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Category: Maintenance + Prevention

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How to Quickly and Easily Find Your Water Valve Shut Off

Every home has a water shut-off valve that you can turn off in case of an emergency, such as a burst pipe or a leaking appliance. You can may also need to turn off the water coming into your home in order to complete repairs, such as replacing your hot water heater.

Locate water shut off valve now before you have an issue in your home. Watch this video with our VP Dayna, who can help you find the water shut off valve in your home.

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If a massive pipe breaks or a showerhead won’t stop leaking, you’ll need to know where your water shut-off valve is. Many newer homes have individual “fixture supply stops” that can close sinks, toilets, dishwashers, etc., but each home has a main shut-off that cuts the water supply to the entire house. If you’re not sure where your valve is, here are a few tips to help you locate it: 💧 If you live in an older home, a manual water shut-off valve is often a “gate” type. It has a round, knurled handle (for easy gripping) that requires several full clockwise rotations to turn off. 💧 In newer homes, this manual shut-off valve is usually a “ball” type and has a lever that moves 90 degrees to turn off. 💧 For fixture supply stops, look for a small round or oval handle near any of your appliances, that can be turned clockwise two to four full rotations in order to shut off the water. Many older homes only have them at the toilet. ❄️ If you live in a cold climate, the valve is usually located inside in a basement or other area where it can’t freeze. 🌴 In milder climates, the valve should be along an exterior wall or in a removable, underground box with a lid. Get more home maintenance and safety information in the vipHome.app. Link in bio. #loveyourhome #SimplifiedHomeownership #HomeGoals #HomeTips #HomeMaintenance

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If you live in an older home

A manual water shut-off valve is often a “gate” type. It has a round, knurled handle (for easy gripping) that requires several full clockwise rotations to turn off.

a hand turning off a water shut off valve

In newer homes

This manual shut-off valve is usually a “ball” type and has a lever that moves 90 degrees to turn off.

For fixture supply stops

Your home mostly likely has a toilet water shut off valve and may also have shut off valves by your appliances.

Look for a small round or oval handle near any of your appliances, that can be turned clockwise two to four full rotations in order to shut off the water. Many older homes only have them at the toilet.

If you live in a cold climate

The valve is usually located inside in a basement or other area where it can’t freeze.

In milder climates

The valve should be along an exterior wall or in a removable, underground box with a lid.

Prevent water damage from occuring with this quick guide to preventing a pipe burst in your home.

Love your home and all that’s in it!

Learn additional ways to save your home from water damage and other issues with the vipHome.app. Download today from Google Play or the App Store!

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Spring into Action: Top 15 Home Maintenance Tasks to Do This Season

Spring brings showers, flowers, and unfortunately, home maintenance tasks. Before summer’s harsh storms and heat roll in, get your home ready with these easy spring home tips!

Having trouble keeping track of home maintenance? You’re not alone since 22 million Americans struggle to remember to complete regular home maintenance. Download the vipHome.app now from Google Play and the App Store to get personalized reminders for home maintenance tasks sent right to your phone! 

1. Prepare for the summer heat

With more days suffering from triple-digit temperatures, get your home ready by scheduling a routine maintenance HVAC service with a qualified technician. They can help prolong the life of the system by cleaning the coils and unit, lubricating parts, and inspecting or replacing any belts.

This should be done sooner rather than later to ensure your HVAC won’t break down when you need it most. Also, remember to clean or replace all the filters in your air conditioning and heating system and continue to do so as per the manufacturer’s instructions. This spring home tip will help increase the unit’s efficiency and decrease your energy bills.

2. Complete your usual spring cleaning

Every spring home maintenance checklist must include the essential spring cleaning tasks – filling nail holes, washing window and door panels, fixing screen windows, and changing shower curtains. Just remember to use a soapy water mixture on windows and a microfiber cloth instead of paper towels. Also, don’t forget to remove old caulking and add new to keep the cool air in and the hot air out.

3. Prepare your mower

Your lawnmower is an appliance just like the rest of your home devices. You’ll need to make sure it’s in working order, too. Change the oil, gas, and filters if you didn’t complete this maintenance task in the fall.

If your lawnmower doesn’t run, consider cleaning the carburetor, the gas tank filter, and the intake and exhaust valves. If you’re unsure how to do so, take your mower to a professional repair shop and let them sharpen the blades, too.

4. Check your outdoor plumbing

A person watering their garden

Time to reconnect your garden hose!

It’s time to turn the water back on to your outdoor faucets and ensure that it’s flowing smoothly. Also, reconnect any garden hoses, which you put away during the winter months to prevent ice from forming in your pipes, right? And don’t forget to check them for any cracks or other damage that would require replacement.

5. Check your sprinkler system

Speaking of water, one of the most important spring home tips is to inspect your sprinklers for leaky valves and sprinkler heads. If any areas of your yard collect too much water, check the water line. Can’t find the source? Call a professional to investigate and correct the issue.

6. Trim your trees and shrubs

This is truly an “every season” maintenance task since replacing a roof can be expensive and tree limbs are the main culprit. Branches can also be used by critters as bridges into your home, so clip any and all vegetation to at least 2-3 feet from your house. (Bonus spring home tip: this also helps to prevent a potential burglar from using an overly large shrub for cover.)

For higher tree limbs that threaten your shingles, hire a professional company to take care of them.

7. Clean your gutters

Clean your gutters and downspouts twice a year, after the seeds fall in spring and after the leaves fall in autumn. The winter may have stuffed your gutter full of leaves, branches, and even gunk from snow and dirt, so you’ll want to clear them before summer’s drenching storms roll in. Not sure how to do so? We have a step-by-step guide right here! (Remember to keep three touch points when using a ladder – one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot – at all times.)

8. Inspect your roof

A new roof on a home

Is your roof in tip-top shape?

Winter storms can wreak havoc on your roof, so every spring home maintenance plan needs to include a visual inspection of it (from the ground). Check for any damage, holes, or peeling. Replace any damaged shingles ASAP to avoid expensive home repairs, and continue to check your roof frequently. Make sure to inspect it visually before and after any large storms so you can prevent a small problem from becoming a costly insurance claim.

If you see any issues, call a roofing specialist to repair.

9. Check your deck for damage

If you have a wooden deck, spring is the perfect time to reseal it, so it’ll look its best all summer long.

First, test the wood by sprinkling water on your deck. If water beads on the wood, it’s probably not time to reseal your deck just yet. (You usually need to do this every one to three years.) If the wood immediately soaks up the water, add “reseal deck” to your spring maintenance checklist.

Remember to check your deck for damage or cracking and replace any boards as needed. If you’re not sure how, call a deck professional to complete this necessary spring maintenance.

10. Remove firewood from your home

While we all love a cozy fire during the cold winter months, we hate walking far in the snow for logs. But now that the temperatures are up, remove any firewood you may near your home.

You should never store firewood inside your home as termites and carpenter ants can live inside your logs. Instead, keep the firewood away from your home on concrete or asphalt, elevated on treated boards, and with a waterproof tarp to keep the wood dry.

11. Keep your eyes peeled for termites

termites eating wood

Stop termites from eating you out of house and home.

Termites swarm between March and June, so keep an eye out for evidence of termites: blistered wood or wood that appears to have water damage, damaged wood with a honeycomb-like interior, discarded termite wings, mud tubes (where termites nest), and termite droppings (wood pellets). If you spot any of these warning signs, it’s best to call a professional immediately. You may already have extensive damage or you might be able to ward off an expensive problem.

Speaking of bugs…

12. Check your chimney

When it comes to your chimney, there are a few spring home tips you need to know. The masonry absorbs water rather than resisting it, so you’ll need to replace or reseal your chimney. You also need to check the flashing and replace any bricks, a job best left up to a professional. 

13. Fix your foundation

The foundation is literally what your home was built on, so any damage to it can be problematic for the stability and safety of the structure. Clear any shrubs or hedges that are too close to the foundation and never plant anything within three feet of your home. (If you live in areas prone to wildfires, you should clear vegetation within five feet of your home.) If you do notice any signs of cracks, make sure to call a professional who can chemically bond or fill them.

14. Clean and repair your driveways and walkways

Your driveway and walkways can take a beating during the winter, so make sure to clean and repair your traffic areas (or hire a professional to do so). This isn’t just a curb appeal issue; it’s also a safety issue. If your walkways or driveway aren’t cared for, then family and friends can trip and get injured. Not the best way to kick off barbecue season.

15. Give your home a shower

a person power washing their home

Remember to complete outdoor spring cleaning!

Like the exterior of your body needs a scrub, so does your home’s. Power washing your home can clear it of mold and mildew, and give it a refreshed look. You can generally power wash your driveway and walkways, too, but always be careful when using a power washer. The force can damage your home and cause bodily harm. When in doubt, always call a professional to help!

Take care of your home every season

The vipHome.app can help! Our home maintenance app sends you personalized reminders for home maintenance and tailored recommendations for home improvement. The app’s vipTips help you know what to do and when to do it around the home, and our weather alerts help prepare your home for whatever Mother Nature has in store! Simplify your homeownership with the vipHome.app. Download the app today! 
 
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Top 20 Winter Home Maintenance Tasks You Need to Do This Year

While Bing Crosby may love walking in a winter wonderland, the cold temperatures and freezing precipitation can do a number on your home. That’s why here at vipHome.app, we put together this all-in-one winter home maintenance guide. Below, you’ll find quick winter home maintenance tips and tasks to help save your home from winter’s wrath!

Head inside for these winter home maintenance tips

Be safe and roast-y, toast-y warm all winter with the help of these quick interior home maintenance tips.

#1 – Clean or replace your air filters

You had your HVAC and furnace inspected and serviced in the fall, right? If not, do so now! Then keep up with heating maintenance by cleaning or replacing air filters Depending on your system, you may need to change filters as frequently as once a month or as rarely as once a year. Most systems require a new filter every three months. By changing your air filters, you’ll keep pollutants, such as pet dander, pollen, and dust, out of your air and your system working efficiently.

#2 – Schedule a chimney check-up

A clogged or dirty fireplace can easily lead to a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. An issue with the flue – an opening that releases exhaust gases from a fireplace – can cause drafts, heating inefficiencies, and higher utility bills. Get your fireplace inspected annually and make the necessary repairs, especially if you plan to use it this winter. Also, get it cleaned once a year by a certified chimney sweep. Santa will thank you!

#3 – Check and add insulation

professional rolling out insulation on a floor

Roll out the warmth.

In winter, poor insulation can cause ice dams, mold, and cold toes. While insulation can last a long time, you should check it annually. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Insulation should be at least a foot or more thick in the attic. If you see the ceiling joints, add
    more insulation.
  • New insulation should be added to existing insulation and laid perpendicular to the first layer.
  • Do not cover recess lighting as that could lead to a home fire.
  • Don’t forget to check pipe insulation!

Make sure to buy the right insulation for your home and region. Each type of insulation is rated with an R-value, which indicates how well it prevents the movement of heat. Find your R-Value with ENERGY-STAR’s Recommended Home Insulation R-Values chart. Also, take precautions when working with insulation as it can harm your lungs and skin. Cover yourself from head to toe – goggles, a dust mask, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and gloves. When in doubt, hire a professional.

#4 – Reverse your ceiling fan direction

This may sound like a counterintuitive homeowner tip for winter, but running your ceiling fan during the winter can help to keep you warmer and lower your heating bills. Ensure your fan is spinning clockwise and run it on the lowest setting. This should help to pull the cool air toward the ceiling and push the warm air down. It should also allow you to set the thermostat a few degrees lower this winter. To change the fan’s rotation from counterclockwise to clockwise, simply flip a switch on the fan, but always turn off the fan before doing so.

#5 – Seal your windows and doors with new weatherstripping

Person adding weather stripping to a window

Don’t let the warm air out.

Winter can be un-brr-lieveable! Keep the cool air out and the warm air in by sealing up your windows and doors with foam or rubber strips. Each window or door should only take a few minutes to seal, but if you still notice leakage around your doors afterward, look to replace the threshold or the sweep. Remember your garage doors! They can let warm air out, too, and may require a replacement door sweep.

#6 – Test your sump pumps

Head down to your basement and check your sump pumps. Ensure they are plugged in, and test that they are working. This is a super simple, two-step process.

  • Step 1: Pour a bucket of water into the basin.
  • Step 2: Wait to see if the sump pump turns on.

Pouring the water into the basin will create water accumulation and should trigger your sump pump. If you notice that the basin remains full, there could be an issue with your pump. First, check that the unit is plugged in, and if it’s not, try plugging it in.

Also, check that your GFCI outlet has not been tripped, which can prevent electricity from powering the motor. If your GFCI outlet has been tripped, make sure there are no electrical hazards before resetting it.

Call a professional if you last scheduled a sump pump cleaning and inspection some time ago. The price of the inspection and maintenance is less than the cost of a flooded basement.

#7 – Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Man changing a smoke detector

Test your smoke alarms monthly.

The National Fire Protection Association reports nearly half (46%) of all home heating fires occur in January, February, and December. Carbon monoxide incidents are also more common during winter. Stay as safe as possible by testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors the first Saturday of every month, and consider upgrading to an alarm with a 10-year battery. If your detectors are more than 10 years old, replace them immediately.

Snow joke: winter exterior maintenance tips

Fresh snow, chilly temperatures, and blustery winds can make one crave cozy evenings and hot cocoa, but they can also cause trouble for your property. Prepare your home for all the season can throw at it with these winter tips for homeowners.

#8 – Trim large or overreaching branches

Person using a saw to trim branches

Keep your friends close and branches away from your roof.

Heavy snow can break weak branches or trees, damaging your home’s roof, siding, and windows. Prevent an issue by walking your property and making note of precarious branches and trees. Cut down those you can reach safely. Call a professional to handle jobs outside of your comfort or ability zone.

#9 – Complete up-on-the-housetop maintenance

Icicles forming on a roof

Even Santa finds this treacherous.

Icicles are fun when they’re electric and hanging from palm trees. Unfortunately, large icicles can become ice dams for homes in snow-packed regions, sending water under the roof’s shingles and inside the home. This issue can create rot and other issues. Prevent ice dams from forming with these quick tasks:

  • Clean your gutters in late fall/early winter after the leaves fall to prevent clogs from forming.
  • Clean your downspouts and ensure they send water away from your home.
  • Complete a visual inspection of your roof.
  • Check your eaves and attic for any damp spots or damage.
  • Invest in a snow rake to clear any heavy snow that settles during the season.

If you notice any damaged or missing shingles, call a licensed roofer to assess the situation.

#10 – Clean and store outdoor furniture

The harsh elements of winter can damage your outdoor furniture. Snow can rust metal. Plastic can crack during a deep freeze, and wood can rot if improperly sealed.  Bring your outdoor furniture inside your garage, basement, or shed, or at least cover it with a waterproof tarp. Make sure to clean the furniture before you store it for the long winter.

#11 – Detach garden hoses and clear water lines

ice forming at the end of a garden hose

Don’t let this happen to your hose.

Like bears, garden hoses should rest for the winter and reemerge in the spring. As you may remember from science class, water expands when it transforms from a liquid to a solid. This phenomenon can also happen inside your garden hose and external water pipes and can cause incredible damage to your home.

One of the most frequently forgotten tips for homeowners in the winter is to drain your outdoor spigots. This is easily done by turning off your home’s water supply, opening the exterior faucets, and allowing the water to drain. Once the water stops flowing, turn the spigot off and then turn your home’s water supply back on.

#12 – Repair walkways and seal up cracks

Ice can be dangerous on your walkways and in them. Water inside cracks can expand and break the structure even more. Fill any cracks with the help of a patching mix and bonding agent before ice and moisture can seep in.

#13 – Check your foundation

A hole in your home’s foundation can let unwanted guests, such as bugs and mice, into your home. It can leak heat and help melting snow seep into your basement, leading to expensive water damage.

Prevent these issues by plugging holes with caulk, steel wool, or a sealant. If you find a crack too big to patch, consult an expert who can fix your foundation.

#14 – Fix your outdoor fixtures

Electric lantern hanging outside in the snow

Keep your electricity flowing safely in the winter.

Water and electricity don’t mix, so tackle your outdoor lighting issues before they can cause an electrical hazard. It is also best to tackle this issue earlier in the year, in October or November, before you decorate for the holidays.

As with most electrical issues, don’t handle it yourself. Call a licensed professional.

#15 – Remove window screens

If you still need to switch out your window screens for your glass inserts, now's the time. Ice between your screens and your home is snow good because it can cause expensive water damage once it melts. Screens also can allow air leakage, leading to heat loss and causing your heating system to lose efficiency.

#16 – Safeguard your HVAC unit

Though most condensers are built to survive the winter months, the harsh weather can still threaten your summer relief with debris and water damage. Place a sheet of plywood and bricks or rocks on top to protect the condenser. Do not cover the whole unit.

#17 – Prep for snow

There’s snow place like home, but dirt, ice, and sand can harm your carpets and hardwood floors. Save them by using a welcome mat. Also, designate an area to remove your boots and outerwear, so you don’t drag the water, salt, and dirt into the comfy areas of your home.

Make sure you complete these essential winter tips for homeowners, too!

  • Unearth your gloves, hats, and winter gear.
  • Find and inspect your shovels and snow-cleaning equipment.
  • Buy ice melt, sand, or kitty litter for traction.
  • Service your gas-powered snow blower, including checking spark plugs, changing the oil, and adding fresh gas with a stabilizer.
  • Charge batteries for electrical equipment.

Don’t forget to stock up on hot chocolate and apple cider.

Get ready for a power outage

man in a power outage getting candles ready

We’ll help you power through a power outage.

One of the most crucial winter safety tips for homeowners is to prepare for a power outage. Winter power outages generally come with the added worry of freezing pipes and freezing toes. Keep your home safe, warm, and cozy with these simple ways to prepare for a power outage.

#18 – Restock your emergency kit

Be prepared when the power goes out, so you’ll be warm and informed about updates. Here’s a quick list of what you should have in your kit:

  • Chargers (for phones)
  • Batteries
  • Medicines
  • Flashlights
  • First-aid kit
  • Money
  • Non-perishable food and water
  • Toiletries and personal hygiene supplies
  • Protective gear
  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Warm clothes

If you took any of these items out during the year, replace them. Also, ensure all food and batteries are in date.

#19 – Generate some power yourself

If your area experiences frequent power outages, consider buying a generator. A generator can help you:

  • Keep medical equipment running.
  • Run a heater or blow dryer to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Prevent a home flood by keeping sump pumps working.
  • Stop food spoilage from occurring in your refrigerator.
  • Stay warm in chilly weather.

Do your due diligence before buying a generator. Choose the generator that has the wattage you need, and if you want to connect the generator to your electrical panel, call a licensed electrician to complete this step. An incorrectly installed generator can be fatal to a lineman.

#20 – Be ready for all seasons

The vipHome.app can help! Our home maintenance app sends you personalized reminders for home maintenance and tailored recommendations for home improvement. The app’s vipTips help you know what to do and when to do it around the home, and our weather alerts help prepare your home for whatever Mother Nature has in store!

Simplify your homeownership with the vipHome.app. Download the app today! 

Want to get your home ready for the next season? Check out these spring home maintenance tips now.

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Top 12 Holiday Decorating Tips to Make Your Season Merry and Safe

The winter holidays are here! Before you begin your celebrations (if you haven’t already), here are 12 holiday decorating tips you need to know that will keep you and your loved ones safe whether you’re lighting candles or decking the halls.

Tip #1: Give your decorations some space

Almost half of all holiday decoration fires start because a decoration was too close to a heat source. Three out of every five candle fires start because flammable items—furniture, bedding, or decorations—were near the flame. To safeguard your family and your home, keep candles at least a foot away from anything flammable, your trees at least three feet away from any heat source (including candles), and keep your kids, kittens, and other small beings away from all the above.

Tip #2: Safe glowing!

Candle care starts with a long-tipped lighter to prevent any potential burns, which may force you to drop the candle and create a dangerous situation. Also, never leave your lit candles unattended or walk with a lit candle, and since half of home fire deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., extinguish your flames fully before turning in for the night.

a menorah with blue and white candles lit on a table

Be safe around lit candles!

 

Candles are a staple in all winter holidays, and according to the National Fire Protection Association, December is the peak time for candle fires. To lower your home’s risk, place your menorahs and kinaras on a non-flammable surface or on aluminum foil that’s on a sturdy, flat surface. This prevents candles from tipping over and starting a fire. Make sure to pick a place that is out of reach of curious pets and children!

Tip #3: Peruse before you use

Before even plugging in your electrical decorations, examine them for fraying wires and loose or missing bulbs. Replace broken bulbs, and throw out the entire string if you see any exposed wires. It’s better to lose a string of lights than lose your home to a house fire. Double-check to ensure that your electric decorations have been approved by an independent testing lab, such as UL (Underwriter Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standards Association), and ETL (Intertek), for safety.

Tip #4: Less is more…

Multi-colored holiday lights lit on the floor

Connect three, no more, or a fire may be in store.

“The Rule of Three” applies to incandescent lights as most strands only allow three to be connected at a time. Connecting more can lead to a fire hazard.

Also, be sure not to overload your electrical outlets and never plug in more than one high-wattage appliance per outlet. Forty-four percent of Christmas tree fires started with electrical distribution or lighting equipment problems, so make sure to turn off your lights and candles before heading to bed.

Tip #5: …and check your cords

Lights aren’t the only fire hazard when it comes to holiday decorating. Most light strands connect to extension cords, which can also be frayed or damaged. This not only increases the risk of home fires but can also give you quite a shock. Keep cords in good working order by not pinching them between furniture, squeezing them in windows or doors, placing them under rugs, or attaching them to walls or siding with nails or staples.

Tip #6: Take your decorating outside (but only for 90 days)

Giving outside lights special love and care is one of the most important holiday decorating tips. Since exterior decorations are exposed to the elements, they can suffer from weather damage and critter attacks, so keeping them up longer than 90 days may drastically increase the wear and tear. (The extended time also might annoy your neighbors.)

Tip #7: Don’t buy Charlie Brown’s tree. Really.

All trees are potential kindle, but you can help to prevent a real or artificial tree from catching fire by following these simple rules:

  • When shopping for a natural tree, see if it’s losing needles excessively. If so, continue the search.
  • Place the tree at least three feet away from your heat sources, including candles.
  • Keep your tree hydrated by adding water to it once it’s in the stand and adding water daily.
  • Use appropriate lighting, and never use candles.
  • Buy flame-resistant or flame-retardant decorations, including your tree (if artificial).
  • When the tree begins to lose its needles excessively, it’s time to kick it to the curb.

Also, don’t block a doorway with your tree, so you have a clear exit in case of a fire.

Tip #8: Take your holiday displays and safety to new heights

More than 160 people per day visit the emergency room with injuries related to holiday decorating, and that number increases during November and December. Keep yourself out of the hospital by placing the ladder on stable ground, never standing on the top rung of the ladder, moving the ladder rather than leading too far, and wearing appropriate clothing (fit pants, tied and clean shoes, etc.)

Tip #9: Baby, don’t be a firework

Though not as popular as the Fourth of July, Dec. 30th – Jan. 3rd draws 10 percent of all firework fires. If you plan to celebrate the new year with fireworks, follow all the federal, state, and local laws regarding firework use. Light your fireworks in clear, open areas, on flat surfaces, and have a fire extinguisher ready, just in case.

Tip #10: Invite your smoke alarms to the party

Man standing on ladder checking smoke detector

Every home needs working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Whether you’re frying latkes, cooking chicken and sausage gumbo, or baking cookies, the winter holidays are a prime time for cooking fires (along with many other types of fires).  Keep your holiday guests safe by ensuring your smoke alarms are ready for the party. Their importance cannot be understated.

Test your alarms (even hardwired detectors) to ensure they’re functional, and if you’re using battery-operated detectors, not only test the batteries but also keep an extra set around, just in case it starts to chirp. Of course, this is just a holiday decorating tip. Make sure to keep your smoke alarms functioning properly year-round.

Tip #11: Leave poison off the menu

We’ve written about Thanksgiving cooking safety with tips you should follow when preparing your winter holiday meal. Winter holidays demand an extra level of attention with poisonous materials around the house. Wash your hands after hanging lights (which have lead in the strands) and keep the holly and mistletoe out of reach of children and animals. Head over to the National Capital Poison Center for additional holiday poison safety information.

Tip#12 – Keep up with home maintenance 

Home maintenance never takes a holiday. Gain peace of mind and enjoy the holiday season by keeping your home working properly. While cleaning your dryer exhaust vent may not be top of mind in December, you may consider doing this if it’s been a year or more since it’s been cleaned. A dirty dryer exhaust vent can be a fire hazard. Similarly, you may need to get your furnace inspected or cleaned, have your hot water heater flushed, or test your sump pumps. By completing these and other home maintenance tasks as you needed, you can avoid “home surprises” and enjoy a safe and relaxing holiday.

Not sure how to keep up with home maintenance? The vipHome.app can help. Download the app now! 

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The Top 10 Tasks to Complete Your October Home Maintenance Checklist

Even though Halloween is rapidly approaching, your home doesn’t have to be a scary place (…unless you want it to be).

That’s why we’re coming at you with the top ten tasks on your October home maintenance checklist, so you won’t have to worry about your home. Ten may seem like a lot, but you did nine last month. So you’ve got this.

1. Celebrate the month

Did you know that October is Fire Safety Month? Yup, the same month we leave candles burning in gourds is also the month we should be learning and practicing fire safety. (Well, we should be doing that all year round – practicing fire safety, that is, though we do love pumpkins.)

There are a few things you can do to honor the month:

Person pushing the smoke detector test button

Give your smoke alarms some attention.

Check your smoke detectors. C’mon, you knew that one was coming. Go ahead, push that little test button, and make sure the batteries haven’t expired. Also, check your unit. Smoke detectors have a shelf-life of 10 years, and you can find the date of manufacture on the back. If that unit is over 10 years old, it’s time to replace it.

Check your fire extinguishers. Make sure they are where they’re supposed to be (you guessed it – near the kitchen and the fireplace). Check that there is no physical damage, and the pressure gauge is in the green section. Also, see if the unit has expired, and if so, replace it.

woman using a fire extinguisher on a small kitchen fire

Keep your fire extinguisher close.

Make a fire escape plan. Be sure to have two exits from every room (usually a door and a window). Choose a meet-up point outside (like the mailbox near the road), and discuss the plan with your family. Everyone in the home, including children, should know how to get out and where to go.

Clean your dryer vent. Dryer vents are a leading cause of fires in the home, so clean yours annually. If you are uncomfortable cleaning the vent independently, hire a professional.

2. Bust out the vacuum

Now is the time to vacuum all your radiators and baseboards. You want to make sure they are free of any debris or dust, so when you need that heat, it comes out in the most efficient way possible. (#SaveMoney.)

If you haven’t already had your unit serviced for the fall, call a HVAC professional now.

3. Say goodbye to summer for real

covered grill

Say good-bye to your grill for the winter.

Cover or store your outdoor furniture and grills. That way, they won’t get damaged from the harsh winter weather, and they’ll be ready for next summer!

If you live in an area where you never have to stop barbecuing, add to your October home maintenance checklist a deep cleaning of your grill. This will help you to prevent a home fire during the fall holidays (and football season)!

4. Close the tap

Hose connected to an outdoor spigot in the winter

Don’t leave a hose attached to an outdoor spigot.

As the cold months approach, you probably won’t be watering plants or washing cars, so it’s time to turn off the water to all your exterior spigots, drain the water, and store your hoses for a long winter’s nap. This is extremely important in areas up north where any water in your outside faucets can expand and break your pipes, leading to expensive water damage.

5. Plan for bad weather

snow covered roof

Winter is just around the corner.

The Farmer’s Almanac said this winter is going to be a doozy, so make a plan for a blizzard, ice storm, and even just that dreaded Polar Vortex. We have heating maintenance and winter weather guides, but even if you’re not in a place that sees extremely low temperatures, that doesn’t mean you’re immune to the effects of cold weather, such as freezing pipes. (We’re looking at you, Texas.)

6. Time to take a little off the top

On your October home maintenance checklist, be sure to add trimming dead tree limbs away from your home, especially those near your roof. Tree limbs can fall and damage your house, and even those that are touching your roof can cause damage by peeling up shingles or ripping off layers of asphalt.

7. Once the last leaf has fallen –

fall leaves in a gutter

Don’t leave your leaves in the gutter.

It’s time to clean out your gutters and downspouts. Just wait until most of the leaves have fallen, so you only have to do the job once, unless you enjoy cleaning out your gutters. If you do – clean your gutters more often!

If you live in a place without leaf peeping, you will still want to clean out your gutters of summer debris. This will ensure that your gutters are doing what they’re supposed to do, which is take water away from your home.

If your gutters are too high for you – safety first! Hire a professional for this task!

8. Put your sump pump to the test

close up on a sump pump in a concrete floor

Is your sump pump pumping?

Make sure that your sumps are working properly, and if you don’t already have a backup battery, now might be the time to install one. This will help keep your home safe and water-free in case a severe thunderstorm or a freak snowstorm rolls through.

Also, when was the last time your sump pump was inspected or serviced? You might want to call a professional to do that before it breaks down. If you want to avoid unexpected repairs, then consider purchasing a home warranty.

9. Keep your pipes warm

water being poured onto a frozen pipe

Prevent a burst pipe.

Did you know your pipes don’t like the cold either? Wrap them up with some self-sealing foam pipe insulation to keep them warm all winter long. This way you can save yourself the heartache of a broken pipe and not to mention the cost.

A good place to start is your AC unit, then any pipes that are on exterior walls, and finally your attic and crawlspace.

10. Winterize your sprinklers

In-ground sprinkler system turned on

Save your sprinklers.

This may be the time to call in the professionals and ask for the compressed air blow-out. Don’t worry. They won’t think you’re crazy. This is a way to ensure that all the water has been removed from your sprinkler line, so there is no risk of freezing and ruining your system.

Of course, southern homeowners, your October home maintenance checklist should include inspecting your lines and making sure there aren’t any leaks or grim buildup.

Get additional fall lawn care tips in 7 Super Simple Fall Lawn Care Tips and Secrets That Get Results

Be ready for every season!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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Fall Home Projects 2023: Get Your Maintenance On

Where has the year gone? It’s already fall! As more homeowners are improving their homes, we wanted to help by giving you the prime fall home improvement ideas this year.

We reached out to Matt Van Cleve, a home improvement contractor who has been helping homeowners enhance their homesteads for more than 35 years. Read on to find out what should be on your fall home improvement checklist this year!

Take it outside

“Homeowners are interested in putting money towards exterior projects,” says Matt. “This includes patios, decks, and landscaping due to spending more time at home during the pandemic.”

front porch with a wooden door with a wreath hanging on it

Enhance the exterior of your home.

While the fall real estate market is hot, homeowners who are staying put are less interested in adding to their homes. Instead, they’re looking to use all the space available to them, including their outdoor living space.

To enhance your outside area, Matt suggests focusing on these fall home improvement projects:

Give your home’s exterior a fresh coat

can of blue paint with a roller leaning on top

It’s time to spruce up your home’s exterior.

Get out your paint brush! Fall is a great time for exterior painting. With only a few rainy days, less humidity, and minimal temperature fluctuations, the mild autumn weather allows your paint to spread smoothly and cure properly, the latter which can take several days.

Replace deck boards

wooden deck attached to a green house in the woods

Give your deck some much needed attention.

It’s been a long summer, and this year, you’ve likely enjoyed your deck more than usual by grilling weekly and remote working outside. So give your deck the attention it deserves and replace any wearing boards. If you’re not extremely DIY inclined, hire a professional to complete this task for you.

Beautify your outdoor space

Autumn is one of the most visually appealing seasons, and you can enhance your yard with the usual cleanup duties – raking leaves and trimming trees. However, now’s also the time to remove any vegetable plant debris, plant spring bulbs, or add some additional accents to your landscape, such as chrysanthemums, pansies, and aster. (If any trees are too high to trim and threaten your roof’s structure, make sure to contact a lawncare and tree specialist to take care of them.)

Fall home improvement tips and maintenance projects

Ladder and paint roller in a living room prepped for repainting

Renovate rather than add on.

Rather than adding more room to their homes, homeowners are working with what they have.

“I’m seeing that people are less interested in additions and are more interested in reworking the confines of existing walls,” says Matt. “Homeowners are looking to improve upon what they have already – particularly with kitchens and bathrooms.”

Now is also the time for homeowners to tackle practical improvements and maintenance.

“Heating has got to be the first thing to address if your system needs upgrading, followed by electric,” says Matt. “The glitzy bathroom and kitchen can wait.”

When getting ready for fall and winter, it’s important to focus on these key maintenance projects:

Check and add insulation

insulation in the inside of a wall

Insulation can help prevent chilly toes.

“It’s a good idea to fix any insulation concerns,” says Matt, “particularly in attics and by windows. This ensures that the heat is not escaping too quickly, which would drive your bill up.”

Weather stripping around doors and windows takes only a few minutes with window film or caulk. You can also install new door sweeps, which can keep the cold outside and warmth inside. For quick upgrades, hang insulated curtains and plug up any holes at the bottom of your door with a door snake.

Also, head up to your attic to make sure you have adequate insulation. If you see that your insulation is below your attic floor joints, your home probably suffers from air leaks and needs more insulation. Also, if you see low spots in your insulation, you’ll need to add more as insulation should be even across your attic.

Not sure if you need more insulation? Call an insulation and drywall specialist to assess.

Clean your gutters

Man standing on a ladder cleaning out the gutters

Get up on your ladder twice a year.

Everyone’s favorite pastime – cleaning the gutters!

“If your gutters are clogged due to leaves, you can have a blockage,” warns Matt. “The downspout (part of the gutter that brings water to the ground) needs to be operating in top condition to take water away from your house.”

In the wintertime, blockages in the gutters or downspouts can create ice dams and damage at the structural level.

“It can cause water to leak inside the basement,” says Matt. “It’s not good for a house foundation either and can cause it to crack if the damage gets too great. You always want to get the water flowing away from your house, especially in the cold winter months.”

Unsteady on a ladder? Hire a roofing professional who will not only clean your gutters but also inspect your roof for any potential damage.

And of course, heating maintenance

Replacing the filter in the central ventilation system. Replacing Dirty Air filter for home central air conditioning system. Change filter in rotary heat exchanger recuperator

Don’t neglect your heating system!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that fall is a good time to get your heating system serviced.

“In the fall and winter homeowners typically address heating concerns for practical reasons with the cold weather coming up,” says Matt.

This includes getting your HVAC unit or furnace serviced to make sure it’s working properly. You should also replace your furnace filters or HVAC filters, as this helps with air quality and energy efficiency.

Air filters need to be cleaned or replaced as frequently as every month or as rarely as once a year. (Most require replacement every season or every three months.)

Expert tips at your fingertips

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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Secure Your Smart Home: A 6-Step Guide to Protecting Your Devices

The average American home now has 20.2 connected devices inside of it, and by 2025, the number of smart homes in the U.S. is expected to reach 77 million. Unfortunately, like any connected device, smart home tech can be hacked.

“If you have a lot of smart home devices and think there’s no reason to be concerned – it’s a recipe for disaster,” says Eugenia Blackstone, Chief Marketing Officer at Iris® Powered by Generali. “It’s important to educate yourself and know what you can do to reduce your risk.”

Eugenia recently stopped by the vipHome Podcast and shared with us simple ways to help protect your smart home from hackers and other digital threats.

Is the threat real?

Almost three in four homeowners with smart home tech devices worry that someone can gain access to their device without their permission, but is the threat real? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In fact:

  • 9% of families have had hackers gain access to a device.
  • 16% had their personal data sold to other companies.
  • 11% had suffered some sort of virus or spyware infection on their device.

“On top of that, smart tech owners deal with issues like their private information becoming public, companies using or tracking their online activity for purposes the user didn’t intend or consent to,” says Eugenia.

There have been unwanted recordings of homeowners’ voices, images, and activities, which can lead to identity theft.

“Hackers are always trying to be one, two, three steps ahead, so it’s important that you do as much as you can to reduce your risk,” says Eugenia.

Six steps to a safer smart home

While you can’t protect your home from every digital threat, these seven simple steps can help to lower your risk of a smart home hack and can help to keep personal information private.

Step 1: Gain awareness.

Before you can protect your home, you must understand the digital threats that can harm it and your smart home tech.

“Educating yourself automatically brings your risk down,” says Eugenia.

Step 2: Change your passwords.

changing your passwords

Update your passwords frequently.

This easy and simple step is often overlooked, but its importance cannot be understated.

“Anything you can do to consistently change your passwords and use unique passwords is going to drastically lower your risk,” says Eugenia.

Also, avoid reusing passwords. If one password is compromised, all the accounts that use that password will be compromised. If one of them is your email or other sensitive accounts, you could be in trouble.

“Around tax time, you may have your Social Security number in there, W-2s, things like that, in your email,” says Eugenia.

So, make sure to update your passwords frequently and limit your password usage to one account.

Step 3: Set up a separate Wi-Fi router for your smart home devices.

Some experts recommend setting up two separate secure Wi-Fi networks at home – one for your personal devices and one for your smart home products.

“Now you’ve got two different networks that you’re managing and passwords you need to remember,” says Eugenia, “but that can be beneficial and help to protect your personal information and privacy.”

Step 4: Update your devices.

a smart home device

Updates can patch vulnerabilities.

Many major data breaches in the last 10 years have been attributed to ignored security updates.

“Most of the time, those device updates are patching some sort of security vulnerability that the company has either discovered or that’s been made aware to them,” says Eugenia.

Updates are the manufacturer’s way of correcting a security issue.

“If you’re not doing the updates, then you’re really leaving yourself an open door for cyber criminals to attack,” says Eugenia.

Keep in mind: You can set your devices to auto-update and some devices may need to be plugged in or have a certain battery percentage to update.

“It’s also not a bad practice to check every 30 days or so and make sure the updates have downloaded,” says Eugenia.

Step 5: Consider security add-ons.

Add-ons can provide additional security to your smart home tech devices. The most common add-ons to security are firewalls and antivirus software, which have become ubiquitous.

“Both of those are incredibly important in protecting devices from hackers and are pretty common now on a lot of devices,” says Eugenia.

Additional security add-ons may include:

  • Anti-phishing programs that can detect software that is known for phishing.
  • Anti-ransomware that can help protect users’ data and prevent an attack.
  • A data scrambler that changes keystrokes to protect passwords and other information.

“We have some ways to go before some of the best things out there become basic add-ins,” says Eugenia. “The best thing consumers can do is really be proactive about asking, ‘What sort of additional protections do I get with this device?’”

Step 6: Do your due diligence.

a woman on the phone in front of a computer

Complete your due diligence.

Before you ever buy a smart home device, research the manufacturer. Look at their website to see which can provide you with protection and value privacy. Consider calling their customer service to learn more about their product and security protocols.

“It is something that may in the moment feel like a headache, but it may end up saving you a huge headache down the road,” says Eugenia.

Make sure to choose companies that demonstrate a commitment to data privacy.

“Companies do this by making it easy to set up automatic updates on their devices or proactively partnering with a provider, like Iris, to offer you identity protection or online data protection,” says Eugenia.

What to do if your smart home tech is hacked

There are a variety of ways that hackers can infiltrate your system. One of the most common is through your Wi-Fi network. Once hackers gain access to your network, they have access to any device connected to it.

Hackers can also enter through a particular device – a smart light bulb, baby monitor, or a video doorbell. With the exception of ransomware, most homeowners won’t know they have been hacked until long after it’s happened.

a security camera for a baby - how to prevent your smart home devices

Make sure what’s most important to you is seccure.

Once you notice anomalies, such as devices moving very slowly or acting oddly, the first thing you should do is unplug, shut off the power source, and/or disconnect the device. Then reach out to the manufacturer of the device, who can help get the device working safely and properly again. Of course, make sure you contact the actual manufacturer.

“Make sure you’re going to that device’s website and looking up the customer service for that device, not just contacting some random tech support, not asking Alexa to contact tech support for you,” warns Eugenia.

Some scammers will purposely infiltrate a system and tell you the system has been compromised to trigger a call to a phony tech support number. That’s why it’s important to keep ahead of hackers and update your devices, change your passwords, and complete other safety protocols.

“The bad guys are always working to stay one step ahead, so it’s really important that customers be vigilant,” says Eugenia.

Keep your home safe and secure

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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Not-So-Scary Essential Fall Home Maintenance

Halloween is a time for ghoulish delights, not homeowner frights, but that’s exactly what your home might deliver. And when you have expected guests popping in for treats, you don’t want to worry about the tricks your home might pull – now and in the coming months. So we’ve put together a checklist of not-so-scary fall home maintenance you can do – and should do – before All Hollow’s Eve to avoid costly repairs and safeguard your candy seekers.

After all, these outdoor repairs might seem like witchcraft, but you can complete them all in one warm weekend with time to spare for an apple cider doughnut.

Whisk away unwanted twigs

Banish trees and shrubs for touching your home, especially those rubbing against your roof. Plants help uninvited pests reach and enter your home, and trees can rip up your shingles and clog your gutters, leading to leaks. So cut away unwanted branches, and consider calling a professional to check the integrity of your roof before winter arrives.

Swap out your screens

Hang on to that summer warmth by removing screen doors and windows. This fall home maintenance task will help your house retain more heat from the sun (free of charge), and if you have single-pane windows, swapping out your screens for storm windows can also increase your home’s heat efficiency. You’ll be nice and roasty, toasty warm even when the temperatures start to dip.

Make your gutter and downspout dirt disappear

a homeowner cleaning out the gutters - fall home maintenance

Make the dirt in your gutters disappear.

We can hear your moaning – and not in a Frankenstein’s monster kind of way. But cleaning your gutters and downspouts prevents water damage to your roof, siding, and even your home’s interior. Do it yourself with flexible “wands,” high-pressure nozzles, and even robots! (Just make sure to avoid a nasty – and painful – ladder accident.) Or call a professional who can make all the leaves and dirt disappear, just like magic.

Driveway reparo

Since winter is coming, you’ll need to fix those cracked driveways and walkways as part of your fall home maintenance checklist. If you leave these issues for the cold months, water can seep into your concrete area, freeze, thaw, and eventually expand, creating a frighteningly costly display. Asphalt driveways tend to be more resilient to this type of cracking but are prone to frost heave (when moisture in the soil freezes and thaws, causing your asphalt to buckle).

You can repair your driveway almost as easily as Ron repaired Harry’s glasses with a scraper, leaf blower, filler rope (for big cracks), and caulking. Of course, calling a professional also gets your driveway magically repaired!

Save your hose

As you remember from high school science class, water expands when it transforms from a liquid to a solid, so you’ll want to make sure your garden hose doesn’t become a victim. Remove all hoses from all faucets, drain them, and then wrap them up for next spring. Turn off all outdoor water, too, so your pipes don’t get too big for their britches.

Prep your lawnmower

Before your lawnmower hibernates for the winter, it needs a bit of work. Take out your mower’s manual (you kept it, right?) and read the instructions. Some manufacturers suggest adding a stabilizer to your gas and a capful of engine oil, then running the mower for a bit. Others suggest replacing the spark plugs, running the engine try, or even changing the oil out completely. You also might want to check your blade to make sure it’s not dull, and if it is, replace it. Once you complete the necessary maintenance, roll that mower away until you spring ahead next year.

Secure your foundation

To prevent water from expanding and cracking your home’s foundation during the winter months, check the land around your foundation to make sure water drains away from the house. The land should be sloping down at least six inches per every 10 feet. Also, make sure dirt or soil isn’t touching your siding. If it is, that dreaded word everyone hates to hear – moisture – might infiltrate and create water damage, so call a home pro to explore ways to save your home from drainage and soil issues.

Carve out some time for your emergency equipment

Prevent a true nightmare by checking the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon dioxide monitors every month to make sure they’re working properly. Keep extra batteries on hand to avoid disconnecting your detectors for any length of time, and also, inspect your fire extinguisher to make sure it’s properly maintained. Though you might pretend to be a firefighter for Halloween, you’ll want to make sure you don’t need a real one on the scene anytime soon.

Get your home ready for trick-or-treaters with Halloween safety tips from our friends at Franklin Mutual Insurance!

Hocus pocus – home in focus

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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How to Make Your Gutters Squeaky Clean (and Why You Need to) 

You need to get your mind in your gutter twice a year (figuratively speaking, of course). If you leave your gutters alone for too long, you may find yourself with:

  • Birds and tiny animals making nests in them.
  • Tiny plants growing inside them.
  • Expensive water damage to your roof and attic due to clogs and ice dams.
  • Expensive water damage in your home’s lower levels thanks to clogs.
  • Sagging gutters from too much dirt, debris, and clogs.

As fall approaches (and gutter cleaning season), our experts put together this quick guide to how to clean your gutters with tips, tricks, and other super important information.

“After the seeds fall and after the leaves fall”

How often should you clean your gutters? Experts recommend a regular gutter cleaning at least twice a year. If you live where trees shed their leaves, you may want to clean your gutters and downspouts in late spring and late fall – “after the seeds fall and after the leaves fall.”

Live near pine trees? you may have to do it more frequently – every three months to prevent debris from creating clogs.

If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you may want to clean them even more frequently to prevent dried leaves from becoming fire hazards.

If it’s spring now, make sure to complete this spring home maintenance checklist!

The tools and supplies to get the job done

a person wearing orange gloves cleaning out a home's gutters

Protect your hands!

Make sure to use work gloves plus latex gloves as gutters have muck, dirt, leaves, debris, and as we mentioned earlier, potentially nests. (Don’t be bitten by Chip or Dale!)

Depending on the size of your house and other factors, your gutter cleaning project may require some or all of the following items:

  • Garden hose with a spray nozzle.
  • Extension or step ladder.
  • Ladder stabilizer.
  • Gutter cleaning tools, including a trowel or scoop, cleaning wand, or telescoping extension pole.
  • Gutter sealant.
  • Bucket(s).
  • Pressure washer.
  • Plumbing snake.

Gutters were not designed to take the weight of an extension ladder, so if you’ll be using one, make sure to use a ladder stabilizer. Also, always place your ladder on solid, even ground.

Now – get down and get dirty

As always, if you ever feel uncomfortable about a home maintenance or improvement project, call professional gutter cleaning services. However, if you’re able and ready, here are a few tips to help get your gutters squeaky clean.

  • Place your ladder on solid, even ground and use a ladder stabilizer if need be. (Make sure to keep three touch points – one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot – at all times.)
  • Scoop out the dirt and debris from the gutters either using your hands (with gloves), a trowel, or other gutter tools. Put the muck in a secured bucket.
  • Once you’ve cleaned out of the muck, remove the downspout screens and flush the entire gutter.
  • If you see any places where water escapes the drainage area, seal it up with gutter sealant.
  • Check the downspout to see if the water is flowing freely. If you notice any hesitation or a slower than usual water flow, you may have a clog.
  • If you have a clog, place the garden hose with a spray nozzle at the bottom opening of the downspout. If the clog remains, try using a plumbing snake to clear the area.
  • Replace the downspout screen and flush the area again to make sure the water is flowing smoothly.
  • Check that the gutters and downspouts are secured to the house, and if they’re not, secure them.
  • Finish up by washing the exterior of the gutter system. This can be done easily and efficiently with a pressure washer.

How long does it take to clean your gutters?

That generally depends upon the size of your home. Content Writer Susie and her sister cleaned their home’s gutters in a little under an hour; however, a larger house or a home with gutters and downspouts in disrepair may take longer.

Afraid of heights?

If using a ladder is not your thing, then consider buying a set of tools that help extend your reach. Gutter wands, pressure washer attachments, even a leaf blower attachment can all help to make sure you stay safe while clearing your gutters and downspouts.

If you have a multi-story home or feel uncomfortable completing this project, then hire a “gutter cleaning professional near me” who can take care of this for you.

Have a standing water problem?

a person sloping their gutters

Are your gutters sloped correctly?

If you noticed any standing water while flushing the gutters, then your gutters may not be sloping properly. They should slope ¼” toward the downspout for every 10 feet of gutter. A super handy homeowner may be able to fix this issue with a drill. If you’re not super handy, we recommend calling a roofing professional for gutter cleaning and repair.

It is important to complete this step as water damage from your gutters can be incredibly expensive, especially if it leads to mold and mildew.

Stay on top of home maintenance

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app home management app can help. In less than four minutes, you can be introduced to a new way to home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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DIY Home Pest Control Tips from Orkin Pest Control

Ticks, bedbugs and squirrels – oh, my! And those are just three of the pests that look for a way inside your home. To find out how to protect your abode, we reached out to Glen Ramsey, Senior Technical Services Manager and board-certified entomologist for Orkin Pest Control.

Glen earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in entomology and works behind the scenes at Orkin with pest identification and problem solving of unique home situations.

Watch the latest episode of the vipHome Podcast now and read on to learn DIY home pest control tips.

Why pests invade your home

“We’re trying to prevent harm,” says Glen, who has worked in pest management for more than 13 years. “There’s obvious harm that some pests can do to people, but there’s also harm to homes.”

As the weather cools, homes face two major category of pests – 1) rodents that try and migrate inside, so they can survive the winter months and breed at the same time and 2) occasional invaders that don’t typically feed or breed in homes, but try to escape cold weather or high heat.

So, how do homeowners begin to combat these pests?

“The first thing to do is walk around your house,” says Glen. “Look for things that don’t look right such as scratch marks, bent gutters, and popped shingles. Those types of things are indicative of another problem.”

Make note of these areas and then seal cracks and crevices, install screens on windows and make sure they are tight. Also, caulk around plumbing lines, air-conditioning, HVAC lines, and where your cable line enters your home.

When it comes to your trees, you should cut away any branches that are overhanging or touching the home. This prevents pests from being able to jump or just walk right onto the house.

“If your bushes are 12 to 18 inches away from the foundation of your home and you cutaway on the backside, you can’t tell,” says Glen. “It still looks beautiful, but it keeps ants from being able to walk from the bush onto the house.”

The same goes for overhanging trees, which allow squirrels and cockroaches to drop onto your roof and enter your home.

Home remedies to get rid of ticks

red tick on blade of grass

Make your yard undesirable to ticks.

“There is definite evidence of new ticks being introduced into the United States, and people are being exposed to more and more tick-borne diseases,” says Glen, who lives down the street from a CDC tick specialist. “It’s extremely important for homeowners to wear repellents when they go outside.”

The CDC website has many useful resources for homeowners, but one of the most important tips is simply to cut the grass.

“Tall grass is notorious for ticks,” says Glen. “Ticks do what’s called ‘questing.’ They’ll stick out their front legs while their back legs hold onto the top of the grass stick. As you walk by, they’ll grab your pant leg or your dog, and go with you. It’s important that you keep grass cut short, so they can’t do that.”

Another suggestion is creating ecotones in the yard. If you have a wooden area and your grass leads up to it, consider adding a gravel barrier in between.

“That harsher break between the wooded area and the grass is a huge deterrent to ticks,” says Glen. “It also keeps your lawn better protected from anything that might be coming through the woods.”

Deer will transport ticks, so avoid planting vegetation that will attract deer and other animals, as well.

How to get rid of ladybugs in your house

ladybug on a leaf

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…

Ladybugs are very beneficial, especially in your garden. They eat aphids, which are pests of plants. However, you want to stop a ladybug infestation from happening inside your home.

“Those ladybugs can die in the attic, in the wall voids, in places where you can’t get to them easily,” explains Glen. “Those bug carcasses, for lack of better term, can attract other pests.”

You also shouldn’t smash ladybugs on your wall or your curtains, as they produce an orange stain.

“It’s a chemical that they exude to try and ward off predators, but it will stain wallpaper, paint, and fabrics,” says Glen. “By sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner, it doesn’t let them stain the surface.”

Most bugs you can suck up in the vacuum cleaner, Glen adds. It’s the ones with a pungent odor, like stink bugs, you should capture and release outside.

Have some buzzing around your home? Avoid a stinging situation with bee and wasp safety tips!

How to get rid of bed bugs in your home

bed bugs on a mattress

Hire a professional immediately for beg bug issues.

“Bed bugs really need to be managed professionally,” says Glen. “I never recommend a homeowner try and control bed bugs themselves.”

Glen has seen homeowners try to curb a bed bug infestation themselves. The situation only grew out of hand.

“It was to the point that when you walked in, there were bed bugs on the ceiling and dropping on your head as you walked through the room,” says Glen. “They could sense the carbon dioxide that you’re breathing out, and they were trying to find a food source.”

Let professionals know as soon as possible, so they can get rid of the bed bugs. The longer it goes, the more expensive it’s going to be, and the harder it’s going to be. As soon as you see bugs as small as apple seeds upon your bed or in the usual infested areas, call a professional.

And homeowners should not be embarrassed by bedbugs.

“People pick them up from travel, from going to camp and coming back. Hotel rooms and airports might have them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not that your home is dirty.”

Beware of scorpions

scorpion in a red shoe

Do not grab a scorpion by its tail.

If you live in the southwest United States, you may need to protect your home from scorpions. They are notorious for getting into rock piles, gravel and woodpiles, so getting rid of those around your home is key. Unfortunately, gravel around your house is recommended to keep insects out since they don’t like to cross that barrier.

“Scorpions like it, though, and they’ll hide and nest in them,” says Glen.

Seal your home with chalking or weather stripping and use door sweeps.

“Scorpions can smash really flat and get in,” says Glen. “Make sure that your door sweep touches the doorframe and when the door is closed, you can’t see light around it.”

In the unfortunate event that a scorpion does enter your home, you shouldn’t try to grab its tail.

Notes Glen, “Trained professionals do that; other people don’t. They can sting you.”

The best course of action is to scoop the scorpion into the dustpan and throw it out the front door.

When to seek assistance for your home

raised bed garden in the backyard of a blue house

Take a proactive approach to your pest control.

Homeowners should use integrated pest management (IPM) that monitors all year long.

“IPM is an ongoing repetitive process where you assess the situation, implement control measures and then monitor the situation for any new activity,” says Glen.

It’s a proactive way to handle pests. Orkin generally sees homeowners bimonthly, monthly or quarterly basis.

“If you’re in a really cold climate, you may not need it as often, so the technicians may come quarterly,” says Glen. “But it is important that somebody is looking year-round because there’s different pests that will come in the fall, then the spring, then the summer and finally the winter.”

Most companies, including Orkin, do free inspections. They provide a comprehensive overview and may uncover something a homeowner missed.

“Maybe it’s the squirrel in your wall, or we may make a recommendation that we could really help with mosquito control.”

Orkin also realizes that some homeowners may not have the funds to fix certain areas of their homes at this time.

“We’ve seen the struggles that people have had during this time with continuing service, and we’re working with them to keep themselves pest free,” says Glen.

Take a proactive approach to your pest problems with the help of Orkin Pest Control

Keep your home safe and secure

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