Upgrade Your Outdoor Living Spaces

Upgrade Your Outdoor Living Spaces

With the weather warming up, you and your family will be spending more time outside. Make your patio a comfortable place to hang out and relax. Here are some tips to help you upgrade your outdoor living spaces.

Upgrade Outdoor Living Spaces with Furniture

If the backyard deck is bare, adding furniture is an easy improvement. You’ll find a wide range of seating options in a variety of materials for your outdoor spaces. Wrought-iron tables and chairs are attractive and sturdy. Because they are heavy, strong winds won’t affect them. Wrought iron has the downside of being vulnerable to rust if not well-maintained. When shopping for patio furniture, there are also synthetic wicker, wooden, plastic, and aluminum options. Choose a style that is comfortable and complements your outdoor decor.

Incorporate the Elements into Your Outdoor Spaces

A water fountain, fire pit, or outdoor fireplace are all great features for your patio. The sound of falling water is calming and fires are relaxing and inviting. The addition of a fire pit adds warmth to your outdoor space and makes the area feel welcoming any time of year.

Create Shade for Your Backyard Deck

If your deck, porch, or patio gets several hours of sunlight, the area can become uncomfortably warm. Provide shady areas for your guests to relax. Options for shade include structures like a gazebo, large trellis, or pergola. You might also install a retractable awning, shade sail, or a patio umbrella. Planting fast-growing trees on one side of the deck is another way to block some of the sunlight from the area.

Upgrade a Deck With a Privacy Fence

Create an element of privacy for your outdoor living space. Your patio can feel like a private oasis when you add walls, shrubs, or curtains. You can install a rock wall around the patio to create a hidden courtyard. Other options include lattice with vining plants, up-cycling old shutters to create a barrier, and hanging canvas curtains to provide privacy and shade.

Add Color to Upgrade Your Outdoor Living Spaces

Personalize your porch or patio with texture and color. Use an outdoor rug to designate a sitting area. Install planter boxes to grow brightly colored flowers or herbs for the kitchen. Grow ivy on the pergola. Add throw pillows to your patio furniture for color and comfort.

Install Outdoor Lighting

Enjoy your patio even after sunset when you add lighting. The types of lights you choose will depend on your aesthetic. String lights are popular to make an area more festive. If you enjoy dining outdoors, candles set a relaxing mood. You can install recessed lighting into the deck stairs and deck-post lighting to illuminate the perimeter of the backyard deck. Solar-powered stake lights are ideal for lighting the walkway to the front porch or pool. Citronella-burning torches provide light for the backyard and help to keep mosquitoes away.

With our busy lives, it’s helpful to have a place to relax and unwind. These simple upgrades to your patio will allow you to create a warm and inviting outdoor space.

American Home Inspection Services provides home inspections and other services to Southeast Michigan. Contact us to request an appointment.

5 Ways to Heat the Home Efficiently

5 Ways to Heat the Home Efficiently

Winter is the season that comes with the highest utility bills for many households. Many homeowners don’t know about the small adjustments they can make to help heat the home efficiently. Here are 5 easy tricks that can save you some money.

Heat the Home Efficiently by Programming the Thermostat

You may be surprised how much money you can save by simply setting a schedule on your programmable thermostat. If the members of your household have a routine day-to-day schedule, it is best to set up the thermostat in advance.

If everyone leaves the house by 9 in the morning, program the thermostat to lower a few degrees at that time. There is no reason to keep the house at a warm and toasty temperature when no one is home. Program the thermostat to raise the temperature back up to its normal level about 30 minutes before people start arriving at home.

Fully Seal the Home

When a house is not well-sealed, the heating system has to work much harder to keep the home warm. Doors and windows are the most common areas for cold drafts to come in, so focus on sealing these areas first. Old windows become loose over time and may crack around the panes. Use caulk to seal up any openings. Exterior doors may have gaps around the edges. Apply weatherstripping around the door and a door sweep at the bottom to help reduce drafts.

Make Sure the House is Well-Insulated

A poorly insulated house cannot be heated efficiently. Since most of the insulation in a home isn’t accessible, hire a professional to inspect the insulation if you are having trouble lowering your heating bills and keeping your home warm. Damaged insulation may need to be removed and replaced or you may just need to add more insulation.

Heating System Maintenance

A poorly maintained heating system expends more energy to heat the home than one that is annually serviced. Problems like dirty components, malfunctioning parts, and a clogged filter put a strain on the system. Hire an HVAC professional to service your heater once per year, and then keep up with replacing your filters monthly or as directed by the manufacturer.

Use the Sun to Heat the Home Efficiently

The warmth from the sun is a free resource you can use on sunny days in the winter. Open the drapes on south-facing windows to heat up the room. Then, at night, close the drapes to keep the heat in and the cold air out. Outfit all the windows in the home with heavy drapes to help insulate them.

American Home Inspection Services provides home inspections and related services to Southeast Michigan. Contact us to request an appointment.

5 Tips for Moving in the Winter

5 Tips for Moving in the Winter

Moving is hard work any time of year but if you’re moving in the winter, you may also have to deal with snow and ice. Here are some helpful tips when you have to relocate in cold weather. While you have a lot of planning and organizing to do, you’ll also need to prepare for cold weather.

When Moving in the Winter, Plan for Snow Removal

  • Shovel: Unless snow is still in the forecast, shovel and remove any snow the day before your planned move, preferably early in the day. Doing it early will give the sun a chance to melt away any residual snow on the walkway, giving you a clean surface.
  • Remove ice: After you shovel the snow, spend a few minutes chipping away any ice on the walkway and driveways of the new house and the old one. Removing ice will help prevent falls while you’re loading and unloading the truck.
  • Spread sand: Once you have the walkway and driveway cleared of ice and snow, liberally sprinkle a mixture of sand or ice-melt on the pathways. This will create a non-slip surface and the ice-melt will take care of any snow or ice you missed.

Protecting Flooring

  • Drop cloths: Another tip for moving in winter is to cover your floors. Invest in as many fabric drop cloths as necessary to cover all of the hardwood and tiled floors in both houses. The sheer number of trips you and your helpers will make in and out can ruin the surface of hardwood and possibly scratch tile.
  • Plastic tarps: While you’re getting the drop cloths, get plastic tarps to cover the carpeted rooms. Tracked-in snow and mud can ruin carpeting. Purchase enough extra tarps to cover the areas of carpet you will be walking on. For extra protection, put fabric drop cloths on top of the plastic ones. The cloth will keep you from slipping on the wet plastic.
  • Entryway: Use a non-slip, rubber-backed rug in front of all entryways. These are available at restaurant supply stores and home improvement stores.

Adjust the Thermostat

When you’re moving, the doors of the home are open just as often as they are closed. Don’t stress the heating system. Turn your thermostat down to the lowest setting without turning your furnace off completely. Otherwise you will be wasting a lot of energy.

Designate a Doorman

An often overlooked tip is to have a designated helper who holds the door for the movers and makes sure it gets closed when no one is entering. This is a perfect job for an attentive child who wants to help out. This job provides movers with hands-free entry into the house and will keep your home warmer.

Dress for the Weather if You’re Moving in the Winter

  • Wear gloves: The best gloves for moving in the winter are thinly lined leather, suede, or work gloves with palm and finger-tip grips. These will keep your hands warm and give you extra gripping power. Don’t wear thick gloves. They will prevent you from firmly gripping the items you are moving.
  • Dress in layers: Don’t wear a heavy, bulky winter coat; it can impede your movement. Wear a long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a light jacket. Put on a hat if it is very cold and windy. By dressing in layers, you can remove them if you get overheated.
  • Footwear: Wear non-slip shoes or lightweight snow boots. Even though you shoveled the sidewalk, winter weather poses a risk for slipping or falling on ice or snow. Waterproof, non-slip boots will keep you safer during the process.

American Home Inspection Services provides home inspection services to customers in southeast Michigan. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

4 Ways to Reduce Humidity in the Home

4 Ways to Reduce Humidity in the Home

Did you know that the highest levels of humidity in Michigan occur during winter? While you don’t feel the humidity when it is cold, it can still cause mold and mildew in your home. It is important to reduce humidity in the home to prevent these problems. Here are a few ways to lower indoor humidity levels.

Use Ventilation Fans to Reduce Humidity in the Home

Certain activities in the home cause humidity levels to rise. Cooking, bathing, and using some appliances adds moisture to the air. Turn on ventilation fans in the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room if you have one there. It is best for these fans to vent to the outdoors. Otherwise, the moisture will just circulate around inside. If the fan is venting into the attic, this is a serious flaw and mold and mildew may become a problem. Have a contractor remedy this by adding a vent pipe out the roof.

Set Up Dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers are inexpensive and portable devices that bring down the humidity levels in a room. Set dehumidifiers up in rooms that have a water source, especially if there is no ventilation fan. It’s a good rule of thumb to run a dehumidifier in the basement because mold often grows there.

Fix Leaky Plumbing

Unchecked plumbing leaks cause indoor humidity levels to rise. Look around for signs of leaky pipes and have them fixed as soon as possible. Completing these repairs quickly will reduce humidity in the home and prevent water damage and mold.

Reduce Humidity in the Home by Taking Shorter and Cooler Showers

A long, hot shower can make the whole house more humid. If you are committed to keeping humidity levels low, encourage family members to take shorter, cooler showers and practice what you preach. By changing your habits and using a ventilation fan or dehumidifier, you can reduce humidity in the home.

American Home Inspection Services provides home inspections and mold inspections to Southeast Michigan. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

4 Home Improvement Ideas for Winter

4 Home Improvement Ideas for Winter

Why Home Improvement Ideas for Winter Make Sense

Improving your home regularly is a great way to increase property value. Improvement projects can increase energy efficiency, improve aesthetics, and make it easier to sell later. When you slack off during the winter months and put home improvements on hold, you are missing out on days that otherwise could be used productively. These are some of the best home improvement ideas for winter to consider competing in the next few months.

1. Re-Painting Interior Walls and Trim

Painting walls and trim is often viewed as a cosmetic or decorative activity that does little to improve value. However, periodically painting the walls and trim can protect against and repair some types of damage. This can improve desirability when you attempt to sell your home. When selecting paint colors for interior walls and trim, choose neutral hues that have a broad appeal unless you intend to paint again before you list your home for sale.

2. Adding Insulation to the Attic

As you consider home improvement ideas for winter, energy efficiency should be a focal point. Insulation in your attic plays a vital role because it traps climate-controlled air indoors where you want it instead of letting the warm air rise up through the roof. Your home may need more insulation if it was constructed with low-quality materials initially or if the existing insulation has deteriorated. Consulting with an expert is a smart way to determine if new insulation would be beneficial to your home.

3. Upgrading Flooring

Installing new flooring is a project that can have a big impact on your home. It can improve property value and appeal and reduce cleaning and maintenance tasks. This project can be completed at any time of year, but since it keeps you inside, it’s one of our favorite home improvement ideas for winter. Rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood underneath, or install an affordable linoleum or vinyl flooring option.

4. Replacing or Adding Backsplash

If your kitchen or bathrooms are looking outdated, replacing the backsplash is an easy way to modernize the style. If you don’t have backsplash already, adding it will upgrade the aesthetic of your home. A do-it-yourself home improvement enthusiast may be able to complete a tile installation project in an afternoon.

Look at your home’s current needs and your budget before deciding which of these home improvement ideas for winter may work well for your home.

American Home Inspection Services provides home inspections and related services to Southeast Michigan. Contact us to request an appointment.

8 Ways To Prepare Your Home For Fall

8 Ways To Prepare Your Home For Fall

Summer has come and gone and fall is nearly upon us. The kids are back in school, so pack away all the camping, swimming, and other fun summer gear and make sure your home is ready for the first of many cooler days. Use the following 8 tips to help you prepare your home for fall and the coming winter. Doing so will protect you and your home, save you money, and help your home look better next spring.

1. Fertilize the Lawn to Prepare Your Home For Fall

Protecting your lawn over the winter will help it grow more lush and green the following spring. The hot summer stresses grass. Help refortify your lawn with a good dose of fertilizer now. Not only will you enjoy an attractive lawn next year, but your neighbors will also appreciate your efforts.

2. Drain Outdoor Faucets and Sprinklers

Don’t turn your patio, walkway, or driveway into a skating rink overnight. Before that first freeze comes unexpectedly, turn off and drain outdoor water faucets, hoses, and sprinklers. Then you can take steps to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting when the temperatures drop to very cold for long periods.

3. Drain and Store Gardening Equipment

Around mid-October, or earlier if you live far north, mow your lawn for the last time of the year. After that, drain the tanks of your lawn mower, weed eater, and other lawn equipment. If you don’t, unused gas will lead to gunk and other harmful buildups that may ruin your equipment, leaving you to replace it in the spring. Now is a good time to sharpen mower blades.

4. Clean the Gutters

Cleaning the gutters is an important task to prepare your home for fall. Clogged gutters can eventually lead to a damaged foundation and a host of other problems. Grab a ladder and someone to help you to make this task easier. If your house is one story, there are leaf blower attachments available that will help get the job done. If needed, hire professionals to clean the gutters.

5. Get Your HVAC Serviced

Your AC has worked hard all summer and now’s a good time to prepare it for a long winter’s rest. Clean the coils, filters, and air ducts, or you can hire someone to do it for you. Once clean and dry, cover the unit to protect it from debris and ice. Switch thermostats from cooling to heating. Prepare your furnace for its first use this season by cleaning the combustion chamber, inspecting the flue pipe, and changing the filters. Help your heating system function more efficiently by checking for leaks around windows and doors. Use weather stripping and caulking to seal any areas that aren’t airtight.

6. Check and Clean the Chimney

Checking your chimney is an important safety tip to prepare your home for fall. The last thing you want is for smoke, soot, or carbon monoxide to fill the room. Even gas fireplaces need chimneys inspected for bird or squirrel nests blocking the flue. Chimney pipes need to be free of cracks so smoke won’t enter the room. Inspecting and cleaning chimneys is best left to the professionals.

7. Inspect the Roof

Conduct a complete inspection of your roof, or hire a professional home inspector if you are not comfortable. Look for loose, missing, or curled shingles, and wind damage. Stop problems that may turn into leaks through the wind, rain, and snow of winter. Check gutters for loose shingle granules, which may be a sign you need a new roof.

8. Get Ice Melter and Snow Shovels Ready

The first cold, snowy spell can be a surprise, leaving customers scrambling for supplies at the last minute. Beat the crowds and get ice and snow-clearing supplies and equipment ready now to prepare your home for fall. You may even consider investing in a snow blower so that you can avoid strenuous snow shoveling. You will likely save money by buying them when they are not in such high demand.

In Michigan, it can turn from fall to winter very quickly. Be sure to check out our post about preparing your home for winter.

American Home Inspection Services serves Southeast Michigan with home inspection services. Contact us to schedule an appointment.