M2=H2: R is for Roof

A roof is a system of your home which is designed to last a long time, if you take proper care of it. Areas which require periodic attention include flashing, drainage waste vent stacks, shingles and gutters. To be sure everything is working as it should, you should have a professional roofer examine these areas every three years. Let’s examine each area to see what to watch for.

Roofs

FLASHING: Flashing is metal, plastic or rubber pieces which protect your roof wherever there is a join – between roof and chimney, between dormers and roof or in valleys where two different roof slopes meet. These pieces ensure that no water infiltrates those areas. Usually, metal and plastic flashing will last as long as your roof does and will not need replacing until replacing your roof.

DRAINAGE WASTE VENT STACKS: These vents are the white pipes which protrude from your roof. They are designed to allow air to help your waste water flow without impediment. The vents are very durable, but the special flashing around them, called a “boot,” is not. Boots are typically made of rubber and extend from a seal around the base of the vent and under several rows of shingles. Sun and weather take a toll on these boots, and they typically will fail after about 5 years. If a boot fails, you will get water under your shingles, and may have roof damage or damage to your ceilings inside your home. If you have a roofer examine the boots every three years, he will be able to replace any faulty one before it causes a problem.

SHINGLES: Shingles, typically made from asphalt, slate, wood, metal or plastic, overlap and are designed to allow water to freely flow off your roof and into the rain gutters. Asphalt shingles, the most commonly used in America, will last between 15 and 20 years. As they weather and age, they will become brittle and begin to crack. That process signals you that it is time to replace the roof. Again, if you have a roofer examine the roof periodically, he will discover when the shingles are too brittle to function well and will need to be replaced.

GUTTERS: The rain gutters are the rain water evacuation system for your roof. Always keep them free-flowing – free of debris, ice and snow. See our blog on G is for Gutter for more information.

M2=H2: P is for Plumbing

Plumbing is a relatively care-free system in your new home. As long as everything was properly installed, your maintenance will be minimal. Nonetheless, here are main areas to be aware of in case problems arise.

Plumbing

INTAKE VALVES: These are the shut-off valves which are installed on each sink or toilet in your home. There is also a main water shut-off valve near the spot where the main water line enters your home. Be knowledgeable about where the valves for each water source is located and be sure they turn easily. This will make your life easier if you do have a water emergency or if you need to turn a valve off to do a repair.

LEAKING PIPES: While your copper or PVC pipes themselves will probably never leak during your lifetime, joints/connections may loosen over time. If this occurs with a copper pipe, the joint will need soldering. PVC pipe usually requires a joint compound to seal the leak. Both repairs are best done by a licensed plumber.

FROZEN PIPES: Frozen pipes, which turn into burst pipes, can be a homeowner’s nightmare. Even if the home is vacant, during cold weather, never turn the heat below 50 degrees. If pipes run through an area which is not heated, such as a crawl space, be sure to wrap those pipes with a pipe sleeve or heat tape.

Additionally, outside faucets need a bit of TLC in freezing temperatures. If your exterior faucet is not a frost-proof sill-cock, you should turn off the water-supply valve before cold weather hits and then open the handle of the outside faucet. In this way, no water will remain in the line to freeze and cause problems. If you have a frost-proof sill-cock, all you need to do is turn off the outside handle. This shuts off the water supply inside your home, so no water is exposed to the freezing temperatures.

If your pipes freeze, you might be able to thaw them without damage if you do it slowly. First, restore heat to the area of the house where freezing has occurred. Open any faucet which is connected to that water line. Begin thawing at the point which is closest to the faucet. Set a heat lamp a minimum of 6 inches from the frozen pipe, or direct a hair dryer parallel to the frozen pipes. As the pipes thaw, move the heat source further and further down the frozen area, until the entire area is thawed.

FAUCETS: Over time, you may notice a faucet or shower head develop a drip. This is an easy repair. Simply unscrew the faucet/shower head and replace the washer or o-ring. In addition, mineral deposits may accumulate inside the faucet aerator. If this happens, you will see lower water pressure or uneven flow. Unscrew the aerator and clean out the calcium that has built up.

DRAINS: Inevitably, you will at some point get a clogged drain. Clogs may arise from accumulated hair, grease or other debris. Other than using a plunger or commercial liquid or gel drain opener, you can also take several other steps.

First, pull out the drain stopper and clean the base of it that goes into the pipe. This stopper assembly can accumulate a lot of gunk. You might also have to remove the U bend under the sink and clean it out. Be sure to put a bucket under the U bend as you remove it, as water normally stands in this pipe.

Finally, you might need to get a snake involved. Also known as a drain auger, this gadget is a long, coiled wire with a handle on one end. Put the snake into the drain and crank the handle to push the snake into the clog. Use the snake to break up the clog. If it doesn’t seem to be breaking up, pull the snake out or the drain, and the blocking debris will usually pull out attached to it. Then run water on full for several minutes to assure the pipe has been cleared.

To prevent drain blockages in the first place, run hot water into the drain for a minute, turn off the water and add 3 Tablespoons of washing soda (NOT baking soda) into the drain. Follow with hot water to direct the washing soda into the drain. Wait 15 minutes and then flush the drain with additional hot water.

Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Moe (Or How to Choose a Builder You Trust)

As modern consumers, we tend to scrutinize our purchasing decisions no matter if they are large or small. We take the time to compare products, research brands and form opinions based on our experiences. And while you wouldn’t likely buy a car or television built by a manufacturer with a terrible reputation, many people fail to spend enough time considering who is most qualified to build your home.

How to Choose

Selecting the right home builder should be just as important as other factors such as the architectural style, location of the property and specific floor plan. If you’re currently considering new home construction, follow these tips to find a trustworthy builder:

Check Homeowner References

The best way to get to know potential builders is by paying attention to the impartial reviews of the customers they have previously served. Make it a point to ask for references and seek out third-party accounts of homeowners who have taken the time to share their experiences. You’ll not only find out how satisfied the customer is with the home they purchased, but you’ll also learn what it was like working with the builder. You may learn how they adhere to a timetable, work within a budget, and communicate throughout the various stages of the project.

Establish a Positive Rapport

The best relationships are built on mutual trust and respect. When you find a builder you want to work with, get to know them on a more thorough level. While it’s important to learn how they run their business and what makes their team of employees tick, the more insight you share about your own hopes and expectations can inspire the builder to provide the best possible service. Simple things like being responsive to information requests, promptly returning phone calls, and remaining honest and open in negotiations can go a long way to ensuring your home turns out to be the home of your dreams.

Study the Sales Contract

Purchasing a new home can be exciting and complex, often to the point that it’s difficult to focus on the most important details. Before you sign on the dotted line with a homebuilder, it’s crucial to understand the specific terms of the sales contract. In fact, a reliable builder should be more than willing to review the contract with you to ensure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to and what the builder is responsible for.

Take Confidence in a Quality Warranty

Long after the sales contract is completed and you’re living in your home, a warranty provides invaluable protection over your investment. Ask builders what kind of warranty options they offer and make sure a written 10-year warranty is available to you. It demonstrates the builder has both of your best interests in mind and is capable of offering the full range of services necessary to deliver peace of mind.

To learn more about warranties and what you should look for when building a home, contact American eWarranty today.

READ Your Home Warranty! (All of It)

Reading

 

If you fail to take a closer look at the details of your warranty and what it means, you might be missing facts that can save you time, money and a lot of stress. Take some time to examine your home warranty, and gain the all-important perspective of knowing exactly what you’re responsible for and in what ways other entities are responsible to you.

Your Warranty Is Limited

It’s true that a home warranty is universally regarded as something that is extremely positive to have in your possession. On the other hand, some people fail to realize exactly what their warranty covers and what it doesn’t. For instance, a typical limited warranty might include items such as floor squeaks, nail pops, HVAC ductwork and wiring systems — but only in cases where a defect is found or something has been improperly installed. As another example, a limited warranty might not cover issues such as condensation on interior window surfaces or chips on countertops and cabinets.

You should know exactly what you’re covered for, but also the length of your coverage based on the specific terms of the warranty agreement.

Warranties Clarify Misunderstandings

When something goes wrong with your home, the two most common impulses are to get it fixed and find out who is to blame. Especially when dealing with a newly built residence, the process of assigning responsibility for maintenance issues and repairs can lead to disputes and misunderstandings. Knowing the details of your builder warranty serves to eliminate certain grey areas that often exist for homeowners. It also helps you be more aware of your personal accountabilities.

New Home Warranties Have Specific Tolerances

There are things that can, and probably will, go wrong in your home. Certain problems due to one factor or another are simply impossible to avoid. At the end of the day, you should understand your coverage and to what degree the coverage extends. It helps to have a warranty that contains specific applications to warranted structural components. Rather than relying on a narrow definition, you are given clear tolerances of structural components that are covered under the particular program.

If you’re buying a new home, it pays to make sure you understand the warranty options available to you. If you aren’t convinced the warranty options suit your needs, ask your builder, realtor or lender about American eWarranty warranties. We offer competitive rates, maximum protection and provide the peace of mind that helps you fully appreciate the pleasures of owning a home.

Now’s the Time to Reevaluate Your Business Needs

Original post by Ian P. Faria & Jon Paul Hoelscher of Coats | Rose | Yale | Ryman | Lee, A Professional Corporation featured in The Metropolitan Builder, a Texas publication

With the start of the New Year, now is the time to reexamine your business goals for the upcoming months. In addition to getting familiar with any new pieces of legislation that have been passed in your state that will directly impact the construction industry, contractors, builders and suppliers should make sure all contracts and insurance policies are current. You can rest assured American eBuilder is providing you with the most up-to-date warranty in compliance with applicable regulations.

Construction Site

Think of it as a clean sweep to start the year off on the right foot and make sure your business is 100% protected and ready to thrive. A small time investment now will save you a big headache down the road. Here are the key areas you should be paying attention to:

Insurance Coverage

Insurance is something we all need, but hope to never have to use. Depending on your business’s size and responsibilities, you can shop around for a number of different polices in varying price points. A general liability policy may or may not be enough.

If you manage employees, it might be a good option to price out a workers’ compensation policy in the event someone gets hurt. If employees are driving to and from job sites, certain automobile insurance might also be required by law. Have an agent look over your policy to find out if your coverage is on target, and be sure to touch base with your accountant to find out if your money is being spent wisely with your current insurance provider.

Contract Conundrum

A contract is hardly a once-and-done venture. Contracts should be living, breathing documents that are constantly evolving based on the ever-changing construction industry. Terms of agreements can change, as can legislation, so it’s important to review what you have in writing on a regular basis. You can minimize your risks and losses by keeping updated contracts on file – even with long-standing clients.

Certain clauses within your contract are more likely to change than others. Here are a few to examine sooner rather than later to ensure the proper parties are held responsible in the event of an issue before, during or after a build: payment, workplace safety, building and performance standards, indemnity and additional insured endorsement.

An experienced attorney or legal team can help make the correct provisions to your contract to help it weather whatever changes happen in the coming business year.

Changing Legislation

It’s hard to stay on top of the complicated legal side of the construction business. Headlines and newscasts can be confusing and often leave you scratching your head about whether certain legislation has a direct impact on your business.

For example, in some states, recently passed laws enforce strict provisions on how work is done in areas affected by a natural disaster. Other states have seen legislation handed down regarding retainage and the timeline of how to place a lien on a property.

To ensure that your business is operating within the correct state, county or township legal parameters, rely on a trusted attorney or legal team. It will be their job stay current on all industry changes and alert you of anything that will affect your business and bottom line.

See how to protect yourself with a 10-year new home warranty at our website!

H2=M2: N is for Nothing

Yes, today’s maintenance tip really is Nothing … As in nothing lasts forever. With any system or part of your house, at some point you will need to replace, rather than repair it. For example, we’ve discussed how to maintain your kitchen countertop. But eventually, even the best-cared-for countertop will need to be replaced, whether because of wear or because of style changes. In the same way, while you can extend the life of your heating system by regular maintenance, at some point, it will need to be replaced. Realizing that sometimes there is nothing you can do to repair it and preparing accordingly will greatly benefit you as a homeowner.

Multimoney

HOW TO PREPARE: Planning in advance of a major component of your home wearing out will save you headaches and stress. It is wise to create an account, separate from your normal finances, which is designated as the “Saving for a Catastrophe” fund. If you discipline yourself to regularly put money into this account, you will find that when something breaks (and it will), although you might be blindsided, you are still able to pay for a replacement without obliterating your budget or creating massive debt.

WHEN IT BREAKS: If you’ve prepared financially for the inevitable, when that appliance or system breaks, you have the leisure to shop around and look for the best deal on what you need. A great resource for comparing prices and ratings is the internet. Google-search the item you need to replace and see not only what it costs, but also read reviews by people who have bought it. Then you can make a wise choice in your replacement.

HOW TO REPLACE: Unless you’re an expert handyman, it’s best to have a licensed or certified repairperson do the replacement work. Be sure to check with your repairperson to see if they offer a warranty on their work. Also remember to register your new system or appliance with the manufacturer so you will be notified of recalls.

Hopefully you won’t need to replace systems or appliances for a long, long time. But realizing that eventually you will need to replace some things and preparing in advance will help you to be a happy homeowner, even if you can’t do meticulous maintenance to fix it!

The Key to Converting Casual Curiosity into Customers

Understanding what factors influence a potential homeowner’s decision to buy is important. Taking action on this knowledge, however, is key to a builder’s success.

For two years, Builders Digital Experience researched home buyers and how they make their decisions. The study revealed what they really thought about resale and new construction, as well as what key elements shoppers looked for when considering a home purchase.

Based on this expansive research, they found that 53% of home shoppers just starting their search favored new construction. In the past year, this number has increased to 56%. With a solid interest in new home construction, builders everywhere are starting to take advantage of this trend. Read on for the top five tips for converting interested home shoppers into new-home buyers.

Family and new home

KEEP IN REGULAR CONTACT with potential buyers.

While the interest is there for new-home construction, the buying cycle isn’t getting shorter — in fact, it’s getting longer. It takes more than nine months for two-thirds of the home shoppers to make a decision. This increased buying cycle illustrates the importance of lead nurturing. When planning your marketing efforts, ensure you have a steady stream of communication with your target audience.

HIGHLIGHT top purchase considerations in your marketing materials.

The study also revealed a few key elements home buyers look for when they’re considering making a purchase. When creating your marketing materials, highlight these top purchase considerations:

  • High-quality home construction
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Floor plans that include larger gathering rooms
  • Low maintenance costs

PROVIDE real estate agents with the information they need.

The study also found that close to 50% of U.S. real estate agents prefer selling new construction. More importantly, it revealed these agents often find it hard to learn about new inventories and promotions. To take better advantage of the interest real estate agents have in showing new homes, you should:

  • Keep your listings up to date.
  • Publish your commission policy clearly on your website, as well as on your listings.
  • Include buyer registration guidelines.
  • List standard commission percentages.

BUILD TRUST with potential buyers.

When reviewing recent home buyers, the study found that 34% of individuals who preferred new construction ended up choosing a resale. Why are we losing this interested group of home buyers? It comes down to trust. New-home buyers have concerns about the construction quality, safety of the area and cost. A new-home purchase is the largest financial decision people make. To instill confidence in their decision, consider highlighting the following in your marketing efforts:

  • Your 10-year new-home structural warranty
  • Building certifications you have
  • Standards you follow when building new homes, such as Energy Star, LEED and local building codes
  • Any nationally recognized professional titles you hold and your memberships with professional associations

Not only should you include these on your website, but your website should also feature a section on building quality. Highlight the following on this page:

  • Your company’s commitment to high-quality construction
  • Warranty information
  • Safety features
  • Product lines used in your homes

EDUCATE your target audience.

When potential buyers know what to expect, they are less afraid of the new-home construction process. Educate your audience with a Frequently Asked Questions section on your website. This section should cover:

  • The value of a 10-year warranty and why new-home buyers should want one from their builder
  • Your building process
  • What to expect when building a new home with your company
  • Local building codes and requirements

If you’re not already providing a 10-year structural warranty on your new-home builds, you’re missing a key selling point. To learn more about how structural warranties can benefit your business, please contact American eBuilder today.

M2=H2: M is for Moldings and Trim

Every home has some sort of molding and trim work. These range from baseboard to quarter round, crown molding, cove molding, rails, wainscoting and casings. While each serves a different function, all have some things in common, such as miters, joins and finish.

Molding and Trim

Over time, you might notice that your trim has become separated from the floor, the wall or other pieces of trim. This is a natural result of your house’s settling and the wood drying out and shrinking slightly. If left unrepaired, this separation can allow debris and dirt to collect under the molding. Here’s how to fix it!

MITERS AND JOINS: A miter is where two pieces of wood join at an angle in a corner. Some corners may have a 90-degree join to a square corner piece instead of a miter. A join also occurs where wood is pieced together or seamed in your trim. As your house settles, you might notice that a small gap appears at any of these joins. While it’s a normal process, it can be unsightly.

If the separation is small, you can use wood filler to close the gap. First, clean the surface. Then press filler into the gap, shape to conform, let dry, sand to match the surface and finally stain or paint to match. It’s best to paint the entire section of trim to avoid an obvious repaired section.

In addition to corner joins, you may notice some areas where baseboard or quarter round separates from the floor and creates a gap. A good fix is to loosen the nails, reposition the trim to meet the floor and reattach in place. You may need to touch up the paint around the nail heads. If your trim is stained, use a colored wax wood filler to cover the heads. Another alternative when baseboard has a gap at the floor is to squeeze latex caulk into the gap. Be sure to clean any unintentional smears before it dries. Also remember to protect your flooring or carpet with an index card slipped under the molding when you paint or stain.

FINISH: if your wood trim is painted, care is a breeze! Just dust regularly, and once or twice a year, wash with a gentle wood-safe cleanser. Never use a Magic Eraser on wood trim, as it will scratch and damage the finish.

If your wood trim is stained, care is similar, although the type of finish will determine how you deep clean it. Dusting is fine for stained trim of any finish.

For trim finished with linseed or tung oil, use lemon oil polish, which will renew the finish. For trim finished with wax, you must first strip off the old wax with either lemon oil polish or a mixture of white vinegar and water. Then you must reapply a new coat of wax, and buff to a shine. Trim finished with polyurethane has the easiest care – just wipe with a damp cloth.

Over time, dings and gouges may occur in your trim. Fill the gouges with wood filler, sand and then refinish to match your trim. If the gouge is on stained wood, you may be able to use a wax crayon wood filler to cover and fill the blemish.

M2=H2: L is for Lawn and Landscaping

Your lawn and landscaping add a finished look to your home, and they also protect your foundation if properly graded. Let’s take a look at both facets to review what your maintenance options are.

Landscaping

LAWN: Unless you had sod installed, your new lawn requires a bit of TLC at its inception. Water it with a fine spray in the morning and at noon, but do not oversaturate. If the weather is hot, you will need to water more frequently. To establish the root system well, you should plan to water your lawn twice per week in hot weather for the first two years. In this initial stage, you should avoid walking on the new grass for at least three weeks to give it a chance to get established.

When mowing your new lawn, keep the blade fairly high and overlap your mowing paths by several inches. Cutting your lawn too short, called scalping, damages the root system, allows weeds to take over and may even kill your grass. Keep the mower blade sharp and alternate direction each time you mow. Finally, never mow wet grass.

When fall arrives, you might notice bare spots where the seed did not take well. To fix this, first rake the lawn to remove grass clippings and leaf debris. Next, fertilize the entire lawn. Finally, spread grass seed in the bare areas. The cool fall temperatures are perfect for germinating grass before it enters its dormant state.

LANDSCAPING: Your landscaping is a long-range process. With a new home, it’s probable that your trees and shrubs are just small seedlings. Keep in mind that as they grow, they will occupy more space. It’s better to start with plantings spaced well apart until you can see their mature size. Over time, you can fill in the empty space with size-appropriate flowers and shrubs.

Remember that your builder graded your property to facilitate water runoff and to protect your foundation. Take care not to disturb the slope and drainage channels as you expand your landscaping. In addition, be cautious about planting large trees or shrubs too close to the foundation, as root growth could damage it.

M2=H2: K is for Kitchen Countertop

Kitchen countertops can be made of a variety of materials. Some, such as quartz, are virtually maintenance-free, while others, such as granite, require a bit of care to keep them in stellar condition. Here are maintenance tips for some of the most popular kitchen countertop surfaces.

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LAMINATE: By far the most-used countertop material, laminate has been around for years. Made from a thin plastic finish bonded to a particleboard base, it is very affordable, comes in many colors and patterns and is fairly maintenance-free. To clean, wipe with a damp, soapy cloth or sponge. Avoid bleach, which will discolor the veneer. Do not place hot pans on the laminate – it can only resist temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. And finally, always use a cutting board, as knives will damage the finish.

ENGINEERED QUARTZ: Made from crushed quartz bonded with a polymer resin, engineered stone countertops require almost no maintenance. They are naturally stain-resistant, scratch-resistant and non-porous. Simply wipe with warm, soapy water. While you can use a knife on the surface, you probably won’t want to … it will dull your knives very quickly!

STAINLESS STEEL: While your brand new stainless steel countertop is gloriously shiny and mirror-like, don’t get used to it! This surface WILL scratch over time. Scratches will not alter its durability or stain-resistance. For everyday cleaning, use water and a microfiber cloth. You may add a mild detergent for tough cleanup. If fingerprints are a problem, use glass cleaner with a microfiber cloth. Finally, you can purchase a stainless steel cleaner to renew the polished-looking finish.

SOAPSTONE: Soapstone is a durable and stain/heat/bacteria-resistant countertop surface. Normal cleaning involves wiping with warm, soapy water. Over time, you will notice that the soapstone will grow darker with age. While this is normal, it can be sanded regularly to restore the lighter color, as well as to eliminate scratches or chips.

GRANITE: Considered the gold standard of countertops, granite has great durability. For everyday cleanup, wipe with mild soap and water and dry with a soft cloth. If something spills, wipe it up immediately, as granite is porous and will stain. Avoid any cleaning products which are acidic, such as lemon-based or vinegar-based. In addition, you will need to seal your granite countertop regularly. Initially, your builder will likely have used a penetrating sealer on the surface. This sealer absorbs into the stone and protects for about one or two years. Ask your builder for specifics on the type of sealer he used. An oil repellent impregnator sealer is the best to resist all sorts of oil-based spills. In addition to the penetrating sealer, you may also use a topical sealer to renew the shine and gloss.

CERAMIC TILE: Ceramic tile countertops are both highly cost-effective and durable. Glazed tile is better than un-glazed in kitchen surfaces. Clean routinely with warm, soapy water. The grout will need special attention. When your tile was installed, your builder should have sealed the grout to make it impervious to stains. Nonetheless, you will need to periodically clean it with a tile and grout cleaner. If some stains do not come out, you may choose to use a grout stain on the grout. This will cover stains and homogenize the grout color.

WOOD: A butcher block countertop can be durable if the wood and the sealer on it are high quality. The best finish is a waterproof varnish. With a wooden countertop, always use a cutting board when using knives. Also, be sure to use hot pads or trivets to protect from heat. If you spill something, wipe it up right away, as wood is permeable. Twice per year, you will need to oil the surface with a food-safe oil, such as tung oil, mineral oil or beeswax-based oil. Spread the oil generously over the surface and let sit for 30 minutes. Wipe clean and polish with a soft cloth. Finally, if you have scratches or nicks, you may use a very fine grit sandpaper to sand them out, but you will then need to reseal and oil the surface.

CORIAN: While Corian is very durable, it does need some maintenance. First, the don’ts: Don’t put hot pans directly on the countertop – always use a hot pad or trivet. Don’t allow water to dry on the surface – it will leave a spot that looks dull. Always wipe the surface dry after you wash it clean. If your sink is Corian, do not pour boiling water into the sink. Do not cut directly on the surface. Finally, do not use harsh cleansers. Now the dos: To clean your Corian, use either warm, soapy water, an ammonia-based cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for Corian. If you get a stain or a scratch, you may sand the surface with sandpaper. Begin by sanding gently in the direction of the scratch with a rough grit sandpaper. Then switch to a 90 degree angle to your original sanding. Add water to reduce dust. Next, choose lighter and lighter grit papers and sand using the same technique, until the surface looks consistent.