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Preventing Pests in Your Home

by Tucker Robbins

We normally associate pests and insects with Summer time, but now is a good time to think about what you can do to prevent creepy crawlers coming in to your home. It’s a simple matter of checking the outside as well as the inside, and staying ahead of them. 

 

Exterior 

  • 1. When you mulch plants, keep it from piling up against the house’s foundation. Insects can use the mulch for overwintering, but if you could add a border of rock or stone between the mulch and the house, or even use cedar mulch, it would discourage pests. 

  • 2. Inspect your foundation carefully for cracks or holes, as well as places where utility pipes and wires enter your home.  Cover or fill them with wire screen mesh, cement, or metal flashing. 

  • 3. Outside lights, when left on, draw flying insects, but if you can change the bulbs from incandescent to halogen, they are less attracted to the glow.  

  • 4. Check doors and windows for openings and seal them with caulking or weather-stripping, and repair any holes in your screens.

  • 5. Keep trash cans and surrounding areas clean, and make sure lids fit tight. Recyclables should be rinsed well, and container lids put back on before tossing them in the recycle bin. 

  • 6. If you have anything that can retain water, empty it as often as possible, and use a larvicide in your landscape’s water features.   

  • 7. If you use firewood, store it away from your home, at least thirty feet. 

  • 8. Gutters should be cleaned periodically, not only for their efficiency, but to help keep pests from making a home in the debris. 

 

Interior 

  • 1. The most important pest prevention tip for the inside of your home is cleanliness.  Keep crumbs off the counters and floors, clean food messes immediately, and keep food consumption limited to the kitchen. Wash up dishes before going to bed at night.  

  • 2. Storing open food in plastic containers with lids or plastic storage bags will lessen the chances of pests finding it. 

  • 3. Check stored grains, (flour, sugar, cornmeal), often, and discard it as soon as the expiration date passes.  Storing these in a sealed container is best. 

  • 4. Pet food is best kept in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. 

  • 5. Keep inside garbage in a trash can fitted with a bag, and keep the lid closed. Remove the bag to the outside can as soon as it’s full. 

  • 6. Vacuum carpets frequently, especially if you have pets.  They can bring in little hitch hikers when they come in from being outdoors. 

  • 7. Inspect all baseboards, and replace or repair them if they’re broken, and walls should be checked for holes, and repaired as soon as possible. 

 

 

If you see pests in or out of your home, it’s best to call a professional to address the problem, and do it quickly so you don’t suffer an infestation.  Once you know you’re clear of bugs, it only takes a few minutes each week to keep them from feeling at home in your home.  

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: www.gopherthekill.com

 

Caring for Your Laminate Wood Flooring!

by Tucker Robbins

Choosing laminate wood flooring for a home is a really good decision for a homeowner.  Laminate flooring has come a long way since its beginning a few decades ago, with better quality, ease of installment, and varieties to choose from--you can even get laminate to look like stone! Caring for this manufactured product can be tricky, but with the right cleaning and care, it can look great for years to come.  

 

Protecting the Floor 

 

  • 1. Laminate flooring isn’t real wood--it’s an image of wood adhered to fiberboard, with a bottom that is moisture damage-resistant. It is covered with a clear protectant that is hard enough to protect it from scratching and pitting. 

  • 2. Although it is made to prevent moisture damage, it still needs to be protected from liquids.  Any spills need to be cleaned up as quickly and thoroughly as possible. 

  • 3. The top layer of sealant is there to protect the floor, but if the dining room chairs are constantly pulled from the table, put some felt pads on the legs to prevent any scratching. 

  • 4. Other pieces of furniture that don’t get moved often still may need something under the legs, and felt pads or newer style plastic casters work perfectly for heavier pieces. 

  • 5. High traffic areas are best protected with area rugs and runners.  Be sure to use a gripper mat or tape underneath rugs to prevent slipping. 

  • 6. Even though laminate is great for homes with pets, they can still get scratched in extreme situations.  Keep pet’s toenails trimmed to prevent this. Pet accidents need to be cleaned immediately to prevent moisture damage and stains. 

  • 7. Some toys with sharp edges can dent or pit the floor, so they should be used with care, or in places protected with area rugs. 

  • 8. Sometimes an area of the floor can get damaged, and the best solution is to call the manufacturer to get their advice.  Most even sell repair kits for small DIY jobs. 

 

Keeping It Clean 

 

  • 1. The first defense in keeping any floor clean is a mat on both sides of a door that leads outside.  A “no shoes” policy could even be put in place to keep even more dirt out, as well as preventing scuff marks. 

  • 2. Removing dirt and small particles is best done on laminate floors with a microfiber cloth or mop.  Sweeping with a broom can scratch the surface over time, and usually doesn’t get all of the dirt, anyway.  Many styles of reusable and washable cloth floor cleaners are available and are perfect for laminate. 

  • 3. Electric sweepers are also excellent for vacuuming dirt and pet hair.  Make sure any vacuum-type sweeper has a gentle brush motion.  Too heavy, and it can scratch. 

  • 4. Mopping can create streaks because of too much detergent in the cleaner. The best solution for mopping grime or sticky spills is using two parts warm water, one part white vinegar, a few drops of dishwashing liquid, and a drop or two of lemon essential oil.  The essential oil helps keep the vinegar odor down, but that smell fades quickly.  Mix this in a spray bottle, and spray each area as you mop.  The less liquid used, the better for the floor. 

  • 5. In case of streaks, use a microfiber cloth or cloth diaper to buff the floor.  These are best for a great shine on the floor. Never use dusting spray, as it can cause floors to be slippery. 

 

 

Laminate flooring can be an asset to a home, without the expense and extra work a hardwood floor can bring. Without a lot of extra cost, the flooring can look new for many years, as long as attention is paid to its care and cleaning.  

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: www.desmetoxbow.com

Fall Gardening Tips

by Tucker Robbins

For most gardeners and those who love to work in the yard, it is time to tidy things up to prepare for cold weather. It’s the best time to prepare for next year, even though the next planting season is months away.  Get to work for a head start on Spring. 

 

Vegetable Garden 

  • 1. If you still have tomatoes or peppers ripening, either take up the plants and hang in a cool place to let them ripen on the vine, or protect them from frost with burlap or row covering over their stakes. 

  • 2. If you have cool weather plants, make sure they’re getting plenty of water, and leaving them to grow until after frost makes them taste better!  

  • 3. Clean up all dead or dying plant debris, because it can cause diseases and help insects that like to overwinter in the rotting vegetation.  If you don’t have a compost pile, now is a good time to start one with healthy debris. If it looks diseased, discard it or burn it. 

  • 4. Fallen leaves can provide essential nutrients to your garden soil.  Once they have been raked, spread them over your garden so they can decompose, and till them into the soil come Spring. 

  • 5. Adding lime to the garden soil is best done in the Fall.  Take a soil sample to your local extension office for a free soil test so you’ll know how much you need to add. 

  • 6. Cut back perennial herbs, and freeze or dry them for winter cooking. 

  • 7. Think about adding a cover crop.  Cover crops add nutrients to the soil, and prevent soil erosion.  Find a list for your region at https://www.almanac.com/content/cover-crops-us 

  • 8. Before storing garden tools, remove all dirt and debris, then spray with a 10:1 mix of water and bleach.  After they dry, oil tools that have moving parts, make any repairs that may be needed, and hang them out of traffic areas in your shed or garage. 

 

Landscaping 

  • 1. Plant trees and shrubs in the Fall.  The cooler temps and onset of dormancy gives them the perfect opportunity to establish their root systems. They still need plenty of water, so make sure you keep them hydrated.  

  • 2. Apply fertilizer to your lawn, and aerate it as well. Walking behind the fertilizer spreader in spike-soled shoes is a great way to do these two important things at once.   

  • 3. The last time you mow, keep the level at 1¼”.  This will keep leaves from settling on your lawn, as well prevent disease and insect over-wintering. 

  • 4. Cut back your perennials in the flower beds, mulch them well, and divide tuberous plants like daylilies and irises.  <span class="SpellingError SCXW154508354" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; user-select: text; -webkit-user-drag: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; background-repeat: repeat-x; background-position: left bottom; background-image: url(" data:image="" gif;base64,r0lgodlhbqaeajecap="" 8aaaaaaaaaach5baeaaaialaaaaaafaaqaaaiilgaxcchrtcgaow="=&quot;);" border-bottom:="" 1px="" solid="" transparent;"="">Hostas also benefit from a Fall division.   

  • 5. If you have any young plants or trees, mulch well around them to protect them from freezing once the thermometer drops. 

  • 6. Update container plantings with chrysanthemums, ornamental cabbages, pansies and interesting grasses.  These should take you through the Winter and provide interest and color for the drab days ahead. 

  • 7. Plant flower bulbs for a beautiful, maintenance-free Spring flowerbed.  Daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, and crocuses will provide color for weeks. 

 

Getting your garden and yard ready for Winter not only makes things look better, but it will certainly help once Spring gets here. The weather can be unpredictable come March and April, so take advantage of the cool, long days of Fall to prepare for next year’s growing season. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: Pinterest

Protecting Your Credit

by Tucker Robbins

The Equifax information hack has many Americans afraid of identity theft, and rightly so. Thankfully, there are several measures everyone can take to protect their credit.  

 

  • 1. First and foremost, find out if your information was compromised here: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ 

  • 2. Phone lines at Equifax have been flooded with calls, so an online approach is more convenient for now.  

  • 3. Sign up for the free credit monitoring Equifax offers, but don't let that make you unaware of your credit reports. Check them as often as possible, and dispute errors.  

  • 4. Setting up a fraud alert with Equifax, as well as TransUnion and Experian, is another important step.  

  • 5. If you feel compelled, freeze credit reports at all three agencies. A fee is involved, and varies by state. Find more information here:  http://consumersunion.org/research/consumers-unions-guide-to-security-freeze-protection-2/     

  • 6. Married couples need to make sure both spouses have taken steps to protect their information. 

  • 7. File your 2017 taxes as soon as possible in 2018. If someone has your credit information, they can file a false return for a refund.  

  • 8. If you have family members that haven't checked their reports, especially the elderly, offer to help them.  

 

Even though 143 million people were affected by the hack, many will not bother to check their credit reports. If you're not proactive in protecting your credit information, it may cause major problems down the road.  

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins

 

Photo credit: www.pymnts.com

Making New Friends After a Move

by Tucker Robbins

Relocating to a new city, or even a new area, can be hard enough without missing your old friends. Finding new friends and acquaintances can be easy if you put some effort and a little research in it.  

 

Your New Neighbors 

  • 1. Once you're settled, go for a walk and introduce yourself when you see neighbors outside.  

  • Have a porch or front yard gathering on a weekend afternoon. Offer light, simple snacks and invite the whole neighborhood.  

  • 2. Get outside and work on the landscaping, small DIY projects, or sit on the front steps with a good book. Your neighbors then have the opportunity to say hello. 

  • 3. Just a few outdoor decorations can bring compliments from neighbors, always an easy way to start a conversation. 

  • 4. If you have pets, especially a dog, they make great ice-breakers when you're out for a stroll.  

  • 5. Visit your local small businesses and you'll see enough familiar faces over time that saying “Hello” will be easy.  

  • 6. Ask your realtor if there's a neighborhood community center, and call to see how you can get involved.  

  • 7. Children make great conversation-starters.  They love finding nearby kids to hang out with, and taking them for a bike ride is a great way to get to know other families. 

  • 8. Host a fun, child-centered activity in your front yard with outdoor games and snacks.  Invite the kids in the neighborhood and their parents, and they will come! 

 

Your New Town 

  • 1. Ask current friends if they know anyone in your new area, and get in touch with them.  

  • 2. Contacts from local organizations--these can provide you with lots of information about your new hometown, as well as introduce you to new people.  

  • 3. Search social media for events taking place in your area and go to them!  

  • 4. Invite your new coworkers to lunch or coffee.  

  • 5. Getting the kids involved in activities will connect you with locals and other parents.  

  • 6. Hobbyists sometimes have get-togethers for like-minded people. Find a nearby group with your same interest, and join them.  

  • 7. School parent organizations are a great place to meet other parents.  

 

It seems that we are always busy working, or driving our children to so many activities, that a relaxing weekend in front of the tv sounds like the perfect down time. Getting to know who your neighbors are, however, can be invaluable to feeling at home in your new home, and only takes a little effort on your part.  

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: http://www.interconnectedlives.com/

Easy Halloween Decorations

by Tucker Robbins

Halloween is quickly becoming the most popular holiday in the US.  In 2017, the National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend a whopping $9.1 billion, with $2.7 billion alone on candy.  You don’t have to break the bank for decorations, though.  There are many ways you can prepare for the fun-filled holiday with inexpensive, everyday items. 

 

  • 1. Save gallon milk jugs, and wash them out thoroughly.  Use permanent black marker to draw ghostly faces on the sides, then add a few rocks or marbles for stability. Place a string of battery-powered LED lights inside, and place the jugs along your walkway or steps for a ghostly path to your door. 

  • 2. Wrap white crepe streamers around your front door mummy-style. Cut two big eyes from white and black construction paper, and tape them to look like they’re peeking out of the strips.  Instant spooky! 

  • 3. Pumpkins are cheap and plentiful this time of year. Using child-safe carving kits, have the kids get in on the fun of carving a jack-o-lantern.  http://pumpkinlady.com has over 700 free templates to download and print. 

  • 4. Use black construction paper to cut out basic ghost figures, bats, owls or cats.  Tape them to your windows, and when the lights are on at night, the silhouettes can be seen from outside. 

  • 5. Make it look like specters are watching over your yard.  Keep a few paper towel or toilet paper roll tubes. Carefully using scissors, cut different eye shapes in them.  Tape glow sticks inside the tubes, and hide them in your shrubs and bushes. 

  • 6. Grab a straw wreath, a few bags of faux spider webbing and plastic spiders at your local dollar store. Wrap the wreath with the webbing, and criss-cross a few strands across the middle for a cobweb effect. Hang or hot glue the spiders in different places around the wreath, add a Halloween bow, and hang on your front door. 

  • 7. White tights can be repurposed as spider eggs.  Cut the tops off, leaving the legs open.  Add a baseball or softball to the toe, and glue or hot glue plastic spiders to the “sac.” Hang the eggs from trees (away from walking areas) or light fixtures for a really scary look. 

  • 8. Make some ghostly guests out of unused tomato cages.  Turn them upside down, and push a large styrofoam ball down onto the ground wires.  Add lights around the cage, and drape a piece of white cloth or old sheet over the cage. 

  • 9. Add plastic snakes, spiders and insects purchased from a dollar store to your welcome mat. 

 

Spooking up your yard for Halloween doesn’t have to cost a great deal.  Whether you want frightening or fun, decorating with household or inexpensive dollar store finds can be a family project.  When the big night arrives, make sure you have plenty of candy, turn on your porch light, play some creepy music, and enjoy the evening. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: Reader's Digest, rd.com

Winterizing Your Pool

by Tucker Robbins

A backyard pool used to be a luxury.  Thanks to modern technology and lower prices, a swimming pool is a common sight.  Properly winterizing a swimming pool may take a few hours, but it’s worth taking care of your investment. 

 

In-Ground Pool 

  • 1. Remove any toys and floats, and clean all debris from the pool, skimmer and pump basket.   

  • 2. Remove ladders or other equipment.  If the ladders aren’t removable, you’ll have to cut your cover to fit.  This may negate the warranty, so check the label and cover instructions before you cut. 

  • 3. Test your water, and add the proper chemicals for your pool’s size. Check labels on packaging for proper mixing and distribution instructions.   

  • 4. Backwash the pump, and blow out the pipes according to manufacturer’s directions. 

  • 5. Lay your cover out on one long side of the pool, and place empty water tube weights in their loop holders.  Fill the tubes completely.   

  • 6. After the tubes are in place on one side, you may need the help of another person to pull the cover corners across the width of the pool.  Add water tubes to the remaining sides and fill. 

  • 7. If you invest in a leaf net, it will save the main pool cover from damage from rotting leaves, plus save your from extra cleaning when it’s time to open the pool again.  Put the leaf net in place over the cover and attach according to manufacturer’s instructions.   

  • 8. Once you are finished, walk around the pool to assure your cover is secure, and the pool surface is completely covered. 

 

Above Ground Pool 

  • 1. Follow the first three tips for in-ground pool winterizing. 

  • 2. Disconnect hoses, and drain the pump.  

  • 3. Draining a certain amount of water from the pool to protect the skimmer from cracking or breaking is an important step, but a winter skimmer plate installed over your skimmer can help you skip this step.  Drain the skimmer hose completely if you use a skimmer plate. 

  • 4. Fill the air pillow completely, and place it in the pool. 

  • 5. Pull the cover across the pool and air pillow. 

  • 6. Depending on whether there is a deck around your pool will determine what you need to secure the cover: if there’s a deck, use water tubes; use cover clips if your pool is deck-free. 

  • 7. Once you are finished, walk around the pool to assure your cover is secure, and the pool surface is completely covered. 

  • <span class="SpellingError SCXW212132132" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; user-select: text; -webkit-user-drag: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; background-repeat: repeat-x; background-position: left bottom; background-image: url(" data:image="" gif;base64,r0lgodlhbqaeajecap="" 8aaaaaaaaaach5baeaaaialaaaaaafaaqaaaiilgaxcchrtcgaow="=&quot;);" border-bottom:="" 1px="" solid="" transparent;"="">8. Intex above-ground pools and their parts need to be completely drained, disassembled and stored inside, especially in very cold climates.  In warmer areas, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing. 

 

There are downloadable/printable resources with specific step-by-step instructions for all kinds of pool care.  Undertaking this task can save money, but if you are unsure of what you’re doing, or don’t have time, call your local pool maintenance team to winterize for you. You want your Summer pool opening as problem-free as possible when hot weather arrives. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: Pool Guys of Palm Beach 

Fall Home Maintenance

by Tucker Robbins

Fall is the perfect time of year to take care of your home. The days are still long enough to get plenty accomplished, and the cooler weather makes it less taxing than on those sweltering Summer days.  Getting things ready for the cold days ahead will be easy with these tips:

Trees and Leaves

  • Rake or vacuum fallen leaves as they come down.  Deciduous trees drop their leaves at different times, making it easier on you, but it’s great exercise.
  • Mulch the leaves, or bag them for your local waste management to compost, if such a program is available. 
  • Check trees for dead or diseased branches and trim them back.  Trees are going dormant this time of year, and there’s less chance for the diseases to spread after trimming. Call an arborist if the job is too daunting.
  • Fall is the best time of year to plant new trees! The roots don’t have to compete with the heat, they get plenty of water from the Autumn rain, and can settle in and get established.
  • Clean those gutters.  This can be a dreaded task, so hire a handy person or have the family pitch in to finish as quickly as possible.
  • Been thinking about changing the exterior color? Fall is a great time to paint, thanks to cooler temperatures.

General Outdoors

  • Bring in any outdoor furniture, or protect it with covers  made specifically for handling cold weather. 
  • Firewood needs to be covered with a tarp to minimize moisture from snow and rain. Lift the cover occasionally to let any trapped moisture escape.
  • Check all of your outdoor lighting, and replace any bulbs or fixtures.
  • Walk around all of the walkways and driveways, looking for cracks, and seal them with approved sealant.  Snow and ice can cause the surfaces to bulge and cause a falling hazard.
  • Clean the windows, inside and out, and replace screens with storm windows.
  • Service and store the mower, string trimmer, and any other lawn tools you may use.
  • Drain water hoses and store them where they can’t freeze. If you have a sprinkler system, drain it and turn it off.
  • Check your outdoor fireplace or fire pit to make sure it’s safe for the upcoming cool evenings around the fire.

Inside The House

  • Service the furnace. It’s easy to make sure filters are changed and ready to go, but a call to a heat and air contractor is the best way to make sure the heater is ready for Winter.  Sometimes a maintenance contract can save you money.  Ask your provider if they offer this service.
  • Check doors and windows for drafts, and seal with caulking or insulation strips.
  • See that your chimney is free of creosote to prevent fires.  A licensed chimney sweep would be the best for making sure your home and family are safe from chimney fires.
  • Make certain that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order, and replace batteries if necessary.
  • Go in the attic and look for any insulation issues, and replace or repair, if needed.  Be sure that pests can’t get inside and spend the winter in your attic!
  • Change the rotation on ceiling fans.  It should be going in a clockwise direction to help distribute heat away from the ceiling.
  • Wash and/or air out heavy blankets and quilts to get them freshened up for use.
  • If you have a basement in your home, check for cracks in the walls, and if there’s a sump pump, make sure it’s in working order.
  • Clean out closets and storage areas and have a tag sale with unwanted items that are still in great condition.

Be ready for a relaxing, warm Winter inside your home.  Home maintenance--indoors as well as outdoors--is critical for keeping your home’s value up, as well as for our own comfort.  

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: http://blog.leviton.com/fall-cleanup-101

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For August 2017

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE listings decreased from 818 new listings in August 2016 down to 774 in August 2017. The average sales price increased to $256,570, while days on market dropped by 8 days.

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Fun Rainy Day Things to Do Inside Your Home

by Tucker Robbins

Don’t get bored being stuck inside; below is a list of a few rainy day things you can do inside your home.  If you have small children you know all too well how easily they can get bored when they are stuck inside due to bad weather.  Get them and read this list together to get started on some fun! 

 

  1. 1. One fun indoor activity you can do with your small children is to have an indoor scavenger hunt.  Write down some clues to where you have hidden items in your house and set your children out on an indoor hunt to find them!  This can be fun for you as well as you watch your kids trying their best to find what you have hidden. 

  1. 2. Another fun rainy day thing to-do inside your home  with your family is to go camping inside!  Get your tent out and set it up right in the middle of your family room.  You and your family can sleep in the tent together all night long!  If everyone doesn’t fit you can use sleeping bags to make it a full fledge family event.  A super fun way to make your indoor camping event even more real is to make smores in the microwave!   

  1. 3. Yet another fun rainy day thing to do inside is to gather all of your board games and get the entire family involved in playing them together!  If you don’t have any board games you can likely find some type of game for all to play online.   

  1. 4. If you don’t want to have to create something fun to do with your family, why not bake some cookies together!  It is always fun to get your little ones together in the kitchen to bake.  Have each child create their own cookie with the ingredients you have available, then let the rest of the family be judges to give the best cookie award! 

  2.  

These are a few fun rainy day things you can do inside your home that is sure to make everyone have an enjoyable time even if they can’t go outside!   

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

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Photo of Tucker Robbins Real Estate
Tucker Robbins
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
3838 Kennett Pike
Wilmington DE 19807
(302) 777-7744 (direct)