Gunning Daily News

Q: Is It Best to Save for The Ultimate Dream Home or Begin with a Less Expensive Starter Home?

September 28, 2012 4:48 pm

A: It can take a long time to save for that perfect dream home. Meanwhile, the market has been flooded with some of the most favorable mortgage interest rates in years. Low rates make housing more affordable, which is why so many buyers have jumped on the home buying bandwagon.

Home-price appreciation has also been strong, making very solid gains in communities across the country. In fact, home prices are expected to increase 2.5 percent to 3 percent annually over the next five years.
If you purchase a starter home today, you can potentially begin to build value that can lead to the purchase of a larger, or more desirable, trade-up home in the future.

Q: How Do You Decide whether to Add on to an Existing Home or Purchase a New One?

September 28, 2012 4:48 pm

A: There are a few things to consider, including cost, individual needs, and what will add value down the road. Also important: your emotional attachment to the existing home.
As designer and builder Philip S. Wenz, the author of Adding to a House: Planning, Design & Construction, notes, an addition is much cheaper than building a new home and can offer a “new” home without the heartache of moving.

Other considerations:

  • Can you finance the home improvement with your own cash or will you need a loan?
  • How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.
  • Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?
  • What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.
  • Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?
  • Explore your options. Make sure your decision is one you can live with – either under the same roof or under a different one.

Five Common Mistakes Most Parents Make When Using Car Seats

September 28, 2012 4:48 pm

(ARA) - Four million babies are born in the United States each year and that means more than 4 million new car seats are being installed. While great strides have been made to ensure that every infant rides in a car seat, unfortunately, parents are making five critical, but fixable, mistakes when using car seats, according to new data announced by Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation.

“Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent,” says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “Engineers are working hard to ensure cars and car seats are designed to keep kids as safe as possible. But it's up to every parent to take full advantage of these innovations by making sure car seats are used and installed correctly.”

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death to children ages 1 to 13. In a nationwide effort to educate parents about the importance of car seat safety, Safe Kids and the General Motors Foundation are asking every parent to take 15 minutes for an at-home car seat checkup using the Safe Kids downloadable checklist.

The checkup provides the following important tips that will help parents begin to ensure their car seat is used and installed properly:

Right seat. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it's appropriate for your child's age, weight and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
Right place. Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13.
Right direction. You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
Inch test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
Pinch test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child's shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you're good to go.

Source: visit www.safekids.org.

Fall Car Care Month: Keep Your Car Running Longer

September 28, 2012 4:48 pm

As the weather turns, it’s important to take care of your car to ensure you’re getting the most out of your miles. Below are some key tips for consumers to keep their vehicles running longer and to encourage safe seasonal driving.

As cold weather approaches, the following items should be inspected by a professional:

  • Battery cables and terminals (make sure they're not corroded)
  • Levels of anti-freeze, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid
  • All belts and hoses (make sure they are free of cracks and defects)
  • Air filters
  • Condition of windshield wipers
  • Lights and turn signals
  • Tire treads

Taking care of tires becomes even more important as winter weather rolls in. Stopping on wet roads can take up to four times the normal stopping distance. With a worn tread, tires may hydroplane, skimming over the surface with little or no traction. There are a few steps you can take to ensure your tires are in good shape:

Use the penny test to inspect your car's tire treads:
  • Insert a penny into the tread, Lincoln's head down.
  • If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, the tread is worn and the tire probably needs to be replaced.
  • Also, take a good look at your tires. Are there signs of uneven tread wear? That could indicate under-inflation, unbalanced tires or misaligned wheels.
  • Rotate your tires according to the schedule in your vehicle's maintenance guide — usually about every 5,000 miles.

In addition, the Car Care Council revealed the following statistics about consumer auto care in a recent study, showing many cars on the road need a checkup:

  • Fifty four percent of cars have low tire pressure.
  • Thirty eight percent of cars have low or dirty engine oil.
  • Twenty eight percent of cars have inadequate cooling protection.
  • Nineteen percent of cars need new belts.

Source: http://www.firestonecompleteautocare.com

Safety First: Avoid These Common Cooking Blunders

September 28, 2012 4:48 pm

When you think kitchen safety, images of knives in the sink or ovens left on for hours may come to mind. But in fact, many of the largest safety blunders in the kitchen are from unsafe food procedures.
Research findings reveal despite the fact a majority of adults feel confident they understand and follow safe food handling procedures, a sizeable number do not consistently follow certain safe food handling practices.

Here are some common cooking blunders:


  • The quick wash up (or lack of wash up). Only 50 percent of consumers reported washing their hands for 20 seconds, before and after handling food. You've heard it before, but we all need the reminder - wash your hands before cooking, and during cooking, especially when switching between handling different foods. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds -- that's 2 choruses of 'Happy Birthday' (hummed under your breath).
  • Skipping the fruit and veggie wash up. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly in cool drinkable water, including those you peel or cut like melons, oranges, and cucumbers.
  • Bringing meats up to room temperature before grilling. This is a common 'cooking show' recommendation that really has no benefits and is loaded with the risk of promoting the growth of harmful bacteria. Keep foods chilled in the fridge at 4â—¦C until ready to cook - and that includes marinating too.
  • Cooking by color. You can't rely on the 'color test' to know when meats are done. Cook meat and poultry to proper temperatures to know for sure, using a digital food thermometer to test for doneness. It's a pretty simple step and saves a lot of 'doneness debates/arguments' that happen at the grill. Only 15 percent of people consistently use a food thermometer. Use this handy chart to know when food is cooked properly.
  • Using the same cooking equipment for raw as for cooked. Be sure to wash up barbecue tongs after flipping steaks, burgers, chicken, kabobs etc during cooking, and before you use them to take food off the grill to serve. Or better yet, have 2 pairs of tongs - 1 for raw and 1 for cooked. The same goes for cutting boards of course!

Source: www.befoodsafe.ca

Word of the Day

September 28, 2012 4:48 pm

Trust deed. A document used in place of a mortgage in certain states; a third-party trustee, not the lender, holds the title to the property until the loan is paid out or defaulted. Also called a deed of trust.

DIY: File Cabinet Makeovers

September 27, 2012 4:02 pm

In a couple of recent reports, I brought you some interior decorating advice from Connecticut, so it's time to give the left coast equal time. Enter Beth Zeigler, of Echo Park, Calif,-based Bneato—a professional organizing company that specializes in helping individuals understand organizing challenges and make a plan to develop new ways of doing tasks.

She recently blogged about repurposing old office and home file storage equipment into a bunch of cool to kitschy storage and even gardening accessories. In a perfect paperless world, could you imagine a home and office without a file cabinet or file box?

Zeigler knows filing cabinets take up a lot of room in the office, are an eyesore and usually house items that can live virtually or “in the cloud” in these days of paperless billing, Google docs and other cloud storage options. But what do you do with all those now empty cabinets and all that filing paraphernalia?

She perused a number of cool options including:

Turning an unused cabinet into an industrial cube by removing the nondescript factory paint, sanding it, and coating the distressed bare metal surface with a clear lacquer. Zeigler advises placing this new version in the kitchen to house large pots and pans, linens or serving ware.

This treatment creates a perfect and very environmentally conscious compliment to your stainless or brushed metal appliances or backsplashes.

For exterior applications, Zeigler tips her hat to Austin, Texas-based Minim.is, which specializes in turning old multi-drawer file cabinets into exterior planter barriers. She says these old dinosaurs are the perfect shape and size to easily translate to a modern planter, or a barrier row of them cordoning off a patio, garden or water feature.

If you're not of the DIY mindset, you can always pick these up from Minim.is (www.minim.is/arkivos.htm). And if you want to tackle that file cabinet to environmentally friendly planter conversion, we'll look at a project plan for that in our next segment.

Safety Tips for Fall Clean-up

September 27, 2012 4:02 pm

With the onset of those glorious, sun-filled fall days, many are tackling weekend home improvement projects before that winter chill sets in. But if you’re taking on DIY projects, or simply raking up a storm, be sure to properly use your tools to avoid injuring yourself.

"Never underestimate a tool even if it seems harmless," says orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Marc Swiontkowski, MD. "Knowing how to properly use and set up equipment can significantly reduce the possibility of injuries, that is why it is essential to follow all instructions and warnings that come along with equipment to avoid injuries at all costs."

Some popular fall clean-up tools include ladders and rakes. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2011, approximately 523,000 people were injured from ladders and more than 35,500 treated for rake-related injuries.

Jonathan Laico, a patient from the Academy's public awareness campaign, “A Nation in Motion,” experienced falling off a ladder at home first-hand.

"An injury usually happens when you least expect it," said Laico. "I cannot change what happened in the past, but the experience taught me to do all that I can to reduce the risk of injury next time."

The AAOS offers the following safety tips to help reduce injury when using some of these tools this fall:

Service equipment. Have equipment such as leaf blowers serviced before using for the first time this season.
Use a comfortable rake. Select a rake that is suitable for your height and strength. Wear leather gloves or use a rake with padded handles to prevent blisters.
Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and clean off any mud or liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.
Properly set-up the ladder. Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven and watch for soft, muddy spots. The same is true for uneven flooring. Remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder – when extended – will not hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.
Remember the one-to-four rule: the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the rooftop. And, the upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.
Avoid using ladders in adverse weather conditions. It's unsafe to use ladders outside if there is rain, wind, snow, ice or some other factor that can increase the risk of falling.
Select the right ladder for the job. If you're washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, which are often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, like when cleaning the gutters on the rooftop. The weight the ladder is supporting also should never exceed its maximum load capacity.
Move materials with caution when on the ladder. While cleaning the garage or closet, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves. It is easy to be thrown off-balance and fall.
Always position the ladder closer to the work. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder!
Wear proper footwear. Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free of any debris or greasy, oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are slippery. Pant legs shouldn't be too wide or too long.
Be careful when climbing; get help if you need it. Be safe and ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you ascend, and always hold the side rails with both hands. Also, make sure that only one person climbs the ladder at a time.

Source: www.aaos.org.

Word of the Day

September 27, 2012 4:02 pm

Title search. A professional examination of public records to determine the chain of ownership of a particular piece of property and to note any liens, encumbrances, easements, restrictions, or other factors that might affect the title.

Q: What else should I take into account when buying a new home?

September 27, 2012 4:02 pm

A: You can find out more about an existing property and neighborhood before you buy than you can a new home in a newly developed community.

When the home is on the outskirts of town, ask the developer about future access to public transit, entertainment venues, shopping centers, churches, and schools. Also review local zoning ordinances. A remote area can quickly turn into a fast food haven.
You want to ensure the neighborhood will not spiral out of control and lose its residential appeal.
Other things to consider:

Ask homeowners already living in a development about the builder. If none currently live there, find out where the builder has previously built and speak to those owners to find out if the builder followed through on promises and needed repairs.
Ability to make changes. Most homes in a development resemble each other. But the developer may impose restrictions on house color, landscaping, renovations, and other items that a homeowner may want to alter.
Do not buy into the highfalutin images created by marketing experts. Form your own opinions about a property and only buy where you feel comfortable. After all, you are the one who will be living there.