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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!
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:
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!
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):
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!
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!
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
Yes! There are several at home remedies I recommend trying before calling a plumber for clogged drains. Try following these steps:
If the drain is still clogged after these 5 steps, I think it’s time to call the plumber.
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:
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.
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:
To pick the fridge that’s right for you, consider the following factors:
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.
Refrigerator types prioritize size, food types, access and appearance. Select the one that best matches your needs.
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.
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:
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!
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:
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!
Answer: No ring? No chime? No worries..there are 3 typical causes of why your doorbell may have stopped working:
Hopefully, happier days will be “ringing” in no time!
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:
For Stainless Steel Grills:
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!
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!
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.
For those who own any stainless steel appliances, you know it takes a little to work to keep them looking bright and polished and clean. Despite its name, stainless steel can stain and certain cleaners are too be avoided and even plain water can leave spots if not used correctly. The first bit of advice I typically give is what not to do. Do not use abrasive cleaners, steel wool pads, chlorine bleach, any products containing chloride, or hard water which can leave spots. Instead, I find it best to spray the surface with vinegar, and then use a soft cloth to clean the vinegar off in the direction of the stainless grain. Start at the top of your appliance and work your way down to the floor. To bring out that factory shine again, periodically buff your stainless steel surface by applying lemon oil with a soft cloth, also in the direction of the grain, and then buffing off with a different lint-free cloth. You’ll be back to that brilliant shine you originally fell in love with in no time at all!
I was recently asked this question by two separate homeowners and my answer to each of them was different based on their unique circumstances. While I myself, as a builder, have never used a professional cleaner for my air ducts, there are times when I do recommend it. It all depends on the current condition of your ducts and vents. The MOST important thing you can do for your air duct system is to regularly change out your filters. I will say this again: changing out your filters regularly will keep dust and other junk from building up in your ducts over time. With that being said, a lot of your ducts’ current condition is a result of how the builder left them after the construction process. One of the services I provide in every home I build is to thoroughly clean each duct during the final post-construction cleaning. I don’t just have them vacuumed out, I have them wiped down and even any paint sprayed into them cleaned up. If your builder skipped this step, you’ll know it once you remove a few of your air registers and see built-up lint, dust, and construction debris that can be up to an inch thick. In those cases, I recommend spending the avg. $300-$400 to have them professionally cleaned. For most of my customers who don’t have to deal with construction debris, a simple occasional vacuuming out and wiping off registers should be suffice. Just please, please, please – change out your air filters regularly!
Clean Your Oven Hood Filter
I like using the winter months to do interior home maintenance. Once the warm weather breaks, usually in the next month, I want to be outside and tend to focus on exterior items. Using the cold winter months to knock out some equally important inside tasks will keep you from neglecting these often over-looked maintenance items. Let me start by asking you: “when is the last time you cleaned your oven hood filter?” Exactly. We all tend to forget this one! While these filters can be a bit overwhelming with the amount of grease and crud they accumulate, follow these easy steps to get the results in the picture above:
I’m going to start out by asking you a question for this one: do you use too much laundry detergent? Most people think not, after all, you’re only following the directions on the detergent packaging (keep in mind this is from the people who only make a profit when you keep buying more of their product). When it comes to cleaning your clothes, more soap is better, right? Many homeowners are surprised to learn that most of their problems with their washing machines can be traced back to using too much laundry detergent. Energy saving federal regulations in recent years have stipulated washing machines use much less water per load. Less water and too much detergent makes it harder for your machine to break down the soap which can leave harmful residue in the machine basin and cause many problems. If the washer basin feels slimy, if the machine doesn’t drain properly, if you notice a foul odor, or if you begin to see rust and/or dark spots on your clothes, all these point to too much detergent being used. A general rule of thumb is to use about a tablespoon of detergent per regular sized load. Of course, I recommend reviewing your machine’s manual and the manufacturer’s recommendations on not only how much soap to use, but what kind of soap detergent to use as well. Newer HE (High Efficiency) machines use specially formulated soaps that prevent too many suds. If you do not use specialty HE detergents in your machine, you’ll need to reduce the amount of regular soap you use by at least 1/3 of the recommended amount. Lastly, I recommend using machine cleaner tablets monthly to dissolve any soap residue that might be building up in your machine basin. Now, you’ll have clean laundry and a clean machine that can run more smoothly!
Answer: Yes! I am a big fan of Christmas decorating that does not leave damage behind on the exterior of your house. Always opt for clip on hooks rather than drilling, nailing, or screwing holes into your gutters, fascia, and soffits. I tend to think the simpler the better, like the one pictured above from ChristmasLightsEtc.com . I really like this store as they also offer clip on hooks for brick siding. Lastly, if you are looking to hang wreaths, garland, or the like across vinyl siding, try these easy low profile siding hooks available at Amazon (about $6 for 2). May your decorating be merry and bright (and not damaging)!
Turn Off & Drain Outdoor Faucets
To prevent freezing & potentially bursting pipes in the coming cold winter months, take a few minutes to turn off and drain your outdoor faucets. First, shut off the water supply to your outdoor faucets (typically found in either your mechanical room or crawlspace). Next, go outside and turn those faucets to the on position to drain thoroughly. When water is no longer running out of the outdoor faucet, turn it to the closed position so that the cold winter wind does not have any opportunity to enter your home. Don’t forget to disconnect and drain any water hoses you may have attached as well. I recommend doing this before the first frost in your area!
So you’re thinking about building a home ..an exciting and scary endeavor for most! Your home will likely be the largest investment you will make so you naturally want to make as informed decision as possible on something that affects not just your future, but your everyday life as well. Upon an out-of-state friend’s request, I’ve put together essential questions to ask any builder you are contemplating using:
Give Your AC Some Space!
The heat is on this hot July and you’re going to want your AC unit working smoothly. Many AC units are surrounded by shrubbery that restricts the airflow needed to make the systems run efficiently and optimally. Take a few minutes to look around your AC’s outdoor unit:
Make sure your gutters can handle the rain, rain, rain..
It’s raining, it’s pouring, and the calendar must be snoring because April showers got moved to May this year! Even though clear days to do yard work have been hard to come by, please remember to get out and check your gutters. Always check for debris and leaves that might be blocking the water ways, but equally important be sure to check for loose gutters that might be allowing rain water to seep down the soffit and into your crawl spaces. Lastly, please check that your downspouts are still turned the correct way and throwing water AWAY from the house, not down it’s foundation. Stay dry my friends!
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40+ years since I built my first home in the mid 1970’s! My college roommate and best friend at Virginia Tech, Charles Aardema, and myself set out to start our own business the year before. As engineers, we loved the construction industry and my time in the Army Corps of Engineers solidified my love of turning architectural concepts into 3-D reality. With two kids in tow and a third on the horizon, Pat & I thought it best to keep my full-time job at Daniel Commercial Construction until our company could sustain both Charlie and I full-time. We started with any projects we could get, building decks, remodeling rooms, and sizeable additions. The first house we actually built was for Charlie. Not only did it lay the ground work for our new home procedures and processes, it opened the door to gaining our very first customer, the Reynolds family. The Reynolds lived in Charlie & Diane’s neighborhood and had become friends with them when both wives met out on a stroller walk one day. They witnessed how we built his home and the painstaking measures we took to ensure top quality work and felt ready to hire us when they were looking to build. As I think back to that first official home for a customer, it’s funny the pieces of it that I remember like yesterday. I remember the roofer’s brother-in-law who was working up on the roof and had a heart attack, but even more so, how irritated the roofer was that the job was going to take longer because of it! I remember the weekends spent with Charlie and I doing as much of the physical labor as we could so as to pinch every penny possible. I remember running out of sheetrock and how my good friend, John Harris, rode with me to NBG (whom we still use) to pick up some more after work one night. I remember building a fireplace wood storage insert so the Reynolds would have a practical place to store their firewood beside the fireplace, a unique “custom” feature back then. I remember the sense of completion and accomplishment when we handed the house over at closing. I remember making a lifelong friendship with The Reynolds whom we are still friends with to this day. As I have reflected on this time, it is not lost on me that our first customer came by way of our personal relationships and referrals and that has been our motto and what has kept us in business ever since. More rewarding than the houses I have built over these last 40 years though, has been the many friendships and memories I have gained along the way.
I love efficiency and saving money, put those two together and it’s a winning combination! Most people believe they have to go out and buy the latest and greatest technology to enhance their appliances’ efficiency. On the contrary, there is much you can do to your current refrigerator to lower it’s present energy consumption and increase it’s efficiency: