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Friday, September 27, 2019

Fall Back to Home Maintenance

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Last week, I wrote about the many uses of the man cave.  This week I thought I’d give all you man cave owners a few reasons to put the venerable man cave to use.  With summer slowly turning to fall, the relentless Florida heat is finally starting to fade away.  Fall is the perfect time of year to clean up the yard and do a little home maintenance.  The cool mornings are a great time to tidy in and around your home before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us.   

1.      It’s a jungle out there – If your yard is anything like mine, it starts to look a bit shaggy as September turns to October.  No matter how often you mow the lawn and try to keep the weeds at bay, the combination of sun and rain that occurs nearly every day during the summer can overwhelm any gardener.  Unlike our fellow countrymen and women up north who are breaking out the rakes at this time of year, fall in Florida is the time to fire up the hedge trimmer and the chainsaw.  While we have been fortunate this year with regard to Hurricane season, the squalls that recently blew through town were enough to break off some tree limbs.  I for one plan on getting out back this weekend to cut up any deadwood and clear out the gutters.  The hedges can wait until the end of October to trim, but I want to make sure that anything hanging over the roof is put in order.  I’ll also police the area around the air conditioner to make sure it isn’t a rat’s nest of leaf litter.    

2.      The root of all evil – Another thing to keep a weather eye on are roots and cypress knees.  Not only can they become a hazard to navigation that can cause you or a guest to trip, but roots can grow to slow or stop water in sewers.  If you’ve heard water gurgling as it goes down the drain in your home or your toilet has been slow to empty, it could be roots that are to blame.  Better to have a plumber inspect your home’s drains and sewer line now than to have a smelly sewer backup when the holidays roll around.

Image courtesy flickr
3.      Stormy weather – Even though hurricane season isn’t officially over for another month, that doesn’t mean that the storms that have come and gone this summer haven’t done some damage.  When I went out to collect the mail the other day, I noticed a 1-inch gap between my roof and the rain gutter out front.  Time to climb a ladder to fix that problem. I also noted a small crack in the bathroom window that was no doubt caused by windblown debris.  This is the perfect time of year to do a quick check of the exterior of your home before any late season gully washers occur, or winter arrives.  The funny thing about wind and water is their ability to exploit the smallest crack or gap to enter your home.  Better to replace worn out weather-stripping than giving JEA any more of your hard-earned money than you have to.

4.      Is it time for an air conditioner check? – In Florida, air conditioners aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity.  Due to the amount of work they’re required to do through the long, hot summer, they could use a little TLC this time of year.  When was the last time you inspected your home’s air handler or even changed the air filter?  A clogged filter not only makes your home’s HVAC system work harder than it should, but it can literally shut your system down.  So too can a clogged vent or a blocked drain line.  I

5.      The proof is on the roof – Another thing it wouldn’t hurt you to scope out in the cool of the morning is your roof.  It doesn’t take much to damage roof tiles.  Even a single warped or cracked shingle is enough to cause significant damage to your home as water drip, drip, drips onto roof joists and ceilings.  Water intrusion can also spawn mold which if left unchecked can render a home uninhabitable.  If you haven’t climbed up to eyeball your roof in 6-months or more, why wait for a visible sign of water damage to inspect your roof?  Replacing a few shingles now is much cheaper than replacing water-damaged ceilings and furnishings later.

Image courtesy Pixabay
6.      Where there’s smoke – As costly to repair as water damage can be, a far bigger danger to your home is smoke or fire damage.  Another item to add to your fall to-do list is to check the smoke alarms in your home.  Since they reside on the ceiling, the devices are all but ignored by most homeowners.  Sometimes this comes back to haunt them if a fire breaks out in their home.  The sad fact is, home fires are one of the leading causes of damage and death every year.  A well-maintained smoke alarm is your best insurance against this threat.  A working smoke alarm will let you know about any combustion in your home long before it turns into a conflagration.  These devices can alert you to an overloaded power cord or a pot left on the stove much earlier than your nose can.  Even better, they’re loud enough to wake you and your family from a dead sleep to give you time to get everyone to safety and deal with the situation before it gets completely out of control.  If you haven’t checked your smoke alarm batteries in 6-months or more, what are you waiting for?

7.      Getting more from your garage door – Another overlooked convenience on many homes is the automatic garage door opener.  While these devices are a blessing when the rain is pouring down, they can also pose a safety issue if they aren’t properly maintained.  If you’ve ever taken a good look at your garage door, you’ll notice that it contains an array of cables, pulleys and springs that make the door open and close properly.  Like any machine, these pulleys need to be oiled from time to time and the fittings used to construct the door sometimes need to be tightened.  Even the power door opener needs to be checked every now and then to make sure the safety system works correctly.  The best way to test the door itself is to pull the emergency release to open and close the door manually.  If your door doesn’t slide smoothly open and shut, it’s time to clean the tracks and oil the pulleys.  Next, test the automatic opener by putting a 2x4 or block of wood under the door and closing it to make sure the door bounces back up of its own accord when it encounters an obstruction.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Art of Man Cave Maintenance

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Back when I was growing up, a garage was simply the place where the car was kept out of the elements.  Today, the space has transformed into the man cave, where everything from tools and lawn maintenance gear to storage shelves, the heater water and perhaps even the wash & dryer live.  Face it, while many houses have a “garage”, this space has become far too important to relegate it to housing the family sedan.  That being said, it’s also one of the areas that is most hazardous, due in part to much of what is stored there.  Combine that with the fact that it’s also one of the easiest parts of the home to break into and I thought I’d dedicate today’s blog to the care and feeding of the man cave.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Difference Between Wind, Flood and Storm Damage

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Just when you thought it was safe after Dorian came and went, here comes Humberto.  While only a tropical storm as I write this blog, the predictions for Humberto are for much more wind and rain to fall on Florida than it did with Dorian.  With that in mind, I thought I’d take the time to cover the difference between flood and storm damage this week.  Especially for those homeowners who don’t have a flood policy, this information could mean the difference between having a claim approved or denied after the next named storm roars through town.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Calm Before and After the Storm

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
As I write this blog, Hurricane Dorian is howling outside.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that the storm is well offshore…this time.  That got me to thinking about telling all my readers a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when a named storm is bearing down on them.  The most important thing to do is to take action during the calm before the storm, instead of wondering what you forgot to do when the wind is howling and the rain is coming down in sheets.

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