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Kitchens Often Top Location for Home Fires

October 16, 2013 3:06 am

Cooking is the No. 1 cause of home fires, and a significant contributor to home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Pella Windows and Doors encourages consumers to develop and discuss their home fire safety escape plan, and talk with their families about window and door safety.

"Children practice fire drills at school, and adults practice them in the workplace, but many families have not practiced a fire escape plan in their homes," said Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella spokesperson and fire safety educator. "Make the time to help protect your loved ones. Consider what you can do to observe fire safety, as well as window and door safety."

Consumers should practice home safety year-round:

Identify, Prepare, Practice
Evaluate fire safety risks inside your home and immediate surroundings. Equip your garage with smoke detectors since garage fires can start and spread quickly. Also, properly extinguish fire in indoor fireplaces or outdoor fire settings like grills or fire pits to help prevent the risk of fire spreading around your home or elsewhere. Check for local burn ban ordinances and follow them.

Identify two exits - Designate two exits from every room in your home - a door and a window. Make sure doors and windows open quickly and easily to help ensure a quick exit; if not, consider replacing them for safety's sake.

Have a plan – Draw a floor plan of each level of your home. Before an emergency strikes, establish and communicate a meeting place a safe distance outside your home for your household members to gather in the event of a fire.

Check the alarms - Install working smoke alarms in or near every sleeping area and on every level in your home. Test alarms monthly, change batteries regularly, and every 10 years replace alarms not permanently wired into your home's electrical system.

Make smart purchases - Keep fire extinguishers in your home. If your home includes more than one story, consider keeping a fire escape ladder in bedrooms and sleeping areas to help prepare for an exit from an upper story in the event of an emergency. Mark their location on your home fire plan and share this information with those in your home. Since many fires start in the kitchen, keep a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen.

Test the alarm - Sound smoke alarms when household members are awake so everyone knows what they sound like, and test your family's ability to awaken to alarms during sleeping hours. If those in your home don't awaken easily, assign someone to awaken sound sleepers in the event of an emergency.

Practice makes perfect - Practice your home fire escape plan with everyone in your home at least twice a year. Practice your plan first in the daytime, to familiarize everyone in your home with what to do in the event of a fire, and then at night, when most home fires occur.

Fire safety especially critical during drought
-Keep grass cut short around your home and property
-Remove dried leaves and other potentially flammable debris
-Clear debris from your home's gutters
-Trim and remove dead plant material, like trees and shrubs, from your landscaping
-Observe burn bans and refrain from starting outdoor fires, including campfires, fire pits and grills with exposed embers

Source: Pella

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pumpkin Pulp Not Plumbing Friendly, Avoid Halloween Havoc

October 16, 2013 3:06 am

Every year, more than one billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in America – many of which are carved into jack-o'-lanterns each Halloween. That's a lot of leftover pulp. In addition to creating their own jack-o'-lanterns this year, plumbers from Death Valley, California to Salem, Massachusetts will spend many brisk fall days removing gobs of pulp and seeds from clogged drains before the end of the Halloween season.

Local plumbers have become as common a Halloween visitor as little vampires or ghosts thanks to sticky pumpkin pulp and seeds. In the two weeks leading up to Halloween, calls from frantic homeowners struggling with pulp-clogged garbage disposals and stopped-up kitchen sink drains ring in to local offices faster than the Halloween candy dishes empty.

Jack-o'-lantern carvers should know that pumpkin pulp should never be put down drains or into garbage disposals. The slimy gunk is ideal for clogging sink drains.

"People think that it's safe for disposals because it's soft, stringy and mushy. The problem is that pulp will dry and harden, choking off drainpipes and garbage disposals and creating all sorts of havoc," said Larry Rothman, plumbing director for Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service.

"For several years we've spread the word that carving pumpkins in the sink is a very bad idea," he added. "People assume when they shove the pulp down kitchen sink drain that it's gone, but in a little while the sink usually stops draining altogether." Rothman says it's also worth noting that Roto-Rooter gets several calls about pumpkin guts flushed down the toilet, usually with similar clog-causing results. "The toilet is not a better option. It just means the clog forms deeper into the pipe."

To prevent Halloween drain disasters, carve pumpkins on a bed of newspaper. Then carvers should wrap up the mess and throw all pumpkin-related materials into the garbage can or a compost pile. The seeds can be separated and roasted for a tasty treat or they can be air-dried and planted in the spring after the last frost to grow next year's Halloween pumpkin.

Source: Roto-Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Tackling Pesky Procrastination

October 15, 2013 3:06 am

For many Americans, it's hard to get motivated and complete tasks after a full day or week of work. From picking up and organizing your home, to washing your car and mowing the lawn, growing to-do lists can quickly become overwhelming. Rather than allowing procrastination to cripple you, here are a few tips to tackle your projects and check off those important chores:

1. Making lists is an often overlooked first step, but will help immensely. By seeing all of the tasks that need to be done, you can better determine when and how to complete each one without forgetting anything important. Prioritize the list if necessary, leaving longer projects for the weekends and shorter ones for during the week.

2. Get a monthly calendar to help you keep track of important tasks and dates. If supplies are necessary to purchase, find time during the week to stop at the store around your other professional and social responsibilities. You can't complete a task without having the right materials.

3. On busier days, accomplish even the smallest task. On nights when you really don't feel like it, push yourself to do even the simplest house chore. Is laundry backing up? Throw a load in while watching some TV. Do you need to switch out your seasonal clothes from the basement or attic? Get it done! Your feelings of productivity and accomplishment will only snowball and motivate you to do more as the week continues.

4. Give yourself breaks and rewards while working on overly lengthy projects. Don't break your back, literally and figuratively. After completion of a major job, reward yourself with a day off. Just because you're trying to avoid procrastination doesn't mean that every day's schedule must be filled.

5. People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. Your lists and calendars are a great start, but further planning is usually necessary. Do you need help from a friend? Do you need to borrow a tool? Does a job need to be completed during a specific period of a specific day? Over planning never hurts anyone and will propel you further on your quest to avoid procrastination.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Simple Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter

October 15, 2013 3:06 am

With autumn in full swing, now is the perfect time to prepare your home for the grueling winter months that lay ahead. With the increasing prices of oil, gas and electricity, winter heating bills are sure to be on the rise. Although we can't control these pricing factors, we can control a few things around the home to make sure we're conserving as much as possible. By following these simple tips, you can be sure to keep your bill low and house warm.

Installing a door sweep is a great way to ensure that the cold winter air stays out and that your warm heated air stays in. Don't neglect the space under your doors. If you aren't certain, get down on the floor and check for a gap. A door sweep will fill the space nicely and stop energy loss from occurring.

Installing electric outlet sealers can also save you money this winter. Cold air can sometimes be found coming in through electrical outlets on exterior walls. By buying inexpensive electrical sealers, you can further protect yourself from the weather in a matter of minutes. It's cheap and easy, and can gain you some additional savings on your bill.

Continue sealing your home by caulking around doors, windows and baseboards. This will catch leaks that you can't even see. Turn off all of the fans in the house and carefully move a lit candle around the windows, doors and floorboards. If the candle flickers, you know you have a leak. By spending $10-20 on caulk, you'll again save yourself lots of money on winter utility bills.

Fill cracks and holes with spray foam. Numerous holes are cut through your house in order to allow your utilities to enter your home. Many of these spots may have been cheaply insulated or have weathered over the years. By filling them in with spray foam, you are providing yourself with bonus insulation for a meager $5 cost.

Change your furnace filter because a dirty filter will cost you money. By blocking the air flow, a dirty furnace filter forces the blower to work harder to push air throughout the home. A clean filter will allow it to flow freely. Check your filter at least once a month and change it at least once every 90 days. If you’re not sure if you should replace the filter, hold it up to a light. If you can't see much light coming through, then it's time to be replaced.

Service your furnace every year before you turn it on to make sure it's in top operating condition. Regular servicing will also take care of smaller problems before they become bigger ones. Dust buildup and corrosion will weaken your furnace's power, while improper ventilation could allow carbon monoxide into your home, making it imperative that you regularly service your furnace.

A programmable thermostat can save you money year-round. Program it to keep your home at the temperature you desire while you're home and awake, and drop it when you're sleeping or at work. Choosing the right times to lower the heat is crucial toward saving on your bill.
Insulate your water heater if your heater is more than 10 years old. Older heaters are likely to not have enough insulation. By wrapping an insulation blanket around it, you'll lose less heat and the heater won't have to work as hard to keep water hot. A $20 investment will pay for itself in no time.

By heeding these tips for winter preparation, you will be absolutely sure that your home is well insulated and that you aren't wasting your money on pricey utility bills.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Most Common Fall Home Improvements for Homeowners This Season

October 15, 2013 3:06 am

With over half of all homeowners planning to make some type of improvement to their home this year, the question is, what exactly are they changing? Homeowners are choosing to wait until the high temperatures break and cooler weather hits to begin outdoor work, and home improvement companies are looking to unload new products to prepare for the new season, allowing homeowners to grab some great deals as autumn begins.

The most common fall home improvement projects include fencing, interior and exterior painting, window work, flooring, and roof repair, all of which are in preparation for the cold winter weather when home improvement projects are not at the top of your priority list. By getting these projects done before winter, you can put your home improvement projects to rest until spring without worrying about leaky roofs, cold air coming through cracks in the windows, and maintaining the value of your home with fencing and a fresh coat of paint.

"The cooler autumn temperatures make for the perfect time to focus more on the home and any remodeling projects," said Jeremy Floyd of Fence Center. "Such projects like adding in bamboo or aluminum fencing, not only increases your family's security, but the value of your home. Now that autumn is officially here, people are likely beginning to get these home improvement projects rolling."

According to Floyd:

• Projects such as flooring, such as wood, can only be done during certain months of the year because certain types of flooring employ adhesives that need temperatures inside the home to be within a certain range, usually between 70 and 80 degrees. Attempting to employ these types of flooring in the winter can make it difficult for the flooring to dry and bond, which will prove problematic down the road.
• Fall offers the perfect time to increase the security of your home, particularly for fencing, as the ground is not too hard to work with.
• Painting provides a pungent scent and sometimes toxic fumes, making fall the perfect time for painting. Without the humidity, paint can dry quickly, keeping the aromas of the paint to a minimum.

Source: Fence Center

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Avoiding and Handling Fire Emergencies

October 14, 2013 3:06 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), on average, seven people in the U.S. die every day in house fires. In 2011, fire departments responded to 370,000 home fires, resulting in $6.9 billion in damage. With Fire Prevention Week underway, the experts from Rave Mobile Safety, creators of the national public safety service Smart911, are offering the following tips to help individuals and families prevent and handle fire related emergencies.

• Cook with Care: Cooking is the foremost cause of home fires and unattended cooking is the leading culprit. Stay in the kitchen when frying, broiling and grilling. Use a timer as a reminder that a stove is on, and if you need to leave—even briefly—turn the appliance off. Don't put things that can catch fire on a stovetop, including wooden utensils, oven mitts and food packaging, and keep curtains away. Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Have a lid on hand to smother small grease fires, and if there's an oven fire, turn it off and keep the door shut. Don't try to fight larger, uncontrollable fires - leave the premises, shut the door to contain it and call 9-1-1.

• Candle Caution: The NFPA notes that, on average, home fires caused by a candle are reported every 40 minutes. More than one-third of these fires start in the bedroom, half of them when potentially flammable items are placed close to a candle. Always use candle holders that won't tip over, and, extinguish the flame before it burns down and gets too close to the holder. Keep candles on uncluttered surfaces and never leave them unattended or in the care of children. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and never light them if medical oxygen is used in a home.

• Where There's Smoke, There's Fire: The leading cause of fire deaths are smoking materials. If you smoke, smoke outside. Remain alert; never smoke in bed and be aware that medicine, drugs and alcohol can make a person drowsy. Keep cigarettes, lighters and matches out of reach of children. Dispose of cigarettes properly by dousing them with water or sand.

• Heat Risks: Fires from heating sources pose risks, particularly during winter months. As a general rule, keep anything that can burn a minimum of three feet from these sources. Children should also be kept the same distance away. An oven should never be used for heating purposes and always turn portable heating devices off before going to bed or leaving the house.

• Be Proactive, Plan & Practice: Do a proactive safety check of your residence. Test the function and batteries of smoke alarms. Make sure outlets are not overloaded with multiple plug-extenders or extension cords. Look at electrical wires and cords on appliances, devices, lamps, etc. to ensure they're not damaged or worn. Develop and practice a fire-escape plan, marking two ways out of each room, such as a door and a window. Select a spot outside and in front of a residence where all family members should meet in the event of a fire. Also, discuss fire dos and don'ts, including never exiting a door if it feels hot and staying low to avoid smoke inhalation.

Source: http://www.ravemobilesafety.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Celebrate Pizza: Fun, Easy Ways to Enjoy a Family Favorite

October 14, 2013 3:06 am

(Family Features) Pizza is one of America’s favorite foods, as it is easy to prepare and fun to share. Families are often looking for ways to enjoy this tasty dish and still feel good about staying on track with enjoyable, mindful eating.

With the help of the Nestlé Pizza Portion Guide, you can feel even better about serving this family favorite.

“It’s all about how much you eat and what else you eat with it,” says registered dietitian Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D., author of “The Portion Teller Plan.”

It’s easy as pizza pie
While assisting in the creation of the new Pizza Portion Guide, one of Young’s goals was to help people “legalize” pizza in their mind, while helping them stay committed to a balanced diet.

“One of the best ways to do this is to be mindful of portion size,” says Young. “When you learn ways to eat what you love in appropriate portions, you can continue to enjoy your favorite foods (in appropriate portions) and keep your meals enjoyable and your eating plan on track.”

Pizza is what’s called a mixed dish, combining several food groups such as proteins, vegetables and grains all in one slice. By pairing pizza with nutritious side dishes, such as steamed vegetables and fruit salad, you create a complete meal.

For a mindful approach to enjoying pizza, Young recommends these tips:

• Top it your way: Select your favorite kind of pizza. Consider adding your own various vegetable toppings.
• Nutrition facts check: Read the nutrition facts label on packaged pizza you prepare at home (shown per “serving size”).
• Show of hands: Portion size can be based on what you have eaten in a day or what you plan to eat. One fun way to determine the best portion size of pizza is to picture your hand as a pizza slice. Plan to enjoy only one or two hands’ worth. A child or small woman’s hand is smaller, and so are their portions.
• A side of healthy, please: Fill half of your plate with a salad, steamed or roasted mixed vegetables and seasonal fruit for a complete meal.
• Savor your selection: Enjoy your selection knowing you are eating your favorite foods in the right amount for you. You’ll leave the table fully satisfied, but not overly full.

Family pizza night
Celebrate this family favorite with a pizza night. Young recommends keeping the night fun by allowing family members an active role in crafting pizza portions tailored to their tastes and needs. Mix and match the following possibilities for a fun and flavorful pizza night:

• Line up small bowls, each filled with different toppings to bring color and variety to pizza.
• For a fun and unique choice, add in pineapple, strawberries or blueberries.
• Add canned beans, cooked chicken, turkey or shrimp to cheese pizza for more protein.
• Pizza can be excellent for leftovers. Keep your pizza crispy and bubbly by reheating in a large skillet, toaster oven, oven or grill, instead of the microwave.

Source: nestleusa

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Finding a Builder for Your New Home: Hire a Professional

October 14, 2013 3:06 am

Contracting the right builder is a critical first step in the construction process of your dream home. Some homeowners liken it to hiring an employee, while others compare the experience to a marriage—you have to spend a lot of time together, make a lot of big decisions and ultimately trust each other to build something that lasts.

“This is the biggest purchase you make, period,” new homeowner Amy Greene said.

Don Ghiz also has recent experience in hiring a contractor. He’s in the middle of a construction project and said he spoke to several candidates before making his selection.

Before picking a contractor, Ghiz evaluated a number of builders based on their level of experience, competency, style of house they were comfortable building, method of accounting, communication skills and willingness to stay positive.

Following is some helpful advice on what to look for when choosing a builder:

1. Ask for recommendations. Greene said she found her builder by asking her friends. Having a recommendation helps. “I’d definitely do my homework and look at a lot of custom builders,” she said. “Then go look at their houses and spend time talking with them.”

Get to know the builder. Get to know who they are and what they stand for – are they passionate about building homes or are they all about the money?

2. Get lost in the details. Greene said that her builder’s detailed bid sealed the deal for her. She explained that costs can go up if builders do not give all the information up front.

“Without details, prices can skyrocket,” Greene said. “You want a builder who has a really good idea of what things will cost.”

Ghiz noted that customers need to assess the builders’ choice of quality materials and be assured that contractors will not cut corners to save expenses without discussing the options.

“In my case, I looked for a builder with genuine concern that I get what I want at a fair price,” he said. “I looked for a person who would say, with honesty, ‘I don’t think you’ll like that, and here’s my reason for saying it.’”

3. Talk it out. As in any good relationship, communication is key. Greene and her builder spent hours talking before they began to work together, discussing every detail of the project in full before starting construction.

4. Trust your instincts – and back it up. For Ghiz, it all came down to trust.

“When all is said and done, your builder will spend many months on what you may live in for the rest of your life, so consider the choices carefully and don’t ignore your gut,” he said.

5. Use your resources. If you aren’t sure of something, don’t hesitate to seek advice from others or get a second opinion.

Source: The Custom Builders Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Updated Appliances Go a Long Way Toward Attracting Prospective Buyers

October 11, 2013 6:09 pm

From upping a property’s curb appeal to decluttering the space and staging it to attract a wide range of prospective buyers, preparing a home to be listed on the market can be a time-consuming process. However, if you’re in the early stages of preparing for a sale, it’s crucial that you take the time to ensure that the major appliances within the home are in good, working condition.

This may mean replacing appliances before even putting your house on the market. A good rule of thumb is to update any kitchen appliances that are more than 10 years old—especially if they do not offer energy-savings. You don’t need to buy the most expensive appliances available, but new ones will always make a better impression among prospective buyers than outdated ones.

When it comes to replacing appliances, replacing just one can do more damage than good. For instance, if you bring in a new dishwasher, that old oven is going to be an eyesore. Therefore, if you only have the money to buy one new appliance, most agents recommend going with a new refrigerator.

If you’re thinking about updating any of the appliances within your home, be sure to consider the cost of the house when making decisions, as the price of appliances should be in line with current comparables. For example, a $200,000 home would not necessarily warrant a Sub-Zero refrigerator, while a million dollar home should not have a lower-end dishwasher and range.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most buyers have a fondness for stainless steel kitchen appliances, so if you’re going to upgrade, you should consider incorporating these types of appliances into your home. If you choose to go with a specific color instead, try to match everything and create a unified look in order to maximize eye-appeal. In the end, selling your home is all about getting potential buyers to become emotionally attached, which may prove to be more difficult with non-functioning and/or mismatched kitchen appliances.

While some say that bringing in new appliances is a waste of money because more often than not buyers have their own vision and plans for the kitchen, it doesn’t hurt to take one thing off their to-do list.

In the end, a small investment of a couple thousand dollars—or even less—on appliances can do wonders in creating a kitchen that house hunters will clamor over. New appliances can make an older kitchen fresh and exciting and can even distract from cabinets, floors and tiling that might be unattractive and ancient.

To learn more about the benefits of incorporating new appliances into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pros and Cons of Selling during the Holidays

October 11, 2013 6:09 pm

The holiday season is right around the corner, and with it comes the age-old debate about whether or not it’s a good idea to try and sell your home between now and the end of the year. While some real estate professionals believe the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is too busy for people to concentrate on house hunting, others are adamant that those looking to buy during the holiday season tend to be more serious and more likely to make a decision quickly.

If your house is priced right and fits what a buyer is looking for, there will be a market for it no matter what time of year it is, holidays included. Plus, thanks to the Internet, buyers can still look at properties while holiday shopping or attending parties, so the time element isn’t as much in play as in the past.

One plus of keeping a home on the market throughout the holidays is that people who relocate for jobs often do so in January, so November and December become important house hunting months for them, especially since they may have more time off to look at homes in person.

People may also want to take advantage of the tax benefits that come from buying a home, and purchasing in December is a great way to do so.

Holiday decorations also go a long way toward creating a festive elegance that will work in your favor when it comes to attracting buyers, invoking the holiday spirit that may compel someone to buy.

On the other hand, one downside for sellers is that with parties, decorating, cooking and buying presents, the last thing you want to worry about is getting your house ready if you need to make it available for a showing.

Another reason to consider taking your house off the market during the holidays is that if your home doesn’t sell, the all important days on market number will continue to tick away while your home loses the luster of being a new listing. However, it can come back on the market in January as a new listing, making it more attractive to house hunters. Of course, you’ll also be competing against a slew of other homes that waited until the holidays were over to hit the market.

In the end, it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong answer, but you should discuss both scenarios with your agent and choose the option that makes the most sense for you.

For more information about selling during the holiday season, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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