Your oven is the star of the show when it comes to major celebrations. (Think Thanksgiving!) Roasting, baking, braising, broiling, even air frying – is there nothing this appliance can’t do? It can even clean itself (well…sort of. We’ll talk about that in a minute). 

As much as we love our ovens, they may get neglected when it comes to spring cleaning. Getting rid of all the built-up grease and grime can seem very intimidating. Tales of high temperature self-cleaning, pink goo, and middle school science experiment ingredients might strike fear in even the most “seasoned” chef. 

But don’t worry! Our experts put together three quick ways you can get your oven squeaky clean.  

How to clean a self-cleaning oven

The first step is to make sure you know which type of self-cleaning oven you have. Is it high heat or steam clean? This could also be a trick question: Some newer models have both options. The majority of self-cleaning ovens use the high heat function, though.

We know what you’re thinking next-  how does a self cleaning oven work? 

Cleaning with extreme heat

Much as the function suggests, it uses extremely high heat (typically over 900°F). This extreme heat burns off all the baked-on leftovers in your oven and essentially turns them into ash. Once the oven has cooled, you wipe away the ash. Since your oven needs to reach such high temperatures and then cool down, you can probably predict that the entire cycle will take a few hours.  

Most ovens have a safety feature which locks the door for the duration of the cycle and will turn off when complete. 

Cleaning with steam

If you have a steam cleaning oven, your oven will warm water (either from the bottom of the oven or in a well depending on your make and model) to create steam and break down the grease and grime. Since the oven’s temperature doesn’t get as high as extreme heat cleaning, this process usually takes less than an hour. 

Of course, you may need to add water to either the bottom of your oven or in a well, again depending on your make and model. Then press the steam clean function and wait about half an hour (or however long your cleaning cycle takes). 

Once cleaning is complete and your oven has completely cooled down, use a damp rag to wipe away any of the newly created ash. You can even use your vacuum cleaner if needed. 

Quick oven-cleaning preparation tips 

Before turning the self cleaning function on, you must take some precautions.

How to clean your oven yourself

a homeowner cleaning their dirty oven
You can do it!

Double-check your warranty before cleaning your oven yourself. Some appliance warranties are voided if you do not use the self clean function. If your warranty is over or you don’t have a self cleaning option, here’s what you can do.  

#1 – Use a non-abrasive cleaner

Try a non-abrasive cleaner, such as the Pink Stuff or Bartender’s Friend. Before applying the cleaner, scrape up all the baked-on food that you can. Then follow package instructions and remove excess with a damp towel. 

#2 – Use baking soda and vinegar 

If you like to use cleaners that are a little more natural, look no further than your grade school science fair. All you need is baking soda and vinegar. Cleaning an oven with baking soda requires a few extra steps, but it’s an all-natural solution. 

#3 – Use a pumice stone 

A third option requires more elbow grease but will take possibly less time and less cleaner – the pumice stone. You probably have heard of using a pumice stone to remove calluses, and it works in the same way for your oven. 

First, spray a solution of dish soap and water and let your oven soak for a few minutes. Then, wet your pumice stone and get to scrubbing! 

But why should you clean your oven?

a man peaking into oven that's on fire - kitchen safety tips
A dirty oven can be a dangerous oven.

Cleaning your oven, even when using the self-cleaning function, still seems like a lot of work, so you might be thinking, “Why do I even need to clean my oven?” 

Number one – safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association, built-up grease and leftover food can cause a fire. That same buildup of grease can also shorten the lifespan of your oven. 

Number two – to save money. On top of the shortened lifespan – which means you’ll need to buy a new oven sooner – a dirty oven takes longer to cook your food. This will make your utility bills go up. (A dirtier oven is also harder to clean, so you’ll lose more time as well.)

Number three – food quality. Does your family think your cooking skills are questionable? Well, you might be a better chef than they think. Everything left in your oven has a way of releasing flavor into the current delicacy being prepared, so cleaning your oven may actually help your culinary reviews.  

Stay up to date with home maintenance

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink home management app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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No one likes waking up to find their Greek yogurt spoiled and their ice melted. Or perhaps the clothes in the dryer are still wet or the dishwasher won’t start. If this happens to you, what do you do? 

If you have a home warranty, all you need to do is log on to your warranty company’s website or pick up the phone to get the problem fixed. 

But is it really that easy? We reached out to Matan Slagter, CEO of Armadillo, a technology-based home warranty company, to find out! 

First, what do home warranties cover? 

Contrary to what some believe, a home warranty is not homeowners insurance. 

“It’s a combination of coverage, protection and service,” says Matan, who began his career in insurance and spent 10 years at AIG, where he fell in love with the warranty business. “It’s really just protection for a lot of the things that break down in the home regularly.” 

Home warranties are protection plans that cover the breakdowns of the home systems and appliances, such as the HVAC system, plumbing system, electrical system, kitchen appliances and more. Some home warranties also include a pool or spa, septic pumps, well pumps, grills, and even roofs.

Matan finds that home warranties are popular in the Midwest, Texas, Arizona, California, and Florida. 

How does a home warranty work? 

a maintenance worker fixes a homeowner's dishwasher as she watches - home warranty
Get your appliances fixed fast.

The first step to getting your appliance repaired or replaced is to put in a request. 

While each home warranty company has a slightly different process, most companies have a way to request service via an online service portal, email, or phone. 

For Armadillo, “You can contact our call center, which is open 24/7, and talk to one of your Armadillo home pros to file a claim or scan the QR code [on the Armadillo refrigerator magnet]. It’ll bring the homeowner to our service request portal.”

Once you put in the request, either a company representative or a service technician will reach out to schedule the service. If it’s an emergency, some companies will fast-track your service. 

“A perfect example is – it’s a hundred-degree day and the AC is out,” says Matan. “We force book those and do whatever it takes. We will also give you an option to just call your own technician.”

If you have a favorite electrician or plumber you’ve worked with for years, some companies, like Armadillo, may allow you to work with them. However, some companies only allow their professionals to service your house. 

Different warranty companies have different timeframes for services. Since Armadillo has a network of technicians, they typically have a professional out to a member’s home within 48 hours. Unfortunately, some companies have longer wait times. That’s why it’s imperative to do research before purchasing a home warranty. 

Ok, but who pays the repair bills?

a service technican fixing a refrigerator as part of a home warranty
Who gets the bill?

Again, each home warranty may be a bit different. Some offer yearly contracts with a service fee per call. Others have a monthly subscription fee. Prior to choosing a company, you should find the plan that works best for you. 

Armadillo pays their network of technicians directly, so you don’t have to. If you use your own technician, you’ll play your provider and send a detailed invoice to your warranty company for reimbursement. Of course, you’ll want to double-check with the company for what you’ll need to submit.  

Explains Matan, “We’ll send you a text and an email in advance, describing what we need. Then you’ll typically get reimbursed within 24 to 48 hours, either Venmo, PayPal or whatever form of payment you choose.”

What happens if an appliance needs to be replaced?

Similar to the repair services, a home warranty company generally facilitates the appliance or system replacement with a new one. They can also provide the homeowner with the money to do so themselves. 

Explains Matan, “We find that consumers like to get the cash, shop, and maybe add another $1,000 on top of that to buy a banging new refrigerator.”

Armadillo - Effortless Home Warranty

With a home warranty, do homeowners have to complete home maintenance? 

A home warranty isn’t a replacement for home maintenance. 

“Maintenance is super important,” says Matan. “Who wants to deal with a repair or breakdown? Even if you have an Armadillo, it’s disruptive.”

Changing air filters, cleaning refrigerator coils and dryer exhaust vents, flushing your hot water heater – it’s all important in preventing the breakdown of major appliances and systems. After all, no one wants to be without hot water or air-conditioning. 

a girl sitting in front of a fan, eating a watermelon
Get your air conditioning fixed fast!

“Even at our best, if it’s a really hot day, 90-plus degrees day and your air-conditioning is out, we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to get that fixed the same day,” says Matan. “It’s disruptive and better to maintain your appliances, so they’ll last longer.”

How long after buying a house can you get a home warranty?

We might sound like a broken record, but each warranty company works differently. Also, each home warranty product may work differently. Compare and contrast policies before buying a product, but generally, you can buy a home warranty at any time. 

For new homeowners 

Many home buyers purchase a home warranty when buying their home. Depending on your warranty company, your coverage may start day one. 

“The coverage will become effective on the date of closing, the day the house becomes yours,” says Matan about Armadillo’s new homeowner plans. “There’s no waiting period.”

This is important, even if you received a home inspection for an older home. 

a couple sitting on the couch surrounded by boxes
Be prepared for appliance issues.

“That first year is typically when things really break down, even if the inspection report said that everything is okay,” says Matan. “Home inspections are great, but they can miss things.”

However, a home’s pre-existing conditions are not covered by a home warranty.  

“If there was a home inspection report and the home inspection report said, HVAC is shot. It has been shot for a year or clearly not working – we wouldn’t cover that.”

For existing homeowners 

If you’re an existing homeowner, then Armadillo provides a monthly, subscription-based plan. 

“Think of it like Netflix for home,” says Matan. 

For this plan, homeowners have a 30-day waiting period before they can make a service request. That’s why it’s important to check with your warranty company regarding start dates when selecting your plan.  

Remember – always read your service contract

With a traditional home warranty, most service contracts are 10 to 15 pages long with fine print. Most customers don’t read it, and much of the content includes exclusions. Make sure to read your contract (and read the fine print) to know what your warranty covers.

“Our service contract is two pages long,” says Matan. “That’s not because we’re creative writers or know how to condense and summarize things. It’s literally because we removed – I would say conservatively speaking, 80%, probably 90% of the exclusions that are in a typical home warranty plan.”

The most important thing about a home warranty is the peace of mind you get, knowing someone has your back when you need it. 

“Maintenance is important to maintain your home,” says Matan, “but when something breaks, Armadillo is there to fix it.”

Join the neighborhood! 

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink home management app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Get it today!

Snow Problems? Not with These Winter Storm Preparedness Tips

Shoveling, frostbite, missing gloves – snow can be a pain in your winter boot. To your home, it can mean water damage, cracked walkways, and flooded basements. So when you hear winter weather is on the way, avoid dangerous situations with these tips for preparing your house for snow! Clean your gutters Do gutters cause ice… Continue reading Snow Problems? Not with These Winter Storm Preparedness Tips

Tips to Decluttering Your Home from a Personal Organizer

courtesy of NEAT Method Chicago

Now that you’re working from home or at least chilling there more than usual, you might have noticed that your bedroom has too many sweaters or your bathroom closet doesn’t fit all your facial products. In our recent episode of the vipHome Podcast, we spoke to Betsy Marsala of NEAT Method, a luxury home organizing company,… Continue reading Tips to Decluttering Your Home from a Personal Organizer

Top 10 Home Improvements That Add Value

We know you don’t want to just maintain your home. You also want to add value to it. After all, your home is the place you live, sleep, and perhaps work – and it’s also your greatest investment. To help you make the most of your home efforts, here are the best home improvements that… Continue reading Top 10 Home Improvements That Add Value

Even in the safest neighborhoods, you can still find a broken window. So how can you keep your home as safe as can be and gain peace of mind? Our experts put together this super quick guide with seven home security tips to help safeguard your family and largest financial asset from burglars and other threats! 

Tip #1 – Make your home smart (and safer)

Not everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, especially burglars. That’s why one of the easiest deterrents of break-ins and burglaries is installing smart home tech. Simple additions such as a video doorbell, motion-detection lights and cameras, and door and window sensors can notify you of uninvited visitors. 

DIY Home Security with Cove

You should also consider installing smart locks on your exterior doors. Unsure if you locked your door? You can check the app! Some models allow you to lock your door from afar, just in case you forgot to do so on your way out.  

Tip #2 – Consider installing a security system 

Whether you have the latest PlayStation, a large screen TV, or Wayne Gretzky’s hockey stick, one of the best ways to protect your home (and stuff!) is with a home security system. Experts say that a home with a security system is 300% less likely to be burglarized than one without a security system, and most models not only have central monitoring but also additional safety features. Many come with smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring, water sensing, and even panic buttons.  

Before you decide on a security system, check different companies, packages, and inclusions. Then choose the best one to protect your home and family. 

Tip #3 – Secure your exterior doors 

Not all doors are created with safety in mind, and with 56% of break-ins happening at your exterior doors, you need to make sure yours are secure. Are your exterior doors at least 1¾” thick and made of heavy, solid wood or metal? Do they have quality deadbolt locks? (Chain locks are great for additional protection but are not a substitute for deadbolts.)

Be wary of doors with glass panes. If the glass is too close to the lock, burglars can break it to reach inside and unlock your door.

Do your exterior doors have 3-inch or longer screws? Long screws not only connect the door to the door frame but also the frame of home. While that may not stop a burglar from getting in, it will make it harder for a burglar to get inside your home. The added time may help a neighbor to notice and call the authorities.

Speaking of Mrs. Kravitz – 

Tip #4 – Get to know your neighbors  

a good neighbor waving from her fence - home security tips
Get to know your neighbors!

This may shock you, but one of the best home security tips is having great neighbors. Sure, everyone loves being able to share a cup of sugar (people still do that, right?), but since most break-ins happen between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., you want someone nearby who may notice that’s not your car or truck in the driveway. 

When you’re on vacation, they can keep a look-out on your home. While we don’t suggest you leave them a key anymore, you can leave them an access code to your home’s smart lock, just in case they smell gas.

Tip #5 – Make your landscaping work for you 

Did you know that your landscaping can actually work against you? You know to cut your grass or have the landscapers over while you’re on vacation, but large bushes or trees near your home can give unwanted visitors places to hide. Overgrown vegetation is a favorite spot for burglars, too. 

Plant smaller shrubs near your home and trim and clear any excess brush from hedges, trees, and flower beds. You may also want to consider planting thorny bushes under windows to discourage access to your home, but if you ever lock yourself out and need to climb in a window, you might find yourself in a prickly situation. 

Tip #6 – Shine some light on your property

outdoor light shining at night - home security tips
Don’t forget to use LED lightbulbs!

Unfortunately, even with trimmed shrubs, shadows will form on your property at night. Exterior lights can help to illuminate dark areas and limit the number of shadows where any unwanted guests can hide. You should also consider installing motion detection lights, which can catch a burglar off guard. The sudden light may send them running from your property or at least alert you, so you can call the authorities. 

Tip #7 – Take routine safety precautions

Getting the most sophisticated alarm system won’t matter if you don’t arm it. If you forget to charge your video doorbell, then you won’t know who comes to your door. That’s why you need to make sure not to overlook simple home security tips, such as: 

Of course, don’t forget to create and update your home inventory frequently. 

Create your home inventory

​Not quite a home security tip but rather a “make your life easier” tip in the unfortunate event of a home robbery or home fire – consider creating a home inventory. This is a list of the valuable and important contents of your home and the specific details about each one, including the price, receipt of purchase, and a picture of large items. If a home break-in or home fire occurs, you can give your home inventory to your insurance company, who should reimburse you for your losses as per your homeowners insurance policy.  

Join the neighborhood!

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Download the app now!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink home management app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Get it today!

This year, the real estate market took a drastic turn. Though low inventory remains a top concern for many homebuyers, there are steps you can take now to help you score a home in 2023. 

To guide you, we welcomed a panel of experienced real estate agents from across the country on the latest vipHome Podcast Real Estate Roundtable. Watch now and read below to learn the five top things you need to know about the 2023 real estate market!  

1. Buyers, be a bit savvier now. 

“Buyers are not as much in a rush now,” says Katie Landow, a Compass real estate agent in New York City with more than 10 years of experience. “They’re taking their time. They’re realizing that the market is not moving at the pace it once was.”

During the first two years of the pandemic, homebuyers (and their agents!) endured bidding wars and made concessions, including forgoing home inspections. While you may not land your perfect dream home, you can at least take a bit more time now to make your decision. 

Solomon Thomas with Buyers holding a Sold sign
Solomon Thomas with Buyers Bradley and Taryn

“Buyers are now realizing that they do have options,” says Solomon Thomas, a RE/MAX real estate agent in the Twin Cities with more than nine years of experience. “When we didn’t have any inventory, buyers were buying whatever they could.”

“First-time buyers are reevaluating their budgets based on interest rates,” says Katie. “They’re still looking to buy, but it’s a slower, more educated process.”

2. Interest rates have been a game-changer. 

“The interest rate is definitely going to dictate the market moving forward,” says Solomon. “We hope that eventually it’ll hold steady, but buyers are apprehensive right now.”

A steady interest rate in the new year may bring home buyers back out in full force, just in time for the usual springtime rush.  

“The nice thing is that sellers are now coming back to Earth and realizing that it’s not a seller’s market,” says Solomon. “They’re now open to buyers’ concessions.”   

Because of this, buyers may see price drops in the later months of 2022 and into 2023, but right now – 

“Prices are still out of control,” says Shannon Collins of HomeSmart in Arizona, who has been selling homes for more than two decades.

3. Always do your due diligence. 

When our brand ambassador Laurie Smith recently tried to find a home, she lost three to bidding wars. However, what was most shocking was some sellers’ refusal of home inspections

“I wasn’t going to buy an uninspected home,” says Laurie. “There just comes a point where you draw a line in the sand and say, ‘When does it hit foolishness?’”

Solomon agrees. “It seems inappropriate, especially when you’re telling a buyer to disregard their due diligence.”

While sellers set those terms, buyers have the right to disagree, and home inspections and other due diligence, including mold, radon, and lead inspections, should be completed before purchasing a home. 

Thankfully, the market has stabilized somewhat where most buyer protections are back in place. 

“Appraisal waivers are gone,” says Shannon. “That’s when buyers say they’ll pay whatever, whether it appraises or not.” 

4. If you’re a first-time home buyer, consider a lower price point or a smaller home. 

Rising rents have kept first-time home buyers searching for a new living space, but they need to be flexible – both with their home desires and budget. 

“Budgets are changing to a lower price point to accommodate [the higher interest rates],” says Katie. “Unless they have a really reasonable rent, they’re still looking for something, just maybe not right now. Maybe in a year, taking their time a little more.”

Katie Landow, a Compass real estate agent in New York City
Katie Landow of Compass, New York City

Of course, homebuyers may want to consider buying a fixer-upper, though renovation and home improvement projects may take longer than usual to complete. 

“Construction costs and just the ability to get anything done – is awful,” says Shannon. “Buyers don’t want to deal with it, and they’re willing to wait until they find a home that’s move-in ready.”

Therefore, you may be able to land a deal by buying a fixer-upper and waiting a bit longer for your new home to become your dream home. Katie has seen this trend in New York. 

“New York is an older city and hasn’t been updated. The new builds now are so expensive. The price per square foot is astronomical, so what you’re getting in terms of space and storage isn’t what some of the older layouts and buildings are providing.”

Laurie, too, has seen issues with her interior design clients. 

“The supply is tough. I did my own renovation when I moved in here just a year ago, and it was a miracle I could find a contractor to raise two ceilings.”

5. Don’t be overwhelmed by home improvement projects.

Some of Katie’s buyers see their home’s 10-year trajectory and are willing to wait sometime to move in. Solomon has seen his clients ponder home improvement projects when buying a home and has provided guidance where possible. 

“While I’m not an interior designer, I try to suggest areas that they can improve right away that’ll make a difference.” 

Solomon also breaks down the potential home improvement projects, so they don’t seem overwhelming to the buyer. 

“There are things that they can work on over the years as they occupy the residence.” 

Considering selling your home in 2023? 

real estate agent showing a couple a home at an open house
Prepare your home in 2023.

The one thing home sellers need to do is be smart about their home improvement projects. As an interior designer, Laurie sees issues when sellers take short cuts on projects prior to resale. 

“Let’s face it – when you’re renovating for resale, you’re not going to put the finest of the fine in there,” says Laurie. “What I found frustrating as a buyer was – sellers had just renovated the kitchen and bath, but done builder spec improvements. So I was going to have to rip that out and pay for renovations.”

What Laurie found far more appealing was buying a home with updated systems. 

“Homeowners had just replaced brand-new heating and air,” says Laurie. “They had a state-of-the-art gas range in the kitchen and a water purification system, so I didn’t have to go back and put money into the infrastructure. I would much rather buy those value items than whatever tile they thought was pretty on the backsplash.”

Join the neighborhood!

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Download the app now!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHomeLink home management app can help. Whether you want to improve your resale value or you want to improve the value and safety of current space, vipHomeLink is here for you! 

Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

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Hosting Guests for the Holidays? Here’s How to Stay Merry, Bright, and Safe

How do you spend your holidays? If you said “hosting family,” then you’ll need to get your home ready for your holly-est and jolliest family and friends.  Here at vipHomeLink, we want your holidays to be merry and bright. That’s why we put together a holiday hosting essentials guide to help you and your family… Continue reading Hosting Guests for the Holidays? Here’s How to Stay Merry, Bright, and Safe

Subsequent to my design debut on TLC’s Trading Spaces, over 20 years ago, I have been fortunate to share my approach to designing a space countless times. No matter how my palette or use of materials changes through the years, the rudiments of how I design a room remain the same. 

I like to refer to the first step as evaluating the space. 

a stylish living room with green walls and a pink sofa
Courtesy of @matthewcarterinteriors

What is the function of the space? Is it a place where many gather to socialize or is it a personal retreat shared by only a few at a time?  Sometimes it takes emptying out a room to see it with fresh eyes. Take detailed measurements, notice window placement and architectural elements such as a fireplace or bookshelves. What draws to the space? Is it the high ceilings, hardwood floors or beautiful tile?  If so, those are items you can enhance in the design process. Or perhaps these elements are lacking, and you can focus your efforts to correct inadequacies in the space. Evaluating each space in your home helps you decide whether you need structural changes or merely some cosmetic updates.

The second critical step is determining your layout. 

Furniture layout is the foundation of the room’s design. If furniture placement and the traffic patterns around it are incorrect, the design will not be successful. It is amazing how merely rotating a chair can make an impact. Does the space have multiple uses like a living room with a functional desk or an eat-in kitchen? 

a layout of a home - CAD drawing
Courtesy of @jhinteriordesign

How the space flows and accessibility is key. A fool proof way to play with layout if you are not proficient with CAD, is to take your detailed measurements from when you evaluated your space, measure your furniture, and pull out a trusty piece of graph paper. I like to cut out my furniture shapes and move them around like pieces of a puzzle. In this step you can determine if the scale of your furniture is harmonious with the space. Remember you want at least 12-14 inches between a coffee table and the edge of a sofa cushion.

a library with a large yellow couch in the middle
Courtesy of @jhinteriordesign

Mix wood furniture with upholstered furniture and make sure the furniture varies in heights to add visual interest. Challenge yourself to be more of a curator and a decorator when choosing furniture. Spend time falling in love with pieces because of their uniqueness and solid construction.

Addressing the lighting is a vital third step. 

Lighting is possibly the most powerful tool in design. What is the point of investing in furniture, fabrics, accessories and artwork if a room is poorly lit? While there are entire courses in design school dedicated to lighting, there are three basic sources available in design. 

a library with a white couch and lots of natural lighting
Courtesy of @helenehoue

The first is natural light. 

When you evaluate your space, pay attention to window placement and daylight intensity. These factors not only will contribute to your lighting plan, but will determine how you dress your windows and position your furniture. 

Second light source is lamp light which I love for its warmth and how it grounds a space. 

Sometimes the body of a lamp is timeless and can receive an update by simply changing a shade. 

The third light source is recessed lighting or ceiling fixtures. 

A wonderful ceiling fixture can make a dramatic impression, but a ceiling that looks like Swiss cheese with too many light cans is a mistake. Be deliberate in the placement and my most important advice…

Always install dimmers to your wall receptacles! 

You will thank me at the end of the day. 

The most fun part for me in the design process is deciding your textiles which naturally flows into accessory and art choice.

different frabic swatches
Courtesy of @serenadigan

I often work with the largest upholstered piece first or maybe it is a rug or floor tile that is your primary pattern. Regardless, you add interest to a space by combing different textures and patterns. Coordinate colors in a space instead of matching them. Introduce an unexpected hue to create a bit of “healthy tension.” Allow geometrics and florals to reside together and let small and large scale patterns play off each other to create personality.

a young person's room with a yellow and blue color scheme
Courtesy of @sarah_w_studios

Lastly, I cannot stress enough, wall color should be the final step in your design process. 

a light blue bedroom with a chair
Courtesy of @collins_interiors

I know you may think, “but the first thing you always revealed on Trading Spaces was the wall color?” That is simply because we had less than two days to design a room. In reality, I encourage you to go through the previous steps and then determine your wall color based on the above factors. Consider your wall color the icing on the cake. It is much easier to take a fantastic textile and color match a subtle or dominant color at the paint store than the inverse. 

Get more design tips from Laurie Smith in the vipHomeLink app. Download it on your mobile device today!

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 43 million people – or 15 million homes – rely upon private household wells for drinking water, but is well water safe to drink?

“There can be serious water quality problems with well water,” says Eric Yeggy, Technical Affairs Director for the Water Quality Association. “I wouldn’t rely on chance when it’s relatively easy to find out if your well water is safe to drink.”

Eric has spent more than 20 years in the environmental testing industry analyzing drinking water, ground water, and soil, and recently stopped by the vipHome Podcast with well water safety tips!

Common contaminants of well water

Well water is essentially water pulled up from the ground (or groundwater) that is untreated. Common contaminants in well water include arsenic and nitrate as well as radiological contaminants like radium, barium, strontium. Groundwater can also be impacted by industrial activity.

“Even well-intentioned human activities sometimes have unintended consequences,” says Eric.

Recently, PFAS contamination has been in the news (and Eric explained PFAS chemicals to us on an earlier episode of the vipHome Podcast)! PFAS are per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances that are commonly used in firefighting foams, and one of the ways they are released into the environment is through events that were staged to train firefighters.

a firefighter spraying foam during a training exercise - well water safety tips
PFAS chemicals can get into your water from common occurrences.

“Once they are released in the environment, they’re very persistent and can find their way into aquifers,” says Eric.

Other contaminants can enter aquifers, such as pesticides and herbicides, from agricultural activities. Nitrate or nitrate from fertilizers or from livestock manure can also reach dangerous levels in aquifers, especially for small infants. Fecal matter, too, can threaten the safety of water well.

“The presence of fecal coliform or E. coli is an indication that fecal matter is somehow making it into your well water,” says Eric. “You might be exposed to pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or even cysts like cryptosporidium.”

Warning signs of a contaminated or polluted well

Trust your senses. Discoloration, bad taste, or odor are all indications that something might be wrong with your private well water.

“It’s worthwhile to do some testing if you are noticing any of that,” says Eric.

White scale buildup (or mineral buildup) on your faucets and shower doors indicates hard water, which is not dangerous to humans but can damage your appliances.

Red iron stains in a sink - well water safety tips
Does your sink look like this?

Iron can cause a reddish staining, and manganese can cause a black staining. Manganese is not dangerous at lower levels but can cause serious health effects at higher levels, including problems with memory, attention, and motor skills. Children can also develop learning and behavior problems from manganese exposure.

Unfortunately, “…many things that could potentially impact your health or the health of your family are completely tasteless and odorless, like arsenic,” says Eric. “It’s a naturally occurring element that is common in the geology and is often picked up by the groundwater.”

How to test your well water

“If you are a do-it-yourselfer, the first thing I would recommend is to contact your state or your county public health department,” says Eric.

Oftentimes, county public health departments have programs that will help with well water testing and recommend what to test for based on the history of the other groundwater testing in your area.

“There’s also private laboratories that do this kind of testing,” says Eric. “The Water Quality Association can help you find certified drinking water laboratories and water treatment specialists in your state.”

Testing is essential for water well safety. Learn more tap water testing tips from Eric and the WQA now!

Frequency of well water inspection and testing

a person wearing a glove and holding a vial of water that may contain PFAS chemicals under a tap
Test before and after a well issue.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends testing your well water once a year. If you’ve found issues with nitrates, pesticides, and fecal coliform in the past from surface runoff, then you may want to retest frequently to make sure you’ve fixed those problems.

“You should also retest after flooding,” says Eric. “If your well head has been underwater, there’s a good chance that your well may have been contaminated.”

How to treat a polluted or contaminated well

a well with its cap to the side - well water safety tips
A broken well cap can lead to contamination.

Oftentimes, contamination occurs due to a poorly sealed well or a broken well cap. If your test results find your well polluted or contaminated, you should consult your local public health department or a certified well inspector or specialist. These professionals may recommend you:

Generally, well specialists use a chemical to disinfect the well, followed by flushing to remove that chemical from the house. After your well is disinfected, there are certified products you can use to remove bacteria, virus, and cyst. You can also install a barrier to prevent these contaminants from returning.

Inside your house, you can install a reverse osmosis system under your kitchen sink to remove arsenic and nitrate from your tap water.

“It will come with a separate faucet that you only use for drinking water or cooking water,” says Eric. “You can also get whole-house systems for these contaminants that will treat all the water coming into your home.”

Certain radiological contaminants are easy to remove from your water supply with a water softener.

a homeowner pouring salt into a water softener - well water safety tips
A water soften can help to remove contaminants.

“You will also get the benefits of softened water, including protection of your appliances, cleaner clothes, less energy usage, preventing the buildup of hard water scale, etc.” says Eric.

Of course, there are also PFAS, pesticides, herbicides, and volatile organic solvents or other industrial chemicals that can show up from leaking underground storage tanks.

“First, find what’s in your water first by testing, and then you can shop around to look for products that are certified to remove those contaminants,” recommends Eric.

Well water is safe to drink after disinfection…right?

After the professional disinfects your well, they need to flush that chemical out of the well and through your plumbing.

a homeowner drinking water which may contain PFAS chemicals at a kitchen table
Be careful for taking your first sip.

“Keep in mind that regardless of who you have complete that disinfection step, make sure that they are using a chemical that has been certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 60. It’s commonly referred to as Standard 60.”

This standard helps to ensure the safety of chemicals used with drinking water.

“You don’t want somebody dumping household bleach or pool and spa chemicals down your well,” says Eric. “Those chemicals contain other things besides just chlorine.”

Laundry bleach has additives that help with scent, odor, and cleaning, which occur naturally from the manufacturing process. These chemicals aren’t dangerous when they are used as intended.

“Typically, these chemicals have a strong chlorine odor,” says Eric, “so you can tell when they’ve flushed it out. The odor will go away.”

Important well water maintenance tips

Resources from the EPA, the Water Systems Council, and provide maintenance tips to help you tackle well water safety.

“If I had a private well, the first thing I would do is contact my county or state public health department to see what programs they offer for well owners,” says Eric.

Many of these agencies have field staff who are qualified to inspect your well and give you personalized recommendations.

a well with its cap off with an inspector next to it - well water safety tips
Inspection is key with well safety.

“Those personalized recommendations are going to be much more valuable than just general tips and guidelines,” says Eric.

To prevent well water contamination, the EPA recommends homeowners take the following general steps:

The Water Systems Council also recommends that homeowners take the following steps to inspect their well:

A well’s serviceable life is usually more than 20 years. Always make sure to use a licensed well contractor to install a new system and close the old well properly and safely.

Get more water safety tips in Water Treatment for Dummies, a digital free booklet available on the WQA website.

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