was successfully added to your cart.

Category

Seasonal Home Maintenance

Tips to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

If you need a sign that summer is upon is, take one step outside! It’s June and heat has returned to Central Texas.

While keeping yourself, your family, and your pets (AKA furry family) cool should be top of mind, take a few minutes to consider how you’ll keep your home cool this summer. The weather almanac claims Austin and the surrounding areas top 100° F an average of 16 days per year; those of us who live here know it’s more, and often feels like much more than that! By following these easy steps, you can make your home a more comfortable oasis and save a few bucks while you’re at it:

    • Cover your windows. Although it’s tempting to let the summer sunshine in, it’s impossible to welcome the rays without the heat. Whether you opt for blinds, curtains, or solar screens, window coverings that reflect the light will also reduce the heat intake. Window coverings can enhance the beauty of your home and create a more tolerable living environment in the summer. Bonus: Because your rooms will be cooler, you may notice that blinds and curtains mean your AC runs less often.
  • Keep your windows tightly sealed. “In or out!” How many times did you hear that plea from cost-conscious relatives during the summer as a child? Well, they weren’t joking around. Keeping your windows and doors closed can make a significant impact on your home’s internal temperature and cooling costs. Check your windows and doors to see if any weather stripping needs to be repaired or replaced to ensure cool air can’t escape. Bonus: If you need to have windows repaired or replaced, check our preferred vendors list for local professionals who can help.
  • Employ ceiling fans. Embrace a force of nature in your home: wind. Paddle ceiling fans and portable fans cost much less to run than your air conditioner. Remember to set fans to run clockwise (when looking up) during summer months. Bonus: Because fans require that you feel the breeze, it only makes sense to run them when you’re in the room to feel the difference. Remember to turn off fans when you leave a room.
  • Conserve hot water. Large appliances like your dishwasher and washing machine create tons of heat and humidity that can take time to dissipate from your home. Along with hot showers and running other electronics, like your TV and PC, this all results in heat. Reduce these activities, especially during the heat of the day, and remember to run exhaust fans in your bathroom and utility room as necessary. Bonus: This tip affects not only your electric bill, but also monthly utilities.
  • Change those air filters! You knew we were getting here, didn’t you? Air filters truly are the heart and soul of your home’s AC system. Air filters purify the air you breathe, leaving behind an array of dust and contaminants in their folds. Because the air runs more in the summertime, filters fill up faster. Be sure to change these monthly to keep cool, clean air flowing. Bonus: If you are looking to sell your home this summer, your inspector will definitely check those filters, so it pays to keep them clean.

While these tips aren’t miracles, they will help reduce the time your AC runs this summer and by proxy reduce your cooling costs. As for staying cool outside, we recommend a nice shaded spot by the pool! For more home maintenance tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Stay healthy, cool, and safe out there!

Landscape for form and function

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

While beautiful landscaping enhances curb appeal and is proven to increase buyer interest, it’s also important for the health of your home’s foundation. Since a stable foundation is critical to a good home inspection, here are a few tips this spring as you enhance your home’s natural beauty:

  • Don’t plant too close. It’s like we always say: Water is your home’s number one enemy. Trees, shrubs and other plants that require lots of moisture will direct that moisture to your home, which can result in long-term issues. Additionally, don’t establish too many plants that will require water. You want to plant evenly around your home so that as water expands, the soil distributes evenly.
  • Grade away from your home. Be sure that water isn’t running toward your home. Look around to see which direction stormwater flows. We recommend that homeowners create a grade away from your home to ensure a sturdy foundation. If you need help, check our preferred lenders list and have a foundation expert take a look.
  • Select plants that match your environment. Plants that thrive in your environmental zone will not only prove to be more healthy and beautiful, they can also impact the amount of water and time you devote to their existence. Be sure to use mulch around your trees and shrubs, as it acts like a sponge to retain moisture without requiring excess to keep plants healthy.
  • Mow regularly.  A fresh cut will remove leaves and other debris, leaving your yard clean and fresh. This is also a great time to cut back hedges around your home to maximize bright sunshine indoors. Visit the Central Texas Gardener for specific tips and tricks that can help boost your home’s curb appeal this spring.
    • Bonus – Clean yards deter pests such as insects and snakes, which can be particularly problematic for homeowners during hot Texas summers.

By tidying up your home’s exterior, you can protect your home’s foundation and avoid costly structural repairs. For more tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Fortify Your Home’s Foundation

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

Often overlooked, your home’s foundation is its structural anchor. A good foundation keeps your home stable and level. Although far from the prettiest attribute of any home, foundation cracks are in fact quite common. From new construction to older homes, many exteriors show these signs of wear. Luckily, many vertical foundation cracks can be easily repaired, and some can even be prevented!

As Randy explained in our “Under the Roof” video series, foundation cracks that show up on your home’s floor commonly appear as the surface dries. However, you should contact us if you notice cracks larger than 1/8 of an inch wide or cracks that offset. Foundation experts may also need to shim a home to level the foundation to meet industry standards.

Like so many other home maintenance and improvement projects, keeping your home’s foundation dry is key. Moisture is your home’s consummate enemy. Here are a few ways you can keep your foundation dry and prevent exterior cracks:

  • Clean your gutters. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. Full gutters spill over, creating pools of water adjacent to the foundation.
  • Refill spring soil. Take advantage of Texas spring, and fill in any low areas washed away by heavy rains with compacted soil. This will insulate your foundation and help to cradle it while absorbing moisture.
  • Monitor your moisture. While getting too wet can be a problem, drying out is also dangerous for your foundation. Especially as we enter summer, keep an eye on the weather, your lawn and sprinkler system to ensure your yard isn’t getting too much or too little water.
  • Act fast. As with many things, if you notice a foundation crack, contact the experts before the situation worsens. When addressed promptly, many cracks can be assessed and fixed inexpensively without further damage. Your home inspector or foundation expert can also make suggestions about your home and landscaping to prevent future problems.

While foundations are not a one-size-fits-all problem area, these are some of the biggest trends we see out in the field. If you need someone to take a look at your home, we’ve been telling it like it is since 2003 and we’d be happy to take a look. Just give us a call at 512-350-0123.

For more home buying, selling and maintenance tips, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Stay safe, dry and healthy out there, Central Texas!

Prepare to weather the storm

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

If living in the wake of a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you can never really be too prepared. Understanding health risk factors and stocking our homes with supplies (but not piled high with a hoard!) have become front and center for nearly all Americans during the last several weeks. In the spirit of proactive preparation, it’s time to prepare ourselves and our homes during tornado season.

First things first, while we typically think of tornado season as spring and summer in Texas, these storms do not adhere to a rule book. Meteorologists advise having a plan in place year-round. In 2019, more than 1,500 tornadoes were confirmed in the United States. While making an emergency weather plan may not be your favorite pastime, we recommend every homeowner, buyer and renter has a strategy.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

• Know the threat. The National Weather Service recommends tracking severe storms on local news or a weather radio. Many stations now offer detailed weather apps with notifications for severe weather to help residents track storms regardless of location. Remember to turn off your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” function if you need to receive alerts overnight.
• Create a plan. Every strategy starts with a good communications plan. Everyone in your home should know where to go in the event of a severe thunderstorm or tornado. Storms develop quickly and may not allow for time to plan in-the-moment.
o Identify a safe room near the center of your home in a storm cellar, basement or on the ground level with no exterior windows.
o If you live in a mobile home, identify a nearby safe building where you can quickly and reliably seek shelter.
o Consider how everyone will get to your safe room, especially if you have small children or pets that will need assistance.
o Prepare your safe room with necessities for a severe weather event. In a tornado, you will need to wear shoes and cover yourself with a blanket, mattress, or pillows to protect from flying or falling debris.
o Wait for the storm to pass before you emerge from your safe space. If service allows, track the storm on your phone or weather radio to ensure the danger has lifted.
• Practice the plan. Once your plan is in place, practice it from start to finish. You may consider taking precautions during severe storms to ensure everyone knows the drill. If time allows, remember to grab your cell phone and your keys, as you may need these in the aftermath.
• Protect your home and belongings. While no methods are fail-safe in severe weather, it is a good idea to secure loose items in your yard or driveway that may become airborne. In preparation for storms, it is a great idea to ensure your roof and gutters are in good condition, as they create the first lines of defense for your home.

Remember that your personal safety is most important during a severe weather event. Although we hope you never need to put these tools into practice, you should be prepared to weather the storm. Our biggest takeaway from 2020 so far is to prepare for the unexpected. For more home buying, selling and maintenance tips, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Stay safe and healthy out there, Central Texas!

How Groundhog Day Could Affect Your Pipes

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

The fate of Central Texas’ “winter” of 2020 all comes down to one day: February 2. On Sunday, Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his burrow to look for his shadow. If he sees it, we can prep for six weeks of cold weather, but if he doesn’t see his shadow (due to a cloudy, shadowless day), bring on spring! While this iconic holiday is built on the pillars of American legend and lore, the team at Barfield Home Inspection want to ensure your home is prepared, just in case winter strikes!

With a careful eye on the forecast, February is generally the coldest month in our region. This is a great time to double-check the insulation on your pipes to ensure your water stays hot and your pipes stay open. Pipe insulation can help to save energy all year, and avoid plumbing catastrophes that can result in flooding and mold.

Check out this helpful guide from the folks at Home Depot for installing fiberglass pipe wrap and tubular insulation (pipe sticks):

To help ensure the highest quality of insulation, be sure to disconnect exterior garden hoses and use caulk to seal any cracks or holes near water pipes.

Have a great Groundhog Day and stay warm, regardless of what that Phil says! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest tips, tricks and real estate news from the Austin, Texas area.

Protect your pipes to winterize your home

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

The time has come for us all to face the facts: winter is coming. With the first day of the season right around the corner, this is an excellent time to prepare your home for the coldest months of the year.

The biggest threats to your home during winter come from water. Water expands as it freezes, which puts tremendous pressure on metal or plastic pipes. Expanding pipes, such as those that are exposed to severe cold and your home’s exterior, and in unheated areas like basements, crawl spaces, garages and kitchen cabinets are most susceptible to breaking under pressure.

Here are a few tips for winterizing your home this month and preparing for the freezing temperatures ahead:

  • Insulate any exposed exterior plumbing pipes and hose bibs. Pick up a nice cover from the local hardware store. Alternatively, you can use duct tape, newspaper or paper bags work for a temporary fix. Duct tape is good for just about any kind of wrapping job. I even use it to wrap my wife’s presents!
  • Keep the outside valve open so that any remaining water in the pipe can expand without breaking the pipe.
  • Drip the hot and cold faucets. When temperatures dip below freezing, allowing water to trickle through exposed pipes will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
  • Open cabinets under your sinks so the warm air from the house can help keep the pipes warm enough to prevent freezing. If you have pets or small children, be sure to remove harmful chemicals before leaving the doors open.

These quick fixes can help keep your water flowing freely throughout the winter. For more tips and tricks, follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Happy insulating!

Decorating your home for the holiday

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

With Thanksgiving behind us, it is safe to say we are officially in the holiday season! If you’re like the majority of Americans, you already have or soon plan to decorate your home with a tree, ornaments, and lights. Before you tear out the ladder, lights and tinsel, check out these tips and tricks that will help you save time, energy and help keep you and your home safe amidst all that sparkle this holiday season:

• According to the American Christmas Tree Association, 77 percent of Americans will decorate their home with a Christmas tree this year. Whether you prefer a natural or artificial tree, be sure to keep it away from all heating sources in your home. Enough said.

• Keep a fire extinguisher handy. From trees to candles, as well as extra garland and tinsel, your home is likely filled with more décor than usual. Keep fire extinguishers in accessible locations throughout your home, and ensure everyone knows how to operate it if necessary. Most fire extinguishers operate using the following P.A.S.S. technique:
PULL the pin. This will also break the tamper seal.
AIM low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire.
NOTE: Do not touch the plastic discharge horn on CO2 extinguishers, it gets very cold and may damage skin.
SQUEEZE the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
SWEEP from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Watch the area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat steps 2-4.

• Turn all candles off before you turn in. A holiday favorite, candles provide ambient lighting and the fragrances of home. But if you’re likely to forget blowing these out on a nightly basis, turn to flameless instead.

• Whether you’re going full-on Clark Griswold or have something more tasteful in mind, you may find yourself on a ladder this month. Be sure someone stays at the ladder base to help stabilize and give you a hand if needed.

• Unfortunately, the most popular holiday plant, the poinsettia, is also toxic for pets and children. Be sure to keep these decorative displays out of harm’s reach.

We hope you have a wonderful time making your home warm, cozy and bright this holiday season, and that these tips go a long way to ensuring your safety in the process. For more tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

On behalf of the entire Barfield Home Inspection team, we wish you and yours a happy holiday season!

Maintain curb appeal and boost your home’s value

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

When preparing to sell your home, few things rank higher on the priority to-do list than enhancing curb appeal. Homeowners take pride in the exterior appearance and health of their home, and it is often the initial selling point for buyers. According to HomeLight, a well-landscaped home is likely to sell  at 5.5 to 12.7% more than one without landscaping, and 99% of realtors believe a home’s curb appeal is important in attracting a buyer.

Thankfully, our regional landscaping boasts native plants and grasses that tend to thrive in hot, dry Texas summers. However, August’s steady stream of triple digit heat poses threats to even the hardiest of plants and most scrupulous homeowners turned landscapers. Here are a few tips to help your lawn look its best through the end of the season, thanks in part to the local expertise of Central Texas Gardener:

  • Wait to plant, if you can. Extreme heat and dry soil team up to create an inhospitable welcome for new plants and seeds. If you must plant, be sure to provide shade and water daily.
  • Grow to new heights. Set your mower to a high setting, ideally two to three inches, to provide a layer of protection for grass roots. Leave clippings behind to offer an extra layer of protection and fertilization.
  • The best defense is a good offense. Guard your lawn against weeds by performing regular maintenance. From mowing the lawn to spot treating weeds when you see them, you can minimize the spread of weeds. Be sure to use a hand sprayer, and avoid “Weed and Feed” products that can cause damage to other plants and potentially fertilize weeds they don’t control.
  • Check for bugs. Ever noticed a waxy film on your crape myrtles and other flowering trees? Honeydew secretions left behind by aphids and other insects can create sooty, black mold. Blast this off with water on a regular basis.
  • Water smarter, not harder. While we live in a drought prone area, plants need water to survive. Water your lawn every three to five days, and plants according to their individual needs, during the early morning or late evening. Allow plants to dry out between watering so oxygen can reach the root system and promote new growth.

Following these local tips should help keep your landscape in tip-top shape through the most rigorous months of Texas summer. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more year-round home maintenance tips. Stay cool and remember to drink lots of water while maintaining your home’s curb appeal!

Safety tips and precautions for a carefree 4th of July

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Just for Fun, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

With our nation’s 243rd birthday upon us, you are likely making plans to celebrate the fourth of July in style. Before you take off for the lake or open your doors for the biggest barbecue of the summer, here are some considerations for your home:

Leave fireworks to the professionals. According to ADT, nearly 50,000 house fires are caused by fireworks each year. Never make your own fireworks or let children handle explosives. In case you did not know, it is illegal to use or sell fireworks within the City of Austin. If you are in an area where you can set off your own display or if you use novelty items like sparklers and glow worms, remember never to point fireworks at any one, and only light these items in areas that are fire resistant.

Keep your extinguisher handy. Per your family’s fire safety plan, you should have a working fire extinguisher. Be sure to place it within arm’s reach, in addition to a bucket of water or your water hose. If you need to purchase a fire extinguisher, now is the time! Visit your neighborhood home maintenance store before the holiday.

Be the grill master, not a disaster. As you serve up your famous burgers, be sure your grill is at least two feet away from all surfaces. This includes fencing, decks, outdoor equipment, and yes, your home. Check propane tanks for cracks, holes and leaks which can cause unwanted explosions.

By following these basic safety tips and taking easy precautions, you and your crew can enjoy Independence Day in carefree fashion. Stay safe and Happy 4th of July!

Bonus tip: It’s no secret that at Barfield, we love our pets and care about yours, too. That’s why we encourage you to leave your pets at home during the festivities, provide a safe space where they can find shelter during raucous celebrations, and keep glow sticks and fireworks out of their reach. For other great safety tips for Fido, visit PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/care/fourth-of-july-pet-safety-tips