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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!

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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.

**Spring Cleaning Special** What is the best way to clean Stainless Steel?

March 30, 2017 2 Comments

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!

**Spring Cleaning Special** Should I get my air ducts professionally cleaned?

March 16, 2017

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!

Winter Homeowner Tip #6

February 22, 2017

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:

  1. Remove the vent hood filter from your stove hood (most have a latch making this very quick and easy).
  2. Fill your sink with the hottest water you can.  Add in a quarter-size squirt of degreasing dish soap along with a few shakes of baking soda.
  3. Submerge your filter and LET IT SOAK for 10 minutes.
  4. Using a sponge after the 10 minutes, remove any further debris and rinse thoroughly.
  5. Let the filter air dry completely and then you can return it to the oven hood.  It is now ready for use.

 

Improve Your Washing Machine’s Performance

January 31, 2017 1 Comment

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!

Question: Is there a damage-free way to hang Christmas lights & decorations?

December 15, 2016

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)!

Fall Homeowner Tip #10

November 16, 2016

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!

Question: What questions should I ask a builder before contracting with them?

August 17, 2016

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:

  • How many years have you been in business?
  • How many homes have you built?
  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • How do you compare yourself to other builders?
  • What are the most important benefits of the homes you build?
  • What type of warranty do you offer?
  • Can you give me references from prior home buyers? Do you build model homes I can tour? If not, can you help me make an appointment to see a home you built for another customer?
  • What are the major energy-saving features of homes you build?
  • Do you build only from home plans you supply? Or can I bring my own?
  • What standard features do your homes include? What custom options do you offer?
  • Who will oversee the construction of my home? Who should I contact with any questions I may have?
  • How and when can I make changes or upgrades before and during construction?
  • How and when will the final price for my home be determined?
  • How often (and when) will I have access to the home during the building process?
  • How long will my home take to complete?
  • What’s your process for inspection at key points of construction, at final walk-through, and to address any matters that need to be corrected or finalized?

Summer Homeowner Tip #15

July 27, 2016

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:

  • Provide at least 1 foot of clearance all around the units
  • Trim any bushes that are touching the units
  • Remove any leaves and dirt around the unit
  • If there is significant mud or dirt inside the unit, then have it professionally serviced

Spring Homeowner Tip #11

May 18, 2016

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!

Remembering My First Build..

April 8, 2016 1 Comment

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.

Make Your Current Refrigerator More Efficient

February 27, 2016 2 Comments

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:

  • Set The Ideal Temperature – your refrigerator’s temperature should be set between 35-38 degrees, anything under 35 and you’re wasting energy, anything over 38 and you run the risk of bacteria forming on certain foods and milk spoiling.
  • Clean The Coils – I recommend pulling your refrigerator out once a year and vacuuming off the exposed coils on the back.  Dust & debris on your coils can cause your unit to overheat making it work harder as it tries to stay cool on the inside.
  • Location, Location, Location – the same that goes for real estate goes for your refrigerator!  Do not place your refrigerator near a heat source such as a stove or oven as it will have to work harder to lower the inside temperature.  Also, ensure there are a few inches of free space between its sides and back with surrounding walls and cabinets so the vents can work properly.  Better airflow = better efficiency.
  • Load Up The Groceries – did you know that empty refrigerators require more energy to keep cooled than full ones?  Start shopping!
  • Let Hot Food Cool Down First – if you let your steamy leftovers cool to room temperature before putting them in the refrigerator, then you will save energy and money!  Hot foods require extra work for the appliance to restore the overall low internal temperature it wants to maintain.
  • Seal It Up – just like the doors into your home, checking the seals around the edges of the refrigerator’s doors can go a very long way in overall energy savings!  Replace worn, damaged, and loose door seals on your refrigerator and your unit will be able to keep all that cold air from seeping out.
  • Don’t Leave The Door Open While You Decide What To Eat – easier said than done I know, but this little tip is the most cost effective of all.  Decisiveness saves dough!