January home tips

Now that the deep freeze is behind us (sort of!) here are some things to check around your home for our monthly home tips:

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Just in case you forgot about previous months, here they are:

November

December

Also check out our home tips section for more tips and tricks!

Have a great day!

La Crosse Fine Homes Group, LLC., of Keller Williams Realty

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By lacrossefinehomesgroup Posted in Home tips

Cold weather home tips

This just in: It is going to be cold this week. Negative temperatures are going to be the norm Sunday through Tuesday.

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We start our cars a couple minutes earlier, we wear more layers, but do we really prepare our homes to weather a cold spell? Here are a couple tips:

Winter storms are upon us and it’s not too late to protect your home and avoid potential damage.

1. Keep your pipes warm. Some of the most expensive winter damage comes from burst pipes. Even if the rest of your house is warm, the water in the pipes in your attic, basement, crawl space and in the back of cabinets can freeze. Wrap the pipes in the cold parts of your house in insulation, and open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.

2. Avoid ice-dam damage. Another cause of winter damage is from ice dams. This happens when the heat inside your house causes water to melt in the middle of your roof and then refreezes near the edges, creating a dam that can lead to leaks in your roof and damage to your ceilings and walls. If you have icicles hanging from your roof, that may be a sign that ice dams are forming. To help protect against this problem, keep your attic cold — no more than 5 degrees to 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature — by sealing holes from light fixtures and ceiling fans to prevent warm air from escaping into your attic.

3. Protect the outside of your house. If you have time, clean your gutters so water doesn’t back up and freeze. Check downspouts and make sure water will be diverted away from your house. Trim any low-hanging tree branches that can freeze, become brittle, snap and damage your house or power lines. Use weatherstripping or caulk to seal drafty windows and doors. Disconnect garden hoses.

4. Check your roof. If a lot of snow accumulates, your roof could collapse — especially flat roofs or the roof over porches and additions. You shouldn’t have a problem with average accumulations or dry snow. But if heavy snow starts to build up, consider getting a roof rake with a long handle so you can remove packed snow while you are on the ground. Going on the roof to shovel it yourself could damage the roof (and possibly you, too).

5. Keep two emergency kits. Keep one kit in your home and one in your car. In case the power goes out, stock flashlights, extra batteries, a battery-powered radio and some extra cash on hand. The Red Cross also recommends stocking a three-day supply of food and water for everyone in your house, a first-aid kit and a seven-day supply of medications. And don’t forget to have extra food for your pets, too.

In case you get stuck or stalled in the cold for a long time in your car, keep a shovel, windshield scraper and small broom, some energy bars and water, extra hats, socks and mittens, booster cables, and emergency flares and reflectors, recommends Tod Pritchard, emergency preparedness coordinator for Wisconsin Emergency Management. Also keep some road salt or cat litter, a first-aid kit, a car charger for your phone and electronics, a battery-powered radio and flashlight (with extra batteries) and a sleeping bag or blanket. Also keep your gas tank at least half full during the winter.

6. Buy a carbon-monoxide detector. One of the biggest winter dangers is carbon-monoxide poisoning, caused by improper ventilation of furnaces, generators, charcoal-burning or propane-burning devices or wood-burning stoves. Pritchard recommends keeping a carbon-monoxide detector on all floors of your home.

7. Consider a generator. You may not have time to buy a generator before the next storm, but it’s something to keep in mind as you make longer-term preparations for the rest of the winter. A generator can help keep your heat and power — as well as your sump pump and your fire and burglar alarms — running. It can help prevent frozen pipes and keep you a lot more comfortable, too. An automatic standby generator, which immediately turns on after a power outage, may qualify you for a discount on your homeowners insurance, too.

Want more? Try these:

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

How to prepare the home 

Let us know how you survive this storm!

La Crosse Fine Homes, LLC., of Keller Williams Realty

December home tips

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Hi everyone!

Hope your holidays were good and you’re not too stuffed from all that food. As we enter December, there is a lot to do inside and out of your home, not only to get it ready for the holidays, but also for winter.

Here’s what you should be doing this week to get ready:

  • Test smoke detectors
  • Replace/clean furnace filter
  • Service heating system: There’s nothing like having to do this when the heat is REALLY needed in January
  • Clean faucet aerators and shower heads
  • Reseal grout
  • Drain water heater
  • Test GFCI receptacles and circuit breakers
By lacrossefinehomesgroup Posted in Home tips
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Antifog your bathroom

anti fogA nice warm shower feels great. When you get out, however, it is always hard to start getting ready with fogged mirrors.

To combat that, all you need is shaving cream or furniture polish and a clean cloth.

Apply the shaving cream or furniture polish to the mirror evenly with a cloth before wiping off with a lint-free cloth.

It is as simple as that.

Repeat every couple weeks to keep that mirror fog free.

Check out our home tips tab for more help around the house or let us know your biggest trick!

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Save on heating costs

Boy, have the temperatures started to drop here. Fall jackets are a must during the day, mittens and scarves are coming out for the winter.

As for inside, air conditioners have long been turned off and now the thought of turning heat on has many looking to keep costs down but temperatures up. High energy bills can deeply dig into household budgets.

blogThere are many small things that can be done to save on heating costs. Wearing extra layers, turning the thermostat down during the day or when no one is in the home and keeping vents clean all help.

Here are a couple places to watch:

Heating

  • Install a programmable thermostat and set it to lower the temperature at night and whenever the house is unoccupied. Lowering your thermostat by 10 degrees at night can reduce your heating bill by 10 to 20 percent.
  • Make sure your programmable thermostat is:
    • Installed properly.
    • Programmed appropriately – a programmable thermostat only saves energy when it is programmed.
    • Not located in an unheated space, a poorly-sealed or seldom-used room, or in direct sunlight near a heat source. The thermostat should be able to sense the average temperature in your home. If it is not in the right place, contact a heating and air conditioning professional about having it moved.
  • Lower your thermostat and wear socks and a sweater in doors. Lowering the thermostat by just one degree Fahrenheit can reduce energy use by 3 percent.
  • If you have a forced air furnace, inspect your filters at the beginning of the heating season and monthly during the season. Clean or replace them if there is significant dust build up.
  • Get a humidifier to add moisture to the air. The air inside your home can be very dry, especially in New Mexico. Moister air feels warmer, so a humidifier can help you feel comfortable even though your thermostat is set at a lower temperature.
  • Install foam insulation gaskets behind electric outlets and switch plate covers.

Windows and doors

  • Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible. That includes overhead doors on attached garages.
  • Install do-it-yourself plastic-film storm windows. Find them at a local hardware store.
  • Seal off unused rooms (as long as the room is less than 100 square feet and isn’t the room where the thermostat is located). Close the floor or wall registers and return air vents, and keep the doors closed.
  • Open south-facing window curtains, drapes and blinds during the day. Close window coverings at night to keep the heat in.
  • Weatherstrip and caulk windows. Check window frames for cracks and fill them with caulk that contains silicon. Putty-like “rope caulk” can help seal large cracks and save you up to 5 percent on your energy bill.
  • Check all exterior doors for air leaks and weatherstrip and caulk as needed. A one-eighth-inch gap around a door is equivalent to a 6-inch-square hole in the side of your house and causes a lot of energy loss. You can check doors two ways:
    • Have someone stand on the other side of the door and shine a flashlight around the door’s perimeter. If you can see light through the cracks, your door needs sealing.
    • Hold a piece of paper between the door and the frame and shut the door. If you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you should weatherstrip around the door.

Water heater

  • Make sure the water heater is set no higher than 125 degrees.
  • Drain off a bucket of hot water from your water heater annually to remove sediment that will interfere with the heater’s long-term use.
  • Install a water heater blanket if your water heater is older than 5 years.
  • Insulate the pipes around the water heater with inexpensive, easy-to-install pipe insulation. This is particularly helpful if the water heater is in an unheated space.

Fireplace

  • Never use a traditional fireplace for supplemental heating. A fireplace sucks heated air out of your home to fuel the fire and exhausts it through the chimney, and then your furnace has to turn on to replace that warm air.
  • Close the fireplace damper and seal the opening shut when not in use.

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Alternative uses for dryer sheets

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This tip comes from Ashley Koch, a Keller-Williams agent in the Twin Cities.

Dryer sheets are great for laundry, but can be used for many other chores around the house, a tip that can help save time and money in the long run.

So, here is a (excuse the pun) laundry list of things dryer sheets are good for:

1. Dusting: used dryer sheets can knock the dust off nearly any surface, including furniture, blinds, car interiors, baseboards/molding. Also works for sawdust and drywall compound.

2. Keep bugs away: Tuck some in your picnic basket or under lawn furniture to repel bees from your juicy flesh and encourage them back to the flowers, where they belong. You can also rub a sheet directly on your bare skin to discourage would- be buggers from leaving their mark.

3. Keep your clothes fresh: tuck a few fabric-sheets in your drawers to keep that ‘just-washed’ smell happening for weeks. Throw one in your dirty clothes hamper to prevent any rampant, residual odors from escaping into your bedroom

4. Scrub your showers: Lightly wet a used dryer sheet, and scrub to remove soap build-up and mineral deposits.

5. Freshen your home: Place (or tape) a dryer sheet on your HVAC vents to scent the air circulating through your home. You can even place one alongside your filter in your central heating unit to distribute the scent. Also works on ceiling fans, and on the back of box/portable fans.

6. Reduce static cling: Pat your self with a sheet to combat static on your clothes, stockings, and even long hair!

8. Clean your laundry room: When you finish drying a load, hold on to the dryer sheet, and wipe down the inside of your dryer’s drum, your lint trap, the outside of your washing machine and dryer, and scrub away any excess or spilt laundry detergent.

9. Scrub the bugs from your car: Summer drives often equal insect gut polka dots all over your auto’s body and windshield. Simply wet your car down, and use a dryer sheet to scrub away carnage with ease.

10. Wipe up hair: The cling of a dryer sheet is perfect to wipe up pet hair from your furniture, or even your own hair from your bathroom.

11. In your shoes: Toss a dryer sheet in the toes of your shoes to minimize odors and prolong the just-purchased smell.

12. While traveling: Place a few dryer sheets in between items in your suitcase to keep both your clothes fresh and to prevent your items from picking up any mustiness from old luggage.

13. In your crafts: Use dryer sheets to add texture to cards, scrapbooks, etc. Also use for reinforcement in appliqué and quilting work.

14. For diapers: Keep your used dryer sheets in your diaper bag, and roll one up in the diaper to prevent odors before you have to chance to throw it away.

15. In the kitchen: Soak cookware with burnt or baked-on food in warm water, with a dryer sheet or two. Makes clean-up easier than you’d expect. Also works on cook tops and dingy cabinet doors.

16. Clean paint brushes: Soak your used paintbrushes in warm water with a dryer sheet, and that pesky latex paint will come off in under a minute.

17. In books: placing a dryer sheet in new books or photo albums will keep them smelling fresh, and can combat the musty paper smell of used or old books. Also works as a killer bookmark.

18. In toilet paper: Roll up a dryer sheet in your toilet paper roll. Each time you spin, it releases a little freshness into your bathroom.

19. As you sleep: keep a fabric-softener sheet in your pillow case and under your mattress or mattress pad for sweet dreams of summer all year ‘round

20. While sewing: use a dryer sheet to store your needles while threaded to keep them from tangling, for paper piecing whilst you quilt, and for backing for embroidery.

21. Repel rodents: Use dryer sheets to keep out mice, skunks, squirrels, rats, etc from your basement, garages, boats, campers, and clubhouses.

22. In your car: stash dryer sheets under your car seats and floor mats, and in your glove box and trunk for fresh scents as you travel.

23. At work: Hide dryer sheets in drawers, behind computers, and in cabinetry to keep your workspace fresh, and combat your co-workers awful perfume or stale cigarette scent.

24. In you vacuum cleaner: Place a dryer sheet in your vacuum bag or dust containment unit. As the hot air moves as you vacuum, you’ll bulk up your cleaning efforts. (Make sure this is in NO WAY a fire hazard)

25. In storage: tuck dryer sheets in your rarely used items such as luggage,camping gear, sports equipment, or specialty craft or kitchen items to prevent the inevitable smells of basements, attics, and garages.

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Prepare your home for winter

Earlier in the day we posted on our facebook a reminder to winterize outdoor pipes before the cold really sets in.

But there is so much more to do besides the pipes.

Here are couple more tips. It’s a long list, but it is also a long winter. You want to make sure you can do as much preventative maintenance as possible so you aren’t outside in negative temperatures trying to fix things!

Windows and doors

  • Check for drafts around windows and doors. Look at the weatherstripping and caulk inside and out, when necessary, or replace weatherstripping.
  • Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity.
  • Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.

Lawn,  garden, and deck

  • Check drainage: Make sure rain and snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. The dirt should slope away from your home.
  • Trim overgrown branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem
  • Move patio furniture indoors or cover well. Clean and dry it first so you don’t have to do that in the spring.
  • Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors. Because terra cotta pots can swell and crack, lay them on their sides in a wood carton.
  • Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring replanting.
  • Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life. Wrap outside faucets with covers to prevent water damage.
  • Shut off exterior faucets. Drain water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to protect against pipe bursts.
  • Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.
  • Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.

Tools and machinery

  • Bring all seasonal tools inside.
  • Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of the garage or shed for easy access.
  • Prepare the snow blower for the first snowfall by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.
  • Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway.

Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning

  • Inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard.
  • Check fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.
  • Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
  • Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
  • Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
  • Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  • Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners, to prevent drafts.
  • If you have an older thermostat, replace it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.
  • Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.
  • Flush a hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.

Gutters, roof, and drains

  • Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.
  • Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house.
  • Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
  • Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.
  • Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.
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Kitchen storage solution

collageWhile touring a new listing we have (shameless plug here), there was something special about their kitchen.

It wasn’t the wall-long cupboards or plentiful counter space.

It was their storage solutions.

No one likes to have that one drawer full of spatulas and other utensils that is always the hardest to open.

Nor does anyone like having vases full of them eating up counter space.

Solution: A peg board.

These owners used a peg board built-in next to their fridge to store all of those utensils. Brilliant.

It keeps everything out of a drawer and off the counter, but easily accessible.

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They also used the same idea on the back of their basement door. It is an unused space that many forget about.

They had the pegboard attached to the back of the door and baskets with those awkward items to store, like electric mixers, oven mitts, and graters.

Do you have a great kitchen or home storage solution? Send us pictures!

La Crosse Fine Homes Group, LLC., of Keller Williams Realty

Weekly links: Sept. 22

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From our blog:

Our listings:

Must read/see:

From La Crosse Fine Homes Pinterest (don’t forget to follow us):

We hope everyone has a great extended weekend and if you have any suggestions, comments or questions, contact us!

La Crosse Fine Homes Group of Keller Williams Realty