7 Dangerous Things Your Plumber Wants You to Stop Doing

You might not think much of it when you toss something in the toilet—after all, you’ve got a plunger handy, right?—but these seemingly innocent things can do irreparable damage to your home’s pipes. And while these types of fixes do not come cheap, the money may be the least of your problems if your home floods as a result.

To help you avoid a costly headache, we asked a plumber to dish on the most dangerous things homeowners do. Here’s what Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly Company, had to say.

Rinsing hair down the drain
You probably already know that showers are prone to clogging due to hair buildup, but the same thing can happen to your sink or toilet if you regularly sweep stray hairs down the drain. When hair goes down the drain, it can form knots and clumps, trapping in odor and making serious clogs in your pipe, says James. The same is true for other stringy items, like dental floss.

Dumping kitty litter into the toilet
Kitty litter includes more than just your cat’s waste, says James. It also contains clay and sand, which are extremely troublesome for any plumbing systems. “The clay and silica clumping litters are designed to absorb moisture and create clumps, which turn into large clogs almost immediately once they enter your pipes.”

Putting medication down the drain or in the toilet
“While prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, and other substances don’t necessarily mess up your pipes, the ingredients in pharmaceuticals can pose dangers to your water supply,” says James. Dispose of medications responsibly, through your local pharmacy or medication disposal program.

Pouring fats and oils down the sink
“In a way, pipes are a lot like arteries,” says James. “When fats flush the pipes and cool off, they freeze and congeal, building up like cholesterol in arteries. After a while, the blockage can become too great, causing your pipes to have a proverbial heart attack.” Let these items solidify, then dispose of them in the trash.

Flushing tampons or sanitary napkins
The cotton in these items can easily snag and grab onto just about anything, causing clogs and harming machinery, says James. And since these materials don’t decompose, they must be physically removed from the waste stream by the workers processing the waste and then sent to a landfill. You’re much better off wrapping these products and then tossing them in the trash from the get-go.

Flushing wet wipes
Yes, even the ones marketed as “flushable.” “Wet wipes have become very popular, but they don’t play well with an aging infrastructure,” says James. “They don’t disintegrate at the same rate as toilet paper, which can lead to a clogged sewer pipe.” The risk is greater in older neighborhoods, like those in the northeastern United States—still, it’s a costly fix that’s simply not worth the gamble, says James.

Taking on DIY plumbing projects
No matter how dutifully you follow the rules outlined above, accidents happen. But this is not the time to start tinkering—there’s a difference between replacing a shower head (very beginner-friendly!) and trying to take apart your pipes. “Plumbing systems are one such area in which maintenance work should most times be handled by licensed professionals, no matter how easy certain fix-it tasks might appear in a DIY plumbing advice manual,” says James, who recommends leaving malfunctioning pipes, water pressure issues, and appliance installation to the pros. If you try to handle such things yourself, numerous troubles might ensue that could leave your wallet drained and your property sinking in value.

Source: Apartment Therapy by BRIGITT EARLEY

How to Get Ready for a Home Inspection

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019 

Home sellers have an easier time preparing for a home inspection and report in advance. Getting ready for a home inspection helps to prevent future problems, and prevention can stop surprises. The last thing a seller needs is for a home inspector to break a fixture or cause damage because the seller was ill-prepared.

Some local governments require that the seller provide the buyer with a detailed home inspection while giving the buyer the option to obtain their own inspection. In other parts of the country, the seller provides only disclosures, and the buyer pays for their own home inspection. Whether you’re producing a seller’s home inspection for the buyer or expecting the buyer’s home inspector to show up on your doorsteps, it’s best to be thoroughly prepared.

Clean the House

Man kneeling and vacuuming living room
Sofie Delauw / Getty Images

It sounds so simple, yet homeowners often overlook this tactic. Home inspectors are people first and inspectors second. As people, they carry preconceived ideas of how well a home has been maintained. Clean homes say you care and take care of the house. It’s a good idea to make a good impression. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they can see past stuff; they can’t.

Be on Time — Because the Inspector Will Be

man checking wristwatch
Aluma Images / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Sometimes, home inspectors are early. If an inspector makes an appointment with you for 9:00 a.m., have the house ready for inspection at 8:30. It’s also common for inspectors to start on the exterior of the home, so leave the shades down or drapes drawn until you are dressed. More than one unprepared seller has been “surprised” by a stranger stomping around in the backyard.

Leave the Utilities Connected

woman flipping light switch
JGI / Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

The home inspector will need to turn on the stove, run the dishwasher, and test the furnace and air conditioning, so leave the utilities on, especially if the house is vacant. It’s impossible to check receptacles for grounding and reverse polarity if the power is turned off. Without utilities, the inspector will need to reschedule, which could delay the closing of your transaction and the removal of the buyer’s home inspection contingency. Some inspectors charge a buyer a reinspection fee to make a return trip, and that can cause ill will, too.

Provide Workspace Around Furnace and Water Heaters

man looking in water heater closet
Monty Rakusen / Cultura / Getty Images

Remove boxes, bookcases, furniture, and anything else blocking access to your furnace, air conditioner, and water heater. The inspector will need three to four feet of working space to inspect these items.

They often will not move anything themselves, but if they don’t have access, an inspector might suggest a specialist to the buyer. Buyers, not understanding why might then hire a specialist who will undoubtedly find more things wrong. Why? Because a specialist has a lot more knowledge than a general inspector.

Keep Pilot Lights Ignited

man turning water heater temperature knob
BanksPhotos / E+ / Getty Images

Many home inspectors will refuse to light pilot lights because the inspector does not carry enough insurance to be covered for that type of liability or risk. If your pilot lights are not lit, then important items such as the water heater, gas stove, or furnace will not be inspected, and the buyer could delay closing until those inspections are completed.

Again, the inspector will probably charge the buyer extra to make a return trip.

Provide Access to Attic and Garage

Ladder and paint bucket on construction site
Westend61 / Getty Images

The inspector needs to get into your basement and/or attic as well, so keep a path cleared. Check for water in the basement. Move all boxes and stored items away from the walls by at least two feet. Vacuum spider webs. Look in the attic for possible rodent droppings, and secure valuables, if any.

Leave Keys for Outbuildings and Electrical Boxes

locked electrical box
Laara Cerman / Leigh Righton / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Leave the remote controls for your garage door opener or a key if the garage is unattached to the house. Unlock the covers for your sprinkler system and electrical box. Leave a key for exterior building access. You can label these keys and leave them on a kitchen table.

Clear Away Brush From Exterior Inspection Points

A rake and a bin of autumn leaves.
Mint Images / Getty Images

Nobody expects you to shovel a tunnel around your home if snow drifts are blocking the foundation but in the winter, do provide a path around the house. In the summer, cut down dead tree branches and clear brush from the foundation, and move trash cans away from the house.

Provide Repair Documents

Hispanic restaurateur looking through file cabinet
DNY59 / Getty Images

Make available to the home inspector all invoices and documents regarding remodeling projects or new items such as a roof or furnace. If you’ve upgraded the electrical from ungrounded to grounded, installed a new dishwasher or repaired a leaky faucet, find the paperwork. It will give the buyer peace of mind to know those items were reinspected.

Prepare to Be Away for Three Hours Minimum

Boston Terrier dog in crate
Katsuya Nishiyama / EyeEm / Getty Images

Often the buyer will accompany the home inspector, and buyers feel uncomfortable asking questions if the owner is present. Try to schedule a time for the inspection when you can be out of the house, and take the children with you. Crate your pets if you cannot remove them from the premises.

Many inspections can take up to three hours to complete.

BY ELIZABETH WEINTRAUB Updated November 20, 2019

12 Simple Home Repair Jobs to Lift You Out of Winter’s Funk

Like that annoying squeaky floor board. Easy as tossing a ball to fix!

Dog frolicking in the snow
Image: Jimmy Karlsson/Getty

Accomplishments — even little ones — go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter.

For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip. On your work days, put the basics in a caddy and carry it from room to room, checking off completed tasks as you speed through them.

#1 Sagging Towel Rack or Wobbly TP Holder

Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

#2 Silence Squeaky Door Hinges

Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

#3 Stop Creaky Floor Boards

They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

#4 Remove Rust on Shutoff Valves

Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most.

Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

#5 Repair Blistered Paint on Shower Ceilings

This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

#6 Fix Loose Handles and Hinges

You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

#7 Replace Batteries on Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

#8 Test GFCI Outlets

You’re supposed to test ground-fault circuit interrupters them once a month, but who does? Now’s a great time. You’ll find them around potentially wet areas — building codes specify GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and for outdoor receptacles. Make sure the device trips and resets correctly. If you find a faulty outlet, replace it or get an electrician to do it for $75 to $100.

Another good project is to replace your GFCIs with the latest generation of protected outlets that test themselves, such as Levitron’s SmartlockPro Self-Test GFCI ($28). You won’t have to manually test ever again!

#9 Clean Exhaust Filter for the Stove

By washing it to remove grease, you’ll increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

#10 Clean Out Clothes Dryer Vent

Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

#11 Drain Hoses

Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

#12 Check Electrical Cords

Replace any that are brittle, cracked, or have damaged plugs. If you’re using extension cords, see if you can eliminate them — for example, by replacing that too-short lamp cord with one that’s longer. If you don’t feel up to rewiring the lamp yourself, drop it off at a repair shop as you head out to shop for your repair materials. It might not be ready by the end of the day. But, hey, one half-done repair that you can’t check off is no big deal, right?

Jeanne Huberis the author of 10 books about home improvement. She writes a weekly column about home care for the Washington Post.

Protect Yourself and Your Family from Radon

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. If you smoke and live in a home with high radon levels, you increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Having your home tested is the only effective way to determine whether you and your family are at risk of high radon exposure.

Radon is a radioactive gas that forms naturally when uranium, thorium, or radium, which are radioactive metals break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing radon in air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes. Because radon comes naturally from the earth, people are always exposed to it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s office estimate radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. When you breathe in radon, radioactive particles from radon gas can get trapped in your lungs. Over time, these radioactive particles increase the risk of lung cancer. It may take years before health problems appear.

People who smoke and are exposed to radon are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer. EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon in homes that have a radon level at or above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air (a “picocurie” is a common unit for measuring the amount of radioactivity).

Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:

  • How much radon is in your home–the location where you spend most of your time (e.g., the main living and sleeping areas)
  • The amount of time you spend in your home
  • Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked
  • Whether you burn wood, coal, or other substances that add particles to the indoor air

The chances of getting lung cancer are higher if your home has elevated radon levels and you smoke or burn fuels that increase indoor particles.

Infographic: Protect Your Family from Radon

CDC’s Radon Communication Toolkit is designed for environmental and public health professionals to use to increase awareness and understanding of radon, its health effects, and the importance of testing for radon among the communities they serve. The toolkit contains customizable fact sheets, infographics, newsletter articles, and social media posts.

Protect Yourself and Your Family from Radon

Having your home tested is the only effective way to determine whether you and your family are exposed to high levels of radon. Steps you can take to measure and reduce radon levels include:

  • Purchasing a radon test kit
  • Testing your home or office
    • Testing is inexpensive and easy — it should only take a few minutes of your time. It requires opening a package and placing a small measuring device in a room and leaving it there for the desired period. Short-term testing can take from a few days to 90 days. Long-term testing takes more than 90 days. The longer the test, the more relevant the results are to your home and lifestyle.
  • Sending the kit to appropriate sources to determine radon level
    • Follow the directions on the test kit packaging to find out where to send the device to get the results.
  • Fixing your home if radon levels are high

More Ways to Take Action

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends additional actions you can take to reduce high radon levels in your home and protect yourself from an increased risk of lung cancer.

Couple looking at laptop and making phone call

For more information on testing your home, check with your state radon office or call the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON.

  • Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home.
    • Smoking significantly increases the risk of lung cancer from radon.
  • Increase air flow in your house by opening windows and using fans and vents to circulate air.
    • Natural ventilation in any type of house is only a temporary strategy to reduce radon.
  • Seal cracks in floors and walls with plaster, caulk, or other mate­rials designed for this purpose.
    • Contact your state radon office for a list of qualified contractors in your area and for information on how to fix radon problems yourself. Always test again after fin­ishing to make sure you’ve fixed your radon problem.
  • Ask about radon resistant construction techniques if you are buy­ing a new home.
    • It is almost always cheaper and easier to build these features into new homes than to add them later.

For more information on testing your home, check with your state radon office or call the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON.

To find out more about radon test kits, visit Radon Hotlines and Information Resources or refer to the EPA web site on how to use a test kit.More Information

https://www.cdc.gov/

Ice Dams

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining. As water backs up behind the dam, it can leak through the roof and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.

How do ice dams form?

Ice dams are formed by an interaction between snow cover, outside temperatures, and heat lost through the roof. Specifically, there must be snow on the roof, warm  portions of the upper roof (warmer than 32° F), and cold portions of the lower roof (at freezing or below). Melted snow from the warmer areas will refreeze when it flows down to the colder portions, forming an ice dam. Although the primary contributor to snow melting is heat loss from the building’s interior, solar radiation can also provide sufficient heat to melt snow on a roof. For example, in southern Canada, enough sunlight can be transmitted through 6 inches (150 mm) of snow cover on a clear and sunny day to cause melting at the roof’s surface even when the outside temperature is 14° F (-10° C), with an attic temperature of 23° F (-5° C). Gutters do not cause ice dams to form, contrary to popular belief. Gutters do, however, help concentrate ice from the dam in a vulnerable area, where parts of the house can peel away under the weight of the ice and come crashing to the ground.

Problems Associated with Ice Dams

Ice dams are problematic because they force water to leak from the roof into the building envelope. This may lead to:

  • rotted roof decking, exterior and interior walls, and framing;
  • respiratory illnesses (allergies, asthma, etc.) caused by mold growth;
  • reduced effectiveness of insulation. Wet insulation doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation will not decompress even when it dries. Without working insulation, even more heat will escape to the roof where more snow will melt, causing more ice dams which, in turn, will lead to leaks; and
  • peeling paint. Water from the leak will infiltrate wall cavities and cause paint to peel and blister. This may happen long after the ice dam has melted and thus not appear directly related to the ice dam.

Prevention

  • Keep the entire roof cold. This can be accomplished by implementing the following measures:
    • Install a metal roof. Ice formations may occur on metal roofs, but the design of the roof will not allow the melting water to penetrate the roof’s surface. Also, snow and ice are more likely to slide off of a smooth, metal surface than asphalt shingles.
    • Seal all air leaks in the attic floor, such as those surrounding wire and plumbing penetrations, attic hatches, and ceiling light fixtures leading to the attic from the living space below.
    • Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor, ductwork, and chimneys that pass through the attic.
  • Move or elevate exhaust systems that terminate just above the roof, where they are likely to melt snow.
  • A minimum of 3″ air space is recommended between the top of insulation and roof sheathing in sloped ceilings.
  • Remove snow from the roof. This can be accomplished safely using a roof rake from the ground. Be careful not to harm roofing materials or to dislodge dangerous icicles.
  • Create channels in the ice by hosing it with warm water. Because this process intentionally adds water to the roof, this should be done only in emergencies where a great deal of water is already flowing through the roof, and when temperatures are warm enough that the hose water can drain before it freezes.

Prevention and Removal Methods to Avoid

  • electric heat cables. These rarely work, they require effort to install, they use electricity, and they can make shingles brittle.
  • manual removal of the ice dam using shovels, hammers, ice picks, rakes, or whatever destructive items can be found in the shed. The roof can be easily damaged by these efforts, as can the homeowner, when they slip off of the icy roof.

In summary, ice dams are caused by inadequate attic insulation, but homeowners can take certain preventative measures to ensure that they are rare.

by Nick Gromicko

7 Home Maintenance Projects You Might Overlook—but Really Need to Do

By Margaret Heidenry | Nov 6, 2019

caulking-window
iStock

The big improvements always get all the glory—the classic kitchen remodel, the bathroom addition, the transformation of a once creepy basement into a media room. But what about all those little projects around the house?

Sure, they may not be as gratifying as ripping out 1980s cabinets, but tackling necessary home maintenance chores now will save you big headaches down the road. So before you undertake another huge home improvement, check out these projects that you might have neglected—but really should take on.

1. Clean your exhaust fans

“Two maintenance areas that home buyers often overlook have to do with fans—bathroom exhaust fans and attic or ventilation fans,” says Kathleen Kuhn, the CEO and president of HouseMaster.com, a home inspection franchise.

Bathroom exhaust fans play an important role in reducing odor as well as moisture, which helps prevent mold and mildew. And attic or ventilation fans are designed to expel hot air from the top of a home and draw cooler air in. This helps save energy and reduces the potential for costly heat-related damage to the roof or roof framing.

Both fans should be cleaned and wiped down every three months to ensure they are functioning properly.

2. Fix broken window seals

“One of the most harmful delayed maintenance issues I see in the field is broken window seals,” says real estate agent Jodi Moody of Smoky Mountain Realty in Lenoir City, TN. A homeowner might notice a piece of caulk peeling up around a window’s edge and think it’s no big deal. Most often, it simply goes unnoticed.

“Unfortunately, once a window seal is broken, problems are created that homeowners can’t see until major damage occurs,” says Moody.

Those problems include moisture, condensation, mildew, mold, and wood rot, which build up in the window framing and eventually move into the wall. Entire window frames and even sections of flooring can eventually rot, due to the moisture seeping in through missing or damaged window caulk.

“Homeowners should inspect their windows twice a year, and repair any cracked or torn caulk, rubber seals, or damaged wood as soon as possible,” says Moody.

3. Repair small foundation cracks

Foundation cracks can naturally develop over time. And though tiny cracks may not be a problem at first, it’s a good idea to patch them before they increase in size. Large cracks could result in your having to replace the foundation completely, which could cost you big bucks.

“You can repair a small crack with a concrete sealer that you can find at any home improvement store,” says Sacha Ferrandi, founder and principal of Texas Hard Money and Source Capital Funding.

4. Lube your garage door springs

Preserve the longevity of your garage door with some simple maintenance, so you won’t have to replace it sooner than needed.

“Lubricating the springs will help a garage door last a lot longer,” says Ferrandi.

Be sure to apply a lubricant annually to the rollers, hinges, and tracks. Since garage doors have a heavy workload, use a heavy-duty lubricant such as silicon spray or motor oil.

5. Drain and clean the water heater

Water heaters naturally build up mineral deposits over time. This forms a thick, crusty coating that will begin to chip off and clog faucets, drains, and the water heater valve. Such deposits can also cause your water heater to run constantly, which can crack the inner lining and run up your utility bills.

“You may even end up needing to replace your water heater, which can cost you a good amount of money,” says Shawn Breyer of Atlanta’s Breyer Home Buyers.

The good news is that the fix is simple. Every six to 12 months, place a small bucket underneath the drain valve on your water heater and drain the sediment out of the tank.

6. Check out your crawl space

One commonly overlooked area of the home is the crawl space below your house.

“That cramped underbelly of your house actually has a purpose, and just like any other part of a home, it needs maintenance and can save a home from costly damage,” says Nick Rorabaugh, brand advocate for Rev Sells, a realty group based in Athens, GA. “I have seen several instances where a homeowner received the unpleasant news after a house inspection that their crawl space had moisture damage.”

Avoid that possibility by laying a vapor barrier or installing a humidifier to protect against mold, water damage, and termites. Bonus: This can improve the air quality of a house as well.

7. Caulk your kitchen sink

The sink is subject to daily wear and tear. And the chemicals in cleansers added to the frequent exposure to water, can damage the caulking.

“Avoid leakage under the sink, with the simple fix of recaulking,” says Vivian Young, senior content manager at GoodNightsRest.com.

Removing all traces of the old caulking is key and a trusty utility knife will do the trick. Clean up any loose grout, rinse off the area, let it dry completely, and you’re ready to caulk.

Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.

12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall

Cooler weather is coming — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

shutterstock_155900531

Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

SEE JANE DRILL

11 Surprisingly Tiny Home Quirks That Can Stop a Sale in Its Tracks

By Jennifer Nelson | Sep 4, 2019

propped-open-window
realtor.com

Ever spend the night at a friend’s or relative’s house where they reveal some quirky shortcoming in their home? Say, the light switch in the guest room works the opposite way you’d expect (down for on, up for off), or you have to jiggle the toilet handle a few times to make it flush. These foibles might not seem like a big deal, but they could be—if you’re trying to sell your house.

“You can never predict what switch a buyer will turn on or what door a buyer will open,” warns Martin Eiden, a broker with Compass in New York City. “If one thing isn’t right, it sends a message to the buyer’s brain saying, ‘If this small thing is broken, what major things are?’

But what, specifically, are some of the most common quirks that could turn off buyers? Here are some of the flaws that you really should repair if you hope for a swift and smooth home sale.

1. Stuck front door

Don’t make it so the agent has to shove a shoulder into the front door to open it. You need a welcoming and well-working front door that swings open and closes smoothly without much effort. A carpenter can usually make a well-worth-it adjustment to the frame for sticky doors.

2. Wobbly ceiling fan

Ever see one of those wobbling, rattling fans in action? It’s not pretty. Tighten or replace ceiling fans that look like they are about to take flight from the ceiling, so they don’t send buyers running for cover.

3. Backward hot and cold water faucets

Nothing says failed DIY like cold water coming out when the hot water is turned on, and hot water coming out when cold is turned on, says Candice Williams, an agent with Re/Max Space Center in League City, TX. If you have switched faucets or pipes, set them right or hire a plumber.

4. Shaky banister

Check banisters, stair supports, and any railings to make sure they are secured properly.

The screws are about to fall out and your stair railing is so shaky the next guest could take a tumble. This issue is not only unsightly but also downright dangerous, says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a broker at KBN Homes, a real estate investment company in Frisco, TX, and author of “Winning Deals in Heels.”

5. Overstuffed closets

No squeaky doors and hinges or off-the-track rollers allowed.

“Have everything neatly organized and have all closets and cabinets at least 20% empty,” says Eiden. Overstuffed storage tells the buyer, “This home doesn’t have enough space!”

6. Cranky garage door

Make sure your garage door opens smoothly and without excess noise.

You might know how to get that garage door up, but you don’t want the agent struggling with it when he or she is showing the house,” says broker Robin Kencel of Compass in Greenwich, CT.

7. Noisy toilet

“A noisy toilet often just needs a new toilet flapper,” says Craig Russell, CEO of The English Contractor, a contracting and building firm in Cincinnati.

For under $10, you can ensure your toilet flushes well, because inevitably, someone will use the restroom at your open house.

8. Propped-up windows

Repair or replace windows that need to be propped open because their spring is shot.

Chess Valenti, a home stager at Staged in Geneva, IL, has seen bathroom windows propped open with shampoo bottles. This is not a look that gets offers.

9. Backyard gate that drags on the ground

You don’t want the agent opening the gate to your beautiful garden only to hear it scrape noisily on the pavers, concrete, or ground. Gates should be trimmed and adjusted over time so they continue to open smoothly about 2 inches off the ground.

10. Squeaky floors

Over time, nails in the subfloor loosen and rub, creating that squeak. If you can’t get to your subfloor easily to install a few screws, try sprinkling talcum powder around the noisy floorboards and sweeping into cracks in the floor to shush squeaks.

11. Unprofessional patch jobs

“Putty, caulk, and paint make the carpenter what he ain’t,” says Russell, referencing the liberal use of these materials by some sellers to put cosmetic bandages over imperfections in a home.

He’s seen holes filled with caulk instead of being properly patched, cardboard wedged into doors to keep them closed instead of having the lock adjusted, or painted-over water spots on walls or ceilings instead of repairing the source of the leak.

Have leaks and damage repaired properly, and make sure any cosmetic work looks like it was never done.Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home’s value.

Jennifer Nelson lives and works in Neptune Beach, FL. She writes about health, home, and money for a variety of outlets, including AARP, NextAvenue.org, MSNBC, and WebMD.

The realtor.com® editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.

7 tips to ace your home’s final walk-through

Buying a home can feel a little like running a marathon. You have to stay focused throughout the whole journey, from the mortgage application and home search process to making an offer and getting a home inspection.

One important final step before the closing is the final walk-through. No matter what, you should never skip this critical task.

“You want to make sure the home is in the same condition as when the offer was made,” says Andy Peters, a real estate broker and co-founder of The Peters Company, a Keller Williams Realty team serving Georgia. “If a seller is doing negotiated repairs or improvements, you want to verify they were, in fact, done and done correctly.”

You’re almost to the finish line — and the closing table. To get you there, here are some final walk-through tips.

Couple inspecting a fireplace in a home walk through

1. Understand that a final walk-through isn’t a home inspection

When you’re buying a home — whether it’s a condo, town house or a single-family home — you want to make sure the residence is in the condition you agreed to purchase.

“The purpose of a final walk-through is to make sure the home is still in the same, acceptable condition as when you last saw it, and to take a final look to make sure all repairs were completed, if needed,” says Alyse Alonso, a Realtor with eXp Realty in San Antonio, Texas. “You basically want to make sure the neighbor’s child did not accidentally hit their baseball through your soon-to-be new front window” or other surprise damages.

2. Know who attends the final walk-through

Typically, the final walk-through is attended by the buyer and the buyer’s agent, without the seller or seller’s agent. This gives the buyer the freedom to inspect the property at their leisure, without feeling pressure from the seller. If the property is a new home, a builder or contractor may attend.

“New-build walk-throughs are looking for defects as well as cosmetic issues. A new home is delivered in a more ‘fresh out of the box’ way, so expectations are generally higher,” Peters says.

If the home inspection uncovered significant issues that were fixed prior to closing, you may want to ask your home inspector to re-inspect the home to ensure agreed-upon repairs were made properly, Alonso says. Keep in mind, though, there will be an additional cost involved, and you might have to schedule the re-inspection before your final walk-through, she adds.

3. Schedule it just before closing

In most cases, the final walk-through is scheduled within 24 hours prior of the closing date. Your real estate agent can help you set a time with the seller’s agent when you can be sure the property will be accessible and (hopefully) vacant.

“Ideally, the final walk-through will take place on the way to the closing office or the evening before,” Alonso says, adding, “I have seen them take place a day or two before closing in certain circumstances.”

4. Do a walk-through again if bad weather hits

Mother Nature might not cooperate with your plans to close on a home, so if something significant happens — like a serious storm, nearby fire or earthquake — it’s smart to repeat the final walk-through before moving forward with the closing.

“Water intrusion, fallen trees causing damage and sinkholes are all things we’ve discovered at final walk-throughs,” Peters says.

Adds Alonso: “In some cases, the bank may not complete the loan until the damage is remedied. In other instances, the buyer and seller may be able to negotiate suitable repairs.”

5. Take your time

Depending on the size of the home, a final walk-through can take anywhere from 15 minutes for a small home to more than an hour for a larger property. Build in extra time to inspect extra items, such as a pool or a detached shed or garage. Remember that this is your last chance to give your new home a final once-over before it’s all yours, so don’t rush.

6. Communicate any issues you find during the final walk-through

Finding a significant problem during the final walk-through can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. More than likely, it may delay the closing by a few days to resolve the problem, or you’ll need to ask the seller to provide you with a credit at closing so you can handle the repairs after move-in day.

“Most issues can be worked out by negotiating more money. There is some gray area in terms of what you can use to hold up a closing,” Peters says. “Clearly if (the home is) not in the condition it was when you made the offer, the seller has to cure the issue if they want to sell.”

7. Final walk-through checklist and documentation

To ensure your soon-to-be home is move-in ready, here’s a checklist of things to do and look for during the final walk-through:

  • Turn all light switches on and off to ensure lights and ceiling fans are working.
  • Bring a phone charger to test all of the electrical outlets.
  • Run all sink and bath faucets, and check for any leaks.
  • Test all of the kitchen appliances and garbage disposal.
  • Ensure the garage door opens and closes, and the remote works.
  • Run the heater and air conditioner.
  • Turn on and test the fireplace.
  • Open and close all windows and doors.
  • Flush toilets to check for leaks or problems.
  • Run the exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen.
  • Inspect the walls, flooring and ceilings.
  • Check exterior for damage or new cosmetic issues.
  • Make sure all garbage, personal belongings and other items have been removed.

Your real estate agent should bring documentation to help confirm that all is as it should be with the property. This includes the seller’s disclosure form you received after signing the purchase agreement, the inspection report and any repair amendments you and the seller agreed on. Your agent should request receipts for any repairs the seller completed after the home inspection, too, and have those on hand during the final walk-through.

article credit: JENNIFER BRADLEY FRANKLIN 2019