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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.

Browse my website for more homeowner's tips


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".


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

by Judy Gull

2 must-do home projects experts recommend for fall

1. Keep out fall pests. Crickets, centipedes, cockroaches, ants, and other insects are intensifying their search for food, water, and a warm place to stay as the temperatures drop. Unless you want to volunteer your home as an insect sanctuary, follow the advice of the specialists at the University of Nebraska. They highly recommend that you control the leaf litter and dying vegetation around your home, inspect the walls for cracks and caulk around doors and windows to close off possible entryways for insects.

2. Upgrade attic insulation.  Could you pick out the most suitable type of attic insulation in a lineup? More importantly do you know what kind of attic insulation you now have in your home? Unfortunately the answers to both questions are most likely "no,", visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star website for information on the recommended levels of insulation broken down by state and even county. Make your winter warmer without spending more money because of not enough insulation. (Another bit of advice: while you are checking out the insulation, look for evidence of pest invasions, rot, and obstructed air vents.)

Let my expertise in staging help you get your home ready for sale this Fall. For recommendations or comments on the above, email me at:


At Home with Judy....Fall Checklist Series

by Judy Gull

Welcome to part 1 of my Autumn checklist series for homeowners! Let's start with fall maintenance for furnaces and fireplaces.

Fall Furnace Maintenance

Have your furnace inspected and cleaned

It’s a good idea to have your furnace inspected and cleaned each year before the start of winter. You can compare having your furnace cleaned to changing the oil in your automobile. If you skip a few cleanings, you might not notice the impact right away, but it will affect the performance and longevity of your furnace. Much like your vehicle, a furnace is a significant financial investment and it pays to maintain it properly. It’s best to find a reputable specialist to do the job. The inspection may include checking the belts, pilot light, fan bearings and motor as well as cleaning the flue outlets if your furnace runs on oil or gas.

Clean or replace your furnace filters and registers

Cleaning or replacing the filter is essential to not only keeping your furnace efficient but it will help the life of your furnace as well. Typically, disposable filters should be changed once every 3 months. This will not only increase the productivity of your furnace, it can significantly help with indoor allergens.

Dust that gathers on registers and ducts acts as insulation and wastes heat. Use your vacuum to clean registers regularly. Also be sure to remove any dust, litter or lint from around the furnace housing itself.

Fall Fireplace Maintenance

Have your Fireplace and Chimney cleaned

During the winter months, in many areas, chimney fires are the #1 cause of house fires. Chimney fires damage chimneys, spread fires to other areas of the home and cause millions of dollars in property damage annually.

Natural fireplaces or better known as wood burning fireplaces and chimneys should be checked and cleaned at least once per year. When wood burns, it produces creosote which builds up and collects inside your chimney. This buildup will reduce the draw of the fireplace and lessen its efficiency and cause smoke to channel back into your home. If the buildup is significant, it can catch on fire.

Gas fireplace chimneys should also be inspected and cleaned annually. Even though there will be no creosote as you’re not burning wood, bird nests or other blockages can still occur which prevent carbon monoxide from escaping the house. Chimney blockages can be very hard to detect with a gas fireplace. Unlike smoke with a wood burning fireplace, you cannot see or smell the carbon monoxide that would signal a blockage. Make sure you have CO detectors installed and that they are in working order.

It’s a great idea to have a professional clean your fireplaces and chimneys, but there are also DIY kits you can find at many hardware retailers.

Fire/Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

Fall is a great time to check the batteries in your Fire/Smoke alarms and CO detectors and make sure they’re in working order before the home heating season begins. If you haven't checked them yet, a good time to do it each fall is when Daylight Savings Time Ends the first weekend of November.

Displaying blog entries 11-14 of 14

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