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How to Hang a Hammock

How to Hang a HammockWhile we can’t promise that hanging your hammock will be as relaxing as actually laying in it, we’re here to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Here’s how to hang a hammock on your property for the ultimate spring resting spot.

Choose the Best Location for Your Hammock

Choosing the best location for your hammock is the most difficult part of the process. You’ll want to find two sturdy trees that are about the same distance apart as the length of your hammock when it’s fully stretched out. (It’s best to measure your distance before you get your heart set on a hammock that might not work.) If you happen to have the perfect place, lucky you! If your trees aren’t quite up to the task, you have a couple of options.

First, it’s important to note that having trees that are too far apart will give you better odds than trees that are too close together. That’s because trees that are too close together will cause the hammock to brush the ground when you lay in it. Trees that are a touch too far apart, however, can work as long as they’re not too far apart. While you can stretch a hammock to fit between trees, we don’t recommend using more than 18 inches of rope or chain on either end. Too much stretching can lead to ripping—or flipping.

Is Hanging Your Hammock Inside an Option?

Definitely. It’s just that instead of measuring the distance between two trees, you’ll measure the distance between two walls. Be prepared to drill holes into your walls, as this will give you the safest and most durable results.

Secure Your Hammock with the Right Suspension Materials

Once you’ve got the location figured out, you’ll need to find the right materials for suspending your hammock. Fortunately, you can buy kits for both indoor and outdoor hammock-hanging that contain everything you need, save for a few household tools.

For outdoors, we recommend using tree-fastening straps. This way, you can avoid drilling into your trees and potentially causing significant damage. For each tree, you’ll wrap the strap, pass it through the metal loop and then use an S-hook to attach either end of the hammock to the rings.

For indoors, your best bet is to purchase a complete kit made especially for hanging hammocks inside. This way, you can be sure that you won’t cause costly damage to your walls.

How High to Hang Your Hammock

What type of hammock do you have? This will determine how high you hang it.

Traditional Hammocks

Traditional hammocks hang loosely between two points, the center “drooping” down toward the ground. When you lay in them, you’ll feel “cocooned” since either side will collapse in around your shape. It’s best to hang traditional hammocks about six to eight feet off the ground to accommodate the center.

Hammocks with Spreader Bars

Hammocks with spreader bars on either end may be hung lower than traditional hammocks because they don’t have a center that hangs loosely. These hammocks should be hung taunt, or parallel, about four to five feet off the ground.

Now that you know the basics, you can hang your hammock quick and get straight to relaxing.

Call NPI Today to Schedule a Comprehensive Home Inspection

National Property Inspections provides a comprehensive report on all the major components of a home, including the foundation and roof, plus electric, plumbing and HVAC systems. Call us today to schedule an appointment for an inspection.

Your Deck Railing Height and Other Safety Stuff That Slipped Your Mind

Deck Railing Height and Other Safety Issues

Warm weather will be here before you know it (if it hasn’t arrived already), and that means backyard cookouts, sprinkler splashing and lots of hanging out on your deck. Is your deck up to the challenge, or could it use some TLC? We’ll show you everything you need to know to identify problems with your deck railing height and other structures before your first barbeque.

Start from the Ground Up

It helps to be methodical when you’re giving your deck its pre-season onceover, and we like to start from the ground up. Why? Because as far as wooden decks go (which are the vast majority), problems tend to start where wood comes in contact with soil. This doesn’t mean check the bottom and you’re done—other areas of your deck can exhibit safety issues as well, but problems that start at the ground are especially important because they can affect the whole structure.

1. Deck Footings

This is where your deck makes contact with the ground, so pay close attention to your footings. If your footings were poured correctly, the wooden deck posts should land on a pad of concrete that’s completely clear of any soil. If the deck builders really knew their stuff, you’ll also see a piece of metal with some bolts wrapped around the bottom of the post (this is called a post anchor, which attaches the post securely without it actually touching the concrete).

If you see your posts going directly into dirt, that’s a bad sign. Clear it away and check for any indications of rot—you can use a screwdriver to do this. Just press the tip of your screwdriver into the wood, and if it gives any more than ¼ inch, you’re probably dealing with some rotten wood that needs replacement.

If you notice your deck shifting or “heaving,” your concrete footings may not be deep enough. Footings need to be dug deep enough to reach 6 inches below the frost line, which can vary based on where you live – northern states may need 48 inch-deep footings, while warmer southern states can get away with shallower footings. Check with your local inspection office to determine the depth your footings should be.

2. Support Posts

These are the 4x4s or 6x6s that hold up the main structure of your deck, and can be composed of a number of types of wood, from pressure-treated lumber to cedar. Cedar is more prevalent because of its aesthetic value, but it’s also more prone to rot than treated lumber. Use the same screwdriver trick to check for wood decay at every height of these posts, and also pay close attention to signs of insect damage, which will usually appear as small holes or crumbly areas. If you spot insect damage, it’s best to call in a professional to discuss your options.

3. Stairs

Just like with your support posts, your stairs should come to rest at ground level on a concrete pad. If they don’t, check for signs of rot or insect damage with the screwdriver trick. Stairs should also have a consistent rise and run (meaning each stair has the same height and depth), to avoid accelerated trips down the stairs. According to code, each stair can be no more than 7-¾ inches high, and needs to have a depth of at least 10 inches so the majority of your foot can rest comfortably on the stair.

When it comes to stairs, you should also check for protruding nails and loose boards that could cause trips or other injuries. Sometimes the fix is as easy as hammering a nail back down, but be prepared to replace a board or two if necessary.

4. Deck Joist Frame

The joist frame on your deck can have some unique problems besides the usual rot and insect damage, and one of the most common we see are joists that are spaced too far apart. Joists spaced 16 inches on center (from the center of one joist to the center of the next) is normal. If they’re further apart this can lead to sagging deck boards, as most decking material isn’t strong enough to support spans greater than 16 inches. Some composite decking materials even require joists spaced 12 inches apart, so if you’re not sure how your deck compares, check with a professional to be sure.

While you’re investigating the joist frame, take a careful look at the ledger board, which is the board that connects the joist frame to your house. The ledger board should be secured firmly to the house by ½ inch lag bolts spaced equally between each joist. If you only see screws holding the ledger board in place, that’s a problem. A bigger problem is when the joist frame isn’t secured to the house at all, which is more common than you’d expect.

Since it can be easy for water to drip behind an improperly installed ledger board, you should check for signs of rot and water damage, too. If you see that the ledger board is damaged in any way, that’s a signal that some serious work needs to be done.

5. Deck Boards

On the floor of your deck, you’ll want to keep an eye out for loose nails or screws, splinters and other dangers for people walking barefoot on the deck. Check all the deck board splices for signs of decay, and make sure all splices are positioned on joists by placing a little pressure on them. If they don’t move, that’s great. If they squish, that might indicate some rot in the top of the joist. If they flex like a diving board, they’re not positioned on a joist and the boards should be replaced.

6. Deck Handrails

Your code-approved deck railing height can vary depending on where you live, but in most areas it’s 36 inches when measured from the deck surface to the top of the handrail. Commercial buildings that have decks or balconies have to follow the International Building Code (IBC), which requires deck rails to be 42 inches high.

Height isn’t the only consideration when you’re assessing the safety of your deck. For example, balusters should be placed no more than 4 inches apart (the width of an infant’s head) just to make sure no one ever gets stuck. Code can be less than 4 inches depending on your jurisdiction, so check with your local inspector to be sure.

National Property Inspections Helps You Keep Your Home Safe

At National Property Inspections we care about your family’s safety, which is why we offer comprehensive inspection services to assess the condition of all parts of your home. Call us today and book an appointment.

May 2018: The Outdoors

Ask The Inspector

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas to Plan Your Dream Cookout

Could your grill setup use a refresh? If you’ve been checking out your neighbor’s slick outdoor kitchen, we’ll show you the key things to keep in mind when planning your own. Learn More

The Best Birdfeeders for Every Backyard

When it comes to birdfeeders, there are a surprising number of options for attracting (and repelling) the right flock. Here, we break it down for you so you can choose the best type for inviting a variety of colorful birds to your backyard. Learn More

Expert Advice

Your Deck Railing Height and Other Safety Stuff That Slipped Your Mind

Is your deck up to the challenge of all those backyard barbeques that are just around the corner? We’ll show you everything you need to know to get your deck up to safety standards just in time for Memorial Day. Learn More

Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Any Yard

If you’re sick of devoting most of your free time to yardwork, it may be time to reevaluate your approach. Here are a few low-maintenance landscaping ideas that will help you have a beautiful yard with half the upkeep. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Our inspectors are constantly coming across interesting finds in the field. Sometimes they help us identify potential safety hazards, and sometimes they illustrate a maintenance DIY that didn’t quite go as planned. This month’s Snapshot from the Field is the latter.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The skylight on this 20-year-old metal roof was leaking like crazy. That’s because the homeowner attempted to seal it with the yellow spray foam insulation you see around the perimeter in order to keep bats out of the house. This caused significant damage to the flashing around the skylight and entire roof panels to pop up as a result!

This homeowner had the right idea when it comes to dealing with bats—every gap does need to be sealed up in order to prevent their entry into a home. But spray polyurethane foam is not recommended for use on roofing materials, nor is it recommended for use in such large quantities. The homeowner would have been better off ordering an inspection of the roof to discover any holes and then using a sealant recommended for use on roofing materials. Check and double-check your labels, and when in doubt, call a professional for advice.

Maintenance Matters

Speed Cleaning Tips for Your Busiest Days

Who has time to clean every day? Not us! Shave hours off your chore list with these room-by-room speed cleaning pointers. Learn More

How to Clean a Leather Couch in 4 Steps

When it comes to upholstery, leather is one of the most durable options out there. And while it doesn’t require a lot of routine maintenance, it does still need a little extra TLC from time to time. Find out how to clean your leather couch like a pro with these four simple steps. Learn More

How to Hang a Hammock

While we can’t promise that hanging your hammock will be as relaxing as actually laying in it, we’re here to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Here’s how to hang a hammock on your property for the ultimate spring resting spot. Learn More

Painting Upholstery: Easier and More Effective Than You Think

We have to admit, the idea of transforming a piece of furniture with paint seems too good to be true. Believe it or not, painting upholstery actually works! Learn how to achieve a soft, crack-free finish and the best results with the right technique. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

Question: What is the minimum height required for a deck railing on a residential deck, according to the most widely accepted code?

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

The Best Bird Feeders for Every Backyard

Best Bird Feeders for Every Backyard

If you’re just starting out with backyard bird watching, you’d think it would be easy. Get a feeder and some seed and they’ll come flocking, hopping and twittering your way in no time. It’s not so simple, though—depending on where you are and what kinds of birds you’re trying to attract (or repel), you have a lot of options to sift through to find the best bird feeder. We’ll explain just what combinations of feeder and seed you’ll need to attract a variety of colorful birds to your home.

Find Out Which Birds are Common to Your Region

When you don’t know much about the birds of your region, you turn to the experts—in this case that’s the Audobon Society with their Guide to North American Birds. Audobon gives you quick access to every bird that’s common to your area, along with their preferred diet and feeding behaviors so you can tell which type of feeder they’ll be attracted to. They even have recordings of the various calls and songs of every bird, which is pretty cool, too.

Types of Bird Feeders

Every type of bird feeder does the same job a little differently. They come in many varieties that are designed to house different types of seed or nectar and appeal to the feeding habits of different birds. Here’s a breakdown of each:

Tube Feeder

Composed of a hollow plastic cylinder with a number of ports that allow birds easy access to the seed stored inside, tube feeders also feature perches so birds can sit comfortably while they eat. Some tube feeders also have trays underneath to catch falling seed, as some bird species have a tendency to pick through seed to find the choice bits they’re looking for (we’re looking at you, blue jays).

Pros:

  • Keeps seed dry and clean
  • Versatile design attracts many different kinds of birds
  • Works with many types of seed

Cons:

  • Larger birds bully smaller ones away
  • Fairly easy for squirrels to access

Attracts: Sparrows, Chickadees, Finches, Grackles, Blue Jays, Vultures (just kidding)

Tray Feeder

Also known as a platform feeder, tray feeders are completely exposed to the elements, which makes them simultaneously one of the best for attracting birds and worst in terms of upkeep. Rain-soaked seed can begin to sprout or harbor mold, and tray feeders accumulate bird droppings like no other. You can avoid some of these downsides by getting a tray feeder that’s designed with a mesh bottom to promote drainage, and only filling it with enough seed to last birds a couple of days.

Pros:

  • One of the best feeders for attracting birds
  • Makes it easy for birds to find the seed they like

Cons:

  • Exposure to moisture promotes mold growth
  • Lots of bird droppings
  • Open design creates potential for seed waste

Attracts: Sparrows, Juncos, Towhees, Bluebirds, Cardinals

Ground Feeder

This shares the open design of a tray feeder, but instead of being attached to a post or rail or suspended by a chain, it’s elevated only slightly above the ground on four legs. This makes ground feeders perfect for birds who prefer to collect seed off the ground, but also leaves it open to other animals like squirrels, raccoons and even deer. Make sure to only offer enough seed for birds to eat for a day to help avoid attracting unwanted attention from other animals.

Pros:

  • The only design that caters to ground-foraging birds
  • Accessible for a wide variety of birds

Cons:

  • More accessible to pests and critters
  • Same problems as tray feeders with keeping seed clean and dry

Attracts: Blackbirds, Juncos, Quail, Doves, Sparrows, Roadrunners

Hopper or “House” Feeder

This might be what you picture when someone says “bird feeder.” Hopper feeders are covered by a roof that keeps the seed from getting wet, and this feature works fairly well, but the downside is that these feeders are harder to clean out when they do get wet or dirty. They can be mounted on poles or suspended, but it’s important to include a squirrel baffle in your setup to keep them out.

Pros:

  • Roofed design keeps seed dry and clean
  • Attractive to a wide variety of birds

Cons:

  • Hard to keep clean
  • Squirrel magnets

Attracts: Nuthatches, Doves, Jays, Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Buntings

Suet Feeder

Suet is a high-fat, high-protein food for insect-eating birds that comes in the form of a cake. Suet feeders feature a cage-like design with bare or plastic-coated wire mesh that holds the suet cake in place for birds to peck. They can be suspended or attached to trees. Suet can also be placed in mesh onion bags, although this does carry the risk of a bird’s talons becoming trapped in the fabric. For your backyard birds’ safety, we recommend using cage-style suet feeders.

Pros:

  • Only design that attracts insect-feeding birds
  • Easy set up
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Doesn’t attract seed-eating birds

Attracts: Woodpeckers, Titmice, Starlings, Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees

Nyjer or “Thistle” Feeder

These look like tube feeders but are made of a very fine wire mesh because they’re designed for holding thistle seeds, which would simply fall out of any other feeder. These tiny black seeds are high in protein, fat and fiber, so they’re an exceptional source of energy for a host of small birds. They are also heat-treated to prevent germination, so they won’t sprout if they fall on the ground.

Pros:

  • Preferred seed of many smaller birds
  • Squirrels don’t like it—they won’t even touch it

Cons:

  • Larger birds have a hard time with this feeder
  • A more expensive seed choice

Attracts: Finches, Sparrows, Buntings, Redpolls, Siskins

Nectar Feeder

The most specialized feeder on our list, nectar feeders are designed to hold the sugary liquid loved by hummingbirds and orioles. Hummingbirds drink nectar to fuel their incredibly high metabolism, but since it’s relatively poor in nutrients they also supplement their diet with various insects. Other types of birds won’t be attracted to this feeder, but catching sight of a hummingbird is more than enough reason to have one of these in your backyard.

Pros:

  • Attracts hummingbirds and other nectar-loving birds
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Nectar spoils fast, especially on warmer days

Attracts: Hummingbirds, Orioles, Warblers, Mockingbirds, Mimic Thrushes

For everything you ever wanted to know about your home, turn to National Property Inspections. We help you protect your investment with comprehensive assessments of each of your home’s systems.