How to Prep Your Home For Vacation

If you’re heading out of town soon, you’re likely packing and preparing. But have you given thought to the home you’re leaving behind?

Webber offers the following tips to prepare the home before leaving for vacation:

Unplug appliances – Appliances continue to use energy even when the device is turned off. It is best to unplug all devices including phone chargers, computers, televisions and coffee pots. This will not only save energy, but it will prevent damage from lightning strikes and power surges.

Adjust air conditioning – The air conditioning system uses a significant amount of energy. Turn the temperature up 10 degrees higher than it is usually set, or have a professional install a programmable thermostat that can be adjusted to turn on and cool the home just before returning from vacation.

Clean garbage disposal – The waste disposal is notorious for developing unpleasant odors while the house is empty. It is wise to flush the garbage disposal out with ½ cup of white vinegar and hot water while the disposal is turned on.

Change the setting on the water heater – There is no need to heat water for an empty home. Adjust the water heater to vacation mode. If the water heater does not have a vacation mode, turn the temperature down. This will save a significant amount of money on the energy bill.

Put lights on a timer – According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are more than 2.15 million burglaries each year, with the majority occurring in the peak vacation months of July and August. If a home is dark, it is a sure sign that someone is not home. Put a couple of lamps on a timer inside the home. Set these to go on and off at different intervals. This will give the illusion that someone is home and make the home less vulnerable to burglaries.

Treat stagnant water in toilet – Water left inactive in the toilet can produce a foul odor and a difficult to remove ring that forms around the toilet bowl. To prevent this, place ½ cup of bleach in the toilet bowl just before leaving home.

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Choosing the Best Mattress for You

mattressesHealth experts agree the average mattress should be replaced after 10-15 years. But traditional mattress types have given way to new breeds. If you are in the market for a new mattress, which type is best for you?

“The only way to choose the right mattress is to lie on it for at least 20 minutes,” said Omaha mattress store manager Joe Paginolo. “Don’t let anyone rush you. Get comfy in the position you usually sleep in—and try it out for at least that long.”

Paginolo points out some of the pros and cons of four basic mattress types:

Innerspring

  • Pros: They range in firmness, price and fluffiness of the pillow top to satisfy nearly everyone’s preference and budget.
  • Cons – The cheapest may not have enough springs and cushioning to offer proper support. Be sure the mattress you choose has at least 390 coils. Firmer versions are best for the overweight and people with chronic back pain.

Memory foam

  • Pros: By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you’re not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.
  • Cons – Because they are temperature sensitive, they soften and mold with body heat, so they can make you feel hot during the night. Also, some memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.

Latex

  • Pros – Made from either natural or synthetic rubber, they provide a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed. They are supportive but comfortable for most sleepers.
  • Cons – If you don’t like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.

Air mattresses – (Unlike the blow-up kind you use for overnight guests, the high-end types known as ‘sleep number’ beds use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.)

  • Pros – The firmness of each side can be altered, so they are a good choice for couples who have different firmness preferences.
  • Cons – They can tend to pop up on one side when you sit on the other. Be sure your choice has multiple chambers, so this does not occur.

***Choosing the Best Mattress for You was written By- Barbara Pronin***

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New Study Suggests Strong Outlook for Green Home

Green HomesDuring the prolonged housing downturn, green homes provided support to the ailing residential market and now promise to be an important element of the recovering market as well, according to a new study conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics, in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and with the support of Ply Gem Industries, a leading manufacturer of exterior building products in North America.

Despite the headwinds created by growing concerns about the cost of building green, a high percentage of home builders and re-modelers are already building green and expect to do so in the future. While home builders and re-modelers report that consumers of all ages are interested in green, the study also finds that consumers age 55 and older are the most important group driving the current green market. The findings also demonstrate that consumers’ association of green with healthier homes leads to even higher potential for growth in the future, as do increased use of renewable technologies by 2018. To download the new study, “Green and Healthier Homes: Engaging Consumers of All Ages in Sustainable Living SmartMarket Report,” click here.

  • The 2015 study, which surveyed 232 builders and re-modelers from across the U.S., demonstrates that they recognize the benefits of green building:
  • Over half (54 percent) of home builders are currently constructing at least 16% of their new homes green, and 39% of re-modelers report that at least 16% of their remodeling projects are green.
  • By 2020, nearly all (81 percent) home builders will be constructing that level of green, with over half (51 percent) building at least 60 percent of their new homes green.

By 2020, re-modelers report a similar level of growth, with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) making at least 16% of their projects green, and over one-third (36 percent) completing over 60 percent of their projects green.

These expectations of higher green involvement emerge despite growing concerns about the cost of building green. 77 percent of home builders and re-modelers report that building gogreenhomegreen has an incremental cost over traditional construction of 5 percent or more, notably higher than the 60 percent in 2014 and 58% in 2011 who noted that level of increased cost. While higher cost is also the top obstacle to green reported, it does not appear to have dampened the drive toward green in the market.

“Builders and re-modelers have long recognized that green is the future of home building,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, MO. “Since we first began partnering on this study with Dodge Data & Analytics in 2006, we’ve seen that commitment grow. The study’s recent findings reinforce this continued growth, with new homeowner feedback showing a desire and expectation that new homes be high-performing, particularly when it comes to energy conservation. Most builders recognize that they need to be at least conversant in green to stay competitive.”

One key factor driving the growth of green is the association of green homes with healthier living. Home builders and re-modelers certainly recognize the potential: most (83 percent) believe that consumers will pay more for homes that are healthier.

“We have seen the commercial sector of the construction industry focus on the impact of buildings on the health of their occupants in the last few years, but these findings suggest that attention to healthier homes may offer an even higher gain for green in the residential market,” said Steve Jones, Senior Director of Industry Insights at Dodge Data & Analytics, “especially as consumers become better informed about the features that make homes more sustainable and healthier, and begin to demand them.”

Another factor leading to growth in the residential market is the increasing use of renewable energy. The study demonstrates that the use of renewable technologies is expected to grow across the board, revealing an interest in energy performance that goes beyond green. By 2018, nearly half of home builders and re-modelers expect to be using solar photo-voltaic (48 percent) and ground source heat pump (52 percent) technologies. Net zero homes are also emerging as an important trend, with nearly one-quarter (21 percent) of home builders having built a net zero home in the last two years.

One interesting finding of the new study is that the greatest impetus for green homes comes, not from millennials as many people might expect, but from consumers age 55 and older. Data from the study suggest that greater familiarity with home features leads to an emphasis on home performance. Therefore, as the environmentally minded millennials gain more experience with home ownership, it is quite possible that there could be even greater demand for green in the future.

To download the new study, “Green and Healthier Homes: Engaging Consumers of All Ages in Sustainable Living” SmartMarket Report, click here.

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10 Easy Home Upgrades That Can Increase Your Homes Value

 

living-room-728732_640Whether planning to sell the house, have it rented out, or simply for personal satisfaction, a little renovation and upgrade is always necessary to help increase its market value. In order to boost a house’s value in the market, it is first important to learn what prospective buyers or tenants are searching for in a house. For most homeowners, the biggest concern is usually the budget required for upgrade, renovation and home maintenance.

The great news is that there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars for home improvements. Just follow these 10 tips for the best home upgrades to add home value.

1. Knock down a wall and go for open concept. Not only will it create an illusion of a bigger space, but it is a home design trend that is very much in demand today. Just make sure to have the wall assessed for possible electrical wires housed behind it before hitting it with a sledge-hammer.

2. Make the kitchen area workable. This means making the kitchen area a functional place where you can actually cook a decent meal. Update faucets, fix leaking pipes, buff the counters and repaint cupboards and cabinets. It is not necessary to replace everything with a new kitchen system. Simply repaint worn out furniture and replace outdated knobs with modern handles to make it look more expensive.

3. Brighten up the bath. Bathrooms are among the most important considerations for many tenants and prospective home buyers so it is pertinent to get this area of the house right. Buff up the tiles and replace the faucets, shower heads and toilet seats. There’s no need to replace all the tiles, just those that are cracked and chipped. The trick is to find the right cleaning agent that can help whiten the tiles to make it look good as new.

4. Add more storage. 
If there’s an extra wall or area of the house that does not seem to have any function, add in a laminate closet system or have a carpenter install small built-in cabinets, racks or pantries. Making every extra space of the house functional will help make it look more livable.

5. Turn that extra space into an extra room. A house with a lot of rooms will always look impressive when advertised in the market. If the house has a huge attic, a den, or extra space that can be turned into another room then by all means, fix it up to look like an additional room. Simply add in a built-in closet and a window and it should be good to accommodate.

6. Update the lighting system.
 Still using an old chandelier or unflattering fluorescent lamps? Hire an electrician to place some decorative lighting fixtures or dimmers that will give the house a more modern feel and mask any unflattering curves on the walls and ceilings.

7. Buff the floors.
 The moment a buyer or tenant steps inside the front door the first thing they will notice are the floors. Tiled or hardwood floors need to be buffed till it sparkles. Carpeted floors need a touch of professional carpet cleaning to make it look, smell and feel brand new. Hiring professional cleaners is a small investment compared to the big impact it will make.

8. Apply a fresh coat of paint on the walls or replace an uncharacteristic door with a rustic barn door. Choose modern color palettes to give the house a fresh new look.

9. Add outdoor dining furniture in the front lawn or backyard. These areas can become extended living and dining areas.

10. Hire an electrical and plumbing service to look at the overall state of the house. It is much better to catch the problems early on than find out much later when the problem has already worsened such as replacing the entire plumbing system or re-wiring the entire house.

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5 projects to complete before winter

The leaves are starting to fall off the trees, the birds are flying south and you can feel the temperature dropping. Winter is on its way and while squirrels pack away food before the first snow fall, you’ll be relieved to know that you still have time to finish some projects listed below to get your home ready for winter.

These simple steps will help you winterize your home so you can enjoy a happy, hazard-free holiday season.

  1. Tackle the yard. Your yard will fall into dormancy during the winter, but a little prep now can help your green space bounce back in the spring. Fertilize your lawn using a lawn spreader from your local rental store to turn this all-day chore into a task that takes just a couple of hours. And don’t waste the rest of your day raking the yard; instead, rent a leaf blower to finish this task in a fraction of the time.
  2. Seal the gaps. Find the places where cold air sneaks into your home and you will drastically reduce your heating bills throughout winter. Feel along your windows and doors for any drafts. Seal larger cracks with caulk and cover your windows in plastic wrap for comprehensive protection. If you have a real chimney, don’t forget to close the damper to prevent cold air from billowing down the chimney.
  3. Clean the carpets. The winter season can be hard on your carpets as snow, salt and dirt get tracked in from outside. Cleaning them before winter begins puts them in the best possible shape for the colder months ahead. You can hire a professional carpet cleaner or rent one to conquer the task yourself.
  4. Protect pipes from freezing. A ruptured pipe can ruin your home and everything in it. Ruptured pipes occur during winter when the pipes freeze and the frozen water inside expands. You can protect against this by never letting your home’s temperature fall below 65 degrees. Wrap pipes running along the exterior walls in heat tape, and be sure to check pipes on those bitterly cold nights.
  5. Empty the gutters. If left unchecked, falling leaves and other debris will clog your gutters and downspouts, which can cause ice dams in the winter. Start by trimming or removing trees and hedges near the gutters. If you lack the tools to complete this project, you can rent a brush cutter, tree trimmer or ladder to do the job. Once obstructions have been removed, clear the gutters to prevent a future home disaster.

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Fall Lawn Care & Maintenance Tips

Taking the time and effort to prep your lawn for the cooler fall and winter months will result in lusher, greener grass once the temperatures start rising again. Here are some tips to make sure your lawn is ready to take the cooler months fall and winter months that are just around the corner.

Fertilizing
Fertilizing before cold weather arrives gives your yard nutrients that are good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season.

To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer in the fall about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Instead of pacing the yard with a push spreader, consider a tow-behind spreader attached to your riding lawn mower or garden tractor. An attachment, such as a pull-type spin spreader , can quickly distribute fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Aerating
Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a de-thatcher, or a plug aerator behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from two to three inches deep.

reseedReseeding
Over time, grass does get old and needs to be replaced. Worn-out lawns invite weeds. Reseeding is a fast, inexpensive way to help bring your lawn back to its lush, green, healthy self without tearing everything out and starting over. It’s also a great way to introduce a new type of grass.

The best time to seed your lawn is in the fall. The soil is still warm but the air is cooler. There are fewer weeds for new grass to compete against. Since your trees are starting to shed their leaves, there’s plenty of sunlight. Also, diseases that attack seedlings are less active. If you put down a layer of seed in the fall, all the thin areas start growing grass, and your lawn starts to look terrific again and will be lush and green again in the spring.


Mulching
If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks.

Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don’t wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Selecting the right mower with mulching attachments or features can save a great deal of time and help ensure a consistent layer of mulch across the yard. For example, John Deere 100-Series lawn tractors have three-in-one mowing decks, which allow you to choose to mulch, bag or allow side-discharge.

Composting
Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of “brown,” or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.

Using a rear bagger with your lawn mower or tractor will help make collecting grass clippings a breeze, and adding to your compost pile is as simple as backing up to the spot and unloading. Another optional mower attachment, the lawn sweeper, brushes leaves into a hamper, much like a broom and dustpan.

Taking these steps will prepare your lawn for the cold winter months and help it come back strong, healthy and beautiful in the spring.

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Creating a room that grows with your child

Costs for putting together a child’s room can rack up pretty quickly, but with a little foresight and a few intelligent purchases, the choices you make for a nursery or toddler’s room can result in a functional, spacious room that is suitable well into your child’s teen years.

From convertible furniture to neutral walls, you can establish a framework that evolves as your child’s interests change, substantially lengthening the life of those early investments.

Lorie Marrero, a certified professional organizer and author of “The Clutter Diet,” has teamed up with the experts at ClosetMaid to offer these pointers for putting together a room that transitions with your youngster as childhood gives way to adolescence.

Invest wisely. Select furniture that will adapt to your child’s needs in the highest quality your budget allows. For example, if you’re starting with a nursery, choose a crib that converts to a toddler bed and even a twin or double bed years down the road. Choose a dresser that can double as a changing table during the early years, with pulls that a toddler or young child can easily manage when the time arrives.

Keep flexibility first. With each purchase, consider how the item will serve your child’s needs over a span of several years. This is true even in the closet, where space once allocated for tiny garments must eventually give way to larger and bulkier attire. One solution is a multi-functional closet organization system, such as ClosetMaid’s ShelfTrack, which can be altered as children grow and their needs change. For younger children, maximize closet space by utilizing three levels of wire shelving for clothing.  As they get older, it’s easy to reconfigure the design by adjusting shelving or adding accessories such as baskets and shoe racks.

Make the most of the accessories. Establish a neutral palette that can change to reflect your child’s personality as they grow. Change up bedding and other decorative items. Dress up cubbies and storage spaces with pops of color using handy ClosetMaid fabric drawers, which can be easily removed to encourage to help out at cleaning time. On the walls, avoid the cost and work of repainting to match each new look by using temporary adornments, such as decals that peel away leaving no sticky residue.

“You’re doing yourself a big favor by establishing a solid foundation of furniture and storage in a child’s room from the start,” Marrero said. “Strategic purchases that last for years will let you focus on helping to make your child’s personality shine in the bedroom, starting with an adaptable storage system that helps set an early standard for keeping clutter under control.”

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5 tips to save money around your home

1089075_50984705Homeowners and renters are doing everything they can think of this time of year to save money around their homes. From do-it-yourself projects to updating small appliances, there are plenty of ways to do this. Here are five easy tips everyone can take advantage of on a dime. 

1. Programmable Thermostats
Utility bills can be daunting. In the summertime, the cold air needs to be on full blast and in the winter, everyone wants to feel warm and cozy. Programmable or “smart” thermostats are an efficient and inexpensive way to save hundreds of dollars on yearly electricity bills. An energy-saving smart thermostat, available for about $50-$100, can help decrease the cost of heating or cooling your home. It takes the guesswork out of trying to coordinate your home’s temperature with the temperature outside, as well as provides the convenience to set different temperatures at different times, seven days a week. Some models even come equipped with Wi-Fi so you can control the temperature of your house even when you are not home.

2. Go Low-Flow in the Shower
Wasted water during baths and showers is like washing money down the drain. Replacing old and outdated shower heads with new low-flow models is a great way to tackle the monthly utility bill and increase the efficiency of your hot water consumption. Plus it’s a great solution for renters! New spray shower heads use no more than two and a half gallons per minute and provide excellent water pressure. This simple switch could reduce your annual water bill by upwards of $100, depending on frequency. An added bonus is that low-flow shower heads help the environment by conserving fresh water.

3. Unplug Your Appliances
This may come as a surprise, but turning off electronics does not mean that you are eliminating their draw from the electric grid. Many electronic gadgets and appliances, especially computer monitors, consume power even when they’re turned off, but still plugged into an outlet. This phenomenon is known as “phantom power” and can cost you hundreds of dollars annually. By unplugging your appliances, or using a smart power strip, you can save an estimated five to ten percent on your monthly electric bill.

4. Dodge the Draft
Even though homes have doors and windows to keep out the elements, as a house ages, the hot and cold air from outside often creeps in, creating drafts and gusts. Weather-proofing a home is an inexpensive and simple task that can save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. For about $15, you can purchase some of the supplies you need to weather-proof doors and windows. There are a variety of weather-proofing products, including v strip, felt, and foam tape, so make sure to do some research ahead of time to see what your specific home will need. You can also get a home energy audit to discover ways to improve your home’s interior quality.

5. Install Ceiling Fans
Cooling a home is traditionally the most expensive part of running a home during the hot summer months. An air conditioner uses 3,500 watts of energy, while a ceiling fan only uses 60 watts of energy. A new ceiling fan costs anywhere from $50 to $200 and, on average, costs seven dollars per month to run. Decreasing the use of an air conditioner and increasing the use of a ceiling fan can save money and keep a family just as comfortable. Ceiling fans can even be useful during the winter months by setting the fan to run in a clockwise direction. The reverse motion pushes warm air down from the ceiling, keeping everyone warm. 

*** Sources for this blog http://bhhsselectstl.com/view-blog/5-tips-to-save-money-around-your-home***

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Preparing Your Children For The Move

Millions of families pack up their belongings and embark on new journeys every year. Some move to reduce their expenses; others move for employment opportunities, increase their space or, perhaps even, to make a fresh start. Moving can be stressful for everyone, but it can be especially taxing for children who are used to a routine and often don’t understand the reasons for moving.

Here are some tips to help prepare youngsters for a move and to make the transition less disruptive and stressful:

Acknowledge the move – No matter the age of your children, ensure that you talk to them about the upcoming move. Update your kids on all the process and the stages of the upcoming move. Statistics show that kids need time to adjust and warm up to new ideas and major changes in their lives .Ensure that you talk to them in the best way possible about the changes and be prepared to answer any questions that they may ask you. Ensure that your kids understand that you are willing at any time to discuss with them their concern.

Plan ahead – Parents can ease the transition by providing children with advance information about the new school and community. It might be a good idea to contact the school ahead of time and arrange a tour so the child will have a better idea of what to expect before the first day of class. If information about the new school and new community is available online, provide a visual introduction to the new area before making the move. To make the transition smoother, develop a plan for keeping children in touch with their old friends.

Visit your new home with your kids-  before the official move try to bring your kids Movingwith you when you are looking for the new house so that they actually understand and accept that the family will actually be moving. If you are moving to a different state show your kids using a map where you will be moving in the next few days .If there is climate difference in the new area try to explain to your kids and assure them that everything is in order. Also explain to them any nearby attraction sites that may interest them such as mountains, amusement park or oceans.

Gather information about sports and extra-curricular activities- If possible, ensure that you gather enough credible information on the sports or any other extracurricular activities that may interest your child. Your child will be comfortable if he/she knows that he/she will still play his/her favorite sport once he/she moves to the new place.

Talk about it – The most important thing is for parents to recognize that children deal with change differently. Do not expect children to approach a move in the same way as adults. Talk to children about their feelings. Discuss how to make new friends and how to deal with a new school.

Pay attention – Be aware of the signs that your child might be struggling, such as changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite, sadness, or irritability. Some children may need professional help to deal with a big change such as a move.

For many families, moving is a common part of life. Regardless of frequency, major changes should be addressed with understanding and support. Planning ahead, discussing concerns and trepidations, and keeping a close eye on behavior, can often soften the blow for a child and make for an emotionally healthy transition. 

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Protect Your Home in Extreme Cold

Frozen HomeThis winter is reaping havoc on houses throughout our area. Tons of snow, below freezing/record-breaking temperatures and frigid wind chill just to name a few. Make sure you have a Cold Weather Home Defense in place for your palace.

Like the old saying goes, “sometimes the best offense, is a good defense.” Here’s a few tips that can help your home survive the extreme cold of winter.

  • Freezing Pipes- Open sink-cabinet doors to let warm air in. This is critical for plumbing on an exterior wall of a home. Wrap pipes that are exposed and disconnect all garden hoses.
  • Sinks/Faucets- setting at a constant slow stream can help prevent freezing.
  • Burst Pipes- Know where your water shutoff valve or main shutoff valve is located so you can turn off the water quickly in the event a pipe burst.*
  • Close curtains- Unless there’s warm sunlight coming in, keep
    drapes closed to help insulate your home and keep the warmth inside.*
  • Open Doors & Vents-  Let the warm air flow through your entire home. If there are rooms in your home you don’t frequent, do not close them off from the rest of the home.
  • Cover Cracks at Exterior Doors- The old bath towel or blanket does wonders stopping that draft from windowsills and thresholds.*
  • Landscape Décor- Drain all fountains/bird-baths and bring inside if possible. HouseLogicFrozen water can damage them.*
  • Insulate plants- Add extra mulch or rock around plants to prevent them from sagging, cover them and bring all container plants inside for the winter.*
  • Stay off the roof- Besides being dangerous in cold or windy temps shingles, flashing and siding can be brittle during extremely cold temps. Also clean out your gutters before winter hits to allow melting snow to get off your roof and not weigh down your roof and gutters.
  • Power Outages- Check your emergency kit for working batteries, flashlights and a radio.*

Hopefully you get through the winter trouble-free, but in the event a pipe freezes, burst or the electricity goes out, it’s better to be prepared then “left out in the cold.” Stay warm out there.

*** Some Sources for this blog- Houselogic and AOL Real Estate ***

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