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Asbestos and Your Home

As a homeowner, is asbestos something you should worry about? It first became popular as insulation in the early 1940s and was used in residential properties through the mid-1970s. Builders loved it because of its fibrous strength and resistance to heat. In homes

built before 1975, asbestos was commonly used in thermal insulation and around basement boilers and pipes. It can also be found in other home materials such as:

  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Textured paint and patching compounds
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves

For you as a homeowner, asbestos is dangerous when the fibers are released into the air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to asbestos fibers can increase your risk of developing lung disease. This risk can actually increase if you’re a smoker.

Asbestos fibers are typically disrupted and released into the air when, for example, you decide to take on a large home construction project such as renovating or remodeling. However, normal wear or damage, such as tears or water damage, may also cause asbestos fibers to be released.

If you have concerns or suspect the presence of asbestos, it’s always best to call a trained, accredited asbestos professional to assess the situation and correct it if needed. Better safe than sorry!

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Five Areas of Your Home that May Need Cleaning

Floors, furniture, bathrooms, and countertops are all standard areas of your home that grab your attention every week as part of your basic cleaning routine. Whether you have a cleaning company or do it yourself, there are probably some other areas of your home that are often forgotten. What am I talking about? Well, when was the last time you cleaned these five areas?

1. Washing machine: Typically, you can clean your washing machine in one cycle by pouring a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda into your washer, and running it on the hottest cycle.

2. Under appliances: Cleaning is a must behind appliances like your refrigerator or under the stove. These small spaces can collect loads of dust, dirt, grime, and even food.

3. Trash cans: Thoroughly scrub your kitchen or bathroom trash can, rinse it out, and spray with disinfectant.

4. Mattresses: A vacuum can easily get rid of dirt, dead skin cells, crumbs, and other things that accumulate unseen on the mattress surface.

5. Dishwasher: Even this appliance requires cleaning. Dishwashers get clogged with food debris, soap scum, and hard water deposits. Start by cleaning out the filter of the dishwasher; then toss a cup of white vinegar into the bottom when it’s empty and run the normal cycle.

Though these areas typically don’t need attention every week, you should add them to your cleaning routine if they’re not on the list already.

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Spotlight: Windows

As a homeowner, you can’t get away from maintenance projects and, just like other parts of a house, your windows are no exception. Without yearly attention and maintenance, window problems can easily occur.

Windows, screens, and sills need cleaning at least yearly. However, proper maintenance goes beyond this step. First examine your windows from the exterior. Is the trim intact? Is the caulking peeling or missing? Then move into the house. Do the windows function properly? Are there rips in your screens? Are the panes and glass intact? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you need to do something. It may be as simple as adding caulking, or it may call for the attention of a professional.

You should also check your windows for water damage, especially after heavy precipitation. The damage you can see is only one side of the story―damage inside the walls is the other side of the story and requires evaluation by a professional. Remember, moisture is one of the key ingredients for the formation of mold and mildew.

Properly functioning windows maintain the energy efficiency of your home and keep heating and cooling costs low. They also keep allergens and critters out!

If you’re interested in learning more about windows, check out our video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v69tMKQYyuY&feature=youtu.be

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Saving energy and money this winter

Increasing energy efficiency is absolutely good for the environment but it also can be good for your wallet! Here are several tips for reducing energy consumption while maintaining comfortable temperatures in your home this winter. The end result also can lead to extra money in your pockets!

· Open the curtains of your south-facing windows to let the sunlight heat your home naturally.

· Turn your thermostat down 10 degrees before you go to bed.

· Seal air leaks around pipes.

· Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning.

· Caulk around windows.

· Change your furnace filters regularly.

· Run your ceiling fan in reverse to bring the heat back down to floor level.

· Add insulation to your attic.

· Move furniture so it doesn’t block your vents.

· Wear extra layers of clothing.

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Fire prevention tips

According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2012 to the present, approximately 360,000 fires occurred each year. Here are some basic tips to help you keep your family and home safe from fire.

· Check the electrical cords throughout your home for signs of fraying.

· Never leave pots or pans unattended on your stove.

· Clean out the dryer vent regularly.

· Clean out the lint filter after each load you put in the dryer.

· Don’t place a space heater near furniture, curtains, or other objects that could easily catch fire.

· Have your chimney inspected annually.

· Store containers of cooking oil away from the stove.

· Place matches and lighters out of reach of children.

· Always blow out candles when leaving home.

The following items should be installed in all homes:

· Carbon monoxide detectors—carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and very combustible

· Fire extinguishers

· Smoke alarms/detectors

Taking these precautions will keep you and your family safe!

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Wood-burning fireplaces

Wood-burning fireplaces can save you money by supplementing your main heating source. Also, that warm, cozy glow can’t be beat on a cold wintry night! Before you light it up, though, make sure it’s operating safely.

It’s a good idea to make sure smoke can travel through your chimney efficiently. Check connections to your chimney system to make sure the joints are still sealed tightly and venting systems aren’t clogged. One key to making sure your wood-burning fireplace is operating at peak efficiency is to make an effort to dispose of the ashes consistently. To make this easier, keep an ash bucket next to your fireplace. For optimal burning, use dried or “seasoned” firewood. Seasoned wood has a moisture content of less than 20 percent. Firewood that isn’t seasoned properly:

· Can be hard to light and just as hard to keep burning

· Can cause tars and creosote to line the inside areas of your fireplace and blacken the glass windows

· Can produce a lot of blue-gray smoke

Seasoned wood has another important benefit—when wood is properly cut, dried, and stacked, mold has less opportunity to grow on it.

Having a professional clean your chimney and conduct maintenance on an annual basis will give you peace of mind and keep you safe.

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Winter home maintenance projects

Seasonal projects around your home should continue into the winter months. Though it’s important to clean your fireplace and maintain your heating system, your focus during the winter months should be on the exterior of your home. Before winter weather sets in, think about the following projects:

· Remove debris from gutters—water can back up, causing leaks, ice dams, or damage to your roof and siding.

· Store your hoses and turn off the outside water.

· Apply caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows.

· Drain your sprinkler system.

· Seal cracks and leaks in the foundations and walls.

· Clean, cover, and store outdoor furniture.

· Inspect and upgrade attic insulation.

· Buy a roof rake.

· Protect your entryway floor.

Once winter weather begins:

· Carefully remove snow and ice from your roof and gutters.

· Remove snow as quickly as possible after storms from your deck, driveway, and sidewalks.

Finally, it’s always smart to stock up on water, batteries, flashlights, and other supplies ahead of time.

Tackling these projects will keep those winter blues away!

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What’s included in your home inspection report?

People are often confused about what a home inspection report contains. Is it a simply a glorified “honey do list”? Are there pictures? What is actually included?

A home inspection report is a lengthy document that will outline everything your home inspector sees. It provides an overview of the home you’re thinking about purchasing and typically includes pictures of the various items inspected. Each item the inspector checks is rated as acceptable, marginal, or defective. As an unbiased report to reference, it comes in handy when identifying areas you would like your agent to negotiate.

Home inspection reports include information about:

  • Structural elements: Visible foundation of the home.
  • Outside features: Grading along the house, siding, sidewalks, decks, lighting, and exterior outlets.
  • Roof areas: Condition of shingles, any repairs/patches to flat roofs, vents, chimneys, and gutters.
  • Attic space: Sufficient insulation, proper ventilation, and any sign of leaking or water damage.
  • Interior plumbing: Damaged or leaking pipes, water temperature, water pressure, functioning toilets, sinks, bathtubs, and showers.
  • Basement: Solid foundation, walls, and floors; notation of any signs of water intrusion or damage.
  • Fireplaces: Solid flue walls, functioning damper, and intact masonry in the firebox.
  • Electrical system: Proper function of circuit breakers, outlets, light fixtures, and fans.
  • Appliances: Proper function of stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, washer and dryer, and all other appliances.
  • Heating and cooling systems: Condition of furnace, air conditioning (temperature permitting), and water heater.
  • Garage: Windows, ceiling, framing, and roof; working garage door opener.

While the inspection is underway, many inspectors will discuss problematic areas of a home and answer any questions. It’s a lot of information to absorb. Thus, the report becomes the document you can reference later as you decide on your next step! Finally, if you buy the home, it then provides a great guideline as to when things may need to be replaced or repaired.

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Sellers: Is your home ready to go on the market?

As a seller, completing repairs and making sure your home is in great condition before listing is key to a successful sale. Before going on the market or contacting an agent, some sellers may request a pre-listing inspection. This approach will give you the guidance of an inspection report so you can better utilize your time and resources in making home repairs. Before your inspection appointment, you should take these steps:

  • Check to make sure all light bulbs are replaced and working.
  • Fix faucets so none are dripping or broken.
  • Check caulking in the bathrooms to make sure it is in good condition.
  • De-clutter rooms by removing extra furniture, personal items, and excess clothing.
  • Change your furnace filter.
  • Clean out gutters.
  • If the property is vacant: make sure all utilities are on.
  • Light the pilot light on stoves, furnaces, and water heaters.
  • Remove boxes, stored items, or debris from in front of attic entrances, electrical panels, and HVAC units.
  • Have pets secured in a kennel or gated away.

Be prepared to be away for approximately three hours. Once you have the report in hand, you can tackle areas documented as “defective.” Your agent and future buyers will be glad you took the time!

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Buyers: Are you asking the right questions during the home inspection?

Attending the home inspection is a key piece of the home buying process. Home inspection clients may feel overwhelmed by the process. Listening to the inspector discuss different aspects of a potential home may leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed, but you may not want to interrupt the inspector by asking questions. Let us reassure you―questions are always welcome! If you’re not sure what you should be asking, consider starting with these questions:

  • How bad is it?
  • How do we fix that?
  • What would you fix first?
  • Can you show me how (X) works?
  • How much time do I have before I should replace (X)?

Though many inspectors will provide information whenever they see a defective area of the home, make sure you know the answers to the following in advance:

  • How well is the drainage working around the exterior of the home?
  • Where are the shut-off valves, and how do they work?
  • Are there any serious problems with the roof?
  • Is the deck structurally sound?
  • Is there adequate insulation in the attic? Any signs of water damage?
  • Are all major systems and appliances working?
  • Is there any indication of structural issues or mold?

The more you know, the better you’ll feel when you purchase your dream home!