another at a possible exit point.
  • Tie a mason’s string to the stakes.
  • Put a line level on the string. Pull the string taut and level.
  • Measure the distance from the string to the ground at the stakes, and calculate the drainage slope.

Remember, you can add some slope when you install your system by digging the trench progressively deeper.

Using a Professional to Determine Slope

A surveyor, civil engineer, or landscape contractor will use a tripod-mounted transit level to help you determine the slope you’ll need for your system and possible exit points. Expect to pay $150 to $250 for the service.

Route Around Roots and Utilities

  • Plan to route your drain line around large trees to avoid cutting roots. Roots usually extend to the “drip line” of the tree — the outmost edge of its branches.
  • Call 811, the Call Before You Dig hotline, to have the location of underground utility lines marked on your property. You want to check not only in areas where the drain will live but also where you might dig a dry well. This is a free service.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/drainage/french-drain-design/#ixzz41qswBd56
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Image: Wet Basement Repair, Vancouver

7 Ideas to Help You Use Your Outdoor Space More

7 Ideas to Help You Use Your Outdoor Space More

When your mom told you to turn off the TV and play outdoors already, she knew what she was talking about. Hanging outside is good for our mental and physical well-being.

As adults, having an outdoor retreat adds an economic component: Upwards of 80% of homebuyers said patios and front porches are “essential” or “desirable,” according to the “What Buyers Really Want” survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

So how come when we move into our dream home, we hardly ever use our decks, porches, and patios?

An anthropological UCLA study, described in the book “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” blames our fascination with digital devices — tablets, computers, televisions, games — for keeping us cooped up. The UCLA research participants spent less than half an hour each week in their outdoor space. And these were Californians.

So this summer let’s make a pledge to pay more than lip service to outdoor living so we can be happier, create lasting memories, and generally take advantage of what home has to offer.

1.  Go Overboard on Comfy

Comfy outdoor seating on a home patio

When you step into your outdoor space, your first sensation should be ‘ahhhh’. If you’re not feeling it, then your space is likely lacking the comfy factor. Comfy is easy to achieve and can be as low cost as you want. Start simple with a cushion or two or even a throw. Some other simple strategies:

  • Make sure your outdoor seating is as cushy as your indoor furniture. Today’s outdoor cushions aren’t the plastic-y, sweat-inducing pillows of the past. Plus, they can handle a downpour and spring back once they dry.
  • Lay down outdoor rugs so you’re just as comfortable barefoot as you are inside.
  • Give yourself some privacy. Create natural screens with shrubs, bushes, or even bamboo reeds. Or install prefab screens from your local home improvement store.

2.  Create a Broadband Paradise

Our devices and electronics have conspired to keep us on lock down. Since we’re not about to chuck our digital toys, boot up your outdoor space so you can keep texting, posting to Instagram, and watching cat videos.

  • Wireless outdoor Wi-Fi antennas provide an extra boost so you can stay connected.
  • A solar USB charging station keeps your gizmos powered.
  • Wireless speakers make it easy to bring your music outdoors, and mask a noisy neighborhood.
  • An all-weather outdoor TV lets you stay outside for the big game.

3.  Blur the Line Between Indoors and Out

Creating a seamless transition between your home’s interior and exterior isn’t as simple or low cost as adding comfort, but it’s the most dramatic and effective way to enhance your enjoyment of the space. Plus, it can increase your home’s value.

  • The most straightforward, cost-effective solution: Replace a standard door opening with sliding or glass French doors.
  • Use the same weatherproof flooring, such as stone tile or scored concrete, outside as well as in the room leading to your backyard oasis.

4.  Light the Way

Solar pathway lights

When the sun goes down, don’t be left groping for your wine glass. Outdoor lighting dresses up your home’s marketability and appeal (exterior lighting is buyers’ most wanted outdoor feature, according to the NAHB study), makes it safer, and lets you spend more time outside.

  • Use uplighting to highlight trees, architectural details, or other focal points.
  • Add sconces or pendant lights to make evening entertaining, grilling, and reading easier.
  • Illuminate walkways, rails, and steps with landscape solar lights.
  • Hang fairy or string lights to set an enchanting tone.

5.  Make Your Mark

Pavers in a home's yard

Let your style dominate your backyard space.

  • Create a path made with colored glass, brick, or other interesting found materials.
  • Craft a one-of-kind outdoor chandelier.
  • Build a pizza oven, custom seating, or other feature you crave.
  • Add personal décor that makes you happy.

In fact, make your outdoor retreat an ongoing project where you can hone your DIY skills.

6.  Don’t Give Anyone an Excuse to Stay Inside

Outdoor space with kid-friendly playhouse and DIY chalkboard

Your outdoor space will magnetically draw family and friends if it has features they find appealing.

  • A fire pit is a proven winner. Food and fire have brought humans together since the dawn of time.
  • Give wee ones the gift of magical thinking with an outdoor playhouse.
  • Add whimsy with a chalkboard fence that both kids and fun-loving adults will enjoy.
  • Add a doggie window in your fence to entertain Spot. Installing a dog run may even boost your home’s value. FYI: It’s been said that pets are one of the top reasons why people buy houses.

Related: Outdoor Projects You Can Do with the Kids

7.  Rebuff the Elements

Canopy over a home deck

Hot sun, rain, wind gusts, and bugs are the archenemy of good times. Here are tips and strategies to help you throw shade on Mother Nature:

  • Install an awning, canopy, or pergola. It’ll make it easier to read your Kindle or iPad and keep you dry during a summer shower. Look for products with polycarbonate panels, which block UV rays, too.
  • Rig glass fence windscreens to the keep your BBQ fires burning.
  • Screen in your porch or deck against bugs. But screening will be for naught if you forget the slats between wood planks. Cover the floor with outdoor carpet or staple screening to the underside of floorboard
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/outdoor-living-ideas/#ixzz3aVoODOtf
Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Reprinted with permission.
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic, Summer HoganTasya Demers from My House and HomeLizMarieBlog.com

Fix Air Leaks Around Windows | Stopping Door Air Leaks | HouseLogic

An average home loses up to 30% of its heating and cooling energy through air leaks. The most significant air leaks tend to occur around windows and doors. To stop air leaks and prevent your home heating and cooling dollars from vanishing in the wind, it’s important to seal any air leaks around windows and doors.

Check for air leaks

With windows and doors closed, hold a lit stick of incense near window and door frames where drafts might sneak in. Watch for smoke movement. Note what sources need caulk, sealant, and weather-stripping.

Seal air leaks around windows

If you have old windows, caulking and adding new weatherstripping goes a long way toward tightening them up.

Bronze weatherstripping ($12 for 17 feet) lasts for decades but is time-consuming to install.

Self-stick plastic types are easy to put on but don’t last very long.

Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber ($8 for 10 feet) is a good compromise, rated to last at least 10 years.

Nifty gadgets called pulley seals ($9 a pair) block air from streaming though the holes where cords disappear into the frames.

Seal air leaks around doors

Check for air leaks, and replace old door weatherstripping with new.

Foam-type tape has an adhesive backing; it’s inexpensive and easy to install. If it comes loose, reinforce it with staples.

Felt is either adhesive-backed or comes with flexible metal reinforcement. it must be tacked or glued into place. It’s cheap and easy to install, but it has low durability.

Tubular rubber, vinyl, and silicone weatherstripping is relatively expensive and tricky to install, but it provides an excellent seal. Some types come with a flange designed to fit into pre-cut grooves in the jambs of newer doors; check your existing weatherstripping and replace with a similar style.

Check exterior trim for any gaps between the trim and your door frames, and the trim and your siding. Caulk gaps with an exterior latex caulk ($5 for a 10-ounce tube).

Seal door bottoms

If a draft comes in at the bottom, check the condition of the threshold gasket. Replace worn gaskets. If you can see daylight under the door, you may need to install a new threshold with a taller gasket ($25 for a 36-inch door). Or, install a weather-resistant door sweep designed for exterior doors ($9). Door sweeps attach directly to the door and are easy to install.

By: Jeanne Huber

 

Inspecting Your Roof – Get ahead of problems

Home Roof Inspection Home Roof Maintenance and Repair

A roof inspection is one of those preventative maintenance jobs that’s easy to overlook. Don’t. Add a once-a-year reminder on your calendar to go out on a warm day and fix any problems you find.

If you’re squeamish about heights, don’t worry. You can do a thorough inspection from the ground using a pair of binoculars.

Or, you can get up close and personal with your roof using a ladder. However, there’s no need to get up on your roof just yet. The less you walk around up there, the better for your roofing — and the safer for you. Work your way around your house, noting any potential problems.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
  • Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
  • Missing or broken shingles.
  • Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
  • Missing or damaged chimney cap. (OK, that’s technically not part of your roof, but since you’re looking anyway.)
  • Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.

If you find piles of colored grit from asphalt roof tiles in the gutters, that’s a bad sign — those sand-like granules cover the surface of roof shingles and shield them from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Check the age of your roofing and see if it’s nearing the end of its life cycle.

Easy Fixes for Roofing Problems

Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Check for popped nails that need to be hammered back in place.

If you’re comfortable working on a roof, then it’s not too difficult to replace shingles and caulk flashing yourself. Cost: $24 for a bundle of shingles, $6 for roofing caulk. Allow a half-day to make a few shingle repairs.

Metal and vinyl flashing around chimneys, skylights, and attic vents that has separated needs to be resealed with caulk. However, flashing and vent boots that are beginning to rust or deteriorate should be replaced.

Cost of Professional Repairs

Contact pro roofing companies and seek at least two bids for repair work. You can use a handyman for minor fixes and possibly shave costs, but the person should be bonded, have proof of liability, and have workman’s compensation insurance.

Some costs for common repairs include:

  • A few broken or missing shingles: $100-$150.
  • Large repairs (10-by-10-foot section of roofing): $100-$350 asphalt; $200-$1,000 wood.
  • Replacing flashing or boots around chimneys, skylights, and vents: $300-$500.
  • Repairing flashing in valleys: $15-$25 per running foot.

Clearing Your Roof of Moss

Moss eradication begins in the fall. Apply a moss killer intended for roofs (granules for lawn-use contain iron which will stain a roof).

In the spring, use a broom to remove remaining dead moss. Spread moss killer along the ridge of the roof and on any remaining green patches. Cost: $20 for moss killer to treat 3,000 sq. ft. of roof. Allow about three hours to sweep the roof, clear the gutters, and apply the granules.

Be Alert to Early Signs of a Roof Leak

A yearly roof checkup is great, but problems can occur at any time. Early signs of trouble include:

  • Dark areas on ceilings.
  • Peeling paint on the underside of roof overhangs.
  • Damp spots alongside fireplaces.
  • Water stains on pipes venting the water heater or furnace.

If you find worrisome signs, especially if the roof is old or there’s been a storm with heavy wind or hail, get a professional assessment. Some roofing companies do this for free; specialized roof inspectors, like those who work through the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association, charge about $175.

Related: How to Prevent Water Damage

Replacing Your Roof

If your asphalt roof is 15 years old or more, it may be due for replacement. The national average cost for a new asphalt shingle roof is $18,913, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, of which you’ll recoup $12,777 at resale (67.6%). For high-end materials, such as standing-seam metal, the national average cost jumps to as much as $34,495.


Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Reprinted with permission.”
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/roofing-gutters-siding/inspecting-and-maintaining-your-roof/#ixzz35lKYhhmW
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Organic Home Remedies for Lawn Care

Vinegar is a popular organic weed killer

We might love the idea of maintaining our lawns with non-toxic pantry products — soda, vinegar, and dish detergent — that help keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the environment while saving us a little money.

But do these home remedies really work as organic alternatives to traditional pesticides? And if so, do they really save money?

Not so much, say turf professors and pros.

“I wouldn’t waste my time,” says John Boyd, a University of Arkansas professor of weed science. “You can kill a weed with vinegar — in the better neighborhoods they use balsamic. But it’s not all that effective or cost-efficient.”

Also, home remedies — especially bug-killing concoctions — don’t have the same precision and accountability of store-bought lawn care products.

“They’re not labeled as pesticides, and have not been through any review or screening process,” says Dan Gilrein, an entomologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in New York. “Materials may not be as benign as assumed — particularly when not used as intended.”

So are organic home remedies for lawn care a waste of time and money? Some are; some aren’t. Below, we break it down for you.

Boiling Water

Reputation: Weed killer

Reality: Undoubtedly, dumping boiling water on a weed will scald and kill some shallow-rooted, annual weeds, like chickweed. But it won’t wipe out the deep roots of perennial weeds, like dandelions, unless you repeat for days.

What’s more, the boiling water treatment is non-selective; not only can you scald yourself, but you can also kill grass and prized plants around the weed, says Craig Jenkins-Sutton of Topiarious Urban Gardens in Chicago.

Cost: How much is your time worth? By the time you boil the water, run it out to the garden before it cools, and carefully dump it on unwanted weeds, you could have grabbed a good weeder and dug up a garden full of dandelions — and those won’t come back.

Vinegar 

Reputation: Weed killer

Reality: Acetic acid is a good general herbicide that sucks water from common weeds. But most pantry vinegar has only a 5% acetic acid concentration — too weak to kill all but the most tender, annual weeds. Perennial weeds — fuggedaboutit!

If you want to kill weeds with vinegar, you’ll need a commercial solution that’s 20% acetic acid. It’ll suck weeds dry, but will also dry out your prized plants, so be careful when spraying.

Cost: Distilled white vinegar: $2.40/gal.; commercial vinegar: $33/gal. (Note: Diluting it 1:1 with water will give you twice the amount of vinegar at a high concentration.)

Dish Detergent 

Reputation: Insecticide

Reality:
 The Iowa State University Extension says it’s OK to use dish detergent, like Ivory or Palmolive, to kill soft-body insects, such as aphids, scales, and whiteflies. The soap destroys the waxy shell that protects the bugs, causing them to desiccate (dry up).

In a spray bottle, combine 1 tablespoon of dish detergent with 1 quart of water. Then thoroughly saturate the infected plants to completely wet the insects you want to kill.

One problem with dish soap, however, is that it can kill plants along with the insects. That’s where commercial insecticidal soaps have the advantage. Their formulas usually have a stabilizing agent that helps prevent the soap from damaging plants. Of course, you pay more for that formula.

Cost: Palmolive dish washing liquid: $3.30/10 oz.; Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap spray: $6.40/24 oz.

Soda and Beer

Reputation:
 Fertilizer that greens-up lawns

Reality:
 Home remedy guides say beer and soda contain carbohydrates and phosphorous, which feed lawns. Turf scientists, however, say that grass makes its own carbs from photosynthesis, and that soil generally has all the phosphorous a healthy lawn needs. Actually, phosphorous runoff is a watershed pollutant, and some municipalities are banning commercial fertilizers that contain phosphorous.

Spraying flat cola or beer on your lawn essentially just waters the grass, which can help it turn green.

Cost: Six 16-oz. cans of Bud: $7.80 (enough for a 10-by-20-ft. lawn)

So What’s a Greenish Lawn-Owner to Do?

First, know this: Lawns suck up more water than any other irrigated crop in the U.S. — so their very existence, arguably, is eco-unfriendly. If you’re dedicated to protecting life on Earth, replace your lawn with indigenous, drought-resistant plants or artificial turf.

Still, you might think life on Earth isn’t worth living unless you can wiggle your toes through cool fescue that’s not covered with toxic chemicals. If so, here’s some advice:

  • You’ll have to devote yourself to precisely mowing (with a push mower, if you want to be green), watering (deeply and less often), and fertilizing (with nutrient-rich compost). Diligent lawn care will keep out weeds naturally and promote beneficial insects that will eat the ones you don’t want.
  • Forget the idea of lawn perfection. Without chemicals, a few weeds will grow and some patches will turn yellow.
  • Spend a few extra bucks and buy organic lawn products that take the guesswork out of applying non-toxic solutions.

 

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/organic-lawn-care/#ixzz35kkIufAv
 
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 Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
 
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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

 

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