Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Home Moving Checklist

Moving to a new home is a process that can be handled in simple steps. Depending on how much of the work you want to do, and how much you are willing to pay to have the work done will determine the pace and ease of this transition.

Once you have established a move out date and secured the lease, rental agreement, or closed the purchase of a new home, it’s time to get moving.

Moving truck being loaded with boxes and furniture

This article will address the making of a timeline, who to contact, a moving checklist, and what to do after the move is complete. homeandgardeningguide.com crafted this checklist to ease your worries and provide a guide, take advantage of the plan.

Follow this Timeline and Prepare to Move

To set up a moving timeline, you must have a target date to deliver your current home. This date should slightly overlap the move in date to your new home. The following is an adaptable timeline for those doing the majority of the work themselves.

Two weeks before the move out date:

  • Begin packing all non-essential items from the kitchen, bathrooms, spare room/den, and the garage or utility/storage room.
  • Label your boxes as you pack them, this will save a lot of headaches with the move in process.

Labeled moving boxes in living room

  • Remove all shelves, paintings, and wall mounts. Pack them up or wrap them to protect them during transit.
  • Patch or fill in all holes left in the walls from screws, nails, and mounting bolts. (if you were renting – Most leases will only require the holes to be filled. Find out from the property owner or management if you are required to paint before leaving.)
  • Clear out and dismantle the furniture (cabinets, tables, extra bed(s), etc.) that are not needed for day to day living. Use your living room as a staging area to facilitate the move out.

NOTE: If you are selling your home, leaving the home in perfect “Move In” condition is ideal and should be well defined in the closing documents.

One week before the move out date:

  • Perform a walk through with property management or real estate agent at the new location.
  • Once satisfied with the new property, set a closing or signing and move-in date.
  • Only begin the changing of address process when you possess the keys to the new property.

Moving change of address at post office

  • Fill out an online post office change of address form or visit a branch to pick up a hardcopy.
  • Reserve a moving truck / van and confirm or hire the movers.
  • Begin packing up the bedroom(s).
  • Room by room, pack everything but the bare essentials for personal hygiene, clothes, and food.
  • Deep clean the rooms that have been emptied. (vacuum, shampoo, windows, paint, etc.)
  • Start scheduling utility and service installations for the day of the move, the day after, or the next opportunity they are available to perform the service.

If renting:

  • Schedule a walk through with property management for the move out date.

NOTE: In order to receive a deposit refund, the property must be delivered in excellent condition. Consult the your property management for details and any further responsibilities regarding the deposit refund policy.

The day before moving:

  • Pack the rest of your belongings (by this time there should be very little). Remember where you store these boxes, they are the essentials and will contain the day-to-day products needed upon arrival at your new home.

Moving labeled boxes

  • Load the moving vehicle.
  • If possible, start making trips to get the bulk of the move done.
  • Call, email, or check online to confirm that the utilities will be transferred on time.

The move out date:

  • By now, only cleaning equipment and supplies should be at the old address.
  • Inspect the property to see if anything was overlooked. (This will leave you reassured that you are not forgetting anything.)

If renting:

  • Accompany the property management representative during the walk through.
  • Make any necessary corrections and turn in the keys.

Who Do I Need to Inform When Moving to a New Home?

Changing residency is also making sure everyone knows that you’ve moved! The most important change of address notification is with the US Postal Service. As mentioned above, this should be arranged the week prior to moving in order to avoid interruption of your mail delivery.

Utilities (power, gas, and water), cable, and internet services should have been taken care of the week before the move as well. The following need to be contacted and given your new address as quickly as possible:

  • Your bank (order new checks)
  • Your employer
  • Department of Motor Vehicles (driver’s license and vehicle registration)
  • Social Security Administration
  • Insurance carrier(s)
  • Credit Card Companies
  • Financial institutions (loans, car note, etc.)
  • Cell phone carrier
  • Friends and family (send an “I’ve moved” card, email, or text)

NOTE: With the exception of your employer, most of the above can be done online.

What Do I Need to Do When Moving In?

Just as you left your previous residence, the process for moving in is very similar.

  • Before signing the lease, agreement, or contract, walk the new property with the property management or real estate agent.
  • Open all faucets and flush the toilet(s) to ensure the water is running and the drains are functioning properly.
  • Check all fixtures (ceiling fans, lights, smoke detector, etc.)
  • Note any defects or irregularities in the flooring, walls, cabinets, baseboards, bathtub(s), etc.
  • Request the seller, property management, or maintenance correct any outstanding issues.
  • Once satisfied, sign the lease, agreement, or contract and take possession of the keys.

Keys to new home moving day

Moving-in made simple:

  • Clean and disinfect all areas before bringing in your possessions.
  • Stage furniture in the space where it will be reassembled.
  • Get dressers and cabinets in their respective locations.
  • Take the time to assemble and make your bed(s), you will eventually need to rest. Don’t leave this for later.
  • If you took the time to label your boxes as you were packing to move out, you will know exactly where each box goes as you move in.
  • The last boxes you packed should contain the “priority” day-to-day necessities and should be opened first.

NOTE: Make yourself or an adult available at the scheduled times for utility and service installations. Missing these appointments will cause undue stress and may end up costing extra service fees and/or delays.

What Do I Do After I Move?

Once you have moved, take the time to review your checklist.

  • Make sure that you have notified everyone that you needed to.
  • Watch the mail, a change of address confirmation will be sent to the new address from the US Postal Service. This document will serve as proof of address until your regular bills and identification have switched over.
  • Return the moving truck.

Without a plan or system, moving can be a headache. However, you had a checklist, and now that you have everything checked off, unpack, settle in, and enjoy your new home!

Visit homeandgardeningguide.com/improvement/moving/ for more moving articles, resources and how-to tips.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

DIY Interior Painting – Trim, Baseboard, and Crown Molding

One of the easiest and most cost effective DIY home improvement projects is upgrading the paint, and replacing the outlet and switch plate covers throughout your home. Your home will instantly increase in appeal and value.

A newly painted room not only looks clean, it is clean! Preparing a room for a fresh coat of paint includes pulling away all furniture from the walls, and cleaning the baseboards. This project can double as an opportunity to knock out some overdue spring cleaning.

Interior house painting paint and brushes

Once you’ve chosen the color scheme (neutral colors are most suitable when reselling your home), take inventory of the supplies that you may already have. Next, head over to your local home improvement or hardware store to get the paint, tape, brushes, drop cloths, caulking, spackle, sandpaper, and other wall repair supplies that you may need.

Preparing to Paint

You don’t have to be a professional painter to get professional looking results. The following steps will assist you in preparing a room for a fresh coat of paint.

  1. Pull all furniture towards the center of the room (or remove it if necessary), leaving a 4 foot wide unobstructed path around its perimeter. This will provide ample room to easily maneuver and avoid unintentionally painting another surface.
  2. Remove all outlet and switch plate covers. Don’t waste your time trying to tape around them.
  3. Remove hanging shelves, pictures, and portraits from the walls.
  4. Visually scan the walls for any nails, cracks, or holes that need to be pulled or filled. Fill holes and cracks with a quick drying spackle. Once dry, sand smooth or to texture.
  5. Using a broom or vacuum cleaner, be sure to eliminate any cobwebs or debris from the walls and corners (this debris can easily pollute your pain or brush).
  6. Using painter’s tape or masking tape; tape around window frames, along baseboards, and along the ceiling (or crown molding) where it meets the wall. This may require multiple rolls depending on the size of the room(s) to be painted.
  7. Lay out a drop cloth, paper, or plastic floor protection. Accidents happen, so it’s best to be prepared!
  8. Open the paint, be sure it has been well mixed or stirred, pour some into the trough for the roller(s), and some into a small container for the brushes.
  9. Set up a sturdy 2 or 3 step ladder for the “overhead” work.

NOTE: Prolonged exposure to concentrated paint fumes can cause headaches and nausea. Make sure that doors and windows are left open for ventilation and two to allow fresh air into the room.

Painting the Corners, Baseboards, Trim, and Crown Molding

Painting thin strips of wood requires careful attention to detail and patience. Your arms and hands will be in unfamiliar positions for extended amounts of time, so throughout the process, take frequent micro-breaks to stretch and relax. Doing this will keep your hand steady, which is necessary in applying a professional looking coat of paint.

Now that you are ready, start from the ceiling and work your way down.

  1. Choose a corner to start in and using a 1-1/2 inch brush or corner roller, paint the corner from the ceiling to the baseboard, extending at least 1 inch to the left and right of the corner. Repeat this process for each of the corners in the room(s).
  2. Using the 1-1/2 inch brush, paint a 2 inch strip along the ceiling or crown molding from one corner to the next. Repeat until all of the trim work around the ceiling is done.
  3. Repeat step #2 for the baseboards.
  4. Again, using the 1-1/2 inch brush, paint a 2 inch strip around any window frames and window sills.
  5. When you’ve finished, go back to the beginning and inspect your work for any gaps or missed areas. Touch up where necessary.

Painter painting trim on interior house paint project

Painting Hack for Popcorn Ceiling – If you have popcorn ceilings and cannot apply masking tape, use a long piece of cardboard (12 to 15 inches with a straight edge). Simply line up the cardboard to the edge you are going to paint and brush it on using the cardboard as the guide. As it soaks up the paint, you will need several pieces to complete the job.

Rolling the Walls

Now that all of the trim work is done, it’s time to roll the walls. It is important to take your time and give maximum attention to detail. The faster you go, the messier, less professional, and appealing the job will be.

You will also want to keep a couple of damp cloths nearby to clean up any spilled paint or paint that finds its way to an area that wasn’t supposed to be painted.

  1. Fill the roller by rolling it into the trough several times – allowing it to soak up as much paint as it can.
  2. Choose a wall and start in one of the corners, rolling from the ceiling to the baseboard (slowly and evenly). Rolling too fast will cause the paint to “spray”, creating a not-so-fun mess to clean up. Too much pressure will cause the paint to drip from the roller. Find the “sweet spot” and roll on!
  3. Refill the roller periodically as needed, and continue rolling until you reach the next corner.
  4. Before moving to the next wall, inspect your work, touching up any roller marks or missed areas.
  5. Repeat the above steps until the entire room is painted.
  6. Once any touch up work has been done and the paint has had ample time to dry, remove the painter’s tape from the ceiling, baseboards, and trim.

Important Tips About Painting Rollers – Depending on the quality of the roller, it will get matted as you progress through the project. Have an extra roller (or two) ready to go when needed. Rooms with high ceilings can pose a challenge, but nearly all rollers can be screwed onto a standard threaded broomstick or extension pole.

Take a look at this video for some great rolling tips.

Replacing Outlet and Switch Plate Covers

Since you’ve gone through the process of updating the room, it makes sense to do the same with the outlet and switch plate covers. Overtime these plastic covers undergo normal wear and tear, and are easier to simply replace.

Unless you are going for the super ornate or USB adapted covers (these may require some re-wiring), they are relatively inexpensive and come in a variety of colors and styles.

DIY Quality and Attention to Detail Pay Off

Attention to detail is very important when painting. Uneven coats of paint, splotches, and reckless edges all stand out “like a sore thumb”. The quality of your painting job, like any other DIY project, will directly reflect your patients, attention to detail, and commitment to creating a better home and resale value.

Stand back and admire your work. Not only have you refreshed your walls and living environment, you have added value to your home.

Visit homeandgardeningguide.com/improvement/painting/ for more painting articles, resources and how-to tips.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Your Home Preparation Checklist Before Leaving on Vacation

Going on vacation is much more than booking a flight, hotel, or planning a road trip and the itinerary. There are a few things that need to be addressed at home before your departure.

This article directly addresses what to do for short-term vacations (1 week or less), but variations for long-term vacations will be noted when applicable. A little preparation will save you from having to deal with any issues upon your return.

Social Media and Your Vacation

First and foremost, DO NOT POST ANYTHING regarding your plans; departure, destination, vacation time frame, or return date and time. No matter what type of home security system you have installed, posting vacation details of any sort is a very bad idea.

No social media posting while on vacation

Posting a play-by-play of your vacation online could be the equivalent of telling a potential burglar “Hey, we’re on vacation and won’t be home for a week!” Even with security cameras linked to a smart phone app, all a burglar needs is a few short minutes to break in, steal, get out, and literally end your vacation bliss.

For as tempting as it may be, this must go for all family members throughout the period of the vacation. The posting of images, videos, or tagging locations can be done when you’ve safely arrived home.

Keep Your Home Looking Occupied

Lights On and Lights Out – Invest in either timers for your indoor lights or have them connected to an online system controlled by an app. If your home is constantly dark, it is a clear sign that no one is home, which provides an opportunity for burglars.

Outdoor Flood Lights – Unless you already have them, installing motion sensors on your outdoor lights or is as easy as screwing a sensor in the socket, and screwing the lightbulb into the sensor.

Safe home exterior with flood lights

NOTE: For long-term vacations, the use of CFL or LED lights (both indoors and outdoors) will save energy and reduce the risk of a bulb burnout.

Mail and Newspapers – There are two principle options here. One is to have a trusted neighbor or relative retrieve your mail and newspapers so they don’t accumulate. Two is to contact the postal service to have your mail held or forwarded, and suspend newspaper delivery.

NOTE: For long-term vacations, the latter option above may be the more prudent choice. Forwarding your mail is a simple process, and it can easily be returned to normal once you’ve returned.

Trim, Mow, and Prune – Before you go on vacation, take care of your yard, trees, shrubs, and plants. A fresh looking and trimmed yard is another deterrent for burglars.

NOTE: For long-term vacations, schedule your lawn or tree service to come out and do the work while you are away. Make sure that you know and trust the individual or company.

Pets and Plant Care While on Vacation Too

If you are unable to take your pets on your vacation, find someone you trust that is reliable and loves your pets. Request that they take them in and provide care while you are away. Also, make certain that your indoor plants are well watered before you depart.

Pet boarding while on vacation

NOTE: For long-term vacations, another option is to have your pets boarded. As for the plants, either invest in a watering apparatus from a gardening center, or have a trusted neighbor or relative water them periodically.

Home Appliances and Systems Checklist

Before your departure, take a walk through each room in your home and make certain that:

  • All small appliances are unplugged (televisions, computers, space heaters, microwaves, etc.)

Unplug home appliances

  • All smoke detectors are properly functioning.
  • All motion detectors (of your monitoring or security system) are properly functioning.
  • Wall switches (interrupters) are in the off position.
  • All water connections are tight and leak free (if any are leaking, have them repaired before leaving)
  • The water heater is properly turned off or set to its lowest setting.
  • The air conditioning/heating unit is shut off or set to economic temperatures for the season (if your thermostat can be controlled via app, even better)
  • The refrigerator’s thermostat is turned slightly down and that the doors are fully closed.
  • The stove and oven are shut off and all dials are in the “off” positions.
  • The dishwasher door is left ajar (dishwashers do not function unless the door is shut and latched)
  • The water supply source(s) for your washing machine are shut off.
  • Both the washing machine and dryer are turned off at the breaker box.

Home electrical breaker box

NOTE: For long-term vacations…

  • Notify your monitoring/security company of the duration of the vacation
  • Dispose of rapidly perishable items in your refrigerator (milk, greens, left-overs, etc)
  • Shut off breakers to bedrooms and bathrooms (unless needed for lights on timers

Dispose of perishable food from refrigerator

The risk of your home appliances and systems causing issue can be easily avoided be taking these precautions. Now that these systems are managed, consider a few other aspects before departing.

Other Important Vacation Considerations

With your home prepared to be vacated, use these additional tips to improve the likelihood of a flawless vacation experience.

Credit and Debit Cards – Contact the bank or financial institution to file a travel plan. Without a travel plan, they may freeze your account for suspicious or fraudulent activity. While this is done to protect your assets, it can be embarrassing and frustrating if you don’t notify them in advance.

Emergency Contact Information – Choose a trusted neighbor, relative, or friend to handle emergencies while you are away. Include contact information such as; pool and yard services, plumber, electrician, veterinarian, your travel agency or the contact information of your destination.

Monitoring or Security Company – If your home is monitored by a security company, notify them of your travel plans and establish entry access codes for a trusted neighbor, friend or relative who may be taking care of your home in your absence.

Phones and Social Media – DO NOT leave a message stating that you are on vacation and NEVER post travel plans or itineraries on social media. Leave it for when you are home to share your adventures.

Car in the Driveway – Have a trusted neighbor or friend park their car in the driveway frequently. This will give the impression that someone is home. If you have left your car behind, and will be gone longer than a week, have them periodically drive it to maintain the impression that it is in use.

Windows and Doors – Last but certainly not least, check all doors and windows. Make sure that they are properly closed and locked. If there is a monitoring system, call the monitoring company on your way out to verify that all access points (doors and windows) are properly registering as closed and armed.

Lock up the house and windows

Knowing all is in order will make your relaxing vacation even more pleasing. But nothing beats the perfect vacation like returning to a clean home after a trip with zero responsibilities.

To avoid returning to a list of chores and needing another vacation, follow this last pre-vacation cleaning checklist.

Preparing Your Home for Your Return

Preparing for a vacation can get so hectic that you forget that you will be coming back after it’s all over! The following pre-departure checklist will help you return to a clean and welcoming home.

  • Sweep and vacuum throughout the house.

Vacuum the house before vacation

  • Do the dishes and put them away.
  • Do the laundry and put it away.
  • Clean and sanitize the bathrooms and toilets.
  • Clean the kitchen counters.
  • Make the beds using fresh linen and blankets.

This may seem a bit daunting, but would you rather handle this now or when you come home from vacation?

Enjoy your vacation knowing that your home is safe, in good hands, and prepared for your return.

Bon Voyage!

Visit homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/scheduled-maintenance/ for more scheduled maintenance articles, resources and how-to tips.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

5 Maintenance Tips for Wooden Fences

Wooden fence enclosing yard and home exterior

Throughout the year, wooden fences take a beating from mother nature. They are susceptible to rising and lowering temperatures, rain, severe weather, and even bug infestations. Replacing parts or the whole fence can get very expensive very quickly, not to mention being a time consuming project.

In this article, we will give you five maintenance tips on how to keep your wooden fence sturdy and sound year-round.

1. Moisture is a Problem for Fences All Year Long

Walk your fence frequently in search of built up leaves, brush, debris, or litter along its base and around the posts. Accumulating debris against the wood traps moisture and leads to the penetration of the wood, eventually causing decay and weakening the fence structure.

Moisture mold and growth destroying wooden fence base

Remove fallen leaves,trash, and debris from along the base or kick boards of your fence. Also, cut back densely growing grass from around the kick boards, posts, and the base, as it will retain moisture as well.

2. Prune Trees Back

As trees age, there are two components which will threaten the integrity of your fence.

The Roots – Below ground, the root system of a tree is designed to seek out water. As the roots travel, they can buckle concrete, invade pipe systems, and push a fence up or out of their way. Plant trees or build fences leaving enough space for their growth and safety.

Everything Else – Above ground, the trunk and branches (if they fall) will destroy sections of a fence, if not the fence in its entirety.

Wooden fence damaged by fallen tree

Professional and regular tree maintenance, including tree pruning and cutting will help to avoid either of these potential dangers. However, some trees will topple in severe weather or suffer a lightning strike. Some events cannot be foreseen.

3. Fence Stain, Paint, and Sealant Protect the Wood

Untreated wood left to the elements will decay and deteriorate very quickly. While there are several types of heat or pressure treated wood, it ends up running the cost of the wood up dramatically.

Using a waterproof stain, sealant, or paint will help to prevent splitting, knotting, and splintering while considerably extending the life of your wooden fence. It will also protect the metal components (brackets, rails, screws, and nails) from rust and bleeding.

Protective sealant being applied to a wooden fence

Another benefit of well applied stain, paint, or sealant is a deterrence for bug infestations. If by chance, an infestation is detected, it is critically important to remove and replace the affected area (more on this later).

4. Wind, Heat, and Severe Weather May Weaken Fence Structure

At times, the fury of mother nature is turned loose on us. After severe weather events, especially those with sustained high winds, it is important to inspect your fence for damages and weakened components. Pay special attention to gates, because they are a moving part, and can be shaken loose or broken more easily.

Extreme temperature fluctuations will, over time, cause a wooden fence to weaken and eventually fail. This is due to the expansion in the heat and the shrinking in the cold. Wood that has been treated or properly sealed will resist this type of damage for a much longer period.

5. Inspect for Damage and Signs of Weakness

It is important to inspect your wooden fencing from time to time. Walk the fence (in a literal sense), physically inspecting and taking action if you see the following:

Loose Boards – Refasten them or replace them if damaged

Splintering – Sand the affected area and apply a waterproof stain, paint, or sealant. When the damage is too severe, replace the affected area.

Knotting – This occurs with the expansion and contraction of the wood in severe temperature swings. Literally, the wood expands and allows the knot to fall out, leaving a hole behind. Proper sealing or painting will help to prevent knotting. In the event the damage already occurred, replacing the area is best.

Knotting on wooden fence without sealant

Protruding Nails and Screws – Scrapes, puncture wounds, and severe cuts are just a few of the dangers of leaving protruding nails and screws on your fence. Drive the nails back in and tighten the screws flush to the wood. Refinishing the area with waterproof stain, paint, or sealant will reinforce and help keep them in their place.

Rusted nail protruding from wooden fence

Bleeding – As Nails and screws age, while being exposed to the elements they may begin to oxidize or rust. As this occurs, rain or moisture will carry the rust or oxidation in a downward direction, leaving dark stains in streaks known as “bleeding”.

Screws bleeding on planks of wooden fence

If this begins to happen, a deeper inspection of the fence may reveal the necessity to replace the nails or screws throughout a section of the fence, ending with the proper application of waterproof stain, paint, or sealant to prevent a recurrence.

Infestations – If a bug infestation is detected, especially ones that bore into the wood, that section of the fence should be treated or replaced immediately. Call an arborist or tree professional and have all surrounding trees inspected for infestations.

Untreated wooden fence infested by bugs

NOTE: This cannot be stressed enough. Infestations that spread to trees can cause the tree to become diseased or die. Diseased and dying trees will fall much more frequently in storms with the potential to cause catastrophic property damage and even loss of life.

Moisture – Mold, mildew, and bacteria causing decay all require constant moisture to perpetuate. If left unchecked, portions or sections of your fence may begin to rot, fall away, and cause the fence to fail.

Well Maintained Fences Add Value to Property

An underlying benefit to investing time in the proper upkeep of your home’s wooden fence is the added value to your property.

In short, keep leaves, debris, and grass away from posts, kick boards, and the bottom of your fence. Also, ensure that the fence is properly stained, sealed, or painted from top to bottom.

A home’s curb appeal will also be affected by the appearance of a surrounding fence. The better kept the fence is, the more heightened the curb appeal will be along with your home’s value.

Visit www.homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/exterior/ for more home exterior repairs and maintenance articles, resources, and how-to tips.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Fall Checklist for your Lawn

September is when the autumn equinox happens; when the days and nights are of equal length and the heat of summer is left in the past. As the cooler temperatures approach, it’s time to prepare your lawn for winter and the upcoming spring.

Lawn garden and tree care for the fall
The following fall checklist for will be your guide for preparing your lawn for autumn. Understand that your garden, lawn, trees, and shrubs will be making their own preparations for winter by absorbing plenty of moisture and nutrients for energy.

Preparing Your Lawn for Colder Months

Your lawn will naturally grow at a reduced pace as the cold temperatures set in. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay as much attention to it though. Here’s more on how to prepare your lawn for the winter and bring it back to life in the spring.

Mow and Water Schedule – Make sure you mow your lawn on a regular basis. Lower the blade on the lawn mower gradually through the season. The blade should be set as low as possible for the final cut of fall.

Note: keeping the grass low like this means that more sunlight will reach the crown of the grass to minimize browning during the seasonal change.

Fall lawn maintenance and watering
As temperatures cool, your lawn will require less water. Gradually reduce how much water you give your lawn before stopping entirely as the freezing temperatures kick in.

Treat Burn and Bald Spots – The start of fall is the best time to address the bald and “burned” spots of your lawn. Many garden centers offer seed mixtures that contain seeds, fertilizers, and mulch. This is the best way to fill the lawn in.

Bald spot in lawn needs grass seed
Simply remove the dead and dying grass from the burned spot and loosen the topsoil of the spot by raking about an inch into the ground. Fill this area with half an inch of the seed mixture and compact it. Water the area thoroughly and then water it every other day until the grass fills the spot. This can take between two and three weeks in all.

Aerate the Soil – As the fall starts, aerating the soil allows or oxygen, water, and fertilizer to better reach the root system of your lawn. Aerating reverses natural compacting of soil, allowing the roots to grow and spread evenly.

Read this article for more tips on why, how, and the tools needed to aerate your yard.

Planting and Fertilizing – Have you ever wondered how some people keep their grass green all year through? It’s not some magical fertilizer; but rather two grass breeds. The Bermuda grass species works well during summer while Fescue grass is strong in winter.

As the fall starts, it’s time to plant more fescue than Bermuda. As the fescue starts to grow, the Bermuda grass enters its winter dormant state. Make sure you use a light mulch when seeding to prevent birds from eating your lawn before it sprouts.

The best time to fertilize fescue is the middle of September. Use 2.5 – 3 pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet per year.

Grass lawn fertilizing for the fall
Bermuda fertilization should be done after over seeding. Fertilize Bermuda by using one half-pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet around six months before first frost.

Note that using a walk behind drop spreader offers a more even distribution of your fertilizer.

Leaf Raking – Any leaves that fall from deciduous trees should be raked – as these leaves contain a chemical that causes decomposition. Rain soaks through leaves as they pile up, compacting them and creating an impregnable sheet. If left alone, it allows for the growth of fungi and bacteria, which represent even greater risks for your lawn.

Fall lawn maintenance leaf raking from trees
Rake leaves as they fall and add them to a compost pile. If you have a lot of trees that are shedding leaves, then using a vacuum system or a lawn mower with a collection bag is a good choice.

Fall Weed Control – The middle of September is the best time to apply pre-emergent formulas to your lawn with Bermuda grass. It’s also the ideal time for herbicides. Remember that your plants and weeds alike are fighting to gather all the moisture, nutrients, and energy that they can before winter sets in. Weeds will soak up the herbicide, killing them and preventing them from returning in spring.

The Importance of Fall Lawn Care

Taking proper care of your lawn in the fall almost guarantees that it will be beautiful and resilient for the upcoming spring and summer. Fall is also the ideal time to arrange for an arborist to inspect the health of trees and shrubs on your landscape. Another way to keep your lawn healthy is by identifying and removing diseased and troubled trees.

Keeping a lawn healthy lays the foundation for a nourishing ecosystem that keeps plants, shrubs, and trees healthy.

Go to www.todayshomeowner.com/september-lawn-garden-to-do-list/ for additional September to-do’s.

Visit www.homeandgardeningguide.com/gardening-landscaping/lawn-care/ for more lawn care articles, resources and how-to tips.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

7 Summer Maintenance Tips for Every Homeowner

Keeping your home functioning optimally year-round requires a bit of planning and effort. For the summer months, those preparations begin in the spring. The following seven summer preparation tips will help you get the most out of your home, while conserving energy and even saving money.

Clean Your Air Conditioner Condenser

The life expectancy of your air conditioning system greatly depends on the routine maintenance that it is given. Through this maintenance, energy consumption is reduced and the unit is more capable to efficiently cool your home.

Removing and inspecting air conditioning condenser fan assembly
The condenser unit is fairly simple to clean. In the beginning and end of the cooling season, the unit should be vacuumed, cleared from debris and have any damaged or bent fins straightened. Read How to Clean Your Air Conditioning Condenser Unit for complete instructions and cool pictures.

For the rest of the air conditioning system, including the ducts, annual professional maintenance and cleaning should be scheduled. This will keep the entire system running flawlessly when needed most.

Examine the Roof and Exterior Walls for Leaks and Damage

Inspecting the Roof: There are two great ways to examine your roof for leaks and damage. The first and most obvious is to get up on the roof or get to a good vantage point to see and inspect it. If you notice damaged tiles, repair or replace them.

Roof shingle and exterior wall inspection for damages
The second way is to go to the attic on a sunny day. With the lights off, inspect the roof’s internal paneling for points or rays of light. If light is getting through, water will too. While in the attic, with the lights on, inspect the floor for stains or water marks.

If you determine that your roof is leaking, take action immediately. Damages from this type of leak can cause major structural damage and can become very expensive to fix.

Inspecting the Exterior Walls: Take a slow walk around the outside of your home. Whether you have siding, stucco, etc., look for cracks, chips, flaking paint, or anything out of the ordinary. Make appropriate repairs for anything you may find.

Clean Out the Gutters and Downspouts

Over the months, debris builds up in your gutters. Make sure they are secured firmly to the roof’s framing and cleaned out. Double check the filters on the downspouts to ensure they are clean and able to function properly when needed.

Roof gutters and downspouts being cleaned and maintained
Take the time to pressure-wash, repair and/or repaint any damaged areas of the gutter and downspouts.

Inspecting Appliance Water Supply

Principally, the refrigerator (if it dispenses water), dishwasher, and washing machine will possess water supply and drain hoses. These hoses should be checked to make certain that they are:

  • connected properly and leak free
  • free of fissures, wearing and cracks
  • free from pinch points and kinks

Appliance water supply line inspection for refrigerator
If the hoses are showing signs of wear or have started leaking, take immediate action and get them replaced. The failure of any of these hoses may result in the flooding of your home.

Search for Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew require a dark damp and still area in order to thrive. This search will take you to the darkest corners of your home (literally). Starting in the attic, work your way down to the crawlspace or basement.

Mold hidden in corner of home
Using a flashlight, check behind and under the fridge, the washer, cabinets, under the sink, behind the toilet tank, etc.

If you find mold or mildew, keep in mind that household cleaners will only fix the problem superficially. Even bleach does not completely kill the fungi. Calling in a professional is a great step to permanently fixing this issue.

Until then, remember that mold and mildew need darkness, dampness and still air to thrive. Removing any of these three factors will dramatically slow its growth until the issue can be solved.

Mold issues require immediate action, learn more about mold remediation here: http://www.iicrc.org/standards/iicrc-s520/

Squeaky Doors Need Your Attention

Squeaky door hinge needs grease
Your door knobs, hinges and latches throughout the house should be tightened and lubricated. Use this activity to inspect the door frame and its surroundings. Look for warping and for cracks in the wall around the door frame.

Clean Faucets Improve Water Pressure

The faucets in your home will most likely have an aerator. This is a screen-like attachment which literally aerates the water as it exits the faucet. Beware, it is also a sediment trap! Most aerators can be removed by simply unscrewing them from the faucet. Clean it, replace it (if damaged) and screw it back into place.

Sink faucet aerator being cleaned
Remove the shower head and inspect the arm and threads for corrosion. Clean the filter on the shower head (if needed) and refasten the shower head to the arm. Consider replacing your shower head for one that is water efficient.

Routine Maintenance Pays High Dividends

Considering the cost of repairs after structural damage, flooding or severe mold cases, it is much more cost effective to set a maintenance routine and schedule professional maintenance and inspections on an annual basis.

The value, beauty and health of your home and its occupants depend on the proper functioning of the home’s structure, fixtures, and appliances. Take action before you are forced to take action.

Visit www.homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/scheduled-maintenance/ for more scheduled maintenance articles, resources and how-to tips.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Clean Your Air Conditioning Condenser Unit

Extending the life of your air conditioner and avoiding costly maintenance is as easy as routinely cleaning it. By doing so, you will also reduce energy consumption and boost the efficiency of the unit’s capability to cool the air in your home.

As outdoor condenser units are installed in easy access locations, homeowners are able to perform simple maintenance without the necessity of calling a professional. To maximize efficiency and prolong the life of your unit, air conditioner and condenser unit maintenance should be performed once in the beginning of the cooling season (mid to late spring), and again at the end (early to mid autumn).

The following how-to guide will walk you through the proper cleaning of your air conditioner’s condenser unit.

Cleaning the Outdoor Condenser Unit

Your objective here is to clean the condenser coil and its fins. The unit’s efficiency can be dramatically reduced as the fan inside the unit sucks air through the fins, bringing dead leaves, grass, bugs, and anything else floating nearby. This adds up over time and obstructs the airflow needed for the unit to properly function. Take the following steps to clean your unit:

Step 1. Turn Off the Power – Step one is to shut off the source of electricity! First, make sure that the unit’s thermostat is in the off position. Then, near the condenser unit, locate the breaker or switch box. It may be a switch or lever (turn to the off position), or it may be a fuse block which you simply pull out.

Turning off power before cleaning the air conditioning condenser unit
Disconnecting air conditioning condenser unit fuse from fuse box
Do not begin maintenance until you are absolutely certain that power to the unit has been shut off.

air conditioning fuse removed from fuse box for safety
Step 2. Remove Debris from the Coil and Fins – Be very careful when cleaning the fins, they are easily bent. Using a soft brush or a vacuum with a soft brush attachment, clean the fins by gently brushing between them, following the line of the fins (usually up and down). Never brush against the direction of the fins, this will do more harm than good.

Vacuuming air conditioning condenser coil fins from outside
Step 3. Straightening Bent Fins – Bent fins may be straightened with a butter knife (avoid sharp knives and tools when cleaning the fins). For straightening multiple fins, there are special combs made for straightening which may be purchased at your local hardware store. Finally, if large areas have been crushed, have a professional straighten them on the next routine visit.

Step 4. Remove the Fan for Internal Access – Unscrew the screws that secure the fan to the unit. Use caution when pulling the fan up or to the side, the wiring is attached to the body of the unit.

Removing screws from air conditioning condenser unit fan assembly housing
Removing and inspecting air conditioning condenser fan assembly
Make sure the fan and its housing are clean. Newer models have an encased fan unit and do not require maintenance. Older models will have oil (lubrication) ports. If this is the case, refer to the owner’s manual for the proper oil and amount to be applied.

Tip – Never use cooking oils or displacement oils, they are not intended for long term lubrication and will cause more harm than good.

Some models will have a belt driven system. In this case, look for oil ports on the motor, and apply the proper amount of oil as recommended by the owner’s manual or model specifications.

Step 5. Cleaning the Inside of the Condenser Unit – With the fan housing detached, vacuum the inside of the unit. Again, make sure to use a soft brush or vacuum attachment when cleaning the fins.

Vacuuming air conditioning condenser coil fins from inside
For situations with a lot of build up from dust and debris, remove as much as possible with a brush or vacuum, or both. Follow up by using a hose to spray the coil and fins from the inside out. Do not use high pressure or a pressure washer! The fins are easily bent and crushed when hit with anything under pressure.

Step 6. Reassembling and Preparing for Use – Once the coil and fins are cleaned and straightened, replace the fan assembly and secure it to the unit.

Replacing air conditioning condenser fan assembly and fastening screws
Before moving on, allow time for the condenser unit to dry (if water was used to clean the fins).

Return the power switch or lever to the “ON” position or replace the fuse block. Turn the thermostat on to the cooling mode and enjoy the fresh cool air.

Replacing the fuse for the cleaned air conditioning condenser
Restoring power after cleaning the air conditioning condenser unit
Watch this video for a visual explanation of cleaning your air conditioning condenser unit:

After cleaning your condenser unit, consider cleaning or scheduling your air ducts and vents. Visit https://nadca.com/homeowners/proper-cleaning-methods for benefits and related info.

Proper and Regular Maintenance

Ensuring the most efficient operation and extending the life of your air conditioning system are as simple as following a maintenance schedule. By doing this, you are able to detect issues early on and take preventative measures to ensure the longevity of your equipment. When larger issues arise or you’ve detected irregularities, call on a professional to help you “keep your cool”.

Visit  www.homeandgardeningguide.com/repairs/heating-cooling/ for more AC articles, resources and how-to tips.

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