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Common Causes of Mold in the Home
Indoors or outside, mold and moisture go hand in hand. Outdoors, mold is an important type of fungi that helps with decomposition. In the home, mold is unsightly, destructive, and unhealthy, especially for those with mold allergies. This article explains the common causes of mold in the home.
Poor Ventilation in the Bathroom
Bathrooms often get warm and steamy after showering. This humidity creates the perfect conditions for mold to grow. Over time, you may notice discoloration on the ceiling and walls or in the grout between shower tiles. Help prevent mold in the bathroom by installing a ventilation system or simply opening the bathroom window for 10-15 minutes after bathing.
Moisture in the Crawlspace Can Cause Mold in the Home
If your home has a crawlspace, you have an environment conducive to mold growth. The reason being most crawlspaces have exposed earth that allows groundwater to seep in. The area doesn’t have to flood for moisture to accumulate.
Reduce moisture beneath your home by maintaining proper drainage away from the foundation, installing a moisture barrier, and sealing the exterior of your home’s foundation.
Unrepaired Leaks Lead to Mold in the Home
Don’t ignore leaks under sinks, behind toilets, and beneath appliances like the fridge, dishwasher, and washing machine. Small puddles of water are enough to cause mold in the home. The same is true of roof leaks. The best way to prevent roof leaks is with regular maintenance. Check frequently for cracked or missing shingles and replace them. Keep gutters clear of debris to prevent roof damage.
Homeowners often overwater houseplants. This practice is not only bad for plants, but it can also cause mold growth in and around the plants. Houseplants should only be watered when the top inch or so of soil is dry. If you notice a fuzzy white layer on the soil, you have mold growing that will release spores into the air. Scoop the moldy layer away and replace it with fresh soil.
Leaving Spills on Carpets and Rugs
You may not think too much about a small amount of water or other liquids that get spilled on rugs and carpets. But even the smallest puddles can cause mold in the home. The liquid seeps into the fibers and dampens the padding, creating the perfect environment for mold. Blot up spills on carpets and rugs right away.
Wet Clothing Left on the Floor Contributes to Mold in the Home
As family members shower and rush out the door, damp items often get left in piles on the floor. Encourage family members to hang wet clothing and towels to dry before putting them in the laundry bin.
Stacking Firewood Indoors
It’s convenient to have a stack of firewood indoors, but as freshly-cut firewood ages, it releases moisture. Only bring firewood inside if it has been seasoned for six months after being cut.
4 Types of Wood-Destroying Insects
Termites are the most well-known wood-destroying insects, but there are others that can cause damage to your property. To best protect your home, familiarize yourself with common wood-destroying insects that may infest your home.
Wood-Destroying Insects Include Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees are often confused with bumblebees. They have a round body that is similar in size to bumblebees, but their abdomen is shiny and hairless. Carpenter bees tunnel and build their nests in wood that is usually free of paints, sealants, and stains. Because they tend to use the same galleries every year, the damage to an area becomes worse over time if it isn’t repaired. Painting, sealing, and staining wood surfaces will help discourage carpenter bees.
Bark beetles prefer to attack trees that are damaged or diseased. A bark beetle will bore through the bark of the tree. Bark beetles can be a nuisance in log cabins or homes with rustic wooden furniture with bark. The bark beetle is dormant during winter months, so inspect for them during warmer weather.
Carpenter Ants are Common Wood-destroying Insects
You may confuse a termite with a carpenter ant. However, there are some distinct differences. A termite has a wider wingspan than a carpenter ant. The body of a termite is elongated while the carpenter ant looks like a typical ant. Carpenter ants tend to make their homes in the walls of a building. Once they have made their nest, they produce enough moisture rot wood. If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation, call a wood-destroying insect inspector. When an infestation is found, correct the problem by replacing the rotting wood.
The powderpost beetle will turn wood into powdery dust. Homeowners that use salvaged wood tend to have the most problems with this type of insect. Salvaged materials, like old barn wood, should be inspected and treated before coming into the home. Powderpost beetles will damage anything made from wood, from picture frames to musical instruments.
Uses of Thermal Imaging in Home Inspections
Thermal or infrared imaging technology is used by some home inspectors during an inspection. A thermal imaging camera produces a color image showing the amount of thermal energy an object is emitting. This provides a trained inspector with information about the condition of the property. He or she can find problems that are not visible to the naked eye. Thermal imaging in home inspections provides insights to the homebuyer by helping to find certain issues in the home.
Thermal Imaging Helps Find Moisture in a Home
Unless you find a puddle or can see water damage, leaks can easily go unnoticed. With infrared imaging, your inspector can examine a water stain to determine if it’s an active moisture problem or an old stain. A lower temperature might indicate a current moisture problem.
If your home inspector suspects mold, thermal imaging can help find the source by detecting water leaks behind walls that would be difficult to identify without this technology.
Detecting Electrical Hazards With Thermal Imaging in Home Inspections
Infrared imaging can find problems with wiring that may be a potential electrical fire hazard. Your home inspector will use a thermal camera to examine the walls or electrical panel for hot spots. During the scan, dangerous hot spots are displayed as warmer colors on the camera.
Locate Areas of Defective or Missing Insulation
An infrared camera is used to detect uneven heat distribution. It can find areas of missing, defective, or inadequate insulation in a home. Uninsulated or under-insulated spaces will show as cooler areas on an infrared image so the homeowner knows where the insulation needs to be replaced.
Energy Efficiency Issues
Leaky window or door seals can be found using thermal imaging. The camera will register a difference in temperature around doors or windows where there are air leaks. An infrared camera shows the home inspector areas where the seals around doors and windows need to be replaced.
How to Reduce Humidity at Home
Humidity in the home is uncomfortable and can cause your energy bill to increase. As the humidity levels in your home rise, your HVAC has to work harder to cool the area. Eliminating excess moisture from your home takes time and attention. Here are a few simple steps you can follow in order to reduce humidity at home.
1. Cover Your Crawlspace to Reduce Humidity
The crawlspace is an entry point for moisture in the home. Reduce humidity by covering the dirt floor with a plastic vapor barrier. Make sure there is no standing water or damp soil in your crawl space. Use fans to increase airflow and help keep the area dry.
2. Use Exhaust Fans Throughout the House
Another easy way to reduce humidity at home is to use ventilation fans. Rooms like bathrooms and the kitchen tend to have higher humidity and benefit from the use of exhaust fans. Run the fan when cooking or showering to remove moisture and discourage bacteria and mold growth.
3. Use a Dehumidifier
Dehumidifiers are an effective option for excessively humid homes. If humidity levels in your house are 60% or higher, a dehumidifier is a good investment. A portable dehumidifier in a damp living space pulls moisture from the air. Keep the unit clean and empty the reservoir when it is full. Another option is to install a whole-house unit to reduce moisture throughout the home.
4. Grow Plants to Absorb Humidity
Certain plants are natural dehumidifiers. Plants like the Boston fern reduce moisture in the air. You’ll be adding more oxygen as you dehumidify your home. With the plants in the home, you will enjoy a more comfortable environment with cleaner air.
5. Dry Your Clothes Outside or in the Dryer
If humidity is an issue, don’t leave wet clothes to air-dry inside the home. While this may be an inexpensive and effective way to dry your clothes, it also adds moisture to the indoor environment. Reduce humidity at home by drying your clothes in the dryer or on a clothesline outdoors.
6. Take Colder Showers
Hot showers increase the amount of humidity in your home. Cooler showers are more appealing during the summer months and help to limit the amount of moisture that lingers in the air. If you’re showering with humidity levels in mind, take shorter, cooler showers.
Uncomfortable levels of humidity can be resolved with the right tools and techniques. Use the above tips to reduce humidity at home.
Addressing High Radon Levels in the Home
Radon is a radioactive gas that is created as uranium breaks down in rocks and soil. Radon enters into homes through cracks in the foundation or utility openings. Since houses are enclosed and doors and windows are often shut, radon can build up indoors. Exposure to high radon levels is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. It is important to test for radon in the home and take steps to lower unsafe levels.
Testing For High Radon Levels in the Home
Radon testing is the first step toward identifying and correcting any issues. The gas is challenging to detect because it does not emit any odor or taste, and it is colorless. Hire a professional to test for high radon levels in the home. Their training, experience, and knowledge will deliver the most accurate results. Also, professionals use superior devices which are more accurate and reliable than DIY home testing kits.
Mitigation for High Radon Levels
Mitigation refers to the process of reducing high radon levels in the home. It’s critical to hire a radon mitigation professional to reduce radon levels because DIY tactics often backfire. Some methods include using pipes to suction the radon away from the home, sealing cracks to prevent more radon from entering, pressurization, and installing heat recovery ventilators.
Dealing with high radon levels in the home can be challenging. Hiring a professional will simplify the process and correct the issues in an effective and timely manner.
5 Benefits of a Pre-Listing Home Inspection
Why Order a Pre-Listing Home Inspection
It is common for a home buyer to schedule a home inspection. Sellers can also benefit from having their home inspected before listing the property for sale. A pre-listing home inspection can be used to more accurately price your home, avoid surprises, and help you decide which repairs to make before listing.
1. Avoid Surprises
After living in a home for many years, you know that it isn’t perfect, but you might not know of specific issues and their order of importance. A pre-listing inspection will inform you of potential problems so you can avoid unpleasant surprises when the home is inspected by the buyer.
Problems like a hidden roof defect, foundation issue, or termite infestation can derail a closing. These surprises affect the value of your home, can interfere with the buyer’s ability to get a mortgage, and potentially cause the buyer to walk away from the deal.
One of the primary benefits of a pre-listing home inspection is uncovering potential issues so they can be addressed before the home is shown to buyers. Depending on the results of the inspection, you might choose to make repairs or updates to your home or change the price of your home to account for any issues.
2. Time to Fix Problems
If the inspection reveals items that need to be repaired, it’s best to find out early in the process rather than in the middle of escrow. A pre-listing home inspection gives you plenty of time to fix issues so you can make smarter decisions about home repair. When you aren’t under a time crunch, you can shop around for the best price from a contractor.
3. DIY Repairs are an Option
When the pre-listing inspection turns up minor issues that can impact your home’s value, you have the option to tackle projects on your own. Once you are negotiating with a buyer, they will likely require that you bring in a professional, even for simple fixes. This can cause easy, inexpensive projects to become more costly.
4. Reduce Negotiations
By eliminating surprises and addressing any needed repairs before the home is listed, you can shorten the negotiation process by taking defects off the table. This helps you gain the upper hand in negotiations by removing the buyer’s justification for price reductions, repairs, and other concessions.
5. Accurate Pricing
One of the most challenging aspects of selling your home is choosing a price that is fair and will help your home sell quickly. When your home is priced correctly, you get the most money possible and a quick offer. A pre-listing home inspection helps you set a reasonable price for the property being sold.
Keep Your Home Warm and Reduce Your Energy Use
When it comes to heating your home, it’s easy to forget about the cost involved when you need to increase your energy use. If you’re looking for a few ways to save extra money during winter, here are a few tips to follow to help keep your home warm while saving energy
Close the Curtains
Use thick blackout curtains to block cold air from coming in through the windows. The curtains will act as an extra layer of insulation and are affordable to purchase. You can also open the curtains in the morning or midday to let sunlight into the house as a free way of heating up your home.
Check for Air Leaks to Keep Your Home Warm
The exterior doors on your house may be drafty, which can increase your energy usage as warm air escapes the building and cold air seeps inside. Caulking the windows and doors will prevent drafts and help keep your home warm. Use weatherstripping tape around the doors to seal up any gaps around the sides or underneath.
Turn Down the Thermostat
Turning the heater off during the day may seem like a good idea, but it’s not efficient and won’t keep the home warm. Opt for turning down the thermostat at night when your family members are sleeping and warm in bed. You can also turn it down when you leave on vacation or when the home is unoccupied throughout the day to increase your savings and reduce your energy usage.
Installing a programmable thermostat is the easiest way to adjust the thermostat based on your routine. A smart thermostat takes it a step further by learning your family’s habits and automatically lowering the thermostat when everyone is away. You won’t have to worry about adjusting the device throughout the day or knowing everyone’s schedule.
Increase Your Insulation to Keep Your Home Warm
If you want to keep your home warm, opt for adding insulation to the attic where heat can escape during the colder months of the year. Go into your attic and check for areas where insulation is missing. Attic insulation can be installed by an experienced DIYer, but it is important to wear protective gear.
Order an HVAC Tune Up
The heating system requires attention before the start of every season that it will be in use. Have an HVAC professional come for a tune-up to help the system run more efficiently by making adjustments and repairs as needed. Also, clean ducts and a fresh air filter will help air move through the home easier and use less energy.
There are many ways to keep your home warm throughout the winter season while also reducing your energy use. By using these tips, you can keep your home comfortable while reducing your energy bills.
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.