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Category Archives: Home Maintenance and Renovation

Information on home maintenance and renovation that will inform Frederick Home owners

Going Green and Saving Green in the Home

Going Green and Saving Green in the Home

Saving Green and Going Green in the Home

Environmentally friendly living is very much in the news these days. I thought I’d do several blogs about green practices that not only help the environment, but keep $ in homeowners’ pockets.   Ideas for a greener home can range from daily energy-saving steps, to major renovations.   As appliances and fixtures wear out, its a great time to replace them with modern designs  that have conservation in mind.

According to NAR studies, buyers will pay 4 to 11% more for a green friendly home. (National averages).   There is even a listing service dedicated to green homes,   When the  ratio of sellers to buyers is 14 to 1, buyers are either looking for extra low price, or extra value.   A seller needs to make their house stand out from the rest to get it sold.   If kitchens and baths need to be updated,  or flooring, hot water heaters, or other appliances, why not make them more green while your at it!

Lets take a tour through the house and see what ideas we can come up with.

1. Kitchens and Baths.    (In our area of the country, kitchens and baths sell homes.)Tankless Water Heaters

a.   Bath and Sink Faucets:   A faucet dripping once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year.   Replacing the washer is a solution, but if its older than 1994, replacing it is better.   Newer faucets are required by law to have a flow rate no greater than 2.2 gallons per minute; older onces can flow at a rate of 3 to 7 gallons per minute.   TIP: Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label, which  signifies high-efficiency faucets that reduce flow by more than 30%.

b. Showerhead:   Current low-flow showerheads have improved a lot from the earlier models.   Newer ones send down larger droplets at a higher velocity.   Water  use is cut in half. TIP:    Choose a showerhead that lets you adjust the flow, further increasing your savings.

Highland tip:   Get a shower head  cut off, a lever which shuts off the flow of water temporarily, for taking a “ship-board shower”.  (I’m a Navy Brat:) Our water bill was cut by a third after installing these!

c. Toilets:   Before the federal mandate in 1994, toilets used as much as 7 gallons per flush.   Ther earlier low-flow toilets got many complaints, but recently, the redesigned versions function very well, using 1.6 gallons per flush.   Dual systems allow for the choice of a .9 gallon or a 1.6 gallon flush.   TIP:   WaterSense label = 20% less water used than the current national standard.

2. Kitchens:

a.   Refrigerator/Freezer:   The refrigerator is the largest energy user in the kitchen.   When replacing your refrigerator, look for a high-efficiency compressor, thick insulation, and precise temperature controls.   The Energy Star label insures these features, and on average, these refrigerators use less than half the energy used by pre-1993 models.   TIP:   Top and bottom freezer units are generally more efficient than side-by-side models, and units with ice-despensers on the door use more energy than those without.   But it is still important to compare individual models.

b. Dishwasher:   Choose a water-conserving model; the less water used, the less it will cost to heat.   Energy savings can be up to $65 a year, so spreading the higher cost over the average  9-year lifespan of a dishwasher, buying a more expensive  but efficient model  can save you $ in the long run.   TIP:    Choose a model with a quick-wash cycle to same time, energy and water.   Other energy-saving features include a no-heat drying option and a delay-start control.   Today’s models do a great job, so rinsing dishes before you load them is a waste of water, most of the time.

c. Cooktops:   Gas ranges have the longest life expectancy (later blog), but the lowest efficiency, only 55% of the energy used goes directly toward cooking the food.   Electric ranges are 80% efficient.

Ranges, ovens, cooktops and microwaves currently don’t have an “Enegy Star” designation, but the latest in cooking is the magnetic induction cooktop.   It creates an electromagnetic field of energy that heats only iron or steel and has no exposed coil, open flame, or heated surface.   It’s 90% efficient and produces almost instant heat only to the pan: convenient, and easy to control.   The only extra expense:   if you don’t have iron or steel cookware, you’ll have to purchase that too.   TIP:   Gas burners with standing pilots, rather than electric ignition, can more than double the annual enery consumption of your cooktop.

for more tips, visit

Related Articles:

Green Homes are in Demand

Going Green in the Home

Going Greener in the Home

Caulk is A Homeowner’s Best Friend

A drafty home can not only be a nusance, it can result in higher energy bills. Historic homes can be drafty, but modern homes can be as well. Caulk can be a simple and easy solution. Just like I’m fond of the saying: “Paint covers a multitude of sins”, I also believe “Caulk is a homeowner’s best friend.”

Applying caulk around windows lowers home energy costs by stopping air leaks, which otherwise allow heat to escape in the winter. According to the Energy Star program, most people could save about 20 percent on their heating and cooling costs by sealing up air leaks.

A homeowner can easily do many small caulking jobs on their own, saving themselves the cost of a handyman, as well as saving on their monthly energy bill.

Note to sellers: if your home is upgraded and you have energy efficient features and appliances, highlight them in your marketing. Today’s home buyers are looking for energy efficiency, and will often choose the energy efficient home over the not-so-efficient home.

Here’s a very useful guest post from our favorite Frederick home inspector, David Goldberg, with tips for getting the best results with caulk.

Caulk: The Wonder Sealant

Caulk creates a flexible seal in cracks, gaps or joints no bigger than 1/4″ to 3/8″ in width. Caulking will seal air leaks, especially around windows and door frames. It also prevents water damage when applied around faucets, water pipes, bathtubs and other plumbing fixtures. For larger openings, you can use insulating foam sprays to seal up gaps between siding and masonry or vents. Here are some tips for using caulk:

1. Clean all areas to be caulked. Use a putty knife or large screwdriver to remove old caulk and paint and make sure the area is dry.

2. Hold the caulking gun at a consistent angle–45 degrees to get deep into the crack. You’re at the correct angle when the caulk goes in immediately as it comes out of the tube.

3. Apply the caulk in one straight continuous stream, without stops and starts.

4. Avoid bubbles by sending caulk to the bottom of the opening.

5. Make sure the caulk is sticking to both sides of the crack.

6. If caulk oozes out of the crack, push it back in with a putty knife.

7. If the caulk shrinks, reapply it, forming a smooth bead that seals the crack completely.

8. For windows, apply caulk to all joints in the frame and to the joint between frame and wall.

9. If the crack is deep, use a “backer rod” — a round foam rod sold by the roll in various diameters. Pick one slightly bigger than the gap. Cut the rod and press into the gap so it’s just below the surface. Then caulk on top of it.

10. For bigger gaps, use an insulating foam spray you can buy in a hardware or home supply store. It dries like styrofoam and can be painted if necessary.

Good Tools Make a Difference

A good quality caulking gun is a necessity, and at around $10, certainly worth it over the 99cent low-end tools. The smooth action will make a difference in the continuous bead of caulk that is produced.

You’ll need a putty knife, gloves, rags and a bucket of water. The big box stores will carry all the items that you need. Caulk typically costs between $2 and $5, depending on the type.

Remember that latex caulk can be painted, and is typically easier to apply and remove than silicone. Some silicone caulks can be painted, but most cannot.

Silicone caulk is better for gaps that expand and contract and it holds up well under direct sunlight and extreme temperature changes. Consult the box store websites for a complete comparison and guide to choosing caulk.

Thanks for a great guest post David!

David Goldberg –   Reliable Home Inspection

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Additional Reading:

Energy Saving Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Insulation Tips for Homeowners

Going Green in the Home

For more great homeowner tips, check out our Pinterest Board:

Follow The Highland Group’s board Homeowner Tips on Pinterest.

Green Homes Are In Demand

Green Homes Are In Demand

Green Homes Are in Demand

Earlier in the last decade, the real estate industry started on the path to understanding the importance many of today’s consumers are putting on ‘green’ building. With the collapse of the market later in the decade, the industry became more concerned with survival.

3D Green EnergyAccording to McGraw Hill Construction research dating back to 2006, the green home building market most rapidly accelerated during the housing downturn when builders experienced in green remained in business at higher proportions than those not knowledgeable about energy-efficient and green home building.

However, as the housing market is beginning to stabilize, we are seeing an increase in movement to environmentally motivated buying decisions. Once again, Green homes are in demand.

In conjuction with NAHB, National Association of Home Builders, McGraw Hill Construction has conducted four studies since 2006 on the demand for green homes.

The following Infographic shows the results of the study in 2012, According to Mainstream Green.

Green homes are in demand

In a recent Wall Street Journal article they reported on the future opportunity in green new construction:

“Green sales are increasing. In 2011, these homes made up 17% of residential starts by value, up from 9% in 2010, according to the latest McGraw-Hill survey of members of the National Association of Home Builders trade group. That figure is expected to hit between 22% and 25% in 2013.”

Recent Green Home Study

The results of the latest study by McGraw Hill Construction were released in 2014, revealing the business benefits of green building:

Competitive marketing advantage: 51% of builders and remodelers find that it is easier to market green homes, up from 46% in 2012 and 40% in 2008.

  • 68% of builders (up from 61% in 2011) report their customers will pay more for green, with 23% reporting that their customer will pay more than 5%
  • 84% of remodelers report the same (up from 66% in 2011), with 55% reporting their customers will pay more than 5% for green features.

Customer willingness to pay for green features:

  • 94% would recommend a green home to a friend.
  • 92% would purchase another green home.
  • 71% of respondents believe that green homes are, overall, of higher quality.
  • 55% knew their home may have cost more than a non-green home, but believed the benefits outweighed the cost.

What does this mean to Frederick homeowners? If you are considering updating your home, look towards green appliances, amenities and tips for real estate investingimprovements. Green homes are in demand, and the demand will increase. Plan to give your home the greatest appeal when you do consider selling.

You will need to do your research to see if the more expensive upgrades are worth the investment. Over-improving for your market is never a good idea, and that goes for environmental upgrades as well, that is, if you are expecting to get a return on your investment.

If you are selling your Frederick Home, give special attention to green updates and highlight them in your marketing. If your green updates have lead to low energy bills, for instance, highlight the fact in your marketing. Publish your bill and place it conspicuously in a brochure. Help your home stand out from the rest and appeal to the largest number of buyers.

For Your Inspiration

And what kind of green updates should you consider? Here is a list I’ve curated from all over the web, in no particular order:

  • More and better Insulation, preferably with natural content. Attics, walls, air ducts. Foam pipe insulation.
  • Energy Efficient Windows
  • New doors.
  • Solar Panels – this is more affordable with government grants or tax write-offs. Check with your state government and your energy company.
  • Wind power in rural areas, like above, check for incentives.
  • Newer, high efficiency furnace.
  • Energy-Star appliances.
  • Heated Floors. (we have them in our floors…wonderful!)
  • Geothermal heating system if you’re building a new home.
  • Tankless Water Heater.

Improvements everyone can afford:

  • Caulk. A homeowners best friend. Seal up a leaky house to save on energy costs.
  • Programmable Thermostat.
  • Low flush toilets.
  • Efficient shower heads.
  • Efficient light bulbs. Timer for lights.
  • Energy efficient power strip.
  • Smart house technologies for remote access. Control the thermostat or close the drapes from your smartphone.
  • A clothesline. If your HOA allows.

Related Reading:

For more ideas on how to make your home more energy efficient, read more from Mother Earth News.

Insulation Tips for Homeowners From Our Favorite Home Inspector

Insulation Tips for  Homeowners From Our Favorite Home Inspector

Insulation Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Our favorite home inspector has put together this helpful article about the best insulation in your home:

Insulation for a Comfortable Home

insulation tips for Frederick homeowners

Half of the energy used to heat or cool a home can simply leak outside without proper insulation. A properly insulated home makes life more comfortable, saves money on heating and cooling, and decreases the impact of fossil fuel use on the environment. Some types of insulation can even make a home more soundproof.

To have an adequately insulated house you need enough insulation, you need the right type of insulation, and it has to be installed correctly.

Determining Adequate Insulation

The resistance, or R-Value of insulation, is a measure of the insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it — the higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.

The proper R-Value for home insulation is generally based on the geographical location of the home. In colder temperatures, the R-Value of insulation needs to be higher to block heat loss under very cold conditions.

insulation tips for homeownersOne way to determine whether adequate insulation is present, is to measure your energy bill, compared to similar homes. Excessively high energy bills will give you a clue.

Another method is to have a visual inspection in the attic or the area above the ceiling joists. If it appears that insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, the area probably needs more insulation. If joists are covered by insulation, adding more is probably unnecessary. In addition, insulation should be uniformly distributed.

A clearance of 3″ around recessed lighting fixtures is needed and about 2″ for flues. Attics and other areas require ventilation airflow at certain points and you never want to block this off with retrofitted insulation.

Eco-Friendly Insulation

In recent years, attention has focused on composition of some types of insulation, with some insulation containing asbestos and ureaformaldehyde. As a result, some homeowners are investigating more eco-friendly products including cotton, wool, straw, cellulose (paper) and even a soy bean spray.

  • Cotton insulation is made of 85% recycled cotton and 15% plastic fibers that have been treated with the fire-retardant Borate. One company uses recycled blue jean manufacturing trim waste to produce their blue jean batts. Cotton insulation is nontoxic, and can be handled without gloves.
  • When used as insulation, sheep’s wool naturally resists pests, fire, and mold. The thermal resistance or R-Value of wool batts is higher than some cellulose, glass wool, and mineral wool insulation types.
  • Straw bale insulation is making a comeback from its popularity a century ago. The R-Value may be lower than is necessary in very cold climates but the straw boards are effective at sound-absorption.
  • The benefits of soy have been long touted in the food chain. Now soy has made the jump and is being adapted for use in a spray-foam insulation. The spray expands up to 100 times to fill in small spaces. The foam is light-weight and easy to direct, and is very resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Air-krete is another environmentally responsible, non-toxic insulation made from air, water and cement. It too can be foamed into open or closed cavities in walls, roofs and ceilings. When it is placed, it has a consistency similar to shaving cream, but hardens within days to form a barrier with a high R-Value.

Thanks to David Goldberg for an informational and useful article for Frederick Homeowners.

David Goldberg –  Home Inspector
301-913-9213   fax:  301-774-4554 
Reliable Home Services, Inc.
PO Box 5159, Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322

If You have a remodeling project in mind,  for a list of professionals we’re proud to recommend.  

The Highland Group
Chris & Karen Highland

Homeowner Tips – Use Less Water on Your Yard and Garden

Homeowner Tips – Use Less Water on Your Yard and Garden

Use Less Water More Effectively

It’s that time of year again, when homeowners work to create the lawn and garden that make outdoor living so enjoyable. Homeowners will be happy to know that having a lush green lawn, beautiful landscaping and colorful flowers doesn’t have to cost a fortune in water. Sprinkler and drip irrigation systems can be be used to make the process much easier, and much more dependable.

Irrigation systems can regularly send water to various spots in landscapes and gardens. Today’s systems can be designed to be convenient for homeowners and water-efficient, too. For instance, the drip irrigation system uses above-ground tubing and can easily be installed as a DIY project.
NaturaLawn of America Lawn Care Frederick MD
photo: NaturaLawn of America

To get the most out of any irrigation system, it’s better to plan a landscape design before installation. Knowing where lawn areas, shrubs, trees, flower beds and gardens will be planted can assure the best design for the sprinkler system. But if you don’t have the ability to plan ahead, there are plenty of ways to retrofit today’s systems into your existing landscaping.

If you’re planning a landscape upgrade or putting in new features, it may be the perfect time to add an irrigation system.

Planning Ahead

Planning ahead allows for “hydrozoning,” the process of grouping plants with similar watering needs together. For example, planting shrubs (which need less water) near perennials (which typically need more water) can hamper the shrub’s growth. Mismatched platings can also result in water waste. Any local garden shop will have information on the needs of various plants when it comes to water and sun. Many have gardening experts on hand to help you plan your landscaping.

Sprinler systemsThe same sprinkler heads must be grouped together on the same valve to operate sprinklers most efficiently.

Different sprinkler head types put out vastly different amounts of water in the same time period. Mixed heads in the same zone will again result in over-watering of some plants and under-watering of others.

While there are many varieties of sprinkler heads, the three general categories are: spray, rotor, and drip heads.

  • Spray heads either pop-up out of the ground or have a stationary head. They are most commonly used on small areas such as turf, shrubs or flower beds. Spray heads put out a lot of water in a short amount of time.
  • Rotor heads are useful in covering large areas, and typically apply water more uniformly than spray heads. The slower output of a rotor head allows them to be used on all soil types with less cycling.
  • Drip systems have become popular for irrigating flowers and gardens. A drip system usually consists of a special tube or hose with holes (emitters) along it. These emitters may cover uniformly, or be set up to randomly water only certain plants. Drip irrigation can save time and money when installed properly because it applies water directly to the soil, eliminating over-spray.

Seasonal Adjustments

To save the most water, sprinkler systems must be adjusted to the season. Landscapes need much less water during the spring and fall than during the summer. Watering should be done between 6 and 10 p.m. Not watering during the hot daytime hours will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.

A common problem with sprinkler systems is water pressure. Without correct pressure, sprinklers will not perform effectively. Pressures that are too high can damage nozzles and heads, sometimes even causing them to break off. If pressure is too high, pressure-reducing valves and heads can be installed or retrofitted. Manufacturer’s instructions and specifications will contain the information necessary to ensure proper water pressure.

Use Local Plants

use local plants and flowers
Black-Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia

Using plants and flowers that grow naturally in your local are will be the best way to insure that they stay healthy and beautiful, without a lot of extra care. You can find local plant suggestions from your state extension program, or from a master gardener in your area.

Related Articles:

Saving Time and Money

If you’ve invested in landscaping around your home, then you’ll want to take care of that investment. Using an irrigation and sprinkling system makes it easier to properly take care of your plants and grass, and it can be programmed to do so, saving you time and money.

Although it may seem like an expense upfront, an irrigation system can make life much easier. You may find that having time to enjoy your outdoor rooms, as well as saving on water, far outweigh the initial expense.

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Thanks to David Goldberg for an informational guest post!

David Goldberg –  Home Inspector

fax:  301-774-4554 
Reliable Home Services, Inc.

PO Box 5159
Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322

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If You have a remodeling project in mind,  for a list of professionals we’re proud to recommend.

Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector

Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector

Tips for Frederick Home Owners from the Home Inspector – About GFCI

Question:  Would it make sense to install GFCI’s in a nursery or children’s room?

Answer:  Any extra safety that can be provided in a home is always a good idea.  A GFCI can protect infants and children the same way it protects the rest of the family, by interrupting the flow of electricity.GFCI

“GFCI” is short-hand for ground fault circuit interrupter, an inexpensive electrical device that protects people from severe or fatal electric shocks.  GFCI’s can also prevent some electrical fires and reduce the severity of others, because they are designed to interrupt the flow of electric current.

How does a GFCI work?

When an unintended electric path is created between a source of current and a grounded surface (think plugged-in toaster and knife in your hand), an unpleasant and dangerous situation can occur.  A mild or severe shock, burn or electrocution can occur if a human body provides a path for electric current to flow to the ground.

This unintentional path is called a “ground-fault”.  Ground faults occur when current is leaking somewhere — in effect electricity is escaping to the ground.

Prevention is the Goal

No GFCIHow can a GFCI prevent damage to people and possessions?  The GFCI constantly monitors electricity flowing in a circuit, to sense any loss of current.  If the current flowing through the circuit differs by a small amount from the amount of the current returning (denoting a leak), the GFCI quickly switches off power to that circuit.  The GFCI interrupts power faster than a blink of an eye to prevent a lethal dose of electricity, in as little as 1/40th of a second.  It is possible someone might still receive a painful shock from the leak, but would probably not receive a serious shock injury.

Where to Install

Where is it most important to install a GFCI?  Rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms are important sites for the installation of GFCI.  Water containing ions and gases (the kind of water found in residential homes) provides good electrical conduction, putting families at higher risk for shock or electrocution in these rooms.  Other important locations for GFCI’s include the laundry room, garage and outside circuits.

Can I Install a GFCI Myself?

There are several types of GFCI’s to choose from, including circuit-breaker types and even portables that can be plugged into a receptacle, then, and electrical product is plugged into the GFCI.

Receptacle-type GFCIs may be installed by consumers with adequate knowledge and skills to conform to proper electrical wiring practices and the instructions accompanying the device. When in doubt about the proper procedure, contact a qualified electrician; don’t attempt to install it yourself.

Thanks to our favorite home inspector for the infomative guest post for Frederick Homeowners: Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector

David Goldberg  –  Home Inspector
Reliable Home Services, Inc
phone:   301-913-9213
PO Box 5159  Laytonsville, MD 20882
SHI Member #101584   MD License #29322                            


Small Home Improvements That Make A Big Impact

Small Home Improvements That Make A Big Impact

Keeping up with home improvements is the best way to maintain and improve your home’s value. When homeowners defer the maintenance, when they decide to sell their home, they often find that the list of repairs and updates is overwhelming.

If you are a getting ready to sell your home, and you’re a homeowner who keeps up with the maintenance, you can have the luxury of attending to the small home improvements that can make a big impact. Or, if you’re not in the place to do any major renovations right now, and your appliances are newer and working just fine, here are a few small things that you can all do that will add up to meaningful improvements in your home:

Energy Saving Improvements

1. Seal off drafts, which can reduce your energy bills 5 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  The cost is a tube of caulk.  Just doing that can drop your annual heating bill by $100, according to Department of Energy figures.

According to NAHB Surveys (National Association of Home Builders) Today’s home buyers are looking for an energy efficient home. 84% of Millennial buyers said they would pay 2% to 3% more for an energy efficient home, believing they would save more in energy costs for the life of the home. Be sure to publish your low energy bills and let those buyers know.

2. Buy a programmable thermostat, for about $100. By maintaining more constant heating and cooling levels, and always ‘remembering’ to turn down the heat at night, the average family will save $150 a year, according to the EPA.

3. Install dimmer switches.  Increase the life of your bulbs, and reduce the amount of light when you don’t need it.

Related Articles: 

Exterior Improvements

Small improvements on the exterior of the home can make a big impact on curb appeal.

1. Clean and clear a path to the front door. This is the most welcoming thing you can do. Powerwashing and cutting back the overgrown plants will do wonders for the appearance of the home. And all it takes is elbow grease!

2. A fresh coat of paint will go a long way. Painting the door and the shutters, staining wood and cleaning or replacing the hardware will make the entrance shine. House numbers can add a great sense of style, and believe it or not, even your mailbox can make a statement.

3. Lighting makes a big difference, whether it’s bright enough so that people can walk safely, whether it’s up-to-date, and whether it fits the style of your home.

4. Plants and flowers make the home welcoming and can add color, life and softness to the architecture. Using annuals can add instant life, and using plantings that are zone specific and natural to your part of the country make for easy care and turn out to be the best investment. Consult this plant hardiness chart by the US Department of Agriculture: [For a National Map]

Maryland Planting Zone Guide

Related Articles:


Interior Improvements

Go through your home, room by room, and look through fresh eyes. Take stock of the overall appearance and then take stock of the details. Make a list of what you see in your first impression. Don’t edit the list, just write everything down. Later you can edit by cost and effort.

1. De-Clutter and Clean you home. It’s the very first step to getting your home ready for the real estate market. You will be amazed at the difference, and you’ll be able to really see the issues that need to be addressed, whether large or small. Sometimes having a fresh set of eyes will help you notice the things that you may have gotten used to after years of living with.

2. Replace or Facelift? It’s a good idea to do some reconnaissance, and find out what is the trend for your neighborhood or for comparable houses. If every home on the market comparable to yours has granite and stainless steel, you will want to make the right changes to be able to compete. If you’re in a market where laminate is the norm, then you’ll be wasting your money and overdoing your improvements to purchase high-end improvements.

Sometimes, a simple facelift is the best answer to updating. Painting old tired cabinets will save a lot. Replacing fixtures is inexpensive and can be just the right thing to bring your tired decor up-to-date. You will do well to consult a Realtor and Stager before you do any major updating.

Related: Refacing Cabinets: Options and Costs, by RIS Media

3. Buyers are concerned about storage, smart home technology and energy efficiency. The trend is for smaller, but smarter homes, according to NAHB studies. Small, but convenient features can make a difference. Consider some of these:

Great Storage
Add Thoughtful Storage
Technology Solutions
Easy Tech Solutions



Smart Storage
Take Advantage of Wasted Space

closet organization

Related Articles: 

Need Ideas to have an energy efficient home? Check out this Pinterest Board from Mike Chamberlain, MC2 Home Inspections in Plainfield, Indiana:

Follow MC2 Home Inspections LLC’s board Home Energy And Sustainabilty on Pinterest.


The Highland Group with eXp Realty
Chris & Karen Highland – Cell: 301-401-5119
eXp Realty – 410-777-5714

Home Improvement – Knowing When NOT to Do It Yourself

Home Improvement – Knowing When NOT to Do It Yourself

Knowing When to NOT to DIY

While census bureau data reports that 20% of home remodeling projects are undertaken by homeowners, data from the professional remodeling industry suggests that almost 30% of jobs come from fixing do-it-yourself projects that have gone bad.  Ouch! It seems the secret to home improvement – knowing when NOT to do it yourself.

Not As Easy As It Looks

home improvement
Sometimes Professionals are Required

Why are so many homeowners attempting repairs that, in many cases, are beyond their skill level?  Television shows and channels dedicated to home make-overs may play a role.  These shows highlight some of the creative remodeling and decorating that can be done, and provide encouragement to homeowners to give it a try.  Unfortunately, these shows pack days or months of remodeling work into pre-packaged 30 or 60-minute time slots, making it look a lot easier than it really is.

When is it better to leave remodeling and large-scale repairs to the professionals?  One remodeling contractor uses this rule of thumb when advising homeowners:  If it’s a repair that a handyman can do, the homeowner can probably tackle it.  If the job is too big or too complicated for a handyman, it’s probably time to call a professional.

Multiple Systems

One example of a job that probably requires calling a professional is when the scope of a project includes multiple systems.  Gutting a room or several rooms involves framing drywall, electrical wiring, flooring, and sometimes plumbing.  A contractor hired to oversee a large-scale project may employ the skills of several trades people, each who specialize in one aspect of the total job.

Overzealous homeowners may begin a project, only to find out that there is no way they can finish it.  For example, gutting a bathroom is a lot easier than putting it back together again.

Understanding Details

Lack of understanding of the details of a project can also get in the way.  In one case, homeowners installed a bathtub without thinking the project through.  The failure to hook up the tub to the drain pipe made it really difficult to take a bath.

Flooring Can Be A Challenge

Another common problem remodeling professionals are called in to fix are ceramic tile floors.  This type of floor material looks great, but it can be difficult to install.  Problems can range from cutting the tile, keeping it straight and leaving enough room for grout.  There’s also the embarrassing difficulty of having a floor buckle during a party because the sub-floor couldn’t hold the weight of guests and the ceramic tile, too.

Do These Things With Confidence

Do-It-Yourselfers are generally safe when it comes to:

  • hanging pictures,
  • interior painting,
  • painting front door, trim and shutters,
  • minor landscaping,
  • changing cabinet pulls,
  • Installing doors, and
  • installing crown molding and trim.

Bigger projects often need the guidance of a professional to keep the project on track and on budget.  You definitely don’t want to be known as the family who has been remodeling their kitchen for two years, or the family who over-built for the area and recouped none of the money they put into their home.  And you don’t want to own the home that looks mismatched because the remodeling was done in a haphazard fashion.

When it comes to do-it-yourself projects, if the job is not fun, not productive, leads to family strife and causes a rise in one’s blood pressure, it’s time to research remodeling professionals.

Permits Are Your Responsibility

Whether you do a project yourself, or hire a professional, make sure you check to see if a permit is required. The requirement for a permit varies from place to place. Most areas however, require that you have a permit to build, move, or significantly add to or alter a building.

Experts advise calling your municipality’s code enforcement authority (or County authority if you live in a rural area) to find out, and to schedule an inspection. You can also typically check online, such as at your city’s code enforcement Web page, for a list of project types that require a permit in your area.

Thanks for a super informative guest post, David Goldberg  –  Home Inspector, phone:  301-913-9213, Reliable Home Services, Inc PO Box 5159,  Laytonsville, MD 20882  ,  ASHI Member #101584

Related Home Improvement Articles:

LifeHacker: Where Can I Learn Home Improvement Skills?

U.S. News Money: Think Twice Before Making These Home Revovations

HGTV: Top 25 Home Renovation Mistakes

Bill Gassett, Listing Specialist: 5 Best and Worst Home Improvement Projects

101 Home Improvement Blogs

45 Real Estate Experts: The Best Home Improvements to Increase the Value of Your Home


Going Greener in the Home

Going Greener in the Home

Part 2

3. All over the House: [Continued from Going Green in the Home]

aWasher and Dryer:  Energy-efficient washers have multiple options in water levels and temperatures.  Front loaders use the least water and electricity.  Energy Star washing machines can save over $550 in energy and water costs over the appliance’s lifetime.

The best energy-efficiency feature on a dryer is a moisture sensor that shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.

b. Windows:  Replacing windows is one of the most expensive home improvements, but with today’s many options, you can reduce your energy bill by up to 15%, and add to the value of your home.  Look for double or even triple panes of glass, sometimes filled with argon gas, which acts as insulation, or low-E glass (low emissivity), or warm edge spacers that reduce heat flow and prevent condensation.  (Federal tax credits for energy-efficient windows expired at the end of 2007, but many states offer rebates. Your local energy company may also offer rebates. )

c. Heating and Air conditioning:  When your furnace or air conditioner enters hvac servicing tipsthe 12 to 15 year age range, Energy Star guidelines recommend replacement with a new, more efficient unit.  If temperatures are moderate, a geothermal heat pump is a great choice.  see  Any system that is Energy star certified can save 20 to 30% on heating and cooling costs.  Sometimes a more efficient system will make a smaller-size unit possible, saving on initial cost as well as future bills.

Zoned Heating Systems: A zoned heating system allows you to only turn up the heat where you need it, resulting in significant savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, zoning the heating system can save homeowners up to 30 percent on a typical heating and cooling bill. Because heating and cooling accounts for more than 40 percent of an average household’s utility costs, the savings from a zoned system can really add up.

d.  Water Heater:  the third largest home energy expense.  A tankless heater Tankless Water Heaters(this blog post) costs about $800 – $1200 uninstalled, and will save you 50% in operating costs.  A solar water heating system will cost $2500 to $3500 installed and will save 50 – 80%. Think of how this can insulate you from any rise in energy prices. see for a comparison fact sheet.

TIP:  The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of your old appliances is to donate them.  In our area, you can donate to Frederick Building Supply, or to Peace and Plenty, on South Street.  Or, you can join Freecycle at  Reliable Junk, now on 8005 Reichs Ford Road is also a great resource to recycle.

With many stores, hauling off the old appliance is part of the service, so be sure to ask.

For more ideas on making your house more green, go to The Daily Green.


Life Expectancy of Appliances

  • Faucet – 20+ years
  • Toilet – Unlimited with 10-year maintenance on working parts
  • Showerhead – Unlimited
  • Refrigerator/Freezer — 13 years
  • Cooktop – Gas, 15 years; electric, 13 years; magnetic induction, 10 years (estimate-they are very new)
  • Dishwasher – 9 years
  • Washer – 10 years
  • Dryer – 13 years
  • Water Heater – Electric, 11 years; Gas, 10 years; Tankless, 20+ years
  • Windows – Aluminum, 15-20 years; Wood, 30+ years
  • Heating and Air Conditioning – Warm-air electric, 15 years; Warm-air gas, 18 years; Warm-air oil, 20 years; Heat pump, 16 years; Central air conditioning, 15 years
Thanks so much to David Goldberg, our favorite home inspector, for this super informative collaborative post about going greener in the home, for energy savings as well as savings on money.For all of David’s posts, read our Home Maintenance Category

David Goldberg –  Home Inspector

phone: 301-913-9213 
fax:  301-774-4554 
Reliable Home Services, Inc.

PO Box 5159
Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322