Blog Archive for March, 2016

Spring gardening tips

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 31, 2016

Spring is in the air, even if it’s not in the temperature. Before long, you’ll be outdoors, enjoying the beauty and fragrance of the gardens and flowering shrubs. But if you’re anxious to get started, here are some spring gardening tips.

  1. Take inventory. Wander through your garden and make note of what you already have—perennials, shrubs, containers, garden art. Do you want to move or remove them? How would you like to change the look, color, size, or shape of your garden? Different mulch color? A new seedling? Do you want to attract more birds and butterflies? It’s a new year. Consider a new look in your garden!
  2. Clean your tools. Pull out all of your garden tools and give them a good cleaning. Get rid of any residue, debris, or rust. Sharpen the blades. Replace any garden tools that have seen better days.
  3. Check your hoses. Make sure your hoses are in good shape, with no leaks or cracks. Remove and clean the nozzles. Replace anything that is going to give you soggy grief in the months ahead.
  4. Prep your pots. Get ready to refill your pots, containers, and boxes. Scrub them well to get rid of bacteria and bugs that have managed to survive the winter. Look for cracks and chips. Add a coat of fresh paint or sponge on some accents for a new look.
  5. Clean the birdfeeders and baths. Start the season with a clean plate for your feathered friends. Bacteria, moldy seeds, and bird droppings can be harmful. Take the birdfeeders apart, empty the contents, and scrub the parts with hot soapy water. Fill a bucket with water and add four cups of white vinegar. Soak the feeder for one hour. Then rinse and dry completely before adding fresh seed. Any dampness can lead to mold and mildew. Rake up seeds, food, or droppings beneath the feeders and birdbaths. Prevent disease by cleaning birdfeeders and baths at least once a month; nectar-filled hummingbird feeders should be cleaned weekly.
  6. Clean the beds. Rake out all debris that has collected in the garden beds since last fall. Pull the weeds. Pinch off the dead growth.
  7. Amend the soil. Energize your soil to welcome the spring plantings. Till it to about six inches deep. Remove rocks and unwanted roots. Add a few inches of compost or manure, and churn it in with the existing soil. Rake the soil smooth, and top with a layer of fertilizer. Coffee grounds and egg shells add valuable nutrients to the soil, too. You can add fresh mulch now, or wait until you’ve finished planting. Just be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the plant stems. Mulch is great at keeping the soil moist, but too much of a good thing can lead to rotting.

Redecorating before a holiday? It’s all about the details!

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 25, 2016

Redecorating for a holiday?

Sometimes you want to spruce things up before your visitors arrive for a big holiday (like the one THIS weekend!). You’ve finished redecorating a room—or, at least you think so. Something still isn’t right. The feng is missing the shui.

Sometimes, the little things that punctuate your room makeover with an exclamation mark. When you’re redecorating, don’t miss these room design details.

Trim color. I looked through the home decorating manual and I couldn’t find any hard and fast rule that says you have to have white trim in your home. Go for colorful contrast to your walls, or a soft complement, if you’re not quite so bold.

Decorative molding. From tall baseboards to wainscoting to crown molding, you can enhance the impact of your walls by adding or changing the trim. A chair rail allows you to break up the wall and use two different colors, or a combination of color and a pattern or texture (or both).

Wall accents. Rethink your idea of what you can hang on your walls. Go for more dimension in your home décor with pottery, vases, creative shelving, and even your favorite books or album covers centered within an open frame. Apply wall decals, which are easily removable when you change your mind or mood.

Lampshades. Just because the lamp you purchased came with a particular lamp shade doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your space. A simple change (try it seasonally) can make a big difference in the decorative impact.

Dimmers. This is perhaps the simplest and least expensive lighting makeover you can do. Replace your switch with a dimmer and you suddenly create mood lighting.

Switchplates. Boring. Paint them to blend or contrast with the walls. Decoupage your switchplates with fabric, wallpaper, giftwrap, book pages, or anything else that you can stick to it.

Natural touches. Fresh flowers, plants, and even twigs bring the outdoors into your room and boosts the energy. Treat yourself to a fresh bouquet each week.

Before you stamp your room makeover as complete, focus on the little details. You’ll be amazed at the power of these finishing touches.

Newcomer’s guide to the new home construction process

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 17, 2016

If you’re considering have a new home built rather than opting to purchase a resale, congratulations. It’s a smart move! A new home delivers a wealth of benefits, including peace of mind from knowing that your home is protected by a builder’s warranty.

Before you start, let’s walk through the steps involved, so you’re clear on what to expect and when. Here’s a step by step, newcomer’s guide to the new home construction process.

Step 1: Site prep

The crew clears the site of trees, large rocks, and debris to prepare the property for building. If your new home will include a basement, they dig the hole for the foundation.

The footings are put in place. Concrete is poured for the foundation, and once it’s cured, waterproofing is applied. The crew then installs the basement and first-floor plumbing connections, including drains, sewer, and water taps.

The surrounding soil is backfilled to the outside of the foundation, filling in the moat-like gap around it.

Step 2: 1st Inspection

The building inspector checks the foundation to ensure it’s up to code.

Step 3: Framing

The frame of the house (wall, floor, and roof systems) are constructed and then wrapped in protective sheathing. This cover protects the frame from water seepage into the wood itself, which could lead to wood rot or mold, while providing a means for vapor to escape. The roof is added, sealing the home before the interior works is begun.

Step 4: Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC

When the framing is done, the rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors get to work, setting up the infrastructure for these systems. Vents and water supply and sewer lines are installed. HVAC installs the ductwork, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning vents and pipework. The plumbers and electricians run pipes and wire through the home’s interior walls, floors, and ceilings.

Step 5: 2nd inspection

The building inspector examines the framing, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems at this point. You might have different inspectors—one for the frame, another for the other systems.

Step 6: Insulation

Exterior walls, floors, and ceilings are insulated.

Step 7: Drywall

Drywall (also known as “sheetrock”) is hung. Seams are taped so they’re hidden. A primer coat is applied in preparation for finishing.

Step 8: Exterior finish

Your new home’s exterior is applied—e.g., siding, stucco, stone, or brick.

Step 9: Interior trim

The window and door trim, casings, moldings, mantels, railings, and other interior trim are installed and painted. The walls are painted or wallpapered, depending on your choice.

Step 10: Exterior walkways

The walkways, driveway, and patio are constructed at this point, after the heavy equipment use is finished. The grading is added to drain water away from the home.

Step 11: Flooring and countertops

The hard surface flooring (tile, wood, laminate) and all countertops (including vanities) are installed.

Step 12: Lighting fixtures and mechanical trims

Your light fixtures are installed, along with the outlets and switches. The electrical panel is installed. Plumbing fixtures (toilets, sinks, and faucets) are added. HVAC is finished.

Step 13: Finishing

The interior finishes are addressed in this step This includes installing carpet, and hanging mirrors, and shower doors.

Outside, the lawn and landscaping are completed.

Step 14: 3rd inspection

The building inspector completes one more assessment to ensure your new home meets all building codes. When approved, a certificate of occupancy (CO) is issued. If any concerns are identified, the inspector provides a written list, and the home will require another inspection before the CO is awarded.

Step 15: The walkthrough

Before the closing, you will do a final walkthrough with your builder and real estate agent. This is your opportunity to learn how everything works—e.g., which light switch to flick, how your HVAC works, how to open and close the windows. You also need to observe details. If there’s a nick in a door or wall, a scratch on a floor, a cracked tile, or a dent in an appliance, point it out during this walkthrough so that you can show the damage was done before you occupied the home.

Your builder will make a list of all repairs the must be completed. Determine the time frame for having all corrections completed, and get it in writing.

With good communication between you and your home builder, the new home construction process is exciting. You get to watch your home emerging from a vision to a reality!

Uncover the hidden problems in old houses

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 10, 2016

Uncover the hidden problems in old houses.

Old homes have a wonderful character. The architecture and heritage of a home that has stood for half a century or longer is appealing to some homebuyers.

But the fascination of wooden floors that have been trod on for generations and the charm of interesting details, like gingerbread trim can mask a wealth of not-so-charming problems.

And by “wealth”, I mean common problems that are costly to repair.

Before you decide that a lovely, old house will truly be your dream, take the time to uncover the hidden problems that lurk in there.

  • Rotting doors and windows. Years of weathering and water can add up to rotting and possibly mold. Putting new windows into a very old structure can be a challenge, requiring reframing and mold mitigation.
  • Foundation flaws. The quality of the initial construction will show in the foundation—and it worsens with age. Look for cracks, chips, and flakes in the foundation. Check to see if the doors and windows are level. If they don’t close properly, the fault could be rising up from the foundation.
  • Leaky roof. The cost to replace the roof is a five-figure expense, so make sure you know how stable the roof is on the old house. Look for cracked or missing roof tiles and unsecured flashing. Inside the attic, inspect the insulation to see if you find signs of moisture or cracks of daylight sneaking in through gaps in the roof. Water stains on inside ceilings might indicate a leaky roof, but could also result from leaky windows or plumbing, which leads me to the next point.
  • Faulty plumbing. An old house can be plumbed like a patchwork quilt. Over the decades, various homeowners have attempted to fix and patch problems. Maybe they did a good job, but do you want to gamble? Old homes that were plumbed with pipes made of galvanized steel, lead, or polybutylene for water supply—which are no longer used—will need an overhaul. Some insurance companies will not give a policy for these homes. Other piping, such as brass, copper, cast iron, and PVC, has a lifespan, so be clear on what the home has, and when it was installed.
  • Wiring is haywire. Just like the plumbing, an old home’s electrical wiring is a hidden problem, but one that should be explored before buying the house. Old wiring—like knot and tube wiring—can become brittle, which is a fire hazard. Depending on the age of the home, the electrical system might be wired with an outdated fuse box that can’t handle modern needs. Tripped circuits and popped fuses are a clear sign you need to rewire. Flickering lights, switches that hum or buzz, and discolored outlets or light switches also indicate an electrical issue.

Before you commit to an old house’s charm and character, make sure you understand the structural issues that aren’t as easy to see as the nice woodwork and inlays. Know the cost of bringing the old house up to modern standards so you can live safely and comfortably.

Telltale signs you’re ready to move

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 3, 2016

Are you feeling a little twitch when you walk into or around your home? Has the passion gone out of your relationship with your abode? Maybe it’s not the feng shui, but the home itself. You might be ready for a new home.

Here are some telltale signs you’re ready to move.

#1. You look at other places and wonder what it would be like to live there. Do you find yourself driving at night and looking at the lit windows of other homes, wondering what they look like? Are you spending more time analyzing the homes on your favorite shows than the story lines? That daydreaming is a sign that you’re not completely fulfilled in your current home.

#2. You fear your closets. Does the theme from “Jaws” pound in your head when you reach for the closet door knob, fearing what lies beyond? If you’re tight—really tight—on space, it might be time to move to a larger place. Cramped is never fun or healthy.

#3. The echo bothers you. Maybe the kids have grown and gone on their own. The echo of the empty nest is unsettling for you. Think about downsizing to a new home that better fits your lifestyle today.

#4. Your DIY is DI-Done. You’ve spent years fixing up all those spaces that needed help. Are you tired of using your weekend for DIY projects? Imagine the freedom of living in a new home where DIY becomes fun again—like planting flowers in your garden, trying new recipes in your new kitchen, or taking up a hobby that doesn’t disrupt your living space.

#5. You refuse to look at the weather forecast. Did that last snowstorm send you over the edge? Do rainy days destroy your mood? Does another day of hot and humid make you want to crank up the air conditioning and layer on some winter clothes? Maybe a change for the weather is a change for the better.

#6. The cost of living there doesn’t make sense. Your rent went up again—even though everything else has stayed the same, including your income. Look at your finances and decide if clinging to your current living space is cramping your budget. Remember that a fixed mortgage never increases, unlike rent, and a monthly mortgage payment is probably less than rent.

#7. The neighborhood isn’t what it used to be. Have your favorite neighbors moved out, replaced by the loud, annoying, or sloppy people who are driving down your quality of life (and maybe property value)? Has the vision of the up-and-coming area never arrived? Maybe you still love your home, but not the neighborhood—a very good reason to look for a new home.

#8. You’ve exhausted your audio library on your commute. If you’ve changed jobs since moving to this home, you might have tolerated a longer commute, just to stay where you are. Ask yourself which is stronger, your love of home or hatred of commute. A shorter commute means more available time for yourself and your family.

Still not sure? Apartment Therapy offers this simple equation:

New place > Old place + Moving hassle and expense

Is it really that simple? Lifehacker expands on the basic math by incorporating more variables:

New place + location – distance from friends > Old place + Moving hassle and expense + location – distance away from friends

You can revise the variables to your own situation. For example, “Quality of schools”, “Commute”, and “Finances”.

Pay attention to that little voice in your head that says it’s time to look for a new place to live. Change can be great!

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