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Your Winter 2019 Home Maintenance To-Do List: Have You Checked It Twice?

by Amy McLeod Group


We won't sugarcoat it: The thought of doing home maintenance right now is pretty blah—especially with the holidays looming and weeks of gloomy winter days on the horizon. Who wants to do housework when you can curl up and binge-watch "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" instead?

So you're forgiven if this is one article you don't want to read. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch, you should at least skim it. That's because winter chills bring a number of home-related ills—and if you don't keep up with a little maintenance now, you could be in for catastrophic repair costs later.

So pull yourself out of hibernation mode and get started. The good news? We've done the heavy lifting for you, identifying the top tasks to tackle—and what professional help will cost you if you find yourself in over your head.

Give your gutters one last scrub

Hopefully, you've been clearing out your gutters on the regular. But once every tree is bare, it's time for one final cleaning session to "avoid moisture building up against your house—and ice dams," says Derek Christian, the owner of Handyman Connection in Blue Ash, OH.

Ah, ice dams: winter's favorite boogeyman. These troublemakers happen when warm air meets a cold, wet roof, creating supersized icicles. Eventually, that ice and moisture can find their way underneath your shingles, rotting your roof, and leaking into the living spaces below.

But ice dams are easily avoided—as long as you do a little prep.

DIY: Cleaning out your gutters is simple enough to do yourself. For extra protection, Jason Metzger, the head of risk management for PURE Insurance, recommends installing heat strips on your gutter or roof edges to keep frozen precipitation from building up.

Call in the pros: Have you been really lackadaisical with your gutter cleanings? An expert can scoop out all the gunk. Expect to pay $100 to $250.

Turn on your humidifier


Holiday humidifier. istock/Qwart

Is your furnace prepped for winter? While this might vary based on your specific model, Christian advises homeowners to check their furnace for a "winter" and a "summer" switch, which controls your humidifier.

"In the summer, the airflow to the humidifier needs to be cut off; but in the winter, you want air going through it," he says.

That keeps your skin from drying out, your eyes from itching, and your floorboards from creaking.

DIY: Switching your humidifier on is an easy task. If your furnace lacks this feature, a stand-alone humidifier, like this Honeywell model, will do the job.

Call in the pros: Adding a humidifier to your furnace is simple. Costs start at about $370.

———

Insulate (and inspect) the attic

House always feel drafty? Your attic could be to blame. Check to make sure this space is sufficiently insulated. And while you're up there, make sure no rodents can shimmy in and create their own winter retreat. (Eek!)

"Make sure any gaps and holes into your attic are sealed tight," Christian says. "As winter approaches, critters will be looking for somewhere to spend it."

DIY: Stuff gaps with insulation, and fill cracks with caulk to keep the critters—and the cold—out.

Call in the pros: If you're noticing a severe lack of insulation (or you require six blankets just to keep your body temperature normal), hiring a pro to add insulation will be worth the cost. The national average to install blown-in insulation is $1,400.

———

Create a cleaning schedule for the new year


Seasonal cleaning calendar. 
istock/ RapidEye

With 2019 rapidly approaching, now's the time to institute good home habits that will keep your space clean and organized year-round. And what better time to tackle the mountain of grime that's accumulated over the year than the frigid winter months when you can't go outside?

DIY: Creating a regular cleaning schedule makes a huge difference in keeping your home tidy and organized.

"Hang a calendar in your kitchen where your whole household can see it," and assign tasks to the household, says professional organizer Kacy Burns.

Take it one step further with weekly, monthly, and quarterly reminders.

Call in the pros: Just can't bear the thought of starting a new year with chores? If you've ever considered a cleaning crew, now’s the time. Figure on paying $200 to $300 for a one-time cleaning, but you may be able to negotiate that price down with a regular cleaning schedule.

———

Fireproof your home

With temps plummeting, you've probably already switched on your heat a few times, gathered around the fireplace, or lugged out a portable heater to warm your feet on chilly nights.

"With all these heat sources in use, homeowners must take precautions to protect themselves from house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning," says Sophie Kaemmerle, a home improvement expert with NeighborWho, a property information website.

DIY: If you haven't done so recently, replace those smoke detector batteries.

Call in the pros: If you smell gas or your carbon monoxide detector starts beeping, leave the house and call 911, followed by your utility company, which will send out a team to investigate the problem. Still feeling wary? Most fire departments will do a home safety check if you request one.

———

Maintain a smart temperature

Consider installing a smart thermostat to keep your home's temperature even. Today's models —like the über-popular Nest—will alert you if the temperature inside your home suddenly falls. That can be a lifesaver when you're on vacation, preventing frozen pipes and other winter disasters.

DIY: If you're not ready to upgrade your thermostat, you can do your part to maintain an even temperature.

"Leave interior doors, cabinets, and vanities open to keep the whole home heated," Metzger says.

Call in the pros: Is your thermostat struggling to keep temperatures even? Are cold spots in your living room bugging you on snow days? A whole-home energy audit, which costs about $400, can identify the cause.

———

Hunker down for winter storms


Ice storm

istock/DenisTangneyJr

In most parts of the nation, the first snow has already fallen—and more is surely on the way. Before the next bomb cyclone/polar vortex/sharknado blizzard (hey, it could happen), make sure you're prepared for the worst-case scenario.

"Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark," says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.

DIY: Make sure you have a (working) generator, and stock up on batteries for flashlights and lanterns. Invest in a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to stay up to date with news in case you lose cellphone reception. Store wintry weather supplies—such as snow shovels and window scrapers—somewhere you can access them easily.

If you live in an area particularly prone to snow, mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles to help snow plowers see where to go, suggests home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill.

And remember: A buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.

Thinking about buying or selling a home in the new year? Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe, Holly Amaya 

9 Gorgeous Spring Decorating Ideas to Usher in the New Season

by Amy McLeod Group

Spring is officially here, and the days are longer and lighter—if not warmer, in some places. And with the new season comes a chance to hit the reset button on your home's decor. It's time to stash away heavy throws and that snowflake-themed doormat and bring out a brighter look.

"Springtime is your chance to renew the spaces you live in and take them out of hibernation," says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

To help you ease into the new season, we've gathered nine gorgeous ways to upgrade your interior and exterior style. The best part? They're cheap and easy. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and bring some spring fling into your home.

1. Add cheery wallpaper

Photo by Ed Ritger Photography 

Quick and easy peel-and-stick wallpaper is ideal for spring, especially if you choose a joyful, bright print. Seek out lively patterns, including pink and green branches, pastel polka dots, or bird themes.

And if you're not sure you want to redo the entire room, put this temporary look on an accent wall. You'll still have a pop of springtime color, but with less commitment.

2. Display rustic birds' nests
 

Photo by Adrienne DeRosa 

What says "rejuvenation" more than the very structures that nurture life? Bring these natural elements inside by collecting old nests that you're certain aren't in use or by hitting up the crafts store for faux versions.

Place your nest collection under a glass cloche or fill it with fruit, flowers, or, as Easter approaches, colored eggs and bunnies.

3. Show off fresh flowers

Photo by Dreamy Whites 

Fresh flowers are a must this time of year.

"I love calla lilies, irises, and tulips in a bouquet placed in a nontypical spot such as your nightstand or bar cart," says Sara Chiarilli, an interior designer with Artful Conceptions in Tampa, FL.

And in the yard, look to pansies and azaleas.

"Azaleas [can act] as colorful and well-behaved foundation plants on the east side of your house, where they'll receive afternoon shade," recommends Matt Michaels of Lowe's.

"Pansies are a great springtime bloom because they're hardy in cold weather and come in an array of shades, many with bicolor faces," adds Rhianna Miller of RubberMulch. Plus, they thrive in both full sun and part shade and can be planted in pots, flower beds, and hanging baskets.

4. Change up your throw pillows

Photo by Mandeville Canyon Designs

The beauty of a neutral couch is that you can change out your accessories with every season, Chiarilli notes. Pack away dark throw pillows and accent blankets, and go for lighter colors.

"If you live in a warm-toned house, pick yellows, soft pinks, and orange—and for cool tones, select light blues, greens, and silvers," she says.

5. Swap in brighter lampshades

Photo by Nick George | Photographer

Out with dark, tweedy toppers, and in with paler, more delicate shades. Pinks, lavenders, and lime greens herald the season, offering your living room a spring glow for not much money. Check out chain stores such as T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and Target for inexpensive lampshades for every room.

6. Switch to lightweight bedding

Photo by Roger Oates Design 

If you've been hibernating underneath dark, fuzzy throw blankets and heavy duvets, it's time to strip the bed! With warmer temps and brighter days on the horizon, consider lighter pastels for pillows and throw blankets.

"Rose quartz, for example, is the perfect springtime color, and it mixes beautifully with gray paint tones that have become so popular lately," Chiarilli says.

And remember, spring can bring on allergies. If you have special pillows and sheets (Allergy Asthma Technology makes hypoallergenic bedding), now's the time to bring them out, says Julie Coraccio, the home organizing expert at Reawaken Your Brilliance.

7. Display fragrant herbs and fruits

Photo by Chris Snook 

Spring is all about the green. Line up small pots of basil, thyme, and mint on your kitchen or laundry room windowsill, and breathe in the fresh, vernal scent.

Or pile bright green fruits such as Granny Smith apples, limes, pomelos, or Anjou pears into a bowl or shallow platter on the counter or dining room hutch.

8. Change your bathroom linens

Photo by Habitat Architecture 

A zippy new shower curtain is an easy spring upgrade—and it'll likely cost less than $30.

"And don't forget to change out your hand towels and candles," Chiarilli says. "It's so important that your home smell like spring when you walk through the door, so try jasmine, the perfect soft scent."

9. Paint the front door

Photo by Rick & Cindy Black Architects 

The entrance to your home deserves a little springtime love, too. Consider slapping a fresh coat of paint on your front door—and think vibrant spring colors such as a zesty coral, a tranquil aqua, or a bright lemon yellow.

"Get a new doormat, and add a pretty wreath or door basket with silk flowers and greens," Gray-Plaisted suggests.

If you live in a cooler climate, try putting cold-hardy bulbs in your outdoor planters and then adding one to each side of your door or garage. Voila—a fresh entryway that makes it clear spring has sprung at your house.

By: Realtor.com, Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Contact McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

Types of Kitchen Countertops: Which One's Best for You?

by Amy McLeod Group

There are many types of kitchen countertops, and each has its particular pros and cons, including the price. Since this surface can have such a big impact on how a kitchen looks, you might be wondering: What's the best kitchen countertop for your home?

That depends, of course, on your sense of style and your cooking proclivities. So whether you're looking to renovate your kitchen or are shopping for homes and wondering whether you'll love or hate the counters you see , here's a guide to the various types of kitchen countertops and how to figure out which one's right for you.

Granite countertops

Price: $60 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Granite countertops are one of the most popular kitchen features, and they often make top 10 lists of desirable features among builders surveyed by the National Home Builders Association.

Made from a naturally occurring composite of quartz, mica, and feldspar, each granite countertop is unique with its materials coming straight from nature. Another bonus? These countertops are hard and resistant to scratches.

Cons: Granite countertops are expensive relative to other options—and if you have funky colors in mind, forget granite, since it comes only in natural colors. Like other natural stones, these counters need to be treated with a stone sealer on a regular basis. It's also difficult to repair a chip to a granite countertop, so homeowners should be careful not to drop anything heavy on these counters.

Laminate countertops

Price: $10 to $40 per square foot

Pros: Laminate countertops are sometimes called Formica, which is technically a brand name for a combination of paper and resin that's bonded together with high heat and pressure. They're a lot cheaper than their stone counterparts, and you can find a variety of designs that mimic a wood look or the design of more expensive stone.

Cons: Because they're inexpensive, you get what you pay for. Easily scratched and chipped, laminate countertops do not stand the test of time.

Corian countertops

Price: $40 to $65 per square foot

Pros: Corian countertops (another brand name, this time from DuPont) are a fusion of acrylics and polyesters. Made in a variety of colors but crafted to look like natural stone, Corian countertops are nonporous and easy to clean.

Cons: Corian can scratch more easily than stone and is also less resistant to heat. Leaving a hot pot on the counter can cause it to warp.

Marble countertops

Price: $100 to $150 per square foot

Pros: Pulled right out of the ground, marble makes for a gleaming surface and adds polish to your home. These countertops go well with almost any decor.

Cons: Because marble is porous, these countertops are considered "high maintenance," requiring sealing every few years. They likewise chip and stain easily. Even a few drops of wine or other acidic liquid can etch the surface, while a bracelet or belt can scratch the marble's beautiful finish.

Butcher block countertops

Price: $45 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Butcher block countertops are another name for thick, fancy wood. If you're looking to green your living space, using a renewable resource for your counters may be a hit. Wood is sustainable, and it offers a rustic, homey feel.

Cons: Wood requires high maintenance. If these countertops are not resealed regularly (about every six months), mold and bacteria can take over, and the countertop will need to be replaced. The necessary upkeep often lowers the resale value on this type of counter, as buyers can be turned off by the hard work they see ahead.

Quartz countertops

Price: $75 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Don't let the name fool you. Although quartz is one of the most commonly found minerals, quartz countertops are not mined from the earth. Instead, these countertops are "engineered stone," meaning they're created in a factory. This creates a countertop that has the advantage of being hardy but also requires less maintenance than natural stone. The surface is nonporous, making it stain-resistant, and most spills can be cleaned with mild dish soap and water.

Quartz countertops (which may be known by brand names such as Caesarstone) are known for having excellent resale value when you're looking to sell your home, says Abigail Guignard, owner of Neoesque Designs of New York, NY.

Cons: If you have a habit of putting your hot pots directly on your countertops, beware, since this can cause permanent discoloration. Quartz is resistant to chips and scratches, but if they do happen, you will likely need to call in a professional to fix them, as special tools are required.

Soapstone countertops

Price: $50 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Soapstone countertops are made from a gray or black stone that has a white-veined look and a soft, "soapy" feel (hence the name). Popular with professional chefs, they add a warm, homey feel to a kitchen and are perfect for a rustic design but translate just as easily into a modern or contemporary space.

Cons: Because the stone they're made from is soft, soapstone countertops are even easier to chip than hardier granite or quartz.

Concrete countertops

Price: $65 to $130 per square foot

Pros: Yes, concrete countertops are all the rage, thanks in part to "Fixer Upper" star Joanna Gaines. Since these countertops are custom-poured, homeowners can add everything from unique stones to embedded glass or tile, incorporating a piece of themselves into their kitchen design. Sturdy and resistant to chipping and scratching, concrete countertops do crack, but the cracks are easy to fix precisely because more concrete can be mixed up and poured in.

Cons: Concrete has to cure, which means you'll have to wait a while before you can use your counters. If you want something that can be installed in a day, steer clear! Concrete is also porous, which means these counters can stain easily and require regular resealing.

Stainless-steel countertops

Price: $65 to $95 per square foot

Pros: Although they're more commonly spotted in commercial kitchens, stainless-steel countertops can easily be incorporated into your home. They offer up a surface that's extremely durable and very easy to clean—exactly the reasons they're popular in pro kitchens.

Cons: Because stainless steel is uncommon in residential kitchens, you may take a hit on the resale value, Guignard warns, as it may not be something your buyers like. These counters also tend to be cold to the touch, which may detract from the ambiance of a warm, homey kitchen.

Contact your local experts at The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By and photo credits: Realtor.com

Ah, January. The time of new beginnings, new resolutions, and, in most of the country, a seemingly endless stretch of cold and gloom. We get it: You just want to hibernate, catch up on "The Crown," and scroll Instagram. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch (or treadmill, if you're on that kick), take heed: This is the absolute worst time to have a major home maintenance problem.

"Catastrophic issues tend to happen in the winter—and when those occur, nine times out of 10 it's due to failing to plan," says Janet O'Dea, owner of Powers Plumbing in San Diego. "Taking some time to anticipate and be ahead of maintenance issues throughout the year takes a lot of pressure off."

 

 
 

We couldn't agree more. And that's why we've done the heavy lifting for you, season by season, so you can avoid the pain (and expense) of costly home repairs. Now that's a resolution we can get behind!

1. Get ready for (more) winter storms

In most parts of the country, 'tis the season for freezing rain, sleet, and blizzards. Ensure you're ready for the next big storm before it strands you.

DIY: First, make sure you have a working generator, and keep a stash of batteries for flashlights and lanterns at the ready. 

"Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark," says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.

Also a must-have: a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to keep you up to date on news in case cellphone reception goes out. Check the condition of your snow shovels, gloves, and window scrapers, and store snowy weather supplies near the door where you can access them easily.

We also love this novel tip from home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill: Mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles, to help snow plowers see where to go.

Finally, a buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.

Call in the pros: If a limb is buckling, have it removed as soon as the weather permits—expect to spend $75 to $150, depending on how much of the tree you lost.

2. Clean your oven

"Homemade food can really contribute to winter coziness at home, but unfortunately, the oven and its vents can easily turn into the dirtiest feature in the kitchen because they collect a lot of grime and grease," says Jasmine Hobbs of London Cleaning Team.

And over time, built-up grease can cause your appliance to use more power while turned on.

DIY: To clean your hood filters, fill a sink or a bucket with boiling water; add a quarter-cup baking soda and some liquid dish soap. Mix well and submerge the filters. Let them soak for a couple of minutes and rinse thoroughly. If your oven has a self-cleaning function, use it at least once a month. If not, apply a paste of baking soda and water, then scrub.

Call in the pros: If you never clean your oven and the thought of all that stuck-on grease is putting you in panic mode, you can call a reputable cleaning service. Most pro cleaners will charge a flat rate for whole-house cleaning and will include the oven; you'll spend between $115 and $236 for the whole kit and caboodle, depending on where you live and your home's grime level.

3. Inspect the property

Yes, it's cold and the last thing you probably want to do this time of year is walk around outside. But trust us, it's time well-spent.

"Home issues that are more susceptible in the winter—such as frozen pipes, window and door drafts, and the condition of a home’s gutters—can be easily detected during this time of year," says Patrick Knight of WIN Home Inspection.

DIY: Most big inspection issues are best left to a pro, but while you're taking stock, check off this easy to-do: Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You should be doing this regularly, but it's even more important in the winter months, when windows tend to be closed and heaters are running overtime.

Call in the pros: Consider spending some of that Christmas cash on a professional inspection, especially if it's been a while. Strong winter winds and cold temps help inspectors detect drafts and insulation failures. Plus, winter gives inspectors a better idea of how the home structure and roof holds with the extra weight of snow and ice. And fireplaces and heating systems are more active during the winter months, making identifying problems easier.

It's also a great time to check out crawl spaces and attics, which can easily reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the summer months, making safe inspections nearly impossible.

Expect to spend upward of $300—and be sure you select a licensed, insured, and experienced pro for the job.

4. Take care of your wood floors

Winter can wreak major havoc on wood floors: Rock salt can stain wood (and its rough crystals can scratch floors), while indoor heaters can dry it out, causing problems like shrinkage and cracked floorboards.

DIY: Avoid using vinegar to remove stains, advises Dave Murphy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Instead, place rugs and mats in the highest-traffic areas. To lock moisture in the air and prevent heat-related damage to your floorboards, run a humidifier. And, of course, engage in routine sweeping, dusting, and mopping.

"This will also prevent particle and salt buildup," Murphy says. "And remember to mop with the boards, and not against the grain."

Call in the pros: In the end, winter's effects may be too harsh to manage on your own. Consider professional refinishing, which averages between $1.50 and $4 per square foot.

5. Block drafts

With temperatures down and indoor heaters working overtime, you'll know if your weatherstripping isn't up to par. And over time, all that unwanted cold air can increase your energy bill in a major way.

DIY: If the cold air is getting in under a door, pick up a door sweep at a local home improvement store. This doodad is typically made of hard plastic and attaches to the bottom of your door, sealing any gaps.

Call in the pros: Feel like you're wasting way too much energy during the winter months? Conduct an energy audit. A trained auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency and give you a list of recommended improvements. You can also find instructions for a DIY energy audit at Energy.gov.

6. Alleviate allergens

An estimated 50 million Americans live with allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and many of their conditions are exacerbated by indoor allergens such as dust mites and animal dander.

The main sources of indoor allergens? Pets top the list, of course, but other culprits include wall-to-wall carpet, soft furniture, stuffed toys, bedding, damp areas, indoor plants, mattresses that aren't in allergen-resistant covers, and pillows and bedding that can't be washed in hot water.

DIY: Clean dust from your blinds and ceiling fans using your vacuum's attachment kit, and make it a regular practice to vacuum all upholstery and carpets.

Once a week, wash your bedding in hot water (at a temperature hotter than 130 degrees), and consider investing in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can filter almost 98% of allergen particles in the air, according to the AAFA.

Another good buy?  A zippered allergen-resistant cover for your mattress, which the AAFA says is even more effective than an air purifier at removing indoor allergens.

Call in the pros: For your living room upholstery and other soft furniture, consider professional steam cleaning. Expect to spend upward of $200.

Let The McLeod Group Network assist you with all your home buying and home selling needs. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By and photo credit: Holly Amaya, Realtor.com

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.