Cleaning Your BrickThe 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 RemovalWhile 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 DamageThere 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 RepairAs 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 RightIf 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.
Picking the Right ColorIf 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 ColorsIf 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 ColorsThe 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 ColorsBlue 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 AvoidThere 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 ChoiceIf 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.
Learns from You: The Nest, $249Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)‘s biggest draw is its ability to learn your schedule. It will adjust over time so your house is at your preferred temperature throughout the day. You can buy optional Nest sensors to place in different rooms so you can target the temperature to the sensor you prioritize at different times, although they lack motion sensors to automatically tell where you are. The Nest is consistently one of the top picks on review sites and gets higher than four stars in customer reviews across multiple retailers. Check out these other smart home devices you’ll love. Check out these 10 gateway smart home products. Buy it now on Amazon.
Built-in Smart Speaker: ecobee, $249ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat includes a built-in, fully-functioning Alexa. The thermostat comes with a temperature sensor with motion detector so the thermostat can target occupied rooms; additional sensors cost $79 per two-pack. A combination of geofencing (in other words, where your phone is) and the motion sensors let the thermostat know whether you’re home. It won’t learn your schedule like the Nest, but you can program home, away and sleep events. This thermostat is consistently a top pick among professional reviewers. Learn more about the history of smart home technology. Here are 10 ways to make sure your smart home devices are secure.
Budget Pick: Honeywell, $199Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat with Sensor comes with one motion-sensing temperature sensor so you can target the temperature to occupied rooms; you can buy additional sensors for $40, or $75 for a two-pack. It uses geofencing, but only to tell when you’re not home, and you can set a schedule, but this thermostat won’t learn your schedule like the Nest. This model, and the older Honeywell Lyric T5, are frequent budget picks on review sites. Correct these 10 air conditioning mistakes you can’t afford to make.
Keep in MindBefore you pick a smart thermostat, evaluate your home’s setup to make sure a specific thermostat will work for you. It may be helpful to know top problems with smart home technology. Mind the C-wire: Most smart thermostats require a C-wire, or common wire, connected to the HVAC system to provide a return path for power to the thermostat. An existing C-wire isn’t always in the wall, especially in older homes. You can install a C-wire or adapt your setup if you want to install a thermostat that requires a C-wire. Will it work with your HVAC?: Check the types of heating and cooling systems a thermostat is compatible with before you buy. If you have dual zones in your home, or separate heating and cooling systems, see whether you’ll need multiple thermostats. Other integrations: If you already use smart home devices, see whether your chosen thermostat integrates with your ecosystem, or if it will require additional setup. Learn how to install a programmable thermostat.
Gas HeatAs the name implies, gas heat means that your system produces heat by burning a flammable gas (typically propane or natural gas). Depending on where you live, the gas either comes from a city-supplied utility line or a standalone tank that sits on your property. The heater functions by adjusting the gas passing through the heating chamber to make flames larger or smaller, controlling the amount of heat the flames release into the air that passes through the chamber. Propane heat may also come in other forms, such as gas fireplaces that serve a decorative purpose, as well as providing localized heat.
Forced AirA forced air system is one that uses fans or other blowers to move air over a heating element and throughout the heating system’s ductwork. These are some of the more common heaters that you will encounter, as variations of forced air heating is used in most central heat and air systems and in many portable heaters.
Baseboard RadiatorsThere are a few different types of baseboard radiators that you might encounter. These heaters sit at or around floor level around the edges of a room, generating heat and allowing it to rise naturally throughout the room or house. Different materials are used in these heaters, with more modern varieties using pipes filled with heated oil to hold and radiate heat at a lower power cost than similar heating options like older, electric floor radiators.
Radiant HeatAn increasingly popular option for heating the home comes in the form of radiant heat flooring. A closed liquid heating system is embedded in concrete or other flooring material, heating the floor itself and allowing that heat to radiate upward naturally to provide gentle heat over a larger area without the need for high energy costs. There are a wide range of radiant heat options available, including everything from electric heating to systems that are heated from a wood stove outside of the home.
Solid Fuel HeatersAlso referred to as “pellet stoves” or “biomass heaters”, solid fuel heaters are stoves or other heating units that burn solid materials such as wood pellets or shavings instead of liquid or gas fuels. This is seen as something of a green option for homeowners who want to use wood and other materials that would otherwise be considered waste by the forestry industry. The fuel pellets or shavings are loaded into the heater and released into the burning chamber gradually, providing more control over the temperature and heat intensity than you would have with traditional wood-burning stoves.
CHP SystemsAn emerging technology, “combined heat and power” or CHP heating systems are designed to be another environmentally-friendly heating option. These systems use a generator that produces power for the home or other buildings on the property, then reclaims heat energy released by the generator to heat the home. These systems are not yet available in all areas and may not be for everyone since they do provide more than just heat. For those planning for the future, however, keeping an eye on CHP systems may be a way to heat the home while simultaneously reducing dependence on external power.
Turn Up the HeatIf you aren’t sure what type of heating system is best for your needs, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for free and we can help you find a professional that will match you with the heating solution that best fits your home and budget.
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. 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: MoistureHomes 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 BarrierA 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.
Solution: EncapsulationIf 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 LossA 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.
Solution: InsulationInsulating 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: PestsRodents 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 ControlProper 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 ChecklistA 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
What Causes Black Mold on a Bathroom Ceiling?Mold on the ceiling is caused by moisture that has no where to go. Mold loves moisture. Steam from hot showers and bathtubs rises to the ceiling, and without proper ventilation it can settle there. If the moisture remains too long, mold spores begin to grow. In addition to being unsightly, mold can also cause health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can cause “nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation…or skin irritation.” And even more alarming, serious lung infections can occur in people with weak immune systems. Is black mold deadly? Find out what is true versus what is myth when it comes to mold.
How to Clean Mold From a Bathroom CeilingTo clean mold from the ceiling, wash the affected area with a store-bought mold cleaner, or a mixture of dish soap and water. Let the area dry. Now it’s time to get out the big guns to kill the mold—bleach. Mix one-quarter cup of bleach with one quart of water and apply the solution with a spray bottle or sponge. Remember when working with bleach to crack a window for ventilation and wear gloves and eye protection. If you prefer to not use bleach, white vinegar can also be effective. Apply straight vinegar to the area with a spray bottle and allow it to sit for an hour, then wipe the area clean and allow it to dry. Are you making these 10 bathroom cleaning mistakes?
How to Clean Mildew From a Bathroom CeilingThink of mildew as mold’s less threatening cousin. They’re both fungi, but mildew is not as invasive and is easier to clean because it only lives on the surface. Mildew is usually light gray or white in color and has a flat, powdery appearance. To clean it from your bathroom ceiling, simply wipe it with a damp cloth sprayed with any household cleaner. You can use a bathroom cleaner specially formulated to clean mildew, or white vinegar will also do the trick. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water, spray the mildew, and wipe away. Here’s how to use essential oils to get rid of that mildew smell.
How to Clean Mold in the Shower or BathCleaning mold from the shower or bath can be done with the same methods used on the ceiling. Clean the area with a household bathroom cleaner first, then use either a bleach solution or vinegar to kill the mold. To prevent mold from growing in the shower or bath again, keep the bathroom ventilated and control moisture as much as possible. Use a bathroom exhaust fan, crack a window when showering, and make sure to wipe away any leftover moisture with a squeegee. Take further measures by keeping a spray bottle full of vinegar in the bathroom, spray your bath and shower after use to prevent mold growth. Psst! Now that you know how to clean black spots in the bathroom—prevent mold and mildew from growing back with an exhaust fan. Here’s how to clean your bathroom exhaust fan to ensure it’s running properly.
Adding a DIY fire pit to your backyard is an excellent way to keep the fun going long after dark.
Instead of an unsightly dirt fire pit, spend a day making a new statement piece for your yard. If you’re wondering how to build a fire pit — we’ll show you how!
When selecting and building your DIY fire pit, make sure you avoid using wet stones. If you are using river rocks, be sure to give them several days of direct sunlight to properly dry.
1. In-Ground DIY Fire PitThe in-ground fire pit is becoming increasingly popular among DIY fire pit builders. Before digging into the ground, make sure you call 811, the federally mandated “Call Before You Dig Number.” Someone will come to mark the approximate location of any underground lines, pipes, and cables so you can dig safely. Once you dig your fire pit to the desired size, line the dirt walls with stones or brick. Follow these additional steps to get started:
- First, want to create a bottom layer of gravel, then cover it with the “bottom” of your fire pit — larger stones or bricks or an even covering such as quick drying cement.
- Be sure to have drainage or it will turn into a mosquito pond.
- Create your top rim by making small cutouts in the dirt for your bricks or stones.
- Finally, dry stack your desired additional layers, or create a small wall using fire resistant adhesives or quick drying cement.
2. Overlaid Stone DIY Fire PitFor an artistic-looking fire pit, instead of evenly shaped bricks, grab several unique rough rocks, and construct an overlaid stone fire pit. If your pieces are hearty enough (pictured is Pennsylvania Blue Stone) you won’t need any cement for this pit either — but use common sense when building up your walls. Here are some additional tips to secure your structure:
- If the stones do not feel secure, add in some non-flammable masonry adhesive, landscape adhesive or Liquid Nails.
- For the center, line the bottom of your fire pit with one or two inches of sand.
- The outside of your fire pit should be lined as well, and no grass or other yard matter should be within two feet of your pit.
3. Tin DIY Fire PitUsing whatever barrel-shaped scraps you can find, you can create this all-in-one tin fire pit. Tin fire pits are extra safe as they ensure your fire is adequately contained, and are much preferred in areas with wide open plains and active winds such as El Paso. You can spruce up your repurposed tin barrel nicely with some high-heat paint (like Rust-Oleum) and stencils.
4. Gravel DIY Fire PitThere is no digging required for this DIY fire pit design! Select some handsome gravel for your foundation, spread it out to create your overall fire pit space, then stack your fire pit stones. The fire pit pictured was built with crushed concrete rock with some additional aesthetic details. The pit’s stones ought to be more than heavy enough to be dry stacked — no need for adhesive or cement. Hang some outdoor lights above your fire pit to finish off your welcoming ambiance for backyard guests.
5. Raised DIY Fire Pit with Fire BowlIf you want an elevated fire, this is an ideal design for you. You can build up your fire pit walls to the desired height (only use even bricks for this design, not the rough stones mentioned above) and then top off with a fire bowl. Ensure that your fire pit is the proper size for the bowl by building the first layer of the wall around the screen top of your fire bowl. When purchasing a fire bowl, make sure it has holes for drainage in the center (dumping out fire bowls filled with water is a hassle).
6. Grate Drum DIY Fire Pit
For a less formal, down-home fire pit look, simply add a smoker fire basket (sometimes also called a vertical drum) to the mix. You can either buy one pre-made, or you can craft one yourself using flexible metal grating from the hardware store and a few bolts to fasten it into a circle. Quite a few Hometalk DIYers like to use old washing machine drums, which cost about $10 from used appliance stores. Then insert your drum into the center of your fire pit. If you choose to build a solid wall design like the fire pit pictures, make sure you leave a drainage route for rainwater.
Whichever style you choose, just make sure you enjoy responsibly. Hometalk breaks down all the necessary safety precautions before, during, and after building your fire pit in “Stop! Your Must Have Handbook for Building DIY Fire Pits.”