When it comes to upgrading your home with the latest technology, your garage is likely to be the last thing on your radar. But as electric vehicles and even self-driving cars are hitting the road across the country, real estate listings are touting smart garages in high-tech cities like Palo Alto, California and Austin, Texas. Not to mention the simple fact that garage tech can boost security and convenience for your home, no matter what kind of car you drive. Here, we outline four of the simplest things you can do to make your garage smarter.
1. Learn about internet-connected devices you can install in your garage.
There are all kinds of benefits to installing internet-connected systems in and around your garage — from opening and closing your garage door remotely, to using cameras to monitor your garage, to checking up on your car from anywhere in the world. How’s that for convenience?
These internet-connected devices don’t have to be complicated, either. In fact, they’re designed for your ease of use. You can find smart add-ons for your existing garage door opener, or if you want to go all out (and potentially obtain additional security and other features), you can purchase a brand new, high-tech garage door system with all the bells and whistles.
2. Install motion-sensor lights and security cameras near your garage and other entryways.
Since most thieves like to do their dirty work in the dark, motion-sensor lights can be an effective deterrent to a garage break-in. And if you have security cameras installed too, the police may be able to better identify the perps — if anything ever does happen.
Plus, these easy upgrades can add major market value to your home if you’re looking to put it on the market in the future.
3. Think about the future.
You may still be driving a gas-powered car, but plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming increasingly attractive and affordable to modern car-buyers — especially as states like Texas are offering rebate programs for vehicle replacements to EVs. If you think there’s a chance that you could make the switch in the near future, it’s a good idea to get your garage ready by installing an appropriate outlet or 240-volt battery charger. Many cities and states (including Texas) also offer assistance to help drivers purchase and install a charging station at home. You could also enjoy reduced utility charges, depending on where you live.
Keep in mind that driverless cars will be a common sight in American garages too, as lawmakers are clearing the way for the new technology in Austin and Arlington. Experts have suggested that this shift will transform the real estate market, including the size and functionality of garages.
4. Make sure your homeowners’ insurance is up to snuff.
It’s pretty obvious that your garage door is one of the more exposed areas of your home —when it comes to potential intruders, but also when it comes to bad weather. If a covered incident like a windstorm, fire, break-in, or vandalism occurs, standard homeowners insurance has your back.
Just be sure to purchase enough insurance coverage to completely rebuild your home from the ground up in case catastrophe happens, since your policy will only pay out the maximum limits you choose. The last thing you want after a disaster strikes is extra bills to pay just to get your home back in working order.
Return on Investment
Going all out with brand new, high-tech garage devices is admittedly an investment up front. But when it comes to peace of mind knowing your home and your family are safe, a smart garage could be worth every dime — not to mention the fact that it could boost your resale value in an increasingly connected world.
Haden Kirkpatrick is the director of marketing strategy and innovation at Esurance, where he is responsible for initiatives related to product and service innovation. He is constantly thinking about technology changes impacting the insurance industry, and following innovation taking place in high-tech hot spots such as Palo Alto, California and Austin, Texas.
It’s time to check for damage and prepare for hot weather ahead.
Tasks to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less
Inspect driveways and paths. Freezing and thawing are rough on concrete, asphalt and other hardscape materials. Take a walk around your property to look for damage to walkways, paths and driveways, then schedule repairs as needed. Asphalt can often be patched, but damaged concrete may need to be replaced entirely.
Keep an eye out for termites. Beginning in March and going through May or June, be on the lookout for these winged insects. “Termites swarm in the spring,” says Victor Sedinger, certified home inspector and owner of House Exam Inspection and Consulting. “If there’s a bunch of winged insects flying out of a hole in the woodwork, that’s probably termites. Call a licensed professional pest-control company. You’ll save money and trouble in the long run.”
Prevent mosquitoes. In recent years, we’ve become more aware of the potential danger mosquitos can pose to our health. “West Nile virus and Zika virus are just the latest diseases caused by these winged pests,” Sedinger says.
The best way to prevent mosquitoes around your home is simply to get rid of any standing water. “Walk around your property [and peek at your neighbors’]. If you see anything or any area where water stands, fix it, tip it, get rid of it or maintain it regularly,” Sedinger says.
Tackle These To-Dos Over a Weekend
Wash windows. Clean the grime off glass inside and out for a lighter, brighter home indoors and increased curb appeal outdoors. Wash the exterior windows yourself by using a hose attachment, or hire a pro to get the job done.
Clean gutters and downspouts. After the last frost has passed, it’s important to have your gutters and downspouts cleaned and repaired. “Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause the wood trim at the eaves to rot, and that can invite all kinds of critters into your attic space,” Sedinger says.Having your gutters and downspouts cleaned early in the season can also help prevent damage from spring rains. “Gutters and downspouts should be clean and running free,” Sedinger says. “If your downspouts are installed properly, water is diverted away from the house so that no water collects around your foundation.”
Clean your fireplace. If your home has a working wood-burning fireplace, the end of winter is a good time to give it a fresh start. Protect your hands with gloves and cover the area around the fireplace with a tarp. Carefully remove the (completely cool) remains of any charred logs and ash using fireplace tools. Then gently clean the fireplace surround. Do not attempt to clean inside the chimney — that job should be left to a professional chimney sweep.
Check sprinkler and irrigation systems. Checking your sprinklers or irrigation systems in the spring can save water — and your plants. Sedinger shares these tips for checking your watering system:
- Run the system through all the zones manually and walk the property.
- Make sure none of the sprinkler heads are broken or damaged.
- Adjust any heads that are spraying the house, especially windows, as this can cause moisture problems.
- Adjust heads that are spraying the street, sidewalk or porches to avoid wasting water.
- If you don’t know how to maintain your system, call a professional. You’ll save money on your water bill and protect one of our most valuable natural resources.
Check screen doors and windows. Screens are designed to let the breeze flow in and keep the bugs out, but they can only do their job if they’re free from holes and tears.
Before setting up your screens for the warm months ahead, be sure to carefully check each one and repair any holes or tears, no matter how small. You can find repair kits at most hardware and home-improvement stores.
Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Season
Inspect the roof. Winter storms can take quite a toll on a roof. When spring arrives, start by making a simple visual inspection of yours. “It doesn’t require a ladder, and you certainly don’t have to get on a roof to look,” Sedinger says. “Use binoculars or a camera or smartphone with a telephoto feature if you need to.” Look for missing shingles, metal pipes that are damaged or missing or anything that simply doesn’t look right. If you notice anything that needs closer inspection or repair, call a roofer.
Paint exterior. If you’re planning to repaint your home’s exterior this year, spring is a good time to set it up. Want to paint but can’t decide on a color? Explore your town and snap pictures of house colors you like, browse photos on Houzz or work with a color consultant to get that just-right hue.
Reseal exterior woodwork. Wood decks, fences, railings, trellises, pergolas and other outdoor structures will last longer if they’re stained or resealed every year or two.
Take this opportunity to make any needed repairs to woodwork as well.
Is it time to start your Spring garden?
Outdoor living during the spring and summer months is extremely popular. Months of cold, wet winters are followed by glorious spring colors and warm summer days of vivid blue skies. In this post, we thought that now would be the best time to share some pretty garden trends for 2018.
Leisure time should be just that: relaxing and rejuvenating. So why labor relentlessly to create and maintain a perfect landscape? Wabi-sabi, is the Japanese art of accepting transience and imperfect beauty. Relax and appreciate nature as it is, with humble imperfections, weeds and all. Recognize (and tell others) that dandelions and clover in untreated lawns are not blights. They are status symbols for ecological horticulture. Consider natural grasses and groundcovers as low-maintenance substitutes for sod. Opt for perennials instead of annuals, let flowers go to seed and give nature license to evolve on her own.
Reclaiming Small Outside Spaces
For many of us these days, space is at a premium and with house prices continually on the rise, more and more people are living in apartment blocks or tiny lots. Garden designers are determined to make even the smallest of spaces useful and attractive, and manufacturers have taken notice. Look for a better choice in planters that slot onto balcony rails. New models will have coverings for protecting plants from cold temperatures so that you can even grow seeds and vegetables on your balcony alongside your flowers.
Self-watering wall planter systems have been improved for 2018 and the hanging macramé plant holder is having a bit of a revival. Add a small patio heater and you have an outside space you can enjoy all year round with minimal effort.
Pantone’s Ultra Violet is the color of the year. Maybe that’s why you find purple flowers in this year’s plant varieties and garden design. It’s easy to incorporate this color in the garden as there are many flowers and shrubs with this beautiful color. However, there are also several edible purple plants that you can grow. Purple vegetables are not only interesting and pretty, their unique color denote anthocyanins which are very beneficial to your health.
This is a style that keeps popping up time and again. However, 2018 has taken the re-wilding trend up another notch. It is still all about working with nature, growing wildflowers and supporting our pollinating insects. Re-wilding means adjusting plant selections to better support local wildlife and growing both seed-producing and berry-bearing plants. However, now it is also about using ‘green’ gardening products, natural solutions to bug and slug killers instead of chemicals and insecticides and using peat-free products.
Outdoor entertaining and kitchen areas are tipped to be a key trend for Spring/Summer 2018. We are not talking about a little nook corner just off the kitchen. Alfresco dining spaces are being pushed out into the garden itself and made into a major feature. These dedicated outdoor dining areas are surrounded by in-ground and container plants for that lush feeling. Special flooring, comfy furniture and mood lighting turn it into a little haven. Complete the trend with a sunken fire pit, barbecue or pizza oven and you might never want to leave.
Lighting The Way
Adding lighting to your garden is not a new thing. However, in this age of renewable energy, garden lighting companies are turning away from the more traditional lighting solutions we have seen in the past. The advances in solar energy capture, means that we can light up our gardens in a variety of fun, affordable and better ways. No more changing batteries or wiring up the garden with electricity.
The wide range of lighting methods allows you to create whatever ambiance you want. Simple stand-alone lights can mark pathways, either discreetly embedded into the path edges or standing loud and proud along the side. Multi-colored fairy lights can be tangled among the overhead branches of a tree creating dazzling shapes and textures. Solar Mason jars can be hung from above or used as table lighting. Festoon lights can create an ambient glow around any outdoor areas.
If you enjoy hanging out or hosting parties in your yard this summer, start creating a welcoming atmosphere now.
To get your Spring Home Maintenance Checklist, click HERE.
Your kids have moved out and now you’re living in a big house with way more space than you need. You have two choices – remodel your existing home or move. Here are some things to consider about each option.
Choice No. 1: Remodel your existing home to better fit your current needs.
- Remodeling gives you lots of options, but some choices can reduce the value of your home. You can combine two bedrooms into a master suite or change another bedroom into a spa area. But reducing the number of bedrooms can dramatically decrease the value of your house when you go to sell, making it much less desirable to a typical buyer with a family.
- The ROI on remodeling is generally poor. You should remodel because it’s something that makes your home more appealing for you, not because you want to increase the value of your home. According to a recent study, on average you’ll recoup just 64 percent of a remodeling project’s investment when you go to sell.
- Remodeling is stressful. Living in a construction zone is no fun, and an extensive remodel may mean that you have to move out of your home for a while. Staying on budget is also challenging. Remodels often end up taking much more time and much more money than homeowners expect.
Choice No. 2: Sell your existing home and buy your empty nest dream home.
- You can downsize to a single-level residence and upsize your lifestyle. Many people planning for their later years prefer a home that is all on one level and has less square footage. But downsizing doesn’t mean scrimping. You may be able to funnel the proceeds of the sale of your existing home into a great view or high-end amenities.
- A “lock-and-leave” home offers more freedom. As your time becomes more flexible, you may want to travel more. Or maybe you’d like to spend winters in a sunnier climate. You may want to trade your existing home for the security and low maintenance of condominium living.
- There has never been a better time to sell. Our area is one of the top in the country for sellers to get the greatest return on investment. Real estate is cyclical, so the current boom is bound to moderate at some point. If you’re thinking about selling, take advantage of this strong seller’s market and do it now.
Is your home ready for fall?
Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Gutters top to bottom
Water in the wrong spots can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this task yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.
If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a gutter guard system.
If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.
Check for leaks
The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. Mark any spots that you find and then hire a roofing specialist to repair these leaks. What you don’t want to do is wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.
Don’t forget the basement. Check your foundation for cracks, erosion, plants growing inside, broken windows, and gaps in window and door weathering. Make sure to properly seal any leaks while the weather is nice. This will ensure materials dry properly.
Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least four feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website http://www.thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.
Maintain your heating and cooling systems
Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.
Insulate & seal
Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals placed behind the wall plates are a quick and inexpensive solution.
First Posted in Windermere Bolg.
Now that spring has sprung, let’s clear the cobwebs and get your home ready! Here is our quick guide to spring home maintenance:
Inspection top to bottom: Now that the weather is temperate you will want to check on how your home weathered the winter. Check the roof for leaks, the gutters for damage, and the siding for cracks. You will also want to inspect your basement or foundation for any shifts. Make repairs now to prevent further damage.
Clean out the gutters: April showers bring May flowers… so clear out the gutters to keep rain from pooling on your roof or near your foundation.
Pest control: Spring is mating season for eight legged critters, so sweep out cobwebs, clear debris, and check the nooks and crannies. If you live in an area prone to dangerous species like brown recluse or black widows, you may want to contact your local pest control, but otherwise household spiders do help eliminate other bugs. Check your basement and attic for signs of other infestations.
HVAC system: If you have an air conditioner now is the time to check to make sure it is ready before summer gets here and everyone else is clamoring for maintenance. Now is a good time to check your home air filters and replace or upgrade to keep allergens at bay.
Clear the clutter: Do a sweep around the house and get rid of junk that you don’t use! Take a little time each week to tackle a room. Closets, playrooms, and basements can be especially daunting, but getting rid of old stuff and refreshing your space will go a long way!
Deep clean: On a nice day open the windows, dust, wipe, scrub, and clean. You will get a nice work out and your home will look and feel so fresh after a winter of being cooped up.
Update your decor: Add a splash of color to your home with small embellishments. Add a colorful vase, a lighter throw for your sofa, pretty pastel pillows, or spring-time candles, to upgrade your living space.
Take it outdoors: Let your throw rugs, curtains, and other tapestries air out outside. Shake off the dust, spot clean what you can and let everything bask in the sun for an afternoon.
Don’t forget the back yard: It may not be time to start up the grill, yet, but you can get started on your outdoor entertaining checklist. Check your lawn, and if you have some spare spots start filling in with seed. Check your outdoor plants, prune, plant bulbs, start to replenish soil for your garden, and mow, so you are ready to start when the season allows.
Speaking of the grill – if you have a gas grill you will want to pull this out and perform a maintenance check. Clean everything up and check to make sure all the gas lines are clear, as these can get clogged after sitting idle all winter. Make sure the grill is clear of spiders too, as they can build webs in the tubes, causing damage to your grill. You can start to bring out your garden furniture too, or clean it up if you left it covered outside all winter. Because before you know it, it’ll be barbeque season!