Tag Archives: home maintenance tips

Piping Up

As with each New Year, 2014 brought hopes for good fortune, opportunity for new experiences…and a polar vortex.

In New England we are accustomed to freezing temperatures,Frozen drainpipe but the crippling, Arctic-like air that swept through the region last week reminded us of the perils of home ownership that may arise in such conditions.  Of these perils, pipe bursts are among the most common and recently have become widespread throughout Massachusetts. Last week 35 people in Lawrence were evacuated from their homes when a pipe burst inside their building. The same issue affected Brigham and Women’s Hospital, causing patients to be moved to other hospitals.

How can you prevent frozen pipes from ruining your New Year? Here’s some useful knowledge and a few helpful tips.

How does cold air cause a pipe to burst?

Before addressing prevention and treatment of burst pipes, it is important to understand why pipes are prone to bursting in cold temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, the ice that forms and expands within the pipe is not the culprit; the burst actually results from the built up pressure between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.

Preventative measures

Now that winter is upon us, here are some suggestions on how to prevent the bursting of pipes in your home:

  1. Wrap your pipes with insulation. Be generous with the wrapping. The more insulated the pipe, the less likely it is to freeze.
  2. Any cracks or holes in the walls or foundation of your house should be sealed in order to minimize pipes’ exposure to cold air.
  3. For plumbing that is hard to reach, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets in order to increase warm air flow to the pipes.
  4. Let the water drip from the faucet in order to alleviate built up pressure in the pipe.
  5. If you are going to be away during a cold
  6. spell, make sure your heat is turned no lower than 55°F.

If you suspect a pipe is frozen, pipe up!
If you turn on a faucet and little or no water comes out, call a plumber. Turn off the main water supply but remember to keep the faucet open. If you are keen on thawing the pipe yourself, apply a small heat source (hairdryer, towels soaked in hot water, etc.) starting at the faucet end. Remember to keep the faucet open. Under no circumstances should you attempt thawing the pipe with an open flame. Exposure to fire is harmful to the pipe.

For additional information on frozen pipe treatment:


Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.


Summer Home Maintenance Tips

house cleaningHere’s a punch list of summer home maintenance tips, tailor-made for New England homeowners.

If you’d rather hit the beach than the hardware store, call a pro before those small repairs balloon into bigger expenses. Angie’s List is a good resource or ask for referrals from a friend or neighbor.

Air Conditioners
• Clear the air: Dirt and dust force air conditioners to work harder, waste energy and jack up your electricity bill
• Change your AC filters monthly, especially if you have allergy sufferers at home. If not, it’s fine to change filters once every three months
• Leaves and other debris from outside condensers can block air flow; clean them out of vents

• Clear attic vents of insect and animal nests or other debris
• Make sure vents and attic exhaust fans are in good working order
• Take a good look at your roof line: Check for leaks on rafters and insulation caused by loose or missing flashing

Basement /Cellar
• Check for and seal cracks, repair leaks in walls and floors
• If you have one, make sure your bulkhead entrance is free from leaves and other debris; sweep and repair cellar stairs, paint or re-paint metal bulkhead doors with rust-resistant metal paint
• Check and clean vents and basement windows
• If you have a sump pump, test, clean and lubricate it. If your pump has a backup battery, make sure it’s charged and replace it if necessary
• Sweep floors, toss out junk and other unused items you haven’t touched in two years or so. Click here to read our blog post on a room-by-room guide on how to declutter your home.
• Organize a giant yard sale with friends and neighbors to raise money for a good cause or your local school

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
• Test and replace batteries

Windows & Doors
• Clean windows inside and out with this chemical-free, green cleaner: newspapers and a solution of water and white vinegar will make glass sparkle. For more green cleaning tips, click here or, for something a little more official, the EPA’s website
• If you have older windows and doors, add putty, caulk or weather-stripping where needed
• Clean and install screens for windows and doors

Exterior Walls & Walkways
• Check and repair missing or loose siding or shingles
• Caulk joints and cracks to prevent seepage from winter water damage
• Touch up wood finishes damaged by wet winter weather
• Touch-up painting or re-paint exterior siding and shingles
• Repair crumbling or missing bricks and mortar from walls and walkways

Exterior Plumbing
• Check and turn on outside spigots, sprinkler system and other outside water lines
• Check, connect garden hoses

• Click here to read our post about grill safety
• Check fuel lines and replace propane tank if needed
• Tired of lugging propane tanks—and of running out of fuel when you need it? Hire a plumber to run a grill gas line

• Get the gloves out: Clean out those gutters; hire a pro to clean hard-to-reach places
• Check and repair damage and leaks from winter storms
• Hate cleaning gutters? Installing gutter guards may be a worthwhile splurge

Porches, Patios and Decks
• Powerwash, seal wood decks
• Check wood for rot, replace and seal damaged boards

• Repair damaged soffit panels and flashing
• Repair, replace damaged or lost shingles

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Enviro Paints and Beyond: What Makes Up Low- and no-VOC Paint

Enviro PaintsVolatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs for short, are paint solvents that are released into the air as paints dry. VOCs emit low-level toxins as they do, hence the recent growth in popularity of low- and no-VOC paints.

Despite their label, even zero-VOC paints still emit some toxins: less than 5 grams per liter of VOC emissions, an amount that is still far lower than conventional petroleum-based paints and solvents. While eco-friendly paints are more expensive than regular paint, you may want to consider them for nurseries and children’s rooms (at the very least).

The eco-friendliest of them all: Natural-based paints. Natural-based paints are made from raw, all-natural ingredients including: milk protein, talcum, beeswax, chalk, minerals, clay pigments, plant oils and resins, and have the lowest VOC levels and odor.

People who are highly allergic or extremely sensitive often prefer natural-based paints since those types of paints are free from petroleum and man-made chemicals. As you can probably guess, these paints are usually the most expensive.

What about ceramic paint? Ceramic paint contains microscopic spherical balls of ceramic that creates a perfectly even pigment extender, the powder-like substance that creates the color you see in the paint itself.

The uniform consistency of the ceramic balls means that paint pigments bond together better when mixed and applied, creating a tough acrylic surface—which often results in the need to paint less frequently, a plus for exteriors in New England, to be sure.

An additional perk is that manufacturers claim that you can scrub clean ceramic-painted surfaces without damaging them.

Another bonus: the microscopic ceramic spheres are tightly packed together, making the paint resistant to bacteria, mold and mildew. If you’re allergic to mold and mildew, you may want to look into ceramic paints for your home’s interior and exterior.

Before you paint: Read this first

Green is sexy. The Sexy Green Home is packed with everything you need to know about “eco-friendly products and solutions” for your greenalicious home.

The Green Seal of approval. Look for the Green Seal label on your paints, building materials and other products; go to greenseal.org to learn more.

Non-profit ConsumerReports.org has the low-down on VOCs in paints: what they are, and what low- and no-VOCs on the label really mean. They also have tips on common painting mistakes to avoid.

Stay healthy. Before you crack open your low-VOC or run-of-the-mill-paint cans, it’s worth taking a few minutes to read up on how to avoid harmful exposure to fumes and other indoor paint-related hazards on EPA’s Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Volatile Organic Compounds.

Chemical attraction. Better Homes and Gardens’ DIY Advice.com is filled with resources on Paint, Painting, and even the chemistry of paint.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

It’s Easy Being Green: 5 Fast Summer Lawn Care Tips

Summer lawn care tipsShimmering green lawns are great to look at and even better to walk on barefoot. They help absorb rainwater runoff and contribute to cooling down our sizzling planet, especially when compared to pavement and concrete.

Take back your weekends. But, maintaining a traditional lawn involves a huge commitment of time, money and water. The chemicals in mass-market fertilizers can create toxic runoff that flows into our rivers, oceans, and drinking water. And all those rumbling lawnmowers and leaf blowers emit greenhouse gases and create noise pollution (especially when you’re trying to sleep in on the weekend).

With that in mind, it’s time to re-think how we take care of our lawns and some of the outdated 20th century approaches to landscaping in general with these 5 quick summer lawn care tips:

  1. Xeri-what? A popular alternative to traditional lawns, xeriscaping, or landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants, involves minimal water and up-keep. Wiki-how offers tips on how to design and create a lush and interesting xeriscape for your outdoor areas.
  2. Let it go (and let it grow). Skip the stress: stop striving for the perfect lawn and let those clovers pop out, that carpet of soft native moss spread and other low-lying native species grow in peace. A sterile “perfect” lawn can be a costly, losing battle. See a dandelion sprout up? Enjoy its color! Drenching your lawn with chemicals can create polluting run-off and potentially make it unhealthy for you and your kids to sprawl out or play on the grass. Yuck!
  3. Don’t give your lawn a crew cut. Crew cuts look great on boys (and guys) in the summer, but they’re awful for lawns. Keep your grass long and shaggy instead: it’ll retain moisture better and discourage weed growth. Other benefits: you’ll water and mow the lawn less (yay), and you’ll create an outdoor oasis that’ll be vastly more comfortable to sit and walk on. Isn’t that the point?
  4. Let it be. Leave the freshly-mowed cuttings on your lawn to help retain moisture. Save time and energy while you create some protective green lawn cover for your cut grass underneath.
  5. Water is precious. Water early or late in the day. Water deeply but less often– give the roots a good soak. It takes tens of thousands of gallons of water a season to maintain the average lawn. Conserve our precious natural resources and water your lawn and garden during the sun’s off-peak frying times.

    Better yet: let’s save our clean water supply for things that really matter, like keeping us humans hydrated and clean; and watering food crops and gardens. Choose water-sipping native plants over water hogs. Opt for hardy lavender in a sunny spot; save the ferns and hostas for your lawn’s shady areas. Want more ideas? Go to
    Plant now for the future: Choosing and planting low water-use plants.

For green lawn links and more info, go to:

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.