Home Improvement

Published on Thu, Sep 25, 2003
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Home Improvement

Couple weekends of work save time, money

With the autumn season here, it�s time once again to prep your home for the coming winter months. No matter where you live, seasonal changes in temperature and moisture levels will require special maintenance tasks.

What amounts to a couple weekends worth of work and perhaps an investment in professional services may end up saving you money down the road.

It is important to periodically monitor the overall condition of a home. Simple wear and tear from weather and age occurs in every home.It is wise to fix any problems before they lead to extensive and costly repairs.

And more importantly, routine maintenance could mean ensuring your family�s safety when it comes to things like your heating appliances.

Having a professional inspection of your fuel-burning heating appliances is the first line of defense against the silent killer, carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be produced by burning any fuel. The initial symptoms are flu-like, including headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause death.

Following is a comprehensive list of the top chores to tackle before the weather turns on your home.
1. Maintain your gutters. Remove all debris so water can properly drain, which minimizes standing water and slows the freeze/thaw expansion process that occurs in cold weather. Clogged gutters can cause damage to your landscaping, lawn, shrubbery, walls, foundation, basement, crawl spaces and existing gutter system. Consider installing gutter guards, which are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
2. Trim your trees and remove dead branches. Inclement weather can cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home, car, utility lines or someone walking on your property. Keep an eye out for large dead branches in trees; detached branches hanging in trees; cavities or rotten wood along trunks or major branches; mushrooms at the base of trees; cracks or splits in trunks; leaves that prematurely develop unusual color or size; and trees that were previously topped or heavily pruned. If you see any signs of hazards, call a professional tree service.
3. Maintain your steps and handrails. Repair broken stairs and banisters so nobody falls and hurts themselves.
4. Inspect your roof. Be proactive and prevent emergency and expensive repairs. Things to look for include damaged or loose shingles; gaps in the flashing where the roofing and siding meet vents and flues; and damaged mortar around the chimney (especially at the joints, caps and washes). If you see any signs of damage, call a professional to repair the damage.
5. Inspect your home�s exterior walls. Look for possible weather-related damage, like cracks and loose or crumbling mortar. Wood trim and siding can suffer from deteriorating paint or become loose. Windowsills may be cracked, split or decayed.
6. Check your home�s insulation. Your attic should be five to 10 degrees warmer than outside air, otherwise too much heat escapes and causes frozen water to melt and refreeze which can result in a collapsed roof. Don�t neglect your basement and crawl spacers, because if they�re well insulated your pipes will be protected from freezing.
7. Maintain your pipes. Wrap your pipes with heating tape every winter and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages if they contain exposed pipes. Check pipes for cracks and leaks and have any damage repaired immediately to prevent costlier repairs later. Keep your house warm. The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees because inside the walls, where the pipes are located, it�s much colder.
8. Check your heating systems. Be sure to maintain your furnace, fireplace, boiler, water heater, space heater and wood-burning stove and have your heating system serviced every year. Check smoke and fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and change your heating and air conditioning filters. Have your appliances inspected for gas leaks and adequate ventilation.
9. Know your plumbing. Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, the quicker you shut off the water, the better chance you have of preventing pipe bursts. Check weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors and replace or repair as needed. Caulking helps keep your house weather-tight, lowers your heating and cooling bills, and can also help keep insects and rodents out of your house.
Also look for chipped or peeling paint around window frames and trim. Repair broken glass and loose or missing putty. When needed, use a modern glazing compound instead of putty for a waterproof seal.
10. Clean and vacuum dust from vents, baseboard heaters and cold-air returns. Dust build-up in ducts is a major cause of indoor pollutants and can increase incidences of cold-weather illnesses. Check all your faucets for leaks and repair any you find. Replace washers if necessary.

By setting aside a few weekends now, you�ll be saving you and your home a lot of hassle later. Once your home passes your fall inspection, you and your family can relax and enjoy the coming months.

Saving home insurance costs

If you don�t like coming home to high homeowner�s insurance bills, check these options out.

Shop around. Check with different companies to get rate quotes and use the internet to get online quotes.

Raise your deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance kicks in. While they typically start at $250, increasing it to $1,000, for example, could save you 24 percent.

Buy from the same company. Some companies will give you a multi-line discount if you buy both home and life insurance.

Consider insurance when buying a home. A newer home�s electrical heating and plumbing systems may be in better condition than those of an older home and can lead to a discount on your premium.

Insure your home, not the land. Don�t include the value of the land in deciding how much homeowner�s insurance you need to buy.

Improve safety and security. An insurance company may also offer a significant discount of 15 to 20 percent if you install a sophisticated home security system.

Senior discounts. Those 55 and/or retired may qualify for a discount.

Check your policy annually. Review your policy every year and make any necessary adjustments.

Dressing up your home at minimal costs

Shoppers spend billions of dollars each year on goods and products for the home. But, the simple fact is there are a number of ways to dress up a room without investing a lot of time or money. You can wow family and friends with small changes that stretch your dollars to make a big impact.

In the living room, add a few photo frames in similar styles or colors (e.g., silver-plated or beaded frames) with pictures of you and your guests on a past trip or special occasion. Books on cooking and travel are great conversation pieces that reflect your personal interests to guests.

Pick a few complimentary wall hangings or mirrors and group them in a collage on the wall. Update them seasonally. For year-round greenery, a silk plant or floral arrangement will give the room a refined look.

A great way to make the dining area inviting is with a little smoke and mirrors. Get aromatic candles such as rich jewel tones for fall, or white candles which are always elegant. Place the candles on the center of your dining room table atop a mirror to reflect the light, make the room appear larger and add some ambiance.

A table cloth or coordinating placemats will give your dining table a more refined atmosphere � rich purple, green and red for the autumn season weather. Top it all off with seasonal flowers in a classic glass vase.

In the kitchen, bright or patterned decorative plates and some fun, colored glassware can help give the cooking and dining area a festive feeling. Food is important, but everything is in the presentation. Try adding new salad plates to your existing china-mix and match different colors or similar patterns to brighten up the dinner table. A large ceramic or tinted glass serving bowl can add some seasoning to the presentation of your meal.