Gunning Daily News

Q: What role might engineers play in my remodeling project?

August 14, 2012 5:26 pm

A: Soil and structural engineers can be particularly instrumental to a home remodeling project. An engineer can tell whether you can tear down a kitchen safely or whether the walls can bear the load of a second or third story. You can use an engineer to size interior supports, stamp a drawing for building department approval, design an appropriate structural repair, test structures to withstand such natural forces as earthquakes, create concrete foundation specifications, size deck supports, and inspect repairs during and after your remodeling job. Engineers can also perform site preparation work such as an excavation and grading, fix foundation cracks or leaks, raise a settling foundation and test soil for structure support. You can get a guesstimate of what the job you plan is likely to cost so you can show it to contractors once you start to take bids.

Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

August 13, 2012 4:42 pm

Kindergarten will open up a new and exciting world for your child – even if he or she has spent some time in preschool. That is because kindergarteners are generally challenged with more complex tasks, must make more efficient use of time, and may be asked to take on more personal accountability than they were during their preschool years.

At the same time they will learn new skills, be introduced to new ideas, and become part of a more diverse and well-organized universe.

From a panel of kindergarten teachers interviewed by the National Head Start Association, here are some proven tips for parents on the best ways to prepare your child for an enjoyable and rewarding kindergarten experience:

• Help them develop better listening skills – Read stories aloud and ask more questions; What was the name of the dog? What do you think will happen next? What would you do if this happened to you?
• Prepare them for differences in curriculum – Children should know there will be more group activity and less free play. There will be more indoor time and less outdoor play. Their time will be more structured and teacher-directed.
• Help sharpen their social skills – Talk about sharing and taking turns. Practice using words like, “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Encourage your child to be more independent about volunteering for tasks, raising their hand for attention, and putting their own things away.
• Develop their self-help and independence – Encourage them to make more choices about what they eat, wear or play. Add new responsibilities such as making the bed, helping with housework or feeding/watering pets and plants at home.
• Work on developing their self-control – Talk about ways to overcome frustration without crying or yelling; work on patience. Take more time to solve a problem. Ask for help when the work is difficult.
• Brush up on personal hygiene skills – Practice toilet habits and proper wiping. Stress the importance of covering a sneeze or cough and of hand-washing after using the bathroom.

Taking Your Kid to College? Packing Tips You Won't Want to Miss

August 13, 2012 4:42 pm

In the next several weeks, students across the country will be heading back to campus. As a parent, you know this can be an expensive time. Below are some terrific sanity saving packing tips for you.

The three most important moving tips people should know when moving:

• Plan ahead. If using a moving company, make arrangements well in advanced as many companies will be booked, and prices may be higher.
• Pack your boxes "strategically." Choose a "packing room" ahead of time and box up a few things each day. Mark each box with its contents and destination room. Have all your boxes packed before you go to rent your truck. Load the heaviest items first, in front and on the floor. Pack items firmly and closely.
• The last thing you want is the expense of having your personal belongings damaged. Protect your items by using the proper moving supplies, such packing peanuts, bubble wrap or furniture pads.

Suggestions and tips on securing rented moving equipment:
• Always secure the back door of the moving van or trailer with a padlock.
• Always make sure your doors are locked.
• Always park your rental equipment legally and in a well-lit area.
• Back up your rental equipment as close as possible to a garage door, building or wall, and if you can, park another vehicle in front of the moving van.
• When parking your vehicle at a hotel, we recommend that you park your equipment close to entry doors and, again, try to park in a well-lit area, making sure the equipment is locked.
• When parking your vehicle at a restaurant, make sure the doors are locked, the back door of the moving van is locked and then park it where you can see it from the window.
• Prior to moving, look into your homeowner's insurance policy, as some policies will cover belongings while moving as long as the insurance policy is in force during the move.

Source: uHaul

Trying to Stay in Shape? Better Sleep Can Help

August 13, 2012 4:42 pm

While the Summer Olympics have wrapped up for another four years, the stunning performances will be remembered for many years to come. And whether you're a celebrated athlete -- or just trying to stay in shape -- your success could hinge on something as simple as a good night's sleep.

"More and more research is showing that a key component to better sports performance is better sleep," says Ben Thorud, senior vice president of Ashley Sleep. "Not only can deep sleep lead to improved mood and reaction time, it's also believed that it promotes the release of a growth hormone that helps burn fat, stimulate muscle growth and repair, and much more. These findings benefit athletes, as well as average people just trying to improve their health."

Experts say seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal for adults, while children and teens require about nine to ten hours a night. But how do you achieve optimal rest? Ashley Sleep offers these tips:

1. Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Unwind with hot bath, read a book or sip a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea.

2. Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime. Leave at least three hours for your body to unwind after a workout.

3. If you're going to drink caffeine/alcohol or eat a big meal, don't do it too close to bedtime.

4. Turn your bedroom into a dark, quiet sleep sanctuary. If your mattress and/or pillows are no longer offering the level of comfort and support you need for a good night's rest, consider new ones. Ideally, you should replace pillows every year -- and mattresses every five to seven years.

5. Learn to turn off your brain. Worrying about work, the kids or your "to-do list" makes it almost impossible to drift off to sleep. Do mental exercises like conjuring up an image and focusing on its details -- or concentrating on positive thoughts and memories. This may distract you just long enough to fall asleep.

Source: Ashley Sleep

Word of the Day

August 13, 2012 4:42 pm

Real estate. The land itself and everything extending below and above it, including all things permanently attached, whether by nature or by man.

Q: What basic services can I expect an architect to provide?

August 13, 2012 4:42 pm

A: Most projects require a set of basic services. They are as follows: preliminary, or schematic, design; design development; preparation of construction documents (drawings and specifications); assistance in the bidding or negotiation process, and the administration of the agreement between you and your builder or contractor, if needed. Some projects will require other services, such as pre-design work, which includes budgeting and financing packages, as well as planning and zoning applications. Projects may also include special cost or energy analyses, models and tenant-related design.

Exploring the Pros & Cons Of ‘FSBO’ – Part 1

August 10, 2012 5:20 pm

Should I FSBO? It’s a question that often comes up.

The practice of a homeowner with no previous experience selling one’s own property is not uncommon. But whether to do it or not is a subject of intense debate.

Floridian real estate professional Riley Smith recently blogged that you could not pick a worse time to list on your own. While inventory is low and well-priced, homes are seeing multiple-offer situations. Smith has never seen a more difficult time to get to the closing table than right now.

He says pitfalls from new insurance requirements as well as appraisal values and lending guidelines have real potential to blow up a FSBO deal.

He went so far as to highlight the fact that the Wall Street Journal discovered that the founder of ForSaleByOwner.com, hired a REALTOR® to sell his New York apartment because he was unable to get the job done on his own.

In Texas, real esate professional Loreena Yeo makes the point that FSBOs residing in non-disclosure states may be stymied by a lack of accurate information to accurately value their property.

Yeo also blogged that some FSBOs may be more successful than others simply because of location. If a home is located on a busy street where many people constantly drive by, they are more inclined to see and talk about a house that is for sale.

She also stresses the Miranda warning: ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.’

Yeo warns that a regular home seller without much experience, more often times, will volunteer information without realizing it. So watch what you say - and to whom - or you might talk your way into some legal entanglements that will cost a lot more to untangle.

5 Ways to Boost Home Security

August 10, 2012 5:20 pm

Studies show that summer is the peak season for home break-ins. Why? Because people tend to open the windows and forget to close them when they leave. They forget to lock the front door while working out back in the garden – often leaving purses, wallets, and other valuables out in plain sight.

In addition to correcting these common oversights, the consumer advocates at Consumer Reports suggest five ways to boost your home security:
• Kickproof your doors – Most doors, whether solid wood, fiberglass or steel, are resistant to hard blows. The problem is the door jamb area near the lock’s strike plate. You can strengthen these areas on exterior doors by using a one-inch long deadbolt lock and a reinforced metal box strike, which costs about $10. Use three-inch long screws to mount them so they lodge in the framing beyond the door jamb. (And don’t overlook the door that leads into your house from the garage.)
• Choose the right locks – High security locks, which cost up to $175, are worth the price because they resist drilling and picking. Equally important: Carry a pull-apart key chain, so your home key stays with you when your car is being serviced or valet-parked.
• Landscape wisely – Trim tree branches that could provide access to windows’ roof or skylights. Remember that tall plants and high fences can provide cover for criminals – and that gravel beds around the perimeter of the house make it easier to hear anyone lurking outside.
• Keep it bright – Illuminate areas around doors, windows and blind spots. Install lights on high exterior walls so they can’t be easily disabled. Low-voltage light systems provide more light than solar powered lights – and can be connected to motion detectors.
• Don’t leave garage door openers in your car – They can be an open invitation to robbers. Especially if your address is easily obtained from papers in your glove compartment, tuck the garage door opener into your purse or briefcase whenever you park your car away from home.

Going On Vacation? Tips to Keep the Garden Green

August 10, 2012 5:20 pm

(ARA) - Looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation? Don't forget about that garden while you're sipping umbrella drinks on a beach or snapping photos of the Grand Canyon. Make sure you have a plan for keeping the garden green and the grass under control while you're gone.

The best solution, of course, is a reliable friend or neighbor who will give your garden the loving attention that you would. Simply offering to trade some fresh produce or a bunch of flowers for watering can often work in your favor and act as a motivator to the reluctant helper. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a reliable person they can count on for garden care. This doesn't mean all is lost. Whether you have a competent garden-sitter or not, a few quick steps can help to ensure continued health of your garden while you're away.

Make the most of mulch
Mulches that are derived from wood can act as an excellent layer of protection for retaining moisture and can help keep weeds at bay by blocking access to sunlight, especially while you are out of town. Soak soil thoroughly and add a fresh layer of mulch to the garden, around trees and shrubs and even on the tops of containers.

Timing is everything
Invest in a timer or two to connect to the outdoor faucet. Hook these up to sprinklers or drip hoses and set timers to come on in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation. There's no need for a garden-sitter to remember when to water. All your sitter needs to do is over-ride the timer for you in case of rain.

Get a drip
Head to the local home-improvement store to stock up on drip-irrigation materials before leaving for a vacation and make your life easier all growing season. It's so easy to use drip irrigation in vegetable gardens and flower beds that you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner. Weave lengths of drip tape or "leaky pipe" through the plants and cover the beds - irrigation and all - with a thick layer of mulch.

Another option is to make your own simple drip irrigation system by using two-liter soda bottles from the recycling bin. Just rinse out bottles and poke a few small holes in the bottom. Then fill 1/3 full with sand. Next, bury the bottle next to the plant and fill with water. Water will slowly filter through the sand and holes and gradually provide moisture to the plants' root zone. With a bit of ingenuity you can enjoy your vacation knowing that the plants are happily taking care of themselves.

Container care

Container gardens require a bit more attention and planning to ensure you come home to the same beautiful plants. If you're going away for a just a few days, all you really need is to give the plants a thorough soaking before you leave. For longer trips, first add a layer of mulch, then group pots together to retain humidity and position them in a shady location or in a baby pool filled a few inches deep with water.

Grassy goodness

The good news is that when you're going away for a week in the summer, your lawn won't miss you. Grass grows more slowly in the heat of summer, so simple preparations will do just fine. Just mow your grass at the regular height the day before you go. If you water your lawn, be sure to water it deeply the day before you leave. If you plan to be away longer, grass may go dormant but, no need to worry. Going dormant is a healthy coping mechanism for grass in periods of dry summer heat. You can water it deeply when you get back. If you'll be gone for more than two weeks, you may want to hire the neighborhood kid or a mowing service to cut your grass while you're away.

Q: What guidelines are useful for finding an architect?

August 10, 2012 5:20 pm

A: Start by finding out who designed the projects that you like in your community. Get referrals from people you know, or the local American Institute of Architects (AIA). Interview three to five firms to get a range of possibilities for your project. But only select firms that specialize in residential designs, preferably remodeling, and review their portfolios and talk with past clients. Insist on meeting the key people who will work on your project and ask questions until you’re comfortable and confident about your decision. Ultimately, select a firm based on its design ability, technical competence, professional service, and cost. Then, enter into detailed negotiations about service and compensation. The AIA offers standard-form owner-architect agreements that can help you begin this process.