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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".

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

by Judy Gull

Greetings! Welcome to part 4 of my Fall checklist series for homeowners! We  will focus on weatherizing your attic and basement. Did you know that up to 90% of your home’s heat loss can occur through the roof if your attic is not properly insulated? Weatherizing your attic correctly can cut 10 to 30 percent off your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And while you might not want to spend the money (or the time) to do the work, keep in mind that the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit up to a maximum of $1,500 on weatherization materials.

In the attic
Some simple rules apply when you weatherize your attic. For example, never using duct tape on ducts. Also be aware that if your attic insulation is wet or you find mold, you should hire a professional to do the job.

Click here for the PDF Guide from the Department of Energy: A DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE TO SEALING AND INSULATING WITH ENERGY STAR®

Any visible narrow gaps that are less than ½” wide can be sealed with caulking. There are many factors such as depth of the gap and material that will determine which type of caulking should be used, ask the experts at your local home improvement store. Gaps around chimneys, lights, etc.  should be fixed by a professional to avoid fire hazards.

Visible gaps that are more than 2 inches wide can be closed up with wood or metal flashing. Follow with caulking around the seams and small gaps. You can use water based expandable sealant, but keep in mind that it WILL expand a few times in volume. If you use too much, you could possibly cause damage to vent pipes and even structural damage. Safety first; make sure to wear gloves and a mask for safety when applying any insulation, sealant or caulking.

Attic ducts that are not insulated can lose up to 40% of a heating or cooling system’s energy. Hire a professional to do the job or insulate with special insulation with a minimum R-6 rating. There are many websites online offering specific how-do instructions as well.

One of the most obvious and yet overlooked areas is the door or hatch to your attic. This is a direct access point for heat to escape from your living areas. You can insulate this yourself by making a “cover” to place on the back/upper side from rigid foam panels and construction adhesive. You can also add weather stripping.

Closets: In the main living areas of your home, be aware of dropped ceilings above closets, showers and cabinets. Make sure the spaces are enclosed & sealed.

Basement or crawlspace
Start by locating any accessible heating or air conditioning ducts, then seal and insulate around them. Also check around plumbing and electrical penetrations. You can reduce what you spend for hot water by simply insulation the pipes. Check to see if water pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are great candidates for insulation. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power. Pipe insulation is often R-3 or, for batt styles that you wrap around, a stronger R-7.

Seal up any gaps that allow cold air to rise from the basement or crawl space into your living space above. Caulk gaps between the foundation walls and basement floor. You can seal also where the wood framing sits atop the foundation’s rim to stop frigid outside air from getting in.

Basement windows are another common area for heat loss. Check the frames for any gaps or holes and seal with caulk.

According to the U. S. Department of Energy, simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year. That means it pays to take the time to inspect your home. Whether you choose to hire a professional or do it yourself, will be well worth your time.

Hope to hear from you next week when I focus on weatherizing your home’s doors and windows.

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

by Judy Gull

Greetings and welcome to part 3 of my Fall Checklist Series for homeowners. Proper maintenance of your roof and gutters in the fall may help prevent damage to your home, both inside and out. Below are my tips for Gutter and Roof autumn upkeep.

Cleaning the gutters outside your home is an important part of home maintenance. Over time, organic material can collect and create a perfect place for plants and even small trees to take root. This buildup of organic material can create a lot of homeowner headaches. It can also lead to costly home repairs, with damage to the house, roof, foundation and even the driveway and sidewalk.

Rainwater that is not directed away from the house by an open downspout can seep underneath the house and accumulate around the foundation, weakening it and leading to cracks. Did you know that clogged gutters are the number one cause of basement water leaks? Damage to siding and windows can occur when water that spills over the edges of blocked gutters runs down the side of the house. Blockage to gutters can damage your roof by acting like a wick, bringing water from the bottom of the gutter up to rot the fascia. Left unchecked, the damage can extend to the roof sheathing and even the rafters. Cosmetically, overflowing water that hits the ground can splash dirt, debris and mud against the lower portion of the siding.

In the winter months, gutters blocked with debris can create ice dams, which block the flow of melting ice and snow. The water will work its way back to the roof, causing damage to the roof, shingles and leaks inside your home.

In the summer, the water that pools from blocked gutters provides a perfect breeding ground for pests such as termites and mosquitos. It also harbors mold and mildew.

There are many companies in the area that offer gutter cleaning services. Contact me if you'd like any references. You can also do it yourself, but make sure to do so safely. At a minimum, wear heavy work gloves and eye protection and make sure your ladder does not rest directly on the gutters as this can damage them. Gutters can have very sharp edges inside so be vigilant when reaching your hands inside. Remove twigs and leaves, but make sure to not use anything that will cut or damage the gutter. For caked on dirt, wetting it down will make it easier to remove. You can use water to check and unclog downspouts, but be gentle as they’re not built to withstand high water pressure. When you’re done cleaning, use the hose to flush the gutters. This is a good time to check for any leaks in the gutter system.

Do a thorough inspection of your roof. Look up from the ground to see if there are any warping or other visible issues. On the roof itself, check for any worn or damaged shingles or tiles. These should be replaced before the cold weather arrives. Inspect for algae growth and also check the flashing to ensure that no water from melting snow and ice can enter your home. Tree branches hanging over the roof can be trimmed and now is a good time to clean off any leaves or twigs that may have fallen since your last maintenance check. Examine your chimney and chimney flashing. Do you have a rain cap installed? Also, consider installing protective screens around the chimney cap to prevent birds, animals and debris from falling into the flue during the cold season.

While you can do roof repairs and maintenance yourself, hiring a professional to do the job may be the safest choice. Contact me and I'll get a roofer to call you back today!

Come back next week to read part 4 of my series on weatherizing your home.

I welcome your feedback on this article.

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