post

9 Tools Every First Time Homebuyer Should Have

Tools Every First Time Homebuyer Needs

You’ve purchased your first home and are getting settled, you get to start decorating and making it your own. Something you’ll quickly find you need are tools. There are a ton of tools out there, but here are the nine tools every first time homebuyer should have.

  1. Cordless Drill – This power tool will become your best friend. With its many uses you’ll find yourself using it for all your home projects. Cordless drills start around $40.
  2. Screwdriver Set – If you’re trying to tighten something or putting together new furniture, you’ll find yourself needing both flathead and a Phillips head screwdrivers in varying sizes. A 6-in-1 reversible screwdriver set start as low as $5.
  3. Combination Wrench Set – As you begin putting things together in your new home, you will find that you need to tighten and/or loosen nuts and bolts, so you’ll find yourself in need of wrenches. A set of combination wrenches can be found for around $14.
  4. Tape Measure – Whether you’re hanging pictures, measuring furniture or working on a project, a tape measure is a necessary tool for your toolbox. Don’t forget the old saying “measure twice, cut once.” A 30-foot tape measure starts at $14.
  5. Hammer – Whether you’re trying to hammer something into place or remove a nail from a wall, no toolbox is complete without a hammer. They range in cost, but start at about $5.
  6. Stud Finder – This is going to be an indispensable tool when you start hanging things on the walls or trying to do any in-wall projects. Stud finders start at about $15 each.
  7. Putty Knife – This tool will come in handy if you need to fill in holes on your walls. Putty knives on average are $4-$5 each.
  8. Level – Nothing is worse than a crocked picture or shelf and that’s when a level comes in handy. A two-foot level starts around $7.
  9. Ladder – While it won’t fit in your toolbox, this is an essential tool for your new home. Whether you’re cleaning out gutters, painting walls or hanging Christmas lights, you’ll find that you need a ladder. Type II fiberglass ladders start at $55.

McKee Homes, North Carolina’s #1 Choice for New Homes

McKee Homes has highly skilled team members dedicated to creating the best home building and buying experience possible in Eastern North Carolina.  Areas we are building in include:  Fayetteville, Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen, Raleigh and Wilmington NC.  Some of our new home resources we can provide you include:  New Home Financing, Specially Adapted Housing, Buyer Incentives and more.

post

7 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Summer

Summer is finally here with longer days and warmer weather. It’s time to get out the barbecue grill and spend some fun evenings and weekends with family and friends out on the deck or patio. Here are 7 tips to get your home ready for summer so you and your family and friends can kick back and enjoy the summer.

  1. Have HVAC system serviced and cleaned
    You definitely want to stay cool this summer so make sure your HVAC unit is working at peak efficiency. It’s a good idea to have your HVAC system cleaned and inspected each year and summer is a great time to get this done. Your AC condenser is outside your house and can get really dirty and gummed up with leaves and other debris especially during the winter months. Make sure to clean any debris on and around the condenser and have it inspected by a pro to keep it running efficiently through the summer months. If you decide to clean the condenser unit thoroughly yourself, make sure to turn the power to the unit off first and be very careful not to damage the condenser fins which are fragile and easily bent or crushed.
  2. Clean the gutters
    The gutters on your home are probably full of leaves, pine needles and other gunk from the winter season. Now that it’s warm, find a sturdy ladder and clean out the gutters and down pipes, or better yet, hire someone to do it for you.
  3. Inspect and repair roofing and siding
    Summer is also a good time to inspect the roofing, siding, windows and exterior doors of your home to find any damage that may have occurred during winter or spring storms. Remove and replace caulking as necessary on siding windows and doors and repair or replace any damaged roofing.  If you aren’t comfortable doing this type of work you can always hire someone to do it for you.
  4. Clean deck and patio
    You’ll probably want to spend a lot of time outside this summer with family and friends so make sure your deck, patio and porch are ready for entertaining. Pressure-wash concrete patios and wood decks to get rid of all the grime that may have accumulated from the winter months. Summer is a great time to reseal or repaint your deck and porch so it looks like new again. Don’t forget to inspect and clean your outdoor furniture and wash cushions so you are ready for summer entertaining.
  5. Clean and repair driveway and walkways
    Rent or buy a power-washer or hire someone to clean these areas. It’s amazing how a good cleaning can make the exterior of your home look like new again. Summer is the perfect time to repair cracks and joints in concrete walkways, stairs and driveways. Check with your local home improvement store to find the best products for your needs or hire a professional to do any needed repairs.
  6. Weed and mulch flower beds
    Weeds can take over flower beds and planted areas around the home in the spring and summer months so make sure to keep on top of weed removal before it gets out of control. This will help your flowers and shrubs grow healthier and look better. Add some fresh mulch to protect the plants and make your landscaping look great again.
  7. Fertilize and reseed lawn
    Depending on the type of grass you have in your lawn, summer may be the perfect time to reseed and fill in bald patches in your lawn. Make sure to remove leaves and twigs and de-thatch dead grass with a rake before reseeding your lawn. Check with a landscape supplier or home improvement store to make sure you get the right seed for your lawn and don’t forget to fertilize and keep it watered while the new seed is germinating and growing.
post

McKee Homes Warranty

One of the most common questions new homeowners have is ‘how do I submit warranty requests and schedule the work to be done?’ McKee Homes enrolls all new homeowners in our 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty program upon closing. This program provides 1-year workmanship, 2-year systems and 10-year structural coverage. In an effort to provide exceptional customer service we have partnered with 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, one of the nation’s leading home warranty companies, to handle all homeowner warranty requests under their Front Line Warranty Service Program.

During your Pre-Closing orientation, your Builder will show you a sample McKee Homes homeowner’s manual and cover some of its key points. Shortly after closing, you will receive an email with login information for your BuilderTrend account. This is where your personalized homeowner’s manual will be located. Your homeowner’s manual provides a wealth of information, including:

  • 2-10 Home Buyer’s Warranty information and warranty manual
  • Emergency service numbers for plumbing, HVAC and electrical
  • Seasonal maintenance guide
  • 30-day and 11-month warranty service request forms

The 2-10 warranty manual explains what is covered under warranty and what is not covered, so it is a great reference tool. The emergency numbers are for the trade partners who helped build your home. If something happens with your electrical, HVAC or plumbing that needs immediate attention, you know whom to contact. The seasonal maintenance guides are informational and provide suggestions on how to help maintain your home and avoid costly repairs later on.

The warranty service request forms can be used to fill out at 30-day and 11-months after closing to address any issues you may find in your home. These forms are optional, as 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty will take your warranty items over the phone, through email, fax and mail. All contact information can be found in your homeowner’s manual. We do recommend keeping a running list so you can be sure to get all of your items addressed at one time. Once our Front Line Warranty Service team receives your warranty items they will determine what is covered and what is not covered. The items that are covered under warranty will be scheduled for repair with you by the Builder in your neighborhood. Our warranty system does not offer reminders at 30-day and 11-months after closing, so putting a reminder on a calendar may help remind you when it’s time to turn in the lists.

If you have a warranty issue with your appliances you will need to contact the appliance supplier directly. Their contact information can be found in your homeowner’s manual.

It is our goal to make sure any issues with your new home are resolved in a timely manner. From minor issues such as nail pops to more complex issues that occasionally occur, our 2-10 Home Buyer’s Warranty Program will protect your investment in your new home. Should you ever need to sell your home, the warranty is fully-transferable, which increases the resale value of the home.

post

Maintaining Your Septic System

When you think about the maintenance of the systems in your home your first thoughts are probably HVAC, electrical and plumbing. However, one overlooked and undervalued system in your home is actually outside your home, the septic system. As with all the systems in your home, if you properly maintain your septic system you can avoid costly repairs.

First, understanding how a septic system works will help you maintain it. The wastewater from your home leaves through a pipe and goes to the septic tank. The waste separates into solid waste (sludge) that sinks to the bottom and oil and grease (scum) rises to the top. There are bacteria in the septic tank that helps to breakdown the sludge. The wastewater then exits the septic tank and goes into the drainage field. The wastewater is released into the soil which removes harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

So one thing you have to watch is what you put down your drains (that goes into your septic tank). Everything that goes down your drains should be biodegradable and septic safe. Flushing things like dental floss, feminine products, paper towels, coffee grounds and other kitchen and bathroom products can clog the tank and drain field. Also, household chemicals, paint, oils and grease can kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. If you have a garbage disposal, you will want to use it sparingly as it will increase the accumulation of sludge and scum.

Another thing to be aware of when you have a septic system is how much water you are using. Per the EPA, the average single-home family uses 70 gallons of indoor water per person per day. Leaking faucets and running toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons per day. Faucet aerators and high efficiency toilets and showerheads can help reduce excess water usage. Many people like the convenience of washing all their laundry in one day, but with a septic system you need to give your tank time to recover. So it’s recommended to spread your washing, otherwise you risk flooding your drainage field.

Knowing where your septic tank and drainage field are is also very important. You don’t’ want to put anything heavy like a shed, parked car or RV, cement or pool in this area as it can damage the tank and pipes as well as compromise the drainage field. Another thing that can damage your septic system are large trees and shrubs. Roots, especially aggressive roots that come with Willows, can damage pipes and the tank.

Having your tank pumped regularly is part of proper maintenance. Professionals typically charge between $200-$300 for this service, however, it can vary by region. Keep in mind that if they have to dig to find your septic tank that will incur additional fees. When your tank is pumped they should also inspect the tank to make sure everything is in good working condition. The frequency of pumpings varies between owners. No matter the size of your family, if you have a garbage disposal it is recommended that you pump your system annually. If you are a family of four with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 2-3 years. If you are a family of two with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 4-5 years.

Every few months using a septic tank system treatment, like Rid-X®, by pouring into your toilet can add the bacteria necessary to keep your septic tank performing optimally. For those of you who like homemade treatments, you can pour a liter of spoiled buttermilk down the toilet every few months, as it too is a great source of bacteria. If you notice anything that seems off with your septic system, it is best to contact a professional immediately to address any issues as early as possible.

While this system doesn’t need constant supervision, remembering these key things will help prolong the life of your septic system.

Sources: http://www.epa.gov/owm/septic/pubs/homeowner_guide_long.pdf; http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-a-Septic-System

How To Reset a GFI Outlet

Bob and Sue’s Home Maintenance Tips

Part 1: How to reset a GFI Outlet
By Bob and Sue Russo

What is a GFI/GFCI outlet?

GFCI Outlet All new home built today are required by law to have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI, more commonly referred to as GFI outlets). In 1975, the NEC [1] required GFI Outlet installation in bathrooms, but it wasn’t until 2005 that that this Federal Organization instructed that GFIs should be installed in Laundry Rooms. Based on what we’d read, it seems that it was up to individual states to determine if they would comply with this regulation. If you are moving into your new home from an older apartment or home you may not be accustom to seeing or using these GFI outlets.

A GFI Outlet is a potentially life-saving feature in your home. The following example illustrates the importance of a GFI. If you were to plug in a small appliance with an electrical problem, the GFI outlet would trip almost immediately. You may be thinking, “okay, no big deal”, but if you attempted to plug in the same electrical appliance (without a GFI) while touching your water faucet, the electrical current would travel through your body and into the water faucet, which could result in burns, electrical shock or death.

One GFI outlet can protect multiple outlets in your home, therefore all your outlets may not look like the one pictured above.  Let’s think about a series of outlets like a row of lined up dominoes.  When you knock the first domino down, the subsequent dominoes will also fall. In this analogy, the last domino to fall is the GFI outlet. Let’s say that the electrician installed a GFI in the outlet that you plug your toaster into. He then connected the GFI outlet to the next outlet he installed, which is a non-GFI outlet. This happens to be the outlet you plug your coffee pot into. Both appliances are GFI protected because they are both linked to the original GFI outlet. So if your coffee pot has a short, the GFI Outlet that your toaster is plugged into will trip.

In the example in the video, we figured out that we had a defective appliance, because Bob knew that the coffee pot sparked when he plugged it in. So our plan was to reset the GFI Outlet, return the Coffee Pot to the store, get a new one and be back in business. A GFI outlet can also be tripped by an electrical storm, any odd electrical surge or even excessive moisture.

How to Reset GFCI Outlet

To locate the outlet with the tripped GFI, look for the one with a small button popped out. Remember, when a GFI trips, it will trip any and all outlets connected to that GFI. Most kitchen and bathrooms in new homes have multiple (visible) GFI outlets, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the GFI that’s tripped in one of these rooms. Once you have located the outlet with the tripped GFI, simply push the button back into place.

In rooms other than your bathroom or kitchen or even outside your home, it’ may be difficult to find the tripped GFI. This happened to us in our garage and we had to call an electrician to come help us. He came and helped us move an antique wardrobe in a garage, thus locating the GFI. We all had a good laugh and fortunately, we got away with just buying the electrician lunch. Calling an electrician to reset a GFI could really be costly and unnecessary, so we strongly recommend taking the time to locate the outlet with the GFI!

In our situation it was easy to tell what tripped our GFI. But, if you are unsure why yours has tripped, we recommend you follow the steps listed below.

  1. Unplug everything on that circuit. (the things that aren’t working )
  2. Try resetting the GFI again. If the GFI resets, one of the items plugged in along the circuit may be bad.
  3. Try plugging the items back in one at a time until the GFI trips again. Whatever item trips the GFI is most likely defective. Don’t use this item again until it’s rewired.
  4. If you are able to reset the GFI and none of the items tripped it again, that’s okay too. Remember we said a storm or some other temporary electrical anomaly can also trip the GFI.
  5. If the GFI does not reset, you may have also tripped a circuit breaker. A GFI Outlet will not reset if it is incorrectly wired or doesn’t have power running to it.

Now we are going to look and the circuit breaker panel!

All of the wires in your home are run from a circuit breaker panel. This panel might be located in your garage or laundry room.   Prior to drywall installation, the electrician fed the wires from your circuit breaker box through your walls, which will eventually lead to your outlets.

After you reset the circuit breaker panel, reset the GFI and you should be in business!
We love helping first time homeowners and we want you to be safe! A GFI will not trip repeatedly unless you have a more serious electrical problem or a defective GFI. In the very unlikely scenario that the circuit breaker panel or the same GFI repeatedly trips it’s time to call a certified electrician.

Enjoy your new McKee Home! Bob and Sue


[1] 1 The NEC is published by the National Fire Portection Association (NFPA 70). It is the most widely adopted building code for requirements for electrical system installations in the U.S. It may be adopted into law by states, counties or local jurisdictions for enforcement by inspection authorities and is currently revised every three years.

post

How To Replace an HVAC Air Filter

Bob and Sue’s Home Maintenance Tips

Part 1: How to replace an HVAC air filter
By Bob and Sue Russo

The “return air intake” in your home sucks the air from inside your home back into your HVAC unit, which keeps your house toasty in the winter and cool in the summer. If the air filter is clogged, your HVAC unit needs to work harder to keep you toasty or cool and your utility bill will take a hit. Note:  You may also hear the term “return air intake” referred to as the “cold air return”. Old-time, northern transplants may use the second term, because they are more accustom to using furnaces. If you have a new home in North Carolina you have an HVAC system. This article with video will show you how to replace an HVAC air filter in just a few minutes.

We just heard a story tonight about a young couple that called their HVAC repairman because their house wasn’t staying a comfortable temperature, only to find out that they needed to change their air filter. They were charged $100 for this service. You can do this yourself for just a few bucks.

The return air intake has a filter that (according to most manufacturers) should be changed monthly but you can purchase filters that are rated to change once a month or every three months.  The return air intake filter reduces dust particles in your home, so if you can write your name in the dust on your coffee table, you’re probably overdue.  Another dead giveaway, is if your return air intake looks like the photo on the right below. YIKES!

HVAC air filter cover

You might want to put this job on your calendar just like you would a doctor or dentist appointment. We change ours about every three months because we buy three-month filters.

If you have a large or multi-level home, you most likely have more than one return air intake.  The same information will apply to all of them.

(PLEASE NOTE In some older homes, the air filter is located directly in the HVAC Unit or furnace. Please refer to your owner’s manual for your HVAC Unit or furnace if you do not have a filtered return air intake as shown above.)

To change the HVAC air filter, please follow the steps below.

  1. Locate your return air intake and open the door by releasing the clips usually located at the top of the frame.The disposable air filter rests just inside the frame.
  2. Make note of what size filter you have. Ours is 20 x 25 inches. You will need to do this for every return air intake in the house. They may not all be the same size.  Leave the filter in place, close the door and latch…we’re ready to go shopping.
  3. Go shopping! You can buy air filters at Target, Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes etc. We like to buy several and have them on hand. We personally prefer to use the mid-priced filters, but you can buy washable filters for a little more money.

HVAC air filters

We just got back from shopping and realized how confusing this would be for first time home owners. Here’s the net of it. Any of these filters that are the right size, in our case 20 x 25 inches will work. The bottom shelf of this display shows the least expensive filters. These filters need to be changed on a monthly basis. The middle and top shelf filters are three-month filters. The only difference between the middle shelf filters and the top shelf filters is price and how much gunk they actually filter out of the air in your home. We have tried the higher priced filters, but in our experience they clogged up faster and seemed to diminish the air intake slightly. (We are not professional HVAC repair people, so if this point troubles you, you can always refer to your HVAC manual to see what they suggest.)  There is one more option that we have never tried; washable filters. The mid-range filters that we buy cost about $4.00. The washable filters cost about $10.00. With the washable filters, instead of changing the filter, you remove them, separate the screening from the frame and hose the screening off until it runs clear and then reinsert the same filter. This idea sounds like it would be good for the environment, but we looked these up on several HVAC sites and they were not recommended. They indicated that your filter traps bacteria and fungus as well as dust. Rinsing these off does not remove the bacteria and fungus. If you really want to go green there were some suggestions to get around this, for example buy two sets of filters for every return air intake in your home and alternate the washed filter out every other change.  Since we lack the experience with washable filters we would suggest that you follow the recommendations in your HVAC owner’s manual. If they tell you not to use them…don’t use them.   

We should also note that most HVAC Manufacturers don’t recommend HEPA filters because of the dense filtration material used in HEPA filters. Your HVAC units may not be sized to handle the pressure dropped caused by a HEPA filter. The more your filter filters, the harder your HVAC system needs to work. This could cause wear on your HVAC unit and/or your house may not stay so toasty or cool.  Your best bet is to go with the least expensive standard three-month filter. 

  1. Okay now comes the easy part….Installation! Open the door on the cold air return and remove the old filter. Place the new filter in so that the arrows for “air flow” are pointed into the opening. Guide the filter back into the frame and close the door and latch. That’s it!

Change HVAC air filter

Enjoy your beautiful new McKee Home! Bob and Sue

What causes drywall cracks, nail pops and screw pops?

Inevitably, at some point in time all homes develop cracks in the drywall, nail and screw pops as well as caulk separation. So what causes drywall screw pops, cracks, and nail pops and will it ever stop? The two main reasons these happen are due to temperature fluctuation and structural settling.

drywall screw pops and cracks

As the seasons change so do the temperatures inside and outside the home. Depending on when your new home is completed, the inside temperatures between summer and winter can vary as much as 30+ degrees. So as you regulate the temperatures in your home, the materials expand and contract. Cooling the home causes materials to contract while heating the home causes the materials to expand. This will often show up in the form of cracks in drywall accompanied by nail and screw pops and caulk separation. Most of these drywall problems occur within the first 30 days from the time the temperature is regulated.

Here in North Carolina, the temperatures can vary from single digits in the winter to triple digits in the summer. Those major temperature changes contribute to the expanding and contracting of the materials as the outside materials are connected to the inside materials of your home.

The second factor is fairly simple. Your new house will settle. It takes a period of time for a house to settle completely. Usually, the majority of the settling will happen within the first year. The materials used to build your home will give a little here and there resulting in drywall cracks, nail and screw pops and caulk separation. If you are asking yourself, will it ever stop? It will lessen over time, but unfortunately it won’t go away entirely as homes never stop moving.

What can you do to help minimize these drywall cracks and nail and screw pops? Keeping the temperature regulated in your house is the most important way to minimize drywall problems. It’s best to keep the inside temperature somewhere between 60° and 80° F (15° and 27° C), to avoid temperature extremes inside the home.

While drywall cracks, nail and screw pops and cracked caulking are frustrating, it doesn’t mean that your home was poorly built. Repairing them is part of routine homeowner maintenance which will be covered in another article.

How To Maintain Your Home’s HVAC System

Your home’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is one of the most important and expensive systems in your house. Proper maintenance of the HVAC system can not only save you time and money down the road, but will help you keep your home’s environment comfortable and safe.

HVAC maintenance

Just as you change the oil and air filters in your car to keep dirt and heat from ruining your engine, you also need to change the HVAC filters regularly to keep them from getting clogged up with dust and dirt which reduces the air flow in your system and makes your air handler work harder. If your air handler is full of dust and has to constantly work harder to move air because of clogged filters, it will have to be replaced much sooner than a unit that has clean filters and is not overtaxed. The air in your home will be cleaner as well and your vents will not be full of dust which gets blown into your home when your HVAC system is running.

Most people know better than to constantly spin the wheels of their car and race the engine at high RPM’s causing unnecessary wear and tear on their vehicle which can lead to costly repairs. However, many people aren’t aware that changing the temperature setting on their home’s thermostat more than two degrees at a time does the same thing to their HVAC system’s compressor. The compressor, which is one of the most expensive parts of the HVAC system, has to run continuously for a long time to raise or lower the temperature in your home more than a couple of degrees at a time. Forcing the compressor to work really hard too often will shorten the lifespan of the unit and may result in costly repairs.

Most car owners understand the benefits of maintaining a clean car and parking in an area that is free of debris that could damage their vehicle. An HVAC system can be looked at in much the same way. Maintaining an outside unit by keeping it free from debris such as leaves and limbs from bushes and trees and not placing anything permanent around it such as fencing or walls can greatly increase the longevity of the entire HVAC system.

Maintaining your HVAC system is crucial to its longevity and making sure it doesn’t break down in the hottest or coldest times of the year. McKee Homes provides a 2-10 Home Buyer’s Warranty which covers your home’s systems for two years. Most heating and air companies offer “maintenance warranty programs,” which usually includes annual check-ups and priority service. These programs are designed to help you to keep your HVAC System running for years to come.

How To Maintain Your Home

When buying a new home it’s easy to get caught up in the financial obligations, but it’s important to remember the time and energy required to maintain your home. Just like changing the oil in your car or going to the dentist for cleanings, your home needs to be taken care of to avoid costly repairs down the road.

home maintenance

Many maintenance items can easily be performed yourself. There are hundreds of videos and how-to guides only a mouse click away. Home improvement stores, like Lowes® and Home Depot®, often offer in-store educational workshops that you can take advantage of. However, if a maintenance items is too in-depth to complete yourself calling a licensed professional may be a good course of action.

Home upkeep can seem like a daunting undertaking, but creating a way to track what needs to be done may help lighten the load. There are many different calendars and spreadsheets for home maintenance available online that can help you stay organized. There is no golden rule on what tasks should be done when, so coming up with a schedule that works for your lifestyle is best.

McKee Homes has developed a Home Maintenance Guide that can help you with determining when and what items should be checked in your home.  McKee Homes offers 2-10 Home Buyers Warranties on all new home sales; they also offer a 2-10 Maintenance Manual as another resource for maintaining your home.

When you take the time and energy to sustain your home it can give you a sense of pride and accomplishment in the work you’ve done. That’s how the house you just bought becomes your home. Maintaining your home now will help keep your home happy and healthy for years to come.