Choice Home Warranty | Jan 15, 2016

Valentine’s Day is a great day to show your appreciation for the one you love. Often, it’s through greeting cards, romantic dates, flowers, and gifts. But for some couples, the key to a loved one’s heart just might be in a few framed wedding photos around your home or a new fireplace for a cozy night. And better yet, your Valentine home improvement projects can be enjoyed for years rather than just a few moments or days. Start now on these home improvement projects to show you care for Valentine’s Day.

  1. Add a couple rocking chairs to your porch: Whether you have space on your front porch or out back, make your outdoor areas more couple friendly with a pair of chairs you can enjoy together.
  2. Update your lighting: Swap out harsh lighting for something softer and more flattering. Install dimmer switches to set the mood, update outdated fixtures with a new, more romantic design, and put in new bulbs with softer light.
  3. Install a wine fridge: Love to share wine together? Enjoy an even better experience with a new wine fridge for your kitchen.
  4. Hang an outdoor swing: Get ready for the spring and summer seasons with a cozy outdoor swing or hammock that you can enjoy together.
  5. Frame your bathroom mirror: Update the look of your bathroom quickly — and remind your loved one of your hard work and caring in completing this projct every morning when they look in the mirror. Reveal your finished project with a love note on the mirror.
  6. Organize kitchen cabinets: It hardly sounds romantic, but ask any harried home chef with messy cabinets, and they’ll tell you this gesture would win their hearts over. Invest in organizational tools such as divided storage, hangers, and even drawers for cabinets, and wow your loved one with kitchen storage they’ll enjoy using.
  7. Build a piece of furniture: Nothing says love more than spending the time to create a quality handcrafted piece of furniture made with the recipient in mind. Build a bookshelf for a book lover, a jewelry hanger, or even a practical storage solution for your entryway.
  8. Hang photos on your walls: Chances are, you have plenty of photos of you and your significant other together. But do you have them framed and hung in a place of honor? Show your loved one that you care and cherish your relationship by taking the time to print, frame, and hang photos of them or the both of you together on your walls at home. Need ideas? Look for photos from your wedding day, honeymoon, favorite vacation, or early days in your relationship to make them (and you) feel nostalgic.
  9. Upgrade bath fixtures: Turn your master bathroom into a more romantic haven with updated fixtures. Add a new fixture for faucets and put in new fixtures in your shower and tub for a new, more inviting look. Then plan a big reveal with a bubble bath.
  10. Plant a flower garden: Cut flowers are a nice gesture, but in the right climate, a garden of flowers that will last for weeks or months is a more enduring reminder of your love. Or, plant rose bushes for something more permanent. Plus, you can select flowers from your garden or rose bush for a home made bouquet.
  11. Buy new bedding: Refresh your bedroom and make your bed more enticing with fresh, new sheets. Take it a step further with a new bedspread or even a new headboard.
  12. Put in a fireplace: Nothing says cozy and romantic like a fireplace at home. But even if your home doesn’t already have one, it is possible to get one installed. Freestanding units can be purchased and enjoyed within moments, and local installers can add one to your home as well. Rather take it outside? An outdoor fire pit is romantic, too.
  13. Carve out a ladies’ retreat or man cave: Have a space in your home that you’re not really using? Clear out the junk and make it a place for your loved one to enjoy instead. Add furniture and touches that you know they’ll enjoy, such as wall paint in their favorite color, or the perfect storage solution for their favorite collection.
  14. Just fix it: Practically every couple has a project or two on their honey do list that gets overlooked. Think about the project that your loved one has been wanting to see done and make it happen.
Dustin Hadley @that40yearguy is floored that this common household item (not baking soda) can erase fridge stink! You need to try this!! Check out the comments at what others are sharing! 🤯 WATCH HERE


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dustin Hadley (@that40yearguy)

Oaklane Home Staging | Jul 12, 2021

Living in a country with a tropical climate such as the Philippines is the dream vacation or even retirement plan for many people across different countries all over the globe. For one, we never have to thaw ice from snow build-ups nor wear over 3 layers of clothing. However, tropical climate comes with its share of mishaps such as low-pressure areas and typhoons that bring with them strong winds, rain, and chances of flash floods that can last for days at a time.

This can happen at any time but is more common during the rainy season, which is usually from June till October. The good news is, there are ways to possibly spare your home from the dangers of flash floods or at least make preparations sturdy enough to prevent any major damages. As the famous saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is a known fact that even the sturdiest homes can suffer from cracks and leakages despite being built with good quality materials. This regular wear and tear are inevitable and worth maintaining to avoid much bigger problems in the future. After all, our home is an extension of ourselves and should be maintained regularly.

In this article, we will tackle a few home maintenance tips, just in time for this year’s rainy season.


1. Inspect those roofs and gutters

It is a fact that our roof is the first line of defense from strong winds and heavy rains, so even if there is not much impact on the home’s overall feel, it plays a big role in keeping you and everyone else in your home safe.

The gutters also play an important part in draining the water and shielding us from great inconveniences brought about by natural disasters. If one of our gutters breaks, then the house would most likely experience flooding in some areas.

A month before the rainy season begins is the perfect time to check for any holes or cracks in the roof and gutters. Be sure to reseal everything and avoid any downpipe clogs. Make sure you do this inspection yearly to avoid any further damage caused by future typhoons.

2. Inspect your electrical systems

From the sockets to the wires, to the main switches, check all your electrical systems. This will help you create an extra layer of safety in your home, especially from unwanted water leaks which could lead to accidental fires.

If you do not know how to do it yourself, don’t fret! Not everyone does. It is best to hire an electrician to do the inspection at least twice a year. Just like your roofing and plumbing, these may not be aesthetic fixes, but instead, they are practical fixes that can save you a lot of money.

3. Be wary of pests, mosquitos, and the dangers they come with

The World Health Organization has declared over 169,000 dengue virus cases in 2015. Although those numbers are significantly lower now, the fact remains that this is due to mosquitoes that breed in murky and stagnant water in our homes, and most of the time, this happens during the rainy season whether we are aware of it or not.

It is best to keep our whole home free from stagnant waters and puddles that may form in different areas of our home during the rainy season, especially outdoors. These attract bugs and become ideal environments for mosquitoes to breed. It is best to be mindful of these and keep our family safe by cleaning the entire garden, swimming pools, aquariums or fish ponds after a few days of consistent rainfall.

4. Update your storage solutions

If possible, elevate your furniture and electrical appliances, especially if your home has a basement or lower floor, or if your house is not elevated. This is for the purpose of sudden flash floods.

If you are still in the process of designing your dream home, find heavy, sturdy, and waterproof storage solutions that will protect your most valuable belongings from getting wet or destroyed in case of rain or strong winds getting inside the house through a leak on the roof or flooding like our marbled boxes.  Always choose sturdy furniture made of high-quality materials like metal, stone, wood, or marble that would more likely outlast a flood, and come out with no health risks like mold infestation unlike upholstered furniture.

We deserve to feel safe, no matter the seasons or weather conditions, and there should be no place on earth that would make you feel safer than your own home and personal sanctuary.

Family Handyman | Jan 14, 2024

You probably already have a home maintenance checklist: Replace the furnace filter each season, shut off water spigots before winter, clean the gutters, etc. That’s a good start, but there are jobs that homeowners often forget about, or don’t even know about. Here are some important home maintenance items that may not be on your list-items that may cause a big headache, or worse, cost you big money if you neglect them.

Test the Sump Pump or Risk a Flood


Test the Sump Pump or Risk a Flood

It’s easy to forget about your sump pump, but it’s important to make sure it’s in good working order. If you don’t, you could end up like the homeowner who returned from a weekend trip to discover his entire basement floor covered in 1/2 in. of water. After shutting down the power, he waded over to the sump pump and noticed it wasn’t working. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the cable attached to the float must have gotten tangled somehow. It took him two seconds to untangle the cable, and then he spent the next 15 hours dragging out waterlogged carpet, running the wet/dry vac and moving fans around. To avoid a similar disaster, be sure your pump has a vertical float switch. Also, check your pump at least a couple times a year by dumping water into the basin to make sure everything is working properly.

Check for High Water Pressure or Wreck Fixtures and Appliances


Check for High Water Pressure or Wreck Fixtures and Appliances

A technician was assisting a water softener installer who was replacing a fairly new softener because the first one had ruptured and filled the pipes with little zeolite beads.

The installer didn’t seem too worried about why the first one failed, but the assistant did a little investigating. A water pressure test gave a reading of more than 110 lbs. psi. The culprit was the 20-year-old pressure-reducing valve. After a new valve was installed, the pressure went down to about 75 lbs. Pressure-reducing valves are usually found near the main water shutoff valve, but not all homes have them. It depends on your municipality.

High water pressure can harm pipes, connections, and appliances. It also creates water hammer and waste massive amounts of water. Checking for high water pressure is an often overlooked maintenance item, and one that’s easy enough to perform. A new pressure-reducing valve and a simple pressure gauge like this one that hooks up to a spigot or laundry tub faucet are both available at home centers.

Clean Window Weep Holes or Invite Rainwater Into Your House


Clean Window Weep Holes or Invite Rainwater Into Your House

Many sliding windows and vinyl replacement windows have weep holes on the exterior bottom of the frame. These holes are designed to drain away rainwater that can collect in the frame’s bottom channel. Weep holes can get plugged with bugs and debris, and if that happens, water could fill up the channel and spill over into your house.

To see if your weep system is working, simply pour a glass of water into the track or spray the outside of the window with a garden hose. If you don’t see a steady stream of clean water exiting the weep hole, poke a wire hanger into the hole, or spray it out with compressed air, and wet it down again. If the little flapper (designed to keep out driving wind) is stuck shut, it can be removed with a putty knife and replaced.

Are you wondering when to replace everything in your home? Check out our list to find out how often you should replace things in your home.

Clean Refrigerator Coils or Pay Unnecessary Repair Bills


Clean Refrigerator Coils or Pay Unnecessary Repair Bills

Refrigerator condenser coils are located on the back of the fridge or across the bottom. When coils are clogged with dust, pet hair and cobwebs, they can’t efficiently release heat. The result is your compressor works harder and longer than it was designed to, using more energy and shortening the life of your fridge. Clean the coils with a coil-cleaning brush and vacuum. A coil-cleaning brush, which is bendable to fit in tight areas, does a thorough job. Look for one online or at appliance stores. For tips on repairing your refrigerator (without a service call), check out our guide.

Keep Window Wells Clean or Risk a Broken Window and Wet Basement


Keep Window Wells Clean or Risk a Broken Window and Wet Basement

If you’ve never had a problem with water in a window well, you may never think to clean it out. Here’s what happened to one homeowner who neglected his window wells. After an average rainfall, not even a heavy downpour, a clogged gutter dumped a lot of water next to his house and into his window well. The leaves in the well acted like a pool liner, preventing drainage, and the water level rose higher and higher until the pressure broke the basement windows. Gallons and gallons of water poured into the basement, ruining everything in sight. Unfortunately, he had no insurance coverage for that type of flood. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep window wells clean with a cover, available at home centers.

Drain Sediment From Your Water Heater or Expect a Shortened Life Span

A distraught homeowner called a plumber because her water heater wasn’t heating, and furthermore, it was leaking. Right away, the plumber asked if the homeowner had been draining some of the water from it every year. The puzzled homeowner said, ‘No. Why?’ It turns out that sediment will collect at the bottom of the tank. This creates hot spots on gas-powered heaters that can damage the tank and cause premature failure. On an electric water heater, sediment buildup can cause the lower heating element to fail. So, occasionally draining a water heater will lower energy bills and extend its life. We recommend draining water heaters at least once a year.

Lube Garage Door Springs or Replace Them Sooner Rather Than Later


Lube Garage Door Springs or Replace Them Sooner Rather Than Later

Coat the overhead torsion springs mounted above roller tracks with a garage door lubricant. All springs will eventually break because of metal fatigue and/or corrosion, but lubing them at least once a year will make them last longer. Spraying can be messy; it’s smart to protect the wall behind the spring with a piece of cardboard. Garage door lubricant is available at home centers. Lube the rollers, hinges and track while you’re at it. Learn more garage door maintenance tips.

Check for Mice Nests or Risk Damaged Equipment


Check for Mice Nests or Risk Damaged Equipment

Mice love to winter in enclosed places like engine compartments, window A/C units and lawn tractor nooks and crannies. If a vehicle or piece of equipment has been sitting unused for a while, check for mice nests before you start it up. The last thing you want to do is take out your boat and discover that you have little furry stowaways that have chewed through half the wires. Mice nests can also cause electronics to overheat and can get sucked into and clog carburetors.

Clean Dryer Vents or Waste Energy and Risk a Fire


Clean Dryer Vents or Waste Energy and Risk a Fire

A plugged dryer vent will cause your dryer to run inefficiently, and that’s bad. A plugged dryer vent could also cause a house fire, and that could be deadly! Dryers that are centrally located in houses are most prone to plugging because of the longer ducts. Excess lint is only one reason ducts get clogged; nesting pests and stuck exhaust hood flappers can also cause backups. Stronger odors and longer dry times are two signs your vent is plugged. You’ll have to remove the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the ducts with a wet/dry vac, or ream them out with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. The kits are available at home centers. If your ducts need replacing, get smooth metal ducts, which will stay cleaner longer than the rough corrugated surface of flexible ducts. Avoid plastic ducting altogether; it can be a fire hazard. Plus: Slash Heating Bills

Check Garage Door Balance or Wreck Your Opener


Check Garage Door Balance or Wreck Your Opener

A properly balanced door is less likely to injure someone or something and keeps the door opener from working too hard, which will shorten its life.

To check the balance on a door, close the door and then disengage the opener by pulling the opener release handle. Manually pull up the door about halfway and let go. A properly balanced door will stay in the halfway position by itself. If it falls, the tension needs to be increased. If the door rises, the door spring has too much tension, which means it’s working harder than it needs to.

Check the door a couple times a year. Adjusting the spring tension is tricky and dangerous. Call a garage door professional to perform the service, or see advanced garage door repairs.

How To Get Rid of Cold Winter Drafts | Jan 7, 2019

Doors and windows are two of the biggest energy wasting areas of the house. In the summer, they may allow cool air to escape, and in the winter, they allow heat to do the same. They also allow cold winter drafts to permeate the interior of the house, making rooms cold and uncomfortable.

Normally, you can tell if your door is the source of a cold draft by simply running your hand around the perimeter of the frame, and along the bottom. Older doors that emit winter drafts may have shifted over time. This causes gaps along the openings and insulation loss. Sometimes, doors are simply not installed tightly in the first place. There are plenty of companies out there that also offers replacement doors. Kelly Window & Door is a replacement window and door installation company that can help in these circumstances to make sure the heat stays out but can also look at the windows to see if there are small cracks or gaps letting air and heat out.

If it is not possible to replace the door with one that is more energy efficient, that fits tightly into the frame, there are other ways to eliminate some of the problem.

Weather Stripping

Felt or rubber weather stripping is available everywhere, from home improvement stores to discount chains. This insulating material, that has one sticky side and one softer, pliable side, is available in various lengths and widths to fit any frame. It is also easy to cut to length.

Attach stripping to the frame, so that when the door closes, the gaps that allowed the cold air in seal. The thickness of this insulation depends chiefly on the amount of space you have to work with. Using an insulation that is too thin will not produce the desired results.  Insulation that is too thick will not allow the door to close properly.

Door Sweep

A gap beneath the door is usally the cause of the cold air that travels across the floor of a room. Correct this by adding a door sweep.

You can purchase door sweeps any width door. They are also custom made to fit. Attach by screwing the sweep onto the bottom of the door.  Or, in some instances, fitting the sweep over the bottom by pushing it in place starting at one edge of the door. Sweeps can be either metal with a rubber edge, foam, or rubber.

Draft Guards

If there is still a noticeable draft beneath the door, or for a quick fix, add draft guards. You can also make your own as they are made from material. Sew material into a tube shape. Stuff with fiberfill or some other material. Then, lay draft guard against the bottom edge of the door keeping the cold air to a minimum.

Once you have insulated around your doors, you should see an improvement, not only in the temperature of the room, but eventually in the cost of heating and cooling your home.

30 Ways to Stay Warm Without Power

Here’s an ingenious “30 Ways to Stay Warm Without Power” by The Survival Mom:

Use Low-tech Equipment

  1. Set up a tent in a room that connects with a bathroom and spend time/sleep inside the tent. No tent? Drape blankets over a table for a similar effect.
  2. Make a Buddy Burner for light and a small amount of heat. Be sure to vent the room to allow fumes to escape to the outside and not accumulate inside your home.
  3. Keep hand and feet warmers inside pockets, gloves, and/or shoes. Read this post for some high-tech ideas to help hands and feet stay warm.
  4. Use an indoor-safe portable stove for cooking small meals. Hot food helps boost morale.
  5. If you have a fireplace, maintain a good-sized fire throughout the day and night. If you can’t use your fireplace, be sure the damper is closed tightly to block cold air from entering your home. Also, invest in a carbon monoxide detector with battery backup.
  6. Make an alcohol stove from an Altoids tin to keep hands warm.
  7. Wrap yourself in one or more blankets. To help you stay warm while moving about, wrap fleece blankets around your waist or under your arms and pin them. Blanket scarves are also good options for this technique. Just don’t overload to the point you excessively sweat because that actually pulls heat AWAY from the body.
  8. If you have a gas range, boil/heat water and then pour it into a hot water bottle. (Learn how to start your gas range’s pilot light.)
  9. Make an Apple Box Stove to cook food and as an off-grid method for staying warm without electricity.
  10. Spend the day inside the warmest sleeping bag you own.
  11. Put bricks or large rocks in your fireplace, heat them, remove safely using tongs, and then wrap them in blankets to warm beds and bodies.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

  1. Wear fleece-lined pants and/or fleece-lined tights. It’s amazing how this one strategy will help you stay warm without electricity. These are the pants I own and love.
  2. Wear wool socks and a wool cap throughout the day and night.
  3. Wear layers of clothes, including long underwear. Learn more about my own clothing layers during our camping trip in Iceland.
  4. Wear socks and shoes in the house, and never stand or rest your feet on a bare floor (tile, concrete, etc.) Either wear socks or place your feet on a rug or blanket. This minimizes conductive cooling. If you have bare floors and not enough rugs, put blankets or even towels on the floor in areas where you’ll be walking and spending time.
  5. Shop now for cold-weather clothing in second-hand clothing stores as well as from outdoors/sporting goods stores and, of course, online.

Keep your house warm without power

  1. Cover uninsulated vinyl or hardwood floors with throw rugs or blankets. The estimated heat loss through floors is about 10%.
  2. Hang heavy blankets over windows and exterior doors, especially glass sliding doors.
  3. Spend most of the day and night inside the warmest room, closed off to the rest of the house. Learn how to live in just one room here.
  4. Cover windows with bubble wrap as an insulator.
  5. Block drafts under doors by cutting the legs off of a pair of tights and stuffing socks into it. Lay at the base of any door you feel cold air coming through. Or plan ahead and order them.
  6. Avoid pipe freezes by wrapping vulnerable pipes with a heating cable.
  7. Heat rises. If possible, spend most of your time upstairs as long as it’s also well-insulated.
  8. Invest in an indoor safe radiant propane heater like Mr. Heater Big Buddy Portable Heater, which has an Oxygen Depletion Sensor and accidental tip-over safety shut-off. Add propane and a carbon monoxide detector.

Change Locations

  1. Sit in your car with the heater on. NOTE: This is a short-term solution and should only be done with your car parked in a well-ventilated garage or in an otherwise open area. This also allows you time to charge your phones and electronics.
  2. In a dire emergency, check with your town/city to see if any public warming sites are available.

Other Ways to Stay Warm Without Power

  1. Cuddle up with your cats and/or dogs.
  2. Keep babies and toddlers warm with your body heat by carrying them in a sling or other baby carrier.
  3. Do a moderate workout to a YouTube video or make up your own routine to increase body heat but not to the point of sweating a lot, which is counterproductive.
  4. Prepare a hot beverage or a cup of soup stew using your off-grid cooking method. It will warm you from within.

Record Searchlight | Dec 6, 2023

Doorbell cameras are “super helpful” at stopping or catching porch pirates, said Amber Orrey, outreach coordinator at the Mount Shasta Police Department. However, people who get home deliveries — and even those who pick up orders at Amazon lockers or retail stores — should take precautions, she said.

While not a guarantee you won’t be the victim of a theft, you can make it harder for porch pirates to pilfer parcels.

“Check tracking notices. Have more expensive items sent to a locker or schedule a delivery time for when you’re going to be home,” Orrey said.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips for thwarting package thieves:

If you ask for a neighbor’s help, give them a signed note with permission to come on your property and take your packages, just in case another neighbor spots them and calls the police.

And dole out some gratitude. Make sure you thank people afterwards and volunteer “to return the favor” when they’re away, according to etiquette specialist Emily Post’s Neighborly Manners guide.

The famous Christmas carol tell us that this is “the most wonderful time of the year!”  However, a lot can go wrong over the holidays.

This infographic from Iron Security advises us what to be aware of. There are safety hazards, such as frayed electrical cords, holiday theft, and fire hazards, such as when frying turkeys or burning holiday candles.  Establish these practical safety measures (even throughout the year) and make this holiday season the most wonderful time of year! | Nov 27, 2023

So you’ve finished the last of those turkey leftovers and just about thrown in the towel on your workout regimen until some undefined time after the first of the year. (We get it— the holiday party circuit is rough.) It’s high time for relaxing and merriment! Certainly your house can wait for a little TLC until the new year, right?

Alas, we don’t have the answer you want to hear. The truth is, if you squeeze in a smidgen of time to do some routine maintenance chores this month, you’ll save yourself a load of potential trouble—and repair costs—down the road.

So down a big glass of eggnog, and take a swing through this short, painless checklist of tasks to tackle in December. We promise they’re so simple, you might just be done before you can sing the chorus to “Jingle Bells.”

Protect pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. The risk of frozen pipes is actually highest in southern climes, where colder temps are less common and pipes are less likely to have the insulation needed to protect them from bursting. (Temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit pose the greatest threat to pipes in unheated areas.)

You can guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents, and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. You should also keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight. And make sure you’ve drained all your exterior hoses—if you’re following our monthly maintenance checklists, you did this back in October. Nicely done!

In the event of an emergency, you should know where your main water shut-off is located; it’s usually in the crawlspace or basement, where your water supply enters your house, or inside a water meter box outside your home.

DIY:  If your pipes have indeed frozen, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe’s Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point; if none of the faucets work, the culprit is probably the main supply line.

Check all areas where supply lines enter your home, and feel the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it using a hand-held hair dryer. Another option: Wrap the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

Call in a pro: If you can’t locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run between $150 and $600 on average (depending on the severity of the leak).

Give your oven some lovin’

Improperly sealed ovens can result in a loss of more than 20% of the machine’s heat, leading to longer cooking times, lost energy, and (most importantly) delayed gingerbread cookie gratification.

DIY: Check the seal around the oven door for breaks or cracks, and replace the seal for optimal oven performance. If you choose to tackle this yourself, be sure you disconnect power to the oven before digging in, and consult your manufacturer’s instructions to find the correct replacement part.

Call in a pro: Not the DIY type?  A typical oven fix takes less than an hour and will cost between $100 and $250.

Check insulation

Improve the efficiency of your pad by checking your attic’s insulation—and save up to $600 a year in energy costs.

DIY: Examine the insulation in your attic to see whether it’s flattened or sagging.

“If the insulation is level with the attic floor joists, you should be in pretty good shape,” says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of “But if it’s below the joists, you’ll need to add more to make sure you keep the warm air in and the cold air out.”

Call in a pro: If your insulation is lacking, you’ll need a pro to get it up to snuff, at an average cost of around $1,000 to $2,500.

Prevent potential fire hazards

“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, you giant box of tinder.”  

It turns out that the gorgeous Douglas fir you’ve so painstakingly decorated could pose a huge fire risk. In fact, Christmas trees account for more than $13 million in property damage per year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association (yes, that’s a thing). Throw in Hanukkah candles, unswept chimneys, ancient space heaters, and faulty strings of lights, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday disaster.

DIY: If you can’t live without a live tree, be sure to keep it well-watered (seriously, do this every day). Keep it at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, turn your tree lights off at night, and toss damaged lights. (Extra credit: To save energy, use LED lights for your holiday decor. They use 80% to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours—as opposed to 3,000.)

Similar rules apply for space heaters: Keep them away from drapes or furniture, which could catch fire from direct contact and radiant heat; plug them into their own outlets (without extension cords); and never leave one running overnight.

Of course, other common sense precautions apply: Blow out all of those candy cane–scented candles before bed (or just use battery-operated ones), never use paper or flammable liquid to start a fire, and use a screen to keep embers where they belong.

Call in a pro: We’ve said this before, but rule numero uno of fireplace safety is having it professionally cleaned at least once a year. Expect to spend between $125 and $250.

Prevent ice damming

Ice what-ing, you ask? It turns out, an ice dam—a ridge of frozen water that forms at the edge of your roof—is even more fearsome than the average run-of-the-mill icicle. Left untreated, ice dams can prevent water from running off your roof, resulting in leaks and damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.

DIY: Ice dams will begin to form if snow (and ice, obviously) builds up on your roof. So the easiest way to prevent a problem is to clear your roof of that white slush—pick up a snow rake, grab a ladder, and get to work. While you’re up there, trim any branches hanging over your roof: Under the weight of snow or during a windstorm, these can break and cause damage to your shingles. Finally, keep gutters clear of leaves and other debris so melting snow can flow freely.

Call in a pro: Installing heating cables along the edge of your roof can keep snow runoff from freezing. Expect to spend between $600 and $900.

Get secure

The holidays are prime time for burglaries and break-ins (those daily Amazon Prime deliveries are just too tempting for package thieves). That’s why you should be extra-vigilant, especially as the days get shorter—and you head out of town or dance off to holiday parties.

DIY: Illuminate the area around your house, lock doors and windows, and trim bushes to deter intruders. You might also look into installing security cameras around your door.

“The six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are prime for packages being delivered to your home for the holidays,” says Emily Long of “That means burglars are more likely to swipe your packages if they are left outside.”

A security camera you can monitor with your smartphone allows you to have eyes on your home anytime, from anywhere.

Call in a pro: Professionally monitored security systems will sound ear-piercing alarms and call the police if an intruder enters your space. Options abound here, so do your research before committing to a system (and a monthly service fee). | Feb 22, 2023

Have you ever decided to tackle a cleaning project around the house (perhaps one that you’d been putting off for a while), only to discover that you’re out of the cleaner that you thought you had? It can be beyond frustrating to have to put off what you want to accomplish because you have to grab your keys and run to the store to buy the missing spray or powder.

But believe it or not, several cleaning substitutes, many of which you likely have in your home already, can take the place of store-bought cleaners. And even better, many of these substitutes are safer than their chemical cleanser counterparts, which often include toxic ingredients. Say goodbye to having to ventilate the room while spraying! Read on to learn more about some of the best cleaning substitutes that will take the place of kitchen sprays, bathroom cleaners, stain removers, and so many other store-bought sprays, gels, and powders.

Vinegar in place of kitchen sprays

vinegar next to sponge

Vinegar is for much more than cooking. It can help with a wide range of cleaning tasks in numerous rooms throughout the home. The best type of vinegar to use for cleaning is distilled white vinegar, which includes 5% acetic acid. While safe enough to handle or even consume, the vinegar’s acidity helps break down and remove gunk on surfaces.

If you’re looking for a substitute for kitchen sprays, either because you ran out of the one you normally use or are looking for something that won’t introduce more chemicals around the areas you cook, look no further than vinegar. To use it to clean the kitchen, mix it with water in a spray bottle using a 1:1 ratio (equal parts of both liquids). Spray the mixture on countertops, cooktops, shelves in the refrigerator, and other surfaces. If there are any particularly sticky or caked-on messes, leave it to sit for a few minutes before wiping the surface down. Because vinegar is non-toxic, you can even use it to clean coffee pots, stainless steel cookware, cutting boards, and other kitchen tools that you wouldn’t want to get anywhere near standard kitchen sprays.

Hydrogen peroxide in place of mold and mildew shower sprays

bottle of hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another versatile product. You likely have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet or under your bathroom sink for tending to wounds, but did you know that it could also double as a shower spray? If you have areas of mold or mildew along your shower tiles, skip chemical bleach-based cleansers and reach for that bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet instead. Add it to a spray bottle and spray it directly over moldy or mildewy spots. Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes, then use a scrub brush to clean the tiles. Rinse everything, and your shower should be good as new again.

The reason hydrogen peroxide is such an effective cleaner comes down to its chemical composition. When the bonded hydrogen and oxygen atoms come into contact with surfaces, they create a reaction, loosening gunk and grime and disinfecting the surface. Unlike chemical bathroom cleaners, hydrogen peroxide is non-toxic and will not damage your lungs. If you habitually use more natural cleaning products, just keep in mind that you should never mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. According to the Missouri Poison Center, combining these two liquids can cause peracetic acid to form, which could irritate your eyes, skin, or lungs.

Lemon juice in place of glass and window cleaner

sliced lemon in front of leaves

Keeping your windows clean and streak-free can be a chore. However, you don’t have to rely on store-bought glass and window cleaners for this task. Instead, you can use lemon juice. It has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which make it an excellent choice for a range of cleaning tasks. Lemon juice is also acid, which means that it can help breakdown grime, much like vinegar.

The next time you need to clean the windows in your home, try making a DIY glass and window cleaner using lemon. Add about 1 ½ cups of hot water to a spray bottle. Then pour in 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and gently swirl the bottle to mix the two ingredients. Use this cleaner to spray your windows, then wipe them using a microfiber cloth for a streak-free finish. As a bonus, using lemon juice will leave behind a pleasant fragrance, to make your house smell as clean as your windows will look.

Cornstarch as a carpet stain remover

bowl of cornstarch

If you have stains on your carpets from pets, kids, or any other number of causes, fear not. Open your pantry, and you may see the perfect substitute for carpet stain removers. Believe it or not, cornstarch can work well at removing stains and their corresponding odors from your carpets.

To use cornstarch as a stain remover, you’ll want to mix it with a little water or distilled white vinegar. The mixture should be a very thick paste, so take care not to add too much liquid. Once the paste is prepared, spread it over the stain on the carpet and let it sit for several hours until stiff and dry. Once dry, vacuum up the excess cornstarch from the rug (if it is stuck on, you can gently scrape it off using a knife or kitchen scraper before vacuuming). The cornstarch should have absorbed the stain and its odor, leaving your carpet clean. For deep, set-in stains, you may need to repeat the steps above a few times.

Gin or vodka as jewelry cleaners

bottle of vodka

Did you know gin and vodka can help keep your jewelry clean? In fact, using gin was a trick that some members of Queen Elizabeth’s staff used to swear by when cleaning the royal jewels. Try dipping jewelry with diamonds and other gemstones in a glass with a little bit of gin or vodka. Leave the jewelry to soak for at least four hours.

When you return to pull out your jewelry, you should notice that it looks much cleaner and more brilliant. So, how exactly does alcohol clean diamonds and other stones? The secret lies in the higher ethanol content of these two alcohols. When the gems are left to soak, it acts as a natural solvent, breaking down and getting rid of any grime on the stone. If this cleaning method was good enough for the Queen, it might be worth giving it a shot with your gems and jewels.

Shaving cream in place of stainless steel cleaner

spraying bottle of shaving cream

Fear not if your stainless steel appliances always seem to be covered in fingerprints or hard water stains. You don’t have to run out and buy a specialized cleaning product with questionable ingredients. Instead, you can just head to your bathroom cabinet and pull out a can of shaving cream (opt for a basic, fragrance-free formula for best results). Simply cover the stainless steel surfaces with some shaving cream — it doesn’t take too much — then wipe it off using a damp cloth.

Once most of the shaving cream has been removed from the surface, use a clean and dry microfiber towel to finish the job. Rub the surface until the classic stainless shine returns. The shaving cream works to remove the stains (you can leave it to sit for a few extra minutes on hard water spots and stains) and leaves your stainless steel stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, and other appliances looking like new.

Baking soda in place of dish stain removers

bag of baking soda

Our mugs, dishware, and plastic storage containers can develop stains over time. Even when we know these items are clean, they can still look dirty and dingy. Baking soda can help you rejuvenate these items throughout your kitchen, giving them a new shot at life. Baking soda is slightly abrasive and works to release the particles that caused the stain. It also absorbs odors, so if any of the stained items also have an unpleasant odor, baking soda should help with that too.

To use baking soda as a stain remover, mix it with a small amount of water and vinegar to form a thick paste. Apply the paste over the stained area, leave it to sit for about half an hour, and then wipe it off with a sponge. If needed, you can repeat the steps an additional time for more stubborn stains. Once the stain is removed, rewash the item as usual before using it. You can use this paste to tackle a variety of stains in the kitchen, including coffee- or tea-stained mugs, stained plasticware, cutting boards, countertops, and more.

Coconut oil as a shower cleaner

coconut oil next to coconut half

If you’re looking for a more natural way to clean your shower and want to stay away from bleach and other harsh chemicals, the solution you need may be sitting in your pantry right now. Coconut oil can actually be used to clean a variety of surfaces, including shower walls and bathtubs. Place some coconut oil on a rag or scrub brush and use it to wipe down all the surfaces in your shower or bathtub. Once that’s done, rinse with warm water, and you should notice that everything looks much cleaner.

The reason coconut oil can be an effective cleaner — and a particularly good choice for showers — is because of the lauric acid found in it. Lauric acid works as an antimicrobial, giving surfaces a thorough cleaning. If you want to boost the power of the coconut oil or tackle any particularly tough stains, try mixing it with some baking soda. As noted above, baking soda is a great stain remover.

Witch hazel in place of floor cleaners

witch hazel and dropper bottle

You may have taken witch hazel to relieve symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, inflammation, skin irritations, and other more serious conditions. The liquid from the witch hazel plant is extracted and then taken orally or applied directly to the skin, depending on the condition. It may seem strange to think that the same substance that can help with medical conditions can also help keep your floors clean, but it is true. You can use witch hazel on tile, vinyl, and linoleum floors, but it isn’t the best solution for your hardwood floors.

Fill your mop bucket with about 1 gallon of warm water. Then, add between ⅓ and ⅔ of a cup of witch hazel and mix it in well. Dip your mop or cleaning brush in the solution, and use it to clean your floor. The witch hazel will help break down dirt and debris, leaving your floors clean and shiny. If you want a quicker, less-involved cleaning job, witch hazel can still help. Instead of mixing a solution in your mop bucket, add some witch hazel and a little bit of water to a spray bottle and spritz the floors in your home before wiping them down with a microfiber towel or mop head.

Toothpaste in place of shoe cleaners

white toothpaste on toothbrush

If your white shoes have seen better days, toothpaste may be able to help you rejuvenate them. White, baking soda-based toothpastes — stay away from gels — can work wonders at taking scuff marks and dirt off tennis shoes. An old toothbrush will work as the perfect cleaning tool to complement the toothpaste.

Simply apply a little white toothpaste onto the toothbrush head and use it to tackle any stained or dirty areas on the shoes. Scrubbing in a circular motion will be the most effective way to release stains and messes. After you’ve cleaned all the necessary areas, allow the toothpaste to sit for about 15 minutes, then wipe it off using a damp towel. You may need to repeat the steps above a few times for more stubborn stains. In addition to working well to remove stains from the canvas and fabric parts of shoes, a whitening toothpaste can also be an effective cleaner for the rubber edges of your tennis shoes. Apply it to these areas with a toothbrush, following the same methods described above.

Borax as toilet bowl cleaner

box of Borax

No one enjoys cleaning the toilet, but it is one of those tasks that we just can’t skip. However, you can skip the bleach- and chemical-based cleaners you want to keep out of your house. The ideal substitute may be waiting in your laundry room right now. Borax is traditionally used as a laundry booster, but its chemical makeup also makes it an effective toilet bowl cleaner. With its pH of 9.5, it is on the alkaline side. That means it can work to remove a variety of substances, such as oils, fats, and anything acidic, when mixed with water.

To use Borax as a toilet bowl cleaner, add approximately 1 cup to the water in your toilet bowl at night. Dump it in slowly, trying to get some of the powder to coat the sides of the toilet. You may even want to put on gloves to apply some of it along the toilet’s upper rim to achieve a thorough clean. Once the Borax powder has been applied to the inside of the toilet bowl, let it sit there for several hours, ideally overnight. When you wake up, take your toilet brush and give the inside of the bowl and along the rim a good scrubbing. Flush and admire how effective the Borax was at getting rid of stains.

Fabric softener as baseboard cleaner

bottle of fabric softener

Baseboards can get dirty so easily. After all, they’re right along the floor where dirt and other gunk get tracked in. Another item that is probably in your laundry room right now can help you tackle this cleaning task. Try cleaning your baseboards with fabric softener, and you won’t want to go back to whatever cleaners you used to use. Not only is fabric softener an effective cleaner for this task, but it is also really easy to use.

Transfer a little of your fabric softener out of the bottle and into a spray bottle. You’ll want to be able to control how much comes out, which won’t be possible with the wide open mouth on the package you get from the store. You’ll want to add approximately 1/2 a cup of fabric softener and about 2 ½ cups of water. Put the lid on the spray bottle and gently swirl the mixture to combine the two ingredients.

Spray the mixture directly on your baseboards, then go around with a dry microfiber cloth to wipe them down. For carpeted rooms, you may only want to spray a small section at a time to prevent the mixture from dripping onto the carpets. Alternatively, you could spray the solution directly onto the microfiber cloth to eliminate the chance of it dripping down onto the floor. One of the biggest benefits of using fabric softener to clean your baseboards is that it can also help them stay cleaner for longer. It will leave behind a slight coating on the baseboards, which will work to repel dust and other debris from sticking to them. | Oct 23, 2019

While California winters are relatively mild compared to most of the country, it is still important to perform home winterization tasks in the fall. While Southern Californians might not experience the seasons like those in other parts of the country, there is a perceptible change in the air we all recognize as one season moving into another. Once we sense the upcoming 60-degree chill, Southern California residents should consider preparing their homes for temperature dips, occasional rain, and the intermittent morning frost.

Regardless of where you live, winterizing your home is a good investment of time and can save money each year on heating costs. As with all things home-related, maintenance costs are generally lower when homeowners proactively prepare their home for winter weather instead of waiting until repairs require professional attention.

Here’s how to winterize a Southern California home:

Prepare Your Furnace

Many homeowners take their central heating systems for granted, but a furnace that is improperly maintained performs less efficiently. This can lead to higher energy bills and could result in system malfunction and cause safety hazards. To prevent these kinds of issues, it is best to be proactive about furnace maintenance, especially before winter.

Here are some key steps:

  1. Replace the air filter in your furnace each month. Locate the filter and pull it out. Slide the new filter into the slot, following the arrows on the frame of the filter.
  2. Consider upgrading to a pleated filter, HEPA filter or electrostatic filter. These filters increase the energy efficiency of your furnace and allow the warm air to flow unimpeded through your home.
  3. Clean your air vents and ducts. Remove the vent covers with a screwdriver. Use the extension hose of your vacuum to remove the dust.
  4. Inspect the blower belt for cracks. Turn off the power to the furnace at the main circuit breaker. Use a screwdriver to remove the steel cover of the air handler. The blower belt is the largest rubber belt that you see. Replace the belt if it is cracked.
  5. Adjust your programmable thermostat so it automatically lowers the temperature while you are asleep or away from your home. Consider retrofitting your older home with one of these thermostats; newly built homes in California must be outfitted with a set-back thermostat.
  6. Inspect the exhaust flue outdoors to ensure it is free of obstructions such as branches or animal nests.
  7. Keep the area around your furnace unit free of debris and clutter.
  8. Open all your air vents. Remove furniture, boxes and clutter that get in the way of air flowing from the vents.

Inspect Your Water Heater

Cold showers are never fun once winter is in full force. You can reduce the chances of water heater failure during winter by performing an inspection in the fall. Look at the tank for any signs of corrosion or blackened areas near the burner. Corrosion can be coming from a leak inside of the tank or from high moisture content in the area. Blackened areas near the burner are almost always from improper combustion or back drafting. Insulation blankets can be purchased to wrap water heaters, but when blankets are installed on gas water heaters, the fire hazard may outweigh the minor if any cost savings of the wrapping. Insulated covers on newer water heaters are worthless as far as insulation goes. More often than not they pose greater fire hazards because of the proximity to the draft diverter or the combustion chamber at the base.

Check All Other Air Ducts

Find exposed ducts wherever they may be (in the attic or crawlspaces) and repair all areas where pipes are pinched and restricting the flow of heated air into the house. Fix gaps with metal-backed tape, which is longer lasting and more durable than duct tape. Ducts also should be vacuumed at least once every two years to clear out hair, dust and other debris that can clog the ducts and the air.

Seal Windows and Doors

During the winter, you want to make sure that your doors and windows are airtight. Otherwise, you furnace will just be blowing money out through those cracks. Start with these simple ways to prevent cold air from seeping through your windows and doors.

  1. Check the glass to make sure your panes are in good shape and free of cracks.
  2. Add insulation if you can access the area behind the window or door trim. Adding batt insulation or spray foam insulation can stop air from sneaking in.
  3. Add weather stripping to all doors and windows for added protection from drafts and cold weather.
  4. Caulk around windows and doors.


For optimal energy efficiency, your home should be properly insulated from the roof down to its foundation. Experts will tell you that regardless of climate, homeowners need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in the attic. Because most ceiling joists are 11 inches maximum, if can see the ceiling joists in your attic, you don’t have enough insulation.

Insulate and air seal any knee walls — vertical walls with attic space directly behind them — in your home as well. In addition, if you’re building a new home or remodeling, make sure any attic decking that provides additional storage space or a platform for a heating and/or cooling unit or hot water tank is raised above the ceiling joists to leave room for adequate insulation. If the air distribution system is not within the conditioned space but within the attic, insulating the rafters will enclose the distribution system.

Check and Upgrade Safety Devices

Test existing smoke alarms and consider upgrading to dual smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detectors with smart technology that connects with other wireless technology in your home and monitor on your mobile phone. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible, and extremely dangerous gas, which can result in death if inhaled over a period of time, and can be given off by the most common appliances in your home.

Prepare Your Fireplace

Have your fireplace chimney cleaned and inspected. Remove smoke and soot stains from the fireplace surround and chimney facing by spraying the surface with water followed by scrubbing with a mixture of all-purpose cleaner and water.  You can also try a mixture of vinegar and water.  For marble and stone surfaces, follow the water with a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water. Clean glass fireplace doors with a vinegar and water solution, adding some ashes from the fireplace to gently scrub the glass.

Reverse Ceiling Fans

Many people don’t even realize that there are multiple settings on their ceiling fans. You can use your ceiling fans to assist in keeping your home warm in the winter by revering the direction of the blades. In the winter the blades should rotate clockwise. Clockwise rotation pushes the warm air down and recirculates it throughout the room. Alongside your heater, your home will stay toasty all winter long.

Final Thoughts

As cold weather approaches, it is important to take a few preventative measures to protect your home through the chilly months. Winterizing is generally a task that can be done relatively inexpensively, but will make a big difference in how comfortable your home is, and could end up saving you money on energy bills, too. In fact, many very effective home weatherproofing jobs are something that homeowners can complete without professional help.

If your system needs repair or inspection before winter, contact us for our Preferred HVAC specialists in your area by calling or texting Christine at (714) 476-4637.


Please fill out the form below and we will be contacting you shortly
with information about your home.

Personal Info
Home Address