Add Value to Your Home with These Improvements

You probably have a long list of remodeling projects you want to get around to, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Of course you want to remodel your home based on your personal tastes, but if you’re looking to move soon, it’s better to look at renovations and improvements that will add value to your home. We’ve compiled the four best home upgrades that will put the most money in your pocket when it comes time to sell.

1. A New Front Door

Nothing beats a new steel front door when it comes to recouping your investment. A new steel front door boosts curb appeal, rejuvenating your home’s appearance to make a great first impression for homebuyers. You can have a professional install your new door (for give or take $2000), in which case you’ll recover about 75% of the cost, or you can DIY this project (for around $250) and recoup up to a whopping 600%.

If you go the DIY route, make sure to get acquainted with the parts of the door you’re installing before you start in. If it’s your first time, you can expect to spend a bit more time on this project (don’t be surprised if it takes you six or eight hours). Oh, and enlist a friend to help—it’s a lot easier with two people, trust us.

2. New Hardwood Floors

Buyers love hardwood floors, and they’ll pay to get them (to the tune of about $5000 at closing). If you install those hardwood floors yourself, you can potentially make a 282% profit. It might be a multi-day affair if you haven’t worked with flooring before, but don’t worry—the techniques aren’t hard to master and it’s worth rolling up your sleeves to pocket the extra savings. Even if you hire a professional, though, this improvement will just about pay for itself.

If you have hardwood floors already and just want to give them a facelift, you can do that with a simple sand-and-refinish job. Floor sanders and other supplies are available to rent at most home improvement stores to make the process easy and affordable.

3. A Bathroom Update

We’re not talking about demolition down to the studs, but a mid-range bathroom update will definitely add value to your home and improve your return on investment. Replacing your bathroom’s essentials (meaning the tub, tile surround and floor, toilet, sink, fixtures and vanity) will run you somewhere in the range of $10,500, while you’ll average a tidy $10,700 back at closing. Of course if you do the update yourself instead of hiring out, you’ll pocket even more.

4. Fiberglass Attic Insulation

Attic insulation is one of those things you never pay attention to, but you sure know if it’s not there. Having adequate insulation is the best way to keep comfortable in both hot and cold weather while keeping your energy bills low, but up to an astounding 90 percent of homes don’t have enough. If you can see the floor joists in your attic, you have at most 6-7 inches of insulation, only half of what the U.S. Department of Energy recommends. Depending on where you live, you could need even more.

The good news is that insulation is easy to add yourself, and it’s also one of the most inexpensive and worthwhile upgrades on our list, costing you only about $700 to add $1500 of value when you sell.

National Property Inspections Helps You Improve Your Home

From home energy audits to full inspections, NPI has you covered when you want to find ways to add value to your home. Find your local inspector today to schedule an appointment.

How to Remove Caulk the Right Way

We’re not going to beat around the bush—removing old caulk takes time and patience . . . in spades. But today we’re sharing a few tips that will make the job much easier in the long-run.

Step 1: Apply a caulk remover and walk away.

For most caulk removers, the recommended wait time after application is two to three hours before you start prying up the old stuff. But in reality, the longer you wait, the easier it is to remove the caulk. Try waiting 12 hours (or overnight), and up to 24 hours if there are multiple layers to contend with. See, we told you it takes patience!

Step 2: Use the right tool for the job.

Do not attempt to use a utility blade or knife. We repeat: do not attempt to use a utility blade or knife. Sure, you might see professionals use this sort of tool, but as a DIYer, you risk damaging the wall, not to mention yourself. Instead, use a caulk remover tool. These tools feature an easy-to-grip plastic handle and a shape that’s designed to align perfectly with old caulk. And don’t worry about cost. At approximately five to ten dollars each, caulk remover tools won’t break the bank.

Step 3: Use short back and forth motions to pry up caulk.

Now that you’ve done all your waiting around and you’ve got your caulk remover tool in hand, it’s time to actually start prying. Place the hooked end of the tool into the seam and start using choppy, back-and-forth movements to loosen up the caulk. It should come up somewhat easily in long strips once you’ve gotten started. You might notice a fair bit of residue being left behind, but we’ll take care of that in a moment.

Step 4: Go back for the rest with a putty knife.

Your caulk remover tool may be too large to get down in especially hard-to-reach areas, but a putty knife, or even a toothbrush can take care of the rest. Use the putty knife to gently pry up small, stubborn areas of caulk and the toothbrush to scrub away any excess. This is the part of the job that can get truly time-consuming, but totally worth it. Doing the job right is something to feel good about, after all.

Step 5: Clean your caulk-free surface.

To make sure your newly cleaned surface is truly caulk and residue free, you’ll need to swab it with rubbing alcohol. Because mold is almost always a concern with old caulk, you’ll also want to create a cleaning solution that with eliminate mold and mildew. Mix together 1/3 cup of bleach with one gallon water, dip in a rag and wipe down the entire area, allowing it to air-dry completely. Before you go in with new caulk, you’ll need to make sure that you deep-clean all tile since soap scrum and other grime can affect the caulk’s ability to stick.

Call a National Property Inspections inspector near you today to have all your important home maintenance questions answered. Our expertly trained inspectors are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of both residential and commercial property and they have the skills to help you make the best decision for your home.

Your Crash Course in Dryer Vent Cleaning

It’s hard to believe that your home’s dryer vent is also one of its most dangerous fire hazards. In fact, more than 2,900 residential fires originate in dryer vents every year. Besides the fire risk, a clogged dryer vent mixed with the warm, humid air of your dryer can lead to mold problems, too. Luckily, preventing safety issues is easy as long as you keep the area free of debris. Keep reading to learn how to spot a dicey venting situation as well as the best dryer vent cleaning methods.

First, let’s break down how a clothes dryer actually works and why it needs a vent in the first place. Dryers help evaporate water by blowing hot air past clothes as they tumble in a drum. Depending on the size of the load and type of garments, dryers can eliminate up to a gallon of water.

If it weren’t for your external dryer vent, all that moisture, not to mention a good amount of lint and fuzz would wind up back in your home. This probably goes without saying, but all that moisture and lint is terrible for your indoor air quality, plus it makes for quite a mess (think a thick coating of gray dust. . .everywhere).

Here’s how to know if you’re facing a clogged dryer vent:

• A burnt smell emanates from the laundry room whenever you turn the dryer on
• Your clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the dryer’s normal cycle
• Your clothes are taking forever to dry or aren’t fully dry after one cycle
• The outside of your dryer is unusually hot
• Your laundry room is hot and humid

How to Clean a Clogged Dryer Vent

If your dryer vent is less than three feet long and vents directly outside without any twists or turns, you can probably clean it yourself using these steps:

1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
5. Hook everything back up.
6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
7. You’re done!

If your dryer vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside (say if your laundry room isn’t adjacent to an exterior wall), it’s time to call in the professionals. A professional dryer vent cleaning service can run anywhere from $89 to $179 depending on your area, but it’s well worth it to prevent a house fire.

How to Prevent a Clogged Dryer Vent

The best way by far to keep your dryer vent as clear of lint as possible is to clean the lint trap after every load of laundry. This captures the vast majority of lint before it can make its way into the actual vent. Even if you clean the trap every time, though, a little bit of lint will still make its way through. If you have the kind of tubing that’s made of flexible ribbed material, lint can build up over time in the ribbing and cause problems. You can replace your ribbed dryer hose with a smooth-walled metal one, which will go a long way to keep lint from building up.

National Property Inspections Keeps Your Home Safe

Your NPI inspector is here to keep your family safe and healthy in your home. We can identify potential issues before they become big problems, so find your local inspector today to schedule an appointment!

5 New Ways to Save Energy

So you have your thermostat set to the perfect temperature and you’ve checked and re-checked your windows and doors for drafts. . .and you’re still cold. It may just be time to think outside the box. Here are five more ways to save energy and keep a warmer home through the coldest months of the year.

1. Move furniture away from radiators.

You might be tempted to move your sofas and chairs as close to the fireplace, woodstove or registers as possible. But upholstered furniture can actually absorb heat, leaving the rest of yoether home in the cold. It’s best to move all furniture away from your home’s radiators to keep the warm air circulating freely. This goes for curtains as well when possible, though the right kind can go a long way toward keeping in warm air.

2. Trade in your curtains.

Speaking of curtains. . .winter might be a good time to upgrade. Switching to curtains made from a heavier material can help keep warm air from escaping through drafty windows. Insulated, or thermal curtains are available for this express purpose in stylish colors and prints so that you won’t have to drastically change the vibe of your living area.

3. Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans.

Most of us don’t even think about our ceiling fans in winter—they’re typically reserved for cooling things off and circulating air only. In warmer months, the blades of ceiling fans spin at a slight angle counterclockwise to utilize the wind chill effect. But we all know that warm air rises while cooler air sinks. Therefore, ceiling fans are actually perfect for taking the work your furnace is doing and kicking it up a notch. By switching your blades to clockwise during the colder months, cool air is drawn upwards while warm air is forced down into your living space. You’ll be able to turn down the thermostat and save a little cash by keeping all that cozy warm air low.

4. Put down extra rugs.

If you have hardwood floors, you’re no stranger to icy feet. Putting down extra rugs can help provide additional insulation for any room, whether wood, tiled or carpeted. To up the warmth factor and protect against slips, simply place a grippy pad underneath.

5. Switch to flannel sheets.

Did you remember to switch your cotton sheets for a flannel set? This quick, inexpensive change can make a big difference in your nighttime comfort, not to mention your heating bill. While flannel sheets had a bad rep at one time for being uncomfortably warm, the flannel-cotton blends available now help strike the perfect balance. You can even invest in a flannel duvet cover to see even more substantial savings over time.

For even more energy-saving tips, call an NPI inspector near you. Our inspectors can evaluate your residential or commercial property to determine the efficiency of your HVAC system, insulation, window seals and other infamous energy drainers.