Call Now! 206.557.6400
email phone

The Blog

Blog Category - Home maintenance tips

Choosing Between a Deck or Patio

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home maintenance tips | Posted: November 26, 2018

Customizing and designing your home’s interior is an essential part of being a homeowner. With all the time you’ll spend in it, you’ll undoubtedly want to make sure each room is perfect. But in this post, we’re moving out into your front or backyard. We’re talking about decks and patios – the difference between them and what to consider when choosing one or the other.

The most significant factors in this decision are maintenance, cleaning, and customization.

What’s the Difference Between a Patio and a Deck?

First, let’s look at the difference between the two. A patio is built at ground level and often directly attached to a house. It can be made from an array of materials, like concrete or brick. Patios are generally uncovered and don’t necessarily need guard railings or fencing. They come with more privacy since they’re at ground level and can be hidden behind a fence.

Decks, on the other hand, aren’t usually built at ground level. They tend to take advantage of a view and are therefore at higher levels. For this reason, it’s a good idea to put safety railings or fencing around them. Decks are usually made of wood or other composite materials. You can build decks on uneven ground, and they often add higher resale value to your property.

Even from these definitions, it’s easy to see why it’s a tough decision. Both patios and decks can be attached to a home or built away from the house, and both tend to be uncovered outdoor spaces.

Maintaining Your Outdoor Space

The first question to ask yourself is: how much maintenance do you want to do?

Since decks are made with wood, you’ll need to take care of it every year. That includes scrubbing it down, power washing, or sanding, not to mention checking for loose or protruding nails and screws. If you’re not using composite materials, you’ll need to check for splintering or peeling wood boards.

With patios, the amount of maintenance is certainly less than with wooden decks. But that doesn’t mean you can build it and forget it. You may need to replace stone tiles or clean the concrete now and again. Generally speaking, it will also be cheaper to build and maintain a patio than a deck due to the cost of materials, the elevation, and ongoing maintenance.

Whichever you choose, you’ll need to put in regular work to make sure your deck or patio doesn’t fall to pieces. Choosing composite materials for decks or durable materials for a patio can keep your outdoor space looking good for years to come.

Keeping Things Clean

We just covered ongoing maintenance, but what about cleaning? Though cleaning falls under maintenance, it’s certainly something to look at when deciding between a patio and deck.

Since decks are often made of wood, it’s common to get mold. After all, your deck battles all kinds of weather – rain, snow, and humidity. You can get mold under, near, or on your deck. It’s not difficult to remove, but you’ll need to stay on top of it. If left unchecked, mold could weaken its structure and cause major problems.

Patios can get mold too, but not nearly as often as with decks. Generally, you can clear your patio of mold by power washing. When it comes to cleaning, you’ll get by with less when you have a patio.

Customizing Your Patio or Deck

How much personal touch would you like to add to this new outdoor space?

While both decks and patios can be constructed in different sizes, shapes, and materials, you may run into some restrictions along the way. For example, using a specific stone texture or concrete to build a patio may prevent future changes, whereas wooden decks can be stained or painted to any color or shade that fits your home.

Changes to patios may be more expensive. If you’re looking to switch out the brick or patio tiles, you will likely need to rebuild the entire patio. But with decks, you can sand and re-stain every year if you want without damaging the materials.

That being said, you certainly have more options with patios. You can construct patios out of almost anything – stone, brick, concrete, pebbles, pea gravel, or rock. With a deck, you’ll be using either wood or composite materials. So, if there’s a specific aesthetic you’re looking to match, keep building materials in mind.

Making the Choice – It’s Up to You!

Whichever you choose, you’re sure to enjoy this new space. Whether you’re looking for a more customizable, elevated area or a private, durable patio, either option is a great choice. What’s great is you can add a portable fire pit, outdoor kitchen, or grill to either (just make sure you’ve got a fireproof platform for your deck!).

Winter is here – time to safely clean your gutters

Categories: Home maintenance tips | Posted: December 17, 2015

How to Clean Your Gutters

The job of your home’s gutters is to drain the water from the roof to the downspouts. When the gutter is clogged or sagging, the water collects there, where it can rust a metal gutter or degrade a wooden one. If there’s too much, that water can feed back to the fascia boards, causing more costly damage to your home.

Cleaning your gutters twice a year (spring and fall) can protect your home by preventing sagging, clogged, and bent gutters. Before you climb up the ladder, prepare yourself to safely clean your gutter.

  1. Watch out for power lines. Look at any power lines that connect to your roof from a power pole. Make sure the cable’s insulation is intact. If you have any questions or doubts, contact your electric utility company.
  2. Place a tarp on the ground. Save yourself the additional step of raking up the debris you remove from the gutter. Lay a tarp or drop cloth on the ground below the area where you’re cleaning. When you’re done, just bundle it up and transfer to a trash bag.
  3. Do a safety check on the ladder. Most gutter cleaning accidents involve a faulty ladder. Confirm the weight-bearing load is enough to support you. Check your ladder’s safety by looking for dents, cracks, and loose bolts or screws. Set it up firmly and bounce a few times on the bottom rung to push the base into the ground and ensure it’s secure. Be sure someone nearby knows you’re going to be on a ladder.
  4. Equip yourself with the right gutter cleaning tools. You should have a small garden trowel or gutter scoop to dig out the debris. Have a stiff brush to scrub away any stubborn materials. Wear garden or work gloves to protect your hands from sharp objects, like exposed screws. Have a spray nozzle on your hose and clamp it to the edge of the gutter while you’re cleaning. Wear safety glasses in case the hose kicks up something that could cause an injury to your eyes,
  5. Start from the downspout. Begin removing the leaves and dirt from the low end of the gutter, closest to the downspout. If you start at the high point, you might end up pushing more build-up downward, instead of out.
  6. Hose out the gutter. After you’ve cleared out a section, hose it down. Take note of the drainage in the downspout. If it’s draining slowly, you probably need to clean it out before proceeding, to remove whatever has built up in there.
  7. Check the gutters and downspouts. As you move along, make sure the gutters are strongly attached to the fascia boards. Inspect the board for dry rot. Look for rusting, flaking, or leaks on the downspouts. Replace any parts that are weakened or damaged.

Invest a little time twice a year in safely cleaning your gutters, and you’ll go a long way toward protecting your home.

Holiday planning: How to give thanks without getting stressed

Categories: Home maintenance tips | Posted: November 19, 2015

Every year, Thanksgiving creeps up, bringing thoughts of the family seated around an elegantly festooned table and the aromas of home-cooking. Or maybe you’re recalling nightmares of Thanksgivings past. The turkey fryer that seemed like a clever idea at the time but started a fire that almost burned down your garage. The inevitable family squabbles that arise every year. You somehow once neglected to get the right kind of cranberry sauce and your uncle reminds you every year. The dog ate the pies, and they didn’t sit well with him.

Thanksgiving brings people together, and that’s a good thing. It won’t always go smoothly, but some basic preparation can guide you toward greater success. So, for your holiday planning, here’s how to give thanks without getting stressed—well, not TOO stressed.

Do as much ahead of time as you can. Pace yourself. Don’t leave five days’ worth of preparation to the day before everyone is coming!

The guests.

  • Don’t guess who’s coming to dinner. Write a guest list. You’ll need an accurate tally to buy the right amount of food.
  • Send the Thanksgiving invitation. Some people are happy with a casual invitation, but if you want your holiday to be an event, send a more formal one, either a card in the mail or an evite. Here are some invitation writing tips.
  • Confirm the head count. Since you’ll likely buy the turkey at least five days in advance, contact every guest and confirm if they’re coming and how many people will be joining them.

The food.

  • Create your Thanksgiving menu a month in advance. From appetizers and drinks through dessert and coffee, keep a grocery list on your phone. As you see items on sale, buy them. Put the perishables away and freeze the others.
  • Delegate food assignments. Many of your guests will want to bring something. Let them. It makes for a wonderful blend when the meal is prepared by more than one person.
  • Cook and freeze what you can. Many side dishes, including mashed potatoes and soup, can be prepared and frozen.
  • Use hands-free cooking. A slow cooker is a great way to “set it and forget it”. Prepare the ingredients the night before and use the crock pot for mashed potatoes, side dishes, stuffing, hot cider, warm dip, and even pudding cake for dessert..
  • Remind people not to forget. At least three days before Thanksgiving, contact everyone who has offered to bring a dish to confirm that they are still doing so.
  • Get ready to serve. The day before Thanksgiving, set out the serving dish and utensil for every item on the menu, including appetizers. Mark each one with what will fill it. This way, you can be sure you have all the pieces you need, and others can help transfer the food to these dishes at serving time.
  • Prepare your leftover containers. Invest in some storage containers for guests to leave with leftovers so you’re not scurrying to find something to give away that you don’t want to lose forever.

The table.

  • Plan your holiday décor. Like your menu, plan in advance. Decide where you want to add accents. Make a list of what you need to buy, like fresh flowers, a wreath for the door, candles, and gourds. As you gather your bounty, stash the décor in one place, so you can pull them from a box when it’s time to decorate.
  • Inventory your dinnerware. Make sure you have enough dishes, silverware, and glasses for the number of Thanksgiving guests. If you want something different, consider going “eclectic” and purchase plates in different patterns that complement each other (thrift shops are great for this). Whatever you choose, check for chips and cracks. Then wash and set them aside two days ahead.
  • Clean and press the linens. Check your tablecloth and napkins (if you’re using cloth) for stains and tears. Wash, iron, and place them in a clean plastic bin until the night before Thanksgiving.
  • Set the table ahead of time. Don’t leave this job to Thanksgiving day, when you have plenty of other things to do. The evening before, take your time and set the table and the bar as you like. Cover it with a clean sheet.

The fun stuff.

  • Make a playlist. Review your music library and build a playlist of songs. Blend different genres, giving everyone something to enjoy.
  • Plan activities. Certainly, this is optional, but if you have kids coming, come up with ways to entertain them. Visit Pinterest to find creative yet simple games.
  • Make a Thankful Jar. Before dinner, invite every guest to write down at least one thing they’re thankful for and put it in a jar on the table. When you sit down to eat, start by passing the jar around and letting each person pick out one piece of paper and read it.

The un-fun stuff.

  • Create a cleaning list. From dusting the ceiling fans to sweeping the front walk, do an inventory of the household chores. Then delegate them by making a list and assigning family members, with deadlines.
  • Set up trash cans. You’re going to have more garbage than usual. Make it easy by placing a few extra trash cans. They don’t have to be the unsightly 20-gallon variety either. Use smaller ones here and there.

Happy holidays! May you have a stress-free Thanksgiving with the people who matter most to you.

16 Tips for Fall Lawn Care

Categories: Home maintenance tips | Posted: September 17, 2015

Tips and information on fall lawn and garden care

As much as you may hate to admit it, summer will come to an end. Autumn slips in, with that recognizable chill in the air and the fluttering leaves falling from trees to the ground, where you’ll have to rake them.

Nature has its way of putting the summer plants to rest before the cold weather arrives. But you still can make it easier to wake it from the winter hibernation by following this fall lawn and garden clean-up checklist.

Here are our 16 simple tips to take care of your lawn and garden this fall

Lawn and garden clean-up

  • Rake your garden beds, getting rid of the dead annuals, weeds, and other debris that can attract bugs.
  • Fertilize your lawn between September and mid-October to feed it essential nutrients before the winter.
  • Resist the temptation to prune your trees and bushes. This action encourages new growth, which will die during the winter. The best time to prune is in the early spring, at the start of the growth season.
  • Gently till the garden soil, which both aerates it and exposes insects that will survive the winter underground.
  • If you plan to plant a new garden bed in the spring, cover the area with plastic or mulch to prevent further growth.
  • For the final mowing of the fall, set your mower to cut the grass shorter.
  • Prepare garden beds now for spring planting by testing and amending the soil with compost, and adding a layer of mulch to prevent weeds in the spring.
  • Remove and discard any diseased plants; don’t mulch or compost them.

Perennial care

  • Remove any delicate bulbs or tubers that won’t survive the winter, like dahlias and gladioli. Dig them up and store the bulbs in brown paper bags or newspaper in a dry area. For further protection, pack the wrapped plants in Styrofoam peanuts.
  • Once the ground has hardened, cut back the stems of hardy perennials to no more than three inches in height. Blanket them with mulch or straw for protection.
  • If you have some crowding in your perennials, dig up the bulbs, divide the root ball, and transplant portions.
  • Plant the spring-blooming bulbs before the ground hardens.

Tool time

  • Drain the fuel from your lawn mower, trimmer, and any other garden power tools.
  • Clean the blades and handles of your garden tools.
  • Drain your hoses before rolling up and storing them.
  • Clean the birdfeeders.

A little extra effort now will save you more time in the spring!

8 Tips for Organizing Your Closets

Categories: Home maintenance tips, Home Owner Tips | Posted: April 24, 2015

8 closet organization tips to use now.

What’s lurking behind that closet door? Do you open it slowly, in fear of what might come tumbling out? It’s easy to ignore your storage clutter, but why not just invest the time to take control, rather than the other way around? Here are some closet organization tips to guide you on your way.

  1. Start on empty. When you de-clutter, you need to give yourself a blank canvas to start all over. Don’t just move around what’s already in there; that’s like painting over a mistake. Take a deep breath, open the door, and remove all of the contents of your closet.
  2. Sort through everything you’ve removed from the closet and place each item in one of three piles: Keep, Donate, Move. The “Keep” items will go back in the closet once it’s reorganized. “Donate” goes to a charity. “Move” will be stored elsewhere, in a place where it might be used more often by being more accessible. For example, if you have shoved toys into your bedroom closet to get them out of the way, move them back to the kids’ rooms.
  3. Take inventory. Look at the items you want to keep in the closet. How do you want to store them? Are you going to fold the clothes or linens? Will they be in bins or boxes? Do you have oversized or heavy items that will need a larger or stronger space? Determine how many things will need to be on a hanger; you might discover that you don’t need a rod that extends across the full length of the closet, freeing up more space for shelves or open storage. If you have more short clothing items (shirts, jackets) than longer ones (dresses), maybe you’ll benefit from a double rod where you have two rows for your clothing, one above the other.
  4. Take measurements of your closet space. This will help you choose closet organization systems that fit. If you have lots of shelves, measure the height between each. You might determine that you should remove one or two shelves to store taller things. Plan to limit your stacks to no more than a foot to avoid toppling, and allow about four to six inches between the piles to reach between them.
  5. Maximize the space. Don’t forget to include the closet door and floor in your storage planning. You could hang a shoe tree or jewelry organizer on the door, or mount pegboard for easy access to things, like tape, scissors, rulers, notepads, jewelry, and other items that often get buried in a drawer. Organize the closet floor space using boxes on casters for shoes, toys, and other pieces you want to access easily. Mount hooks on the door and walls of the closet for extra hanging space, for things like scarves, neckties, handbags, and jewelry.
  6. Assemble your storage space. Now that you have an empty closet and have sorted out the things that will be going back in there, install the racks, rods, and shelves. Next, label the bins, boxes, and baskets with whatever will be stored in them. There are plenty of creative ways to tag your storage, like luggage tags, chalk-painted adhesive labels, and even photos (perfect for children’s storage).
  7. Light it up. If you don’t already have a light in your closet, add one. Save yourself the time of digging around in the dark and messing up your beautifully organized closet. If you don’t want to hard-wire a light, use a battery-operated light that sticks to the ceiling or wall.
  8. Restore your storage. Be mindful as you replace the items in your closet. Make sure the things you use the most are also the most accessible. Group clothing items together (stack t-shirts in one stack, sweaters in another). Hang up your clothing by shirts, blouses, jackets, pants, and skirts—all facing in the same direction. When you wear something and hang it back up, face the hanger in the opposite direction, so you can easily see what you’re not wearing.

Most importantly, once you’ve invested the time in re-creating your closet storage, be vigilant about keeping it organized. Follow your new system, and urge others in your household do the same.

Spring cleaning tips for your new home

Categories: Home maintenance tips | Posted: March 26, 2015

An article on Spring Cleaning Tips for Your New HomeWinter is finally slipping away and we’re starting to feel refreshed, and ready for the change that spring brings. One of the most popular rites of spring is doing an overhaul of your home’s interior—cleaning, purging, reorganizing, and perhaps redecorating. But before you launch into a full-scale attack, here are some helpful spring cleaning tips for your home.

Make a plan. If you just dive into spring cleaning without a plan, you’ll waste time and probably miss certain areas that you’ll regret later—after your energy has been depleted. Decide where you need to purge—closets, attics, and basements are a great start. Determine how you’re going to approach each task. Set aside boxes or bags for “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Toss” in the area you’re purging so you don’t have to carry out piles.

Include the tiny places that seem to get ignored during normal housecleaning, like sliding door tracks, baseboards, door frames, behind the kitchen appliances, and cabinet doors.

Next, prioritize the spaces that need your attention. If you have a dreaded area, put it at the top of the list. Don’t procrastinate. Tackle it first. You’ll feel better about getting it out of the way.

Organize your supplies. Now that you have your spring cleaning plan all ready, gather up the supplies, like rags, paper towels, various solvents, sponges, brushes, squeegies, gloves, drawer liners, and replacement batteries and light bulbs. Sort them into categories. Make a bucket for window washing, use another container for dusting supplies, and so on. Then you can just grab the right bucket and head off to tackle the cleaning.

Make a checklist. Keep a clipboard with you and make notes of things you need to get, replace, clean, or fix as you move from room to room. Don’t stop during your cleaning frenzy to run to the home store because you’ve decided you need to change your cabinet hardware or bathroom accessories. The distraction will slow down your progress. Instead, at the end of the day, review your clipboard and make a shopping and errand list to tackle all at once.

Start at the top. In every area of your house, start your spring cleaning from the top. Sweep away cobwebs and dust the light fixtures. Then move to the windows and walls. All the dirt, dust, and debris will fall to the floor, to be cleaned away last.

Hand out the assignments. Spring cleaning should be a shared challenge for everyone in the household. Once you have your plan, share it with your “helpers” and decide who will do what and when (yes, make sure there are deadlines).

Plan to be tired. At the end of your spring cleaning day, reward your hard work by putting your feet up, letting someone else make or deliver dinner, and kicking back to enjoy your fully refreshed surroundings!

March Home Maintenance

Categories: American Classic News, Home maintenance tips, Home Owner Tips, Home Warranty, New Homes, roof care | Posted: February 24, 2015

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running properly. The following home maintenance tasks are recommended for homes in the Pacific Northwest in March:

 

It is important to check your roof gor a build up of debris as well as missing or loose shingles

It is important to check your roof for a build up of debris as well as missing or loose shingles

Inspect roofing for leaks as well as missing, loose or damaged shingles

Check exterior drainage

Repair and replace window screens as needed

Flush hot water heater and remove sediment

Clean garbage disposal (Run citrus peels for odor and ice cubes to sharpen blades)