" />

Category Tips From the Pros

fire burning in a fireplace

Why Does Fireplace Smoke Blow Back Into My House?

Thanks to Clean Sweep for this episode of Tips from the Pros answering the question why fireplace smokes blows back into your home.

Fireplaces are a gorgeous way to add ambiance to your home. However, that warm and cozy feeling can quickly evaporate if smoke is coming back in instead of out. There are many different reasons why fireplace smoke might blow back into your home. Here are some of the most common ones.

Look at the Firewood

One of the biggest reasons why smoke blows back into the house is the firewood being used. If you use low-quality firewood, there is a much higher risk of issues. Make sure that you purchase seasoned wood that was allowed to dry completely for 12 months or longer...

Read More
Financial news: man typing on laptop with a graph of stock prices superimposed on it.

Taxes and More Financial News

Thanks to L. K. Benson for sharing this blog about taxes and more financial news.

It’s Almost Tax Time

We are hard at work preparing for another busy tax filing season. If you are a tax client, you will be receiving an email from us soon. It will outline our normal processes and procedures.

New Retirement Savings Bill

We first told you about a new retirement savings bill that had overwhelming bipartisan support back in July 2021. It took Congress far too long, but they finally passed the legislation, dubbed the SECURE Act 2.0, in late December. It might not have the same level of impact as the original SECURE Act, but there are a significant number of changes. these include another delay to the RMD start date, increased Roth options, and much more. Chris has a summary of som...

Read More
Roof and chimney with smoke coming out of the chimney. Common chimney problems can cause issues during a home sale.

3 Common Chimney Issues That Arise During a Home Sale

Thanks to Clean Sweep for this episode of Tips from the Pros on common chimney issues that can come up during a home sale.

When you are preparing to help your buyers and sellers make any home transaction, the inspections are often one of the most important parts. If buyers find out about an issue that will take thousands of dollars to fix, it could compromise the entire sale. Scheduling a chimney inspection ahead of time is one way to avoid this. What are some of the most common chimney problems that can pop up as your sellers list their homes?

Creosote Accumulation

Creosote is a dangerous substance that naturally accumulates in chimneys as fires are lit. When creosote is present in a client’s chimney it does not necessarily mean that they did anything wrong...

Read More
Gift ideas for the gardener in your life

Holiday gift ideas for gardeners

Need a last-minute gift? Thanks to the University of Maryland/Maryland Grows for this blog. This article suggests holiday gift ideas for gardeners.

Can you hear them? Tiny little elves are softly singing carols. The holidays must be around the corner.

Need Gifts?

If you’re scratching your head for gift ideas for the gardeners in your life, the Master Gardeners and I can help. Here are a few suggestions to make smiles wider and green thumbs greener.

Tools are cool. Yes, we say we really don’t need yet another tool. We lie. Our eyes light up at the flash of steel and the smoothness of a wooden handle. 

A Hori Hori soil knife – a multipurpose tool with a serrated edge and slight curve that digs, plants, cuts, weeds, and more – is a perennial favorite.

Gift ideas for the gardener in your life like this Hori Hori knife.
Used here t...
Read More
A chimney with fire coming out it for the blog about preventing chimney fires

How to Prevent Chimney Fires

Thanks to Clean Sweep for this episode of Tips from the Pros on how to prevent chimney fires.

Every year in the United States, there are over 25,000 chimney fires. While not all of them lead to severe damage to the rest of the home, some of them leave people without a place to live at all. The good news is that there are many small ways that you can decrease the chances of having a chimney fire at your home.

What Leads to Chimney Fires?

Before you can prevent a chimney fire, it’s important to understand what the root causes of them are. One of the biggest causes is creosote accumulation. Creosote is a natural byproduct of using your chimney, although certain types of wood and behaviors can lead to more rapid accumulation...

Read More
Retirement planning: a calculator that says "retire" where the numbers should be, a nest with eggs that have dollar signs on them and pennies in the shape up an up arrow on top of some retirement paperwork.

Retirement Planning Beyond The Numbers

Thanks to L. K. Benson for sharing this blog about retirement planning.

Retirement Planning

Webster’s dictionary defines retirement as “a withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.” For generations past, that was probably a pretty accurate description of retirement. You worked hard, often for one company, got your gold watch, retirement dinner, and your pension, and then lived a life of leisure (typically not for too many years after retirement). 

But today, our perspective on retirement has changed dramatically. Most Americans no longer have a company pension to rely on in retirement. The average life expectancy for a male did not increase to over age 65 until the 1950s. Now it is close to age 80...

Read More

Get to Know Your Local Mantis

Thanks to the University of Maryland/Maryland Grows this informative article about getting to know your local mantis.

mantis you might find in your back yard
Carolina Mantis adult female in early autumn. Notice how her wings don’t reach the end of her abdomen, as they would with our other local mantids. Photo: M. Talabac

Q:  I’ve heard that not all of our praying mantis types are native. They’re all good for garden pest control though, right, or are some bad instead?

A:  Maryland is currently home to five species of praying mantis, but only one is native, which is the Carolina Mantis. The others are the European, Chinese, Narrow-winged, and Asian Jumping Mantids, with the latter being the most recent introduction...

Read More
A hand putting a piece of wood into a fire in a fireplace

Our Guide to Choosing the Best Wood for Your Fireplace

Thanks to Clean Sweep for this episode of Tips from the Pros about choosing the best wood for your fireplace.

Choosing the Best Wood

After you’ve scheduled your fall fireplace and chimney maintenance, your chimney will be clean and ready for warm evening fires and safely enjoying time with friends and family. However, the small choices that you make every day can impact how quickly dangerous creosote builds up. What wood should you choose for your fireplace?

You Must Use Dry, Seasoned Firewood

When you cut down a tree in the backyard, it’s tempting to immediately repurpose it as firewood. However, that is not a good idea. Because trees are living things, they contain up to 45% water immediately after being cut down...

Read More

What’s digging holes in the lawn?

Thanks to the University of Maryland/Maryland Grows this informative article about trying to figure out what’s digging holes in the lawn.

Damage in the yard

With the transition into the Fall season, I often find myself feeling a mixture of emotions. I feel relief, that another growing season is coming to an end; sadness, that it went too fast; and excitement for what the next year will bring! I am sure that our animal friends also sense the need to prepare for the changing seasons. As such, over the last few days, I’ve been seeing some damage happening in my yard from an uninvited guest! 

What's digging holes? A yard with holes from an unknown source
Holes were dug in the lawn recently. Photo: A. Bodkins

Can you guess what caused this digging of the grass? This occurred in two different areas of my lawn over the course of a week...

Read More
common home issues that Pop Up Every October

The Most Common Home Issues that Pop Up Every October

Thanks to Clean Sweep for this episode of Tips from the Pros about common home issues that pop up every October.

October is here and Spooky Season is about to officially kick-off. Unfortunately, our team is not certified to remove ghosts or ghouls from your home. But we can help in a variety of other ways! With that in mind, we’ve decided to outline a few of the most common issues around the house that seem to manifest around this time of year. If you’re currently struggling with any of the following issues, be sure to reach out to the Clean Sweep team for a rapid and thorough response!

Chimney Related Issues

  • Creosote. Did your fireplace get extensive usage last winter? If so, there is bound to be a buildup of creosote left behind...
Read More