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Trees

Trees can be a Wonderful Thing

 

Trees are a wonderful addition to any home because of the many benefits they offer.  The production of oxygen and shade, and of course the enhancement of the home’s aesthetic appeal.

 

If you have a small yard and are looking for the right tree for the job, a shade tree might be the best option for you to go with. An excellent shade tree can make your outdoor space feel 10-15 degrees cooler. This is what differentiates heat that can be tolerated from heat that is just miserable. Here are some of the recommended and best suited trees for Middle Tennessee.

Red Maple

Red Magic

Red Maples have smaller leaves than most maples, but they are a thick and full tree that can compete with the best trees for shade coverage. Although their leaves are smaller, red maples are one of the best shade trees. When fully matured they can reach heights of 65 feet, making it an excellent addition to any yard and providing beauty throughout the year. Because of the breathtaking display of dark and light reds that they put on in the autumn, the area is known as “Red Magic.”

Sugar Maple

The sugar maple is the most well-known and widespread member of the maple family. They are not only one of the best and easiest to care for shade trees you can get, but they are also well-known for their ability to produce delicious maple syrup. Sugar maples have the potential to grow to heights of more than 80 feet and can cast a shade of up to 60 feet, making them an excellent choice for the area around your deck or patio. They will take your breath away with their brilliant yellow, red, and orange tones during the fall season.

 

Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress Tree

This is the classic tree of the Southern swamps’ but can be planted in most Middle Tennessee homes with the right soil.  It can grow to a height of between 50 and 70 feet and has a spread of approximately 30 feet. Its natural growth form is a conical shape with horizontal branches. Because the bald cypress is a medium-sized tree that grows between 13 and 24 inches per year, you need to ensure that it has plenty of room to grow and spread out.

 

Weeping Willow

weeping willow

weeping willow

The weeping willow is one of the most regal-looking species of tree you will ever come across. It can reach a height of 30–40 feet and a width of 35–40 feet during its lifetime. At any point during the day, a canopy of shade is produced by the long, drooping branches of this tree. If you have a yard that is relatively large, you should consider planting this tree. Because of the potential for the tree’s roots to cause significant damage to nearby structures, you should take care not to plant this tree in a location that is too close to your house, pool, or septic tank. If you want to get rid of that pool of stagnant water that just won’t go away, planting weeping willows next to a pond is a good idea because they are native to wetland and swamp environments and grow naturally there.

 

Sycamore

When it reaches its full maturity, this colossal tree can reach a height of up to 100 feet. It produces fruit in the summer and fall, which draws in a large number of different kinds of wildlife, and it blooms with bright red flowers in the spring. The sycamore tree is a fast-growing species, capable of gaining up to 1 meter of height per year. The sycamore tree should be planted at a distance from other trees due to its height and rapid growth rate. It has the potential to become taller than most trees and consume all of the available sunlight.

Sycamore

Sycamore

 

Eastern White Pine

When fully mature, eastern white pines can reach heights of up to 80 feet and spread out to an incredible 40 feet across. This makes them one of the evergreens that are likely to grow to be the tallest in our recommendations. It does best in soils that are either acidic, moist, well-drained, or dry, as well as in full sun or partial shade. It has some drought tolerance, but you shouldn’t let it go for too long without getting a good watering. The needles of an Eastern white pine can grow to be as long as 5 inches and are distinguished by their length and slenderness. They have a natural tendency to grow in a pyramidal shape and are favored as a food source by a great variety of birds and other animals.

Eastern White Pine

Eastern White Pine

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

This is one of my favorites.  They prefer ‘dappled sun’ which is perfect for our yard with limited sunlight.  It’s bright red leaves give nice contract to the darker plants around it.

Littleleaf Boxwood

This little shrub grows leaves that are dense and oval-shaped all through the year. It is ideally suited for the climate of Tennessee, which allows it to thrive here. Littleleaf boxwoods thrive best in soil that is moist, cool, and well-drained.  It does well with pruning and does will require full sun. It is also resistant to damage caused by rabbits and deer. Small white flowers that bloom in the spring produce a scent that is fleeting but pleasant, and these flowers are a welcome sight.

 

 

There are several types of trees that are not well-suited to have in your yard for many reasons.  They include:

Bradford Pear Trees

In the spring, this gorgeous tree is covered in flowers but all of this beauty comes at a cost.  It smells like the putrid odor of rotting fish.

Black Walnut

The black walnut tree emits a chemical known as juglone, which causes some plants to die and deprives other plants of their nutrients. Because of this, the tree is an unwelcome neighbor for vegetable gardens, especially ones that contain potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes.

Norway Maple

This invasive species casts a thick shadow, which prevents other plant species from receiving the sufficient amount of sunlight they require. In addition to this, this tree has fibrous roots, which are capable of absorbing all of the nutrients in the soil before any other plant has the opportunity to feed.

Sweetgum Trees

Because of the tree’s unusually large surface roots, your home’s foundation may be in jeopardy if it remains in this location. Anything that is in close proximity to a sweetgum tree, including your lawn, pool, and patio, is at risk of being damaged.

 

There is a wealth of resources out there including

https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests.html

https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide

 

Red Maples

Red Maples

Spring is almost here!

Take some time after spring has arrived to give your home a thorough inspection as well as its annual spring cleaning. Including these home maintenance recommendations in your daily routine will help your home run more smoothly.

Check your Air Conditioning

Have a professional HVAC contractor come out and perform a tune-up on your air conditioning system. You should do this once a year to ensure the system is operating at its manufacturer-rated efficiency, which can help you save money on your energy costs and keep you cooler on those soon-to-be-here hot Tennessee days. Check the condensate drain hose on your system as well, since we live in a humid region. Mine becomes blocked with algae and debris and I have to clean it regularly.  You can save money by inspecting the hose yourself on a regular basis. Try to flush any debris out then suction any remaining obstruction with a wet-vac.

Roofs And Gutters

Because the strong Middle Tennessee Summer heat may quickly destroy shingles on a roof, you should call a contractor if you haven’t inspected it in several years.  You can take a look from the ground or at gutter level for any loose shingles or screws. Remove any leaves or other material that has accumulated on them or in your gutters. There are many ‘gutter cover’ companies.  I did get a quote from one once; then went to my local hardware store and bought and installed them myself.  This just depends on your comport level on a ladder.  Double-check to verify if your gutters are securely secured and free of leaks.  Look at the fascias and trim. To avoid a potential basement flood, make sure that downspouts guide water away at least six feet from the house’s foundation.

Remember your Foundation

Before the spring rains arrive, inspect the foundation around your home to ensure that your basement is adequately protected. Remove any leaves that may be around it.  Look for cracks or defects and seal them or, if required, get a contractor to fix these issues. In addition, search for low spots in the yard near the foundation that could collect water during a severe downpour. Fill up the depressions in your yard with compacted earth to make them level. Keep an eye out for any additional “ponding” spots in your yard, as well, because standing water might form after a very heavy rain. Mosquitoes can spawn in these pools, making them a breeding site.  This will also make your Summer more enjoyable.

Exterior Tips

Check your outside faucets for freeze damage.  Make sure your window screens have no damage, and rechaulk doors and windows if necessary.  We have a lot of squirrels in Middle Tennessee so make sure all house entry points are sealed. Now’s a great time to make sure your lawn mower is running; better to get it into the shop now instead of when everyone needs repairs.  Spring is also a great time to think about planting trees.  Last year we got a bunch and planted them around the property.  Check out https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/seedlings.html

Decks

If you have a patio deck, look for stains, discolorations, or warping in the wood before using it. If you discover any, you may want to consider resealing the deck.  For confirmation that your old treatment is still functional, pour some water onto a dry deck and watch to see whether it beads up in any way. Generally speaking, deck-sealer manufacturers recommend that you reseal your deck once a year; I do mine every other year. If there are no obvious problems that need to be addressed, you may likely wait until the next spring to reseal. Examine the wood for any sharp edges, splintered wood, or rotten wood before proceeding. In addition, search for rusted nails or screws, or any that are coming loose or causing their connections to weaken or come loose. Inspect the deck posts for any signs of decay.  Also, make sure that the railings and steps are secure and not shaky before you start using the space.

Don’t Forget Inside Safety

Spring is a good time to check your smoke detectors and Fire Extinguishers.  We have all heard that your smoke detector batteries should be changed twice a year but did you know your home fire extinguishers should be checked at least monthly.  Spring is a great time to make sure they are okay.

 

These simple steps will help you and your home enjoy the cool Middle Tennessee Spring weather.

 

Attic Door Frame

 

 

Recently I inspected a property in Coffee County, TN with a newly installed attic hatch. At Middle Tennessee Inspections we always take a lot of InfraRed (IR) pictures and I’m glad I did here. The attic was insulated, but the door was not. It lacked a ‘weatherstrip

Attic Door IR

Attic Door using IR Camera

ping seal’ to close up the gap between the door and the frame. A quick trip to Lowes or Home Depot might save a lot of money for the homeowner.

Attic hatches have a hidden issue in that they may look to be in good working order but actually still leak a lot of energy. Even if the woodwork and paint on an attic hatch are immaculate, it can still be a gigantic heat leak. Although your attic is probably insulated, there’s a strong possibility your entrance hatch isn’t.  In the Summer, it will radiate heat into the home, and in the Winter, it will release heat and let warm air out. Despite the fact that attic hatches can be the source of massive air leaks and radiant heat loss, they are rarely repaired.

Here are two suggestions for saving energy and you some money. Increase the thickness of the insulation on and around the door itself. Then, and this is frequently the most important step, close the space between the door and the hatch to prevent air flow and heat loss. For this example, we’ll utilize a standard plywood hatch with finish molding over the rough-cut hole.

Fiberglass insulation on the top of the door will help, but a better long-term option is to construct a box out of solid insulation that fits over the framed opening of the door, as well as any folded steps if you have them. Rigid insulation is more effective than fiberglass in terms of sealing the box. Plus, when you open the hatch, none of that fiberglass will fall into your house. There are commercially available alternatives. For attic stair insulation, your local hardware store has everything from ready-made reflective foil tents to complex covers manufactured from thick expanded polystyrene (EPS).  You can also readily purchase pre-cut kits at hardware stores or on-line. They come in a number of sizes to fit a variety of attic door styles. Over time, that initial investment will save you a lot of money.

The weather-stripping on the hatches is frequently missing or insufficient. Even if it was fitted, there’s a good chance it’s been damaged as a result of use over time. When they dry out, they lose their effectiveness as well. Examine the weatherstripping and gaskets surrounding your attic hatch’s opening. If they appear to be damaged or dried out you should consider replacing them. It’s possible that they’ll simply rip away from the frame but if the weatherstripping was fastened with nails or screws, simply pull them out with a screwdriver or plyers.  A wire cutter works to remove all of the fasteners as well.  Two inch wood stays should be installed all the way around the opening if the attic hatch sits directly on the molding. These stops allow you to apply fresh weatherstripping with more ease. Hook and loop fasteners are a great idea to secure your door and hold it close to the weatherstripping.

After removing the old weatherstripping, or if there was none to begin with, you’re ready to install new weatherstripping. Cut it to fit snuggly on all four sides along the bottom edge of the trim as well as the other three edges. It’s much easier to use self-adhesive weatherstripping.  When finished, completely close the door/hatch and press down on the gasket to create a complete seal.

Let the engineers and inspectors at Middle Tennessee Inspections assist you in minimizing your heating bills. We have the experience, knowledge, and equipment necessary to quickly diagnose problems and save you money.

Attic Door Frame

Attic Door Frame with no Weatherstripping