Category: Home Improvement

Home Improvement Projects That May Make You Happier

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Certain home remodeling projects are making homeowners happier and proving to be well worth the cost and time when they sell their properties, according to a new survey from the National Association of REALTORS®, which includes insights from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

After completing a home remodeling project, 74% of more than 2,100 consumers surveyed reported having a greater desire to be in their home, 65% say they experienced increased enjoyment, and 77% felt a major source of accomplishment, the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report shows. Researchers examined 20 projects and surveyed REALTORS® and consumers on home renovation projects.

“REALTORS® and homeowners alike recognize the value of taking on a major home remodeling project,” says NAR President John Smaby. “While these tasks can be time-consuming and costly, the projects are well worth the temporary inconveniences, as this report shows, and the final products ultimately reward us with feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and higher home values.”

NAR calculated a “joy score” for each home remodeling project studied. The score, a scale from one to 10, is based on homeowners’ overall perceived happiness with their renovations. The higher the joy score for the project, the more homeowners felt satisfaction from it.

Some of the highest joy scores for interior projects centered on complete kitchen renovations, closet renovations, full interior and interior room paint jobs, kitchen upgrades, and basement conversions to living areas.

The exterior jobs with the highest joy scores were new fiberglass or steel front doors, new vinyl and wood windows, and new roofing.

The Resale Benefit

Remodeling can be money well spent at times of resale. Overall, the top remodeling projects for recovering costs at resale were from new roofing, hardwood floor refinishing, and new hardwood floor installation.

NARI remodelers say that homeowners spend on average about $7,500 for new roofing, but real estate pros estimate that sellers will recover $8,000 at resale—an estimated 107% of the value recovered.

On new wood flooring, the average cost homeowners spend on an update is $4,700, but a 106% potential return is possible at resale (real estate pros estimate $5,000).

The Happiest Home Projects

But remodels aren’t just for the potential payback at resale. “The NAR report shows us that people often remodel for resale purposes, but it also reminds us that homeowners remodel too, with the desire to make a home their own,” notes Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Here’s a closer look at the study results on the home improvement projects that made homeowners the happiest:

Kitchen renovation

Joy score: 10

Ninety-three percent of consumers said they had a greater desire to be at home since the completion of their kitchen remodel; 95% said it’s increased their sense of enjoyment when at home. “The kitchen is a space homeowners frequent regularly throughout the course of the day,” Yun says. “So when that area is remodeled to owners’ exact preferences—as they enter and exit the room—they continually experience the satisfaction of a job well done.”

The biggest reason behind a kitchen renovation was to improve functionality and livability, according to 46% of respondents. Also, 24% said they wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces and materials, while another 20% said they had recently moved into their home and wanted to customize the kitchen to fit their particular tastes. “Kitchens serve as the ‘heart of the home’ for many, and whether you like to entertain or cook, updating a kitchen ensures greater access and use as homeowners age, especially when the upgrades take accessibility into account,” says Robert Kirsic, a certified kitchen and bath remodeler and also NARI’s 2019–2020 president.

Closet renovation

Joy score: 10

Upgrading home closets also made for instantly happier homeowners. Sixty-eight percent of consumers surveyed say they feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think about a completed closet renovation project. More than half say the most important result is improved functionality and livability.

Full interior paint job

Joy score: 9.8

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for improving the look of a house—but it also improves the mood of those living there. Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported a greater desire to be home since having their home freshly painted.

New fiberglass front door

Joy score: 9.7

The installation of fiberglass front doors can also help for resale and happiness, the survey found. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that they’ve had a greater desire to be home, thanks to their new front door. Sixty-seven percent say they have an increased sense of enjoyment when they’re home.

New vinyl windows

Joy score: 9.6

The happiness around new windows mostly comes from the result of improved functionality and livability. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they were motivated to update their windows to improve their home’s energy efficiency, and 23% want to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials.

Source: “2019 Remodeling Impact Report,” National Association of REALTORS® (October 2019)

Save Money on Your Maui Home Renovation

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Here are 10 powerful ways to save money during your Maui home renovation:

1. Set a Budget and Stick to It
One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when renovating their property is failing to set a budget. By not having one in place before you begin work, you’ll often end up spending more than you originally intended. Be sure to take time to figure out how much you can afford and create a budget for your renovation project.

2. Make Every Effort to Save on Material Costs
Another area where homeowners get in trouble is that they spend way too much on material costs. For example, you can buy recycled or reused building materials, which will help cut down on your costs. Even better, some of these reused materials are in excellent condition, so you’ll get a good bargain on more high-end items.

You can also check Craigslist, eBay or Freecycle to find free or cheap materials online. Many people are often literally giving this stuff away on these sites, so take advantage while you can.

3. Find Good Deals on Essential Pieces
No one said you had to pay top dollar for the most essential pieces for your home renovation. Instead of spending a small fortune for new granite countertops, you can wait a little while for the materials to go on sale. The same holds true with kitchen island installations, brand-new windows and just about anything else that needs replacing during the home renovation process.

4. Pay Cash for Materials and Contractor Expenses
This tried-and-true idea works wonders when attempting to cut down on renovation expenses. You’ll be able to save a significant amount by offering to pay cash for your materials and contractor fees for a couple of reasons. First, by paying cash instead of using credit, you can avoid the possibility of paying hefty interest charges. Second, sometimes contractors will give their customers a price break when you offer to pay cash for their services.

5. Don’t Rush the Renovation Process
Sometimes people are eager to finish their home renovations. This can turn out to be a major mistake if you aren’t patient. Instead of using your credit to pay for your expenses, wait and save up. Additionally, you might end up spending top dollar for materials or contractor fees when you could’ve paid much less if you were willing to wait a little while longer.

6. Perform DIY Renovations When You Possess the Skills to Get the Job Done
Some repairs and renovations are going to be out of your league. However, many folks will have no problem handling some DIY projects on their own. Instead of paying somebody to complete easy to moderate repairs or demolition, you can take the bull by the horns and perform these activities yourself.

7. Reuse Materials Whenever Possible
Instead of letting certain materials go to waste, feel free to reuse them whenever you can get away with it. This is a great way to save money without going over your budget or breaking the bank. For example, you may be able to reuse some of your cabinetry and appliances without replacing them.

8. Avoid Making Big Purchases Until the Items Go on Sale
If you’re renovating your kitchen and putting in brand-new appliances, you should always wait for them to go on sale. Of course, this only works if you aren’t under any time constraints, but instead of buying an appliance on a typical Wednesday, you could wait until a big Fourth of July sale is happening. You’ll save a lot of money this way, so take advantage of these excellent opportunities.

9. Shop Around When Hiring Help for Home Renovations
You obviously want your home renovations to look amazing; however, that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar for the most expensive contractors in your area. You can shop around and get multiple bids from as many contractors as you see fit. This will help you find a top-notch and inexpensive contractor that meets your needs.

10. Sell Any Working Appliances That You Intend to Replace
Do you own a refrigerator that’s in good working order? How about a well-used stove that’s still in good condition? Instead of throwing these valuable items away when you replace them, you could list them on Craigslist, eBay or the Facebook Marketplace. You never know what someone may want to purchase. Selling your old, but working, appliances could help you recoup some of your renovation expenses and lower your costs at the same time.

Article provided by Wendy Dessler

Autumn Home Maintenance Tasks

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Just because the weather’s cooling off doesn’t mean your to-do list will too. Take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

Properly store your yard equipment

One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will be a headache if you don’t prep your equipment this fall. That’s because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

Get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

Run pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you’ll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

If you haven’t tracked down your home’s water shut-offs yet, now’s the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you’ve found them, give them a test.

The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst. Now’s also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

Clear out your crawl space

While you’re winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly? While it’s still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter’s worst happens.

Close your crawl space vents

During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home’s perimeter.

The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics. The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there.

Here’s why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

Kick-start your composting efforts

Now’s the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don’t even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer. Next year’s tomatoes will thank you.

Protect your trees

Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split.

Wrap your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

Tips To Prepare Your Maui Lawn For Winter

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How Maui homeowners treat their yard this autumn can determine the quality of their yard next spring and summer. Here are some helpful tips to help you lay a strong groundwork for a great yard next spring:

Keep Mowing

Grass still needs regular care to stay healthy. Grass that is too high may attract lawn-damaging field mice. Shorter grass is more resistant to diseases and traps fewer falling leaves. Cutting the grass low also allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass. However, cutting off too much at one time can be damaging, so never trim more than a third of the grass blades off in a single cutting. Put mower blades on the lowest settings for the last two cuts of the season.

Aerate

Compressed soil can hurt the health of the grass. Aerating punches holes in the soil and lets oxygen, water, and nutrients into a lawn. Use a walk-behind aerator or get an attachment to pull behind a riding mower.

Mulch

Many mowers can mulch leaves with an attachment. Since mulching with a mower can mix grass clippings with leaf particles, these nitrogen-rich grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles will compost more quickly. They can then return nutrients to the soil.

Trim Trees and Bushes

Use trimmers, chainsaws, or pole pruners to cut back trees, shrubs, and plants. Make sure branches are safely trimmed back from overhead lines and not in danger of falling on a home or structure in winter weather. You may need to tie or brace limbs of upright evergreens or plants to prevent them from breaking in high winds or snow. Call a professional arborist for big trees or hard-to-reach spots.

Repair Bald Spots

Fall is a great time to patch bald or thin spots in a lawn. The easiest way to do this is with an all-in-one lawn repair mixture (found at most garden shops and home centers). Use a garden rake or dethatcher to scratch loose the soil on the spot.

Warning Signs That Pests May Be Damaging Your Maui Home

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If you’ve noticed unusual signs of damage around your property, pests may be to blame. Rodents, insects and other types of pests can wreak havoc on properties. Here are some signs of pests possibly causing damage in your Maui home.

Unstable Floors

The sudden feeling that the floors in your home are unstable could be a sign of a pest problem. This may be especially true if you have hardwood floors that are damaged because of termites. You might notice the boards curling on your floor as damage persists. Flaking and crumbling may also become noticeable as your floors continue to deteriorate from the damage. Crushed-looking wood at structurally significant points can be another obvious sign of a pest problem.

Tap Test Failure

Damage that’s impossible to see can sometimes be detected by performing a tap test on wood surfaces around your home. Wood that’s solid all the way through should produce a thudding sound when tapped, and any hollow sounds could mean that termites or other pests are wearing away at the wood. Hollow sounds also mean that significant portions of your wood have already been lost, and calling a termite treatment specialist and contractor to repair the damage can resolve the problem and protect your home’s structure.

Electrical Problems

If lights, appliances or other equipment around your home that’s powered by electricity start to fail, you might have a pest problem on your hands. Lights that dim or completely go out along with appliances that don’t have as much power or fail to turn on when plugged in could mean that pests are damaging the wires. Rodents are known to chew through wires, which can also create a fire hazard in your home.

Mud Tunnels

Tubes that appear to be made of mud may be visible in your yard and even on the side of your home. These tunnels are often constructed by organ pipe mud dauber wasps to store their larvae. Termites are also known to build tunnels that look like mud but are made from a combination of soil and wood along with a substance consisting of their saliva and feces. You might find these lining walls and floors, acting as a sure sign of infestation if you find them in your Maui home.

Behr Reveals Its Pick for 2020 Color of the Year

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A meadow-inspired green is paint firm Behr’s top pick for the 2020 Color of the Year. Color forecasters expect the hue, called “Back to Nature,” to surface in more home interiors over the next year to bring a sense of the outdoors to the indoors.

“As we look ahead to a new decade, Back To Nature encourages us to reengage with the natural world, which we know can have a real, positive impact on our well-being,” says Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr. “Everyone has a different way of engaging with nature. Whether you’re biking on a forest path, canoeing on a lake, or walking on the beach, green is prevalent in nearly every outdoor landscape. It is easily nature’s favorite color.”

The yellow-based green brings “tranquility” to a space, whether on the wall of a living room or throw pillows in a bedroom, Behr says. Earlier this year, Behr released its 2020 Color Trends palette, which is based on global color trend research for residential and commercial settings. The palette consists of 15 colors, including Back to Nature.

“Back to Nature serves as the cornerstone to this collection,” Woelfel says. “It can work hand in hand with simple or maximal styling, whether your goal is to transform kitchen cabinetry with a new neutral look that feels unique and fresh or simply make a small space feel more open and airy.”

Adding a bold shade to furniture, cabinets, paneling, or window frames is a trend gaining popularity. For example, charcoal, touted in Behr’s color forecast, can be a bold accent color. In addition, hues like Rumba Orange for an interior door, Red Pepper for a brick fireplace, and Bluebird for a staircase are also spotlighted. “Adding color to ceilings and floors can draw the eye up or down, breathing new life into a space,” Behr notes.

Source: Behr Paint

Simple Guide to Summer’s Most Important Home Maintenance Tasks

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There are a few home maintenance tasks you should tackle during the summer to keep your Maui home in tiptop shape all season long. Check these eight projects off your to-do list before firing up the grill.

Maintain your refrigerator

To keep your refrigerator running efficiently in these hot months, you’ll want to vacuum and clean the condenser coils, defrost the freezer, and clean the seals around the door. Then, scrub your fridge inside and out—a task that’s often overlooked, but it’s a great way to ensure the cool air in the fridge is remaining where it belongs: inside.

Keep expanding wood from causing cracks

Hot weather makes wood—and many other construction materials—expand. And over time, this expansion and contraction cycle can cause damage to your house. The effect can vary depending on the humidity and climate, but after a while, you may have breaches in the seals around your home.

Inspect the seals around your windows, roof, door frames, vents, ducts, and outdoor faucets, and take note of any cracking. Not only are you ensuring your hard-working AC keeps its efforts inside the house, but you also prevent unwanted bugs and critters from entering.

Bust out the power or pressure washer

Months of harsh weather have probably left your siding and hardscaping looking a little dingy. This gets overlooked, but it’s a huge part of keeping up the curb appeal of your home. Plus, a good pressure washing cleans out the dirt, preventing rot or other unwanted intrusions.

Give your washing machine a break

Just like your fridge, your washing machine deserves some TLC during summer—especially if you have kids. All of those dirty sports jerseys and mud-soaked pants give the machine a serious workout. Check your hoses for leaks, and clean your lint filter, too. And when you do the laundry, wash full loads and use cold water whenever possible.

Declutter your lawn

Scan your yard: Do you have any tall piles of wood, or uncleared corners of brush?

Bugs and other pests make a resurgence as the weather gets warmer. These areas provide pests cool, dark places to escape the heat. Clear them immediately! Depending on the region, black widows, brown recluses, rattlesnakes, or other poisonous critters can be found in clutter such as this.

Wash your window screens

Finally, you can throw open your windows and breathe in fresh air 24/7! But wait, what is all that dust on your screens? Exterior windows take a beating during the winter months, and now that better weather has arrived, it’s time to give them a little refresh.

For best results, take out all of your window screens, prop them up against an exterior wall, and use that pressure or power washer you oh-so-conveniently rented. Don’t feel like renting a power tool? Use a bristle brush and soapy water to get rid of dirt and debris.

Reseal your deck

Ready to host summer barbecues? Make sure your deck is ready, too. If you pour some water on your deck and the water beads up, you’re all good. However, if the water soaks in, it’s time to reseal.

Unsealed, moisture-soaked decks can cause major problems, like rotting or cracked wood. (And nothing makes a grill party less fun than suddenly plummeting through the floor.)

Don’t forget your driveway

Winter weather can be harsh on driveways, especially if you were snowblowing or plowing frequently. Resealing is especially important if you have kids who like to ride a bike or scooter up and down the driveway in the summer months.

To start, give your driveway a good power wash. Once it’s dry, fill in any cracks or holes with asphalt filler. Then give the whole driveway a fresh coat of sealant.

The Best Ways To Deal With Weeds This Summer

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Now that summer weather is here, it’s time to start thinking about lawn maintenance. This is especially true when it comes to keeping weeds at bay. With that in mind, here are all the weed prevention tips that you need to know. Take the time to read them over so that you’re ready to keep your lawn in tip-top shape this summer.

Treat weeds before they happen

The best way to save your garden from being overrun by weeds is to take care of them before they even have a chance to take root. Preemergent herbicides are one way to do this. As the name suggests, these remedies are meant to treat weeds that have not yet emerged from the soil. For those wondering, both commercial and natural varieties — like corn gluten — are available.

If you’re buying commercial, which herbicide you should purchase depends largely on what type of weed appears most frequently in your lawn. You’ll want to be sure to read labels carefully throughout the entire process. Each preemergent must be mixed to the manufacturer’s instructions, then distributed at a specific rate throughout your target area. All preemergents are activated by water, so make sure to give the area a good soak after you’ve finished the application.

Know what type of weed you’re facing

Believe it or not, not all weeds are created equal. There are actually three distinct subtypes of weeds and each has its own ideal prevention strategy. The types are as follows:

  • Grassy weeds: These weeds may look similar to the grass on your lawn. In fact, they’re even considered grasses. Examples include crabgrass, goosegrass and barnyard grass. The way to attack these weeds is to keep your grass longer and to water it deeply. Longer grass shades the soil, helping to prevent the weed seeds from germinating, while longer, infrequent waterings help encourage strong root growth for your grass.
  • Sedge weeds: Sedge weeds look a lot like grassy weeds, but they have unjointed stems and are most often found in marshes and bogs. It’s important to note the difference because herbicides geared towards grassy weeds will not work on these varieties. Some common types of sedge weeds are yellow and purple nutsedge, wild onion or garlic and Star of Bethlehem.
  • Broadleaf weeds: Broadleaf weeds are the most common weed variety found in gardens. Their leaves are wide and flat with net-like veins. This type of weed includes dandelions, ground ivy, white clover and violets.

Create unfavorable weed conditions

Just like other plant varieties, weeds need favorable conditions in order to grow. When you’re trying to keep weeds to a minimum, your goal should be to create the opposite: a lawn and garden environment that makes it difficult for them to flourish. The harder it is for weeds to grow, the less likely it is for them to be able to spread their seeds and begin to take over your lawn.

As far as creating an unfavorable environment, there are multiple steps you can take. However, properly mulching is one of the best. Start by placing a layer of newspaper or fabric on top of the soil to block out any light. Then, add about two inches of mulch over the top before putting in your plantings. You’ll also want to make sure to plant items close together so that there’s less room for weeds to grow in between them.

Weed at the right time

There’s an old saying: “Pull wet, hoe dry.” It’s good advice to keep in mind when looking for the best time to weed. Conventional wisdom states that the best time to pull weeds out by the root is right after a rainstorm. However, if you’re going to weed when it’s dry, the better bet is to use a hoe with a sharp edge to slice the weed just below the soil line.

In situations where the weed cannot be easily removed — such as in a tightly-packed flower bed — aim to lop off its head. Simply use a pair of pruning shears to do the job. This forces the weeds to use up their food supply and reduces their root buds, which minimizes their ability to spread.

Lawn Care Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Maui Home’s Curb Appeal

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A great lawn adds instant curb appeal to a home’s first impression, but according to Reviewed.com, homeowners may be making one of these common mistakes in their lawn maintenance:

Cutting the grass too short

Most grasses should be cut no shorter than 2.5 inches, according to Reviewed.com. Anything shorter could impede the grasses’ ability to absorb enough sunlight to thrive.

Failing to water enough

Reviewed.com says that most grasses need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. “If you’re just turning on your sprinkler for 10 minutes a day, the water isn’t getting down to the grass’s deep roots, and a lot of that water is going to evaporate before the grass has a chance to absorb it,” the article notes. The grass needs about 30 minutes for most irrigation systems. Reviewed.com suggests a test: Place cans across the lawn and run the sprinkler for 30 minutes. Measure with a ruler the amount of water that collects in the cans. Adjust your timing, as needed, to get 1 inch per watering session. Another test: If you can see your footprints in the grass after you walk on it, that is a sign it’s time to water.

Watering at the wrong time of day

To minimize evaporation loss, water early in the morning before it gets too hot. Avoid watering at night, as cool water sitting on the grass overnight can increase disease, Reviewed.com notes. “Don’t rush out to water the grass the moment the sun comes out either,” the article notes. “Grass grows deeper roots when it gets slightly drought-stressed.”

Using too much fertilizer

If your grass turns brown, don’t just dump a bag of fertilizer on it. That can waste money and hurt your plants. You likely will need less fertilizer than you think. Follow the directions on the bag for how much to fertilize. Also, avoid applying powdered or granular fertilizer before a rain. It will run off with rainwater. Reviewed.com also notes that if you use compost, try three-fourths of a cubic yard per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

Applying fertilizer at the wrong time

Fertilizer will be the most beneficial for a yard in the spring and fall in most climates. “Fertilizer will help your lawn the most when it’s growing the most—that is, not in the middle of summer, when your grass gets stressed by heat and drought,” the article notes.

Household Items You Should Replace Regularly

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Until Homeownership 101 becomes a prerequisite for obtaining a mortgage, most of us will learn how to handle many household tasks through trial and error. There are certain tasks—like replacing critical items before they reach the end of their life span—that you don’t want to learn the hard way.

HVAC filters

When to replace: Every three months

It’s easy to forget about the filter in your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. It’s not something you look at every day (or ever), but that filter works hard behind the scenes to keep the air in your home clean and your HVAC system running smoothly.

Replace HVAC filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions—every three months or so, on average. Even if you’re not DIY savvy, replacing the filter is a simple swap.

And if you don’t replace those filters regularly? Running your HVAC system with an old filter can hurt its performance—and it can also invalidate your system’s warranty, Faccone warns.

Humidifier and dehumidifier filters

When to replace: Every one to three months

If you live in a climate that sees drastic temperature swings, there’s a good chance you rely on a humidifier or a dehumidifier to keep levels stable.

But your humidifier and dehumidifier can’t run on autopilot—you need to change each system’s filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which generally recommend every one to three months. If you don’t, your filters can quickly become a hotbed for bacteria and mold, and you may notice that your unit is less effective.

Vacuum cleaner HEPA filters

When to replace: Every few months, up to every few years

The high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your vacuum is another filter you should be replacing regularly. These filters help capture tiny particles like dust mites, allergens, and bacteria, but over time, they can get clogged and don’t work as well. If you continue vacuuming with an old HEPA filter, your vacuum may lose some of its suction, and it’s far more affordable to replace a filter than an entire vacuum.

Check with your manufacturer to see how often you should replace the filter; some suggest every six months, others say only once every two to three years.

If all this filter-changing is starting to feel like a drag, we get it. But clean filters keep your household equipment in tiptop shape, and they’re also important from a safety perspective.

Smoke detectors

When to replace: When they stop working, or every 10 years—whichever comes first

Resist the urge to dismantle and abandon your smoke detector when it begins the end-of-life chirp. Keep fresh batteries on hand so your detectors are always in good working order, and test your smoke detectors once a month….(Yes, really!)

If your smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, play it safe and replace them altogether.

If you can’t be bothered with batteries, consider investing in a hardwired system for your home.

Kitchen sponges

When to replace: Every two weeks

Your kitchen sponges do not have nine lives. They barely even have one life, it turns out—experts say kitchen sponges should be replaced every two weeks.

It makes sense, when you think about it: Your kitchen sponge endures a hard life full of daily, dirty use. It’s easy for bacteria from food to get trapped in sponges, which is not only nasty but can create an unsavory stench in your kitchen. Stock up on this staple so you can swap in a new sponge at least once every few weeks.

GFCI outlets

When to replace: When they stop working

Outlets with ground-fault circuit interrupters—GFCI outlets for short—are a safety must-have in any room prone to dampness or humidity, like a kitchen or bathroom. These outlets cut the power in dangerous situations (say, if you drop your toaster in the sink).

Even if your house is fully loaded with GFCI outlets, you need to test them regularly to ensure they’re working.