Home Maintenance

Mud Season Staging

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I know we are all very excited about the extra sunlight after 5pm as the first day of spring is fast approaching this week. Daylight savings also starts the time of year when more homes come onto the market in our state. Our landscaping efforts take a while to get going in the spring, so our yards can seem a little dull and barren to say the least. If you're like me, and live on a dirt road, the exterior of your home may need a power wash and I guess...the windows will need to be dealt with . And mud. Yes, we're going to have lots of mud in the coming weeks. Daylight Savings + Spring + Vermont = MUD SEASON!
Mud Season Ruts

Mud Season Ruts

If your home is listed for sale in the early weeks of spring as many sellers do to get the jump on the buying season, here's a few tips you can consider to help stage that home even when spring really hasn't quite sprung yet outside!
  • Have a small photo album available for buyers to view that shows your home in the BEST of all seasons. Include pictures of flower beds, a front shot of the home with GREEN grass in front, and maybe a nice foliage and snow shot.
  • Almost everyone takes their shoes off when viewing a home no matter what the season - it's just good manners - but when boots look like this just from walking from the car to the house, provide a place OUTSIDE your entry way for these boots to stay during the showing with maybe a courteous note.
Mud Season Boots

Mud Season Boots

  • Fresh flowers. Nothing says spring like a little bouquet of tulips. They can really add a cheery statement to an entryway or kitchen area.
  • Making cleaning the windows your first spring cleaning priority. I'm sure you're already keeping the house tidy because you want to sell it, but postpone cleaning out the closet....clean the dreaded windows first. It makes such a huge difference when buyers can gaze out the window and actually see what's outside.
  • If you live in a rural area and have a gravel/dirt driveway, keep an eye on those ruts. Sometimes a good steel rake can help even things out before a full grading is necessary. And for those big ruts, keep a bag or two of gravel handy.

YES - Clean the Dryer Lint!

dryer lintYes, this is a pile of dryer lint, and yes, it can cause a house fire. I'm writing about dryer lint because my dryer was broken and we just had it serviced on Friday. I thought my dryer, the venting, and the overall system was "clean" because I had actually had it serviced just three years ago. Guess what, the technician pulled out three times the lint seen in this picture from around my dryer drum AND within the vents going to the exterior of our home.So note to everyone - If you have not taken apart your dryer and had all the vents cleaned recently, as in the past year, DO IT! If you don't believe me, listen to Consumer Reports. Here are some tips they provide on keeping your dryer unit clean and reducing the risk of dryer lint fires, which are real.

  • Use metal dryer ducts to help prevent dryer fires. Consumer Reports says that flexible dryer ducts made of foil or plastic are the most problematic because they can sag and let lint build upat low points. Ridges can also trap lint. Metal ducts, either flexible or solid, are far safer because they don't sag, so lint is less likely to build up. In addition, if a fire does start, a metal duct is more likely to contain it. Seetheir dryer venting safety report for more tips as well as photos and a dryer-venting video.
  • No matter which kind of duct you have, you should clean it regularly. In addition, remove the visible lint from the lint screen each time you use your dryer (this is the easy one!). This not only will reduce the risk of a fire, but your clothes will dry faster and your dryerwill use less energy. If dryer film is a worry, there is certainly no harm in occasionally cleaning the lint filter with warm soapy water and a small brush.
  • Clean inside, behind, and underneath the dryer, where lint can also build up.
  • Take special care drying clothes stained with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishingoils and stains. Wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of these chemicals on the clothing, and line dryinstead of using a dryer.
  • Avoid using liquid fabric softener on all-cotton clothing made of fleece, terry cloth, or velour. Inthe Consumer Reportsflammability tests,liquid fabric softener added to rinse water accelerated the burning speed of these fabrics. If you want a softener, use dryer sheets instead.
  • Buy dryers that use moisture sensors rather than ordinary thermostats to end the auto-dry cycle. Thermostats can allow the dryer to run longer than necessary.
  • Occasionally wipe the sensor with a soft cloth or cotton ball and rubbing alcohol to keep it functioning accurately. Sensorsare usually located on the inside of the dryer, just below the door opening, and can be hard to find. They are usually twocurved metallic strips, shaped somewhat like the letter "C".

OK, I'm sorry (well not really) that I just added something to your annual spring cleaning To Do List, but this is important. It's easy to forget, but has a very big consequence. If you don't want to deal with doing this yourself, here are two local companies that can help out. Quality Duct Cleaning in Westford (802) 893-7716 Chuck's Heating and Air Conditioning in Colchester

Edible Landscaping

I keep hearing this term "edible landscaping" or "foodscaping" and thought it was interesting so I did a little digging (ha!) According to Wikipedia, edible landscaping isa specialized form of gardening where ornamental plants are replaced by plants that have some food use. The range of plants is varied and can include fruiting shrubs, trees, ground cover as well as edible flowers, and may include an apiary. However, even Wikipedia noted that their entry needed more attention and definition - so this concept is still growing. foodscaping This picture is an example offoodscaping in Geneva, Switzerlandaccording to a Facebook sight titled "SEED - An Untold Story".Each yard is a vegetable garden and neighbors consult and plan what each will grow so they can trade. I thought this wasamazing! But living here in Vermont, I wanted to find out if anyone was specializing in this type of landscaping locally. Bingo! I had a conversation with Meghan Giroux, owner of Vermont Edible Landscape LLC just this morning. Meghan said that Vermont Edible Landscape works with clients to design, install and establish ecologically regenerative landscapes and that she was currently working on a project with Habitat for Humanity. She said they approach land management through an agrarian lens utilizing a variety of diverse biological disciplines. Her services include: Site Evaluation, Planning and Development. In addition to the land planningMeghan operates a small edible specific nursery in Richmond, Vermont.

Seaberry - a common plant used in Vermont edible landscaping

Seaberry - a common plant used in Vermont edible landscaping

If you think foodscaping or edible landscaping could be something you like to try, or just learn more about, give Meghan a shout. She canbe reached at 802-578-0829 or meghan@vermontediblelandscapes.com

Failed Window Seals

At property inspections I come across failed window seals quite often.For many first time home buyers this can be a completely new topic that they don't know much about, so I thought I would gather some information together here as a resource. This is what a failed window seal looks like.

Failed Window Seal

Failed Window Seal

The window will appear foggy, sometimes injust a corner andnomatter how much you clean it or what the temperature is, the fog remains. What is a seal anyway? The window seal refers to any part of the window installation that blocks out the exterior environment. Most often, the term seal is used for weatherization and energy efficiency applications, and usually refers to the sashes (in sliding windows) and lites (window panes). Why do window seals fail? Sometimes they fail for these reasons:
  • Pressure building between the two panes of glass during hot days (referred to as heat pumping)
  • Contracting/shrinking inthe colder months
  • Expansion and contraction of the sealant material itself
Seals fail most frequently on windows facing south or west due to longer exposure to the sun. Too much direct sunlight deteriorates the original sealing material more quickly than windows facing in other directions. When considering new windows, always opt for solid, long-term, transferable warranties (20-year warrantiesare preferred) because the windows will not only perform better for longer, but the transferable warranty also adds resale value. What do you do about it? First you would need to figure out where the seal is compromised or leaking. In some instances, a nice amount of caulking can do the trick but will look unsightly. The other option is to just replace the panes. Lastly, in some cases the window framing is the cause, possibly due to poor installation, and a new window might be the answer. In a majority of cases I see, a window's broken seal is due to old age, and therefore replacing the window for a more efficient one is the best option. As with any home repair, if you are not a DIYerconsultyour qualified inspector or ageneral contractor for guidance!

Don't Forget the Septic!

We get very comfortable doing "our business" in our home bathrooms and just assuming that little flusher is going to work every time....until it doesn't! Maintaining your septic system can easily get put to the back burner, but we're here to remind you that maintenance every 3-5 years is a MUST! Now if you live in a city center and are serviced by a public septic system, then more power to you. But for country folks on private systems, which is a majority of the state of Vermont, you need to take care of these things! Maintenance includes having atrained professional comeandboth pump yourseptic holding tank as well as inspect the tank and lines. Inour area, this can run from $200-$300 on averageand well worth the investment.Therecommendation of 3-5 years depends on the number of people living in the home and the amount ofusage the system is getting. Now even with private systems, there are still many different types such as conventional, mound and alternative, and a trained professional will know what's best, but here are some basic DON'Ts that we think any home owner can follow: 1) Garbage disposals are NOT recommended and please don't pour food or grease down the drain. 2) Bacteria additives such as yeast and RiD-X are not needed. Some additives will do more harm than good. (Yeast will only break down starches.) 3) Don't overuse cleaning chemicals -- it will kill the good bacteria in the system. 4) Above ground swimming pools or ice rinks should not be installed near or above your septic tank or leach fields. 5) Non-biodegradable items such as wipes, diapers, cigarette butts or feminine hygiene products should not be disposed of in the toilet. 6) Engine oil, gas turpentine or other non-biodegradable chemicals should not be poured down the drain. 7) Water softeners should not back flush/empty into the septic tank to self clean. This will add sulfides and chlorides to the septic system that will kill good bacteria. We hope these tips help and if you can't remember the last time you've had your septic pumped, call your local provider now before the ground is frozen. As an owner in the industry use to tell me, "A straight flush beats a full house anytime!".