Fall Chore Check List

It may still feel like summer well into October, but there’s no time like the present to do fall household chores. Here are a few of the key home maintenance activities you should complete before the snow flies.

  • Garden
    You may be tired of working in the garden, but fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs as well as fall bulbs like tulips and daffodils. Continue to water regularly until you shut off your water.
  • Rake
    Preventing thick layers of leaves to collect on your grass stops mold and damage, so you’ll want to rake your lawn. However, a covering of leaves on garden plants provides good protection for winter, so don’t bag up all of your leaves.
  • Clean gutters
    Whether you do it yourself or hire a gutter cleaning company, clearing out debris from your gutters prevents water damage. It’s also a good time to inspect your roof for loose shingles or other damage.
  • Shut off outside spigots
    Prevent your pipes from freezing by shutting off the valve to the outside spigots. Drain hoses and store in garage or indoors.
  • Clean garage
    Make room for your vehicles in your garage so you’re not scraping ice and snow this winter.
  • Check furnace/boiler
    You don’t want to have an outage in your furnace during Minnesota’s winters. Have your furnace or boiler serviced regularly. If you have hot water heat, check and bleed radiators.
  • Caulk windows and doors
    Check for air leaks around doors and windows. You can lower your heating bills by caulking gaps.
  • Clean dryer vents
    Clogged dryer vents can pose a safety hazard. Be sure to clean regularly—spring and fall are both good times. Always use rigid aluminum venting, not flexible.
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
    Fall is as good a time as any to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning. Test and replace batteries twice a year.

Based on Home Maintenance Checklist NYT.com

6 Essential Tools for your Tool Box

A well-stocked tool box is something no homeowner should be without. You’ll use it when you put together flat-packed furniture, tighten loose screws, hang pictures, or install shelving. You can buy off-the-shelf tool kits, but these are the six must-haves:

1) Hammer
Be sure to hold the hammer at its base and not in the middle for the most control. And be careful of your fingers!

2) Tape Measure
Whether you get a 10-foot or 25-foot, a tape measure will prevent you from buying a sofa that’s too big for your living room.

Tape measure

3) Screwdriver
This type will do, but even better than a set of screwdrivers (flat and Phillips), is one with exchangeable bits (like this one). You might also want to invest in an electric/cordless drill/screwdriver.

4) Wrenches
As a homeowner, you will put together countless chairs, devices, toys, and tools. A set of these hex (also called Allen) wrenches will help you get the job done. You’ll also need an adjustable wrench for bolts.

5) Needle-nose Pliers
Remove nails, tighten loose-fitting brackets, and rescue dropped jewelry from the tub drain.

6) Utility Knife
Use a sharp utility knife for opening boxes or breaking down cardboard for recycling. A basic one like this will do or you can invest in one with multiple blades.

Putting down roots

One of the great things about owning your home is the ability to plant a vegetable garden. Even though we’re into the warm days of June, you can still plant for a late summer or fall harvest.

  1. Choose a sunny spot in your yard
    Many vegetables require four to six hours of sun per day.
  2. Prepare the Soil
    Using a spade and a lot of careful bending at the knees, till the soil 6-12” deep. Add organic material such as compost or peat moss (available at garden centers and hardware stores) to the soil. You can also rent a tiller if you’re putting in a large garden.
  3. Choose the plants
    The University of Minnesota Extension Service lists ideal times for planting vegetables.
  4. Water regularly
  5. Add mulch
    New plants like mulch (wood chips, straw, leaves). It keeps the soil cool and prevents drying out.

Spring Home Maintenance Don’ts

Spring is a great time to enjoy your home inside and out. With all the chores you could be doing, we compiled a list of what not to do.

Person on a ladderDon’t climb on the roof to inspect the condition of the shingles or chimney (safety first!). Some good binoculars or a secure ladder can help you see if you need to call in a professional to make repairs. Look for shingles that are damaged, curling or cupping at the edges, or missing granules.

Don’t use a high-pressure hose to clean your windows. This can damage the glass, weather-stripping, or caulking around the windows. It could also spray water into your house.

Don’t rake your grass too soon. This can pull the turf out by the roots. Wait until your lawn has dried enough that it doesn’t show footprints.

Don’t let weeds or shrubs crowd your house. Prune shrubs so they don’t touch your house or foundation and clear away any vegetation around your air conditioning unit to avoid blocking the air flow.

Don’t let downspouts get filled with debris. Clear away rotted leaves and make sure the spout is pointed away from the foundation.

Don’t depend on your dryer’s lint trap to catch all the debris. Built-up lint can be a fire hazard, so be sure to clean the dryer’s ducts and exterior vent.

Don’t plant grass seed. Early fall is the best time to plant seed, but if you have a bare yard, be sure to buy the correct type of seed and fertilizer. And if you didn’t have any weeds last year, don’t bother spraying in the spring.

5 Tips for Avoiding Home Improvement Scams

Have you been thinking about carpeting the living room or repaving the driveway? Making improvements to your home can increase its value and make your daily life more comfortable. But be wary of home improvement offers that seem “too good to be true.” Here are some tips for avoiding unethical or even illegal schemes.

1| Research the company
If you are approached with an offer of a great deal (such as by a door-to-door salesperson), take your time to research the firm.

2| Don’t fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics
Door-to-door scammers can really paint a dire picture of your home’s needs or insist on deals that “expire.” Take the time to shop around, compare, and research your options.

3| Confirm the company’s legitimacy
Under state law, door-to-door salespeople must present identification. Watch out for scammers that arrive in unmarked trucks or do not provide a physical address for their company.

4| Read offers and estimates carefully
Once you’ve received an estimate for a job, read it over carefully. Get more than one estimate for a project so you can compare the costs.
Under Minnesota’s Right to Cancel law, consumers have three days to cancel a contract made by a door-to-door solicitation.

5| Put your own safety first
Don’t invite door-to-door salespeople into your home. Scammers can be very aggressive and may refuse to leave until you’ve signed a contract. If you feel unsafe, it is not rude to say “no” and close the door. Listen to your instincts.
Report any suspected neighborhood scams to law enforcement.

Information based on: Minnesota Attorney General | Door-to-door Home Improvement Scams

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5 Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes

Don’t let water damage and plumbing bills get added to your list of winter woes!

Pipe Insulation example1) Insulate
Exposed pipes are susceptible to freezing. Wrap and insulate your pipes to protect them from cold temperatures. There are many options to choose from (including the one pictured) that can be found at any hardware or home supply store.

2) Adjust Thermostat
Even if you’ll be gone for an extended period (hopefully to Florida!), keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees. Even though water doesn’t freeze until it reaches 32 degrees, keeping your home any colder than 55 degrees puts you at risk of having frozen pipes.

3) Use Them
Pipes with moving water are less susceptible to freezing, so most of the time daily use prevents freezing. But if you have a bathroom or basement sink that rarely gets turned on, monitor it for water pressure and drainage. Also, although it may sound wasteful, letting a faucet drip can provide enough movement to prevent freezing. (A trickle the width of a pencil lead is sufficient and would result in water use that would cost about $2 a day.)

4) Open Cabinet Doors
Pipes confined under kitchen or bathroom cabinets don’t have access to the heat in the rest of the house and reach colder temperatures. Leaving the doors open to will allow heat to reach the pipes.

5) Locate the Water Shut-off Valve
Make sure you and others in your household know where the water main master shut-off valve is. If there is an incident (hopefully not!), shutting off the valve can help prevent extensive water damage.

Based on information from the City of Savage and U of MN Extension

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5 Tips to Decrease the “Ick Factor” of the Unfinished Basement

Scary BasementExposed pipes, spider webs, damp storage, cold concrete. Sound familiar? If this describes your unfinished basement, here are some tips to making the space more pleasant.

1) Organization and Storage
If your basement is like most people’s, the first step is organizing all the stuff down there.

  • Install or build shelves, making certain that things are off the floor. Metal shelving is best to prevent any moisture damage.
  • Because basements can be damp and there is always a risk of flooding, use tightly-closing plastic bins, not cardboard boxes that are susceptible to water damage.
  • Be sure to store paints, solvents, and other combustibles away from the furnace or water heater.
  • Toss anything broken or damaged. For unused items like old toys, furniture, or other household goods, consider donating.

2) Floors and Walls

The ubiquitous cinder block walls and concrete floors are the telltale sign of an unfinished basement.

  • Both walls and floors can be painted, but be sure to get paint specifically made for concrete flooring or cinder block and follow all m28anufacturer’s instructions.
  • Adding inexpensive area rugs (keeping in mind the risk of water damage) or hanging tapestries, fabric, or curtains can soften the look.

3) Ceilings and Lighting
Unfinished basements can be dark even in the middle of the day and feel creepy because of the exposed ceilings.

  • The advantage of the open ceiling is the ease of access to pipes and electrical, but you can paint the rafters and ceiling.
  • If you have bare bulbs, get some clip-on shades to hang upside down. Add some floor lamps to improve the lighting.

4) Stairs
Don’t forget the route down to the basement.

  • Make sure there is good lighting to increase safety.
  • Consider adding non-slip treads to the steps.
  • If you don’t have one, install a handrail that is securely anchored to the wall.

5) Ambiance and Air Quality
You don’t have to dread a trip to the basement.

  • Clean regularly to keep away the cobwebs and dust bunnies. Dust (using a broom with a rag on the end to reach into the rafters), vacuum, and mop.
  • Managing mildew and mold will improve the smell of the basement. Using a dehumidifier, especially in the summer, can help.
  • If you have more severe moisture issues, first address the cause of the water. Check out information about wet basements from the U of MN Extension Service.

25 Household Chores Kids Can Do

If you have children, September means new schedules, lunches to pack, homework to do. But it can also be the perfect opportunity to get kids (back) into the habit of helping around the house. From preschoolers to teenagers, every child can pitch in with age-appropriate chores. Just don’t expect perfection and don’t use chores as punishments.


Feed the pets
Help clear the table
Learn to dust
Make the bed
Put toys away

5-8 years

Help unload dishwasher
Pick up around the house
Set the table
Sort dirty laundry
Sort the recylcingHousehold chores
Sweep the floor
Take out the garbage
Water plants

9-11 years

Load dishwasher
Rake leaves
Replace the toilet paper roll
Wash windows and mirrors
Weed garden


Clean bathroom
Clean the refrigerator
Mow the lawn
Shovel snow
Simple household repairs (changing light bulbs, painting, patching)

Based in part on information from Psychology Today

7 Tips for Keeping Cool

Sticky summer heat means that air conditioning units get a workout. Be smart about your energy use to save money (and maybe save the planet, too!).

1 | Close doors and windows
Everyone knows you should close your windows when you switch on the A/C, but did you ever think to cool a single room? Save energy by air conditioning just the room you’re using. For example, at night you may want to cool only the bedroom.

2 | Put on some shades
Covering windows with blinds or curtains during the day keeps the heat of the sun from warming your house.

3 | Have a BBQ
Don't cook inside!On hot summer days, keep the heat outside by cooking on the grill. If you want to cook inside, stick to the stovetop or microwave (not the oven).

4 | Take advantage of nighttime breezes
On cooler summer nights, turn off the A/C and get free air conditioning by placing fans in windows to circulate air. Tight-fitting box-style fans are more efficient, but any fan can help circulate air.

5 | Install a programmable thermostat
Although a programmable thermostat has an up-front cost, being able to program temperatures for times when you’re away saves money in both summer and winter. In the summer, set the temperature for 78 degrees when you’re gone.

6 | Tune it up
Make sure your central air conditioning unit is working as efficiently as possible by scheduling a tune-up. And get out the vacuum to keep the vents clean, too.

7 | Cash in on a rebate
If you don’t already have one, this week’s heat may have you considering the purchase of a whole-house central air conditioning unit. Check out whether you qualify for a rebate on a high-efficiency model. For example, Xcel Energy offers rebates on some models.

Information based on: Energy.gov and MN Energy Challenge

  • I’m very happy to see that poor, abused house, vacant for so long, get reclaimed.

    Sandy, NE Minneapolis
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