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Your Home Inspection

Posted by on 11:34 pm in Buying, Home and Garden, Selling, Uncategorized | 0 comments

 

What home inspectors will look for when you hire them to inspect a home that you are buying or selling

GROUNDS

  • Proper grading drainage away from house.
  • No evidence of standing water
  • No leaks from septic tank or leech field
  • Yard, landscaping, trees and walkways in good condition
  • No branches or bushes touching house or overhanging the roof
  • Exterior structures (fences, sheds, decks, retaining walls, detached garages) in good condition, no evidence of termite damage or rotted wood
  • Railings on stairs and decks are adequate and secure
  • Driveways, sidewalks, patios, entrance landings in good condition, and pitched away from structure
  • Downspout drainage directed away from structure

STRUCTURE

  • Ridge and fascia board lines appear straight and level
  • Sides of house appear straight, not bowed or sagging
  • Window and door frames appear square (especially bowed windows)
  • Visible foundation in good condition – appears straight, plumb, with no significant cracks

EXTERIOR SURFACES

  • Adequate clearance between ground and wood siding materials (6″ minimum); no wood-to-earth contact
  • Siding: no cracking, curling, loose, rot or decay
  • Masonry veneers: no cracks in joints, no broken, spalling or flaking components
  • Stucco: no large cracks (discuss all stucco cracks with a professional inspector)
  • Vinyl or aluminum siding: no dents, damage, no bowing or loose siding
  • No vines on surface of structure
  • Exterior paint or stain: no flaking or blisters
  • No stains on exterior surfaces

WINDOWS, DOORS AND WOOD TRIM

  • Wood frames and trim pieces are secure, no cracks, rot or decay
  • Joints around frames are caulked
  • No broken glass (window or storm panes) or damaged screens, no broken doublepaned, insulated window seals
  • Muntin and mullion glazing compound in good condition
  • Storm windows or thermal glass used
  • Drip caps installed over windows

ROOF

  • Composition shingles: no curling, no cupping, no loss of granulation particulate, no broken, damaged or missing shingles, no more than two layers of roofing
  • Wood shingles or shakes: no mold, rot or decay, no cracked/broken/missing shingles, no curling
  • Flat roofs: no obvious patches, no cracks or splits, minimal blisters/”alligatoring” and wrinkles, no silt deposits (indicates improper drainage), sealed tar at flashings
  • Flashing around roof penetrations
  • No evidence of excess roofing cement/tar/caulk
  • Soffits and fascia: no decay, no stains
  • Exterior venting for eave areas: vents are clean and not painted over
  • Gutters: no decay or rust, joints sealed, attached securely to structure, no bending or sagging, no sections of gutter or downspout missing, gutters clean, no mud deposits
  • Chimneys: straight, properly flashed, no evidence of damaged bricks or cracked joints, mortar/cement cap in good condition

ATTIC

  • No stains on underside of roofing, especially around roof penetrations
  • No evidence of decay or damage to structure
  • Sufficient insulation and properly installed insulation (moisture barrier installed closest to the heated area of the house)
  • Adequate ventilation, clear path into attic for air entering through soffit vents, adequately sized gable end louvers, all mechanical ventilation operational
  • No plumbing, exhaust or appliance vents terminating in attic
  • No open electrical splices

INTERIOR ROOMS

  •  Floors, walls and ceilings appear straight and plumb and level
  • No stains on floors, walls or ceilings
  • Flooring materials in good condition
  • No significant cracks in walls or ceilings
  • Windows and exterior doors operate easily and latch properly, no broken glass, no sashes painted shut, no decay; windows and doors have weather-stripping, “weep holes” installed
  • Interior doors operate easily and latch properly, no damage or decay, no broken hardware
  • Paint, wall covering, and paneling in good condition
  • Wood trim installed well and in good condition
  • Lights and switches operate properly
  • Adequate number of three pronged electrical outlets in each room
  • Electrical outlets test properly (spot check)
  • Heating/cooling source in each habitable room
  • Evidence of adequate insulation in walls
  • Fireplace: no cracking or damaged masonry, no evidence of back-drafting (staining on fireplace façade), damper operates properly, flue has been cleaned, flue is lined

KITCHEN

  • Working exhaust fan that is vented to the exterior of the building
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (“GFCI”) protection for electrical outlets within 6 feet of the sink(s)
  • Dishwasher: drains properly, no leaks, baskets, door spring operates properly
  • No leaks in pipes under sinks
  • Floor in cabinet under sink solid, no stains or decay
  • Water flow in sink adequate
  • No excessive rust or deterioration on garbage disposal or waste pipes
  • Built-in appliances operate properly
  • Cabinets in good condition: doors and drawers operate properly

BATHROOMS

  • Working exhaust fan that doesn’t terminate in the attic space
  • Adequate flow and pressure at all fixtures
  • Sink, tub and shower drain properly
  • Plumbing and cabinet floor under sink in good condition
  • If sink is metal, it shows no signs of rust, overflow drain doesn’t leak
  • Toilet operates properly
  • Toilet stable, no rocking, no stains around base
  • Caulking in good condition inside and outside of the tub and shower area
  • Tub or shower tiles secure, wall surface solid
  • No stains or evidence of past leaking around base of bath or shower

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors where required by local ordinances
  • Stairway treads and risers solid
  • Stair handrails where needed and in good condition
  • Automatic garage door opener operates properly, stops properly for obstacles

BASEMENT OR MECHANICAL ROOM

  • No evidence of moisture
  • Exposed foundation; no stains no major cracks, no flaking, no efflorescence
  • Visible structural wood: no sagging, no damage, no decay, no stains, no damage from insects, sills attached to foundation with anchor bolts Insulation at rim/band joists

CRAWL SPACE

  • Adequately vented to exterior
  • Insulation on exposed water supply, waste and vent pipes
  • Insulation between crawl space and heated areas, installed with vapor barrier towards heated area
  • No evidence of insect damage
  • No evidence of moisture damage

PLUMBING

  • Visible pipes: no damage, no evidence of leaks, no signs of stains on materials near pipes; drain pipes slope slightly down towards outlet to septic/sewage system
  • Water heater: no signs of rust, vented properly, sized to produce adequate quantities of hot water for the number of bedrooms in the house.
  • Water pump: does not short cycle
  • Galvanized pipes do not restrict water flow
  • Well water test is acceptable
  • Hot water temperature between 118 – 125 degrees Fahrenheit

ELECTRICAL

  • Visible wiring: in good condition, no “knob-and-tube” wiring, no exposed splices, cables secured and protected
  • Service panel: adequate capacity, all cables attached to panel with cable connectors; fuses or breakers are not overheating
  • No aluminum cable for branch circuits

HEATING/COOLING SYSTEM

  • Appears to operate well throughout (good air flow on forced hot air systems)
  • Flues: no open seams, slopes up to chimney connection
  • No rust around cooling unit
  • No combustion gas odor
  • Air filter(s) clean
  • Ductwork in good condition
  • No asbestos on heating pipes, water pipes or air ducts
  • Separate flues for gas/oil/propane and wood/coal

January 2019 Williamson County Real Estate Market Sales Stats

Posted by on 7:19 pm in Market, Neighborhood | 0 comments

The average days on the market (DOM) for listings in Williamson County is up from December, and the average sales price of homes has declined slightly.  But not to worry, it has been cold outside and spring is on its way!

The link (below) contains the latest real estate sales stats in Williamson County (January 2019):

http://www.wcartn.org/news-releases/january-2019-market-stats?fbclid=IwAR1bAV7phUzOKe2h4OCnvc8TYyN7p1UEA86zdj1cEKfWXVJl0JWY7Y6mMIg

Mortgage rates have dropped a little bit so it’s still a great time to buy or list your home!  I would love to help you so to check out current market conditions in your neighborhood click on the link below:

Check Out Your Local Market Conditions: Click here for a Market Snapshot!

Home Maintenance is Vital over Home Decorating

Posted by on 7:45 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The great thing about owning a new home is decorating; but you should not forget that regular maintenance is vital for the upkeep of the home.

Take a look at the following regular maintenance checklists:  Home Improvement Maintenance Checklist

Welcome to Nashville, we’re here to stay…

Posted by on 7:18 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Click here: Welcome to Nashville to see a hilarious tongue-in-cheek video about the worsening traffic due (seems to get worse by the hour) to the transplants we’ve acquired and how natives are becoming extinct.  Highlighting some of the Middle Tennessee neighborhoods and the local restaurants.

Market Snapshot for Real Estate in Williamson County TN

Posted by on 4:57 pm in Market, Selling | 0 comments

Market Snapshot for Real Estate in Williamson County TN

The Williamson County Association of Realtors just released the property sales statistics for February 2015 and here are some highlights for real estate in Williamson county TN.

The median sales price for single-family homes in Williamson County from February 2014 to February 2015 has increased 6.2%.

The median price for condos in Williamson County were up 31% over February 2014.

The median price of land closings in Williamson County increased 81% in February 2015 ($266,404 ) over 2014 ($188,000).

Williamson County sales statistics for January 2015 and February 2015 can be viewed on the WCAR website by clicking the links below:

February 2015 Williamson County Sales Statistics

January 2015 Williamson County Sales Statistics

This is a GREAT time to list your single-family home, condo or land.  I will be happy to help you with your property’s valuation in the current market.  To begin, you can reach me by calling (615) 500-9018 or email me at BurgessDeb@gmail.com or click here for FREE home evaluation.

Staging Your Home and Curb Appeal 2.0

Posted by on 7:42 pm in Home and Garden, Selling | 0 comments

This blog is more in depth about staging and curb appeal. Also, time and budget is not in mind! You can refer to my budget and time friendly blog “Tips for a Curb Appealing Home” (https://debraburgessrealty.com/10-tips-curb-appealing-home/)

In this blog, I will be talking about painting, decorating, fireplaces and more! I know this is a bit long, hopefully you will find a topic that applies to your home.

PAINTING

To give your kitchen a crisp, clean look; you want to replace your cabinet doors and drawers. Then paint everything to match and add hardware. If you do not want to buy a new dishwasher, I suggest checking with your manufacturer to see if you can get a new front panel for your model. There is an alternative, laminate paper can be used to re-cover the existing panel.

Bathrooms are a huge part in selling a house. A low-cost alternative to replacing the tile is to use paint. You need to buy a high-adhesion primer and a ceramic epoxy covering. DO NOT forget to clean your tile before applying any chemical! After you have cleaned the floor, coat the tiles with the primer. Next, brush on the covering. This alternative is a fraction of the cost of new tiles. You will have an up-to-date bathroom that will bring in the big money.

DECORATING

Always remember, if you have the right mix/variety of accessories can make a room more inviting. Odd number accessories are eye-pleasing, especially the number three. For example, placing three vases in a triangle rather than a straight row. Make sure you keep the scale in mind, in a group of accessories you want various height and width. Keep the tallest in the back and the smaller ones up front. For a dramatic look, consider grouping accessories by color, shape, texture and design.

staging staging1 staging2

SMALL TO BIG

To make a small room look bigger, paint the small room the same color as the adjacent room. If you have two small rooms, you want a seamless look which will make both rooms feel like a big space. Another trick, if you want the illusion of more space, paint the walls the same color as your drapery.

If you have a lot of  windows, bring nature into the room by painting the walls a soft green.

soft green

FIREPLACE

If you have an overpowering fireplace, here are a few ways to tone down the brick.

Again, using a rag or brush to rub a light coat of paint on the bricks. You will need to do each brick one at a time! By doing this, the paint will give your fireplace a new tone, without covering all of the brick. If you decide to use a paint that matches your wall color, your fireplace will go from sticking out to standing out!

Updating an old fireplace screen is a quick and budget friendly fix! After removing the screen, you will need to wipe it down getting rid of all the ash and dust. Cover windows so you will not get paint on them. You will need to use a can of heat-resistance spray paint. Hold the can about a foot and a half away from the screen. Make long, even strokes. Now, you have  “new” screen that is sure to up the finishing touches on your fireplace.

fire

FOUNDATION

Sometimes the simplest things has a huge impact on buyers. Re-facing foundation will significantly improve your curb appeal. If you have a concrete foundation, you can add a little pizazz by simply covering the concrete with brick or stone. Just cover the plain, boring foundation with something new and attractive to instantly improve curb appeal.

 

foundation1     foundation

WINDOWS

Replacing window screens will instantly improve how your house looks from the front. You should never allow screens to fall apart. Keeping windows in great shape adds value to your home. Having screens that are attractive will also help make your home look more well-kept and valuable. Screens are inexpensive and if the damage is minimal, you can repair screens instead of replacing the entire window. But, if it is time to upgrade the entire window, I suggest doing so. Energy efficient windows are the way to go!

 

Be sure to look at my other blogs! Thank you for your time.

 

 

 

 

 

Prepping Your Home for Sale

Posted by on 6:41 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

4 Tips for Prepping Your Home for Sale

De-Personalize

Limit your personal pictures and family heirlooms. Don’t distract buyers with personal artifacts. You want the buyer imagine their items in the house and to be able to say, “I can see myself living here.”

Organize Cabinets, Closets and Drawers

  • Make sure you have Tupperware bowls neatly stacked in cabinets. The buyer will be opening cabinets and you don’t want your plastic ware falling out.
  • Clean up the spices! Neatly store all of your spices on a rack or on a shelf you can insert in the cabinet.
  • Cleaning your refrigerator, stove and dishwasher is a must, especially if you are leaving the appliances.
  • Closets, make sure everything is hung and shoes are lined up. Stack boxes neatly.
  • De-clutter your junk drawer.

Buyers want to know everything about the storage spaces.

Make Minor Repairs

Make small repairs around the house:

  • Touch up paint
  • Replace cracked tiles
  • Patch holes in the walls
  • Change burned-out light bulbs
  • Make sure all knobs and handles are on cabinets and doors
  • Fix any kind of leaky faucets
  • Repair doors/door knobs that do not work properly
  • Tone down the colors (You may love your kid’s hot pink room, but neutral colors will appeal to a larger amount of people.)
  • Rearrange furniture to make the room look bigger

Here is one of my blogs about selecting paints to help sell your house. https://debraburgessrealty.com/interior-paint-colors-that-help-sell-your-home/

Deep Clean

  • Windows
  • Showers, sinks and toilets
  • Vacuum Daily
  • Dust EVERYTHING including ceiling fans
  • Eliminate bad odors. Take out trash and keep littler boxes extremely clean.
  • Keep counters clean and clutter free
  • Replace worn out rugs

Check Curb Appeal

Follow the 20 second rule. You want your buyer to love your house within 20 seconds. You can do so by making sure your exterior is in tip top shape. I have a two helpful blogs on my website.

Curb Appealing Home – https://debraburgessrealty.com/10-tips-curb-appealing-home/

Staging Your House – https://debraburgessrealty.com/getting-ready-for-open-house/

 

Source Sited:

  1. Debra Burgess Realty Blogs
  2. http://lifehacker.com/the-easiest-cheapest-ways-to-prep-your-home-for-a-quic-1602951130
  3. http://www.frontdoor.com/real-estate/10-ways-to-prep-your-home-for-sale

Tips for a Curb Appealing Home

Posted by on 5:27 pm in Home and Garden | 1 comment

These are a few tips to make your home look updated and crisp!

Dress up your mailbox 

Plant eye-popping flowers around your mailbox. I would suggest a flower or plant that can be in the sun for several hours such as:

Purple Coneflower, Blanket Flower, Daylily, Asters, Shasta Daisy and Coreposis.

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Pictures from: pinterest.com                            plantguide.lowes.com

Pick a fun color to paint your door.

Changing the color of your door will give your porch an enthusiastic new look. This project is ideal for a budget and takes a few hours to accomplish. For instance, painting a white door (balance, neutral, calm) to a shade of blue (trust, dependable, strength) adds fun and a BIG pop of color in an unexpected way.

You can find your color match at the following website:

blog.builddirect.com

Update windows and shutters.

Repainting your shutters using the same paint as you used on your door. This is another great money saving project and is done in one afternoon! Replacing windows can be costly but yet effective. In the long run, they will make your home more energy efficient.

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Picture from: pinterest.com

Stain a cement walkway.

Staining your concrete makes your yard look polished. This task is somewhat time consuming. First, you must prep the area by removing all furniture, plants and other items. Scrap and sweep all trash off concrete. After cleaning, allow to dry for 24 hours. Apply the stain of your choice. It is better to do this on a cloudy day. If you choose to do this on a sunny day, the stain will dry fast and you will not have time to blend your strokes. More instructions should be on the can of stain. Stain should be dry to the touch in four hours. Take care of the stain by lifting objects instead of scooting across the concrete. (Stain will scratch off) Lastly, replace all your furniture and plants!

BeforeAndAfter-01

Picture from: concretemiracles.com

 

Make the front door your focal point.

Draw people to your front door by boardering your walkway with flower and bushes. Solar lights are another great way to save energy and lead family and guests safely to the door

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Use Accessories.

There are tons of outdoor accessories. Don’t be afraid to decorate your porch. Putting a wreath on your door adds personalization to your home. Also, plant flowers in some funky/classic pots.

.curb-appeal

Picture from : www.detailbrokers.com

Interior Paint Colors That Help Sell Your Home

Posted by on 6:13 pm in Home and Garden, Open House, Selling | 0 comments

 

 

When selling your home it is important to know that some of the minutest details to the seller can make all the difference in the world to the buyer. Whether the sockets in the wall are upside down, does a shower curtain sit properly in the tub, does the cable outlet face the window or away from it, all of these. One of the simplest ways to make someone feel like your house could be their home is a simple paint job.

http://realestate.aol.com/ has an article on how to properly paint or repaint your home to be more buyer friendly. Outlining which colors in which rooms are more appealing to your potential buyers.  You will be amazed by what a difference it makes to buyers and what a payout it can be for your return on the investment.

By Josie Gulliksen | Posted Jul 15th 2010 4:48PM

 

Maggie Hernandez recalls a Realtor telling her sister-in-law that she had to get rid of many of her personal items in order to sell her home. But the realtor was even more adamant that the sister-in-law update the interior paint colors throughout her house. In fact 94 percent of all agents recommend a fresh coat of paint for their clients’ homes.

And why is painting your house in order to sell your home so important? How about a major return on investment! According to HomeGain’s Prepare to Sell 2009 national survey, the average price to paint interior walls is $500 to $750, but that increases a home price by an average of $1,500 to $2,000 — which can be a 250 percent return on investment.

The Basic Rule of Thumb

It’s necessary to remove all the personal touches you’ve made within your home in an effort to make the place as impersonal as possible when staging your home for sale. A neutral-colored palette, without all the clutter, helps potential buyers envision how their personal taste can be implemented into the house.

A bright red accent wall, or your teenager’s black-walled bedroom, needs to be painted over in order to sell. “Beiges, warm beiges and yellows are great choices for wall color and making a space look more impersonal,” says Maggie Hernandez, a seasoned home stager and realtor with RPI International, Inc. “Wallpaper is a deal-breaker, paint is your ally. Neutralize the color palette throughout the home and neutral doesn’t mean white.”

Karen Dembsky, president of Peachtree Home Staging LLC and Georgia’s Real Estate Staging Association, as well as a Pro Stager of the Year nominee, has the first and most important piece of advice before even tackling the issue of color.

“A seller should always make sure that their paint has a fresh appeal, no dings, no marks. If there are any, it should be repainted or touched up because it gives the feeling of a well-maintained home,” she said. “The color has to be livable and appealing, you want a color where the buyer will come in and say that it’s not their first choice but they can live with it.”

Repainting the Kitchen

Going room by room and making the correct decision on colors is vital and Dembsky gives her take on the best approach for each one. In the kitchen it’s good to stay in the orange, red and yellow families. These work well because they’re food related, but it’s important to still make them soft, appealing and neutral, and keep them in the suggested food group colors. “In the kitchen, these colors will fly but keep these tips in mind to make them work well,” she says.

Repainting the Bathroom

In the bathroom paint must be light, because the room tends to be smaller, and a darker color would just make it more so. One way to infuse color into the room is through accessories like soaps or towels. But for the walls, keep it in the light yellows or tans. Perhaps you can pick up colors from the tile floors, but if the floors are hardwood then it’s best to stick with neutral tones.

Repainting the Bedroom

In the bedroom it’s also especially important to stay away from bright colors, since this room is viewed as a sanctuary, so choose something very neutral that will work with the flooring and also flow into the master bathroom. Bed and bath colors do not have to be the same but definitely must flow.

Repainting the Home Office

The only spot where warmer, richer colors are welcomed is in the home office, where cinnamon, dark brown or even dark blue are welcome — these colors make the space an area in which to work and relax.

Repainting Other Areas of the Home

Other paint suggestions to help sell your home include salmon-hued paints – they make people’s skin color look good. A very pale beige with a blue tone is very tranquil while a beige tone with a green tint that gives off energy and both are good choices for the living room.

And don’t forget about the great outdoors and your garage. In the patio area it’s not necessary to paint but do ensure that the decks and patios are pressure washed and fresh looking. For your basement and garage paint is also important. Paint the concrete floor and warm up these otherwise cold spaces with a warm neutral color like gold.

 

The Color to Avoid

Surprisingly, white is the color to avoid. Both Hernandez and Dembsky agree: When painting to help sell your house, the color white is not your ally. “The biggest mistake people make is painting their house entirely white inside thinking it’s a neutral color. It’s not, it’s a bright color,” Dembsky explains.

Winterizing Your Home

Posted by on 6:06 pm in Home and Garden, Neighborhood | 0 comments

The winter months can be beautiful in Tennessee with all the snow and icicles it’s a real winter wonderland. With all this beauty come the cold temperatures and the potential for high energy bills and busted pipes. If you take some time to look over these winterization tips you can prepare your home for the cold weather, while cutting you energy bill.

10 ways to winterize your home — now

You’ll get a season’s worth of savings and peace of mind by taking a few steps in the fall to get your home ready for cold weather.

By Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate

So you’ve pulled your sweaters out of mothballs and found your mittens at the bottom of the coat closet. But what about your house — is it prepared for the cold months ahead?

You’ll be a lot less comfortable in the coming months if you haven’t girded Home Sweet Home for Old Man Winter.

With the help of several experts, we’ve boiled down your autumn to-do list to 10 easy tips:

1. Clean those gutters  
Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home’s gutters — by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse — so that winter’s rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams, in which water backs up, freezes and causes water to seep into the house, the Insurance Information Institute says.
As you’re hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house’s foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage.

“The rule of thumb is that water should be at least 10 feet away from the house,” says Michael Broili, the director of the Well Home Program for the Phinney Neighborhood Association, a nationally recognized neighborhood group in Seattle.

2. Block those leaks
One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.

Professional Services

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Find local plumbers, electricians, contractors and more.

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First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets.

Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots, says Danny Lipford, host of the nationally syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner.” Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. “Even if it’s a small crack, it’s worth sealing up,” Lipford says. “It also discourages any insects from entering your home.”

3. Insulate yourself
“Another thing that does cost a little money — but boy, you do get the money back quick — is adding insulation to the existing insulation in the attic,” says Lipford. “Regardless of the climate conditions you live in, in the (U.S.) you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic.”

Don’t clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, though. Here’s Lipford’s rule of thumb on whether you need to add insulation: “If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don’t have enough, because a ceiling joist is at most 10 or 11 inches.”

A related tip: If you’re layering insulation atop other insulation, don’t use the kind that has “kraft face” finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts as a vapor barrier, Lipford explains, and therefore can cause moisture problems in the insulation.

4. Check the furnace
First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it’s even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional.

It’s a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125. An inspector should do the following, among other things:

Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly (check them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. Toss out the dirty fiberglass filters; reusable electrostatic or electronic filters can be washed.

5. Get your ducts in a row
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That’s a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. (Check out this audit tool for other ideas on how to save on your energy bills this winter.)

What’s your home worth?

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Ducts aren’t always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn’t stand up to the job over time).

Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.

6. Face your windows
Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows. But if you don’t have storm windows, and your windows are leaky or drafty, “They need to be updated to a more efficient window,” says Lipford.

Of course, windows are pricey. Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Lipford and Broili recommend. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that’s affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. (It can be removed in the spring.) “It’s temporary and it’s not pretty, but it’s inexpensive (about $4 a window) and it’s extremely effective,” says Lipford.

7. Don’t forget the chimney
Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because “chimney sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed,” says Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

That said, don’t put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, Eldridge advises. “A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year,” says Eldridge. Not true. But a chimney should at least be inspected before use each year, he adds. “I’ve seen tennis balls and ducks in chimneys,” he says.

Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney, Eldridge says. “Most certified chimney sweeps include a Level 1 service with a sweep,” he adds.

Woodstoves are a different beast, however, cautions Eldridge. They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, “anywhere that it’s found.” Why? “If it’s ash, then it’s primarily lye — the same stuff that was once used to make soap, and it’s very acidic.” It can cause mortar and the metal damper to rot, Eldridge says.

Another tip: Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen, advises Eldridge. “It’s probably the single easiest protection” because it keeps out foreign objects (birds, tennis balls) as well as rain that can mix with the ash and eat away at the fireplace’s walls. He advises buying based on durability, not appearance.

One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn’t in use.

Check out CSIA’S Web site for a list of certified chimney sweeps in your area.

8. Reverse that fan
“Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often think of,” says Lipford. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here’s how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise, says Lipford.)

9. Wrap those pipes
A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained, says Broili. In climes such as Portland, Ore., or Seattle, where freezing nights aren’t commonplace, you can install Styrofoam cups with a screw attachment to help insulate spigots, says Broili.

Next, go looking for other pipes that aren’t insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces — pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you’re really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.

10. Finally, check those alarms
This is a great time to check the operation — and change the batteries — on your home’s smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them — older ones in particular — with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the “test” button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.

Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.