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Tips on Returning Home After the Hurricane

August 28, 2012 3:12 am

Once a storm has come and gone, it's necessary to continue showing caution even when returning to one's home. With some dangerous storms on the bound, here are a few tips to think about this season following a severe storm such as a hurricane.

Once residents have evacuated, it is important to remain in those secure locations until thestorm has passed, and even then, an immediate return is discouraged. Many areas will be severely damaged and actively dangerous to enter. It is recommended that residents and business owners wait until the all-clear has been given by emergency management officials before any attempt is made to return to the property.

Once back, it is imperative to take note of the structure and the condition it is in, as well as the condition of the surrounding buildings and land. In many cases, a home or business may have been severely weakened from wind and water damage, making the structure prone to collapse. Under no circumstances should any building be entered until structural integrity has been verified.

Residents should also beware of any downed power lines in the immediate vicinity and report all such lines to the authorities. Do not attempt to touch or move these power lines as any such attempt may result in serious injury or death due to electric shock. Even using nonconductive materials, such as wooden sticks, may pose the risk of injury if the stick is wet.

Power may also be knocked out as a result of the storm. If the power was not already shut off in the structure, it should be shut off at this time. The power will eventually come back on, and the homeowner does not want that to happen if they or any other people are standing in or working in standing water. Gas supplies should similarly be shut off, and all utilities should remain shut down until approved by their respective technicians.

Source: Restoration Local

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips to Curb Excessive Spending for American Consumers

August 27, 2012 3:12 am

According to the Federal Reserve, U.S. consumers owe a collective $870 in debt and a lot of the money owed comes from credit card debt. Especially at a time where the economy is on the way to recovery, Americans are currently deeper in credit card debt than just one year ago—although delinquent accounts are down, a good sign for consumers’ credit reports and their personal finances. Although millions of personal finance books are sold each year to help curb overspending, many times it comes down to the consumer actually being in the aisle of a store and not being able to say no.

In fact, it’s often impulse buys that add up and tend to go on credit cards. Many are surprised when they discover how much they spend on eating out on the run, or racking up expensive bills when they just wanted to buy one thing. One of the biggest questions consumers should ask themselves when shopping is whether or not they can afford the purchase. Just because there is money in a bank account doesn’t mean it is free for spending. You might have a nice bank balance, but if all of your money is obligated to other bills, it doesn’t mean that you can necessarily afford to make a purchase. Live on a budget and know how much you can afford to spend on a given category in a given month.

Consumers are strongly urged to keep a monthly budget to track income and spending habits. This budget is probably the single best tool to manage personal finances. Track your spending habits for one month and you will see some spending that will shock you. It may bring other spending habits to light and cause you to make some big changes to your monthly expenses. You won’t know how much you’ve got to play with or save if you’re not keeping track of where it’s all going, and how much is left.
Other tips include asking yourself if you’re getting the best deal, and what would you be giving up by spending this money. For instance, if a sum of money has been set aside for something special, such as a down payment on a new car or a luxury vacation, one may be less likely to dip into that pot and spend frivolously.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hurricane and Tropical Storm Preparedness Tips

August 27, 2012 3:12 am

The 2012 hurricane season has already seen significant storm activity. So far this year we have already encountered eight named storms. Even now, more formations are occurring which may fully develop into storms before the season’s end.

One of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history occurred in late August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Katrina spanned approximately 200 miles with wind speeds topping out at nearly 150 miles per hour. By the time Hurricane Katrina made landfall it had lost some of its intensity and was downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 Hurricane, but the storm still produced catastrophic levels of torrential rain, severe weather and a 25-foot plus storm surge that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast.

Experts describe a hurricane as a severe tropical storm with a circular motion that forms in the warmth of the southernmost waters such as the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes can cause massive amounts of damage with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour, storm surges, tornadoes and flooding due to heavy rainfall.

Here are some tips that can help individuals and families prepare for dangerous hurricanes and other types of severe weather:

• Be prepared: Formulating an emergency plan now is of utmost importance. Waiting for an emergency or the threat of dangerous weather to decide a course of action is a serious mistake.
• Find the best local sources of important information: Maintaining access to radio, news, and websites is important to stay informed throughout any severe weather event.
• Be aware of one’s surroundings and intimately familiar with property, neighborhood, any flood-prone areas, damns, levees, etc. A community can potentially be devastated by severe weather to the degree where even a longtime resident may not recognize or be able to navigate through it without the usual landmarks.
• Having a plan and providing enough time to secure all property is important. This should include securing items such as patio furniture, barbeque grills, garbage cans, decorative lawn ornaments and other items.
• Keeping trees trimmed to lower the risk of wind damage is a good idea.
• Keeping gutters and downspouts clear and maintained to keep water flowing through the proper channels can help avoid wall and ceiling water damage.
• Covering all windows to prevent the glass from shattering is important. The recommended method includes use of storm shutters or 5/8” marine grade plywood.
• Knowing the local Coastal Evacuation Route and/or designated escape plan for the local community should be a focus before the storm hits. In the event of a hurried evacuation, avoiding flood-prone roads and bridges is important.
• Identifying important documents, heirlooms and personal belongings is a smart precaution. Placing them in a safe, easily accessible area inside a protective container for transportation in the event of an evacuation will help save crucial time.
• Ensuring that appropriate insurance coverage has been purchased in the event of future disasters is always something to seriously consider for those in storm prone areas.

Hurricanes are very real threats that have the potential to cause catastrophic damage not only to home and property, but to entire communities. The importance of preparedness cannot be overstated.
Remember that no belongings are important enough to take unnecessary risks for and always follow the instructions of emergency management officials in order to optimize the chances of staying safe.

Source: All Hands Fire Equipment

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save on Utility Bills, Increase Home Value by Winterizing Windows

August 27, 2012 3:12 am

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, winterizing home windows can save up to 10 percent on energy bills right away, and replacing those inefficient windows can save up to 25 percent.

Most heat escapes through gaps around windows. Failed sealant, gaps between the trim and the window, and bad window seals are the most likely culprits. With cracked caulk and missing sealant, a home becomes inefficient and may provide an entrance for bugs.

After finding the gaps, temporarily fix the leaks with caulk or weather stripping. For older windows that remain unopened, weather stripping can prevent leaks. (Hint: Be sure to measure the perimeter of the window and add at least 10 percent to account for overlap.)

For windows that open, do-it-yourselfers can replace the caulk themselves. Caulk does not completely seal the window, but it restricts air flow until the homeowner invests in a more permanent solution. After replacing the caulk, paint over it to complete the seal and protect the caulk. Caulking should be done annually.

Permanently fix drafts and increase home value with replacement windows. The most energy-efficient replacement window is made of insulated glass. Insulated glass units are multiple-pane windows with insulating gas between the panes. Thanks to the added insulation, insulated glass units reduce heat gain in the summer, and in the winter reduce heat loss. Plus, the energy savings pay for the windows over time.

For homes already equipped with insulated glass units, check for condensation between the panes. The “foggy” look of the windows indicates an insulation problem. Full-service glass shops can repair or replace bad units to restore your home’s energy efficiency.

Source: Glass Doctor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Time-Saving Cleaning Tips for Busy Moms

August 24, 2012 3:06 am

It's no surprise that mothers make compromises every day. A recent survey of 1,000 American moms by Green Works naturally derived cleaners revealed that 57 percent admit to turning down bedroom time with their mate to clean the house. This number soars to 74 percent for new moms.

In addition, the survey found that moms don't get to take breaks for special occasions. In fact, half of all moms reported cleaning the kitchen after a special meal on their own birthday and even Mother's Day. Thirty-six percent of new moms reported cleaning up the mess on their first Mother's Day.

When it comes to keeping a clean home, moms will also compromise plans with friends. Half of the moms surveyed admitted to turning down time with pals to do laundry, and 64 percent responded that they have cancelled fun activities in order to clean. Even with all of these cleaning compromises, 90 percent still admit to feeling guilty for taking time for themselves.

To help busy moms keep the house cleaning manageable, while making time for the people and activities they most enjoy, Amanda Mahan, creative director for Green Works, offers the following tips:

Five minutes to clean laundry

• Take a few seconds to spot treat tough stains.
• Don't sort laundry before throwing it into the washer. Simply leave out garments that are likely to bleed and use the coldest water setting on the rest.
• Use the shortest wash cycle, then treat your load to an extra spin cycle. This will wick away extra moisture and cut down on drying time.
• If you have kids old enough to hit the mall, it's time for them to start pitching in. Assign specific tasks, such as sorting or folding.

Five minutes to a clean bathroom

• Stash stray items in cupboard organizers for easy sorting.
• Use a gentle cleaning wipe that is naturally derived, yet packs a punch, such as the compostable Green Works wipes, to quickly give the mirror, countertop, faucet and sink a good once-over.
• Shake out the bathmat and use a few squares of toilet paper to wipe the floor.
• Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the toilet seat. Spray the inside with cleaner, and flush.
• Lastly, throw out the trash.

Five minutes to a clean kitchen

• Stow away bulky appliances, pots and pans.
• Recycle old newspapers and take out smelly trash.
• Stick dirty dishes in the dishwasher or fill the sink with soapy water and submerge dishes into hiding.
• Hit hot spots with an old T-shirt and all-purpose cleaner, wiping down fridge door, counter, stove top and sink.
• Do a quick sweep of the floor.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Insulating Water Lines: Preventive Maintenance

August 24, 2012 3:06 am

Insulating water lines does not stop them from freezing, though it will delay the inevitable. The logic of insulating water lines is based on the hope that you can out wait the cold long enough for warmer temperatures to prevail–for example–when temperatures fall below freezing at night, but rise above freezing during the day when the sun comes out.

There are two materials that can be used to insulate water lines. Wrap them with fiberglass insulation or snap on split-foam insulation. Those serious about insulating water lines, the snap-on foam, the thicker the better, should be used. Some varieties come with a peel-off backing that exposes a self-adhesive strip on the edges, sticking the edges together. Absent the self-adhesive, duct tape must be used on the edges at intervals along its entire length.

Here are a few tips to help you get started on insulating your water lines:

Tip #1: To start, cut the foam insulation to length and slip it onto the pipe.

Tip #2: Close the seam by peeling off the protective adhesive strip and pressing the edges together, or by taping the seam.

Tip #3: To hand an insulated water line, use pipe hanger strapping or plastic J-hooks.

Tip #4: To insulate an elbow, either cut out a triangular section of the insulation and slide the cutout to fit around the elbow, or, cut a rectangle out of a section and slide it on the elbow. Use whatever method makes it easiest to push the insulation around the elbow.

Source: Mr. Rooter Plumbing

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Common Misconceptions about Long-Term Care Insurance

August 24, 2012 3:06 am

The time to research long term care insurance is before physical and mental conditions prevent being able to bathe, eat or dress independently. When these complications arise due to disability or chronic illness, one may need long-term care insurance. With all the misconceptions surrounding it though, what's a person to believe? Here are five of the most common misconceptions about long-term care insurance:

1) "My health insurance covers the costs."

Normally, health insurance plans and programs only cover costs related to illness or injury, hospital and doctor visits, and prescriptions. Even the most comprehensive plans don't pay for assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, eating and dressing. The only private coverage available that guarantees coverage is a long-term care insurance policy.

2) "Disability insurance and long-term care are the same."

While disability insurance only compensates income when someone gets hurt or ill, long-term care insurance covers home care, assisted living or nursing home expenses.

3) "Only nursing homes/facilities are covered."

Long-term care insurance gives recipients the choice of where they would like their care provided. They can choose from adult daycare centers, assisted living facilities, hospice care, nursing facilities, home healthcare agencies and in the home. Seventy percent of recipients still live at home with friends and family.

4) "I'm too young."

Even though it's usually associated with aging, 40 percent of people receiving long-term care are working adults under the age of 64. Since accidents, chronic illnesses and disabilities can occur at any age, the need for long-term care insurance can occur at any time.

5) "My family will take care of me when I'm older."

Current trends show that children are now more likely to move away from their parents' homes. Many older children are also now working longer hours and taking less vacation time. Without the proper assistance, caring for a family member is time-consuming, physically and mentally draining, and extremely pricey. Care giving has been linked to the descent of the caregiver's health and negatively affects their family life.

For more information regarding long-term care insurance policies, please visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Affordable Solutions for Homeowners Looking to Maximize Space

August 23, 2012 3:06 am

Many first-time home buyers buy a smaller home than what they will need when they start a family. For those with multiple children, homeowners are increasingly looking to garage flooring and garage storage as an affordable way to increase their living space.

According to the US Census, in 2010 the average U.S. home was 2,169 square feet. With many garages weighing in at 400-500 square feet, garages are often the largest room in the house and some believe the most underutilized. In many newer homes the garage is already heated, has windows, and sufficient artificial light. In older homes, the first step to a garage remodel may be controlling the climate inside the garage.

Start with the local building department. Many have found that in order to install floor coverings such as carpet or other products not designed for inside the garage, homeowners would have to completely change how the area is categorized. Flooring material must meet the International Residential Code R 309 for Garages and Carports for one, and two, family residential buildings or the International Building Code 406.2 for all other buildings. Check with a local building code and contractor for more information.
Roll out PVC garage flooring, garage floor tiles, self stick tiles, PVC tiles and even some garage coatings are very suitable for garage application. The most important consideration in choosing the flooring is determining how the room will be used most of the time.

Homeowners should expect to pay between $1.54 and $4.00 per square foot for a DIY flooring product for the garage. Most homeowners end up spending about $3 per square foot for a commercial grade roll out PVC product that can easily be installed by almost any homeowner.

The next step is to organize the items that will stay in the garage. Industry experts do not recommend storing hazardous items such as gasoline and paints in the garage if it is going to be used for living space. Find a suitable place to store such items.

Overhead storage is a great way to store the items homeowners need access to on an occasional basis. Many garages can easily accommodate two overhead storage racks. For under $100 homeowners can add a considerable amount of storage space without consuming valuable floor space.
PVC slat wall products provide homeowners with the ability to easily store items on the wall and to be able to modify the layout of the storage hooks and cabinets easily. A two car garage, on average, needs 32 Sq. Ft to 64 Sq. Ft of wall storage.

Garage storage cabinets are a necessary component to any garage remodel. Often, if a homeowner is in the middle of a major remodel, old kitchen cabinets can be reused at minimal expense. A lot of other accessories are also available. If a homeowner has snow tires, for example, there are tire storage racks. Consulting with a garage flooring and storage professional before making a purchase will likely decrease the homeowner's overall cost and increase the homeowner's satisfaction.

Source: Garage Flooring, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preparing Your Home for a Virtual Tour

August 23, 2012 3:06 am

As more buyers are turning to the Web to begin their home search, sellers in today’s market are relying on virtual tours for that oh-so-important first impression. If you are selling your home, take some time to get it virtual-tour and open-house ready to interest more buyers and entice a faster sale.

Virtual tours show buyers a 360-degree view of the interior of a home and allow them to narrow their home search conveniently from their personal computer. Since potential buyers will be sorting through hundreds of photos and virtual tours throughout this process, it is important to understand that your home looks different through the lens of a camera than in person.

Just as you would prepare for an open house, prepare for your virtual tour shoot by removing clutter. Move personal belongings out of sight or use this as an opportunity to donate or throw away items that you no longer use. The goal is to maximize the space of your home and depersonalize it enough to allow potential buyers to imagine themselves living there.

Here are some tips to cut down on the clutter:

-Remove excess furniture to make rooms look larger.
- Clear off the kitchen counter and hide everyday items, such as kitchen utensils, toasters, hand soap and magnets on the fridge.
- Store children’s toys, bicycles, gardening tools and other clutter out of sight.
- Place toiletries and cleaning products in cabinets or closets. Most virtual tours will only photograph the major rooms in your home.
- Take family photos off of walls and shelves while the home is being shown.
- Recycle old magazines and newspapers that take up extra space throughout the home.

The next step is to give your home a good, thorough cleaning. Since cameras often capture more than the eye can see, it is important to spend some time cleaning your home from top to bottom. Areas that are often overlooked during the cleaning process include windows and stainless steel appliances. Be sure to keep them streak free and clean to ensure the best photo.

Another cheap way to prepare your home for buyers is to brighten it up by replacing old or dim light bulbs. Consider using a higher wattage light bulb in rooms or areas that don’t get direct sunlight. You can also add a brightly-colored throw or vase to lighten up a space that has dark flooring or furniture.

Some other tips to consider for the virtual tour include:

- Take your own digital photographs to see how each room looks on camera.
- Get layout and style ideas from home and design magazines.
- Don’t forget about ceilings and floors. Most virtual tours today show all angles.
- Limit seasonal decorations.
- If exterior photos are included, park vehicles elsewhere and make sure your lawn is freshly mowed and garbage cans are out of sight.

Source: Chicago Association of REALTORS®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Defining the '3rd Factor' in Moving Quotes

August 23, 2012 3:06 am

The cost of an interstate move is primarily determined by three factors: distance, weight, and extra services rendered. Distance and weight are easily understood, but many transferees are uncertain about the third factor - extra services.

Extra services are often required to ensure that valuable or cherished items are moved safely from one location to another. This may include dismantling, reassembling, and/ or crating and uncrating of items. Items requiring additional attention may include:

- Artwork
- Trophies
- Plasma televisions
- Pool tables
- Grandfather clocks
- Antiques
- Pianos
- Hot tubs
- Exercise equipment
- Glass table tops

Since the van line provider assumes liability for the safe shipment of these items, it is often at their discretion whether these services will be required. Sometimes it is the transferee that requests additional services for items that are especially important to them.

Another extra service which may be required is a shuttle. A shuttle is a smaller truck which is used to transport household goods to or from the home in places where the large truck is unable to navigate, or where damage to property might be possible. Other additional services may be requested by a transferee including:

- Packing and/or unpacking
- Carpet cleaning
- Debris removal
- Maid services
- Storage

It is strongly urged that transferees obtain visual surveys of their household goods. An on-site survey will allow the surveyor to note any items that will require special handling and those charges will be reflected in the written estimate. A visit to the home will also give the surveyor an opportunity to anticipate the need for a shuttle. If the transferee believes a shuttle may be required, it is a good idea to mention this to the van line. Don’t forget the third factor when you plan your next move.


Published with permission from RISMedia.