Gunning Daily News

5 Sneaky Ways Your Neighbors Can Hurt You

June 13, 2012 5:22 pm

Neighbors can be the greatest people in the world, or they can be your worst enemies. But the reality is that most neighbors fall somewhere in between -- yes, even if you think you love them. 

There are dozens of ways your neighbors can hurt you or your property value without ever letting it be known. That's not even including the usual ways, such as noise and failing to maintain their homes. Consider the following five examples. 

1. Using your Wi-Fi. If you haven't put a password on your Internet, do it now. If your neighbor logs onto your network and downloads child porn or copyrighted content, you may be on the hook. The authorities (and record companies) will force you to spend a lot of money explaining that it wasn't you. 

2. Stealing your land. Little known is the concept of adverse possession. If your neighbor plants bushes or erects a fence or driveway on your property, those few inches (or feet) will eventually become theirs. Be vigilant about property lines so your neighbors can't hurt you. 

3. Fences. In some jurisdictions, both neighbors are responsible for the upkeep of shared fences. If your neighbor isn't fulfilling his duty, you may end up paying for half a replacement fence. 

4. Bed bugs. This is one of the worst ways neighbors can hurt you. If you live in a condo, duplex or row house, they'll infest everything. And unfortunately, it's very hard to pinpoint their source, so everyone may end up being responsible for remediation. 

5. Trees. When a branch hangs over into your yard, the tree is technically encroaching upon your property. You arguably have a right -- and duty -- to cut some branches so the tree isn't so side-heavy. If you don't, and they fall and cause damage, the injured party may try to hold you responsible. Ouch. 


Word of the Day

June 13, 2012 5:22 pm

Inspection. The act of physically examining and testing a piece of property to ascertain certain information.

Q: Do State and Local Governments Offer Renovation Loans?

June 13, 2012 5:22 pm

A: Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency. Call your governor’s office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area. 

At the municipal level, many cities also have programs for special improvements to certain blocks and neighborhoods they are trying to spruce up. Call City Hall, as well as a Community Development Agency in your city.

Stranger Danger: 5 Tips to Help Your Kids Stay Safe

June 12, 2012 5:38 pm

With summer coming on and children spending more time playing outdoors, every parent needs to arm their kids against intrusion by strangers.

“Stranger danger is a topic every family should discuss with all children over the age of three,” said police officer John Carpino, a contributor to the family safety Internet resource “Knowing how to respond to strangers is one of the greatest safety issues of our time.”

Beyond warning kids not to talk to strangers, Carpino offers five tips for parents to impress on their children:

• Never approach a car pulling up to the curb for directions – Adults do not ask children for directions. If an adult calls to you from a car, run toward home and do not respond.
• Never agree to look for a ‘lost’ pet – Do not respond if an adult approaches you to help him or her find a lost puppy or kitten. Run toward home instead.
• Beware of police officers out of uniform – If a police officer needs to talk to a child, he or she will be wearing a uniform and driving a marked squad car. Run from anyone who is not doing so, even if they say they are officers.
• Remember the code word – Every family should set up a code word to be used in case of emergency. Kids should know that if someone other than a parent tries to pick them up at school or anyplace else, they must be sure that person knows the code word.
• Know your address and phone number and how to call 911 – Children should memorize their address and phone number as soon as they are able. They should know how to call 911 from any phone and be aware that no coins are needed to call 911 from a public phone.

Lessons in Laminate: Get More from Your Floor

June 12, 2012 5:38 pm

So you invested in a laminate floor? Good for you. These floors have a long lifespan, and if treated with respect, they can last even longer!

Unlike hardwood floors, which are subject to staining, fading in sunlight, and easily scratching and denting, laminate floors offer the look of hardwood or stone flooring without the expense and required maintenance.

To keep your laminate floor in perfect condition, follow these simple guidelines:

• Avoid letting dust, dirt and moisture accumulate. Place area rugs or doormats at entrances to help trap loose dirt and debris. Vacuuming or sweeping is usually sufficient to keep a laminate floor clean.
• Laminate's stain- and moisture-resistant surface makes spills and other messes easy to handle. Most spills will wipe up easily with a clean, white cloth. If not, dampen a rag with water and spot clean, or clean the area by damp mopping. Don't use a wet mop.
• Laminate doesn't require waxes or varnishes to keep it looking great. Never use wax, soap or detergents, which could leave a residue.
• Don't use wood polish on your laminate floor. It can create a dull finish and slick walking surface.
• Don't use abrasive cleaners, steel wool or scouring powder, as these may scratch your floor.
• Use chairs with soft casters and place felt pads under the feet of heavy furniture.
• Note that each manufacturer provides specific instructions on how to properly care for its laminate flooring. Check information provided on the product, or consult the manufacturer's website.


Get Your Backyard Ready for Fun

June 12, 2012 5:38 pm

From an elegant dinner party with close friends to a casual cookout with the whole family, your backyard can be the perfect place to entertain with ease during the warm summer months. Follow these simple steps and you'll be prepared to host a soiree at the spur of the moment. 

Take a seat. Before inviting guests to stop by, spend a few minutes to get your patio furniture looking lounge-worthy. Plastic chairs can easily be cleaned by sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge and wiping it down. The baking soda acts as a mild abrasive to help scrub furniture clean. 

Set the stage. Make sure your lawn looks well-manicured by trimming overgrown bushes and trees and raking up any leaves or twigs that have built up. Then, spruce things up with inexpensive flower pots filled with colorful blooms. For evening gatherings, a few delicate strands of party lights will cast a soft glow around the backyard. 

Fire up the grill. Burgers and brats are a staple of summer entertaining, so dust off the grill before company arrives. Sprinkle dry baking soda on a damp brush and then scrub the grill to remove dirt and food build-up. For tough stains, make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part warm water, and then scrub with a wire brush. Rinse the grill clean and let dry before barbecuing your favorite meal. 

Party on. If you have some extra space, put together some party-ready essentials so they're always on hand. Stock up on plastic plates, cups, napkins and serving pieces so you're ready for an impromptu get-together. Other things to consider: citronella candles and a few inexpensive table cloths. 

Make a splash. Keep pool water crystal clear and balanced with ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda, available in a convenient 13.5-pound, resealable bag. You can also clean plastic and vinyl pool toys with a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda mixed in one quart warm water -- just wipe down and then rinse.


Do This Don’t: Play With Your Food

June 12, 2012 5:38 pm

Summer time means plenty of play time, so why not play with your food? Finding creative ways to enjoy healthy foods like watermelon is a great way to encourage the whole family to eat well—and have fun while doing it. 

Here are three ways you can get the whole family in on some fun and healthy eating:
• The wetter, the better -- Playing hard on a hot summer day can take a lot out of you. In addition to drinking plenty of water, look for foods that can help you keep hydrated. Watermelon is 92 percent water -- so keep some slices or cubes in the refrigerator for a handy, hydrating snack. For a fun, kid-friendly twist, use cookie cutters to cut watermelon into fun shapes.
• Get colorful -- For a real nutritional boost, serve plenty of colorful, deeply pigmented produce. For example, red peppers, carrots, broccoli and grapes are packed with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. In addition to vitamins A and C, watermelon has a higher level of the antioxidant lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Let the kids use an ice cream scooper or melon-baller to scoop out watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew to make a colorful and nutritious dessert.
• Think outside the recipe box -- Look for fun and unusual ways to serve healthy foods.
• Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring at all -- it just takes a little creative thinking to get everyone in the family playing with their food. 


Word of the Day

June 12, 2012 5:38 pm

Improvement. Any form of land development or man-made addition, such as the erection of a building or fence, to enhance the value of private property; also an improvement to publicly owned structures, such as a sewer or road.

Q: What Guidelines Should I Follow to Find a Contractor?

June 12, 2012 5:38 pm

A: Always exercise caution and be comfortable and confident about your final decision. This means selecting a competent and reliable contractor with a track record who can complete the job without hassles or negative consequences. What you can do: 

• Get word-of-mouth referrals. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for the names of established, local contractors in your area; avoid the telephone book.
• Call trade groups. When all else fails, contact local trade organizations, such as the local builder association or the Remodelors Council, an arm of the National Association of Home Builders, for the names of reputable members in your area.
Associate with licensed contractors. Many states require contractors to be licensed and bonded. Contact your state or local licensing board to ensure the contractor meets all requirements and has a decent record. The Better Business Bureau and the local Consumer Affairs Office can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and how they were resolved.
• Conduct interviews. Talk with each contractor, request free estimates, and ask for recent references. When dealing with several different contractors, make sure they’re bidding on similar project specifications and quality of work. Remember, the lowest bid isn’t always the best.
• Check insurance information. Most states require a contractor to have workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance. Ask for proof of this insurance and get the name of the insurance company to verify the information and to ensure that all minimum insurance requirements are met. You could be held liable for any work-related injury if the contractor is not covered.

Q: Should the Architect and Contractor Have a ‘Vested’ Interest in One Another?

June 7, 2012 6:08 pm

A: It does not hurt to have a situation where the architect and contractor already have an existing working relationship. In fact, such an association could benefit a project by ensuring the smooth integration between the design and implementation. In a residential project, there is sometimes a triangle of tension between the architect, the contractor and the homeowner in terms of finger pointing and assigning blame. There is greater coordination of efforts, and generally less stress, with a design/build firm where the architects and contractors are accustomed to working together and are knowledgeable about construction costs and can fit design plans and specifications to your budget.