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Seasonal Home Maintenance

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

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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!

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.

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!