5 Home Improvement Trends for 2017

Spring is in the air and that means DIY and home improvement projects are on the mind. Whether you’re a homeowner, builder or contractor, it’s always fun (and important) to keep up with the latest trends in home improvement. As a homeowner, this will help you get cued-in to what improvements will keep your home up-to-date and desirable, and for contractors and builders, it will enable you to stay in-tune with the desires of your clients.

We’ve put together the top 5 home improvement trends for 2017 to help you stay in-the-loop. Which trends are you most excited about?

1. Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle

It might not sound like a home improvement trend, but it is. A recent Houzz study found that ⅓ of homeowners report leading a healthier lifestyle after a kitchen renovation. And, the push for a healthier lifestyle is creating an entirely new market in the home improvement and products industry.

Indoor gardening, for example, was quite popular at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Tower Garden, edn, and others have been growing in popularity —and homeowners are looking for new ways to incorporate indoor gardening in their homes. This home improvement trend doesn’t stop here. We’re also seeing things like food recyclers and compactors being added to high-end kitchens.

2. Incorporating Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology has come a long way over the last few years. Companies like Ring have broadened their product offerings, as homeowners continue to show interest in ways to protect and automate their homes. Ring not only offers video doorbells, they’ve added the world’s only motion-activated HD security camera with built-in flood lights, a siren alarm and two-way talk.

Some smart technology is worth the investment, but do your research to make sure the products live up to their promises. For example,  all of GE Appliances’ WiFi-ready models feature a digital assistant called Geneva that communicates with Amazon’s Alexa, making hands free communication a breeze. However when we tested WallyHome, the home sensing solution failed to detect a leak even though the sensor was sitting in pool of water.

If you’re taking on a home renovation, it’s a smart idea to include smart technology!

3. Smaller, But Fancier

According to a recent Consumer Reports article and US Census Bureau data, for the first time since 2009, the average size of new homes built in 2016 went down from the prior year, to 2,634 square feet. But, with all the smart home technology they’re getting more modern.

Because they’re not splurging on McMansions, homeowners are able to splurge in other areas like kitchen appliances, high-end design finishes and other upgrades that may have previously been considered unnecessary.

4. Keeping Easy Cleaning in Mind

Homeowners are also keeping the ease of cleaning in mind when remodeling or upgrading their homes. From surfaces like tile and granite that are relatively easy to keep in good condition to high-tech appliances like this self-cleaning toilet (yes, you read that right), we’re looking for upgrades that will help make life a bit easier.

Touchless faucets and smudge-free stainless steel appliances are other examples of this trend coming to life.  

5. Color, Color Everywhere

Another easy-to-do yet popular home improvement trend for 2017 is color. We’re seeing everything from jewel-toned kitchens and bathrooms to color used as an accent to increase the depth and visual appeal of big, open spaces.

Painting is perhaps the easiest way to DIY your home improvement, and can easily be modified as trends change.

Making Home Improvements That Count

These home improvement trends offer insight into the many ways homeowners are advancing their living spaces this year. As a homeowner or construction professional, achieving any of these trends will bring your home into the 21st century —keeping it up-to-date and appealing should you decide to sell.

Whether you’re aching for the latest smart home gadgets or are planning a big remodel, 2017 is the year to modernize and live better. Spring is a great time to get your home life on track, and, if you’re still a bit behind the times, consult the smart home gift guide to see what you’ve been missing.

How to Maintain my Deck or Patio

Outdoor living spaces add tremendously to your home’s value, as well as your everyday enjoyment. A rustic stone patio or sleek modern deck can be the perfect gathering place for family and friends. Throw in some comfortable seating and perhaps a firepit, and you’ve got a real amenity.

The materials used for decks and patios vary as widely as home styles. They should be chosen with their intended use in mind. If the space will be used for dining, for example, it’s wise to choose a smooth, regular surface, like brick pavers or concrete for your patio. A more casual space might call for gravel or flagstones.

Here are some of the most popular materials for outdoor living spaces:

Deck Materials

These days, you can choose between many different natural surfaces, as well as a range of composite and artificial decking materials that may extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of your deck.

Option #1: Wood

The most common choice for wood deck materials is pressure-treated or “PT” lumber. This is inexpensive, and can easily make for a sturdy, attractive structure. On the other hand, PT is also highly susceptible to warping, cracking and splitting, so it has to be treated regularly for weather resistance.  A deck made with PT lumber will last around 15 years, and the cost is around $1.32 per lineal foot.

An option for longer lasting wood decks would be redwood or cedar, which are naturally resistant to warping, cracking and pests. These woods are about three times as expensive as pressure treated lumber.

Tropical woods like ipe (pronounced e-pay), cambara, and ironwood, fall into the same price range. These are very dense and pest resistant and considered to be some of the most beautiful decking materials available. These are also relatively expensive, averaging $2.00 per foot, but they last for about 25 years.

Option #2: Composite

Composite wood is composed of wood fibers and recycled plastic, and comes in a wide range of colors and stains. It won’t warp, split or crack, and is an environmentally friendly option. It doesn’t need to be stained or painted, but should be scrubbed regularly to prevent mildew.

Patio Materials

Your first consideration in choosing patio materials is what you’ll be using the patio for most. If you’re like most folks, the answer is “general outdoor entertaining.” This usually includes dining, which means you’ll want a solid, flat surface and should consider patio materials like brick, concrete, cast pavers, or flat stone like slate.

Uneven surfaces like fieldstone, pebbles, or gravel aren’t recommended (unless you want to make eating and sitting comfortably more challenging).

Understanding Outdoor Patio and Deck Maintenance

Like any other feature of your home, your deck or patio is only an asset if it’s properly maintained

Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it’s still vulnerable to moisture and the sun’s rays. Eventually these forces will have your deck looking gray or grimy, so regular maintenance is necessary.

The first consideration in deck maintenance is a good cleaning. Deck cleaners come in bleach and non-bleach formulas. Either can remove surface and ground-in dirt. Bleach cleaners lighten the wood, while non-bleach ones gently remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood fibers or the wood’s natural color.

Here are some steps for cleaning a wood deck:

  • Sweep away all the leaves and other debris.
  • Gently rinse off the deck and the surrounding bushes and grass with a garden hose.
  • Using a roller, sprayer or a bucket and brush, apply the cleaner, being sure to remember to wear gloves to protect your hands. Don’t forget vertical surfaces, like posts and railings.
  • Let the cleaner set for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse, using a pressure washer to remove stubborn grime.
  • After cleaning, allow the deck to dry for a few days and then make any needed repairs: drive in any protruding nails and replace boards if necessary.
  • Finally, apply a protective stain or clear coat to bring new life to the deck.
  • Cover all the surrounding areas with a cloth tarp
  • Apply the wood finish according to directions
  • Let it set for about 20 minutes to penetrate.
  • Brush out any puddles to avoid shiny patches, and then apply a second coat.

Just like your deck, patios need regular attention to optimize usefulness and visual appeal. Check at least annually for needed repairs and cleaning. Some common patio problems are easy enough to solve with these steps:

Uneven Pavers

Weathering and settling can cause pavers to be less level, and this requires some adjustment. Pull up the offending stones or bricks and re-level the bedding material (ideally crushed stone) before replacing them.

Dirty, Moldy, or Faded Pavers

Clean and seal pavers every 2 or 3 years, using an acid-based masonry detergent, then apply a sealant.

Weeds and Debris Between Pavers  

Pressure wash the joints, clean the pavers, and sweep in polymeric joint sand, which solidifies with moisture, creating a solid and permanent bond.

A New Approach to Home Maintenance with Glasshouse

Not all homeowners have the time to maintain their homes in the way they know is required. Enter Glasshouse. Designed for the modern homeowner, Glasshouse Service Providers take care of your home so you can spend your time enjoying it. Learn more about our scheduled preventative maintenance service today.

How To Maintain Your Range/Oven?

The kitchen range is your home’s workhorse. Rarely does a day pass without the use of this appliance to create the food we enjoy, so a working range is pretty much essential to a smooth-running household. With good maintenance, a range will last up to 15 years.

Regular maintenance can keep your range working efficiently and prolong its life. This is mostly a matter of routine, thorough cleaning. Here are some basic steps in caring for different types of kitchen ranges:

The control panel

Use a light-duty cleaner or simply soap and water with a rag. Using abrasive pads or too harsh of a cleaner can wear off the decal indicators, which identify the knob controls for each burner.

Smooth electric stove tops

If a heavy spill occurs, use a razor scraper to remove large food deposits. Apply a cooktop cleaner. Remove the remaining residue with a scratch-free pad and then apply a coat of cooktop protectant.

Gas stove tops

Some gas stovetops are made of porcelain-coated steel and can be cleaned exactly the same as an electric smooth top. Stainless steel tops should be cleaned with heavy-duty degreaser and a non-abrasive pad. Avoid using too much water when cleaning, especially around the knobs, as this can cause a short.

The oven interior

Whatever model you own, you should clean the interior of your oven three to four times per year. Spills and drips should be removed as soon as possible, as they will smoke and may eventually catch on fire.

Self-cleaning ovens

Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the self-cleaning function. This feature heats the interior of the oven to a temperature high enough to incinerate food particles and spills. The process generally lasts for 2 to 4 hours.

Important: Never use a cleaning solution to clean the interior of a self-cleaning oven unless it is made specifically for self-cleaning ovens.

Non-self-cleaning ovens

Simply wait until the oven is cool to the touch, remove the oven racks and spray oven cleaner directly onto the interior surface. Wipe with a clean rag.

Racks

Clean the racks by letting them soak in the sink. Then, scrub the racks using regular kitchen sponges. Don’t leave racks in an oven during a self-clean cycle.

Range hood

Clean your fan blades with warm soapy water on occasion to prevent buildup of dirt and grease. This will help avoid excess stress on your motor and keep it from overheating. Clean the filter frequently as it is the part that will collect grease the fastest.

How to Choose a New Range

Once your range has reached the end of its useful life, there are many considerations in choosing a replacement. Pricing can range widely, with many good options at $1000-$1500. High-end brands like Kitchenaid, Viking, Thermador, and Jenn-Air have models selling for up to $6000.

There are a variety of range types. The most popular and easiest to install are freestanding ranges. With this model, the oven control panel is typically on the back panel, above the cooktop surface. Some kitchens have slide-in ranges, which easily slide in between surrounding cabinets and give a custom, built-in look. The oven controls are on the range front and there’s no back panel, which showcases your backsplash.

Most electric and gas ranges are 30-inches wide. Pro-style ranges usually span 36 inches or more. Capacities generally range from 2 to nearly 4 cubic feet.  Ranges can be fueled by electricity, gas, or a dual-fuel system, which pairs a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Both power sources have their advantages. The type of range you choose may be dictated by the existing setup in your kitchen.

#1. Electric smoothtop

Ranges with electric radiant smoothtops are the most popular type. Most models have at least one high-power burner and expandable dual or triple elements that let you switch from a large, high-power element to a small, lower-power element within it.

One downside of this type of cooktop is that there is a lot of residual heat, so when reducing the temperature it can take a few minutes to reach the lower setting.

#2. Electric Induction

Electric ranges with an induction cooktop use magnetic coils below the ceramic glass surface to quickly generate heat directly to the pan, offering precise simmering and control.

Magnetic cookware is needed for induction to work. If a magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of a pot, it will work with an induction cooktop. Some stainless-steel cookware is induction-capable, and some isn’t.

#3. Gas

Gas stoves provide more responsive and precise heat.  The flame makes it easier to judge the heat, to get a feel for it, and to quickly move from a high setting to a lower one. Most ranges have four surface burners in three sizes, and some have a fifth burner instead of a center section.

Once you know which type of range you want, it’s time to take a look at the available features. Here are some popular ones:

Control lockout—These let you disable the oven controls, and are especially good for homes with small children.

Double ovens- Great for cooking a big meal. You can cook at different temperatures simultaneously.

Expandable elements- these can accommodate griddles and larger pots for more efficient heating.

Convection- Convection ovens use one or more fans to circulate hot air and reduce cooking time.

Time/Delayed Start- This lets you set a time for the electric or gas oven to start and stop cooking.

For more on “How to Maintain” various items in your home, check out our list of popular blogs below:

How to Maintain my Roof

How to Maintain my Gutters

How to Maintain my HVAC System
And, don’t forget to download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

How to Prevent Water Intrusion

One of the more significant budget lines you add when you become a homeowner is for home maintenance and repair. U.S. News reports that on average, homeowners will spend between 1 to 4 percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and the costs tend to increase as the house ages.

Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize repair costs. Looking after your home’s structure and systems can extend their life and often prevent damage that will lead to costly repairs. One of the most damaging elements your home is exposed to is moisture. That’s why it’s so important to keep water out.

Water does more damage to your home than anything else, and the damage is usually gradual. Even small leaks, left unrepaired, lead to mold and mildew, rot, and eventually termites and carpenter ants. You can avoid a lot of expensive repairs just by keeping an eye out for moisture. Water can affect different areas of your home in different ways, so here are some tips for keeping things dry in key locations.

Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety tells us that these are the most common places where water intrusion occurs:

        Windows and doors

        Roof

        Foundation and Exterior walls

        Plumbing

Surprisingly, kitchens and baths are not listed. They will fall under plumbing, and there’s certainly the potential for water intrusion there. Other places to check regularly are the clothes washer and water heater.

Common Area #1: Household plumbing

If leaks in your kitchen pipes go undetected, the damage can be extensive. Long-term drips will ruin the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and can run down into the floor sheathing and joists underneath, causing mildew and rot. This will require a structural repair, plus new cabinets and new kitchen flooring.

Watch out for dark spots under pipes or changes in water pressure that may indicate a leak somewhere in the system. Remember to check the water lines to your icemaker and dishwasher regularly, in addition to the sink.

In the bath, check the floor around your toilets, tubs, showers, and sinks. Look for any soft spots or moisture. Check for leaking faucets, dripping or “sweating” pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.

Don’t forget to check the caulk. Replacing old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials, and it helps keep water where it belongs.

In the laundry room, inspect washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or wetness. These should be replaced every few years, or sooner if problems are found. Take a minute occasionally to inspect the water heater for signs of rust or water on the floor.

Promptly repairing plumbing leaks can save the average homeowner about 10 percent on water bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Common Area #2: Doors and windows

Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners. Check for peeling paint, which can be a sign of water getting into the wood. Look for discolorations in paint or caulking as well as swelling in windows, doorframes and surrounding materials. Keep caulk in good repair and seal leaks promptly.  This has the added benefit of reducing your energy costs.

Common Area #3: Roof and gutters

Check the roof regularly for any signs of leaks or damage. Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents. Replace or repair missing or damaged shingles promptly, and keep the surface clear of debris that can allow damaging moisture to build up.

Getting water off and away from the house as quickly as possible is the best way to keep it from doing any damage. When gutters back up and overflow, water seeps under the shingles and begins its insidious work on vulnerable materials. Keeping your gutters clear can greatly extend the life of your roof. Clean and inspect gutters at least once a year.

Common Area #4: Foundation

Foundation repairs can be disruptive and expensive. Prevent water intrusion through regular inspections. Look for cracks or holes in the foundation or external walls, and seal them promptly.

You can keep water away from the foundation by ensuring that downspouts empty at least 2 feet from the foundation, and that the ground slopes away from the house to keep water from pooling at the foundation. Keep an eye out for dripping outdoor faucets, which can wreak havoc on foundations over time.

Some other quick tips for preventing water intrusion from damaging your home:

  • Investigate changes in your water bill; a spike may indicate a leak.
  • Keep plantings away from foundations and water lines. Roots can cause unseen damage.
  • Disconnect your hoses. If the water sitting in them freezes, it may back up into the pipe and cause problems.
  • Install water detection devices. These can alert you to low moisture levels or slow leaks that are harder to detect with the eye.

If home maintenance seems overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Learn more about how Glasshouse can automate your home’s maintenance with regularly scheduled maintenance visits.

How to Maintain my Furnace

Your furnace is key to keeping your home a comfortable and healthy environment. It also probably represents your largest utility bill. For these and other reasons, it’s important to properly maintain your furnace.

Good maintenance improves efficiency and the efficiency of your furnace can make a major difference in your energy bills. Heating accounts for approximately 30 percent of the energy used in a typical U.S. home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  A well-maintained unit can run efficiently for 15-25 years, but keep in mind that newer units are vastly more efficient than models manufactured before stricter regulation went into effect in 1992.

There comes a time when the cost of fueling an older unit should be weighed against the cost of replacing it with a more efficient model. Some signs that your furnace may soon be ready to go include:

  •         Soot streaks around the furnace cabinet
  •         Excessive moisture condensation on windows and cold surfaces
  •         Signs of moisture on metal flues and pipes
  •         Moisture at the base of vents or flues

Meanwhile, keeping up with regular maintenances is the key to getting the most efficient operation possible from your furnace. Make yourself familiar with tips for increasing efficiency, and make sure that your unit gets the care it needs. Annually, start-of-season service by a professional can be very inexpensive –often under $100- and will extend the life of your system.

Heating systems have 3 components: the source of heated air, distribution (blower), and control (thermostat). Dirt and grime can inhibit the performance of all of these; so much of the maintenance involves cleaning parts.

One of the most effective ways to improve efficiency is to change the air filter. This is a quick, cheap, and easy job that homeowners often do themselves. It should be done at least once a year, but can never be done too often. For units that see heavy use in the winter, it can be a good idea to replace the filter monthly. This helps your furnace run more efficiently and also improves the air quality in your home.  

You can easily clean the system’s registers as well. Just remove the cover and vacuum the duct opening.

Other parts of the furnace benefit from regular care, but are not as simple to access. These are most often left to a professional. Here are recommended steps for gas furnace maintenance.

  •      Shut down the system
  •      Clean the combustion chamber
  •      Inspect the flue pipe
  •      Check the blower belt’s wear and tension
  •      Vacuum out burner and blower cavities
  •      Clean the flame sensor
  •      Lubricate bearings
  •      Seal leaks in ductwork

Don’t forget that adequate insulation can help to boost your system’s efficiency too, and will save energy costs. Adding insulation and weather-stripping can be an ongoing effort, and some is always better than none. So you can make those improvements a little at a time with little expense in terms of time or money.

A great benefit of regular maintenance is that it keeps you aware of your equipment’s condition. That way you’re prepared when the time comes to replace it. A new furnace can represent a sizable investment for most of us, with average prices for equipment and installation around $5000, ranging up to $8000-$10,000, so it’s nice to have a little notice rather than an unexpected breakdown.

The good news is that with energy savings you’ll recoup your investment in a new system fairly quickly. To calculate that time, follow these steps:

  • Determine how much you already pay annually for heating costs.
  • Calculate the price of your furnace including installation. Be sure to subtract any government incentives or rebates.
  • Check the predicted annual energy usage for your new furnace to determine what it will cost you to run.
  • Subtract the cost of operating your new furnace for a year from the cost of operating your old furnace for a year to see what you’ll be saving.
  • Divide the total cost of your new furnace by the energy savings it will provide to see how long it will take for the furnace to pay for itself.

Even where major home systems like the furnace are concerned, it can be easy to forget about them until something goes wrong. When maintenance is neglected, breakdowns are practically guaranteed, no matter how excellent the equipment. Making a relatively minor investment in preventative maintenance helps you avoid the stress, inconvenience, and expense of equipment failure, and it saves energy costs every month to boot. It warms the heart to think of it.

For more on “How to Maintain” various items in your home, check out our list of popular blogs below:

How to Maintain my Roof

How to Maintain my Gutters

How to Maintain my HVAC System

Don’t forget to download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

How Much Do Utilities Really Cost?

Your monthly utility bills make up a significant portion of your housing costs. In fact, they can represent nearly half of a household’s monthly bills, according to a recent study by Trulia and partners Utility Score. They call utilities “the hidden cost of housing,” and they point out that costs can vary pretty widely depending on where in the country your home is located.

So a location with bargain home prices may not turn out to be such a bargain in the long term. Here are some of the significant findings:

  • Nationally, people in single-family homes spend $2,715 annually on utilities. ($1.68 per square foot, or 1.4% of the median single-family home value).
  • Of the largest 100 metro areas, Atlanta has the most expensive median annual utilities by dollar amount at $4,353.
  • The least expensive utilities are found in El Paso, Texas, where you can expect to pay $1,818 annually on average.

Based on the Atlanta figures, it’s tempting to conclude that a warm climate equals high utility costs, but the low costs in El Paso blow that theory out of the water. Apparently, climate is not a good predictor for how much median utilities are, at the zip-code or metro level, and nor is the value of local homes.

Markets like Detroit and Pittsburgh, which have relatively low home values, can be paying just as much for utilities on average as they do for their mortgage or rent payments. For residents in the most expensive metros like San Francisco or Honolulu on the other hand, utilities are just as high in dollar amounts, but look trivial after getting past monthly housing costs.

A good example of a city where home prices are high but utilities are fairly reasonable is Oakland. There, energy costs are a bit higher than the national average, but depending on the neighborhood, can stay under $300 per month.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has much more affordable home prices, but similar utility costs to Oakland’s, so energy consumption takes a bigger bite out of the budget.

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3 Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills

No matter where your home’s located, there are plenty of ways that you can minimize your cost for utilities. Some major changes might be adding solar panels –this carries some upfront expense, but will produce major savings down the road, or replacing old windows with a more energy-efficient product.  There are also small changes that you can make to have a big impact.

#1. Select efficient appliances

If your appliances are starting to show their age, you can likely save a good deal of energy by replacing them. The government awards an Energy Star to appliances that meet high standards for efficiency, so it’s a great idea to shop with that in mind.

#2. Add insulation

One relatively easy and inexpensive way to lower energy bills is to add insulation to your home. Keeping warm air inside in winter and outside in summer lets your HVAC system take it easy, resulting in lower monthly costs.

There are other benefits to increased insulation as well, like reduced noise from outside, better humidity control, and less pollen and dust from outdoors getting in. So you save as much as 10% on energy costs and have a more comfortable home. Win win.

#3. Practice preventative maintenance

A sure way to make sure your systems are running at top efficiency is to keep up with regular maintenance. This is an inexpensive way to buy some peace of mind, and it also keeps your utility bills under control.

Here are some important maintenance tasks to keep on top of:

Maintaining Your HVAC

  • Heating and cooling systems account for more than half of the energy costs in a typical U.S. home, so keeping yours properly maintained can yield big savings. Here are some general tips for HVAC care:
  • Check the system twice a year, as the seasons are changing. Replace the air filters at least that often.
  • The outdoor unit should be checked for adequate refrigerant levels, and any wear or damage. Accumulated leaves, dirt, and debris should be removed, and the drains checked for any obstructions.
  • Inside, the unit should be carefully inspected for gas leaks, loose connections, and clogged drain lines. The blower, burner assembly, and evaporator coils should be checked and cleaned.

For a more extensive look at how to maintain your HVAC, check out our recent blog.

Maintaining Your Laundry

Your laundry contributes greatly to a smooth-running household, so take some time to make sure that it’s running efficiently. This can be a simple matter of adjusting your habits.

  • Dryer: remove lint after each load; regularly inspect the vent. This will also prevent your dryer from suffering an early death. Here’s how much it costs to replace a dryer.
  • Washer: ensure that the machine is level; inspect the hose for loose fittings, bulges or cracks, don’t leave wet clothes inside to develop mold.

Maintaining Your Weatherproofing  

Another way to save on heating and cooling is to ensure that your home is as weatherproof as possible. As we noted above, insulation —particularly in the attic—  is a critical piece of this, but there are other things to keep in mind as well.

At least annually, check windows and doors to ensure that weather stripping s in place and in good condition. Inspect caulk around doors and windows. Depending on the severity of your climate, it might be wise to consider applying plastic over some windows as well.

Making it Easier: Home Maintenance with Glasshouse

This maintenance list can seem a bit overwhelming, and it’s true that most of us need professional help for many of these tasks. At Glasshouse, we specialize in carefully scheduled maintenance by proven, reliable professionals. Our clients save on their energy costs and gain peace of mind, knowing that we’ve got them covered.

It’s modern home care for today’s busy homeowners. Learn more about Glasshouse here.

Lesser Known Home Maintenance Tasks with Big Price Tags

Home maintenance is something that’s always with us. It’s important to plan for the associated costs and to understand how they will morph over time.

Experts recommend that you set aside 1 percent of your home’s purchase price annually for maintenance and repairs, but that’s an average cost. There will thankfully be years when you don’t spend nearly that much on maintenance. Unfortunately, there will also be years in which you spend much more.

What you pay for home maintenance and repairs is influenced by several factors. The age of your home is probably the most significant. New homes need very little maintenance (but they do need it!), while a home that’s over 20 years old will likely be ready for some major updates. That is the time when the roof or major appliances may need replacing. Older homes also need to have weatherproofing restored, in many cases, to hold down energy costs.

Weather itself can have a big impact on the cost of maintaining a home. Climate extremes are hard on houses and their systems. Whether the issue is frigid winters, with their heavy demands on heating systems, frozen pipes, and snow-covered roofs or hot, humid summers, bringing moisture problems and struggles with insect damage, homes are vulnerable to extreme weather.

An informative piece on The Balance blog recommends adding 10 percent to your maintenance budget for each of these factors that fit your house, along with whether it’s located in a floodplain or is a single-family home (condos and duplexes cost less to maintain).

Being aware of this consideration can help considerably in budgeting for home maintenance. Another thing to know about is some of the potential big-ticket repairs that you may encounter on your journey.

Replacing rotting flooring and joists

This job can run into the tens of thousands, and is also a major disruption in the home. Undetected leaks are often left to do their worst for years, and it’s only a matter of time until major repairs are needed.

Avoiding this expense entirely is surprisingly easy. One important, but often overlooked practice is regular inspection of the caulk in the kitchen and bath. The caulking in kitchens and bathrooms keeps water from seeping into the crevices and crannies around sinks and tubs. Once the water gets in, mold proliferates (especially in damp areas around showers and tubs). Worse, infiltrating water could lead to wood rot in the structural framing beneath. Recaulking old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials.

Another way to avoid water damage is to promptly repair plumbing leaks. Fixing leaky faucets and other common household plumbing leaks can save the average homeowner about 10 percent on water bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Repairing or replacing damaged decking

Particularly if you’re living in one of the extreme climates mentioned above, a neglected deck might need to be extensively repaired or even replaced. A few gallons of sealant will cost $50 or less and applying it can be the work of one afternoon.

Repairing termite damage

It costs $3000 on average to repair termite damage to the home, according to Termite.com, and fumigating the house would cost even more. This cost can be avoided with regular inspections, which are very inexpensive: usually under $100. When trouble is identified, the problem can be eliminated with an inexpensive spot treatment.

Roof repairs and replacement

Okay, this probably doesn’t qualify as a lesser-known maintenance expense, but did you know that a lot of roof problems are caused by clogged or damaged gutters?

It’s true. Getting water off and away from the house as quickly as possible is the best way to keep it from doing any damage. When gutters backup and overflow, water seeps under the shingles and begins its insidious work on vulnerable materials. Keeping your gutters clear can save you some serious change.

Repairing foundation cracks, bulges, and settling

The foundation’s integrity affects all the parts of your home, so when problems develop you may be forced to pay thousands for repairs. The Foundation Repair Network reports that major foundation repairs can cost $10,000 to $14,000, while repairing a single crack may cost $800 to $1500.

These costs can often be completely avoided through regular inspection. Preventative steps can include ensuring that downspouts empty at least 2 feet from the foundation, and that the ground slopes away from the house to keep water from pooling at the foundation.

Download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

3 Important 15-Minute Fixes Around the Home

 

When you think of home improvement you may envision additions or renovations that can take weeks. However, there are plenty of small jobs around the house that take just a few minutes, and they can really make a difference in the enjoyment of your home.

In your day to day, there are features of your home that see heavy use. You rely on the appliances and systems in your home to make life easier. With just a few minutes of time, you can ensure that they keep performing well, and doing the jobs you need them to do.

#1. Ice Maker Maintenance

Particularly in the summer months, the ice maker is a great convenience. To keep this feature running as it should, take a little time and give it some TLC. These steps can prevent clumping, dirty ice, and breakdowns. The only tools you need are a sponge, cloth and some white vinegar.

Clumping usually has one of two causes: either there is not enough food in the freezer or you’re not using much ice. In either case, the fix is simple. Keep your freezer about ¾ full for optimal airflow, and try turning the ice maker on and off as needed.

A dingy tint to your ice cubes is not only ugly, it’s unhealthy. Dirty ice comes from dirty water. Even in freezing conditions, mold and bacteria can grow from the food kept in your freezer. Wipe down your ice maker with vinegar to remove impurities and keep it running clean. Here are the steps for giving that ice maker the cleaning of its life.

  • Turn off the ice maker. Most ice machines have an arm that moves up and down to turn the ice maker off. If you’re having trouble locating the switch or arm, refer to the unit’s manual.
  • Remove the bin from the freezer. Slide out the bin, remove the ice from the bin and let it melt in the sink.
  • Soak your sponge in a mixture of ½ cup vinegar and ½ cup warm water, and scrub the entire bin. Run warm water over it until the vinegar smell has gone away.
  • Dry the bin with a cloth before returning it to the freezer so it won’t freeze in place, then turn the ice maker back on.

The job takes less than 30 minutes, and helps your sparkling ice maker to work like a champ. While you’re at it, take a close look at the unit to avoid breakdowns.

Remove any open containers or spoiled food. Check that small objects do not block the vents. It’s also a great idea to inspect the water line for blockages. Minerals can build up over time, and cause your unit to work much harder than it needs to. Just visually inspect the line, and if you find evidence of blockage, check the manual to find out about clearing it. Change the water dispenser and ice maker filter about once every 6 months.

#2. Clean Your Front-Loading Washer

Front-load washers are a wonderful appliance that’s kind to your most delicate clothes, but can also handle your toughest laundry jobs.

Spending a just a few minutes each month with your washer can keep it sparkling clean and running at top performance.

  • Clean the drain pump filter and clean any rubber gaskets or door seals.
  • Wipe down the washer drum with a mix of warm water and vinegar.
  • Clean out the detergent dispenser by pouring in two cups of heated vinegar (warmed up in the microwave) and let it sit for ten minutes.
  • Residue from liquid fabric softener can build up too so use a damp rag and hot water to keep your fabric softener dispensers clean.
  • Run an empty load on the hottest setting to disinfect the drum and remove any traces of vinegar.

#3. Address Your Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal is one of those kitchen tools that we rarely think about but use most every day. It can be truly inconvenient when the disposal jams or stops working for whatever reason. Fortunately, addressing these issues can be a very quick job. Here are the basic steps.

If the unit is jammed, try pressing the reset button on the bottom of the disposer, under your sink.  If resetting doesn’t work, you’ll need to look more closely.

Be sure to turn of the unit before you proceed. You can unplug the unit, or turn off the circuit breaker that powers it.

Using tongs or pliers, see if you can turn the blades. If they move, plug the disposer back in and try it. Still no action?  Unplug the unit again and proceed.

Use a flashlight to check for debris in the drain, and remove anything you find with your tongs. Run hot water down the drain for about 30 seconds to clear it, and test the unit again.

If you’re still not getting anywhere, you will need an Allen wrench for the next step. Use this to unjam the blades. Fit the wrench into the hex hole on the bottom of the unit and twist it back and forth. In most cases, that will do the trick.

Little Issues Turned Big Disasters

Taking the time to maintain your home can prevent the costly nightmares that come from failing systems and appliances. But, even the best maintenance intentions can go ary without the right help. That’s where Glasshouse comes in! Let our team of home maintenance professionals take care of all your home maintenance so you don’t have to. Learn more by connecting today!

 


 

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How to Maintain My Gutters

While not the most glamorous component of your home, the gutters play a pretty big role in helping to keep the entire structure in great shape.  They require very little maintenance, and depending on the material used, can be very long lasting. You can expect aluminum gutters to last 20-25 years, for example.

The benefits of having a gutter system on your home have to do with preventing damage that can be caused by uncontrolled moisture and runoff. Here are the main benefits:

  • Stabilizes the soil around the house
  • Prevents many foundation problems
  • Prevents flooding under houses and in basements
  • Preserves landscaping and turf
  • Lessens settling and cracking in sidewalks, patios, and driveways
  • Prevents water damage to siding
  • Prevents water staining on brick and stone masonry
  • Preserves exterior and garage doors

As with any feature of your home, a gutter system does require some upkeep in order for these benefits to continue. If a system is not maintained, these are some of the expensive damages that you can expect:

  • Water can dam up in the gutters and cause damage to eaves
  • Water can leak into the house and cause damage to walls and flooring
  • During dry seasons, leaves in the gutters can be a fire hazard
  • Mosquitoes can breed in the standing water
  • Leaks will hasten deterioration of the entire system

So, obviously there are some strong arguments for the importance of gutter maintenance, and you’re reading this article, so maybe we’re preaching to the choir. Let’s get down to the basic steps for gutter maintenance.

Frequency

As you can imagine, there are several factors that dictate how often gutters need to be cleaned, including whether there are trees close by and even what type of trees they are (evergreen vs. deciduous). You’ll also find that a roof that has a low slope requires more attention than steeply pitched roofs.

Most experts recommend thoroughly cleaning your gutters at least twice a year – late summer and early spring. For homes with a lot of trees, it can be necessary to do a couple of cleanings in the fall, when leaves and other debris are their heaviest.

To do their job, gutters and downspouts must be clear of leaves and debris. If they aren’t, drain outlets will dam up and rainwater will fill the gutters, overflow, and eventually pull the gutters loose. Water that pools in troughs will rot wood gutters and rust sheet-metal ones, and further damage can be done to the roof itself when gutters fail.

Steps for Cleaning

You can hire someone to clean your gutters, but many homeowners take care of this task themselves. If you’re confident with working on a roof or ladder, you may save $100-$300. If your roof is higher than a single story, you’re probably better off hiring a gutter cleaning professional.


For more Easy Maintenance Tips from Glasshouse, read our ongoing series. Here’s a few posts that you might like:

How to Maintain My HVAC System

Your home’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, in case you’re wondering) system is an essential element for creating a comfortable environment. It’s also one of the most expensive systems in your home, so maintaining it properly can have some significant benefits to your budget.

Obviously, the best procedures for maintaining your HVAC depend in part on what type of system you’re using. Yours may run on natural gas or electricity, or both. It could be solar powered, in some cases. There are hybrid systems that utilize a heat pump and even duct-free systems.

Still, basic maintenance procedures can be identified that apply to most HVAC systems and will help to prolong their life and make them more energy efficient as well.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (and considerably cheaper), so follow these steps to keep your HVAC system running smoothly.

Check Your System Twice a Year

Whatever type of system you own, it has 2 major functions: heating and cooling your home. It will see peak demand in the summer and winter months, so it’s important to service and inspect the unit at the beginning of each season. That means checking your furnace in the fall and your AC in the spring.

Some maintenance should be done even more often. Most manufacturers recommend that the filters be changed at least quarterly, for example. This is a simple operation, and new filters can be purchased for $20-$30, so many homeowners take care of this task themselves.

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Check the Outdoor Unit

The parts of your HVAC system that sit outside are vulnerable to damage and exposed to the elements. They’re designed for this, but it’s important to have them checked by a professional at least annually. Here are the things to do:

  • Inspect unit for proper refrigerant level and adjust if necessary
  • Clean dirt, leaves and debris from inside cabinet
  • Inspect base pan for restricted drain openings—remove obstructions as necessary
  • Inspect coil and cabinet—clean as needed
  • Inspect fan motor and fan blades for wear and damage—on older models lubricate as needed
  • Inspect control box, associated controls/accessories, wiring and connections. Controls may include contactors, relays, circuit boards, capacitors, sump heat and other accessories. All control box and electrical parts should be checked for wear or damage.
  • Inspect compressor and associated tubing for damage

Inside Maintenance

In the home, your system includes ductwork and thermostats, as well as the furnace and filtration systems.  Professional inspection and some routine maintenance can protect you from unexpected breakdowns and keep you comfortable.

  • Inspect and clean blower assembly (includes blower housing, blower wheel and motor)
  • On older models, lubricate motor and inspect and replace fan belt if needed
  • Check combustion blower housing for lint and debris and clean as necessary
  • Inspect evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain lines. Clean as needed
  • Inspect for gas leaks in gas furnaces
  • Inspect burner assembly—clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect ignition system and safety controls—clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect heat exchanger or heating elements
  • Inspect flue system—check for proper attachment to the furnace, any dislocated sections, and for signs of corrosion. Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect control box, associated controls, wiring and connections
  • Clean or replace air filters
  • Inspect conditioned airflow system (ductwork)—check for leaks

While your system is operating …

  • Monitor system starting characteristics and capabilities
  • Listen for abnormal noise
  • Search for source of unusual odors
  • Monitor air conditioning and heat pump systems for correct refrigerant charge
  • Measure outdoor dry bulb temperature
  • Measure indoor dry and wet bulb temperature
  • Measure high and low side system pressures
  • Monitor gas furnace for correct line and manifold gas pressure—make adjustments as needed
  • Measure temperature rise and adjust airflow as needed
  • Check vent system for proper operation
  • Monitor system for correct line and load volts/amps
  • Monitor system operation per manufacturer’s specifications
  • Provide system operation report and recommend repairs or replacement as necessary

The HVAC systems we rely on every day are complex, and it takes professional help to keep them in top operating condition.  Depending on its features and design, you can expect to get 10-15 years out of an air conditioning unit, while furnaces last a little longer: 15-20 years.  

Once it’s time for a replacement you can expect to pay between $8000 and $20,000 for your new system and installation.  The costs can vary widely depending on the unit’s features and whether new ductwork has to be installed.

Maintaining your HVAC system is one of the costs of home ownership. Follow the guide above to keep your current system running like a champ for as long as possible.

Not sure you’re ready to tackle this project on your own? A Glasshouse manager can help. Learn how here.

And, for more information on the real costs of home maintenance, download this free whitepaper.


For more Easy Maintenance Tips from Glasshouse, read our ongoing series. Here’s a few posts that you might like: