spring cleaning checklist, household chores, home maintenance

Spring cleaning is a tradition households follow as winter weather gives way to fresh, warm spring days. This is a natural time for fresh starts, including resetting your annual home needs. And going forward knowing all is in order.

Spring cleaning has its own natural task list, plus many things that you could theoretically do any time. It’s convenient and efficient to lump these spring-time and any-time chores together.

So what are these tasks and what’s the best way to get them done? You can actually get a huge amount of home maintenance accomplished if you approach it with good organization. This 3 day plan can leave you with all your spring chores handled easily in just a few days.

Day 1- Doing Walkthroughs

Get a notepad and write these headings on the pages: BUY, MAINTENANCE, REPAIR, and REPLACE. As you go, you’ll be making lots of notes here. This can help you stay organized and efficient, so you can save your time and energy for other things.

Walkthrough to find out what’s needed:

Inside the House

  • Press the “test” button on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Swap out old batteries for fresh ones, if needed. Write down any batteries you need to buy.
  • Check your plumbing for leaks. Include sinks, toilets, and any pipes you can access. Make notes if needed under repair or replace.
  • Turn on all lights as you walk through, list bulb types and number you need under “buy”.
  • Check your walls for dirt and scuffs. Wash walls if needed, or note where you need to repaint.
  • Inspect caulking in the bathroom & kitchen. Also check window seals, and seals on door and window insulation as you go. Make notes if needed under repair and replace.
  • Clean your floors and check for stains and damage. If you need minor repairs, carpet cleaning, or significant floor maintenance, make a note of it.
  • Check your HVAC system and make note of the filter size to buy for replacement.
  • Look at your dryer vent. When was it cleaned last? Have it professionally cleaned if needed.
  • Have you had your chimney swept this year? If not make a note to schedule maintenance.

Outdoors

  • Inspect and test your lawnmower, make notes where appropriate if it needs help.
  • Turn on your irrigation system and walk around the grounds to inspect it before the watering season. Move any roots choking it, make notes of any leaking or clogged areas it has.
  • Inspect wooden features like decks and fences to see if they need to be re-sealing or staining, make a note of loose railings and boards to repair.
  • Spray down concrete and look for pools of water on your property. When it rains, are there places where water pools in your grass and soil areas? Look at your driveway, walkways, and patios. Make note if concrete surfaces or drainage need professional help.
  • Visually assess your foundation, siding and roof for repair and maintenance needs. If you can’t see your roof from the ground, make a note to call for a roof inspection.
  • Use a ladder to check your gutters and downspouts for foliage. Make a note under maintenance to clean them if needed.
  • Observe your lawn, landscaping and trees. Make a note of any problems that might need addressing.

Day 2- Getting Stuff Done

This would ideally be a full day off from work. Day two doesn’t literally have to be the day after Day 1. It should be a day that you have time to get your hands dirty.

  • Looking at your to-do lists, add anything you need from the store to the to-buy list
  • Buy items on your list from yesterday: batteries, HVAC filters, etc.
  • Complete the tasks you noted to do today.
  • Give your fireplace surround a thorough scrubbing.
  • Dust your home, from top to bottom. Start with things that are higher up, then mid-level, then lower items.
  • Clean your doors, windows and screens — inside and out. If they need repair or replacement, make a note.
  • Flush your water heater, or make a note under maintenance to hire a pro to perform the work for you. Experts recommend flushing annually.
  • If you have a sump pump, test it by slowly pouring water into the sump pit. The pump should activate and the water should drain. Make a note that you need repair if necessary.
  • Do a lawn mower oil change if it’s been a while, and fill it up with gas if needed.
  • Flip the switches on your ceiling fans to move the fan blades counterclockwise and send air downward. This should help clean dust from the blades. If they need extra dusting, get a step ladder and wipe them with a rag.
  • Inspect your HVAC system and replace your filters. Make a note to hire a professional if you’re due for your annual service or an air duct cleaning.
  • At the end of the day, make note of anything still undone to come back to later.

Day 3- Making Plans

This should ideally be a work day, so that businesses are open when you call. Look at your calendar and identify times you can schedule maintenance and repairs. This makes it easier when you make calls to schedule services that you identified a need for. Make the calls to schedule services you need.

You can also use today to finish repairs or maintenance that you weren’t able to finish on the second day. There may have just been a high volume of things to get done, or some tasks may have included more steps than you foresaw. Either way, today’s your day to wrap them up.

Using this system of 1) Doing Walkthroughs, 2) Getting Stuff Done, and 3) Making Plans can keep you organized and ensure that all your Spring Cleaning tasks get handled efficiently.


chimney sweep education qualifications certification training

 

You may already know this, but being a chimney sweep takes a lot of education and skill. A worker off the street wouldn’t be ready to understand the details of the work or have the skills to do the job.

Why? Because a chimney sweep doesn’t just clean chimneys, although that alone takes significant safety training. They also detect damage and danger in masonry and can repair or install components of a safe, functional fireplace and chimney system.

 

Chimney Safety Institute of America

The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers certifications in chimney care and related skills. The owner of Irish Sweep and other Irish Sweep employees have various CSIA certifications. These include CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® and CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® credentials. These chimney sweep education certifications are difficult to earn and chimney sweeps must renew regularly.

 

Construction Skills

Masonry work, structural safety, and other construction-type needs often become known during a fireplace and chimney inspection. A good chimney sweep is ready to not only identify these issues, but do upgrades as needed or desired. That’s why it’s important to have a construction background.

Sal of the Irish Sweep has a California State Contractor’s License, a Masonry License, and a specialty license for metal-related work like installation of a wood burning insert. This way you can skip the step of having a chimney specialist explain what you need to a construction specialist. Therefore one highly skilled expert is always best.

 

Continuing Chimney Sweep Education

Some certifications and licenses are required to be a chimney sweep. It’s not required to continually seek out new skills and refresh old ones, like the Irish Sweep does with continuing education. Our awareness of new technology, techniques and  gear keeps your experience with chimney care top quality.

Make no mistake, because the skills and knowledge of a chimney sweep are extensive. If you have any questions or need to schedule chimney or dryer vent servicing, contact the Irish Sweep today.

dryer selecting, how to choose a dryer, dryer vent safety.

 

There are so many considerations that go into choosing a dryer. Many more than you probably expected when you decided a new dryer was in order. Today’s tumble dryers have so many options, it could easily feel like too many. So let’s start with the basics and we’ll walk through some of the new-fangled options too.

 

Measure the space

First thing’s first: how much room can you give to your new dryer? You will not be happy if the dryer you buy is one inch too wide, so don’t eye-ball it. Bust out the tape measure and write down what you find out. Remember that a tight fit may be undesirable too, especially if you want to swing the door all the way open.

 

Hinge Side

Have you ever had a washer and dryer whose doors swing into each other? Many people have, because they weren’t careful when selecting hinge side. You don’t choose based on your dominant hand or where the door to the room is, you want your dryer to open away from the washer, so that you don’t have to lift clothes over or around the dryer door. You will be asked when ordering which side you want it to open to, since all models have the option of opening either way.

 

Electric or Gas?

With the exception of your refrigerator, nothing in your home will use more energy than your dryer, whether it’s electric or gas. There are differences between the way each type of dryer uses energy that can have a big impact on the true cost of owning and operating one over the other. All dryers use electricity to keep your clothing in motion throughout the cycle. Electric dryers also use electricity to power the heater and fan that continually blows hot air through the machine. Gas dryers power these components using natural gas or propane. Gas dryers are harder to relocate, and tend to stay with the houses they’re installed in.

 

Steam Cleaning

Our dryers used to just dry things, but these days they tend to offer more than that. Steam Cleaning cycles are starting to become available in many models. This cycle removes light stains and odors, and can be used on things that you wouldn’t normally wash, like pillows or stuffed animals.

 

Eco-Mode Settings

Most of us are trying to make our daily lives as ecologically sound as we can, or at least not do maximum damage. Today’s dryers are on our side, as many of them have eco-mode versions of most or all cycles. The eco-mode may be shorter, cooler, or otherwise energy saving.

 

Smart Dryers

If you’re not keen on keeping track of when your dryer needs maintenance or checking if your clothes are dry, there are now models that will email or text you status updates on your drying load or reminders to schedule a vent cleaning. With some models you can even ask the Google Voice Assistant ALexa questions about your dryer or laundry status.

 

The Universal Constant of Dryers

One thing that has not changed, and will not likely change, is that dryer vents need cleaned by a professional regularly for your safety. If your dryer vents haven’t been receiving regular cleanings, you may have a safety issue on your hands. Contact the Irish Sweep today to have your dryer vents made safe again.

dryer fires, lint vent screen fire, safety

 

A high number of home fires begin in your laundry room. This is usually a result of your clothes dryer, although the washer is not immune. The source of a dryer fire can be either the machine itself, or the dryer that goes away from the home. Preventing dryer fires in your Bay Area home is critical and not too difficult. Here are some facts from NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) dated June 2017.

  • Fire departments answered to approximately 15,970 home fires involving laundry rooms. These fires resulted in approximately $238 million in property damage per year, 440 injuries, and 13 deaths.
  • Of these fire calls, 92% were the result of the clothes dryers.
  • The main items in the clothes dryer that can lead to a fire are dust, fiber, or lint.
  • In 31% of clothes dryer fires, the lack of proper trap or vent cleaning is what caused it.
  • Most of the clothes dryer fires occur between August and January, which is why cleanings are recommended over the summer.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. The following are some key steps you can take to avoid such fires:

  • Ensure that you always have your lint filter in your clothes dryer.
  • After each use, clean out the lint filter and any lint within the clothes dryer drum.
  • When you purchase or move a clothes dryer, have it installed by a professional.
  • Make sure your dryer stays in good condition. You should have it inspected annually by a professional.
  • Have the dryer vent cleaned annually.
  • Do not leave your dryer running while you are out of the house or not awake.
  • Within your venting system, use proper materials to reduce the risk.

These tips are the beginning of what you can do to reduce your risk of fires from your clothes dryer. The Irish Sweep is an expert at dryer vent cleaning. We recommend doing this each year, particularly over the summer so you avoid the risks of fires.

carbon monoxide poisoning, hidden danger in your home, safety

 

Some call it the hidden poison. Many still don’t have a detector for it. It is the most common cause of poisoning death in the United States. It causes about 500 deaths and 15,000 visits to the emergency room annually due to unintentional poisoning. Seniors can be impacted the most due to other medical issues. It is preventable through a detector. Carbon monoxide is this danger in your home, and it can be avoided.

 

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause illness and death. CO is produced whenever any fuel such as natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. Devices that produce CO include cars, boats, gasoline engines, kitchen stoves and ovens, barbeques and heating system. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces.

 

How do your recognize CO poisoning?

At low levels, a person exposed to CO will notice headaches and trouble breathing after some moderate exercise. Regular or severe exposure to carbon monoxide will lead to flu-like symptoms. Some of these include but are not limited to severe headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, confusion, irritability, and impaired judgment, memory and coordination. Should the above signs not be addressed, then it is possible for carbon monoxide to lead to death. This is why it is sometimes called a “silent killer”.

 

How to Tell the Difference between CO Poisoning and the Flu

While symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu, you may not realize that CO is impacting you. The following are the ways you can connect the symptoms with carbon monoxide:

  • The symptoms are more pronounced when you are at home
  • Multiple people get the symptoms at the same time. The flu usually spreads it over time
  • Whoever spends more time at home has more severe symptoms
  • When any device that emits CO is used, the symptoms are worse
  • The impact can be on indoor animals too. The flu generally does not pass to pets.
  • Your body has no achiness.
  • You have no fever or lymph node swelling

 

Prevention

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home.
  • Have an inspection done of your heater and fuel burning appliances each year.
  • Do not burn fuels inside your home.

Should you have any questions or need your annual inspection done on your dryer vent by our certified expert, contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

dryer vent lint screen safety fire

 

We’ve discussed the importance of clean dryer vents, but most people don’t even know how a dryer works and the impact the vents have on things. I wanted to take a moment and explain how dryer vents work. The following is the simplistic explanation of how clothes dryers work:

  1. Air comes to the main body of the dryer through a hole in the front.
  2. The air then passes by a heating element in the dryer and goes into its tumbler to begin drying the clothes.
  3. Afterwards, the air then goes through the holes in the door and to the lint screen.
  4. Once it’s through the lint screen, the air goes past a duct in the front of the dryer and into the fan.
  5. The dryer fan pushes the air into the duct and out through the back of the dryer where it should make its way out of the house. However, if this passageway is dirty/clogged, it can be a very serious fire hazard.

Here are descriptions of some key features of clothes dryers:

Heating element

The dryer heating element is usually made of nichrome wire. Most people do not understand this terminology but think of the wiring you see in your toaster over to make it toast your bread. The heating element uses a high amount of power, up to 6,000 watts. In order to ensure the air goes through this key piece before it goes into the tumbler area, there is a metal stamping to direct the air.

Tumbler

This piece is where you place your clothes for drying. After going through the heating element, the hot air goes through your clothes to dry them.

Door holes

Following the clothes being dried, the air then goes through holes in the dryer door and head to the lint screen.

Lint Screen

This is the dryer section that traps some of the particles that are on clothes and in the air.

Fan

This is a big device that pushes the air out of the dryer and to the outside world through a duct/dryer vent.

Dryer vents serve an important role in being a highway for the exiting air from dryers. If it gets clogged or too dirty, it poses a fire hazard. We highly recommend regular cleanings.

Now that your chimney is clean, take a moment and have your dryer vents cleaned to avoid issues and provide choices. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Impacts of a Dirty Dryer Vent

 

 

Many people who buy washers and dryers notice the rising inefficiency of their appliances over time. The wash cycle that used to take 30 minutes is now taking almost 1 hour. The dryer can no longer dry the same amount of clothes within the 30 minutes you allotted. While some of this is related to the age of the unit, water supplies, etc, this can often be attributed to dirty dryer vents. Doing regular dryer vent cleaning ensures the following:

Safety:

A dirty dryer vent has been found to pose a fire hazard. The material build-up is quite flammable and if left untreated, it is like kindling for a campfire. When moist air in the dryer is trapped, the air can build up in the dryer. A small spark can develop as metal and air meet and move quickly, and the next thing you know, a house fire has started. It is recommended that you clean your dryer vents annually to prevent issues.

Pest Control:

While the build-up of lint can be a super handy fire starter, it can also be a hidden home for those ugly pests or rodents you hate seeing in the home. Many houses have problems as a result of leaving this entryway untreated. Through proper cleaning, pests won’t find the bedding they desire or have the privacy needed to inhabit your vent as their next home.

Efficiency:

When a simple drying task is now taking twice the time, it shows that the dryer is having difficulty. What can you do? Work with your local dryer vent cleaner to get rid of its excess lint.

Now that your dryer vents are clean, take a moment and have your chimney cleaned to avoid issues and provide choices. If you have questions or want to have your Bay Area home inspected, please contact Sal at the Irish Sweep.

Factory Built Fireplace, Oakland, Berkeley, Alamo, Lafayette, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Danville, Blackhawk, Dryer Vent CleaningThis is a fireplace and chimney system that was manufactured in a factory (as the name implies) out of metal.  It is a modular system of component parts that was brought to a job site and installed once the wood framing for the house was in place.  It has a firebox lined with refractory panels, with a damper at the top of the firebox and lengths of double or triple-walled chimney place on top to form a complete fireplace and chimney system.  The chimney above the roofline may be enclosed by a wooden chase.

It has many slang names (which I refuse to use) but some of you may know this fireplace as a Z-Can, ZC, Zero Clearance fireplace (which is a misnomer) as clearances to combustibles are required.  I’ve heard some people refer to it as an insert, which is totally incorrect.