Preparing Your Home for Summer

The calendar may claim summer begins on June 21st, but for most of us, it’s already fully in gear. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbecues are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following are a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.

Outdoor Spaces

GardeningGardening– It’s not too late to start your garden!  If you’re thinking of getting your green thumb engaged, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.

Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space that, like many, suffers in the grey of winter and the rainy spring. To get it properly in the summer spirit I need to get it prepped for hosting. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.

BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.

Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.

Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.

Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out!

Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets, and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.

Inside Spaces

Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.

Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.

SpringCleanupAir it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.

Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.

Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.

Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!

Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog. 

February Home Maintenance Checklist

It’s February – winter’s not over yet, but spring is right around the corner. If you have cabin fever from being inside, cleaning and freshening up your house can help you get through this last month of winter and be ready to get outside when spring arrives.

Once you check these items off your to-do list, you’ll be able to relax by the fire with a good book and enjoy the last few weeks of winter.

  • Mop entryway floors. Clean your floors regularly to prevent damage from road salt and melting snow. Place a basket of old towels near the door to wipe up water and salt as soon as it is tracked inside.
  • Rotate or flip your mattress. Extend the life and comfort of your mattress by flipping or rotating it. At the same time, vacuum box springs and the mattress to eliminate allergy causing dust- mites.
  • Organize your laundry room. Scrape dried-on laundry detergent from the ridges in your washer. Throw away laundry products you never use and replace damaged sorting bins.
  • Clean out your spice cabinet. Throw away expired spices and other seasonings, which may not only lose their taste, but could harbor mold and bacteria.
  • Sanitize hand-held devices. Prevent germs that cause the spread of colds and the flu by disinfecting your phone, remote controls, tablets, as well as your door and cabinet knobs.
  • Dust blinds, ceiling fans and fixtures. Wipe down or use a feather duster to remove the dirt that builds up on blinds, ceiling fans, light fixtures other small electronics.
  • Add color to your table. Treat yourself to some fresh flowers to add cheer to your kitchen table while waiting for spring blooms to make their first appearance.
  • Plan your summer vacation. Reserve your vacation home now to get the best selection of available properties. Start your planning today at Long & Foster’s Vacation Rentals website.

 

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

8 DIY Fire Pits to Get Your Yard Ready for Summer

It might not be exactly tropical in your neighborhood yet. But for many of us, it’s finally warm enough to start daydreaming about summer. And that means thinking about getting the yard ready for cookouts, ball games, and gatherings under the stars.

If you’re thinking about the changing seasons, think about making your own fire pit. This popular backyard feature is surprisingly easy to construct, and will bring your outdoor living to the next level. Make a quick trip to the hardware store, grab the kids to help out, and you can have one of these gorgeous backyard features by this weekend!

1. Stone-Topped Fire Pit

DIY Network - firepit

DIY Network

 

2. Upcycled Lantern Fire Pit

House & Fig - diy fire pit

House & Fig

3. Concrete Bowl Fire Pit

ManMade DIY - fire pits

ManMade DIY

4. In-Ground Organic Fire Pit

Laura Catherine - firepit

Laura Catherine

5. Glass and Metal Mini Fire Pit

The Art of Doing Stuff - DIY mini fire pit

The Art of Doing Stuff

6. Raised Brick Paver Fire Pit

Bridgman - firepit

Bridgman

7. Mini No-Wood Fire Bowl

ehow - firepit

ehow

8. Fire Pit Patio (With Bench!)

Instructables - firepit and bench

Instructables

Are you thinking of adding a fire pit to your yard this year? Is it warm enough in your town yet to even think about spending the evening making s’mores?

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog. Reposted with permission from Porch.com.

Written by Jacqui Adams

  Porch.com is the free home network that connects homeowners and renters with the right home service professionals.

Play Chess… Not Checkers

Checkers is a simple game with a simple objective; eliminate the other player’s pieces. Even the process of doing so is simple, jump the other player’s pieces and start a collection. There is very little thought as to a defensive strategy and it is often more reactive than strategic.

Even though the objective of chess is simply laid out — obtain the other player’s King — the process in which to obtain this goal is much more strategic. Chess requires a greater understanding of the ability of each of the 9 different pieces on the board and a risk assessment that takes longer than a simple scan of the board.

“It’s a game in which the winning strategy is dynamic and requires complex thought across many turns, both for the player and their opponent’s turns. Chess requires a player to understand the context behind the moves on the board rather than just the risks offered by each individual turn.” – Play Chess Not Checkers by Zach West

You may have heard the saying, “Play Chess, Not Checkers” before, but how does this apply to real estate?

Read more from the full article on Keeping Current Matters.

How Long Should They Last?

Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a life span, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades. (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the life span of many other items has actually increased in recent years.

Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB).

Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models, and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a life span of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.

Kitchen & Bath. Countertops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The life span of laminate countertops depends greatly on use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years. An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.

Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.

Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The life span of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.

Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, advises against purchasing them. You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty.

View the original article on Windermere’s blog.