October 9, 2013 8:54 pm
As cold weather approaches, the Department of Environmental Protection is urging homeowners to act now to save energy and money by inspecting indoor and outdoor home heating oil tanks for potential problems prior to refilling them.
"It is very important to properly maintain heating oil tanks not only to save energy and money, but to protect the health of you and your family," Acting DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo says. "Don't put it off; inspect your tank now to ensure a safe, warm winter."
Leaking heating oil can cause indoor air problems and potentially contaminate groundwater and private drinking water wells. A spill cleanup can cost up to $50,000 and may not be covered by homeowner's insurance. Residents who think their oil tank may have a problem should immediately contact their oil company for help.
A quarter of all Pennsylvania homes use heating oil to stay warm in the winter.
DEP encourages homeowners to consider these tips:
- For safety reasons, always assume the tank contains at least some oil;
- Routinely inspect the exterior of the tank and all attached equipment;
- Check for signs of rusting on the tank and its structural supports;
- Examine the tank's fill line and feed line to the furnace for leaks;
- Never tip over or empty a tank on the ground;
- Enlist a professional to perform maintenance or alterations to a heating oil tank system;
- Recognize that wet spots or odors near the tank may signal a problem;
- For fuel delivery, make certain that the home address is clearly visible and the tank's fill line clearly marked. If a resident cannot be home when fuel oil is delivered, mark the fill pipe with a red flag or marker and inform the oil company of the location. Ensure that any disconnected fill pipes that remain above the ground are permanently sealed and cannot be opened.
Residents are urged to inspect and maintain their heating oil tanks to avoid needlessly losing fuel and to protect the investment they have made to keep themselves warm.
October 9, 2013 8:54 pm
(BPT) - Bathrooms are certainly among the busiest rooms in any home. But a bathroom can be so much more than just the place where you get ready during your hurried morning routine. One of the hottest trends in home decorating and remodeling is creating a bathroom that serves as a spa-like retreat.
Soothing colors and natural materials are right on trend, but if you really want your bathroom to be an oasis of calm, it also needs to be low-maintenance. If you're worried about your beautiful new shower leaking, it's hard to enjoy the experience. Instead, start by taking steps that ensure you don't have to worry about leaks and the damage they cause.
Whether you're a DIY expert or hiring the job out to a professional, it's important to carefully review the plans for a new shower. If you're bringing a contractor on for the job, ask what kind of materials and practices they'll be using to ensure that they're not cutting corners. If you're up for a do-it-yourself job, carefully consider the materials you'll use - look for options that make your job easier but don't skimp on quality. For instance, the new Shower System from USG is designed to streamline installation without compromising on performance.
Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your shower is as durable and leak-proof as possible:
- The shower tray: Having the right base in your shower makes all the difference. There's a perception that the best way to ensure a leak-proof base is an expensive and labor intensive mortar bed. But there are solutions that can cut down on cost and labor. The pre-sloped, high-density, molded-foam shower tray in USG's DUROCK Shower System, for instance, has a 2 percent slope that makes it easily compatible with a wide array of tile shapes and sizes, offering comfortable flooring and simplicity of installation.
- Waterproof membranes: No matter how beautiful your tile, it's what's underneath that counts. Using a waterproof membrane ensures far better performance long term. A strong (tear-proof) and thin waterproof membrane over a durable backerboard ensures that your shower stays waterproof, even beyond what your eye can see.
- The drain: A securely fitted drain will help keep water flowing where it's supposed to go. If you're installing a shower system, consider using the proper drain assembly that goes along with it. There are many systems that offer a versatile drain assembly and wide range of drain grates. Keep in mind that grate height might need to be adjusted to match tile thickness.
A carefully constructed shower will hold its beauty for a long time. And that means your bathroom will remain a retreat where you can think about relaxing instead of repairing.
October 9, 2013 8:54 pm
Discount broker. Full-service broker who charges less than the prevailing commission rates in his or her community.
October 9, 2013 8:54 pm
A: The best time to sell is when you are ready, or when you must. That is, when you have outgrown the space in your current home, or you prefer to trade down to something smaller. Perhaps your martial status has changed, which necessitates a move, or you need to relocate for a job.
Market conditions also play a role, as do seasonal conditions. For example, your chances of getting top dollar for your home are more likely in a seller’s market, when demand outweighs supply, than in a buyer’s market.
Local and national economic factors also may dictate when to sell. If a major employer in your area is laying off workers, it may not be a good time to put your home up for sale. People will be cautious about buying when the future seems so unpredictable or bleak.
Most agents agree the best time to sell is in the spring. This is when the largest number of potential buyers hit the market. Your home is likely to sell faster and at a higher price, although sales begin to pick up as early as February and start to slack off in July, the slowest month for real estate transactions.
October 8, 2013 7:06 pm
Small business grants are great if you can get them, but there are some scams that you need to be aware of.
For example, one scam offers a great-sounding deal: Fork over a small "pre-funding fee" as a down payment, in order to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in Small Business Development Center grants to start an e-commerce business. The scammers used the SBDC's letterhead to make the ruse appear legit, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.
So how can you tell if the small business grant offer you're considering is real? Here are five red flags to watch out for:
- Loans v. grants. Be on the lookout for ads that not only offer you "free cash grants," but those that use the words "grants" and "loans" interchangeably. In general, grants don't have to be paid back, while loans do. While grants often have some of the same features as loans, they are still very different, and a legitimate organization would never make this mistake of lumping them together as one in the same.
- Federal grant? If you run a for-profit business and receive an offer for a federal grant, be careful. Federal grants are typically not available for for-profit businesses, and are usually only given out to non-profit organizations or government entities.
- Check addresses. As seen in the SBDC grant scam, con artists may send you a grant offer on official-looking letterhead, possibly from the Small Business Administration (SBA) or another government entity. However, that letter may also contain a request that you send money to an address that is completely different from the agency's official address. If the addresses don't match up, make sure you double-check that it was actually the listed organization that sent it.
- Grants for individuals starting businesses. If you're an individual small business owner, be wary. Grants are rarely, if ever, available to small business owners who are looking to jump-start or expand their for-profit business, CNN reports.
- Bank account information. If any grant offer requests your bank account information, this is an immediate red flag. Make sure you never give out this kind of information, or any other personal identifying information, such as your social security number, to an unverified organization. This could lead to identity theft and your funds being drained.
- Remember that if you receive an offer for a small business grant that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Rarely will anyone give out free money without strings attached.
For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.
October 8, 2013 7:06 pm
If you need a new roof, you will quickly realize that there are hundreds of roofers out there to choose from. Below are several guidelines, provided by Republic Roofing & Restoration, to keep in mind while conducting a search for a roofing contractor. By following these guidelines it should be much easier to choose a contractor who will provide the quality service each home or business owner deserves.
- Ensure the company has a Bank Financial Stability and Character Letter. Make certain it is signed by someone from the bank listed. This basically ensures homeowners that the company is of good character standing with the bank as well as a financially secure company.
- Ask to see a General Liability Insurance Certificate that covers both residential and commercial properties. Make certain the company is not self-insured. A majority of contracting companies no longer carry sufficient insurance to protect home and business owners against personal losses.
- Ask for a Lien Waiver up front. Before any contracts are signed or money exchanges hands be certain to get this waiver. Most contracts are vague and do not provide the consumer with complete protection.
- Read the contract very carefully to make certain that an Arbitration Statement is included. This will give the consumer a method of recourse should a dispute arise.
- Be certain to ask for a list of current references. Reputable contractors know to carry a pre-printed list of references to share with customers. Before making the final decision to hire a particular contractor, contact the references provided and ask many questions. It is also a great idea to ask the contractor for business references as well as who they purchase their supplies from. Feel free to contact them as well.
- Be extremely cautious of contractors who ask for money up front. This is by far the number one area of fraud among contractors. There are exceptions to this rule, like almost everything else in life. If a non-refundable special order has been placed, often times the contractor will ask for this money up front before placing the order. If an insurance company is not covering the costs of the repairs and materials necessary and the home or business owner has questionable credit, the contractor will most likely ask for some, if not all, of the funding up front.
- Check the contractors Trade Association Certificates of Standing. These are more commonly known as the Better Business Bureau or the National Roofing Contractor Association. Looking at reviews on websites such as Angie's List can be a valuable resource as well. Being a member of a trade association simply implies that the company follows ethical business practices as well as provides quality work.
- Before making a decision, make certain the company is a Manufacturer Certified Company. This ensures any warranty will be remain in effect. With a few minutes of research this should not be hard to determine.
- After the work has been completed, ask for a quality inspection checklist and walkthrough. Before handing over final payment, make certain that a Certified Inspector has done a complete installation review and filled out a checklist. Until this has been done, do not make the final payment. This acts as an added protection to consumers.
Source: Republic Roofing & Restoration
October 8, 2013 7:06 pm
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.
October 8, 2013 7:06 pm
Discount points. Added loan fee charged by a lender to make the yield on a lower-than-market-value loan competitive with higher-interest loans.
October 8, 2013 7:06 pm
A: Start by finding out its worth. Contact a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal.
Next, get busy working on the home’s appearance. You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar. This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows.
The “curb appeal” of your home is extremely important. In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up. So make sure the lawn is pristine – the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed.
The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market.
October 8, 2013 2:33 pm
Remodeling a home can be expensive and exhausting. But you can breathe new life into tired rooms with just a small budget, a little sweat equity, and a healthy imagination.
California decorating consultant Gina Fulton suggests eight quick fixes to freshen the look and increase the functionality of an old, drab bathroom:
New paint – Choose a color that brightens the space and shines with personality. Paint one wall in a bold shade. Or wallpaper one – or all four walls – in a whimsical or elegant design that says something about you.
Vanity – Choose a new one if you can afford it – or paint the existing vanity in a bold or pastel color that offsets or complements the color of the walls.
Drawer pulls and towel racks – The bathroom is a small space, so you may want to splurge on unique hardware that adds a touch of class.
Sinks or faucets – If it’s been a while since you’ve perused the hardware aisle, you may be amazed at the wide variety of affordable sinks and faucets. Consider an art-glass basin or a high-arcing faucet that adds fresh perspective to the bath.
Lighting and mirrors – Replace a small mirror with a larger one. Surround it with dressing-room lights. Or frame it to match or contrast the walls.
Flooring – Install inexpensive tile, hardwood or bamboo flooring that updates and complements your new design.
Artwork – Choose a theme – perhaps impressionist prints, French boudoir prints, or even a series of framed family vacation photos. Keep visual interest in mind, but be sure to use surfaces that won’t suffer from steamy air.
New towels and shower curtain – Whip up a sink skirt for a stand-alone sink. Embellished towels and coordinating shower curtain can pull your new design scheme together and enhance the updated look.