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Fall Homeowner Tip #13

October 18, 2019

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning by Installing and/or Checking Your CO Detector

Carbon monoxide (CO) can pose a serious danger and the sources producing it can be found in most homes today.  For years I have made it mandatory in the homes I build to include a CO detector as most can now be purchased in a combo unit with a smoke alarm.  Carbon monoxide is a dangerous odorless gas that can be found as the byproduct of gas furnaces, space heaters, stoves, dryers, back-drafting from unvented appliances, & generators to name a few.  Since CO is lighter than air, the detectors need to be installed on ceilings.   If you already have a CO detector, be sure to regularly check the batteries.  Lastly, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning :

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of Consciousness

 

Question: Can I put pumpkin seeds down my garbage disposal?

September 30, 2019

The short answer is no!  You should not put fibrous vegetables such as pumpkin, kale, celery, and asparagus down your disposal because of how easily they get tangled up in the unit and often jam the motor.  Here’s a helpful list of what should and shouldn’t go in your garbage disposal:

Should:

  • soft foods
  • liquids
  • some hard vegetables and fruits as long as they are chopped up

Should Not:

  • coffee grounds (they clump together in a thick mass that can clog drains)
  • pasta, rice, & other starchy foods that expand when wet
  • egg shells
  • potato peels
  • nuts
  • meat remnants
  • bones
  • shells of seafood fish
  • grease, oil, & cooking fat (these can solidify in pipes and cause serious clogs)
  • fibrous vegetables (as mentioned above)
  • seeds from peaches & mangoes
  • apple cores

Labor Day Weekend Special Project – Aerate Your Yard!

August 27, 2019

If you want a luscious lawn in the spring, fall is the time to take action!  Whether you hire a landscaper or do it yourself, aerating your yard provides multiple benefits to the grass and soil below by perforating small holes that allow water, air, and nutrients to penetrate them.  Aeration alleviates soil compaction, a condition that worsens over time and prevents new grass from being able to grow.   Most professionals recommend the following order of steps:

  1. Aerate – early fall
  2. Fertilize – immediately after to put nutrients into your soil
  3. Seed – over entire yard or problem areas

Be sure to mow your lawn before aeration and do not cut it for at least a week after.  One last helpful hint: lightly water your lawn after mowing and before aerating because aeration is most effective when the soil is slightly moist.

 

Summer Homeowner Tip #19

July 25, 2019

Vacuum Refrigerator Coils..

Keep your refrigerator running longer and more efficiently by vacuuming the coils annually.  Remember to unplug the refrigerator first, then pop off the base grill if necessary, and vacuum to your heart’s content (you might be surprised by what you find)!

 

Summer Homeowner Tip #18

June 27, 2019

Dust Ceiling Fan Blades & Check Direction..

Now is the perfect time to change the direction of your fan blades and clean them at the same time!  As I had advised in winter to have your fans run clockwise to distribute heat more evenly, now I recommend changing the direction to counterclockwise in summer as this will push the air straight down and help you stay cooler!

 

Question: What’s the best way to clean a Trex deck?

May 23, 2019

Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to get your deck set up if you haven’t already! Like any outdoor structure, your Trex deck needs to be cared for and cleaned well to maintain it’s optimal beauty and life.  Early generation Trex decks do not encourage power washing, just soap and water and a soft bristled brush.  The Transcend, Enhance, & Select Trex products allow for pressure washers with equal to or less than 3100 PSI and recommend holding the tip no closer than 8″ from each deck board.  Never use cleaning products with Acetone in them; but rather, use a Magic Eraser to try to remove any stains you may have.  Also, never sand a Trex deck.  Lastly, as a reminder for next winter,  never use a metal shovel on a Trex deck, only plastic should you need to remove snow and/or debris. For now, happy deck season!

Spring Homeowner Tip #15

April 17, 2019

Remove dead trees & shrubs!

The month of April is a great time to evaluate your yard and remove any dead trees and shrubs for both safety and aesthetic purposes.  With the upcoming summer thunderstorms trumpeting our way, dead trees can easily be blown over and cause costly, if not deadly, accidents.  Dead or unsightly shrubs can be removed during this time allowing for freshly planted ones to take advantage of the spring soil.  As always, whenever any of your projects require digging, I strongly urge you to call 8-1-1 to find out where your utility lines run underground.  You can also visit their website to find out more information (call811.com).

Spring Homeowner Tip #14

March 29, 2019

Test your water heater pressure release valve

I recommend homeowners check their water heater pressure release valve every year.  Diminishing water pressure, no water pressure, and hammering noises within your walls are all indicators that your pressure reducing valve is going bad.  I like to recommend a great 3 min. video that Roto Rooter has prepared to demonstrate how this is done, although you can skip to the 1:30 mark to get straight to the point.  Click here for that video.

Winter Homeowner Tip #9

February 21, 2019

Check your bathroom caulk!

I like to remind my homeowners to do one last interior winter check before the weather turns warmer and everyone wants to head outside:  check the caulk in your bathrooms.  Most homeowners remember to check the caulk by their windows and doors as they are naturally motivated by the cost savings benefit of performing those checks.  Often forgotten, but just as important, is to remember to check and repair the caulk around sinks, bathtubs, and toilets.  Not only will it keep your bathrooms looking fresh and new, it can prevent costly leaks and plumbing calls.

Question: Why do you recommend changing the ceiling fan direction in winter?

January 31, 2019

We all know that hot air rises, but here’s a little tip on how to put that principle to good use in your home.  If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch (most do), use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction in winter at a low speed  after you turn on your heat.  The fan will  produce a gentle updraft and push down heated air from the ceiling into your room.  This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings & it might even  allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy  savings.

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2018

Winter Homeowner Tip #8

November 30, 2018

Close your foundation vents!

Once the seasonal temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I recommend closing your foundation vents to prevent the crawl space pipes from freezing.  An easy way to do this is to simply use the mechanism on your vent to close them or you can plug them from the outside with foam blocks made specifically for this purpose as well.  Another easy alternative is to replace your traditional vents with automatic ones which self close at 40 degrees and open at 70 degrees.  Regardless of which method you prefer, be sure to remember this one & mark it off your winter checklist as done!

Question: How Do I Find My Property Lines?

October 25, 2018

Good fences make good neighbors…unless they don’t

All home and property owners today need to know their property lines, especially if they’re looking at constructing a fence or outdoor structure, doing landscaping, putting in outdoor security cameras, and definitely if selling their home.  In today’s highly litigious society,  knowing your property lines can help avoid costly situations & headaches involving your neighbor’s trees, roots, etc.

Hiring a surveyor to come to your property would get the job done, but this option is costly and I recommend pursuing other options first:

  • Refer to your home/property purchase records – there should be a copy of the home location survey that clearly depicts the location of your home & any other structures in relation to your property lines
  • Check county records – there is a high probability that your county has an official survey on record.  You can usually access these records by either searching online at your county’s website or in some locations by visiting the county office and requesting them.

At the end of the day, if neither of these options work, hire a surveyor.  It’s absolutely worth it when you’re considering any home improvement project.  After all, you want to make sure the property that you’re improving and protecting is actually yours.  When it comes to your property, it’s either know it or lose it!

 

Fall Homeowner Tip #12

September 28, 2018

Change Your Furnace Filter

The change of seasons is always a great reminder to change your furnace filter.  Your heating system will run much more efficiently this winter if you do so!  A few things to keep in mind when replacing your filter(s):

  • Don’t forget to set the thermostat to “off” while you change it.
  • On the new filter, find the arrow that indicates the proper air flow direction.  The arrow needs to face toward the furnace and away from the return duct.
  • How often?  An average home is fine to change their filter 4x/year.  I like changing it each season in Virginia because it’s an easy ongoing rhythm reminder.  However, if your household has pets or allergies, consider replacing filters every 45-60 days.

Summer Homeowner Tip #17

August 24, 2018

Protect Your Deck & Patio Before Fall..

The hot summer sun can be brutal on outdoor decks and patios! First, clean away dust and debris from the surfaces of your deck, patio, and porch spaces. Next, look for signs of cracking, chipped paint, or holes that need to be repaired. Use wood putty or stone filler to repair any areas that have been damaged. Make sure to repaint or restain and seal the surface before the wet fall weather begins and the ice of winter comes!

 

We Made the Top 5! Vote Now for Top Homebuilder!

July 23, 2018

As many of you may have seen in the newspaper yesterday, we made the Top 5 as one of Richmond’s Best Homebuilders! Thanks to your nomination votes back in the Spring, AHI broke through the historically all-production-builder ranks and grabbed a spot in the Top 5 of the annual Richmond Times Dispatch’s “The Best of Richmond” competition. We know this is because of you, thank you!

VOTE HERE

If you feel like voting again,the competition is now to the final phase and will be narrowing the list down to the Top 3 to be announced at a ceremony in October. You can vote daily, at the link above! (You’ll find Best Homebuilder in the Home and Garden section).

We appreciate your support!

The AHI Team

Question: Help! My kitchen drain is clogged, any ideas before calling a plumber?

July 10, 2018

Yes! There are several at home remedies I recommend trying before calling a plumber for clogged drains.  Try following these steps:

  1. Try to remove any standing water from the sink with a cup or small pot.
  2. Check your garbage disposal if you have one.  Turn it on and make sure it’s working properly.    If the disposal was clogged and overheated as a result, flip the switch on the bottom or side of the unit to restart it.
  3. Mix about a cup of baking soda with a half cup of salt and pour down the drain.  Let the mixture sit for an hour and then flush with boiling water.  (You can swap the half cup of salt for a full cup of white vinegar if you prefer).
  4. Use a plumber’s snake – this handy tool reaches down your drain until you feel resistance at the spot the clog.
  5. Lastly, if you feel comfortable opening the sink’s P-trap (the curved pipe underneath your sink in the cabinet below), you can try to clear any debris you find there.

If the drain is still clogged after these 5 steps, I think it’s time to call the plumber.

Question: What does the noise from my AC unit mean?

May 10, 2018

Most of today’s high-efficiency AC units keep noise levels below 55 decibels.  So, if you hear an unusual or loud noise, don’t ignore it and turn a potentially minor issue into a major expense.  Below are the most common AC unit noises and what they may mean:

  • Screaming – if you hear a high-pitched whistle or scream like noise, this could indicate a refrigerant leak in your unit or high internal pressure inside your compressor.  Both of these situations are dangerous for your family, shut the unit off and call a professional.
  • Rattling – a rattling noise could mean that your unit is either starting to deteriorate, some of its parts are becoming loose like the fan, or that twigs or debris could be clogging it.  Check for loose screws and bolts in the unit, change the indoor air filter, and clean the condenser coils.
  • Humming – if your compressor hums and refuses to start, more than likely there is an issue with your motor but first check the wiring as a loose wire would cause the same humming sound.
  • Clicking – your AC unit will make a normal clicking sound as it starts up and shuts down but be aware if this clicking noise becomes constant,  it could indicate a defective control or failing thermostat.
  • Banging – if you hear banging, something in your AC unit is not functioning properly and needs to be fixed right away before the problem causes more expensive ripple effects.  Banging indicates there’s a broken or loose part in your compressor system or that your indoor blower might be unbalanced.  Call a professional while there is still time to repair that one part and not have to replace the whole unit from the damage it caused!

Spring Homeowner Tip # 13

April 24, 2018

Clean Your Gutters!

With the weather finally turning warm, many of us are anxious to get outside and start our spring cleanup projects!  I always like to remind homeowners that cleaning your gutters first is a great place to start.  The wind and debris from winter storms can fill your gutters with unwanted deposits so you’ll want to be sure they’re not clogged as the season of spring showers begins.  As this often times is a somewhat messy endeavor, I recommend cleaning your gutters first and then power-washing or cleaning your home’s exterior afterwards to maximize spring cleaning efficiency.

Question: How Do I Pick a Refrigerator-there’s too many options?!

March 1, 2018

Choosing a refrigerator doesn’t have to be overwhelming, even though one walk down the home improvement store appliance aisle might seem like it!  Take a step back, identify your lifestyle & needs, and you’ll see an intelligent choice emerge for your particular situation.  Refer to this guide below from my friends at AHS to offer better insight for selecting a refrigerator that’s best for you:

Refrigerator Needs

To pick the fridge that’s right for you, consider the following factors:

  • Kitchen space – How much space do you have? Be sure to purchase a fridge that can fit in your kitchen, while leaving a few inches around each side to let the fridge operate efficiently. Also, be sure to consider how wide the fridge doors can swing open and in what direction, too.
  • Eating habits – Do you eat more fresh foods or frozen foods? Select a fridge type that caters to your dining habits. If you consume mainly fresh foods, consider a bottom-mount fridge (freezer on the bottom). If you prepare meals from frozen items, a top-mount fridge may work better.
  • Your family – If you have kids or elderly people in your home, pick a fridge that provides easy access to food items. A side-by-side unit allows you to place food on lower or upper shelves, depending on who needs to reach it.

Refrigerator Features

Most refrigerators come with standard features, including shelves, crisper drawers and on-door compartments. If you’re looking for more than the basics, here are additional features to consider.

  • Ice and water dispensers: While models with these features are the most popular, they also require the most repairs. Energy costs are higher, too.
  • Adjustable shelving
  • Soda-can dispenser
  • Moisture control
  • Air filtration system
  • Programmable control pad: With this feature, you can set the temperature, lock ice and water dispensers and preset the amount of water to dispense.
  • Energy-saving models: Certain refrigerator models can use up to 20 percent less energy, saving you money on utility bills. Just look for Energy Star-qualified units.

Refrigerator Types

Refrigerator types prioritize size, food types, access and appearance. Select the one that best matches your needs. 

  • Top mount – The freezer is on the top, and the refrigerator is on the bottom. Top-mount fridges are the most common and typically the least expensive. These models prioritize refrigerator space, but the drawback is the limited capacity (about 18 cubic feet on the smaller end).
  • Bottom mount – The refrigerator is on the top, and the freezer is on the bottom. In these units, the freezer typically consists of a pullout shelf.
  • Side-by-side – The refrigerator and freezer compartments run from the top to the bottom of the unit. These models provide the same or similar amount of freezer and refrigeration capacity. While these units take up less space with the doors open, the compartments are relatively narrow (making it tough to fit those frozen pizzas).

Additionally, counter-depth models are popular options. These provide a built-in look, as the fridge sits flush with your cabinetry. For the sake of that perfect fit, you may have to sacrifice storage capacity though.

Lastly, there are several options when it comes to color and finish. Stainless steel is an appealing option, but fingerprints leave smudges, necessitating constant wiping. Consider a faux-stainless finish, which saves you from the never-ending cleanup.

Winter Homeowner Tip #7

February 6, 2018

Add Attic Insulation

The best way to combat attic heat loss is by adding extra insulation.  If you are noticing the ice dams we referred to in our last blog post on your roof this winter, or simply suspect you are losing too much heat from your living areas, I recommend checking your attic insulation with the chart above.  Since I build in Virginia, I always use at least R-38 rated insulation.  The “R” value measures the insulation’s ability to resist heat permeation.  The higher the R value, the more beneficial for colder climates.  Should you determine more insulation is needed, either hire a professional or do it yourself while keeping the following tips in mind if installing fiberglass batts over existing insulation:

  • Use an unfaced batt (one without a foil or paper layer) so moisture doesn’t get trapped in the ceiling below
  • Unroll and lay the batts perpendicular on your attic floor joists so they do not compress the previously installed insulation
  • Don’t cover soffit vents as it’s extremely important for the colder air to circulate in your attic ABOVE the insulation (remember the insulation will keep the heat BELOW)

Preventing Ice Dams

January 4, 2018

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…(but not damage my roof!)

Snow and ice may be beautiful to look at, but they can also cause brutal damage to your home if ice dams form.  Per the above diagram, ice dams occur when the snow on your roof begins to melt in response to the heat rising from your attic as well as any daytime sun it may receive.  The melted snow water then tries to run down towards the gutter but refreezes once it escapes the warm heat underneath as well as being exposed to the colder night temperatures.  This refreezing at the gutters causes a dam of ice to form and subsequent water to get backed up and trapped, sometimes under your shingles.  Not only can the gutters break off, but even more expensive damage such as water leaks in your roof, ceilings, and wall cavities can occur.  Prevent ice dams by first ensuring your gutters are clear of debris such as leaves and sticks before a snow storm hits.  Secondly, if you notice icicles forming at your gutter line after a snow, clear a path for the runoff to escape.  A great home remedy for this is to fill a pair of nylons with calcium chloride ice melt (be sure not to use rock salt or sodium chloride which can damage your roof).  Drape the stuffed nylon tubes from the start of the ice dam and across your gutter so that it hangs off the roof.  This will melt the snow and allow a path for the runoff to exit through the gutters.  If you use this method, be sure to cover any shrubbery below with a tarp as calcium chloride is known to damage plants.  Now, you can go back to enjoying the beauty of the snow without the stress of worrying about roof damage!

Avoid Holiday Fire Hazards

December 12, 2017

Don’t Send Your Christmas Up in Flames!

Don’t be the statistic!  Each year, holiday fires cause more than $550 million worth of property damage!  As you transform your home into a holiday winter wonderland, please keep these fire safety decorating tips in mind:

  • Inspect light cords and extension cords – do not use if they are frayed anywhere or are hot to the touch when plugged in
  • Don’t sleep with the Christmas lights on – always turn off all decorative lights before bedtime and before you leave the house
  • Artificial trees – purchase one with a “fire resistant” label
  • Live trees – ALWAYS keep your tree watered, the base should never dry up.  A well-watered tree is significantly less of a fire threat than a dry one!
  • All Christmas trees – place at least 3 feet away from any heat source (vents, radiators, fireplaces, candles, etc.)
  • Stockings – make sure your stockings are hung with care and not near any fireplace openings where an ember can land on & ignite them
  • Decking the Halls – while using a ladder to deck your halls, take this time to check and inspect all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re working properly and replace their batteries with new ones

Is Your Fireplace Ready for the Holidays?

November 28, 2017

As the holiday season approaches, now is the time to ensure your fireplace will be in good working condition for those cold winter nights.  Keeping your chimney clean and clear is of the utmost importance!  Both gas burning and wood burning fireplaces need to be cleaned annually by a professional chimney sweep.  A rough guide is to have your fireplace cleaned after approximately 60-80 fires, for most people having it cleaned annually achieves this.  A good chimney sweep service will inspect & clean the flue, smoke chamber, damper, vents, and check for cracks and loose bricks.   Also, make sure your chimney technician inspects the chimney cap as this is critical in preventing stray embers from igniting your roof.  Lastly, if you have a wood burning fireplace, make sure they check and clear any creosote buildup they may find.  Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood and is extremely toxic (bad for your lungs) and highly flammable (house fires get quickly out of control).  Keeping your fireplace components clean and in good working condition will enable you to have a safe and warm holiday season!

Fall Homeowner Tips

October 11, 2017

Question: My doorbell stopped working, what do I do?

September 30, 2017

Answer:  No ring? No chime? No worries..there are 3 typical causes of why your doorbell may have stopped working:

  1. The Button – This is the most common faulty component to a doorbell not working.  If the button won’t move, something may be blocking it.  Try cleaning it with rubbing alcohol or spraying lubricant on it.  If you can press it, but don’t even hear a low buzzing sound, then it needs to be replaced.  A new button can be as cheap as $10.
  2. The Chime Box – If the button isn’t the issue, remove the chime box cover, use a volt meter if you have one, and attach it to the two wires that go to the unit. If you get a signal from the wires when someone else presses the doorbell but you don’t get a chime sound, your chime box needs to be replaced.  These are often sold in a kit, with a new button packaged with it, for around $15.
  3. The Transformer – If you don’t get a signal from the chime box wires, you could have an issue with the transformer, located in or near the main electrical box and often labeled.  I recommend foregoing the do-it-yourself attitude here and calling an electrician to inspect and replace the transformer because of the high voltage that is involved.

Hopefully, happier days will be “ringing” in no time!

Summer Homeowner Tip #16

August 4, 2017

How to Clean Your Gas Grill

Summer means cookouts and BBQs galore!  To keep those sizzling meals coming, make sure you are maintaining your equipment and keeping your grill clean.  Here are my recommended tips:

For Gas Grills:

  • Quick Clean After Each Use – Turn the grill up to the highest setting for 10 minutes after removing your cooked food.  At the end of 10 minutes, take your grill brush and clean the grates.
  • Deep Clean Once Per Season – Remove the grills and burner protectors, soaking them in warm soapy water.  Wipe away built-up grime from the burners with an old rag or sponge.  Wash the interior walls with steel wool dipped in warm soapy water.

For Stainless Steel Grills:

  • Remove Smoke Stains – Soak a paper towel with Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover, and let it sit on the stained area for at least five minutes. Wipe the smoke stain with a fresh paper towel and rinse with water. Repeat as needed to remove the stain completely.
  • Buff Out Scratches – Apply stainless steel polish with the grain to remove scratches and discoloration.

Water Your Yard Efficiently

June 21, 2017

Don’t Waste Water!

I’m often asked about the necessity of irrigation systems and how often do homeowners really need to water their lawns.  Each man’s grass is his own turf (pun intended), but for those who really know me, I’m always a fan of saving money when I can and am happy to give a few recommendations.  First, let nature help you for free!  Most yards need at least 3/4″ to 1″ of rain per week.  Buy an inexpensive rain gauge.  For those of you with irrigation systems, use one that can integrate with your system.  On weeks where you have plenty of water, no need to pay to overwater!  Second, be mindful of what kind of sprinkler(s) you are using.  Some traditional oscillating sprinklers can use up to 300 gallons of water an hour – that’s enormous!  Instead, opt for a drip irrigation or soaker hose that uses 30-70% less water than traditional ones and effectively delivers water to where the landscape needs it most, by its roots.  These 2 simple steps can really help you save green while getting your grass that same color!

The Surprising Memorial Day Project You Should Be Working on..

May 25, 2017

This might come as a surprise to you, but according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Vs. Value Report, there’s only one home improvement project that returns over 100% of its cost to the homeowner:  adding insulation to your attic!  Before the heat of summer begins, take time now to ensure your attic is properly air sealed between the conditioned and unconditioned areas.  Also, the goal is to have your attic insulation up to R-30 value thickness, so add additional fiberglass loosefill on top of existing insulation anywhere needed.  You’ll reap the savings both this summer and next winter as you keep more of the air you pay to condition in the rooms you want it in!

 

Spring Homeowner Tip #12

April 25, 2017

Make Sure Your A/C is Ready for Summer!

As the warm weather nears, now is the time to ensure your A/C is in good operating condition.  For outdoor exposed units, I always recommend first cleaning off all debris and leaves that may have gathered on it in the previous winter months.  Next, turn your A/C on and let it run for 30 minutes.  Walk around to your different registers to ensure ample air is being blown out of each one.  You should feel a noticeable temperature difference in your home by the end of the 30 minutes.  If there are any issues,  go ahead and schedule a service call before the demand (and price) increases.  Chances are that a little routine maintenance might be all that is needed to get your A/C back up and running well before the summer heat arrives.