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At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series #7

by Judy Gull

Exterior: Gutters, Trees and Gardens

Beginning with your gutters, check to make sure they’re clear of any debris. Spring rains and summer thunderstorms will give them a workout! Check also for any corrosion, separated joints or loose fasteners. Reinstall any downspout extensions if you removed them in the fall. Make sure that water flows at least 3 to 4 feet AWAY from the foundation. You may need to adjust your landscaping to facilitate this.

If you’re not comfortable being on a ladder, or don’t know exactly what to look for, call a professional. Many contractors will give you an estimate on the job before you book for service. Call around to secure a price you’re comfortable with.

Winter weather can also wreak havoc with your roof. If you notice any damaged shingles or seals, call a professional for repairs before the rains come. A small roof leak can quickly turn into a lot of damage if not caught early.

Heavy snows and ice can bend and weaken branches and tree limbs. Do a visual inspection of the trees on your property, especially those that are in close proximity to your home, garage or patio. With summer storms on the horizon, any weak limbs should be removed. You can either do this yourself or call a licensed arborist.

Yard cleanup – Remove all winter debris from the yard and clean up any dead foliage. Begin planning your spring and summer landscaping projects. A little advanced planning can save a lot of time when planting season arrives.

At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series #6

by Judy Gull

Exterior: Plumbing and Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning
Your air conditioner gets a workout over the summer, so proper maintenance and inspections in the spring are very important!  First, make sure that the vents are clean of any lint or debris that may have accumulated over the winter months. If any debris is present and you choose to clean it yourself, be very careful not to damage the “fins” that surround the exterior walls. Even if no debris is visible, it’s a great idea to have your system checked and cleaned by a professional every couple of years. A professional can also tune your system so that it will run more efficiently.  In regards to the system and its use inside the home, consider installing a programmable thermostat.  If you have a central air system this can help save considerable money on energy use!

If you use an air conditioner window-unit, now is the time to re-install it. Clean the unit before install and remove the dust and dirt from the filter.  Don’t forget to clean the filter  regularly during the cooling season also.  Once a month should be fine, but check more frequently if you use the unit every day. Be sure when you install the unit that the seals are tight and that it is properly fastened.

Winters in the Coulee Region can be brutal on your plumbing and pipes. Check your outdoor faucets for any drips or leaks and either repair them or call a professional to do the job.  Also run water through your garden hose to check for any cracks or holes that may have developed during the cold winter, even if it was stored in a garage or shed.

Please come back next week for our next installment of the Spring Series for Homeowners.

At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series #5

by Judy Gull

Welcome to part 5 of our spring checklist series for homeowners! This week’s entry will focus on decks and patios.  Spring maintenance can extend their lifespan, save you money in future repairs or replacement and keep you safe!

 Exterior:  Decks and Patios

Inspecting your deck and/or patio every spring can help extend it’s lifespan exponentially.  Finding and repairing trouble areas now can really save you money in future replacement costs.  It can also catch potential safety hazards to keep you and your family safe

Heavy snow and ice over the winter months can cause stress damage to decks and patios, so start by doing a visual inspection.  For wood decks, do you see any loose or damaged boards, posts, steps or guardrails?  If so, repair or replace loose boards and reset any protruding nails by gently tapping them back into place.  Next, clean your deck to remove debris that may have accumulated over the winter.  Power washers are a great tool to use.  If you don’t own a power washer, keep in mind that many local hardware stores rent them by the hour or day.  After your deck has been cleaned and is dry, resealing or staining is always a good idea to protect the wood.  If you choose to refinish or apply new decking stain, keep in mind that outdoor temperatures should be above 70 degrees before you do so and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Next, check your outdoor furniture.  Inspect tables, chairs and umbrellas for any damage and repair or replace if necessary.   If no damage is found, then now is a great time to clean and air them out.  Chair pads and umbrellas can be washed with warm soapy water and then air dried.  Keeping them clean not only looks nicer, it will help them last longer as well!

Finally, pull out your grill for a good cleaning.  Clean any dust or dirt that may have accumulated over the winter.  Instructions on cleaning the inside of your grill will vary depending on the type of grill you have and also by manufacturer.  Refer to the manufacturer’s booklet for details.  Remove the grates to clean them.  They can be scrubbed with steel wool (using hot soapy water) or with oven cleaner.  If you choose to use oven cleaner, follow the instructions on the can for safety.  If you cook on the grill a lot during the summer, cleaning it now will save you the hassle of doing it before your first grilled dinner of the season.

We hope this information has been helpful.  Check back soon for the next entry in the At Home with Judy Spring Checklist Series for Homeowners.

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are two of the simplest (and most impacting) things any homeowner can do to prevent potential life threatening situations. Every year, home fires cause approx. $7.5 billion worth of damage and injuries. Sadly, due to home fires, a human life was claimed every 169 minutes. 30% of these deaths could have been easily avoided if the residences had utilized working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Carbon monoxide poisoning alone accounts for between 200-700 deaths annually in the U.S. These deaths, as well, can be prevented with a functioning carbon monoxide detector in place.

Here are just a few important issues to bear in mind before and after installing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors:

  • Depending upon one's purpose, any number of different types of carbon monoxide or smoke detectors might be most feasible. For smoke alarms, go with dual sensor. These are both ionization and smoke sensitive, and are able to detect different types of fires—smoldering versus lapping flames. That being said, no one brand of dual sensor smoke detector picks up every possible kind of fire.
  • Since it's best to install several detectors scattered throughout the levels of one's home, purchasing multiple brands amounts to extra safety. Each brand has its unique strengths at detecting one fire over another fire, for example.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly. Change batteries yearly - designate a single day so all detectors get fresh batteries simultaneously. Some detectors come with ten year lithium batteries. Since a home owner should replace the entire smoke detector every ten years, those with lithium batteries are best discarded completely.
  • Place smoke detectors on every level of one's home and in every bedroom. Photoelectric detectors are best for kitchens and bathrooms to prevent false alarms. Dual sensor detectors are best for all other spots.
  • Mount detectors at least four inches from walls and corners, and away from windows, fans and vents.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are slightly more costly than smoke alarms, but certainly not more costly than a human life. Starting at roughly $35, CO alarms that meet UL Standard 2034 are preferable. CO detectors are so sensitive that they are almost perishable - the fresher they are the better they work.
  • Check the manufacture date on backs of CO detectors at time of purchase. Test CO detectors weekly and vacuum them monthly. Remember to change the batteries annually, and as with smoke detectors, mount CO detectors on every level of the home, especially the basement.

At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series #4

by Judy Gull

Greetings! Welcome to part 4 of my spring checklist series for homeowners! This week’s focus will be on cleaning and organizing inside your home.

  1. Create a plan of attack. Spring cleaning can seem a tad overwhelming to even the most domestic of home owners. Prepare a list of everything that needs cleaning (don’t forget the oven and the windows!), and break it up by area. Spread the chores out over the course of a few days, and try to clean just one room at a time.
  2. Get ready. Get out the wood polisher, dusting spray, oven cleaner, glass cleaner, floor polish, etc. Make sure everything is up to date and that you have enough of each to get the job done. Inspect your broom, mop, sponges, and toilet brushes for damage. Replace any parts that aren’t firmly attached. Pull out your lighter bed sheets, comforters, and/or curtains, and put them where they’ll be easy to reach when you need them.
  3. De-clutter. Go through the attic, the basement, and your closets and toss, give away, or find a more permanent storage solution for anything you haven’t used or looked at in at least a year. Put away or get rid of the knickknacks you don’t like or that no longer match your décor. Clean out your medicine cabinets and kitchen pantries and throw out anything that’s expired or that you can no longer use.
  4. Get cleaning! Scrub the kitchen, organize the garage, and polish the floors. Wash the cabinets, shelves, and door jams. Wipe the smudges and fingerprints off the walls. Dust the blinds and the ceiling fans. Don’t forget the woodwork!
  5. Make final repairs. When you were cleaning, you likely came across places where the woodwork was chipped, the paint was faded or peeling, and the cabinets were misaligned. Take the time to correct those problems. You’ll be amazed at how much better a room looks when everything’s in good condition. You may also want to take this time to check the batteries in your smoke detectors, fire alarms, and security systems.

At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series #3

by Judy Gull

Greetings and welcome to part 3 of my Spring Checklist Series for homeowners. Proper maintenance of your appliances helps ensure your home is a clean, safe and enjoyable place to be. This week we'll look at cleaning and maintenance of the various systems within your home:

  1. First and foremost, it’s time to clean and tune your home appliances. Most homeowners forget about their appliances until something breaks, but an annual tune up and thorough cleaning can greatly extend an appliance’s life and improve its efficiency. Start with your dishwasher. Clean off any food residue with a sponge or plastic-bristle brush. If your machine has one (refer to the user’s manual to find out), remove the filter basket and empty it. Then, carefully take out the filter itself and scrub it with a plastic-bristle brush. When you’ve put everything back together, run the dishwasher on empty to give it a thorough rinse.  Next, clean the coils underneath your refrigerator. (Make sure you unplug it first!) You should also check and clean your dryer vents. Finally, replace the filter and the bag (if you have one) on your vacuum cleaner.
  2. As the weather warms, so will your need to stay cool. Get your fans in shape for the new season by changing the direction of your ceiling fans so they blow the air down and running the bathroom exhaust fans during showers to keep the humidity down and your AC working less. You may also want to consider installing an attic fan, if you don’t have one.
  3. Spring also is one of the best times of year to inspect your air conditioning system, because it will be much cheaper to fix in April than in August. Stock up on new air filters for your AC or clean the one you have if it is a permanent filter. You should also take it for a test run to make sure everything is in working order. You may even want to consider planting a shade tree next to the outside unit to help it run more efficiently.

Getting your house in order for spring doesn’t have to take long. Most of these steps can be completed in just a few minutes each, and they’ll save you time, money, and frustration in the coming months.

Next week, we'll wrap up the series in part 4, covering interior spring cleaning tips.

At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series #2

by Judy Gull

Welcome to part 2 of my Spring Checklist Series for Homeowners. This week we’ll look further into preparing the exterior of your home for spring. Get your lawn and gardens looking their best with these simple steps:

  1. First and foremost, make a plan. What flowers worked really well last year? Which didn’t? Would a fresh color scheme make your front door pop? Do you want to add a new vegetable or herb garden? Think about what you want and what it will take to accomplish it, and write it down. Make sure to note any places where you’ll need to increase or decrease the spacing between plants, and make a shopping list of all the bulbs, seeds, and containers you’ll need for this year.
  2. Get ready for spring planting. Examine your irrigation system and replace worn or broken garden hoses and sprinkler heads. Inspect the lights along your walkways and around your patio. Get your lawn mower serviced. Rake the leaves, remove debris, and trim trees, shrubs, hedges, and bushes. Make sure you remove any dead, damaged, or infected limbs and branches, and remove or significantly trim down any winter foliage. Weed, fertilize if necessary, and re-mulch the gardens. Test the soil pH and adjust if necessary. If it’s a pale tan color, make sure to enrich it by mixing in the right amount of manure and/or compost. You also may want to power wash the walkways and patio and remove any weeds or unwanted plants from between the cracks.
  3. Inspect your lawn. Check for new insect beds, rodent holes, or abnormalities in the grass. Apply pre- and post-emergent weed control. Mow and trim as needed, and make sure to water just the right amount. (Too much or too little both spell disaster for a lush lawn.) If you see problem areas you can’t seem to fix, you may want to consult a professional.
  4. As soon as the last frost of the year ends, start planting. Get your annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables in place. Remember: Establishment best takes place after the temperatures begin to rise and the rain begins to fall, usually around mid-May.

Come back next week to read part 3 of the series as we look at interior system maintenance.

At Home with Judy....Spring Checklist Series

by Judy Gull

Spring has arrived in Wisconsin, and it’s time to get your house in order. Welcome to part 1 of my Spring checklist series for homeowners! To get the outside of your home in tip-top shape this season, follow these simple steps:

  1. Winter storms can wreak havoc on a house’s exterior. Carefully walk the perimeter of your house and look for any problem areas that may have come up during those harsh winter months. Check the weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors, and look for any loose or broken shingles. Replace or fix anything that needs tending.
  2. Get primed for the beauty of spring by ensuring you have a landscape you can work with. First, clean out your gutters and downspouts. Then, if you no longer have snow on the ground in your area, rake the leaves, remove debris, and trim any fallen tree limbs. You might also consider power washing concrete, paved areas, vinyl siding, and brick walls to rinse away winter’s dirt.
  3. Nothing says spring quite like relaxing outdoors. Help potential buyers imagine themselves enjoying the warm months ahead by sprucing up your patio. Uncover or unpack your furniture. Scrub the cushions, wash the tables and chairs, and remove any rust that may have accumulated on metal services. Clean your rugs, replace any busted patio lights, and give your grill a thorough scrubbing.
  4. Revitalize your lawn and gardens. Trim overgrown shrubs and bushes, and pull out any late winter weeds. You should also protect your plants from upcoming spring storms (and give your gardens an updated look) by spreading fresh mulch around any flower beds and landscaped areas.
  5. You may also want to make your walkway more inviting by placing a few potted pansies (or another of your favorite spring flowers) near the front steps. Fresh buds and bright colors will catch a potential buyer’s eye from the moment they pull up to your drive. Make the most of that first impression!

And, if you still can’t see your lawn through the mounds of snow, don’t despair. Use this time to get organized. Nothing gets you ready for spring faster than planning your spring gardens!

At Home with Judy....The Art of Winter Staging

by Judy Gull

When selling your home in the winter, the art of staging the inside becomes more important. Here are five simple tips to make your home shine even when the outside landscaping has faded:

  • Keep your house warm. In the winter people tend to turn the thermostat down to save money, however a warmer house is more welcoming to a potential buyer.
  • Clear your walkways and driveways of any snow or ice. Make it easy for buyers to get to your home.
  • Clean the windows and blinds. Letting in the natural light can brighten up a room and cheer up the home. This also brings attention to the windows and blinds so make sure they are clean even during winter. Dirty windows will make the home appear neglected.
  • Background music played softly can completely change the atmosphere, which will make the home feel cozy and keep potential buyers around longer. Select classical music to appeal to anyone.
  • Leave the light on. Before showing a home, make sure it's well lit. A well lit home is more inviting. If you're not home, consider setting up timers.

Following these simple tips can give your house that added boost in today's competitive market. For information on selling in our local market, please feel free to contact us and ask for a market analysis of our recent neighborhood activity. We are more than happy to answer any questions you might have!

See Gull For All Your Real Estate Needs!

At Home with Judy....Fall Checklist Series #5

by Judy Gull

Greetings! Welcome to part 5 of my fall checklist series for homeowners! This week’s focus will be on weatherizing your windows, doors and living areas.  Air leaks are the largest source of home energy loss. Replacing your windows and doors with new energy efficient models can be costly. If you’re not ready to take that step, take comfort in the fact that there are plenty of methods to weatherize your existing doors & windows to reduce air leaks in your home. Reducing these air leaks will save you on heating expenses in the winter as well as cooling expenses in the summer!

Caulking and Weather Stripping
Begin by doing a careful inspection of your windows and doors for any cracks while checking for drafts. Replace broken glass and if you find any loose panes, simply reputty them. Before applying any caulk or weatherstripping, clean the molding and framing around your windows and doors. Remove all soil, dust and debris from the area. Also remove any old caulking that may have cracked or become loose. Once the area is clean and dry, you can apply new caulk. When applying caulk, move slowly and create an even bead between the trim and exterior walls of your house. Repeat this action again where the molding meets the exterior house wall.
Weather stripping can be applied to the top and bottom of all windows. A great tip is to never measure weatherstripping. The strips can stretch as you install it creating havoc with your measurements. The best way to install is to start at one end and then cut off the excess with a scissors once you’ve reached the opposite corner. Weather stripping can also be placed around the doorframe where the door and doorstop trim meet. Again, begin installing at one end and then trim with a scissors when you reach the opposite corner for a perfect fit. Door sweeps are another easy to install project. You can find them at most local hardware stores. Keep in mind though that most of them need to be screwed into your door.

You can cover all the interior windows of your home with plastic. This is very effective even if you currently have storm windows. An extra layer of insulation certainly won’t hurt when trying to stop energy loss. Clear window insulation kits are readily available and inexpensive. One of the most popular methods are kits that include double sided tape and plastic. The plastic will “shrink to fit” when installed with a hairdryer and become virtually invisible when completed. Be sure to test the double sided tape on a small area before installing to make sure it will not peel any wood or paint away from the window frame.


In living areas
Purchase foam-rubber gaskets that install behind switch plates on exterior walls from your local home improvement store. Many times, you can actually feel air entering if you place your hand near outlets that face the exterior of your home. Caulk around kitchen and bath cabinets that are mounted on exterior walls as well.
When taking a bath or shower, close the bathroom door to conserve the heat. You can also close the doors in unused rooms to avoid heating those “dead” spaces.

Around the exterior
Caulk is a homeowner’s best friend when it comes to weatherizing the exterior of your home. Caulk around all penetrations where electrical, telephone, cable, gas, dryer vents, and water lines enter the house. Check your dryer exhaust vent hood. If it’s missing the flapper, or it doesn’t close by itself, replace it with a tight-fitting model. Remove window air conditioners in winter; or at least cover them tightly, and make rigid insulation covers for the flimsy side panels.

I welcome your feedback each week.  Happy Thanksgiving!

See More Tips at "For Sellers".

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Contact Information

Photo of Judy Gull Real Estate
Judy Gull
RE/MAX First Choice
757 Sand Lake Road
Onalaska WI 54650
Direct: 608-781-7714
Fax: 608-783-4263