Gunning Daily News

Q: What is Universal Design and how does it relate to remodeling?

May 3, 2013 1:32 pm

A: Universal design is an approach to design that focuses on making all products and environments as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, physical ability, or situation. In recent years, the housing industry has recognized the importance of a "universal" approach to residential design that modifies standard building elements to improve a home's accessibility and usability. This allows for more equitable, flexible and simple use. Many books exist on the subject, including Residential Remodeling and Universal Design: Making Homes More Comfortable and Accessible, a resource guide offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s guide provides technical guidance on selecting and installing universal features during home remodeling or renovation. The modifications can range from expanding doorway dimensions to replacing kitchen appliances. The guide emphasizes eliminating unintentional barriers and using designs and features that could benefit people with a broad range of needs.

Title Insurance: Protect Your Biggest Investment

May 2, 2013 4:52 pm

As thousands of Americans participate in the spring buying season, it’s important to remember that a new sofa isn’t the only purchase that should accompany your new house. Title insurance is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your new residence, and protect what might be the biggest investment you will ever make.

“Problems with the title of your new home can limit your enjoyment and use of the property,” says Frank Pellegrini, president of .the national trade association of the land title insurance industry (ALTA). “Only an owner's title insurance policy fully protects the homebuyer should a covered title problem arise.”

A title insurance policy is purchased for a one-time fee at the real estate closing and lasts for as long as the consumer or their heirs have an interest in the property. This policy protects consumers against possible hidden title problems that can include errors or omissions in deeds, mistakes in examining records, forgery and undisclosed heirs.

“An owner's policy provides assurance that your title company will stand behind you — monetarily and with legal defense if needed — if a covered title problem arises after you buy your home,” says Pellegrini. “Purchasing a home is often the single largest financial investment a family can make. Your owner’s title insurance policy can help minimize potential issues that could impede your property rights.”

Title insurance industry practices vary due to differences in state law and local real estate custom. Consumers should ask their settlement agent or real estate agent how the title insurance industry operates in their area.


4 Tips for a Healthier Heart

May 2, 2013 4:52 pm

(BPT) - For millions of Americans, the battle against heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions goes on year round. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women.

However, despite the grim realities of heart disease, the steps to achieve better heart health can be simple. Experts agree that heart disease can be both preventable and controllable with the appropriate lifestyle changes.

Registered dietician Elizabeth Somer, author of "Eat Your Way to Sexy" believes there are clear steps a person can take to turn around his or her heart health.

"Many people with heart disease may be able to improve their heart health by making a few changes to what they eat, how much they move and their lifestyle," Somer says. "There are four key things to think about for heart health: keep your blood fat levels down, keep your blood pressure in check, promote healthy blood flow and circulation, and keep inflammation down."

Here are five simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your overall health.

1. Take control of cholesterol with oat fiber: Numerous studies spanning a decade or more of research support the claim that dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. The fiber in oats is a soluble fiber called beta glucan. This fiber works by flushing cholesterol out of the system. Additionally, fiber-rich foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.

2. Better your blood pressure: Nearly one-third of all American adults have high blood pressure and more than half of them don't have it under control, according to the CDC. The risks that accompany uncontrolled high blood pressure are serious. However, taking easy steps will lower that risk. Exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, in addition to eating a low-sodium diet, can all contribute to a healthier blood pressure. Also, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than people who've never smoked.

3. Decrease inflammation: Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA may help reduce inflammation and may also help lower risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Load up on heart-healthy foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, salmon, mackerel, nuts and foods fortified with EPA/DHA Omega-3 fatty acids such as certain milks, snacks and even cooking oils.

4. Shed the layers: It's nothing new. We know that being overweight puts us at risk for numerous health problems, including an increased risk of both heart disease and stroke. The change in seasons can serve as the perfect springboard into a new exercise routine. Take advantage of extended daylight hours by sneaking a sweat session into your evening routine and take control of your diet, making sure to cut back on foods with saturated and trans fats.

Eight Ways to Boost Your Child’s IQ

May 2, 2013 4:52 pm

All parents want the best for their kids – and that includes an intellect that soaks up knowledge they can use all their lives. While many factors come into play in terms of how children learn, education experts interviewed by Woman’s Day magazine suggest eight things parents can do to help boost their child’s openness to information:

Breastfeeding – A McGill University study of 14,000 children showed that those who had been breastfed for at least the first six months of life scored as much as 7.5 points higher on verbal IQ tests at age six.

Healthy diets
– Researchers tracking 4,000 children from age three to age eight determined that kids who ate the most processed foods and convenience foods high in fat and sugar, had IQ scores 1.67 points lower than those who ate more fruit, vegetables, protein and pasta.

Breakfast – A morning meal as simple as whole-grain cereal or toast and fruit juice can help a child to be more focused and ready to learn, say Harvard Medical School researchers.

DHA omega-3 fatty acids – Many studies have found that diets high in this nutrient, found in fish and other seafood, help raise people’s intelligence. Research suggests that when pregnant women and nursing mothers get over 1,000 mg of DH daily, infant IQ can swell by 3.5 points.

The preschool experience – an analysis of 16 recent studies found that preschool is beneficial for all children, and that sending a disadvantaged child to a preschool that focuses on language development can raise IQ by as much as seven points.

Music lessons – A University of Toronto study found that music lessons boost brain power in children six to 11 years of age.

Interactive reading – NYU researchers have found that when children under four are active participants in reading with their caregivers, their IQ can go up by more than six points. In other words, reading to your kids is not enough. Encourage them to ask questions and/or comment about what is happening in the story.

Sports and play breaks – Studies show children’s cognitive test scores and grades are higher when they have regular breaks to blow off steam via athletics or free play.

Word of the Day

May 2, 2013 4:52 pm

Origination fee. A charge by the lender for granting and processing a new mortgage loan.

Q: What Are Some of the Legal Considerations Relative to Remodeling?

May 2, 2013 4:52 pm

A: There are many, including those surrounding zoning, permits, variances, and building codes. All of these regulations are the government’s way of controlling the physical development of land and public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, alteration, repair or demolition. The regulations vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next and can result in fines or serious consequences. There are also often engineering approvals and requirements related to grading, site drainage, utility connections, wells and septics, and sometimes fire regulations. Another area of legal considerations involves contractual issues tied to responsibilities for permits and approvals, code and regulations compliance, insurance, financing, and warranties. If construction financing is to be provided by a lender, there will often be requirements relative to progress inspections, construction draws, lien waivers, title insurance, holdbacks, etc. It may be worthwhile to hire an attorney to provide guidance on these issues and to assure the completeness and fairness of the remodeling contract.

7 Cheap Ways to Bring Spring Home

May 1, 2013 6:46 pm

The spring season seems to bring with it an urge to freshen our surroundings. But it may not take a full interior paint job or a roomful of new furniture to bring the essence of spring into your home.

Home and garden specialists suggest seven quick and inexpensive ways to brighten every room of your home:

  • Start with fresh fruit and flowers – Lift anyone’s mood by placing a clear glass vase on your dining room table, filled with lemons, tangerines, water and a moderate-sized bouquet of fresh spring flowers.

  • Set a spring-like table – Invest in a new set of everyday dishes in a bright, pleasing color or pattern. Add complementary placemats and napkins to complete the fresh, new look.

  • Give the kitchen new pop – Renew worn cabinets with a coat of off-white paint and a new set of eye-catching hardware. Replace the stand-by teapot on the stove with a new one in an eye-popping color.

  • Freshen the boudoir – Replace your heavy winter quilt or spread with a new, white duvet. Swap out the heavy drapes for sheers that let in the sunshine.

  • Accent one wall – You may not need to paint the whole room, but think about bringing new life to the living or dining room by painting one wall a bright, happy color as accent.

  • Change out accessories – You may be amazed at how much a few new lampshades, colorful pillows, and/or new picture frames can change the look of a room. Add a matching vase here and there, or new decorative pieces on the mantel or coffee table, to bring your living space into spring.

  • Put splash in the bath – A pretty pedestal sink, or a trendy bowl or vessel sink in a bold, new color, can bring your bathroom up to date. Make it spring-like by papering one wall in a pleasing print or switching out the towels and/or shower curtain to new ones with a bold, new look.

Two Must-Have features to Add to your Backyard This Summer

May 1, 2013 6:46 pm

(BPT)—Is your backyard ready for bliss this summer? You probably look forward to spending as much time outdoors as possible during warmer months. But do you really have everything you need to ensure you can enjoy your outdoor living space from dawn to dusk - and beyond?

Here are three must-have backyard features that can keep your outdoor time comfortable, enjoyable and luxurious, no matter the time of day or night:


You don't go to bed when the sun goes down, and your outdoor fun doesn't have to end when night arrives. Strategically placed lighting can help keep your outdoor living space safe and inviting well into the evening. When choosing lights for your backyard, deck or patio, choose options specifically designed for outdoor use. Indoor lights can't hold up to the weather outdoors, and could pose a safety risk.

The American Lighting Association recommends using low-voltage mini lights, concealed in trees, under steps, railings or benches to light decks, porches and patios. You can also install spotlights in nearby trees and point the illumination toward your outdoor living space. Solar lights are also a great option for outdoors, since they cost nothing to operate and create a softer light than traditional electric bulbs.

Fire pit

Even on hot summer nights there's something enchanting about a fire pit in your outdoor environment. Whether you opt to have something built in to your patio or deck, or purchase something portable from your local garden or home improvement store, a fire pit or chiminea can add both ambiance and warmth to your outdoor environment. You can find a size and style to fit your outdoor design and needs, whether you choose a ceramic chiminea for roasting marshmallows or a large, CobraCo hand-hammered copper fire pit tub to create warmth and ambiance.

When choosing a fire element for your backyard, keep in mind the importance of scale. Your fire pit should be big enough to provide heat, light and ambiance, but not so large it overwhelms the space. Keep flames away from combustible surfaces, like furniture or stored wood, and never leave your fire unattended, especially when there are small children or animals around. Finally, make sure you always have a fire extinguisher on hand when using a fire pit, and follow the manufacturer's directions for use.

Your outdoor fun can go all day long - and well into the night - when you prep your backyard with the right tools and features to maximize comfort and enjoyment.


Word of the Day

May 1, 2013 6:46 pm

Promissory note.  A written promise to repay a debt on demand or at a stated time in the future.  

Q: What Should I Know about Mechanics’ Liens?

May 1, 2013 6:46 pm

A:  A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that provides contractors and suppliers legal recourse to assure payment for services.  The liens vary from state to state and allow for a cloud on the title of your property and foreclosure action.  Also, if you paid the contractor, but he failed to pay the subcontractors and laborers – who do not have a contract with you – then the workers may file a mechanic's lien on your home.  This could result in a double payment by you for the same job.  You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by selecting your contractor carefully and managing your construction project responsibly.  Also, most construction lenders will specify a payment distribution process that involves the securing of lien waivers.  The remodeling contract should address this as well, assuring that the general contractor is responsible for all payments as well as any costs required to remedy lien disputes that may arise.