Archive for the ‘Home Maintenance’ Category

So you have an ice dam,

Unfortunately if you already have an ice dam there isn’t much you can do while there is still snow on the roof. How do you prevent this from happening? Start by removing the snow from their roof as soon as they can. Once spring rolls around there is one big thing you can do insulate! I can’t stress that enough. The ice dam is cause by the heat loss from your home. Insulate your attic as much as you can. If possible update the ventilation. Some of the pre WWII homes you can’t ventilate well if at all.  The insulation is the most important part. For you DIYers go to your local lumber yard and purchase some bats of fiberglass insulation we really like Owens Corning and line your attic. Here is a link to their instructions to insulate your attic.

Otherwise hire a local insulator and they can spray insulation into your attic. Our insulator of choice is Dave Stanton owner of Northwind Insulation in Northfield.


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Here are some maintenance tips from Home-Smart.org

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“Water, water every where… So let’s all drink some water!”  Famous qoute from Homer Simpson right before he attempted to drink the ocean water when Homer, Ned, Bart, and Todd were stranded at sea.

Yes Homer, 70% of the planet is covered by water.  Unfortunately, 97% of the Earth’s water is undrinkable salt water and 2% of the water is frozen in ice caps.  That means only 1% of the Earth’s water is drinkable.  With a little help from Global Warming we can change that!  I mean…  If we continue to waste water at current rates, we will have to defend our precious 10,000 lakes from the Californians, Arizonans, and New Mexicans. There are a number of ways to prevent the complete depletion of our fresh water supply.

First and foremost is to change our living habits.  The average American household uses about 300 gallons of water a day compared to the average African household that uses about 5 gallons a day.

Turn off the faucet when shaving and brushing your teeth (saves 4-6 gallons)

Take shorter showers (saves 25-50 gallons)

Fix the leaking faucet (saves 16 bathtubs of water in a month)

Refrain from watering the lawn
Well, I’m a big fan of the long showers, I also can’t stand a brown lawn, and I’m definitely flushing the toilet even if it is just a “number one.”

Low-flow toilets – use 1.6 gallons per flush.  Toilets consume 40% of the water in a home, that’s why if you make one household change, it should be to low-flow toilets.  It is very inexpensive and saves you money down the road.

Dual-flush toilets – two types of flushes, one with 0.8 gallons used for liquid waste and 1.6 gallons used for solid waste.  After all there are two numbers, why shouldn’t there be two flushes?

Low-flow showerheads – also very inexpensive to install.  Low-flow showerheads may cut your energy bill in half!

Tankless Water Heater – only heats the water that you use and does not constantly run.

Off-Peak Water Heater – water heater that shuts off during hours of non use, while you sleep and while you’re at work.

Check back about Graywater and Rainwater when Resource Efficiency comes up.

And don’t worry about Homer and the boys, they found an off-shore drilling rig converted into a Krusty Burger.

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An energy efficient home not only saves you money, it also reduces the growing strain on the America’s resources.  Even by changing a few of your light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs makes a world of difference on the environment and on your energy bill.

Here are a few cheap and some not so cheap ways to make your existing home an energy efficient home:

CFL’s – Change your light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs.  CFL’s last 10 times longer, produce 70% less heat, and they use just a fraction of the energy than incandescent bulbs.

Natural Light – Consider adding skylights, sun tunnels, and well placed mirrors.  Some studies have proven that natural daylight can help to improve your health when ill.

Modern Appliances – Replace your major appliances if they are 15 years or older.  Refrigerators, heaters, and air conditioners 20 years ago used twice as much energy as they do today.  Look for the Energy Star logo.

Insulation – Have an insulation sub-contractor look at your insulation if you don’t what is behind your walls or if it was built before 1981.  Some houses that are 100 years old don’t even have insulation.  It may cost $10,000 upfront, but your energy bill could be cut in half when your home is insulated properly.  Don’t forget to insulate your attic, crawl spaces, foundation, and hot water pipes.

Caulking and Sealing – With all the ducts, pipes, and outlets running in and out of your house you might as well have a window open in January if they aren’t properly sealed.  Walk around your house once or twice a year and look for cracks in previously caulked areas like doors, windows, trim, pipes, and outlets.  If there’s a crack, caulk it.

Windows and Locks – When running the AC or the heat, be sure to close and LOCK the windows.  Every window manufacturer designs the windows to seal tightly when the window is locked, not just closed.  Also, consider replacing your windows with double-pane windows with a U-value of 0.35 or lower if you haven’t yet.

Building Envelope – Make it tight, vent it right!  Most subjects in today’s entry lead to the building envelope hence, it is the most important topic to focus on when making your house efficient because it includes interior, exterior, and all the cracks in between.

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New MN Law goes into affect this week. Last year all new homes had to have carbon monoxide detectors within 10 feet of every bedroom. On August 1 all existing homes are required to have the detectors within 10 feet of every bedroom. Most detectors cost between $10-$30 and you can find them at most hardware stores. I know for sure that the big box stores have them.

Good luck!

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Roofing Review

Spring is a good time to check your roof for any damage from the winter weather. From the ground look to make sure there aren’t any missing shingles, lumps or raised shingles. Look to make sure none of your ridge shingles (these are the shingles that are along the peak of the roof) have blown off. If you go up on your roof check all the vents to make sure they are intact and look to see if any nails have popped back out and through the shingle. Look at the valleys (where two roof lines meet at a downward angle) to make sure none of the shingles have lifted or buckled. Before you go up on the roof make sure your ladder isn’t placed near any over head power lines and is sitting on level ground. To be on the safe side have someone assist you in holding the ladder in place while you climb up and down. See the user directions printed on your ladder.

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Spring time is a good time to check for grade that may have settled around your foundation with the spring thaw. The recommend slope is 6” of fall in the first 10’ away from your foundation. If this isn’t possible just make sure you have positive slope away from the foundation. Meaning that the grade next to your home is higher then what it is 5′ away from your home.

Don’t be by fooled decorative landscape rock around the foundation. I have seen homes that have reverse sloping soil and just add rock to give the appearance that the grade is sloped away from the house. That creates a pool that will hold water and that will run down along your foundation. Correcting this is not an easy task but it’s worth your time and money. First remove as much of the rock and all layers of plastic that maybe buried. Then add clay or a suitable soil to create the positive slope away from the foundation. Finally install new poly over the soil and put your decorative rock back in place.

Even in new homes or any newly excavated area from an addition you could have settlement for up to ten years. Keep paying attention to the grade. Time and money spent now to fix any problems will save you time and money if you have a flooded basement. Spending $100s to $1,000s vs. $10,000s is well worth the expense.

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