A community transformed by thriving families in sustainable homes.
Call Us: 269-998-3275

News

DIY Home Repairs for August

August is a good time to catch up on miscellaneous home tasks that get put off when summer months are too hot.

  • Show your floors some love. In addition to sweeping and mopping tile floors on a regular basis, you can keep them looking great by cleaning the grout lines periodically. If any of the tiles are broken, replacing them is a relatively simple process. Try waxing or refinishing wood and linoleum floors that are showing signs of wear.
  • Clean your refrigerator coils. Do this safely to save money by allowing the refrigerator to run more efficiently.
  • Repair and repaint your porch and steps. Their paint jobs are often damaged during the winter, and painting will help protect the wood.

 

Project of the Month: Ventilation Check-Up

Four_belt-driven_ventilation_fans

It is easy to take our home ventilation systems for granted. Many of the problems that occur with these systems are not necessarily the result of a single instance of damage, but instead can result from long-term deferred maintenance. Taking a few simple steps a few times a year can aid healthy  air circulation, help avoid problems such as excess moisture, and save money by reducing energy use and preventing costly repairs.

To ensure that moisture doesn’t build up in your home, check that the ventilation fans in your kitchen and bathrooms are working. To do this, turn on the fan and hold a piece of paper towel or toilet paper up to the fan vent. If the fan holds the paper up under its own power, it is working properly; if the paper does not stick, the fan is not generating enough air pressure to ventilate your room. Good ventilation is necessary to prevent mold and other moisture-related problems in your home. Try cleaning your exhaust fan. If the fan still doesn’t pass the paper test after being cleaned, you may need to replace the motor or buy a new fan.

It’s also a good idea to clean your air conditioner at least once a year, whether it’s a window unit, central air, or any other sort of system.

DIY Home Repairs for July

Summer is here! Here are some simple things you can do to care for your home this month:

  • Schedule a furnace tuneup with a furnace technician before the weather starts to get cold. This service, which should be done yearly, costs around $100-$125, but it will save you money on heating costs and prevent problems that are much more expensive to fix.

 

Project of the Month: Common Door Repairs

Fairy_door_at_Red_Shoes_Ann_Arbor_MichiganIt’s easy to overlook a sticking or warped door when you have more pressing maintenance problems. Often we grow used to a door’s problems over time, and don’t realize that a few minutes of maintenance can make the door much easier to use and prevent future problems. It’s especially important to make sure exterior doors are working well, both for security and to prevent heat from escaping in the winter.

Inspect and tighten hinges, door hardware, and locks.  Install extra long screws to secure strike plates and latches to increase their ability to provide security.  Realign and insure proper operation of storm doors.  Inspect and replace weatherstripping.

 

DIY for June – No More Water Issues

PlumberWater, water everywhere it’s not supposed to be!

Perhaps the biggest threat to a home’s integrity is water where it doesn’t belong.  From roof to basement, the keys to staying dry and damage free are preventing exterior moister from seeping in, reducing interior moisture, and making sure all water conveyances remain leak free.

Water in the wrong places can cause wood rot (porches, eaves, soffits, floorboards, supports), water stains on ceilings and under cabinets, and mold. Damp wood invites termites and carpenter ants. Left unchecked or unnoticed (hidden), moisture can cause damage over time that can become a serious and expensive repair and even an unsafe situation. Keep an eye on your monthly water bill. A sudden or significant increase could indicate there is a leak somewhere.

Below are some tips for preventing the most common issues that can contribute to water damage. Additional detail can be found in this handy, printable brochure.

Roof

Your roof is your first line of defense. Inspect it annually for loose or damaged shingles and flashing around the chimney, vent pipes, skylights, and any other roof penetrations.  Check the condition of chimney caps and the brick mortar. Check inside the attic for signs of water damage.  Make any necessary repairs.

A clogged gutter can send water spilling into your home’s foundation, through the roof, or down to your basement.  Keep your gutters clear, repair them if they are sagging, and extend downspouts at least 10 feet away from your house.

Landscaping

Prevent water from backing into your home and basement by diverting it away. Grade the land away from your foundation to increase proper drainage. Trim back trees and bushes so that moisture can evaporate, rather than damage your siding or window trim.

Exterior

For windows and doors, repair or replace caulk, weather stripping, window glazing and seals, and door seals. Examine your exterior siding and replace any missing or damaged fasteners or screws. Repair or replace punctured or broken siding. Seal around protrusions such as faucets and furnace and water heater vents.

Interior

High humidity can cause condensation on surfaces due to insufficient venting. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside. Vent your clothes dryer to the outside. If you hang wet laundry in your basement, offset that by using a dehumidifier.

Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation and keep doors open between rooms. Open your drapes and window shades to let window condensation evaporate.

Plumbing

Flush your water heater tank to remove sediment at the bottom of the tank. A rusted bottom could lead to leaks or failure.

Caulk the tub surround and on the outside where the tub meets walls and floor. Always tuck in your shower curtain.

If your toilet rocks or there is water at its base, replace the wax ring.  Make sure the tank’s inner workings function and the flap seals.

Check faucets and under-cabinet plumbing for leaks and have them repaired.  Dark pots, stains, mold, calcifications, and spongy wood are some signs of leaks.

Don’t pour cooking grease down your sink.  It will solidify and clog your pipes, which could cause backups.  Best to pour your grease into an empty can and let it sit. Once it hardens you can toss it in the trash.

Know where the main water shutoffs are. Install water shutoff valves on water lines under sinks and toilets and water lines leading to outside faucets.  These will help you react quickly to a situation and isolate the shutoff rather than having to stop the flow to the entire house.

Appliances

Your appliances that use water can cause damage due to ruptured or leaky hoses or improper connections. Inspect condition of hoses and connections to your washing machine, refrigerator, and dishwasher.

In-window air conditioners are prone to condensation and drips.

Don’t run your appliances while you are away.

DIY for May – Tiny Gardens, Big Results

Have you heard the news, it’s all over town.  If you haven’t heard it, well, you better sit down.  Grab a hold of something, hold on tight.  Container gardening is outta sight!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could put food from your own “farm” on your table? You would have fresh, better tasting food, in season and with higher nutrients. Well, you don’t have to live on 40 acres to be able to grow your own edibles.  Container gardening and raised bed gardens could be a way for you to have fresh food at your fingertips.

Small spaces are also good for planting for flowers and even attracting beneficial creatures or discouraging harmful ones.

IMG_2447Community Homeworks presented a workshop on Grow it Yourself Day at People’s Food Co-op in Kalamazoo.  Participants learned ways to take advantage of whatever space they have for growing edibles and flowers.  Hands-on demonstrations showed how to build a raised bed and even reuse materials for container plantings.  As a result, folks came away with skills and knowledge they could immediately put to use as well as a garden-ready bucket!

Here is how to build a container that takes the guesswork out of watering. These instructions are courtesy of Trybal Revival Garden.  Check them out, as well as the gardening community Common Ground for additional information and resources.Bucket

Resources

Here are some upcoming free workshop offerings in the Kalamazoo area that can help you get started.

Common Ground          Wenke Greenhouses          MSU Extension

Your local garden centers and greenhouses are good resources. Some offer free workshops on a variety of gardening topics that help you grow-it-yourself. These places can provide help on herbs, fruits, vegetables, pest-resistant plants, pest control, seasonal foods, and fertilizers.  Co-ops and garden networks are also good sources of information and skill building.  And, there might even be ways to get involved in community gardens that have the capacity to grow on a larger scale. They provide opportunities to socialize, contribute to the vitality of neighborhoods, and share what is produced.

 

Little Library Build Day at Community Homeworks

Little Library Build Day at Community Homeworks
Little Library Build 4-11-15 (2)

With several stations set up for building, one station for power tools and one for a table saw to be used by trained experts only, there was room for everyone to get to work.

Community Homeworks was happy to host a four hour building workshop on Saturday, April 11, as part of the Little Lending Libraries in Vine project. By the end of the day, teams from Kalamazoo Collective Housing, Kalamazoo College, Oak Street Garden and Community Homeworks had built beautiful Little Library boxes ready to enhance their neighborhoods. Special thanks go to Hannah Knoll for organizing the event and to Little Library expert Tammy Wilson, KNHS construction supervisor Matt Milcarek, and Community Homeworks Executive Director Shaun Wright for providing technical supervision and expertise.

Bounlad Jones, a future Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity homeowner and a regular participant in Community Homeworks Education Workshops, helped design and build a Little Library that will go in front of her new home.   With the help of Tammy, Matt and Shaun, her Little Library evolved into something that is more “up-to-code” than any other Little Library we’ve seen. Complete with soffiting, asphalt shingles and full caulking, Bounlad’s Little Library is sure to keep her neighborhood books dry, and the brick-look exterior will look great with her new brick home!

Little Library Build Day 4-11-15 (5)

Matt and Tammy talk about the next step toward reaching Bounlad’s vision.

 

Little Library Build Day 4-11-15 (8)

Bounlad measuring shingles for her little roof.

Boundlad's Box (5)

Bounlad’s constructed box; we can’t wait to see her finishing touches!

 

DIY Home Maintenance for April

What’s Bugging You?

It’s spring once more, and plants and animals alike are being revived.  Time to turn your attention to those pesky bugs and other critters that can begin to invade your home at this time of year. There are some simple things you can do to prevent and treat the critter problem.

Prevention

The best defense is good offense. Remember, pests are attracted to food and water. Take these steps to reduce the opportunities for pests to enter your home in the first place.Ant

  • Be tidy. Keep food in containers, and keep your kitchen, countertops, and other areas free of food waste.
  • Take out the trash regularly.
  • Remove water sources: repair leaky faucets and pipes, divert water from your foundation, keep your gutters clear.
  • Trim back the trees and bushes from your home at least 12 inches, reducing your home’s contact with the bug freeways.
  • Seal all entry points. Caulk outside around doors, windows and utility lines/pipes. Repair cracks in cement floors and foundation.
  • Keep wood chips, lumber, and firewood away from the house. Remove stumps and debris near your home.

 

Help keep the mosquito population at bay by removing sources of standing water: kids toys and wading pools, puddles, birdbaths, yard items that collect water, and even your pet’s water dish.

Treatment

If you do need to fight back an invasion, here are some tips for doing that.

  • Buy the right product for the pest. Baits, traps, and poisons are specific to the ant, spider, bee, rodent, etc. and have specific application methods.
  • Read and follow the directions carefully.
  • There are treatments for your exterior foundation to prevent entry, such as sprays and granules can that can be applied using a lawn spreader.
  • Call a professional for termites (chemicals are regulated), and larger rodents such as squirrels and raccoons.

Remember to keep all poisons out of the reach of children. Keep the phone number for poison control posted on your refrigerator.

Here are some non-toxic alternatives for pest control.

DIY Home Maintenance for March

Window Views

WindowCan’t do outdoor yard work yet?  Well, from inside, you can dream about your upcoming spring plantings and beautification projects – fun stuff like putting out potted flowers and creating focal points in your yard.

Did you know that you can plant and beautify strategically so that there is something blooming, providing color, or providing interest all year long?  Certain plants can attract butterflies and birds that are fun to watch.  Some shrubs and trees have colorful fruit or leaves that linger on the limbs through the winter. Regardless of the season, there can be something in your yard that you can enjoy.

Most often we think of outdoor projects as adding curb appeal – what others passing by will appreciate.  However, what about what you look at from indoors?

Here is a fun winter pastime. Stroll through your home and look out your windows.  Imagine what you would like to see when the sun is shining or when the snow abounds. Each window frames a view.  What could be in that view?  A shapely tree? A picket fence? A fountain or bird bath? A large clay pot or hanging basket draped with flowers? A rock garden surrounding a tree under which grass never seems to grow? A bird feeder? Whimsical yard art?

Whether you want curb appeal or a pretty window view, your spring projects don’t have to be grand or expensive to perk up your outdoor spaces.  They just need a little thought and a plan.  Your neighborhood garden center, nursery, or hardware store can help you with your specific needs.

Speaking of Plans…

Are you emerging from your winter hibernation with visions of fix-it tasks?  Don’t know where to start?

For March, focus indoors on:

  • Checking for plumbing leaks
  • Maintaining your appliances
  • Cleaning and sharpening your garden tools; prep your lawnmower

When the snow thaws, you can begin outside on:

  • Inspecting your roof
  • Cleaning the gutters
  • Checking for proper water drainage

These tips will help you plan your last few weeks of winter and get you thinking about the spring months.

You can also check your annual maintenance calendar for what’s coming up.  Here is one straightforward approach to creating such a calendar if you haven’t already.

And, for one more planning tool, here is a basic home inspection checklist.  It is nicely categorized, so you can start in one area, indoors for now, then work your way around the house throughout the year.

Kalamazoo Community Foundation Grant Support for Whole-House Weatherization!

We are proud to be part of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s fourth quarter grant round – we are already putting this $60,000 grant to work. We have already completed four weatherization projects for low-income families in our current program year and have another 21 families with applications in process.

Are you wondering what it means to weatherize a home?
 IMG_20140819_162454It’s partly mechanical – installing new 95% efficient furnaces and water heaters certainly reduces energy usage and also reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Proper attic insulation dramatically reduces heat loss, saving money and energy. Air sealing, not just doors and windows but rim joists and other gaps, eliminates drafts and further reduces heat loss.6737403523_5c75b3db20_o

IMG_20140819_162507Done properly, weatherization typically cuts energy usage and utility costs by 30 to 50% – that’s a big relief on a winter season gas and electric bill – and it produces safer air quality, more comfort and less stress for struggling family.

For more information about this grant cycle and our fellow grantee organizations, check out the great coverage in the Kalamazoo Gazette and on the Lorrie Moore Show.

 

 

Happy Holidays from Community Homeworks!

Our office will be closed beginning Wednesday, 12/24/14. We will reopen on Monday, January 5. 2015.

We will not be providing any services during the closure. If you have a furnace issue, please call our office at 269-998-3275 and listen to the message for instructions.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!11216236844_61e33541de_z

Furnace Program Update – Our Crew Has Been Busy!

When we announced the extra funding we had for high-efficiency furnace upgrades back in October, our goal was to install 20 new furnaces by December 15. We are thrilled to report that our technicians blew right past that goal – here’s the scorecard:IMG_1177

  • 27 new furnaces installed
  • 2 high-efficiency furnaces repaired
  • 12 new water heaters installed
  • 4 whole-house weatherizations completed
  • 45 additional critical repairs

Wow! This is what our warehouse looks like right now, filled with old, inefficient and broken furnaces. We are really proud of the hard work our technicians have put in over the last 8 weeks and happy that all these Kalamazoo families can experience warmth this holiday season.

Page 3 of 512345