Top 3 Reasons You May Have Standing Water in Your Yard

If you have purchased a new home, or recently added fencing or landscaping to your home, and are noticing standing water in your yard, you may have one of the following three problems.

The top 3 reasons you may have standing water in your yard are:

  1. A heavy rain event occurred within the past 48 hours.
  2. Fencing is blocking proper drainage flow.
  3. The initial grading plan was changed.

Proper grading occurs when an engineer takes careful consideration to plan out the original site. The landscaper then takes those plans and ensures that the final grade is established properly. Altering the original site grading without first consulting a professional landscaper could render the landscaping part of a homeowner warranty void. Improper grading could possibly lead to washouts (portions of land get washed away) and/or water damage to the exterior and interior of the home.

If you notice standing water in your yard there may be a grading or drainage problem which is most likely caused by one of the issues listed below.

  1. A heavy rain event occurred within the past 48 hours.
    A properly graded yard with adequate drainage swales will ensure that water will not remain standing 48 hours after a heavy rain event. It is however, normal to see some pooling water immediately after a large storm.
  1. Fencing is blocking proper drainage flow.
    Fencing that is placed low or close to the ground may affect the proper drainage of water. If a homeowner chooses to install his or her own fence, it’s important for them to consider the drainage pattern in the yard and not install the fencing in such as way as to block the natural drainage of the yard.
  1. The initial grading plan was changed.
    A change in grading caused by landscape beds or other type of landscaping may increase the likelihood of standing water or other drainage issues. It is critical when adding or modifying the landscaping of your yard to take the original grading and drainage into account. If you block the drainage away from your home with new landscaping, you may end up with water damage to your home’s siding and interior.

A beautifully landscaped yard is a wonderful addition to a new home as well as a neighborhood. Keeping the above information in mind will ensure that you enjoy a home and yard free of any water drainage related issues.

Planning for Your Move Part 1 (Pack A Bag)

Moving 101

Planning For Your Move, Part 1
by Bob and Sue Russo

Moving can be a stressful experience. We have made many local as well as cross country moves over the years. We’d like to share some things that we have learned that may help reduce this stress. One of the first things you should do when planning for your move is to decide whether you will be moving yourself or if you are going hire a mover. If you are going to be moving yourself, start gathering boxes. You can buy boxes and packing tape at Lowes or Home Depot, but it costs about $3.00 for one large (18”x 24”) packing box. To save money, start collecting boxes from friends, family, the liquor store or any other source you have for free boxes. Doing this could save you up to a few hundred dollars. You can also get end-rolls of news print paper from the local newspaper printing department for about $1 per roll to use as packing paper. It’s the same paper they use to print the newspaper but it’s clean and free of printing. If you hire a mover, the mover will generally supply boxes, packing materials and tape to you as part of their package.

Whether you decide to use a professional or move your things yourself, it’s important to remember to pack a bag.

To avoid the embarrassment of having to wear a Hawaiian shirt that may only be appropriate in Hawaii or the possibility of walking around with “mossy” teeth. It’s important to pack a bag for each family member a few days before you move. You should think about it as if you are going on vacation or a business trip for a week. Make sure you think about everything you would need. Don’t forget the cosmetics, medicine, cell phone chargers and little Susie’s favorite blanket. These items should stay with you, not with the moving truck. You may also want to pack a few basic items for the kitchen, like the coffee pot, especially if you are making a local move.

When you get to your new home it’s important to bring these items in first. They should be placed in a safe spot that will not get buried under a pile of boxes. You may need to eat take out for a few days, but at least you’ll have clean clothes and fresh breath. If you plan ahead you can ease the stress and not end up like Bob on his first day in his new home

There are a lot of other things that will help you make the transition from one home to another home go as smoothly as possible. Stay tuned for more Planning Your Move Tips from Bob and Sue.

Difference between builder grade and retail products

The term ‘builder grade’ often has negative connotations and is sometimes thought of as synonymous with low-grade products and materials. However the difference between builder grade and retail products bought at home improvement stores is often negligible.

builder grade products

It would be more accurate to say that builder grade is the medium grade product that production builders are able to get at the best price-point-to-quality for their homes. The main difference in builder grade and retail products is marketing, labeling, availability and distribution. Since production home builders buy products in large quantities they can usually get the same product at a lower cost.

That doesn’t mean that the standard builder grade products are the best products or will last as long as more expensive premium upgrade products and materials. Since builders have to compete with each other on price, and most homebuyers are shopping for homes based on price, they work out the grade of products and materials that will give the homebuyer the best deal for the money and use them as the standard for their homes. Most new home builders offer upgrades to roofing, siding, windows and doors, interior finishes, plumbing and electrical fixtures, paint, and floor coverings to name a few, and will work with homebuyers to go over the the cost and longevity of the options and upgrades they offer.

If you are thinking of buying a new home, or having one built, the quality of the products and materials used in the home are an important part of the many decisions you will need to make. An important determining factor in whether to upgrade the products and materials from builder grade to premium grade would be how long you anticipate living in the home. If you are going to be in the home for less than five years, it doesn’t really make sense to spend a lot of extra money on upgrades, but if you anticipate living in the house for 10-20 years, it might make sense to upgrade some of the products used in your new home. This would be especially true if you plan to retire in the home and don’t want to deal with expensive home maintenance and upkeep issues down the road.

An example of upgrades that make sense long term would be upgrading the roofing from the standard 20-year shingles to 30-year shingles. This means under normal conditions, even if you stay in the house for 30 or more years, you shouldn’t have to replace the roof shingles. A little more money spent up front can sometimes save a lot of money later on.

An example of where it doesn’t make sense to upgrade would be if you are a first-time home buyer or are relocating for work and only plan on keeping the house for 5-10 years and then selling it to buy another home. In that case it makes more sense to get into your home at the lowest cost initially and not spending a lot of extra money on upgrades that you won’t be there to take advantage of.

Either way it is important to shop around and view homes by various builders in the area you want to buy so you can see what is offered as standard builder grade by different builders.

The decisions and choices that need to be made when buying or building a new home can sometimes be overwhelming. At McKee Homes we offer the best possible quality products and materials at the lowest cost to the homebuyer, but are also happy to offer premium upgrades to satisfy the needs of all our homebuyers. We have a dedicated and experienced new home selections coordinator who will guide you through the process of choosing the products and finishes used in your home and help you make the most informed and best decisions for your budget and the longevity of your home.

We also have a new home specialist who is available by phone at 910-672-7296, live chat, or email to set up VIP home tours for you to view any of our floor plans or neighborhoods with someone who can answer all your questions and help you make the best decisions when it comes to buying or building a new home.

How to Maintain Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is the top siding option in the United States for remodeling and new construction. Its popularity is primarily due to its upscale appearance, outstanding durability, easy upkeep and exceptional value.

vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is not maintenance-free, but is definitely reduced maintenance. Here are a few tips to help keep your vinyl siding looking food for years to come.

  • Wash it yearly. Siding accumulates dirt, grime and other stains throughout the year. It can also grow mold and mildew in damp, shady areas. To clean your siding, use a cloth or soft bristle brush starting at the bottom and working your way up to avoid streaking. There are several types of cleaning products you can purchase, but a homemade solution can work just as well. For a homemade solution mix the following ingredients: 1/3 cup powered laundry detergent, 2/3 cup powered household cleaner, 1 quart liquid laundry bleach and 1 gallon water. Be sure to cover any brick facing or landscaping so it’s not affected by the runoff. ( You can also pressure wash your home, but you have to do it carefully. You need to hold the power washer straight at eye level to keep it from going behind the siding.
  • Don’t hit it. Be mindful where you park your lawn mower or bicycles. Vinyl siding won’t dent, but it can crack or break. If it does get damaged, be sure to replace it as soon as possible.
  • Inspect it. Vinyl siding can conceal moisture-related issues, so checking to make sure there are no loose areas can help you spot small issues before they turn into larger problems.
  • It can melt. Open flame can do a lot of damage to your vinyl siding. Keeping your grills at least 2-3 feet away from your home is a safe distance.

As you can see, vinyl siding is a low maintenance siding option. Doing these simple steps will keep your home looking like new for years to come.


How To Navigate Online Home Buying

Have you ever bought anything online: clothes, books, furniture, etc.? For the majority of you, the answer is a resounding, YES! People are buying everything online these days from mascara to motorbikes to new homes.

Think back to your last online purchase. What kind of customer service did you receive? Chances are it wasn’t the best. When buying something online, must we sacrifice strong customer service for convenience? Is it possible to have both the ease of making purchases online and exceptional customer service? Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible!

When shopping for a new home, 93% of buyers start online. They may spend up to six months, sometimes more, looking for a new home before they reach out to a real estate agent or sales person. They compare houses, neighborhoods and features. During this process the new home buyer may have questions, but for a variety of reasons, may be reluctant to ask.

mckee homes online home buying

At McKee Homes, we have a customer friendly process that caters to online shoppers and the online home buying experience. Our website is clearly laid out and has a strong visual appeal allowing visitors to view floor plans, neighborhoods and available homes from the comfort of their own home. We also have an interactive design app that allows visitors to choose the colors of siding, roofing, doors and stone samples on the front elevation of most of our floor plans as well as choose the floor plan options they would like. They can save their work as a brochure, download it and share it with friends.  In addition, we have New Home Specialists available to answer any questions a buyer might have.

A buyer can interact with our New Home Specialists as little or as much as they would like. While on the McKee Homes Website, a small pop up window will appear, asking if a buyer needs any help or has any questions. The buyer has several options at this point:

  1. Click on the X in the corner of the window to close it out.
  2. Type a question in the window (live chat).
  3. Email us.
  4. Call us.

There is also a floating button on the right side of our web pages labeled “Have A Question? “which has links to live chat, email and phone. Having multiple ways to communicate with us, allows the buyer to choose the method they are most comfortable with.

how to navigate online home buying

Once a buyer reaches out to our New Home Specialists, they provide guidance and answer specific questions, which helps the buyer narrow their search to find the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood. Once they have narrowed the search, the New Home Specialists can set up a VIP appointment with our Onsite Specialist. The buyer then visits the neighborhood to determine if the house is in fact a “best fit.” Our New Home Specialists collaborate with the Onsite Specialists to ensure that our buyer has the best customer experience possible. At this point in the process, the homebuyer’s main contact usually switches over to the Onsite Specialist, however our New Home Specialist is always available to support the customer and the Onsite New Home Specialist.

McKee Homes has an online experience that is both informative and customer service focused. Choosing a McKee Home and working with a New Home Specialist puts the buyer in the driver’s seat.

Why builders use roof and floor trusses

Roof and floor trusses are built in a manufacturing plant to exact specifications, which means they cost less and save labor in the field compared to the equivalent standard framing lumber. Because they are engineered, trusses can support more weight over longer spans as well.

With engineered truss floor and roof systems there is less deflection and movement, which prevents creaky floors and makes the overall structure of the home stronger. Trusses use less wood to accomplish the same support so they are also a smarter, more eco-friendly way to build.

Floor Trusses

In addition to the cost saving associated with using trusses, the time to build a roof system can be cut down from up to a week on a complex roof using standard lumber down to a day to install the trusses for the same roof system. This results in lower labor costs for the builder that can be passed on to the homebuyer. It also shortens the amount of time it takes to complete a home, which makes it easier for production builders to meet closing deadlines and allows buyers to move into their homes sooner.

The quality of the wood used in trusses is the same as standard framing lumber and the truss manufacturing companies are usually open to creating custom trusses for just about any situation.

There are a few situations such as some cathedral ceilings that may be easier to build with standard framing lumber such as 2×10’s, so some custom homebuilders still build their roof systems the traditional way. However, most production builders use trusses to save time and money and ensure a quality product for their homebuyers.

Upgrading The Flooring In Your New Home

Flooring plays an important role in the look, feel and livability of your new home. If you are considering buying a new home and are wondering about upgrading the flooring in your new home, there are many options available. Whether you choose carpet, vinyl, tile, laminate or engineered hardwood you must keep your budget as well as your lifestyle in mind.

upgraded laminate flooring

Laminate flooring has come a long way over the years with some choices having the same look and feel as engineered or prefinished hardwood flooring while offering more durability at a lower cost. With the growing popularity of laminate flooring, many homebuilders are being asked about upgrading carpet and/or vinyl to laminate flooring. Since laminates can be installed on both crawl space and slab foundations, this is an available upgrade to new homebuyers. Identifying which type of flooring you want to use at the earliest opportunity in the build process will save time and money.

So what happens when you find a new home that’s still under construction or even complete? You may think you have to settle for the installed flooring or look at buying another home to get what you want. When you buy a home from McKee Homes upgrading the flooring is still an option even at the latter stages of home construction. The only concerns would be the cost of the change and the time frame in which you want to move into the home.

McKee Homes offers our new homebuyers the benefit of consulting with our Selections Coordinator at our Design Center prior to construction to personalize their new home and make interior design choices with the help of a professional. The design center has a variety of selections available to touch, see and experience, including flooring samples, kitchen and bath tile, exterior finishes, lighting and plumbing fixtures, and kitchen cabinet options. Even if a homebuyer decides on a prebuilt home, there are still many selections options that can be changed in the home before closing including upgrading floor coverings.

Laminate flooring is a great option or upgrade for your new home and will add years of beauty and enjoyment for your family.

How to Naturally Remove Fleas

A flea-free home is important for the happiness and health of your family and pets. Not only are fleas a nuisance that can cause painful itching and irritation, but they can also transmit various diseases to you and your pets. Read the rest of this article to learn how to naturally remove fleas.

prevent and naturally remove fleas from your home

A female flea can lay 5000 or more eggs throughout her life. Once they hatch, the flea larvae will move away from light and search for food. They tend to gravitate to dark places like cracks, crevices, carpeting, upholstery, air ducts and bedding. They feed on a wide variety of warm-blooded vertebrates, including dogs, cats and humans.

The adult flea’s primary goal is to find blood and then reproduce. An adult flea generally lives for two to three months, but without food or a host it may only live for a few days. With ideal conditions, however, which include the right temperature, good food supply, and humidity, an adult flea can live up to 100 days. Optimal temperatures for the flea’s life cycle are 70°F to 85°F, and optimal humidity is 70%.

The peak flea season in North Carolina is typically September and October. Since most fleas can survive our winters (unless we get a hard freeze) as well as live indoors year-round, unfortunately there really is no end to flea season here.

Many flea treatments are toxic and hazardous to humans and pets, but there are several remedies to naturally remove fleas without using harmful chemicals and insecticides.


  • Keep your grass cut and weeds trimmed. Since fleas love shady areas and damp spots, try to expose those areas to sunlight or keep your pet away from those spots.
  • Lay banana peels face up throughout your yard. Generally one peel per five to 10 square feet is enough, but more is better than less. Once the peels turn black you can determine if you need to place more. (You can put banana peels on a plate inside your house, too, but look out for fruit flies and remove all banana peels if you see any.)
  • Use cedar chips for bedding in an outdoor doghouse.


  • Vacuum your house thoroughly and frequently, including all corners and baseboards and areas that don’t get much exposure to the sun. Also vacuum seat cushions and under furniture.
    • Empty the vacuum bag or contents into a sealed plastic bag or airtight container and put it in a covered trashcan outside.
  • Before vacuuming, sprinkle salt or baking soda on the carpets and work it in the base of the carpet with a broom or scrub brush and let sit for a few hours to help dry out flea eggs.
  • Vinegar/lemon/witch hazel spray. After vacuuming, combine one gallon vinegar, ½ gallon water, 16 oz. lemon juice, and 8 oz. witch hazel into a large sprayer and spray your carpets, furniture, pet bedding, window sills, floors and every nook and cranny. Repeat this every three to four days, and once the fleas are gone, spray weekly.
  • Citrus spray. Add a thinly sliced lemon to a pint of water and boil. Let it sit overnight and spray it onto areas where you think fleas may be. Rub it on your pet’s fur till damp. You can also add two to three drops of this mixture under your pet’s collar to help repel fleas. Do this once a month, but make sure your pet doesn’t show any signs of digestive discomfort.
  • Vinegar spray. In a spray bottle, use a ratio of ¼ distilled white vinegar to ¾ water. You can also add one tablespoon of dish soap. Spray weekly on your fabrics. (This is also good for cleaning countertops and other surfaces.)
  • Place a shallow bowl of soapy water beneath furniture. Add enough dish soap (many people swear by Dawn) to color the water, approximately one teaspoon for two cups of water. The fleas will jump in and drown. You can do this outside, too, but make sure to empty daily to prevent mosquitoes.
    • You can also set the soapy water under a night light or lamp, as the fleas will be attracted to the warm light.
  • Wash your pet bedding and blankets weekly in hot, soapy water, in addition to washing anything else your pet likes to lay or sleep on. If it can go in the dryer, 15 to 20 minutes on high will kill adult fleas, larvae and eggs.
  • Get a dehumidifier. Since fleas like humidity, keep the humidity in your room under 50% for a couple days to kill adult fleas and larva and stop the eggs from hatching. Afterward vacuum the flea debris and their eggs.
  • Apply diatomaceous earth throughout your home. DE is an all-natural, non-toxic product that looks and feels like talcum powder, but it will cut the fleas’ protective outer coating, killing them. A little goes a long way, though, so be careful not to use too much as inhaling large amounts can irritate the windpipe and lungs.


  • Bathe your pet with a gentle shampoo. You can also wash your cat in Head and Shoulders shampoo. Wash the neck area first so you get any fleas before they jump to your pet’s head.
    • You can also soak grapefruit peels in the bathwater before you bathe your pet. Be sure to do this outside, though, since fleas don’t like the smell and may jump off.
  • Make an herbal flea dip. Add two cups of fresh rosemary leaves to two pints of water. Boil for 30 minutes, strain, discard the leaves, and mix it with a gallon of warm water. Pour it over your pet until saturated and allow your pet to air dry (do this on a hot day only).
  • Use a fine-toothed flea comb on your pet, especially over the lower back near the tail base. To determine if any black, pepper-like material is flea feces, place it on a white paper towel and add a drop of water. If it is flea feces, it will make a reddish-brown stain since it is actually digested blood.
  • Make a flea collar. Put drops of eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, citronella, lavender or geranium on your pet’s collar or kerchief and repeat weekly. (NOTE: If you use tea tree oil, make sure it is 1% or less strength. Do NOT use essential oils on cats.)

Once you have eliminated the fleas, you will still need to watch for them regularly and repeat your cleaning regimen as often as possible so they don’t have another chance to infest your pet or your home.

Additional sources of natural, non-toxic flea remedies to naturally remove fleas from your home:

Best Location for Wall Jack Outlets in Home

One of the great things about building a new home, whether it’s a custom or production home, is that you get to make personal decisions about aspects of your home that you wouldn’t get to make with a resale home unless you want to bring in the remodeling contractors.

Where you have the contractor install the utility jacks such as phone, cable, USB and Ethernet will depend on personal preference and how you intend to set up your home. McKee Homes adds USB charging ports to some of the power outlets in our homes, so you get to decide the best location for charging your mobile devices if you desire.

cable, phone, USB and ethernet jack location in home

The most important areas of the home to set these locations are the living room, family room, office, kitchen and bedrooms. The most important are the location of the cable jacks, so they will be close to where you want your DVR and TV. Phone jacks and internet connections such as Ethernet jacks aren’t as big of a deal as they used to be as most people use mobile phones and wireless internet devices in their homes these days. However if you are going to have an office in your house with a landline phone and a desktop computer, you should decide where you will put your desk and computer in order to get the cable and phone jacks in the correct locations. You want them close to where you need them so you don’t end up with cables running all over the place which can be an eyesore or even a hazard if they have to cross a doorway.

One way to determine the location of phone and cable jacks is to look at the floor plan of the home, or walk a similar floor plan in the case of production homes, to decide where you will put your furniture. It’s important to locate where you might want a television or want to charge mobile devices in your master bedroom in order to locate the cable jack and USB ports close by. Otherwise you will end up running a long cable to connect your TV or DVR to the cable jack.

Most builders will meet with their homebuyers during the build process around the time the framing is complete before the drywall is installed to determine the location for cable, phone and internet connections. This is your chance to get these jacks where you want them and get your home set up exactly the way you want it.

A Dry Home Is A Healthy Home

Keeping a home dry is a prerequisite for keeping the environment within a home healthy. Allowing water to intrude into a home fosters the growth of mildew and mold. Water also speeds the process by which building materials rot. This rot eventually weakens the structural soundness of the home. Both mold and rot to building materials are expensive to mitigate and costly when making necessary repairs.

water damage to home

One of the keys to keeping a home dry is positive drainage. This means that water is directed away from the home in such a manner that it can’t puddle next to the foundation. The method for achieving positive drainage is to grade away from the home at a steep enough slope so that the water is draining away from the structure. In some cases drainage swales and ditches are used to move the water further away from the structure. Water then travels to holding ponds and/or natural holding areas where evaporation and absorption take place.

A second key to keeping homes dry is regular maintenance of your home’s exterior. Homeowners should visually inspect all accessible areas of the roof, from the inside, looking for wet and/or stained areas. If any leaks are noted a roofing professional should be contacted for consultation. The siding and windows of a home should be visually inspected also especially after heavy rain and wind events. Again, if any deficiencies are noted a professional should be consulted. Lastly, check for plumbing leaks and condensation leaks.

Following these simple suggestions will keep your home dry and healthy.