West Real Estate | Wilmington Real Estate, Tewksbury Real Estate, Reading Real Estate


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Before you start your first fire of the season, take a few moments to put your fireplace in order. You can do this in less than a half-hour if you gather everything you need. Here's the list:

  • Metal bucket with a lid for removing ash
  • A garden kneeling pad
  • Heavy rubber work gloves
  • A tarp or heavy drop-cloth
  • A small shovel and short-handled broom and dustpan
  • A scrub brush
  • Soft work rages
  • Paper towels
  • Used coffee grounds
  • A spray bottle with water
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar

Getting started

If you’ve recently lit a fire, wait at least a day before you clean it. The ashes need to completely cool. Then, lay the tarp or drop-cloth in front of the hearth. Put on a protective apron or old clothes. Situate the kneeling pads and don your rubber gloves.

Carefully lift out any tinder, kindling, or logs. Keep those that are burnable and set charred ones to the side for the trash bin. Then brush ash off the grate, remove it and place it to the side. Sprinkle a handful of the used coffee grounds onto the remaining ash to keep it from billowing up and filling the room. Then shovel out the ash into your metal bucket. With your broom and dustpan, sweep out the remaining ash, being careful to get into the corners and as far up the chimney as you can reach. Use your broom to sweep ash and dust off the screens too.

Spray water onto the areas stained with soot. If you have a newer fireplace (less than 50 years old), you can use a hearth cleaner if you like, following all directions on the packaging. For older fireplaces, use just water. If your firebox has stone or marble, add a little dish soap to the water bottle. Gently scrub with your brush and then rinse and wipe dry with the soft cloth. Wipe down your grate and fireplace tools with a damp cloth, next.

Use paper towels and a solution of vinegar and water (1-part vinegar to 9-parts water) to clean the glass doors, back and front, where applicable. Then, carefully fold up your tarp, keeping all the ash and debris inside, and take it out to the trash. Let the ash sit in the metal can overnight outside before sprinkling it on flowerbeds or tossing it in the vegetation recycling bin.

Now that your fireplace is sparkling clean, you're ready for any weather the season throws at you. If you're placing your house on the market, instead of lighting a fire, consider setting candles in it. Ask your professional home stager for other advice on making your home friendlier to visiting homebuyers.


Photo by Chris Thornton from Pexels

Thanks to screens, we can enjoy being outdoors without all the dirt and insects.  Open windows let the breeze in without letting in anything else, and we can picnic on our screened-in porches without the bug spray.  Screens can generally take a lot of wear and tear, but when subjected to winds, weather, and contact with people and pets, they start to break down.  Fortunately, they are often easy to repair without costly maintenance. In fact, window and door screen repairs can be straightforward DIY projects.

Screens usually come in either aluminum or fiberglass material.  Either of these can be patched if the damage is minor, such as a rip or hole just a few inches in length.  Hardware stores sell kits specific to the screen’s make and material for patching small holes. Alternately if you have spare screen fabric on-hand you can construct and apply a patch yourself.  Start by cutting an even shape around the rip, like a square or rectangle. Place a piece of waxed paper under the hole so the adhesive does not stick to your workspace. Dab a light layer of an adhesive like super glue or rubber-based glue along the edge of the hole--you could use a toothpick or small paintbrush for this step.  Cut a patch out of your roll of spare screen that is about a half-inch larger than the hole.  Center the patch over the hole and press it onto the cut edges of the hole, allow to dry completely.  

If the damage is larger or if you would just prefer to replace the entire screen, this won’t cost you much time or effort either. 

  1. Locate a clear, flat workspace and lay the screen down flat. Use a flat instrument like a flathead screwdriver to remove the rubber screen retainer spline from the screen’s frame so you can remove the old screen.  Check to see if the spline is visibly cracked or weathered. If it is, replace it along with the screen material. 
  2. Measure the screen then cut the replacement screen to size using tin cutters or heavy-duty scissors. Allow yourself a few extra inches on each side to make installation a little easier. 
  3. Center the new screen on the frame and pull it tight over the frame edges. Secure it in place with strong tape. 
  4. Using a screen spline roller tool, fit the screen firmly down into the indentation on the frame while pulling it taut, then use the tool to push the rubber spline back into the indentation over the new screen.  Once the spline rests tightly down in the indentation, closely trim any excess screen around all the edges.  

If you are constructing a porch or outdoor kitchen and planning for a large amount of screen, you may want to consider using thin posts or vertical slats between large screen ‘windows’ instead of expanses of uninterrupted screen.  This lets you take down individual screens to repair or replace instead of more costly, larger-scale fixes.


You may not think much about your hot water heater. Unless of course, your hot water heater ends up breaking down. Hot water is so important in our homes, yet we take this resource for granted. Hot water does a lot in our homes from clean our laundry to disinfect our dishes to heat up our showers. We use it without thinking about it.  


If you neglect your hot water heater it can cause some costly damage to your home. Your basement could end up flooded. Pipes can burst. You can be without the use of hot water for days- even weeks- if you’re not vigilant about taking care of your hot water heater. 


Once water is gushing from the source, the best course of action is to simply shut the water off to your home. Before you even get to that point there are some tell tale signs of damage to your hot water heater that can be detected before major issues arise. First, if you notice any type of water around your hot water heater, you should get it checked out. Don’t look at it as “no big deal.” Any type of moisture or water stains around the water heater itself are a sure sign that something isn’t right with the unit.


As a homeowner, you should know just how old your hot water heater is. Usually, the installation date on the heater is noted somewhere along with the serial number. The typical hot water heater lasts about 9-11 years. If you live in an area with hard water, this number can vary.   



The Cleanup


Once the damage is done to your hot water heater you’ll likely have a large cleanup project on your hands. You’ll need to call water extraction services that will help dry out the area and clean up any baseboards that can become hazardous. Sometimes, these projects can get a bit bigger than you’d ever expect. After the water is pumped out, the cleanup has only just begun.  


Why Hot Water Heaters Fail


The minerals from water tend to build up (especially in the case of hard water) and cause the unit to rust out form the inside. While the inside of the tank contains glass, it does have metal pieces that can rust. You can replace certain parts of the hot water heater from time to time to keep it in good working order, the best prevention is to replace your water heater when the time is right. Don’t let the unit sit until way past its expiration date.


Being The Homeowner


As a homeowner, you probably wonder if something like a broken water heater were to happen if your insurance would cover the cost of the damage. The insurance will cover the cost of cleanup and repairs. The insurance will not cover the cost to replace the hot water heater or any labor costs. The only way the entire cost would be covered is if you have a home warranty. 


A simple thing that you can get to help alleviate major damage to your home from a hot water heater is to get an alarm. This little device is inexpensive and will alert you when any water hits near the areas of the alarm. This could save you a lot of costly damage and repairs. The most important thing that you can do in your home to prevent major damage from a hot water heater is to stay vigilant and keep on top of maintenance and replacement timelines.           



One of the most satisfying aspects of being a new homeowner is the process of "making it your own."

That could include everything from painting walls and hanging pictures to replacing window treatments and assembling shelves. (Then, of course, there's the unpacking, furniture arranging, organizing, and room cleaning!)

For some people, one of the biggest challenges in getting unpacked, set up, and fully decorated is keeping their motivation high. While momentum is usually highest during the first few weeks of living in a new home, a lot of distractions, interruptions, and competing priorities can quickly vie for your attention.

In addition to using good time management skills and setting self-imposed deadlines for getting projects done, here are a few other strategies for staying on track with your decorating and home improvement goals:

Purchase needed supplies ASAP: It's easy for a project to get derailed or put on the "back burner" when you don't have all the tools, supplies, and materials you need to get started. Painting walls and ceilings is the perfect example because you can't get fully underway until you have a variety of brushes, rollers, paint trays, drop cloths, painters' tape, and a sufficient supply of paint -- often more than one color. If you have holes or cracks to fill, you may also need additional supplies like joint compound, a putty knife, and sandpaper. When you have immediate access to all the supplies you need for a particular project, it eliminates potential delays, excuses for getting started, and interruptions in your work flow.

Arrange child care: Sometimes the best approach to keeping your children supervised and entertained while you're working on the house is to hire a responsible teenager to babysit. If you have one or more older children in the family who can help take care of the younger ones for a few hours, then that's even better. In either case, you'll be able to stay focused on the task at hand and get a lot more accomplished.

Make it a priority: The problem with continually postponing a home repair, a landscaping task, or a painting project is that weeks can easily turn into months! Before you know it, years have gone by and you still haven't organized your basement, cleaned out those clogged rain gutters, or applied a fresh coat of paint to your outdated bathroom walls. By blocking off a specific period of time for getting a project underway or completed, you'll be accomplishing your home maintenance goals and beautifying your home faster and more efficiently.

Commit it to writing: When you write yourself a reminder note, create a to-do list, mark it on your calendar, or even text your spouse about your plans to tackle the project on Saturday, you've increased the probability that it will get done. Verbally telling people about it, such as when they ask you what you're doing this weekend, will also help fuel your motivation and nudge you to get the job done in a timely way!


Once you are a homeowner, you now are responsible for all the maintenance on your property. How often and what time of year to do any of those maintenance or repairs can be a mystery if you have never owned a detached single-family home before. Creating a schedule for all those things that you need to check on around the property and inside your home may be helpful. Keeping a repair/maintenance journal to track projects can give you peace of mind. This schedule, or journal, can be a simple handwritten notebook or spreadsheet saved on your computer.

Keeping up the Outside 

Your roof, siding, and fences take on all the year-round weather; visually inspect each of them at least once a year. According to NAHB, the National Association of Home Builders, your roof should be examined by a qualified roofer once every three years. Keeping any landscaping from rubbing up against the siding and cleaning the siding once a year helps to prolong the life of the materials. Fences in good working order secure your property and maintain curb appeal. Gutters and your downspouts need to be kept clear to work properly; so, they may require more frequent inspections during the year to ensure they are functioning well. In-ground sprinkler systems can experience cracked water lines in hard freezes. Sprinklers can also get damaged by lawn mowers or weed trimmers so test the system before winter set in and at the beginning of the watering season to ensure the system is in good repair. Larger trees and shrubs that are vulnerable to damaging property in inclement weather conditions so, keeping them healthy and trimmed can prevent possible damage. 

Keeping up the Inside

Furnace, air ducts, dryer vents, these all need to have regular inspections and maintenance done. The interior items can be checked on anytime during the year but having a consistent routine increases the chance those checks get completed. Checking the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a month is good but, actually testing them is better. Have an annual chimney checkup from a professional to give you the all clear for those fireplaces. Larger appliances may need occasional checkups to keep them running efficiently. Keeping the mechanics of your home at optimal operating condition will not only provide for the longevity of that appliance but save you money on your utility bills.




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