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Creaking and Popping in the Night

Creaking and Popping in the Night

The many materials that make up your house — wood framing, plywood, glass, metal ducts, nails, plumbing pipes — all expand and contract at different rates.

When a house cools at night, these materials may move slightly, rubbing against each other and making noises. Occasionally, they’ll contract with an audible pop.

These sounds tend to be more noticeable in fall, when warm days give way to rapidly cooling nights. The bad news? Not much you can do about it. The good news? Those sounds are harmless and normal.

Zombie Odor

It’s either time to throw out the garbage, or you’d better call your gas utility to check on your gas lines and connections.

Natural gas is odorless, but natural gas suppliers add a foul-smelling odorant — butyl mercaptan — to alert occupants to any leaks. The smell is like rotten eggs.

Leaks can occur at your gas-fired water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer, and any gas line. Leaking natural gas is potentially dangerous — leave the house and call your natural gas provider to assess the situation. Most utility companies perform safety checks for free.

RelatedHow to Stop the Smells and Funk That Invade Your Home

Footsteps in the Attic

Amplified by an unfinished attic space, a raccoon or even a good-size squirrel on your roof might sound like an ax murderer is doing the polka overhead.

These rooftop transits are normal for critters — roofs offer a nice long unobstructed highway.

Make sure your soffit, rafter, and gable roof vents are covered with screens and in good shape, or your rooftop buddies might find their way into your attic for real. Trim back branches that provide critters easy access to your roof.

Something’s Burning

You can smell the odor of burnt wood, but the smoke detectors aren’t going off and there’s no smoke in the house. The culprit could be your fireplace — even if you haven’t had a fire for days.

The probable cause is a drafty chimney and negative air pressure in your home, meaning that outside air is infiltrating down your chimney, bringing stale burnt smells with it.

Stop drafts by making sure your damper has a good seal. Regulate air pressure by adding more cold air return ducts to your HVAC system. You’ll get rid of the odor and save on your energy bill, too.

Moaning and Clattering

These classic spooky sounds often show up when the wind blows and there’s a storm brewing.

Vents for clothes dryers, bathrooms, and water heaters exit out the roof or the side of the house. To prevent backdrafts, these vents have dampers — flaps designed to let vented air out and prevent outside air from coming in. These flaps sometimes move and rattle in high winds.

Because dampers often are located in attics or in between floor joists, the sound can be difficult to pinpoint. You may need a new damper ($85).


Hiring a Landscaper or Pest Control Company? What You Should Know

Hiring a Landscaper or Pest Control Company? What You Should Know

Thanks to Guest Author, Ellie Goldberg, health-kids.info


Don’t be fooled by names that sound “environmentally friendly.” You need to be cautious and skeptical to avoid being poisoned.

A company named “EnviroGreen” or “Organo-Lawn” doesn’t mean that you are safe. Don’t be fooled by a picture of a tree, a child, a rabbit, a dog or a sunrise on the label​.

Don’t trust ​claims such as “safe” or “natural.” Words that sound tame but mean “poison” include “weed n’ feed,” “pre-emergent,” “grub control,” and “fungus treatment.”

These products can give you, your family, and your neighbors headaches, rashes, nausea and breathing difficulties as well as a variety of chronic health problems.


Don’t believe any contractor who suggests that chemicals are the only answer to pest problems. Be wary of special deals, free offers, and high-pressure sales tactics.

Avoid any contractor who suggests using pesticides on a fixed schedule or ​”​four-step​”​ programs to “prevent” pests or as a general treatment regardless of the extent or location of the pest problem.

Many contractors market their services as “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) to appeal to your good intentions or ​to ​take advantage of your trust and ignorance.

NOFA, the Massachusetts Organic Farming Association (www.nofamass.org), is the only organization that has organic land care standards and a training and accreditation program for organic land care professionals (organiclandcare.net).


Trustworthy professionals take the time to learn about your family, your house and yard. What is the pattern of sun and shade? What is its history of problems? What are your family’s patterns of use? Do you have children or pets? Is anyone in the family especially ​​vulnerable (very young​, elderly or have allergies, asthma or cancer)?

If you have a pest problem, the experts first identify the pest. Then they can suggest how to remedy conditions to prevent the weeds or bugs.

For example, in the yard, you might need to fix poor drainage or ​compacted ​soil. Inside you may need to fix a drippy faucet, caulk a crack, or clear clutter to deprive pests of food, water, entry and hiding places. A plan for your lawn or garden needs to start with a soil test for soil fertility and lead or other contaminants.


What you don’t know can hurt you. If they suggest using a chemical or synthetic product, ask for the product label and manufacturer’s safety data sheet (MSDS).

Watch out for “inert” ingredients. These so-called “inerts” are​ trade secrets (by law). Manufacturers do not disclose them to the public or even to the US EPA yet they may be more toxic than the active ingredients on the label.

“Inert” does not mean biologically inactive. Inert ingredients transport or carry the active ingredient, amplify its toxicity, increase its active life, and/or increase its ability to stick to or penetrate your skin.


NO PESTICIDE IS SAFE even when it is used according to label directions. A “pesticide” is any product used to kill insects, weeds, rodents or fungus.

The US EPA registration does NOT mean “approved.” And, Federal Law prohibits safety claims that directly or even indirectly imply that a pesticide is approved or endorsed by any federal agency. The law prohibits claims such as “non-toxic to humans and pets,” “safe when used as directed” or even “all-natural ingredients.”

Contractors who dismiss your concerns or downplays the risks of any product, even “natural pesticides,” should not be trusted with the health and well-being of your family.

Even “natural” products ​can be irritating to eyes, nose, lungs, and skin so caution is always appropriate. (Remember poison ivy is natural. www.poison-ivy.org)


​Books: ​
The Chemical-Free Lawn by Warren Schultz
Common Sense Pest Control, by Olkowski, Daar, and Olkowski.

Grassroots Environmental Education (www.grassrootsinfo.org)
NOFA, Massachusetts Organic Farming Association (www.nofamass.org)
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (www.pesticide.org)
Beyond Pesticides (www.beyondpesticides.org)
Pesticide Action Network (www.panna.org)

Send your questions and comments to Ellie Goldberg, ellie.goldberg@healthy-kids.info

1. Relies on poisons (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides).
2. Ignores the source of pest problems. (Allows conditions to get worse.)
3. Kills off beneficial plants and insects.
4. Pollutes water, soil, food, and air and contaminates buildings and landscapes.
5. Harms people, pets and wildlife.

1. Relies on a plan. (Don’t spray ’em, outsmart ’em!)
2. Prevents and corrects the source of pest problems. (Improves conditions.)
3. Protects soil fertility and biodiversity.
4. Protects the quality of water, soil, food, and air and enhances the quality of buildings and landscapes.
5. Protects the health and safety of our families and community.

How to Prepare Your Budget for an Unexpected Home Repair

For many people, owning a home is the quintessential American dream. However, without due diligence and a financial plan, it’s easy to lose sight of the true costs of homeownership. While some costs can be accounted for up-front, such as a monthly mortgage and home insurance, the unknown costs that are the hardest to budget for are the various updates and repairs that will eventually come with time.

A house is not too different than a living organism in that it’s made up of many elements that work together harmoniously. Whether it’s electrical, structural, or mechanical, each component requires specific care and maintenance to keep it running at optimal performance and to prevent premature breakdowns. Over the years, these items will eventually need to be addressed as newer, more efficient systems come to market or a breakdown leads to a major repair.

Scoping Out Repairs

When assessing any work on your home, you’ll need to make a determination on the scope of the repair. If your home requires major repairs, you should budget accordingly, as larger scale projects generally require more materials and labor. Some cities require permits and inspections that are meant to meet city code and safety standards. Other factors you’ll want to consider are the age of your home, the builder grade of the materials, and even the environment where you live. These factors can impact the life expectancy for some of your home’s larger items, like the roofing.

Replacing a Roof

Despite your best efforts to maintain your roof, even the strongest, best-kept roofs could need replacing. Ice can wreak havoc, and if you’ve had your current roof for more than ten years, imagine its condition after weathering the unforgiving New England winter climate. Once you’ve determined that your roof needs to be replaced, you’ll need to budget for materials, labor, and disposal. While the costs of the raw materials will vary depending on the quality, it’s estimated that labor will most likely account for 40 to 50 percent of the overall cost.

Hiring a Contractor

Who you hire for any major repair work is a big decision to make. You’ll naturally want to find someone who offers the highest caliber of craftsmanship at the best rate. It can be difficult to find someone who does both, but referrals from friends, neighbors, and a local realtor can help you narrow down the best options. Be sure to do your homework before talking with any contractors, and know what questions to ask them as you shop around for quotes. The estimates will help you set expectations for how to budget for repairs. If the replacement is not an emergency, you might want to schedule the work for late winter or early spring when roofers might offer off-season discounts.

Saving Up for a Rainy Day

Sometimes the unexpected happens, and a tree may come crashing down and damage part of your roof. In the event of an emergency, you’ll have to address the problem immediately. While financial emergencies do happen, you don’t have to be caught off-guard. A rainy-day fund for repairing the damage from an actual rainy day can help ensure that you have some capital available to pay for the unexpected. This doesn’t mean you have to siphon off large amounts of your paycheck, but ways you can save include asking your parents for help, taking out a personal loan, or even taking out a home equity line of credit to borrow money for the repairs. You might also find that incremental savings ultimately add up and make all the difference as you weather the financial storm for when those rainy days hit.

Although homeownership has many costs associated with it, a little preventative maintenance can help prevent those costs from swelling to unaffordable amounts. Yet, even the most well-maintained homes are eventually faced with expensive repairs. When that happens, it’s best to be prepared.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Guest post by Julian Lane

Home Organizer Helps You to Learn How to Live With Intention!

Home Organizer Helps You to Learn How to Live With Intention!

Hallie Geller

Hallie Geller, Organizer with a difference!

I am so please to introduce you to Hallie Geller, a Home Organizer with a beautiful approach to the work of redefining your home space. Whether you are ready to pack or unpack or just need a new perspective, give her a call. She is a delight!


It is an honor to be welcomed into your home and I work to customize my services to fit your needs. I work to apply the values of simplicity every day in an effort to live a waste-free life.  My unique method of organizing involves both critical thinking and mindfulness. For me, the art of organizing is not a quick fix or superficial effort. Truly simplifying your space is a radical act that can have an impact on every level of your life. A clean, beautiful living space gives way to a clear and intentional head-space. And with that mindset, nothing can stand in your way.

No matter how big or small the project, I am here to help! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss your organizing needs at 617-340-9570.


Ever since I was young I have had a passion for organizing and arranging spaces. What started as a hobby soon became a way for me to meaningfully give back to family and friends. Moreover, the executive functioning and organizing skills I teach are what helped me get into medical school and they are what help me thrive as an up and coming physician today. I am proud to offer my services as a home and personal organizer to the Greater Boston public.




How it works:
1. Free Phone Estimate
2. Declutter and Donation Removal
4. Implement Organizing System
5. Follow Up
6. Troubleshoot/Tune Up

Color with Confidence!

Color with Confidence!

You are invited! Color with Confidence, a Laugh and Learn Event
Guest speaker, Linda Varone, Nurturing Spaces

Paint colors give you the biggest bang for your decorating buck. But choosing from over 1,6000 paint colors is overwhelming. Learn:

The elements of fool-proof color selection.
How light impacts color and why you should never pick colors in the paint store.
Find your color scheme with inspiration from your personal treasures.
See the latest advances in paints.

This class is filled with practical suggestions, photo slides and real life examples. Laugh, learn and leave with beautiful, practical ideas on how to bring new life into your home with the magic of color.

Linda Varone has been helping clients find colors that make their homes sing while highlighting their artwork, personal treasures and individual style, for over 20 years.

Refreshments from L’aroma Cafe will be served. Free and open to the public.

Register here

Bring a donation for the KW’s big Y drive for the YMCA. We are collecting games, craft items, personal items, camping gear (all can be gently used) for kids on scholarship for summer programs!

Speaker, Linda Varone, Nurturing Spaces

Sponsor, Janet Porcaro, Keller Williams Realty

Sponsor, Greg Giokas, RMS Mortgage

Laugh and Learn Interior Psychology: Move a Chair: Improve Family Connection

Laugh and Learn Interior Psychology: Move a Chair: Improve Family Connection

You are invited:
Thursday, November 2 from 6 to 8pm
Keller Williams Realty
1340 Centre Street, Suite 202
Newton 02459

Interior Psychology uses the insights of neuroscience and psychology to make your home support connection with family and friends, enhance privacy for personal renewal, and create healing contact with nature – all with style.

Laugh and Learn: Interior Psychology

Simple changes in your home create an impact on how you and your family feel and interact.

Laugh and Learn© with Linda Varone. Illustrated with photo slides, before and afters and stories to make this an enjoyable and informative event.
Simple changes in your home create an impact on how you and your family feel and interact.

• See how to arrange your furniture for warm, comfortable conversations
• Place lighting to draw people together or gently illuminate private spaces
• Make the most of Nature with window treatments, furniture placement and decor.

Whether you improve your home for holiday entertaining, or “just” for yourself. Come see how simple changes in your house make it feel more like home.

Free and open to the public

Linda Varone was awarded Best of Boston® for her work improving people’s homes and lives using Feng Shui, Interior Design and Interior Psychology. A popular speaker, Linda has enlightend and entertained audiences nationwide. She has been featured on WCVB’s Chronicle, and in the Sunday Boston Globe, Boston magazine and New England Home.