Category: House and Home

5 Tips to Keep Your Home Safe and Healthy in 2020

Cleaning your home may not be on your list of favorite things to do, but it offers many benefits.

For one thing, it can help you and your family breathe better. If you have kids or other family members who have respiratory issues, keeping a clean home can help reduce asthma and allergy triggers.

Another benefit is injury prevention. Especially if you have older loved ones living with you, you’d want to keep walkways clear to prevent falls and eliminate tripping hazards. 

There’s more, but all these contribute to a safe and healthy environment for everyone living in your house. That being said, here are some healthy home tips every homeowner should keep in mind.

1. Guard Your Home Against Water

Water leaks aren’t a minor problem. If you leave them alone, they could end up causing structural damage.

The best way to avoid this is to check for water leaks, especially in your roofing system and interior plumbing. Once you confirm that you have water leaks, call professionals to fix them asap.

Now, if for some reason, the pros can’t come to your house right away, and you’re seeing spills, make sure to wipe them as best as you can. Don’t forget that standing water is attractive to pests – another enemy of a healthy home.

2.  Get Rid of Contaminants 

A safe home is a contaminant-free home, but what exactly are these contaminants?

It depends. For example, lead may be a contaminant in older homes (pre-1978), but the good thing is there are different lead paint removal options to choose from including encapsulation, enclosure, wet cleaning, etc. 

Another contaminant to check for is radon, which could enter your house through cracks in your foundation, crawlspace, and so on. Should you detect a high level of this dangerous gas in your home, you can either buy a radon removal system or hire a radon removal specialist.

3. Keep Your Home Safe and Healthy by Eliminating Viruses

Beyond cleaning, you have to learn how to disinfect your home to keep it virus-free. That means using effective disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide, bleach, etc. 

As to which areas of your home you need to disinfect, think surfaces where viruses and germs collect fast. These include faucets, tables, sinks, toilets, bathtubs, door handles, floors, chairs, and so on. Now, if you’re still not sure how to clean all viruses, you can check out this complete virus removal guide.

4. Let in Fresh Air

Did you know that the air inside your home can harbor more chemical pollutants than the air outdoors? This is why you need to open your windows to let in some fresh air and sweep away indoor pollutants.

And speaking of ventilation, don’t forget to ventilate your bathroom/s, kitchen, and attic. You should also make it a habit to replace your HVAC filters regularly to reduce allergens in your home.

5. Follow a Home Maintenance Schedule

Part of ensuring health and safety at home is to follow a maintenance schedule, so you don’t forget important tasks.

For example, springtime is the perfect time for thoroughly cleaning your home, while summer is ideal for exterior repairs such as a fresh coat of paint for your porch. The idea is not to let small problems become big headaches later on.  

Want More Home Improvement Tips and Advice?

Now that you know some top tips for keeping your home safe and healthy, don’t stop here.

For more tips and advice on keeping your house in tip-top shape, feel free to check out our other articles.

7 Incredible Benefits of Building an Outdoor Kitchen

Summer days call for outdoor living while lapping up the fresh air and sunshine and there’s no better way to enjoy it than in an outdoor kitchen.

Studies tell us that some homeowners spend as much as $30,000 on extravagant outdoor kitchen areas. If that figure makes you think you can’t afford to build your own outdoor kitchen, think again. 

The above applies to only 22% of those who install an outdoor entertainment area. You determine your own budget when you construct an outdoor kitchen. 

Besides, here’s why building an outdoor kitchen will pay for itself over and over again.  

1. Increases Your Home’s Saleability

Improved appeal to home buyers is one of the best-known reasons to build an outdoor kitchen.

An outdoor entertainment area makes your home stand out among equivalent homes in your area. When prospective buyers arrive to view your home, an outdoor kitchen is a deal-maker. 

It’s bound to stand out more in their minds than any of your home’s more unattractive features. 

That’s why homes with outdoor kitchens attract more offers and sell faster. 

2. Building an Outdoor Kitchen Is Budget-Friendly

One of the best benefits of an outdoor kitchen is that you can start small and make it more awesome as you go along. 

A basic outdoor kitchen consists of a concrete countertop and a grill. Add some stylish outdoor furniture or even a few lawn chairs, and that’s all you need to get the party started.

As time goes on, you can add extra features like a sink, fridge, permanent seating, an awning, and a multitude of cooking options. 

3. A Variety of Outdoor Cooking Options

There’s no end to the meals you can cook up in your outdoor kitchen thanks to the various add-ons available nowadays.

Some of the more popular ones are:

  • Pizza ovens
  • Fire pits
  • Outdoor fireplaces
  • Bars
  • Storage solutions
  • Fire tables
  • Chimeneas
  • Smokers
  • Gas cooktops
  • Charcoal grills  

A pellet grill is a modern-day alternative to gas and charcoal grills, that imparts delicious smoky flavors into your food, read more now.

4. Adds Entertainment Value

When you have an outdoor entertainment area, it’s easy to round up your friends for a casual barbecue, cocktails, and poolside fun. 

There’s no worry about keeping an eye on your children either. They can play in the garden within easy view, or entertain their peers with their own toys and games. 

If they do pick up a scrape or two, you don’t need to rush home or to the store for a band-aid, since you’re already there.  

When you have an outdoor kitchen, you can relax with your friends knowing your little ones are safe at home. Other parents in your social circle will agree, and you’re bound to have a steady stream of friends wanting to join you for summer socials. 

There’s always a place at the table in your own home, so there’s no need for restaurant reservations either. You also won’t have to spend hours finding a restaurant that serves meals the whole family can enjoy. 

5. Saves You Money

Who needs to eat out when you can cook up your own delicious meals on your doorstep? 

It’s way more entertaining cooking up your own delicious eats and experimenting with new dishes than it is sitting in a crowded restaurant waiting for service.

You can feed and entertain all your friends at a fraction of the cost too.

In this way, an outdoor kitchen saves you a small fortune on eating out or hiring a venue for a special occasion get-together. 

Do you have special dietary needs? You can cater to your own preferences without having to pay a premium for trendy vegan or keto meals. 

When you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen during the summer, your air-conditioning has to work extra hard to keep your home cool. Eating outdoors takes the load off, helping to decrease your utility bills. 

6. Convenient Cooking

Outdoor cooking means less mess in your kitchen and very few if any, pots and pans to scrub after the fact. Spills are easily remedied with a quick hose down instead of hours of scrubbing.

If you install an outdoor fridge and ice machine, you’ll soon learn to love the fact that you can reach for a cold drink right where you are, instead of traipsing inside to refill.

When you’re entertaining guests from a conventional kitchen, you may be cut off from your friends, not so with an outdoor kitchen. You won’t need to keep excusing yourself to check on the progress of dinner either. 

Your friends help with the preparation of meals without fear of cramping your style. When it comes to outdoor kitchens, the more the merrier. 

You’ll have no problem with strong cooking odors permeating your house and lingering for days either. 

Unlike the kitchen that comes with your house, when you build an outdoor kitchen, you can choose a layout that works for you, so everything’s within easy reach. 

Grilled food is also a lot healthier than takeout options or fried food.  

7. Improves the Value of Your Home

Real estate experts agree that outdoor kitchens bring an ROI of up to 200% if you decide to sell your home.

So even if you don’t get as much use out of it as you should, you always win when you build an outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchens also increase the living area of your house, especially if it’s undercover and close to your house. More square footage automatically translates to a higher price when you sell your home. 

More Useful Upgrades

There’s no doubt that an outdoor entertainment area adds value to your life and home. 

Whether you’re building an outdoor kitchen or wondering how else you can upgrade your home and garden, we have the answers.

Keep reading our blog for more of the latest real estate-related tips and tricks. 

6 Common HVAC Issues (and How to Fix Them)

HVAC systems are designed to thrive through years of wear and tear. That said, they’re far from infallible. Odds are, your HVAC system will incur damage and will, at some point, require a repair.

There are all sorts of problems that can plague an HVAC system. Curious as to the most common HVAC issues? Read on!

Here are 6 of the most common problems that HVAC systems can develop. 

1. Dirty Air Filter

Perhaps the most common of all HVAC issues is the problem of a dirty air filter. Air filters are used to catch airborne dust and debris, ensuring that it doesn’t enter the AC system in excess. Of course, because they do this, they also become exceedingly dirty exceedingly quickly. 

This is a problem. Why? Because not only does it reduce an air conditioner’s efficiency, but it also places undue wear and tear on the air conditioner, causing it to deteriorate and give up long before it would otherwise. 

As such, it’s necessary to either clean or replace your HVAC air filter every 3 months or so. If so you have pets in your home (like dogs or cats), you might even consider making a change every month. That fur adds up quickly. 

2. Inconsistent Thermostat

Does your thermostat seem to be displaying a different temperature than what is being produced by your heater or air conditioner? Does it sometimes fail to make changes in a timely manner? If so, there could be a number of different issues at hand. 

In some cases, the thermostat could simply be in need of a battery change. However, in many cases, it’s the connection that’s to blame. Whether the thermostat is wired or wireless, its connection could be compromised either through deterioration or through interference. 

Note, some thermostat inconsistencies aren’t the fault of the thermostat at all. In some cases, the sensors within the air conditioner or furnace could be to blame. If this is the case with your thermostat inconsistency, you would need to either clean these sensors or have them replaced. 

In truth, the best option is to call up your local HVAC repair company. They’ll assess the problem, then take the necessary actions to correct it. 

3. Clogged Ducts

Do you use forced heat and cooling? If so, there’s a chance that your ducts could become clogged. This occurs over years and years of use, as your duct system is subject to more and more dust and debris. 

Unfortunately, after some time, the system can become so inundated with dust that it fails to deliver air as needed. Soon enough, you’ll find that one of your rooms is getting much colder than another, for example. 

The fix? It’s as simple as clearing the ducts of any existing debris. To do this, you’ll need to disassemble the ducts and physically pull any debris from their confines. If you’re not up to the task yourself, you can also bring in a professional HVAC technician. 

4. Drafts/Dead Spots

One of the most insidious HVAC problems is the problem of drafts/dead spots. These occur for a variety of reasons, some of which involve the HVAC system itself and some of which involve the environment that surrounds the HVAC system. 

For instance, improper vent placement could cause one portion of a room to remain colder than another portion of a room. At the same time, a lack of insulation could cause one room to feel colder than another. 

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to combat such problems. One answer is to install baseboard registers. Another answer is to reconfigure the positioning of your duct system. 

In any case, you’re advised to utilize the services of a seasoned HVAC technician. He or she will go through your options with you and make sure you get the best fix possible.

5. Short Cycling

Perhaps the most notable of HVAC problems is short cycling, a problem wherein an AC or heater turns on for a few seconds, turns off for a few seconds, and then repeats the process perpetually, never truly heating or cooling the room as desired. 

This is a problem not only because it prevents the room from reaching the desired temperature but because it wastes energy and places undue wear and tear on the HVAC system. 

Oftentimes, this is caused by an improperly-sized heating or cooling unit. Note, though, that dirty temperature sensors can cause this issue as well. 

6. Mechanical Issues

The fact of the matter is that HVAC systems have shelf lives. They won’t live forever and, at some point, their mechanical components will start to break down. These components run the gamut from belts to motors and much more. 

So, if your air conditioner, furnace, boiler, or baseboards are in their second decade of existence, you need to keep an eye on them as much as possible. If they’ve survived this long, they’ve undoubtedly taken on a great deal of wear and tear, and could very well incur mechanical issues at any time. 

How do you spot mechanical issues? There are a few signs to look out for. These include strange sounds (like squeaks or bangs), poor smells, and slow-to-respond functionality, to name just a few. 

Don’t let mechanical issues linger. The sooner you can get them fixed, the more you’ll get out of your system in the long-run. 

Keep an Eye Out for These Common HVAC Issues

If you want to keep your HVAC system running at its max capacity, you need to keep an eye out for these common HVAC issues. They can sneak up out of nowhere, so be sure to check your AC and heating system on a regular basis. 

Looking for other home improvement tips? You can find them on our website. Check out our other articles now! 

Asking the Big, Late-Life Question: Where Should I Retire?

Americans are retiring at an increasing rate. In fact, the number of Americans who retire daily has nearly doubled since the year 2020. Currently, about 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, which is the standard age for retirement. 

If your retirement is quickly approaching, then you’ve probably got one big question on your mind: “Where should I retire?” Choosing the perfect retirement destination is a big decision. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help make that decision a little easier. 

Check out this guide to learn how to decide where to retire. 

Consider the Cost of Living 

When choosing a place to retire, one of the biggest things you need to take into consideration is the cost of living. 

Ideally, you want to find a location where your retirement savings can stretch as far as possible. Therefore, it’s important to look into the cost of food, transportation, housing, healthcare, and entertainment. 

Also, keep in mind that your lifestyle will change some when you retire. While you may only go out to eat once per week now, you may find that in retirement, because you have more time on your hands, you want to go out to eat more often. It’s important to take factors like this into consideration when calculating the cost of living. 

Consider the Quality of Life 

Just as important as the cost of living is the quality of life. You might find someplace with a really low cost of living, but if it has really high crime rates and hardly any local activities, then it may not be worth it. 

Typically, the best way to get an idea about the quality of life of a place is to visit it. If you’re not able to visit an area at the time, we recommend doing some research online to find out what others think of the area. Additionally, you can easily look up statistics regarding crime, healthcare, employment, and other factors that contribute to the overall quality of life. 

Consider Your Lifestyle 

Your lifestyle is also a very important factor when choosing a place to retire. Are you the type of person who loves the hustle and bustle of a big city? Or, do you imagine yourself in a quiet, beach town where everyone is a bit more laidback?

Do you like the idea of having easy access to the mountains, or to the sea? Do you want all four seasons, or are you craving summer year-round? Do you picture yourself spending your days on the golf course, or joining a local sewing club?

These are all important questions to ask yourself when deciding where to retire. Additionally, you also want to look into what life is like for local seniors in the area. Some cities have large retirement communities, and these often make it easier for people to meet other retirees. 

Other places also have clubs and centers that are geared towards senior citizens and retirees. Once you figure out what you want your lifestyle to look like during your retirement, you’ll get a better idea of where you should settle down. 

Don’t Forget About Taxes 

We know- no one likes to talk about taxes, but this is also another huge consideration when deciding where to retire. 

As a retiree, you’re likely going to receive income from Social Security as well as investment account distributions and hopefully, your pension. If you’re like most retirees, you’re also probably going to be living on a fixed income. And, the more taxes you have to pay, the less money you’ll have from your hard-earned retirement fund to enjoy life. 

Different states have different rules when it comes to how retiree income is taxed. For example, there are 13 states that impose a tax on Social Security benefits. Additionally, there are seven states that don’t tax income at all. And, another 20 states offer a favorable tax break on retirement income. 

Also, keep in mind that sales and property tax can also eat away at your retirement funds. In certain states, these taxes are much higher than in others. 

So, before settling on a place to retire, it’s very important that you look up how retirees are taxed. 

Know the Retirement Hot Spots 

If you’re at a complete loss as to where to retire, it can sometimes help to start by looking at the top retirement hotspots. You may find that many of these places aren’t for you. However, through research, you may be able to find a smaller retirement community nearby that speaks to you. 

Here are some of the most popular places to retire:

  • Fort Meyers, Florida
  • Sarasota, Florida
  • Lancaster, Pennslyvania
  • Austin, Texas
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Jacksonville, Florida

Additionally, you may want to consider some underrated, but equally amazing places to retire such as:

  • Long Island, New York (you can click here to find out more about retiring here) 
  • Athens, Georgia
  • Bella Vista, Arkansas
  • Port Charlotte, Florida
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Clemson, South Carolina
  • Camas, Washington
  • Nampa, Idaho
  • Falmouth, Massachusetts
  • Gardnerville, Nevada
  • Wilmington, Vermont
  • Kahului, Hawaii

Additionally, you may also want to consider overseas retirement. Many people find that retiring overseas is much more cost-effective than retiring in the US, and there are actually a lot of places with large retiree communities. Some great oversea destinations to consider include:

  • Central Valley, Costa Rica
  • Abruzzo, Italy
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Algarve, Portugal
  • George Town, Malaysia
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand

As you can see, there are a lot of great places all over to consider for your retirement. 

Where Should I Retire?: Are You Ready to Decide? 

Now that you’ve read this guide on “Where should I retire”, it’s time to begin your research. Before you know it, you’ll be playing golf or just relaxing under the sun in your new retirement home. 

Be sure to check back in with our blog for more retirement-related news and tips. 

 

 

 

The Cost of Flood Insurance: Is It Worth It?

A staggering 90% of all cases and types of natural disasters in the US are water-related. Flooding tops the list, accounting for almost half of all these disasters from 1995 to 2015.

In 2018 alone, flood damage led to the National Flood Insurance Program paying out $1.35 billion in claims. During that time, the NFIP paid an average of $42,580 per claim.

All these shows us how the cost of flood insurance could be a necessary expense.

The big question now is, how much is flood insurance? Should everyone be getting it in the first place?

That’s exactly what we’ll address in this post, so make sure you read on!

The Average Cost of Flood Insurance

How much a flood insurance policy will cost you depends on where exactly your home is on the flood maps. These are maps that show which areas of the US are in floodplains, hazard areas, and risk zones. The closer your home is to these spots, the higher the risk of your area getting flooded.

Hence, the higher you can expect your flood insurance premiums to be.

However, other factors, like the age of your home and how many floors it has will also influence its cost. The contents of your home and where exactly these items are will also impact your premiums.

Just to give you an idea though, the average flood insurance costs about $700 a year.

What Flood Insurance Covers

Flood insurance provides coverage for direct flood damage and losses. Building coverage includes damages sustained by the actual structure of your home. Contents coverage protects your belongings that get damaged or lost during a flood.

These two are usually separate, although private insurers offer policies that combine them.

Gauging the Worth of Flood Insurance

If your home is in a low to moderate flood risk area, you’re likely wondering “Should I still get flood insurance?”

Yes, you should, seeing as 25% to 35% of flood claims come from property owners within these areas. This means that your home still has at least a one-in-four chance of getting flooded, even if it’s in a low-risk area!

Now, compare that $700 a year to the potential losses and expenses you may suffer after a flood. Professional flood repair and cleanup alone can already set you back around $1,000 to $4,000.

That’s on top of all the water damaged building materials you may need to fix or repair. Don’t forget all the furniture, electronics, and appliances that may also get hit by the flood.

Without flood insurance, you’ll pay for all these repairs and replacements on your own.

All these should tell you that the answer to your question, “Do I need flood insurance?” is no doubt a big yes.

Don’t Let a Flood Leave You Without a Home

There you have it, a brief, but spot-on explanation of why the cost of flood insurance is worth it. Even if it’ll cost you more than $700 a year, that’s still a lot less than what you’d otherwise pay if you weren’t insured. Besides, you don’t have to cough up the entire cost in one go — you can pay it in monthly installments.

Ready for more lie pro tips to make your home safer and better protected? Then be sure to head over to and check out the other posts under this site’s Frugal Living and Family Life sections!

5 Pest Prevention Tips That Pest Control Companies Recommend

It’s no secret — moms are busy people. And the last thing we need to deal with is a pest infestation. 

Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to keep bugs and rodents out of your home. These five come straight from the pest control companies whose job it is to get rid of these creatures. 

Here are five surefire pest control methods to protect your home — straight from an exterminator

1. Store Food Wisely

Start by taking a good look at your pantry. How secure is your food storage? 

Pests typically come into your home looking for food. If you have open bags and boxes in your kitchen, they’ll know just where to go. 

So, opt for as many foods in cans and jars as possible. Transfer bagged and boxed goods into airtight containers. This step will help you organize your pantry, too, and we could all use help with that. 

Keep as much food as possible in the fridge, too. Pests won’t go inside such a cold space, so you can preserve and protect your pantry by refrigerating it. 

2. Search For Standing Water

Your home might have a leaking pipe or appliance. Outside, a weak drainage system keeps your lawn moist. You may even over-water your plants, leaving a tray full of water beneath each pot. 

No matter where it is, standing water will attract pests to your home. So, inspect under sinks and appliances, and walk the yard in search of soggy spots. 

Once you dry up these sources of water, insects won’t be as attracted to your abode. 

3. Fill the Cracks

A mouse can slip through a hole the size of a pencil to get into your house. 

With that in mind, inspect your home for cracks through which a mouse or insect could pass. You could repair them yourself or hire someone if they’re extensive. 

Be sure to check around pipes and vents that lead outside, too. A crack or gap in the seal could also be enough of an entryway for pests.

4. Keep the Kitchen Clean 

Let’s focus back on the kitchen, which is a big draw for pests. 

Once you have the pantry organized and all food sealed, keep the entire space the same way. Be sure to wipe down counters and tables and sweep floors after meals. Even a single crumb can be enough to attract a pest. 

On top of that, wash dishes or put them into the dishwasher immediately after using them. And take the trash out as soon as it’s full to avoid a pest infestation.

5. Tame Landscaping

Finally, do another lap around the exterior of your home. Take a close look at the plants and trees that surround your property. Do any of them have branches, limbs or leaves that touch your home? 

If so, trim them back so that there’s no contact between your greens and the facade. This natural pathway makes it much easier for bugs to find their way inside. 

Learn From Pest Control Companies

These five tips come directly from pest control companies that know what they’re doing. If you want to keep bugs and rodents away, start here. And, if you need help, you know who to call — the exterminators who suggested these first steps.

Preventing Drain Blockage: How to Keep Drains Clear in Your House

What do you do when you’re in the middle of making dinner and the kitchen sink is suddenly backing up? We’ve all been there; plumbing issues are the last thing you want but unfortunately do happen from time to time.

We’ve put together some preventative tips on how to keep drains clear and hopefully keep your home’s plumbing in working order.  

Preventative Tips

  1. Installing a lint catcher on your washing machine’s hose can prevent lint and fabric from stopping up the drain. Don’t forget to clean or replace the lint trap every three months. Here’s how you can clean it: 
    • Soak it in hot water for 10 minutes.
    • Use a soft brush or paper towel to remove lint.
  2. Don’t pour grease down the drain! It cools as it goes down the drainpipe and will start to form a clog. Use a jar or can to collect your grease and throw it away.  
  3. Use a mesh screen in your tub or shower drain to collect hair. Hair is the number one cause of household plumbing issues. Drain covers are cheap and affordable costing anywhere from $5 to $15.
  4. The pop-up stopper in the bathroom sink collects a lot of hair, soap, toothpaste and other gunk that goes down the drain. If water isn’t going down or if it’s not holding water at all, try cleaning the stopper first.   
  5. Be careful about what foods you put down the disposal. Food waste such as banana peels, potato skins, coffee grounds, and eggshells can stick to the pipes. Use a screen to catch anything you don’t want to go down the kitchen sink.  
  6. Don’t throw personal care items in the toilet such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products or wipes. Not only are they bad for pipes, sewers, and septic tanks but for the environment as well. Put these items where they belong: the trash.  

How to Keep Drains Clear

  • Regularly clean your drains. Clean out hair from the screen in your tub or shower.  
  • Flush drains with hot water. Hot water helps to clear away pipe buildup. 
  • Try a bacterial drain cleaner to maintain your drains. Bacterial drain cleaners are biodegradable and won’t corrode pipes.    
  • Baking soda and vinegar is a natural drain cleaner that can be used together to help prevent clogs. Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain, plug it up, and wait for 5 to 10 minutes. Flush with hot water afterward to remove any loose residue.  

These preventative steps can be taken to prevent blockages but sometimes a thorough drain cleaning is needed! 

Tips on Removing Clogs 

  1. Check the drain to see if the clog is from debris around the stopper.   
  2. Use suction and pressure with a plunger to dislodge a blocked pipe. Creating pressure in the pipe will clear a majority of clogs. 
  3. If plunging doesn’t work, use a plumbing snake. The tip of the snake can grab hair and other debris, allowing you to pull it out and clear the pipe.    
  4. The p-trap is the U-shaped pipe underneath bathroom and kitchen sinks. For this, you’ll need a bucket and a pair of pliers. Place the bucket underneath the p-trap and use the pliers to loosen the bolts. Remove the trap by sliding it down, empty the contents and remove any clog.    

Call a Plumber! 

When all else fails, call a professional plumber! While it’s important to know how to keep drains clear, sometimes we just can’t clear out those difficult blockages.