‘Tis the season for a crackling fire in the fireplace. It’s also the season when the most house fires occur – due to fireplace misuse, candles, space heaters, etc. If you have a gas fireplace installed in your home, it is critical that you use it properly – especially if you have children and pets around.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Access the owner’s manual for your fireplace in your Homeowner Maintenance Guide. Maintain it per the manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure to take precautions where warnings are included! Above all, use common sense.
Do not try to manually light your fireplace with matches or a lighter. This is very dangerous! If you have followed the manufacturer’s instructions to light your fireplace and still can’t get it to work properly, call the manufacturer’s customer service line or contact a professional to troubleshoot the problem.
Don’t place combustibles or flammable items near your fireplace. It’s tempting to decorate your hearth with pretty things. But keep in mind that the heat from your fireplace can damage items placed too close, and in the worst case, cause combustible items to, well, combust.
Handle the glass carefully. Whether your unit has fixed glass or doors that open, it will get hot! Do not try to perform maintenance until the glass and entire unit has cooled completely.
Be safe and enjoy your fireplace this winter!
Finally, it’s starting to feel like Fall. The holidays are beginning to be top of mind as we set shopping budgets and plan for holiday get-togethers. In the busyness of the holidays, it’s easy to neglect the important home maintenance tasks that your home needs before the cold weather really sets in. Why not make a personal goal to take care of these tasks before things get really crazy?
- Fireplace. If you have a traditional fireplace or a sealed gas fireplace, there are inspections that need to take place before you begin using it regularly throughout the winter. Inspect the chimney or venting system, as well as the firebox. For gas fireplaces, inspect the flame and rod. In traditional fireplaces, make sure your flue closes tightly.
- HVAC System. Have your furnace or heat pump professionally serviced. Just like your car needs a tune-up, so does your heater. A well-maintained heater will run more efficiently and use less energy. Clean ducts and air filters will also help your system work more efficiently, and reduce the allergens in your home.
- Weatherstripping. As we discussed in last month’s newsletter, now is the time to inspect and repair any detached or deteriorating weatherstripping. Keep the warm air in and the cold air out!
- Gutters & Downspouts. Once the leaves are finished falling, inspect your gutters to make sure they haven’t become clogged with leaves and other debris. Ensure that water can properly drain through your gutters and downspouts. Water shouldn’t spill over the edge of the gutters during rain (or behind them), it should flow easily into the downspouts. Make sure the bottom of your downspouts are directing water away from your home.
- Protect Pipes. If you live in a region with prolonged freezing, make sure that all exposed piping is properly insulated.
- Trim Trees. Trim any trees that may impact your home during winter storms.
- Irrigation. Reset your irrigation timers in preparation for the rainy season. If you live in a region prone to freezing, you’ll want to shut down and drain your system for the winter.
Proper home maintenance is what keeps your home working as it should all winter long. If you’ve fallen behind on your maintenance, don’t despair! Start with this list, and then refer to the Home Maintenance Summary in your Homeowner Maintenance Guide for an organized list of your home’s maintenance needs.
With the holidays just around the corner, you may be starting to experience anxiety over the guests you plan to have in your home. You want your home to feel clean, fresh, and homey, but don’t necessarily have the time, money, or imagination to make that happen. We have some ideas to put your mind at ease and help you come up with a plan!
1. Make it Sparkle
A clean house is always the best place to start. A clean house will automatically feel fresh and give you the proper canvas on which to incorporate other updates. Get your carpet professionally cleaned or rent a machine for a day. Better Homes and Gardens has a great 7 Day Cleaning Plan to help you get a handle on your cleaning tasks. If you just can’t make time to clean (this is a busy time of year!) consider indulging in a professional house cleaning service just this once, if you don’t already. Even on a tight budget, sometimes saving time and reducing your stress is worth the splurge.
2. Declutter Your Space
Reducing the clutter in your home will go a long way in making it feel more spacious and inviting. Think clear surfaces! The less clutter and the fewer your knick-knacks, the cleaner and larger your home will appear. Check out this post from earlier this year on reducing the clutter.
3. Focus on a Few Small Changes
Updating a few small things can make an impact and most importantly, change the way you feel about your home. If you’re on a tight budget (aren’t we all?), hit up the discount stores or use coupons for the bigger stores. Here are some simple ideas that will make a noticeable difference:
- Replace a worn out rug. A stained, fraying rug can really take away from all the other hard work you’ve put in to make your home look lovely.
- Add some new throw pillows in this season’s trendy colors or patterns.
- Hang a festive wreath on your front door and put out a seasonal welcome mat.
- Make your entry more welcoming by hanging a piece of framed art, placing a stylish area rug, or adding a vase of flowers on a small table.
- Place new towels or a pretty soap dispenser in your guest bathroom. Pick up a new shower curtain if yours is looking worn.
- Update the curtains in your main living area with a color or pattern that makes you feel good and adds a pop of design to your room.
- Inexpensive, well-chosen art can also bring a freshness to your home!
4. Appeal to the Senses
So much of the experience we have in our own homes or the homes of others comes down to our senses and how a space makes us feel.
- Scent: Make sure your home smells clean and homey. Simmer oils on the stove, use an electric wax warmer, or pick up some plug-ins. Seasonal scents such as cinnamon, vanilla, or spices will give your home a pleasing, holiday feel. If you or your guests are allergic to the manufactured scents, try something natural like citrus, cinnamon sticks, or essential oils.
- Sight: Clear, clean spaces with a few thoughtfully placed items are much more pleasing to the eye than having every memento you own on display. Also, lighting is important in creating a space that is comfortable – you want it not too bright, not too dim. Lamps tend to create a nicer ambiance than overhead lighting.
- Sound: Play soft music in the background. Create a Pandora station that sets the mood you want to convey, be it soothing, romantic, peppy, or retro.
- Touch: Use appealing textures to draw your guests in to your seating areas. Textured throw pillows that beg to be touched or a soft throw over the back of an arm chair will make your home feel inviting and encourage your guests to get comfortable. Touchable linens on your table will add to the mealtime experience. Clean, fresh towels in your kitchen will make pitching in to dry dishes a pleasure.
- Taste: Have yummy treats ready for your guests – especially the kind that evoke comfort and home. Have some hot cider simmering on the stove. Click here for some great holiday recipes to try out!
What are your favorite ideas for getting your home ready for the holidays? Want more ideas? Check out this post from last year!
Each year brings a new palette of on trend colors that will shape the home decor collections we see in catalogs, boutiques, and big box stores. This year’s trend colors include soothing and refreshing greens, as well as hues of blue, blush, and berry. If you are looking for fresh color ideas for your home, use these as a guide to explore the different colors options that are available.
The ColorGuild is a guild of paint manufacturers from all over the world who work to predict color trends. See their list of the 2015 trends here.
Additionally, here are links to the 2015 colors of some the top paint manufacturers. Let them inspire you as you consider ways to update your home!
What do you think of the 2015 color trends?
The weatherstripping that is installed around your doors and windows serves a very important purpose. Over time, with constant exposure to the elements and frequent use, weatherstripping will deteriorate, begin to pull away, or come completely unattached. Don’t put off repairing this seemingly small thing – deteriorated or damaged weatherstripping will impact your home in two important ways.
1. Decreased Energy Efficiency
In the winter, weatherstripping helps keep the cold air out and the warm air from your heating system in. Conversely, in summer, it helps keep the hot air out and the cool, conditioned air in. If you can see light through the area surrounding your doors or windows or at the door threshold (the metal plate on the floor beneath the door), air can move freely through. Why spend all that money running and maintaining your HVAC system only to have the air fly right out the door?
2. A Welcome Mat for Pests
Weatherstripping helps keep pests out – the “if you can see light” rule applies here too – if you can see light through the areas surrounding your doors or windows, bugs, ants, and spiders have an easy way into your home. In addition to the headache of pest infestations, you’ll incur the additional cost of a pest control service to take care of the problem. Why go through all that when you can reduce or prevent the problem all together!
How to Repair Weatherstripping
It doesn’t seem right to tell you the potential problems without giving you a solution. Here are some links to great information on repairing your weatherstripping:
- How Stuff Works has an excellent article on installing weatherstripping and the types of weatherstripping to choose from.
- We found this great how to video that walks you through the process.
- This Old House also has an comprehensive guide that walks you through all things weatherstripping.
Whether on your car or your home, preventive maintenance is always cheaper than repairs. Preventive maintenance is one of those things that is easily procrastinated in the midst of our busy lives. However, some of the simplest maintenance tasks can yield the biggest return in terms of saving you money in the long run. Let’s look at some examples:
Our “Useful How To Video Links” page has links to videos about most of these topics. Check them out here!
Refrigerator: Your maintenance guide recommends cleaning the coils annually.
- Cost of cleaning the coils: FREE
- Cost of extra electricity to run poorly maintained refrigerator: $5-$10 per month
- Cost of repairing the compressor which can fail because dirty coils prevent it from working properly: $400-$600
- Cost of replacing your refrigerator: $800-$3,000
- Bottom Line: Simple maintenance tasks will help you get the full life of your appliance and escape pricey repair bills. Click here to read a post from our archives on refrigerator maintenance.
HVAC System: Your maintenance guide recommends replacing the filter monthly in high use seasons.
- Cost of replacing your filter: $10-$20
- Cost of a service call to repair the unit when the clogged air filter prevents your compressor from working properly: $200 and up. Click here for Home Advisor’s cost estimate.
- Cost of extra electricity or gas to operate a poorly maintained system: up to a 20% increase
- According to HousePro, up to 80% of all air conditioning and heating system failures could be eliminated by preventive maintenance. They state that every .01” of dirt on an evaporator coil can increase operating costs by 5%.
- Bottom Line: Maintaining your HVAC system WILL save you money (and headache) in the long run!
Water Heater: Your maintenance guide recommends draining your water heater annually.
- Cost of draining your water heater: FREE
- Cost of repairing a failed water heater: $500-$900
- Cost of replacing a water heater: $850-$1,100. Click here for Home Advisor’s cost estimate.
- Bottom Line: Over time, your water heater parts will corrode as the water minerals buildup and react with the steel. Draining your water heater as recommended will extend the life of your tank and save you hundreds of dollars.
Not sure how to drain your water heater? We have a video for that!
Irrigation: Your maintenance guide recommends checking your system monthly for proper watering and timer settings.
- Cost of inspecting your irrigation system: FREE plus minor adjustments
- Cost of hiring a landscaper to inspect and repair a neglected system: $100-$300
- Cost of wasted water and plant replacement resulting from broken sprinkler heads or drip emitters and improper coverage: A lot!! One of our staff members here at Home Experience recently had their older irrigation system fully inspected and repaired. The result was a whopping $100 a month savings on their water bill!
- Bottom Line: Simply walking through your yard while your irrigation system is on will show you the areas that have leaks, broken parts, or improper coverage. Look for excessive runoff towards the end of the irrigation run times – run off indicates that the area is getting too much water.
Not very handy or just don’t have time to take care of some of your home’s maintenance needs? Consider hiring a handyman to take care of these things for you. It will be worth it in the long run! www.homeadvisor.com can help you find a reliable professional.
We searched the web and found some helpful and innovative ideas for picking and carving your pumpkin. Why not get a little creative with your pumpkins this year?
Pick the Perfect Pumpkin
How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin
How to Select the Perfect Pumpkin (DIY Network)
Lengthen Your Pumpkin’s Life
How to Make Carved Pumpkins Last Longer
Preserving Your Jack-O-Lantern
Pumpkin Decorating Ideas Like You Never Seen Before!
Easy No Carve Pumpkin Decorating Ideas
Pumpkin Carving with a Drill (You have to see these beauties!)