Female hand includes an LED strip for lighting on the cabinet surface on the kitchen set

Countertop Lighting

These days, it’s pretty easy to light-up your countertops.  LEDs now come built into a “tape,” which can be applied to the underside of the cabinets, usually without much trouble.  It’s just like regular tape, only with embedded LEDs.

Of course, the lights still need to be plugged into an outlet or hardwired by an electrician. Either way, it’s unobtrusive and relatively easily accomplished.  Many of these systems come with remote control and can be dimmed and even change colors.

Most homeowners can install these in under an hour if you’re using an outlet rather than hardwiring.

Many systems cost less than $100 and are available at most home goods stores.

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Man holds invoice of water usage over desk with tablet and smartphone with applications made in graphic program.

Is your water bill too high?

Like everything else, the cost of water has gone up over the last several years. I’m always surprised at how much water costs when I open the bill. Here’s some information about how you can save on water.

Consider replacing your dishwasher:

Dishwashers manufactured before 1994 use about 14 gallons per wash. In contrast, newer models use about 3 gallons per wash. Hand washing does not save money; depending on how you wash, you could use between 13 to 27 gallons per hand wash.

Consider replacing your toilet:

  • Toilets manufactured before 1982 Use 5 to 7 gallons per flush.
  • Toilets manufactured between 1982 and 1992 use 3.5 gallons per flush
  • Toilets manufactured Between 1993 and now use 1.1 to 1.6 gallons per flush

 

CONSIDER backing off your lawn watering schedule in the spring and fall.

  • Most experts recommend watering every other day in the spring and fall to encourage root growth while reducing water usage.

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Young couple in jacket and covered with blanket sitting on floor beside radiator and trying to warm up

It’s Fall! Time for heating system maintenance

Heating systems get neglected because it’s one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things. Proper maintenance can make a difference in the system’s performance, usually without much expense.

Hot water radiators should be “bled” every year. Air builds up in the radiator piping system, preventing hot water from getting to the radiator correctly. It can make a big difference in the performance of the system. And it’s not hard to do. Take the cover off the radiator. You should see a screw. Loosen the screw; you should hear a hiss of air coming out; and then water will start dripping/spraying out. When you see the water, tighten the screw. Do that for each radiator in the house. The system will perform better. The boiler should be serviced at least once a year, whether oil or gas.

Hot air systems utilize an air filter and an air handler. Air filters should be changed a few times during the heating season. If the filter isn’t changed, it clogs up and prevents proper airflow. In addition, have a heating contractor check the air handler to ensure it’s in good shape.

Sign up for a service contract with a plumbing/heating contractor. The benefits are:

  • Your system will be serviced
  • You will be on the contractor’s list as a customer. It’s a substantial benefit because you will get better service in an emergency than calling a contractor who doesn’t know you. For example, there’s a snowstorm with high winds and its very cold. Your boiler stops functioning. If you don’t have a service contract, you may have difficulty repairing your system.

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Wooden roof beams with insulates the attic with mineral wool and pipe heating system

Two Main Benefits of Air Conditioning

Most people think of cooling when it comes to air conditioners. But the other main benefit of air conditioning is dehumidification. Air conditioning produces cooling and dehumidification; both are significant benefits.

The cooling benefit is predominantly related to comfort. The dehumidification benefit includes comfort and protection against mold and mildew.

By the way, sometimes the air conditioning system is too powerful and therefore doesn’t have much run time. When the system is too powerful, it cools the space too quickly, so it doesn’t have enough time to provide sufficient dehumidification. This makes it feel “clammy”.

So, the moral of the story is to have a properly sized air conditioning system installed by a licensed and qualified air conditioning contractor so that the system provides proper cooling and air conditioning.

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A sample of decorative artificial stone. Natural stone texture for kitchen countertops and floors. Finishing materials.

Kitchen and Bathroom Countertops

The material used for kitchen and bath countertops can impact the home’s value. For example, some people consider laminate (Formica) inferior, which may negatively impact the home’s value. While granite, marble, quartz, and concrete may improve the home’s value.

Many materials are available for kitchen countertops, but this list represents the most common.

  • Marble
  • Granite
  • Quartz
  • Wood
  • Concrete
  • Laminate

Things to consider when selecting a countertop material:

  • Porosity – Is the material porous and prone to staining? Does it need to be regularly sealed against staining?
  • Hardness – is the material hard, making it resistant to scratch or damage?
  • How heavy is it – Will it require support in the basement?
  • Does it require professional installation?
  • What is the range of colors and patterns available?
  • Is there an impact on the value of the home?
  • What is the cost (including installation) of the material compared to other materials?
  • Will the material bring positive comments from visitors?

There are too many characteristics of the various materials to list here, but hopefully, this information will benefit you while considering what to purchase.

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3 pin power cord on white background

What is the third prong on my extension cord?

That third prong on your extension cord plug (and appliance cords), enables electricity to flow through the circuit and then, literally, into the ground. It makes electrical systems safer because electricity can flow into the ground rather than through you if there is a short circuit. It can prevent fires and electrical shocks.

According to electrical codes, all structures are required to have the electrical system connected to a metal grounding rod. The metal rod gets driven 8 feet into the ground (in the soil outside the house). The grounding rod must be deep in the ground because we want to make sure that there is a way for stray electricity to be dissipated into the ground.

In 1971, all electrical outlets and other electrical circuits were required to be grounded. This was a major step in the right direction for electrical safety. In addition, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) started to be required in all new construction. Eventually, GFCIs became required in all “wet locations” including garages, exterior outlets, bathrooms, kitchens and basements. GFCI outlets shut themselves off immediately if there is an electrical leak through the grounding system. GFCIs save lives!

The good news is, that the world has become safer due to better grounding systems and electrical safety devices.

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3d render very high quality

Some Information About Wood Flooring

Oak is very common, but several other species work nicely in homes, including cherry, bamboo, pine, and other exotic woods.

One of the most important things to consider when finishing a floor is how many coats of polyurethane to apply. Most flooring contractors first sand the floor, apply a coat of wood stain, and then 3 coats of polyurethane. But we recommend applying a fourth coat to add more uniformity and durability while filling in holes in tiny crevices.

By the way, using a stain on the floor is not required. Stains can add a beautiful uniform color, but you may consider not using a stain to allow the wood to show its natural beauty without adding any color. We suggest having your flooring contractor show you samples of different stains, with polyurethane applied (including no stain), on your existing floor so you can select the one you like best.

Wooden planks typically come in widths ranging from 3 to 6 inches wide. Wider planks show more of the natural grain in the wood. However, the wider the planks, the more sensitive they are to high humidity. Be aware that high humidity can cause “cupping”. Of course, most homes have air conditioning, reducing the concern about high humidity and cupping.

Costs vary widely from about $3 to $6 dollars per square foot. The size, number of stairs, floor condition, and wood type are all variables in pricing. As usual, we suggest getting at least 3 proposals from different contractors, and don’t forget to check references.

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Cricket Character Illustration Clipart

What are those creepy spider-looking bugs in my basement?

Hopefully, you haven’t seen these. They’re called Spider Crickets because they look like a combination of spiders and crickets all in one big ugly bug. No question about it, they are ugly, and I purposely didn’t put a picture of them in this Newsletter.

They like dark and moist spaces, like crawlspaces and basements. Fortunately, they don’t bite, sting, or cause damage. But they can reproduce in substantial quantities. I’ve personally seen over 50 of them in one crawlspace.

How do you get rid of them? Spread out a few packages of glue strips around the perimeter of the crawlspace or basement (or wherever they are). Glue strips are available at most home goods stores. Or, better yet, have an exterminator professionally deal with the issue.

 

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Casement Windows

Anderson Window Cranks Often Need Repair

In the last 20 years, we have done over 18,000 inspections. Many of the homes we’ve inspected have older Anderson Casement windows. (Casement windows are the ones with cranks, and double-hung windows are the ones that slide up and down). During our inspections, we operate many of the windows. Unfortunately, many of these casement windows are difficult to open and close because of damaged crank mechanisms. Often, the crank handle gears are stripped, or the mechanism is faulty. It appears that Anderson produced these mechanisms for many years until they finally improved the design.

FYI, Typical replacement parts cost less than $50, and it is not difficult to change the mechanisms. The repairs can be accomplished relatively quickly by a handyman.

 

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Crack in a cinder block building foundation

Substantial Concern, Long Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Foundations often have cracks, most of which are not substantial concerns. However, long horizontal cracks are a different story.

Long horizontal cracks are an indication that the foundation wall is bowing inwards and may continue year after year until it becomes a problem that needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately, the repair can be difficult and expensive.

Long horizontal cracks are typically found in block foundation walls rather than poured concrete. Further, these cracks are often associated with excess water collecting in the soil outside the foundation because of poor drainage and the “freeze-thaw” cycle. Water freezes, creating inward pressure on the foundation, which can cause the crack to enlarge over time. (By the way, if you have a drainage problem outside the foundation, it should be dealt with for several other reasons, but that’s a topic for another newsletter).

The bottom line, if you see a long horizontal crack in the foundation, be aware that it may become a substantial problem. We would advise you to consult with a structural engineer for advice.

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