Gunning Daily News

Q: What Should I Know about Zoning Issues and Approvals?

August 9, 2013 8:24 pm

A: Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes, or sometimes a combination thereof.  Designed to protect property owners and communities from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws can be very rigid and inflexible.  On the other hand, they can protect your property value and ensure against the stationing of a mega-store right next to your home.  Before you begin any remodeling job, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project.  You can visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board to get a copy of your local ordinance and determine how you will need to seek approval for your project.  Take nothing for granted; some communities even require approval to erect fences.


Clearly Modern Glass Innovations Create Great Home Improvements

August 9, 2013 8:24 pm

When you talk renovations most people envision new cabinets, floors or even an addition. However, I am learning just how much you can do spruce up the look of your home with glass from Ridgefield Glass is an industry leader in Connecticut offering an array of services to improve home aesthetics.

According to co-owner John Petchonka, “Glass can offer a modern twist on a previously tired look in various areas of your home.”

He says new uses for glass can be found in the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, exercise room and even as a partition in any spacious room.  Ultimately, creative glass upgrades make your house more livable and luxurious.

Some renovation options room by room, include:

  • Bathrooms - Curved, frameless glass shower doors and panels remove visual clutter to create an inspiring showering environment, while easing maintenance and cleaning, especially when the glass is coated with a Teflon surface protector; painted shower glass walls with any pattern or color complement existing bathroom décor; glass countertops and beveled mirrors create a crisp, clean surface area for all bathroom toiletries and necessities with maximum reflective capacity.
  • Kitchen - Glass counters and backsplashes are an innovative and functional upgrade that cleans easily in the messiest of rooms.
  • Bedroom - Opalescent frosted glass closet doors and glass drawers offer an artistic home for the wardrobes of some of the most discerning fashionistas and pairing them with antique mirrors, creates a perfect mix of old and new.
  • Exercise Rooms - The more glass, the more inspiration in today’s home gyms…from flat wall-to-wall mirrors to entire glass walls and floors, seeing oneself in every angle helps keep exercise motivation at its peak!
  • Wine Rooms - Using a glass door for your wine room adds elegance and an attractive presentation to your finest spirit collection.
  • Open Area Rooms - Textured glass room partitions help separate an open floor area with fashion and flair- the texture of the glass makes it less translucent than regular glass, but the divider still allows enough light and sound.

A Homeowner's Guide to a Year-Round Deck

August 9, 2013 8:24 pm

(BPT)—During the warm summer months, having an outdoor deck for barbecues and gatherings with family and friends is a great addition to any backyard. The approach of cool weather may signal the end of barbecue season, but homeowners can still use their deck after the warm temperatures have passed.

"Although decks are generally a summer attraction, there are ways to make them accessible during the winter as well," says Stephen McNally, TAMKO Building Products Inc.'s vice president of sales and marketing.

There are many ways to make your deck functional and enjoyable during the winter, no matter where your home is located.

Step 1 - Warm up your deck

The addition of a fireplace can transform your deck into an outdoor gathering spot and a scene-stealing area for those cool nights. The type of fireplace you decide on for your deck can add beauty and charm as well as complement your existing color scheme and deck furniture and decorations. Outdoor fireplaces can be made from stone, brick, tile or even granite, so the color options are endless.

"Outdoor fireplaces can be big, beautiful and elaborate, but there are other options for homeowners who prefer to keep their outdoor living space simple," McNally says.

If a large outdoor fireplace is not for you, but you want to enjoy your deck on cool winter nights, consider the addition of a fire pit, fire bowl or even a chiminea.

Structural safety and potential fire hazards are serious considerations when deciding on a fireplace, so having your deck inspected before you begin installing an outdoor fireplace is suggested. If you install an outdoor fireplace of any kind, make sure that it is done to the manufacturer's standards.

Step 2 - Reducing summer dirt and grime

As the summer months come to an end, your deck is due for a well-deserved, thorough cleaning. Fall is a great time for this necessary chore because other outdoor tasks, like gardening and mowing, usually begin to decrease.

"Semi-annual cleaning of your deck is part of the required maintenance that reduces dirt, dust, grime and other residue build-up that the summer months have left behind," McNally says.

Use a garden house to rinse your deck. A fan-tip nozzle works best, but make sure the pressure from the hose does not exceed the manufacturers regulations. Ensure that you have removed all food and trash particles from the summer so that they do not contribute to build-up over the winter.

While rinsing your deck can reduce dirt and grime buildup, water alone will not remove the stains that have appeared on your deck. Cooking oil, suntan oil and other greasy substances can stain your deck over the course summer use. But before applying cleaner to your deck, make sure to test it in an inconspicuous spot to ensure that it will not change the coloring of your deck boards.

Step 3 - Spice up plant life

When it comes to enjoying outdoor living, beauty is everything. A well-installed deck can offer a certain aesthetic appeal by itself, but plant life can make a big difference, even in the winter time.

When the cool temperatures of late fall start to move in, you can help your plants extend their life. Move them closer to your house, ideally under a roof, to delay when they are hit by frost. If you have time before a frost sets in, help protect your plants by covering them with lightweight blankets or plastic sheets overnight and uncover them in the morning.

If you want to decorate with plants during the cool months, there are a variety of colorful, cool vegetables that make handsome pot-fillers. Consider plants with purple and dark-green leaves like beets, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard, spinach or even herbs. Mixing several types of plants together in the same pot can have a nice effect and the addition of garden art statues can add a pop of color.

Source: visit www.tamko.com.

 


6 Tips to Lawsuit-Proof Your Pool Party

August 9, 2013 8:24 pm

With the dog days of summer upon us, here's hoping your pool party doesn't belly-flop into a lawsuit.

When it comes to potential pool party liability, safety is key. Before you fire up the grill and play another round of "Marco Polo," take all the necessary pool safety precautions -- or you could get sued.

Here are a few tips on how to lawsuit-proof your pool party:

  • Prevent "toxic" pool injuries. During a party, lighting is key. But beware of dumping chemicals in the pool without considering the potential consequences. Last year, two ravers filed a lawsuit, alleging chemicals that made a pool glow under blacklights caused them partial vision loss. Swimming pool chemicals injure thousands yearly, but are largely preventable.
  • Repair and maintain nearby wires. Swimming pool electrocutions happen more often than you may think. If you have electricity powering lights or a pump that supplies water to a slide at your party, make sure the equipment and wiring is safe. And if you notice some precarious overhead wires, it may be best to call your local power company to get it checked out.
  • Protect young children. Pool parties are fun and games, but not for kids who don't know how to swim. Death and nonfatal injury rates for drowning are highest among children under four. To protect the little ones, install a self-closing gate around the pool, have them wear "floaties" during the party, and always keep them supervised.
  • Prevent slip-and-fall accidents. Slip 'n Slides are fun. Slip 'n falls? Not so much. Keep partygoers off slick surfaces so they don't slip and fall into a lawsuit. You may want to lay rubber mats around the pool and make sure the diving board is in good working order.
  • Prevent drunk driving. A pool party often entails adult libations -- brewskies, pinot grigio and margs -- but don't let people drive home drunk. If you do, and someone gets hurt, then you could be on the hook for social host liability.
  • Prevent pool hopping. When the party's winding out, take precautions to keep mischievous "pool hopping" teens out. Though they're trespassers, your best bet is to fence-in and lock your pool when the party's over.

Source: Findlaw.com


Word of the Day

August 9, 2013 8:24 pm

Encroachment. A building or other improvement that extends beyond its boundary and intrudes upon the property of another.


Simple Ways to Improve Personal Finances

August 9, 2013 6:54 pm

(Family Features)--As more Americans make strides towards responsible spending and debt management, there are still ways to improve the control of family finances.

According to a survey recently conducted by Bank of America, which asked respondents about their credit card usage, balance and rewards, less than half of cardholders always pay their entire credit card balance. With more than half of individuals carrying credit card debt, Jason Gaughan, card products executive for Bank of America, said to think about personal spending before taking on a credit card.

"Credit cards provide consumers an efficient and protected way to make purchases," says Gaughan. "They are more convenient than cash and they are incredibly useful in an emergency. The key to successfully managing your credit card account is to understand your budget and stick to a plan that works for you when borrowing. You want a card with a rewards program that fits your lifestyle and how you manage your finances. If you typically carry a balance, look for a card that has low interest and reinforces good payment practices."

Along with these practices, there are other ways to promote good spending and personal finance habits, such as:

Limit Number of Credit Cards
According to the survey, three out of 10 respondents carried four or more credit cards. Limiting the number of cards you own can help limit your spending and increase the likelihood you can pay above the minimum balance. Before you start cutting up your plastic, remember having more than one credit card can have merits. If you need money for an emergency, the immediate buying power of a credit card can be a lifesaver. Try a card with no annual fee and a generous credit line to cover unexpected expenses. One idea is to have three cards: one in a safe place at home for emergencies and two with you at all times.

Reap the Rewards
With so many rewards programs available for credit card holders, it's important to do your homework so you can cash in on things your family really needs. While some credit cards will offer rewards to use at your favorite hotels and airlines, others will give you special discounts for the purchases you make on a frequent basis. The most popular of these programs is cash back for spending. Some cards let you earn more cash back where you spend the most money, like gas stations and grocery stores. 

Track Spending Habits
Now—if you've been lax about keeping track of your spending, take the first step towards tracking as soon as possible. Include info on where you spend, when you spend and how much you spend. Making note of all of those little purchases—a cup of coffee here or a gift store trinket there—will help you see how quickly they add up. Whether you're the old-fashioned, pen-and-paper type, or if you prefer a more modern, digital form of tracking, the importance is in the act itself.

Evaluate All Debts
Many carry debts beyond credit cards, including student loans, car payments and mortgages. While some may consider these types as necessary debts, it is important to keep track of the balance due for each as well as the interest rate you are paying. According to the survey, when respondents were asked what they would do with $1,000, nearly half (44 percent) revealed they would pay off debt. Evaluate your debts and decide which ones have the highest interest rates. Making it a priority to pay down these debts first will save you more money in the long run.

Create a Budget
It's never too soon to put yourself in control of your money and stop letting it control you. A budget will give you financial peace of mind and it can help you stretch the income you have. First, write down the financial goals you want to achieve in the next few years and the ones you want to accomplish for the long term. Then, gather all of the purchasing information for the household and categorize each type of spending. Divide your expenses into fixed expenses (those that stay the same from month to month, such as a mortgage payment or cable television bill) and variable ones (those that may change, such as fuel bills or entertainment). Be sure to also set aside some money for personal savings and an emergency fund. Once you've calculated your income and expenses a month ahead of time and set your budget, you can focus on the most important part -- adhering to the plan. Find ways to decrease spending. Adopt just one new way of trimming expenses each week and you'll find your overhead shrinking fast. Though you may not be on-point every month, the simple act of tracking and communicating your family's finances will be a huge step forward in your quest towards responsible spending.

Source: www.bankofamerica.com/creditcard.

 


Got Rentals? Relocation Renters May Be a Viable Option

August 8, 2013 10:48 pm

These days, I am hearing about all the great benefits of owning rental property. But it’s not just about having available rental property, it’s about having rental space in the best possible location.

Ron Johnsey, who tracks relocation trends with Axiometrics (axiometrics.com) recently blogged that when it comes to determining the best place to buy and/or own an apartment property, it is important to examine the area’s economic and demographic variables such as job growth, net domestic migration and population trends, education, income levels and apartment market fundamentals.

Johnsey refers to recent Apartment Guide research that he believes can complement U.S. Census Bureau data on net domestic migration trends by better identifying in which markets the relocations are occurring.

In its recent research, Johnsey says Apartment Guide provided a comprehensive list of top-searched sister metros - where people most often move from and where they move to - as well as the top-searched MSAs.

The top searched markets in order were Los Angeles; Washington D.C.; Dallas; Houston; Atlanta; New York City; Miami; Chicago; Phoenix; and Philadelphia.

Apartment Guide developed its report from internal search data from May 2013 to determine the top sister metros, while U.S. Census Bureau data was used to identify common reasons for the moves.

Reasons for relocation included:

1. Family-related reasons

  • 6.3 percent move due to change in marital status
  • 10.7 percent move to establish own household
  • 12.3 percent move due to other family reasons

2. Job-related reasons

  • 9.5 percent move due to new job or job transfer
  • 1.8 percent move to look for work or lost their job
  • 5.5 percent move to be closer to work/easier commute
  • 2.1 percent move for another job-related reason

Advice for Small Businesses Ready to Hire First Employee

August 8, 2013 10:48 pm

BPT—For small-business owners, hiring a first employee is a significant milestone—one that directly affects the company's growth, future success and culture. Hiring staff means enhancing your business' ability to grow, but it also presents unique challenges.

From affirming that the person you hire has the credentials to do the job and is the right personality fit for your organization, to ensuring you don't run afoul of payroll taxes, workers' compensation and other legal requirements, making that first hire requires a lot of preparation. When you're getting ready to make that first all-important hire, keep some guidelines in mind:

Understand costs

You hire a first employee to help your business grow, but the costs associated with that growth can be significant. It's important to weigh carefully the benefits of hiring against the related costs. According to the Small Business Association, these can include:

  • Wages and taxes, including unemployment, Medicare and Social Security taxes
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Recruiting and training expenses
  • Benefits
  • Payroll management
  • Equipment, including software licenses and data plans, to help an employee do his or her job

Seeking candidates

Finding the right employee for your small business can also be a challenge. While professional hiring services can do the legwork for you, most small-business owners manage the hiring process themselves. You'll need to consider where to advertise for candidates, what professional requirements you'll want them to meet, what wage you'll offer and how you'll handle the interview process.

Another critical component to consider is fit. A comprehensive pre-employment screening can help you make better hiring decisions. In addition to reviewing candidates' resumes and references, your screening may include a background check, drug screening, behavioral assessments and skills testing.

Prepare for payroll

No one works for love alone. Your new employee will expect to be paid on time each pay period with the appropriate amount of withholdings taken out of his or her check. Managing payroll, however, can be costly and time-consuming; a small business with 10 or fewer employees may spend up to $2,600 per year on direct labor for payroll, according to SurePayroll. What's more, if you don't know or understand tax laws and requirements, you could find your company facing IRS penalties.

In the past, outsourcing payroll wasn't always a practical option for small businesses with just one or two employees. Today, you can find online services that can help small business owners manage their own payroll affordably, accurately and efficiently by paying employees and paying and filing payroll taxes. These services handle all the calculations for paying employees; calculating, paying and filing federal, state and local payroll taxes anywhere in the country; and notifying tax authorities of new hires. Mobile payroll apps also allow owners to run payroll on the go anytime, anywhere.

Next steps after hiring

In addition to completing necessary payroll tax forms, benefit enrollment forms and employee information files, you'll need to complete a New Hire Reporting form that helps state and federal agencies track down parents in regard to child support payments.

You'll also need to set up a storage system; the IRS requires all companies keep employment tax records for at least four years. Additional post-hiring tasks will include:

  • Verifying an employee's eligibility to work. Federal law requires employers to verify that an employee can legally work in the U.S. You'll need to complete and submit an Employment Eligibility Verification Form within three days of making a hire.
  • Fulfill your obligations under your state's new hire reporting program. Federal law requires all employers to report all new hires to the state within 20 days of hiring.
  • Secure workers' compensation insurance.
  • Establish a bookkeeping system.

Hiring that first employee can be exciting and challenging. Fortunately, with some planning and the help of online tools, you can ensure the hiring process goes smoothly, and each worker who joins your team contributes to your business' continued growth.

Source: www.SurePayroll.com


Six Surprising Home Hazards

August 8, 2013 10:48 pm

You might think home fires are due to someone leaving the oven running or the coffee pot on. However, an alarming number of appliance fires are caused by the units themselves as opposed to human error. The September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, indentifies six appliances that cause the most fires and tips on how to minimize the risk.

"It was shocking to learn that appliances can turn themselves on or suddenly short-circuit and go up in flames," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "So it's important to learn the signs of trouble and know what to do if you have to deal with an appliance fire."

ShopSmart analyzed data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System from 2002 through 2009 and found appliances were the main cause of 69,000 fires – with about half of the incidents linked to a mechanical, electrical, or design flaw. Below are the appliances that accounted for most of these fires and ways which consumers can minimize their risk:

1. Ranges. Burners that turn on by themselves and delayed ignition on a gas oven's bake and broil functions are the leading contributors to a range fire.
Number of fires: 16,824
Play it safe: Look for any unusual error messages on the range's digital display. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food and be sure to keep flammable items, including oven mitts, away from the cooktop. Kids should be kept at least 3 feet from the cooking area.

2. Clothes Dryers: Lint buildup and blockages and gas leaks on dryers that run on gas can cause fires.
Number of fires: 8,717
Play it safe: Don't run dryers when asleep or when no one is home.  Clean out the lint filter before each load and check vents annually for clogs. If using a gas dryer, install a carbon monoxide alarm near the laundry room to warn of leaks, which are poisonous.

3. Microwaves. Units that turn on by themselves and glass doors that shatter unexpectedly can lead to a potential fire.  Some microwave fire victims said that the panel flashed the code "PAN" or "F2" as self-starting began.
Number of fires: 1,705
Play it safe: Don't store food or other items in the microwave.  Look for unusual error messages on digital display panels and if the unit goes on by itself, try to turn it off. Know where it's plugged in and which circuit breaker controls it in case it won't turn off using the microwave's controls.

4. Refrigerators: Fires can be caused by electronic components that short-circuit, control boards that overheat, or by lightbulbs that stay on when the door is shut.
Number of fires: 1,514
Play it safe: Be aware of unusual error messages on fridges with digital displays. Check that the lightbulb goes off when the fridge is closed by pressing the switch, which is usually inside where the door closes.

5. Dishwashers: Fires can be caused by circuit boards and heating elements catching fire, and liquid rinse aids that can leak into circuitry, creating a fire hazard.
Number of fires: 1,015
Play it safe: Don't run a dishwasher when asleep or when no one is home. If the rinse-aid dispenser needs constant refilling, call for a repair.  Know which circuit breaker cuts power to the unit in case it starts smoking or goes up in flames.

6. Toasters and toaster ovens: Two potential fire hazards are units that turn themselves on and mechanism jams while toasting.
Number of fires: 902
Play it safe: Unplug toasters when not in use and inspect them for any frayed power cords. Don't toast anything that doesn't easily fit into the slot.

The good news is that these incidents are rare given the millions of appliances sold, and there are ways consumers can protect themselves from an incident.

  • Register new appliances to be notified of service problems.
  • Check for recalls at recalls.gov.  In the past six years, more than 18.6 million appliances have been recalled for flaws that could cause a fire.

Sources: Consumer Reports, ShopSmart magazine


Word of the Day

August 8, 2013 10:48 pm

Steering. The illegal practice of directing potential home buyers to or away from certain neighborhoods either to maintain or to change the character of an area, or to create a speculative situation.