October 4, 2011 4:59 pm
Thirty-three of the forty-eight continental states experienced above-average rainfall last spring (not to mention more rainfall in the past few weeks for much of the South and North). An extremely warm summer followed "hot on the heels" of all that rain. The result? Many outdoor spring cleaning projects did not get marked off the homeowner's to-do list. Fall offers one more chance to get outdoor spaces and gear clean and protected before winter's arrival puts the deep freeze on outdoor projects.
Start at the top. For a small space, clogged gutters can cause big damage, because water doesn't drain properly. Instead, it can damage everything from the foundation, wood and landscaping to the roof – and it can even find its way indoors to cause damage there. Check out tools that allow you to bypass the ladder and clean the gutters from the ground.
Wet paint. Jeff Wilson, host of multiple programs on the DIY network and HGTV, says, "I worked for a painter who said a paint job would last twice as long if you cleaned the siding every two years. Removing dirt and killing the mold, mildew and algae on a surface helps to eliminate some of the paint's enemies."
Take the opportunity to check for bare patches of wood where the paint has blistered and peeled. Since exterior coatings like paint and stains shouldn't be applied when temperatures are over 90 degrees, fall is a good time for touch-ups.
Don't pay the price for snow and ice. Wood decks and fences, as well as concrete walkways and patios, can all be damaged over the winter by water absorption and repeated freeze/thaw cycles (or wet/dry cycles), which cause cracking. Clean them, then apply a waterproofing coating to stop water absorption over the winter. These types of products do recommend minimum temperature guidelines for application, so check the label on the product you are using.
Bring it on inside. It's also a good idea to clean any outdoor furniture, cushions or hammocks that you're going to store and bring in fragile garden decor or pots. Put your lawnmower to sleep for the winter by sharpening the blade, changing the oil, and adding a bit of fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank. Do the same for trimmers, tillers, etc. All other gardening tools should be cleaned, sharpened if necessary, and lightly oiled before putting them away, too.
Next, drain hoses. Any water left in them may freeze, expand, and burst the hose, so this is a critical step. While many newer homes will have frost-free spigots outside, older homes won't. Shut them off from the inside if possible or cover them with an insulated cover if it regularly falls below freezing.
Clean-up on good deals: Reward yourself and get ready to greet spring 2012 in style. Fall is the time retailers offer great clearance discounts on all types of outdoor furniture, cushions and accessories. Check online as well as at traditional "brick and mortar" stores.
October 4, 2011 4:59 pm
With winter fast approaching, now is the time to take action to prevent the type of ice dams that caused tremendous damage – and resulted in expensive repairs – for many homeowners last year.
“Ice dams that form along your roof can cause major damage,” says Sean Welch, a senior assistant vice president for an insurance company. “As ice builds up, it prevents water from melted snow and ice from draining off the roof, so the water leaks into your house and goes under your roof and inside your home, causing costly damage to walls, ceilings and insulation.”
Homeowners can take the following steps to help prevent ice dams from affecting their homes:
-Make sure the ceiling is airtight, so warm, moist air doesn’t flow into the attic space.
-Increase ceiling and roof insulation to minimize the amount of heat that rises into the attic.
-Use weather-stripping around entryways to the attic.
-Seal around attic ducts, light fixtures, chimneys and fans to prevent heat from melting snow.
-Make sure the attic is well ventilated so that any warm air is replaced with cold outside air.
-Clean debris from gutters and drains to allow for proper drainage.
“Proper insulation and roof ventilation can help prevent ice dams from forming, helping protect homes from damage – while also helping to reduce energy bills,” Welch says.
Anyone building a new home or re-roofing an existing one also should install protective membranes under the roof covering, to help prevent water from leaking through. These are watertight barriers that extend from the lower edge of the roof up the slope at least 24 inches past the exterior wall line. This protective layer is often required by building code for new homes and re-roofing in areas where ice dams are known to occur.
With early preparation, homeowners can prevent ice dams from happening even before winter arrives.
Source: Amica Insurance
October 3, 2011 4:57 pm
With millions of Americans either unable to secure a mortgage or having to remain in their current home because they cannot sell the property, remodeling activity continues to soar. BuildFax has unveiled its BuildFax Remodeling Index (BFRI) for July 2011 and it shows that remodeling activity reached a record high during the month. The data also indicates that as consumers are putting more discretionary income into their homes, there are now a record number of under-insured properties from coast to coast.
The latest BFRI shows that July 2011 became the month with the highest level of remodeling activity since the Index was introduced in 2004. During these historically difficult economic times there has been an upswing in the sales of building materials and the number of renovations greater than $10,000. These factors, and the fact that many consumers have not increased the insurance on their homes to account for the remodeling, puts many homes at risk as owners are not carrying the proper level of insurance for the new, true value of their homes.
"As millions of Americans believe that they will not be able to secure a new home due to a variety of factors, including tight credit, limited buyers and challenging job prospects, they are more and more turning to renovating and remodeling their current properties, sending remodeling activity to record levels," says Joe Emison, vice president of Research and Development at BuildFax. "However, this remodeling boom is leaving many of these properties under-insured, as the value of these renovations are often not being captured by the homeowners’ insurance companies."
July Signifies 21 Consecutive Months of Industry Growth
The latest BFRI, detailing remodeling activity from July 2011, indicates that residential remodeling activity registered the 21st-straight month of year-over-year gains, demonstrating that many Americans are continuing to remodel their current homes, rather than purchasing new homes.
The July 2011 index rose 24% percent year-over-year—and for the 21st straight month—in July to 130.4, the highest number ever in the index to date.
For more information, visit www.buildfax.com.
October 3, 2011 4:57 pm
For families with children moving to a new location, choosing a new school that is right for your kids should be at the top of your to-do list. There are plenty of items to consider, especially if moving out of state, which could have a great impact on your children's educational future.
Quality of education: Schools always have a different level of education even if it doesn't seem so. Do some research about their alumni or meet some of the teachers at the school. Ask them their opinions of not only that school, but the school system in general. You'd be surprised how much you can find out by simply asking.
Transportation and distance from home: Try to find a school that is in close proximity to your new home. The younger your children, the more important this becomes. Longer rides can lead to more stress and clearly, this is something you should avoid when making your decision.
Check the school's activities: Sometimes a robust schedule of activities is just as important as the classes themselves. Participating in an extra-curricular activity can help boost confidence and help in your child's social development. Check to see if the school in question has a good mix of activities - sports, arts and crafts, after school groups, etc - so that your child can continue their learning after the school bell rings.
Resources: Most parents want to make sure their child has all he or she will need to advance their learning. Investigate the school's library and classrooms and see if they fit your standards. Talk to a librarian and find out how often the school gets new materials, such as books, computers and other school supplies.
Cost: As always, cost is a factor as well. There are plenty of options to consider between both public and private schools. If you are pursuing private schools, set a yearly budget for what your family can afford. Although it may be a challenge, make sure your family can afford the tuition without compromising standards or level of education.
It's important to place your children in school as soon as possible after a move. With the appropriate research and considerations, you can pick out a school that everyone in your family will be happy with.
Source: Relocation.com Blog
October 3, 2011 4:57 pm
Maintaining a healthy home means promoting a healthy lifestyle, but some Americans aren't aware of the important role indoor air plays in creating a healthy home. In fact, nearly half of Americans (49%) believe indoor air quality has little to no impact on overall health, according to an online indoor air quality consumer survey conducted by Harris Interactive.
The truth is that improved indoor air quality can lead to a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to improve the air quality in your home and your overall quality of life. If you are remodeling or building your home, there are several changes that can minimize contaminants and improve the air you breathe inside your home.
According to the study, Americans are more likely to improve air quality by making temporary changes—cleaning carpets, using cleaning products that promise to reduce pollutants and cleaning and/or disinfecting ducts. However, there are things that can have a longer lasting affect such as:
-Keeping your house mold-free. Mold spores produce allergens that can trigger asthma attacks and cause sneezing, runny nose and red eyes.
-Using safer building materials such as stainless steel, tile, adobe and insulation without added formaldehydes.
-Keeping your home free of radon. The colorless, odorless gas can cause lung cancer.
-Ensure your home is properly insulated to prevent leaks.
For more information, visit www.imaginehomehealth.com.
September 30, 2011 4:57 pm
Thanks to the new partnership between the Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) and Consumers Union, user-friendly, interactive online guides and downloadable publications are helping homeowners and buyers save energy and money by teaching them the potential of building energy codes to address and improve home energy performance.
“Everyone should have the right to an energy-efficient home that meets national standards,” says Cosimina Panetti, advocacy director of BCAP. “Energy codes—minimum requirements for efficient design and construction—offer a cost-effective way to reduce energy use and monthly bills, while also lowering carbon emissions. It’s a win-win-win.”
A 2011 Consumers Union survey found that 86% of homeowners want to know a home’s energy operating costs before they buy or rent; 82% of homeowners believe they have a right to homes that meet national standards; and 77% of homeowners think that home builders should not construct less efficient homes at the consumer’s expense.
“Energy codes affect the majority of the population, but are often overlooked as a consumer issue,” says Stacy Weisfeld, energy campaign organizer for Consumers Union. “Strong energy codes help not only people moving into new homes, but also future buyers and the community as a whole.”
The average U.S. homeowner will spend about $2,175 on home energy costs this year, or about $180 a month. An energy-efficient home that complies with the 2009 national energy code can save homeowners $235 or more each year compared to an average new home that does not meet the 2009 code.
Energy Code Resources
The new tools provide information about energy codes and checklists homeowners and buyers can use to identify whether construction meets building energy-code requirements. The interactive tools and downloadable publications are hosted on both the BCAP website and the Consumer Reports Greener Choices site.
The resources include:
• Energy Code Guides
Learn how to increase home-energy performance through in-depth guides.
• Energy Code Printable Checklists
The checklists help determine if a new home meets national energy code standards, and teach consumers how to read the Energy Code Certificate that builders post in new or substantially renovated homes.
• Energy Codes Location Guide
This step-by-step guide provides building energy codes based on location and information on whether or not the code is being effectively enforced.
Documents That Explain What Energy Codes Are
Fact sheets and a PowerPoint presentation provide basic information about building energy codes and explain why they are important.
Select State Guides and Checklists
BCAP has partnered with state energy offices in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and Nebraska to create customized energy code resources for consumers in each state.
“We want to empower consumers to shop assertively for energy efficiency when they buy or renovate a home, just as they have learned to do when they shop for refrigerators and air conditioners,” Weisfeld says. “Consumers who use these new energy codes toolkits will know exactly what to look for, and which questions to ask builders, sellers and home inspectors when shopping for a home.”
For more information, visit http://www.ase.org/.
September 30, 2011 4:57 pm
As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change color, now is the time to prepare your yard and garden for winter. There are a number of simple tasks that will not only protect plants and lawn from the cold, but will make for an easier spring.
"Tending to your lawn and garden in fall can ensure that it has every chance to develop through the colder months," says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for a power tools manufacturing company. "Also, winterizing your equipment will make for a better spring start."
Evaluate. Before you start your preparations, take a moment to review what worked and did not work in the garden over the past season and jot down notes in a garden journal so you remember a year or two from now. Fall is the best time to move plants because roots are given ample time to establish.
Clean up. Removing leaves and debris reduces the likelihood of future problems since they can harbor pests and diseases. Using a leaf blower can save time and effort.
Repair damage. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn that's been damaged by summer heat. Top-dressing the seed with up to one-quarter inch compost or soil will help it take root.
Don't put away the hose. Continue to water plants and lawns in the fall, as the rainfall tends to slow down. Plants need to stay hydrated to properly retreat to their winter states. However, as soon as freezing temperatures hit, make sure to drain garden hoses and store them in a sheltered place where they will not freeze and crack.
Fertilize. Despite what many people might think, autumn – not spring – is the most crucial time to fertilize lawns and gardens. Renewing the mulch in flower beds, especially the top two or three inches, will protect many plants from harmful freezes.
Go easy on pruning. Pruning promotes growth. It's important to prepare plants to go dormant during the winter rather than growing.
Think spring. Some spring bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, should be planted in the fall. Larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in the fall but won't bloom until spring. Many vegetable plants, like beets, broccoli and cabbage grow best in the winter.
Cover plots. Covering a garden bed with burlap keeps weeds at bay. Another option is to plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop, like clover, which can be easily turned under when spring arrives.
Tune-up tools. After completing all preparations, clean, oil and sharpen tools, and then store them in a dry place to prevent rusting.
Winterize your power equipment. Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after you've finished using them for the season to keep the engine running smoothly next year.
Know when to stop. When frost is in the forecast or the temperature drops below 40 degrees consistently, usually around late October or November, it's time to close down the garden.
Although it may seem like a hassle, winterizing your garden will make for less work come springtime. Consider these practical ways that will protect and care for your yard and garden so they can survive the winter and thrive for seasons to come.
For more information, visit www.troybilt.com.
September 30, 2011 4:57 pm
Thinking about a new roof for your home? Then think "FRESH." That's the advice national color expert Kate Smith recommends for homeowners considering a new roof.
"The acronym FRESH stands for fixed features, regional colors, environment, style of home and historic colors," says Smith."Considering these five elements can help you select the perfect roof color."
Fixed Features – These are the permanent design elements of the home that need to be considered a constant feature of the house, such as the foundation, partial stone or brick facades, pathways and retaining walls. Each feature may be of a different material, but they usually will have a common color or color cast. Once you identify that common color, you can find a roof tile with a similar color or undertone that will work well for the overall home.
Regional Colors – Each region of the country has prevalent colors based on the housing styles, available materials, natural surroundings and the quality of light. Determine the colors in your area and base your decision off of them.
Environment and Surroundings – Is your home in a rural setting or a downtown? Are you near the waterfront, a desert or a mountain? Temper the colors to complement your surroundings and the natural colors around you. The goal is to stand out while still fitting in.
Style of the Home – Remember that colors support the home's style and architecture, not the other way around. Determine your home's style (are you a Ranch? Tudor? Art Deco? Greek Revival?) and then research to determine what colors are most associated with your style of home. For example, consider a natural looking shake roof in Weathered Gray or New Cedar for a Craftsman style home.
Historic Colors – If you live in a historic district, check for local guidelines and/or restrictions on adding colors to your home. More traditional colors, such as whites, browns, and shades of blue and green, work well on historical homes.
For more information, visit www.davinciroofscapes.com.
September 29, 2011 10:57 pm
Simmons Bedding Company and environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo have joined forces to help the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep disturbances as a result of allergies. Although most people equate allergies with hay fever and outdoor triggers such as pollen, indoor allergens are also a major problem. Indoor allergens’ effect on sleep is profound - allergy sufferers may experience insomnia or difficulty breathing during the night; plus, allergies can increase the tendency to snore.
“A good night’s sleep is an important element of overall health, and many individuals may be experiencing diminished sleep quality due to allergens in their mattresses, pillows or drapes. Eliminating symptom-triggering items and replacing them with products that naturally resist allergens may help a person obtain more restful sleep,” says Seo.
For homeowners looking to create a more hypoallergenic bedroom, Simmons and Seo have the following suggestions:
-Bed basics. Look for mattresses that contain natural materials, such as natural latex or foams made with plant-based sources.
-Freshen the pillows. Natural latex or synthetic pillows will naturally resist dust mites but should still be replaced every two years. To maintain healthy pillows in between purchases, freeze them overnight to kill dust mites.
-Dress the bed properly. Choose a cotton mattress pad to protect your mattress. Opt for organic cotton or natural fiber sheets, particularly those made with sustainable practices, which may also help with allergies and chemical sensitivities.
-Clean the air. Some air purifiers may emit ozone, a pollutant that can aggravate allergies, back into the air. Instead, use houseplants to naturally clean the air. Pick plants that thrive on neglect, like spider plants or ivy, and boost their natural metabolizing properties with a plant purifier.
-Pick your paint. Select paint with zero volatile organic compound, or VOC, emissions. Among other symptoms, the U.S. EPA advises that VOCs may cause nose and throat irritations, headaches and allergic skin reactions.
-Keep it natural. Avoid fragrant sheet sprays, candles and air fresheners that ‘mask’ odors by coating the inside of your nose with a chemical. Try room sprays made from essential oils instead.
"Buying old furniture at a flea market or yard sale can be a great way to go green, but mattresses are one item that should not be reused,” adds Seo. “By purchasing a mattress made with new, more natural materials, consumers can feel confident that they are making a healthy and environmentally responsible choice.”
For more information, visit www.simmons.com.
September 29, 2011 10:57 pm
The number of consumers across the country who filed applications for new home loans recently fell considerably as fewer borrowers sought to refinance their existing mortgages. Informa Research Services, a subsidiary of Informa plc (LSE: INF), suggests that consumers review online rate tables to find the best rates with which to refinance a current home loan.
The overall mortgage market slumped 9.6% during the week ending August 26, driven largely by a 12.2% drop in the number of refinance applications, according to the latest weekly statistics from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Meanwhile, the number of purchases actually ticked up 0.9%, but remains near historically low levels.
The refinance share of the mortgage market fell to 77.8% from the previous week's 79.8%, the report said.
Consumers who refinance their current home loan with a rate that is significantly lower than their current rate can reduce their monthly mortgage payments by as much as a few hundred dollars. The most efficient way to locate the lowest local mortgage rates in your area is to check online rate tables such as those featured on ERATE.com.
"Refinance application volume declined for a second week from recent highs, despite rates staying near a 10-month low," says Mike Fratantoni, the MBA's vice president of research and economics.
For more information, visit www.informars.com.