Prepare Your Home
Source: Better Homes and Garden –
Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Most of the tasks listed below are well with-in the average person’s ability. But even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense. You’ll save money — and maybe even your life.
Here’s your fall checklist at a glance.
- Get your mind in the gutters. Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts.
- Button up your overcoat. Seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors with weather-stripping and caulk.
- Get on top of roof problems. Inspect your roof for damaged or curled shingles, corroded flashing, or leaky vents.
- Walks the walks (and drives). Take steps to repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps.
- Chill out. Drain and winterize outdoor faucets and irrigation systems.
- Freshen your filter. Clean or replace dirty furnace filters.
- Give your furnace a physical. Have a professional inspect your heating system.
- Gather round the hearth. Check fireplaces for soot or creosote build-up. Better yet, schedule a visit from a reputable chimney sweep.
- Keep the humidifier humming. Clean the plates or pads to ensure efficient operation.
- Head-off gas problems. If you have a gas-fired room heater, have it inspected by a pro. Also, perform any routine maintenance recommended by the maker.
- Keep the wood fires burning brightly. Wood stoves are making a comeback. To avoid a deadly situation, be sure to inspect yours before firing it up.
- Keep your family safe at home. A home safety check should be an annual ritual in every household. Test smoke and CO monitors, inspect (or install) fire extinguishers, review fire escape plans, and rid your home of old newspapers and other fire hazards.
Get your mind in the gutters. Your roof’s drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house’s exterior and foundation walls. That’s why it is so important to keep this system flowing smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion. Before the leaves fly this fall, have your gutters cleaned, then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning.
Button up your overcoat. A home with air leaks around windows and doors is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This humble material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.
If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paperslides easily, your weatherstripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.
While you’re at it, also check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and so. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulk.
Get on top of roof problems. Few homeowner problems are more vexing than a leaky roof. Once the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming. Stop problems this fall before ice and winter winds turn them from annoyances into disasters.
Here’s how: Inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.
Note: Roof-mounted television antennas, even if they aren’t in use, may have guy wires holding them in place. Look for loose or missing guy wires. If you see some, and your antenna is no longer being used, consider having it removed altogether.
Walk the walks (and drives). Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.
Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths.
Most small jobs are well within the ability of a do-it-yourselver, but save major repairs for experienced hands.
Chill out. If you live in an area with freezing weather, take steps to ensure that outside faucets (also called sill cocks) and inground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst.
Here’s how: Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freezeproof ” types, you may benefit from styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centers.
To freezeproof an inground irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s procedure for draining it and protecting it from winter damage.
Freshen your filter. Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furniture, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it harded to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can serious increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep these filters breathing free and clear.
Here’s how: Disposable filters can be vaccumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vaccumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.
Give your furnace a physical. Once a year, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling this task in early fall, before the heating season begins.
Here are signs that you should have an inspection performed sooner:
Noisy belts. Unusual screeches or whines may be a signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.
Poor performance. A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted, or the blower motor could be on its last legs. One check you should be sure to conduct: Make sure your furnace filter is clean.
Erratic behavior. This could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a misadjusted furnace.
Gather round the hearth. Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.
Inspect your flue for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.
For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.
Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.
Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.
Check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brickchimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.
Keep the humidifier humming. You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.
Here’s how: First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.
Head-off gas problems. Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, or it may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.
Here’s how: First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.
Keep the wood fires burning brightly. Woodburning stoves are a great way to add atmosphere and warmth to your home. But regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Here’s how to check them.
Inspect stovepipes. Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.
Look for corrosion and cracks. Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.
Check safety features. Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. If you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.
At least once a year, do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is also a good time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation plan. Here’s how to do this:
Smoke and CO detectors. Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.
Fire extinguishers. Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen; having one per floor isn’t a bad idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make certain that the lock pin is intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage seems severe. Note: Fire extinguishers that are more than six years old should be replaced. Mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.
Fire escape plans. Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.
General cleanup. Rid your home of accumulations of old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. (Check with your state or local Environmental Protection Agency about the proper way to discard dangerous chemicals.) Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.
Power Washing Your Deck
Is it the Right Call?
Power washing a deck is a quick and efficient way to get it ready for painting or staining, but it isn’t a necessary prerequisite. In fact, in some situations, it isn’t even a good idea, because power washing can chip and gouge wood. There are less aggressive alternatives to power washing that remove stains and surface discoloration, and if you don’t have success with any of them, you can always sand the deck.
The Importance of Cleaning
Before you apply any type of finish to a wood deck, you must remove any existing finish or there’s a good chance your new finish will fail prematurely. It will sit on top of the old finish instead of penetrating, and probably eventually peel off. If you’re staining an older deck, you also need to remove the gray surface layer of oxidation if you want the deck to appear anything like it did when it was new. A thorough cleaning of the deck also removes grime, dirt, tannin and rust stains and other blemishes that will show through the finish.
Advantages of Pressure Washers
The high-pressure spray from a power washer, also called a pressure washer, effectively wears off the surface layer of the wood, removing old finish, gray wood and stains in one fell swoop. It also removes debris from between the decking boards, which helps prevent the growth of rot and fungus. Because a pressure washer uses only water, it’s harmless to surrounding vegetation and introduces no noxious gases into the atmosphere. You don’t have to do any bending or scrubbing when you use a pressure washer, and unless you’re using it in conjunction with a deck cleaning detergent or you’re using a gas-powered model, you don’t need to buy any materials other than the pressure washer itself.
Using a Pressure Washer Properly
The main drawback of using a pressure washer is that the spray can be powerful enough to damage the decking wood. You can avoid this by using a tip with a wide fan width and holding it a uniform 3 to 6 inches from the wood. If under those conditions the spray doesn’t develop enough force to clean the deck satisfactorily, you have the option of scrubbing down the deck with a deck cleaner before you power wash. Some power washing rigs even allow you to add the detergent directly to the spray. You then spray lightly with detergent, wait for it to work, then wash again with high-pressure water.
Alternatives to Power Washing
If you’re staining a newly-installed deck, you probably don’t need to power wash it. Instead, mopping it with a deck cleaning solution and washing it off with a hose and water should be all the deck needs — if that. You can also use a cleaning solution in the same way on an old or dirty deck that could be damaged by high-pressure spray, although you will need to scrub the deck with a stiff brush after letting the solution sit for a few minutes. In some cases, sanding is a better alternative than power washing, because it flattens and smooths weathered boards while removing the old finish. If your deck is larger than 100 square feet, you can save time and effort by renting a flooring orbital sander to do the job.
Hail Damage Repair
A number of homes in the Northern Virginia area received hail damage a few months back due to the severe storms that passed through. Your home may have received damage, and you might not even know! Luckily we’re experts in discovering that damage and are readily available for hail damage repair. Some companies are months away from being able to start, but we’re working hard to get in and correct the problems faster than the rest. This customer had severe hail damage to his roof, as well as quite a few dings on his siding. We got in and replaced everything with beautiful, new materials months before the rest of his neighbors who had files for repair prior to him. Here are the before and after photos!
To schedule your free consultation for hail damage repair, or any other project you might need. Please get in touch with S&K Remodeling today!
For inquiries, or to schedule a free estimate with S&K Remodeling, please contact us at:
10821 Courthouse Rd.
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22408
Monday-Friday: 8:00 am-5:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am-12:00 pm
This Great Upgrade is a No Brainer
“Capping” . Makes the door / window low maintenance and makes it look better.
Here at S&K, we’re constantly finding ways to upgrade your home’s style while finding ways to make your life easier. This particular upgrade is called “capping”. This easy project will make your door or window low maintenance and look great!
Check out this before and after shot.