November Home Maintenance Checklist

November brings a transition to shorter days, colder weather and spending more time indoors. It also brings anticipation, planning and preparation for the upcoming winter holidays.

Our checklist this month includes small, quick and easy tasks you can do now to get a jump start on your holiday hosting preparation so you can enjoy friends and family when they arrive.

Replace chair floor protectors. Prevent damage to your hardwood floors by adding or replacing floor protection pads to the legs of your chairs. Hardware stores sell felt self-adhesive protectors that are easy to use.

Clean garbage disposal. Run a few pieces of lemon rind with some ice cubes through your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh. The ice chunks scour the blades and scrape away debris. Products that clean and deodorize garbage disposals can also be purchased in retail stores.

Repair plumbing issues. Fix a slow drain or a stuck garbage disposal now rather than wait until you have a full house of guests.

Check bathtub caulk. Use diluted bleach to clean caulk that is moldy or mildewed. Avoid water damage to your home’s framing by replacing worn-out caulking as soon as possible.

Stock up for winter. Buy winter supplies like shovels and ice melting products now so you’ll be ready when the first snow falls.

Silence squeaky door hinges. Spray some cooking oil or other lubricant on door hinges. Be sure to first place a drop cloth on the floor to protect it and also blot the hinge with a rag to remove excess oil.

Clean kitchen exhaust fan filter. Remove kitchen exhaust fan screen and scrub with a mild detergent or run through the dishwasher.

Check fire extinguishers. Locate your fire extinguishers and be sure their gauge shows enough pressure.

Set aside a November afternoon to do the items on this home maintenance list, then sit back and enjoy a cup of hot apple cider. Happy Thanksgiving!

This blog was reposted with the permission of Long & Foster.

Posted on November 28, 2017 at 9:19 am
Sandy Nicholls | Category: For Your Home

When Things Go Bump in the Night

It’s Halloween; the time of year when people decorate their homes with haunting embellishments and spooky décor. Bats, spiders, and rodents are all good and fun when they’re made of plastic, but when you have the real thing taking up residence in your home, it’s no treat. Here are some tips for making sure these frightening critters don’t make your house their permanent home.

Blood Suckers

While they may not turn into vampires in real life, preventing a bat infestation is actually good for your health. That’s because bats are a known carrier of rabies and an accumulation of their droppings can cause lung problems in humans. Bats can enter your home through holes less than an inch wide, and when they do, they often find the attic to be very accommodating to their needs. So, how do you keep them from settling in? Start by checking your roof and siding for any gaps. Check your attic for any signs of infestation, including: brown stains around any openings in your siding or roof (from oil on their skin), droppings, or strange sounds coming from the attic. Ghosts aren’t the only ones who like it up there.

To prevent or rid your home of bats follow these tips:

  • Get rid of the bats now, so they can find alternative shelter before hibernation season in the winter.
  • Check with local pest control companies; in some states it is illegal to exterminate bats.
  • Locate the point of entry.
  • Hire a professional to evacuate the bats.
    • As mentioned above, bats can cause health problems; hire a professional who has experience and the right equipment. There are humane options available.
  • Prevent re-entry by sealing any openings.
  • Use mothballs to prevent re-nesting. Bats have a tendency to return to previous nesting sites, so this may need to be repeated.

Creepy Crawlies

In lists of common phobias, more than thirty percent of adults report fearing spiders, right behind public speaking and death. Most spiders that you find in your home are perfectly harmless; however, that doesn’t mean you want to share your space with them. To be on the safe side, there are some measures you can take to protect yourself from our little eight legged friends. Even a bite from a harmless spider can cause infections with itchy, red skin. In most cases, it can be treated by washing it with cool, soapy water, elevation, and an ice pack. Of course, if it shows signs of getting worse, your next step should be calling your doctor. Spider varieties that you should avoid include: Hobo spiders, Black Widows, Brown Recluses, and the Yellow Sac spider. These spiders are poisonous and can cause a number of symptoms from vomit to necrotic lesions. According to experts, spiders very rarely cause death in humans; however, if you are bit by a venomous spider you should seek immediate medical attention (and bring the spider remains with you, if possible).

Here are some tips to reduce spiders in your home:

  • Kill spiders on sight.
  • Place non-poisonous spider traps with non-toxic attractants and glue in areas where spiders are commonly found and in corners.
  • Be careful with common insect repellent and spider sprays, these can be toxic and harmful to children and pets.
  • Spiders can be deterred with essential oils: lavender, chestnut, clover leaf, and coconut.
  • Use ultrasonic devices.

Rodents:

The most effective way to prevent mice and rat infestation is to keep them out of your home in the first place. Mice can get through a gap as small as a quarter of an inch, so thoroughly inspecting the foundation and interior of your home for entrance points and sealing any cracks or holes is a great way to start. Rodents are also excellent at tracking food sources. Keep all food, including pet food and pantry items in secure bins and jars.

If you have found evidence of mice or rats (generally droppings or urine) take caution. Rodent secretions can be hazardous, and can spread salmonella or hanta virus. There are multiple methods for removing rodents from your home, including traps, poison bates, electronic and sonic devises and, a house cat, or professional exterminator.

If you are getting rid of the critters on your own you will want to follow these steps:

  • Identify their food source(s), entry points, and common routes around and through your home.
  • Remove food source with secure packaging that cannot be chewed through, such as glass containers.
  • Seal all entry points with wire mesh.
  • Place sonic devises, traps, poison, or other deterrents in the pathway of the rodents.
  • Use caution, make sure poison or exposed traps are not accessible to children or pets.
  • If you find urine, droppings, or a dead mouse you will want to spray the surface and mouse with a bleach/water solution. Using gloves and a face mask, remove the rodent and wipe all surfaces.
  • If you have identified a large quantity of rodents, contact a professional for removal and clean up.
  • You may need to take extra measures to ensure the removal is permanent by changing components of your back yard, replacing siding, or upgrading building materials to prevent outdoor nesting and re-infestation.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere blog.

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 10:33 am
Sandy Nicholls | Category: For Your Home

Homeowners Insurance: Protecting Your Home

In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. And it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.

What a standard homeowners policy covers

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.

The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.

Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.

If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.

How much insurance do you need?

Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:

·      Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?

·      Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?

·      Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?

Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.

Protect your assets

Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.

Rebuild your home

You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.

The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.

Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.

Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.

Replacing your valuables

If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.

There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectables. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.

To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.

Create a home inventory file

It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease.  The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value.  Simple inventory lists are available online.  You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:

·      Item description and quantity

·      Manufacturer or brand name

·      Serial number or model number

·      Where the item was purchased

·      Receipt or other proof of purchase \Photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser

·      Date of purchase (or age)

·      Current value

·      Replacement cost

Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.

Storing your home inventory list

Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe incase your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.

We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 10:40 am
Sandy Nicholls | Category: For Your Home

Start Checking Off Your Autumn To-Do List!

first-day-of-autumn

Even though it happens year after year, the arrival of autumn is always a little surprising. Almost as if on a switch, one day late in the summer you feel it – a subtle crispness in the air. And before you know it, it’s pumpkin-spice-everything everywhere. We are suddenly swathed in sweaters, wearing boots, and bombarded by shades of orange, often even before the thermometer warrants it. After slogging through a long hot August, it can feel exciting.

Making the transition to autumn is also a great way to reorganize after a hectic summer and be better prepared going into the winter months. To make the transition a little smoother, we have created a to-do-list of ideas to help.

fall-bedroom
Start with your bedroom

Gauzy cotton feels decidedly summer, while soft cashmere has a distinctly autumnal vibe. This time of year, feel free to use both luxe textures at once, but incorporate them in colors that are appropriate for the changing seasons: cream for cashmere, gray or stone for linen.

fall-florals
Pay attention to plants

As the season changes, so should your indoor greenery. Switch out those palm fronds or orchids for eucalyptus branches or hydrangeas in deep purple hues.

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Winterize your car

Due for an inspection? Been meaning to get those tires changed? It’s tedious, but dealing with maintenance issues now instead of three months from now (when you’re stuck in a freak snowstorm) is definitely a smart move.

fall-pantry
Perform a pantry audit

First, remove all the cans and boxes from the shelves and vacuum any lingering dust or crumbs. Then inspect each item before putting it back in its place, tossing anything that is expired or past its prime. If you are overloaded with canned goods, make a bag for the local food bank.

fall-calendar
Sync your family calendars

Now that you’re not in the land of weeklong vacations, keeping track of everyone’s schedule can be tricky. Go old-school by using a chalkboard calendar and placing it in a high-traffic area, like your mudroom. Or go high-tech and download the app Cozi. This tool combines everyone’s calendar and even lets you set up a shared grocery list (so you’ll never forget to pick up milk from the store).

fall-fireplace
Don’t neglect the Fireplace

You may not be ready to think about it yet, but on the first chilly night you’ll be glad you did. Hire a professional to inspect the fireplace and chimney to make sure it’s clear and ready for use.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Posted on October 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Category: For Your Home