Homeowner Tips

Home Projects That Require a Professional

DIY rules the airwaves, internet, and social media. Places like Pinterest, YouTube, and HGTV make it feel super easy to tackle just about any project yourself. However, this may work to your detriment in some cases. That includes these home projects that definitely require a professional.

Some home projects can be tackled by motivated DIY'ers. However, others require a professional touch. Know which ones you can tackle alone and which ones you should hire a pro for instead.

When NOT to DIY Your Home Projects

Garage Door

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A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how replacing your garage door provides the best return on investment. Also, it increases your curb appeal. However, one of the home projects you should leave to the professionals is any replacement or repair needed on your garage door. It requires special tools that you may not own. That means renting them. This increases your cost. Also, if you aren’t savvy with the specific workings of a garage door unit, you would be better off hiring someone who does possess those skills.

Electrical Systems

Unless you happen to be a journeyman electrician, I suggest leaving any electrical work up to the pros. Upgrading your electrical panel and installing additional exterior light fixtures should never be considered DIY home projects. If installed improperly, they could become a fire hazard down the road.

Plumbing

Same thing goes for plumbing home projects. Unclogging a toilet or changing out a shower head requires little working knowledge of plumbing systems. However, installing a bathtub, replacing the toilet or moving the sink from one wall to another in the kitchen should be left to the pros. Otherwise, you may end up with leaks which leads to mold. In turn, that could become a major issue in a short amount of time.

Demo

Many homeowners love an open floor plan. Older homes feel so cut off from room to room. Just knock down a wall or two to achieve that open concept you desire, right? Hold on. There’s more to demolition that a pair of goggles and a sledgehammer. Watch out for load-bearing walls and interior electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems. Older homes used asbestos in construction materials and lead in the paint. These require special removal techniques performed by licensed professionals. Also, mold may be an issue. Therefore, hire a pro.

Tree Removal

It may sound like a simple task. Get rid of that old tree threatening your Naples home. But, one wrong move and it could unleash thousands of dollars in damage to your property. Then, there’s the neighbor’s property, cars, and nearby powerlines to worry about. For home projects like this, contact a professional service to get the job done right and safely.

Crown Molding

Crown molding creates a luxurious finishing touch to just about any room. It’s also another deceptively more involved home project than you would initially think. Walls rarely fit into a perfect 90-degree angle. The pros utilize special tools as well as tricks that come from their years of experience to fit the crown molding perfectly. Poorly installed crown molding provides less than desirable results.

Roof Repair/Replacement

First, replacing a roof requires getting up onto said roof. That, in and of itself, offers potential physical dangers to your body (falling off/through, for example). Second, consider the potential for thousands of dollars in damage if the roof is not installed properly. These are things that could also show up on a home inspection when you try to sell your Naples or Marco Island home. Contact several different local roofing companies. Get references. Then, ask for proof of insurance before you hire one.

Major Changes

Finally, don’t make any major structural changes to your property yourself. Home projects like a room addition, major kitchen or bathroom renovation, deck, etc. usually require permits from the city first. In turn, the city requires this work to be performed by licensed professionals. If not properly constructed, you run the risk of a structural failure somewhere down the road. Even if it happens after you sell your home, you may still be held personally responsible if you did not hire a professional to perform these tasks.

That being said, some upgrades/renovations actually can be performed by non-professionals. They also make your property stand out when it comes time to sell. However, when it comes to more intense home projects, leave those up to the pros.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos?

Lower Energy Costs Before the Summer Heat Hits

It may only be the end of April, but summer’s a’comin’. And with that comes higher energy bills. But you can combat that right now. Lower energy costs before the summer heat hits by performing a few DIY tasks right now.

Lower energy costs in your Marco Island/Naples home before the summer heat hits by performing these simple DIY tasks right now.

How to Lower Energy Costs Right Now

Window Coverings

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Uncovered windows allow the sun’s rays to heat up the inside of your home. They also allow cooler inside air to escape through small cracks or holes. Because of this, you may end up spending up to 25% more in energy costs. Adding something as simple as thicker draperies that completely cover your windows help lower energy costs . And all you need is a screwdriver, a step stool, a good piece of fabric, and a level to make it happen.

Replace Worn Out Caulking/Weatherstripping

Do you feel a slight breeze when you stand near your window? It might be due to worn out, dry, cracked caulking. For just $2, you can purchase interior window caulking at your local home improvement store. Make sure the caulking is a good quality one and can be painted. Don’t use any caulking meant for exterior use. It must be interior use only. Pipe a bead of it around the window where the trim meets the wall and between the trim and the frame. Weatherstripping works well for window joints. If you have any questions, talk to the expert at your home improvement store. It’s very simple to install caulking and weatherstripping. Even a novice should have no problem.

Clean Your Sills

It might sound silly but a simple cleaning of your window sills may be enough to stop a small air leak and lower energy costs. How? Dirt buildup prevents windows from sealing properly. Thus, air leaks occur. When that happens, it costs more to cool off the interior of your home. Just use soap and water to clean out the sill. For stuck-on grime, a scrubber or old toothbrush should loosen it up enough to wipe away. Don’t forget the tracks in your sliding glass doors, too. This task is so simple that you might even be able to let the kids help you with it. And it costs nothing if you already have the soap and scrubber on hand.

Add a Door Sweep

Another area where a house loses energy is through the exterior doors. Stand in your interior entryway and look at your front door during the day. Do you see daylight streaming through? Then you’re losing energy. One way to stop this from happening is to add a door sweep to the bottom of the door. They create a seal that prevents hot air from coming in and cool air from exiting. The result? Lower energy costs. Some door sweeps install without any hardware whatsoever. Others you’ll need to screw into the door frame. Costs run around $10 to $20 each and take minutes to install.

Inspect Your Air Ducts

Finally, lower energy costs by taking a look at your air ducts. You should be able to see them in your crawl space, attic, unfinished basement area and/or garage. Look for any visible holes or tears. Contrary to what its name implies, forget about using duct tape. Instead, opt for mastic or foil tape. A roll will only set you back about $10 to $15 and can be found at any home improvement store. All you’ll need to complete the task once you purchase your tape is a flashlight.

Before temperatures begin to soar, lower energy costs by completing these simple DIY tasks right now. They don’t take a lot of skill, money or time either. Anybody can do these and you’ll save some money in the process.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos?

Moving Tip: Should You DIY or Hire a Pro?

What part of the Naples home buying experience do people dislike the most? Moving! Sure, you’re excited because you get to move into a new home. However, the logistics of a move create more stress to your already busy lifestyle. This week’s moving tip asks the question should you DIY or hire a pro?

When moving from one house to another, do you prefer doing it yourself or hiring a professional moving company? What moving tip would you give someone moving for the first time?

Moving Tip: Should You DIY or Hire a Pro?

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Pro

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Pros: When you hire a professional to help you move into your new Naples/Marco Island home, they handle all the heavy lifting…literally. Many companies provide packing services as well. All you have to do is tell them where to place your furniture and boxes. If something gets damaged in the move, a reputable moving company is insured to cover it. With professionals, you won’t have to take off work to complete your move. They trudge on while you go about your daily routine.

Cons: Primarily, the cost. Homeowners pay much more for this service than they would to do it themselves. If you hire a less-than-reputable moving company, you run the risk of possible theft. Moving Tip: Always research a company’s reputation and ask for references as well as proof of insurance before you hire them on.

Pros and Cons of Doing it for Yourself

Pros: On the flip side, DIY moving jobs cost less. But they’re not free. You might need to rent a truck or van. You’ll need packaging materials (boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc.). Plus, there’s the cost of gas. However, this all tends to add up to much less than hiring professional movers. Another “pro” with moving your property yourself is that you don’t have to worry about anybody stealing anything from you.

Cons: Unless you move things for a living, you run the risk of breaking or damaging your property. You also run the risk of hurting yourself due to moving heavy objects incorrectly. This might even cause you to take time off work in order to heal. Moving Tip: Pack lighter things (like bedding, towels, linens, etc.) in with heavier items (books, dinnerware, cookware). Use medium-sized boxes. This reduces the chances of you overpacking and hurting yourself in the move.

Should You DIY or Should You Pro?

When it comes right down to it, the choice is yours. If you can afford it, let the professionals handle the move to your new Naples home. Professionals work well for cross-country or state-to-state moves as well. On the other hand, you might have a big family or lots of good friends who are willing to help you with your move. In that case, save yourself a few bucks and do it yourself, especially if it’s within a short distance.

Which method did you use in the past to move from house to house? Which one do you prefer? What moving tip would you tell someone weighing the pros and cons of hiring a professional moving company or doing it themselves? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos 

Fall Home Maintenance Tasks to Complete Right Now

So, fall technically doesn’t begin for 12 more days. However, responsible Naples/Marco Island homeowners start getting their properties in shape for the change of seasons as soon as possible. Complete the following fall home maintenance tasks right now. Then, you’ll be ahead of the curve if you need a service call.

Save yourself the headache and expense of a larger problem by tackling these fall home maintenance tasks right now.

Fall Home Maintenance Tasks to Complete Right Now

Gutters

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We might not experience the bone-chilling cold here in the Naples/Marco Island area that other parts of the country feel. However, that doesn’t mean we should neglect cleaning out the gutters as part of our fall home maintenance tasks. Rain falls quite a bit here, as you know. In fact, our summers experience the most precipitation out of the entire year. Wind brings all sorts of foliage to our rooftops that can then settle into the gutters. If the gutters become clogged, water won’t drain properly from the roof. Pooling water creates a myriad of problems, from roof rips and tears to rot and leaks. The majority of these problems can be solved by simply clearing out your rain gutters routinely.

Fireplace

Another one of the fall home maintenance tasks to pay attention to right now is cleaning out your fireplace. We may still have a couple of months before you actually light a fire in your fireplace, however, you should make sure it is in proper working condition right now. Creosote builds up in the chimney, creating a fire hazard. Leave the cleaning to the pros. Experts recommend a good chimney sweep after every 50-70 fires. One professional cleaning per year (either early fall or in the spring) should be enough for more Naples/Marco Island homes.

Roof

Next item up on your fall home maintenance tasks list should be to inspect your roof. As I said before, wind brings all manner of things to the rooftop. It can also cause severe damage to tiles or other roofing materials. Repair or replace damaged areas as soon as possible. I highly recommend paying a roofing company to come out and look at your roof. Inspections typically cost about $100. But it could save you thousands of dollars down the road if a potential problem is spotted and resolved in its early stages.

Doors/Windows/Walls

When the weather starts to change, animals like to find warmer places to nest. Don’t allow them to lay claim to your Naples/Marco Island home. The final one of your fall home maintenance tasks to tackle right now is to walk around the perimeter of your home looking for small holes in the walls. Check the eaves as well as the foundation. Mice and other critters look for ways inside and they don’t need much of hole to do it either. Most mice fit through a whole the size of a dime. Even vents provide access points. Also, keep cold, wet weather out and warm temperatures in during the winter by sealing up doors and windows. Replace worn or cracked caulking or weather stripping. This helps reduce your energy usage and costs as well.

Complete these fall home maintenance tasks as soon as possible. Some might require the services of a professional. As the weather gets cooler, these professionals’ schedules fill up. Then, the consumer (you) gets charged more. Save yourself the headache and expense of a larger problem by tackling these chores right now.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos 

Reseal Your Driveway and Boost Your Curb Appeal

Want to boost your curb appeal? In the past, I’ve told you how to make your outdoor spaces more mobile-friendly. I even talked about specific colors trending for spring. This time, let’s turn to the front of your house…more specifically, your driveway. Do cracks and potholes make your driveway look shabby? With a little elbow grease, you can reseal your driveway without professional help and boost your curb appeal.

It's easier to reseal your driveway than you think. And it easily boosts the curb appeal of your Marco Island/Naples home.

How to Reseal Your Driveway

Check the Weather

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When you reseal your driveway, you’re going to need one full week of no rain and temperatures of 60F or above. While the latter isn’t a problem at the moment, we tend to experience the most rainfall between May and October in Marco Island and June through September in Naples. Check the weather forecast before you start your resealing project or you may end up having to do it again.

Clear the Way

You need a clean surface to reseal your driveway. Therefore, you’ll need to take the weed wacker to any growth around the sides and in between the cracks on your driveway. Sweep or blow away any grass clippings or dirt on the surface as well. Then, power wash the entire driveway using a back and forth motion. You’ll then need to allow it to dry completely or the sealant will not adhere to it. It typically takes about 48 hours to dry all the way through.

Take Care of the Cracks/Potholes

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and boots or old shoes you don’t mind messing up. Then, seal up the smaller cracks and potholes in your driveway’s surface with asphalt crack filler (available at most home improvement stores). This helps provide a smooth surface for the asphalt sealant to go over.

Create an Asphalt Perimeter

With a long-handled brush, use wet asphalt to mark the perimeter of where you’ll be laying down the asphalt when you reseal your driveway. This provides a guideline of where to quit spreading it. If the asphalt goes outside of that line, it could create an unsightly stain that is difficult to remove. Keep it off the grass and garage door.

Start Filling it In

After you created a perimeter, fill in the space with asphalt. Using a push-pull method, make sure your asphalt is evenly coated. Don’t work with any more than two to three gallons at a time. You’ll want it to be evenly distributed throughout.

Finishing Touches

At the end of the driveway, use a bristle brush to mark an asphalt border line when you reseal your driveway. This helps create a borderline between the driveway and the street. Finally, stay off the driveway for several days to allow it to set properly and thoroughly dry.

While it may sound like a lot of work to reseal your driveway, it really isn’t. Almost anybody can do it themselves and save a few dollars in the process. Talk to your local home improvement store associates if you have any questions. Good luck!

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos

Hurricane Preparedness for Marco Island and Naples Residents

Many Floridians like to say that hurricanes rarely hit our portion of the state. However, anyone who lived through last year’s Category 3 Hurricane Irma would correct them. Since hurricane season officially began on June 1st, it would be a good idea for Marco Island and Naples residents to take create or update their hurricane preparedness program at home.

Hurricane season lasts from June 1st to November 30th. Hurricane preparedness is important for anyone living in Naples or Marco Island.

Hurricane Preparedness

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Follow the Boy Scout’s motto to always be prepared. The sooner you create a hurricane preparedness plan, the better. First of all, sign up for an alert system (CodeRed, for example). Download the FEMA mobile app for easy access on your phone.

Then, put together a getaway bag: one per family member. Backpacks probably make the best getaway bags because they can be quickly identified by each member of the household and are easy to transport. Inside each bag, include at least three days worth of clothes, toiletries, food, water, medicines, and cash money (small bills). Include a flashlight, extra batteries and at least one radio per each adult and teen. You may want to prepare a separate bag for your pets, too, that includes food and water for them. Inside each bag, write the name of the person the bag belongs to, the name and phone number for their emergency contact, that person’s relationship to the emergency contact, and your home address.

Next, create a plan of evacuation. Designate one person (such as an aunt, grandparent, cousin, close friend, etc.) who lives outside of your immediate area as your emergency contact. If you get separated during an emergency, make sure everyone knows who to contact.

Finally, practice your plan regularly. Keep your getaway bags close to an exit point in your home (front door, mud room, garage door, etc). Once a month, put your plan into practice. The more often you practice, the easier it will be to implement when a real emergency arises. Include calling and checking in with your emergency contact so that younger children know what to do. For more tips and information, please visit Ready.gov’s website.

Hurricane Preparedness – Alert Systems

The Cities of Marco Island and Naples want residents to receive up-to-date information as soon as it’s available. When it comes to hurricanes, the more warning you have, the better. Sign up for the free CodeRed alert system. Whenever an emergency arises in the Marco Island/Naples area, CodeRed sends an alert via text, email, landline and even social media. In addition to hurricane warnings, CodeRed alerts you about evacuations, utility outages, floods, chemical spills, and any other emergency situation that may come up. Marco Island residents can sign up for CodeRed here. You can also sign up for e-notifications from the City by visiting the City of Marco Island’s website here. Just keep in mind that the CodeRed system is completely different than the City’s e-notification system. So, you may want to sign up for both. Naples residents must sign up for CodeRed online here.

Do you and your family have a hurricane preparedness plan in place for your home? Please share any tips you think are important in the comments below.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos

Keep Your Naples Home Safe While You’re on Vacation

Last Monday was Memorial Day. This signals that summer is close at hand. Our local schools let out soon. Many people choose the summer to take long family vacations, intimate getaways with their significant other or a fun jaunt somewhere with their friends. The last thing you want to do is come home to find that someone has broken into your home. Keep your Naples home safe while you’re on vacation. Utilize these helpful hints to lessen your risk of a burglary while you enjoy a much-deserved time away.

Going away this summer? Make would-be thieves think twice about targeting your home by using these vacation tips to keep your Naples home safe while you're gone.

Naples Home Safety Tips

Social Media Blackout

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First and foremost, the biggest Naples home safety tip I can give you is to keep off social media while you’re away. Enjoy your time. Take pictures to mark the occasion. But delay posting anything about your trip until after you return. You don’t need to advertise to would-be thieves that your house sits empty while you’re hundreds of miles away. This extends to email, as well. Some of us set automatic responses when we’re out of the office. Instead of saying “I’m on vacation between this date and this date”, a simple, “I’m currently out of the office. Please contact so-and-so if you need immediate help.” Don’t get into specifics of the why or when. Of course, you could forget about the “out of office” auto-reply altogether and have someone in your office monitor your emails while you’re away.

Set Your Timers

Next, use timers for your lights. Many thieves watch homes for days…even weeks before they actually strike. They learn the daily habits of its residents. If you don’t already own one, consider purchasing a timer for your lights. They’re available online or in home improvement stores. Some allow you to set up timers for various rooms at different times while you’re away. This helps keep up the appearance that someone is home. FabatHome.com provides a list of the best outlet timers on the market right now based on user-friendliness, type, and design. Check them out to learn more before you head out to buy a system of your own.

Unplug Unnecessary Appliances

How would you feel if you came back from vacation to find that your Naples home burned down due to an electrical fire? Avoid this by unplugging any unnecessary appliances. Coffee pot, TV, computer, toaster, you name it. If you don’t use it while you’re gone, unplug it. Depending on the amount of time you’ll be gone, you may even want to unplug your refrigerator. Just make sure all perishable food items are not left inside and leave the door open to avoid mildew. Set your water heater to vacation mode by lowering the temperature. You can even turn off your thermostat as long as you don’t have plants or animals inside to worry about. If you do, you can still set the thermostat to a higher temperature than you normally would.

Keep Up Appearances

Nothing says “no one’s home” like a pile of mail or a lawn that looks like it hasn’t been mowed for a while. Put a hold on your mail with the post office for the time you’re away. It’s a quick form you can fill out at the post office. They won’t deliver your mail during the time frame you indicate. Regular delivery starts up again when you say. You can do the same for your daily or weekly newspaper delivery. Do you already have a landscaping service? Then, you won’t need to worry about your lawn. However, if you don’t, you might want to hire someone to take care of it while you’re gone.

House Sitter

Another way to keep your Naples home safe while you’re on vacation is to hire a house sitter. This can be costly but ultimately worth it if their presence thwarts a robbery. Or, instead of boarding your dog while you’re gone, have a pet sitter come by once or twice a day to check on them. The pet sitter feeds, waters and walks your dog. They can also bring in your mail and packages. But, the best thing they do is provide the appearance that someone is at your Naples home every day.

Tell Your Neighbors

If you’re friendly with your neighbors, let them know you’ll be away. They can keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report it to authorities when they see it. Of course, if you plan on having a house or pet sitter drop by, let them know that, too. The more eyes, the better.

Lock it Up

Finally, this may sound obvious, but lock your Naples home up tight. Check all windows and exterior doors to make sure they are locked before you leave. This includes the sliding glass door and french doors. Oftentimes, burglaries happen due simply to opportunity. An unlocked car or home allows easy entry. Thieves take advantage. You lose out. This could have been avoided simply by making sure everything was locked up.

These small, simple tips make your Naples home safe while you’re on vacation. They can be very effective in making thieves think twice about targeting your property while you’re away. Then, you can enjoy your vacation without the worry of your home’s security.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos

Naples Homeowners: Identifying Potential Foundation Problems

Homes require maintenance to stay in tip-top shape. But, sometimes, repairs can be costly. Correcting foundation problems ranks high on the list of expensive fixes. However, identifying potential foundation problems early might save Naples homeowners thousands of dollars. While huge cracks quickly throw up red flags, foundation issues aren’t always so easy to spot.

Foundation problems can be some of the costliest to repair for Naples homeowners. Learn how to identify potential foundations early on.

Identifying Potential Foundation Problems

Doors and Windows

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Some squeaky doors and windows only need a squirt of WD-40 to work properly again. However, if you find it increasingly difficult to open or close them, this could be an indicator of a bigger problem. The same goes for gaps between the window frame and walls. As a foundation shifts, it distorts the alignment of your Naples home’s frame. Take care of these issues early to save big bucks later on.

Floors and Walls

Next, keep an eye out for floors or ceilings that sag or slant. Shifting weight puts more pressure on other areas of your home, creating sagging. You can use a level to see whether your floor is slanting or not. If the slant continues to increase over a period of time, call a pro in to check it out. Another indicator of a potential problem is a bowed wall. However, don’t mistake a large paint blister/bubble for bowing. That should also be addressed since it could be from heat or water damage. But it does not mean there’s a foundation problem. Have you noticed nails pulling away from the drywall? If this happens regularly, it could be due to foundation problems.

Smells

Musty, moldy smells may point to a plumbing problem. On the other hand, they can also signify a potential foundation issue. If you see mold or smell mildew, try to locate the source of the moisture right away. Check for leaks around the windows or other areas that might be letting moisture gather in the area.

Chimney

Finally, have you looked up at your chimney and thought that it appeared to be leaning slightly? That might be the beginning of a foundation issue. If your chimney moves too much, it could fall over and rip a hole in your roof. Or, worse yet, it could tumble down, raining bricks on unsuspecting people down below. As soon as you notice that your chimney is leaning to one side or the other, contact a specialist to come out right away.

Large cracks are the most obvious signs of potential foundation problems. Call a pro if you see any of the following around your Naples home:

  • Any crack more than 1/8″ wide,
  • Cracks that are narrow on one end and wide on the other,
  • Create a 45 degree angle or run horizontally,
  • Have any leaking water coming from it, or
  • Cracks that run in a “stair-step” pattern on the inside or outside of your home.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos