GateHouse News Service's weekly Home Help, with tips on how much spring cleaning should cost, Value Range Marketing and attracting birds to your garden in winter.
When you hire a professional to handle a cleaning task, how do you know what he or she should be doing for the money you pay? For that matter, how do you know how much you should expect to pay? Here are some common spring cleaning and maintenance tasks that you might hire a professional to do - and some guidance for what these jobs should entail and cost.
Air duct cleaning/HVAC maintenance
Regular maintenance of your home's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems can help avoid costly break-downs, and keeping air ducts clean can improve air quality in your home. Before you hire someone to clean your air ducts and service your HVAC systems, check their credentials with a credible organization like NADCA, the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance & Restoration Association. A cleaning/maintenance inspection should include examination and cleaning of ductwork, including supply and air return ducts; cleaning of all supply registers, return air grilles and diffusers; cleaning of supply and return air plenums; and maintenance on various parts of the system. A typical cleaning should cost between $450 and $1,000 per system, depending on the services rendered, the size of the system, how easily accessible it is and how dirty it is, according to NADCA.
Cleaning your home's windows can have a dramatic impact on both the interior and exterior of the house, but it is a major project. If your home is large, you have a lot of windows and little time, hiring a professional may be the best way to get your windows cleaned. Look for companies with an established reputation. A typical window cleaning should include the inside and outside of all windows in the home, removal and cleaning of screens, and cleaning of all sills and tracks (which means they must open every window to fully clean it). Most companies charge per pane and your total cost will vary based on many factors, including the number of windows in your home, how many are on upper floors and even your region of the country. Typically, however, you should expect to pay between $2 to $7 per pane, according to CostHelper.com.
While you can rent a machine and shampoo your own carpets, cleaning rugs may be better left to a professional if you have particularly challenging stains, a lot of furniture to move or a material that requires special care. Typically, the cost of carpet cleaning is about 25 cents to 35 cents per square foot, according to The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Several factors will influence the final cost, including the size and number of rooms, your area of the country, how much furniture cleaners will have to move, and how badly soiled the carpet is. A typical cleaning should include vacuuming before cleaning by a technician with professional certifications for carpet cleaning, according to CRI.
Depersonalize the rooms on your house before a sale. Remove family pictures in frames, posters and artwork. This helps buyers picture their family living in the house, instead of yours.
Did You Know...
Prudential Real Estate has introduced a new house pricing concept called Value Range Marketing. Originating in Australia, this pricing method has the real estate agent decides a price range that takes into consideration the price the seller wants, what the house is worth and what potential buyers might offer, such as a price range of $149,000 - $169,000. This method is meant to bring in more prospective buyers, especially ones who may not be willing to pay the asking price, but could afford to still pay something within the house's price range.
Picture frames are a great way to display family portraits and your favorite memories while also adding a little style to a blank wall. Repurpose old frames you already have lying around the house to create a gallery wall with some pizzazz. With a few coats of spray paint, you can take frames from mismatched to mesmerizing. Spruce them up a bit more by using patterned papers as mats. Instead of white or cream, use dramatic colors and bold prints. Simply cut an opening the size of the photo, and you'll have an unexpected pop of style and color in your new photo gallery.
With a little planning, your yard can become a prime spot for birds to fuel up and take refuge during those long, cold months. The key is to select a mix of plantings, shrubs and trees that offer birds the protection and food they need to survive.
From seeds to nuts
During the winter, birds are on a constant hunt for food. Make your yard a convenient place for them to feed by adding trees that produce seeds and nuts. Evergreens, especially conifers -- from pines and junipers to firs, spruces and hemlock -- are a must in any bird-friendly landscape, says Janet Marinelli, co-author of The Wildlife Gardener's Guide. The seeds from pine cones are a valuable source of winter food for many types of birds, including chickadees, pine siskins, grosbeaks, and woodpeckers. Deciduous trees, which shed their leaves, may not offer much protection from the elements, but varieties such as oaks, walnuts, hickories and hazelnuts, all provide nuts that are an excellent source of fuel for birds.
A bounty of berries
Fruit-bearing trees and shrubs are a major source of food for birds; look for varieties that hold onto their fruit through the winter. Some examples of shrubs with berries that persist throughout winter include winterberry holly, photinia, bayberry, and viburnum. Other options include several types of chokeberry bushes, which generally all tolerate shade. Native roses are another good choice; they develop fleshy red or orange fruit, known as rose "hips," during the cold months. Flowering crabapple trees are not only attractive additions to a garden, their fruit is also very popular with birds. Consider varieties such as hawthorn crabapple or sargent crabapple, which feature small, bright red fruit that birds can swallow whole.
Go wild with native grasses
Native grasses emerge later in the season, and their flowers' seeds make a wonderful wintertime food source for birds. To ensure your grasses are truly bird-friendly, don't cut them back in the fall; instead, leave them up for the winter, and cut them back in early spring. That way, you'll be providing both welcome coverage and food. Some native grass varieties to consider for cold climates: switch grass and hair grass, as well as a shorter ornamental grass called Little Bluestem, and its taller cousin, Big Bluestem.
Water, water everywhere
Having a clean source of water is also critical for birds-and something that homeowners often overlook during the winter. "Winter is when water is scarcest, and when birds need it the most," says Marinelli. Invest in a portable warming device and de-icer for your birdbath, to prevent freezing. Another option: heated birdbaths, which are available in both pedestal and deck-mounted designs. Whichever type you choose, be sure to change the water daily.
GateHouse News Service