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home maintenance

I am not sure what happened but damn it was cold today. We went to the pumpkin patch with the kids and had to bundle up — we severely underestimated the level of cold. I checked the weather to be sure of the temperature and there is a freeze warning. I wasn’t expecting it to get this cold this soon and there is still a lot I haven’t done to be ready for Winter. Luckily the forecast for the rest of the week is pretty promising with temperatures expected to be up in the mid 70’s again. That break in the weather is going to be the perfect time to get my winter prep done. What follows is just a few of the things you need to make sure you take care of to be ready for the winter.

  1. Inspect caulking – Inspect the caulking around the windows and doors to make sure it hasn’t separated or broken down. If you find caulking is pulling away or broken down you need to clean it away and replace with new exterior grade caulking.
  2. Disconnect and Store Your Hoses – Hoses left connected to your house could be the most expensive and dangerous thing. Water expands as it freezes and when that happens inside a copper pipe it will burst and you won’t know it until it heats up enough to thaw and floods your house.
  3. Clear your Garden and Prep it – Your garden is most likely toast at this point. Clean it up and throw the left overs on the compost pile. Prepping your garden now will save you time and energy in the spring.
  4. Bleed your water heater – Drain a couple of gallons from the lower valve on you water heater. This will clear any sediment which has settled in the base of the heater.
  5. Prepare you Mower for Storage – Mow that one last time and then either drain or run the last of the gas out of your mower. Go ahead and sharpen you blade and change the oil as well to be ready for spring. If you have any gas left over use it in your car or add a fuel stabilizer. Gas goes bad.
  6. Winterize you boat – If you have a boat you need to put it up for the winter. Change the oil, change your lower unit oil, fill it with gas and add a stabilizer, and flush your coolant system with an environmentally safe antifreeze.
  7. Fertilize for winter – If it isn’t to late in the fall go ahead and aerate and fertilize using a winter fertilizer mix. This will help you lawn stay healthy through the hard winter ahead.
  8. Check Your Heating System – Have a qualified HVAC technician come out and inspect your heating and air systems and perform any required maintenance. If necessary clean your ducts.
  9. Replace Your Air Filters – Replace the air intake filters on your HVAC system. Replacing the filters regularly improves the efficiency of your heater as well as the air conditions in your home.
  10. Replace Smoke Detector Batteries – For the safety of you and your loved ones make sure the batteries are fresh in your fire detectors.
  11. Clean the Gutters – If you have a lot of trees in your area you are going to have to do this again but get up on the ladder and clean out the gutters.
  12. Install a Programmable Thermostat – If you haven’t already get yourself a good programmable thermostat and set your program for winter heating. They are a great way to save on your heating and cooling costs.
  13. Inspect Driveways and walkways for cracks – Again water expands when it freezes. If you have cracks in your drive or walkways it will make those cracks bigger as the water seeps in and freezes. Now is a good time fill those cracks and prepare for the freezing temperatures ahead.
  14. Replace Screen Door with Storm – If you are like me and have a replaceable screen door pop it out and put in the storm door version. Be careful though if your house faces south, my metal front door is warping from the heat build up between the storm and front door.
  15. Seal any holes in your exterior – Walk around the exterior of your home and note anywhere where cables or pipes puncture the exterior of your home. In all of these places you will want to seal the space with expandable foam or exterior caulk. Holes will let the cold air into you house and increase your heating costs.

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foreclosuresignThe house across the street from me has been empty now for almost five months. The owner was the victim of both divorce and medical problems within a very short period of time.  Unable to maintain the payments on the home he decided to let it go.  The way he let it go, unfortunately for him, was probably not the best way to go about it. One day he was living in the house, and the next day he was gone.

They tried to sell the house both with and without a Realtor, they also took on several roommates for a short time. Neither of the methods allowed them to get caught up and continue to make their house payments.  I don’t know the particulars of their finances so I can’t say for sure they had to do it, but they did it and now I get to stare at a vacant house.

I don’t know that he bothered to tell the mortgage company what he was doing, and in the five months since he left they haven’t come by and put up any notices or anything else that would show you the house was now bank owned. Theoretically the he could have been living there rent free for the last 5 months. Living there without paying would have given him a way to build up some extra cash reserves or pay down on his medical bills and other obligations.  I am not really sure if there was any other way for him to get out from under the house, he really was in a bad way.

Not surprisingly he home was left unlocked and the owners left a lot of personal artifacts, toys and movies around the house.  I have heard tell of people taking things here or there that they might have wanted, like movies or light fixtures.  No one has gutted the house or anything, they are just taking what was left behind by the owners. The owners haven’t been back in 5 months, I know of at least one attempt to contact them to see if they wanted a neighbor to garage sale some of it for them, no response was received.

The abandonment of a house has problems for those around it. The eventual sale of the home is almost certain to decrease property value and with the onset of spring the yard isn’t being cut and general home maintenance isn’t occurring.  During one of the recent thunderstorms in our area a portion of the roof vent cap blew off which means rain was getting into the attic. One of my neighbors went ahead and reattached the vent cap and even mowed the yard, if for no other reason than to keep up appearances for the rest of the neighborhood. We live in the southeast and with the rain we have had lately a yard can turn into a jungle pretty quick.

The point of this lengthy diatribe is to ask the following questions:

1.) If you knew the house was abandoned and unlocked with things inside which could potentially be useful to you, would you take them or leave them? Is it ethical to take things that were “left behind.”

2.) Would you continue to maintain the exterior of the home for no compensation just to maintain the appearance of a lived in home?

Photo: (Respres)

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