How to Properly Clean Out a Fireplace in Your Piedmont Home

A nice fire going in a home fireplace.

Curling up in front of a wood burning fireplace is one way to stay cozy when the weather turns cold in the Piedmont Triad. If you are lucky enough to own a wood burning fireplace, you know that the comfort and warmth it provides requires a bit of maintenance from time to time. The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for safety and cleaned annually. Creosote, which is an oily wood-tar by-product that can cling to chimney walls, can cause fires to flare out of control. If you are searching for a potential new property in the Piedmont Triad, be sure to ask for details about recent chimney inspections and cleanings. 

In addition to the annual heavy duty cleaning of the chimney, you will want to regularly clean out your fireplace to keep it looking tidy and keep it burning cleanly. These steps can take it from filthy to flawless!

  1. Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give all of the ashes and embers a chance to fully cool down.
  2. Wear old clothes or an apron because this can be a messy task. Also, it is a good idea to put on gloves, a face mask, and protective eyewear to keep the soot from irritating your lungs and skin.
  3. Lay a plastic tarp or old sheet in front of the fireplace to catch the mess.
  4. Using a handheld broom, sweep any soot and ash from the floor and walls of your fireplace and collect it into a dustpan. Dump the ash into a heavy duty paper or plastic bag as you work. Do this gently to keep as much dust as possible from flying around. Pro tip: Sprinkle a handful of used coffee grounds on the ashes to minimize flyaways.
  5. For good measure, you may want to vacuum the area to catch any remaining dust. But don’t forget to clean the vacuum brush attachment afterwards – you don’t want to spread soot around the rest of your home!
  6. Now it is time to scrub! Water and hearth cleaner work well for the brick and iron parts of your fireplace. But if you have brick front or facing that’s more than 50 years old, just use water with a light scouring. Old brick is more susceptible to crumbling. For marble and stone, scrub with water and dishwashing detergent. Use old rags to wipe each area after scrubbing.
  7. If you fireplace features glass doors, they can be cleaned with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar. You can also put the discarded ashes to good use by sprinkling some onto the towel to act as a light, natural abrasive.

Once everything is clean and back in its place, you will need to decide what to do with your ashes. If you would prefer a professional clean your chimney, make sure they are a certified specialist before hiring them. You can find a certified chimney sweep technician near you by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website and search for a pro today, as well as get other helpful tips.

If you’re looking for a place to dispose of your ashes and your Piedmont Triad home has a garden, we recommend spreading them there. Ashes are a great source of calcium, potassium, and other nutrients for plants and they also repel some garden pests! If you are making plans on moving to a home in the Piedmont Triad area that has a nice fireplace to curl up by, then give Zippy Shell of the Piedmont Triad a call! We would love to make you moving and storage needs simple!

4 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

Woman cleans her living room.

How many times have you heard New Year/New You? It’s true that millions of us make New Year’s resolutions, but what about resolutions that focus on your space? After all, your space is where you spend a lot of downtime, friend time and family time. Creating an inviting space, whether in your current one, or in a new one, could mean a happier and healthier New Year. It isn’t too late to amend or add to your New Year’s Resolutions and make a better home environment!

Bravely declutter: Take a moment to consider what came into your space last year that maybe wasn’t needed – the extra decorative box picked up at the vintage store, more coffee mugs received from co-workers during Secret Santa or yet another blue shirt because you had a coupon. Be courageous enough to edit down your personal belongings. Donate duplicate items and recycle things that don’t work or are in disrepair. If you aren’t sure about items, consider putting them in temporary storage with Zippy Shell and make the decision after living without them for a while.

Spruce up a single area or a single item: Sometimes planning for an update feels overwhelming. Consider focusing on a single objective in the New Year and make it happen. Ideas include:

  • New paint in one or more rooms
  • A new rug or some new flooring
  • Updating a single new fixture (like in the kitchen or bathroom)
  • Repairing something that’s been broken for a while
  • Adding fresh mulch or a few new plants to the landscape
  • Painting your door or adding a new wreath

Plan to recycle and save more energy (or recycle more): Recycling not only feels good, it does good. If you currently recycle, consider upping your game. If you don’t recycle, consider starting small until it becomes a habit. Small starts include unplugging electronic devices when not in use to reduce using phantom or vampire energy, taking reusable bags to the market, saving and recycling all of your plastics and cans during the week, opting for paperless billing or purchasing a reusable water bottle instead of buying water and drinks in plastic bottles. Next steps could include composting, buying local and eating seasonal and creating your own unique gift paper rather than purchasing wrapping paper or gift bags for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

Stay safe: Your space is your haven. Keep it safe by:

  • Checking for dryer lint. Most people know to check the lint filter at the front of the dryer, but did you know that there may be vents and ducts behind the dryer that could be a hazard and need attention, too?
  • Testing your detectors. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are just two of the items in your space that need routine tests.
  • Changing a/c filters. Checking and changing the filters keeps your unit running more efficiently.
  • Checking for a fire extinguisher. Do you have an extinguisher in the kitchen? How about upstairs, if you have another floor? Check them and any expiration dates they may have.

As the New Year rolls in take time to consider more than just personal resolutions. Make a few resolutions for your space, too.  If you find you need extra space, give Zippy Shell a call! We would be happy to help you safely store some of those extra belongings!

5 Common Fire Hazards in Your Home

Family plays with cardboard box while unpacking

Home fires are dangerous and can result in devastating property damage and even loss of life. You may consider your home fire-safe, but you should always prepare for the unexpected. Having a fire-safety checklist with you when you are evaluating potential new properties or when updating/remodeling is a great way to help you spot potential hazards that might not be so obvious.

There are several common fire hazards, though, that you can easily identify. Taking steps now to remedy any of these hazards could save a life in the future.

  • Electrical Cords – The first step to reducing fire hazards caused by electrical cords is to make sure all major appliances are plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet and not an extension cord. This includes refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, microwave ovens, and other large appliances. Keep in mind, too, that a surge suppressor is not made for heavy loads. Also, make sure all electrical cords are in good working condition and not broken, cut or frayed. Even old extension cords that look as if they are in good working condition may need to be replace from time to time.
  • Heating – To prevent fires, have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected each year. If you are purchasing a new home, be sure to ask about the last time these items were completed. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from all heating equipment. This includes furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, and portable space heaters. Always use a fire screen or fireplace doors to contain sparks from your fireplace. While asleep or when you leave home always extinguish all fires and candles and unplug all heating appliances. Never assume that the fire will “burn down” or that the flame is contained.
  • Clothes Dryer – Fires involving clothes dryers are usually caused by accumulated lint, which is highly flammable. Lint can build up in both the lint trap and the venting system. The best way to prevent this fire hazard is to clean the lint trap on your clothes dryer with each and every load. It is also recommended to have your dryer vents professionally cleaned every 12 to 24 months.
  • Cooking – Unattended cooking is involved in the majority of kitchen fires. The best way to prevent these fires is to closely supervise your cooking. Also, remove clutter from your cooking area and keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the stove top area.

  • Safety Tools – While there are things you can do to minimize fire risk in your home, be sure you have the tools on hand in case something happens. First and foremost is a working smoke detector. Test your smoke detector and ensure it works. Maintain it according to manufacturer directions and never, ever take the smoke detector down or disable it. Another key safety tool is a fire extinguisher. Every home should have at least one.

A fire can easily occur in your home, regardless of your home’s age, location, or condition. Take the time to reduce and eliminate as many fire hazards as possible before the holidays! 

Prevent Frozen Pipe Problems this Winter with These 7 Tips

Kitchen faucet running in a home

One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to winterize your pipes to prevent them from freezing. When water freezes in pipes, volume expands and puts pressure on pipes from the inside. The result of this pressure will cause the pipes to crack or rupture entirely, causing expensive damage to your home.

Here are 7 tips to help you avoid a frozen pipe issue this winter.

  1. Pipe Insulation: Pipes located in unheated areas such as garages, attics and crawl spaces need insulation. Pipe insulation can be found at most home improvement stores for very little cost. It comes in long strips that can be cut to size with a utility knife. You can also consider heat tape for a few dollars more.
  2. Seal Cracks: Look for cracks or openings that might let cold air in on pipes that run from inside to outside the home (i.e. dryer vents, water pipes). Seal these cracks or openings with caulk.
  3. Outdoor Spigots: Turn off the outside water supply, disconnect garden hoses from spigots, and drain any water from the pipes. For optimum protection, purchase an inexpensive insulated faucet cover to be placed around each outdoor spigot.
  4. Garage: If water supply lines are in the garage, be sure and keep the doors closed. If you park your vehicle in the garage, minimize the length of time the garage doors are open to help keep water supply lines warmer.
  5. Kitchen & Bathroom: Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  6. Faucets: Let your faucets drip to keep water moving through the water system. This will reduce the water pressure and help prevent frozen pipes. If a pipe does freeze, it is less likely to rupture due to the lower water pressure.
  7. Vacation: Prevent frozen pipes by setting your thermostat to 60 degrees or above while away on vacation. Ask a neighbor to check inside and outside your home to ensure your pipes have not frozen and ruptured.

Although you can’t wrap your house in bubble wrap, these preventative measures can help you prevent a costly disaster this winter. If you discover frozen pipes, call a professional plumber immediately. The team at Zippy Shell hopes you don’t encounter a frozen pipe disaster, but if you need to store your belongings, consider Zippy Shell for any short or long-term storage needs you might have!

8 Kitchen Gadgets You Didn’t Know You Needed

Young woman making food in her kitchen

Holiday gift-giving season is upon us and whether you are purchasing for yourself or others, we’ve got a fresh list of kitchen gadget goodness that will amaze and astound you and your recipients. Feel free to go to any of your favorite online (or sticks and bricks) shopping destinations and pop these items in search to find all of the top brands.

Veggie Spiralizer or Noodle Maker: Paleo, keto and gluten-free are popular diet movements at the moment, which means limited or no pasta in the diet, but you can craft pasta out of sweet potatoes, zucchini or squash. The pre-made squash or zucchini noodles in the market area of your store can be very expensive and they might not necessarily be that fresh, so if you are craving a past-like experience minus the carbs, this may be the gadget for you.

Sparkling Water Maker: Interested in ensuring that your sparkling water is fresh and free of additives? Make your own! There are several CO2 infusers on the market. Grab some recipes off the Internet and create your own flavored sparkling water.

Ice Ball Makers: What, you didn’t know that ice balls were a thing? Cubes melt quickly, diluting those expensive beverages. Ice balls not only look really cool, but they take much longer to melt, thus keeping your beverage cooler longer.

Insta Pot: We’ve been told by Insta Pot addicts that it can replace up to 8 of your other small kitchen gadgets. There are a variety of these pressure cookers on the market, but these aren’t the pressure cookers your mom had. Oh, no. These new cookers take only 20 minutes to do what once took an hour and wash only a pot and lid, as opposed to multiple pots and pans. Some even come with pre-programmed recipes!

Griddle: Yes, we know that griddles aren’t a new thing, but these aren’t the griddles of the past. Today’s griddles are streamlined and loaded with features that make them indispensable on those days you don’t want to stand outside in the rain or cold to grill or use the expensive outdoor cooker. The newer countertop griddles boast a ridged side for a grilled look and snap in, non-stick plates. You could easily make an entire meal in one swoop.

Air Fryer: Air fryers are relatively new and most on your gift list won’t even know they needed one – until you give it. These gadgets use very hot air to “fry” your favorite foods, eliminating fatty oils. Most require no preheating, saving you time, too. Reviews are varied on this kitchen gadget, but for those trying to eliminate traditional frying and fatty oils, an air fryer may just be the ticket.

Electric Jar Opener: It’s ok to admit it – sometimes we have difficulty opening that pickle jar, no matter how many times we hit it with a fork! Fortunately, someone thought of that and an electric jar opener may be a great, inexpensive stocking stuffer for anyone. It’s simple to operate, too: position it, push a button, watch it rotate. Voila, that pesky jar has been opened!

Color-Coded Cutting Boards: Thinking about that cutting board soaking up the chicken while trying to slice a cucumber on it is no fun. Today’s cutting boards are hygienic, color-coded and do not transmit bacteria. They are nonporous and easy to store, too. Many come in their own carrier. They don’t crack and are long lasting. Even better these boards are colored according to the food: meat, cooked, veggies, seafood and more.

New and innovative kitchen gadgets are hitting the market every day. When you move into that new space, toss out the old and consider some new kitchen gadgets to save you time and money.

Ingenious Ways to Make Small Spaces in your Home Bigger

Living room in a spacious home

Whether you’re in a cramped apartment, the kids are home for the summer, or your in-laws are coming to stay for a few weeks, we’ve compiled some creative ways to give your home some space. Goodness knows, we love their personal space.

Consider these top four ideas for enjoying a spacious, clutter-free atmosphere in your home.

  1. Spread out your living space. If you have outdoor spaces that are adjacent to your indoor ones (balconies, decks, patios and porches), consider how you might arrange those areas to compliment your spacing needs. Maybe a decorative cover or an umbrella outside will invite folks to sit there. Add some cozy furniture and a small television and boom! you have a whole new room.
  2. Put the excess in storage. Clutter – it can make you crazy. Even if you’re not having extra people in your home, the clutter has got to go. One quick way to clear it out, is to put it in storage. This way you still have access to your things, but they aren’t in the way. You don’t want to trip on that magazine rack from 1974! Separate what you need from what you don’t and save yourself some space in your home and peace of mind.
  3. Invest in some space-saver bags! These things are amazing. You can find them at most big box or home improvement stores. Put your out-of-season wardrobe, winter coats, extra pillows, and even those crocheted family blankets in these ingenious bags. Pile your stuff in, use your vacuum to suck out the air, and voila! It’s all been reduced to a third the size. Slip the bags under your bed or in a closet and you’re done.
  4. Consider multi-functional furniture. Some people are so clever and the ones who design and manufacture furniture that can be used in multiple ways need to be applauded. Benches that open and can store shoes by the front door. Tables that can be transformed into desks. Even beds that can be turned into tables. Really cool!

Then, when everyone heads back to school and back home, you can bring all your favorite things back in your home. If you think you may want to employ the use of a portable storage container, we hope you’ll think of Zippy Shell, too. Give us a call at 888-947-7974 or go online for a free quote to see how we can make moving and storage simple for you!

How to Maximize the Space in Your Bathroom

bathroom

Is your bathroom feeling a little cramped? Small bathrooms can be a challenge and adding square footage through a renovation isn’t always an option. But you can use these tips to make your cozy space feel larger and stay more organized.

Give the Illusion of Space

There are several tips and techniques you can use to provide an expansive feeling in a small bathroom or any small space:

  • A monochromatic color scheme or even varying shades of the same color can make your bathroom feel larger. Soft, pale, neutral colors on the walls and floor will give the biggest illusion of space.
  • Use reflective surfaces like glass and mirrors. Replacing a shower curtain with a clear glass door will open up the shower space giving the appearance of a bigger overall area. Larger mirrors will bounce light from windows and create the illusion of more square footage.
  • Keep your floor space clear and uncluttered. Less breaking up of the floor lines equates to less visual chopping with your eyes. Also freeing up your floor space gives you more room to move around!  
  • Draw the eye upward with a fun light fixture, crown molding, tall window treatments, or high shelves.

Organizing Your Way to More Space

Even a large room that is cluttered will feel small, so let’s get organized:

  • Create storage where there once was none by adding floating shelves to your walls utilizing the vertical space. 
  • An over-the-toilet shelf or storage cabinet is a great space saver and will give you more storage options.
  • Installing floating shelves or recessed storage in the shower can keep all your shower necessities organized. Another option is to use a hanging shower caddy.
  • Use a Lazy Susan or other revolving storage underneath your bathroom cabinet to corral cleaning supplies or hair products.
  • When you are really low on storage options, find an alternate place in the house for things like medicine, first aid supplies, and extra rolls of toilet paper.

Zippy Shell’s portable storage containers are perfect for storing items from the home, giving you more space to renovate, rearrange, and organize. Check us out today for answers to any questions you may have!

Budget-Friendly Seasonal Decor Ideas for Fall

Fall Trees

Fall is in the air! Pumpkin Spice Lattes, cozy sweaters, colorful foliage, bonfires, and college football are sure signs that fall is here. Another favorite of the season is decorating our homes with festive, seasonal décor. Here are a few ideas to display your love of fall décor without breaking the bank.

  • Pumpkins: The holy grail of the fall season! This time of year you can find pumpkins of all shapes in sizes at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, road-side pumpkin stands and even in your own garden! Display pumpkins in your home and on your porch. Carve or paint them to make your Halloween more spooky! Create great family memories by visiting a local pumpkin patch and baking pumpkin pies!
  • Colorful gourds, squash & corn: Again, easy to find at your local grocery store or farmers’ markets. Arrange them in a wide round straw basket for a great centerpiece for your table. Add a few miniature pumpkins for the full fall effect!
  • Fall flowers: For a quick and easy fall decoration, add flowers to your décor. Visit your local nursery or home décor store for ideas to include potted flowers such as mums, pansies and other fall offerings. Give your green thumb a try and plant an autumn garden.
  • Door wreaths: Pick up a fall wreath at your local décor store or get crafty and make your own. Make it a fun fall project by having your kids collect natural items to use such as wheat, leaves, branches, pinecones, acorns and berries.
  • Collect & display fall leaves: For a simple and fun, kid-friendly project, gather leaves of different colors and sizes. Laminate leaves and hang with clear fishing line around your home or doorframes. For a different touch, add a framing mat around the laminated leaves and make a display collection on the wall in your foyer or living room.

For more information regarding storage or moving solutions, please give us a call or visit our website www.ZippyShell.com.

3 Ways to Naturally Remove/Reduce Mold in Your Home

Young couple cleaning their kitchen

Whether you are preparing your home for sale, have just moved into a new home or are cleaning your current home, you may be surprised to learn that mold can be found anywhere. Mold is not limited to moisture-heavy areas like bathrooms. It could be floating invisibly throughout your home and can trigger serious health risks, including allergies, headaches, sneezing and more.

Here are 3 tips to naturally help keep mold out of your home:

A) Remove moisture from your home: Clean, dry air is important since mold thrives in moisture-rich environments. Keep a close eye on areas that could be prone to mold, including kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.

  • Be sure to change your HVAC filters on schedule.
  • If you live in an area that has high humidity, consider a dehumidifier.
  • Pro tip: Declutter, especially in areas that are damp or prone to leaks. Don’t give mold places to hide and grow. Consider throwing out and storing items you don’t need to improve air flow.

B) Put the white vinegar to work: Vinegar has long been valued as a “green” cleaning option and for good reason. Vinegar has mild acidic properties and is an anti-bacterial agent, as well. Spray the mold and mold-prone areas with full-strength white vinegar and let it set for an hour. Wipe the area clean and let dry.

C) Use Baking Soda: Another natural cleaning staple, baking soda is great not only because it is safe for your family and pets, but because in addition to great scrubbing properties, it absorbs moisture, which is key to keep mold away. Add baking soda to a little water and then spray it on the mold. Scrub it clean, wipe it off and let it dry.

A clean, decluttered, dry space is one that doesn’t help mold grow. Consider storing unused items with Zippy Shell in a climate-controlled facility, reducing moisture in your home and tackling any moldy areas with natural cleaners.

How to Boost the Curb Appeal of Your Piedmont Triad Home

A Well Kept Home's Front Yard

What exactly is curb appeal? It is essentially how appealing your home looks when first viewed from the street, like a first impression. Of course, we all know first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo. Increasing your curb appeal can add thousands of dollars to the value of your Piedmont Triad home and cut the time it takes to sell. Even if you don’t plan on selling anytime soon, sprucing up your property can provide a more positive first and lasting impression!

  • The simplest way to boost curb appeal is to have a well-manicured lawn. Set the foundation for great curb appeal with healthy, evenly trimmed, weed-free grass. Next put any dead, dying, or sad-looking plants and shrubbery out of their misery and out of your yard. When bringing in new greenery, mix things up with a variety of plants that will bloom at different times during the season.
  • Create an inviting walkway to the door you use as your main entrance. Pavers or stone are extremely popular options for a beautiful walkway. Flank the area with colorful landscaping and incorporate illumination to finish the look.
  • Speaking of illumination, entryway lighting is crucial for setting a welcoming mood and providing security. A combination of pathway, landscaping, and entryway lighting is the perfect recipe for perfect curb appeal.
  • Add a splash of style to your home with bold, vibrant colors. Go big by painting your front door or front shutters with an exciting color or you can go smaller by adding vibrant accessories like flowers, planters or door decorations. Welcome signs, welcome mats and porch furniture are also a great place to incorporate pops of color.

Inspired yet? Just think of the amazing feeling you will get each and every time you drive up and realize that gorgeously maintained Piedmont Triad property is all yours! If you are looking to make a move to the Piedmont Triad area or need local storage services, give your local Zippy Shell of the Piedmont Triad a call at 336-499-3386 or visit our website to learn more!