August 24, 2017

Top Signs Your Air Conditioner Needs Immediate Service

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 9:22 am

Your AC unit will always need periodic maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape and extend its life. Sometimes, however, your air conditioner might show signs it needs immediate attention even before its scheduled maintenance. Here are some of those symptoms that may require a visit from an air conditioning specialist right away.

It’s not making the room cool anymore
When your AC is running full blast but isn’t doing anything to keep you from sweating profusely, it’s likely it’s not generating cold air anymore. There are some reasons for this, from dirty air filters to a malfunctioning electronic control board. You can do something about the dirty air filters, but you should leave the more complicated electronic control board problem to a qualified air conditioning technician. But if your AC still can’t cool the room despite your best efforts, it’s probably time to consider buying a new AC unit.

Strange smells and sounds
If you notice weird sounds or an unusual smell coming from your air conditioner, turn it off immediately and call an AC professional. The smell could be that of something electrical overheating or burning inside, which could be very dangerous. The weird sounds, on the other han8d, could be from a loose fan belt or a poorly-lubricated central air fan motor. Whatever is causing them, make sure they are addressed immediately for safety reasons.

Astronomical energy bills
An air conditioner consumes more electricity than most of your appliances, especially when you use it every single day. That’s why you’re probably used to higher than usual energy bills. However, if the next electric bill suddenly skyrockets, there might be something wrong with your AC. Again, dirty air filters might be causing it, as it hampers air flow, which always leads to higher electricity bills. But faulty installation, leaks or holes in your duct system, refrigerant issues, or dirty coils could also be affecting your AC’s energy efficiency. Have a professional check your AC to restore its efficiency and lower your energy bills, and make the unit last longer as well.

July 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Wood boring insects.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 11:05 am

You may have hired an inspector to give you an evaluation of your home prior to putting it on the market to sell, and this kind of proactive seller strategy is increasingly popular – especially when sellers want a competitive edge over other listing for sale. Of course the most common type of home inspection is ordered by a buyer, prior to closing, to ensure that they know as much as possible about the condition of the home and can make an informed purchase and insightful purchase offer that is accordingly prices.

In either case, if your home inspector sees visible evidence that could potentially indicate the presence of pests such as wood-boring insects, the inspector will note this in your report with photos, a written description, or both.

Keep in mind that some general home inspectors may also be trained as pest inspectors or have a pest inspector on their team, but pest inspection is a separate and distinct specialty. Even if you have had a general inspection, you will also want to do a separate termite inspection. Pest inspectors charge a reasonable fee to conduct their inspections, and it well worth it to find out whether or not you have a wood-boring insect problem.
There are numerous species of insects that will feast on the wood in your home if they have the opportunity. For that reason you can expect that a home inspector will pay attention to any obvious symptoms of insect infestation or damage, and these observations will show up in the inspection report.

Red Flags and Visible Symptoms
Signs of infestation – either active or prior – include pencil-width round holes in wooden structures, such as porch railings and supports, wooden siding, or structural rafters, beams, or piers. These may have been caused by carpenter bees, which look similar to bumblebees but drill into wood that has not been properly sealed, painted, or treated to make it resistant to insects.

If a wooden surface such as the siding on a home is rotting, dry, and crumbly – and has voids in it that resemble the tunnels that ants make in an anthill like those that children often watch during their science classes – that could be from carpenter ants. These look like most other ants, but devour wood for their sustenance and can cause considerable damage to a home.

The other very common pest is the termite, and most homeowners are fully aware that these little insects can completely decimate a home if they are given a chance to infest it and chew away at the wood without being controlled. Sometimes evidence of past infestation can include dead termites, and when termites live in the soil and travel up across the foundation of a house to nibble at the wood, they leave behind telltale tracks. These look like thin trails made of dried mud that branch out across the foundation stones.

What to Do Next
If your inspection report highlights suspicion of such pest presence, just take note of it and then hire a qualified pest inspector or termite inspector to have a closer look and make a more specific determination.
After the pest professional does an inspection they will either give the home a clean bill of health or will recommend that you treat infested areas that are found. The treatment may be simple and easy, or in the case of a severe infestation it may even necessitate that you have a full-day treatment or even vacate the house so that it can be fumigated. If you have wood-boring insect problems the pest professional will typically advise that a general pest control treatment be done about once a year, as a follow-up, to prevent re-infestation.

A contractor will also be needed to repair or replace any pest-damaged wood, and that project could be minor or extensive, depending upon how much or how little damage has been done by the insects. Call around and get bids from at least three pest inspection companies and repair contractors, select professional and schedule the work, and let them do whatever is necessary to resolve the issue.

Final Steps
If repairs are warranted, the buyer and seller need to decide whether they need to be done prior to closing or whether they can be postponed. They will also need to negotiate regarding any costs related to treatment of infestation and repair of any damaged wood to return it to a condition of proper structural integrity. Normally either the buyer will pay these professional services, or they will give a discount to the seller to offset that expense. A third common option is that both parties agree to split the costs.

If the mortgage company is involved and requires an updated termite certificate that validates that the home has a clean bill of health regarding wood-boring pests, that needs to be taken of by a termite inspector. They will issue a dated certificate to give the mortgage company so you can proceed with closing on the home purchase transaction.

Real Estate Advice: Capitalize on social media.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 11:03 am

While teens spend an average of eight hours per day on social media, don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are the only consumers of digital media for social interaction. Adults in North American now find ways to devote around two hours a day to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and that offers a great opportunity for real estate professionals to find them, engage with them, and convert them into steady clients. Here are some strategies and tips for things you can do to leverage your real estate brand and exposure on those three social media platforms, which account for the majority of online social networking and connectivity.

One of the biggest mistakes that real estate agents make when using Facebook to generate leads and gain more clients is that they get bogged-down in social interactions that do not push that agenda forward. To avoid that misstep, relegate your personal Facebook activity to a personal account that can feed into and link back to your business Facebook page. Then focus your energy on that business page or account to highlighting the successes of your clients, versus simply tooting your horn for your own success – which is what all your competitors probably do.

Share stories of clients who struggled to buy or sell until they worked with you, for instance, or of first-time buyers who talk about how great it feels to own their own home. Highlight your partnerships with local charities and small businesses, and use your site to promote them – which will win you fans from their own sites. The more you let the voices of your partners or happy clients provide the messages on Facebook, the more it will add to your credibility. Keep in mind that Facebook posts that are most effective include visuals like photos or videos. Keep the writing to a minimum and let pictures, which each tell a thousand words, dominate the page.

The place where those compelling visuals really shine, of course, is Instagram. You should post photos on a daily basis, to keep the account exciting and fun to view. You can use photos of clients in their new homes or sellers smiling at the closing table, or post favorite quotes or affirmations that convey positivity and a winning attitude. Whenever you or your brokerage participate in a community event, post a photo. Did you find a new restaurant, bike path, or hiking trail in the area where you focus your business? Post a photo of it to show your support and also give your clients a head’s up about a new neighborhood amenity or asset. Of course you should also post photos of your listings, but if listing photos are all you post, most people won’t follow you until they go house shopping. By using this other picture-a-day approach, more people will follow you – and when you do post photos that directly promote your business they will see them and tell their friends, which is the goal of social marketing.

LinkedIn is a great way to keep tab with business partners and clients, and the majority of people on the platform basically just use it as a kind of address book. That’s fine, but it certainly is not why Microsoft just bought LinkedIn for an historically high price. The great value for you if you want to maximize it for real estate purposes is that LinkedIn can position you as the go-to expert in your field, in your city, and in your social network. So to take full advantage of this platform, start sharing your knowledge and expertise in one or more of the widely-read forums related to real estate. Many LinkedIn users rely on those expert posts to keep them in the loop and educated, and the more valuable the insight is that you share, the more valued you will be as a LinkedIn connection. Then, when those readers or people in their network need a real pro to help them with a real estate issue, you’ll get the call.

Home Maintenance Tips: Take care of your home while away on vacation.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 11:01 am

Home maintenance is relatively easy if you stay on top it and do it at regular intervals, but it becomes a bit more difficult to do if you are not anywhere near your home. That’s the situation for many homeowners in July, because they are traveling out of town for family vacations. That calls for unique home maintenance strategies, and these same approaches can be used throughout the year anytime you need to be out of town and cannot be physically present to take care of your property.

An App for That
App developers have been working overtime to raise the IQ of our mobile phones from smart to smarter. There are many examples of apps that are a great solution for homeowners who aren’t always home. To give you an idea of their capability, here is an overview of one of the most popular, named Canary. Rather than categorizing it as an app, it is more accurate to describe Canary as a full-featured home security and monitoring device or system that is also conveniently app-connected. The Canary replaces bulky home security systems with a small, inexpensive device that monitors motion, temperature, sound, and even air quality within your home, and you can view it from your phone.

How it Works
While you’re away you can watch live streams of your home, or recorded HD videos, and you can archive them if you want. Canary monitors such things as movement inside your home when you aren’t there, and if the system identifies something out of the ordinary, you’ll get a notification with recorded HD video of the event, as well as the option to watch it live. It is not a security system, per se, and no home security company or police are going to be notified by the app. That can be a good thing, because you can review your instant alerts on your app and then if it is a false alarm you didn’t trigger a response that is going to cost you money or embarrassment.

But if there is a problem there is the ability built into the app to respond to incidents directly from the Canary app. You can trigger a 90 decibel siren, or be connected directly to your home’s local emergency responders. Canary changes modes as you come and go, too, so you never have to remember a key code or set and reset or disarm anything. If you are home, you set notification preferences. When you are leaving for vacation, you set the system to monitor activity and send notifications.

Old Fashioned Strategies Are Still Relevant
As always, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a friend or neighbor who can be your eyes and ears while you are away. They can notify you of any problems that come up, and they can make sure that routine tasks like trash collection or mail delivery are monitored. That has a twofold purpose. On the one hand it ensures that everything runs smoothly in your absence, and it also gives your home the appearance of being occupied, which is a strong deterrent to thieves. If the person watching your house can turn the lights on at night and off in the morning that helps create the illusion that you are home, and if a vehicle can be parked at your house and then moved from time to time, that is also a good idea.

Don’t Forget the Yard
Homeowners often focus so much on taking care of pets and having someone check on the inside of their home while they are gone that they forget exterior maintenance. Even if you are only gone for several days, if a heat wave arrives it can scorch your gardens, flower beds, and lawn. So make sure that you either set up watering systems on a timer or have someone like a lawn maintenance professional keep an eye on those valuable features of your home.

June 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Red flags regarding air conditioning systems.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:59 am

Whether you are doing a pre-inspection prior to listing your home for sale, or have hired an inspector for a typical buyer-ordered inspection prior to purchasing a home, the air conditioning system will likely come under scrutiny. That’s because heating and air conditioning systems are one of the most important and one of the more expensive mechanical systems in virtually any home.

Buyers tend to be especially concerned about the air conditioning system when they are planning to buy in the summertime, and that’s only natural since they have their comfort over the coming weeks in mind. But no matter what time of year an inspection is done, the inspector may report on the a/c system – and recommend that it, or some of its components, be more closely evaluated by an HVAC professional. Read the report, ask any questions you may have, and then follow whatever recommendations the inspector made.

Common Issues Often Cited in Reports
Since HVAC systems are complex, and cooling can be done in a variety of ways – from heat pumps to stand-alone central air conditioning units to window units or even old-fashioned “swamp cooler” devices, the issues cited can vary. But some of the main ones have to do with ductwork that is inadequate for the size of the home, has cracks or tears in it, or is not hung or installed correctly – which can inhibit air flow. Outdoor central air units may be too small for the square footage of a home, especially if additions to the home were made after the HVAC system was installed.
Then again, something as simple as bushes or trees growing near the outdoor a/c equipment could be a problem, because leaves could be blocking the fan. Or the unit could be rusty, or – and this is very common – not sitting upon the right kind of support. Central air conditioning equipment needs to be elevated, like on a small concrete pad, and not subjected to water runoff that could flood the unit.

Sometimes everything is working fine except for the thermostat, and that may be the kind of problem that can fixed for just a few dollars. Maybe the ductwork needs to be taped to prevent air from leaking, which is usually another easy and affordable fix. Likewise, the a/c filters may just need to be cleaned or replaced, or if you have window units they may need to be more safely supported to prevent them from falling out of the window. They may also be drawing too much electricity for the wall outlet, which might deserve a closer look by an electrician.

An inspector may also raise a red flag if they don’t see a separate circuit breaker, designated only for the central air conditioning unit, when they look inside the electrical breaker box. That often indicates that the work was not done by a qualified HVAC contractor or electrician, or that whoever did the installation failed to get a proper building inspection permit. If that’s the case, you will want to have a qualified HVAC contractor or licensed electrician do a further investigation.

What to Do Next
Whatever the concerns or suggestions in the report may be, you’ll want to pay attention to them, and that may entail hiring an HVAC professional to review any issues and do a closer investigation. If repairs or upgrades are needed, solicit competitive bids from at least three HVAC contractors, and then pick on to do the work. Or, if you are in negotiations for a home sale, you may want to postpone that step and instead have the buyer do the work later, after closing. In that case the seller usually offers cash compensation or lowers the final sales price to cover the estimated cost of repairs. After any repairs or upgrades are done, it is also a good idea to have the home inspector pay a follow-up visit to ensure they were done right and give the home a clean bill of health.

Real Estate Advice: Avoid time-wasting clients to close more sales.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:58 am

The month of June is traditionally a very busy one for open houses and showing appointments. Part of the reason for that is that so many listings go live in the springtime, but if they haven’t attracted enough attention to sell by now, real estate agents schedule an open house to generate new interest. Or they persuade home sellers that their pricing is not in synch with the current market, and sellers agree to more realistic asking prices – which can trigger a flurry of showing appointments.

Prioritize Your Clients
Those two outcomes are both good news for Realtors – as long as they don’t get bogged-down with clients who are time-wasters. What are time-wasters? These are clients who are valuable, but because you don’t manage them appropriately they force you to miss out on the opportunity to sell to clients who are serious and ready to buy.

Clients who are just window shopping are most prevalent in the springtime, when new listings go on the market and curiosity brings out people who may not be ready to buy, but they want to see what is on the market. Don’t overlook those people just because they are merely curious and are not actually serious about buying, however, because they are one of the best sources of leads. Eventually, when they are ready, you want to be their go-to real estate professional.

Stay in touch with them, educate them about how to prepare for a mortgage application or get pre-qualified, and keep them informed about price changes, new listings, and data that demonstrates why it may cost them more to rent than to invest in buying a home of their own. Make sure they are in your marketing funnel, in other words, but not necessarily in your office or in your car.

Maximize Your Value to Your Clients
What you don’t want to do is to let that category of not-so-serious shoppers distract you from closing sales in the summer months. Those who are newer to the real estate business need to pay especially close attention to this, because they are especially susceptible. We are talking about the kind of buyers who are notorious for attending open houses only to see how big their neighbor’s closets are, or to eat whatever snacks are offered and engage in conversation that will never lead to a sale. Oftentimes serious buyers will come and go while a real estate agent is preoccupied with those who are only window shopping. The same is true for people who call to go see properties – you have to spend time with those who are more likely to buy, and avoid the casual lookers.

Pre-Screen Each Client
How do you do that? Get into the habit of screening everyone, before you give them your valuable time. Ask them three questions:

1. How soon do you want to list your home or buy a home?
2. If you are thinking of buying, have you spoken to a mortgage lender yet?
3. If so, have you been pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan?

Based on their answers prioritize your time with them accordingly:
• If they want to buy but haven’t talked to a lender, guide them to that next step – before showing them homes on the market in their price range.

• If they are working with a lender, make sure they are pre-qualified or, better yet, pre-approved – before you take them out to actually tour homes and consider writing a purchase offer.

• If they are pre-qualified and ready to buy, then focus your efforts on finding them the right home – and closing a sale.
Why it’s Best for You and for Your Clients
You’ll save clients time and help them avoid the disappointment of having a loan request or offer rejected, or having to undergo long delays when trying to buy a home. You will also ensure that they have the best possible opportunity to buy a home that fits their finances and their vision of a dream home. You’ll help them submit a more competitive offer, with a better chance of being accepted – even when there are multiple offers on the same property. Meanwhile you will save yourself time, so you can focus on your clients, based on intelligent priorities, and enjoy better time management that free up more of your time for client service.

June 1, 2016

Home Maintenance Tips: Keep cool and conserve energy.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 10:56 am

June is here, and meteorologists everywhere are already citing record high temperatures in many regions. To ensure your home doesn’t leak the cool air you are paying for, that your air conditioning system is in optimum working condition, and that you keep your home cool and comfortable even when the a/c is not on, here are a few timely home maintenance tips.

Use Blinds and Shades
As much as 30% of the heat that warms the rooms of your home is solar heat that comes in through the windows. That means that if you use your blinds and curtains more strategically during the summer, you can reduce the cost of cooling your home dramatically. But you don’t have to live in the dark, either. You can simply shade windows on the side of the house that is getting the most direct sunlight in the morning. Then, when the sun moves away from them, open them and let in the light. If the sun hits the opposite side of your home in the afternoon, then close the window coverings on that side until the sun goes down.

Don’t Set the Thermostat Too Low
Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. Don’t try to make the a/c work harder just because you feel too warm or the house has gotten hot and stuffy. That won’t help since it will not cool your home any faster and will likely result in the a/c system working harder and cooling your home more than necessary – which lowers the mercury but raises the cost of cooling your home.

Upgrade to LED Bulbs
Many consumers have been reluctant to upgrade from incandescent bulbs to more energy efficient ones, because those old fashioned light bulbs are cheaper to buy. But they aren’t cheaper to use, so upgrading is not just good for the environment but it is also good for your utility bills. Did you know that only about 12% of the electricity used by an incandescent bulb goes into generating light or illumination? That’s true. The other 85-90% only generates heat. That means that every room of the house has heat sources working in the summertime. If you upgrade to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs they cost more to buy but last longer and do not generate that unwanted heat.

Invest in a Better Thermostat
You should set the thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer, because even a few degrees can add up to hundreds of dollars worth of utility bills. But the problem is that most people keep turning the a/c on and off to adjust it, and each time the unit has to power-up again that also uses up extra electricity. The most efficient way to manage your HVAC setting is with a programmable or “smart” thermostat, which can adapt to your lifestyle while also managing the a/c system to ensure optimum functioning at the lowest possible cost.

Take Advantage of Fans
Set ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise in the summertime, so that airflow will push air downward and keep cooling the warmer air as it rises toward the ceiling. If you use the exhaust fans in your bathroom after a hot bath, and be sure to run them in the kitchen when you’re cooking, that will also cool the house and ultimately save on utility bills – since fans are cheaper to run than air conditioning units.

May 1, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Masonry problems and what they mean.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:54 am

Many buyers and sellers who order inspection reports will find that the inspector has pointed out potential issues with masonry. Oftentimes these items are flagged in the report for further evaluation and possible repair by a qualified masonry contractor. There are lots of different problems that may warrant a closer look by a masonry specialist – in order to sure the safety of your home as well as its healthy functioning.

Common Issues
There are a number of issues that may be flagged in a written inspection report, whether it was ordered by a home owner to get better insight into their home’s condition before listing and selling it – or by a prospective buyer wanting similar information prior to closing.

Common ones include, for example, bricks or blocks that have deteriorating mortar joints or that are misaligned in a way that is causing gravity to weaken a structure. Moisture could be a problem, and oftentimes masonry surfaces like walls that are not properly sealed can wick water toward the interior of your home. Then again, a brick wall or similar structure could have inadequate drainage built into its base, so that water behind that wall cannot escape and simply presses against it or drains beneath it to erode the earth that it rests upon. You may have a chimney that has voids where heat can escape, or a sidewalk or driveway made of concrete that is pitting and cracking.

Is a retaining wall leaning the wrong way, and no longer supporting the terrain it is supposed to keep in check? Maybe if you sight along an exterior wall you can see it curving or bulging in a way that indicates a lack of structural integrity or potentially hazardous shifting. There are other instances where the foundation of the home, supported by columns of bricks or blocks, is not sturdy enough, or where a concrete countertop in a kitchen is too heavy to be supported by the structure it rests upon. Are stone, brick, or concrete steps leading to your home not providing secure, safe footing underneath, or are they in need of repair?

What to Do Next
As you can see, the list of possible inspection report red flags can be varied. But whatever issues your inspector wants to bring to your attention will be highlighted in the report, with comments and maybe photographs. Take those seriously, but don’t be alarmed. Just ask the inspector if you need any clarification and follow the recommendations they have outlined. Usually that involves having a masonry contractor take a closer look and, if necessary, recommend any remedies or repairs. If repairs are needed, request bids from at least three contractors, compare the bids, and take whatever follow-up actions are needed.

Follow-Up Procedures
If repairs are done, have those taken care of by your masonry contractor and then the buyer and seller will want to negotiate the cost. The seller will usually do repairs prior to closing. In some circumstances they may also pay cash at closing or reduce the sales price to help accommodate the expense of the buyer doing the repair at a later date. At any rate, solicit 2-4 competing bids to figure out your actual costs. After the repair work is finished, it is always a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up visit to look over the work and give it a clean bill of health or make further recommendations as needed.

Real Estate Tips: Leverage social media this spring.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:53 am

Almost all buyers these days first do research online before going out to shop for a home, and homeowners who are thinking of listing their property typically do their own background research, too. Buyers and sellers study current MLS listings, they check comparable recent sales data, they search for tax and appraisal valuations, and they also do extensive homework regarding mortgage and refinancing options. Of course it’s not just the real estate industry. Consumers of all kinds of products typically first compare prices and do background research online before they are ready to buy. Since all of your clients already live online as everyday consumers – and they also tend to socialize online and make business connections that way, too – it is essential that you have a strong and attractive social media presence. How do you do that? Here are some helpful tips that will allow you to boost your online brand presence during this active buying and selling season in the real estate industry.

Engage, Don’t Sell
Avoid the tendency to simply sell your services through social media. Instead, perform a service via the social media platforms that are popular with your target audience. By demonstrating that you are eager to offer real value as a way to interact and develop professional relationships with potential clients, you give them a valid reason to engage with you – and engagement is the name of the game.

Be a Content Curator
You know that your potential customers are already spending hours and hours online researching real estate market information, whether they are buying, selling, refinancing, or looking for income or vacation property. Capitalize on that fact by making that research easier for them. Spend time gathering the kinds of resources they are already searching for, and then present that information and knowledge to them in an organized, convenient way. You’ll become their go-to resource for all things real estate related, so instead of visiting the blogs and websites of your competitors they will follow you on social media.

Examples of Attractive Content
You can use platforms like Facebook or your own blog, for example, to post recent sales data or marketing trends in the neighborhoods you target. Or write blog articles to share the kind of knowledge and tips that buyers and sellers are wanting to know. You can write articles, for instance, about how inspections work, what tax valuations do not say about market value, or about how to generate curb appeal. Explain how to get pre-qualified for a loan, and how that differs from getting pre-approved. Ask them to send their real estate questions to you, and then answer them on Facebook or your own blog. There are countless ways to make yourself helpful to potential clients by teaching them – and that will position you as the expert to call when they need real estate services.

Delegate the Busy Work
Real estate pros are usually challenged by time constraints, and keeping up with social media can seem like a daunting time management task. But you can hire someone, like a college student, to manage your social media feeds for you. Then all you have to do is give them the information and they can continue to push it out to those who follow you on social media platforms. You can – and should – also re-purpose the same content across multiple platforms. Take a question someone asks and tweet it, with a link to the answer. Or take a short quote from a longer blog and tweet that. Post snippets from blogs on LinkedIn or Facebook, or Instagram photos that illustrate the content you want to promote.
Soon you’ll have a cohesive and active pipeline of fresh content on multiple social media platforms, to keep you name and brand in front of your customers and potential clients, 24/7.

Home Maintenance: Expert techniques for your DIY painting.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 10:51 am

Springtime is a great season for house painting, whether you are touching up faded areas or adding some color and vibrancy to a room. But many homeowners find the process frustrating and messy, and knowing a few unique tips and techniques can make the work go much easier and look better.

Clean It
One step that many homeowners skip or just aren’t aware of is gently washing the walls prior to applying paint. You aren’t going to wash it and scrub them, but simply use a damp cellulose sponge to prep the surface. Just rub that sponge down the walls using a solution of water with just a tiny amount of dishwashing liquid.

Don’t make the water soapy, though, because you don’t want to make bubbles and leave a soapy film on the wall. Just a few tiny drops is all you need, since dishwashing soap can help make dirt cling to the wet sponge. What this damp sponge rub-down accomplishes is removal of any grease, dirt, dust, lint, or cobwebs that could interfere with a great paint job. You’ll start with a clean canvas, so to speak, to apply the paint neatly and evenly.

Drop It
Speaking of canvas, that’s the way to go for drop cloth material Although they may be cheap and sound like a good idea, it is not recommended that you use those drop cloths that are coated in a smooth plastic – or any kind of drop cloth that is made of plastic – by itself. In other words, if water will flow off the surface of the cloth, it’s not ideal. You can use those underneath a traditional canvas drop cloth to protect your carpets and floors, but you should always have the cloth that will catch paint spills be the absorbent kind made of sturdy, thick canvas.

The fact is, if you use a thick, heavy-duty canvas drop cloth you don’t need to have anything else underneath it to capture ordinary spills. You’d only need the added protection of plastic if you had a major accident, like spilling a whole tray or bucket of paint. The reason canvas is better than non-absorbent materials like plastic is that it will soak up the paint droplets – which will otherwise drain off along wrinkles in the cloth and wind up flowing onto the floor. Or it will pool into puddles that remain on the surface and get all over your shoes. Then you wind up tracking paint all over the house.

Cut and Roll
Start the painting of your room by going to a corner of the ceiling, where you will use a trim brush to paint a 3-4 inch strip – cutting into the ceiling where the ceiling meets the wall. From that cut-in section, use a roller to paint deeper into the ceiling. Alternate these steps, cutting into the ceiling with a brush and then rolling a section, painting only enough of the ceiling to move the wet edge deeper into it where it will be easy to roll larger areas. Once you have the perimeter painted in this way, roll on the rest, blending the lines as you overlap.

Next, cut in the walls using your trim brush, and trim around windows and doorways in a similar fashion, just to establish a nice neat edge and to get a margin of paint on the those trickier areas before you break out the less precise roller. Then you are ready to fill in the rest with a roller. A good technique is to paint small sections, one at a time, so that you concentrate on a 3-foot by 3-feet area, which keeps you working at arm’s length. Then move over and continue in that fashion until you’re done. Many experts like to first paint a big W or M inside that 3X3 space and then fill in the gaps, because that can help ensure more smooth, even, and seamless coverage.

The final step is to apply your trim paint. You may want to switch from a matte or semi-gloss for the trim, and use a glossier paint, if those are high-contract and high-traffic areas where a higher gloss paint is easier to clean to remove smudges and fingerprints. Paint follows gravity, so trim from the top of the door or window frame toward the floor – not from the bottom brushing upward.

Freeze and Thaw
By the way, if you cannot finish the job in one session, you can save some time with clean-up by just wrapping your wet brushes and rollers in plastic kitchen wrap, or tossing them into a plastic bag, and putting them in the freezer. You can even do that with your roller trays. Just remove most of the paint beforehand by pouring it back into the can. When you are ready to start painting again, remove the items from the freezer and let them thaw for 20-30 minutes. You can keep using that trick until you are finally finished with your project and are ready to fully clean your rollers, brushes, and trays.

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