- General, Home Improvement, Slider

How to Protect Your Home from the Elements

Even before Hurricane Harvey began its rampage through the Caribbean and southern US states, federal climate experts agreed that 2017 is going to be a bad year for climate catastrophes in America. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), it is the tenth weather-related event that caused more than $1bn of damage. These events include flooding in California, Missouri and Arkansas, hailstorms in Colorado and Minnesota, and a sudden spring freeze that devastated crops across South Carolina and Georgia.
Costly catastrophes

Such weather incidents are becoming the norm, resulting in huge spikes in property damage insurance claims. In 2016, insured losses due to natural disasters amounted to $23.6 billion, 60% of which was attributed to violent thunderstorms. Moreover, non-disastrous conditions like prolonged temperature extremes can damage your home. We cannot control the weather but we can minimize the impact to our properties. And while there is no complete protection against the elements, these tips will help you control weather-related repair and maintenance costs.
Repair damaged brickwork

Temperature extremes cause building materials to expand and contract, cracking rendering and damaging masonry. A crack that allows damp to settle in will expand once the moisture freezes, giving way to more damp penetration. However, if you use the different mortar mix, it will trap and damp instead allowing it to breathe.

Which mortar to use?

Masonry of older homes can be repaired through brick repointing. It is a process where an inch of old mortar is removed and replaced with new mortar. However, an inexperienced mason may use Portland cement which is very hard and can cause irreparable damage to their structure. Repointing mixture needs to be softer than the existing mortar, so use less Portland cement and more sand and lime.
Fix roof issues

As the part of a house that is most exposed to the weather conditions, the roof is a place where you shouldn’t cut corners. Replace damaged or missing tiles as they won’t just let water in, but also allow the wind to get under and lift remaining tiles. Inspect your gable wall, which is the triangular end of your house. If it is not firmly connected to the roof trusses, even mini tornados can force it to collapse.
Balance insulation and ventilation

Cavity wall insulation is one of the best ways of improving the thermal efficiency of your home. However, a double wall is like a double-edged sword. Your house structure needs to be in perfect condition. Otherwise, heavy rains may lead to water seeping into your wall cavity, where it is trapped by the insulation which acts as a giant sponge. As it wraps your house all around, the insulation can cause even more condensation and eventual water damage. While not all properties are suitable for cavity wall insulation, people still underestimate the importance of ventilation.

Make it earthquake proof

Scientists predict that the number of small magnitude earthquakes in California will decrease. Unfortunately, they also predict that the chance of a major earthquake, stronger than 8.0 will increase. Earthquakes aren’t limited exclusively to California and Alaska. The truth is that anyone living west of the Rockies is in the ‘quake zone’.
Property owners in risky areas are required by local councils to reinforce their homes, so many people became interested in seismic retrofit financing offered within PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program. It is a financing option that allows property owners to undertake energy efficiency and renewable upgrades, and in certain areas, water conservation and storm protection and seismic upgrades. It is incorporated into property taxes and repaid over the long term. With PACE, landlords can access financing for no money upfront, and spread out the cost of a seismic retrofit over decades.
The combination of global climate change and people spreading into vulnerable areas contributes to increased property damage in the last decade. While we cannot prevent disastrous weather systems, and extreme temperatures, we can do a lot to make our homes safer and more resistant to nature’s fury.

- General, Home Improvement

Stress-free Home Move: Only a Myth?

Do you think moving is fun? Of course it’s not. The therapists say that moving is one of the most stressful things one can endure. Moving can be a happy moment in one’s life, but it’s still very taxing and can make you feel like you’re losing your mind. But, don’t stress out just yet. If you’re planning to move soon, then we can help out with some awesome tips.
Get rid of the clutter

The first and probably the most important thing is to get rid of everything you don’t need or use. When we were moving, someone told us to donate all of the clothes we didn’t wear for year or more. This was such a good advice. The clothes you don’t wear anymore, but simply cling onto them for some reason can be donated to charity. This way, you are doing a good deed and helping yourself at the same time. also, you can throw away everything you don’t use anymore, this way you will save a lot of time, because it’s really unnecessary to pack something you will get rid of later.

Help is good

Do you have a large family? If you do, you can always invite them over to help you pack over some beer and pizza. It is sometimes hard to ask for help, but almost everybody has moved at least once in their lives, and they understand how stressful it is. Ask your friends and family for help and have fun while packing.
Boxes are your best friend

Make sure you have enough boxes you will use for packing. The smartest thing is to collect your boxes up front and label each with a permanent marker. Sometimes it happens that we have to move in a short period of time, but don’t stress, try to get boxes in a store. The store owners usually throw boxes away, and you will be doing them a favor by taking some for yourself.
Eat and drink well

During all the chaos of the move, you simply have to make sure you stay well fed and hydrated. The best would be to prepare some food and drinks the night before the actual move. You can bake some homemade pies and energy bars. Pack this in one box, along with fruit, water bottles and one thermos filled with coffee. This will come very handy, especially if you have kids, as you’ll be able to make sure they’ll eat healthy food. Also, you don’t have to think about meal preparing or buying for that matter.

The movers are heavenly sent

If you’re moving far away or simply want to save yourself multiple return trips, then moving company is a lifesaver. Professional movers have the knowledge and experience to move your things without damaging any of your property. This is very important, because you don’t want ugly scratches on your furniture as a reminder of your last move. A few years ago, when we moved from Sydney, we hired these Ashfield’s pros for removals, and they did all the heavy lifting, saving us from a lot of work.
As you can see, organization is the key to a stress-free move. Make sure you start your organization in time and think about your priorities. There are also quite a lot of other small tips and hacks you can use in your moving, to help yourself even more. Those small tricks only seem small actually. They can save your time tremendously and save you from stressful situations while unpacking. The most important thing is definitely the time, but you also have to try and relax so you can help yourself.

- General, Home Improvement

The Importance of Proper Plumbing Maintenance

Most people don’t really think about their water supply and sewage system unless there’s a problem. The pipes are hidden in the wall or under the floor and it’s impossible to visually inspect their state, which is exactly why proper plumbing maintenance should be given the right amount of attention.
In doing so, you can prolong the life of your pipes, prevent major accidents and expensive repairs, but you need to know exactly what should be done and how often. So, let’s take a look at some of the things you should do if you wish to keep your pipes as clean and functional as possible for years.
Don’t use chemical drain-cleaning products

The most common plumbing problem are clogged drains. Grease, detergents, food, waste and hair cause drains to clog. What you shouldn’t do in such situation is use chemical products to clear them, since they erode cast-iron drainpipes and often don’t remove the clog. This, in turn, means you’ll continue using chemical products and further erode the pipes.

For less serious clogs you can go to a local hardware store and buy your own snake and try cleaning the drains yourself. If that doesn’t work, you’d be best advised to ask for help. Professionals, such as these North Shore’s experts for blocked drains, use a plumbing snake to unclog drains, sewer and storm water pipes without causing any damage to them.
Prevent future clogging

In case of clogs, the backed-up water adds pressure to the wastepipes, thus shortening their lifespan. That’s why you need to be careful what you let go down your drains. Don’t let food scraps get into your kitchen drains, remove hair before it ends up in your bathroom drain and try to make sure that you don’t throw anything down your drains that might cause clogging.
You can also install screens over drains in showers and tubs and occasionally remove what hair you can to prevent build-ups. Food leftovers should be thrown into the trash and liquid grease should not be poured down the drain, but rather into a sealable container that’ll be put in the garbage once it cools. Grease is liquid only when it’s hot and once it cools it solidifies and creates deposits on the pipe walls.
Reduce the pressure

Although most of us enjoy having a strong water pressure, we need to be aware that it stresses you pipes, which increases the likelihood of a leak. That drastically shortens the life of your plumbing, since pipe joints, faucets and valves work harder. Even if you have a low-flow showerhead installed, it won’t affect pressure in the pipes, but only the amount of water coming out of the showerhead.

Keep sewer lines and septic tank clear

If there’s a municipal sewer, you should hire a plumber to clean the main sewage on a regular basis. Hiring an expert is vital, since they can also remove tree roots that eventually always work their way into the pipes, which creates significant sewage backups.
On the other hand, if you have a septic system, your tank needs to be pumped out usually every three to five years, but that varies depending on the number of people living in the house and how much water you use.
Other tips

It’s vital that you know where your home’s main water shut-off valve is, because you need to react quickly in case there is a leak. Also, all hoses should be removed from outdoor spigots during winter months, because water might freeze and crack the pipes and consequently cause a flood. Having said that, you might want to consider adding pipe insulation to the plumbing in cold parts of the house, such as basements and garages to avoid frozen pipes and shorten the wait for hot water. Finally, you need to deal with any issues immediately, since even a small leak can make pipes corrode more quickly and cause great and expensive damage.
Prevention is definitely the best and cheapest way of extending the lifespan of your pipes, which means you’ll spend less on repairs and will be able to postpone the inevitable instalment of new pipes. As you can see, the actions you need to take are not that difficult or expensive and they are always worth taking.