On rainy days like today, having a gutter system can save money for homeowners. The runoff from the roof can devastate tender landscape vegetation and cause damage to wood decks and even to brick or concrete paving. For optimum performance, gutters should be inspected every spring. Leaves, fallen branches, or ice and snow can damage…
If you haven’t started spring-cleaning, you will soon, so we have compiled a short-list of commonly found, environmentally friendly cleaners to save you time, money, and possibly your family’s health. We spend lots of time in our homes. We eat, play, and sleep here, so we should be careful about the cleaning products we use,…
The sun has sparkled brilliantly this week. The azaleas, dogwoods, and Bradford pears have burst into bloom, heralding the end of winter. We haven’t seen temperatures this warm since October. All of these can mean only one thing?it’s time for spring-cleaning. One of the most difficult parts of spring-cleaning is clutter and what to do…
Take a few minutes to walk around the outside of your house and really look it over. Bring your binoculars and a notepad and pencil with you, too. I’ll tell you why later. The wind and cold have really given our homes a beating this winter, and we may have damage that wasn’t there in…
For many of us, the ice has taken care of a lot of the pruning. However, we still need to inspect our trees for hanging limbs that have broken but have not completely fallen or have possibly become temporarily wedged by other branches. If the limbs are big, they can severely injure anyone walking by…
On rainy days like today, having a gutter system can save money for homeowners. The runoff from the roof can devastate tender landscape vegetation and cause damage to wood decks and even to brick or concrete paving.
For optimum performance, gutters should be inspected every spring. Leaves, fallen branches, or ice and snow can damage gutters, causing them to collapse or become plugged, making it impossible for them to direct the runoff properly.
If gutters are not regularly?maintained, they can cause water to back up under shingles, to leak into attic spaces, or to seep behind exterior siding?all bad news. Moisture in these areas leads to rot, and moisture also attracts termites, especially in rainy climates like ours.
Now, is a good time to check gutters for damage or leaks. But, it’s raining outside! Yes! The best time to see if your gutters are working properly is while they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.
Check to see that the gutters are flush against the fascia boards. Also, look for leaks. Drips on the underside of gutters are a clue that they may have developed holes or cracks. Homeowners can make some repairs themselves, but they should attempt only the repairs they are capable of making and feel comfortable attempting.
If the gutters are old or have several problems, homeowners may want to consider replacing them altogether. Gutters come in different materials?vinyl, steel, aluminum, and copper. The prices range from $3 per lineal foot to over $15 per lineal foot. All materials have pros and cons, and the choice of material depends on the current exterior of the home, the length of time the owner plans to live in the home, and, obviously, the homeowner’s budget.
Gutters should receive a regular inspection because they can’t do their job if they are not maintained properly, which can lead to serious and expensive repairs. Because of the value and protection gutters afford the home, they should be replaced when they are no longer functioning or repairable. The good news is that homeowners have several options in several prices ranges when considering a new gutter system installation.
If you haven’t started spring-cleaning, you will soon, so we have compiled a short-list of commonly found, environmentally friendly cleaners to save you time, money, and possibly your family’s health.
We spend lots of time in our homes. We eat, play, and sleep here, so we should be careful about the cleaning products we use, especially if we have children or family members with breathing problems or other health conditions. Some cleaning products can be harsh and release irritating fumes that can aggravate allergies, asthma, or other conditions in sensitive individuals.
One of our favorite cleaners is just plain water. Obviously, water cannot disinfect, but for jobs like dusting, we can use a soft cloth dampened with water. There’s no need to reach for a can of spray every time you dust. Some dusting sprays that say they are formulated for wood can actually have a drying effect on fine wood furniture. A damp cloth also helps contain dust particles rather than launching them back into the air just to land on the furniture again, or worse, in your nose and lungs.
Plain white vinegar (5% acidity) is another favorite cleaner. Vinegar has disinfectant properties and can do a pretty good job of cutting grease. A spray bottle filled with vinegar can be handy for light kitchen cleaning. Different websites recommend mixing various amounts of water and vinegar, but straight vinegar works well for minor cleaning and deodorizing, and the scent dissipates quickly, too. For heavier cleanups, such as after preparing raw meats on a countertop or in a sink basin, you should use a cleaner with greater disinfecting power.
One such cleaner is?hydrogen peroxide (3 percent), a good germ fighter for your cleaning arsenal. Cutting boards, countertops, and other hard surfaces can be sprayed with straight hydrogen peroxide to eliminate salmonella, E. coli and other nasty bacteria. Some websites recommend spraying surfaces with peroxide first and then with vinegar. CAUTION: Peroxide and vinegar should never be mixed together in the same bottle because the two combine to create a separate and possibly hazardous chemical?peroxyacetic acid. Also, peroxide should always be stored in a dark, opaque bottle to preserve its effectiveness.
Another everyday household workhorse is baking soda. From scrubbing your face to scrubbing your sink, baking soda is a gentle nonabrasive scrubbing agent that helps remove stubborn dried-on soil without marring most surfaces. It’s also a great drain and garbage disposal freshener.
When you need something with a little oomph to remove stubborn grease or soil, try soap. Castile Soap is gentle enough to be used for cleaning or for bathing. Another pretty safe inexpensive cleanser is regular plain Ivory bar soap. Ivory does a good job of lifting many stains from fabrics, too.
Many people have a different cleanser for every cleaning requirement?bathrooms, kitchens and floors. Not only is it unnecessary to have all these different types of cleansers, but also purchasing all these cleansers is expensive. Many household-cleaning jobs can be accomplished safely with a few everyday items found around the house. If you are concerned about the safety of the products you purchase, check out the Good Guide website, which also has a mobile app that you can use to scan items in the store to check their safety before purchasing.
Most importantly, remember that even everyday household items, such as peroxide and vinegar, can have negative effects, especially if combined with other household items or cleaning products. Do your research before mixing any cleaners of any type together.
The sun has sparkled brilliantly this week. The azaleas, dogwoods, and Bradford pears have burst into bloom, heralding the end of winter. We haven’t seen temperatures this warm since October. All of these can mean only one thing?it’s time for spring-cleaning.
One of the most difficult parts of spring-cleaning is clutter and what to do with it. Our houses would be relatively easy to clean if they weren’t so cluttered. Every day, new clutter comes in the door ? junk mail, children’s school papers, pamphlets left on our doorsteps ? and, if not dealt with relatively quickly, all these items build up over time.
One of the most difficult tasks of decluttering is decision-making. You have to decide to keep your things or not, which leads to more decisions. If you keep the items, where are you going to put them? If you decide to get rid of the items, will you throw them away, donate them or sell them? The decision-making task can be overwhelming and is most likely the reason the clutter is there in the first place.
Often, we hang onto catalogs or other marketing materials we get in the mail because we don’t have time to view them immediately or we saw something while quickly flipping through that we might be interested in purchasing at some point. So, they end up hanging around on the kitchen table or counter, taking up space and creating visual chaos.
Because of the enormity of the clutter problem, numerous books are available on the market that promise to solve the problem for us. There are many strategies, which vary widely from Eastern wisdom with Feng Shui to rigid schedules and timers.
Internet searches also turn up lots of strategies for clearing the clutter. You can spend so much time reading about decluttering that you actually never get around to doing it.
Like you, we’re still searching for the perfect solution, so we have created a Pinterest Board called Stuff the Stuff. To save you time, we sorted through hundreds, maybe thousands, of ideas and curated the ones that make the most sense to us here. If you have some easy strategies for dealing with clutter, we would love to hear about them!
Take a few minutes to walk around the outside of your house and really look it over. Bring your binoculars and a notepad and pencil with you, too. I’ll tell you why later.
The wind and cold have really given our homes a beating this winter, and we may have damage that wasn’t there in the fall.?Small problems are much easier and less expensive to fix now than if they are ignored and allowed to grow into major projects.
Beginning with the foundation, work your way up the walls. Look for cracks or loose mortar. Now is a good time to inspect and open vents to provide more ventilation to crawl spaces during the coming hot months. Check your exterior faucets for leaks. Also, check caulked areas for loose or missing caulk. Note everything that needs repair on your pad.
To check a wood exterior, push against it gently with the eraser of the pencil at regular intervals to test for rot, noting any repairs that need to be made. Look at the paint or stain. Is it cracked and peeling or faded? Safeguarding wood cannot be ignored or rot will set in quickly in our moist and humid climate. Plus, exposed wood attracts pests, such as carpenter bees and termites.
On all wood surfaces, look for holes or tunnels built along the side. Either could indicate the presence of termites. In the South, termites are everywhere, so it’s only a matter of time before they find your house. They can do lots of damage quickly, so vigilance is advised.
If you have vinyl siding, check it for mold and mildew. The best way to keep vinyl looking good is to pressure wash it regularly to remove the mold and mildew before it has time to permanently discolor the siding.
Now, look at the windows. Note any damage to screens or cracks in windows. Check the caulk to see if it is in good shape.
Move on to porches and decks. Give the handrails a good shake to make sure they are still holding well. Check the wood on all railing, porch and deck supporting posts for rot or termite damage.
Next, look up at the overhangs. Check for damage based on the materials used to construct them.
In addition, look for small stinging insect nests. As the weather warms, wasps and bees will aggressively build nests on building overhangs. For some reason, they seem to have an affinity for vinyl and light fixtures with openings in the bottom. Take care of them early to prevent having to deal with a large, potentially dangerous nest later.
Another item to be on the lookout for is bird nests. Birds often nest on top of columns and light fixtures. They will also nest in hanging plants and door wreaths. They won’t be there for a long time, but until their fledglings leave the nest, they will swoop and dive at people as they enter and leave the home. The most humane way to deal with them is to allow them to remain until they raise their young. Then, remove the nest and place a deterrent where the nest was to prevent future nests because many birds return to the same nesting area every year.
If your home has gutters, check them to see if they need cleaning. A clogged gutter can cause water to back up under shingles and spill over onto wooded areas or plants, causing damage.
Now, it’s time to get out the binoculars. Walk out from the edges of your house until you can see your roof. Use the binoculars to inspect for missing or damaged shingles. Discolored shingles often benefit from a good pressure washing, as well.
Once you have completed your inspection, look at your notes. Prioritize the items to be repaired. Consider which ones you can do yourself. If there are big jobs that need attention, you may want to hire a contractor. Ask neighbors and friends to recommend contractors for the types of repairs you need done. You can also check websites like Angie’s List. Some sites may charge a small fee, but finding a dependable contractor is worth it.
For many of us, the ice has taken care of a lot of the pruning. However, we still need to inspect our trees for hanging limbs that have broken but have not completely fallen or have possibly become temporarily wedged by other branches. If the limbs are big, they can severely injure anyone walking by underneath when they do finally fall. They can also cause damage to understory shrubs. If you see large limbs hanging, you should call a tree surgeon to take care of these hazards.
Next, inspect your shrubs for damage caused by fallen trees and limbs. Some of them may need to be pruned back severely so that they can grow back in a more pleasing shape. Scarred bark and jagged breaks invite borers and other pests to invade and cause damage to the shrub. For azaleas and other spring bloomers, you may want to wait until after they bloom to make the call on the amount of pruning. As hard as it is to cut them back, clean cuts are better than jagged breaks.
As you walk around the yard, you should pay attention walkways and garden edgings. Tree roots and alternating freezing and thawing can cause pavers and bricks to heave out of their normal places. ?Uneven walkways are invitations for trips and falls. Cracks in concrete walks and driveways should be repaired to prevent further damage from water seepage into narrow spaces.
Fences also need inspection. Wooden fences should be checked for loose or warped boards. Also, a painted or stained fence may need painting or more stain. Rotted boards should be replaced. Stone or brick fences should be checked for loose mortar. Any loose mortar should be removed and replaced with fresh for a tight seal to insure the stones or bricks stay in place and to prevent water damage. Metal fences may have suffered damage from falling limbs. Bent or damaged sections should be replaced, and the entire fence should be inspected for rust or other damage.
While you’re walking around your yard, be observant. Notice any signs of drainage problems. If left unattended, standing water will become mosquito-breeding pools in the coming warmer months. Also, inspect the foundation of your home. Standing water near the foundation needs draining. Look for evidence of run-off that comes near the foundation. Run-off that comes too near your home during the upcoming heavy spring and summer thunderstorms can erode the foundation and threaten the stability of your home.
Homeowners themselves can do many of these spring repair projects. However, some projects like tree trimming can be extremely dangerous. Chainsaws cause many accidents every year. Also if drainage or water run-off is a problem, homeowners should consult professionals to study the slope of the lot and devise an exit strategy for the excess water. Regardless of the project, homeowners should only attempt repairs they feel confident in their abilities to perform.