How to Get Organized Around Your House

How to Get Organized Around Your House

The start of the new year is a perfect opportunity to set your priorities and get a handle on your possessions. Here are some simple tips to help you get organized and achieve a stress-free home.

1. Pare down your stuff.

Let’s face it, you probably received a present or two over the holidays that you’ll never use. Instead of letting them collect dust and clutter up your home, give them to a friend or charitable organization. Once you have holiday clutter taken care of, you can start tackling the rest of the house.

Going room by room, focus on one item at a time—when’s the last time you used each one, or even thought about it? If you haven’t used, worn or even looked at something in more than six months, it’s probably time to let it go. For items that you’re having trouble parting with because of their sentimental value, take a picture of it instead; you’ll keep the memory and lose the dust-catcher.

Tip: Avoid the common mistake of thinking you can take care of clutter with containers—that step comes later. Once you’ve simplified your living space by removing items you don’t care about, you can focus on creating attractive storage for all the things your family actually uses.

2. Make a cleaning schedule . . . and stick to it.

Now it’s time to bring out the cleaning supplies, but you have to have a strategy. Rather than just jumping in and cleaning the first thing you see, keep a few rules in mind:

  • It’s faster to clean by task rather than by area, so work on all the mirrors and windows first, followed by dusting, polishing, vacuuming and mopping.
  • Keep organized by working methodically down from the ceiling to the floor. This ensures you don’t accidentally dirty anything you just cleaned.
  • Once you have everything spic and span, create a weekly cleaning schedule. By focusing on one task or area a day, you make the task as a whole less daunting.

A regular cleaning schedule can also yield unexpected benefits. For example, cleaning out the fridge once a week cuts down on food waste, helping you save money and avoid gross “time capsule” leftovers.

3. Create a storage solution for every area.

What works in one room won’t necessarily be your best bet in another. Take your mudroom—this space is perfect for a hook and cubby system to keep your family’s belongings off the floor and organized. Your living room lends itself to decorative storage baskets for holding useful items like DVDs and other media, while your bedroom closet could benefit from an over-the-door shoe rack or modular shelving. For overcrowded garages, look into overhead storage for bigger items and wall-mounted racks for tools like shovels, rakes and brooms so you can free up much-needed floor space. The possibilities are endless, so you can get as creative as you want!

4. Get organized for safety’s sake.

Keeping your home organized also lets you concentrate on the safety issues in your home that might otherwise slip your mind. Make sure your home is equipped with both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (and that they have fresh batteries installed). You can also have an NPI inspector check your home for radon—one in every fifteen homes has elevated levels of this odorless gas, which causes around 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Moving to the laundry room, your dryer vent can often become clogged with lint (even if you always clean the trap). Lint is highly flammable, and it’s responsible for starting over 15,000 building fires a year, which is more than enough reason to make it a priority. If you notice your dryer taking more time than usual to dry a load of clothes, this is a sign your dryer vent needs cleaning. Depending on the length of your dryer vent and the number of turns it takes, you can either DIY the process with a dryer vent cleaning kit (these cost around $20) or hire a professional.

Maintaining an organized home is key to your family’s well-being and safety. Your local NPI inspector is here to help, so schedule an inspection today!

Contractor Scammers

Starting a new home improvement project can be as exciting as a new puppy, but with far more decisions to be made in the process. Anyone who has even thought about this has experienced the confusion of trying to find a reputable contractor. With so many options, it can be easy to fall prey to one of the many unfortunate scams that are active today. Read more for National Property Inspections’ tips to stay on solid ground during your renovation.

Project estimates can vary wildly, so even if a contractor comes with a bid that seems reasonable, make sure to get more than one. Some scammers will low-ball prices for services, and for good reason: their services turn out to be little or nothing more than what the homeowner could have achieved themselves with a bit of effort. So if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Another red flag to watch out for is a contractor requesting payment up-front. This is one of this biggest cautionary tales, as some scammers will take money upfront from consumers and perform little to no work that has been requested. A reputable contractor may ask for a small deposit, but most will only demand payment upon satisfied completion of a job. Remember, protect yourself and your wallet.

When hiring any professional to work on the home, ALWAYS make sure to check that their licenses and permits are valid and up to date. A lot of “gypsy” contractors will travel city to city, going door to door looking for work but may not mention that they don’t have the permits or skills to get the job done. If – and when – something goes wrong with the work, it is you, not the contractor, that is left responsible.

The left-over product scam is another to be aware of. This is most used by driveway sealers, who claim that they have just finished a job and have “left-over” product that cannot be stored once mixed and therefore offer services at a discounted rate. Be especially aware of this, because the product they use will usually either be a black paint or some shoddy material that washes off in the next storm. Honest contractors would never knock on your door to sell used materials. 

The final and most common scam out there is the bait and switch. Consumers are drawn in by an often ridiculously low price on a service, which they call the company to schedule, for example, window washing. However, once the technician arrives on the property consumers are informed that their windows are much dirtier than average, and then quote a price that is hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars more than the original.

Those looking to invest in remodeling their home need to be wary of scammers looking to steal every cent they can. Along with references, the Better Business Bureau is always a good place to look when searching for a new contractor. Remember to always have a signed contract with clear expectations as to price and completion dates, and if there are ever any issues, National Property Inspections is always here to help.

Clothes Dryer Safety

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

Clogged Dry VentAccording to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 15,000 fires are sparked every year by clothes dryers.  Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, creating a fire hazard.

Here are some of the signs that it’s time to clean your vent:

  • Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
  • Drying time for clothing takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes in duration.
  • A musty odor is noticed in the clothing following the drying cycle.
  • Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after a complete drying cycle.
  • The dryer vent hood flap does not properly open as it is designed to do during the operation of the dryer.
  • Debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening.
  • Excessive heat is noticed within the room in which the dryer is being operated.
  • Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
  • A visible sign of lint and debris is noticed around the lint filter for the dryer.
  • Excessive odor is noticed from dryer sheets that are used during the drying cycle.

Tips to decrease debris

  • Limit the use of dryer sheets used when drying clothing.  Instead of dryer sheets, use liquid fabric softener.
  • Only operate clothing dryers for intervals of 30 to 40 minutes per batch of laundry.  This allows more air circulation within the dryer and less lint build up from occurring.
  • When possible hang clothing such as heavy bedding, pillows and other large articles outside to line dry.McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia.
    If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.
    NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home.
    Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

    Canada: gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector
    United States: npiweb.com/FindAnInspector

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Hardwood Flooring

By Kenn Garder, Corporate Accounts Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Empty RoomHardwood flooring has been used for years; the flooring, if properly maintained, can last the lifetime of the building.  The most common issues with hardwood flooring stem from moisture.  Wood is a natural product and is considered hygroscopic; It gains and loses moisture as the relative humidity and temperature of the air around it changes.

To minimize moisture issues the hardwood floor manufacturer usually dries the lumber so it has a moisture content of 6 to 9 percent before milling into the flooring.  The flooring should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to high moisture.  It is recommended that the flooring be delivered to the site of installation and allowed to acclimate for up to 4 days in an area that has been climate controlled for at least 48 hours and the sub floor is dry.  Following these recommendations is important to help minimize the amount of movement, but it’s not a guarantee that there won’t be issues caused by the changes in relative humidity.

Months and sometimes years after the floor has been installed and finished, moisture can still cause some visible issues.

Cracks and separation:  When the room is heated in the winter the relative humidity decreases, shrinking the wood. This can cause the wood to separate resulting in cracks.  To minimize these cracks moisture can be added to the air during the heating months.

Cupping:  Wood flooring can cup or curl at the edges leaving the center lower, resulting in an uneven surface. The wood expands when the relative humidity is higher or if water is spilled on the wood’s surface and absorbed.  As the wood expands, compression can result as the boards are crushed together deforming the edge of the boards. Humidity control will help the floor dry out and improve over time.

 

Crowning:  This is the opposite of Cupping. The center of the board is higher than the edges.  Crowning can occur if the wood is left exposed to high humidity or water for an extended period of time.  Another cause is sanding a cupping floor before it is dry; as the cupped wood continues to dry the edges will shrink more than the center of the board.

 

Buckling:   Because of excessive moisture, the flooring pulls up from the sub floor, lifting several inches from the sub floor.  When the floor is flooded with water for an extended period of time, buckling can occur.  A floor that has buckled will probably require more than drying out, typically, after drying out sections of the floor will need to be evaluated to determine if repairs can be made.

 

When these conditions are present in a hard wood floor, determine the water or moisture source and control or stop the moisture exposure to the wood.  In hot humid weather using air conditioning and possibly a dehumidifier to control the relative humidity will help to reduce the movement in the floor.

 

Garder PhotoWith 10 years of experience in his current position, Kenn Garder is the central point of contact for NPI/GPI’s national accounts. He also provides technical support to our franchise owners/inspectors and teaches the commercial segment of our training program.

To find an NPI or GPI inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

 

 

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Bringing Electricity Home

Electricity_shutterstock_103755371Do you know where your home’s electricity comes from? The electrical connections powering today’s homes start at a transformer on a pole or somewhere on the ground near the house. Transformers on the ground signify buried electrical lines. Transformers on a utility pole mean the electrical lines come into the house via overhead wires.

If your electrical lines are buried, they won’t be visible outside your home. However, if you have overhead electrical wires, you should regularly take a look at them for safety reasons. Damage to the wire or insulation around the wire can cause electrocution, so look for those things. You can likely check the overhead wires from the ground, and you should never touch the electrical lines.

Height regulations for electrical lines vary from one city to another. For general purposes, all electrical lines should be out of reach of people, vehicles, ladders and other equipment. This includes areas above pools, decks, porches and balconies. Electrical wires also should be clear of trees or other obstructions, including the corner of the house or the edge of a gutter, which could cause abrasion and expose bare wires. Finally, electrical lines should not touch other utility lines entering the home, such as the telephone or cable line.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection. To find your local inspector, visit one of the links below.

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Don’t Let Dirty Windows Dull Your Home

Empty RoomNow is the perfect time to clean the winter grime off your windows and let the sunshine into your home. Here are some tips to help you get gleaming windows.

  1. Remove the window screens. Lay them on a flat surface. Wet the screens thoroughly and scrub lightly, being careful not to bend the material in the screen. Repair any holes in the screens.
  2. Clean windows from the inside of your house using window cleaner and a soft towel or newspaper. Did you know that newsprint works wonders for a streak-free shine? It does, so put those old newspapers to good use. To clean the exterior side of windows, you may need a ladder. If you have second-story windows or very high windows, you may opt to use a window cleaner that attaches to your garden hose. These cleaners are available at any home improvement store and offer an easy, affordable way to clean hard-to-reach windows.
  3. You should also open any weep holes that are clogged by sealant, dirt or paint. This will help pull moist air out of your home and prevent mold and mildew.
  4. Reapply weather stripping or sealant around the window. Vacuum any debris from inside the sill and then replace the screens. You can use a fine steel wool to clean the window tracks to prevent sticking.
  5. Reassemble the windows and enjoy the terrific natural light.

If you can, clean and repair windows on cool, cloudy days. Warm, sunny days tend to cause windows to dry too fast, leaving behind streaks and spots.

If you are using a ladder to reach exterior windows, it might be a good time to check the gutters and downspouts for build-up, debris or damage. Clean out any leaves, twigs or other items that may be clogging gutters. Be sure to follow proper ladder safety guidelines at all times.

Did you know that your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a copy of our seasonal home maintenance guide? Call or email your local inspector if you’d like one.

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Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Summer House_shutterstock_104946530Did you know that your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a printed copy of our seasonal home maintenance guide? Call or email your inspector if you’d like one. We also have assembled a handy summer home maintenance checklist that should help you keep your house in tip-top condition.

  • Check the operation of any attic fans and roof-mounted turbine vents.
  • Caulk exterior joints around windows and doors
  • Clean and seal decks, which will require three sunny days. Click here for a step-by-step guide.
  • Have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. Do it before the fall, as there’s plenty of time for repairs and you’ll have an easier time scheduling appointments.
  • If you didn’t check for overhanging tree limbs in the spring, check your trees and trim them if needed.
  • Wash your siding using an ordinary garden hose and a mild detergent. Be careful if using a pressure washer, as it can damage the siding or force water under siding, encouraging mildew and rot.
  • Check for cracks on brick veneer that are wider than 1/16 inch.
  • Remove vines growing on the house, siding, brick or mortar.
  • Check vinyl and aluminum siding for cracks or damage.
  • Check your yard’s grading to assure that water drains away from your home’s foundation.
  • Summer is the perfect time to paint your siding if the paint is cracked and/or peeling.
  • Clean your dryer vent.
  • Clean the gutters on your house and garage.
  • Have your air conditioning unit checked and serviced to ensure proper cooling during the hot summer months.
  • Inspect your house for signs of termite infestation if they are prevalent in your area.
  • Check your basement or crawl space for dampness and/or leaking.
  • Clear leaves and other debris away from your outdoor air-conditioning unit(s).
  • Disconnect your air conditioner and wash off the fins on the outside.
  • Get your pool ready for summer by cleaning it, leveling the water, ensuring pumps are working and balancing the chemicals.
  • If you didn’t do it in the spring, then it’s time to de-winterize your sprinkler system.
  • Wash your exterior windows. You can use a window cleaner that attaches right to the hose to reach high windows.
  • Clean the porch. Give it a good sweeping and washing. Repaint if you have cracked or chipped paint.
  • Check exterior faucets and hoses for leaks, which can really add to your water bill.
  • Clean out and organize the garage. Properly dispose of any hazardous materials, such as paints and solvents.
  • Inspect driveways and walkways for cracks and holes, and have them repaired.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection. To find your local inspector, visit one of the links below.

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Prevent Hot Water Burns

Family at Home_shutterstock_151320977Protecting young children and others in your home from burns caused by hot water can be a concern. Water temperatures over 120° F (48° C) can potentially cause scalds. That’s why a water temperature assessment is part of a general home inspection.

This assessment has two parts: First, the inspector uses a thermometer, usually held under the water in the shower while operating at least one other water fixture to determine any significant changes in water temperature. The temperature in the shower is adjusted to about 105° F (40° C). Next, the inspector will flush the toilet and turn on the sink. If the water temperature in the shower shifts more than five degrees, the inspector will note it in the inspection report. This same test is also used help assess and report on water volume and flow in the home. The inspector will note visible changes in the water volume or flow when all three fixtures are operating.

To test the general temperature of a home’s hot water, your inspector will turn on the hot water in the kitchen and test it with the thermometer. Inspectors frequently find that a home’s water is too hot, but the temperature setting usually can be changed on the water heater to protect people in your home.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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What Did My Inspector Mean When He Talked About Grading and Slope Around My House?

Grading_shutterstock_135142733The exterior of your house is just as important as the interior systems when it comes to a well-functioning, well-sealed structure. Because of this, home inspectors should begin the inspection long before they ever reach the door, assessing grading, utility hookups, walkways, decks, driveways, windows and doors, roofing, and exterior cladding or siding.

The grading around your home’s exterior helps prevent water intrusion, which can cause wood rot, mold and mildew. Proper grading also prevents structural movement and damage, keeps out unwanted pests, and helps regulate temperatures inside your home.

Preventing water intrusion begins with the grading of the lot, or the way the ground is shaped around the house. For best results, the ground should visibly slope away from the structure (positive slope). Negative-sloped grading around a home (the ground slopes toward the house) can cause water to pool at the foundation and eventually soak into the walls. Positive slopes move water away from the home and help prevent damage to the foundation.

When a house is built at the bottom of the hill, swales (small ditches) may be built to direct water around the house and away from the foundation. Your home inspector should assess the property’s slope and grading, noting the specific location of negative slope or pooling water. One common problem area is the garage apron. If the flooring is not poured with proper slope, then water will run under the door and pool inside. Inaccessible or obstructed areas of the foundation will also be noted in your inspection report.

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Should You Be Concerned About Radon?

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia
IMG_0634Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released during the natural decay or breakdown of uranium in the earth, and it moves freely though any soil, rock and water. Because it is the heaviest gas in nature, radon can easily accumulate in high levels in the basement or poorly ventilated areas of a house or building.

Why Is Radon Dangerous?
As radon decays, it further breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can damage the cells that line the lung, causing lung cancer.

Health Canada reports that radon exposure is linked to 16 percent of lung cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. In Nova Scotia, the Department of Natural Resources has developed an amazing radon risk map; you can enter your physical address and it will show whether you are in a low-, medium- or high-risk area. In the United States, you can find a radon zone map on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

How Much Radon Is Too Much?
In North America, radon test results have shown that 40 percent of buildings in high-risk areas exceed Health Canada and EPA guidelines; however, even homes in low-risk areas should be tested, as this is the only way to know how much radon is in your home.

In Canada, radon is measured in Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3), and the current Canadian guideline for radon action is 200 Bq/m3. In the United States, radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and the current guideline for remediation is any level higher than 4 pCi/L. In both countries, the higher the number, the higher the risk. However, even the current action level is equivalent to the radiation exposure from 30 medical chest x-rays per year (assuming radon exposure at home for 12 hours per day).

Radon levels can vary over time and especially from season to season, which is why home owners should conduct radon testing over a duration of 91 days or longer to properly determine radon levels and better understand whether remedial action will be required.

For the average home owner, a simple do-it-yourself radon testing kit can be ordered online or purchased in a hardware or home improvement store.

Should You Test Your House for Radon?
When it comes to buying or selling a house, a long-term test is considered unrealistic, so a short-term test of lasting 48 to 72 hours should be performed. Make sure you hire a certified radon inspector who has been specifically trained to an industry-recognized standard of practice and are held accountable for working to established radon testing guidelines. Your home inspector may be a certified radon tester; if not, he/she can recommend a professional to conduct the test for you.

Englehart PhotoLawrence Englehart is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector and C-NRPP Certified Radon Measurement Professional in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you live in the area, call 902.403.2460 to schedule your home inspection with Lawrence.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home, and many of our inspectors hold additional certifications for radon, mold or lead testing. Consult your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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