Safe At Home With Smoke Alarms

Written By Pillar To Post

Smoke alarms are an important defense against injury or death in house fires. Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that nearly two-thirds of home fire fatalities occur in homes with non-working or missing smoke detectors. Most building codes now require smoke detectors in all residential structures, which has resulted in a steep drop in fire- and smoke-related deaths. Homeowners should check with their local public safety office or fire department for specific information on these requirements.

  • As in real estate, location is key! Smoke alarms should be in installed every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the home.
  • Alarms should be placed high on a wall or on the ceiling. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement. High, peaked ceilings have dead air space at the top; in these instances smoke alarms should be placed no closer than 3 feet from the highest point.
  • For areas close to the kitchen, use a detector with a “hush button” that can be used to silence nuisance alarms triggered by cooking smoke or steam. Alternatively, consider installing a photoelectric alarm near the kitchen, which will not be triggered by cooking. No matter which type is used, never remove the unit’s battery to stop or prevent nuisance alarms.
  • There are two primary types of smoke alarm technology: ionization and photoelectric. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ionization alarms are more responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. For the most comprehensive protection, both types or a combination unit should be installed.
  • Test each alarm monthly. It’s helpful to put a reminder in the calendar to do this on the first or last day of the month, for example. The units have a test button that will sound the alarm for a moment or two when pressed. Any alarm that fails to sound should have the battery replaced. If the test button fails with a new battery, replace the entire detector immediately. Monthly testing is also an ideal time to dust off the unit so that it continues to work properly.
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year. A common rule of thumb is to do this when changing to or from Daylight Saving Time in fall or spring. Remember, a non-working alarm is no better than no alarm at all. Some alarms now come with 10-year lithium batteries that eliminate the need for new batteries, but the unit itself must be replaced after its stated lifespan.
  • If the alarms are hard-wired to the home’s electrical system, make sure they are interconnected for maximum effectiveness – meaning that if one alarm is triggered, all of the others will sound as well. Any hard-wired alarms, interconnected or not, should be installed by a licensed electrician for safety and proper operation.
  • The newest type of interconnected alarms are wireless. This technology allows detectors to communicate with one another and, like their hard-wired cousins, will sound all of the units at the same time even if just one is triggered initially.
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Tips For Getting Your Home Sold In The Winter


So you’ve decided to list your home this winter. Perhaps you’ve had a job change, need to relocate out of the area, or have financial or family reasons for moving. No matter what is driving the move, you may be concerned about selling at this time of year. But just because you missed the boat on the spring selling season doesn’t mean you can’t get your home sold quickly, and for a profit. A few tips can help get it moving.

Take photos early… or late

If you can take photos before the trees become barren and the grass goes dormant, do so! The last thing you want is for your home to look blah and depressing in photos. If you can capture a snowy day (with perfectly scraped walkways, of course), that works, too. It never hurts to have your home looking like a winter wonderland.

Go easy on the holiday décor

“Deck the halls, but don’t go overboard,” said HGTV. “Homes often look their best during the holidays, but sellers should be careful not to overdo it on the decor. Adornments that are too large or too many can crowd your home and distract buyers. Also, avoid offending buyers by opting for general fall and winter decorations rather than items with religious themes.”

Always mind your curb appeal

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can let things slide out front. Potential buyers won’t give you a pass on chipping paint, a fence that needs repair, or a front door that’s seen better days just because it’s frigid outside.

Safety matters

Shoveling the walk from the street to your home is necessary to make it reachable, make it inviting, and also make it safe. The last thing you want is a slip and fall that could result in an injury, and a lawsuit. “Continually shovel a path through the snow, especially if snowflakes are still falling,” said the balance. “Footprints on freshly fallen snow will turn to ice if the temperature is low enough, so scrape the walk. Sprinkle a layer of sand over the sidewalk and steps to ensure your buyers’ stable footing. Remember to open a path from the street to the sidewalk so visitors aren’t forced to crawl over snowdrifts.”

Get a good indoor mat

Perhaps you never use a mat for indoors or yours is grubby or tattered from 10 straight years of winter wear. This one super easy move may not be noticed by visitors – but it sure will if it’s missing or not in good shape. Little things like a $10 mat can give buyers the impression that your whole house is well cared for, or just the opposite.

Clear the front door clutter

If you live in a climate where there is likely to be snow or rain, there are a few more steps you’ll probably have to take in order to keep your house looking great inside. How does your coat closet look? If it’s stuffed with jackets, scarves, boots, and gloves, relocating some to make room for potential buyers to put their stuff away while touring your home is a good idea – plus, a tidy coat closet gives the impression that there is plenty of storage space in the home. It goes without saying that winter wear and shoes that tend to stack up in the entry should be banished while your house is on the market.

Make sure everything is functional

Imagine you live in a climate that stays relatively temperate year-round, and then you have a cold spell. You turn on the heater for the first time the night before your first showing, and…nothing. Same for the fireplace in the living room. Your freezing cold house is probably not going to make a great impression on buyers. As soon as you decide you’re going to sell your home, go through it room by room, checking all major appliances and home functions and looking for little things that may escape notice on an everyday basis – cracked light switches, chipped baseboards, light bulbs that need to be replaced – so your home is perfect for showings.

Light it up

Shorter days with earlier sunsets limit the amount of natural light in your home. Turning on all the lights before showings is more important than ever. Think about the exterior when it comes to lights, too. If you only have a porch light, you might want to consider adding some landscaping lighting, which will help accentuate your outdoor space.

Listen to your REALTOR® when it comes to price

Will you be able to command top dollar for your home and get the same price you would have had you listed in spring or summer? That depends on so many things, including your neighborhood, the available inventory, the condition of the home, and, of course, your listing price. A trusted real estate agent will take all mitigating factors into consideration and use comparables in your area to develop a pricing strategy.

When it comes to offers, remember this tidbit from “Just because your home’s on the market during the slow, chilly months doesn’t mean you have to accept a lowball offer. If you make your home attractive in all the right ways, qualified buyers will come.”

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Nine House Cleaning Tasks That Give You A Great Workout


House cleaning is a drag. That comes as a surprise to no one. But, there is a great side benefit to having a tidy home. Well, there are many, but we’re not talking about the psychological advantages of living in a clean home or even the fact that a clean house just plain looks good. We’re talking about working up a sweat. Go ahead and skip the gym. Grab the broom or the vacuum cleaner instead. Turns out the simple acts of sweeping, vacuuming, and so many more housecleaning tasks can give you a great workout. “You probably know that the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week to maintain good health,” said Weight Watchers. “But did you know that any kind of physical activity counts, including housework? Believe it or not, dusting, sweeping, mopping, making beds and carrying laundry all add up to a lot of ‘incidental activity – the type some health experts view as potentially more beneficial than ‘official’ workouts, such as calisthenics.”

So how many calories are we talking here? “According to Health Status, a 150-lb. individual would burn 99 calories doing 30 minutes of housework,” said LIVESTRONG. But the calorie burn varies depending on the activity – and your body weight; consider that the more you weigh, the more calories you burn.


Dusting can burn 80 calories in 30 minutes, and give you a good arm and shoulder workout. Want to burn even more? Add weights to wrists and/or ankles for this and any other task. “The American Council on Exercise promotes the use of weights to increase exercise benefit,” said Health magazine. “You can add this to your everyday life by using ankle or wrist weights. Just adding weights can burn 25-50% more calories during your everyday activities – no gym required!”

Washing dishes

“Some activities are more vigorous than others. A 150-lb. person washing dishes for 30 minutes would burn approximately 77 calories, according to Health Status,” said LIVESTRONG.

Cleaning your windows

Improve your view and get a good arm workout at the same time. Washing your windows for a half hour can burn 100 calories.


Few of us enjoy the task of doing laundry, but, while you’re putting clothes in the washer, moving them to the dryer, sorting, folding, and hanging, think about this: an hour’s worth of these tasks can burn 68 calories. It’s not as much as hitting the bike at cycling class, but at least now you have something clean to wear when you do go! And, you earned yourself a snack.


“A 30-minute dance with the broom will burn off 136 calories,” said SHAPE.


Between all the walking, turning, twisting, and bending, vacuuming can burn 170 calories in an hour.


Have a lot of hard surface floors in your home instead of carpet? Grab that mop. An hour’s worth of mopping can burn 170 calories, too.

Washing floors

“Extra dirty” floors may be a good thing in this case. “If your floors require a little extra elbow grease, you can shed as many as 187 calories in just 30 minutes,” said Shape.

Rearranging your closet

Whether it’s time to swap out summer duds for winter sweaters or you just need to clean out a closet that’s overstuffed, this task can burn about 85 calories.

Mowing the lawn

How about taking your tidying tasks outdoor? If your lawn is in need of some manicuring, you’ll love the fact that this type of home improvement activity can burn a whopping 300 calories in an hour. If it only takes you 20 minutes, you “can burn more calories than a power walk,” said Health. “But there’s a catch: you have to mow with a push mower. You may feel like you’re living on the frontier, but a push mower will turn your backyard into a boot camp!”

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The Benefits of Downsizing

Owning a home has been the American Dream for generations, and while many still seek the biggest house their money can afford, for many buyers and current homeowners in the United States, finding a smaller home has become very appealing. Throughout the U.S., homeowners are jumping on the downsizing bandwagon, and with the current trends of tiny homes and minimalism becoming more and more popular coast to coast, there are many homeowners and buyers looking into smaller homes and the many benefits provided by downsizing.

Save Money

Smaller homes just cost less to live in (depending on the location). Downsizing can provide a number of financial benefits and help save money in the long term. By downsizing, many homeowners can reduce or eliminate mortgage payments (a reduction in the monthly amount, or even paying off the loan sooner than expected). Downsizing or buying a smaller home can also mean deductions in other areas pertaining to home ownership: lower property taxes, lower property insurance costs, reduced utility costs and much more. If you’re moving from a high-cost area, you may also experience a reduction in the overall cost of living, and if you’ve built up a lot of equity in your current house, downsizing to a smaller and less expensive home can actually free up that extra money for immediate use or saving all of it since federal tax law may well eliminate taxes on any gain from the sale of your previous home (verify your specific situation with a tax professional prior to the sale of your current property).

Less Maintenance/Upkeep

If there’s something that almost every homeowner complains about, it’s home maintenance and upkeep. A larger home ultimately means more to clean, more to maintain, and overall more upkeep. For many households in the U.S., a larger home also brings wasted space: according to the book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, for many average households in the U.S., most of any main floor traffic occurs in the kitchen, living and family rooms. Downsizing not only means less maintenance overall, it also means more of the house is utilized on a daily basis.

Optimize Small Spaces

While a ragtag mix of second-hand furniture might be perfect for the rented college house, for many adults a design-savvy décor is often sought-after when it comes to a furnished house to call home. With a large house, the cost of furnishings and other design elements can run into the thousands, and if you or your family members happen to have luxury taste, costs could go even higher. Downsizing to a smaller home gives homeowners the ability to optimize the small spaces: for example, going from a house with a family and living room to just a family room can mean splurging on a nicer sofa or bigger television when only one room needs to be furnished, not two. Downsizing to a smaller home can also mean getting rid of all the items you’re currently not using, which for many American households, is quite a lot of stuff.

Afford Popular Areas

For many different cities throughout the U.S. there are specific areas and neighborhoods that are sought-after by buyers and investors alike. Whether they have great schools, affordable real estate prices, up-and-coming amenities, or are a hub of events and activities, buyers will inevitably look to owning a home in or around the area. Downsizing can actually make the popular areas more attainable for many buyers, as smaller homes will or should be more affordable than larger houses. It’s also important to note that if you decide to downsize, smaller homes may be more readily available throughout a popular area’s real estate market than those that offer more square footage, and buyers may even experience less competition in those more popular markets for smaller homes

Reduction in Environmental Footprint

For many in the U.S., being more conscious of the environment and ‘living green’ has become a way of life. Homes are not excluded from an environmental footprint, and for those looking to reduce their own energy consumption, downsizing can provide that opportunity. A smaller home means less heating and cooling of the property, a reduction in electricity use, and overall less waste. But it’s not just an environmental footprint that can benefit from downsizing — homeowners can also find it more affordable to upgrade a home’s current systems to more environmentally friendly and energy efficient technologies when the home is small and more compact.

Thinking About Downsizing? Give me a call! I am your local real estate expert and I can help you determine the current market value of your home, as well as provide you an advanced look at what to expect as you seek to purchase your new one.

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Rain Gutter Preventive Maintenance

Leaves and other debris can collect in rain gutters and cause damage as seen in the photo below. Pooled water can freeze and build up in the winter, eventually causing the gutter to pull away from its bracket. Clogs can cause roof leaks, and the over-spill can create hazardous conditions below, such as ice on pavement or leaks into a basement.

Image result for leaves in gutters

Cleaning out the gutters at lease once a year in the fall is important. Gutter guards that allow water in and keep lease and debris out are available and can save time and headaches.

You can make many of the repairs yourself. Straighten and reinforce brackets and reattach gutters. Patch small leaks with plastic roofing cement. If a larger patch is needed, be sure to use the same type of metal as the gutter. Mixing dissimilar metals can cause corrosion. Cut a strip of metal larger than the hole, bend it to conform to the shape of the gutter, and apply enough cement to squish out around the edges of the patch. Smooth cement with a putty knife.

There are a lot of ways to protect your home. Taking care of small problems quickly is one. For more information or tips on home maintenance, give me a call! I am always here to help you and your family!


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Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater


Water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years, but as with anything, the better care you take of it, the longer it will last. There are several easy “set it and forget it” tips that you can use with your water heater, like keeping the thermostat at 120 degrees, and always maintain two feet of clearance around the appliance. You can also conserve money on your gas bill by setting your heater to its “vacation” setting when leaving town. This will keep the pilot light going without heating the water.

Water heater maintenance goes well beyond just checking the thermostat, however. Here are some detailed tips for making sure your water heater lives a long, full life.

Draining & Cleaning

The bottom of the tank can contain all manner of sediment, calcium deposits, rust and bacteria. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove this debris. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run until the water is clear.

A once-a-year full cleaning should include draining the appliance completely, removing the drain valve and then scrubbing the bottom with a long, narrow brush. From there, screw on a nipple, pump 15 or 20 seconds worth of fresh water into the tank, then drain, repeating the process until the water runs clear. This is the best chemical-free way to clean a water heater.

Testing the TPR Valve

Most experts recommend testing the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve on your water heater every six months for optimal performance. Frequent testing can also reduce the chance of a leak resulting from mineral salt, rust and corrosion buildup, or worse: an explosion.

To perform the test, slowly raise and lower the test lever so that it lifts the brass stem. At this point, hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If you get no water, or only a trickle, be sure to replace the valve. The main thing to watch for immediately after testing the TPR valve is a leak. If you do catch a leak, operate the test level a few more times to loosen the debris that could be preventing the valve from working correctly. If the valve is functioning properly, turn down the temperature on the water heater controller and turn down the water pressure.

Examining the Sacrificial Anode

‘Sacrificial anode’ is the fancy name for the rod of metal located in your water heater’s tank that rusts easily so that the steel won’t; it takes the fall, essentially. Sacrificial anodes in water heaters are made of highly corrosive metals like magnesium and aluminum.

To examine your heater’s sacrificial anode you must first remove it. Start by shutting off the electricity or gas to the water heater, as well as the water supply. Drain a few inches of water from the tank via the tank valve. Locate the top of the anode rod or connecting hardware – it may be under a cap about halfway to the center, or it may be under a pink top nipple. Loosen the anode very carefully with a wrench. Here, it may be necessary to apply penetrating oil to the connecting nut or threads.

One you remove the anode, inspect it carefully. If it is covered in rough metal that looks like it’s been chewed, that’s normal and your anode is functioning properly. If you can see six inches or more of the steel core wire inside the anode, replace it. If not, put it back in place and check back in a year.

Insulating Older Units

When you insulate the walls in your house, you increase its energy efficiency, and the same is true with your water heater. Although newer units are optimized for insulation, many older units are not, and by insulating them, you could reduce heat loss by 25-45%. If you’re not sure whether or not to insulate your appliance, simply touch it; if it’s warm to the touch, it’s time to insulate.

Before purchasing a water heater insulating blanket kit, check with your utility to see if they offer blankets at discounted rates. Some companies even install them for little-to-no cost.

To self-install, turn off the electricity to your heater at the breaker (or for gas, switch the valve to “pilot” position). Wrap the blanket around the heater and tape it temporarily, leaving open areas for the access panel(s), valves and for gas heaters, the burner areas. Then tape the blanket permanently, and be sure to never set the thermostat above 130 degrees because the wiring could overheat.

When to Replace?

If you own a conventional storage tank water heater and it’s getting into the double digits in age, it’s time to replace. However if your water heater is only a few years old, there are a few things that would only take about $150-300 to repair. These things include extinguished pilot lights, burner or heating elements failing, thermostats breaking, or valves sticking. The two precursors to replacement are usually either old age or a leak. When your water heater springs a leak that usually means it’s time to face the music and buy a new one.

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Insider’s Tips for Adding Value to Your Home

Written By Andrew Jones

Insider's tips for adding value to your home

Building equity is one of the primary benefits of home ownership. Equity is established when you make a down payment at the time of purchase, and it typically grows as your property value increases and the loan balance is paid off. You can also add equity to your home through the completion of thoughtful projects. These are some of the top options to consider that can add true value to your home.

Repair Known Issues

Before you spend money updating and improving the home, fix the items that you know are in poor condition. For example, if your roof is leaking or your foundation is damaged, repair these items. While they can be costly to complete in some cases, these issues can negatively affect the value of the property if they are not properly tended to.

Focus on Kitchens and Bathrooms

The two primary areas of the home that can show age and wear are the kitchen and bathrooms. Most of the features in these rooms are built-in, so professional renovation is often needed to improve style and function in these spaces. Depending on the extent of your upgrading, you may be able to recoup as much as 80 percent or more of the renovation costs.

Think About Climate Control

When you sell your home, a potential buyer will look for climate control features built into the property. While you may make do with ceiling fans and space heaters for climate control, many buyers want a home with a centralized heating and cooling system. If your home does not have a system installed or if the system is outdated, add a new and energy efficient HVAC unit to your home.

Update Your Lighting

Lighting is a critical design element that is often overlooked. The types of lights, the intensity of the light and even the placement of lights can play a major role in the overall ambiance in your home. Lighting should be functional and practical, but it also must create a suitable ambiance. The fixtures themselves can also affect the style of the home. When you update light fixtures, focus on the look of the lights, energy efficiency, their placement, the benefit of dimmer switches and more.

Make Easy Cosmetic Improvements

Some of these ideas can cost a small fortune to incorporate into your space. What can you do if you only have a limited amount of money to work with? Some cosmetic improvements can yield tremendous results for your home’s appeal and value. For example, replacing broken windows, patching up cracked drywall, updating the wall colors with a fresh coat of neutral paint, fixing cracked tile and more can do wonders for the overall condition and look of your property.

Fund Your Improvements and Renovations

Before you get started on home improvement projects, you need to set a budget for the work and line up the full amount of funds you will need. It is important to have access to all of the funds you need to complete the work before you begin. This is because you do not want to be forced to stop halfway through the project because of a lack of funds. Consider the benefits of a short-term loan, such as a payday loan or a title loan, to get the funds you need.

You may want to add value to your home quickly before listing it for sale. Perhaps you want to make improvements to your home for your own enjoyment. Each of these ideas can improve your home’s value with great results, so analyze the ideas to see which options are more applicable to your home.

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