ESSENTIAL WINTER HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST ITEMS TO START NOW

It’s that time of year again when the days are shorter and the cold air means your home and family are going to start feeling the drop in the temperatures. While we all love the idea of cozying up around a warm fireplace while it’s blustery cold outside, most of us don’t enjoy our heating unit dying on the coldest night of the year! This season of colder weather termed the “hibernation season” is the hardest on your plumbing and HVAC systems, as well as on your family’s comfort. American Home Shield and I have compiled an essential winter home maintenance checklist that will help your home get ready for the hibernation season instead of suffering through it in regret. We also give you some handy tips for organization to ensure your family is ready for canceled school days and winter vacation.

Try these Plumbing Tips Before it Gets Too Cold: Protect Plumbing Guide from American Home Shield

For most homeowners, the thought of having to check your plumbing pipes inside and outside of the house is only thought of right before the first freeze of the season. The hibernation season means colder temperatures and this is the time to ensure your plumbing lines are ready:

1. Water Heater Home Maintenance: Before the cold season fully sets in consider draining your water heater from sediment that has built up. Over time small pieces of sediments similar to small grains of sand can slowly shorten the life of your water heater. Consider draining it during before winter temperatures plunge below freezing and your water heater has to work harder.

This hot water heater maintenance video from American Home Shield can help.

2. Plumbing Pipes: Leave water dripping in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room and any room you have sinks when temperatures are expected to plunge below freezing. Open under counter cabinet doors around pipes to keep air circulating.

3. Garden and Drain Hoses: Now that the weather is getting colder it is time to disconnect your garden hoses before water freezes inside of them! Disconnecting the hoses also helps your faucet not back up into your internal plumbing system inside your home when frozen.

  • Preventative Measures: For exterior water pipes and pipes consider covering them with insulated sleeves. These will help your pipes stay warmer than the outdoor freezing temperatures.

Ensure your Fireplace is Ready for a Warm, Crackling Fire:

When temperatures get cold many homeowners rely on their wood burning fireplaces to help heat their homes. Unfortunately, many accidents occur during the winter season due to dirty chimneys and improper ventilation can cause smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation. Here are some tips to make sure your fireplace is ready:

4. Winter Home Maintenance: Hire a professional chimney sweep: While there are creosote sweeping logs you can burn in your fireplace to remove creosote from your chimney, it is still important to have a professional take care of what you can’t see.

  • A chimney sweep will:
    • Inspect your chimney, smoke ducts, flue pipes
    • Help prevent soot fires and gas emissions by inspecting the firebox, smoke shelf and other areas of your fireplace that you can’t reach.

5. Tips you can do for fireplace safety: Once your fireplace is professionally cleaned each season try and keep the firebox free of soot and ashes before you start a new fire.

  • Open a window: When using a fireplace allow for fresh air into your home to prevent smoke build-up. Don’t worry the air coming in will go up through the chimney.
  • Keep flammable items away: Ensure furniture, throw rugs and blankets, pillows and other furnishings are at least 4-5 feet away from the fireplace while in use.

Keep your House Warm and Air Clean with these HVAC Maintenance Tips:

Your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system (HVAC) are one of the most important systems in your home as it controls the comfort level, humidity, and quality of air in your household. During the colder months, your heating system or furnace can run double duty trying to compete with the outdoor temperatures. These American Home Shield recommended maintenance tips should be checked now to ensure a comfortable winter.

6. Hire an HVAC professional to inspect system: Each season your system should be inspected to ensure it’s working up to its potential. Higher energy bills and your home having problems heating and cooling could be signs of a larger problem.

7. Change your air filters monthly: This tip is one of the easiest because it doesn’t involve a professional and you can do it yourself. Check for the air filter size on the air handler unit and keep a few in storage so they’re no excuses when it’s time to change.

This American Home Shield video will show you

how to replace a furnace filter:

8. Learn how to properly use your thermostat: Many homeowners assume they know how to use their thermostat but several thermostats, especially Smart thermostats can actually learn your behaviors and lifestyle habit and adjust to save you energy. Take time to educate yourself and your family on how to properly use your thermostat before the cold weather sets in.

Organize and Clean your Home Before your Family Stays Indoors:

Each winter the opportunity for your family to stay in the house for longer periods of time is inevitable.Whether you’re getting ready for extended family and friends for the holidays or you’re gearing up for snow days from school, these organizing and cleaning tips from American Home Shield will help.

9. Clean out the kitchen and pantry: Have you noticed around hibernation season is when we like to cook, eat and entertain more? Your kitchen becomes the main hub of activity and cleaning out your refrigerator, pantry and utensil drawers will help the chef and family find exactly what they need. Throw out expired food in storage cabinets and why not install new shelf paper where one-too-many containers have spilled?

Food ingredients and green herbs on modern kitchen countertop.

Food ingredients and green herbs on modern kitchen countertop.

10. Declutter closets and entertaining rooms: Playing board games, video games, watching television and lounging around the family room are popular pastimes throughout the colder season. Before the chill sets in why not purge old toys and magazines? Donate old coats, boots and winter weather in your hall closet and give to charity or your local church. Visit your local discount store and stock up on new games, crossword puzzles and adult coloring books for those cold nights when the electricity goes out.

This hibernation season is going to be cold, but before it sets in you will be prepared with these home maintenance tips to ensure your family is warm, healthy and comfortable. If you’d like to find more tips from American Home Shield on preparing your home for winter, take a look at this video:

Is your home protected in case of an unforeseen problems occurs? American Home Shield can help with a home warranty. It can repair and replace all of your broken appliances and home systems.

Whether you are ensuring your plumbing and HVAC systems are working properly or you’re gearing up for more time indoors, you will be ready this winter season.

 

Posted by Ronique Gibson on stagetecture

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Generate Sales Heat for Your Home With a Cozy Fireplace

If you want to generate sales heat for your home, don’t neglect the fireplace: A cozy fireplace is often on the top of a home buyers’ wish list.

Generate Sales Heat for Your Home With a Cozy Fireplace

Fuse/Thinkstock

In fact, a working fireplace with a classic design and mantle can add as much as $12,000 to the value of your home, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

No one wants a fireplace that emits smoke and gases into the home, has a crumbling chimney or is an eyesore. However, a functional fireplace and beautiful mantle can add ambience and overall value to your home at a relatively modest cost.

Here are three reasons why a fireplace can fuel higher home prices.

Cold Climate Necessity

In colder climates, a fireplace is a necessity. While it may not be the home’s primary or only heat source, a fireplace can provide welcome relief if a winter storm happens to knock out power and gas.

Additional Warmth

In any climate, potential buyers are drawn to fireplaces because they provide a sense of hearth and home. Even if a fireplace won’t be used frequently, it can provide a focal point for the living room or entire house.

California is usually warm, for example, but it’s difficult to sell a new house there without a fireplace—even if it’s used no more than three days of the year, says Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders.

Because a contractor can easily install a gas fireplace—and you no longer need to vent fireplaces through a wall to the outside with a masonry chimney—you now can find fireplaces throughout the house.

You may even see them in bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as in living rooms and family rooms.

Financial Value on Budget

If your existing fireplace looks burned out, a cleaning and upgrade are worth the expense. You don’t want an unsafe fireplace leading to a failed home inspection. The cost of adding a fireplace in a home without one will likely pay off in the long run.

The typical cost of a standard gas fireplace is $600 to $3,000 without installation. Electric fireplaces run about $1,200 to $1,500, and they usually generate enough heat to take the edge off one or two rooms. Re-lining an old chimney is typically less than $5,000.

This article is updated from a previous version by Al Heavens. Published by Patricia Anne-Tom on realtor.com.

Makeover Tips for Ugly Fireplaces

Fireplaces are hotter than ever. The National Association of Home Builders reports that, in 2010, nearly half of new single-family homes completed had a fireplace. And the National Association of Realtors say 40 percent of home buyers value fireplaces enough that they’d be willing to spend more to get a home that has one. To be clear: attractive fireplaces are hot. Outdated, poorly designed fireplaces are not. If your fireplace is more “Ugly Stepsister” than “Cinderella,” consider prettying it up using one of these four do-it-yourself fixes:

1. Make over the mantel

Even the most gorgeous fireplace won’t look complete without an appealing, well-proportioned mantel. You can build your own or, if you’d prefer, there are many paint-grade, fully assembled mantels on the market. Readybuilt Products, for example, offers more than 50 mantel styles, from Colonial to contemporary, priced at $350 to $2,500.

Be aware that the National Fire Protection Association’s safety code requires at least six inches between the sides and top of the firebox and any wood that projects up to one and a half inches from the face of the fireplace. Any wood that projects out further than that – a mantel shelf, for example – must be at least 12 inches from the opening. Contact your local building department for specific code requirements in your city and state.

2. Go faux

Living room and fireplace.

Covering an existing fireplace with natural stone can be both expensive and difficult, requiring masonry skills, structural engineering and specialized tools. So, instead of heavy river rocks, consider faux stone. Yes, it’s hard to forget that hideous plastic-looking brick and stone from your grandparents’ home, but today’s products are oh, so much better. They actually have the same look, feel and durability of real stone – without the high costs or installation challenges. Plus, they typically weigh about 75 percent less than natural stone. Some stone veneers will require demolition of the existing fireplace surround before you prep for installation with a layer or two of building paper, covered by galvanized wire lath. Others, like AirStone, can be applied directly to substrate including brick, ceramic tile, stone, stucco or concrete block. Before investing in any manufactured stone product, make sure it and the adhesive required to install it are safe for use around wood stoves and fireplaces. Check local and state building codes to ensure your project meets requirements.

3. Paint it

A fresh coat of paint is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to beautify your fireplace. Prep is simple: Begin by using a wire brush to get all the grime off the hearth surface. Apply a stain-blocking primer to the clean fireplace before you paint to help cover soot stains. Most fireplace hearths are made from tile, stone or bricks held together by mortar or grout. It’s likely you’ll need to apply at least two coats of paint to cover these surfaces, especially brick, which tends to be porous. If you plan to paint inside the firebox, you’ll need to invest in a special heat-resistant paint. Choose a color that will blend with the room’s palette and furniture or, if the fireplace shape and design aren’t bad, choose a contrast color that will make your fireplace pop.

4. Don’t overlook the overmantel

Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a fireplace – it’s just not special. With basic do-it-yourself skills, you can give your fireplace visual interest and height by adding an overmantel, that ornamental structure that extends from your mantel upward. You can build an overmantel using MDF (medium-density fiberboard), and trims ranging from cladding to corbels, depending upon the look you’re after. For the look of an overmantel with even less work, consider installing two or three strips of wallpaper from your mantel to the ceiling; finish the project with a couple strips of wood trim along the sides and crown molding at the top. Traditionally, overmantels were dressed with decorative mirrors.

This article was originally published by Mary Boone on Zillow Blog.  To see the original source, click here.

Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

10 Warm & Cozy Spaces

Oh, the weather outside may be frightful, but inside it can be so delightful. To turn up the heat on your winter home design, check out these 10 warm and cozy spaces from Zillow Digs.

Chaise for curling up

Zillow Digs Board of Designers featured designer, David Scott created a rustic bedroom retreat with a stone fireplace and chaise lounge in this Bridgehampton estate.

Fireplace for gathering

Winter is the season to huddle around a fireplace. Dovetail Construction designed this Georgetown Lake Retreat as a place to soak in the natural beauty and thriving landscape of Montana’s Pintler Mountains.

Rustic tub for soaking

Architecture and design firm Locati Architects gives thought to how homeowners are going to experience a space over time. This Beartrap residence is sure to be a relaxing respite from the elements for generations to come.

Dining room for sharing a meal

Locati Architects also designed this Quiet Waters residence. Candles, rather than a contemporary light fixture, add warmth to the rustic dining room.

Illuminated staircase for night owls

Architectural Justice added a warmly lit staircase during an Akron, OH home remodel. Not only do the stairs prevent sleepy travelers from losing their way, but they also warm up an easily overlooked part of the home.

Cellar for trying a new blend

After the kids are in bed, a dim wine cellar, such as this one designed by Locati Architects, is a great way to wind down. Enjoy some good conversation while sipping on your favorite red in this Whitefish yacht-club residence.

Sleek nook for e-reading

A fireplace and bench as sleek as this calls for an e-book, not your dusty hardback. Designer Jamie Herzlinger filled the modern home with luxurious comforts.

Lodge for making your bank shot

General contracting firm JG Development made this game room feel like a ski lodge with a rustic pool table.

Wingback for grandpa & his cigar

Chris Barrett Design used sophisticated finishes and rich furnishings in this Crescent Drive home. The result is a stately space for grandpa to smoke his cigar.

Rooftop deck for warming up

There’s nothing like stepping from snow into a hot tub. This one is in a prime spot for some winter star gazing.

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.