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DIY Home Maintenance for April

What’s Bugging You?

It’s spring once more, and plants and animals alike are being revived.  Time to turn your attention to those pesky bugs and other critters that can begin to invade your home at this time of year. There are some simple things you can do to prevent and treat the critter problem.


The best defense is good offense. Remember, pests are attracted to food and water. Take these steps to reduce the opportunities for pests to enter your home in the first place.Ant

  • Be tidy. Keep food in containers, and keep your kitchen, countertops, and other areas free of food waste.
  • Take out the trash regularly.
  • Remove water sources: repair leaky faucets and pipes, divert water from your foundation, keep your gutters clear.
  • Trim back the trees and bushes from your home at least 12 inches, reducing your home’s contact with the bug freeways.
  • Seal all entry points. Caulk outside around doors, windows and utility lines/pipes. Repair cracks in cement floors and foundation.
  • Keep wood chips, lumber, and firewood away from the house. Remove stumps and debris near your home.


Help keep the mosquito population at bay by removing sources of standing water: kids toys and wading pools, puddles, birdbaths, yard items that collect water, and even your pet’s water dish.


If you do need to fight back an invasion, here are some tips for doing that.

  • Buy the right product for the pest. Baits, traps, and poisons are specific to the ant, spider, bee, rodent, etc. and have specific application methods.
  • Read and follow the directions carefully.
  • There are treatments for your exterior foundation to prevent entry, such as sprays and granules can that can be applied using a lawn spreader.
  • Call a professional for termites (chemicals are regulated), and larger rodents such as squirrels and raccoons.

Remember to keep all poisons out of the reach of children. Keep the phone number for poison control posted on your refrigerator.

Here are some non-toxic alternatives for pest control.

DIY Home Maintenance for March

Window Views

WindowCan’t do outdoor yard work yet?  Well, from inside, you can dream about your upcoming spring plantings and beautification projects – fun stuff like putting out potted flowers and creating focal points in your yard.

Did you know that you can plant and beautify strategically so that there is something blooming, providing color, or providing interest all year long?  Certain plants can attract butterflies and birds that are fun to watch.  Some shrubs and trees have colorful fruit or leaves that linger on the limbs through the winter. Regardless of the season, there can be something in your yard that you can enjoy.

Most often we think of outdoor projects as adding curb appeal – what others passing by will appreciate.  However, what about what you look at from indoors?

Here is a fun winter pastime. Stroll through your home and look out your windows.  Imagine what you would like to see when the sun is shining or when the snow abounds. Each window frames a view.  What could be in that view?  A shapely tree? A picket fence? A fountain or bird bath? A large clay pot or hanging basket draped with flowers? A rock garden surrounding a tree under which grass never seems to grow? A bird feeder? Whimsical yard art?

Whether you want curb appeal or a pretty window view, your spring projects don’t have to be grand or expensive to perk up your outdoor spaces.  They just need a little thought and a plan.  Your neighborhood garden center, nursery, or hardware store can help you with your specific needs.

Speaking of Plans…

Are you emerging from your winter hibernation with visions of fix-it tasks?  Don’t know where to start?

For March, focus indoors on:

  • Checking for plumbing leaks
  • Maintaining your appliances
  • Cleaning and sharpening your garden tools; prep your lawnmower

When the snow thaws, you can begin outside on:

  • Inspecting your roof
  • Cleaning the gutters
  • Checking for proper water drainage

These tips will help you plan your last few weeks of winter and get you thinking about the spring months.

You can also check your annual maintenance calendar for what’s coming up.  Here is one straightforward approach to creating such a calendar if you haven’t already.

And, for one more planning tool, here is a basic home inspection checklist.  It is nicely categorized, so you can start in one area, indoors for now, then work your way around the house throughout the year.

Kalamazoo Community Foundation Grant Support for Whole-House Weatherization!

We are proud to be part of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s fourth quarter grant round – we are already putting this $60,000 grant to work. We have already completed four weatherization projects for low-income families in our current program year and have another 21 families with applications in process.

Are you wondering what it means to weatherize a home?
 IMG_20140819_162454It’s partly mechanical – installing new 95% efficient furnaces and water heaters certainly reduces energy usage and also reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Proper attic insulation dramatically reduces heat loss, saving money and energy. Air sealing, not just doors and windows but rim joists and other gaps, eliminates drafts and further reduces heat loss.6737403523_5c75b3db20_o

IMG_20140819_162507Done properly, weatherization typically cuts energy usage and utility costs by 30 to 50% – that’s a big relief on a winter season gas and electric bill – and it produces safer air quality, more comfort and less stress for struggling family.

For more information about this grant cycle and our fellow grantee organizations, check out the great coverage in the Kalamazoo Gazette and on the Lorrie Moore Show.



Happy Holidays from Community Homeworks!

Our office will be closed beginning Wednesday, 12/24/14. We will reopen on Monday, January 5. 2015.

We will not be providing any services during the closure. If you have a furnace issue, please call our office at 269-998-3275 and listen to the message for instructions.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!11216236844_61e33541de_z

Furnace Program Update – Our Crew Has Been Busy!

When we announced the extra funding we had for high-efficiency furnace upgrades back in October, our goal was to install 20 new furnaces by December 15. We are thrilled to report that our technicians blew right past that goal – here’s the scorecard:IMG_1177

  • 27 new furnaces installed
  • 2 high-efficiency furnaces repaired
  • 12 new water heaters installed
  • 4 whole-house weatherizations completed
  • 45 additional critical repairs

Wow! This is what our warehouse looks like right now, filled with old, inefficient and broken furnaces. We are really proud of the hard work our technicians have put in over the last 8 weeks and happy that all these Kalamazoo families can experience warmth this holiday season.

Real Change Happens When We Work Together

We’re happy to share a great example of how our collaborative partnership with Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity is making a real difference – thank you to KVHH for shining a light on this story in their December 2014 newsletter:

Cheryl D.’s Eastside home had suffered some major damage due to an ice dam caused by heat leaking through the roof. Habitat’s Construction Manager, Tom Tishler, referred Cheryl to us.

12641243174_e30e498862_zCommunity Homeworks, Habitat, and Consumers Energy were working on a pilot program to do weatherization projects in partnership with low-income homeowners,” Tishler said. “The timing was perfect.”

Community Homeworks completed the weatherization of Cheryl’s home with grant funding from Consumers Energy. Community Homeworks installed a new furnace and water heater and also insulated the attic and caulked gaps around windows and doors. Habitat followed and repaired damage caused by the ice dam….Cheryl is very pleased with Community Homeworks’ and Habitat’s work.

“I am very happy with the quality of the work they did on my house,” Cheryl said. When the work was done, Tom did a walk through with me and explained everything that was done in detail and answered all my questions. I am anxious to see how the repairs will affect my Consumers bills this winter.”

We are glad we could help and glad to have such great community partners!

You can support Community Homeworks with your holiday shopping!

It’s the time of year when we may feel especially grateful and generous, but there are so many things to keep track of! One easy way to send some support to Community Homeworks is to use Amazon Smile to shop for gifts and all your holiday needs – 0.5% of every eligible purchase will come back to Community Homeworks. It’s easy!

Community Homeworks

Community Homeworks in the News!

We’ve been getting some attention recently – here’s a round-up of recent features:

New Education & Volunteer Coordinator Annie Sprague on Kzoo Connect.

Our most recent Weatherization workshop was featured on Channel 3:

And WWMT brought a lot of attention to our current Furnace program – we had a waiting list of applicants in only 2 days!

UPDATE: $50,000 now available for High Efficiency Furnace Upgrades

UPDATE (11/19/14) – We’ve completed 10 furnace installations so far, with 15 more planned by mid-December. Our field crew has been busy!

For the second year in a row, Community Homeworks has secured funding to install high efficiency natural gas furnaces for 20 low-income homeowners in Kalamazoo County.  The program runs until December 12, 2014.

A high efficiency furnace will reduce energy bills by at least 15% and up to 50% in some cases.

Participants must meet all the following eligibility criteria:

  • Own and live in a home in Kalamazoo County (home must be either owned or under mortgage) – other restrictions may apply.
  • Existing heating systems must be compatible with the new systems (natural gas, forced air system with ductwork) Contact us for details.
  • TOTAL household income below 200% of the federally defined poverty level as defined below:

Weatherization Income Limits

  • Pay a $100.00 copayment at time of application.
  • Attend six (6) free education workshops (2 hours each) at Community Homeworks.

Applications will be available at 9:00 a.m., Monday, October 20, at the Community Homeworks office at 810 Bryant Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49001. Applications must be complete when submitted in order to be considered.  Accepted applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis.

 Documentation Required: 

  • Completed application
  • Proof of income
  • Copy of the deed to your home
  • Most recent copy of your Consumers Energy bill
  • A check for the required copayment. If an application is not accepted, the check will be returned.

Upon receiving eligible applications, Community Homeworks will schedule an in-home assessment of your current furnace, followed by a scheduled installation date.  All work is done by Community Homeworks’ qualified mechanical technicians. All furnace installations must be completed no later than December 12, 2014.

Cool Collaborations: Weatherization in Vine

Have you ever wondered what the steps are to weatherize a home? You may have noticed a draft around a window or door, but do you know how much heat is actually escaping your home and from where? And do you know how to improve the air sealing in your home enough to make a difference? Community Homeworks has just completed a pilot project with the Vine Neighborhood Association to work with a group of homeowners, tenants and landlords to weatherize eleven homes and apartments. The project was designed to bring Community Homeworks’ technical expertise and supervision together with the residents own efforts to produce real energy savings.

The first step in a weatherization project is to do an audit to determine how much air loss is happening. Have you ever heard the term “blower door test“?

Blower Door Test

Infographic by Sarah Gerrity, Energy Department.

Each home and apartment in the project had an initial blower door test performed. All the participating residents were trained by Community Homeworks on how to do the necessary air sealing of their homes using caulk and insulation. The goal was to achieve a 20-30% reduction in air infiltration in the second blower door test. Once that goal was achieved, Community Homeworks installed high-efficiency furnaces in each residence (and several new water heaters where needed). More than $70,000 in improvements were made in the 11 homes – residents can anticipate 25% or more in energy savings going forward. We are looking forward to evaluating the results of this pilot and continuing to develop innovative ways to bring the benefits of energy savings to the community.

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