Fall Home Tips
For many homeowners around the country, fall is a critical season to prepare your house for colder weather. Especially for first time homeowners, or those who have recently moved into your home and have yet to experience a winter in your house, here are some tips to help you prepare!
Check your roof for any signs of damage or moss, clear your gutters and downspouts, and check any vents or small openings to ensure small animals can’t come inside. It is much easier to deal with roof repairs now than dealing with ice dams and leaks mid-winter!
Prep Your Yard
If you have any overgrown shrubs near your house, consider giving them a good trim before the snow flies. Not only can this help your plants survive winter, it will also keep moisture away from your home and make your windows fully visible to let the most sunlight in. While raking your fallen leaves, you may also want to mulch your perennial plants to help them throughout the cold months. Lastly, after your yardwork is complete, turn off the water supply to your exterior faucet, and bring outdoor furniture, grills, and umbrellas indoors.
Seal It Off
Check all of your windows and doors to make sure they close properly, and update any missing or damaged weather-stripping. Also remove summer screens and swap with storm windows if you have them. Doing so will keep you warmer and may even help reduce your heating bills! If you have exposed exterior outlets, cover them with weather guards. Consider resealing your driveway or pathways, if you have small cracks you are concerned about worsening from the freeze/thaw cycle.
Lastly, before the bitter cold sets in, have your furnace or other heating system serviced. Test your smoke detectors and CO alarms. And if you haven’t already, make a snow removal plan, whether it is a tune up on a snowblower, purchasing sand and salt, or making arrangements with a plow company.
And last but not least, if you want to give your house a festive outdoor glow, string up decorative lights earlier than you’ll turn them on, so you’re not battling cold temperatures or ice later on!
Spring Driveway Refresh
After a long winter, rain, snow, or ice could do a lot of damage to a home’s driveway. If your driveway is looking worse for wear and is need of a spring refresh, read on to learn more about your options.
Types of Driveways:
If your driveway is in a state of disrepair that requires a complete replacement, there are many options to consider. The climate where you live will play a large part in your choice of driveway material. Additionally, the aesthetics of your home (think rustic or modern) may play a role in what style of driveway you prefer to accompany your home.
Concrete: Concrete driveways are quite popular, as they are very durable and require little maintenance. Concrete driveways are preferred for warm or moderate climates as they can break down over time when repeatedly freezing and thawing. While the classic light grey concrete comes to mind, there are tinted options available as well as concrete pavers (interlocking shapes) or stamped concrete to imitate cobblestone or brick.
Asphalt: Asphalt driveways are popular for many homeowners, as its vibrant black color offers a clean look for a variety of home and yard styles. Asphalt is more cost effective than other driveway styles but will also require some regular maintenance and patching.
Brick Pavers: Brick driveways can add an elegant touch to the look of a classic home, especially if you have existing brick paths or patios. Brick driveways will be more costly and will also require a highly experienced professional to install it properly. Especially in regions with heavy rain or snow, proper water drainage is essential.
Gravel / Crushed Stone: Gravel driveways are quite popular for homes in more rural areas, as they more seamlessly blend into the natural surroundings. They can be installed quite quickly, and often by the homeowner them self (after the gravel/stone is delivered on site). You can buy gravel or crushed stone without breaking the bank, but remember that as it is loosely applied, the small stones can migrate into the yard or street and will require occasional refills. Snow removal can be tricky on these driveways as well.
Cobblestone: Without a doubt, cobblestone driveways are very pleasing to the eye, and can boost a home’s curb appeal tremendously. Cobblestone will typically cost more than brick, and require the same professional installation. However, cobblestone will require little upkeep, and will maintain its classic charm for decades!
Solutions to Consider:
Repair: Depending on the extent of damage, you may have some DIY option for repairing cracks or fixing splits in the driveway you currently have. Check Home Depot, Lowe’s or your favorite local hardware store for various products made for solving these problems and repairing your driveway.
Resurface: If you’re starting to see alligator cracks (think cracks that overlap and look like the back of an alligator) or longer cracks through the driveway in any direction, resurfacing the top may help to seal over the issues until the subbase finally breaks down. Look into referrals from the area, yellow pages or a site like Angie’s List to see which companies in your area are the most reliable for this solution.
Replace: If your driveway is missing pieces or is approaching old age and you just can’t keep up with fixing multiple smaller issues, it may be time to replace the driveway completely. The old driveway and foundation or completely removed and rebuilt. Be sure to research your project fully and spend some time choosing the company who will do it for you, including getting two or three estimates. As always, referrals are great, or look into Angie’s List or the yellow pages for reputable companies in your area.
When listing or buying a home, curb appeal can make all the difference, especially since it’s something that anyone visiting the property will see. Talk to your loan officer today to get pre-approved for the home of your dreams with great curb appeal!
Fall Lawn Care and Curb Appeal
There are several ways to care for your home’s lawn in the fall to ensure great regrowth the following spring. In fact, now is a great time to prepare your lawn while the grass is storing nutrients for a dormant winter. Follow these steps and you’ll be sure to have a healthy lawn and improve your home’s curb appeal for next spring:
Getting fallen leaves off the ground as soon as possible will prevent your grass from suffocating. You can also use a lawnmower with a collection bag to do the job. Leaving the leaves to stack on top of each other will create a wet barrier that can breed fungal diseases.
Get Rid of Weeds:
Just like your grass, weeds are also absorbing sunlight and energy in preparation for winter, so now is the time to apply weed killers. Most products recommend treatment in the early to mid-fall while temperature are still consistently above 60 degrees.
Keep mowing your lawn all throughout the fall even as the growth slows down. At the end of the season, drop your mower blade all the way down for the last two cuttings. This way, more sun can reach the crown of the grass.
The best time to fertilize your lawn is in the fall because the grass leaves are growing slowly, but the roots are still growing quickly. Fertilizer will deliver essential nutrients to the grass and create deep roots for next spring. Once mid to late fall arrives, apply a dry lawn fertilizer to your lawn using a drop spreader to guarantee an even distribution.
In addition to these methods, be sure to fill in any bald spots and look into aerating the soil as well. Taking these measures in the next couple of months will save you time and energy when spring comes back around.
5 Ways to Reduce Your Home Energy Costs
If you recently bought a new home, there are several things you can do immediately to set yourself up for low energy costs, even before you unpack your boxes. Getting a head start on this small list can save you a lot of money in years to come.
1.) Immediately replace the air filters.
This task takes only seconds and is often times forgotten by new homeowners. By replacing the air filter, your HVAC or air-handling system will not overwork at minimal efficiency. Stock up on a few extra filters so you are always prepared. The average home with no pets should have a new filter every 6-12 months, and a average home with a pet, every 60 days or so.
2.) Lower the hot water temperature.
120 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for your hot water heater as most people never use water any hotter than that, and it can be dangerous to human skin. Any energy used to keep water above 120 degrees is not being used efficiently and lowering the temperature will save you money on your energy bill.
3.) Clear all vents.
From dirt and dust, to any furniture or structural obstructions, make sure all of your vents are clean and clear. If a vent is blocked, the heating and cooling units work overtime. Cleaning vents of dust and debris enhance clean air flow and makes for a healthier home.
4.) Check for leaks.
Make sure all toilets and plumbing is running efficiently and there are no leaks. Replace and repair any running toilets or dripping faucets to ensure you aren’t wasting water and throwing away money.
5.) Install new lighting.
By now, we all know that LED bulbs save us a lot when it comes to money and energy. While they are a bit more expensive than other bulbs, they last much longer and are a worthwhile investment. Consider replacing all of the old lighting in your new home with an LED option and you’ll be saving immediately.
Helpful Tips for a Kitchen Remodel
The kitchen is the heart of any home and is typically the first room homebuyers consider investing in. Kitchen remodels can range from simple to extravagant and the amount of money spent can greatly vary. Regardless of the level of upgrade you plan to do, consider these helpful tips to help you save and plan for the perfect kitchen.
Save on Plumbing: The number one tip for saving money in a kitchen remodel is to leave the plumbing lined up the way it is. Moving water and gas lines is very expensive; if you can avoid this cost, you’ll be off to a great start.
Keep the Cabinets: If your existing cabinets are in good condition and made of quality materials, then consider refreshing them instead of replacing them. New cabinets are one of the highest costs when remodeling a kitchen. You can repaint your cabinets, update the fronts, or add new hardware.
Match the Appliances: These days, most companies offer matching sets of dishwashers, ovens, and refrigerators, which can give your kitchen an expensive look for less. Make sure you don’t buy separate pieces from different manufactures and do your research on affordable appliance options.
Find Free Services: Many large home improvement stores offer computerized design services that help with layout and style. Oftentimes the planning help is free, and they can also assist with installation and project management.
Keep a Fixtures Budget: At the end of your kitchen renovation, you want to make sure there’s enough money left over for the finishing touches. Fixtures like drawer pulls and cabinet handles should be a priority in your budget planning. Not skimping on these items will give your renovation a polished and complete look.
By following these tips you’ll be enjoying your new kitchen in no time, with a little extra cash in your pocket!