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.

Solid vs. Hollow: A Quick Primer on Door Types

Door TypesWe’ve talked before about how new doors can do wonders for your home’s curb appeal and give the interior a more modern look. But there’s more to consider besides color and style. You’ll want to know about the different door types and which one is best-suited for your needs.

Hollow Door Types: Interior Use Only

The first rule of door shopping is to reserve hollow doors for interior use only. While these door types aren’t technically hollow (they have a fiberboard honeycomb structure inside to prevent warping), they’re still lightweight. This means an intruder could easily break them in with a blunt object – something we all need to avoid.

Hollow core doors are inexpensive, lightweight and easy to install, but they do have a few drawbacks. For one, sound can travel easily through a hollow door. If soundproofing is of special concern in your home, you’ll want to choose solid doors (which we’ll get to in a moment). Also, if you haven’t found the perfect finish and plan to do some refurbishing work, you may want to reconsider hollow doors. The surface of a hollow door is only about one eighth of an inch thick. This doesn’t account for much, if any sanding.

So what are hollow doors good for? Many homeowners prefer to opt for this low-cost alternative for utility rooms, laundry rooms, closets, basements and other areas where soundproofing and aesthetics aren’t as important. Depending on the size of your home, you could save hundreds of dollars!

Splurge on Solid Wood Doors

One cursory peek at door prices at your local home improvement store will tell you that solid wood doors can be significantly more expensive than other options. But there are several reasons why solid wood doors might be a valuable investment for your home.

First, solid wood doors are attractive, and they’re sturdy. They’re weighted well and give your home an elevated feel. Solid wood doors are also durable and can withstand years of heavy use. Among the various door types, they provide the most insulation, making them excellent for your energy bill. These insulating capabilities extend beyond energy to sound – with solid wood doors, you likely won’t need additional soundproofing (unless you happen to have a full-time musician in your midst). And if you plan to sell soon, solid wood doors could help you name a higher asking price.

Solid Core Doors: The Perfect Compromise

With solid core doors, hollow core doors and solid wood doors meet in the middle to create yet another option that might just help you experience the best of both worlds. Only moderately more expensive than hollow core doors, solid core doors have the potential to provide just as much soundproofing as the solid wood variety. They have a solid fiberboard core, which gives them more weight and sturdiness, as well as a surface that allows for some finishing work.

National Property Inspections Can Help You Find Hidden Repairs in Your Home

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Finally: The Best Way to Clean Windows

Window CleaningEver thought you did a great job washing your windows, only to return to streaky glass once everything is dry? Most of us can attest to just how annoying those streaks are. That’s why we researched the best way to clean windows once and for all. Here’s how to get a clear, sparkling finish each and every time.

Get the Right Equipment

One thing you’ll need to invest in for this project is a small squeegee, preferably with a long, detachable handle. You should be able to find a high-quality squeegee for right around $20 at your local hardware store, with higher-end models costing up to about $40 and more basic models available for as low as $5. We recommend a squeegee with a durable rubber blade for the best results.

Here’s the complete equipment list. All these items are inexpensive and readily available at just about any big box or hardware store:

  • Squeegee, as mentioned above, with extra blades just in case
  • A five-gallon plastic bucket
  • Dishwashing liquid, like Dawn or similar
  • Scrubber or sponge
  • Lint-free rags or towels

Get Prepped

Fill your five-gallon plastic bucket with two gallons of cool water and a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. That’s all there is to it!

Get Started with the Best Way to Clean Windows

Step 1

Dip your scrubber or sponge in the bucket of solution and be sure to wring out the excess water. Scrub the glass all the way to the edge and be sure not to skip an inch. You’ll want to use different angles and really get in there. This helps get rid of the patterns of dust and dirt that rain and wind can cause. Once you feel as though you’re done scrubbing, it’s time to grab that squeegee.

Step 2

Start by cleaning a narrow strip of glass vertically on one side (think a one- or two-inch strip closest to the frame on one side). To do this, tilt the squeegee so that only a corner comes in contact with the glass, then drag downward. Repeat on the other side. This will help ensure you get the soap solution off every bit of the glass.

Step 3

Next, drag the squeegee across the top of the glass horizontally. You’ll need to make sure you keep the top of the squeegee in contact with the top edge of the window.

Step 4

This next part is super important: be sure to wipe the rubber blade of the squeegee on a lint-free cloth or towel after every pass across the window. While it might just be the most tedious part of washing windows, if you don’t wipe the blade, you risk moving the dirt and debris around and creating those infamous streaks we mentioned earlier.

Step 5

Continue to work down the window horizontally, overlapping the previous stroke. As you work your way down, you’ll probably notice excess water accumulating near the bottom of the glass. Taking time to remove these drips is another key step in preventing streaks. Take a clean lint-free cloth or towel and run it along any areas that appear to have water droplets.

And repeat, repeat, repeat till all your windows are shining! If you have to break out the ladder to reach upper stories, we recommend using a ladder stabilizer, and better yet, requesting the help of a friend or family member.

You can use this method to clean the inside of your windows, too. You’ll just need to take a few extra precautions to avoid getting water and cleaning solution everywhere. Try laying down a tarp under any window you happen to be working under.

National Property Inspections Helps You Invest with Success

NPI is your authority on all things home maintenance. Our inspectors have the knowledge and expertise to assess the major components of a home, helping you make the best choice when it comes to buying and selling real estate. Call us today to schedule your appointment.

8 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home This Spring

Some of us are in the throes of it and some of us are just starting to experience the first twinges. For many, spring means allergy season and dealing with irritating symptoms for weeks on end. Today, we’ll let you in on our best tips for creating an allergy-proof home during pollen season and well beyond.

1. Find out what you’re allergic to

Don’t take a stab in the dark when it comes to allergies! For red, itchy eyes, sneezing, shortness of breath and other symptoms, you’ll need to consult with your physician about testing and treatment options. Not only can finding out exactly what you’re allergic to help you save significantly on medication and health care costs, it’ll let you know precisely where to start when it comes to making a more allergy-proof space for your family.

2. Allergy-proof your mattress

Dust and dust mites are a leading allergen for many individuals all year long. Dust and its mites are more likely to gather and multiply in and around your mattress, bedding and bed itself than almost anywhere else in your home. That’s because a dust mite’s favorite food happens to be skin flakes. As humans, we’re constantly shedding and regenerating microscopic skin cells.

3. Consider taking up your carpet

Carpet can harbor all sorts of allergens, including dust, pet dander and pollen. Even steam cleaning won’t always eradicate the problem, and debris can re-accumulate quickly. If you have severe allergies, you may want to consider replacing all the carpet in your home with hardwood floors. If you’d like to work your way through the house one room at a time, we recommend starting with the bedroom so you’ll be able to breathe more easily at night right away. While it’s a big project, your nose and lungs will thank you.

4. Instate a “no shoes” policy

Shoes are a surprisingly big culprit when it comes to bringing allergens into the home. Just think: one stroll around the park, followed by a stroll through your living room and you’re really playing into that whole “keep your enemies closer” thing. Even worse if you tend to spend a lot of time on the floor. To keep most of the bad stuff out of your house, place two mats, one just outside and one just inside each main entrance to your home. This way, no one has any excuse not to wipe their feet. You can also place a rack or a cubby system beside each entrance for footwear storage. Then, and most importantly, be firm on a no-shoes-in-the-house rule.

5. Make a habit of cleaning on a weekly basis

It turns out that the age-old adage, “A clean home is a happy home,” is true. Clean conditions are proven to help keep common allergens at bay, and using all-natural cleaning products can improve air quality even more. The main tasks you’ll want to focus on are keeping all floors (carpet, hardwood, tile, linoleum and rugs) swept and clean, as well as all surfaces that tend to collect dust wiped down. It also helps to cut down on clutter. Think of it this way: the more stuff you have, the more places for dust, mites, dander and pollen to settle.

6. Lower the humidity in your home and change your filters

Most allergens thrive in warm, humid conditions. Eliminating humidity can go a long way toward eliminating allergens in your home. In fact, the dryer, the better. You’ll likely need to install a household-wide dehumidifier or buy several freestanding units for your home. It’s best to keep the humidity level at between 30 and 50 percent. You should also change out your HVAC system’s filters monthly and keep your windows closed on particularly humid days.

7. Rethink your pet care strategies

If someone in your home has a severe pet allergy, you may sadly have to rethink having pets altogether. (Don’t worry, you can always volunteer at your local animal shelter!) If the allergy is mild to moderate, you can keep your furry friends around with a few adjustments. First, you’ll want to keep pets out of your home’s bedrooms as much as possible. You’ll also need to vacuum more often than if you had a pet-free home. Think every other day. Even better is to install hardwood floors. Lastly, keep pets off all furniture and bathe and brush them weekly to minimize dander.

8. Avoid toxic air fresheners

A lot of plug-in air fresheners, sprays and even candles contain harsh chemicals that can make breathing comfortably more difficult for those with allergies. To clear the air, eliminate any items in your home that are made with synthetic fragrance. For a fresh, natural way to scent your home, mix water and a few drops of essential oils in a spray bottle and spray on absorbent surfaces.

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Your Simple Spring Lawn Care Guide

Spring Lawn Care GuideEveryone wants a lush, green lawn when springtime comes around, and luckily it’s easy to accomplish with some simple care and maintenance. Here’s your spring lawn care guide to help you get the best grass in the neighborhood!

Clean Up Your Yard

Your grass has been lying dormant all winter, so to give it the best environment possible for healthy growth in the spring, you need to do some simple cleanup. That means picking up branches and other fallen debris, raking up any leaves you may have missed last fall, and clearing any thatch that’s accumulated. Wait, what’s thatch? As individual blades of grass die, they fall and form a matted layer on the soil of your yard. If the thatch layer gets thick enough it can cause real problems for the health of your lawn, so it’s important to get rid of it periodically by giving your grass a deep, thorough raking.

Address Bare Spots in Your Lawn

Whether you’re dealing with dog pee spots, heavy traffic areas or insect larvae infestations, you want every square inch of your yard looking its best. This starts with overseeding your lawn, or applying grass seed to the bare spots. Spring isn’t the ideal time to overseed (it’s better to do it in the fall when new grass won’t have to compete with crabgrass and weeds), but if your situation is grim you can still do it.

Before seeding, you’ll need to apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. Once you see that the grass has sprouted, wait five weeks, then apply quick-release nitrogen fertilizer for best results.

One thing to remember—in the spring, you have to choose between seeding and weed prevention. Any pre-emergent herbicides you put down will last for around 12 weeks, and they don’t differentiate between weed seed and grass seed (they stop both from germinating). You need to give your newly planted grass at least four mowing cycles before using other types of herbicide, too, to prevent killing the sprouts.

Prevent Weeds

If you don’t have any bare spots and seem to have the opposite problem—things won’t stop growing!—you need to determine your plan of attack. One weed-killing strategy won’t work for all types of weeds, so you need to figure out which ones you’re dealing with.

Annual weeds spread by seed each year. They grow from seeds either deposited by last year’s weed plants or by birds or other foragers who drop them in your yard. Crabgrass, bindweed, purple deadnettle, speedwell, knotweed and yellow oxalis are all examples of annual weeds. These types of weeds are best dealt with using pre-emergent herbicides, which work by halting the seed’s germination before it has a chance to sprout.

Perennial weeds like dandelions, burdock, ground ivy, quackgrass, thistle and ragweed are more difficult to purge from your lawn, because they can sprout either from seed or by their root systems. In other words, if you pull a perennial weed and miss any tiny part, it can and will grow back. Perennial weeds also tend to grow deep taproots, which means that hoeing and tilling don’t work to get rid of them, either. Use a broadleaf herbicide to kill perennial weeds without harming your grass, or you can choose to pull them by hand (just make sure you get the whole weed).

Check Your Mowing Habits

If you usually cut your grass at your mower’s lowest setting so you don’t have to mow so often, you should know this isn’t good for your lawn’s health. So what’s the right height? It can depend on the type of grass you have—cool-season grass should be maintained at a height of 2.5 to 4 inches, while warm-season grass generally fare better with heights of 1 to 3 inches.

It’s easy to get in the habit of mowing your lawn the same way every time, but it’s better to switch things up and run the mower in different patterns each time. Why? If you don’t, you’ll most likely end up with unsightly ruts in your lawn caused by the wheels of your mower.

Call National Property Inspections Today!

From lawn care tips to HVAC advice and everything in between, National Property Inspections helps you maintain a safe and beautiful household. Call us to schedule your inspection today.

7 New Homeowner Tips You Need Right Now

New Homeowner Tips

Owning your first home can be an exciting time, but there’s a lot we wish we’d known going in! Here are seven new homeowner tips that will get you started on the right foot.

1. Save extra money now

You may think that the hard part’s done once you hand over your down payment, but you should still be saving about 1 to 3% of your home’s value per year to cover unexpected repairs. For a $250,000 house that’s between $2,500 and $7,500 a year, or between $208 and $625 a month. That may seem like a lot now, but when your washing machine breaks or your roof gets damaged in a spring storm, you’ll be happy you have the extra cash on hand.

2. Focus on one project at a time

Owning your first home can be a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to tackling everything you want to do to make it truly your own. Rather than taking on too much at once, make a list of priorities and work on them one at a time. This way you can really think about which projects need to be taken care of right now and which ones can wait. Start with any repairs that can head off bigger problems down the road, such as replacing old windows that risk water intrusion. Aesthetic improvements can wait until you have the budget set aside for them.

3. Make sure you’re properly insured

Most mortgage lenders require you to carry insurance that covers the entire cost of your home in case of total loss, but just because you have this doesn’t mean you’re as covered as you could be. Depending on where your home is, you may need to think about things like flood insurance (because homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage), and it’s always a good idea to carry adequate life insurance coverage so your family doesn’t lose the home if you die unexpectedly. If you have any questions about how much insurance coverage you need, seek out a local insurance agent who’s familiar with your area to get personalized advice.

4. Know what’s in your walls before you hammer a nail

You’re excited to start making your new house into a home, but before you start hanging your art collection, you need to have a good idea of what’s in your walls. It’s not just empty space—in fact, there’s a complex network of different systems that keeps your home running smoothly just behind your drywall (or plaster, or what have you). Besides structural components like wall studs, there are things like air ducts, electrical conduits and water lines that, if punctured, would lead you to have a really bad day. You can use a stud finder (invest in one that also detects metal) to locate any wiring or pipes before you start decorating.

5. Keep your furnace in top shape

Maintaining your furnace is one of the most important steps you can take as a new homeowner. As it turns out, it’s also pretty easy to extend the life of a furnace with a couple of steps. First, make a point of replacing your air filters regularly. These should be changed out every 1 to 3 months depending on the amount of dust and other airborne pollutants you deal with in your area. This will keep your system working efficiently, extending the life of your furnace and improving overall air quality in your home, which is especially important if you suffer from allergies.

Second, most furnace manufacturers recommend having a furnace tune-up performed every year. This will help catch any problems with the system early, so you’re not surprised by the furnace breaking down on the coldest night of the year.

6. Know where your main water shutoff valve is

If you ever find yourself with a broken faucet or cracked pipe that’s gushing water, the fastest way to stop the flow is to turn off your home’s main water valve. The thing is, most homeowners don’t even know where that valve is. Don’t be like them—get to know your home’s main water shutoff valve, where it is and how to turn it off in an emergency.

7. Study up on your drain traps

Notice a strange sewage smell around your new house? It could be coming from an empty drain trap. Every sink and floor drain comes equipped with a drain trap (that U-shaped bit of pipe that comes straight down from the drain opening). The drain trap is designed to hold water, creating a seal that keeps sewer gas from coming up into your house. If you don’t use a sink or drain very often, this water seal can evaporate and let sewer gas through the pipe. Luckily the solution is simple—just pour about a gallon of water down the drain to refill the trap and the smell should disappear.

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6 Remodel Ideas for an Easy-to-Clean Bathroom

Bathroom Remodel Ideas

Nobody likes a germy bathroom, and luckily you don’t have to put up with one if you remodel with the right materials. Here are six of our favorite bathroom remodel ideas that will help you keep a clean and shiny bathroom with a lot less scrubbing.

1. Go Groutless

One of the most notorious materials for collecting mold, mildew and other nasties is grout, so why not get rid of it where you can? When you’re remodeling, consider larger tiles with narrow grout lines. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when your hours of laborious scrubbing shrink to minutes.

If you want to say goodbye to grout for good, you can opt for glass or stone veneer surfaces instead of tile. They come in large sheets that are cut to size, so for most areas you can use one sheet with no grout lines at all! These are more expensive, but the tradeoff could be worth it to eliminate this pesky chore and maintain a cleaner bathroom overall.

2. Get a Great Exhaust Fan

Bacteria loves moist places, and if your exhaust fan is underpowered (or you just don’t have one), your bathroom becomes the perfect breeding ground. To determine which kind of fan you’ll need, you need to understand how they’re rated. Look on the box for the amount of cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air each fan moves—if your bathroom is 50 square feet, you’ll want one that’s rated at 50 CFM. If it’s 100 square feet, you’ll want a 100 CFM model. For especially large bathrooms, you may need two fans placed strategically in different areas. From there you’ll have many other options, too, from lights and heaters to motion sensors.

Apart from reducing mold and bacteria growth in your bathroom, a new exhaust fan will also help reduce other signs of excess moisture like cracking paint, peeling wallpaper and warped cabinets.

3. Vinyl Wall Coverings

Trading in your bathroom wall coverings for a vinyl alternative will also make your cleaning routine faster and easier. Vinyl has traditionally carried a stigma of low quality or utility over aesthetics, so we understand if you’ve been hesitant to make the switch in the past. New vinyl wall coverings come in a wide variety of textures, colors and patterns that feel rich to the touch and wipe down easily with little more than a damp cloth. It’s also fairly inexpensive compared to other options like tile, glass or stone. With so many benefits, vinyl warrants a serious look if you want a bathroom that’s easy to clean.

4. A One-Piece Toilet

Cleaning deep down in the cracks and crevices of your toilet is hard work, arguably the worst task you have when it comes to keeping a clean bathroom. You can scratch this task from your routine by replacing your current model with a one-piece toilet. They’re exactly what you’d think – one piece of smooth porcelain with no cracks or crannies for bacteria to hide. You can even find models that hug the wall, eliminating that hard-to-clean space between the back of the toilet and the wall.

5. Open Up Your Space

To make cleaning as easy as possible, it’s best to clear your space and get everything possible off the floor. This is where wall-mounted sinks and toilets, as well as soaking tubs with minimal footprints, come in handy. These features not only make small bathrooms feel more spacious, they’ll also go a long way in keeping you off your hands and knees. No more straining to reach those dark corners!

6. No-Touch Faucets

No longer just for public restrooms, no-touch faucets are becoming popular in health-conscious bathroom remodels. Not having to touch your bathroom faucet limits the spread of bacteria and makes for much easier cleaning. Pair this feature with a wall-mounted faucet and you have an upscale sink with maximum counter space and no corners to clean.

Call National Property Inspections Today!

National Property Inspections helps you keep a clean and healthy home. We also perform full inspections to give you complete peace of mind when buying or selling a home. Call your NPI inspector today to book an appointment.