Fix Those Squeaky Floors in Your Home

Wood Floor RepairGot a squeaky floor in your home? It can be an aggravation and leave a bad impression on prospective buyers walking through your home. You can fix squeaky floors fairly easily. Here are some options:

  • Sprinkle talc or powdered graphite over gaps in wood flooring. If your squeaks are caused by loosened boards rubbing against each other, graphite can act as a lubricant and take care of the squeak.
  • Face-nail boards back into place. If your squeak is caused by wood rubbing against loose nails, carefully nail them back down.
  • Shim it. If your problem is a gap between your flooring and joist, get someone to bounce on the squeak while you’re in the basement. When you can see where the gap is causing the squeak, insert a shim in the gap. The shim can either be made of tapered wood or recycled plastic. Don’t make it any thicker than it needs to be; you could cause another squeak.
  • Nail up through joists. If your squeaks are caused by sagging floor joists making your floor boards flex, you may be able to screw up through the joists and snug down the floor boards. Make sure your screws are a quarter-inch shorter than the depth of your flooring so they don’t penetrate your floor boards. This technique works whether you have wood floors or carpeting in your home.
  • Try a product like Squeeek No More. This is a solution for carpeted floors, allowing you to secure subflooring to joists through the carpet, and then break off the screws below the carpet pad.
  • Next time, install ceramic tile. It’s quiet and solid.

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Spring Clean for a Quick Real Estate Sale

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the first day of spring rapidly approaching, get in the spirit and do a little spring cleaning — especially if you’re putting your home on the market. It’s important for real estate to be clean and clutter-free in order to show better and sell quicker.

Whether you’re still living in the home or have completely moved out, there are many things you can do before the first open house to ensure everything is showing at its best. Below is a list that every real estate agent would love to see when they first evaluate real estate. 

  • Paint walls neutral colors. If your house has a ‘clinically white’ feeling or is on a psychedelic color spree, you’ll need to paint the rooms a neutral beige, tan or gray. Even if your rooms are already neutral, you might consider a new coat of paint to hide marks and give it a fresh feel.
  • Remove clutter and stage your home. You hear this over and over when it comes to preparing a house for sale. Sometimes it goes in one ear and right out the other. Leave just a few of your children’s favorite toys and make sure even the closet floors are bare. Take this one seriously — rent a storage unit if you need to — it’s usually worth the cost.
  • Straighten everything. Take the time to align your bookshelves, organize your closet and clean out your pantry. You can clean and dust nooks and crannies as you go.
  • Wipe down EVERY surface. Sellers often get to the counters and windows, but usually miss the baseboards and window frames. Any amount of dirt reminds buyers of the people who currently live there instead of envisioning themselves in the space. Plus, everything will smell clean, which is very inviting!

While it may be hard to maintain some of these tips if you’re still living in the home, try your best and you won’t be living there long! If you’d like more spring cleaning tips or are getting ready to sell your real estate, please or email me for more information.

April Lawn and Garden Do’s and Don’ts for Your Home

Gardening tools and objects on old wooden backgroundApril begins gardening season, the time we get antsy to start working the soil, thinking about fertilizing the lawn and planting flowers in our home.

Whether you’re preparing your home to put it up for sale or just doing general maintenance and upkeep, here is your to-do list:

Annuals and Containers:

  • Deadhead flowers to promote more blooms.
  • Clean and sanitize summer containers, and plan your design for the summer.
  • Plant summer annuals after the last frost. Bring them indoors or cover with a cloth during a late cold snap.
  • Start seeds indoors for annual herbs.
  • Plant annual herbs such as basil and cilantro after the last frost.

Lawn:

  • Raking should be your first task of spring lawn care. This removes dead grass, leaves and thatch.
  • Lightly fertilize cool season lawn grasses such as fescue and bluegrass.
  • Top-dress lawns and patch bare spots. Use compost or an organic mix.
  • Aerate and de-thatch only if necessary, otherwise do this in the fall.
  • Fertilize and plant warm season grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda.
  • Re-seed grassy areas that winter may have killed off.

Cleanup and Maintenance

  • Clean water features and lawn ornaments.
  • Clean out, inspect, and repair bird houses for spring nesting season.
  • Put out plenty of fresh food for migrating birds.
  • Take care of any drainage problems.
  • Inspect irrigation systems once freezing weather has passed.
  • Test soil to determine what nutrients are needed.
  • Remove debris from drainage ditches, gutters, and planting beds. Use a rake and lawn bags.
  • Get all your lawn tools ready to use. Oil, sharpen and tune-up your lawn tools. Don’t forget to tune-up your lawnmower and sharpen the blades for mowing season.
  • Repot houseplants if needed.

Perennials and Bulbs

  • Cut back dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grasses.
  • Plant perennials. Color always brightens up the grounds of your home.
  • Gradually remove winter mulch when plants begin to grow.
  • Fertilize spring-blooming bulbs after blooming.
  • Plant perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender.

Outdoor Spring Maintenance Checklist for Your Real Estate

Mulching around the BushesPreventive maintenance is crucial to the value and upkeep of your home. Keeping your real estate in great shape with regular check-ups will save you the headache and cost of emergency repairs.

Here are six items to add to your outdoor spring maintenance checklist:

  1. Clean the Gutters: Gutters work best when clean and free of gunk. Check yours for foliage, tree limbs, etc., especially if trees hang over the roof.
  2. Make sure the downspouts are clean: They should point at least two feet away from foundation walls.
  3. Check exterior paint: Look for chipped, cracked paint. Scrape off any failing paint, sand it down, prime the surface, and paint it with a high-quality, low-VOC exterior paint.
  4. Brighten your real estate with a good power washing: Rent a power washer or borrow your neighbor’s. This should always be one of the first things you do after winter to brighten and freshen the exterior of your home.
  5. Trim overgrown trees and hedges: Trim away from the home to discourage growth of mildew and moisture. Don’t forget to trim along your property line to make it appealing to potential buyers.
  6. Rake up all the downed leaves: Leaves will suffocate your grass and stop it from growing. Pull up weeds and dead flowers and replace with low-maintenance varieties such as pansies, begonias or mums.
  7. Inspect trees for broken branches. If the limb is high up, hire a licensed arborist. If you can reach it from the ground, take it down using the three-cut technique, which prevents bark from tearing and creating an open wound on the trunk. If you had heavy snowfall this winter, look for bending branches and check to make sure they produce leaves this spring.
  8. Repair cracked pavement: Before weeds have a chance to take hold, repair cracks in your asphalt driveway and concrete walkways. On surfaces that have ruptured from the effects of frost heaving, hire a professional to pour or pave a new surface.

Going Green

Hands holding green globe with grassy background - Stock Image_iStock_000030302928_Large

Whether you’re prepping your home before putting it up for sale or you just want to make a few changes so your home is more environmentally friendly, here are 11 ideas to choose from:

  1. Put in CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs or LED bulbs that conserve energy: CFLs use a quarter of the electricity as regular bulbs.
  2. Upgrade your existing windows: Replace them with high-performance, insulated windows.
  3. Use green, non-toxic organic, VOC-free paint: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in paint and harm the air we breathe.
  4. Remove your old non-green carpeting: Carpeting can emit allergens and toxins, so replace with eco-friendly carpeting, wood or tile.
  5. Replace hardwood flooring with bamboo flooring: Bamboo is considered environmentally-friendly flooring due to its high yield and rate at which it replenishes itself. Another plus is that bamboo floors are highly moisture resistant.
  6. Install a digital thermostat: Replace your old manual thermostat with a more energy-efficient digital version.
  7. Get Energy Star-qualified appliances: Getting rid of that old refrigerator could save as much as $150 a year.
  8. Put aerators on all household faucets: This can cut your annual water consumption by 50%.
  9. Install low-flow toilets: These only use 1.6 gallons of water per flush as compared to 3.5 gallons per flush with pre-1994 models.
  10. Bring green, leafy plants into your home: They will clean the stale, winter air inside your home, giving you cleaner air to breathe.
  11. Insulate and caulk cracks and seal leaks: This alone can drop your annual heating bill by $100.

You do not have to spend a lot of time or money to green your home, start saving money and help the environment. Doing this can gain you a leg up on the other homes for sale in your price range by slashing your monthly energy bills, reducing water usage, cleaning up your indoor air quality, and making your home stand out from all the rest.

Give me a call or email me today for more ideas to green your home.

Eight Indoor Spring Maintenance Tips

AutomationHere are eight indoor maintenance tips to help keep your home in perfect operating condition:

  1. Change air conditioning unit air filters monthly: Clean air filters help your unit run more efficiently, saving money on your energy bills.
  2. Install environmentally-friendly window treatments: Save on utility bills by adding blinds to windows that face south and west. Open windows when the sun sets and close them at sunrise.
  3. Examine your sump pump: Make sure the sump pump is operating correctly, and install a battery backup pump. The backup, another pump that floats above the original pump, will kick on when the electricity goes out. If your sump pump fails, an alarm goes off, letting you know the backup is working. A few hundred dollars will save you thousands in water damage.
  4. Clean your condenser coils: Your refrigerator needs only a minimal amount of maintenance to run effectively. This maintenance consists of a simple cleaning of the condenser coil a minimum of once every 12 months – cleaning them once every 6 months is even better. This is very important to keep your refrigerator running more efficiently.
  5. Inspect all doors and windows for leaks and drafts: Look for peeling and chipped paint, which can indicate that water seeped in. Caulk areas between the frame and the wall to keep water and drafts out of your home. Examine putty and caulk lines around exterior windows and doors, and ensure that weather stripping creates a good seal.
  6. Check for gaps where mice and insects might be able to enter: Seal around under-sink faucet pipes, gaps where cabinets meet the drywall, etc.
  7. Replace caulking around sink faucets: If the caulking is discolored or worn away, this allows water to drip down inside the cabinets.
  8. Pay attention to worn grout in kitchens and bathrooms: If grout is missing or cracked, re-grout and re-seal as soon as possible. In bathrooms, get in the habit of wiping down tiled shower walls after each use.

If you’d like help identifying repairs that need to be done before putting your home up for sale, I’m happy to do a free, no-obligation walkthrough of your home. Call or email me today to schedule an appointment.

How to Save Money on Your Home’s Electric Bill

Home electricity iconFinding ways to trim expenses within your home can give you a little more cushion for those expenses we would rather spend our money on (a family weekend getaway) or small indulgences that make life a little bit better (gourmet coffee – delicious!).

Here are a few tips on how to keep your electric bill down, and make your home more energy efficient.

  • Switch off or unplug devices when not in use. – If a device doesn’t have an on/off switch, use a plug connector with an on/off switch. Connect, for example, your TV and the loudspeakers with a plug connector. You can switch off both devices by just one action. Connect your DVD recorder with a separate socket since it is likely that you would have to readjust it if you switch it off.
  • Set your thermostat wisely - Many homes are empty for 8 or more hours a day and there is no reason to have the house at the same temperature that you want it when you are home. Adjust accordingly while you are at work.
  • Use less hot water –.Wash clothes with warm or cold water. Only run the dishwasher with a full load, and turn off the “heated dry” cycle. Use slightly cooler water in the shower and shower quickly.
  • Keep your vents open and cleanMake sure your vents are open, check your filters they should be changed on a monthly basis.
  • Buy energy efficient devices – Look for energy efficient devices. Don’t forget to check the stand-by consumption. Check if there is a label like Energy Star.

The more aware of your energy consumption you are, the more you will remember to turn off that light switch and unplug your phone charger. Make yourself aware of the little things, they add up!

If you’re considering buying or selling a home, I can help. Give me a call today or email me.

Plan Your 2015 Vegetable Garden

Father And Son Harvesting Carrots On AllotmentSure, it’s still winter outside, but what could be better than dreaming of next summer in your garden? Now is the time to order your seeds, before the rush. Make 2015 the best year yet for gardening at your home. Here are some advantages of ordering your seeds from home:

  • Enjoy a wide selection. You’ll find a wide variety of seeds in seed catalogs, from heirlooms to hybrids. View page after page of vegetables in different varieties, with details on each one’s traits, giving you loads of options.
  • Order online. Most seed catalogs have online ordering. What this means is, if you know a particular cultivar you want, you can do an online search for it and find out who is selling it.
  • Buy non-GMO seeds. If you want to avoid buying any seeds that have been genetically engineered, there are seed companies that take a safe seed pledge to never sell genetically modified seed. Do a web search to find them.
  • Get inspired! There is nothing like poring over seed catalogs to get a body inspired and rejuvenated during the long, cold nights of winter. Spring will be here before you know it—be prepared and get ready for it now.

Shower Your Valentine with an Updated Bathroom

composition with a basket and strawberry soapWhat could be better than surprising your valentine with an updated bathroom this Valentine’s Day? Below are some ways to do this inexpensively in your home’s bathroom:

  1. Paint the walls: This is one of the cheapest things you can do to upgrade your bathroom while still making an impact. Choose pale or neutral colors to make the room seem larger.
  2. Paint the cabinetry: A new coat of paint can make the existing cabinets look like new.
  3. Change cabinet hardware: Little touches make a big impact.
  4. Replace the existing mirror: Put in a mirror that you know your valentine will love. Or, replace the medicine cabinet.
  5. Switch light fixtures: Newer, more modern light fixtures will completely change the look and feel of the room.
  6. Upgrade water fixtures: If it’s all brass, change to chrome, the new neutral.
  7. Update accessories: Change the trashcans, shower curtains, window curtains, towels, towel rods, shelves, etc.
  8. Apply tile transfers: They’re a creative and unique yet inexpensive way to give tile a whole new look. These waterproof, washable stickers go over your existing tile.
  9. Install dimmer switches: They enhance the mood in the room.
  10. Decorate with live plants: Live plants and fresh flowers symbolize life and vitality. Place plants and flowers sparingly in a small bathroom; use larger plants in a more spacious room.
  11. Add candles – Who can forgo candles on Valentine’s Day? Be sure to place them where they won’t be a fire hazard. Remember, they come in all colors and sizes, from simple white votives to colorful red-column candles. Use whatever sets the mood for your current room.

A few simple changes can make your bathroom retreat the perfect fit for your home and lifestyle.

Make Your Home Stand Out with Ceramic Tile

Laying Ceramic Tiles.If you’re looking for ways to update your home, consider ceramic tile. There are myriad ways to implement tile for a new look.

Ceramic tile is the ideal material to use where water is an issue—think the kitchen, bathroom and sunroom. It’s also the best option where fire is an issue—again the kitchen, fireplace and woodstove. For a durable and classic look, consider these possibilities for ceramic tile in your home:

  • Compared to wood, tile is affordable and more durable. Compared to carpet, tile is hypo-allergenic and more durable. Compared to vinyl, tile is classic and more durable.
  • Entire bathroom. From the floor to the walls, ceramic tile can withstand the water and steam of the bathroom environment.
  • Hearth. Ceramic tile around the fireplace or woodstove equals peace of mind.
  • If you have houseplants, you know how easy it is to ruin the woodwork of a windowsill. Tile is a much more forgiving material to host your plants and their watery needs.
  • A backsplash is installed wherever you need to protect a section of wall. Above the kitchen or bathroom sink, ceramic tile will protect your wall from water damage. Another place you can install a backsplash is behind the stove, where food and grease splash up. With ceramic tile, clean up is easy and a backsplash will add stunning interest to your décor.

In today’s buyer’s market, you need to make sure your home stands out from the rest. For more tips on how to get your home sold, contact me today.