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6 Ways to Have a Safe Fire Pit
Gathering around a fire is nice and cozy, but can also be dangerous. Backyard fires can get out of control and cause a disaster. Important factors to think about are location, fuel, and safety equipment. In order to have a safe fire pit, consider these 6 important tips.
Types of Wood for a Safe Fire Pit
Some woods are better to burn in a fire pit than others. Never use treated lumber because it releases toxic fumes when burned.
One of the keys to having a safe fire pit is burning seasoned hardwoods like hickory and oak. Hardwoods don’t pop as frequently as softwoods, like pine, so there are fewer stray embers that could land on you, your yard, or your house.
Never Leave Your Fire While it’s Still Burning
This tip may be obvious, but never leave your fire pit unattended. You’d be surprised at how many people walk away from the fire without thinking about it. Once you’re inside the house, you may even completely forget that you have a fire burning.
Unattended fires are especially dangerous if your area has been dry. All it takes for a fire to spread is for a few embers to fly out of the fire pit and land on a pile of dry leaves.
Place the Fire Pit in a Safe Place
Whether you’re planning on owning a portable or permanent fire pit, a safe location is essential. An important tip is to place the fire pit 10 to 20 feet from any structure or tree.
You should also never place your fire pit underneath low hanging branches that could potentially be ignited by the flames. One of the best ways to contain the fire is to build it with non-flammable materials like rocks or bricks.
Be Prepared with an Extinguisher
Even if you have a safe fire pit, keep an extinguisher close by. If you don’t have access to an extinguisher, a bucket of sand will come in handy if the fire gets out of control.
When the fire pit is completely cool, safely dispose of the ashes into a metal can. A metal container is safe for the ashes in case any are still warm.
Wear Safe Clothes
Clothes made of rayon and cotton are highly flammable and can be dangerous to wear around a fire pit. Baggy clothing like nightgowns and sweatshirts can also pose a threat to you. If your kids are around, make sure their shoes are tied so they won’t trip and stumble.
Seating Arrangements for a Safe Fire Pit
Make sure everyone sits a safe distance from the fire. Sitting too close to it can lead to burns. One way to keep people at a safe distance is to install permanent seating around your fire pit that can’t be moved closer.
5 Simple Ways to Reduce Cooling Costs This Summer
Each summer seems to get hotter. That means that we are spending more money to cool our homes every year. The good news is that you have control over your energy consumption. With a few simple tips, you can reduce cooling costs this summer and stay comfortable.
Maintain the Air Conditioner
Air conditioning makes up the bulk of your summer energy costs. If you are running an older, inefficient air conditioner, you are throwing money away. Maintain your AC to make sure it is operating effectively all season. Have your system serviced in the spring so it will be ready to use when the weather gets hot. Change your air filters monthly to improve air quality and help the unit run more efficiently. Upgrading to a new AC unit altogether will pay for itself in energy savings.
Use Fans to Reduce Cooling Costs
Using ceiling fans and other fans throughout your home will circulate the air, creating a wind-chill effect. This means that you won’t have to set your thermostat as low and can save money. Use fans in the busiest areas of your home and you and your family members will feel more comfortable.
Close the Curtains
As the sun pours in through the windows, it heats everything in the room. Even if you have newer energy-efficient windows, you can still benefit from using curtains to block the sun’s rays. Close the curtains on the east side of your home in the morning and on the west side in the evening to block direct sunlight, keeping the interior of your home shaded and cooler.
Reduce Cooling Costs With a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats are a great way to reduce cooling costs this summer. Programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home throughout the day, so you can use more efficient settings when you’re not home. A smart thermostat allows you to control your air conditioner remotely. If you are gone from the house all day, you can raise the temperature when you leave and lower it before you return home using a smartphone app.
Use a Dehumidifier
If you live in an area with high humidity, a dehumidifier will help reduce cooling costs. Humidity makes your house feel warmer than it is. If you reduce humidity levels in your home, you can increase the temperature of your thermostat and feel just as comfortable. A hygrometer measures moisture in the air. If your humidity levels are above 50%, you will benefit from using a dehumidifier in your home.
Reduce Cooling Costs this Summer
These simple tips can save you hundreds of dollars this year. You will be glad you made the effort when your utility bill is lower and you feel comfortable all summer long.
5 Questions to Ask Your Inspection Professional
There are many reasons to order a home inspection before closing on the sale of a house. The most obvious reason is to find out about any hidden problems that will need to be fixed once you assume homeownership. Another benefit is that you can ask your home inspector questions about how to take care of the house and keep it safe. Here are 5 questions to ask your inspection professional.
Ask Your Inspection Professional About Necessary Maintenance
Different homes have different maintenance requirements. After completing the home inspection, your inspector will have a good idea of what it will take to maintain the house. Ask your home inspector what maintenance tasks and services he or she recommends and how often they should be completed.
Components like the gutters and the HVAC system will need regular attention, along with other areas and systems. Your inspector will give his or her best advice specific to your house, based on the details in the inspection report.
Where is the Electrical Panel and the Water Shut-Off Valve?
Ask your home inspector where certain key areas are in the home, like the water shut-off valve and the electrical panel. It is important for every homeowner to know where these are located.
You may need to turn off the water main or shut off the power under certain circumstances. For instance, you may want to turn off the water if you are going on an extended vacation, or shut off the power if you experience a flood.
Are There Any Improvements I Should Make for Energy-Efficiency?
Unless the home is already LEED-Certified, there are likely improvements that can be done to make it more energy-efficient. After performing a thorough home inspection on the house, your home inspector will be able to pinpoint areas that can be improved for energy efficiency.
The deficiencies making the house less energy-efficient might include gaps found around doors or a 15-year-old HVAC system. If you become the owner, it’s in your best interest to address these issues. You’ll not only be more comfortable, but you’ll also save money on your utility bills.
Ask Your Inspection Professional if a Certain Problem is Common
Your home inspector will detail all of the problems found in the home in your inspection report. He or she will go over them with you and explain the severity. To help with understanding the issue, ask the inspector if it is a common problem. If it is unusual, it might be more difficult to figure out the cause.
Do I Need to Have the Home Tested For Hazards?
Some homes have a higher risk of hazards like asbestos, lead-paint, radon, and mold. Ask your inspector what kind of testing he or she recommends for the house to make sure it is a healthy environment. The inspector may offer some types of testing or can refer you to a specialist.
9 Features to Customize Your New Home
There are many possibilities when it comes to building a house. Let’s look at some of the best features to customize your new home. Talk to your builder and discuss how to make these ideas part of your dream home.
Create a transition space between your outside and indoor environments. A mudroom is a place for people to take off their shoes and coats before entering the kitchen or other living spaces. Use cubby holes to store towels, sports equipment, shoes, and boots. Install hooks to hang umbrellas, hats, and rain jackets.
You might create a combination mudroom/laundry room near the back door. This makes it easy to wash dirty items immediately without bringing them to a different area of the home.
Customize Your New Home With Extra Storage Space
One of the most important features to consider when building a new home is storage space. A cluttered home occurs when you don’t have enough space to put away your belongings. Add a walk-in pantry for the kitchen. Install extra drawers and cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. Have your builder include large closets in the hallways and bedrooms.
Modern living requires plenty of electrical outlets for laptops, phones, and tablets. Have your builder add extra outlets in the living room where you’ll install the TV, in outdoor seating areas, and along the wall in the kitchen.
Choose an Open Floor Plan to Customize Your New Home
An open floor plan allows for greater versatility. For instance, you can cook in the kitchen and keep an eye on children playing in the family room. This type of layout is also great for hosting parties and entertaining friends. Your home will feel more spacious and inviting.
Reduce your utility bills before you move in by having your builder install appliances that save on water consumption. Choose energy-efficient washing machines, toilets, and showerheads so your family uses less water from the first day in the new house.
An outdoor kitchen is an excellent feature to customize your new home. You can enjoy it for years to come. You can have a grill, cabinets, refrigerator, and even a pizza oven outside.
Energy-Efficient Doors & Windows
Your windows and doors play a big role in the look of your home. They also contribute to how much energy your home consumes. Plan ahead and install doors and windows that are energy-efficient. The result is a more sustainable home with lower power bills.
Customize Your New Home with a Large Kitchen Island
Install a large kitchen island and make it the centerpiece of the room. Add a rack above it to hang pots and pans. Include extra storage space with plenty of drawers and cabinets. Install outlets on the island to provide a place for the kids to do their homework as you cook. This feature adds convenience and encourages more family time.
Smart Home Technology
Simply adjusting the thermostat at strategic times or turning off the lights when you’re not using them saves energy. However, it’s easy to forget these important tasks. Make your new home a smart home. With smart technology, you gain the ability to automatically control lights and the thermostat with your smartphone. Adjust the temperature while you’re at work and before you return home.
How to Declutter Your Home
Spring is a great time to declutter your home. Decluttering can feel overwhelming, but here are a few things to do before, during, and after the process. Before you start your annual spring cleaning, use these tips to declutter the house first. Prepare to Declutter Your read more
6 Small Signs of Major Home Problems
Most people believe that major problems in the home are obvious, but this isn’t always the case. Something that seems minor often leads to major issues. Homeowners should watch out for small signs of major home problems. The following are some signs that should get your attention and be investigated.
A Door That Won’t Close
When a door has trouble closing, it may be one of the small signs of major home problems. It could be the result of a termite infestation or a problem with the foundation. Whether the cause is termites or structural shifting, either is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Bubbling paint on the surface of a wall or ceiling is a possible indication of an underlying mold infestation. If the mold continues to grow, it could damage the wall to the point that it has to be replaced. More importantly, mold is bad for your health.
A Burning Odor From an Electrical Outlet
A strange smell coming from an electrical outlet may mean serious problems with your wiring. Any unexplained burning odors should prompt a call to your electrician.
Flickering Lights are Signs of Major Home Problems
Flickering lights throughout the home may signify a problem with your home’s electrical system. If you have an older home that hasn’t had a wiring update in recent years, your household’s electricity use may be too much for the electrical load capacity.
Water Stains on the Ceiling
Water stains that appear out of nowhere on your ceiling mean you’ve got a leaky roof. Homeowners sometimes choose to ignore these stains if they’re small, but this situation will only get worse over time. Minor roof leaks usually become major during heavy storms.
Cracks in Windows are Signs of Major Home Problems
If you suddenly have a cracked window, it could mean that your home has experienced structural shifting. These types of window cracks usually appear as a relatively straight line that goes from one side of the window to the other.
These are just a few of the small signs of major home problems. Detecting small changes in time for a proactive approach often saves homeowners significant amounts of money and hassle. Don’t hesitate to call a professional over a seemingly minor problem.
Rewarding House Cleaning Projects for Spring
The sun is out and the flowers are beginning to bloom, which means it’s time for some spring cleaning. Enjoy the warmer weather while spending some time improving your home. Here are a few rewarding house cleaning projects for spring.
Remove Debris from the Roof and Gutters
Depending on where you live, your roof may be put to the test during the winter months. Snow and fallen branches can damage your roofing. Springtime brings more rain and you’ll want to have clean gutters to handle the showers. Take the time to scoop leaves and debris out of your gutters. Inspect the roof and remove pine needles, twigs, and tree branches. Replace any broken or damaged shingles.
Windows Should be One of Your Cleaning Projects for Spring
Windows get dirty during the year. Clean them inside and out with spray cleaner. Cleaning the exterior is easy with a window cleaning attachment connected to your garden hose. You’ll be able to easily reach top floor windows and cleaning the lower windows will be a breeze.
Service and Clean the Air Conditioner
It’s important to prepare your air conditioner for warmer weather. Make sure it’s in good working order. Call your HVAC professional to service your system. You can change the filter, check the hose connections for any leaks, and check the drain pans. Regular maintenance will extend the lifespan of the system.
After a long winter, your lawn may have downed branches, decaying leaves, weeds beginning to grow, and fallen pine needles. Take a weekend to clean up the yard. Now is a great time to test your sprinkler system and outdoor faucets. Service the lawnmower, buy some gas for it, and make sure it is working properly.
Cleaning Projects for Spring: Get the Grill Ready
Prepare the grill for warm weather cookouts. Check your grill’s burner jets for clogs. Scrub the grates with a sturdy grill brush. Make sure the hoses and connections are working properly. If you have a propane grill, purchase propane so you’re ready for the first barbecue of the season. If you have a charcoal grill, clean out any residue and ash.
As you work to get your home in great shape, enjoy the time outdoors with your family. Spring cleaning helps you prepare your home for entertaining family and friends in the warmer months ahead.
10 Easy Ways to Be a Better Homeowner
Your house may be your biggest financial investment. Take steps to maintain and even increase its value. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to be a better homeowner.
Be a Better Homeowner by Being Mindful of Water Use
Using too much water isn’t simply wasteful. It will also affect your bank account. Here are some ways to save water at home.
- Install a low-flow showerhead.
- Switch to soaker hoses outside and eliminate your lawn sprinkler system.
- Add a rainwater collection tank and store runoff to use in the garden.
- Simply turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth can make a big difference.
Research Which Improvements Make the Most Sense
Be a better homeowner by doing a little research before taking on any major remodeling projects. Some renovations bring a better return on investment than others. For instance, you’ll typically recover the price of a new garage door more easily than the cost of installing a new hot tub.
Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
Save on utility costs and lower your home’s carbon footprint by improving energy efficiency around the home. Caulk drafty doors and windows and add insulation in the attic and garage.
Be a Better Homeowner by Checking the Gutters
It’s common to overlook gutter maintenance. Twice a year, remove all debris from your gutters. Fall is the most important time to clean the gutters. It can help prevent ice damage to the gutter system during cold winter months.
Start a Neighborhood Watch
Keeping an eye out for all your neighbors is a great way to make sure your home is safe too. Get the neighbors together and form a neighborhood watch group with the aid of local law enforcement.
Develop a Few DIY Skills to Be a Better Homeowner
Learn how to perform some of the smaller home maintenance tasks on your own. You’ll save money when you paint the living room, replace a leaky faucet, or refinish the staircase by yourself.
Improve Curb Appeal
Boosting your home’s curb appeal isn’t something you should only do when selling it. Make your home more attractive at any time. Here are easy some ideas to improve the exterior.
- Paint the front door a bold new color.
- Trim overgrown shrubs and trees and add mulch to the flower beds.
- Stain or paint the wooden fence.
- Pressure-wash the sidewalks and driveway to tidy them up.
Inspect for Termites
Termites are pests that can do a tremendous amount of damage to your home, especially if they eat through major supporting beams. Look for telltale signs of termites and bring in a termite professional if you have concerns.
Change to Energy Efficient Bulbs
Are you still using incandescent bulbs? Replace your bulbs with more energy-efficient options like LEDs or CFLs. The bulbs will last longer and you will save money on your utility bill.
Check Smoke Detectors for Bad Batteries
Keep your family safe. Test your smoke detectors every month and replace their batteries twice every year. This way you’re sure to be alerted in case of smoke or a house fire.
7 Signs That You Have a Plumbing Problem at Home
No one wants to discover a plumbing problem at home. However, identifying any issues as soon as possible helps you mitigate repair costs before too much water damage can occur. Here are some signs of plumbing problems to look out for.
Slow Drains May Indicate a Plumbing Problem at Home
Don’t ignore a slow drain for too long. Unclogging one drain is usually a simple fix. Make sure the problem doesn’t exist farther down the line. If you can unclog that one drain with a drain snake easily, then you probably fixed the problem. If you start experiencing slow drains throughout the home, it is a deeper issue that a plumber should look at.
Do You See Discolored Pipes?
Inspect the pipes under the kitchen sink and in the basement periodically. Do you see any discoloration? If so, you’re looking at one of the signs of a plumbing problem at home.
he discoloration indicates moisture on the outside of the pipe. It might be coming from a sink or drain line that is dripping water. It could also be a more serious issue, such as a supply line leak. Supply lines contain pressure, so a slow leak has the potential to turn into a substantial problem quickly.
A Sewer Odor is a Sign of a Plumbing Problem at Home
There is a system of traps and drains in your home that is designed to keep sewer gas out of the house. Smelling sewer gas means that there is a crack in the vent line or that the trap has run dry.
Fixing a dry trap is relatively simple. It needs to be inspected for a possible leak or it might only need to be refilled with water. A cracked sewer vent is more problematic. It’s likely that you’ll need to break through a wall, fix it, and then repair the drywall.
Multiple Areas With Low Water Pressure
Low water pressure in one area is typically an issue with the fixture or faucet. However, if you notice low water pressure in multiple areas around your home, then you have a bigger issue. It could mean you have one of these problems:
- Supply line leak
- Water heater issue
- Problem with the water main
A High Water Bill Points to a Plumbing Problem at Home
A sudden increase in the water bill is a sign of a plumbing problem at home. Call a plumber to see where the issue lies. One issue might be a toilet that is constantly running. Toilets make up a majority of a household’s water use, so if it is malfunctioning it will waste a lot of water. One running toilet can cost you hundreds of dollars on your water bill.
Bubbling Paint on the Walls
Moisture will cause paint to peel or bubble. It’s likely that you have a leak in the plumbing system if you’re noticing this problem. Look for brown spots that may accompany bubbling paint.
Green Areas in the Yard
You might be dealing with a sewer problem if you notice a patch of yard that is greener than any other area. If the patch is located between the street and your home, then this is even more likely. Sewage acts as fertilizer for your grass, so a leak may make the grass look more lush in one area.
If you see any of the above signs of a plumbing problem at home, call a plumber immediately.
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.