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It’s sometimes daunting trying to figure out which home improvement projects should take priority over others when it comes to increasing your home’s overall value. According to the latest 2020 remodeling research study I’ve seen, here are 5 of the top return value projects for the Southeast region of the country:
Check Your Shingles!
The month of April is a great time to inspect your roof and look for damaged shingles that may be loose, buckling, worn, curled, or missing. Winter snow and ice storms can take a toll on your roof and cause damage to shingles. Likewise, the hot attic air of summers can cause the shingles above them to buckle and curl. Ideally you should be checking your roof twice a year – each spring and fall. If you find more than 1/3 of your shingles are curling, it’s time to replace the entire roof. If you find loose or missing shingles, have them replaced immediately lest water seep through your roof with the next April shower. If you have asphalt shingles, look to see if most of the little gravel-like granules are still on the shingles or if a good number have fallen into your gutters indicating the shingles have limited life left. Lastly, look for areas on your roof covered in moss or piles of leaves as both of these can be extremely damaging since they trap moisture which can seep into the sheathing underneath your shingles. An ounce of prevention with your roof goes a long way in saving potential costly rot and repairs later!
You have asked and I feel compelled to respond with my best understanding, but please note, I am not an expert in this field and you are receiving an opinion, not a recommendation. That said, the short answer is likely: Yes, to a certain extent, air purifiers & filters CAN (but are NOT guaranteed to) help prevent viruses from spreading throughout your home, according to some sources. Those sources claim the best HEPA air purifier filters can trap up to 99% (See Remi Halo site noted below) of viruses circulating through your air by using a system involving a complex weave of tiny fibers that carry an electrostatic charge. This charge then attracts bypassing particles and acts more like a magnet than a net. The smaller the fiber with the greater charge coefficient, the greater the likelihood of trapping even smaller particles. Although HEPA is a Department of Energy specification, testing and manufacturing protocol in the consumer sector varies to the extent that no filter brand should claim they can completely protect people from COVID-19 or other viruses. Home HVAC air filters have MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) ratings. Every air filter has holes that allow air and particles to pass through. The smaller the holes, the fewer particles that passes through. Higher MERV ratings indicate smaller holes, and therefore a more efficient filter. The Dept. of Energy recommends households use filters with a MERV rating of 8 or higher. Click here for an example of a MERV 16 filter for purchase on amazon.
A product that claims to be highly effective is a Remi Halo Ultraviolet Light that can be installed inside of your current HVAC system and, according to the product advertisement, has been thoroughly tested to show impressive results killing MRSA, e-coli, & Norwalk viruses to name a few. If you would like more information concerning this product and live in central VA, you may wish to call Classic Comfort, an established HVAC firm, or another HVAC company that you prefer. Classic Comfort indicated to us that you should expect to pay $700-$900 to have one of these systems installed in your current system. I see these filters as an additive protective measure, especially helpful to those who might be more at risk, but understand that nothing that I know of is guaranteed to kill all the viruses, bacteria, & pollutes that may be air borne.
We answered this question in last month’s newsletter and it stirred up quite a buzz! We love this new trend that has started to debut across the country and have just had our first two clients inquire about building a modern farmhouse design! Much like the Craftsman style of the last decade, the Modern Farmhouse style is wrapped in old charm character with updated, fresh lines achieved through:
For further design elements, we recommend browsing the modern farmhouse plans available at Don Gardner. If you are interested in building your own modern farmhouse, we’d love to talk to you!
Chestnuts (not termites) Roasting on an Open Fire!
Tis the season for warm holiday fires but be sure to store that firewood for woodburning fireplaces away from the home! Too many homeowners make the mistake of stacking firewood up against their homes and while the shorter walk may be convenient, they are unknowingly increasing the risk of termite damage to their homes. Instead, be sure to stack and store firewood at least 20 feet away from your foundation…a simple holiday tip that can keep you merry and warm!
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 :
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:
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:
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.
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)!
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!
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!