Gunning Daily News

Protecting Your Home…From Your Pets

February 22, 2013 2:00 pm

Since February is Responsible Pet Owner's Month, I will continue our series on taking the best care of your pet, while keeping your home free of all the damage, stains, smells and noises that pets may provide, along with all that wonderful companionship!

An Austin, Texas agency recently posted great advice from Laura Foster-Bobroff - throwing consumers a few bones about taking better care of their homes while exhibiting responsible pet ownership at the same time.

She observed that window sills are favorite spot for cats to sit and watch the world. They like to lean against them, and don't those screens or window frames make irresistible scratching posts?

According to Foster-Bobroff, cats can scratch away the better part of a three-quarter inch thick board — with most of the damage concealed behind a drape or curtain. She advises homeowners to regularly check screens for holes and frames for scratches.

Provide your cat an approved place to scratch - cat condos, scratching posts, etc. - and if necessary, have your vet dull the ends of claws by trimming and filing.

Puppies can do damage by using corners of doors as teethers, gnawing away as long as they’re allowed. Foster-Bobroff, says you can discourage chewing by purchasing products with a bitter taste, available at most pet supply centers.

From the day they arrive home, train dogs not to claw when they need to go out; otherwise, you are inviting gouged-out doors. For stubborn dogs, install a protective metal plate during training.

Finally, did you know that animal hair is a major contributor to reduced energy efficiency?

According to Foster-Bobroff, hairballs clog up fans that cool refrigerator coils. Air movement draws hair up and in, causing a strain on compressors, and shortening the life of appliances.

Animal owners should move refrigerators out every few months to thoroughly vacuum behind and underneath. And vacuums should be well maintained as well, since hair will jam up rug-beater attachments.

She says simply empty the system or change bags often to minimize risk of blockages, and remove hair from around wheels to keep them moving freely.

5 Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste and Ocean Pollution

February 22, 2013 2:00 pm

It’s a growing problem in the northern Pacific Ocean and one that could change life on our planet within the next 20 years.

“I remember the first time I felt it; I was paddling out on my surfboard and noticed a mushy, plastic-like substance sliding through my fingers. That’s what started my obsession with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” says charity fundraiser and environmentalist Veronica Grey. “The patch is located between Hawaii and California in the northern Pacific Ocean, where millions of small bits of plastic have gathered in a vortex of ocean currents known as a gyre.”

As someone with ample experience raising awareness for worthy causes, Grey paired her professional skills with her personal passion for the ocean, creating the award-winning documentary “Aqua Seafoam Shame,” (www.Pacific-TV.com), which spotlights the mess in the ocean that has garnered precious little media attention, she says.

“Fifteen years ago The Patch was the size Texas, but now it’s the size of the continental United States,” says Grey, who used her iPhone to shoot the documentary, which features renowned scientists, journalists and environmentalists.

Plastic in the ocean has far-reaching implications that, if not addressed within 20 years, could change life on this planet, she says. To date, 177 species of sea life are known to ingest plastic; other species feed on those creatures, extending the chain of damage.

“People eat the seafood that eats plastic, and the planet gets its rain from the oceans, which are being polluted at an exponential rate,” she says. “We use significantly more of our planet’s surface as a dump than for growing food; this has to change.”

To begin addressing plastics pollution, Grey encourages people to use alternatives:
• Americans buy 2 million bottles of water every five minutes; ditch plastic bottles and use glass or recyclable cans.
• Carry a cost-effective canvas bag instead getting disposable plastic bags at the grocery store. We waste 10 billion plastic bags every week!
• Do not line your trash cans with plastic bags. Use paper bags or nothing.
• Skip the lid on your to-go drinks. The paper cup is normally recyclable but the lid usually isn't.
• Remember that each and every time you flush; it all ends up in the ocean. Be mindful of what you toss in your toilet!

Veronica Grey is an award-winning author and filmmaker. A graduate of UCLA, she is a regular contributor to TV stations across the country and is the recipient of the 2011 New Media award from the Pare Lorentz Film Festival. “Aqua Seafoam Shame” is a critically acclaimed documentary that explores the diagnosis that 25 percent of our planet's surface is now a landfill, due to the Pacific garbage patch and plastics.

Do You Have Insurance…On Your Storage Unit?

February 22, 2013 2:00 pm

The Self Storage Association notes that one out of every 10 households in the U.S. currently rents some kind of storage unit, including portable on demand storage (PODS). If you’re one of the 10 percent, are you insuring your unit?

Whether you are downsizing to a smaller home, safeguarding heirlooms after a death in the family or just cannot let go of those old mementos, storage units can provide a useful solution for dealing with extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting your belongings, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"If an item is valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance," says Loretta Worters, vice president for the I.I.I. "Even in the best managed storage facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That's why before signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may be needed."

Most storage facilities require that you maintain insurance for the full replacement cost of the contents of your storage room and ask to see a copy of your homeowners or renters policy. One way to satisfy your insurance obligation is by purchasing insurance through the storage facility. However, most storage facilities limit the value of property that can be stored in a unit, basing it on the size and the amount of your rent (usually up to about $20,000). If your property is worth more than the assigned amount, some storage facilities will allow you to increase the assigned value of the property in your unit. There are also exclusions including art, antiques, jewelry, furs, watches, money, securities and other documents of value. Be sure to check your homeowners or renters insurance policies first to determine whether your contents may already be covered.

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies that include off-premises protection provide coverage for property in storage facilities from theft and damage from fires, tornadoes and other disasters listed in the policy. Much like storage facility insurance, homeowners and renters policies do not cover damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. Some insurers may limit the off-premises coverage for personal possessions to 10 percent of the overall amount of homeowners insurance you have. Other insurers may offer higher coverage limits for personal possessions stored off-premises, so check with your insurance agent or company representative before renting a storage unit. Also keep in mind that insurance through your home or renters policy will be more comprehensive than storage facility insurance and is regulated by your state insurance department.

If you intend to store valuable property such as art, antiques, jewelry or furs, there may be dollar restrictions under your standard homeowners or renters insurance policy for theft. Ask your insurance professional about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to fully cover these items. There are also specialized storage facilities available for these types of items, as they often need to be kept at specific temperature and humidity levels. Small items such as jewelry can also be kept in a bank safe deposit box; insurers will generally charge less to cover an item stored at a bank.

One of the best ways to substantiate the value of your personal property is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions, including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your possessions.

The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage company:

  • Look for a secure facility. Fencing that secures the entire property and access control are the very minimum that a storage business should offer.
  • Consider the safety of the immediate area surrounding the facility. Does the storage building have onsite security features such as 24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads to access the building? If so, does the code work only for your floor or for the entire facility? Are there video cameras throughout the building or just at the entrance? An informed manager should have the answers you need.
  • Look for a unit with climate control options. This will ensure your appliances and furniture are not in a harmful environment. Very high or low temperatures, as well as dampness can quickly cause damage. And make sure that rising ground water from snow or rain is unable to penetrate your storage unit.
  • Select a company that offers insurance along with their space. If you do not already have coverage your renters or homeowners insurance, look for a storage company that offers insurance, and make sure you fully understand how their insurance will cover any potential damage. Find out about the facility's procedures in cases such as fire, flood, etc. and keep in mind that any facility should also have their own insurance to cover damages or injuries that occur on their premises.
  • Check that the storage facility is clean and well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned, there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for bugs and rodent infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable pest extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.
  • Investigate the reputation of the storage company. Check with friends and neighbors who may be familiar with the facility, or ask the storage company for referrals.

Source: www.iii.org

Word of the Day

February 22, 2013 2:00 pm

Housing codes. Local regulations that set minimum conditions under which dwellings are considered fit for human habitation. It guards against unsanitary or unsafe conditions and overcrowding.

Q: Why Do I Need an Agent If I Can Find a Home by Myself on the Internet?

February 22, 2013 2:00 pm

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.

Feds Promote Homeowner Grants for Underserved Populations

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

I am celebrating the latest news about several programs designed to make homeownership a priority for some groups that had long-standing or traditional barriers to owning or accessing homes of their own.

On February 13, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced eight organizations will receive a total of $7.3 million in grants to improve housing conditions in Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

Funds from both programs are intended to primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations or Alaskan and Hawaiian communities. The funding is used for a range of affordable housing activities, including: new construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, infrastructure, and various support services.

Housing can be either rental or homeownership. NHHBG funds can also be used for certain types of community facilities if the facilities serve eligible residents of affordable housing.

One day earlier, HUD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced nearly $98 million in funding for 13 state housing agencies for rental assistance to extremely low-income persons with disabilities.

Many of the intended recipients are transitioning out of institutional settings or are at high risk of homelessness.

Those agencies being funded are working closely with their own Medicaid and Health and Human Service counterparts to identify, refer, and conduct outreach to persons with disabilities who require long-term supports to live independently.

The initiative is beginning in 10 critically important communities, according to HUD and HHS: Atlanta, Chicago, Fresno County, Los Angeles County, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Maricopa County, Seattle, and Tampa.

Moving or Improving? Tips for a Flawless Painting Project

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

(BPT) - Did you know spring is the best time to sell your home? And now that the housing market is bouncing back, there's never been a better time to do it. But even if you're planning to stay put for the long haul, chances are there are some much-needed touch-ups you could be doing to keep your home in tip-top shape. And you don't have to break your back, or the bank, to do it. In fact, adding a new coat of paint is a quick, affordable, and possibly the most impactful, way to get your project done.

Prep, prime and primp
Misusing color can be a surefire way to turn people off from your home. For a more inviting look that nearly everyone can enjoy, opt for neutral paint colors. A subtle beige, slight grey or even white can do the trick.
First, move furniture out of the room and place drop cloths to protect the floor. Remove any picture frames, outlet covers and wall decor. Then, gently scrub the walls with a mild detergent and water mixture using a soft sponge to remove any dirt, grime or lint. Don't forget to prime your walls before applying color to ensure the best end-results.

Paint like a pro
For an ultra-smooth finish, try Purdy's line of Ultra Finish roller covers. These premium microfiber roller covers, available in 9-inch lengths and varying nap thickness, provide an even release of paint and deliver a consistent application from start to finish. Plus, they work great with any kind of paint and finish, including satin, semi-gloss and gloss, taking the guesswork out of the DIY equation.

When applying paint, start at the top and work your way down. For superior results, you'll want to fill the well of your roller tray with paint, dip the roller in half-way and then roll it back onto the tray's angled platform to easily remove excess paint. This will reduce dripping and improve overall paint cover. The best approach for applying paint? Use your roller cover to make an overlapping "W" pattern in a 2-foot by 2-foot area; then fill in and repeat.

For smaller interior paint projects or tight spaces, Purdy also has a variety of innovative mini roller choices that are versatile, lightweight and can quickly and easily deliver a perfect finish with smooth rolling action. These combined features make them the ideal applicator for a variety of projects like painting doors and cabinets, to freshening up tables, chairs and even bedroom furniture.

Keeping your color conviction
If you're still feeling deprived of color after your painting project is complete, never fret. There are several ways to add a pop of color throughout your home without slathering the walls with offensive paint colors. Try incorporating fun accent pieces in your favorite colors - think lamps, frames, pillows and rugs. You can even include larger focal pieces like royal blue armchairs or a patterned couch to make a bolder statement. By keeping the overall aesthetics of your home neutral and inviting, and enhancing them with a few sight-provoking embellishments, house guests will be asking you for home decorating tips. And if your end goal is to get your home sold, consider these minor improvements a step in the right direction.

Too Much Stuff: Helping Kids Cut the Clutter

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

A certain amount of clutter is part of childhood. It’s an artifact of the speed of children’s development and the range of their thoughts and ideas. Trying to keep children too neat squelches creativity and limits intellectual growth. So an obsession with neatness, if that’s your issue, is your issue. Concentrate on keeping things in hand, not with apple-pie-order.

At the same time, great disorder overwhelms a child’s sensibilities. Some children are more susceptible to this than others, and need more clarity in their stuff. Even for more typically mess-tolerant kids, understanding order is the first step towards self-discipline. Montessori knew this. She knew that an orderly environment is essential for intellectual and creative growth.

So what can you do to reduce kids’ clutter without becoming a neat-freak?

Reduce
what’s immediately available. With your child, if possible, sort through things and box up stuff that’s not needed right now. Store these boxes in a closet or basement but do NOT fall into the trap of moving toys to rented storage space. No toys are worth their own apartment! The idea here is to make neatness easier by reducing the number of things needing space.

Remove what’s no longer wanted. Be ruthless. Don’t keep things toys or clothes your children have outgrown for your future grandchildren or just because you spent a lot of money on it. Move it out – maybe first to boxed storage but then to Goodwill or to friends. Stuff that is broken and unwanted needs to go to the trash. Don’t save it “for parts.”

Replace the old with the new.
If something new comes in, something old goes out, to boxed storage or out of the house completely. Some parents keep a 100 Toys list on the computer – the 100 toys that are in the playroom and a child’s bedroom. When something new is added to the list, something else is deleted. This rule requires a lot of self-discipline but it helps when your child is begging for some item to ask him to consider what he’ll get rid of to make room for the new toy.

Restrain new purchases. Not every nifty thing that catches your child’s eye deserves a place in your home. Resist the impulse to buy souvenirs when you travel or “bribe-toys” to shut your child up on a shopping trip. Avoid the necessity to “collect them all.” Recognize this for what it is – a marketing ploy.

Stuff is just stuff and the lifespan of most toys is pretty short. When you do buy toys and things, buy quality items with real play value.

The secret to an uncluttered life is a shift in perspective. No matter how cute and beloved something once was, your family doesn’t owe it anything, least of all a permanent place in your lives. Permanent places are reserved for the people in your family, and maybe for your pets. Inanimate objects must earn their shelf space or give it up.

Help your children to a proper perspective on “things” and guide them in knowing when to let things go.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Word of the Day

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

Homeowner’s insurance policy. Packaged insurance policy for homeowners and tenants that cover property damage and public liability, such as fire, theft, and personal liability.

Q: Can I Use an Agent to Purchase a Newly Built Home?

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

A: Yes. In fact, some builders pay agents to find prospective buyers. But you also can use a buyer’s agent to help negotiate the price and upgrades on a new home. An agent can be particularly valuable directing you to newly built developments that match your needs, as well as helping you select reputable builders who are financially sound and respond promptly to buyers’ concerns.

Builders normally require an agent to be present on your first visit to the site. This is a sensible procedure that allows the agent to be paid a commission should you decide to buy. Otherwise, if you find a development on your own, make a first visit without the agent, and later make a purchase, the builder may refuse to pay the commission – even if, at some point, the agent became involved in the process.