Environment

Out with the Mold

We’ve got a quick guide on how to handle this homeowner nightmare without losing your cool. Depending on the severity, clean-up could range from a quick DIY cleaning, to something a professional must handle.

What it is:

Mold is a fungus that can be found both indoors and outdoors – the exact number of species is unknown but its in the range from 10,000 to 300,000 plus.

Bathroom mold

Don’t let mold take-over your home.

As you likely know, mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions. Mold sources include a variety of household ailments such as flooding, leaky roofs, backed-up drains, humidifiers, damp basements or crawl spaces, house plants, shower steam or leaks, and even wet clothes drying indoors. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, even dry conditions that typically do not support normal mold growth – this is why through clean-up is so essential.

Depending on your sensitivity, reactions can range from nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation to fever or lung disease. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

The general rule is, if you can see it or smell it, it needs to go.

What to Do:

Ultimately, it is critical to remove the source of moisture first, before beginning remedial action, since mold growth will quickly return if the infected area becomes wet again. After you’ve corrected the source of the problem, arrange for removal.

If the moldy area is less than about 10 sq. ft., you can handle the job yourself by following the guidelines put out by the EPA. Guidelines for acceptable levels of mold have not been established, varying from person to person. If you are hiring a professional, be very through in your vetting process.

Porous materials such as drywall, carpet and ceiling tiles need to be cut away where the mold is growing; mold can grow inside the material, not just on the surface. Bag and dispose of any materials that have mold residue such as rags, paper or other debris.

What Not to Do:

  • Mold does not need to be tested (per the CDC); any visible mold should be eliminated
  • Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands
  • Do not get mold or mold spores in your eyes
  • Do not breathe in mold or mold spores
  • Do not items that can’t be cleaned – get rid of ‘em. This will likely be anything porous – carpet, wood, clothing, rags, etc.

Once the mold has been removed, continue to keep an eye on the situation. Was the source of the problem effectively corrected? If hidden mold is discovered, it is time to go back to the drawing board. Additional remediation will likely be needed. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate mold is to eliminate the moisture causing it.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html

Fortify as You Beautify with Safety-Oriented Landscaping

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When it comes to home landscaping design, beautification is only the beginning. Judicious use of landscaping can also make your home a safer and more secure environment. Sound landscaping techniques can reduce your risk for a variety of safety and seasonal hazards. A well-maintained lawn also sends a message to criminals – specifically, that the owner is attentive to everything that goes on around the property and won’t present an easy target. It’s common sense that also has the backing of scientific research.

If you’re a safety-conscious homeowner who’s also into landscaping, here’s a list of topics for you to consider:

Lighting
Any security-oriented landscape design should make lighting a critical part of the plan. Well-lighted pathways will particularly benefit homeowners who enjoy entertaining at night, and their guests will certainly appreciate the consideration. For areas with little foot traffic, consider installing motion-activated lights as a deterrent to burglars and trespassers.

Surfaces
Paved walkways should be built with textured materials to reduce the risk of slipping. Avoid materials that are prone to crack, such as concrete, since the resulting uneven surfaces can cause a tripping hazard. As attractive as it is, leave ceramic tile for indoor use. Sturdier materials like stone, pavers or decking are better suited for outdoor structures.

Plant life
As any knowledgeable landscape designer can tell you, some forms of plant life are pretty to look at but ugly on the inside. The list of toxic or poisonous plants includes many garden staples such as oleander, rhododendron, and azalea. Homeowners with toddlers and pets who could ingest one of these plants should proceed with caution. Also be mindful of plants with thorns or spines, since they have the potential to cause injury.

Water
Although water features often bring a sense of beauty and tranquility to your landscaping design, they also come with a few safety-related downsides. Disease-carrying mosquitoes can breed in pools of standing water. (A timer-operated pump set to run at least once a day offers some protection against the insect problem.) You should also be mindful of the fact that ponds create a potential drowning hazard for small children. If you’re set on including a water feature in your landscape, consider something that’s kid-safe, like a pondless waterfall.

Fire safety
If you live in a region prone to drought or seasonal wildfires, your landscaping design should definitely take these factors into account. Start by choosing hardwood trees and fire-resistant shrubs – examples include trees such as maple, cherry and oak and shrubs such as California lilac and lemonade berry. You’ll need to trim branches regularly, especially on trees standing close to your home, garage and other structures. To prevent ground fires from climbing upward, avoid putting smaller plants underneath larger ones. Strategically positioned stone walls and brick pavers can create unobtrusive fire barriers.

Security Cameras

Many homeowners rely on security cameras to help eliminate blind spots around their property. If you go with a camera from a professional alarm monitoring company, you can also enjoy added protection against burglary, carbon monoxide leaks, fire, and other threats. Be sure to do your research to make sure you’re choosing the right kind of camera for your needs, though, as there are Wi-Fi enabled, motion-activated and CCTV cameras for home security. And if you’re worried about aesthetics, bear in mind that most of today’s cameras are compact, sleekly designed devices that have substituted wireless signals for the unsightly clutter of thick cables.

This post is brought to you by Michelle Smith, a real estate guru and freelance writer. She enjoys writing about anything and everything related to real estate and home remodeling. Michelle encourages your feedback via email.

Radon: Do you Really Need to Test for It?

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In a word, yes. Testing for radon is critical to the home buying and selling process.

According to the EPA, testing for radon is non-negotiable, estimated at causing about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. The tests are simple and inexpensive and as a homebuyer, it will give you an irreplaceable peace of mind.

Quick Overview

Radon is a gas that can’t be seen, smelled or tasted – but its’ estimated to cause thousands of deaths per year. Breathing air with randon can cause lung cancer and the Surgeon General estimates that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., with smoking causing the most cases.

Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil rock and water and permeates the air you breathe. The gas gets into your home through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls and through the water supply. It can be found in all types of buildings but homes are the most worrisome, as you spend the most time there.

Ultimately, home repairs will need to be made if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or pCi/L or higher.  Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be more easily reduced.

Testing

You can test your home through a ‘DIY’ kit but if you are selling your home, you’ll likely want a qualified tester to do the testing and provide recommendations for you. A list of qualified testers is available by contacting your state radon office.

As a home seller, there are many ways to mitigate radon that has already managed its’ way into your house. Sometimes solutions are as simple as adding a vent fan or better sealing of foundation cracks. Newer homes are often built with radon resisting features.  A full list of solutions are available from the EPA here.

The home buying and selling process is full of nuances, to get assistance with the process or advice on your situation, contact us. We’re happy to help.

5 Easy Steps to a DIY Home Energy Audit

  • Making sure your home is well insulated can make your home more efficient - and decrease your energy costs.

    Making sure your home is well insulated can make your home more efficient - and decrease your energy costs.

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Making energy-efficient upgrades to your home is a great way to add value, but you should figure out what changes are actually necessary before you make any significant improvements. A home energy audit can give you an idea of what improvements can give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Follow these steps to conduct your own energy audit:

  1. Check for air leaks. Inspect your home for air leaks, which can waste up to 10 percent of your home’s energy. Seal any obvious leaks, such as those around windows or baseboards, with caulk or weather stripping to ensure your hot and cold air isn’t just blowing outside.
  2. Perform a pressurization test. Not every leak will be easy to find. For the smaller energy-wasters you’ll need to conduct a pressurization test.
  3. Examine your insulation. Since heating and cooling your home represents more than half of your energy expenses, adding insulation can provide a nice return on investment. Check to see whether you have adequate insulation by using a thermographic leak detector. The detector uses colors to show hot or cold spots in your home. Any irregularities could mean there’s not enough insulation.
  4. Inspect your ductwork. Make sure your heating and cooling is moving through your system as efficiently as possible. Inspect your ductwork for dirt streaks, which can be a sign of air leaks. Seal obvious problem areas with duct mastic or invest in a professional to examine the ducts more thoroughly.
  5.  Think about replacing your appliances. Calculate the energy consumption of your appliances and compare them with newer models. You may be able to save on energy costs by upgrading.

Get Your House Ready for Fall

  • fall house

    fall house

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It’s the perfect time of year to take care of a few little projects at your house – before the cold weather arrives.

1. Clean out your gutters
Remove leaves and other debris from your drainpipe and gutters to prevent clogging and other future damage. If left untreated, clogged gutters and drains can form ice dams that prevent your drainage systems from working properly and possibly even leaks into your home.

2. Freshen your filters
Clean or replace your furnace filters to prevent unwanted pollen and debris from polluting your air. Sediment build-up can cause your system to work less efficiently or potentially become a fire hazard.

3. Clean your chimney
Keep your family safe by checking your fireplace for soot or creosote build-up. Discard old ashes and ensure the damper is open to allow air to freely move through the chimney. Even better, do a chimney sweep or hire someone to make sure your chimney is clean.

4. Get your light right
With less and less daylight, make sure you protect your family’s safety with lighting. Since outdoor lights are generally left on for an extended period of time, make sure to buy energy-saver products. For even more energy efficiency, look for products that come with automatic shut-offs and motion sensors.

Thinking about putting your house on the market in the next spring? Take pictures now. Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year and this will help you ensure you are prepared whenever you are ready to sell your home.