Preparing Your Furnace For Winter

This gallery contains 1 photo.

With winter well on its way, homeowners who rely on their furnace for heat should take precautionary measures to make sure everything is working as it should.

“You want to take care of your furnace the same way you take care of your car,”  says Joseph Giannone, owner of Giannone Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. “It’s an investment, and neglecting proper maintenance and upkeep can lead to very costly repairs. It’s critical to be proactive instead of reactive. Furnaces tend to break down more frequently on the first day below freezing, but preventative maintenance and early attention to developing issues can help lower the chances of an untimely failure.”

Below are Giannone’s top furnace prep tips:

Ensure the furnace flue is clear. Be sure to clear any debris and obstructions from the furnace flue. For gas units, the flue is a pipe that releases the byproducts of combustion, like carbon monoxide. By clearing this, the furnace will vent properly, reducing its workload and safely removing noxious fumes.

Check around windows and doors for air leaks. According to Energy.gov, heating and cooling a home or business equates to approximately 40 percent of total annual utilities’ costs. Much of that can be wasted if air is escaping from the home. Use a simple match test to check for leaks around windows and doors. If the flame flickers, new weather stripping or caulking may be needed.

Replace the filter. Replacing the filter is recommended every 60 to 90 days. A new filter will reduce the workload on the furnace, making it more cost effective during the peak season. If pets are kept in the home, replace the filter every 30 days to remove excess hair and dander.

Inspect the ductwork. Air escaping from ducts is another cause for inefficient heating and unnecessary strain on the system. Look for obvious tears, damaged joints or duct tape. Another match test performed near the ducts can help find potential leaks. Fix them if possible or contact a service professional for duct inspection and cleaning.

Schedule an annual tune-up. Tune-ups increase the performance of furnaces, and they can also help identify potential issues developing with the unit. The enhanced efficiency and identification of any serious problems will result in lower monthly heating bills, and avoiding major repair expenses during the coldest days of winter. Documented proof of regular, annual maintenance may also be required by the furnace’s manufacturer for the warranty to remain in effect.

“A lot of basic maintenance is quick and simple, like ensuring your thermostat has fresh batteries for the season,” says Giannone. “Taking some easy DIY action now and scheduling a tune-up sooner than later are the two best steps homeowners can take to ensure they’ll have heat throughout the fall and winter.”

Source: www.CallJG.com.

What’s Driving Home Improvement? The Neighbors!

This gallery contains 2 photos.

While there are many reasons to embark on a home improvement project, from increasing your home’s value to expanding your living space for your family, for some Americans, the next-door neighbors are the driving force.

According to a survey of 2,000 homeowners conducted by OnePoll for home-goods manufacturer Wilsonart, one in five Americans (34 percent) started a home improvement project in order to keep up with – or get ahead of! – a friend, family member or neighbor.

The survey revealed that the average homeowner spent $3,558 on home improvements or renovations to impress others, with 42 percent of respondents reporting that there is significant competition among neighbors to have the best house on the street. Summer was far and away the peak season for home improvement projects, chosen as the most popular season by 42 percent of respondents, with as many as four projects underway. Additionally, 41 percent of respondents were working on a lawn project solely to impress the neighbors, with 1 in 4 tackling a deck renovation to attract friends and neighbors to come on over.

Candidly, 48 percent of respondents admit to walking into another person’s home and immediately feeling jealous about their renovation or addition. Conversely, 63 percent report walking into another home and secretly feeling satisfied that it wasn’t as nice as their own home.

Some of the things people most often notice about a friend’s or neighbor’s home compared to their own?

– Its cleanliness – 54%
– The amount of clutter – 39%
– Odors – 34%
– Whether there’s a garden bed in front – 25%
– How nice the TV is – 19%
– How comfortable the couch is – 18%
– How many toys are scattered about – 12%
– The quality of the artwork – 11%

What Household Chores Top Your September Shortlist?

This gallery contains 1 photo.

By John Voket

The transition period between summer and fall is the perfect time to begin planning priority chores around the house before buttoning down for winter. There is no shortage of advice on what to do, and how to accomplish the most important “September shortlist” things around the house and yard.

According to Clean-Organized-Family-Home.com, chores to keep you on track this month include:

– Cleaning heat ducts and registers, and replacing air filters.

– Patio furniture cleaning before you bring it inside and store it for the winter.

– Line up chimney sweep cleaning services now before they’re all booked.

– Order firewood and stack it away from the house to prevent pest infestation.

Over at mrhandyman.com, homeowners are directed to accomplish energy-saving items, including:

– Insulating your hot water heater with a new or replacement fiberglass insulation blanket..

– Preventing energy leaks from electrical outlets by installing foam gaskets behind them.

– Repairing window caulk if you see brittle, cracked or separated caulk.

At safewise.com, Kaz Weida says September is the time to:

– Walk around the perimeter of your home and give any unsightly spots a touch-up of exterior paint.

– Clear debris from gutters to avoid ice dams that can cause interior leaks and damage the exterior of your home.

– Inspect your roof to spot problems and fasten any loose shingles.

– Ensure your furnace is working properly and get it inspected and/or serviced by a professional.

And if you’re afraid you’ll fail to get a handle on your tasks, Weida says just schedule one per week on your calendar so September doesn’t get away from you.

Pro Tips: How Your Yard Can Make or Break Curb Appeal

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Take it from some of social media’s top influencers: a carefully cultivated yard can cast your home in a whole new light for prospective homebuyers.

A survey of high-profile lawn and garden social media accounts, conducted by outdoor power-equipment purveyors Troy-Bilt, revealed that the key to achieving curb appeal before selling is beautifying the outdoors. In fact, there are more than 486K pieces of #curbappeal content currently circulating on Instagram.

The good news is that influencers agree: Good curb appeal is both design and maintenance simple. Here are some specific tips from the following social media stars who participated in the survey:

– Amy Andrychowicz, Get Busy Gardening
– Rochelle Greayer, Pith + Vigor
– Eric Rochow, GardenFork
– Erin Schanen, The Impatient Gardener

Greayer: “Good maintenance and simplicity will go farther than trying to redesign your yard. Think of your house like a face: it needs to be washed and cleaned, and then you can take it to the next level with just a little makeup.”

This means keeping up with routine tasks like weeding, edging, mowing and pruning, along with adding subtle touches of color from container plants to draw the eye to areas of the yard you want to highlight.

Greayer especially gravitates toward creating defined garden bed edges (using an edger) and orderly lines with her lawn mower when tackling curb appeal in her own yard.

Schanen: “Clutter is distracting in a yard, and it quickly looks disorderly. Simply picking things up and putting them away makes everything look tidy. Pressure washing the front of the house and entry steps goes even further. It shows that the person who lives there cares about their space.”

According to Schanen, no matter what type of yard or curb appeal needs you have, it all comes down to keeping it basic and attainable. “Sometimes all it takes is a cleanly cut edge to make even an imperfect lawn look great.”

Andrychowicz: Don’t focus on “too much flowers.”

“Most perennial plants and shrubs only bloom for a short time and can look pretty boring the rest of the year. For best results, stagger plants with colorful foliage and varying bloom times to give you year-round color and the best curb appeal.”

At the start of every planting season, Andrychowicz and Rochow encourage individuals to trade plants with neighbors to add variety and help save on costs. This can easily be done by dividing perennials.

Rochow: A surefire way to ruin a yard’s aesthetic involves fertilizing. “Over-fertilizing can cause grass to turn yellow and create bald spots. Instead, use a time-release fertilizer, as it’s much less likely to ‘burn’ your grass.”

He also recommends keeping grass longer to deliver a fuller look and prevent lawn damage from the sun.

4 Ways to Ensure a Smooth Closing

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Buying a house is a thrilling experience! But before you can cross the threshold, you have to get through the closing…which, unfortunately, can be a confusing and stressful process for many.

While every homebuyer’s situation is different, there are some steps everyone can take to make sure the closing goes as smoothly as possible:

Have cash available. Make sure you have extra cash that is easily accessible well ahead of the closing. You will need the cash to pay some of the closing costs, and be sure to build in a 10 percent buffer for final costs that come in higher than estimates.

Have all your documentation ready to go. Ask your lender and real estate agent to provide you with a list of every piece of documentation you will need for the closing. Make sure it is complete and gathered ahead of closing day, so that you have time to double check and troubleshoot as needed.

Preserve your credit score. Keep in mind that your loan approval was based on your credit score at the time you signed the purchase agreement for your home. If you’ve taken out any new loans or debt since then, such as a credit card or car loan, this could affect your credit score and jeopardize the home loan. Wait to make any large purchases until after the closing, and make sure you’re paying everything on time.

Keep your employment steady. Don’t change jobs or decide to quit and start your own business prior to closing. Keep your employment record and income steady.

Settle the inspection. Review the inspection and make sure you are satisfied with the results. If there are any issues that need to be addressed, decide how they are going to be handled – by you or the seller? It’s critical that all decisions regarding the inspection are made before closing – you may have no further recourse afterwards.

When It Comes to Selling, It’s All About Location…and Condition

This gallery contains 1 photo.

You might’ve heard the classic adage that when it comes to real estate, the three things that matter most are “location, location, location.” While location still trumps most other variables when it comes to selling, the condition of the home frequently plays an equally important role in many areas.

Why? Many attribute it to our HGTV-obsessed culture. Today’s buyers not only want to find a home in the neighborhood they want, they expect it to look pretty darn good, too. And, unfortunately, home improvement shows make it look simple to attain a magazine-worthy look no matter what the current condition of your home.

Although you probably won’t be able to have Joanna Gaines pop by for a makeover, there are several more realistic options for improving the condition of your home before you list it. Some of these ideas, in fact, should be pursued even if you aren’t planning to sell your home in the near future, as it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your home’s value.

Invest in necessary improvements. Your home’s great location at the end of a cul-de-sac or within walking distance to the train station won’t necessarily make up for your outdated kitchen or creaky floorboards, so make the necessary renovations.  According to HomeAdvisor’s 2018 True Cost Report, Americans spent an average of $6,649 on home improvements in the 12 months prior to the research, so don’t skimp, especially if you want to sell.

Maintain the exterior. Dilapidated siding, peeling paint, or an aging roof or fence will be big turn-offs to potential buyers, no matter how great your location is. Not only will they translate to big investments of time and money for the new owners, they could pose potential structural problems, as well. Take care of these issues as they occur before they become more costly and possibly dangerous.

Neutralize decor. Who cares that you’ve painted the dining room bright pink when your home is on the most desirable street in town? Buyers, that’s who! Sure, your address may be primo, but buyers still need to be able to picture themselves living in your home once they walk through the front door. And the best way to achieve this is to make your decor as universal in appeal as possible. Paint rooms in neutral colors, stock the bathrooms and bedrooms with white towels and linens, and accent living areas with beige throws and pillows. These steps will soften the overall feel of your home, open up the space, and create a blank slate for buyers to build upon.

Still thinking your home’s great location is good enough to get it sold? It might be, but keep this in mind: Great location and mint condition is likely to get you your asking price or possibly higher if you’re in a hot market. The above steps will be worth your time and investment.

5 Ways to Ease into Minimalism at Home

This gallery contains 1 photo.

By Zoe Eisenberg

Many of us may wish we could minimize our belongings, the clutter in our home, and the overall expanse of our possessions. But becoming a minimalist at home can feel overwhelming – where do you start? Consider the following transitional tips.

Write it down. Why are you attracted to minimalism? Do you like the idea of living lightly? Of contributing less to landfills? Of saving money by purchasing less or saving time by having less to clean and declutter? Writing these things down can fortify your mission to become a minimalist, and it will reinforce your ability to move onto the next suggestion.

Get your family on board. You’re fighting a losing battle if only one person in your household wants to minimize. Chat with your spouse, kids or roommate about why creating a minimalistic home space is important to you, and see if you can get everyone on board.

Go room by room. Now that you hopefully have your household on your team, go room by room and itemize your belongings. Don’t feel pressure to slog through this in one weekend. Choose one room a month, even, take stock of your furniture and possessions, and ask yourself the following questions:
– Does this have a purpose?
– Do you use it?
– Does it make you happy?
If you answer no to any of these questions, selling or donating the item is a no-brainer.

Ditch the duplicates. Ridding yourself of duplicate items is an easy first step to purging. Do you need five extra sets of linens? All of those extra dishes in the cupboard? That backup fridge in the garage? Someone else may get better use of the things collecting dust in your cabinets.

Aim for dual function. When deciding what to keep, sell, donate, or purchase in the future, consider the function of said item. Can you use it in more than one way? Can you snag a piece of furniture that doubles as a storage unit? A kitchen island with a wing that opens into a dining room table? These are true minimalist gems.

A Safety Plan for Losing Power

Tips for Finding the Perfect Paint Color

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Redoing your home or room? A paint job is an easy, inexpensive way to totally remake the way your space looks. But with thousands of colors of paint available, how do you decide? Below, the experts from Freshome weigh in.

Pick your textiles first. Freshome notes that textiles are usually considered a finishing aspect of the design, but an easy way to make sure your paint coordinates well with the rest of the room is to use fabrics as your design inspiration and move from there.

Work in surrounding spaces. Paint can be a unifying element for neighboring spaces, says the Freshome team. The colors should work in harmony. While this tip is especially important to follow when working with open concept spaces, the effect a color has when transitioning between more traditional rooms should also be considered.

Look at lighting. Your paint color will look different depending on the way your room is lit. Once you have a color in mind, Freshome suggests you ask to have a sample made up for you at your local home improvement store. When you take it home, paint a few small sections of paint on each wall. Then, check in on them throughout the next day. If you’re happy with how the color looks in both natural and artificial light, you’ve found a winner.

Focus on the finish. According to Freshome, many people tend to overlook the fact that paint color is about much more than the shade itself. Finish is another component that can alter how your finished product looks. Be sure to take this into account before making your final decision.

Source: Freshome

A Homeowners Guide to Spring-Cleaning

This gallery contains 1 photo.

By Haley Kieser

It’s right around this time of year that homeowner’s take on the task of deep cleaning their homes. Use this guide to start making a checklist of this spring’s priorities.

Declutter

Before you dive headfirst into deep cleaning your home, it’s important to take careful inventory of your belongings and declutter. Go through each room and discard any thing broken or worn out. Go green; send less waste to the landfill and repair and recycle whenever possible. Any gently used clothing, furniture, appliances, and housewares that you no longer want can be easily donated. If you are having trouble deciding on some items, put them in a box and store them away for a month. This can help you determine how you feel about these objects over time. You may even forget about them, which means you can feel secure in letting them go!

Vacuum

While vacuuming your carpets and rugs is a fairly routine chore, other parts of your house don’t get the same kind of consistent attention. Use the attachment pieces on your vacuum to rid your vents, furniture, closet corners, windowsills, window screens, baseboards, mattresses, and any other hard to reach areas of dust and build up. Don’t forget to check behind the fridge!

Replace Filters

Replacing filters not only increases the efficiency of your ventilation systems, it’s also an essential habit for a healthy home. Make sure you replace the filters on your heating and cooling systems, as well as your kitchen hood vent. These should be checked every three months! Similarly, you should clean and refresh faucet aerators and shower-heads, especially if you’re in an area with hard water deposits. The build up is a perfect place for bacteria to flourish if not maintained consistently!

Cabinets, Walls, and Backsplash

Over time, the cabinets, walls, and backsplash in your kitchen will develop a layer of build up from cooking and everyday activity. Use regular dish soap to help break down the grease and stains to make your kitchen look good as new!

Windows and Mirrors

Use an all-natural window or glass cleaner to buff up both your windows and your mirrors. Be sure to do both sides of the glass – inside and out. This is a chore best done on a cooler, cloudy day so that the cleaner doesn’t dry before you’ve had a chance to wipe them off and leave marks. If you’re uncomfortable on a tall ladder, clean the windows you can reach and have a professional window cleaning service take care of the rest. [Ask us about our preferred vendors!]

Appliances

Give your appliances a little love! Scrub your refrigerator exterior until it shines, and then dive into the interior drawers and shelves. Make sure to throw away any expired food and old condiments for a refreshed dining experience. Next, use vinegar and baking soda to freshen up your washing machine. Over time, build up in your machine can cause mildew, which could ruin your laundry in a heartbeat! Similarly, treat your dishwasher with dishwasher cleaner to remove any bacteria-harboring build up.

Carpets and Area Rugs

Take extra time with your carpets and rugs. Be sure to thoroughly vacuum each room, including the cracks along the base of each wall. Spot treat any stains, and steam clean! There are local services that will come and do this for you, or you can rent steamer from your local super store if you’re on a budget. [Ask us about our preferred vendors!]

Bookshelves and Knickknacks

Lastly, take the time to dust and reorganize any bookshelves, antique displays, photographs, and knickknacks. Take out each individual item, wipe it down, and empty and dust the shelves completely before returning objects to their spots. You can organize bookshelves alphabetically by author or title, or by subject. If you have a large shelf with an aesthetic feel, you can organize the spines by color to add extra flair to the room. Remove any framed photographs or artwork from the walls and dust off frames before replacing them. Remember, part of spring cleaning is to clear out any unwanted items, so be sure you want to keep everything before returning it to its place in your home!

If you’re looking to sell your home this spring, get in touch to see what other ways you can spruce up your home for the competitive spring market!