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Seasonal Home Maintenance

Spring Storm Safety

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In Central Texas, April brings beautiful wildflowers…plus the threat of severe storms. As warmer weather moves in across the region, look out for these weather events that can make a serious impact on your home, property, and personal safety:

Hail

As though we haven’t experienced enough frozen precipitation in 2021, hail has already made a huge impact across Central Texas (particularly in last week’s storm that hit Burnet, Travis, and Williamson Counties hard with baseball-sized stones).

Although you can’t stop the sky from falling, there are a few things preventative measures you can take to prepare yourself for a hailstorm:

  1. Check your insurance. Many home and auto insurance policies cover hail damage. In order to expedite your quote and repair experience, make sure you’re covered before a storm hits.
  2. Have your roof inspected. As your home’s frontline of defense for falling objects, the roof will take the brunt force in a hailstorm. By having your roof inspected before a storm hits, you can be aware of its condition and any problem areas that may lead to more severe damage.
  3. Clean your gutters to remove excess water and debris that can make a serious mess if blocked.
  4. Trim overhanging limbs that could damage your home, vehicles, or other property if knocked down in a storm.
  5. Cover outdoor furniture and plants when severe weather is imminent.

Remember to stay indoors or seek shelter in a hailstorm. Once the storm passes, assess any damage and get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible to file a claim.

Lightning

While it may sound like the stuff of suburban folklore, lightning strikes are real and dangerous. The National Weather Service estimates that 49 people are killed and hundreds more severely injured by lightning strikes each year. Here are a few things you can do to help ensure your personal safety:

  1. Listen for the roar. When you hear thunder, lightning may be close enough to strike. Find a safe, enclosed space and stay inside for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.
  2. Lightning can travel through plumbing, metal, electrical systems, and concrete walls and floors that have metal reinforcement. The key here is that while staying indoors offers one layer of protection, you need to stay away from windows, water, electrical devices, and concrete. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention estimates that one third of annual strikes each year happen indoors.

Tornadoes

Perhaps the most ominous of Central Texas’ weather threats, tornadoes can be fierce and unpredictable. That’s why developing a storm safety plan well in advance can help save precious time and potentially your life.

Here are a few highlights as you begin to develop your plan:

  1. Know where to go. Evacuate a mobile home or other temporary structure. Find the innermost room on the lowest level of a building or home preferably without windows.
  2. Gather supplies. While many storms pass quickly, sometimes a chain of storms can leave you up all night trying to brace for the worst. Be ready with portable chargers, water, essential medication, small food supplies, and a list of emergency numbers in case you cannot access your cell phone.

Pro Tip: We like to keep pet harnesses and leashes with the stash so we can shelter in place with our furry family members in the event of an emergency.

  • Cover your body. If a tornado hits, cover yourself with anything you can from a mattress to a table or blanket. If possible, put sturdy shoes on to protect your feet from debris in the aftermath.

While we love homes, nothing is more important than your personal safety. Develop a storm safety plan early this season to protect yourself and your loved ones, and then take appropriate measures to secure your possessions. Stay tuned to local weather and stay aware of watches and warnings that can help direct your actions.

If your home does incur damage during a storm this spring, get in touch with the home inspection company you can trust. We’ve been telling it like it is across Central Texas since 2003 and we aren’t about to stop now! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more home maintenance and safety tips.

Stay Cool, Central Texas!

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

Well Austin, it didn’t take long for things to heat up! Before we know it, summer will be upon us and long days of sunshine and radiating heat will send us indoors for relief while memories of the 2021 cold snap become a distant (and potentially fond) memory.

Before you put your home’s cooling system to the test this spring and summer, let’s review a few things every homeowner needs to know about heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters. Tune in for the latest episode of “Under the Roof with Randy Barfield” as Randy, Ashley, and Mary discuss the virtues of clean air (and Torchy’s Tacos!).

If you’re looking for a few quick, handy tips, here’s what you need to know:

  • 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.

  • Know your filters. Air filters come in a variety of sizes and it’s important to know what type you need for your home. Most air filters follow the traditional one-inch disposable fiberglass forma, with measurements displayed on the packaging for ease of purchase and replacement; these need to be replaced every one to three months. Alternatively, lots of new construction homes are equipped with media filters with greater surface area and increased filtration. These filters only need to be changed once or twice a year! For more details on the types of home HVAC filters, visit This Old House.
  • Dirty filters can cause serious problems. Air filters are like your home’s referee. As a first defense, they keep dirt and contaminants from entering and circulating your home. When they become clogged, it becomes more difficult for your home’s air system to run properly. Here are the most common problems that can occur:
  1. Increased strain can put additional wear and tear on your fan motor.
  2. Reduced air will create a warmer home (read: a grumpier you).
  3. Strains on the system means it has to work harder, resulting in higher (yet easily avoidable) energy bills.
  4. For individuals with serious allergies and asthma, an inefficient air system can result in breathing complications and discomfort.

We always recommend having your cooling system inspected at the beginning of the season. Visit our Preferred Vendors for a list of companies that can help.

While these tips aren’t miracles, they can increase your cooling efficiency and by proxy reduce cooling costs. For more home maintenance tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Stay healthy, cool, and safe out there!

Show Your Home a Little Love This Valentine’s Day

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Like any good love story, the way you care for your home is a testament to its condition. This Valentine’s Day be a real sweetheart to your house and shower it with a little extra affection. Your home maintenance investment is sure to pay dividends in its longevity.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas:

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. Be sure to clean mineral deposits from your faucets to prevent buildup.
Winter weather (like the great storm of February 2021!) often brings heavy rains, strong winds, and even snow and ice. 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 before summer. Change your air filters regularly, and while you’re atop that ladder, check your smoke and carbon monoxide 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 spring and add curb appeal by investing in landscaping and fertilizer for your lawn. Check your irrigation system and reference our preferred vendors for assistance.

In addition to prioritizing your home’s needs, show your wallet a little love by conserving water and electricity and thereby reducing utility costs. You can also save your hard-earned funds by considering DIY projects, 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. It will love you for it! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram  for more expert tips and advice. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Holiday Decorating in 2020

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Most of us can agree that we are looking forward to the holidays a little more than usual this year. After all, we could really use a reason to celebrate! Although yuletide festivities may look a little different than normal, it seems that many Americans have gone above and beyond in decorating their homes this season. Before you pull 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 sparkles this holiday season:

• Trim the tree. 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, to 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 light and comforting 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. Before you climb on board, check out Randy’s Ladder Safety Series and have someone stay at the ladder base to help stabilize and give you a hand if needed.

• Unfortunately, the most popular holiday plant, the poinsettia, can be harmful to 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!

Keep Your Home Warm This Winter

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While an apple a day may keep the doctor away, what can you do to keep the cold at bay? While most of the time we are more focused on keeping the heat out in Central Texas, an early cold snap and sudden frigid temps incline us to think of ways to keep our homes and families (including furry friends!) safe and warm this winter.

As you take stock of your home, here are a few tips and tricks courtesy of the Barfield Home Inspection team:

  1. Check for drafts. If your exterior doors feel a little drafty at the bottom, place a rolled-up towel at the threshold for a quick fix. It may be time for new weather stripping, which you can install as a quick and easy DIY weekend project! Inspect weather stripping around all doors and windows and repair or replace if necessary. Caulk exterior joints around windows and doors, which will help keep your home weather-tight and lower heating bills.
  2. Insulate exposed exterior plumbing pipes and hose bibs. A nice foam cover from the local hardware store will work well to protect your pipes from the cold.
  3. Drip your faucets only when temperatures are going to drop below freezing to avoid waste. Running just a trickle of water will prevent your pipes from freezing.
  4. Open the cabinets under your sinks so the warm air from the house can help keep the pipes warm enough to prevent freezing.

Note: If you live in an older pier and beam home, your pipes should be wrapped. If not, hire a certified contractor to insulate these pipes in the future and use the faucet dripping technique above to protect your home in the meantime.

  1. Reverse ceiling fans so the warm air that rises to the ceiling will be pulled back down to the living area.
  2. Wrap or cover your plants (or bring them inside if possible). A planket is always a nice touch!
  3. Inspect your fireplace before the first use each season. Use a flashlight to check the flue for any obstructions and make sure your damper is open before you start the fire. Call a certified chimney sweep contractor to clean and evaluate your fireplace if you can see excessive soot. Don’t forget to keep your fire screen or fire doors closed while using the fireplace.

As we continue to spend more time at home, it’s great to 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, warm, and healthy!

Ladder Safety 101

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

At least a few times every year, most homeowners need to use a ladder to access their roof. Whether you’re about to clean your gutters, check your shingles, or string holiday lights, check out this video from Randy Barfield first!

In this installment of “Under the Roof with Randy Barfield,” Randy introduces several different types of ladders, covers the importance of maintaining three points of contact, shows off appropriate ladder-climbing attire, and tells us when to call in the experts. It’s everything you need to know, and more, about ladder safety!

UNDER THE ROOF WITH RANDY BARFIELD PODCAST: Ladder Safety

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It’s that time of year again, folks! The holidays are upon us and that means you are likely to bring out the ladder to clean gutters and install holiday lights. Before you do, make sure you’re using your ladder safely with a few words of wisdom from Randy Barfield. In this episode, we also cover why having a home inspector physically get on your roof is so important. Thanks for tuning in!

Allergies and Your HVAC

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While Central Texas is beloved for many amazing characteristics (live music, barbecue, wildflowers, the list goes on…), allergies do not make the list! Our year-round mild climate and high humidity create an environment where ragweed, pollen, and mold thrive. During winter months when freezing temperatures drive out allergens across most of the country, cedar pollen thrives in and around Austin. This culminates in our bad reputation as one of the 50 worst cities in the country for allergies.

Before you work yourself into an allergy-induced frenzy, don’t fret. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, there are lots of things you can do to enhance your livability. For starters, we recommend seeing an allergist to identify what truly ails you. From there, we encourage everyone to ensure your home has the highest air quality possible, courtesy of clean air filters.

In addition to improving the air quality, changing your air filters will improve the efficiency and longevity of your central heating and cooling system. A quick word to the wise for new homeowners: Do not assume that your air filters are clean when you move into a new, especially new construction home! Although we thoroughly evaluate the heating and cooling system during the home inspection process, a lot can change during the construction and move-in process. Once you unpack, it’s a great idea to check those filters to ensure you are breathing the best.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Identify the correct size. Disposable filters are labeled with a cardboard frame that indicates size. If you filters don’t indicate size, whip out your measuring tape to determine the length, width and thickness of your filters. Once you know your numbers, it’s time to go shopping at your local hardware store!
  • Strategically place the filter. Most filters come printed with an arrow to indicate airflow. The arrow should point toward the furnace, in the direction of the air flow. Proper installation ensures your unit works efficiently to pull the air through the filter, leaving contaminants like those pesky allergens behind.
  • Clean the vents. After you’ve secured your new filters in place, cap off your home maintenance quest with a quick vacuum or dusting to remove external particulates from your air filter. Once you see it sparkling clean, you won’t want to let it get dirty agan!
  • Make a habit of replacing your home’s air filters every four-to-six weeks. You’ll notice an improvement in your energy consumption, and just might get a little relief from those allergy symptoms!

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 healthy!

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!