Blog Archive for January, 2017

10 ways to improve your indoor air quality

Categories: Blog | Posted: January 26, 2017

You spend a lot more time inside your home during the cold weather. Did you know you could be breathing in more pollutants inside your home than outside?

Dust mites, pet dander, second-hand smoke, and mold are the obvious culprits, but the problem goes deeper. Household cleaners, air fresheners, carpets, furniture, and even the paint on your walls could be releasing harmful toxins. Other allergens and irritants are being tracked into your home. With the improvements in insulation being installed in today’s homes, you’re living (and breathing) in an airtight environment that is comfortable but could be harmful.

Protect your household by making healthier choices. Here are 10 ways to improve your indoor air quality.

  1. Use a good vacuum with a HEPA filter. Don’t skimp on your choice of vacuum. A lesser quality vacuum will suction up the dust, mites, allergens, and pollutants, but then sends them back into the air via the exhaust. Choose a vacuum that features a HEPA filter, rotating brushes, and strong suction. Be sure to clean the filter regularly, for best results.
  2. Mop after vacuuming. It’s not enough to vacuum. Go over the laminate, wood, and tile floors with a wet mop (no cleaners) after you’ve finished vacuuming, to ensure you’ve removed as much unwanted debris as possible.
  3. Protect your entryways. Prevent dirt, pet dander, chemicals, pesticides, and other traveling pollutants from walking into your house. Place a durable mat at each doorway. Ask people to remove their shoes when entering your home.
  4. Manage the humidity. Moisture is a breeding ground for mold and mites. Keep your humidity to no more than 50% by using a dehumidifier in the months when your home is closed tight, and empty the drip pans as needed.

You can also reduce the humidity by using an exhaust fan in the bathroom and kitchen (particularly when the dishwasher is running). Be careful not to overwater your house plants. Repair leaky pipes and faucets, and vent your clothes dryer to the outside of your home.

  1. Use natural cleaners. Many store-bought cleaners contain harmful chemicals that you’re spraying into the air and wiping onto your home’s surfaces. You don’t need those chemistry experiments to keep your home clean. Some of the best cleaning products are in your pantry: lemon slices, baking soda, white vinegar, tea tree oil, olive oil, salt, and castile soap.
  2. Avoid artificial fragrances. Plug-in air fresheners have been proven to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are considered toxic. Laundry detergents, air fresheners, dryer sheets, and other consumer products that boast a “fresh scent” are the result of harsh chemicals, such as phthalates. Avoid any products with artificial fragrances. For indoor air that is healthy and smells fresh, use an air diffuser with essential oils.
  3. Read labels. Some of the woods and wood products used in furniture are treated with chemicals, like formaldehyde, and assembled with toxic glues. Look for furniture, electronics, building products (e.g., cabinetry, countertops, lighting, flooring), mattresses, wallcoverings, and windows treatments that carry the GREENGUARD Certification,
  4. Look for low- or no-VOCs. If you’ve ever walked into a room with fresh paint, you know the odor. You might have even experienced a headache from the VOCs in the paint. Choose only low-VOC or Zero VOC paint.
  5. Add plants. Some house plants remove toxins from the air and emit healthy oxygen in return. These detoxifying plants include the areca palm, bamboo palm, gerbera daisy, spider plant, variegated wax plant, and Boston fern. They remove chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene from your air, AND they’re safe for pets (cats and dogs).
  6. Open the windows. There’s nothing like airing out your home. Yes, it’s cold outside, but let in some fresh air occasionally—and let the bad air get out.

DIY annual home inspection checklist

Categories: Blog | Posted: January 12, 2017

Before you buy a home, you have a home inspection completed by a professional, just to make sure there are no hidden surprises that could turn your dream home into a money pit.

With each year, however, you should continue to inspect your home’s construction and systems. Paying close attention can help you curtail an issue before it becomes a costly problem. You don’t need to hire a pro for the annual checkup. Do it yourself instead. Here’s a DIY annual home inspection checklist to guide you through the process.


  • Look for peeling paint that could signal moisture has penetrated the wood. Cracked or flaking paint is not adhering to the wood, which means you need to repaint, repair, or replace the surface.
  • Check the foundation for cracks. Photograph any cracks that you discover, and mark the date, so you can track any progression of the cracks. If you notice more than hairline foundation cracks, contact a professional to inspect it.
  • Inspect the roof. Take note of damaged or missing shingles that could cause leaks, and repair or replace them. Remove any branches that touch your roof, because insects and rodents that reside on the trees can make their way to your roof, and possibly inside your home.
  • Examine the gutters and downspouts. Remove any debris that clogs up these drainage areas. Replace damaged elbows and repair all cracks.
  • Check the chimney. While you’re on the roof, make sure nothing is blocking the opening of the chimney. Look for cracks in the bricks or mortar that could allow water leaks.
  • Take a look at your windows from the outside. Be sure the weatherstripping is intact to avoid drafts and leaks.
  • Inspect all stairs, decks, and porches. Look for rot or insect damage. Make sure the boards are intact (e.g., no missing screws or loose boards). Study the surface and the underside.


  • Look for stains and cracks on walls and ceilings. Dark, blotchy stains could indicate the presence of mold. Brown rings are a sign that water is leaking behind that surface.
  • Examine your attic’s structure. Be on the lookout for stains, cracks, or gaps in the beams. Poke the joist ends with a screwdriver to make sure the wood is solid. Check the insulation. If your attic isn’t fully insulated, you’re wasting energy.
  • Walk through the basement and sniff for a mildew smell that indicates moisture build-up. Look for cracks in the floor and walls. Check the bottom of anything that touches the floor, looking for signs of moisture, like dampness, stains, or rust. While you’re in the basement, take a screwdriver and poke the subfloor above. If you find any areas that are soft, you need to repair the subfloor.
  • Make sure your water pipes are corrosion-free. Rusty pipes show that water has leaked through. Also, check the insulation on the pipes.
  • Stairs and railings should be sturdy. Check for wobbles or cracks, and be sure to look under the stairs, where problems can start.
  • Inspect the sinks throughout the house (e.g., kitchen, bathroom, utility). The caulking should be intact, with no cracks or gaps. Check the washers on the faucets to make sure water isn’t dripping. Run the hot and cold water for each faucet and look under the sink while the water is running to identify signs of leaks.
  • Examine the bathtub and shower surrounds. Repair any cracks in the grout and replace broken tiles that could allow water to leak into the walls and subfloor.
  • Check your electrical panel. Scorch marks or rust are signs of a problem. Call your electrician immediately.
  • Replace the batteries on alarms. Test your smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and any other battery-operated sensors, and change the batteries once a year.

Keep your home safe, comfortable, and energy-efficient with an annual home inspection.

Get your home ready for extreme cold weather

Categories: Blog | Posted: January 5, 2017

Has the snow already blasted your way? The temps have dropped to single digits and below in many areas of the aptly named “Frozen North”.

Did you winterize your home this year? It’s not a one-and-done task. You need to protect your home—and everyone who lives there—every year.

If your home is new, you have the insulation and construction that will keep you warm, but don’t overlook some basic tips for safely weathering the extreme cold.

Do a thorough check of your heating system.

Don’t lose heat when you need it most.

  • Schedule an HVAC professional to do an inspection and cleaning.
  • If you use a fireplace, have your chimney cleaned as well, because creosote builds up and ignites. Unfortunately for homeowners, it’s often have any warning before a chimney fire erupts.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning presents a greater risk in a closed home. Replace your CO detector batteries (and smoke alarm’s as well). Also, share the symptoms of CO poisoning with all your household members: headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and chest pain
  • Be prepared with an alternate heating source, like a space heater. Be sure you closely follow the instructions.
  • If you rely on hot water to heat your home, bleed the valves.

Improve the air quality.

You’re spending more time inside your home during the cold months. While your home is designed to keep the heat in, you’re not getting the fresh air that circulates in warmer weather.

  • Keep a supply of air filters on hand for your furnace and replace them every three months.
  • Check for areas where condensation is building up because it’s a sign of poor ventilation. Remember, that moisture can lead to mold.
  • Install a HEPA air purifier to cleanse the air of gas, chemicals, and particulate matter.

Prevent burst pipes.

Pipes absorb the cold weather. The water in the pipes expands, and when the pressure build-up is too much, the pipe bursts. Avoid the mess by following some basic steps.

  • Wrap insulation around any exposed interior pipes in your garage, attic, or basement.
  • Disconnect all exterior hoses from the outdoor faucets.
  • During extreme cold (below freezing), allow one or two faucets (e.g., kitchen and bath) to run at a slow drip so that the water is moving through the pipe. Sedentary water is more likely to freeze.
  • If your kitchen sink is mounted on an outside wall, leave the cabinet door open to allow warm air to circulate around the pipe.
  • Know how to turn off the water supply in the event a pipe does burst!

Bundle up yourselves and your home this winter!

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