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Home Maintenance Tips

Pressure Washing 101

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Weekend warriors around the country have noticed one thing in common since March 2020: Regardless of business restrictions, one group that has stayed consistently busy (and perhaps even surged in demand) is home improvement. While Americans have more time at home to assess and enhance their surroundings, hardware stores have become the place to go as homeowners flock with mile long honey-do lists.

In case your list has run low or you’re looking for a way to make your home’s curb appeal shine even brighter, pressure washing is an excellent way to deep clean your home. Pressure washers utilize high-pressure water measured in pounds per square inch (psi) to remove tough stains from a variety of surfaces. They are available for sale and rent in both gas and electric, portable and stationary models. Once you find the pressure washer that’s right for you, familiarize yourself with the settings and safety operating instructions, as this is a significant piece of machinery.

When you’re ready to get started, here are a few ideas of projects you can accomplish at home with a pressure washer:

  • Blast years’ worth of dirt from your driveway in record time using a pressure washer. Whether you own or rent the equipment, be sure to read the safety manual and follow the proper operating procedures and precautions. Sweep the driveway and sidewalk before you start to remove surface-level debris that may become airborne. Hold down the spray handle and sweep back and forth in broad, overlapping strokes from one side of the concrete to the other. Your neighbors (and potential buyers) are sure to be impressed!

Pro Tip: Use the same method for your patio to stop tracking dirt inside the house!

  • Give your home a face lift with a good wash. While elbow grease is helpful, pressure washing can eliminate dirt, mildew, and grime from your home’s exterior in much less time. Whether your home is finished with brick, wood, aluminum, stucco or steel, pressure washing on a yearly basis is a great idea to keep it looking new! Before you begin, read the manual carefully to ensure you follow the settings for your home’s exterior, and then use a top-down method to wash away the gunk. While you’re at it, be sure to pressure wash your windows.

Pro Tip: If you are pressure washing in preparation for paint, be sure to give the home at least two days to thoroughly dry before you begin.

  • Refinish your fence. We all know good fences make good neighbors, but after taking a daily beating from the sun, wind, and rain, even the sturdiest of fences can look a little run down. Use detergent, medium pressure, and a sweeping fan pattern to restore your fence with a pressure washer. After two days, you can seal or paint your fence for the ultimate DIY makeover.

Pro Tip: Pressure wash your fence once a year to keep it looking new (annual painting not required!).

As we continue to spend more time at home, it’s great to cherish and take care of the spaces we love. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @BarfieldHomeInspection for more home maintenance tips from the company that’s been telling it like it is since 2003. Stay safe and happy washing!

UNDER THE ROOF WITH RANDY BARFIELD PODCAST: Home Irrigation 101

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The dog days of summer are upon us in Central Texas! While we welcome the occasional summer shower, days are long and hot and water tends to run a little low. Learn everything you need to know about maintaining your lawn and foundation with your home’s irrigation system. From programming your controller to understanding what your lawn really needs, Randy covers it all in this edition of Under the Roof. Thanks for listening!

Mitigate Summer Fire Risks

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Well friends, the dog days of summer have officially arrived! If news reports of drought conditions aren’t enough to convince you that it’s hot and dry out there, check out California’s “Firenado” that touched down earlier this week. While staying cool and comfortable is top-of-mind, this is a great opportunity to survey your home for fire risks and mitigate wherever possible.

  • Water your lawn. Whether you use an irrigation system (which we detailed during last month’s Under the Roof series) or manual sprinklers, follow local guidelines and try to water twice a week on your designated days. It’s hot out there and your grass needs water as much as you do to ward off this heat. A well-irrigated lawn is less likely to catch ablaze if a stray spark tries to ignite
  • Clean the lint trap and dryer vent. According to the American Red Cross, dryers are responsible for nine out of 10 house fires. Clean your lint trap each time you take clothes out of the dryer and consider having your dryer vent checked and serviced to keep it in good, safe running condition.
  • Survey your kitchen. Let’s face it – intense heat and open flames mean that most fires start in the kitchen (and we all know what happened with the Pearson’s finicky Crock-Pot). Eliminate risks where you can. Ensure towels and paper towel dispensers aren’t too close to your stove, and check to make sure your microwave’s vents aren’t obstructed. Keep a working fire extinguisher under your kitchen sink and make sure everyone in the home knows how to use it if needed.
  • Be the grill master, don’t cause a disaster. Although it’s toasty, it’s still summer and in Texas that means we grill and smoke as much as possible. As you enjoy outdoor time, make 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 explosions.
  • Take the proper precautions. Ensure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order and review your fire safety plan so the whole family is on the same page.

As we continue to spend more time at home, it’s more important than ever to protect the spaces we love. Stay safe, stay cool and remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @BarfieldHomeInspection for more home maintenance tips from the company that’s been telling it like it is since 2003.

The Unexpected Impact of COVID-19

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When it comes to great places to live, few places hold a candle to Austin, Texas. The vibrant culture, thriving economy, delicious food and beautiful scenery top the ongoing list of reasons we love it here. When you have a place this desirable to live, it’s inevitable that people will move to the number one city in the United States from all over the country and the world. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons our business and client base continue to grow year-over-year, even despite the 2008 recession and the current pandemic.

As we navigate this critical time in history, it seems like a great opportunity to examine the consequences of COVID-19 on the Austin real estate market. While some of these effects are more expected than others, here’s a snapshot of the things we see out in the field:

  • Houses are selling…Fast! Just as we discussed on the last episode of Under the Roof, homes in Austin and the surrounding areas are selling quickly. Mortgage rates are low, buyers are motivated, and early trends indicate people are moving to larger homes with more room to spread out, since social activities are less abundant than usual. While this is great news for sellers, it means buyers should be prepared for competition as inventory remains low.
  • People are moving out. Although sales in Austin city limits continue to soar, individuals are seeking more space, both within their home and on their property. For many buyers, this means a turn from condo-style living to single family homes on larger lots where available. For the unique cities and towns that surround Austin, this is good news.
  • Option periods are slim. The typical option period on a home purchase is seven days. During this time, the buyer has the home inspected and can cancel the contract for any reason. In other words, this is where we come in! However, due to heavy demand we are seeing option periods as narrow as three days, which creates a quick turnaround for the inspection team. At Barfield Home Inspection we are careful not to overbook, so we can give each and every home our careful attention and keep telling it like it is!
  • Purchases must be planned. Just as buyers need to be pre-approved and offer-ready, now is a good time to educate yourself on what commodities are available. Due to high retail demand and the trickle-down effects of reduced manufacturing during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, buyers may find that many items are as scarce as Clorox wipes. If, for example, your new home purchase means you will need to buy large appliances or furniture, do your homework now to find out what is available and set proper expectations for the wait.

Although the situation continues to unfold, we are grateful that Austin’s housing market continues to thrive in 2020. The Barfield Home Inspection team takes social distancing and safety precautions seriously to protect home buyers, sellers and agents at each home we visit. Stay in the know and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more details about Austin real estate and home maintenance.

Tips to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer

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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

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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

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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

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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!