Gunning Daily News
July 24, 2013 6:04 am
(BPT) - As more people choose to stay in their current homes longer, Americans are diving into large remodel projects. Forty percent of homeowners plan to remodel or build an addition to their existing home within the next two years, with kitchen and bathroom projects remaining the most popular remodeling jobs, according to the 2013 Houzz and Home Survey.
Home remodeling for the long term can be challenging, as newer designs may clash with the existing style of the home. The key to a successful remodel is to choose elements that will create a cohesive design throughout, yet remain fashionable and functional well into the future.
"Whether it's upgrading their existing home or renovating a newly purchased one to fit their long-term needs, homeowners are settling in and want quality products that will look great, provide design flexibility and perform well over time," says Andy Wells, vice president of product design, MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc.
Here are a few tips to help make your remodel work for the long haul:
Keep your space flexible with neutral color choices
As homeowners stay in one place longer, they are passing on bright, bold colors, especially in the kitchen and instead choosing neutral colors and clean styles that work well with a variety of design elements. Many new earthy, neutral color palettes provide visual warmth while seamlessly blending with the rest of a house. Moreover, neutral hues can increase dramatic impact when carried throughout the kitchen in various textures, such as flooring, a backsplash or cabinets.
Complement existing design elements with transitional styles
Modern cabinets can clash with traditional elements in other rooms, especially when remodeling older homes. Choose cabinets with design elements that easily transition across differing styles and bridge the gap between your desire for a contemporary kitchen and the traditional reality of an older home.
Create a functional, organized space
Functionality is essential to a kitchen or bath that will continue to meet the changing needs of your family over time, whether it's ensuring there's enough storage space for a growing family or making the home more accessible for family members of all ages and abilities. Remodeling for the long haul also means creating a planned, practical space and many new products are available that can help improve the organization in your home.
With these tips and a wide breadth of cabinetry, colors and styles designed for today's transitioning homes, remodeling for the long haul has never been easier.
Source: MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc
July 24, 2013 6:04 am
Of all the pests that can take up residence in your home this summer, ants are among the most common, and they don't discriminate.
"Treat ants proactively, even if you only see one or two," advises Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network's Desperate Landscapes. Jason's long experience in home remodeling and carpentry makes him an expert on how to detect and discover entry points for potentially destructive ants to enter the home. "Taking preventative measures will help you protect both the inside and outside of your home from these pesky insects."
Here are a few of Jason's tips and tricks to help protect your home and outdoor spaces from ants:
Treat Using a Systematic Approach
Even if you only see a few, adopt a systematic approach to help treat the ants you see and even those you don't. Start by treating the perimeter of your home using a product such as Raid Max Bug Barrier to defend against ants that want to enter your house. Next, use an instant-action product indoors to kill them on contact. Treat areas such as baseboards and entry points, as they are prime locations for ants to infiltrate homes. Finally, place baits in areas where you see individual ants or ones following a trail or path to protect against bigger problems in the future. Do not place ant baits in areas where sprays were used.
Clear Damp Areas
Ants love to build their colonies in moist areas, especially those in which organic mulch, leaves, weeds, branches and brush remnants collect. Places like where rain gutters overflow are perfect environments for ants so be sure to clean them out regularly. If you have an ant problem year after year, see if there is any wet debris up against your home and get rid of it. Use stone mulch and cut back weeds around the foundation.
Store Food Properly
To help protect the inside of your home from ants, store food in sealed containers, use dried goods in a timely manner and sweep up crumbs immediately. Even a small crumb on the floor is a large meal for an ant colony. Also, be sure to clean up after your pets. Many ant problems are the result of pet food bowls being left out with food remnants in them. Be sure to have an instant-action spray on hand, such as Raid Ant & Roach Killer, to kill bugs on contact. Be sure to read the label carefully when treating in and around food-prep areas.
Outdoor mounds are nests that are underground. They are a big cue for a colony of ants, so when you see them be sure to treat them right away with a pest control product.
Carpenter ants are the largest of all ant species and usually get into homes from nearby trees. Inspect trees on your property for nests and treat as needed. Most carpenter ant nests are found in decaying wood in trees with holes or imperfections. In fact, carpenter ants can hollow out the wood throughout your home, causing problems that can be costly to repair.
July 24, 2013 6:04 am
Valuation. Estimated or determined value; synonymous with appraising.
July 24, 2013 6:04 am
A: By law, real estate agents may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. They also cannot follow spoken or implied directives from the home seller to discriminate. If you suspect you have been discriminated against, a complaint may be filed with the local Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office nearest you. You may call HUD’s toll-free number, 1-800-669-9777, or visit its web site at www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm.
July 23, 2013 3:58 am
Cars last longer and perform best if they are kept in top condition. But that may not mean spending extra money on car care that isn’t necessary.
From Consumer Reports come the money-saving truths about four of the most common car maintenance myths:
Change oil every 3,000 miles – Although lube shops put those 3,000 mile reminders on your windshield after every lube, they really are not necessary. Save your money and stick to the guide recommended in your car owner’s manual. In most cases, under normal driving conditions, your car can safely go 7,500 miles between oil changes.
Air conditioning hurts fuel economy – Using the A/C does put more load on the engine. But Consumer Reports tests show only a very slight decrease in fuel economy as compared to opening the windows – primarily because opening windows increases aerodynamic drag. Also, using the A/C helps keep the driver alert and more comfortable, which is safer for everyone on the road.
Inflate tires to pressure shown on sidewalls – The pounds-per-square-inch figure on the side of the tire is the maximum pressure the tire can safely hold, not the automaker's recommended pressure, which provides the best balance of braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort. That number is usually found on a doorjamb sticker, in the glove box, or on the fuel-filler door. Check the tire pressure monthly after the car has been parked for a few hours.
Premium gas is better for your car – Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade (87 octane) fuel. Using premium in these cars won't hurt, but it won't improve performance, either. A higher-octane number simply means that the fuel is less prone to pre-ignition problems, so it's often specified for hotter running, high-compression engines. So if your car is designed for 87-octane fuel, don't waste money on premium. But some cars really do require premium gas, meaning you're stuck paying extra. Keep this in mind when shopping for your next car.
July 23, 2013 3:58 am
(BPT) - Home cooling costs rise with the temperature, making many homeowners dread the arrival of their monthly electric bill during the good ol' summertime. Fortunately, with a few simple strategies, it's easy to cut down on cooling costs so you can enjoy summer, even through record-high temperatures.
"Air conditioning is the main way homeowners cool their home, but it's far from a one-size-fits-all solution," says Laura Johnson, home economist for LG Electronics USA. "How you choose to cool your home can make a big difference in comfort levels and energy costs."
She suggests starting by asking yourself a few simple questions:
* How hot is it likely to get in the region where you live?
* What is the square footage you want cooled?
* Do you have one room that just doesn't cool effectively while others are fine?
* Do you have an existing duct system?
* Do you want to install a whole home system, but don't have months to work with a contractor?
If you have an existing system that doesn't seem to be cooling your home as well as it should, it's time to explore other options. If your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is more than 12 years old, it's likely not working as efficiently as it could. Have a professional HVAC contractor evaluate the system. A tune-up may help the system work better, or reveal that it's time to consider a replacement.
Heating and cooling costs the average homeowner about $1,000 a year - nearly half the home's total energy bill, according to EnergyStar.gov. When researching new air conditioners, always look for the Energy Star label. If your air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star qualified model could reduce cooling costs by 30 percent.
A variety of air conditioning systems are available. If you have an existing duct system, installing a central air conditioning system is a good option. Those without ducts aren't stuck choosing between inefficient window units or extensive construction - newer duct-free systems provide efficient cooling with high energy-efficiency ratings.
For example, duct-free systems like ArtCool models from LG, allow you to cool your entire home or just a single room without the need for invasive ductwork. There's no tearing down walls or altering your home's appearance. In most cases, a professional contractor gets the job done in less than a day. The contractor will help you determine if you need a single- or multiple-room system. Be sure to research your contractor carefully, because proper installation is key to achieving maximum energy efficiency. Plus, some duct-free systems qualify for a tax credit of $300 if you install your system before Dec. 31.
No matter what air conditioning system you choose, be sure to check the "SEER rating." SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is the industry-wide performance rating. The higher the number, the more efficiently a product will perform. The average air conditioner rating for an Energy Star-qualified window unit is a 9 to 11, while duct-free systems like the Art Cool Premier have SEER ratings up to 28, which can translate to bigger energy savings.
You can also take steps to conserve energy in other areas. During sunny, hot periods of the day, use appropriate window coverings to block heat and conserve the cool air. Avoid using the oven or excessive electronic devices - like TVs or computers - which can put off a lot of heat.
Always adjust the thermostat to the highest temperature that is still comfortable during summer. A smaller difference between the indoors and outdoors means a smaller energy bill. Use a programmable thermostat that increases the temperature setting when you're away from your house, such as during work hours. Set the system to automatically adjust to a cooler temperature setting an hour before you return home and you won't even know the difference.
"By evaluating your air conditioner and taking a few efficiency-improving steps to cooling your home, you'll stay comfortable and help lower your energy bills," says Johnson.
July 23, 2013 3:58 am
Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries.
“There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, CEO of Greenbo.
“Plants add a great deal to our quality of life – from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they’re convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.”
While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.
He offers these tips especially for balcony gardeners:
Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have:
Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun?
• Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day.)
• Remember, pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive. Plants in regions with short growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.
Choose the right pots:
• Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where the winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Non-porous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.
• Most vegetable plants require even watering – don’t let them dry out completely and don’t keep them soggy. Apply water directly to the soil.
• Make sure your containers have drainage holes or a drainage system. If they have an attached tray to catch excess water, don’t allow the plants’ roots to sit in the water, which promotes rot and fungus. Either empty the tray regularly, or use a design that holds the water away from the roots.
Use the right dirt:
• It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted – a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots out. You can buy a sterile soilless potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix up your own batch using 1 part compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part potting soil.
• Don’t use garden soil or top soil, which won’t allow adequate drainage.
• On windy balconies, top-dress your container with small rocks to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.
Joulus offers one more tip for high-rise dwellers: Rely on self-pollinating plants, or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate.
“You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” he says.
Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.
July 23, 2013 3:58 am
Valid contract. One that meets all requirements of law, is binding upon its parties, and is enforceable in a court of law.
July 23, 2013 3:58 am
A: While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction.
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
(BPT)—These days, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the multitude of sources offering money-saving tips. It seems like everyone has a hot new tip or an old tried-and-true method you just have to try. Unfortunately, trying to keep up with them all can actually be counter-productive to your savings goal because you aren't able to dedicate enough time and effort to see substantial results.
So how do you choose which tip to focus on? The answer is easy. Look at your personal lifestyle to figure out the savings tactic that will work best for you.
For the serial over-achiever
Sure, you probably have the energy to coupon "til the cows come home," but that is not the most efficient use of your time. Try setting a goal. Your first step should be to figure out how much you would like to save each month so you can stop yourself once you hit that goal. Of course saving more than what you estimated would be great, but it's important to maintain a healthy coupon/life balance.
And don't be afraid to multitask! "When I was working full time, I would use my breaks and lunch to cut out the coupons I would need to shop and sometimes also shop on my lunch hour," says Jennifer Williams, founder of "My Frugal Wife" blog. Cutting coupons while you eat or while the kids are doing homework means you aren't skipping important parts of your day to get couponing done.
The important thing is to manage the time you spend couponing so that it does not add stress to your already-busy life.
For the rewards program skeptic
You may think that the concept of saving is all well and good, but when it comes to the practice of participating in rewards programs you are not sure that the effort matches the savings.
This can be true, especially if you try to juggle too many programs at once. Participating in more rewards programs does not necessarily mean more savings. In fact, there are an average of 21.9 rewards program memberships per household in the U.S., according to the 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census, yet individuals are only active in 44 percent of the rewards programs they are signed up for.
Save more by focusing your efforts on the right program for you. "Find a program that allows you to save on your most frequent purchases," says Heather Brickell, founder of "My Sweet Savings" blog. "A rewards program such as the Fuel Rewards Network(TM) program - or FRN(TM) program - is valuable because your savings pay off at the pump - one of the hardest places to save money or get a discount."
The FRN program allows you to redeem rewards for fuel savings at participating Shell stations. There are multiple ways to earn rewards through everyday purchases of things like food, clothing and household goods.
Participating in a program that allows you to earn rewards without having to step outside of your normal routine can help you save regularly without the stress.-
For the on-the-go lifestyle
Don't have time to spend hours cutting coupons or scouring the Internet for deals? No problem. If you are constantly on the go, but still looking to save money, Brickell suggests looking into downloadable smartphone apps that will allow you to save money on everything from clothing, dining out, and travel. "Apps are easy to use and many retailers and even restaurants will scan discount codes right from your smartphone," says Brickell.
Download a few choice apps and begin scanning them whenever you have a free moment in your day. It's quick and easy because, let's face it, your phone never leaves your side.
Just remember, if you are doing something - anything - to save, then count that as a success! You can create a consistent stream of savings without having to spend all of your time worrying about making it happen. For example, Wayne Wesley, an everyday consumer from Florida who commutes 60 miles per day for work, also takes advantage of the FRN program's ease of use. "I am not the kind of person who would use coupons or spends a lot of time hunting for bargains," says Wesley, who estimates he's saved more than $500 using the FRN program over the past year. "But I earn rewards at my grocery store each week and usually save between 35 and 95 cents per gallon when I fill up. It's an easy way I save money each month without much effort."
The bottom line is that you can cut costs and save in a way that works for you. Don't let time or multiple rewards programs and savings tactics overwhelm you; just pick the one that is right for you and stick with it. The savings can really add up over time!