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Home Maintenance Tips

Invest your tax return on home maintenance

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

In addition to blooming wildflowers, festivals and an early taste of warm weather to come, spring brings a monetary delight for many: tax refund season. If, like the majority of Americans, your refund plans include making an investment, paying off debt or making a large purchase, here are some considerations for funneling that surplus into your home.

According to HGTV, saving one to three percent of your home’s purchase price for maintenance is a wise annual choice. Conveniently enough, the average tax return for 2018 is $3,000 which could account for a sizeable lump sum deposit for the median homeowner. Once you have a plan to stock up your reserve, here are some common household maintenance items you can expect to attend to throughout the year:

  • Texas limestone can leave you with hard water, leading to stained sinks and itchy skin. Install a water softener and maintain your salt levels regularly. Clean mineral deposits from your faucets.
  • Spring weather often means heavy rains and strong winds. Inspect your roof for missing or damaged shingles and leaks, then contact an expert roofer from our preferred vendors list for help.
  • Assess your home’s air conditioning quality and consider having your system serviced. Change your air filters regularly, and while you’re atop that ladder, check your smoke detectors as well!
  • Account for any damage left from cold weather contraction by evaluating your door and window seals, as well as locks and door handles for wear and tear. Replace or repair weather caulking where needed.
  • Prepare for a beautiful summer and add curb appeal by investing in landscaping and fertilizer for your lawn. Check your irrigation system and reference our preferred vendors for assistance.

You can also maximize your home maintenance budget by conserving water and electricity, and thereby reducing utility costs. Finally, save your hard-earned funds by considering a do it yourself (DIY) project, where time and experience allows.

Making routine improvements and adhering to regularly scheduled maintenance is an investment you can make in the life of your home. For more expert tips and advice, follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @barfieldhomeinspection.

Tell mosquitoes to buzz off this spring!

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

While we do appreciate the return of warm weather and sunshine, spring temperatures also mark the beginning of mosquito season in central Texas. If you have experienced mosquito season in Texas before, you know these pesky creatures can really ruin a good time. Not only are they annoying, but also dangerous. They can transmit diseases to both humans and pets. In Texas, mosquitoes can sometimes stick around until early winter. In the meantime, it is important to protect your home and your family.

Start off by sealing up your house. Keep your doors and windows closed in the evening and install screens as an extra precaution. If you already have screens, make sure to repair any holes or tears this month.

According to the Austin Public Health Department, the best way to fight mosquitoes is to remember the four D’s:

  • Dusk and dawn
  • Dress
  • DEET
  • Drain

DUSK TO DAWN is the most active time for mosquitoes. If you can avoid being outdoors during this time, you are less likely to have an encounter. However, summertime means backyard barbecues and lots of time outside on the porch, so if you are outside, remember to DRESS appropriately. The more covered you are, the better. If your skin is exposed, be sure to use insect repellent that contains DEET. Check out these myths and facts about DEET from OFF!® if you have questions about the effectiveness or safety of DEET.

Finally, DRAIN any places with standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Clean your gutters, fix any leaks, remove debris from your yard, and replace your pet’s water bowl often.

April is in full swing which means now is the time to act against mosquitoes! Remember the four D’s and check out the city of Austin website for more information on preventing mosquitoes and protecting your family from viruses.

Under the Roof with Randy Barfield: The Ground Level

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Do you know what’s happening on the ground level of your home? Is the foundation level? What happens when the soil shifts? Don’t worry, we have answers for you.

Last month, we visited construction expert and building manager Casey Strickland with Drees Homes to analyze a home from the ground level! Check out the video below to hear Randy and Casey dive into questions about foundations, post-tension cables and the importance of a third party inspection.

Fire safety reminder!

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Whether you are looking to buy or sell a home, or are happy where you are for years to come, few things are more important than protecting your family, home and belongings. According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 355,400 home structure fires per year, resulting in 2,560 deaths and $6.5 billion in property damage. Although this news is alarming, three out of five fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke detectors.

When it comes to fire safety, do not leave the security of your home and loved ones to chance. Here are some quick tips from the U.S. Fire Administration to ensure smoke detectors in your home are in good working order:

  • Choose interconnected smoke alarms, so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Put smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Put alarms on every level of the home.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms work. Your family is not safe if they can’t hear the smoke alarms.
  • Test smoke alarms every month and replace 9-volt smoke alarm batteries at least once every year.
  • Smoke alarms do not last forever. Get new smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • When you hear a smoke alarm, you may have less than two minutes to get everyone outside and safe.

In addition to your monthly smoke alarm test, create a clear fire escape plan and discuss with everyone in your home. A good plan includes two ways to get out of any room in your home, and your family should practice the plan twice every year.

Ideally, your smoke detectors only get put to use when a batch of cookies stay in the oven too long. However, having a strong plan and working smoke detectors can help everyone in your family understand what to do in case the unthinkable happens.

Test your smoke detectors today, and stay safe!

Brunch & Learn: Keys to selling you home before it hits the market

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Just for Fun, Real Estate News | No Comments

We are teaming with Ryan Kelly with Ryan Kelly Group and Ruby Cloutier with Vazzo Spaces for an exciting event this spring! Mark your calendar for Saturday, March 2, 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Join us at the Keller Williams Southwest Market Center (directions here) for breakfast tacos, coffee, and a detailed discussion on how to prepare your home for sale before it hits the market. We are bringing together the finest in the industry to talk about preparing your home for sale. Panelists include: Our own Randy Barfield, Owner of Barfield Home Inspection and expert home inspector; Ryan Kelly, Realtor with Ryan Kelly Group – Keller Williams Realty, investor, and real estate enthusiast; and Ruby Cloutier, interior designer, home staging specialist and Founder of Vazzo Spaces.

This event welcomes homebuyers, homeowners and realtors to brunch and learn. The best part is that it’s not only educational, but free to attend! We’ll share an analysis of the current real estate climate, identify buyers biggest objections and how to overcome them, why you should consider a home inspection before you list, how staging can make you more money, and more. There will also be giveaways including a Nest thermostat, staging consultation, and discounted pre-home inspection. RSVP today!

Test your toilet for leaks

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Is your toilet always running? Does it make hissing noises? This may indicate a toilet leak. In addition to increasing your utility bills, a leaky toilet tank can cause costly water damage to your flooring. Before spending money on a new toilet, try this quick trick to test for leaks:

Step 1: Remove lid and add red food coloring to the water in the tank.

Step 2: Sit back and wait – give it about an hour.

Step 3: Check the water in the toilet bowl. If the water is pink, then you have a leak.  This means it is time to replace the flappers in the tank.

Catching this leak can save you from replacing your toilet and costly damage. Sometimes leaks can sneak up silently, so it is important to test your toilet periodically.

Keep your succulents happy this winter

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

Do you have trouble keeping your succulents alive during the cold winter months? Lucky for you, our home inspector Mike is a gardening pro when it comes to growing and maintaining succulents and cacti. And what better and more trendy way to keep your home beautiful in Texas than succulents? They make the best house plants and use very little water!

Here is some quick advice from Mike to keep your succulents happy this winter:

“I generally move my succulents inside when it is supposed to freeze,” shares Mike. “Believe it or not, most succulents, especially cacti and agave, are quite cold hardy.

Native species, like prickly pear, can tolerate very low temperatures. However, each species has its own cold tolerance, so it is important to do your research on your specific plant.

Generally, if temperatures are going to drop below 32 degrees it is time to bring them inside or into a heated area.”

Check out some of Mike’s succulent successes below:


Safely Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

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As the holiday season kicks off in true festive fashion, so does one of the most notorious weekend warrior projects of the entire year: holiday home decorating. Here are a few tips and tricks to help your family traditions carry on safely:

Up on the rooftop 

  • Check your strands. Eliminate frustration by plugging in your indoor and outdoor lights before decorating even begins! Check each strand for cracks or frayed wires and be sure there is a functioning bulb in each socket. If any of your strands cannot pass the test, replace them with new ones and then let the decorating commence!
  • Prevent electrical overloads. We all know someone who goes Clark Griswold on their home each December, but that does not have to be you. Ensure you know the basics of circuit logic before you begin, then add or switch outlets as necessary to carry the additional load of holiday lights. Wherever possible, use circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), which help to prevent shock by breaking the circuit. Use heavy-duty extension cords rated for outdoor use and set a standard of no more than three sets of lights per cord. Please do not carry the extension cords while plugged in. This could make for quite a shock if there is a nick in the cord. If you do find a nick or cut in the extension cord then repair or replace it.
  • Gain solid footing. Before you mount the ladder for your annual rooftop adventure, be sure to avoid any overhead power lines. This is also a great time to recruit a family member or friend to help secure a stable foundation for the ladder.
  • Avoid cord piercing. Use clips to attach lights to your home, in favor of hammering. This will contribute to lighting safety, and also avoid unnecessary wear and tear to your home’s exterior.

Sitting by the fireside

  • Do not touch the lights. As you prepare indoor lighting, be sure curtains, furniture and carpeting are a safe distance from all bulbs. Ensure all candles are also a safe distance from flammable objects, curious children and rambunctious pets!
  • Watch the cords. Reduce holiday trips and falls by placing cords in low-traffic areas. Use electrical tape when needed to secure cords and prevent twisting or crushing.
  • Turn out the lights. Although holiday lights at night provide unrivaled ambience, they also contribute to fire danger. Use automatic timers to alleviate the stress of turning out indoor and outdoor lights before going to bed, or if you will be away from home.

We hope these simple tricks help you safely decorate your home this season. If you run into any glitches in the plan, give us a call! We will be happy to point you in the right direction.

Quick Tips for Winterizing Your Home

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

By: Randy Barfield

It’s that time of year again, folks. The last thing you want to happen is frozen or damaged plumbing systems. To prevent this from happening to you, here are some quick tips for winterizing your home:

  1. Insulate any exposed exterior plumbing pipes and hose bibs. A nice foam cover from the local hardware store will work well. If you don’t have time to go the store, then 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! If you don’t have any of these items laying around, use that old sweatshirt you’ve been meaning to get rid of as a short-term fix.
  2. Drip the hot and cold faucets. This only applies when temperatures are going to drop below freezing. We don’t want to waste water if we don’t have to.
  3. Open the cabinets under the sinks so the warm air from the house can help keep the pipes warm enough to prevent freezing.
  4. If you live in an older pier and beam home with a crawl space, your pipes should be wrapped. If not, I would consider hiring a certified contractor to insulate the pipes for you. In the meantime, use the faucet dripping technique.

Other things you can do to make your home comfy and cozy:

  1. Reverse ceiling fans so the warm air that rises to the ceiling can be pulled back down to the living area.
  2. Don’t forget to wrap or cover your plants or bring them inside if possible.
  3. If you have a fireplace and want to use it, first get a flashlight and take a look up in the flue if possible. Make sure you don’t have any obstructions and your damper is open before you start the fire. Also, if you look up in the flue and see it is heavy with soot creosote, then I recommend calling a certified chimney sweep contractor to clean and further evaluate your fireplace. Finally, don’t forget to keep your fire screen or fire doors closes while using the fireplace.
  4. If the exterior door feels a little drafty at the bottom, then place a rolled-up towel at the threshold for a quick fix. If the doors are really drafty, then it is likely time for some new weather gaskets.
  5. Don’t forget about your HVAC filter. These need to be replaced often, not just in the summer months, but all year round. Take a look at yours. If it looks dirty or clogged, then it is time to replace it.
  6. Check your smoke alarms and give them a test. If you haven’t replaced the backup batteries in the last 6 months, then it is probably time to change those. I also advise having at least one carbon monoxide (CO) detector for each level of the house, especially if you have gas-fueled appliances.

Hope this helps and stay warm, y’all.

Thanks,
Randy Barfield
Barfield Home Inspection Services

Protect your home from rattlesnakes

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There are many things homeowners and home inspectors alike do not want to see, and at the top of that list are snakes. After an especially long, hot summer it is important to know how to protect your home from snakes seeking an area to nest during the winter. Here are a few tips from our inspectors:

  • Understand the basics. Although snakes typically hibernate during winter, rattlesnakes remain active when temperatures are warmer than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. For Central Texans, this means snakes are out and about for a large part of the year. Due to the warmer temperatures, snakes enter brumation rather than hibernation, a period in which their body temperature lowers, metabolism slows, they become less active and eat less.
  • Make your yard resistant to snakes. The best way to keep these creatures out of your home is to keep them off your perimeter. A snake-proof fence with no gaps, buried at least three inches is ideal, but costly. Keeping your grass cut, controlling rodents and debris, and removing wood, leaves and other ideal nests for snakes goes a long way to ward off snakes.
  • Eliminate food sources. When a snake wanders onto your property, chances are it is looking for food, water, or shelter. Avoid leaving pet food outside for extended periods, and be sure to clean up immediately after outdoor meals.
  • Watch for leaky water sources. In addition to general home maintenance problems, leaky faucets and sprinklers create a haven for frogs, rodents and other small animals that attract snakes. By fixing the leak, you may well eliminate a snake problem before it even exists.
  • Close the gaps. While a snake in your yard may instill fear, for many people a snake in the house will incite panic. Inspect your foundation for unsealed conduits, or basement windows and doors that do not tightly close. Openings near the ground level are most inviting to snakes.

If you should find a snake, remember to stay calm and try to monitor it without coming into contact to ensure it does not wiggle its way further into your home. More than likely, the snake will find its own way off your property without injury. If you believe you have been bitten by a venomous snake, call 911 immediately.

Although these tips should help keep snakes away from your home, we would be honored to help protect your home. Give us a call today to schedule your home inspection!