Top 5 Apartment DIY Skills Every Renter Should Know

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Source: apartmentguide.com

What to Do If Your Apartment Floods

Flooding is, to put it mildly, no fun. Between the amount of damage typically done, the stress of dealing with repairs and trying to get back to normal, there’s a lot to cover.

While we can’t help you deal with the stress directly, these precautions and additional information should give you a better idea of what you’d need to do before, during and after you have a flooded apartment.

Pre-flood

The first thing is preparing for the possibility of any kind of damage by getting renters insurance that includes a flood policy covered under the National Flood Insurance Program.

The whole thing is usually no more than a few hundred dollars per year, and it covers you from floods, fire and theft. It isn’t a legal requirement, but some property managers will ask you to get it. Considering the low cost for the level of coverage you’ll get, it’s worthwhile.

Catching problems before they happen

To address the possibility of water damage and a flooded apartment more directly, keep an eye out for drips and leaks. You also want to watch for the appearance of water stains or mold growth, signs of a previous water leak. This includes checking the walls and ceiling when it rains and periodically looking at faucets and pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Report anything you see to your property manager since these are issues they’ll need to repair. Make sure you have the emergency phone number for your building saved and accessible. It isn’t only good for flooding, but anything that happens unexpectedly and needs immediate attention.

Securing your belongings

While the likelihood of a flood is low, it’s still a good idea to keep valuable items away from the most obvious places they’d get wet. “The easiest way to keep smaller items safe is with a waterproof, fireproof box. These safes come in a variety of sizes. You will want to consider what items are most important to you before deciding on the size,” says Soil Away, a disaster restoration company.

Keep items like electronics off the floor if they’re near the kitchen or bathroom as well. These strategies both protect your valuables and also give you more time to get to things if the water is rising and you need to grab and go.

flooded apartmentflooded apartment

During the flood

When the flooding starts, get everything you can away from the path of the water. Take what valuables you can and move them into your car, into another room or into a neighbor’s apartment — anything to keep them dry.

Next, call that emergency maintenance number you’ve saved, as well as the management company itself. They should respond immediately, but if not, you may have to take matters into your own hands, contacting a plumber or other repair person.

While you wait for help to arrive, try to get things under control. Attempt to seal the leak if you can reach it and have the right materials. Use plastic bins or any other containers you have to contain as much water as possible.

After the flood

Unfortunately, the stress of a flooded apartment doesn’t end once the leak is fixed. Now you have to try and pick up the pieces, get things repaired and get back to life as normal. Sorting this out involves insurance claims and a close review of the terms of your lease.

Since you have to establish who handles what, there can be some confusion, so it’s important to know what general areas are more likely whose responsibility.

Documenting the damage

The first step after a flood is documenting all the damage that occurs. This is both for your insurance company and for your property manager to have. Take photos of both your damaged items and visible damage on walls or ceilings. Save all damaged property until an insurance adjuster is able to come out and document the damage. Don’t throw anything away until they give you the all-clear.

Establishing responsibility

Damage to the building itself normally falls under the property owner’s insurance. The actual structure and anything that comes with the unit like carpet or appliances are also covered. You’re responsible for your personal property, and having flood damage as part of your renters insurance should make dealing with that easier.

Exceptions to this breakdown occur when flooding happens because your property manager didn’t fix a known issue. In that case, they may end up paying to replace your own property. The opposite is also true if something you did caused the flooding. In this instance, you might have to pay for all the damage, including damage to the building itself. If there’s any conflict, don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer.

Terminating the lease

If the flooded apartment ends up with too much damage to remain livable, you may have the right to terminate your lease without penalty. If your property owner has another, equivalent apartment available, you could try and negotiate a move into that unit, signing a new lease. You could also try and work out a temporary living situation while your apartment is getting repaired.

Your lease should have a section on termination, but you can also research the local renter laws in your area to get a better idea of what your rights are. If you can’t work out a deal with your current property owner, it may be best to find a new place to live altogether.

flooded streetflooded street

Common causes of flooding

Flooding can happen anywhere, beginning from a natural phenomenon or from within your own apartment. Common sources of flooding include:

  • Heavy rain: “Heavy rainfall is more than 0.30 inches of rain per hour,” according to Weather Shack. Rain at this rate can overflow streams, drains and even entire sewer systems. This backs everything up, sending water overflowing into homes and apartment buildings.
  • Clogged or frozen pipes: Plumbing is often the internal culprit when it comes to flooding. Clogged pipes mean water can’t drain properly, so it comes back up into sinks, bathtubs or toilets. In the extreme cold, pipes can freeze, as well. When they thaw, they can end up bursting, sending water spraying. Issues like these going unchecked can lead to flooding.
  • Drainage basins in urban areas: Large cities like New York and Los Angeles use concrete drainage basins, which don’t provide a place for groundwater to get absorbed. In heavy rains, these basins can overflow, creating street flooding that can spread into the first few floors of buildings.
  • Leaky roofs: What may start out as a small crack in the ceiling can quickly become an access point for water to drip down if it’s not addressed. Any small imperfection in your ceiling should be reported immediately to your property manager for repairs.

“Just in case” is enough risk to prepare

Nobody likes to think about the disaster a flood could cause in their home, but it’s a risk to think it could never happen to you. In fact, 14,000 people in the U.S. experience some kind of water damage at home or at work every day according to Water Damage Defense.

Whether a little leak or a full-on deluge, some preparation and a deeper understanding of how easy it is to be ready, can help you can get ahead of the stressful situation that’s possible from a flooded apartment.

Read more about keeping your apartment safe:

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Simple Ways to Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

There are quite a few maintenance issues that can pop up around your apartment, which you can easily take care of yourself. With the right combination of know-how and tools, you should succeed in making most simple repairs. However, what happens when you’re missing an essential tool?

Here’s a scenario: It’s Sunday evening in your one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. A few friends come over for a casual dinner. After the meal, you’re all sitting around when one guest comes out of the bathroom with an uncomfortable look on their face. “The toilet won’t flush…sorry.” No problem, you think as you go for the plunger. Until you remember you don’t currently have one. What do you do now?

Head to the kitchen

bleach being poured into measuring cupbleach being poured into measuring cup

For an immediate fix, simple household items are all you need. Regular dish soap that you should have sitting on your sink and some hot water may do the trick. Pour about half a cup of dish soap directly into the toilet and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

This works because the soap helps lubricate the clogged pipe allowing materials to go down easier. At this point, you can try flushing and see if that works. If not, grab two cups of hot water and add it to the bowl. Make sure the water isn’t boiling. Water that hot can crack the porcelain. If it’s a tough clog, you should use the soap then water before attempting a flush.

For really tough clogs, your kitchen can still be your best resource. If available, try combining bleach and powdered dishwasher soap. Combine two or three cups of regular household bleach with about one cup of powdered dishwasher soap and pour into the toilet. Wait about 10 minutes before attempting to flush. This method is also good to try if you’re dealing with a very full toilet.

Go organic

baking soda and vinegarbaking soda and vinegar

Working in the same way the dish soap does, only with a different set of ingredients, use this mixture with hot water to unclog your toilet. Combine one cup of baking soda with two cups of vinegar. Be prepared for the mixture to fizz as it’s working.

Let it sit for 30 minutes before adding the hot water, then flush. This option is especially good if you have a septic system. Bleach and certain soaps can harm septic tanks.

Grab a closet staple

wire hangerswire hangers

Ending up with a particularly stubborn clog may mean abandoning your kitchen and going to your closet for the right supplies. Take a wire coat hanger, like the ones from the dry cleaners, and straighten it out.

Then, with a little muscle, push one end into the clogged area, giving it a few prods. You should feel the clog start to loosen up before you flush and watch things get sucked away.

When you need to be discreet

jar of epsom saltjar of epsom salt

Should you find yourself in a situation where you don’t want anyone to know you’ve clogged the toilet, common bathroom items may handle the issue. Keep things discreet by using these to handle your clog:

  • Bath Bomb: if you can find one, simply drop it into the bowl and watch it dissolve over a few minutes. Like with the dish soap, it should loosen things up and allow you to flush.
  • Epsom salts: check under the sink for this bathroom staple. Sprinkle in a decent amount, watch it fizz like the bath bomb and hopefully get results.
  • Toilet Brush: while not as sturdy as a plunger, it can be used in much the same way. Push the brush into the drain hole as best you can and give it a few good pumps. Don’t forget to rinse the brush thoroughly as the clog drifts down the drain.

Remember – no plunger, no worries. Your toilet will flush clear again thanks to a variety of items typically found around your apartment.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Is the Home You Love Worth It? Home Pre-Inspection Tips to Put to Use

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To hear professional home inspectors tell it, Americans take better care of their automobiles than their homes. Consequently, every homebuyer should plan to spend the $400 to $600 necessary to have the house they like best thoroughly examined by an independent third party before closing.

But wait: Before you’ve made your final choice and order a home inspector to take a look, you should do some preliminary investigating of your own. That way, you can protect yourself from picking the wrong house and allowing a better maintained property to slip away.

Even rookie buyers can get a good idea of just how well kept a house has been. Even when the seller has given the place a fresh coat of paint and trimmed the lawn, there still are often telltale signs that the owner may not have been as diligent as he could have. But keep it mind, it would be counterproductive to put every house under this kind of microscope. Once you narrow your choices down to two or three homes, it’s time to take a harder look. Then, after you make your final decision, call in the experts.

Look at Small Details

For example, a clean furnace filter can be taken as an indication the house has been well cared for. But who’s to say the seller didn’t just replace a filter that hadn’t been changed in years? If the filter hasn’t been changed regularly, the furnace hasn’t been working efficiently and it may not live up to its expected life span.

So how do you now? You don’t for sure. but if you spy a pile of spare filters tucked away in a storage closet, it’s a pretty good sign that the owner is on the ball. Someone who is in the process of selling isn’t buying extra filters he won’t use.

Home Service Log

Another clue that the furnace is in good shape is to look for a service log showing that the machine has been serviced regularly, at least once a year.

Of course, homebuyers, even those who have purchased several houses, shouldn’t substitute this kind of rudimentary investigation for a complete and exhaustive inspection by a trained professional. Even if the furnace has been serviced consistently, it could be on its last legs, and only a pro will be able to determine that.

Go Through the Motions as an Owner

Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and act like you’re already living there. You have every right to open closets, flush toilets, run the dishwasher through a full cycle, turn on all the stove-top burners, check the refrigerator and open the in the windows. The owner shouldn’t object – not if he really wants to sell.

If you are really interested in a property, make an appointment with the owner to return with your agents in tow. Give yourself plenty of time to give the place a good once-over. Then, you can decide if you want to proceed.

Tips from Professionals

Here, in no particular order, are some other suggestions from professional inspectors to help you decide if the choices you are considering are inspection-worthy:

Tips for Inspecting Basements

If the house has a basement, follow your nose. If there is a damp, musty smell, there’s usually an issue. A dehumidifier is another tip-off to a wet basement. They aren’t part of the decor. Also, look for stains or rot where the stringers, or side pieces, on the basement steps touch the floor. If there is a water problem, the moisture will wick into the wood. If there is nothing on the basement floor, that could be a sign of water problems. Inspectors love to see stacks of old magazines in the corner with spider webs. That means they have been there a long time and the there is no water problem.

Water Damage to Look for

Some owners will try to hide water damage in their bathrooms by re-caulking and grouting tiles. But you can beat them at their own game by tapping on the tile where it hits the tub or shower floor. The tile should sound and feel solid. If it sounds hollow, give it a nudge to see if there is any give to the wall. If there is, something’s going on behind there that isn’t good.

Electrical Inspections that are Amateur-friendly

After water issues, improper electrical wiring is the second most common defect found by home inspectors. It is difficult for an amateur to determine if the electrical system is adequate, but there are clues. If you see a lot of fuses lying around, especially burnt-out ones, it’s a dead giveaway that the wiring is probably undersized. Another sure-fire indication that the wiring is insufficient: A bunch of extension cords snaking around, hither and yon.

Always Check the Roof

Roofing problems also are fairly common, so look for shingles that are cupping at the corners. They may have to be replaced. If the roof appears to be sagging between the joists, the entire thing may have to be removed. And if there are already are two layers of shingles, the cost could be 20% higher or more. If the house has been well maintained, the owner will know exactly how many layers are on the roof, the age of the top layer and if new sheathing has been put down between the two layers.

Turning on Faucets is Always a Great Idea

Turn on the faucets on the bathroom sink and tub and flush the toilet, all at the same time. If there is an appreciable drop in water flow, there could be a serious pressure problem, possibly caused by mineral buildup in old pipes.

Keep in Mind…

* Maybe one in 20 houses examined by the pros qualifies as well maintained. But if the seller keeps a maintenance log backed by files of receipts, warranties, instruction manuals and color swatches, it’s probably a safe bet that the house has been a labor of love. Neatness counts, too. There should be access to all space, and nothing should be blocking the furnace or electrical panel.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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Source: homes.com

How to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not only are the holidays arguably the most cheerful and fun days to experience with your loved ones, they’re also the best time of the year for decorating.

Whether you go all out or prefer minimal decorations these tips will get your home into the holiday spirit.

1. Decorate the door: Make a great first impression. Decorate your doorway with garland and hang a wreath from your front door.

2. Christmas lanterns: A lantern is a very elegant and sophisticated piece of decor that will instantly dress up any room. Add candles or flameless candles to brighten any room.

3. Centerpieces: A centerpiece is the focal point of your table. It transforms how guests view your dining room and can really get everyone into the Holiday spirit. Adorning your table with a bouquet of red roses mixed in with some garland, berry sprigs, and candles is a great way to bring the season into your home.

4. Hanging lights: Decorate any sort of hanging, pendant light with garland.

5. Staircases, columns, etc.: Take your love of detail into other parts of your home. Add bows, garland, and string lights to the handrails and columns inside and outside your house. These small decorations will help make your home cozy and give it a very Holiday feel.

6. Coffee Table: Fill glass bowls or cylinders with ornaments. If you’re feeling extra creative spray paint pinecones and add them.

7. Mantelpiece: Your mantelpiece is usually the focal point of your living room, and what better time to draw more attention to it than the holidays? Decorate the mantel with red berries, tree branches, Christmas stockings, and other small holiday touches.

8. The tree: For Christmas it’s all about the tree during the holidays. All families have their own traditions, but you may want to change things up a bit. Add some metallic shimmer, top the tree with bells instead of an angel, and cluster ornaments together. It’ll give a traditional tree a new look.

Decorating your home for the holidays is a fun family activity. Add some cheer to your home!

Source: century21.com