July 2018: Ready Your Home

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Prune Your Trees

How to Prune Your Trees: The Beginner’s Guide

Trees are a beautiful part of your home’s landscape design, but they need care to look the best they can. Whether you want to prune your trees for aesthetics or because of safety concerns, we’ll show you the tools and techniques you need to do a great job. Learn More

The Best Way to Clean a Glass Cooktop Fast

Glass cooktops are nice, but they can also be hard to clean if something you’re cooking boils over. To save yourself some time and elbow grease, here’s the best way we’ve found to clean your glass cooktop fast. Learn More

How to Save Water: 4 New Ways to Cut Back

Turns out, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to water conservation and keeping your bills low. Learn more about how to save water, save money and be kinder to the planet with these four new tips and tricks. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

True or False: Running your dishes through the dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand.

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

How to Save Water: 4 New Ways to Cut Back

Most people focus on saving money on their monthly energy bill and neglect to think about water conservation almost entirely. We get it—you need to use water daily for household activities and the bill is typically pretty low to begin with. So what is there to think about? Turns out, a lot! Keep reading to learn more about how to save water, save money and be kinder to the planet.

The Future Isn’t Clear

According to the American Water Works Association, big plans are in store for the future of our infrastructure. Upgrades and add-ons to the tune of at least $1 trillion dollars are planned for the next couple of decades, and some of those costs are going to naturally fall back to the consumer. In fact, you may have already noticed a gradual (or not-so-gradual) uptick. Needless to say, it’s not a bad idea to practice good habits now so that they actually stick, should the going get tougher.

Check for leaks

Leaks are far and away the most common cause of a high water bill, and one leading culprit is a toilet that constantly runs. Before you get serious about water conservation, you should make sure that your toilets are in great working order, your plumbing is free of leaks and that all your pipes are connected properly. Your local NPI inspector can help, or you can hire a professional plumber. If you suspect an issue with your water meter, you’d also need to have a reader out as soon as possible to diagnose any problems.

Shorten your showers

For most of us, there’s nothing quite like a hot, leisurely shower, especially after a long day. While you can (and should!) still enjoy a daily hot shower, it’s best to cut back on the whole “leisure” thing. Shortening your shower by just four minutes can save up to 5,840 gallons of water a year and around $100. You can also save water by limiting baths or banning them in your house altogether. The average bath uses about 70 gallons of water, while the average shower uses just 10 to 25 gallons.

Stick to the dishwasher

As if we needed an excuse not to hand-wash dishes! While it seems counterintuitive, your dishwasher actually uses significantly less water than filling a sink with hot water and rinsing dishes individually. If you need to rinse off the dishes being loading them in the dishwasher, try filling a small tub in the sink with hot soapy water and soaking them.

Turn the tap off when you’re not using it

Do you absentmindedly leave the water running while you’re shaving or brushing your teeth? It’s time to break the habit. Not only is it a complete waste of water, it’s a waste of money, too. To rinse your razor, keep a cup of hot water nearby. Simply turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth and turn it back on when you need to rinse your brush or the sink.

Call NPI Today to Schedule Your Inspection

For a full assessment of your home’s condition, call National Property Inspections. Our inspectors have the training and knowledge to provide a full report on your home’s major systems.

The Best Way to Clean a Glass Cooktop Fast

Cleaning glass cooktops fastGlass cooktops are nice, but they can also be hard to clean if something you’re cooking boils over. Over time these messes get burnt on and become almost impossible to get off the surface by any normal means. To save yourself some time and elbow grease, here’s the best way we’ve found to clean your glass cooktop fast.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

Luckily, you don’t need any specialized tools or cleaning products to get your glass cooktop squeaky clean. The following household items are all you’ll need for every step of the job:

  • White vinegar (or any household cleaner)
  • Baking Soda
  • Dish soap (optional)
  • Towels
  • Razor blade

Step 2: Pre-Clean the Surface

Before you get to the burnt-on stuff, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a mostly clean surface. Once your burners are all cooled down, spray your glass cooktop with white vinegar (or whatever kitchen cleaner you have handy), and use a paper towel to remove any loose food debris. Easy, huh? On to step three.

Step 3: Apply Baking Soda

Once you have a clean and dry surface, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over your cooktop (enough to cover the whole surface with a thin layer). Baking soda is great to use for cleaning cooktops because it’s mildly abrasive yet won’t risk scratching the glass. Baking soda is also a bit alkaline, so it helps to break down any stuck-on deposits that the vinegar missed.

Step 4: Let Things Soak

You can go a couple different directions in this step. First, take a towel (big enough to cover your cooktop) and saturate it with hot water. If you want an even deeper clean, saturate the towel in hot water with a few drops of dish soap mixed in. Wring out the towel about halfway and spread it out over your stove. Depending on how heavy the burnt-on deposits you’re trying to remove are, leave things to soak for 15 to 30 minutes.

Step 5: Scrub

After giving the hot towel time to soften burnt-on stains, scrub the surface with the towel, rinsing and wringing it frequently. Repeat this until you see no more baking soda—this is probably as clean as it will get with scrubbing, so don’t waste your time and elbow grease trying to make it perfect with this step.

Step 6: Scrape

For those areas that are especially stubborn, you can use a razor blade to carefully scrape off any remaining debris. Make sure you’re using a fresh, sharp blade (preferably using a scraper handle for safety’s sake). Work in individual areas using small forward strokes—moving the blade side-to-side is a sure way to scratch the glass.

Step 7: Polish and You’re Done

When you’ve successfully removed all that annoying burnt-on crud, finish with a final spray of vinegar wiped down with a damp cloth. Hit it one last time with a dry, lint-free cloth and watch your stovetop shine like brand new!

Call National Property Inspections Today

NPI is your source for helpful advice for every home maintenance task. Our professional inspectors go even further when it comes time for you to buy or sell your next home. Give us a call today to set up an appointment.

How to Prune Your Trees: The Beginner’s Guide

How to prune a tree

Trees can be a beautiful part of your home’s landscape design, but they need care to look the best they can. Whether you want to prune your trees for aesthetics or because of safety concerns, we’ll show you the tools and techniques you need to do a great job.

When to Prune a Tree

There are many reasons to prune a tree—it stimulates healthy growth, can fend off disease and helps the tree take on its ideal shape. Well-pruned trees also end up producing more flowers and fruit in the long run, because they allow more sunlight and air to circulate between branches. Aside from the health benefits for the tree, you might have to trim back branches that aren’t safe anymore, like those overhanging your house or driveway. If you don’t know when or even how to begin, just follow these guidelines.

  1. If the tree or shrub is small enough (around 12 to 25 feet tall), you’ll probably be able to do the work yourself. On the other hand, if you think you’ll have to drag out the ladder and chainsaw, or if the branches you’re focusing on overhang your house, it may be a better idea to call in the pros.
  2. You can tell a tree needs pruning if its branches look tangled or thickly packed together. Take a close look at the tree to see if branches are rubbing against each other, competing for sunlight or growing back toward the center of the tree. These are the branches to focus on trimming back.
  3. For a tree that’s been neglected, the best time to trim branches is early spring, when they’re still bare or just starting to bud. You can more easily see what you’re doing, and branches heal better if you cut them before they start their yearly growth cycle. If you’re not ready to start in early spring, you can wait until the winter.
  4. Don’t prune your trees in the fall—this stimulates new growth right as the tree is preparing to go dormant, which weakens the tree. Cuts also stimulate sap to rise through the trunk and into freshly trimmed areas, which is bad news if it freezes.
  5. Don’t prune your trees when it’s wet outside—this promotes the spread of disease.

The Tools You’ll Need

Most of the tree-pruning tools you’ll need will take the form of either shears or saws, though there are many varieties that are suited to different applications. Depending on the trimming project you’re working on, you may need one or all of these tools:

  • Pruning Shears: These handheld shears are the most common pruning tool, and they come in 3 styles—anvil, ratchet and bypass. Bypass shears function just like scissors with two cross-cutting blades, anvil shears work with one chopping blade, and ratchet shears are best for those who want to avoid wrist strain. Pruning shears can cut through branches up to ¾ inch thick.
  • Loppers: Loppers work like shears, but with much longer handles and thicker, heavy-duty blades. Because of its increased leverage, this tool is designed to take care of branches and vines up to 2½ inches thick.
  • Pruning Saw: There are many different styles of pruning saws, but they all serve the same purpose—powering through heavier branches that are too much for shears and loppers, up to 5 inches in diameter.
  • Hedge Shears: These have longer, scissor-like blades and handles that aren’t quite as long as loppers. They’re designed to quickly shape bushes, shrubs and evergreens.
  • Pole Pruner: With an 8-foot handle, a pole pruner lets you clean up dead twigs in trees higher than you can reach with any other tool. It’ll cut anything up to 1¼ inches thick, including power lines, so be careful where you swing this thing.

The Proper Tree-Pruning Technique

  • DON’T: Start trimming without a plan.
  • DO: Identify the largest cuts you’ll need to make and do those first, focusing on smaller cuts at the end.
  • DON’T: Prune from the outside, trimming the ends off the branches to shape the tree.
  • DO: Start at the inside of the tree near the trunk, working toward the outer branches.
  • DON’T: Cut healthy branches without a good reason.
  • DO: Cut branches that look diseased, show signs of bark wear from rubbing against other branches, or are growing in odd directions (vertical, back toward the trunk, etc.)
  • DON’T: Cut too close or too far away from the trunk. Cutting too close to the trunk creates a large wound in the tree that will have trouble closing. Cutting too far away leaves a stub of branch that won’t heal over with protective bark. This exposed end allows insects and disease a way into the tree.
  • DO: Make your cuts at the branch collar, the furrow of bark where the trunk and branch meet. Cutting here stimulates the tree to create a protective callous over the cut. Trim at the same angle the branch has been growing.
  • DON’T: Make a cut on a diseased tree then move to a healthy tree without cleaning your blade.
  • DO: Clean your blade with alcohol after pruning a diseased tree. This keeps you from passing fungus or other blight to healthy trees.
  • DON’T: Trim too much—it’s easy to get carried away with pruning, but you can damage or even kill your tree by taking off too much at once.
  • DO: Trim just as much as the tree needs it. If you’re not sure how much is appropriate to take off, always go with the “less is more” approach. There’s always next year, but not if you kill your tree.

Call National Property Inspections Today

From home maintenance tips to full home inspections, National Property Inspections helps you keep your home in top shape. Call us today to set up an appointment.