Kelli Grant Group

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices AZ

How To Repair Water-Damaged Hardwood Floors

How to fix water-damaged flooringFor Phoenix homeowners with hardwood flooring, a little bit of in-home water can do a whole lot of damage. Over prolonged periods of time, water can warp, buckle, and/or cup hardwood flooring, leading to an expensive and time-consuming repair process.

Not all warped woodwork requires replacement, though. Some warped floors can be fixed as a DIY project using nothing but a dehumidifier and time. The key is to identify — and rectify — the water damage issue quickly.

Your first step is to dry all water-damaged areas thoroughly.

Using absorbent towels, remove traces of moisture from the damaged floor’s surface. For standing water problems, use a water vacuum. If water entered the affected room by seeping through a wall, or falling through a ceiling, for example, make sure the water’s source has been identified and “plugged”. 

Next, rent or buy a dehumidifier.

A dehumidifier is a small, household appliance meant to reduce humidity in the air. Dehumidifiers are often used for health reasons but, in the case of water-damaged flooring, a dehumidifier can help to extract water from wood planks, returning the wood to its original, non-warped form more quickly.

With the above steps completed, if the warping persists, plan to wait. It may take a week, a month, or longer, but — eventually — for all but the most damaged flooring, your hardwood will return to shape. Expect the process to happen more quickly during winter as the wood contracts in colder, drier air. 

Lastly, if your floors have been damaged as a result of heavy rains or water entering your home from the outside, consider a professional inspection to identify how and why the damage occurred. Your gutter may be clogged, for example, which can result in overflows which can damage your home’s foundation.

It can be labor-intensive to dry your wood floors. Compared to the cost of replacement, however, calling this a DIY can be sensible.

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How Long Will Foods Last In A Refrigerator?

Throw out spoiled foodsDo you keep “past due” foods in your refrigerator? You wouldn’t be alone. A study from the Home Food Safety website shows that more than 40 percent of people either have never cleaned their refrigerators, or can’t remember the last they did.

Past due foods can lose their taste, give off bad odors, and/or make you ill — just a few of the reasons to remain vigilant about your refrigerator’s perishable foods.

Still nursing that ketchup from last Labor Day’s grill out? Put it in the trash. Storing canned vegetables that you bought last year? Get rid of them today. 

Watching that freezer burn develop on some of your cold-storage foods? Pitch them in the garbage. 

There’s very little good that comes from eating food that’s been damaged, spoiled, or left to rot slowly. That’s one of the reasons why FoodSafety.gov has created its “Storage Times For Refrigerator And Freezer” chart. Listed by food category, it tells you how long a particular food type can remain “safe” in your refrigerator, and in your freezer.

A sampling of the foods, plus their recommended maximum storage times, includes :

  • Deli-sliced luncheon meat : 5 days in the refrigerator; 2 months in the freezer
  • Hamburger meat : 5 days in the refrigerator; 2 months in the freezer
  • Leftover pizza : 4 days in the refrigerator; 2 months in the freezer

In all, the list contains recommendations for nearly two dozen common foods. 

In addition, the FoodSafety.gov website maintains a separate safety information section for egg and egg-based products.  Egg storage safety is important because more than 400 people contract salmonella each month nationwide.

From scrambled eggs and pies, to quiches and egg-yolk substitutes, you’ll know how long to keep your food, and how long until you should throw it out.

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

Clever Ways To Reduce Household Water Usage

EPA water usage chartHow well do you conserve water?

The government’s EPA estimates that the average family of four uses 146,000 gallons of water per year, at a cost of $700. With just a few small changes, however, that cost could drop by as much as 28%.

You’ll save on more than just your water bill, too. You may save on Phoenix taxes.

This is because water management is often handled at the municipal level and as water usage grows, so does the need for costly investment in water treatment and delivery systems. Less usage means lower costs.

You’ll also enjoy lower home energy bills. 25 percent of a home’s energy bill is used to heating water for home use.

So, with the above three benefits in mind, here are three ways to cut your household water usage.

Catch Your Shower Water

Nobody likes to step into a cold shower, and we sometimes run our showers for 5 minutes before stepping in. Even with today’s low-flow shower heads, that’s 10 gallons of water wasted. Instead of allowing pre-shower water to run down the drain, catch it in a bucket, instead. Then use the bucket to water house plants and your garden.

Stop Pre-Rinsing Dishes

Today’s dishwashers are heavy-duty food busters. Don’t pre-rinse dishes in the sink, only to move them to the dishwasher where the job will be duplicated. Instead, use a wet sponge to wipe dishes clean, then place them in the dishwasher. The job will get done just as well. Or, for caked on foods, follow the steps above then start the dishwasher. After 3 minutes, pause the cycle to allow water to sit-and-soak on your dishes. Then, restart the cycle as normal.

Test Your Toilets

A single leaking toilet can spill 60 gallons of water per day and there are several places where leaks can occur. The toilet may have a worn out flapper; or, a damaged gasket under the flush valve; or, a crack in the overflow tube. One clear sign of a leak is having to jiggle the handle to make the toilet stop running. To test for leaks, try “the dye test”. Fill the toilet tank with food coloring or instant coffee to a deep color and wait 30 minutes. If any of the coloring finds it way to the toilet bowl, you know you have a leak.

In addition to the tips above, the EPA keeps a list of water-saving steps on its website. See how many steps you can take to reduce your home water usage.

(Image courtesy : EPA.gov)

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How To Beat The Bacteria In Your Kitchen

Within Scottsdale homes, the kitchen is often the most “used” room in the house. It’s a meeting place for meals, for conversation, and for family. Unfortunately, that makes it a meeting place for bacteria, as well.

Along with bathrooms, kitchens are the most bacteria-heavy rooms in a home. Kitchens require a good, daily cleaning. This 4-minute interview on NBC’s The Today Show shows you how to do it.

Using ordinary household cleansers and some elbow grease, you’ll learn :

  1. Why sponges should be out of your kitchen and why loofahs should be in
  2. How to catch and trap fruit flies that spread germs and disease
  3. How to clean and disinfect porous cutting boards

You’ll also get tips on removing stubborn stains from the bottom side of a frying pan.

The video is loaded with good advice and is worth a watch if only to learn a single sanitizing tip.

For example, did you know that you shouldn’t soak wooden bowls or boards in water because the water causes the wood to separate, leaving it “open” to kitchen-borne bacteria? Or that, because of new soap-types, today’s dishwashers should be regularly disinfected?  

Keep your kitchen free from bacteria is a constant battle but, using the tips from the video above, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance. 

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How To Clean A Water Aerator

How to clean an aeratorTypically found at the tip of indoor water faucets, water aerators split a single water stream into droplets, slowing the overall water flow and reducing the degree of “splashing”.

Homes in Phoenix with aerated faucets use up to 50% less water than homes without. However, aerated faucets can lose their effectiveness over time if they’re not cleaned at least periodically.

This is because aerators can collect and trap particles including minerals deposits and grit, depending on the make-up of your home’s water supply.

The good news is that cleaning your faucet aerator is a do-it-yourself job that requires no technical plumbing skills, and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. 

Here’s how to clean your home’s water aerators.

First, close or cover the drain of your sink. This will prevent pieces or parts from getting lost. Then, unscrew the aerator from the tip of your faucet. You may be able to turn the aerator with your fingers. If you cannot, and need to use pliers, wrap the faucet with a towel to prevent damage to the faucet from the pliers.

Also, don’t squeeze harder than necessary — you may bend the aerator casing.

Next, on a small towel, separate the parts of the aerator and lay them flat.

Then, using your finger, poke the mesh filter out from the aerator, being careful not to bend it. Use tap water to rinse sediment from the filter or, in extreme build-up cases, place the filter in a small cup of vinegar, soak it for an hour, then clean it with a small brush.

At this point, your aerator is clean. Replace the parts as you found them, and twist the water aerator back onto the faucet tip. If you use pliers for this step, remember to protect your faucet’s finish with a towel.

There is no specific rule for how often an aerator should be cleaned. In some areas, it’s twice yearly. In other areas, it’s every 5 years. If you’ve never cleaned your water aerators, though, make today your first time.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How To Revive A “Brown Lawn”

Brown lawnsDuring summer months, a lush, green lawn can transform into a brown one within weeks. And heat, while oftentimes a catalyst, is not always the culprit.

As a homeowner, you can take precautions to minimize the likelihood of a brown lawn.

First, let’s look at the reasons why a lawn may go brown, starting with drought stress.

Drought stress is a condition caused by excessive heat and/or lack of water. Drought stress can lead to dormancy, a normal condition for grasses of all types. A good test for draught stress is to step on one of the grass’ brown patches. If your footstep remains as an imprint in the grass, it’s likely that your lawn is water-deprived.

Brown spots from drought stress appear randomly and without pattern. This is different from brown spots that may occur because a sprinkler system is miscalibrated, or because some lawn sections are shaded whereas others are exposed to direct sunlight.

Lawns which have been dormant for long periods of time may need to be reseeded.

Drought stress also reduces your lawn’s natural defenses against pests and disease. This includes plant-based pests such as weeds which can starve your grass of much-needed food and water, as well as insects such as lawn grubs and chinch bugs. 

These two forces, as well, can lead to brownout.

Lastly, your grass may be dying. Either from a lack of aeration; or, cutting grass blades too short to provide “natural shade”; or, over-watering among other reasons, your grass may not live forever and, when it dies, it’s likely to thin and turn brown.

The good news is that each of these conditions is non-permanent. You may not have stopped your lawn from turning brown, but, generally, you can nurse it back to being green.

To water a brown lawn back to health, start with a steady watering schedule — typically 2 hours every few days (approximately 1 inch of water) — and be careful not to over-water. Then, just wait. It may take a lawn 3-4 weeks to return to its natural green color.

Then, to manage weeds, use an over-the-counter herbicide. For larger weed problems, get treatment by a professional lawn care company. The same is true for pests, too. Tackle them yourself but using a lawn care company can be more efficient and effective.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

Tips To Keep Your Home Cooler Without Turning Down The Thermostat

Energy-saving tips

The typical U.S. household “loses” up to 30% of its annual heating and cooling bill to energy inefficiencies, according to ENERGY STAR®.

The good news is that there are dozens of ways to help your home perform better.

As the calendar turns to July, and as temperatures warm in Arizona and nationwide, implement even one of the following cost-saving moves and you can expect your home’s energy bill to drop. Implement two or more, and you can expect your bill to drop by a lot.

Keep it simple at the start. When the sun shines through a window on a cloudless day, it can raise a room’s temperature by as much as 20 degrees. Therefore, the first energy-saving move to review is the easiest one — simply close your home’s window blinds and shades to block out the sun. 

With the shades drawn and the sun blocked, your rooms will stay cooler, and so will your home. This is especially important during the mid-day hours when the sun is at its strongest so, before you leave for work, make sure you’ve closed your blinds.

The next step is to change your home’s air filter.

Air filters are meant to be changed quarterly, or monthly if your home has shedding pets. When your air filter is clean, the HVAC unit won’t have to work as hard to push air through your home’s air ducts, saving up to another 7% off your annual energy costs.

Next, replace your home’s incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.

This step can be costly up-front, but over the long-term, savings are big. Not only do energy-efficient light bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs last for years, but they don’t pump heat back into a room like an incandescent bulb will.

Incandescent bulbs are shown to convert 97.5% of their energy into heat, meaning just 2.5% of their supplied energy is used for light. This 97.5% then warms up your house, which costs money to cool.

And, lastly, if your home has ceiling fans, use them.

When a ceiling fan is running, it can make a room feel up to 8 degrees cooler. Just remember that ceiling fans cool you and not the room. Be sure to turn them off when you leave the room.

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How To Choose The Proper Paint Color(s) For A Room

Whether you’re moving into a new home and want to make it “yours”, or just want to change the feel of your current place, a painting project is an easy way forward. Painting is relatively inexpensive yet it can transform a home’s look-and-feel.

But how do you make sure you’re choosing the best colors and the proper type of paint?

This 8-minute video from Lowe’s tells it all. In it, you’ll learn how professional designers identify a potential paint palette for a room, then how they choose between shade, finish and type.

Among the tips and advice in the video :

  • How to use 2×2 “test blocks” to ensure a color works in both natural and artificial light
  • How to choose the right colors for a small room, and for a large room
  • Why painting the ceiling can change a room’s perceived size
  • How to build complementary, split-complementary and analogous color schemes for a room
  • How to choose between latex and oil-based paint products

In addition, the video shares notes on how light bulb types can affect the “warmness” of a particular paint color, and how to consider existing room elements such as furniture in your final color choices.

Paint projects require little advance planning and, if done properly, they can change the feel of a room, and a home. Most projects can be completed within a weekend.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How To Keep A Clean Refrigerator

Clean refrigeratorDo you clean your refrigerator regularly, or only after you’ve run out of space? If your answer is the latter, your refrigerator may be harboring dangerous bacteria that can make you, your family, and your house guests ill.

Refrigerators should be cleaned monthly, inside and out, ideally. The process involves removing all foods, cleaning all shelves, and wiping down drawers. Spoiled food is removed and old containers reclaimed.

The process takes 20 minutes. Here’s how to do it.

First, prepare your cleaning stations, including filling a sink with soapy water, and having drying towels handy. Complete this step before you start to remove food from the refrigerator. This limits the amount of time that food has available to reach room temperature.

Next, remove all food from the appliance. Throw out old food past its expiration, and leftovers which have been in containers for more than a few days. Check dairy products for expiration dates — especially cheeses and creams. Toss fruits and vegetables that have spoiled. Wipe down condiment jars and bottles with a damp towel.

Next, with the refrigerator empty, remove all shelves and drawers and wash them in the water-filled sink. Scrub to remove any caked-on foods and spills. Rinse off the soapy water and dry the part on your drying towels.

Then, while the shelves and drawers are drying, using a mixture of baking soda and water, wipe down the interior surfaces of your appliance. The mixture should be roughly 2 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 gallon of water. Wipe the mixture off with a clean towel.

Lastly, move the shelves and drawers back into the refrigerator and replace all of the food that’s “good”.

Refrigerators can be a dirty place. We rarely wash our hands before handling food in a refrigerator and that can contribute to a bacteria-heavy environment. A good cleaning, though, can keep our foods — and our home — healthy.

Clean your refrigerator regularly.

June 11, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment

How To Keep Your Home House Fly Free

Keep your home house-fly freeAs the calendar turns to June and the temperatures start to rise in Arizona and nationwide, we begin to spot more bugs, insects and pests as compared to during the winter.

Hiring an exterminator is one way to limit the number of ground-based bugs in your home. For example, periodic treatments can help to keep ants, beetles and termites at bay.

For airborne pests, however, prevention can be more difficult.

House flies can be especially nagging. They often enter through open doors and windows, then buzz through kitchen and bedrooms, spreading germs and general annoyance.

If your home is battling house flies, the good news is that there are a number of chemical-free, environmentally-friendly ways to reduce or eliminate house flies; solutions that are safe for homes with children and pets.

First, make sure your screen doors and screened-in windows are all in working order. Tears, rips and holes should be repaired or replaced. This is often a house fly’s easiest point of entry into your home.

Next, remember that house flies are attracted to surfaces with sugar or protein. Therefore, it’s important to keep kitchen surfaces and non-carpeted floors clean because these are probable “hot spots” for a house fly. Clean once or multiple times per day, and try to use products containing orange, clove or lemon oil. These oils often repel flies.

Then, examine all trash cans. Lids should remain tightly closed and garbage bags should be changed frequently. Garbage is a breeding ground for house flies and, because flies can hatch from eggs in a matter of hours, the sooner your garbage is sealed and moved to a garage or outdoor dumpster, the better.

Lastly, consider placing 2-3 dozen cloves into an apple and leaving it in a room in which flies are bothersome. The smell of the cloves repels flies and, although it won’t prevent flies from returning, the method is helpful for temporary fly relief.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Around The Home | , , | Leave a comment