Gunning Daily News

Made in America: Brick Options Rise with Housing Upswing

September 24, 2012 5:30 pm

As the U.S. housing market reports a cautious rebound, genuine clay brick manufacturers continue to invest in progressive technology for sustainable exteriors in more textures and colors at a wider price range. Historically a provider of steady jobs, brick manufacturers continue to increase environmental efficiency with environmentally-friendly plants to offer Made-in-America quality--and endless green building design options.

"Brick is where the imagination meets green living," says Gregg Borchelt, president and CEO of the Brick Industry Association (BIA). "There is no substitute for American-made genuine clay brick exteriors — unlike synthetic building materials that are fabricated to look like something they're not," he said.

Over the course of 100 years, the American brick industry has provided good-paying jobs with employees working 15, 20 or even 30-plus years — often in small and rural communities where the plants are based. Like farm to table, genuine clay brick is made from local resources at least two brick plants are located within 500 miles of 49 of the country's top 50 metropolitan areas.

Leading examples include:

  • The first brick plant built to Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)® Gold standards with virtually waste-free manufacturing -- the use of landfill gas, natural day lighting, a cool roof and indigenous landscaping all add to the plant's sustainability
  • A growing selection of machine-molded antiques with added textures for the look of handmade brick at a lower cost
  • Increasingly incorporating genuine clay brick as an element of sustainable building design
  • Brick apps for iPad/iPhone/iPod and Web-based programs: to envision and choose brick exteriors in various colors and textures, including matching mortar to the brick for a monochromatic, seamless look
  • Increasing details/design options to personalize the home, including custom arches, window sills, quoin corners, artistic brick designs above doorways and other locations

While some other exterior options may cost less initially, genuine clay brick offers a superior value through benefits including low- to no maintenance, superior durability, enduring beauty, superior moisture control, design flexibility with many color choices, patterns, textures and custom blends. Genuine clay brick is also free of volatile organic compounds with virtually no waste and is inherently fire resistant.


Word of the Day

September 24, 2012 5:30 pm

Title. Actual ownership; the right of possession; also the evidence of ownership such as a deed or bill of sale.

Q: Can I Deduct Improvements Made to My Home?

September 24, 2012 5:30 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses” – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.

Weatherize Your Home to Save Dollars, Keep Out Drafts

September 21, 2012 4:52 pm

(ARA) - Many homeowners expect their heating costs to rise as cold weather creeps around the corner. Contrary to popular belief, there are ways to keep your energy costs (and your thermostat) low during the winter.

“In colder climates, it's important for homeowners to keep their residences warm and energy bills low by weatherizing,” says Vageesh Bakhshi, category manager at ShurTech Brands, LLC. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homeowners can usually save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs by properly sealing their homes. Weatherizing is a simple and affordable DIY project that can be completed in just one day, or even a weekend.”

Weatherizing your house from top to bottom can help keep your family warm and toasty while saving money. Don't be left in the cold - learn ways to properly prepare your home for whatever weather this winter may bring.

Protect your home from the attic cold

The attic is often overlooked as a source of energy loss. Although insulated, the attic is a “big hole,” especially the attic stairway opening, which can allow cold air to enter the home, forcing you to turn up your heat. Combat the cold with an attic stairway cover -- they're flexible and lightweight, easy to install and help prevent cold drafts from seeping into your home through the attic stairway opening.

Combat the cold by sealing holes

Nooks and crannies are perfect for storing clothes and keepsakes, but they're also where you occasionally find thinning wall insulation and holes, which are the main culprits of escaping heat - and dollars. To ensure your home is well-protected, cover and seal holes with a spray foam or foam board to block cold air. Also make sure to check all plumbing, ducts and electrical wiring areas that penetrate through walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets. These areas are likely to have air leaks that can be easily caulked to block any potential air infiltration.

Winterize windows for added warmth
To keep your home warm and comfortable, it's important to cover all your bases, and windows are no exception. Casements are a prime location for heat to seep out and cold to creep in, so keep your house warm and draft-free by weatherizing windows with products like Duck brand Roll-On Window Kits. Made of a clear shrink film, these window kits provide an added barrier between the winter chill and your home, and come with a pre-taped edge for easy installation. Once spring arrives, simply peel the film from your windows and discard.

Fight strong winds with a storm door

When old man winter comes knocking, block his entrance with a storm door. These durable doors are installed in front of the home's access doors to protect against harsh weather, keeping your family warm and cozy. Storm doors increase the insulation of entrances by lowering the amount of air transferred with each entry and exit. When aligned well with the architecture of the home, they can add instant beauty and protection, while helping make your energy bill more appealing, too.

By following these weatherization tips, you can rest assured that your home's interior will be a little more protected from frightfully cold conditions.


Squeaky Clean Tips to Simplify Your Laundry Routine

September 21, 2012 4:52 pm

If it seems that you can never quite diminish the size of your laundry pile, you're not alone. Laundry is a part of everyday life and the more people in your household, the bigger the pile and the more often you need to wash. Designate one place in your home to be the laundry zone and sort through these time-saving tips to make your laundry routine faster and easier, leaving you with more time to do the things you love.

De-clutter and reorganize. Clear some space from your shelves to give yourself more room to work in the laundry room. Get rid of old containers, trash and even those stray socks missing their pair. Place a small basket or tray near the washer for collecting small items and loose change found in pockets. This prevents clutter as well as accidents in the wash. Larger baskets labeled delicates, lights and darks help to keep clothes easily sorted and off of the floor.

Essentials at-the-ready. Keep frequently used items easily accessible by placing them on a shelf designed to fit on top of your washing machine. Store smaller items in stackable baskets or bins so they aren't in the way. Make sure your detergent is placed high enough so that little hands can't grab it, but within reach for older kids to take over their own laundry chores.

Get rid of hassle and bulk. Save yourself from the trouble of heavy bottles and messy spills. Choose a multi-purpose detergent that comes pre-measured.

Sort and go. Give everyone in the family their own small mesh laundry bag for items that tend to get lost and mixed-up such as socks and underwear. Collect the bags and throw them in the washer and dryer together so that everything stays sorted.

Prep for final steps. Save time from ironing by pulling clothes directly from the dryer after the cycle is complete. Keep a stack of hangers nearby to hang clothes immediately for a wrinkle-free wardrobe. Designate an area of nearby countertop or a table to make folding and organizing clothes out of the dryer quicker.


Word of the Day

September 21, 2012 4:52 pm

Tenants in common. Style of ownership in which two or more persons purchase a property jointly, but with no right of survivorship and separate undivided interests. They are free to will their share to anyone they choose, a principal difference between this form of ownership and joint tenancy.

Q: What is the first step to buying a home?

September 21, 2012 4:52 pm

A: Make sure you are ready – psychologically and financially. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I have steady income? Is my debt lower than my total income? Do I have enough money to pay for the down payment and closing costs? Am I working hard enough to improve bad credit?

A house needs constant care and attention. Also ask yourself if your budget will allow for unexpected repairs and upkeep. Once you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, you are several steps ahead of the game and that much closer to becoming a homeowner.

Décor and You: Bringing Ideas to Life

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

Recently, I visited with Linda Gottlieb, a Connecticut Décor Designer with Decor&You decorating service ( As a decor interior design professional with an eye on thinking globally while designing locally, she is focusing on bringing safer, higher-quality and greener decorating options to her clients' homes.

She recently wrote discussing how even a few subtle or dramatic design changes can really spice up a room, and in many cases these improvements are quick, simple and best of all—cheap!

"Inexpensive suggestions can be transforming and rewarding," Gottlieb explains. Whether it’s DIY or co-piloting with a designer, "it's as simple as changing up color, accessories, and the functional layout of a room. More people are enjoying do-it-yourself decorating, while tapping into a professional to plan parts of the project," she says.

While an amazing idea comes to life under a good plan, Gottlieb notes there are really three plans you have to follow to achieve a quick, effective and economical interior makeover. In this segment we'll get started with Gottlieb's color plan, and wrap up in our next report firming up her three-phase planning advice by delving into space and accessories.

When it comes to Gottlieb's color plan, there's a lot to consider. She says when you create a color plan for any room, paint produces the most dramatic change for the least amount of money.

Be careful, however, because it’s easy to make a mistake choosing not only the paint color, but also the paint value - the lightness or darkness of the color. Room color should be subtle yet significant.

Ultimately, Gottlieb says have fun selecting colors for your walls, as well as for the trim, ceiling and accent pieces. Use color to make your own personal statement that is welcoming and genuinely comfortable.

We'll pick up on Gottlieb's advice about space and accessories in our next segment - stay tuned!

Weekend Warriors: Winterize your Home

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

(ARA) - Preparing for Jack Frost's arrival can send a shiver down any homeowner's spine. A long to-do list for getting your home ready can feel overwhelming, leaving you wondering where you'll find the time and resources. But, with some optimism, easy tips and access to a few rental tools, you can winterize your home in just one weekend, leaving plenty of time to enjoy autumn's splendor.

Prepare your lawn and landscaping

Cold temperatures cause grass and other plants in your landscape to go dormant. Spend a few hours preparing your lawn for beautiful greenery next year.

Start by aerating. Renting an aerator is a cost-effective and efficient way to reduce thatch and provide extra space in the soil for water and oxygen to reach the roots. Find a local American Rental Association (ARA) member store near you by visiting After aerating, spread a quality winter fertilizer to give your grass the nutrients it needs to grow strong. If you live in an area with harsh winters, remember to cover roses and delicate perennials so that they are protected.

Winterize your deck

The harsh winter elements can take a major toll on decking, so it's important to protect it. With a little time and effort, your deck will make it through winter unscathed and ready for outdoor fun in spring.
To keep the structure's integrity intact and wood looking beautiful, clean and seal your deck before winter arrives. Start by renting a pressure washer at your local ARA member rental store. The trained rental associate will give you guidance on safe and efficient operation of the pressure washer. After you clean your deck, let it dry completely and then apply paint or sealant.

Trim your trees
Weak trees and dead branches can break and fall during winter, possibly damaging your home, your car, a utility line, or worse. Be a responsible homeowner and cut weak or dead branches in the fall so you don't have to worry.

A chainsaw is the easiest way to deal with dead branches and will take much less time than hand sawing. You can rent a chainsaw to cut the wood into small logs or pieces for disposing of properly. Chippers can also be rented for grinding up the wood and using it for mulch in the spring.
Seal windows and doors

When temperatures drop, the small leaks in windows and doors become apparent. Avoid a chilly house and high energy bills by caulking your windows and weather stripping doors.

Weather stripping is cheap and easy. Apply the adhesive strip between the door and frame for a tight seal that limits the amount of air that enters or exits when the door is closed. Caulking windows is a simple process as well when you have a caulk gun. If you need a tall ladder to reach second story windows, consider renting it since you'll likely use it infrequently. While you have the ladder, clean your gutters of leaves and other debris that can cause backups and ice dams.

All you need is one weekend to prepare your home and yard for the cold weather ahead. Plus, you'll get to enjoy the crisp autumn air while you get these quick and easy chores done.

Simple Solutions for a Ship-Shape Home

September 21, 2012 3:50 pm

(ARA) - Everyone wants an immaculate home, but not everyone wants to spend their free time scrubbing and straightening. The reality revealed in a recent Good Housekeeping magazine study is that the average homeowner spends roughly 19 hours a week cleaning.

Wish you could reclaim some of those precious hours? Follow these simple, inexpensive kitchen and bath updates and your wish will be granted. Soon, these highly used rooms will look great and you'll be able to spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying your ship-shape home.

Shower sanity can drive anyone crazy. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Moen Incorporated, men list having too many items cluttering up the shower as their No. 1 bathroom pet peeve. And with 60 percent of Americans sharing a shower area with a spouse or significant other, clutter can build up fast. So how can you de-clutter the shower? Try a new Stainless Steel Shower Caddy or Grab Bar with Integrated Shelf from Moen to organize shower necessities, helping to keep the shower area neat and tidy no matter how many people use it.

Terrible towels
“In addition to pet peeves in the shower, our research showed that more than one-third of homeowners cited 'leaving towels on the floor or on the kitchen sink' as a top pet peeve,” says Tom Tylicki, senior product manager, Moen Accessories.
Adding a new Retractable Towel Ring from Moen is a great solution. The thoughtfully designed product offers the traditional benefit of a towel ring, with a retractable cord that expands out and effortlessly retracts back to its original position. The towel remains on the ring at all times, keeping the countertop and floor towel-free, making it the ideal solution for every bath, kitchen or laundry room.

And to keep bath towels off the floor, adding additional towel bars, hooks or even a double curved shower rod, provides the perfect spots to encourage users to hang their towels after use.

Clean and clear kitchen sink

If towels aren't the culprit, dirty dishes are. In fact, nearly 50 percent of respondents in a Moen survey about kitchen habits stated that “family members leaving dirty pots, pans, plates, etc.” was a top cause of tension. And, coming in at a close second, with 42 percent of the respondents surveyed, was “household members leaving food/crumbs in the sink without washing it out.”

Updating your kitchen faucet can make it easier to clean the sink area. Try a high-arc model with pullout spray functionality to reach every nook and cranny in the sink, and make every last crumb disappear. Likewise, undermount sinks which integrate seamlessly into a solid-surface countertop can help homeowners keep the sink area clean, because crumbs can be wiped directly from the counter into the sink.

Stop scrubbing

While a new faucet and accessories will add new functionality and style, the metal finishes can also mean more daily cleaning...until now. As you are making your simple kitchen and bath updates, consider adding a new faucet, showerhead and matching accessories in a spot resist finish. This does just what it says - resists fingerprints and water spots - giving you one less thing to worry about cleaning on a daily basis. Soon you'll have a bathroom that looks amazing and stays that way.

With these simple and inexpensive kitchen and bath updates, your household chores will be done in no time, leaving your home looking great and providing you a few extra hours to spend relaxing.