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Home and Garden Prep Before Cold Weather Arrives

by Tucker Robbins


The signs that Fall is here are obvious in the things we see:  pumpkins, sweaters, and boots in store ads, and slow cooker recipes clog our social media feeds.  It may not feel so cool, but now is the time to get some cold-weather prep done 
before it gets too cold to be out!  Here are eight jobs to DIY while it’s still comfortable outside: 

 

  • - Check smoke/carbon monoxide detector batteries, and test the smoke detector itself to be sure it’s working properly.  If you don’t have a family fire plan in place, please create one and go over the plan at a family meeting. 
     

  • - Get your mudroom ready for wet Winter weather with plastic bins for shoes and boots, and extra hangers for cold-weather clothing.  Creating a mudroom near the entry your family uses most is easy with a sturdy indoor/outdoor area rug, doormats on both sides of the door, and shoe trays to store wet, muddy footwear. 
     

  • - Your air conditioning may still be in use, but have your furnace inspected and serviced now before you need it.   
     

  • - Walkway and driveway cracks should be filled and repaired while it’s still warm; the materials used for this job may not work as well once outside temps drop. 
     

  • - Clean outdoor furniture and leave to dry completely in the warm sun. When it’s time to store it, you’ll have one less thing to do. 
     

  • - Some plants are better off when you divide them in Autumn:  hostas, daylilies, Spring-blooming bulbs, peonies, and shrubbery are just a few that will be happier if divided and replanted now instead of in Spring.   
     

  • - What to do with all the garden trimmings and leaves you’ll be raking soon?  Create a compost pile!  You’ll save on soil improvements and fertilizer next Spring. 
     

  • - If you’re not ready to give up gardening to the elements, plant a Fall garden!  You’ll be rewarded with fresh greens and other vegetables for those slow-cooker recipes! 

 

Don’t wait until a cold snap is bearing down on you before you get these necessary jobs done.  Take a weekend, get everyone involved, and you’ll be set for the Winter. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: thompson-morgan.com

Emergency Home Generator Basics

by Tucker Robbins


Advertisements for full-house generators make you wonder if you really should invest in one, despite
 the high cost.  Having your home in full power during an emergency would be a comfort, but are they worth it?  There are less costly options out there, but only you can decide what’s best for your home and family. 

 

Portable Power 

  • - Portable generators are great for providing electricity to essentials:  lamps, refrigerators, freezers, fans or plug-in heaters. 

  • - Most are fueled by gasoline, and the tank must be filled as it runs, so there is a bit of labor involved.   

  • - The engines on portable generators are noisy (think lawn mower noise).   

  • - Generators that run via a solar panel are available, and the technology is getting better, but the initial cost is higher.  Keep in mind that you’ll save on fuel expenses in the end. 

  • - Prices vary with how many kilowatts you’ll need, and your budget should include enough for appropriate extension cords for each device you plan on connecting to the generator. 

 

Stand-By Energy 

  • - In order to provide power to everything in the house, including HVAC, a stand-by whole house generator is the best choice, as it will be connected to your home’s electrical system. 

  • - A stand-by system can be fueled with natural gas, propane or diesel fuel.  These types of units run more quietly than the portables and are fuel efficient. 

  • - Whole house units will cost the most, as they are ready to go almost the instant you lose utility power, require professional installation, and possibly local permits.   

  • - Installation should be done by a certified electrician, and some offer a package deal that includes the unit and installation in one price. 

 

Whatever type of generator you choose, get the size and type of generator that meets your needs, not exceeds them. There’s no need to waste money!  If you’re unsure of  just how much energy you’ll need, ask-the-electrician.com has some helpful information as well as a sizing  calculator.  Though you’ll only need it during emergencies, you want to know that you’ve made the right choice for your home, your needs, and your wallet. 

 

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

Photo credit: todayshomeowner.com

8 Things Homeowners Should NOT Be Doing

by Tucker Robbins


Homeowners know that to-do lists are almost always too long, but what about don’t-do lists? Whether you’re a first-time
 homeowner or have been in your home for ten years, here are a few things you shouldn’t be doing: 

 

  • - Testing the smoke detectors incorrectly:  sure, the battery needs to be checked, but so does the smoke detection.  Light a match, preferably a kitchen match, and blow it out, holding it next to the detector.  If the alarm sounds, great; if not, replace the battery.  You may need a new smoke alarm. 
     

  • - Using incandescent light bulbs:  LED and fluorescent light bulb technology is getting better aesthetically speaking, so the extra cost to replace your incandescent bulb will make up for itself in the end.  You won’t be buying new ones for at least one year, plus your energy costs will decrease. 
     

  • - Keeping the old thermostat:  replace it with a programmable, or even better, a smart thermostat.  You will notice a difference in your electric bill! 
     

  • - Not checking gutter guards:  gutter guards are great for keeping leaves, larger twigs or pine straw from clogging the gutters, but dirt, seeds, as well as other smaller materials can still get in and cause problems.  Check your gutters at least every six months. 
     

  • - Ignoring your roof:  just because you’re not seeing it up close and personal every day, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need inspecting occasionally.  Learn more about how to be kind to your roof here.
     

  • - Setting the mower to the lowest cut:  cutting your grass too far down can cause it to die.  It will not keep you from mowing less!  Cutting the grass 1-3 inches in length will keep it beautifully green.
     

  • - Planting trees close to the house:  small trees that can reach thirty feet in height should be planted ten feet or more away from your house, while taller trees need to be at least thirty feet away. 
     

  • - Watering the landscaping in the evening:  your way to relax after a long day may be gardening but giving your plants a drink in the evening can cause mildew and other fungi to grow.   

 

Keeping these don’t-do’s in mind will help you save money, besides keep your home safe and in good living condition!  Also think of it as less to do, thus freeing up your time to enjoy being home with your family. 

 

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

Photo credit:  5homebest.com

Checklist for New Home Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Closing day has finally come and gone - you’re almost finished packing for your move, and let's face it you are BUSY! But, it is important to slow down to take note of a few things that should be done before and soon after you move in.  Go down this list of must-do’s so you’ll be safe, secure and happy in your new home:
 

 

  • - Change all of the entryway locks, keypad codes, and make plans to get a security system set up. 
     

  • - Have utilities turned on in your name, as well as television provider and internet.   
     

  • - Deep clean the new house, even if it looks clean.  This job can be hired out, or you can DIY if time permits.  Keep in mind costs involved with renting any necessary equipment, as well as cleaning product expenses. 
     

  • - Plug in/turn on all appliances, to make sure they’re in working order. 
     

  • - Walk through the house to check for minor things that didn’t warrant repair by the seller. Having your copy of the home inspection in hand will help you find the problem areas that may need to be addressed before they get too big and too costly. 
     

  • - If you want update the home’s color palette with a fresh coat of paint, or do any other small improvement jobs consider getting them done before move in day. This will allow for the painting and repairs to be finished easier and faster before settling in with added obstacles.
     

  • - Typically sellers leave the window treatments, but in case they didn’t be sure to measure the windows. Allow for time and budgeting to purchase and install shades or blinds until curtains or shutters can be hung. 
     

  • - Let everyone know your new address:  relatives and friends, of course, but also medical offices, your employer, schools, and other important people that communicate by mail. 
     

  • - Create a homeowner folder to keep all of your important papers. Be sure to store it in a safe and easily accessible place. 
     

  • - Meet your neighbors!  Once you’ve moved in, introduce yourself and your family by hosting a front porch social, with light refreshments.  Slip invites in mailboxes and simply ask them to stop by to say hello.  

Once you get settled in, you’ll need to get into a homeowner frame of mind.  You will have things to keep an eye on and maintain on a regular basis. Bob Vila’s home checklist gives you an idea of what you’ll need to check regularly. 

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

Photo credit: newhomesource.com

Home Projects By Seasons

by Tucker Robbins


Thinking about doing some home improvements?  Whether it’s a kitchen or bathroom remodel, a whole-house painting, or floor refinishing, there’s a time of year when these jobs are easier to get completed, mainly because of how the weather affects not only c
onstruction, but the quality of the finished product as well.  Find the project you’re considering, and see when it’ll be the right time to get to work:  

 

Additions, because of needing a new foundation, could be started in late Winter/early Spring when the ground is still cold and more compact.  It makes for better digging and concrete pouring and setup. 
 

Exterior door replacement would be convenient any time except Winter, just in case there are any issues and the doors aren’t a quick switch. 
 

Exterior painting, for many reasons, is a better idea in early to late Summer, when temperatures are above fifty degrees. 
 

HVAC work, in non-emergency situations, should be done in the off seasons--new heater in warm months, air conditioning before it’s sweltering outside. 
 

Interior remodeling like kitchen and bathroom redo’s, can be done practically any time.  The main thing to keep in mind here is warm months are busier for contractors, and that can mean a job done in a hurry, or higher prices. 
 

Outdoor projects, even though a popular time for construction is the warmer months, should be started in late Winter, simply because you want to be able to spend your Summer enjoying your new outdoor space! 
 

Refinishing hardwoods is probably best completed during the times of year when humidity is low for the best finish, and so windows can be opened to allow air circulation to help get rid of any associated odors. 
 

Roofing, believe it or not, may get better results in hot months of the year, as the most common materials used will need warm temps for the best performance. 
 

Window repair/replacement is managed well during warm months or when frequent rain isn’t a factor. 
 

Keep in mind that Spring and Summer are busiest time for contractors.  If you are hiring your job out, the process should be started long enough in advance that you don’t have to be put on a wait list.  On that same note, during slower months, a contractor may give you a deal on the work, because there aren’t other jobs to be done, and you get their full attention!  Planning is key for a smooth finish on any project, any time of year. 

 

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

Photo credit: readers digest

Preventing and Getting Rid of Mold

by Tucker Robbins


Mold is a subject that strikes fear in many people.  Though the toxic form of black mold is rare, there are plenty of other types that invade our bathrooms, basements and other places in our homes. Let’s look at the best ways to get control over any mold p
roblem anywhere we find it. 

 

The bathroom is the most common place for mold, because it has all the right conditions for mold growth:  moisture, a place to grow, and food. 

  • - Use the exhaust fan every time you shower, and if your bathroom isn’t equipped with one, crack the window to allow the steam to escape. 

  • - Wipe down the shower walls and door when you’re finished, leaving the door open until everything is completely dry. 

  • - If you use a shower curtain, use an anti-mold spray, commercial or homemade, to spray the curtain down, and pull the curtain to its fullest length to dry. 

  • - Any leaks should be repaired immediately and inspect under the sink every few weeks to make sure everything is dry in the cabinets. 

  • - If you have a tile bath, give the grout a waterproof seal once a year. 

  • - When you do find mold on hard surfaces, the CDC recommends mixing a solution of no more than 1 cup of household bleach in a gallon of water.  Provide good ventilation, spray on affected areas, leave for five minutes, rinse, and allow to dry. 

  •  

Other common places for molds to grow, especially this time of year when we have the heat on, are closets, window sills, basements, and floors around entryways.

  • - Use washable mats and throw-rugs with waterproof backing at doorways. 

  • - Keep your home’s humidity below 40%.  Using a humidifier is a necessity in Winter, and you may need to use a hygrometer to help you keep moisture levels in check. 

  • - Occasionally inspect your fridge’s drip pan for excessive moisture, and clean according to manufacturer’s instructions. 

  • - Attics can be the first-place mold can start in case of a leaky roof, so get the roof repaired immediately, and clean the mold as soon as you discover it.  Be sure there are no leaves or other obstructions blocking the attic’s vents. 

  • - Having the crawl space of your home encapsulated can be expensive, but it is the only solution to keeping moisture from coming up from the ground and can help you see standing water in case of plumbing leaks. 

  • - The EPA has some tips for mold cleanup, as well as information on when to call in a pro for removal.  

 

There are many products available to help keep moisture in your home at bay.  Desiccant bags containing silica gel are great for hanging in small places such as closets.  Small non-electric dehumidifiers are also available for larger areas, and whole-house dehumidifiers are another option, just more expensive.  While not all molds are toxic, they are allergens, and prevention and action are keys to a healthier, mold-free home.


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

Photo credit: mnn.com

Choosing a Home Security System for Your New Castle County DE Home!

by Tucker Robbins


The home security business is booming, and with so many different brands, subscriptions, and DIY systems, it’s hard to decide what’s right for you and your home.  Let’s take some confusion out of the process with these tips and suggestions:
 

 

  • - First, decide on whether you need round-the-clock monitoring, or if you want to keep an eye on things yourself using your smart phone. 

  • - Major strides have been made over the past few years with third-party monitoring systems, and many companies offer apps for your phone so that you, as well as the company, can watch over things. 

  • - Most monitoring companies offer a free trial period as well, some up to 30 days.  If you’re not happy, you don’t have to commit to their service and worry about extra fees if you cancel before the trial period is up.  Ask before you commit. 

  • If you’re a renter, and worry about the permanent installation, most companies are offering wireless sensors and cameras that can be moved as you move. 

  • - For the DIYer, you or someone you know should be comfortable with setting up your system, not only the physical installation, but connecting it to your home’s internet or home management system. 

  • Safewise.com ranks their favorite 24-hour, monthly fee-based systems, and gives you all their pros and cons for each company. 

  • - Find the self-monitoring system that will work best for you with safehome.org‘s top systems, as well as their highest-ranked third-party systems. 

  • - Is there an elderly person in your life that lives alone?  Consider purchasing a security system for them, and Safe Home offers their favorites for ease-of-use and cost. 

 

There have been so many improvements to home security systems to accommodate busy families and the ease-of-use for setting and deactivating the alarm system as you come and go, you can find a system that best fits not only your home’s needs, but your family’s needs as well.  If you decide on a third-party service, make sure you budget accordingly, since there is a monthly fee, and usually a cancellation fee if you change your mind mid-contract. 


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

Photo credit: tymhomes.com

Get These Fall Jobs Done

by Tucker Robbins

The weather is cooler, but the days are still long enough to get some regular Fall maintenance done.  Get your home prepped for cooler weather now so it won’t be a problem later.   
 

  • - Clean gutters before the leaves fall so they won’t get clogged.  Consider installing some gutter protectors so the coming leaf drop won’t cause further problems. 

  • - Raking leaves is a job many don’t care for, but if you do, and plan on burning them, check with your local government offices or HOA guidelines to make certain it’s allowed.  If not, it’s best to bag them for curbside pick-up, or find a gardening neighbor that would appreciate the extra composting material. 

  • - After you’ve mowed and raked one last time, fertilize the lawn.  The roots are still active, and the extra nutrients will help the grass overwinter safely. 

  • - Speaking of using the lawnmower one last time, drain the fuel and oil from gas-powered equipment, and clean them well.  This Old House offers some excellent tips on putting up the lawn mower for Winter. 

  • - Give the roof a good look and replace broken or missing shingles. 

  • - Check windows and doors--inside and out--for drafts and apply weather-stripping or caulking where it’s needed.  Today’s Homeowner has a video that shows us how to apply caulk around our windows. 

  • - Call your HVAC serviceperson, and have the heater checked and serviced, if necessary.  Go ahead and make sure your filters are new--buying them in bulk keeps you from having to remember to get one every couple of months and saves you money. 

  • - If you use wood for heating, hopefully it’s already cut and seasoned.  Store it at least 30 feet from the house, covered, unless you bring it in a few days before you burn it. 

  • - Turn off your sprinkler system timer, shut water off at the main, and drain the system. If you’re not able to drain it yourself, it may be worth the money to hire a pro to blow the pipes out and drain the sprinkler heads. 

 

It may take a couple of weekends to get all of these done, but all are important to do, and hopefully save you from a headache and spending a lot of money later in the Winter.  Some of these chores could be done by a teenager looking to earn a few extra dollars, and they can learn something in the process. You’re never too young to learn about taking care of your home.

 

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

 

Photo credit: perrycarroll.com

National Fire Prevention Month

by Tucker Robbins

It’s the time of year to check not only your battery-operated smoke alarm, but anything you have in your home that could start a fire if not properly used and maintained.  This is also the time to talk with your family about your emergency plan in case of a fire.  These tips will get you started: 

 

  • - Every kitchen should have an easily-accessed fire extinguisher.  If you don’t have one, purchase one, and if your old one hasn’t been serviced recently, call an official inspector to make sure yours is in good working order. 

  • - Smoke alarms are a must!  Older smoke detectors can be sensitive and go off while someone is cooking, and we inadvertently disconnect the battery to stop that, and forget to reconnect them.  - More recently-produced types have a sensitivity button that can reduce that problem for a set period of time and return to normal after the time is up. 

  • - Homes with more than one story should have an escape ladder close to an easily-accessed window on the upper floor.  Safewise.com has a list of their best-rated ladders, and offers tips for choosing the right ladder for your home. 

  • - Don’t overload electrical outlets, and use extension cords only on a temporary basis.  If you need more outlets, call an electrician to install them.  The cost of this greatly outweighs the cost of a fire. 

  • - A visit from an electrician is also warranted if you have outlets that spark when you use them, lights that flicker, or a circuit breaker that trips regularly. 

  • - Clean your dryer’s lint screen after each load, and keep the vent and back of the dryer clean from lint build-up. 

  • - Have chimneys and furnaces checked out before you use them to make sure they’re clean and in good working order.  If you use a wood fireplace, make sure the screen protector has no holes, and use only a flame-retardant rug in front of the hearth. 

  • - While cooking, don’t leave the kitchen, and even though your children may like to help, have their station set up far from any hot items. Keep towels and paper products away from anything hot, and don’t leave cooking oil unattended. 

  • - Although it isn’t very common, lightning can cause a house fire.  Lightning rods may seem like an outdated tool, but they are not only helpful for redirecting lightning and prohibiting a fire, they can save your electronics from lightning damage.  Lovetoknow.com describes several different types of home lightning protection styles, and how they all work. 

 

Most importantly, you need a family fire plan, and everyone should be familiar with this plan.  For tips and a guideline to setting up your own fire escape plan, consult this page from the National Fire Protection Association, where you can find free printable tools to make your planning process go smoothly.  No amount of time taken to put a plan into place and practice is too much when it comes to protecting your home and family from a fire.
 

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

 

Photo credit: servproclifton.com

Getting Ready for Houseguest Season

by Tucker Robbins

It may be just the beginning of Autumn, but many are already thinking ahead to the holidays and having guests over.  If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the guest room except to create a pile of things that should be stored somewhere else, it’s time to get in there and make it ready for anyone who may be coming to visit.  
 

The Guest Room 

  • - Tackle the cleaning of the guest room first.  Anything that you’ve stashed on the bed, closet or dresser that should be stored elsewhere, get that done.  Use under-bed storage containers to get some things out of the way, or store on the closet shelf. 

  • -Go through the closet and remove things that haven’t been worn in a year or more and donate those.  Guests will appreciate some empty hangers in the closet to keep their clothes from staying folded in a suitcase. 

  • - On the same token, open the top two dresser drawers, and purge anything inside that isn’t being used, and empty at least one drawer.  Use a sachet of cedar chips for a nice fresh-smelling place for your guests to keep their belongings. 

  • - Clean the room as if you were Spring-cleaning:  wash all the bedding, vacuum the whole room, including under the bed, and dust all wood surfaces well.   

  • - Have extra pillows and blanket on the bed, especially if the room is on the cooler side of the house.  Once you have the big things done, getting the room ready just before they arrive will go more quickly. 

 

No Guest Room? 

  • - If you don’t have the extra bedroom, consider investing in a futon, sofa bed or even a twin chairbed for your living area.  Even a good quality air mattress can be made into a comfortable overnight sleeping spot, and can be put wherever you want, and is easier to use for some privacy for your guests. 

  • - Your couch is a bit “lumpy,” or you simply want to make it comfier in case of needing it for extra beds, and a feather bed is perfect for this.  Featherbeds are easily stored, and will certainly offer some comfort when placed on top of the sofa cushions. 

  • - You will need a small table or other flat surface for guests to keep their luggage--anything that will make them feel like they have space of their own.   

  • - If your guest space will be in a living area, give them a feeling of privacy with a screen to block off the sleeping area.  Deciding to use a screen can give you an excuse to make one, and apartmenttherapy.com has a great tutorial for a screen made from hollow-core doors. 

 

Extras 

  • - Start stocking up now on trial- and travel-size toiletries, and purchase a couple of new towels to keep tucked away for guests. 

  • - Make sure the lighting in the bedroom is good, and all the lightbulbs are working. 

  • - Have a new house key made and hang it on a special keyring and use solely for guests. 

 

Getting the big things done now won’t have you scrambling during the busy holiday season to get ready for any overnight visits.  Most of the time, the whole point of having friends and family spend a few days in your home is to enjoy them!  Preparing now will mean less stress and plenty of enjoyment later!

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

Photo credit: hofmeisterrealty.com

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