General Home Maintenance Schedule Series: Rain Gutters

How To Clean Your Rain Gutters
By Mike Milliman

rain_guttersRain gutters protect your house from water damage, but they only do their job when free of clogs. To keep your gutters flowing freely, you need to clean them periodically.

The conventional wisdom says to clean your rain gutters twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring. In fact, this is the minimum frequency at which you should clean them. If you live in a rainy climate or have trees near your roof, you will need to clean your gutters more often.

Check your gutters once a month during the rainy season to make sure they are clean. In addition to leaves and pine needles, check for small seeds and nuts. If allowed to build up, these can leave a tar-like residue that’s hard to remove.

To clean your gutters you’ll need the right tools, and the most important tool for this job is a steady ladder.

If you have a low roof, a step-ladder may be enough to do the job. Otherwise you will need a stabilized extension ladder. Lean the top of the ladder against your roof and place the bottom on level ground about one quarter of the ladder’s length away from the wall.

Leaning an extension ladder against your gutters can damage them. You can avoid this by using a ladder stabilizer, which is a metal triangle that attaches to the ladder, allowing it to rest safely against a wall and keeping its weight off of your gutters.

Remember never to stand on the top step of your ladder. If your ladder isn’t tall enough for you to comfortably reach your gutters, don’t be a hero, just get a bigger ladder.

Once your ladder is in place, you’ll need a plastic bucket to store debris. Hang the bucket from a ladder step with an S-hook. Don’t be tempted to hang the bucket from your gutters, since the added weight can damage the gutters.

Next you’ll need a tool for scraping leaves and other debris from your gutters. A trowel or garden spade will do the job, but avoid sharp tools that can gouge your gutters. Some hardware stores also sell a specialized “gutter scooper,” which is basically a long-bladed trowel shaped to fit most gutters.

Begin near a downspout and scoop out debris, working your way along the gutters and away from the downspout.

After you have cleaned out the debris, flush the gutters with a garden hose. This is also a good time to check for leaks in your gutter system.

Next, check for clogs in your downspouts. Insert your garden hose into the top of the downspout and turn on the water. Compare the flow from the hose to that washing out of the downspout. A slow flow means you have a clogged downspout.

Unclogging your downspouts is undoubtedly the hardest part of cleaning your gutters. You can try blasting water through the downspout, but this can potentially worsen the clog.

In many cases it’s better to disassemble the downspout. Take out the elbows, which are where clogs usually occur, and clean them with your tools.

Another option is to use a plumber’s snake (sometimes called a plumber’s auger or drain auger). Essentially an auger with a flexible tube, the plumber’s snake lets you bore through the clog. Just be sure to buy a plumber’s snake that’s wide enough for your rain gutters.

Instead of cleaning your own gutters, you can a hire service to do the job for you. The cost depends on the size and height of your house. To clean the gutters on a two-story, 2,000 square-foot home with 180 feet of gutters will cost anywhere from $90 to $200.

Another option is to install gutter screen or gutter covers, which help keep leaves and debris from getting into your gutters. These cost anywhere from $0.50 – $6.00 per foot of gutter, depending on the type of system you buy.

Mike Milliman is a managing partner of GutterSupply.com, the leading online seller of gutter supplies and equipment. Visit their web site to learn more about gutter cleaning and gutter guards.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mike_Milliman

 

General Home Maintenance Schedule Series: Check Your Roof & Siding

Common Signs That You May Need to Hire a Siding or Roofing Contractor

While it’s to be expected that a home’s exterior will get a little beat up over the years, there comes a point when a homeowner needs to take action and get some repairs done. If you ignore the little signs that you may have a problem with your roof or your siding, then you could be putting your home and your family at risk. It’s much better to call in a home improvement pro when you start to see the first signs of wear and tear.

Sometimes, the signs that your home’s exterior needs repairs will be quite obvious. If, for example, you come home to find unexplained puddles in your living room or bedroom, then you’ll know that you need to check your roof for leaks. Unfortunately, not all signs of disrepair are as obvious as that. In some cases, it takes a watchful eye to notice that your home’s exterior needs the help of a repair pro.

It’s always a good idea to check your home for signs that you need repairs to essential components such as your roofing and siding. You don’t have to do this too frequently, but it’s advisable to check every few months for signs of wear and tear. It’s especially important to do this after a big storm. The storm could have damaged your roof or your siding significantly, and if it has, then you’ll want to get repairs or replacements right away.

Signs of Roofing Problems

When you have a problem with your roof, there are a lot of different signs that you should look out for. If your roof is leaking, you may notice that there are stains on the ceiling inside your home, which means that you should call in roofing contractors right away. Some other signs that you may need to hire roofing contractors are missing or curling shingles. If you can stop a roof problem before it progresses to a leak or other major issue, then you could end up saving yourself a lot of time and money down the road.

Signs That You Need New Siding

Although exterior siding is meant to last for a long time and to protect your home for many years, it’s not indestructible. Siding can get damaged by extreme temperatures and other elements, and it’s not something that you have to simply put up with. If your exterior siding is showing signs of wear and tear, then it might be a good idea to contact siding contractors and ask for repairs. You don’t want to leave your home at risk because of damaged siding, and professional siding contractors can help you further protect your home and restore its beauty.

 If you stay on top of things by keeping an eye on your roofing and siding, then you’ll easily be able to spot problems before they become big issues. You can hire contractors to help you fix roofing or siding issues, and your home will stay in great shape for many years to come.

Maria Allen is a home improvement hobbyist and an Internet marketing expert for Prospect Genius, a local online advertising company.

General Home Maintenance Schedule Series: Informed HVAC Decision On Air Conditioning Repair Or Replace

Informed HVAC Decision On Air Conditioning Repair Or Replace
By RM HarringtonAir_conditioning

  In every home equipped with central air conditioning, there comes a time when repair or replace becomes a major HVAC question. The following tips won’t resolve all of your concerns, but they can help you get the guesswork out of the decision-making process. By presenting this basic guideline for:

– Reduced costs in A/C installation costs
– Increased comfort from effective equipment
– AND the assets that best guarantee favorable energy-savings from your home heating and cooling equipment;

These tips will help you better understand the current state of air conditioning technology.

Make A Confident HVAC Repair or Replace Air Conditioning Decision

In every home equipped with central air conditioning, there comes a time when repair or replace becomes a major HVAC question. The following tips won’t resolve all of your concerns, but they can help you get the guesswork out of the decision-making process. By presenting this basic guideline for: · Reduced costs in A/C installation costs · Increased comfort from effective equipment · AND the assets that best guarantee favorable energy-savings from your home heating and cooling equipment; These tips will help you better understand the current state of air conditioning technology.

Repairing or Replace – The Value of Updating

TIP! If replace is your only option, make sure you buy ENERGY STAR compliant equipment. It may seem a small thing, but it isn’t.

We all know that age affects reliability, electronics, mechanics and even people. Perhaps your old HVAC system is worth repairing. Test and see. Get an estimate of repair costs versus replace cost, and then calculate all of the interrelated costs such as system durability, system performance, and the age of the existing unit. Remember also that the older a cooling and heating system, the more the more often you will be forced to revisit the repair or install new HVAC decision. If after reading this article you determine that fixing your aged HVAC equipment is preventing you from enjoying the cost-saving operating benefits of modern home air conditioning equipment, contact your local A/C installation team. Ask them to put together an HVAC replacement package that fits your budget. Then make certain that the package not only includes new, energy-efficient cooling equipment but that some form of workmanship guarantee of excellence backs the installation. Making a Wise Repair or Replace Air Conditioning Decision When reviewing repair or replace air conditioning options, determining the best course of action involves many areas of consideration. The following breakdown highlights some of the most important decision making factors. Apply them equally to any make or model of HVAC equipment. If you have any manufacturer-specific questions, contact your HVAC vendor.

Air Conditioning Refrigerants

R-22 or R-410A; These are the two types of A/C refrigerants most widely used in home heat pumps and air conditioning condensing units. However, due to the 1987 Montreal Protocol and the associated Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, a phase-out of R-22 and any other ozone-depleting chemicals is in effect. By January 1, 2020, no chemical manufacturers will be permitted to produce R-22 for home air conditioning servicing. At that point, only recovered, recycled and reclaimed R-22 will be available for use in servicing existing A/C and Heat Pump systems. Although uncharged R-22 systems can be installed as a replacement or repair option for an existing older unit, 13-SEER efficiency is the highest available option and the cost of R-22 may run higher than your greatest imagination. If your HVAC decision runs between major repairs for an R-22 unit versus upgrading to a new R-410A system, go with the new.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER)

TIP! Before buying a new HVAC system, consider the rated energy efficiency. Pricing may be important, but the long-term savings of an installed new energy efficient cooling system can save thousands of dollars in reduced unit lifetime energy consumption. It’s an HVAC decision you cannot afford to ignore.

Established by the United States DOE and increased in January of 2006, 13-SEER is the lowers current efficiency rating for central air conditioning systems. A higher rating reflects greater performance and energy efficiency. When faced with the decision of repair or replace air conditioning in an older 10-SEER setup, make sure that repair is very cheap and very simple, or else install something newer and better.

HSPF and SEER

Heat pump performance and efficiency is not only measured by a residential SEER scale that is equivalent to that used on residential central sir conditioners, but they are also rated for efficiency on a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). Also established and set by the DOE, the HSPF of your installed Arizona Heat Pump may be just as important as your A/C SEER rating. In general, running an hp is less expensive than heating with a fuel-based system. In Arizona, a good heat pump will save you money on your winter heating bills.

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) – Add Fuel Utilization to Your HVAC Decision

As a service of ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, the specs for your system’s AFUE are designed to ensure that your home is serviced by efficient HVAC equipment. The current ASHRAE restrictions require that manufacturers produce heating and cooling systems that perform no lower than 80% AFUE. But concerned air conditioning manufacturers strive to reap 96% and above. So what means the AFUE rating? In simple terms, AFUE rating identifies just how much of your energy dollar is fully utilized in the operation of your home furnace system. Thus, a 90% AFUE rating means that ten cents of every dollar is wasted.

Manufacturer Warranty Coverage

Perhaps you wonder why anyone needs a warranty for a product that should be built to last? Well, face it! In this world, perfection does not exist. Even the best efforts to design a fully fault-proof heating and cooling system fall short. Most times, buyers get a winner, but on occasion someone gets a lemon. Every major HVAC equipment provider strives to give you the best product for the money spent, yet they too recognize the complications of Murphy’s Law. Compare product warranties. Find out exactly what is covered and for how long each component is covered. Consider the value of acquiring an extended warranty when available.

And then follow-up by making sure your HVAC installation provider supports their services with a limited lifetime workmanship warranty.

Picking An A/C Installation Team

Competition in the HVAC industry is among the greatest of any industry in the nation. Low-ball pricing by unlicensed installation teams is a common reason for ineffective heating and cooling services. Protect yourself. Demand evidence that a company is Bonded, Insured and Licensed to work at your residence. And get and check references. The cost of installing a new air conditioning system is no laughing matter. Avoid as much future hassle as possible. Use a reputable dealer.

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rmharrington is a professional HVAC content writer working exclusively for http://americancoolingandheating.com. rmharrington is equally skilled for communicating with A/C technicians, HVAC product engineers or the home/business buyer in need of reliable A/C related details.

General Home Maintenance Schedule Series: The Top Six Myths About Home Inspections

house_inspectionThe Top Six Myths About Home Inspections

By Lisa P. Turner

If you have bought or sold a home, you might have experienced an independent home inspection. This type of home inspection is designed to provide both buyers and sellers with critical information about the health of the home’s systems – heating and cooling, electrical, plumbing, water tightness, roof condition, and safety. This type of inspection is highly detailed and provides a wealth of information on the home. While this type of inspection is not required, it can help buyers avoid a “money pit” and can help sellers understand what things might turn buyers away.

A friend wrote me recently to say that they bought a house and had expected the home inspector to look for termites. After they moved in, they decided to remodel. They discovered that termites had completely eaten the wood structure in 3 walls.

I told them that one of the things home inspectors do not do is inspect for pests, since they are not qualified to identify them. Pest control professionals are qualified to find pest infestations, and should be called in before the purchase. Most of the time your real estate agent will suggest what inspections you should be getting to protect yourself.

This got me thinking about home inspection myths. Here are the top 6 myths.

1. Home inspectors inspect for termites. Myth! Unfortunately for the couple above who believed this, repairs were very expensive.

2. You should not attend the inspection on the home you are buying, because it will disturb the inspector. Myth! Inspectors appreciate their clients attending the inspection and know they can fully communicate the issues with them. Sometimes written reports do not explain everything fully. If the clients are out of town and cannot attend the inspection, they should hold a conference call to discuss report items as soon as practical after the report is completed.

3. The seller is responsible for fixing everything the inspector finds wrong. Myth! Repairs, even serious ones, are negotiable. The sellers may be able to back out of a deal, however, if the inspector discovers serious defects.

4. New construction requires an independent home inspection to get the Certificate of Occupancy. Myth! New construction does require progressive inspections by the municipal building inspector for safety and code enforcement. If you are moving into a newly constructed home, I personally would recommend an independent home inspection also, as it will catch many loose ends.

5. If the home’s appraisal is excellent, there can’t be anything wrong with the home and you don’t need another inspection. Myth! A home’s appraisal is based on many factors, including market conditions, location, and materials (HardiePlank and granite counter tops, for example) but does not inspect for systems actually working or structural integrity.

6. A home inspection will take about 30 minutes. Myth! A thorough home inspection should take from 2-5 hours depending upon the size and complexity of the home. There are hundreds of inspection points on a home inspection, including walking the roof and crawling the crawlspace.
Now that you are the home inspection expert, you can try these questions on your friends and see how they do.

Lisa is an aerospace engineer and building contractor residing in Hayesville, North Carolina. Prior to her engineering position, Lisa inspected homes for home buyers, sellers, owners, and mortgage companies.

Lisa loves flying and building aircraft. Lisa is the first woman to build and fly a Pulsar XP 2-person experimental aircraft. She built 2 aircraft and the major portion of a helicopter between 1995 and 2008.

Lisa enjoys writing about flying, home improvement, and goal setting. She loves to inspire others to reach for their dreams.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Lisa_P._Turner

 

What’s Causing Those Footsteps in the Attic, Spooky Sounds and Smells?

spooky house

Spooky house issues? Let’s take a CLOSER look….

By: John Riha

Are you haunted by strange noises and weird odors? With the proper maintenance, you’ve got more than a ghost of a chance to rest easy.

Creaking and Popping in the Night

The many materials that make up your house — wood framing, plywood, glass, metal ducts, nails, plumbing pipes — all expand and contract at different rates.

When a house cools at night, these materials may move slightly, rubbing against each other and making noises. Occasionally, they’ll contract with an audible pop.

These sounds tend to be more noticeable in fall, when warm days give way to rapidly cooling nights. The bad news? Not much you can do about it. The good news? Those sounds are harmless and normal.

Zombie Odor

It’s either time to throw out the garbage, or you’d better call your gas utility to check on your gas lines and connections.

Natural gas is odorless, but natural gas suppliers add a foul-smelling odorant — butyl mercaptan — to alert occupants to any leaks. The smell is like rotten eggs.

Leaks can occur at your gas-fired water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer, and any gas line. Leaking natural gas is potentially dangerous — leave the house and call your natural gas provider to assess the situation. Most utility companies perform safety checks for free.

Footsteps in the Attic

Amplified by an unfinished attic space, a raccoon or even a good-size squirrel on your roof might sound like an ax murderer is doing the polka overhead.

These rooftop transits are normal for critters — roofs offer a nice long unobstructed highway.

Make sure your soffit, rafter, and gable roof vents are covered with screens and in good shape, or your rooftop buddies might find their way into your attic for real. Trim back branches that provide critters easy access to your roof.

Something’s Burning

You can smell the odor of burnt wood, but the smoke detectors aren’t going off and there’s no smoke in the house. The culprit could be your fireplace — even if you haven’t had a fire for days.

The probable cause is a drafty chimney and negative air pressure in your home, meaning that outside air is infiltrating down your chimney, bringing stale burnt smells with it.

Stop drafts by making sure your damper has a good seal. Regulate air pressure by adding more cold air return ducts to your HVAC system. You’ll get rid of the odor and save on your energy bill, too.

Moaning and Clattering

These classic spooky sounds often show up when the wind blows and there’s a storm brewing.

Vents for clothes dryers, bathrooms, and water heaters exit out the roof or the side of the house. To prevent backdrafts, these vents have dampers — flaps designed to let vented air out and prevent outside air from coming in. These flaps sometimes move and rattle in high winds.

Because dampers often are located in attics or in between floor joists, the sound can be difficult to pinpoint. You may need a new damper ($85).


Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

 



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