DIY Countertop Repair for Scratches and Scuffs

Granite and tile countertop repair

If you cook a lot, chances are your countertops have seen better days. Every scratch and chip tells a story, from that pan you dropped to the knife that slipped. The good news is that there are some simple countertop repairs you can do yourself to make your counters look like new and save some money in the process.

Granite

Granite countertops are known for their durability, but even granite can show signs of wear like scratches, chips and cracks with regular use. Granite is also one of the most expensive options when it comes to counters, so it’s lucky that there are inexpensive options to repair it.

To repair an unsightly crack or scratch in granite, you’ll need to gather a few materials: acetone or nail polish remover, an epoxy resin granite repair kit (you’ll find this at your local home improvement store), a scrub sponge, a razor blade, paper towels and a hairdryer.

Acetone works wonders for cutting through grease or any other residue to make your granite surface really clean. Wet a paper towel with it and wipe over your countertop (if you’re using nail polish remover, do a spot test first to make sure it doesn’t discolor your surface). Use your scrub sponge to further loosen any deposits, then wipe the granite down with another paper towel to make sure the surface is dry (hit it with the hairdryer for a few minutes on low to be sure).

Now you’re ready for the epoxy kit. Epoxy resin can be colored to match the dominant color of your granite for an undetectable repair. Mix the epoxy according to the manufacturer’s directions, then apply it to the crack with the stir stick included in the kit. Since the epoxy will settle a little as it cures, apply epoxy above the level of the crack. Put a piece of tape over the epoxy (this helps the surface flatten as it dries).

Tile

Repairing tile countertops can be easy if you have extra matching tiles saved. Identify the cracked tile that needs replacing, then use a grout saw to cut around and loosen the tile. Next, use a hammer to break the tile into pieces. Add a chisel to the equation to remove all the broken tile pieces, then vacuum up whatever’s left in terms of loose debris. Once you have a clean surface to work with, take your new tile and apply mortar to the back, pressing it into place. Once the mortar is dry, regrout around the tile and you’re done!

If you don’t have extra tile, you still have some options. First, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to fade scratches (just make sure you don’t rub too hard, otherwise you’ll end up with an irregular surface). For deeper scratches, nicks or chips, you can use an acrylic repair kit, available at any home improvement store, that’s colored to match your tile.

Butcher Block Counters

If you’ve been using your butcher block counter as a cutting board and want to breathe some life back into it, first you’ll have to thoroughly clean it.

  • For any stuck-on food residue, remove it with the edge of a metal spatula, taking care not to gouge the wood
  • Next, use hot water, a scrub sponge and some mild dish soap to scrub the counter. Rinse well with a clean dishcloth and more hot water.
  • After the countertop dries completely, you can move on to the next step, sanding.

Preferably you want to use an orbital sander for this, using fine-grit sandpaper and applying light pressure over the entire surface of the counter for an even finish. This helps remove light scratches and scuffs. For deeper scratches and gouges in the wood, you can fill them with wood putty that matches the color of your counter. Roll the putty between your fingers and pack it tightly into any deeper scratches. Once it dries and hardens, you can sand the putty down to a smooth surface. Finish by conditioning your butcher block counter with a light coat or two of mineral oil.

Repairing your countertops is an easy way to add value to your home once it’s time to sell. National Property Inspections is here to help you make the most of your biggest investment, so find your local NPI inspector today and make an appointment.

How to Survive Winter: 7 Genius Snow Hacks

Snow is stressful, but just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean you should be left out in the cold. We’re here to make things easier and show you how to survive winter with these brilliant snow hacks.

1. Get a snow rake.

A rake for snow sounds like a joke, but it’s actually one of the best ways to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof. Snow rakes are designed to be used from the ground, with telescopic handles that easily remove snow from areas of your roof around the gutters. This helps melting snow travel through your downspouts instead of backing up into your attic.

2. Wear socks over your shoes.

We promise we’re not (just) trying to make you look like a dork—wearing socks over your shoes before you go out to shovel increases traction over ice and snow. Less slip and fall is always a good thing, are we right? Just make sure you’re using an old pair of socks, because they will get ruined.

3. Mist your shovel with cooking spray.

Scooping your driveway is bad enough, and the only thing that makes it worse is snow sticking to the shovel. Believe it or not, there’s a way to avoid it. Just spray a light coat of cooking oil over both sides of your shovel blade and watch the snow slide right off, every time. No more banging the shovel on the ground between scoops.

4. Lay out a tarp for easy snow cleanup.

If you want to skip the shovel all together, lay out a tarp on your walkways before the storm hits (make sure to stake it down if it’s windy). Once it stops snowing, pull the tarp off into your yard, shake off the snow, and behold your instantly snowless path. Clever you!

5. Set your ceiling fans to spin clockwise.

We all know that heat rises, which would be perfect if we spent our time on the ceiling. This leaves us with the problem of how to get that heat back down where we need it. If you have ceiling fans, you might have noticed that they spin counterclockwise, which draws air up from the floor. You might not know that you can switch your ceiling fan to spin clockwise instead, drawing warm air down from the ceiling to keep you comfortable.

6. Melt frozen locks with hand sanitizer.

Because of its high alcohol content, hand sanitizer is the perfect tool for unfreezing stuck locks. Why does it work so well? Alcohol drastically lowers the freezing point of water, so the outside temperature has to be much colder for water to freeze. Here’s how to pull off this trick (spoiler: it’s really easy): coat your key in sanitizer, then put it in the lock. Best of all, this method will work on any lock, whether it’s your home, your car door or a padlock.

7. Defrost icy car windows with two ingredients.

Everybody hates warming up their frosty car in the morning, but there’s an easy way to save time without having to buy a remote starter. Start by mixing up a solution of 1 part water to 2 parts isopropyl rubbing alcohol, put it in a spray bottle and watch the frost melt away. The solution won’t freeze in a cold car, so you can take it with you wherever you go, and you can even use it to open car doors when they get stuck.

From tips to get around in the snow to energy efficiency audits for your whole home, your NPI inspector is here to help you survive winter. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment!

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!

Get Organized Now: 5 Home Resolutions for the New Year

The start of a new year marks the perfect time to enact positive life changes. What better area to start than the place you call home? Here are five home resolutions that will help you get organized now and create a happy, healthy living environment you can feel proud of.

1. Get Organized

Clutter consistently tops the list of at-home stressors–that’s why it tops our list of resolutions. When it comes to exactly how to get organized, nixing clutter can be tricky. Depending on the type and quantity of items you’re dealing with, as well as the space you have to work in, your solution could vary wildly from the next person’s.

To get organized now, though, here are two rules, that apply to just about everyone’s clutter situation:

1. Donate anything you don’t need and/or don’t use on a regular basis.
2. Make wise decisions about the items you introduce into your home.

When it comes to creating more storage solutions for your home, one key piece of advice is to look up. Mounted wall shelves, cubbies and racks can not only free up valuable floor space, they can also double as attractive décor. Getting organized and giving your space a fresh look to kick off a promising new year is a win-win.

2. Save Energy

We all want to save more, earn more and spend our hard-earned wages on the things that really matter. Recommitting to cutting back on energy use and considering “going green” is a great way to accomplish a little bit of everything in the finance category. You can shave hundreds of dollars off your bill in the course of a year and potentially earn tax write-offs and homeowner’s insurance discounts. Plus, by investing in things like energy-efficient light bulbs, you’re investing in the health of our planet. Check out our best tips for saving energy here.

3. Do That Project You’ve Been Putting Off

Whether it’s re-caulking windows or finally taking down that outdated wallpaper border, we all have that one home maintenance project we’ve been putting off for months (or in some cases, years). Make 2018 the year of doing. It might be a pain to spend a few evenings up on that ladder, but the feeling of getting it done will be well worth it. So put on your favorite music or a podcast and get scraping! (Or caulking, cleaning, refinishing. . .). You may even be able to get the whole family involved.

4. Plant a Tree

Trees are excellent for the environment because they help keep the air clear of pollutants. They can even help save energy by keeping streets cool, cutting down on air conditioning needs in the summer. Trees also happen to be beautiful to look at and neat to watch grow. This year, plant a tree (or a whole row!) as a family. You’ll make fun memories and create lasting good with just one small act.

5. Purify Indoor Air

Even the most spotless homes can feel a little stuffy or take on a musty odor. Now is a great time to make sure that the air quality in your house is top-notch. You’ll likely notice a positive change in your overall mood by:

Cleaning up after your pet. This includes thoroughly cleaning up after any accidents that happen as soon as you can after they occur. You should also vacuum often to remove fur and pet dander from furniture and carpet.

Change your furnace filters. You should change your HVAC system’s filters at least once every three months. They need changed once a month during months of heavy use, like winter.

Don’t smoke inside. Really, don’t smoke at all! But definitely refrain from smoking or allowing others to smoke inside your home.

Open the windows. Every now and again, it’s a good idea to let a little fresh air in the old-fashioned way. This isn’t always possible because of harsh weather conditions, so be sure to take advantage of mild days.

To get a handle on what needs done around your home, call your nearest National Property Inspections inspector today. Our highly trained inspectors have the knowledge and experience to help you accomplish all your home resolutions.

The Best (and Worst) Firewood to Burn This Winter

Whether you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces or a seasoned veteran (pun fully intended), it helps to know the right woods to use to get the most for your money. Here’s some of the best firewood to burn, along with other kinds you should avoid at all costs this winter.

A Word on Seasoning

Before we get into specific types of wood, we need to mention “seasoning,” a term that will apply to all the woods we talk about going forward. Seasoning refers to the process of drying firewood before it’s burned in your stove or fireplace. Burning unseasoned (or “green”) wood releases more smoke and water vapor, which means more creosote buildup and a greater chance of chimney fires over time.

How can you tell the difference between seasoned and unseasoned wood? It’s easy. Green wood often looks freshly cut with visible saw marks, while seasoned wood will look gray or white. The ends of seasoned wood shows radial cracking and the bark should come off easily. If the wood isn’t cracked and the bark is firmly attached, it’s still green and shouldn’t be used in your fireplace yet.

The Best Firewood to Burn

The firewoods that made our “Best to Burn” list had to meet a number of criteria, including having a high heat value and a pleasant experience (fragrance, long-lasting burn, etc.). One cord of each type of wood here produces heat equivalent to burning 200-250 gallons of fuel oil.

• Apple: deliciously fragrant aroma, slow-burning
• Beech: burns at very high heat, great for colder climates
• Cherry: hardwood with pleasant fragrance and long-lasting burn
• Oak: hearty and heavy weight, low level of smoke
• Sycamore: dense wood for long-lasting fire

The Worst Firewood to Burn

As a general rule, wood from coniferous trees isn’t very good for burning in your fireplace because it lacks the density of hardwood. It burns faster and doesn’t put off as much heat, so you need to use more wood to heat your home. The woods below produce more smoke that ends up as creosote deposits in your chimney, and tend to spark much more than hardwood, making for a less than relaxing fireside experience.

• Birch: bark produces lots of soot and smoke
• Cedar: filled with volatile oils that create popping and sparks
• Balsam Fir: lots of smoke with sparks
• Spruce: lightweight and fast-burning
• Pine: a resinous softwood that creates lots of creosote

Other Poor Choices

It’s definitely a bad idea to burn any type of treated lumber, as the chemicals used in the manufacturing process can be released in the smoke and inhaled. You should also only use locally sourced firewood to avoid the problem of invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which can cause massive damage to native forests.

Find Your Local NPI Inspector for a Safe Fireplace

National Property Inspections wants your winter season to be warm, bright and safe! Give your local NPI inspector a call today to help keep your home’s wood-burning systems in top condition.