Welcome to my homeowner’s blog! Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

Last month, I provided the first eight tools every home owner should own.  The month is the last seven tools every home owner should have.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle — not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
Source – Nachi.org
Authors – Nick and Ben Gromicko
  1. Plunger – A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.
  2. Combination Wrench Set – One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.
  3. Slip-Joint Pliers – Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.
  4. Adjustable Wrench – Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.
  5. Caulking Gun – Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
  6. Flashlight – None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
  7. Tape Measure – Measuring house projects requires a tape measure — not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
  8. Hacksaw – A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets.  Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

Source:  Nachi.org

Authors:  Nick and Ben Gromicko

It’s easy to panic during an emergency.  Emergencies and disasters can come in different forms.  It can be a gas leak, a fire or a natural disaster which may knock out power, pollute drinking water and make it difficult for first responders to reach you. However, being prepared can reduce the anxiety and help you keep you and your family cool, calm, and safe.  Your family’s emergency plan will be unique to you.  For example, our family emergency plan includes four fur babies.  There are a few general points that will help to best prepare you and your family for success in case an emergency strikes.

First, you’ll need to create a disaster supply kit.  Your supply should include such things like medical supplies, medications, non-perishable foods, water, batteries, blankets and clothing.  Basic necessities include food, water, clothing and shelter.  To separate a basic need vs. a luxury, ask yourself does the item I want to include in the disaster supply kit meet the basic need criteria.

Next, develop an easy to remember plan.  If you can’t remember your emergency plan, it won’t be very effective.  Use places that are very familiar and hard to forget such as a neighbor’s house or a nearby school to report in.  Everyone should know what they’re expected to do during an emergency.

As part of your plan, create an emergency checklist and keep it somewhere easily accessible.  The checklist should include emergency contacts and local emergency phone numbers and addresses.  Place it in an envelope with copies of vital records along with a spare set of car keys.  You can create separate lists for each family member for different type of emergencies.

Let your neighbors know what you’re doing to keep your family safe.  Building a network of people may help you and your family in a time of need.  This, also, allows you to help others in need.  Communication is a key part of preparation.  When people are stressed, they may only retain part of the information you’re sharing.  It’s better to over communicate.

For more information about emergency preparedness essentials.  For more information check out these websites.

https://www.beprepared.com

https://emergency.cdc.gov/

National Pet Fire Safety Day is observed annually on July 15th. We practice home safety and preparation for emergencies. It’s just as important to prepare for pet safety. Just like fire drills, pets need consideration when preparing for unexpected fire emergencies. Taking preventable measures now can both save your home and your pet. Many times our pets can cause a fire if we don’t take the proper steps.

PET FIRE SAFETY TIPS

• Extinguish open flames. Pets are curious and certainly not cautious. Wagging tails haphazardly knock over candles. Curious kitties will paw at sizzling grease, quickly sending a kitchen up in flames.
• Remove knobs from the stove. When not in use, they will not accidentally get turned on.
• Consider flameless candles for ambiance and backup lighting in the event of a power outage.
• Replace glass water bowls with metal or plastic. Outside on wooden decks, they can heat up and actually start a fire.
• Have leashes and collars stored near the entrance of your home. When away, have your pets in the main living area for easy rescue.
• Secure young pets when away from home. This can help avoid fire hazards. Pet kennels or in a pet-proofed room are options.
• Fire alert window clings help firefighters identifying the room your pets are located and identify the number of pets in the home. Add one to the window of the room you keep your pets when you are away. Keep it updated with the number of pets who reside with you and your current phone number.
• Have a plan when you are home. Know which family members will be responsible for each pet.

HOW TO OBSERVE

Put the tips into practice and have a fire drill. Keep your pets and your humans safe! Use #PetFireSafetyDay to post on social media.

HISTORY

The American Kennel Club in association with ADT Security Services declared National Pet Fire Safety Day in 2009 to educate pet owners how to take steps to prevent fires and to plan for unexpected emergencies effectively.

Lightning is a leading cause of injury and death from weather-related hazards. Lightening can occur year-round and at any hour. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Thunderstorms are dangerous storms that include lightning and can include powerful winds over 50 MPH create hail; and cause flash flooding and tornadoes.

What to do to prepare?

• Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
• Identify nearby, sturdy buildings close to where you live, work, study, and play.
• Cut down or trim trees that may be in danger of falling on your home.
• Consider buying surge protectors, lightning rods, or a lightning protection system to protect your home, appliances, and electronic devices.

What to do to when thunder roars:

• When you receive a thunderstorm warning or hear thunder roars, go indoors immediately. A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm.
• Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of thunderstorms. Be ready to change plans, if necessary, to be near shelter.
• If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines.
• Protect your property. Unplug appliances and other electric devices. Secure outside furniture.
• If boating or swimming, get to land and find a sturdy, grounded shelter or vehicle immediately.
• If necessary, take shelter in a car with a metal top and sides. Do not touch anything metal.
• Avoid flooded roadways. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

Be safe after by listening to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding. Also, watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.

Source: https://www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning

My wife and I put our house up for sale in March 2018. Within a week, we had two offers. The first one fell through and the second one came two days after the first offer fell through. Our goal was not to pay on two homes. We built a house in 2017 and by early 2018, it was ready to move in.

What did we do to sell our house fast? Below are a list of steps that we took to make our home sell quickly.

Declutter, declutter, declutter – We spent weeks decluttering our home. We didn’t realize how much stuff we had collected in the 10 years. We went from room to room and packed up items in cabinets, closets, dressers, night stands. We depersonalized our home of family photos. We were very fortunate that we had another home to move our stuff. If you don’t have that luxury, you can rent a storage unit or this may be a good time to have a garage sale. You don’t want to show buyers how much stuff you can get into a space. You want to show buyers how much space they’ll have for their stuff.

Rearrange the furniture. Our living room had exercise equipment in it. We moved it to the new house. You don’t want people bumping into your furniture as they are walking around. Does your buyer see an open, yet intimate space that inspires conversation?

Clean, clean, clean – clean everything. Vacuum, make the beds, and wipe down the counters daily because you may have an unplanned viewing. Dust – dust the ceiling fans, clean the blinds. Dishes shouldn’t be in the sink. Bathroom sinks, toilets and showers should be cleaned. We kept our home nice and tidy. We cleaned the windows inside and out bringing more light into the house.

Set the table – Set a couple of place settings at the dining room table. Or place a centerpiece on top of a neutral table runner. Put neutral music such as classical or jazz on low in the back ground. Although we didn’t bake cookies or burn scented candles to make our home appear warm and welcoming, we did use a pleasing scented air freshener through our home. If the buyer can see that a family lives there, they can imagine their family living there.

Repair or replace broken items. We did have a little cash to spend and I spent it on mulching the front yard and painting window sills and freshening up worn out and chipped areas. Why? It’s important to give prospective buyers the notion that the property was taken care of well and they won’t have to spend a huge sum on repair work or fixing broken, malfunctioning items because that may be a big deterrent to getting good offers from potential buyers. Also buyers give you about six seconds to make the sale—three seconds from the curb and three seconds from the foyer.

Of course, every home is different. Before you spend a dime freshening your home up, ask a real estate agent you trust for advice. A true pro knows what buyers in your area want and can help you maximize your home’s appeal without busting your budget.

April is National Home Inspection Month. Home Inspections are critical!

A quality home inspection can be valuable and save you a lot of money later. For example, if you’re selling your home, a pre-listing inspection provides an opportunity to identify and make decisions about what repairs or updates you want to make before presenting your home to a possible buyer. This can add to the value of your home and allows you to enter in negotiations with self-confidence. This can provide you, the seller, with some peace of mind.

For most, your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. Home maintenance is important. Homeowners should get a home inspection every three to five years to avoid expensive repairs, identify problems and maintain their home’s viability. An inspection of the structural and mechanical systems will include the foundation, roof and gutters, exterior and interior walls, electrical wiring, plumbing, heating and central air conditioning systems.

If you’re remodeling or planning a major renovation, a renovation inspection can be done before and after the contracted work. This will give you the peace of mind that the work is well planned, executed, and done correctly.

Home Owners, First-time buyers and long-timers who want to “age in home,” homebuyers of a new home still under construction and parents concerned about the safety of their children all need home inspections by experienced professionals who will identify current or potential issues before they become serious problems.

If you plan to buy a home this year, you want to be sure it’s condition and functionality are in line with your lifestyle and plans for the building. All homes require some routine maintenance and most will go through some renovations or updates through their lifetime. Once you’ve found the home of your dreams, you want to know that it is the investment you think it is. A pre-purchase inspection is a good way to verify the house’s current conditions and develop a strategy for future maintenance.

In a nutshell, a home inspection can be priceless. It provides peace of mind. It’s relatively inexpensive. It uncovers safety issues. It can reveal possible pest and insect problems. It can find structural issues. It can forecast potential future expenses such as appliances, windows, roofing, A/C, electric, plumbing and heating systems. It can help with price negotiations and negotiating seller repairs. It can provide an “out.”

Equally as important as the purpose of a home inspection is the quality of the inspection. Working with an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector (CPI) is a customer’s best assurance of a thorough and professional inspection. To find a qualified inspector in your area, visit www.eagleengineer.com or call (865) 250-8983.

Spring is around the corner. Daffodils, tulips will be blooming
soon. For those who’ve been stuck inside to stay warm, will
find it’s time to rediscover the great outdoors. Since it can’t
be all fun, it’s time to think about home maintenance that will
help you avoid big repair bills later. Here are some things you
can do to get or keep your home in good shape.

 Inspect your roof – Your roof is your home’s first line
of defense against water damage. If you delay
repairing spots on your roof that need fixing, you
could find yourself facing water damage inside your
home the next time a storm hits.

 Clean your gutters – Gutters direct rain away from
your roof and home, protecting both in the process.
Clogged gutters open your home to water damage.

 Clean or replace HVAC filters – You need to do this
more than once a year. A dirty filter forces your
heat, ventilation and air-conditioning system to work
harder, which in turn drains your wallet.

 Clean your dryer vent – Not all lint gets caught in the
lint trap; some makes its way into the dryer vent. A
clean vent will save you money by reducing the time
your dryer has to run. A plugged vent wastes money
but, also, could cause a house fire.

 Check the washing machine fill hose – You want to
look for cracks that could become leaks. A leaky hose
under pressure can cause major damage in a short
period of time.

 Clean and repair your screens – Trying to reduce your
electric bills this summer? Gently scrub your screens
on a flat surface with soapy water. Also, patch small
holes as needed.

 Clean decks, driveways, fences and other outside
surfaces – A pressure washer makes this job easier.
While you’re cleaning, inspect for damage.

 Fix cracks in your walks, driveway and the outside of
your home. Fortunately, most of these repairs are
fairly easy if taken care of early.

 Repair any cracked or peeling paint. – A good paint
job makes your home look nice, while providing a
protective barrier from the elements. Touch-up
painting is easy to do and inexpensive.

 Vacuum your refrigerator coils – The coils you’ll find
on the bottom or back of your fridge conduct the
hot air from inside the unit. If they’re coated with
dust, they do the job less efficiently and cause your
refrigerator to work harder; that means a higher electric
bill for you. Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a
brush on the coils.

 Test the batteries in your smoke detectors – During
the month of October, you should have changed out
the batteries. However, if you didn’t, it would be
wise to do it now. Sometimes it’s a matter of life or
death, so take the time to change the batteries now.

 Prepare your lawn mower for summer – Change the
engine oil and sharpen the cutting blade; you’ll
lengthen the life of the mower and improve the look
of your lawn.

 Check seals around windows and doors – Winter
weather can crack and harden caulk and other
weather seals. Inspect them and repair or replace as
needed. You’ll reduce your air-conditioning bill and
prevent water from entering your home and causing
damage.

 Clear vegetation around your AC compressor – To
work efficiently, the compressor needs good airflow.
To ensure it has breathing room, prune any plant
growth that could block it.

 Drain your water heater – Sediment builds up in your
water heater tank. Use the spigot near the bottom of
the heater to drain it. By doing so, you’ll prolong its
life and reduce your electric bill.

Source: https://money.usnews.com/money/personalfinance/slideshows/15-spring-home-maintenance-tips

Come February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil will tell us whether we can expect 6 more weeks of winter or not.  While we are waiting to transition from winter to spring, there are some things we can do to keep our homes toasty warm that are in general inexpensive.

Recently, we built a new house and hadn’t weather stripped basement door until December.  By doing this, we noticed that there wasn’t a cold spot in our house anymore.  Often, doors and windows are an overlooked source of air leakage.  Weather stripping will keep warm air in and cold air out.

Thermostats that you can move the bar between 50 and 90 degrees are outdated.  Usually, you’ll find these in older homes. These thermostats regulate heat inefficiently compared to programmable thermostats. Recent innovations in the technology allow you to control newer thermostats with your mobile phone and input lower temperatures for certain times of day — saving you money on your utility bill while ensuring a warm house when you walk in the door.

Especially in the South, burst and frozen pipes are a major driver for winter home repairs. Freezes are unexpected and pipes are ill-prepared to handle. Pipes should be wrapped in heat tape and insulated with fiberglass or foam-rubber to prepare for any kind of freeze.

An alternative source to stay warm and reduce running your heat is using your fireplace.  Creosote is an oil that comes from coal and wood and it builds up making it highly combustible and flammable. We would highly recommend chimney professionals to clean your chimney of creosote and check for signs of leaks and other hazards. You can hire a professional for about $300. This is an extensive job; inexperienced homeowners are not advised to do it on their own.

Another way that isn’t often used during the winter is your ceiling fan.  You can use your ceiling fan to keep the cold air out of a room by changing its rotation. Most homeowners forget about utilizing the ceiling fan during the winter, but it can cut monthly heating costs by almost 10%. There is a reverse switch above the blades; when activated, the fan’s blades push cold air up into the ceiling and the warm air down into the room. This project saves you money and costs just a few minutes of your time. (Just remember to hit the switch again in spring so the hot air starts going back towards the ceiling.)

While watching the snow blanket the yard can be peaceful and pretty, the walk to the car the next morning can be perilous. Keep sidewalk salt handy to prevent slips and falls. And keep a shovel in the garage or near the front door to cut a clear path for your family and neighbors.

Most of this can be done as a do-it yourself and materials can be purchased at your local hardware store.  However, if you’re not up for a do-it yourself, consider hiring a licensed and qualified handyman or professional that can help you.  May you and your family stay toasty the rest of the winter and let’s hope Punxsutawney Phil won’t see his shadow.

Now, the holidays are over with and New Years’ resolutions have been made and in some cases already broken. The Christmas tree and decorations are packed up and placed in storage in preparation for the 2019 Christmas Season. It’s time to get back to having a healthy and trouble-free home.

January is National Radon Action Month. The EPA recommends radon testing. It’s easy and inexpensive. If your level of radon is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, it’s recommended to fix your home. Radon levels less than that still pose a risk and in many cases may be decreased. Radon is estimated to cause approximately over 20, 000 deaths per year as the second leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking still causes more lung cancer deaths.

Radon, like CO2, can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted. It’s found all over the United States and comes from natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, water, and gets into the air you breathe. It can get into any type of building.

How do you know if you have radon? Testing is the only way. It’s inexpensive, easy, and only takes a few minutes. Fixing a radon problem is not costly and radon reduction systems work.

New homes can be built with radon resistant features. By installing them at the time of construction, it makes it easier and less expensive to reduce radon levels. For more information about radon resistant construction techniques, check out epa.gov – Building Radon Out: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build Radon-Resistant Homes.

How does radon get into our homes? It moves up through the ground to the air above and into our homes through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon gets in through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside the walls, and the water supply if you have a well.

There are two ways to test for radon. One is short-term testing and the other is long-term testing. What’s the difference you may wonder? Short-term tests remain in your house for two to ninety days. Long-term test remains in your home for more than 90 days. This long-term test is more likely to tell you your home’s year-round average radon level than a short-term test.

Where can you get a test? You can purchase a do-it-yourself test through the mail, hardware stores, and other retail outlets. Or you can hire a qualified tester to do the testing for you.

Now, you’ve done your testing and have learned what your radon level is, what’s next? You need to reduce the levels by using a vent pipe system and fan which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. This system is known as a soil suction radon reduction system and doesn’t require major changes. Other fixes is to seal foundation cracks and other openings. You may also hire a contractor who is trained to fix the radon problem. For more information check out https://www.epa.gov/radon/find-radon-test-kit-or-measurement-and-mitigation-professional.

Once your problem is fixed, retest again to make sure the radon levels are reduced. And retest your home once every two years. Most soil suction radon reduction systems include a monitor that indicates whether the system is working properly.

In closing, may 2019 be a happy, trouble-free, and healthy home year for you and your family.

Reference – www.epa.gov