Friday, November 7, 2014

Cleaning Your Tub Drain 1-2-3

Tool – Zip It ® Drain Cleaner

1 Unscrew the drain stopper

2  Thread “Zip It ®” tool into drain

3   Pull  “Zip It ®” tool from drain to remove hair

Monday, November 3, 2014

Back to Basics - Your Heating and Cooling Systems

All homes have some method of heating.  The most common type of heating system is a forced air furnace. The furnace can be powered by electricity or gas.  Temperature is controlled by a thermostat.  The heat from the furnace enters the home through vents in walls and/or ceilings and cold air is returned to the furnace through larger vents called “cold air return” vents.  Another type of heating system is hydronic or hot water heating.  In this type of heating the water is heated in a boiler, which is typically powered by gas or electricity, and then circulated through pipes to convectors or radiators located throughout the house.

If the home has a cooling system it will be one or more of the following three types of systems; Air Conditioner, Evaporative Cooler (Swamp Cooler), Attic Fan.
Air conditioners are run by electricity.  They can be room or whole house units.  Room air conditioners are mounted in windows or walls and are operated manually.  Whole house units are set on a cement slab outside and are connected to the furnace venting system and controlled by the thermostat. 
Evaporative Coolers (swamp coolers) require both electricity and water.  Swamp coolers can be mounted in windows, walls or on the roof.  The control is located at the swamp cooler or on a separate thermostat inside.  Water is piped to the swamp cooler via a copper tube connected to your cold water line.  A shut off valve is installed at the branch.
Whole House fans are run by electricity and are located in the ceiling on the upper floor and vent into the attic. House fans should be used only at night after the outside temperature has dropped.  This pulls the cooler outside air through the house the hot air is vented into the attic.

Maintaining Your Heating Systems

  • ŸInstall smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in recommended locations throughout your house.
  •  Change batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every 6 months.
  • ŸChange or clean furnace filters regularly. Check monthly at first to determine appropriate replacement interval for your home and lifestyle. Dirty filters will prevent your furnace from running efficiently wasting energy, money and potentially causing damage to the furnace. Note:  The filter must be changed year round if you have whole house (central) air-conditioning)  How to change your furnace filter
  • Have your furnace cleaned and serviced annually to prolong the life of your system.
  • ŸHave fireplaces inspected and serviced every year. For wood burning fireplaces contact a chimney sweep for gas fireplaces contact a gas appliance service company.
Maintaining Your Cooling Systems

  • Evaporative coolers (AKA swamp coolers) should be drained seasonally to prevent water lines from freezing and splitting. Cooling pads should be replaced every 2 years.
  • ŸCentral Humidifier filters should be inspected and cleaned or replaced on a regular basis.  Check monthly to determine appropriate replacement interval for your home and lifestyle, then perform routine maintenance.
  • Air conditioners should not be run if the outside temperature is below 65 degrees F.
  • Whole house air conditioning systems should be serviced annually.
Some helpful links:

Back To Basics - Locating You Water Shut-Off Valves

One of the things I talk about in a number of my classes (home maintenance, plumbing and weatherizing) is the importance of knowing where your main and individual water shut-off valves are located.  This is not only vital information in an emergency, it is also important for safely and efficiently completing your home repairs and improvements.

The following is a list of the shut off valves and switches and how to locate them.

Main water shut off valve
This valve is typically located on the lowest level of your home which in some cases may be a crawl
space. Go to the wall that is closest to the street and look for a valve that looks like one of these pictures and is connected to a pipe that is coming through the foundation wall below ground level or up from the ground in a crawl space.
If you can't find it this way start at your water heater and follow the cold water pipe until you can find where it enters the house.  Your shut off valve may be concealed behind a panel in the wall in a finished basement.
Water shut-off valve for sprinkler systems.
This valve is typically located near the main water shut off.  The water supply line for irrigation systems often branches off the main water line near were it enters the home.  Look for a shut off valve that looks like the main shut off valve.

Individual water shut off valves
In newer homes it is required that every individual fixture (sink, toilet, washing machines, laundry tubs) has a shut off valve on any water supply line.  This is not necessarily true for tubs and showers and I don't know why that is.  The valves should visible and accessible. Look under sinks, behind toilets and behind your clothes washer.

Water Heater shut off valve.
Every water heater should have a shut off valve on the cold water

supply line to the unit. This allows the unit to be serviced or replaced without having to shut the water off to the entire house.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guidelines for a smooth loan process

Loan Do’s and Don’ts

DO... Start the process early.  Get Pre-Qualified prior to making any offers.
DO… Disclose everything about your financial situation up front. Tell your lender about the source of your down payment, gift funds, money transfers, credit challenges, etc.
DO... Respond to all documentation requests from your loan officer ASAP.  Keep all original copies of paystubs, w-2’s, bank statements, tax returns, etc. 
DO... Keep your real estate agent and loan officer informed of any changes to your credit, income and debts.
DO... Ask questions 

DON’T… Make a job change without inquiring about the impact it will have on your loan qualification.
DON’T… Make any major purchases prior to closing on your loan.  Taking on new debts or even increasing current balances on revolving credit accounts can have a negative impact on your credit score and qualifying ratios.
DON’T… Move the source of your down payment without proper documentation or make any unexplained deposits in any of your accounts for 60 days prior to closing.
DON’T... Forget there is a difference between what you can qualify for and what you may be comfortable paying. Qualifying for a higher payment does not mean you should overspend.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why downsizing (rightsizing?) was one of the best decisions we ever made

In 2008 my husband, Bill, and I started casually talking about moving into a smaller home.  Our girls were out of the house, he was planning on early retirement and neither of us were interested in taking care of a big house any longer.  So, we decided to start looking around to see where we might want to live and figure out what kind of house we really wanted.
As I am the data driven one in the relationship I decided to make a list of things we wanted or needed based on some practical points.
  1. The first was pretty simple, how much space did we really need?   I calculated the floor space of the rooms we actually used in the house.  Obviously we were comfortable living in that size space since we were already doing it. 
  2. How much did we want to pay and where did we want to live?  As anyone who has recently been researching real estate these 2 items go hand in hand.  There are areas of Denver where you can pay $500,000 for a 1,500 sq ft house or you can pay $200,000 for a the same size house. We certainly didn't want to increase our monthly mortgage to get a smaller house so we had to concentrate on areas that met our needs: nice neighborhoods, easy access to parks, shopping and downtown, access to light rail and potential for appreciation of our investment.
  3. Once we had the area picked out it was time to starting looking.  A few days of looking and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of various features of homes we were able to make a list of 'must haves', 'would like to have', 'would be okay' and 'deal breakers'. 
We were able to find a house that is just right for us.  It had all the things we needed, a few things we wanted and none of the 'deal breakers'.  We were able to find a home with great 'bones' (you can read about that here).  The payment is less than what many people pay for a 1 bedroom condo in downtown Denver. The interior needed up-dating but we have spent the last 6 years methodically updating a room at a time along with some major landscaping work and we have exactly what we want and couldn't be happier.

Are you ready to downsize?  Here's a great article about Money-Smart Reasons for Downsizing by Dave Ramsey that makes the financial case for you.  

If you're ready to take the leap and downsize to your perfect next home, contact me, I'd love to help.
I am a licensed real estate broker in the state of Colorado with over 10 years of comprehensive experience in real estate.

Maintaining your water heater

Modern water heaters are difficult to repair and don't require a lot of maintenance.  This disadvantage with water heaters today is that they life span of a typical water heater is between 10 and 12 years.

To increase the life of your water heater here are some recommendations:
  • Lower the temperature setting on the thermostat to 120° F.  This provides sufficient hot water for
    most families, reduces the chance of scalding, and decreases wear on your water heater's tank.
  • Corrosion happens faster in hotter water. Your water heater is built with a sacrificial anode that helps protect the steel tank by providing a replaceable component that sacrifices itself to the naturally occurring corrosive compounds in the water. This anode should be replaced periodically.
  • Sediment is small particles of debris that settle out on the bottom of your water heater. A drain valve at the bottom of every water heater provides a way to drain sediment from the tank. If your water heater rumbles or makes other noises, you probably have a build-up of sediment in the tank and should consider draining a portion of the water to remove the sediment.
Steps to drain a water heater
  1. Turn off the water supply shut-off valve.  This valve is located on the cold water supply to the water heater.
  2. Turn the temperature dial to 'vacation' mode.  This will prevent the burner from actuating while the water heater is draining.
  3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater and direct the hose to a safe location.  If you have a floor drain nearby you can drain it there.
  4. Open up the drain valve and beginning draining the water.  If you don't see any sediment in the water you can stop at any time.  If there is sediment in the water continue to drain until the water is clear.
  5. Close the valve and disconnect the hose.
  6. Turn the water supply back on
  7. Turn the temperature dial back to your original setting.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Keeping out the bugs - repairing your screens

I saw a news report recently about West Nile disease found in mosquitoes in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The report gave some important things everyone can do to reduce the chances of being bitten by a mosquito and contracting this awful disease.

The suggestions were:

  1. Remove all standing water sources from your property
  2. When working or playing outdoors at dawn or dusk use repellent and dress in long sleeves and pants.
  3. Repair all of the screens in your home. 

#3 is one of the recommendations I can help you with. Luckily, repairing screens is so simple it's crazy not to do it today.

Repairing a plastic or fiberglass screen
Most screens today are made from plastic or fiberglass and small holes can easily be patched.

You can purchase a simple patch with self-sticking adhesive on one side from your local hardware story. The patch comes in a 3" x 3" square and can be cut to size. Apply the patch directly over any small hole or cut in the screen and you're done!

For really small holes you can simply use a small amount of household cement, the patch will be next to invisible.

Repairing metal screens

Although metal screens are much less common they are still around on many homes.  But repairing them can be just as easy.

You can purchase a ready made metal screen repair patch or you can cut a patch from an old screen.  If you're cutting a piece of screen yourself it should be at least 1/2" - 1" larger on all sides than the hole you're repairing.

Unravel several strands from the patch and if necessary bend the strands along the edges.

Slip the bent strands of the patch through the screen and fold them over on the opposite side to hold the patch in place.

A small amount of household cement on the ends of the strands may help keep them in place over time.

If you're screen is damaged beyond repair you can easily replace the screen by following some simple steps.  Here's a link to my blog post that will walk you through the steps.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The plumbing in your home - an overview

Residential Plumbing System Overview
Plumbing refers to the entire system in which water enters a home, travels to the sinks, tubs, showers and appliances and then leaves once it has been used.
How Water Reaches the House
In general drinking water comes from surface water or ground water.  It is piped to the treatment plant where the water is treated to remove contaminants.  In a typical community water supply system, water is transported under pressure through a distribution network of buried pipes.  Smaller pipes, called house service lines, are attached to the main water lines to bring water to the house. 
The water meter can be located underground and is identified by the water meter cover in the yard.  Water meters can also be found on the inside of a home.  A valve at the meter can be turned on and off by the city. 
Once the water line reaches the house, the main water shut off valve allows the homeowner to shut off the water for repairs.  The main water shut off valve is typically located in the basement or crawl space on the wall closest to the street.

After the shut off valve the water line will branch off.  One branch supplies water directly to the cold water side of your fixtures and the other branch supplies water to your water heater.  Water is piped into the water heater, heated, and then piped back out to the hot water side of the fixtures.
Used water inside the house is sent through the drain and sewer system.  The sewer line is located in the basement, crawl space or in the cement slab foundation.  All sewer and drain pipes connect to the main sewer line which eventually connects to the public sewer line that runs under the ground.
Note: The supply branch and shut off valve for a sprinkler system is normally located immediately after the main water shut off.  (Sprinkler systems require seasonal start up and shut down to prevent freezing and broken lines.)

Sump Pumps In some areas of the country you will find sump pits and pumps in the basements or crawl spaces of homes.  A sump pump is a pump used to remove water that has accumulated in a sump pit. A sump pit is a hole that collects water from a foundation’s perimeter drain or ground water, if the basement is below the water table level. Water collecting in the pit is pumped out and away from the foundation. Since a sump pit may overflow if the pump stops working. A backup system is important if the electrical supply to the pump will be interrupted for any length of time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Is it worth it to remodel?

Have you been thinking about remodeling and wondering whether or not it's worth it?  First you might want to do a cost-benefit analysis. This analysis is simply a compilation of the costs of a project compared to the benefits you will receive once the project is complete.

The costs of a project are mostly objective, it's the cost of the material and labor required to complete a project.  The benefits, however, are both objective; How much increase in value will my home see as a result of this remodel?, and subjective; How much will this remodel benefit me and my family in terms of convenience, enjoyment or comfort?

Only you can determine the subjective value of a remodeling project but the folks at Remodeling magazine have done a great analysis of the objective cost of a variety of projects for you.  You can download your copy of the Denver report here, Cost vs Value Report, for other areas of the country go here,

Here are a couple examples:

A remodeling project like replacing the siding on your home with cement fiberboard siding may not provide you or your family a big increase in comfort, convenience or enjoyment BUT according to the Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report (, it has a great return on investment.  If you choose to replace your existing siding with high quality cement fiberboard siding you will spend $13,250 and increase the value of your home by $13,560 which is a 102.3% return on investment!  So if your siding is in need of replacement this choice is easy.

Finishing your basement will likely provide you and your family a significant increase in enjoyment, convenience and comfort.  According to the Cost vs Value Report a basement remodel will cost you $62,131 and will increase the value of your home by $49,082 which is a 79% return on investment (for every $1 spent you get $0.79 in return).  If you're planning on staying in your home for a while, need additional space to accommodate a growing family or want a more comfortable home, the decision to remodel the basement is likely a good one.  If you're planning on putting your home on the market in 6 months, you might want to reconsider.

Check out the report to see how remodeling might benefit you.

“© 2014 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

3 Things to do immediately after closing on your new home.

You've closed on your new home and you're all moved in. I know you'd like to take a break but there are 3 things you should consider doing right away.
Change the locks on your exterior doors.  I am a very optimistic and trusting person, however, there is no way for you to know how many friends, neighbors and other strangers may have a key to your new home.  Especially if the previous owner lived there for a long time. Safety First!

Here's a link to an article on how to change door knobs and dead bolts.
Find the shut-offs for all your utilities and fixtures.Make sure you and everyone in your home knows where the shut-offs are located and how to operate them. 
  • Main water shut-off
  • Main electrical shut-off
  • Main gas shut-off
  • Gas supply shut-off valves for water heater, furnace, gas fireplaces and any other gas appliance
  • Water shut-off valves for all sinks and toilets.
Start saving for home maintenance.  I know you feel like you've spent every last dime you have to get into this house but you will be happy in the future if you set aside 1% of the cost of your home each year to use towards home maintenance costs.  If you're home is more than 20 years old, make it 2%.  If you're wondering how much things will cost like replacing a water heater, use this handy reference tool.

How to repair & replace your screens

How to Replace a Window 

Pry out the old spline with an awl or a narrow-tipped screwdriver. Throw it away— spline gets hard and brittle as it ages and shouldn’t be reused.

Lay the new screen material over the frame. It should overlap the frame by about 1 to 2 inches around the entire perimeter.. Cut each corner at a 45-degree angle just slightly beyond the spline groove. The cuts keep the screen from bunching in the corners.

Using the convex (rounded edge) side of the screen rolling tool, press the screen material into the groove in the frame.

Begin installing the new spline at a corner. Using the convex (grooved edge) side of the screen rolling tool to push the spline into the groove. Continue around the frame. If wrinkles or bulges appear, remove the spline and reroll. Small wrinkles should tighten up as you get back to the starting corner.

Trim excess screen material using a utility knife with a new sharp blade. A dull blade will pull the material, not cut it. Cut with the blade on top of the spline and pointed toward the outside of the frame.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Labeling (mapping) your electrical service panel (aka breaker box)

Map Your Electrical Circuits
Mapping the circuits in your home is done to verify or identify which circuit breaker in your service panel controls what branch circuit in your home.  Follow the steps below:
1.     Sketch Your Breaker Box (Service Panel) - Draw a quick sketch of the breakers in your service panel and assign a number to each circuit breaker in your panel.    
2.     Draw a floor plan of your home.  Use a full sheet of paper for each floor.  (see example below)
3.     Note location of all devices - Using the codes listed; record the location of all receptacles, switches and lightsAlso show, by using a dotted line, which switch controls which light.  Note: Make sure all receptacles are working and turn all light switches to the “on” position.
4.     Turn off Breaker # 1 – turn off the power to the first circuit by switching off the breaker. 
5.     Find all devices with NO power - Walk through the house, checking lights and receptacles.  If a light doesn’t work or a receptacle does not light your tester the device is on that circuit.  Note: Do not forget the garage, attic and outdoor lights and receptacles. 
6. Mark on your floor plan - On the map write a 1 (or corresponding number) next to each dead receptacle, switch or light.
7.     Mark your circuit breaker - Write a short description of the circuit on an adhesive label and place it next to the breaker.
8.     Turn the first circuit back on.
9.     Repeat Steps 4 through 8 - Map the remaining circuits by repeating the steps above for each breaker in your service panel.  NOTE:  It may be easier to color code each circuit once you have completed the mapping.
Completed Mapping of Circuits
10.  Store completed map – Place the completed map of your circuits in a plastic sleeve and secure it on the inside of the door to your service panel for easy access in the future.

How power reaches your home - an overview

Residential Wiring – Overview
How power reaches a home - Power plants produce large amounts of electricity.  This electricity is transported to sub-stations throughout a region at a very high voltage.  The electricity eventually reaches a transformer.  The transformer converts the high voltage electricity into 120 volts and is transported via power lines, above or below ground, to the home.


The current enters the home first through the electrical meter and then into your service entrance panel or breaker box.  The service panel contains circuit breakers (also known as “overcurrent protection devices”).  Some older homes have service panels which contain fuses.

The homeowner’s interaction with the service panel should be only to switch off and on either the main power or power to individual circuits.  This is done by actuating the main breaker, which controls all the electricity supplied to the home, or an individual circuit breaker, which controls electrical power to specific areas within the home also know as branch circuits.

Circuits in the home (AKA Branch Circuits)
A “branch” circuit is an individual circuit that “branches” from the service panel (breaker box) to receptacles, switches, light fixtures and other devices.
There are three types of branch circuits in your home:
Lighting Circuits:   general purpose circuits that power all of the light fixtures as well as receptacles.
Small appliance circuits: circuits that power receptacles for small appliances and power tools in the kitchen, laundry and workshop.
Individual appliance circuits: circuits which are each dedicated to a single major appliance such as an electric range, electric clothes dryer or whole house air conditioner.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Maintaining your the 'bones' of your home

Maintaining the Structure of Your Home
Water is probably the greatest enemy of the structure of your home.  Uncontrolled water entry can cause problems from your foundation to your roof.  Most of the maintenance tasks for the structure of your home focus on controlling the accumulation and flow of water to direct it away from your home.
Roof and Gutters
  • Clean gutters and downspouts on a regular basis
  • Check downspouts, landscaping, walks and driveways to be sure that all water flows away from the house.
  • Inspect your roof and make repairs immediately.  You can inspect your roof from outside or look for problems by inspecting from inside the attic.  Check closely around penetrations through the roof surface.
  • Trim back any trees, shrubs or other plants away from your home.  Tree limbs that scrape against your roof in the wind can cause serious damage.

Exterior Walls
  • Check and repair caulk around all doors and windows to improve energy efficiency andprevent water entry.
  • Caulk, maintain and/or repair all outside coverings: siding, brick, stucco etc. to prolong life and prevent water entry
  • Painted exterior surfaces should be repaired and touched up as needed to prolong life and reduce damage to the underlying material caused by water and sun.
  • Trim back any plants that hold water against your house like ivy, shrubs or bushes which can cause premature deterioration of the exterior walls and finish of your home.

  • Modify landscaping to direct all water away from the foundation.
  • Direct downspouts away from the foundation. It is recommended that downspouts be
    extended from 4 to 6 feet away.
      The distance the downspouts extend is not as important as the location to which they direct the water. The extension should direct the water to a portion of the landscaping that will allow water to run away from the house and foundation.
  • Repair cracks in concrete walls, floors, driveways and walkways. This will prevent water entry that can cause additional damage during freeze thaw cycles