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7 Home Maintenance Projects You Might Overlook—but Really Need to Do

by Amy McLeod Group


The big improvements always get all the glory—the classic kitchen remodel, the bathroom addition, the transformation of a once creepy basement into a media room. But what about all those little projects around the house?

Sure, they may not be as gratifying as ripping out 1980s cabinets, but tackling necessary home maintenance chores now will save you big headaches down the road. So before you undertake another huge home improvement, check out these projects that you might have neglected—but really should take on.

1. Clean your exhaust fans

"Two maintenance areas that home buyers often overlook have to do with fans—bathroom exhaust fans and attic or ventilation fans," says Kathleen Kuhn, the CEO and president of HouseMaster.com, a home inspection franchise.

Bathroom exhaust fans play an important role in reducing odor as well as moisture, which helps prevent mold and mildew. And attic or ventilation fans are designed to expel hot air from the top of a home and draw cooler air in. This helps save energy and reduces the potential for costly heat-related damage to the roof or roof framing.

 

Both fans should be cleaned and wiped down every three months to ensure they are functioning properly.

2. Fix broken window seals

"One of the most harmful delayed maintenance issues I see in the field is broken window seals," says real estate agent Jodi Moody of Smoky Mountain Realty in Lenoir City, TN. A homeowner might notice a piece of caulk peeling up around a window's edge and think it’s no big deal. Most often, it simply goes unnoticed.

"Unfortunately, once a window seal is broken, problems are created that homeowners can’t see until major damage occurs," says Moody.

Those problems include moisture, condensation, mildew, mold, and wood rot, which build up in the window framing and eventually move into the wall. Entire window frames and even sections of flooring can eventually rot, due to the moisture seeping in through missing or damaged window caulk.

"Homeowners should inspect their windows twice a year, and repair any cracked or torn caulk, rubber seals, or damaged wood as soon as possible," says Moody.

3. Repair small foundation cracks

Foundation cracks can naturally develop over time. And though tiny cracks may not be a problem at first, it's a good idea to patch them before they increase in size. Large cracks could result in your having to replace the foundation completely, which could cost you big bucks.

"You can repair a small crack with a concrete sealer that you can find at any home improvement store," says Sacha Ferrandi, founder and principal of Texas Hard Money and Source Capital Funding.

4. Lube your garage door springs

Preserve the longevity of your garage door with some simple maintenance, so you won’t have to replace it sooner than needed.

"Lubricating the springs will help a garage door last a lot longer," says Ferrandi.

Be sure to apply a lubricant annually to the rollers, hinges, and tracks. Since garage doors have a heavy workload, use a heavy-duty lubricant such as silicon spray or motor oil.

5. Drain and clean the water heater

Water heaters naturally build up mineral deposits over time. This forms a thick, crusty coating that will begin to chip off and clog faucets, drains, and the water heater valve. Such deposits can also cause your water heater to run constantly, which can crack the inner lining and run up your utility bills.

"You may even end up needing to replace your water heater, which can cost you a good amount of money," says Shawn Breyer of Atlanta's Breyer Home Buyers.

The good news is that the fix is simple. Every six to 12 months, place a small bucket underneath the drain valve on your water heater and drain the sediment out of the tank. Here's more on how to flush a water heater.

6. Check out your crawl space

One commonly overlooked area of the home is the crawl space below your house.

"That cramped underbelly of your house actually has a purpose, and just like any other part of a home, it needs maintenance and can save a home from costly damage," says Nick Rorabaugh, brand advocate for Rev Sells, a realty group based in Athens, GA. "I have seen several instances where a homeowner received the unpleasant news after a house inspection that their crawl space had moisture damage."

Avoid that possibility by laying a vapor barrier or installing a humidifier to protect against mold, water damage, and termites. Bonus: This can improve the air quality of a house as well.

7. Caulk your kitchen sink

The sink is subject to daily wear and tear. And the chemicals in cleansers added to the frequent exposure to water, can damage the caulking.

"Avoid leakage under the sink, with the simple fix of recaulking," says Vivian Young, senior content manager at GoodNightsRest.com.

Removing all traces of the old caulking is key and a trusty utility knife will do the trick. Clean up any loose grout, rinse off the area, let it dry completely, and you’re ready to caulk. Here's more on how to caulk sinks, windows, and more.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

Serenity Now! 8 Ways to Turn Your Home Into a Peaceful Retreat

by Amy McLeod Group


When you open the door to your home, do you breathe a sigh of relief? Or do you cringe at the pile of mail on the counter and the overstuffed closet where you hang your coat?

Our home should be our retreat from the world, where we feel calm and relaxed. So if that's not how you feel at home, it may be time to rethink your design or decor. To aid your quest for serenity, here are eight ways to set up a peaceful refuge at home.

1. Interview yourself


Photo by Martha O'Hara Interiors

Everyone has a slightly different definition of what makes a peaceful home, so experts urge homeowners to start by asking a few personal questions, such as "Who am I?" and "What do I want from this space?"

"For example, if books are important to you and make you feel at peace, get a great bookshelf and organize them. But if the sight of all your books makes you feel stressed out and reminds you of cramming for exams, consider hiding them away in cabinets," suggests Drew Henry of Design Dudes.

Just keep in mind that a plethora of clutter isn't necessarily bad if those objects bring you joy. Julie Coraccio, a professional organizer with Reawaken Your Brilliance, is at peace with all the cat toys in her home.

"We're a cat family and are fostering them, and yes, their toys are everywhere, but the cats make me happy," she explains.

2. Consider the flow

Photo by Huntington House 

A serene home is one that's easily navigated. If you find yourself tripping over the dog bed in the kitchen or struggling around a too-big couch to enter the den, you'll lose out on those Zen vibes.

"Think of the best traffic patterns for each room and then arrange furniture so it's easy to access and sit down," urges Karen Gray-Plaistedof Design Solutions KGP. Too much furniture or items that are too large can be draining, so pick and place your pieces carefully.

3. Serenity starts at your front door

Photo by Crisp Architects 

Coming home at the end of the day should be painless. In other words, don't let your foyer become a catch-all for everyone's belongings! Make sure you have a place to sit so you can untie your shoes, a spot to corral footwear, hooks for coats, and a container for keys and mail.

4. Get organized

Photo by Heidi Caillier Design 

You've heard it before—and it's still true. Clutter can overwhelm a homeowner and kill any chance of serenity.

"Clutter makes you lose peace of mind, because it takes up so much space, reminding you of what needs to be done," notes Coraccio.

In fact, clutter is the chief complaint that homeowners say affects their mood.

"Simply put, people don't feel happy or comfortable creating meals in a cluttered kitchen," says Jamie Gold, a San Diego-based wellness design consultant and author of the forthcoming book "Healthy Living, Healthy Home."

5. Define stations

Photo by Vincent Longo Custom Builders 

"Creating a zoned space definitely adds to the potential for harmony," says Gold. Zones in your kitchen make for easier meal prep (put all the critical tools in one area) and zones in the garage make you happier to return after work.

If you're a reader, a book nook is a smart idea, while dog owners need an organized station for puppy chow and toys.

"I have a meditation chair, and as I walk toward it, my body begins to relax, because it knows what's going to happen there," Coraccio says.

6. Let colors soothe

Photo by Ethan Allen Design Center Viera 

Gold says that blues and greens are connected to nature's healing elements, including the sky, ocean, and forest. But one size doesn't fit all when it comes to colors that promote joy. An all-white room may calm one person but annoy another, she adds.

Sara Chiarilli, an interior designer with Artful Conceptions, votes for cool colors for the most serenity at home. "Shades on the cool side of the color wheel evoke a sense of calm in the brain," she says. But Henry picks whites and grays, as lots of blue can look too beachy. "Of course, the beach is relaxing, but this theme can be a little kitschy, and kitsch is not relaxing," he explains.

7. Choose comfort above all

Photo by Ben Gebo Photography

Your chairs should look great—but feel even better. If your pieces are stunning but no one wants to sit in them, what good are they? asks Chiarilli. And a streamlined look adds to a sense of calm in the room, says Henry, because it's peaceful to the eye.

8. Add textures

Photo by Serena & Lily 

A chunky throw on a bed is an easy way to add texture to the home.

"I love mixing jute with cottons and leather, and velvets combine nicely with wools and linen," says Chiarilli.

Along with metals, wood, and stone, you'll have a full complement of textures, which the brain needs to see to truly relax in a space, she adds.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for tips on remodeling and design.

By: Realtor.com, Jennifer Kelly Geddes

8 Home Improvement Hacks That Won't Break Your Back

by Amy McLeod Group


Part of the adventure of owning a home is tackling a few home improvement projects. But now that it's fall, what if you don't want your last few warm weekends swallowed in renovation hell?

The solution: knowing which home improvements can be done quickly, with minimal effort. And that's where this article can help!

Below are eight home improvement hacks that won't break your back or your bank account. Read on to reclaim your weekend, while still renovating your way to domestic bliss.

1. Pressure-wash your home's exterior

One of the easiest ways to give your home's exterior a face-lift is to clean it. And to be honest, there's just something satisfying about aiming a blast of water at a surface and watching it come clean, with no scrubbing or elbow grease required.

"Pressure-washing is safe for brick, concrete, masonry, wood, and siding," says Kealia Reynolds, an editor at House Method. (Avoid pressure-washing painted surfaces, asphalt roofing, and stained wood.) Plus, you can pressure-wash most homes in under two hours.

You can generally rent pressure-washers for $50 to $100 a day at your local home improvement store. Just note that pressure-washing is different from power washing: Power washing removes extreme dirt, grease, and moss from hard surfaces—think driveways—that can withstand high heat and pressure.

2. Caulk your first-floor windows

Most window-frames are made from wood, vinyl, or metal, which expand and contract over time. This causes old caulk to crack and open small openings where air can flow freely into your walls.

"Focus solely on caulking your first-floor windows—to save time and avoid having to balance on a ladder," says Teris Pantazes, co-founder of Settle Rite, which helps sellers prepare post-inspection repairs in Maryland.

Sealing up holes properly insulates your home and reduces your energy consumption, by keeping heat rising instead of escaping on the ground floor.

Caulking is not only an easy job that might take 10 minutes per window, it's also piecework.

"You can do one or two windows at a time, as you feel up for the task," says Pantazes.

Here's more on how to seal windows and other areas of the home.

3. Fake new countertops

​thehandymansdaughter.com

Vineta Jackson of The Handyman's Daughter plans to remodel her kitchen in a few years. "But I didn't want to live with my ugly blue countertops for that long," says Jackson.

So she covered the countertops with heavy-duty, faux-granite contact paper. Not only did it take only an hour, but the whole job also cost less than $50.

"And it held up great and is still going strong after three years," says Jackson.

4. Use painting shortcuts

If painting a whole room seems like too much work, try just painting your door frames, doors, and baseboards. This will freshen up your room in a quarter of the time of a full-on paint job (plus you'll save a ton on paint).

"Paint door and trim in an accent color you already have in the room," says Marty Basher, home organization and improvement expert with ModularClosets.com. You can also simply paint one wall in a room to add some color and interest.

Next up: kitchens. We all know changing the color of cabinets can breathe new life into a drab kitchen space, but painting them all is a lot of work. So go two-toned with your cabinets.

Paint only the bottom half under your countertops, says Kate Gailunas, interior designer and owner of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

If you have light floors and countertops, go for dark colors (or vice versa). Think navy blues, with whites, pastels, and wood, or gray with bold colors.

5. Update outlet and switch covers


Photo by MS Colours Inc.

An easy and inexpensive improvement that refreshes a room's appearance is to replace dirty, crusty switch-plate covers with an upgrade from the standard plastic ones.

"If it isn't in your budget to replace them all, refresh your old ones," says a licensed real estate agent and all-around DIYer Kimberly Blaker.

Remove the covers, soak them in water, and then scrape off any old paint.

"Then simply spray-paint them with a metallic or colored hue, and in an hour, they'll be ready to put back on," says Blaker.

6. Refinish your bathtub

"Instead of buying a new tub for hundreds of dollars, refresh your old porcelain, ceramic, or fiberglass tub’s finish," says Michelle Felux, a DIY home renovator at BreakingDowntheBox.com.

You just need an epoxy kit for tubs, which will run you about $30 at the hardware store, an abrasive cleaner, tub repair product to fill in holes (about $20), sandpaper, and some caulk.

Prep your tub by removing the hardware, and then clean it with the abrasive cleaner. Next, repair the tub’s imperfections with your tub repair product and sand it smooth.

"Finally, mix up the epoxy and paint it on in two thin coats, letting each coat dry thoroughly," says Felux.

Wait three days before running water in it, and then caulk to seal it—you'll have a tub that looks brand-new!

Here's more on how to paint a bathtub.

7. Stick on a wood accent wall


timberchic.com

A fast and easy upgrade to your home is to create an accent using real reclaimed wood planks that you can peel and stick.

"Wood planks are easy to install and, in just a few hours, will instantly transform the look of any room in your home," says Tom Shafer, founder of TimberChic.com.

The planks, which come in lengths of 1 or 2 feet, can also be used for creating interesting walls, ceilings, doors, beams, and columns. And they are right on trend (just ask Joanna Gaines).

8. Swap out ceiling-fan blades

If your ceiling fans are looking decrepit, there's no need to buy a whole new unit. Not only are new fans costly, but swapping out the whole thing also usually means calling in an electrician.

"Instead, try this cost-effective and easy fix: Buy a package of new ceiling fan blades that fit your existing motor," says Blaker. Your ceiling fans will look as good as new again.

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

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry

Don't Fall Short! 6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle This Autumn

by Amy McLeod Group


Autumn brings pumpkins and—love 'em or hate 'em—pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, and spooky skeletons. But most importantly, fall brings an end to a summer of outdoor adventures—and tedious yard tasks like weeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.

But just because the weather's cooling off doesn't mean your to-do list will, too. Before busting out the cinnamon spice and mulled wine, take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

"It's easier to prepare for a winter emergency in the fall," says Jericho McClellan, who works in construction management.

But fear not: We've got you covered with our checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this season. Read on for details about where to start, and whom to call if you need backup.

1. Properly store your yard equipment

Storage shed
Björn Forenius/iStock

 

One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will suck if you don't prep your equipment this fall. That's because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

And it's not just gas-powered equipment that needs a fall refresh.

Lester Poole, Lowe's live-nursery specialist, recommends running pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you'll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

DIY: This project is easy to do yourself—just get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

2. Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

If you haven't tracked down your home's water shut-offs yet, now's the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you've found them, give them a test.

"The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst," McClellan says. (More on that, too, in a minute.)

Now's also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

DIY: If your pipes do freeze, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe's Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point by feeling the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it by wrapping the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

Call in the pros: If you can't locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run $150 to $600 on average(depending on the severity of the leak).

3. Clear out your crawl space

While you're winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly?

DIY: While it's still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter's worst happens.

Call in the pros: Creeped out by the idea of crawling around under your house? Professional crawl space cleaners charge about $500 to $4,500, depending on the size of your house and the state of the space.

4. Close your crawl space vents

During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home's perimeter.

"The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics," says real estate agent, broker, and construction expert Ron Humes. "The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there."

Here's why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

DIY: "When the temperatures drop, slide those crawl space vents closed," Humes says. "Just remember to open them again in the spring."

If one of your vents is broken, replacements range from $20 to $50.

Call in the pros: If your crawl space stays damp through the fall and winter, you might want to consider waterproofing, dehumidifying, and sealing off your crawl space to prevent wet air. This can cost $1,500 to $15,000.

5. Kick-start your composting efforts

Compost bin in the garden

fotomem/iStock

Now's the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don't even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

"Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden," Poole says. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

"Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer," Poole says.

Next year's tomatoes will thank you.

DIY: If your yard lacks space for a compost corner—or you have no interest in regular pitchforking—consider a tumbling composter. 

6. Protect your trees

Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, "sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split," Poole says.

He recommends wrapping your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

DIY: You can find 150 feet of paper tree wrap on Amazon for $18, although you may need a few rolls depending on how many trees need winter protection.

Call in the pros: Are your trees already looking the worse for wear? A tree service can help you sort out what's wrong. Pruning costs anywhere from $75 to $1,000.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe
Holly Amaya contributed to this article

Help, We Have a Leaky Roof! What to Do If This Happens to You

by Amy McLeod Group


I’ve known we needed to replace the roof above our front porch for some time now. It’s flat (water doesn’t drain well from it); we live in Florida (there are downpours nearly every day); and I can see the spreading stains on the stucco from my office window. It’s been on my expensive-things-we-should-do list for a while.

As we started to gather estimates on the repair job, however, we began wondering if we should replace the roof on our entire house instead. It’s already 20 years old, and even though it’s largely in good shape now, we know it has to be done sooner or later. Since roofers would be up there anyway, maybe it was the right move, even though the idea of spending money on something so boring—yes essential, but boring—wasn’t on my things-I-want-to-spend-money-on list.

How much does it cost to replace a roof, anyway?

If you had asked me what a new roof might cost a month ago, I would have given you an estimate so laughably short of the mark that Bob Barker would have forever banned me from the “Price Is Right." The initial quotes we got for a new roof were jaw-dropping—upward of $50,000 jaw-dropping.

Of course, there are many variables when it comes to cost, including the type of roof, where you live, and the size of your house.

We happen to have a concrete tile roof, and our home is over 3,000 square feet. So, we’re on the high end when it comes to roof replacements, but it's a big expense any way you look at it.

On average, the cost of a new roof ranges from about $22,636 for asphalt shingles to $38,600 for a metal roof nationwide, according to Remodeling magazine.

With these figures burning my eyes, my next question was: Do we really need to replace the whole roof? Or could we do just the necessary repairs?

How long does a roof last?

Complicating this decision, we’d like to sell this house in the near future so we can move closer to a new job. So, can we just wait it out and hope for the best?

Experts say most roofs last between 15 and 40 years, while some, such as those made of tile shingle, are meant to last hundreds of years. However, how long a roof is meant to last and how long it actually lasts are often two very different things.

For example, Connor Sullivan, a storm restoration specialist with American Roofing, says a three-tab shingle roof is supposed to last 20 to 25 years, but most last only 12 to 15 years due to weather, improper installation, and lack of ventilation. An architectural shingle roof is designed to last up to 40 years, but he says most usually last only 25 to 30 years.

That means we could have 10-plus more years with this roof—or not.

To reroof or repair?

It all seems like an expensive gamble, but industry experts say there are some important factors to consider.

“If you're only going to be living there for a couple more years and then selling, it may make sense to make minor repairs and move on, assuming the roof is in generally good shape,” says Corey Crossman, a real estate agent and broker in Raleigh, NC.

“If you plan on staying for the long haul and your roof is giving you trouble, it's better to replace it right away and enjoy years of a good roof rather than put it off and battle roof leaks and other problems.”

He says what you don’t want to do is continue repairing a roof that has outlived its life expectancy.

“Many homeowners would rather spend a few hundred dollars here and there to make repairs than take the big hit and spend several thousand for a new roof," he says. "But in most cases, they'd be better off investing in a roof replacement, enjoying the best years of the roof, and then reaping the rewards if and when they sell the home.”

If your roof has been damaged due to weather, don’t forget to contact your insurance company, as some repairs or replacements may be covered under your homeowners policy.

“Going through insurance should always be your first option to save you from spending an arm and a leg on something your insurance should be helping you with,” Sullivan says.

We did indeed contact our insurance company, and it deemed a small portion of our porch roof damage to be weather-related. We got a small check to help cover the cost of repairs.

What's the ROI on a new roof?

The question of a new roof’s return on investment,or ROI, is a big variable to consider as well. Of course, there are no guarantees, and experts have varying opinions on the ROI of a new roof. Most say it’s not 100%, but it can make a significant difference when it comes to selling a home.

“If your house needs a new roof and the roof costs $10,000, it probably doesn't mean you'll be able to sell the home for $10,000 more than your competition,” Crossman says.

“However, where you can really cash in is the speed at which your house will sell. A home with an old or failing roof just begs for lowball offers and will likely be sitting on the market for quite some time before a buyer is willing to step in and pay market price for it," Crossman continues. "If you don't want to sell your home at a discount and you want to sell fast, opt for the new roof.”

Demetrius Gray, former roofing company owner and CEO of WeatherCheck, a technology startup that monitors properties for hail damage, offered this insight. “The ROI can vary a lot because a bad roof can be a deal breaker when it’s time to sell because they cause appraisals to fail,” he says. “A new roof should be about a 5% increase in value, and more if the workmanship and material warranties are transferable.”

Repair or replace: What we did with our roof

In the end, we decided to repair our roof where necessary and focus our funds on other home improvement projects. We’re painting the exterior, replacing the outdoor lights and fixtures, getting a new front door, and doing some other cosmetic changes to make the house look more modern. We’re hoping this adds some value and curb appeal and will allow us to enjoy the house more for the remaining time we spend in it.

We don’t assume the ROI on these improvements will be as high as that for a new roof, and we realize we may end up having to replace our entire roof down the line. In the meantime, we’re excited about our home makeover, crossing our fingers we made the right decision and hoping the hurricane seasons are mild.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs!

By: Realtor.com, Julie Ryan Evans

Don't Screw Up! 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Deck

by Amy McLeod Group


A deck is high on the list of must-haves for homeowners who enjoy the great outdoors. It expands your usable living space and provides a great place to relax or entertain. It's little wonder that so many folks opt to extend their decks or build a new one from scratch.

But if you decide to take on this big-time home improvement project alone, you need to do it right. Any mistakes can be a waste of time and money, especially if you end up needing to calling in someone to fix your errors.

What can you do to prevent a major building misstep? Avoid the following flubs.

1. Ignoring codes and permits

Your home is your castle, and you have the right to build any type of deckyou want, right? Sort of.

“You need to have a copy of your local codes for decking and railing, and build your deck plan accordingly,” says Geoff Case, senior merchant for pressure-treated wood products at the Home Depot.

The building code is often derived from the International Residential Code, and amendments are made at the local level.

"While you need to be aware of IRC requirements, it's often the local changes that do-it-yourself builders forget about,” Case explains.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to find the information you need to stay in compliance—you can find many of the municipality-specific requirements on your city or county website.

But the deck will likely be in your backyard, hidden from the public, so do you need a building permit?

Doug Fritsch, director of web and package sales at 84 Lumber, warns against taking the chance.

“If your project is flagged by a building inspector, you may have to rebuild significant portions, or maybe even tear the deck down,” he says.

2. Choosing the wrong materials

There are a variety of woods and treatments to choose from, so you’ll need to know which one is best for your project.

“A popular treated deck board is 5/4-by-6 inches, which has a rounded edge and a great finished look,” Fritsch says. However, composite decking is also popular because it’s mostly maintenance-free.

The type of treatment you use is also important.

“Using the incorrect treatment type for your decking can cause it to deteriorate at a faster rate,” Case warns. “Make sure deck joists, beams, and ledgers are installed using wood treated for ground contact use.”

3. Waiting too long to make changes

It’s understandable to change your mind when building a new deck, but try to make any modifications as early in the process as possible.

“Make your mistakes and changes in the design phase, not when construction has started,” says Fritsch. He recommends using the free design service offered by most lumberyards.

“This will help you visualize your deck in 3D and collaborate efficiently with everyone involved in the construction,” he says.

4. Forgetting to seal the deck

To extend the life of the wood, you must seal the deck.

"Wood that is unsealed can get weathered and deteriorate much faster than sealed decks,” says Case.

5. Using the wrong type of hardware and fasteners

Your deck’s strength depends on more than just the decking boards.

“Homeowners should buy and use products like joist hangers, railing mounting brackets, post-to-beam hardware, and correct-length deck screws that are approved specifically for deck building,” says Case. “Usually, these are stainless-steel, polymer-coated, or hot-dipped galvanized materials.”

Why can't you just use the nails and screws you have on hand? They might not stay in place.

“When wood expands and contracts, nails have a tendency to pop out above the surface,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. He recommends exterior-grade screws instead, since they’re less likely to come loose in the future, but can be taken out if you need to replace a board.

6. Skimping on handrails

For specific types of decks, handrails are required, so make sure you don't forget them.

“Any stairs over four steps in length must have a continuous handrail on at least one side, and it must be graspable for the full run of the stairs,” Case says.

7. Ignoring aesthetic details

Don't get so obsessed with sturdiness that you lose sight of making the deck look good, too. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting aesthetic details.

“I recommend adding a band detail around the edge to conceal the end of the joists,” says Patti Wynkoop, vice president of product development and purchasing at Miller & Smith, a home building company in McLean, VA.

She also recommends wrapping the structural posts and trimming the cap and bases. “This gives a sense of proportion and finish,” she says.

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

By: Realtor.com, Teri Williams


Owning your home feels great—that is, until the roof leaks. Or a pipe breaks. Or the HVAC just dies—in the middle of a summer heat wave, no less. Which begs the question: How much should homeowners set aside to take care of regular home maintenance and repairs?

If this question catches you off guard, don't feel bad—you have plenty of company.

Xavier Epps, finance expert and CEO of XNE Financial Advising, in Washington, DC, has prepared hundreds of financial plans for new and current homeowners.

"You'd be surprised at the number of clients I've prepared financial plans for that didn't want to consider budgeting for the repairs and maintenance of any sort," he says.

Epps finds that almost 70% of the time, clients actually reject the idea of adding such a line item in their budget. But here's why you should—and how much you should allot to this important fund.

Emergency fund vs. home maintenance fund: What's the difference?

First things first: Budgeting for predictable maintenance and repairs is not the same as saving up for the emergency fund every household should have. An emergency fund, equal to living expenses for a minimum of one to three months, is often recommended as a buffer for unexpected expenses and loss of income.

For example, if you get sick and can't work for two months, your car breaks down (beyond normal maintenance), or you have to travel on short notice to a funeral—those are all emergencies.

If you've already used your emergency fund to perform routine home maintenance and repairs, you won't have any cash reserves left when a true emergency strikes. You should have an amount in your monthly budget allocated specifically for home maintenance and repairs, both planned and unforeseen, so you can afford to keep your house in tiptop shape without jeopardizing your important emergency fund or going into debt.

How much should I budget for home maintenance and repairs?

"Budget between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home for annual preventative maintenance and repair costs," says John Bodrozic of Sacramento, CA, who's co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management platform.

Where your actual costs fall in that range depends largely on the age and condition of your home.

If your home is newer, or if it has been recently and thoroughly renovated, you might be able to budget less for maintenance and repairs, at least for the first few years.

"If your home is less than 5 years old, then use the lower percentage of 1%, as most of your home's equipment, appliances, building materials, fixtures, finishes, etc. are still relatively new, thus probably in good working condition," says Bodrozic.

If you bought your place new from a builder, you may even have warranties on individual items in your home, or an overall warranty. That could substantially reduce the amount you have to spend on repairs while the warranties are in effect.

Don't assume that living in a new home is maintenance-free, however, or that you won't need to make changes and improvements to it. A home that hasn't been lived in before may not have all of the features you need. And homebuilders often do a cursory job of landscaping. When you discover how little topsoil they used in your yard, you may need to budget for outside improvements, too.

If your home is more than 25 years old, on the other hand, plan on budgeting closer to 4%.

"Nothing lasts forever. The natural life span of the collection of materials your home is made of is getting older, therefore you will have more fix-it and repair costs," Bodrozic says.

Another way to predict expenses for home upkeep is to look at how many square feet you have, both in the house and outside. Home prices vary widely throughout the country, but as a general rule, the bigger the house and lot, the higher your maintenance costs. A home on significant acreage generally requires more maintenance than a tract house on a postage stamp–size lot, regardless of how much the house is worth. Or when you need a new roof, you'll pay a lot more on a larger house.

Reasons to keep track of past home maintenance expenses

If you've lived in your home for a number of years and you've kept the place up, one way to budget for maintenance and repairs is to look at what you spent last year. Repairs and replacements, especially, can seem like one-time expenditures. However, over time they tend to average out. The refrigerator may have been replaced last year, but in a 20-year-old house, that's not the only thing that's wearing out. This year, it may be the dishwasher or water heater. Get ready for it.

If you haven't lived in your house for long or if you don't have records of how much you spent last year, consider tracking your home maintenance and repair costs. At least mark them on your credit card bills, or keep the receipts in a marked file.

How can I save money on home maintenance?

Follow these tips to keep your annual home maintenance and repair expenses as low as possible, and still keep your house in tiptop shape:

  • Know your home. If you're about to buy a home, be sure to have it inspected, and try to determine how old each appliance and major home component is. "Remember, every piece of the home has a useful life attached to it, so it's best to get a feel for how old the items are as soon as you can," says Epps. "If you buy a home with 10-year-old hardwood floors, there's a great chance you'll need to budget for replacement or refinishing." Likewise, wall paint usually needs to be redone in five to 10 years, and an HVAC system may last 10 to 15 years, according to Epps. Consider creating a schedule of when you may need to replace major items.
  • Be proactive in your home maintenance. You'll save money in the long run by proactively maintaining your home, rather than waiting for something to quit working. This includes obvious upkeep such as mowing and pruning your yard, plus the jobs that are more easily forgotten—like changing the air filters, cleaning your dryer ducts, and checking your fire extinguishers, according to Bodrozic. "It's important to keep a recurring schedule of these tasks, because if you don't do them, you are more likely to have larger, more expensive repair costs when things break," he explains. You might even want to use an organization app such as HomeZada to create a recurring list of maintenance tasks for you.
  • Don't delay when you discover signs of trouble. If the dryer isn't getting the clothes dry, clean out the vents now. Don't wait until it is impossibly clogged or starts a fire. Any dripping sounds or signs of water intrusion? Fix it or call for professional help, before structural damage and mold occur. Pests and wildlife intruders also need to be dealt with promptly—termites cause over $5 billion in property damage every year, which is rarely covered by homeowners insurance, according to Tommy Giardino, senior vice president of operations at Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta. If you hear noises from rodents and squirrels, take action immediately. "Rodents and squirrels are known for using insulation for building nests and gnawing on wires, which can lead to electrical fires," he says.
  • Learn the basics of home maintenance. You can save a lot of money by learning home maintenance basics. Know your limits, however. It's more cost-effective to hire a pro than it is to take on more than you can handle, or worse yet, to get hurt trying.

Dreaming of homeownership? Let The McLeod Group Network find your find your new home !971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Sally Herigstad

Is Renting Right for Me?

by Amy McLeod Group


If you’re currently renting and have dreams of owning your own home, it may be a good time to think about your next move. With rent costs rising annually and many helpful down payment assistance programs available, homeownership may be closer than you realize.

According to the 2018 Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, 74% of renters plan on buying within the next 5 years, and 38% are planning to buy within the next 2 years.

When those same renters were asked why they disliked renting, 52% said rising rental costs were their top reason, and 42% of renters believe their rent will rise every year. The full results of the survey can be seen below:

It’s no wonder rising rental costs came in as the top answer. The median asking rent price has risen steadily over the last 30 years, as you can see below.

There is a long-standing rule that a household should not spend more than 28% of its income on housing expenses. With nearly half of renters (48%) surveyed already spending more than that, and with their rents likely to rise again, it’s never a bad idea to reconsider your family’s plan and ask yourself if renting is your best angle going forward. When asked why they haven’t purchased a home yet, not having enough saved for a down payment (44%) came in as the top response. The report went on to reveal that nearly half of all respondents believe that “a 20% down payment is required to buy a home.”

The reality is, the need to produce a 20% down payment is one of the biggest misconceptions of homeownership, especially for first-time buyers. That means a large number of renters may be able to buy now, and they don’t even know it.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many renters who are tired of rising rents but may be confused about what is required to buy in today’s market, let The McLeod Group Network help to determine your path to homeownership. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

6 Ways to Banish Mildew Smells in the Bathroom

by Amy McLeod Group


Have you ever walked into your bathroom and thought: My God! What is that smell?  Mildew could be to blame for transforming your special oasis into stink central. Don't panic, we're here to help.

Mildew, or mold in its early stage, tends to be found in wet, moisture-prone areas. It looks grayish-white but can turn brown over time. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, mildew can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, insulation, wallpaper, carpet, drywall, fabric, plants, and other organic materials that are commonly found in bathrooms. And once the fungus makes its way onto your precious towels and tiles, you need to get serious about eradicating it.

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You can get rid of that mildew misery and restore your bathroom to its former lavender-scented glory in no time.

“Minor mold issues can usually be addressed by most homeowners with a little cleanup,” says Gregory Frazier, with Art Plumbing, AC & Electric, in Coral Springs, FL.

Ready to scrub away that stale stink? Here's how.

1. Wash it

The first step to battling the mildew stench is to wash everything. This means washing those hand-towels that have been hanging in the bathroom forever, the musty bathroom rugs, and the stale window curtains. When laundering, experts suggest adding one cup of white vinegar to wash the load. Frequently wash your nonslip mats, too. And, toss that vinyl shower curtain and replace it with a washable cotton, hemp, or nylon shower curtain.

“Bleach can be used to clean the mildew source and stop it from growing," says Gina Perry, senior merchant of cleaning at The Home Depot in Atlanta.

For items that can withstand bleach, FEMA recommends using a 10% solution or 1.25 to 1.5 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. The bleach/water solution can also be used to wipe down shower doors, cabinets, and walls, and to mop hard floors around bathtubs and toilets.

2. Address any water issues

Water can be the big culprit behind that nasty smell. “You can get a mildew smell if you have a slow drain leak under a sink or around a drain,” says Frazier. He says the same thing can happen with toilets if a wax ring seal, which seals the toilet to the flange, has a slight leak that is allowing small amounts of water to seep out under the toilet.

“The fix is to repair the leak promptly and wipe the area that got wet down with a strong, bleach-based cleaner,” Frazier says.

Bathtubs can also occasionally get a mildew smell if they're not properly sealed and if small amounts of water get between the wall and the tub. A bleaching solution can scrub away mildew on top of caulk, but if it’s underneath, it will need to be completely removed and properly recaulked.

3. Let the bathroom breathe

Dark, damp, warm rooms make for a happy home for mildew to thrive. To remedy this, open the windows and let fresh air in. If you don't have a window in the bathroom, keep the bathroom door cracked open when showering. If you need more privacy and prefer to shower with the door closed (no judgment!), install a ceiling fan or consider running an electric fan to keep air moving. Open your cabinets so they can get fresh air, too.

“I find one of the biggest things homeowners can do to combat mildew smells in bathrooms is to ensure they have a properly functioning, properly sized exhaust fan,” says Frazier.

4. Use an air purifier

Mildew reeks, but it can also make people with allergies or asthma sick or irritate their eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

Sara Alsén, chief purpose officer for Sweden-based Blueair, a leader in air-cleaning solutions, says placing a high-performing air purifier in the bathroom will have a twofold effect: It will remove the unhealthy mold and bacteria in the air and make the smell disappear.

“An air purifier with a high airflow will also increase the air circulation in the bathroom and as such, help fight the mold growth,” she says.

5. Apply a fresh coat of paint

There’s nothing a new paint job can’t cure, right? Try using mold- and mildew-resistant paint.

Rick Watson, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams, says paints with odor-eliminating technology can help inhibit the growth of mold and mildew and reduce common indoor odors, so rooms stay fresher longer.

But make sure to treat the mildew before painting. Bathrooms are splash-prone areas, so lower parts of the walls and corners and edges near the ceiling are typical breeding areas for mildew.

After cleaning, brush a coat of mildew-resistant primer on ceiling and walls to prevent peeling in high-moisture areas. Let the coat of primer dry, then apply the first coat of mildew-resistant paint and say goodbye to that mildew smell.

6. Try an odor eliminator

Odor-absorbing items can help. Charcoal briquettes, an open box of baking soda, or a small pouch of kitty litter can make the bathroom smell fresher by absorbing the odor and the moisture in the air. However, make sure to replace them every month or so. Natural air fresheners, like essential oils or citrus peels, can also cut the stench.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Anayat Durrani 


Planning to remodel your bathroom into the oasis of your dreams? Then you'd better get a handle on your plumbing. Even if you don't see the pipes connected to your sink or shower, understanding how they work is essential if you want your bathroom renovation to turn out all right (and within budget).

That's why, in the latest installment of our "Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide," we break down everything you need to know about plumbing into bite-size pieces. Read on for some surprises!

1. Bathroom remodel 101: Types of pipes

In the past, most bathroom plumbing pipes were made of cast iron or galvanized metal. However, these pipes won't work with many of the newfangled, water-saving setups like, say, low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets will save about 17,000 gallons of water yearly. (Note: Flushing a standard toilet uses about 38% of an average household’s water.) The catch is, they require PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipes. But updating to these kinds of pipes is both easy and affordable.

"These new types of pipes are flexible—and thus very simple and inexpensive to install," says Cassidy Melhorn, a pipe design engineer and founder of Knoxville's Volhomes.

You also need to figure out if you prefer hidden or exposed plumbing when you're looking to buy your sink, tub, or toilet.

"Exposed plumbing is the more traditional look, while hidden plumbing is much more minimalist and cleaner-looking," says Ryan Holden, director of Progressive Heating & Air, an HVAC and plumbing company in San Diego.

If you have a lot of visible plumbing, you might want to use copper pipes instead of PVC or PEX, because copper is more appealing aesthetically. Just keep in mind that it's more expensive and difficult to work with, since sawing and fitting these pipes into place will take more work than cutting soft, flexible PEX/PVC.

Regardless of the material, consider insulating these pipes, which can help reduce the amount of heat lost as your water travels from the heater to the faucet.

2. Plumbing can affect a bathroom's layout

The existing water and drain lines in your bathroom usually dictate the location of fixtures in your renovation. You can move pipes and drains—although it'll cost you—but some relocations might be impossible.

For example, you may be dreaming about a large tub right next to the bathroom window.

"But if the piping won't allow for this configuration, then you will need to rethink the entire layout," says Holden. This all comes down to drain line access. While it's usually feasible to relocate a large fixture, the supporting joists beneath the bathroom floor usually can't be cut in order to install new drains.

Bottom line: Before you buy any fixture that connects to a pipe, sit down with your contractor (or a plumber) and have a conversation about what's feasible.

3. Watch out for water pressure

The good news is that there's something called the National Pipe Thread, which is a U.S. standard size for a fitting that connects rigid pipes such as shower heads to the shower arm pipe in your shower. That means if you're replacing a shower head, most fixtures out there will fit the existing pipe.

The bad news? That new shower head may not work with your existing water pressure. New shower heads are now required to restrict water flow and deliver less than 2.5 gallons per minute. So if you have low water pressure and add a new water-saving shower head, you may be soaping up under a trickle. To avoid this travesty, have your home's water pressure checked before you buy your accessories.

"Each home will have a different water pressure, but the average is usually around 45 to 80 pounds per square inch," says Holden. "It's the little things like this that people often overlook, and end up buying all their accessories only to find they won't work with existing plumbing."

Also keep in mind that there are things you can do to adjust your water pressure. If your water pressure is too low, it's often due to clogged pipes you can unclog—or if not, you can also buy a water pressure booster. Or if your pressure is too high, you can install a pressure-reducing valve.

4. Take a look at your water heater

A remodel may also call for a water heater replacement—heaters generally last about 10 years—or even an upgrade to a tankless water heater. Also called “demand-type water heaters,” these devices are about the size of a small suitcase and deliver endless warm water only when you need it. Conventional water heaters always have a tank of hot water whether you need it or not, which drives up energy costs. Just note that on-demand heaters cost up to three times more than conventional heaters to buy and install. That works out to about $800 to $3,000 for the unit, and installation can add an additional $1,000 to $3,000.

5. Plumbing for luxe extras

Renovating is a good time to think about heating, as your walls and floors will often need to be opened anyway.

"Consider installing underfloor heating," says Holden. Known as radiant heat, this method uses hot water to carry heat through a network of tubing beneath the floor.

"You may wish to have a hydronic heated towel rack installed, too," he adds.

6. Make sure to shut off your water first!

One last no-brainer for you rookie DIYers out there: Whether you're swapping out your sink, shower, toilet, or some other water-spouting device, you have to shut off your water first—or else!

You can generally just shut off the water at the fixtures you are swapping out. Sink valves are typically under it, and the toilet valve is generally where the plumbing meets the wall. Some bath and showers have an access panel on the reverse side of the wall, which may house shut-off valves. There's also a main shut-off inside the house, usually in the basement.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

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The McLeod Group Network
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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.