By Associated Press LISA A. FLAM (AP)
Securing your home and making it look occupied while you’re away on a winter vacation will help deter thieves. And some simple preparations can save you the anguish and expense of returning home to find damage if something like a dishwasher hose decides to fail in your absence.
“If you look at how long it takes compared to repairing the potential damage, it seems much easier to take the precautions than it does to make the repairs,” said Richard Stone, a University of Minnesota Extension educator in housing technology.
Here’s a checklist for closing up the house properly before you go.
o Daily check: Arrange for a friend or neighbor to check on the house at least once a day (and feed the fish or water the plants). Give that person a copy of your itinerary and contact numbers. Ask that they call the police if they see or hear anything out of the ordinary.
o Mail/newspapers: Have the mail held, or ask a neighbor to take it in. The U.S. Postal Service will hold mail from three to 30 days. Sign up for this free service at usps.com, or pick up a form at the post office that can be given to your letter carrier, left in your mailbox or returned to your post office. Cancel newspaper deliveries, and ask your neighbor to take in any unexpected holiday packages, notices of delivery attempts that may be left on your door, or free publications tossed on the driveway.
“That’s a sure sign that you’re not there, when all that stuff starts accumulating at your house,” said Ernie Long, the crime prevention coordinator for the Aventura Police Department in Florida and an instructor for the National Crime Prevention Council.
o Snow removal: If you don’t have a contract for regular snow removal, arrange for somebody to clear your driveway and sidewalk if there is a storm. The house will look occupied if the driveway is cleared, plus that allows any emergency crews closer access to your home. Students may want the job, but find out if they have their own equipment or need access to yours.
o Security: Lock all windows and doors and set your alarm if you have one. The police also might be able to check on your house daily. If your department has one, register with its “vacation watch” or “dark house” list. “We will periodically go by and check your house to make sure everything is on the up and up,” Long said. “Just about every police department offers some kind of vacation watch.”
o Lights: To make your house look lived in, put lights on timers to mimic your typical routine. Long said he’ll set his living room timer to go on in the evening for a bit, and then he’ll set a bedroom light to go on for an hour before his usual bedtime. Exterior motion lights are highly effective in deterring crime because, as Long said, “you can’t sneak up on them.”
o Noise: A radio can also be set on a timer to make it seem like you’re there. Burglars, looking for an empty house, will first knock on a front door, and will flee if they hear a radio, thinking you just didn’t hear the knock. If nobody answers, they typically go around to a back door, where they are less visible, Long said.
o Locks and doors: The back door should have a high-security lock and a strong door frame. Long recommends replacing short screws with 3½-inch wood screws to reinforce the strike plate on the door, making it harder for a criminal to kick it in. “You need to have good-quality locks, but the door frame is just as important, especially on the back door,” he said. “Studies have shown that if you delay him two minutes, he’ll go somewhere else.”
o Valuables: The first place robbers go in a home is the master bedroom, Long said, where they are after money, jewelry and guns. If you have a big stash of cash or an expensive jewelry collection, he recommends storing it at a bank safety deposit box and storing any weapons in a gun safe. If you hide valuables in your home, be creative, Long said. “If the guy is there for a while, he’ll knock over everything in your house, empty every drawer, turn every mattress over and look everywhere in your house for good stuff,” Long said. “They’re not neat when they do it.”
o Blinds: Leave the blinds as you normally do. If you raise and lower them daily, Long recommends keeping blinds closed in the rear of the house, in case a would-be robber is watching for movement, and keep them open in the front.
o Thermostat: If you’re leaving a cold weather clime, you can turn the heat down in your home, but don’t turn it off altogether since that could cause damage from frozen water pipes. Stone recommends going no lower than 60 degrees. Even at that temperature, the exterior walls, which may house pipes and plumbing fixtures, will be colder, especially in older homes that may have less, or no, insulation in those outer walls. “Turning that core temperature down is going to make a significant difference in the temperature around the perimeter,” Stone said.
Another concern is mold if you have humidity sources like plants or fish tanks. Colder surfaces can condense moisture and lead to mold growth.
Set your thermostat fan from “auto” to “run” or “on” to keep the flow of warm air even and continuous.
“I would rather pay a little extra in electricity for that short number of days than to come home and find that some rooms are colder than others and there was damage,” Stone says.
Another way to increase air flow is to open cabinets surrounding pipes, likely in the kitchen and bathroom, and keep interior doors open.
o Water: Turn off the main valve (usually located near the water meter) or, if you have well water, turn off the pump. Then, turn on an upstairs faucet for about 15 seconds to relieve any pressure that may have built up in the system and that could force water into the house if there were a leak. Unless you have frost-free spigots, make sure outside spigots have been turned off by shutting off the inside valve and draining them outside.
o Appliances/Fixtures: If you leave the main water valve open, turn off non-essential, water-dependent fixtures like toilets, ice makers, washing machines and dishwashers to help prevent a leak if a hose or fitting fails. Leave the refrigerator on, freeze what you can, and throw out or give away perishable food that won’t last.
A gas water heater can be turned to the “vacation” or “pilot” setting, usually located at the bottom of the unit, so you are not heating water you don’t need. An electric water heater can be turned off at the main electrical panel. Because it can take a few hours to get the water warm after you turn the heater back on, consider asking your caretaker to do so on the day you are returning.
o Electronics: Unplug or power down non-essential electronics like televisions, gaming systems, computer monitors, coffee pots and toasters to save money on electricity. Make a list of what you have turned off so you can remember what needs turning on when you get home.
o Garbage: Take it out ahead of time, or arrange for your caretaker to take it out on the assigned day.
o Insurance: Make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date.
o Furnace: Schedule your regular cleaning and tuning appointment if you have not already done so.
By Associated Press LISA A. FLAM (AP)
Why did the Indian chief wear so many feathers? To keep his wigwam.
Why did they let the turkey join the band? Because he had the drumsticks
What happened to the Pilgrim who was shot at by an Indian? He had an arrow escape.
‘Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t sleep… I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep. The leftovers beckoned…the dark meat and white, but I fought the temptation with all of my might. Tossing and turning with anticipation, the thought of a snack became infatuation. So, I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door and gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore. I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes, stuffing with gravy, green beans and tomatoes. I felt myself swelling so plump and so round, till all of a sudden, I rose off the ground. I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky with a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie But, I managed to yell as I soared past the trees… Happy eating to all — pass the cranberries, please.
The “Magic” of Home Insulation
Insulation works by providing a continuous boundary of the “building envelope,” between conditioned indoor spaces and unconditioned outdoor spaces. Low levels of insulation, plus gaps and voids in the insulation materials, can provide pathways for heat and air to easily flow into or out of a home. Approximately 40 percent of feeling physically comfortable is due to radiant heat exchange between our bodies and the surrounding interior surfaces. Increasing your residential insulation reduces this radiant heat exchange, maintaining a more consistent level of comfort throughout a house. Injection foam insulation when applied to the interior of walls and crawl spaces cuts down on air leaks and temperature transfer from the outside environment to the inside of the home drastically.
Lower Utility Bills
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Building Technology’s number one recommendation to help consumers reduce energy bills is by adding insulation. Most homes in the United States are not well insulated. Older homes are particularly vulnerable, leading to high heating and air-conditioning bills. Having an energy efficient home starts with proper levels of insulation. When homes are adequately insulated, it takes less energy to heat and cool them than if they were poorly insulated. Insulation in your walls and attic keep the living space conditioned and allow your Heating and/or Air Conditioning source to run more efficiently, thus reducing your energy consumption.
Comfort. (Com-fort): A state of ease and satisfaction and bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety.
Is your home cold in the winter and hot in the summer? Is the temperature upstairs between 8 to 12 degrees different from the temperature downstairs? Insulating your home will help keep your living space or “Comfort Zone” consistent throughout your home. This makes for a more comfortable living space throughout your home.
Increased Resale Value
Installing proper insulation levels can also make your home more attractive to potential buyers. 86% of Americans would choose one home over another based on its energy efficiency. (Energy Pulse Survey, 2006)
As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take the time this season to prepare for the cold weather. Get your furnace ready for the months of work it will have ahead. Don’t wait until it’s snowing to clear out your gutters. With a little attention in the fall, you’ll have peace of mind in the winter.
Inside The House
Heating System Checkup
Be sure to change the air filter in your furnace and check its efficiency before the cold weather begins. Call your MEGApros HVAC contractor to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system. It’s a good idea to stock up on several air filters for the winter, and change them every month. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, purchase one for the system to help lower your energy costs.
After your furnace has been tuned up to its maximum efficiency, take a moment to inspect your heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them over the summer. Then check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency.
Outside The House
It’s best to inspect and clean the gutters a few times during the fall, especially if there are many leafy trees around your house. If gutters remain clogged, water will spill over them and onto the ground next to the foundation, which may cause damage to the foundation. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and should direct water away from the foundation, as well as from walkways and driveways, so that they do not become slippery or icy. MEGA Home Improvement offers gutter cleaning and inspection services.
When sweeping the leaves off your patio, don’t forget to clean, pack up, and store any patio furniture for the winter. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.
Test Your Emergency Generator
It’s a good idea to have an emergency generator, as storms in the Midwest are a major cause of blackouts during the winter. So if you have a generator, haul it out and give it a test run to see if it is in good working order. Make sure you never run the generator in any enclosed space – like your garage – as it will present a carbon monoxide hazard. Better yet have a whole house generator installed. That way you won’t need to do anything when the power goes out. The generator will automatically do its job. Call the MEGApros for more information on whole house generators.
October is the month to treat your home. Good old TLC will do the trick for any fall blues.
For starters installing new counter tops can really give your kitchen a fresh new look. There are many options available to fit your budget.
You can also fix the trims, dents and interior details of your home. Follow that up with a fresh coat of paint and you’ll get that AHHHH feeling!
Next might be windows. Windows are what comes to mind when we enter the cooler seasons. You will want to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. Replacement window will help with that. You don’t have to replace all your windows at the same time. If you have a room that is exceptionally drafty then replacing the windows might just do the trick!
Another option to keep your home comfortable is with insulation. There are new insulation products available for all different applications.
The MEGApros are here for all your home improvement needs. If you have a question just send us an e-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Think big – View a full-sized shingle, not just a swatch or sample.
- Be real – Look at actual houses where the house and roof color combinations are similar to what you’re considering.
- Watch the light – As you look, notice how colors appear under changing light conditions and various times of day.
- Consider the pitch – look for roofs with similar pitch to your own. A roof’s pitch affects the way you see its color.
Home maintenance and repair projects are projects that must be done to maintain the integrity of your home. They include areas like roofing, exterior painting, window upgrades, furnace upgrade, electrical amperage capacity (at least 100 Amp). When you are considering selling your home these items need to be addressed first. Of course it is also important even if you are planning on living in your home for many years to come.
Buyers expect a home with solid structure and systems, then they look for the cosmetic home improvements. Also, most home purchases now involve an independent home inspector who will be looking critically and objectively at your home’s condition. Doing a kitchen remodel home improvement project when your roof is leaking is like getting a face lift when you need heart bypass surgery. One is critical and one is not. If you don’t have the structure and building systems in shape, then expect to have the Buyer create their own value for it and have that deducted from their offer price, if you get an offer at all.
Here is a list of some important home maintenance and repair things to check for and have done before you try and sell:
- Roof and Flashing: Make sure the roof does not leak. If leakage is occurring have it fixed immediately. It’s probably a result of flashing failure. Check flashing around the chimney, walls, etc. Make sure broken shingles are replaced. Check to make sure tree branches and leaves are not touching the roof.
- Chimney: Make sure the bricks are not loose or missing mortar. If they are, have the bricks tuckpointed to prevent water leakage and structural failure. Check that the roof flashing around the chimney is in good shape and does not have any gaps or openings for water to penetrate.
- Gutters and Downspouts: Make sure these are clean and flowing well. If they are clogged, clean and flush the gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters are the source of many problems such as paint failure, leaks, wood rot, sagging gutters. Improper downspout outlets are also a problem that can cause water in the basement and cracked foundation walls. Make sure the downspout outlet drains AWAY from the house on soil that is sloping away from the house. If downspouts are allowed to drain into the house or into crocks that run to the basement or foundation, water problems can occur including ground settlement resulting in cracking of the basement wall.
- Brick Wall: Make sure that the brick wall is solid and in good repair. Replace damaged brick including cracked brick and tuckpoint any missing mortar joints.
- Foundation: Repair any cracks in the foundation wall. If the basement wall cracks are severe, you may need structural repairs including foundation underpinning. This is serious and you need to consult an expert foundation repair contractor.
- Plumbing Fixtures: Check that the plumbing fixtures are in good working order. Identify the type of faucets you have and replace any leaking washers or cartridges if the faucet leaks. Check the drainage of toilets and sinks and unclog as necessary.
- Electrical System: If you have only 60 Amp service this will need to upgrade your electrical service panel to 100 Amps. Make sure all switches work and all outlets are properly grounded (if your home has 3-prong outlets)and that GFCI outlets are installed as per code in the Kitchen and Bathrooms. If you have 2-prong ungrounded outlets in your Kitchen or Bathrooms, upgrade to GFCI outlets in these areas.
- Furnace: Make sure the furnace has clean air filters and is in good working order by performing a seasonal furnace checkup.
These are just some of the major home repair and maintenance areas and there are many others, but you get the idea. Take a look at your home from a critical buyers perspective and see what basic home repair you need to do before venturing onto cosmetic home improvement upgrades.
For starters you will have the best of the best at your fingertips. The MEGApros will be available to you from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm to answer all of your home improvement questions.
If that isn’t enough we are happy to announce that WGN Radio’s Lou Manfredini will also be in attendance from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. That’s right – Mr. Fix-It himself will be here!
If you have electrical, plumbing, roofing, or window questions we have you covered. We will also have Alside Windows and Siding, and Timber Tech Decking on site. The weather is changing – do you have HVAC or insulation questions? Get them answered at the home show.
Are you considering remodeling your kitchen or bath, how about putting an addition on your house? The MEGApros Home Show is where you want to be!
For more information call 847.658.8989.