Winterizing Your Home

Utilize Ceiling Fans

Most ceiling fans come with a switch that will change the direction of the blade rotation from counterclockwise to clockwise. This clockwise rotation circulates the warm air that is trapped against the ceiling down into the room, thus making the room feel warmer without turning up the heat.

Seal Doors and Windows

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, small leaks around doors, windows, and other openings in the home can cause energy efficiency to suffer by as much as 30%. To combat this loss of energy (and money), consider installing door sweeps, storm doors, storm windows, caulking, and weather stripping.

Door sweeps attach to the bottom of entry doors, creating a tighter seal around doors with high ground clearance. Homeowners can pick up a vinyl door sweep for less than $10 at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Installing storm doors and storm windows reduces air flow by sealing drafts around the door and window frames, which uses less energy and helps regulate indoor temperature. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, storm door and window installation can increase energy efficiency by 45%. Caulking and weather stripping around window frames, in door jams, and around pipes and wires exiting the home also reduces air flow.

Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

Insulating walls, attics, ceilings and pipes go a long way towards saving energy costs. Check the exterior walls of your home for proper insulation. Also check the attic floor and basement ceiling for the proper coverage – better coverage means less heat will be able to rise into the attic and out of your home.

Insulating the hot water pipes in the home keeps the water in the pipes hotter, which allows the water heater to be kept on a lower temperature. Insulating the water heater itself will also create the same result, saving energy usage and lowering utility costs.

To insulate hot water pipes, install pipe insulation sleeves along the entire length of the exposed pipe. Look for insulation sleeves with a high R-value practical. Seal all the joints and seams of the insulation sleeves with duct tape and call it a day.

Clean the Gutters

Gutters that aren’t properly maintained allow debris to build up in the gutters, which can cause water to pool up against the fascia boards or overflow too close to the foundation below. Clean out all debris and rinse out thoroughly to ensure that water is flowing through the gutters and downspouts properly.

If drainage continues to be an issue, the slope of your gutters may be at fault. Typically, gutters are supposed to decline ¼ of an inch towards the downspout for every 10 feet of gutter. If the gutters are not sloped sufficiently, they will need to be repositioned by detaching the hangers, one section at a time, and positioning appropriately.

Also check the gutter seams for cracked or broken caulk and check to see if the gutters are firmly attached to the fascia board. If the caulk is broken, dig out the old caulk and use bead silicon to reseal the seams. New gutter spikes can be purchased at any home improvement store to reattach any loose gutters to the fascia.

Check the Roof and Attic

Installing insulation in the attic floor and making sure that the attic is well ventilated will prevent ice dams from accumulating on the roof. The insulation will prevent heat from the living area from rising into the attic, while allowing fresh air to come in will lessen the difference between the temperature inside the attic and the temperature outside.

When it comes time to replace the roof, look into installing a water-repellent membrane between the subroof and the shingles. This membrane will act as a barrier to any water that works its way under the shingles, and will prevent the water from damaging the subroof and leaking into the attic or exterior walls below.

Prep the Fireplace

Fireplaces should be thoroughly cleaned and checked for cracks in the brick and mortar on both the interior and exterior of the structure. Also be sure that the damper will open and close with ease.

Empty Hoses and AC Unit

Once summer is over, it’s important to turn off all exterior water spigots. Allowing water to remain in exterior lines sometimes causes burst pipes inside the home. Unhooking and draining all hoses will prevent this from happening, and will prevent and damage to the hoses themselves.

Also shut off the air conditioner water valve and drain the air conditioner pipes. If the home is cooled by window units, remove all window units from the windows to prevent drafts and cold air from seeping in around the unit.

Seal Ductwork

Sealing the ductwork will keep the hot or cooled air inside your ducts, therefore keeping energy costs down as well. According to the American Solar Energy Society, homeowner can save up to $140 every year, simply by properly sealing their ductwork.

Turn Down the Water Heater

Many water heaters are pre-set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, however, most homeowners don’t use water that hot. Heating costs can be reduced by as much as 6% to 10% by lowering the water heater temperature to 120 degree Fahrenheit. Insulating the water heater will also reduce energy costs.

Prep the Furnace

The furnace filter should be changed before the furnace needs to be turned on for the winter. A clean furnace filter can reduce your heating costs 5% to 15%. When the heat is on, it is recommended to change the furnace filter every four to six weeks. If your family is constantly plagued by allergies during the winter, consider installing a permanent filter. Permanent filters such as an electrostatic filter will trap more debris than a disposable filter (88% compared to 40%), however permanent filters can be much more expensive to install.

If it’s been a few years since the furnace had a tune-up, it may be time to call a technician. While paying a technician to come look at a working furnace might seem like a waste of money, a furnace that is heating inefficiently will cost more in the long run. Furnace repairs and replacement often have shorter wait times than during the colder months, and the HVAC company many offer an out-of-season discount.

If a new furnace is needed, seriously look into purchasing an energy efficient furnace. An Energy-Star certified furnace will save 15% to 20% more on the heating bill than a new model without an Energy-Star certification.

Own the Thermostat

Heating and cooling a home is expensive. If you’re leaving the house for a long period of time, remember to turn down the thermostat a few degrees. Lowering the temperature by two to three degrees over the entirety of the colder months will save 2% to 9% in monthly heating costs. Remember that turning off the air altogether during the milder months is also an option – nix the heat and open the windows during the warmer part of the day, then shut them at night.

Installing a programmable or smart thermostat will also save hassle and money. Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to set different temperatures for different parts of the day, such as the active hours of the days versus sleeping hours. Smart thermostats can be controlled from remote locations via Wi-Fi and will learn homeowners’ temperature preferences over time - they can even learn when the homeowner is at home or when they’re away, and will automatically adjust the temperature accordingly.

 

 

Sump Pump Maintenance and Backup Battery Systems

Properly maintaining your sump pump is crucial to avoiding costly basement repairs and restoration. Many homeowners install their sump pump and forget about the system entirely until a heavy downpour threatens to overwhelm their pump. To avoid sump pump failure, most maintenance should be conducted once every three months and should include the following:

 

  • Check the pit and the inlet screen for debris and mud, which can clog up the sump
  • Make sure that the float switch is not stuck and easily moves up and down
  • Check the discharge line to make sure that the line is not clogged or frozen so that water can move freely through the line and out of your home
  • Test the pump by slowly pouring water into the pump until water reaches the float and the pump is triggered
  • Go outside and ensure that the line is depositing water far enough away from your foundation that the same water won’t find its way back to your sump pit
  • Once a year, disconnect the power, remove the unit, and flush the system with water to remove all debris
  • Finally, replace your sump pump every three to four years or sooner, depending on how often your sump pump runs. For example, if your pump kicks on every few minutes throughout the year, you might consider replacing your pump every year to two years to prevent the motor from burning out.

 

Regardless of how routine and thorough your sump pump maintenance is, sump pumps still sometimes fail. The most common reasons for this are the loss of power and simply too must water for the pump to handle at one time. While some homeowners combat loss of power by investing in generators, most generators require homeowners to be home in order to start it. So by the time homeowners can get home from work, vacation, and events to realize that their home is without power, their sump pit has had plenty of time to fill up with water, and potentially flood their basement.

Situations such as water damage due to power loss can be avoided by investing in a backup battery system. A backup battery system consists of a smaller submersible pump that’s placed into the sump pit with the main pump and is then connected to a small external battery (much like a car battery). When the main pump loses power, or is overwhelmed by a heavy flow of water, the backup battery will trip on and will run until a) it has pumped out the water, b) the main pump regains power and drops the water level, or c) the main pump is able to catch up to the water flow and water levels drop.

Most backup batteries will be able to run a backup pump for up to 12 hours on one charge. For a price tag that hovers between $650 and $1300 per backup unit, the cost of backup battery installation is worth the peace of mind.

Also worthy of note are the much-applauded text alert systems. When the power shuts off, an alarm is triggered and a text alert is sent to your phone. This system is especially helpful for families who are often away from home for vacations and long weekends, or businessmen who travel frequently and may not have someone home to notice the power is off – and has been off – for a while.

For more information and a quote for sump pump installation, backup batteries, and text alert systems, visit our website, or give us a call at 314-202-5000.

 

 

 

How to Create an Awesome Outdoor Space

Make It Cozy

Buy cushioned seating, big chairs, and extra padded lounge furniture for your outdoor space. Your outdoor space should be just as inviting as your indoor space, so don’t skimp on the throw pillows and indoor-outdoor rugs for a little extra dimension and color. Consider building a fire pit, which will enhance the coziness of your space, especially on chillier evenings.

Studies have proven that plants help relieve stress. Strategically place patio or desk plants around your seating area. This will also create a semi-private space that is distinct from the rest of the yard. If you intend to use plants for privacy, there are many fast-growing plants that are both unique and beautiful.

Light It Up

Outdoor spaces can be beautiful and relaxing at night. Make your outdoor space a household hub after dark as well by add lighting around seating areas, in gardens, and along pathways. Pay particular attention to where people gather, elaborate flower and garden arrangements, cool architectural features, and where people tend to walk. Vary the tone and atmosphere by using different styles of lighting – such as fairy lights hung over a secluded table for two, and larger pendant lights around the well-trafficked eating areas.

Welcome the Man Cave….and the She Shed

To encourage family time, incorporate the cool gizmos and man cave gear into your outdoor space. Consider investing in a nice grill, a well-lit work station, an outdoor projector for game time, or a minibar.

If your space is large enough, also consider building a She Shed. This new home improvement trend is gaining a lot of attention as a place for the woman of the house to retreat from the stresses of the home and work. She Sheds are not just great for relaxation, they also look good, and bring a trendy element to an outdoor space. Check out these She Shed ideas from Purewow.com.

Introduce Tech to the Outdoors

Technology is one of the main distractions that are keeping families indoors. TVs, desktops, and video game consoles are all “indoor” technologies that can’t easily be transported outdoors, but some technology can greatly improve an outdoor space. Consider upgrading your current router or adding outdoor antennas so that your family and guests can access Wi-Fi while outdoors. Incorporate wireless speakers into your space so that the line between indoors and outdoors is less noticeable. Or even install an outdoor projector for family movie nights, sleepovers, and game day.

Add Shade and Shelter

Giving your family a place where they can remain outdoors even in wet and hot weather will allow for more time outside. While screened-in porches, awnings, and covered decks and patios are more permanent solutions, they can also be expensive. To combat outdoor elements more economically, look into installing a pagoda, canopy, or shade sails. Or build your own covering from pallet wood, old windows, or whatever rustic, eclectic materials you can find. Make sure that any cloth or canvas covering you choose is UV protected and waterproofed. Waterproofing sprays are also available, though they will need to be reapplied often to remain effective.

Create a No Mosquito Zone

Mosquitos and biting insects can make an outdoor space miserable. There are a number of bug repelling solutions, such as citronella candles, Tiki-style torches, yard sprays, and plants that naturally repel mosquitos. Lemongrass is a resilient, mosquito-repelling plant that has a refreshing, citrusy smell. Other mosquito-repelling plants include lemon balm, catnip, rosemary, basil, marigolds, lavender, and geraniums.

Mosquitos are born in standing water, so rid your yard and outdoor areas of all standing, or stagnant water. Rain gardens, bird baths, and gutters are especially susceptible to mosquitos. Add a fountain to any ponds to keep water moving, and fill in any low-lying areas of your yard. And when bug-proofing a screened-in porch, or covered porch, be sure to seal the cracks between the planks, install outdoor carpet, or install a fine mesh on the underside of the deck.

Smell Musty? Time to Breathe Easy

Many basements, even basements in newer homes, have trouble with mustiness and poor air quality. Reasons for this can include excess moisture, lack of air circulation, lack of cleaning, and mold and mildew growth.

Moisture is the most common issue that causes musty odors and poor air quality. The excess water that comes into your home due to poor drainage, leaking cracks, and evaporating ground water allows for the damp conditions in which mold, mildew, and bacteria thrive. Too much moisture in a home will cause wood, fabric, and paper to start rotting. Bugs also love damp environments – homes with leaks will often see an increase in bugs and other pests. Can’t find any leaks? Have a professional test your home for humidity and signs of leaks – professional waterproofers often find signs that homeowners miss.

Ignoring dirty corners and allowing dirt and grime to accumulate in your basement invites insects and rodents to move in. Couple this with a lack of sunlight, and the household pests will move right in. To tiny up unfinished basements that have been ignored, move all the boxes out from your walls, and sweep thoroughly around the entire perimeter of your basement. Replace old cardboard boxes with plastic tubs, then hit the perimeter of your floor with Gloves Off All Purpose Cleaner and Disinfectant, available at Home Depot. Don’t forget to spray for bugs before you pronounce your cleaning complete.

Get rid of mold and mildew that likes to grow in moist, low-light areas. While excess moisture encourages mold, the real culprit of the musty smells is probably due to mold and mildew. Not only are mold and mildew odors and spores able to get into your stored things, but certain kinds of mold and mildew can also make you and family very sick. Mold toxicity is a real problem, so be sure to address mold immediately.

Though the lack of air circulation doesn’t cause foul odors in your basement, allowing the air to circulate throughout your home will prevent air from becoming stale, and will lower the humidity in your home. It will also prevent mold spores from moving to other damp places in your home. When searching for a way to circulate the air in your home more efficiently, look into the EZ Breathe air circulation systems from EZ Breathe. Not only does the system circulate your air, it also pumps the old, stale air out of your home and introduces fresh air into your basement.

A Little Extra Help…

While we don’t recommend ignoring the real reasons why you’re experiencing musty odors, also try these not-so-expensive, DIY ways to alleviate some of those smells until you’ve had a chance to address the issue head-on:

  • Use Arm & Hammer baking soda to soak up nasty odors – buy multiple boxes of Arm & Hammer baking soda with tear-away sides, open them, and spread them throughout the room. The baking soda will “soak up” bad smells and will continue to work for two to three months.
  • Open your basement vents – this is one of the easiest things to do, but many homeowners try to cut down their utility costs by closing their basement vents. Opening your basement vents allows air to circulate throughout your home and keep stagnant air moving.
  • Run fans to circulate air – Place some fans around your basement to help air flow.

Structural vs. Non-Structural Foundation Cracks

Shrinkage crack off window
Shrinkage crack off window

Seeing cracks in your foundation walls or floor? Cracking can be the result of site conditions, building history, normal curing processes, changes in temperature, foundation settlement, or applied loads, among other issues. While care needs to be taken in diagnosing these cracks, your foundation may not be in such dire straits as you think.

Non-Structural Cracks

Non-structural cracks in the foundation wall can occur anywhere on a foundation wall, though they often occur where an opening created a variance in the reinforcement in the concrete, such as around the windows, doors, and pipes. Non-structural cracks are the result of lateral pressure from the soil outside the foundation, and will typically leak when the soil is saturated. Types of non-structural cracks can include cracks that appear along form seams, shrinkage cracks, and hairline cracks.

Shrinkage crack
Shrinkage crack 

Shrinkage Cracks and Hairline Cracks

Shrinkage cracks and "hairline" cracks (cracks that are less than 1/16" wide) common occurrences in poured foundations. Shrinkage cracks occur naturally in poured concrete during the curing process as the concrete is losing its moisture. On foundation walls, shrinkage cracks are often vertical in nature, may not be one long continuous cracks, and may meander instead of follow a straight line. Shrinkage cracks also appear in poured slab floors. These shrinkage cracks may need to be sealed to keep water from pushing up from below the foundation, as well as to stop radon gas from leaking up into your home. The good news: shrinkage cracks do not signify structural damage and can be easily repaired using Quality Waterproofing’s carbon fiber and epoxy.

 

Leaking form tie
Leaking form tie

 

Leaking Form Ties

Leaking form ties are common, non-structural occurrences in poured concrete foundation. Form ties can leak when the hydraulic pressure behind the wall gets to great. A leaking form tie is distinguished by a small, ring-shaped leak, or multiple rings in a vertical line, on the foundation wall, and only requires a carbon fiber and epoxy seal to repair properly.

 

 

 

Structural crack
Structural crack

Structural Cracks

In poured foundation walls, structural cracks can stem from a poorly-executed backfill, street creep, a settling foundation, hydrostatic pressure from heavy rain, or water under the foundation. Structural cracks often follow similar patterns, such as an “A” shape, or two diagonal cracks intersecting a vertical crack, and can be wider than shrinkage cracks (which can be as wide as 1/8”). Vertical structural cracks are often wider at one end than the other, and denote foundation settlement.

If you believe that the cracks in your foundation are structural in nature, call a professional waterproofing company immediately and have a technician inspect your foundation for leaks and potential foundation issues. For a foundation inspection and a free quote from our estimators, go to our “Get A Free Quote” page and submit a request today.

 

Gardening Tips for the Clueless Gardener

Confession time: I don’t have a green thumb. I have killed cactus. I can easily imagine that plants shudder in horror when I get too close. Until this past year, the only plant that has survived while in my care was a Golden Pothos plant, a hardy little vining plant that requires a drought, a swarm of locusts, and a bazooka to kill. Though I have since bought a number of hard-to-kill plants for my home, that one success gave me the confidence to try my hand at a few herbs and veggies as well.

So, for those of us who still look wistfully at our neighbor’s lovingly-tended garden, or those of us who just wish they could grow their own tomatoes without breaking down in tears of frustration, here are 14 gardening tips to give the most clueless of us the know-how and confidence to become gardeners.

1. If you need to transport plants home, and you have a van, SUV, or truck then you’re in luck. Transport plants in a ladder laid flat in the back of your vehicle. The rungs are the correct spacing to keep plants from toppling over.

2. Don’t wait for the chilly nights to warm up to plant your vegetables. 1-liter soda bottles, gallon milk jugs, and small clay pots can be repurposed to make cheap cloches for protecting your young and delicate plants from frost and cold weather.

3. Compost is key. There are a number of natural fertilizers you can use for your plants. Rabbit droppings, compost from leftover food, and the water left in the pot after boiling or steaming vegetables all act as natural and powerful fertilizers. Don’t want the smell of compost in your home? Consider buying a charcoal-filtered, steal composter for your kitchen and a small bin for your patio. There is a 1-gallon steel composter from Oggi available for about $30, and an 82-gallon, odorless bin available from Home Depot for about $70. Note that the process of making compost will typically take a season or two, or start early.

4. Create non-stick shovels and trowels by coating them with Teflon lubricant or silicon spray. Dirt easily slides off coated shovels and even thick clay is simple to remove.

5. Make huge, unwieldy pots mobile, by placing packing peanuts in the bottom of the pot. The packing peanuts won’t allow soil to filter down, but will make moving the pot much easier.

6. Plant aggressive plants or plants that tend to overtake gardens in plastic pots with the bottom cut out. The plants can still reach down into the soil, yet the roots won’t spread outwards to cut off other plants. This is especially handy for vegetables.

7. Some plants require a specific amount of distance between plants. Instead of always reaching for a tape measurer, add inch and foot marks to a long shovel or garden rake handle with permanent marker to create an easy-to-find tape measurer.

8. For vegetable gardens, lay down a thin bed of straw around your plants. Like mulch, straw will retain water and cut down on weeding time. The decomposing straw also acts at a natural compost, sending nutrients into the soil as it breaks down.

9. Create water reservoirs for vegetables (especially water-consuming veggies like squash) by inserting large buckets with tiny holes in the bottom into the ground around your vegetable plants. It works much like the Grow Box from The Garden Patch.

10. There are many fruits and vegetables that thrive in acidic soil – radishes, sweet potatoes, peppers, blueberries, and cranberries are a few. To naturally fertilize these plants, sprinkle a small amount of used tea and coffee grounds on the soil around the plant about once a month. This will keep the pH levels in the soil consistent. Also worthy of note is that coffee and tea grounds are known to repel garden nuisances such as ants, snails, and slugs.

11. Chamomile tea is renowned for its ability to fight damping-off fungus. Seedlings, which are susceptible to damping-off fungus, can be protected by dumping a very small amount of chamomile tea in the soil at base of the plant.

12. Having issues with deer? Deer love to eat carefully planted gardens, and are especially fond of Hosta plants. To keep deer from destroying your garden, hang fresh clippings of human hair in mesh bags about 3’ off the ground around the perimeters of your garden. Deer associate the smell of human hair with danger and will avoid the areas with hair.

13. Trimming isn’t fun to begin with, but having strings break over and over while trimming is even worse. If you are constantly having to stop with refeed the line or take out kinks, be sure to spray the line of the string trimmer with vegetable oil before installing the line in the trimmer – the vegetable oil will prevent breakages and snags in the unit, and will keep the trimmer running smoothly

14. Can’t ever remember the names of the plants you planted or how best to take care of them? To keep track of plants that you’ve planted, create a garden journal documenting all the plants you’ve planted and where. Be sure to group by season and include the tags with the proper names and care guidelines. Or if the idea of creating a journal doesn’t appeal to you, find a number of large flat stones and use a permanent marker to write the names of the plants in your garden. Place under plants appropriately.

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Customer Reviews

Average rating for Quality Waterproofing is 4.97 stars of 5 stars - based on 37 reviews

Customer Reviews

Average rating for Quality Waterproofing is 4.97 stars of 5 stars - based on 37 reviews