Tips for Protecting Your Home from Pests This Fall

Monster House

The change in seasons from summer to fall means several species of common household pests are crawling their way into homes across the country as the weather cools. The annual end-of-summer invasion poses many potential risks to homes that are not properly protected from the seasonal onslaught.

“Homeowners need to take the threat of pests seriously because they can do so much damage to the structure of a home,” says Matt Hess, Home Remodeling Group ‘s VP of Operations-Installations. “Most pest infestations and accompanying damage are considered maintenance issues by homeowners’ insurance carriers, forcing homeowners to cover costs themselves. Prevention is key to protecting both your home and your wallet.”

Some species of pests are more likely to invade your home come fall than others. Power offers tips below to help protect your home from pests this fall:

Eliminate yard clutter. Remove piles of wood and rotted stumps or logs from around your home to keep termites and carpenter ants at bay. When storing firewood, keep it at least 20 feet away from the home and five inches off the ground as a precautionary measure. Also, keep soil at least six inches away from structural wood to prevent decay.

Get rid of standing water. Termites, carpenter ants and Powerpost beetles all thrive in moist conditions. Many pests use vegetation as a bridge from the ground into your home; so keep bushes, shrubs, vines and trees from touching the house. Wood mulch and plants should also be kept at least 18 inches away from the foundation to prevent rot.

Seal gaps and cracks. Stink bugs, which are very prevalent this time of year, can easily pass through gaps and cracks in search of a warm place to rest. These pests are a smelly mess when they make it into the home. Inspect walls, windows, doors and the roof for places where pests could possibly enter the home. Seal any cracks or gaps with caulk or epoxy, and use steel wool or hardware cloth to block openings where wires, pipes and cables come into or out of exterior walls. Also be sure to ventilate attics and crawl spaces to ensure the venting system has a good airflow to prevent the buildup of moisture.

Install and maintain screens on doors and windows. With the summer heat and humidity subsided, fall is the perfect time to open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. Torn or damaged holes in screens can allow a slew of pests easy access to your home. Replace old screens on doors and windows with fine mesh screening to prevent an invasion.

Cover attic and crawlspace vents with mesh. Larger pests like raccoons, squirrels and mice can easily make themselves home in unprotected spaces. A warm dryer vent is a pest’s ideal home as the weather gets chilly this fall, causing homeowners a huge headache. Placing a mesh barrier over points of entry, like vents, holes or large cracks, will keep both the animals, and the mites and fleas they carry, outside where they belong.

Homeowners are sure to save themselves time, money and frustration by taking the above steps to help protect their home from pests this fall. Prevention will make a home inhospitable to pests and will keep a seasonal intrusion from becoming an all-out pest invasion.

For more information please visit www.PowerHRG.com.

Remodeling? Follow These 5 Steps First

Having the flexibility to turn your home into your dream house is an amazing feeling, and remodeling can be fun. But imagine being halfway through your kitchen remodel only to realize the money you budgeted isn’t enough to cover completing the project. This is a perfect example of why proper home remodeling planning is so important. Below are five steps everyone should follow before the remodeling process takes place.

Draw a plan to define a clear idea of what you want the end result to look like. Write down any and all thoughts you have in regards to the desired room design. Draw where you think furniture pieces may go; describe how certain elements will be incorporated. The plan can change throughout the remodeling process, but having that visual at the start will help guide the project as things progress. If you are having difficulty formulating a remodeling plan, call a professional handyman or designer to help with direction and give you more ideas.

Research the various elements involved in your plan. Oftentimes, other people have carried out the same projects themselves and can offer valuable advice. Save time by learning from others’ experiences, rather than by your own trial and error. If you find your kitchen remodeling, for example, is beyond your capabilities, a skilled handyman may offer expertise that can enhance your plan beyond your expectations. Once you have done your research, you will have a better idea of how much money and time are required to complete the plan.

Create a budget that you are comfortable devoting to your project. Before you begin purchasing materials and securing labor, you need to set a limit to ensure that spending does not get out of control. At this point, your plan may need alterations to fit within your budget restraints. Proper budgeting ensures your plan can be carried out to completion. In order to complete the kitchen remodeling, however, you will most likely need some professional help.

Gather help from experienced craftsmen to ensure your success. While some handy homeowners may opt to remodel alone, having others help will make the process a smoother experience. In some cases, that can be as simple as collecting friends and family to share the labor. Unfortunately, this type of help does not always give you the professional results you hope to achieve. Sometimes it may be best to bring in a professional.

Get the appropriate permits required by your local government to make sure your project complies with local building codes. Make sure to apply at your local town office for any necessary permits involved in your remodeling project. If you are unsure of how to go about this or which permits you require, handyman services can be extremely helpful.

Source: www.handymanconnection.com

Second Homeowners Need Professional Help

A row of vacation homes at Big White Ski Resor...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the sale of vacation homes surging, more current and aspiring second homeowners are seeking ways to supply cash flow or recover expenses by placing their properties in a professional management program – a tactic that’s ripe for success, according to industry experts. Purchasing the home is just the beginning, however. Making sure it’s updated and marketable is vital to compete in today’s travel marketplace, and to drive revenue for the homeowner.

Today’s second homeowners have a choice: rent and manage the property themselves, or engage a vacation rental professional. Rather than personally handling reservations, marketing, maintenance and more, many homeowners choose to partner with an area property management company to handle the legwork, even when the home is not rented. This could possibly translate into more rental bookings for a higher investment return.

Here are a few reasons why “going with a pro” could benefit some second homeowners:

Income: Vacation rental professionals earn homeowners money when a property would normally sit empty. It’s also common for property managers to earn extra guest loyalty and repeat visits by providing the guest services homeowners can’t when going it alone. They can also advise on local market conditions, travel trends, and how to expect and plan for seasonal occupancy demands.
Zoning and Legal Counsel: A professional evaluation is vital to determining whether a property is legally zoned for vacation rental business. Partnering with a manager also ensures the property will be operated under a proper tax ID and business license; and that the property meets ongoing inspection requirements.
24/7 Attention: Vacation rental managers service the property, homeowners and guests 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with quick and professional responses thanks to fully staffed teams nearby. They commonly handle questions or emergencies after-hours, a time when homeowners may not be able to (or want to) respond.
Guest Services: Day-to-day guest operations are made easier for homeowners, as the professionals collect and process bookings and check guests in/out. Many companies also offer concierge services, which make a rental more marketable – think exclusive perks like a private chef, in-home spa treatments, free movie and video game rentals, grocery delivery options, discounts on activities, etc.
Marketing: Some of the biggest advantages to partnering with a professional are the in-depth programs designed to market their inventory. Companies may invest in high-resolution property video/photos, guest surveys, contests, promotional trade outs, brochures and rack cards, advertising, PR and more to drive additional business.

Housekeeping: Trained housekeepers keep managers’ vacation rental homes cleaned to hospitality industry standards. Inspectors are often deployed to each property before and after every guest, ensuring consistency and quality.
Property Maintenance: It’s standard for professionals to oversee services like lawn care, pest control, pool care, A/C service, etc. They maintain relationships with reliable vendors, and offer guests plans to cover accidental breakages. “Going with a pro” also assures homeowners that there are “eyes and ears” for their second home, versus a property sitting empty without being checked or maintained.
Interior Design: Many companies assist with staging and set-up for travelers, including ongoing support with insights and upgrades, and some even offer in-house interior design and property improvement services. Design pros provide detailed plans to meet market demands and make homes more profitable. For example, they can advise on repurposing spaces into game rooms or movie theaters, together with popular “extras,” designs and amenities vacationers look for.

For some second homeowners, hiring professional help may reap even more return on their investment, especially for time-crunched second homeowners. For more information, visit: www.DiscoverVacationHomes.com

Protecting Your Hard Wood

(ARA) – No matter what the setting, the good looks and durability of hardwood floors can be maintained with minimal effort. It’s simply a matter of proper care and maintenance.

The American Hardwood Information Center, www.HardwoodInfo.com, in conjunction with the National Wood Flooring Association suggest the following care and maintenance guidelines to keep hardwood floors looking beautiful today, and for years to come. Here’s how to begin.

General maintenance guidelines

All hardwood floors should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt and grit from between the floor boards. Avoid using a wet mop which can dull the finish. Instead, sweep with either a dust mop or broom that features exploded tips, or vacuum the floors using a vacuum with special hardwood floor attachments or one with the beater bar turned off.

Wipe up any spills immediately, using a soft, dry or slightly damp cloth, starting at the edges of the spill and working toward the center. Allowing spills to remain on hardwood floors could damage the finish, as well as the wood.

Avoid walking on hardwood floors with sports cleats or high heel shoes in disrepair. These can scratch the finish, or even dent the floor. Placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs will also minimize scratches.

Further minimize scratches by placing scatter rugs at all entrances to help keep small stones and debris out. But choose wisely. Scatter rugs with rubber backs can discolor wood floors. Special rug mats can be purchased from a wood flooring retailer to protect the floors from discoloration.

You’re not “finished” just yet

Knowing which type of finish applied to protect the hardwood floor is important. Different flooring finishes require different kinds of care, so if or when in doubt, contact the flooring manufacturer or a wood flooring professional in your area.

There are three major types of wood flooring finishes available— surface finishes, wax and acrylic impregnated –and the experts at the National Wood Flooring Association stress that using the right maintenance products will protect and prolong the life of the floor.

Surface finishes, also referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes, are practical and very popular. They remain on the surface of the wood and form a protective coating that is water-resistant, durable and requires minimal maintenance.

For cleaning purposes, use products recommended by the flooring manufacturer. If the floors were finished or refinished on site, contact the installer. If neither is known, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner which can be purchased at a retail flooring store. Never use wax-based or petroleum-based products on a surface finish floor, as they will damage the finish.

Wax finishes soak into the wood, harden to form a protective penetrating seal, and when needed, are maintained with additional thin applications of wax. Only solvent-based waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids made specifically for wax-finished wood floors should be used.

Use cleaning products, available at retail flooring stores, made specifically for wax finishes. Follow the directions carefully to determine how long the cleaner should remain on the floor. Once the floor is clean, apply a new coat of wax to restore luster.

Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. These finishes most often are used in high traffic areas of malls, restaurants and other commercial settings.

Cleaning an acrylic impregnated floor depends on the finish. If the floor has a urethane-based finish, follow the same procedures suggested for surface finished floors. If the floor has a nonurethane-based finish, use a spray and buff system, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Source: www.HardwoodInfo.com

End-of-Summer Checklist for Home Sellers

By Dan Steward, President of Pillar To Post Home Inspections

As we near the end of summer, it’s time to look ahead and plan out home maintenance projects that have to be done before the cold weather strikes. Real estate agents can help homebuyers understand which home fixes take priority if their new home isn’t quite new. Likewise, agents can help sellers prioritize their last warm weather fixes to increase a home’s curb appeal. While the weather is warm and before the peak months of September and October, encourage clients to walk around the exterior of their home and make a list of problematic areas. Some can be fixed by the current owners and others will require assistance from an expert. To help locate any issues and take care of them before winter arrives, REALTORS® can help their clients by hiring a reliable, thorough home inspector to check around the exterior of the home. An inspector will be able to get to areas where a buyer may not want to venture, including the roof and under the home.

End-of-summer projects agents can suggest to their home sellers include:

  1. Outdoor painting. If the owners don’t have the time or the resources to do a full painting job, have them go around the outside of the house and touch up any areas that look rough. If they find peeling paint, the areas can be scraped and sanded, then primed and painted to maintain even texture.
  2. Outdoor caulking and sealing. Windows should be checked inside and out for possible leaks or cracks. With cold weather just around the corner, leaks or cracks could mean higher heating bills. Have leaks and cracks sealed with caulk, then look at the trim around each window—if any pieces are pulling out, have the owners check for mold or rotting, then replace or reattach wood.
  3. Concrete and asphalt patching. If the home features an asphalt driveway, it can be repaired with asphalt patching material. Asphalt should be sealed every other year. If the driveway or walkways are concrete, cracks or holes can be repaired with epoxy patching material.
  4. Patio and deck maintenance. On wood decks, rotted boards should be replaced, painted or stained as needed, and critter nests and debris cleared. On brick patios, owners should replace missing bricks, level off areas where tree roots have pushed up the bricks and re-grout any areas where weeds or weather have degraded the hold between bricks.
  5. Landscaping. Keep landscaping clean and attractive. Weeds should be pulled, dropped fruits and nuts removed from under trees to deter animals, and trees and bushes trimmed so they don’t scrape the side of the house. Many landscaping companies offer affordable fall clean-up packages for homeowners who don’t want to do the work themselves.

If the home is still on the market leading into the holidays, owners can spend the colder months doing interior cosmetic upgrades, such as replacing floor coverings, upgrading cabinet hardware and interior painting. With a prioritized list, homeowners will feel more confident in their ability to finish interior updates before the start of the 2013 real estate season.

By Dan Steward is the president of Pillar To Post Home Inspections. For more information, visit www.pillartopost.com.