Category Archives: Home Improvement

Team Marti’s Winter Home Maintenance Checklist 2017

Team Marti's Winter Home Maintenance ChecklistLike it or not, winter is just 10 days away. If you haven’t already prepped your home for winter and freezing temps, there’s still time. Use our handy checklist to make sure you and your home are ready for winter weather:

  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so the blades rotate clockwise. Keep on a low speed to push air down from the ceiling into your room.
  • Have your furnace surfaced at the beginning of the season and make sure you change the filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Lower your thermostat or use a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.
  • Remove window screens and install storm windows and doors, if you have them.
  • Shut off exterior water sources and cover the faucets to prevent freezing.
  • Insulate exposed pipes to prevent burst pipes.
  • Insulate your hot water heater.
  • Block drafts from doors and windows and seal cracks with door sweeps, door gaskets, calking and weather stripping.
  • Have your chimney cleaned annually to decrease your risk of fire and buildup and residue.
  • Remove any portable air conditioners and cover condensing units.
  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and free of debris. This will be particularly helpful when the heavy rains come.

 

Team Marti’s Fall Maintenance Tips

Team Marti's Fall Maintenance TipsMake sure your home is ready for the changing seasons with this handy fall home maintenance checklist from Team Marti:

Inside:

  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries.
  • Replace furnace filters.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors.
  • Install storm doors and windows.
  • Check weather stripping around your garage door.
  • Clean your humidifiers.
  • Reverse direction of ceiling fans.

Outside:

  • Clean and repair gutters and downspouts.
  • Drain outside faucets and hoses.
  • Make repairs or repaint peeling or blistering paint.
  • Have your roof inspected and schedule repairs.
  • Clean and store lawn furniture.
  • Prepare your lawn and gardens for winter.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks.

 

 

10 Tips to Save Water, Energy and Money at Home

After the holidays, and as we start the new year, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Here some ways you can do that by also saving energy and water.

  1. Cover your water heater. Water heaters have to exert a lot of energy to heat the water in the tank, especially for larger water heaters. Invest in a water heater blanket for insulation and to conserve energy.
  2. Use low-flow fixtures. The kitchen and bathroom are typically where the majority of water in your home is used. By replacing faucets and showerheads with a low flow version, you will save water and money, and new fixtures are easy to install. Also, consider a Water Sense rated dishwater and washing machine for additional savings.
  3. Upgrade your toilet. If you have an older toilet (installed before 1992), it could be using twice as much water per flush than a newer model which wastes both water and money. Try a low-flush model that uses less water per flush.
  4. Inspect your dishwasher, washing machine and water heater regularly. These three appliances use a lot of water and energy, so it is important that they are maintained properly. Clean them regularly, check for leaks and fix any potential problems before they become costly ones. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the average life span of each appliance, so you’ll have a good idea of when they’ll need to be replaced, and budget accordingly.
  5. Turn off the tap. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Turn the water on when you’re ready to rinse.
  6. Go to the car wash. Rather than washing your car in the driveway, take it to the car wash instead. This will not only save water, but if you choose a car wash that recycles water, you are helping to protect the environment too.
  7. Install a rain garden. Rain gardens are a great way to conserve and recycle water at home while protecting the environment from pollutants and rain runoff. Learn more about creating a rain garden at 12,000 Rain Gardens.
  8. Take shorter, less frequent showers. Showers can use as much as 5 gallons per minute, so shorter showers and/or less frequent showers can make a big difference on your monthly water bill.
  9. Reduce the size of your lawn. By reducing your lawn’s footprint, you may be able to save water. You could install landscaping features, stone, a low-water garden or even a rain garden to cut back on the amount of watering needed to maintain your outdoor space.
  10. Minimize water use when washing dishes by hand. If you’re washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Instead, fill one side of the sink or a wash basin for washing and a second one for rinsing.

 

Sources: Roto Rooter, Care2 and WaterUseItWisely.

10 Easy Ways to Save Money and Energy at Home

electric-fan-414575_640Save money and energy at home with these 10 tips:

  1. Install ceiling fans (e.g., dining room, bedrooms, living areas, office, etc.) Ceiling fans are an attractive, affordable, low-energy way to keep air moving. This can save you from adjusting your thermostat a few degrees either way in the warmer and cooler months.
  2. Use a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to schedule automatic increases and decreases in your home’s temperature, like lowering the heat in the winter when you’ll be gone during the day. Installation and use are pretty simple. Do some research online to find the model that best meets your needs and budget.
  3. Check toilets and under-sink plumbing for potential leaks or if the toilet sounds like it is constantly running – which can cost you big bucks. You can find online guides to help you with simple fixes. For more complicated issues, consult a trusted plumber. Remember the sound of dripping is also money dripping away!
  4. Buy energy efficient appliances. While you’ll have to front the cost when you purchase the appliance, you’ll notice a difference in your energy bills right away. An energy efficient fridge could last you up to 20 years with proper care, while an older model could bite the dust seven years in.
  5. Change your lightbulbs. LED and CFL bulbs can save you some serious money. Not only do they have a long life, they save on energy costs too. While CFL bulbs tend to be cheaper, LED bulbs are better in terms of performance, and have come down in cost in the past few years.
  6. Use a power strip. Plug electronics into a power strip, then save energy by turning the strip off when you aren’t using those items.
  7. Replace your computer with a laptop. If you don’t need a heavy duty computer at home, buy a laptop instead. It uses less energy. When you’re not using it, turn it off or put it in sleep or hibernate mode.
  8. Eliminate “hot spots.” Progress-Energy.com says you can eliminate hot spots at home by using high-performance windows, solar window screens and qualified window films.
  9. Cover bare floors. Install carpeting or area rugs to help your home retain heat in the cooler months.
  10. Buy an energy-efficient heat pump. You can dramatically reduce your heating costs with an energy-efficient heat pump. Some companies will even offer rebates, so shop online to find discounts and deals.

Homebuyers are interested in energy efficient homes, so these changes can save you money now and make you money later!

 

5 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value Before Selling

5 ways to increase your home's value before sellingRenovations can make your home worth more, and if you’re planning to make any changes, here are some tips to improve your home while saving money:

  1. Tackle one room at a time. It will make it easier on you, and you won’t have to stress about keeping pets or little ones out of multiple rooms at a time. It will also be less costly because there is less going on, and fewer people (contractors, subcontractors, etc.) coming in and out of your house at one time.
  2. The kitchen is your home’s money maker and a good selling point. Replace your appliances if you can; it adds instant value if you have a new stovetop, oven or refrigerator. Reface your cabinets and replace your countertops if you can afford to. They’ll give an older kitchen new life. Consider ways to optimize the space or expand it.
  3. Change the bathroom. Bathrooms are another huge selling point. Upgrade your bathtub; make it bigger if you can. Install a shower with a moveable showerhead, or a rain showerhead. Change out overhead lighting for wall mounts to add warmth to the bathroom. Heated floors are also a big bonus. A small change that can have a big impact is adding new grout, making the bathroom look cleaner without spending a lot of money.
  4. Revitalize a room with a new paint color. If your home has bold colors, consider repainting with more neutral colors. They’re sometimes more appealing and help would-be buyers picture themselves in your home with their own décor.
  5. Add storage in the garage. While this is a relatively easy fix, it can add a lot of value and convenience for prospective buyers.

Remember that a more expensive project may not add more value. Swimming pools, for example, are costly to maintain. Instead, make minor changes to add value without a lot of expense or hassle.

 

Caring for your home’s exterior

indexWhether you are planning to put your home on the market, or just want to maintain your house, caring for your home’s exterior is important. Here are six tips from American Home Shield on ways to keep the outside of your home in tip top shape. With these tips, your home can look its best while being safer and more efficient:

Clean the dryer vent: A clogged dryer vent is dangerous. It can cause a fire hazard and make your dryer less efficient, driving up energy costs. You can vacuum the vent yourself if you suspect a clog, but hiring a professional with the right tools to clean it properly is a better option.

Inspect your deck: According to American Home Shield, your deck may only need a good pressure washing, but if you have loose boards, wood decay or other damage, you’ll want to make repairs. A handyman or carpenter can help identify problems and make more extensive repairs.

Clean out those gutters: Removing leaves and debris from your gutters and window wells is a must in the fall to keep them clear so rainwater can drain without obstruction when Seattle’s rainy season comes.

Eyeball your roof: Do a visual inspection of your roof from the ground (binoculars are great for this!) to find loose shingles or other damage. For safety reasons, contract with a roofer or other trained professional to do any repairs.

Seal those gaps: Look for gaps and cracks around windows and doors. Add caulking or weather stripping where needed. These simple fixes can make a big difference in terms of energy costs and your family’s comfort.

Fix the driveway: If you have holes or cracks in your driveway, patch or fill them if they are minor, or hire a professional for more extensive repairs.

To view the full article, visit American Home Shield online.

 

Five easy, 15-minute home makeovers

light-switch001In our last post, we talked about curb appeal and gave you 12 quick fixes to make your home’s exterior more saleable. In this post, inspired by HouseLogic.com, we are giving you more easy home improvement ideas. This time, though, we’ll focus on the inside of your home.

  1. Switch it up. Switchplates get worn and dirty with everyday use, so replacing them with something more stylish – and durable – can make a difference. Buy new ones or refinish the ones you’ve got.
  1. Replace drawer and door hardware to change the look of cabinets. Switch from metal to wood, wood to metal, ceramic, glass or whatever suits your style. An easy, affordable way to give cabinets and doors a facelift.
  1. Exchange your toilet seat. Tired of that same old, boring white toilet seat most of us have? Try a new look with a solid wood seat or a fashion color, just not a cushioned seat – please!
  1. Clean and declutter. Take 15 minutes to organize a hall closet, clean a guest bathroom or declutter your mud room. Organizing things will give that closet or room a whole new look and help you feel like you accomplished something useful in a short time.
  1. Tiny touch-ups. A dab of paint can quickly “erase” scuff marks on walls and doors without a lot of effort.

Do you have favorite ways to spruce up your home? If so, post them in the comments. We’d love to hear your ideas!

 

The Jetsons have arrived: fun mobile apps to control your home

The JetsonsOnce upon a time, The Jetsons were a futuristic family with an ultra-modern home full of gadgets designed to make their lives easier. Well, the Jetsons have arrived, and you too can have those goodies at your fingertips to control lighting, temperature, security and more. Here are a few mobile apps to try, explained by American Home Shield.

Philips Hue – Wirelessly control your Philips Hue lighting system from your iPhone or iPad.

Nest – Adjust your home’s temperature using your smartphone or tablet.

SmartThings – Use your smartphone as a remote control to manage your household systems, including door locks, lights, music and appliances.

Control4 My Home – Manage all of your home’s systems including security, lighting and energy from your iPhone, iPad or Android.

Once quite pricey, many of these devices are available for just a few hundred bucks, well worth it for the convenience and energy savings you’ll enjoy. George and Jane Jetson would be proud!

 

Do-it-yourself summer fun

Marti fire pitLiving on acreage in South King County allows for lots of outdoor activities year round, but one of our favorites is having friends over for a good fire. Think all-beef hot dogs, roasted veggies and s’mores! What could be better than sharing some good, old-fashioned summer fun with friends?

That’s why I love this article by HouseLogic where author Deirdre Sullivan shares ideas on how to build your own fire pit, pond and fence quickly and affordably.

If you love entertaining outside as much as I do, check out these outdoor dining ideas from Houzz. Extend your porch or patio, dress them up or down, and enjoy dining al fresco whether you’re planning a casual get together or a celebration.

Check them out and be sure to tell me if you try any of these projects. I’d love to see your pix. In the meantime, happy summer, everyone!