Care and Feeding of Brick Siding

Having brick siding installed on your house gives it a classic look. Unfortunately, a lot of people view brick as an install-it-and-forget-it option and allow that look to deteriorate over time. Brick homes require basic maintenance and care just like vinyl and wood siding do, though the specifics of maintenance may be a little bit different. It’s just like with anything: If you want the look, you have to put in the work to keep it up.Fortunately, maintaining your brick isn’t that difficult. Even better, the maintenance you do now can help prevent your brick siding needing major repairs in the future. So long as you’re willing to put forth a little effort, you should be able to keep your home looking great for years to come.

Cleaning Your Brick

The brick on your home is exposed to the elements on a 24/7 basis, and the rough surface of most bricks make them ideal for picking up dust and dirt. This can lead to damage over time, so once or twice a year you should take the time to clean your bricks. Most of the time this is as simple as spraying them down with a garden hose to remove any dirt and grime that’s built up on your home, though particularly tough spots and areas may need a scrub brush with soapy water as well. Avoid the temptation to use a power washer as the high water pressure can damage the brick.

Vegetation and Mildew Removal

While some plants such as ivy provide what some consider a dignified look, any vegetation that grows on your brick will damage it. Remove any vines, moss or other plants that you notice growing up your brick wall, making sure to wear gloves in case the plant is something that you don’t want to touch like poison ivy. You should also periodically check your brick for signs of mildew or mold, both of which can damage the brick surface as they grow. Scrub the area where you notice these growing, spraying them with a diluted solution of bleach and water to kill off any remaining remnants or spores. It’s a good idea to wet down the brick before you spray it, though, as this will prevent bleach from collecting in deeper contours of the brick and causing discoloration.

Checking for Damage

There are two types of damage you should check for at least once per year when you have a brick home. The first is impact damage, resulting from something hitting the brick and causing cracks, chips or other damage to it. This can come from a variety of sources, including things as ordinary as a lawnmower throwing a rock. The second type of damage to look for is water damage, which occurs when rain or splashing water repeatedly hits an area of the brick and starts to wear it away. Both of these can damage not only the bricks but the surrounding mortar as well. When damage is found, scrub the area to remove any loose material and keep an eye on the area to see if the damage gets worse over time. If the damage is caused by splashing water or other environmental issues, you might also adjust your landscaping or install additional drainage to redirect water and prevent further damage.

Repointing and Repair

As brick and mortar become damaged, you may need to make repairs from time to time. If the damage is just to the mortar, scrape and chisel away any damaged portions and apply new mortar to the entire area where wear and damage is present; this is typically known as repointing. If there are bricks that are damaged to the point that they need to be replaced, chisel away the mortar surrounding those bricks until they can be removed. Apply fresh mortar and new bricks to fill the damaged area.

Getting It Just Right

If the thought of replacing bricks or mortar intimidates you, we can help. Sign up for HomeKeepr today and we’ll help you find the masonry professional that can get the job done exactly the way you want it.
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What Color Should I Paint My Walls for the Best Return?

Painting your home is a great way to express yourself and let your personality shine through in your living space. The colors you choose for your rooms can really bring them to life in ways that few other changes can. However, a fresh coat of paint can do more than just give your rooms some personality. With the right colors, the paint you choose can even increase the likelihood that your house will sell at a good price when you put it on the market. To maximize this effect, there are a few colors you should consider (and a few you should avoid.)

Picking the Right Color

If you’re looking for a good color to apply throughout the house, consider a light shade of gray or beige. Both of these colors help to liven up rooms by adding just a bit of color but are neutral enough to let each room’s other accents take command. If you want something a bit different, taupe or so-called “greige” colors (mixes of gray and beige) can also work well. Some off-white colors, especially those with hints of brown or other warm shades, can also brighten up your rooms. Many of these colors pair well with white or beige baseboards and trim.

Good Kitchen Colors

If you’re going room by room, the kitchen is a good place to add a bit of darker color. Darker grays and grays mixed with darker blue shades do well in the kitchen; in fact, some reports have shown that homes with a gray-blue shade in the kitchen sell for an average of $1800 more than similar homes with other kitchen shades. Depending on the size of your kitchen and the amount of wall that’s actually visible behind the cabinets and appliances, you may be able to get away with hotter colors such as deep red or dark orange. Just avoid going too bright with whatever color you choose.

Living Room and Bath Colors

The living area and bathroom both benefit from more neutral shades such as beige and gray, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change things up in some cases. Consider the flooring and other fixtures as well as the amount of natural light that comes into the room and look at colors that take advantage of what’s already there. Light green, blue or brown can sometimes work wonderfully, especially if they include hints of gray to keep them from being too bright. You can even choose a bit stronger blues in the bathroom as homebuyers tend to respond well to blue there, just so long as you don’t go for too bright of a shade.

Bedroom Colors

Blue is a popular bedroom color, especially in shades such as cerulean. There are several bold color choices that you can get away with in the bedroom, though. Don’t go crazy with the bedroom colors and avoid anything that’s too bright – but giving the bedroom a splash of color in blue, green or even red or brown can work well so long as it’s not too much of a departure from the rest of the house.

Colors to Avoid

There are, of course, a few colors that you should avoid when painting your walls. Anything too bright or garish should obviously be avoided since it could turn off potential buyers. Black is another color to avoid; not only do many people find it depressing, but it will also be difficult for future homeowners to cover up. Also on the list of colors to avoid? Bright white. You might think that this would give your home a clean look or make it ready for a new homeowner to customize, but bright whites (especially when paired with white trim) often create a clinical look that actually makes buyers less interested in the space.

Making the Choice

If you’re not sure which colors will work best in your home, consider bringing in an interior designer or painter to help you pick the perfect hue. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today and you can find the perfect helper for your budget and your sense of style.
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Halloween Decor Trends

Decorating for Halloween is a tradition that many families take part in year after year. As with most traditions, though, the decorating trends that dominate Halloween change from time to time. Giant inflatables and laser light shows were all the rage just a few years ago, but now things are starting to shift a bit more toward subtle. The over-the-top Halloween decorating style will likely never fully go away, of course; there’s at least one house in every town that goes all out with its display and people always love it. If you’re looking for something simpler (and easier on the power bill), here are a few trendy options to keep in mind.

Candles

With the right candleholders, basic white candles can add a spooky ambiance that hearkens back to older Halloween traditions. Specialty candles are available that are carved to look like bones or horns as well. No need to go overboard with effects-candles, such as those that “bleed” when lit; just a few tapers burned to different lengths and then extinguished serve as the perfect subtle candle accent to your other decorations.

Pumpkins

What would Halloween be without pumpkins? While the traditional jack-o-lantern is still great, there’s an increasingly common trend to display uncarved pumpkins as well. White pumpkins are also seeing an upswing in popularity to really help set your decorations apart from the norm.

Halloween Wreaths

Also seeing an increased popularity are Halloween wreaths. Coming in a variety of styles, these wreaths have a lot more room to experiment than more traditional Christmas wreaths because of the generally spooky nature of the holiday. You can DIY a wreath yourself or buy one of multiple pre-made varieties to give your home a really unique Halloween look.

Lighting and Signs

Halloween lights have been growing in popularity in recent years, providing a decorative option that can be enjoyed even once the sun goes down. Signs, both lighted and non-lighted, are also firmly establishing themselves as Halloween must-haves. Combining the two can give your home a unique look that neighbors can enjoy both during the day and after the night descends.

Window Décor

Instead of going all-out with inflatables, animatronics and big clunky pieces made of plastic and rubber, an up-and-coming trend is to make use of silhouettes in front of plain curtains to give your decorations a more subtle flair. Some homes even take this a step beyond, using white sheets or similar coverings on the interior windows and then using creative lighting and figure placement to actually cast shadows onto the waiting windows. The shadow puppet feel gives the effect an extra layer of spookiness.

Black and White and Purple Trappings

While black and orange are the dominant colors of Halloween, a big trend in recent years has been to move away from the orange and embrace the holiday’s darker tones. White is used for contrast, with the predominant colors in decorations being black and dark purple. Splashes of other colors may be added as well, but the black, white and purple theme is definitely striking.

Zombie Flamingos

While there has been a move away from some of the cheesier parts of the holiday, the kitsch of putting zombie flamingos on your lawn is a bit too fun to ignore. There are a variety of styles of flamingoes available ranging from silly to gory, giving you plenty of room to find birds that match both your personal tastes and decorating style. Best of all, they can be mixed with a few traditional pink flamingos to give everything a splash of color while totally buying into the Halloween fun.

Need Some Halloween Style?

If you’re not sure what sort of decorations would look best with your home, consider consulting a decorator who has experience with Halloween trappings. Not only will they help you pick the best décor options, but they’ll aid you in choosing accents that go perfectly with both your home style and the decorations you choose. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account and get matched with the decorator you’re searching for today!
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Mike Holmes: Assess your windows now, before we get deep into the winter season

Here are some of the signs you’re ready for some new windows

But one other important function is their ability to keep your home from leaking its treated, comfortable air into the outdoors. Some windows will be much better at this than others. Whenever you’re planning upgrades for your home, I always say to focus on your building envelope first. By working on the outside FIRST, you’re taking steps to protect what’s inside your home – and make it more energy efficient, too. This is good time of year to assess your windows, before we get deep into the winter season, and your HVAC has to kick in to overdrive. Here are some of the signs you’re ready for some new windows. They’re difficult to operate It shouldn’t take all your strength just to open and close your windows to let some air in. If they don’t work like they used to, such as not opening smoothly, or getting stuck in the track, you’re likely ready for new windows. For true accessibility, windows should only require one hand to operate. Casement and awning windows that open and close with a crank are easiest to use for any homeowner, and you don’t risk accidentally slamming the windows shut. All windows should also come with good locks for added security.
They start to ‘cry’ When the temperature outdoors stats to dip and your heat kicks in, do your windows develop condensation? Don’t whip out the tissues just yet – but if this is a recurring problem, it could be indicative of bad windows. Don’t rip out the windows just yet because there are a few potential causes of weeping windows. Condensation on windows can be caused by a lack of ventilation in the house. If a house is very well sealed, and lacks mechanical ventilation such as an HRV or ERV, or even a bathroom ceiling fan, humidity levels can get too high. Cooking, showering and doing laundry all add humidity to the home. Ideally, relative humidity in the home should be kept between 35% and 45%. First, turn down your humidifier by about 10 percent and see if you still get that buildup. Take a look at the seal around your windows, and replace old, worn, or missing caulking as necessary. It could solve the issue completely. If the condensation appears between panes of the window, odds are the airtight seal meant to stop heat transfer is broken, and it’s time to replace them with new windows. If you’re totally stumped over the cause – a home inspector can help you find the source of your moisture issues. They have visible damage Your windows are constantly exposed to whatever Mother Nature can throw at it. Freezing rain, ice, sleet, high winds, and even UV rays can start to affect the health of your windows. Look out for things like cracks in the window glass, or visible signs of water damage. Even the best windows and frames can eventually submit to the elements. Check your frames for instances of warping, mould and rot. If they’re starting to show major signs of damage, it’s time for new windows. Don’t underestimate the importance of curb appeal when it comes to selling your home in the future. Not only does adding new windows add monetary value to your home by making it more energy efficient (not to mention cheaper to heat) – good looking windows can also wow potential buyers, making your home sell that much more quickly. They’re just plain old Finally, old windows just don’t do the job the newer, more energy efficient models do. If your windows are seriously old, you might be looking at single pane units instead of double or triple paned glass. These single paned windows don’t offer any insulation or soundproofing, and are totally energy inefficient. That means your HVAC system is going to have to work that much harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. And you’ll be seeing that effort on your monthly energy bills. Think of all that extra money and energy you’re throwing down the drain with inefficient units. Investing in new windows will offer serious long-term savings on your energy bills.
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The Post-Inspection Negotiation Two-Step: What You Can Expect

As with a lot of problems, the answer is a resounding “It depends.”

Gauging Severity

One big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.

Loan Program Requirements

Beyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.

Negotiating Repairs

In the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)

Market Strength

The strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.

Need Some Help?

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
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Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) & Air Exchange Systems

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) & Air Exchange Systems There are some commonly asked questions about the installation, maintenance and operation of home ventilation systems. If you have others, please contact us and we'll be happy to answer them. Why is proper ventilation in my home so important? Controlling Moisture Levels in your home – Moisture comes from cooking, bathing and breathing. Too much moisture may not only cause condensation which can damage the structure of your home but also provides a breeding ground for mould, mildew & bacteria. Ridding your home of pollutants and Contaminants –construction materials used in new homes and furniture as well as regular household products may release toxic fumes and gases that contribute to poor indoor air quality and possible health issues.​ How is a Heat Recovery Ventilation System different from a regular air exchanger? Both Air Exchangers and HVR systems move old, stale air out of your home and draw fresh air in. The difference is that an air exchanger expels heat – as well as your money! A HRV system transfers (recovers) as much as 80% of the heat energy from the out-going air to the clean fresh air coming in. Good for the environment and for your wallet. Can a HRV system be installed in an older home? Yes. Clean Air Solutions will install a ventilation system that is custom fit for your home. How do I maintain my ventilation system once it’s installed? Regular Maintenance of your HRV system is required to keep it working properly. In fact an improperly serviced HRV may not only contaminate the incoming air​ but also reduce the transfer of heat energy from 80% to as low as 20%. How do I adjust the HRV settings? Clean Air Solutions recommends these settings for your HRV system: Spring | Mid-June Turn your wall control to a high setting (above 70) Fall | Mid-October Turn your wall control back to its regular setting (usually 45) Every 3 Months Remove & Clean Filters Clean Exterior Vents Annually Book a 10 Point Service Plan appointment with Clean Air Solutions Will a HRV work with all heating systems? Yes. It is independent of the heating system in the house. Are there health benefits to installing a HRV? According to Health Canada, 1 in 4 Canadians have reported health problems linked to poor indoor air quality. Indoor pollutants can contribute to health issues such as allergies, headaches, fatigue, asthma and other respiratory conditions. Removing contaminated air from your home and bringing in fresh air can alleviate these symptoms. Does the same air get recycled? No. There are two vents: one draws the warm stale and polluted air from the living areas of your home through the HRV system to be released outside. The second draws a continuous stream of cool fresh air in through the system to be distributed throughout your home. The ducts run side by side and only the heat energy is transferred from one to the other. How much does it cost to install a HRV system? The cost to install a HRV will vary depending on the size of the home, whether it’s newly constructed or requires retrofitting, the complexity of the installation, etc.
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SMART HOMEOWNER 13 Etiquette Rules All Good Neighbors Need to Follow!

Because civilization is built on neighbors being civilized to each other.

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The tourist rings the doorbell to check in to the room he has booked or the student with the backpack returns home after classes at the institute or on vacation.

If you have a problem, talk to your neighbors first

Does your neighbor’s music keep you up at night? Are their kids bothering your dog? Talk to them. Having an in-person confrontation can feel scary, particularly if you need to say something you’re worried your neighbor won’t like, but talking things through face-to-face should be the first thing you try, says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “Go with a polite, non-confrontational attitude and you might be surprised how well most people respond,” she says. “Also, a plate of cookies never hurts.” If talking face-to-face doesn’t work try these 12 steps for dealing with bad neighbors. As a last resort, escalate issues to your HOA or local authorities.
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Neighborhood watch sign in a sunny Midwest suburb.

Have a neighborhood safety plan

“Wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes—you never know what will happen these days and if you ever get stuck in an emergency situation your neighbors are going to be the people you turn to first,” says Julie Bowman, MPH, emergency preparedness and public health expert. This is why it’s so important to set up a safety plan with your neighbors, she says. It can be as simple as printing out a map and marking where people are who will need help―like the elderly—to as complex as a neighborhood watch program or more. What you need will vary by community but start with these tips for making your own neighborhood plan from the National Crime Prevention Council. This is what to do if your neighbor’s tree has grown into your yard.
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Family Outside House On Moving Day. cardboard boxes foreground near steps

Look for ways to help neighbors instead of seeing them as problems

Does your elderly neighbor have an unkempt yard? Does the single mom next door always leave her garbage cans out? Are the kids unruly at the bus stop? Instead of gossiping or complaining, reach out and see if you can find a way to help—for instance, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, bringing her trash cans in when you bring in yours, or offering to stand outside with the kids until the bus comes. “Often there are very simple things you can do to solve the problem and not only will you brighten someone’s day but there may come a time when you need help and you’ll want your neighbors to be there for you,” Gottsman says.
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Happy boy and dad with a ball on the basketball court

Smile and wave

Thanks to the Internet we’re interacting with people around the world more than ever but that may mean we’re also interacting much less with the people right next door to us. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to change that, says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. “A smile, a wave, a brief exchange of pleasantries, can inspire a lot of goodwill with your neighbors,” she says. It doesn’t take much and makes the neighborhood a much happier place overall.
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Group of smiling mature women drinking tea at balcony

Learn your neighbors’ names

This is Good Neighboring 101 but you’d be surprised how many people have lived next to someone for years and don’t know the first thing about them. Good neighbors will make the little extra effort to learn their neighbors’ names and a few things about their lives, like how long they’ve lived in the area, where they work, or if they have kids or pets, Tsai says. The payoff can be great. It will make you feel more connected to those around you but it can also help make your neighborhood safer—neighbors who know each other are more likely to watch out for each other. One of the best defenses against a home break-in is a neighbor who knows your schedule and notices something out of the ordinary. Check out 15 more ways you can be a good neighbor.
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Woman gathering dog poo in park

Pick up your dog’s poop

“It’s just plain rude to leave dog excrement in public neighborhood areas or in other people’s yards,” says Erin Askeland, certified pet behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. “Not only is it rude, but it’s also gross; dog excrement can transmit diseases, damage plants and grass, and, let’s be honest, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell.” Good neighbors understand that it is their responsibility as pet owners to clean up after their animals, she says.
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People fist bump hands sign power supportRAWPIXEL.COM/SHUTTERSTOCK

Give your neighbors the benefit of the doubt

Do the teens next door have crazy hair and tattoos? Does the neighbor across the way practice a “weird” religion? Does the guy next door drive a big white van? Instead of assuming your neighbors are hoodlums, terrorists, or serial killers, give them the benefit of the doubt, Gottsman says. This doesn’t mean ignoring when people do bad things or putting yourself in unsafe situations, it simply means seeing people as people first and looking for other possible explanations for their behavior besides negative ones. You don’t have to be their best friend but you should treat them with respect and kindness, no matter what, Tsai says.
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County style wooden fence.

Maintain your fences

“Good fences make good neighbors” isn’t just a cute Instagram quote, it’s really good advice as having appropriate boundaries—both physical and personal—can head off many of the typical neighbor fights, Tsai says. “It’s totally fine to say no sometimes. In fact, saying yes to everything your neighbors ask of will likely end up negatively impacting your relationship due to resentment and exhaustion,” she explains. Start with these 10 ways to build trust with your neighbors.
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Attractive young woman using a laptop while relaxing on a sofa at home

Don’t fight with your neighbors on social media

Keyboard warriors are everywhere these days, using neighborhood apps and social media groups to share their indignation over everything from politics to teenagers trick-or-treating to dog poop. While this might garner you a lot of support, it doesn’t do much, if anything, to solve the problem and just marks you as a complainer, Gottsman says. “Hiding behind a keyboard is a very passive-aggressive way to deal with problems you may have with your neighbors,” she says. If you have a problem with a particular neighbor, talk to them offline and certainly don’t call people out by name on social media, she says. If your issue is more widespread—say a dangerous intersection by a bus stop—you’ll get better results calling the school, the bus company, the HOA, or the police directly. Besides, engaging on social media in a negative way could make you one of these real-life nightmare neighbors.
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Excited Children Arriving Home With Parents

RSVP promptly to invitations

If your neighbor is kind enough to invite you to their picnic, birthday party, game night, graduation party, or another event then you should be kind enough to give them a prompt answer, says Emilie Dulles, a protocol expert and founder of Dulles Designs. Unfortunately, it’s become very common today for people to either not RSVP at all or to hold back on responding, waiting to see who else is coming first, but this makes it very hard on hosts, she says.
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Male Multi Generation Family Sitting On Steps in Front Of House

Mind your manners

We often reserve our best manners for people we’re trying to impress, like a boss or potential partner, and let them slide when we’re at home. While it’s fine to be more casual with your neighbors than your coworkers, you should always be polite, Tsai says. This means saying “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me” and other niceties. Even if you find them annoying or rude, set a good example. Civilization is built on people being civilized to each other! Do you know these 10 things your neighbors won’t tell you?
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man and woman working on their computers. the view from the top. two laptops, two persons.

Stay positive about your community online

Neighborhood apps, Facebook groups, and community message boards have replaced the backyard fence of older days, becoming the main way neighbors share information. These can be a great tool, as long as you remember your manners online as well. “The whole point of these groups is to build community and camaraderie so keep your posts and comments positive and productive,” Gottsman says. “Before posting something, ask yourself, ‘What is the benefit of this?’ and ‘How would I feel reading this?’” And if someone is mean to you online? “Take the high road and simply reply, ‘Let’s discuss this in person,’” she says. Can you guess the things your neighbor wants you to STOP doing?

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Street of residential houses

Do your best to follow community rules

Many fights between neighbors start over a disagreement about the rules and how someone is or isn’t following them. Most of these can be avoided by simply doing your best to abide by the standards set by your neighborhood, Gottsman says. Whether that’s taking down holiday decorations by the end of January or not playing music outdoors after 10 or keeping your garbage cans out of sight, these were things your neighbors have decided are important so you should make a good faith effort to follow them, even if they seem silly to you. If you live in an area with an HOA, these rules were likely spelled out in your signed contract. Otherwise, you might have to dig a little deeper to figure out what the expected norms are in your neighborhood.
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Crawl Space Care: Insulation, Ventilation, Encapsulation, Oh My!

Updated on July 31st, 2019
Crawl spaces are often out of sight and, consequently, out of mind, making them easy to neglect. But don’t “space out” on your crawl space! Without proper care, your crawl space is susceptible to moisture, heat loss, pests, and a host of other complications. These common problems can damage your home’s foundation, cause sky-high energy bills, and introduce toxins to the air you breathe. With as much as 40 percent of the air in your home originating from your crawl space, learning to care for this area plays a big role in your health and the long-term health of your home.
crawl space

What is a Crawl Space?

A crawl space is a small space, ranging from one to three feet in height, that resides between the bottom floor of your home and the ground. A crawl space provides extra room for electrical wiring, plumbing components, and HVAC equipment. As the height of the crawl space is limited, getting into the area must be done by crawling, either on the stomach or the hands and knees (hence the name). For those searching for homes, or who own homes in close proximity to water or swampy areas, like Florida, exploring crawl spaces can be a necessary part of a home inspection.

What’s the Difference Between Crawl Space vs. Basement?

Crawl spaces are typically used in damp climates, where the ground is regularly too wet for basement construction. Supporting the home off of the ground keeps it away from moisture that could cause damage. In coastal areas where the soil is sandy, a crawl space can alleviate potential basement problems, like excessive water buildup that could put pressure on basement walls. Crawl spaces are also sometimes preferred in construction when a basement is too costly. Installing a crawl space is cheaper than installing a basement. crawl space A basement is a popular type of foundation that can add space and functionality to a home. Basements are often used as storage space, living areas, or both. A basement combines elements of a slab and crawl space. The floor in a basement is very similar to a slab, and the support system used under the basement floor is the same as what is used in a crawl space. Although basements can be a great addition to a home, they cannot be built in areas with high moisture levels or unsettled soil. They also happen to be the most expensive type of foundation to build.

Crawl Space Solutions for Common Problems

Problem: Moisture

Homes with poor ventilation are more susceptible to crawl space issues than others. Without regular evaluation, you may not know there is a problem until it’s too late. Signs of excessive moisture throughout the home are often readily noticeable, but signs of moisture in your crawl space may be harder to detect. Unfortunately, moisture in a crawl space can be just as problematic, causing complications such as mildew, dust mites, mold, and wood rot. When there is nowhere left for moisture to go within a crawl space, it can then travel into your insulation, flooring, and walls to create even larger problems. Crawl spaces with exposed dirt most commonly have trouble with an excess of moisture.

Solution: Vapor Barrier

A vapor barrier is one of the best ways to protect your home against the encroachment of moisture. Essentially a large plastic sheet placed over the base of a crawl space, vapor barriers are intended to fully cover any exposed dirt. While this doesn’t completely eliminate moisture, it does slow the process significantly. At 50 to 70 cents per square foot, sheet plastic is a cost-effective barrier for moisture in your crawl space. A vapor barrier can be a DIY project if you’re willing to get down and dirty, but the labor that goes into covering the entire ground area can be challenging to accomplish on your own. You’ll need a friend to help you pass the rolls of sheet plastic back and forth through the crawl space, or if this sounds too labor-intensive, a professional contractor may be the way to go. man in crawl space

Solution: Encapsulation

If a vapor barrier alone isn’t enough to tame moisture and ventilation problems, encapsulation can be a great alternative. The first step in this process involves a vapor barrier coupled with sealing tape and coverage of walls and ceiling areas. A complete encapsulation includes drain tile, a sump pit and pump, concrete, insulation, and a dehumidifier to properly condition the air. While placing a vapor barrier can be done independently, encapsulation is best handled by a professional. The installation process takes expertise, and installing a dehumidifier is best left to a trained technician. Hiring a contractor for this work costs about $5,500 on average.

Problem: Energy Loss

A crawl space isn’t a livable part of the home, but insulation is still important to keep the heat in. Crawl spaces can be a major source of energy loss. If you find yourself running your furnace all winter long, driving up high energy bills, yet still feel cold on the ground floor of your home, your crawl space could be the issue. If your crawl space isn’t properly insulated from the cold, you could be wasting energy and driving up your utility bills. Cracked Foundation

Solution: Insulation

Insulating your crawl space depends on the general climate in the area. In warm or dry areas, insulation can be limited to just the area between the floor joists. However, in subfreezing temperatures, insulating the walls and sealing off the crawl space is most effective. A professional can evaluate the state of your crawl space, make a recommendation, and handle the insulation process.

Problem: Pests

Rodents and insects can be a problem anywhere in your home, and a crawl space is no exception. Crawl spaces can easily become a dwelling for pests if they are not properly maintained. Since most homeowners do not spend much time in their crawl space, it may be harder to determine if there is a pest problem. Pests such as mice, rats, termites, carpenter ants, spiders and more have the ability to damage insulation, crawl through vapor barriers, dig into wood, and even tunnel into your main living spaces.

Solution: Pest Control

Proper crawl space maintenance, including encapsulation, can keep your property safe from pests. When all entrances and exits are sealed, the possibility of rodents and insects gaining entry to your home is almost impossible. If you do see signs of pests, partnering with an exterminator can treat problems at the source.

Crawl Space Inspection Checklist

A crawl space inspection is typically included in a standard home inspection when buying or selling a house. This is an area where issues tend to arise and can throw a wrench in the home sale. Both home sellers and buyers should be aware of the state of the crawl space in order to mitigate any potential problems prior to the sale. Here are the red flags that professionals look for during a crawl space inspection:
  • Electrical wiring issues
  • Plumbing issues
  • Moisture (standing water, damp insulation or warped building materials)
  • Pests (bugs, termites, rats, mice)
  • Mold and mildew
  • Ventilation issues
  • Cracks in the foundation
As a seller, you may want to have your crawl space inspected prior to listing it on the market. That way you are aware of any issues and can have them fixed before the sale, or adjust the sale price accordingly. As a homeowner, maintaining your crawl space is critical to the health and longevity of your home. That means doing an annual inspection and attending to problems as they arise, as well as taking preventative measures to keep your house healthy. If crawling under your home doesn’t seem like fun, you can always partner with the pros and hire someone to ensure your crawl space is in good hands. With these tips and fixes, you can be sure this “foundational” part of your home is properly maintained for years to come.
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SIDING How to Replace Vinyl Siding

vinyl siding repair
Cracked or broken vinyl siding is no reason for despair. A simple $5 tool gets the job done in 15-minutes. This article also includes some useful tips on how to get the best match possible for your original siding.

15-minute vinyl siding repair with a zip tool

siding removal tool

Photo 1: A zip tool is the key

Slide the zip tool along the bottom edge to release the vinyl siding from the piece below it. This vinyl siding repair tip will save you loads of time.

How Do You Replace Vinyl Siding?

Vinyl siding repair is tough, but not indestructible. If a falling branch or a well-hit baseball has cracked a piece of your siding, you can make it as good as new in about 15 minutes with a zip tool and a replacement piece. It’s as simple as unzipping the damaged piece and snapping in a new one. Get this vinyl siding repair kit zip tool on Amazon. Starting at one end of the damaged piece, push the end of the zip siding removal tool up under the siding until you feel it hook the bottom lip (Photo 1). Pull the zip tool downward and out to unhook the bottom lip, then slide it along the edge, pulling the siding out as you go. Then unzip any pieces above the damaged piece. Hold them out of the way with your elbow while you pry out the nails that hold the damaged piece in place (Photo 2). Slide the replacement piece up into place, pushing up until the lower lip locks into the piece below it. Drive 1-1/4-in. roofing nails through the nailing flange. Space them about every 16 in. (near the old nail holes). Nail in the center of the nailing slot and leave about 1/32 in. of space between the nail head and the siding so the vinyl can move freely. Don’t nail the heads tightly or the siding will buckle when it warms up. With the new piece nailed, use the zip tool to lock the upper piece down over it. Start at one end and pull the lip down, twisting the siding removal tool slightly to force the leading edge down (Photo 3). Slide the zip tool along, pushing in on the vinyl just behind the siding removal tool with your other hand so it snaps into place. It’s best to repair vinyl in warm weather. In temperatures below freezing, it becomes less flexible and may crack. The downside of replacing older vinyl siding is that it can be hard to match the style and color, and siding rarely has any identifying marks. The best way to get a replacement piece is to take the broken piece to vinyl siding distributors in your area and find the closest match. If the old vinyl has faded or you can’t find the right color, take the broken piece to a paint store and have the color matched. Paint the replacement piece with one coat of top-quality acrylic primer followed by acrylic house paint—acrylic paint will flex with the movement of the vinyl.

Required Tools for this How to Remove Vinyl Siding Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY how to remove vinyl siding project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
  • Pry bar

Required Materials for this How to Remove Vinyl Siding Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
  • Zip tool
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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5 Home Projects You Should Tackle Before You List Your House By Ashley Carter

increase your resale value
Image via iStock
Your home is a major investment, and it’s something that you want to get the most from when you move on. Don’t let minor flaws get in the way of your profits. Something as simple as picking up toys in the yard or clearing away your collection of soda bottles can make a major difference in how potential buyers feel about your home. Add these projects to your checklist if you want to make a good first impression and sell your home for top dollar.

Paint for Neutral Ambiance

Neutral colors are the most appealing choice for home buyers. Painting is a big job, and something that many buyers don’t want to tackle right away. Bold colors are entirely a matter of personal preference. You may love that deep teal on the walls, but it will be more difficult to connect with prospective buyers when you’ve chosen such a distinctive hue. Instead, paint your home in shades that are easy to match, such as eggshell, tan, white or pewter.

Upgrade for Energy Efficiency

Smart homebuyers look at more than the up-front cost of the home. They’ll also consider ongoing expenses such as utilities and upkeep. That’s why Energy Star appliances and newer HVAC systems are so appealing. If you don’t have the funds for these major investments, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency on a budget by sealing and insulating. Address cracks or gaps around windows and doors. Replace the seals around doors and windows, repair any damage to the siding, and check your insulation.

“Sealing your home everywhere you can makes a big difference, not only in your energy bills, but in the comfort of the home,” said Julie Jacobson, a Redfin real estate agent in California. “Inexpensive weatherstripping available at your local hardware store will do the trick. Your local utility company or county may even offer rebates and incentives for making these upgrades.”

Clean Up for Spacious Impressions

Cluttered homes look smaller and hectic. Clear the odds and ends, and make your home look as much like a showroom as possible. If the idea of organizing all these items is too overwhelming, simply box them up and stash them in unseen areas, such as under the bed. You may even want to rent a small storage space while you’re staging your home so that you can clear out your closets and show off their spacious nature or empty the garage and make it look more appealing.

Landscape Carefully for Curb Appeal

First impressions are critical when you’re selling your home. Many prospective buyers will do a drive-by before scheduling a viewing. If they don’t like what they see from the street, they’ll never step inside the home. Keep your yard well maintained with manicured bushes, carefully tended flower beds, and a clutter-free lawn. Small improvements such as painting the front door, straightening the mailbox, and replacing that missing stone in the walkway will go a long way toward enticing a buyer.

Polish Up the Bathroom for a Like-New Look

You don’t have to remodel your whole bathroom for the same level of appeal. At a minimum, you should recaulk the tub for a fresh, clean look. If you can’t eliminate stains and discoloration completely, reglaze the tub to make it look like new. Keep this room meticulously clean, regularly sweeping up stray hairs, dusting light fixtures, and cleaning the mirror so that it looks pristine.

A well-staged home will draw more buyers and entice the type of bidding war every seller wants. Make the effort to present your home well, and you’ll reap major rewards for your efforts.

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