Buying A New House? Don’t Forget to Check These Areas!

Buying a new house is an overwhelming experience, we totally understand. It’s a fairly high-stress procedure and you’re trying to make sure everything is perfect before you sign the deal, but you also want to make sure you’re getting in before anyone else snaps it up.

Unfortunately, realtors and landlords often depend on this high-pressure scenario to cause prospective tenants to overlook minor, and sometimes even major, problems with the property. Sometimes they’ll even tell prospective tenants that there’s already an offer on the property, even if there isn’t, just to make the sale go through quicker.

To make sure you’re really getting the house or apartment of your dreams, here are some things you should make sure to check before signing any sort of paperwork:

  • Check the Crawlspace: If you’re looking at houses, make sure to do a quick check of the crawlspace under the house. It doesn’t need to be super thorough, but you do want to make sure there’s no mold or standing water that can cause serious structural damage down the road.
  • Ask about Carpet: When were the carpets installed? If they aren’t brand new, when were they last cleaned professionally. If they can’t answer, you might want to try to negotiate getting them to hire a professional carpet cleaner to give the house a solid cleaning before you move in.
  • Check Plumbing: This is another check that doesn’t need to be super in-depth either, but you should take the time to verify that the plumbing under the sinks and behind the toilets looks properly attached and clean. Make sure it’s not corroded or about to become disconnected or anything like that. If it looks questionable, ask that they have a plumber in to verify that everything is hooked up properly. Water damage can be a very serious issue and it’s best to address any plumbing issues right away.
  • Siding and Shingles: This doesn’t necessarily apply for apartments, but for houses, make sure the shingles look new and there aren’t any patches missing. Do the same for siding. Not only does it make your house look unkempt to have broken siding or missing shingles, but it can be another avenue for water to get into places it isn’t supposed to in your home.
  • Attic and Basement: For buildings that have attics and basements, it’s always a good idea to give these areas some extra attention when checking out the house. You want to make sure there are no pests making your attic into their home. It’s also wise to make sure there isn’t a bunch of excess moisture in the attic or basement causing mold to grow. Mold should be fairly easy to spot in these situations, but looking for pests might take closer inspection.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it covers a lot of the things that most people forget to fully inspect before signing on a lease or mortgage. Making sure all of these items are in good shape will give you the peace of mind that your new living arrangement isn’t harboring dangerous mold or at high risk for water damage.

Obviously when checking out a new place you should inspect anything and everything you can think of. It’s a major investment and you want to make sure that you’re getting what you want and need out of it. You also want to make sure you’re not getting suckered into buying or renting a place that is at high risk for damage that can be blamed on you as the new tenant.

Use these tips to help you get the place of your dreams and keep one step ahead of the landlords and realtors. Knowledge is your best defense when it comes to checking out a new home. Hopefully you won’t find any problems, but if you do you’ll be glad you took the time to look first.

Siding Colors Post

Choosing The Right Siding For Your Home

When you decide to undergo home renovations, both interior and exterior, deciding upon the right materials, in both appearance and product, is an extremely important step. One night recently, a friend of mine was looking to redo the exterior of his home. Unfortunately, nearly all of the siding on the home had to be replaced, which can be a costly project. Luckily, this gave him the opportunity to increase the overall value and appearance of his home by choosing siding that matched both the personality and overall environment of the home. Many individuals tend to overlook this aspect of home design, but it is vital! First impressions are everything, and the first thing anyone will see when they come to your home is the outside.

We prefer the siding experts over at Blue Ridge Exteriors, however, you are more than welcome to choose a contractor that you have used in the past and feel comfortable with. Be sure to do your research on the company before you hand over your hard earned money!

Whether you decide to attempt a do-it-yourself siding renovation (if you’re extremely knowledgeable on the subject), or want to outsource the project to the pros, taking the right steps and researching and reviewing the various siding materials and brands available to you are the first steps down the right path. After you’ve come up with your budget and colors you’d like to incorporate, you can decide on a type of siding. In general, there are a large variety of siding options, but one of our favorite brands, James HardiePlank, has some great choices:

  • Beaded Siding – This can be a great appearance for your home, and it is currently one of the more popular options around the country. This type of siding is strong, durable, and looks great. In a lot of cases, this can be a very excellent replacement for colonial-style homes, that typically use beaded siding styles.
  • Lap Siding – If you live in a climate where the weather can be on both sides of the extremes, you may want to go with a more durable and weather-resistant siding. Lap siding provides overlay on each piece of siding, allowing water and other elements to brush right off.
  • Vertical Siding – A very versatile and adaptive siding, this is a great siding option for resisting fungus and mildew, and providing an excellent surface for painting.

No matter which type of siding you decide to go with, it’s important to take the time to see which color would suit your preferences exactly. Make sure to take into account aging of the siding, because the color will tend to fade slowly over time. Many individuals choose to go with a color that is more natural or earth-toned, simply because the fading of these colors isn’t as noticeable. If you decide to go with a siding color that really pops, then it’s important to consider the fading and wear and tear.

Siding Colors Post

Hot Water Extraction – The Most Popular Way to Clean Carpets

If you’re like most of us, you use hot water when you need a little help getting something clean – your hands, the dishes, or maybe your favorite shirt. That’s because a little extra heat can break bonds, dissolve substances, and to help release dirt or stains into the water. It’s no wonder that we count on hot water to clean carpets, too.

There’s just one catch: We’re always trying to keep water off of our carpets. Since when is it a good idea to spray water onto them?

As it turns out, getting carpets wet isn’t necessarily a problem – provided that you’ve got the means to get them dry again soon. That’s where the “extraction” in “hot water extraction” comes in. After application, extraction equipment is used to pull the water, cleaning solution, and stains up and out of the carpet. When the extraction is effective, just-cleaned carpets can dry in matter of hours.

It’s worth mentioning that some extractions are more effective than others, and that this has a bearing on the quality of the carpet cleaning. Equipment makes a difference; portable extraction equipment will leave more moisture in the carpet than more powerful, truck-mounted equipment. The amount of water and cleaning solution also makes a difference; as more liquid is applied, more will be left behind in the carpet.

If you want to use hot water extraction to clean your carpets, the keys are to use a minimum of liquid and to use the most powerful extraction equipment available. If you’re planning on cleaning the carpets on your own, be judicious in how much solution you spray; don’t overdo it – especially important when you consider that your portable cleaning machine will not be able to extract liquid as well as a professional could.

Many of Olympia’s carpet cleaners employ hot water extraction with excellent results. Of these, Meridian Chem-Dry is my favorite carpet cleaning company. They have top-of-the-line extraction equipment. They use a hot, carbonated cleaning solution. I believe they’re able to apply lighter sprays of solution than the competition; I know that their carpet cleanings are first-rate and fast-drying.

It might also please you to know that Meridian’s cleaning solution is completely safe and non-toxic. This is true of Chem-Dry as well as many other carpet cleaning companies. But it isn’t true of all of them. If you have health concerns (or children or pets), you should be able to find a similarly safe and non-toxic carpet cleaner near you. If you’re not sure about their solution, go ahead and ask. You won’t be the first to do it.

Remember: Hot liquids clean better. Less liquid used means less left behind. Truck mounted extraction equipment beats portable machines. If you use a professional, ask if his cleaning solutions are non-toxic. If you can check all of these boxes, a clean carpet will be your reward.

Are you Hearing Something New from your HVAC Unit?

Air conditioning units will always make some kind of noise, but what should you do when you start hearing new and different noises coming from your unit?

Firstly, it’s important to note the age of your unit. Older HVAC units are louder than newer models that have been designed specifically to run more quietly. If you’re moving into a new house and your unit seems exceptionally loud, it may just be an older model than you’re used to. There are ways of dampening the sound from the unit, but you’ll want to get in touch with your local HVAC maintenance professionals to determine the best way to suppress the noise without messing up performance.

There are some sounds that you can always tell are not normal though. It’s the same principle as your car. When you hear a new and strange noise coming from your car, you take it to the mechanic to get it checked out. By that logic, when you hear a violent rattling coming from your HVAC unit, it’s probably a good idea to call a professional to come look at it. Chances are if you catch the problem before it gets worse it could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs.

What is Normal and What isn’t?

Generally HVAC units should make a steady whirring sound when working correctly. As long as the noise coming from your unit sounds even and regular, it’s probably working just like it is supposed to.  After all it is a huge machine with a lot of moving parts, so it’s bound to make a fair amount of noise just on its own.

There are some things you should get checked out immediately though. The first thing you should do upon hearing any kind of grinding or rattling is turn your system off. If it’s outside or in a place that you can visually check it, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at it. You shouldn’t bother taking it apart or anything but check to make sure there isn’t a giant stick coming out of it or something obvious. Once you’ve turned your unit off and verified that it’s a tree didn’t fall on it and it’s not full of squirrels or something, give your local HVAC professional a call to come check and make sure everything is working properly. They’ll be happy to come take a look at your unit.

Common Sounds and What They Mean

Grinding – Generally when you hear grinding coming from your air conditioner, it has something to do with the fan motors. This is usually your first warning that something is going wrong with the motors, such as worn bearings or a lack of proper lubricant.

Hissing – Hissing or whistling usually has something to do with the ductwork in your home or business. Though if you hear it coming from the AC unit itself, you may be dealing with a refrigerant leak. This is a job that should only be handled by a professional. Do not attempt to fix this on your own (unless you’re an HVAC specialist, of course).

Rattling – Rattling is one of the most common noises that homeowners hear coming from their unit. Often this is caused by outside debris falling into the vents of your system and causing things to rattle inside the unit. It could also be a result of loose screws or bolts. In serious cases, rattling may be coming from your compressor, which probably means that it is starting to wear out.  As compressors age, they get louder and start to make new and different noises, which are usually the first sign of a problem.

Popping – If you’re hearing popping sounds when your air starts up or shuts off, it’s likely that you have some sort of issue with the ductwork in your home. As your ductwork ages, various things can start to cause problems, such as worn seals, or small tears, and like anything else it requires maintenance to remain in top working condition.

Preventing Noises in the First Place

One of the most important things that you can do to keep your HVAC system working properly is changing the filter regularly. Usually the packaging will tell you how often you should replace your filter, but make sure you take into account things that are going to clog up your filter faster. If you have excessive dust, pet hair, or smoke cigarettes regularly, these things can cause your filter to clog up faster and require you to change it more frequently.

In addition to keeping your filter clean, you should sign up for a regular maintenance plan with your local HVAC professional. Our local shop, Bradley Mechanical, offers regular maintenance plans, which make it easy to keep up on our HVAC maintenance. Chances are your local HVAC dealer will also be able to provide you with some kind of annual or semi-annual plan to check and make sure your HVAC system is ready to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

By following these two steps, you probably won’t ever have to deal with the different sounds mentioned above. If you are hearing the sounds, don’t panic, just call your local expert and they’ll be able to help you get your HVAC unit back to peak performance.

The Benefits Of Kitchen And Bathroom Remodeling

Add Value to Your Home By Remodeling

Just about any realtor will tell you that the kitchen and bathroom are probably the two most important rooms in your home when it comes to appealing to a potential buyer. So it makes sense to add value and appeal to your home by remodeling and renovating these rooms.

Give Your Kitchen a New Look

Many buyers look at the kitchen first. The size & layout of the kitchen and quality of the appliances can make or break a potential sale. Even a basic kitchen remodeling project can make a big difference when it comes to showing your home, and can increase your chances of a quick sale. If you aren’t selling your home, the extra space, the increased efficiency & ease of use, and an attractive new look can benefit your family for years to come.

kitchen remodeling

Of course, if you are spending money on a kitchen remodeling project, you want to recoup some of it. Remodeling your kitchen is considered to be one of the potentially most profitable projects you can undertake. On average, you can expect to recoup anything from about 60 to 80 percent of the costs of remodeling, although of course it is possible to get back more than that. Remodeling your kitchen is the ideal opportunity to replace some of those outdated appliances with more efficient and energy saving models.

The average cost of a kitchen remodeling project is about $22,000, although some homeowners can spend up to $50,000 for a state of the art kitchen. However, you don’t need to spend as much as that to give your kitchen a new look and add value to your home; you can enjoy a new look kitchen for as little as about $4,000. Your kitchen will look far more appealing with some new cabinet handles, a fresh coat of paint, a new back splash or some more attractive blinds.

A newly remodeled kitchen can also compensate for other areas of your house which perhaps aren’t quite as appealing. Some of these you may not be able to do too much about, including the size of the bedrooms or the layout of the yard. Many home buyers are more than prepared to compromise if they walk into the kitchen of their dreams. If you are doubtful just how important a spacious and well equipped kitchen can be, just watch any of those house hunting shows on TV.

Remodeling your kitchen can also add valuable and useful living space to your home. Think of how often you and your family use the kitchen for a purpose other than eating; it often serves as a place to sort through the mail and pay bills, the preferred place to do homework, and of course all the best parties end up in the kitchen. An inviting and spacious kitchen typically serves as the natural focal point or family meeting place of most homes.

Renovate Your Bathroom

It isn’t just the kitchen that can add value to your home. If you want to get top dollar for your house sale, you may want to consider a bathroom remodeling project. Just like spending money on your kitchen, putting money into an outdated, cramped or uninviting bathroom can make a big difference when you are showing your house. And if you aren’t planning to sell your home any time soon? Your new look bathroom really can become a sanctuary from the stresses of life, and be a place to relax, read a book, enjoy a glass of wine and perhaps a romantic evening for two.

A bathroom remodeling project can also give your home some much needed storage space, and extra storage in the bathroom is ideal for seasonal clothing, cleaning supplies, decorations and luggage, as well as the obvious towels and toiletries. Bathroom remodeling is also the perfect chance to fix or upgrade some of those annoying things that you otherwise probably wouldn’t bother with – a dripping tap, cracked tiles or faded paintwork. Today’s bathrooms come with innovations and technology that were unheard of at one time, and if you want to watch TV in the bathroom, now is your chance.

bathroom remodeling

Making Your Home Efficient

You can also enjoy a more energy efficient home when you undertake a kitchen or bathroom remodeling project. And of course, an energy efficient home can appeal to a potential home buyer just as much as extra storage space. The average bathroom remodeling project can increase a home’s value by several thousand dollars, more if the renovations feature the latest in energy efficient appliances and fixtures. Many homeowners today put energy efficiency towards the top of their list of ‘must haves.’ Even if you aren’t selling your home, the savings on energy and utility bills will surely be appreciated.

A new look kitchen or bathroom can be a sensible investment, whether you plan to stay in your home for the foreseeable future or are looking for a quick sale.

Replacing Your Windows? Here’s What to Consider

Replacing the windows on your home can be both an exciting and stressful process. On one hand, you’re imagining how great your home will look with new windows; on the other, you’re worried about making the right choice for an expensive upgrade you’ll be using for years. If you want to improve the chances of making a decision you’ll never regret, follow these steps as you consider which windows (and installers) to choose for your home.

Choose windows designed for your climate

Did you know that windows are designed to excel in specific climates? If heating your home is a bigger concern than keeping it cool, you’ll want windows that are designed to gather heat. If your air conditioning bills are bigger than your heating bill, get windows that are designed to block out heat. Not sure which category you fall into? Just ask your local window expert which climate you live in. There are four climate zones in the US. Make sure your windows are designed for your climate, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Don’t overspend on energy efficiency

Maybe there’s no such thing as being too energy-efficient, but that doesn’t mean that the most efficient window is the best value for you. Some window upgrades, such as triple-paned glass, are expensive relative to the energy savings they offer. If you don’t live in a severely hot or cold place, you may find that less expensive double-paned glass is more than adequate for your needs – especially when you consider the cost of the upgrade. Your local window retailer should be able to give you an idea about how much money and energy each possible window upgrade could save you.

Compare window warranties

Energy-efficient windows can reduce your utility bills every month, but these savings pale in comparison to the cost of replacing your windows. If you’re intent on saving money in the long term, you’re going to want to invest in windows that last. How can you tell if a replacement window if built to last? Do your research. Look online for third-party reviews of windows. Another useful way of determining reliability is to compare the warranties that accompany the windows.

Here is an example of a strong window warranty from Renewal by Andersen of Central NC, on renewalnc.com: Replacement windows backed by superior warranties are likely to outlast those that are not;

Don’t skimp on installation

In order for a window to perform effectively, it must be installed with care and precision. For example, if shortcuts are taken during the sealing process, the performance of the most energy-efficient window will be compromised by leaks; if a window if not installed plumb and square, it might always be difficult to open and close. If you want to improve your chances of choosing a skilled and reliable window installer, there are several things you can do:

  • Get referrals (and actually check them)
  • Check their BBB rating
  • Confirm licenses (a state contractor’s, for example)

Invest a little time to ask questions, check referrals, and do some comparison shopping. Your reward will be replacement windows that make you smile for years to come.