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Childproofing for Guests

by Tucker Robbins


It’s the visiting time of year, and some of your guests will likely be bringing little ones with them.  If your home is now child-free, you may not be aware of possible hazards for little ones.  Get your home ready for them with these tips:
 

 

  • - In the case that you don’t have cabinet locks and cleaning supplies are easily accessed, go ahead and place them all in a small cleaning bucket or basket so you can just grab them and put them out of reach when or before guests arrive. 

  • - The kitchen is usually the hub when company comes, so keep little ones from under foot by putting some interactive magnets on the fridge door--there are some pretty nifty learning-type magnets available, as well as the traditional alphabet letters. 

  • - If you have candles burning, make sure they are far from the reach of any age child, and in a prominent place so that they’re always in sight of you or another adult. 

  • - Check blinds and drapes for long cords--either drape them over the tops of the blinds or purchase cord holders to keep them up and out of reach. 

  • - For homes with stairs, purchase or borrow a latching safety gate to prevent little ones from wandering up the steps. 

  • - Ask everyone to keep the toilet lid down, or close the bathroom door when they go in and out.  If you ask them, they’ll be more conscious of it, and oblige. 

  • - In case you have a cozy fire burning, at least have a screen set up in front of the fireplace door as a barrier in case a little one stumbles while they’re walking nearby. 

  • - Houseplants can be tempting to a little explorer, but some plants can make us sick if ingested.  Do a bit of research, and if yours are in that category, give them a temporary home out of the way. 

  • - Keep an eye on yard sales or thrift stores for age-appropriate toys and games in good condition.  Clean them up, and place them in a basket or on a game table in the living area; kids love “new” toys. 

  • - Have someone get down on all fours on the floor and look for hazardous things that could be interesting to a child, and make the temporary changes you need to so your littlest guests will be safe. 

 

Enjoying the holidays means enjoying your guests, and not worrying if the youngest ones are getting into something you don’t want them to, or something potentially dangerous.  Your visitors will appreciate the extra effort it took to keep their children safe and entertained, making their visit more memorable.


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

Photo credit: Realtor.com

Removing Carpet

by Tucker Robbins

Homeowners of houses built in the wall-to-wall carpet phase may be pleasantly surprised to learn that there is hardwood flooring beneath rug.  If you’ve pulled up a corner of the carpeting and found just that, or simply want to remove the old carpet before new is installed, DIY’ing this job is a good idea, but be ready--here are a few tips for removing wall-to-wall carpeting: 

 

  • - You’ll need a few things--heavy duty trash bags, protective gloves, sharp utility knife, dust mask, and a crowbar, and for removing padding glue or staples, a flat floor scraper or padding adhesive remover. 

  • - Remove all the furniture from the room, as well as floor vents, and any under shoe molding.  Vacuum very well to remove as much dirt and dust as possible. 

  • - If there is a room door that swings inward, take the door off the hinges to keep it out of the way. 

  • - Suit up with the dust mask and the work gloves, and start in a corner, pulling a section back with the crowbar, taking care to be mindful of the tack strips that can be holding down the carpet around the perimeter of the room. 

  • - Once you’ve pulled the carpet back, fold it over, and, using the utility knife, cut a section of carpet from the back side for easier going. (Cutting the large rug into sections makes it much more manageable than rolling up the whole piece.)  

  • - Remove the tack strips with the crowbar if you have hardwood floors under the padding that you plan on refinishing.  Start in the middle of the strip, loosening the nails, and work towards the ends. 

  • - After the tack strips are out, tackle the padding.  Pull it up, cutting into sections the same way the carpet was cut. 

  • - Some padding is installed with adhesive, and some is stapled to the floor.  If there is glue remaining on the floor, follow the instructions on the carpet padding adhesive remover to get the glue off the flooring. The staples can be removed with the floor scraper. 

  • - Remember that if you’re planning on recarpeting the floor, leave the tack strips in place, and remove the padding anyway, as most installers require new padding to be put down.

 

Call your local municipality to find out how they would like for you to dispose of the old carpet, because the large amount may not be able to be picked up by the regular truck.  Don’t hesitate to ask about recycling programs that are available, as virtually all carpeting can be recycled.  

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

Photo credit: realitydaydream.com

Real Estate Disclosures and You

by Tucker Robbins

Zillow.com defines the term disclosure as “...the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.”  In most states, this simply means that the seller must let the buyer know about problems that they are aware of.  Whether you’re selling or buying a house, disclosing issues with the house is an extremely important part of the process.  

 

What Disclosure Means for the Seller 

  • - Your listing agent will provide a form for you to fill out, answering questions with either yes, no or I don’t know about different aspects of the house.  This form should be filled out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. 

  • - Items that most states ask you to disclose to the buyer:  lead paint or asbestos, previous repairs or additions, mold or water damage, pest issues, drainage problems, foundation cracks, problems with HVAC and other appliances, and if the roof is leaky. 

  • - If you think there might be a problem, say possible mold in the crawlspace, have an inspector come and have a look.  It’s better to be safe than sorry here. 

  • - While you’re going over the disclosure form, if you’re not sure if you should report something, report it anyway.  It’s best to err on the side of caution. 

  • - Have the disclosure ready before you’ve accepted an offer for your own protection. 

  • - Your listing agent will be aware of all government disclosure requirements--federal, state, and local--so be prepared to report all that these laws ask of you. 

 

Disclosure and the Buyer 

  • - Once you receive the disclosure statement, go over it carefully and ask questions if you’re not sure about anything listed, because you must sign the disclosure. 

  • - The extra expense of having an official inspection done on the house is vital to this part of the sale.  Have the disclosure form information with you when you meet the inspector at the house, so you can go over the problem places with a pro. 

  • - In the case of any additions to the home, check the local government building permit and zoning information to make sure the addition was done the legal way by licensed people. 

  • - If you have any issues with the seller’s answers on the disclosure statement, and don’t want to make the repairs, and can’t come to an agreement with the seller, it may be best to walk away and look for another house. 

  • - Once you are satisfied with the disclosure and have the peace of mind that the sale should go through, sign off on the disclosure. 

 

A disclosure should be a seller’s protection plan, and smart sellers will be completely honest, and maybe even over-disclose.  Also, be aware that some states even ask sellers to disclose things like traffic noise, and even paranormal activity!  Your Realtor will know everything you need to provide to buyers, so the sale of your home goes smoothly.

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

Photo credit: davesellsmetrodenver.com

Creating a Restful Bedroom

by Tucker Robbins

Ah, rest--it is probably one thing that many people will say that they don’t get enough of.  Something we may not realize that’s vital to a good night’s sleep is a calm atmosphere in the bedroom.  Let’s look at what we can do to create a restful bedroom. 

 

  • - Keep the room free of clutter: use storage containers under the bed for clothes you may not have room for, keep jewelry neatly hanging or in a jewelry box, have a hamper tucked away for clothing that needs to be washed, and shoes should be tucked away. 

  • - Some smaller homes don’t have a designated room for an office, and it’s important to keep the two separate, even in the same room.  Face the work area away from the bed and use a screen if you like.  Keep the desk tidy, so you’re not looking at work that needs to be done while you’re preparing to go to bed.  Turn off any electronics that can disturb the quiet of the room when you’re not using them. 

  • - Low lighting is important, so use a low-wattage bulb in the bedside lamp and add a timer for it to come one just before bedtime so you won’t have to turn on the bright ceiling light when it’s time to get ready for sleep. 

  • - Sleep experts will tell you that the bedroom is no place for a television!  If sleep is an issue for you, keep the tv in the family room, as the light and noise will keep you from truly resting.  

  • - On that note, if you need some sort of noise to help you sleep, there are many white noise machines and smartphone apps, as well as playlists on many music streaming services that have a variety of relaxing background noise.  Ditch the tv and use white or “pink” noise to help you drift off. 

  • - Room-darkening shades can be very helpful in blocking city lights and help those who must work at night sleep during the day.   

  • - Pets are like family for most of us but allowing them to sleep in bed with you may not be such a good idea.   Have a special bed or crate for Spot to sleep in, so their nighttime movements won’t disturb your deep sleep cycles.  

  • - Room temperature is very important to rest.  If it’s in the budget, have a separate heating and cooling system for the bedroom, and keep it between 60° and 67°, and if that’s not possible, use a fan to keep you cool. 

  • - Choosing the color for decorating is important, as colors influence us when it comes to different activities.  Most of us know that blues, greens and grays are relaxing colors, but if you like to make a bold statement, light colors won’t work.  Royal blue, shades of teal, and browns can still make a room feel calm and add bright style to the room. 

  • - Obviously, your bedding is one of the most vital parts of getting a good night’s rest.  Have a comfortable mattress with good pillows and bedding appropriate for keeping you comfortable.   

 

Sleeping well is so important to many aspects of life, not to mention your health, and if your bedroom isn’t helping you get a good night’s sleep, it’s time to make some changes.  The Better Sleep Foundation has some other tips and information on how your bedroom can help you get the rest you need. 

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

Photo credit: Pinterest

Brighten the Dark

by Tucker Robbins

Daylight is becoming noticeably shorter this time of year, and since Daylight Savings Time ended, most people will be coming home from work in the dark.  Options for lighting have come so far, you can customize your lighting inside and outside for safety, convenience and aesthetics.   

 

  • - Motion-sensor lighting has come a long way, and many have bright, long-lasting LED’s, timers, and motion sensitivity settings.  Battery-operated lights are the easiest to install and can be placed virtually anywhere.  Use them where you park when you come home, near walkways, as well as the entryway.  Stylish motion sensor lamp posts are perfect for integrating into the landscaping, as they look great besides offering some security. 

  • - For your garage entry, install wall sconces on either side of the door, or one light over the door, shining downwards.  Motion sensors or smart lighting that come on when you drive up are best. 

  • - Solar stake lights are perfect for your landscaping or walkway, but instead of a straight line of lights, place them in various places among plantings to add some interest.  When it’s dark, the low wattage of the solar lights will provide enough light for you to see well. 

  • - Install step or stair lights for the amazing look, as well as safety.  Add them along the sides to the railing, or on the risers.   

  • - If your entryway is covered with a porch, place a lamppost near the steps or install lighting on the porch posts closest to the steps, or consider adding an overhead fixture to the porch ceiling to light up the entire area. 

  • - Depending on the placement of your light fixtures, make certain the types you choose are going to be able to take the elements.  A light with a UL damp rating is best under a covered area, and one with the UL wet rating can handle harsh weather conditions like direct sunlight, rain and even saltwater spray. 

  • - As noted above, some lighting needs to be motion-sensored, but others can be managed by timers, while solar lighting usually has sensors to come on when it’s dark and turn off at daylight.   

  • - The type of bulb you use is a personal choice, but keep in mind that if you’re going to be using the lights all night, LED’s use far less energy, and last much longer than other types, saving you money and time.  Don’t let the memory of the harsh glare LED’s gave off when they were first produced; their technology has come a long way and the industry has taken great strides to give consumers softer, more pleasing light. 

 

Before adding bright security lighting that can affect the homes next door, talk with your neighbors, as they’ll appreciate you consulting with them.  You need to make certain you won’t be disturbing their rest or have your lights shining into their windows.  Not only do you want to have lighting outside for security, but for the ambience as well.  A nicely-lit home looks inviting and adds to the style of your home. 

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

Photo credit: Youtube

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

Carve, Drill or Sculpt a Pumpkin!

by Tucker Robbins

Gone are the days of using Mom’s best kitchen knife to carve a simple jack o’ lantern with triangle-shaped eyes and a toothy grin.  Pumpkin carving is an art for many, but even those who aren’t so talented in that department can create original and fun lanterns to light our front steps for Halloween! 
 

  • - Cleaning out the pumpkin is messy, and best done on a paper-covered table or done outside.  Once the inside is clean of seeds and pulp, use a spray bleach cleaner such as Clorox Clean Up to spray the inside of the pumpkin to help stop it from molding quickly. 

  • - Pumpkin carving kits can be bought for just a few dollars, and they usually contain a utility saw, hand “drill,” and scraper.  Some kits offer templates to choose from. 

  • - The amount of free printable templates are almost overwhelming, and you’ll probably end up with more than one jack o’ lantern if you go through this list of available templates from The Spruce Crafts! 

  • - Find a template that compliments your skills, or find an easy one that children can help with, and print.  Tape it to your cleaned-out pumpkin, and use a pointy object to trace around the line drawing, poking through the paper and into the pumpkin. Cut the pattern using a small saw, and spray the newly cut areas with the bleach cleaner, and your piece of art should last for several days! 

  • - Metal cookie cutters can also be used for a different look for your pumpkins:  using a mallet, gently tap the cookie cutter through the carved pumpkin shell.  Go around the pumpkin using this method, or place the cutter in random places for a less-structured look. 

  • - A power drill can make creating a pumpkin lantern a breeze!  Use different bit sizes to make your pumpkin sparkle, like these from onelittleproject.com. 

  • - For the more advanced pumpkin artist, grab a linoleum cutter at your local home center, and follow these directions from FromChinaVillage.com for a different approach to “carving.” 

  • - Battery-operated tea lights are perfect for lighting your jack o’ lantern, and last for several hours, as well as being safer than a traditional candle.  Once you purchase an inexpensive pack, replace the batteries when the old ones die, as the LED bulbs inside last much longer than any wax tealight candle. 

  • - For more festive and different approaches to decorating your porch with other members of the squash and vegetable family, check out these ideas from The Garden Glove. 

 

Keep the pumpkin-carving safe:  supervise younger children, and even help them when they want to use tools to cut the pumpkin’s new face.  Most children love cleaning out the “guts” of the pumpkin, so have them pick out some seeds for cleaning and roasting later for a healthy treat.  Most of all, have fun, and make memories!

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

Photo credit: thesprucecrafts.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

Finding and Fixing Possible Dangers at Home

by Tucker Robbins

Your home should be your haven.  Sometimes, though, things can happen, and it may not be quite as safe as you’d like.  Let’s look at some possible dangers in your home and find out how to fix them. 

 

  • - Unfortunately, fire is a very real danger.  Every day things like burning candles, cooking, and using appliances can cause fires.  One of the main appliances that starts fires is the dryer.  Keep your lint screen collector clean, even washing it in warm water and mild detergent every month, and use a lint collecting brush to clean down into the lint trap vent.  Once a year, unplug the dryer, remove the back and carefully vacuum any lint that has settled in the back around the motor and wiring. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are imperative to have. 

  • - Check and maintain areas of your home that are possible fall risks.  Make certain handrails are secure, steps are free of debris, and that brick or concrete steps aren’t crumbling, and wooden steps are sturdy and free of rot.  Secure area rugs with non-skid tape and keep bathroom floors dry by using easily washed bath mats outside the tub when bathing. 

  • - Older homes can have lead paint under layers of newer paint.  If you plan on removing paint from woodwork, and your home was built before 1978, purchase a lead-testing kit at your local home center or hardware store. In the case of a positive test, find a specialist that will remove the lead paint safely.  Find more information at epa.gov/lead or call 800-424-LEAD. 

  • - Speaking of older homes, have an inspector look at the plumbing for lead or polybutylene (PB) pipes.  Lead is obviously not safe to use for drinking water, and polybutylene pipes can rupture. 

  • - While not all molds are extremely dangerous, many people suffer from allergies to molds.  Most feared is black mold, though there are different types of black mold.  As soon as you see mold anywhere, clean it up using non-ammonia cleaner and water, or bleach on hard surfaces like your bathroom.  If the mold continues to grow, it would be best to call a pro who can look for the cause and make repairs. 

  • - Asbestos is only a dangerous substance if it’s disturbed.  If you notice deterioration in an area that you know is made of asbestos, or you’re getting ready to remodel, seek a local professional that can safely remove the offending material. 

 

This isn’t a financial subject, but it’s best to have an emergency savings for things like this that can come up, and you won’t have to worry so much about paying for the repairs when it comes to that.  Correcting problems as soon as you find them is best for you and your family’s health and well-being.  Home safe home is a home sweet home.

 

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

 

Photo credit: mentalfloss.com

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