Moving into a New Home? Here’s 8 Things to Replace Right Away

Once you sign the purchase contract and have the keys, you’re well on your way to enjoying life in your new home. And because you want to get off to a fresh start, there are several things in the home you should consider replacing right away.

Below is a list of eight items that most new homeowners replace as soon as possible. Some of these things should be replaced for safety and security reasons, others for hygiene reasons.  Fortunately, everything on this list is relatively inexpensive to change out…

1) Exterior Locks – One of the first things to do in a new home is to change all the entry door locks. This includes garage doors and sliding doors. After all, you don’t really know who might have been given a key at some point in the past. Also, be sure to reprogram the codes for garage door openers, alarm systems, gates and so on. This will help prevent unauthorized entry and provide peace of mind to you and your family.

2) Smoke Alarm Batteries – Another important thing to do when moving into a new house is to replace the batteries in all smoke alarms. This will ensure the batteries are fresh. Test the unit immediately after installing the new batteries so you know they are seated correctly. Also, if you aren’t sure how long a smoke alarm has been in the home, you should replace the entire unit. Most smoke detectors only have a lifespan of 8-10 years.

3) Fire Extinguishers – A fire extinguisher can help you fight a small fire. But just because a fire extinguisher is present does not mean it will function properly. Like smoke alarms, household fire extinguishers have a limited life. Not knowing the age of an extinguisher, or if it is fully charged, is a good reason to replace it. Be prepared. Don’t let a fire get out of hand because the extinguisher didn’t work.

4) Flexible Dryer Duct – Flexible ducts, such as those made of foil or vinyl, can trap lint from the dryer. Every year, thousands of house fires start as a result of the lint build-up in flexible ducts. If your new home has a flexible vent duct for the clothes dryer, you should replace it with a rigid aluminum duct. Unlike a flexible duct, a rigid aluminum duct has a smooth interior surface which minimizes the accumulation of lint.

5) Toilet Seats – It is purely a matter of personal choice, but many new homeowners feel more comfortable replacing the toilet seats in a pre-owned home (as well as the toilet brush and plunger). After all, removing the old toilet seat is really the only way to thoroughly clean and disinfect the area where the seat mounts to the toilet. Rather than reinstalling an old seat after the porcelain has been cleaned, it is just as easy to replace the seat with a new one.

6) Shower Head and Shower Curtain – Because a home’s shower area is warm and moist, it provides the perfect environment for bacteria and mildew to thrive. As such, a shower head and shower curtain can actually harbor an abundance of germs…substantially more than any toilet seat. So unless the shower head and curtain are obviously sparkling new, it is wise to upgrade these two items as soon as you are able to do so.

7) Throw Rugs and Bath Mats – Low-lying textiles such as rugs and mats are subject to a variety of unpleasant spills and splatters. This is particularly true if the prior household had pets or small children. Not knowing what stains or “accidents” the porous fibers may have been subject to, it is often better to simply discard these smaller floor coverings and replace them with new ones.

8) Furnace Filter – There are so many things to do when moving into a new home that it is easy to forget about the furnace filter. This filter should be changed regularly because a dirty filter will make your furnace and air conditioner work harder to draw in air. This puts a strain on your system and wastes energy. A new filter is not only inexpensive, it only takes a few minutes to install.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed as you adjust to your new surroundings. Moving into a new house is exciting, but there is also so much to do. Luckily, all of the items in the above list can be replaced rather easily. This will provide a good starting point before tackling other projects around the house.

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Avoid these 5 Potential Pitfalls of Do-it-Yourself Carpet Cleaning

It is a common practice to clean the carpet of a newly purchased home. After all, you don’t really know how well the carpet has been maintained…or what spills or stains the carpet might have encountered. This is especially true if the prior owner had pets. Plus, it is a lot easier to clean the carpet of an empty home, before furniture and other belongings are set in place.

Many homeowners hope to save money by cleaning a dirty carpet themselves. Though carpet cleaning may appear to be an uncomplicated task, it actually requires a great deal of knowledge and experience to perform correctly. Inexperience might actually lead to permanent harm, which could render the carpet in need of repair or replacement.

Even if you consider yourself to be a jack-of-all-trades or jill-of-all-trades, it is important to be aware of the various drawbacks associated with do-it-yourself carpet cleaning. Below are five potential pitfalls…

1) Lack of Experience

Without the proper training, stains could become worse, the color could be altered, the carpet backer could delaminate, and so on. Since not all carpets are the same, carpet cleaning techniques are not all the same. What may work wonders on some fibers or colors, may ruin others. The cost to repair damage to the carpet could easily outweigh the cost of hiring a professional in the first place. Furthermore, a professional carpet cleaning is almost always backed by some form of guarantee or warranty.

2) Improper Stain Removal

In most cases, spots on the carpet require a pretreatment with a stain remover. Before applying any stain remover, it is recommended that you first test the cleaner on a discreet area, such as the carpet in the back of a closet. This will help ensure the remover is not going to bleach, discolor or otherwise harm the carpet. Also, do not scrub or wipe a stain as that could untwist the carpet fibers and lead to permanent and unsightly fraying. Scrubbing or wiping could also spread the stain or push it deeper into the carpet.

3) Inadequate Equipment

Most of the machines available for homeowners to rent or purchase are designed for portability rather than power. These machines may be easier to lift and more convenient to transport, but cannot compare to the function of a commercial carpet cleaner. A homeowner-grade machine just can’t generate the soil extraction power necessary to clean and sanitize as thoroughly as a professional-grade machine.

4) Excessive Cleaning Solution

Those new to carpet cleaning have a tendency to use a higher concentration of cleaning agent than is recommended, or to continually disperse the solution into the carpet in an attempt to remove additional soil. Using an exaggerated amount of solution does not improve its cleaning ability, it just makes the removal of the cleaner more difficult. The more soap left in the fibers of the carpet, the more sticky residue there will be to attract new dirt. This leads to rapid re-soiling.

5) Saturating the Carpet

Another concern is the use of too much water when attempting to rinse the shampoo or cleaning agent from the carpet. The carpet fibers can only hold so much moisture. Once the fibers become saturated, the remainder of the rinse passes through the carpet and into the pad below. Needless to say, soaking the carpet and pad will prolong its drying time. Without proper ventilation, the carpet could remain wet for days, which could foster the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria. Stains from the feet of furniture might also occur if they are placed directly on the carpet while it is still damp. In addition, moisture that has been allowed to penetrate through the carpet and into the pad can cause deep stains to wick upward as the carpet eventually dries.

Before attempting a do-it-yourself cleaning, get a few estimates from reputable carpet cleaning companies. You will likely find the quotes to be very affordable, especially when you take into account the safety and effectiveness of a professional cleaning.

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Follow These 5 Simple Tips to Help Prevent Clogged Drains

If all the sinks, toilets and tubs in your home are draining correctly, a clog is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But unless precautions are taken, many homeowners will experience a blocked drain at some point.

Most drain blockages are caused by debris that has built up in the pipes over time. So the best defense against a stubborn clog is to reduce the amount of problematic substances that are allowed to enter the drain in the first place.

That said, below are five simple precautions you can take to keep drain-clogging debris from making its way into your home’s plumbing system…

1. Place drain screens in all sink, tub and shower drains

One of the easiest ways to reduce the likelihood of a clog is to install drain screens. Also known as hair catchers, these stainless-steel strainers fit into the drain openings of sinks, bathtubs and showers. The small holes of the screen will trap hair and other debris before it can enter the drain pipe and cause a clog. Drain screens are inexpensive and very low maintenance. They just need to be emptied into the garbage periodically to maintain the proper drainage of water.

2. Never pour grease or oil down a drain

Bacon grease, meat drippings, cooking oils, butter, margarine, lard, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and other fatty substances can adhere to the walls of drain pipes. Even if poured down the sink in liquid form, these substances can solidify and lead to a serious clog. Instead of pouring grease or oil down the drain, put it into a jar or other suitable container. Once it has cooled, discard the sealed container in the trash.

3. Be mindful of what you flush down the toilet

The only things that should ever go down the toilet are liquid waste from the human urinary tract, solid waste from the human digestive system, and toilet paper. Any other substance has the potential to clog the drain. For example, facial tissue, paper towels, cosmetic wipes, baby wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, hair, cotton swabs, and bandages are all example of items that do not break down properly when flushed. Hence, any one of these common items could contribute to a clogged drain.

4) Use the garbage disposal wisely

The less food scraps that are put into the garbage disposal, the better the chance of avoiding a drain blockage. After all, a garbage disposal is merely intended to grind small particles of food that might end up in the drain after rinsing or washing the dishes. The trash can is actually a much better place for most food scraps, especially those that are dense or sticky, such as eggshells, coffee grounds, rice, pasta, and the peels of fruits and vegetables. Also, when operating the garbage disposal, always run the cold water to help move food particles through the disposal and down the drain pipe.

5) Keep drain stoppers free of gunk

Drain stoppers, particularly those in bathroom sinks, will often accumulate a mass of hair, toothpaste residue, soap scum, and other crud. Cleaning the stopper periodically will keep this build-up from making its way down the drain where it could contribute to a serious clog. Once or twice a month, take the preventative measure of pulling out the drain stoppers and removing any gunk that may be clung to them.

No homeowner wants to deal with the inconvenience and mess associated with a clogged drain. Fortunately, a little preventative maintenance will go a long way to help keep your drains functioning properly.

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3 Reasons to Consider Having your Home’s Ductwork Cleaned

A deep house cleaning is generally high on the list of priorities for new homeowners.  After all, everyone wants their living environment to be as clean as possible.

Windows, light fixtures, cabinets, countertops and floors are all obvious things to clean…but what about things that are not so obvious? What about the air ducts? Should you have your ducts cleaned too?

The ductwork of a home circulates air from the heating and cooling system into and out of each room, multiple times per day. This is the air that fills your living environment and the air that you and your family breathe, so of course you want it to be clean.

Some residential duct cleaning companies use marketing tactics to play on the fears of homeowners that they are breathing filthy air or that a build-up of debris is restricting the air flowing through the ductwork. However, the EPA has found there is little evidence to support these claims.

Studies have shown that household dust within the ductwork generally stays put and does not disperse into your home…and rarely is there a build-up of debris so extreme that it hinders the flow of air. Hence, duct cleaning is generally not necessary for the majority of homes.

There are a few exceptions, however. Below are three circumstances where you might consider having your home’s ductwork professionally cleaned…

1) You have personally observed substantial amounts of dust or debris

If particles can actually be seen coming from the duct vents, the ducts likely contain a substantial amount of dust or debris. If the home has undergone a recent improvement project and the air vents were not properly covered, sawdust, drywall dust, fiberglass strands, or other particles could have been sucked into the duct system. Leaky ducts or inadequate filtration could also lead to an excessive amount of dust within the air ducts. An inspection with a flexible camera is often used to confirm the amount of dust and debris within the duct system prior to having a cleaning performed.

2) There are extremely unpleasant odors coming from the ducts

Some odors will just not go away until the ducts are cleaned and sanitized. For example, if any prior residents smoked in the house there could be a build-up of nicotine within the ductwork. Because nicotine is a sticky substance, it adheres to the interior walls of the air ducts. Cooking grease can also cling to the interior of the ducts and harbor foul odors. Also, the presence of mold within the ductwork is often detected by its musty odor. Similarly, if the ducts contain an infestation of insects or rodents (alive or dead), the ducts will require a thorough cleaning and sanitizing to remediate the problem.

3) You simply prefer a fresh start

Some homeowners just prefer that everything in the home be immaculate from the very start. Perhaps someone in the household has severe allergies or other breathing disorders that are triggered or worsened by dust particles. In this case, the ducts may be cleaned for peace of mind. Or maybe the new homeowner knows that people and pets are constantly sloughing off dead skin cells and hair, and wants to ensure that no remnants of prior residents are left within the ductwork.

If you do decide to use a duct cleaning service, be aware that the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) has issued warnings about unscrupulous residential duct cleaning companies that lure homeowners with a cheap price and then use aggressive tactics to upsell unnecessary services. When researching air duct cleaning services, always perform a thorough check of reviews and references to ensure you are dealing with an experienced and qualified company.

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