Putting your home into “Vacation Mode”

multi-tasking-momWe made it past July 5th and summer is in full swing here in the Pacific Northwest! For many of us, this is the time when we not only get out of the house, but get out of the town where we live to enjoy a summer vacation. While I am a big proponent of hitting the road and leaving my troubles behind me, there are a few things that need to be done in advance of any travels in order for me to be able to truly relax and let go. Before I can put myself in vacation mode, I must first put my house in vacation mode. So, here is my pre-departure checklist which allows that laissez-faire feeling to remain long after my return home.

 

Clean, clean, and yes, clean

I know, there is already tons to do before you leave; how are you also supposed to find time to clean the house? You’re stressed about getting packed on time, making sure all your travel arrangements are made, reservations are set – but trust me, there is nothing like coming back to a shiny, fresh home. Your future self will thank you for this gift.

  • Clean out the fridge/freezer – no one likes coming home to the smell of rotting food.
  • Take out the garbage & recycling – again, no smell is a good smell.
  • Leave cleaner in the toilets – do I have to repeat myself about smells?
  • Do all the laundry – clothes from the trip can go right in the basket when you get back. And since it will not be full, you can put off throwing a load in the wash for a while.
  • Put fresh sheets on the bed – after sleeping in strange places it’s nice to not have to worry about what’s under the covers.

 

Give yourself (and your insurance company) peace of mind

Whether you are taking off for a week or a month, it is worth eliminating all need for worry about the state of your home. If no one is going to be there, then no one is going to need to use anything that is plumbed or wired. And let’s face it, there is nothing worse than coming home to an unnatural home disaster.

  • Unplug the small things – you’re cleaning your house anyway right? So why don’t you put that curling iron back in the bathroom drawer and wind that cord around the toaster. It’s tidy and safety all in one go!
  • Lower your bills – turn the water heater to “vacation mode” and turn off your thermostat. No need to have these running while you are away; plus, that’s a few more dollars allotted to the travel funds.
  • No pools in the house – turn off water valves to major appliances like your washing machine, dish washer, etc. Better yet, if you can, turn the water off completely via the main shut off valve.
  • Check the weather – if extreme weather is forecast for the time you are away, make sure your house and yard are ready to endure it.

 

Don’t worry, be happy

We all know there are people in this world who feel the need to make giant messes and take things that don’t belong to them. And where better to partake in these activities then in a house that is currently unoccupied? Oh wait, maybe someone is home. Never mind, let’s try somewhere else.

  • Lights on, lights off? – I’m the kind of person that turns a light off every time I leave a room, but in this case, it may be worth leaving a couple on. Flood lights and interior lights on timers help your home maintain that lived in feel.
  • Business as usual – don’t make it obvious that no one is home. People do not normally leave all the curtains closed up tight (unless you a serious recluse… or a vampire).
  • Mail call – check in with your local post office before you leave and have them hold your deliveries until you return. Or have someone you trust pick it up for you. Don’t forget the paper.
  • Landscaping matters – if you are planning an extended trip, hire someone to come mow your lawn and water your plants. A neglected yard is a sure sign that no one is around.
  • What spare key? – if you are in the habit of leaving a key hidden around the outside of your home, please remove it and give it to a friend or neighbor in case of emergency.

All in all, common sense will go a long way in helping you prepare your home for vacancy. If there is something that could be a potential hazard, take care of it before you leave. The less you have to worry about, the more you get to enjoy your time away from the every day.

Here’s Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist:

 

Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Gutters top to bottom: Water in the wrong spots can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this task yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a gutter guard system.

If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.

Check for leaks: The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. Mark any spots that you find and then hire a roofing specialist to repair these leaks. What you don’t want to do is wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.

Don’t forget the basement. Check your foundation for cracks, erosion, plants growing inside, broken windows, and gaps in window and door weathering.  Make sure to properly seal any leaks while the weather is nice. This will ensure materials dry properly.

Pest Prevention: Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least four feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website http://www.thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.

Maintain your heating and cooling systems: Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.

Insulate & seal: Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals placed behind the wall plates are a quick and inexpensive solution.

Posted in Living by Tara Sharp 

Posted September 16 2016, 2:00 PM PDT

3 Quick Maintenance Tips to Make Your Roof Last

Posted in Porch.com by Porch.com
Written by Peter Kim

A brand-new roof is a massive investment, but no other element of your home is quite as valuable. While the average lifespan of a roof is about 15 years, careful homeowners have a few ways to extend the life of their homes without enduring too many headaches. Take a look at these three quick maintenance tips that will make your roof last.

1. Keep Your Gutters Clear
Most people don’t think of their gutters as part of their roof, but allowing debris to accumulate and clog your gutters adds extra weight and pulls away at your roof’s fascia, which can be a costly fix. Look down the length of your roof for any signs of sagging or bending – that’s a sure sign your gutters are carrying too much weight and pulling at your roof. Downspouts should also be carefully maintained, but don’t be fooled by easy-flowing water. Moss and algae buildup on and around your roof can slowly eat away at your roofing material and severely compromise its integrity.

2. Focus On The Attic
The exterior of your roof isn’t the only area you should be focused on. Your attic is your roof’s first line of defense against damage and you have two methods of attack: insulation and ventilation.

Insulating your attic has the double benefit of keeping your home’s internal temperature at a more reasonable level while also preventing vapor and moisture buildup on the underside of your roof. When combined with proper ventilation (which may mean adding a fan to your attic), your attic can stay dry and keep your roof’s rafters safe from moisture damage.

3. Catch Problems Early
Check on your roof regularly, whether it’s with every change of the season or after a significant storm. Catching small issues early on can only save you money in the long run, so utilizing the services of a reliable, professional roofer is an invaluable asset. As with any working professional, it’s a good idea to establish a working relationship with a roofer and even consider scheduling a yearly checkup for your roof just to make sure there aren’t any problems sneaking up on you. After all, spending a little each year to maintain your roof is a lot better than dropping $15,000-$50,000 on a new one, right?

How Long Should They Last?

How long should they last?

Posted in Living by Tara Sharp

Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a life span, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades. (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the life span of many other items has actually increased in recent years.

Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB).

Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models, and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a life span of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.

Kitchen & Bath. Countertops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The life span of laminate countertops depends greatly on use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years. An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.

Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.

Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The life span of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.

Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishesConsumer Reports, advises against purchasing them. You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty.

Posted on Porch.com

Posted July 31 2015, 2:45 PM PDT by Porch.com

August Maintenance Guide

Posted in Porch.com by Porch.com

This article originally appeared on Porch.com

Written by Anne Reagan

August is a great month to enjoy the last part of summer. Days are hot, flowers are in bloom, and many people choose August as the perfect month to leave on one last summer holiday before the busy fall begins. If you enjoy working in the garden, you’ll find that August is a great time of year to harvest fruits and vegetables, trim back foliage and tend the soil. Watering may be occupying much of your time. You’ll want to read our tips about water conservation and ways to save water in the yard. If you have a swimming pool in your yard, or live near a body of water, be sure all of your guests know swimming safety basics. Sadly, children have a high rate of drowning or injuries related to swimming, and many of these incidents can be preventable. Read our swimming safety tips here.

Inside the home you might find it to be a good time to get organized before the fall. Cleaning out closets, donating unused items, and really cleaning under the bed can be a great way to get a handle on clutter. You might also want to make a “honey do” list of all the things around the home you haven’t had time to do. Hanging pictures, fixing a dripping faucet (watch our how-to video here), purchasing new water filters for the refrigerator….the list can sometime feel long. Take the time to find professionals in your area that can help you get these tasks done before the weather turns and days feel shorter. This is also a great time of year to book your winter-related professionals now like chimney sweeps, attic insulation specialists and tree trimmers. Put them on the calendar now and you’ll start the fall season feeling organized.

Here are some other tasks you can do this month:

Exterior

  • Check roof and replace loose/missing/damaged shingles
  • Replace any missing mortar (if your home is made of brick)
  • Seal chimney to prevent small animals from entering
  • Check AC refrigerant levels. If levels are low it could indicate a leak.
  • Repair cracks in your driveway/sidewalk
  • Locate & block any animal-accessible attic vents
  • Clean any mold/mildew growing on siding

Interior

  • Check/replace air conditioning filters
  • Check and replace humidifier filters
  • Turn the lead edge of fan blades downwards to push cooled air down
  • Clear out hair/other debris from sink & tub drains
  • Vacuum coils behind refrigerator

Landscaping

  • Continue to mow frequently and high to discourage weeds
  • Keep up with watering (in the morning is best)
  • Inspect your irrigation system for damaged sprinkler heads
  • Turn the compost pile and add water if necessary
  • Repair fences or gates
  • Trim trees in preparation for winter storms

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