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Steps to Prepare Your Fireplace for Use
As part of your seasonal home maintenance tasks, preparing your fireplace for the first use of the season should be included in a fall maintenance schedule.
Regardless of whether you intend to use your fireplace only a few times or daily, you need your fireplace to be well-maintained and clean. By taking these steps to prepare your fireplace for use, you can keep your home and your loved ones warm and safe all season long.
Why You Need to Prepare Your Fireplace
If your fireplace functioned well the last time you used it, you may question the need to take any additional steps to prepare your fireplace for use at this time. However, house fires can be caused by dirty or damaged fireplaces. Even though your fireplace appeared to work well during your last use, it is common for birds or rodents to build nests in the flue.
The last time you inspected your fireplace may have been a year ago during the last fall season. It can be risky to begin using the fireplace again without understanding its true condition. When you take these steps to prepare your fireplace for the upcoming season, you’ll feel confident as you enjoy its warmth.
1. Clean the Firebox
The firebox may be filled with ashes which can hinder your ability to start or maintain a fire. More than that, soot and creosote that have caked onto the sides of the firebox can be flammable.
This may not seem like a concern given that you will have a fire burning in this location. However, these materials can catch fire along with the logs you are burning, and it can get out of control quickly. Clean the firebox before starting the first fire of the season.
2. Open the Damper
The damper is located in the flue, and it opens so that smoke can rise up and out of the home. Make sure that the damper opens and closes fully as needed. If the damper does not function properly, it should be repaired before the first use.
By opening the damper, you may notice that debris from bird and rodent nests falls down. This is a sign that flue cleaning service is essential. Keep in mind that the debris that is used to make nests is usually flammable. Also, blockage in the flue can cause smoke to filter into your home instead of up and out.
3. Check for Signs of Damage
As you clean the firebox and open the damper, pay attention to the overall condition of the structure. When you prepare your fireplace for its initial use, any cracks, fissures, or other damaged areas must be repaired.
A professional should be called to inspect the fireplace and determine the best course of action. Repair work should be completed before your initial use of the season in order to protect your home and loved ones from harm.
4. Schedule Flue Cleaning Service
Your flue should be professionally cleaned annually and the best time for this service is before the first use of the season in the fall. A professional will clean the flue from the top of your roof and from inside the fireplace.
When your fireplace’s various components are dirty, damaged, or clogged you’re at a higher risk for a fire or experiencing smoke-related damage. If you intend to use your fireplace at all in the months ahead, now is the time to take these steps to prepare your fireplace for use.
Fall is Here: Learn How to Clean Gutters Safely
Of all the home maintenance tasks for this time of year, one that should be near the top of your list is cleaning your gutters. It’s not as bad as it seems, especially when you know how to clean gutters safely. If you use common sense and follow the rules, you can get this chore done efficiently and it won’t take up your whole day.
Don’t Put It Off
Cleaning the gutters can get you dirty and sweaty, but the results are worth the effort. If you don’t get your gutters cleaned before winter weather hits, you’re risking a slew of problems that could lead to expensive repairs down the road. For example:
• The gutters might become detached from the house. Gutters jammed with debris that’s wet and soggy will freeze in the winter and force the gutter away from the home, eventually sagging and falling.
• Clogged gutters overflow, causing a buildup of water near your foundation which leads to a leaky basement or worse, a crack in the foundation due to expansion from freezing.
• Stains can when gutters leak. Organic materials like leaves and sticks can stain your siding when they mix with water that’s not diverting away from your home.
Issues such as these are easy to prevent if you remember to clean your gutters during fall. Read on to learn how to clean gutters safely.
How to Clean Gutters Safely
Homeowners should already know that gutters need attention. You may have noticed this during the last rain when the gutters overflowed from not having been cleaned in a while. Water spilling over and leaking from them is a sure sign of a repair waiting to happen. That said, let’s take a good look at how to clean gutters safely.
You’ll be working above the ground and in a place where your safety is at risk if you’re not careful. Prepare to take all the safety steps before starting. The primary tool you’ll be using is a ladder. Use a step ladder if you’re working on a one-story home and an extension ladder for a two-story. In either case, make sure the ladder is on level ground and can’t slip out from under you. It’s best to have someone else at home whenever you are using a ladder.
• Before climbing up the ladder, have hooks and buckets ready to attach to the ladder to keep things close by as you need them. Never carry tools up the ladder where you could lose your balance and fall onto the tools.
• Wear only good shoes or boots with non-slip soles. You don’t want to risk losing your footing when you’re on a ladder.
• Wear safety glasses while you’re up there working. With leaves and sticks flying around, you shouldn’t risk having something land in your eyes.
• If you see power lines near you, consider hiring someone to complete this task instead. Professionals have more experience in these situations, and it’s worth it to spend the money to stay safe.
Get the Correct Tools Ready
Now that you have a good idea of the rules involved in learning how to clean gutters safely, it’s time to gather the required tools to get the job done right.
• It should go without saying that a ladder in good condition that’s tall enough for the job is essential. Also on the list of essential tools is gloves and safety glasses. Remember, you can’t be too careful.
• Mentioned earlier is the use of hooks and buckets to keep tools within reach but not in your way.
• A trowel and a screwdriver work great for scraping and removing dirt and debris that’s packed tightly inside the gutter.
• To keep things a bit cleaner around your home, a large tarp or a blanket comes in handy to catch falling debris as you move down each side of the house.
• Don’t forget to have your hose with a sprayer attachment ready to spray the gutters clean after you remove the piles of debris. Use the hose to clear out the downspouts, too.
Time to Get it Done
The steps to clean your gutters are straightforward and common sense applies every time in these situations:
• Place the ladder near a downspout and lay out the tarp or blanket underneath the gutter.
• Use your hooks to place an empty bucket near the top of the ladder, with your tool bucket hooked on the opposite side of the ladder and easy to reach.
• Clean out all the debris within easy reach and dump it into the bucket or let it fall to the ground onto the tarp or blanket.
• Move your way along toward the opposite end of the gutter system, cleaning as you go.
• From the opposite end, have your hose and sprayer ready to rinse away leftover dirt and debris.
• Check the downspout as the water drains out. It should work fine. If not, run the hose up the downspout to clear any clogs.
• Check and clean the downspout screen.
• Now, all that’s left is the cleanup.
Now that you know how to clean your gutters safely, you are better equipped to maintain this aspect of your home. Remember to keep this task on your calendar and complete it at least twice a year. Always follow safety rules and take your time.
6 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Fall
As fall approaches, it’s important to get your home ready for the cooler days ahead. There are probably many tasks you’ll want to get done before the weather sunny, warm weather disappears, but here are 6 things you should definitely complete in order to prepare your home for fall.
1. Clean Your Gutters
Although it can be a tough job, cleaning the gutters is an important way to prepare your home for fall. It’s a job that should be done every year so that you don’t experience big problems over the winter months. As you’re cleaning your gutters, you also have the opportunity to inspect the condition of your roof and chimney. You can check for damage or note any areas that might become a problem as the weather cools down and your roof is faced with snow, ice, and severe winter weather.
2. Fix Cracks in the Sidewalk to Prepare Your Home For Fall
As summer winds down, you should work on filling in any cracks in your sidewalk, patio, or other concrete areas to prepare your home for fall. This could be the last chance you have to do this before the sunshine and warm weather disappear.
3. Compost Leaves
As the leaves start to fall off of the trees, start composting them to save for your garden next spring.
4. Turn Off Outside Plumbing
If you have outdoor hoses, faucets, or other types of plumbing, you’ll want to turn them off and winterize them before cold weather causes them to freeze and burst.
5. Prepare Your Furnace
On the inside of your home, it’s important to clean and inspect your furnace so it will be ready to effectively heat your home. Replace the filters, make sure air vents aren’t blocked, and clean dust and debris away from the unit. Having an HVAC technician service your HVAC when the seasons change is always a good idea.
6. Inspect Windows and Doors
Another important way to prepare your home for fall weather is to inspect all of your windows and doors. Check the weatherstripping on all of your doors and windows so that cold air won’t enter your home and warm air will stay inside. You should inspect any caulking around your windows to see if it needs to be replaced and re-caulk them as necessary. You’ll also want to clean your windows so they will let in more sunlight. This will help warm your home up on cold days.
These are just a few of many things you can do to prepare your home for fall both inside and out. Taking steps to get your home ready to take on the cold weather is important so that you don’t run into problems once colder weather arrives.
7 Tips for Improving the Air Quality in the Home
Improving Air Quality in the Home for Better Comfort and Health
Air quality is important in every home. Everyone needs to breathe in clean air. Plus, when you walk into a home, you can immediately tell when someone is not proactive about improving air quality in the home. To make sure that you, your family, and your guests breathe clean air, make sure to practice these tips.
1. Avoid humidity.
Humidity can do a number on any building if you’re not careful. Humidity can lead to damp conditions and mold growth. To fight humidity, use a dehumidifier in various rooms of your house. Turn on the fan whenever you are taking a shower or cooking to help draw moisture from the air. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure that the temperature of your home is at a level where humidity can’t flourish. A consistent dehumidifying practice can help with improving air quality in the home.
2. Use indoor plants.
Indoor plants are effective for improving air quality in the home since they purify the air naturally. So, keep one plant for every thousand square feet in your home. An easy way to include indoor plants in your home is by using eucalyptus leaves. Purchase a few sprigs of fresh eucalyptus and hang it from the shower head in your bathroom. Not only will this release a pleasant smell, it’ll also do wonders for the improving the air quality in the home. You can also use plants like peace lilies, spider plants, and rubber figs in various rooms of your home. If you don’t have a green thumb, check out different tutorials online.
3. Clean regularly.
Make it a practice to regularly clean your home. If you have a lot of junk and clutter, it can create an unsanitary environment. This is especially true for rooms like the bathroom and the kitchen. Make certain rules mandatory like always keeping the sink wiped clean. Mop the floors on a consistent basis. Dust and wipe down surfaces regularly. Don’t let food clog up the disposal. As you put food down the disposal, add a few lemon slices to help sanitize and deodorize the disposal. Once you make cleanliness a habit, it is easier to maintain good air quality.
4. Avoid artificial fresheners and cleaners.
Even though cleanliness is important, make sure that you’re not using too many toxic cleaners to get the jobs done. Use eco-friendly cleaning products or make your own cleaning products from natural sources such as lemon, vinegar, and baking powder. It’s also a good idea to watch the number of air fresheners you use. Even though they can make the room smell good temporarily, they can also release toxins that are bad for human ingestion. Use essential oils and diffusers to naturally deodorize the room. If you choose to use candles, make sure that you don’t burn them for longer than three hours at a time, and purchase candles that are made out of natural materials instead of synthetic.
5. Open the windows every day.
Make it a habit to open the windows every single day for at least 15 minutes. This is a perfect way to allow fresh air to flow through the rooms. If it’s really cold outside, know that you don’t have to open the windows really wide to for this to be effective. If it’s really hot outside, wait until the evening hours when the sun sets and the air is cooler.
6. Change your filters.
Regularly change your HVAC air filters at least every three months, or more frequently if you have pets or if anybody in your home has allergies. When you change your air filters, you decrease the chances of circulating toxic air throughout the home.
7. Call the professionals.
It’s a good idea to make sure to have your HVAC system inspected on a yearly basis so it continues to work properly. Professionals can often spot problems that you cannot. It’s better to be proactive and stay on top of the systems in your home than to run into a potentially costly predicament down the line.
Improving air quality in the home is an achievable goal when you make adjustments to the products you are using and your home maintenance routine. Just follow the above suggestions and notice that you are breathing easier before too long!
How to Get Rid of Termites at Your Home
How to Get Rid of Termites: DIY Techniques
Termites are winged pests that feed on the wood in your home and cause structural and property damage. Five main types of termites exist: Dampwood, Drywood, and Subterranean are the three most common, but Conehead and Formosan termites also can be a problem. Any of these termite species can infest your home, but keep a close eye out for the Drywood termite that gains access to your home through tunneling underneath the surface. It is best to hire a termite inspector to inspect your home for termites if you suspect an infestation, but there are a few measures that you can take to help control the problem. Learn four DIY ways to get rid of termites below.
1. Sunlight Exposure
It is rare that you’ll see a termite during the day. The sun’s UV rays are deadly to the pest and they often die when exposed to sunlight for even short periods of time. As such, sunlight exposure is an excellent elimination technique that can help get termites out of wood furniture or other items they might have infested. Any items termites are feasting on can be placed in the sunlight for 3-5 days to kill off any pests inside.
2. Neem Oil
Neem oil isn’t the fastest-working product, but it does work and is non-toxic. It’s also one of the easier ways to remove termites from the home. Neem oil is an all-natural pesticide which disrupts the growth, feeding, and reproduction of an insect. Neem oil prevents termites from feeding on the cellulose and from laying their eggs. When the termite ingests the neem oil, it kills them instantly. To use neem oil to kill termites, apply the oil to a cotton ball and rub it on furniture and other items infested with the pests. The termites will ingest the oil and die.
3. Wet Cardboard Trap
Cardboard contains the cellulose that termites feed on so the wet cardboard trap is an effective way to get rid of termites. Simply gather a few corrugated cardboard boxes, soak them in water, and place them in locations where you suspect there are termites. When the termites discover and begin feeding on the box, it’s time to pick it up and destroy them. This is easiest done by burning the box.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth is a great pest prevention product, working wonders to keep termites and a variety of other pests away from your home. The product works by scraping the outer shell of the termite, causing the pest to dry out and then die. To use Diatomaceous Earth, put on a face mask and gloves and sprinkle it in thin layers over infested areas. It is good for the garden, the foundation of the house, and other areas where termites have been seen.
The four DIY termite prevention techniques above are reliable methods for controlling a termite infestation. We recommend using these techniques in conjunction with hiring a pest control professional.
Elite Home Inspections provides termite inspections for home buyers and homeowners in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana. If you are concerned about termites in your home, contact us today or schedule your appointment online.
Do You Know the Truth About Radon? Common Radon Myths Debunked
Radon testing in your home could potentially save a life. This odorless gas is found in soil and becomes a problem when it enters and gets trapped in your home. As the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., radon is very dangerous to anyone who is exposed to high levels of the gas, even for a short period of time. Despite what we know about radon, many myths about the gas still exist. These myths pose a serious threat to people who ignore the risk of radon in their home. Learn some of the most common radon myths and the truth behind the misconceptions so you can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of radon.
What is Radon?
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that causes more than 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. It is emitted from the earth’s soil, where it can then be transmitted into the home via cracks, windows, and other openings. When it enters the home, there is always cause for concern. Radon mitigation is possible but since the gas cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled, professional help is needed to detect and treat the problem.
Common Radon Myths Debunked
There is a good chance you’ve heard a few of the common radon myths before. Some people spread information with the full belief that it is accurate when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. It is important to educate yourself on the topic so when you do hear the myths, you’ll know firsthand that it is inaccurate. Your information could potentially help someone else. Some of the most common myths and the truth behind them include:
- Radon testing is expensive: Radon testing is affordable and well worth the peace of mind you will have from knowing what the levels are in your home. The most accurate way to test for radon is to have a professional home inspector perform the test. This service will cost a little bit more than purchasing a DIY kit, but it’s more reliable, and you don’t want to take any chances when it comes to your health.
- Radon isn’t a real threat: Some people say that radon isn’t a big concern and that it is not as dangerous as the EPA suggests. However, these misguided theories have been proven incorrect and inadequate numerous times. Studies have proven a direct correlation between radon exposure and lung cancer.
- Radon isn’t in my area: Whether you’re on the West coast, situated in the Midwest, deep in the south, or spread out over the east coast, radon is a serious threat to your home and well-being.
- My home isn’t at risk for radon: There is no particular type of home that is at a greater or lesser risk for radon than the next. No matter the size, the age, or location of the home, every home should be tested for radon.
Know the Truth
By knowing the truth about radon, you can protect your family’s health. Despite the many common radon myths that are out there, it’s important to take radon seriously and have your home tested. If you live in Louisville, Kentucky or the surrounding area, contact Elite Home Inspections to schedule a radon test.
4 Things to Consider when Choosing an Inspector for a Buyer’s Inspection
When you’re buying a home, having a buyer’s inspection performed is an essential part of the process. The home may look like it’s in perfect condition, but you need a trained and objective third party to inspect the home for any defects or safety issues. A home inspector will inform you about more than the state of the home during the inspection; he or she may also be able to tell you about what systems and components might need upgrades within a few years’ time. Choosing an inspector for a buyer’s inspection is not a decision to be taken lightly and it can make a difference in whether you decide to move in or keep on looking. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing an inspector:
What is the Home Inspector’s Reputation?
You should do some investigative work before hiring someone to perform your buyer’s inspection. Online reviews can be helpful, but you’ll also want to get references from friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers before you settle on a home inspector.
Are you Choosing an Inspector for a Buyer’s Inspection who is Certified?
Is the home inspector licensed by the state if your state requires it? Is he or she a member of or certified by a trade association like the American Society of Home Inspectors? Any of these is a good sign. Members of associations have to follow specific Standards of Practice and Codes of Ethics.
How Long Have They Been Performing Home Inspections?
If your home inspector has been in business for a long time, you can be sure that they’ve been serving the community and have likely encountered lots of situations over the years that will be helpful during your buyer’s inspection.
What is Included in the Inspection Report?
While it’s always a good idea to attend your buyer’s inspection and get to know your potential new home firsthand, your results are going to come in the form of an inspection report. Many inspection reports are delivered digitally over the web and include numerous illustrative pictures that expand when clicked upon for even more detail.