Gunning Daily News

Addressing the Chinese Drywall Debacle

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

The year of 2011 saw some resolution to the Chinese drywall debacle, which affected thousands of property owners and builders. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (cpsc.gov/info/drywall) received about 4,000 reports from those who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in their homes were related to problem drywall.

State and local authorities have also received similar reports. Consumers largely report that their homes were built in 2006 to 2007, when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred in part due to the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

For anyone affected, on September 15, 2011 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released updated remediation guidance for homeowners with problem drywall. The guidance calls for the replacement of all: problem drywall; smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms; electrical distribution components, including receptacles, switches and circuit breakers, but not necessarily wiring; and fusible-type fire sprinkler heads.

The updated remediation guidance is based on studies completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on potential long term corrosion effects of problem drywall on select gas components, fire sprinkler heads and smoke alarms

For additional findings from the Interagency Drywall Task Force’s investigation, visit: DrywallResponse.gov

Love to Garden? Winter Prep Makes a Difference

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Many passionate gardeners look forward to spring the way sports fans look ahead to their team’s upcoming season. It can’t come soon enough. If you’re a garden fanatic, there is no need to wait until the sun is shining to work on next years beds. These tips are things you can do during winter to prep next seasons flora.

Weed control: If the ground is clear, keep an eye out for weeds, which are already rooting. Spend a few hours pulling weeds and layering mulch over your clean soil.

Lay it out: When your garden is bare, you can really get a good view of the design. Decide if you’re happy with your spacing and layout. Plan to add or remove any shrubs or trees. Put in a fence or repair a trellis. Find a birdbath or birdhouse on sale in the off-season.

Test your soil. Most seasoned gardeners know a soil test can do wonders for your plants. Winter is prime soil testing season because it gives you time to make any necessary adjustments based on your results.

Enrich your soil. Spent the winter creating compost—with leaves or foodscraps—to enrich your soil. Come spring, your beds will be brimming with nutrients.

Garage Door Upgrade Amps Home Renovation Value

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Homeowners seeking a renovation project that will add long-term value and attract buyers should consider a facelift for their garage, a national study on remodeling costs and value has found.

At a time when buyers are evaluating homes based on curb appeal and online photos, the 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report released last month by Remodeling magazine confirms that replacement of a basic garage door with a mid-range or upscale model is one of the smartest and best value buys prior to a home sale.

Statistics show that more than 90 percent of home buyers turn to the Internet first in their home searches, often basing their decisions to learn more about a property from the photos they see of a home's exterior. With large portions of a home's facade often comprised of a street-facing garage door, it's no surprise that garage door replacement is, for the second year in a row, rated among the best home renovation projects for returning value at resale.

At 71.9 percent on average, mid-range garage door replacement is a top-five improvement for return on investment (ROI), the Cost vs. Value Report found, ahead of both bathroom and major kitchen remodels. Meanwhile, an upscale garage door replacement delivers a 71.1 percent ROI, making it the second highest-rated upscale improvement.

"Many homes incorporate a design that places a garage front and center to a home's view from the curb," says Joe Dachowicz, vice president of marketing at Overhead Door Corporation. "Because of this, garage door replacement is, and always has been, a great investment because it's a relatively low-cost improvement that makes a dramatic impact on a home's curb appeal."

Along with enhanced curb appeal, garage door replacement can also deliver a boost to energy efficiency, Dachowicz says.

"This year's Cost vs. Value Report revealed that homeowners continue to look for projects that improve curb appeal and reduce maintenance and operational costs," Dachowicz says. "By upgrading an old garage door with an insulated one, homeowners can achieve both goals with one project."

The 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value survey determined that garage door replacement was a top-five value-returning project after evaluating a typical $1,500 cost to replace a basic garage door with a mid-range garage model. The survey determined the value of that replacement at home sale to be nearly $1,100. This equates to a 71.9 percent ROI and is the fourth-highest rated project a homeowner can undertake, according to the study. Meanwhile, the roughly $3,000 cost to replace a mid-range model with an upscale one had an estimated value at sale of about $2,130, equating to a 71.1 percent return.

Source: www.overheaddoor.com

How to Legally Lay Off an Employee

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

It's one of the toughest decisions for any employer, small or large: Should you lay off your employees, and how should you do it so you don't get sued?

The decision about layoffs is entirely up to you. But as for how to implement layoffs, here a few legal considerations.

You've been WARNed. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, is a federal law that requires 60 days' written notice before a plant closing or a "mass layoff." The federal WARN Act applies to employers with more than 100 workers, but state versions of the WARN Act may apply to smaller employers, according to HRHero.com.

Don't discriminate. Federal and state laws place some employees in a "protected" class. For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits an employer from treating older workers differently than others. So make sure your planned layoff doesn't discriminate.

Don't retaliate. Layoffs can't be in retaliation for a worker's complaint. That could be grounds for a workplace retaliation lawsuit.

Employees on leave. For employees on family or medical leave at the time of an announced layoff, an employer must show their leave is unrelated to the layoff, and that the worker would've lost his or her job regardless.

Members of the military.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to reinstate servicemembers to the jobs they would have held had they not been called to duty. An employer can't layoff a servicemember unless the employer can prove circumstances have drastically changed.

Continuing health insurance. Under federal law, most employers with group health plans must allow a laid-off employee to continue to pay for the same health coverage for a specified period of time.
Severance agreements. These offer an employee an incentive, such as additional compensation or benefits, in exchange for agreeing not to sue an employer. But remember, an employer can't force employees to sign a severance agreement. An employee must also get time to consider the agreement—either 21 or 45 days, depending on the worker's age, according to the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.

Source: www.bills.com

Word of the Day

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Tenancy by the entirety. A form of joint ownership reserved for married persons; right of survivorship exists and neither spouse has a disposable interest during the lifetime of the other.

Question of the Day

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Q: Is there such a thing as “over improving?”

A: Yes. The last thing you want to do when undertaking a home improvement is go overboard. This means fixing up the home to the point where it becomes worth far more than nearby neighborhood properties.

Down the road, when you may want to sell, potential homebuyers will be reluctant to pay, say, $200,000 for your home when others are priced at $150,000. If they want to pay that kind of money, they will likely make a purchase in a neighborhood where most of the homes sell in that price range.

Carefully measure the cost of any improvements you want to make against the overall values in your neighborhood. Otherwise, you may not recover your costs or increase your property value significantly.

Chinese Drywall; Remediation Edition

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Picking up from our previous segment, I tapped www.forresidentialpros.com for more details about 2011’s landmark global class action settlement, which will help thousands of American homeowners affected by problems with KPT Chinese drywall.

According to the report, under the settlement agreement, KPT will continue remediating more than 1,300 homes with KPT drywall, for class members electing that remediation option. All of the remediated homes will be inspected by environmental engineers, who will certify to homeowners that their homes are free of problem drywall odors and contamination.

Remediation is carried out without cost to the homeowner. Approximately 5,200 plaintiffs have specifically alleged that their homes contain KPT drywall; and of these, approximately 2,700 have submitted in some form evidence of the presence of KPT drywall.

The report also explained the three Remediation Fund options:

• Program Contractor Remediation Option. The Program Remediation Option provides the class member with the convenience of having Moss & Associates, who has been approved by the PSC and the Knauf Defendants, remediate the class member's property.
• Self-Remediation Option. The Self-Remediation Option provides the class member with the choice to select his or her own qualified contractor to remediate the property
• Cash-Out Option. The Cash-Out Option provides a cash payment with no obligation to remediate the property but the amount of cash will be less than the amount that would be expended under the two remediation options and the homeowner must take steps to assure, among other things, notice to subsequent purchasers of the presence of KPT drywall.
Forresidentialpros.com also reports that homeowners will receive a stipend to cover the costs of moving and storage during the remediation, and to pay for damaged personal appliances. And an "Other Loss Fund" will reportedly reimburse class members for provable economic loss, short sales, and foreclosures caused by KPT Drywall.

The fund also will provide a mechanism for resolving disputed personal injury claims.

Word of the Day

January 11, 2012 5:50 pm

Tax sale. A court-ordered sale of real property to raise money to cover delinquent taxes.

Question of the Day

January 11, 2012 5:50 pm

Q: Are there such things as no-cost and no-fee loans?

A: You see promotions for them all the time. But banking regulators have gone after lenders who misrepresent these loans. The reality is that no-cost and no-fee loans may actually cost the borrower more over the long term because costs are often hidden by rolling them into the new loan through higher principal or interest.

The rates on no-cost loans are usually about 1/2 or 5/8 of a percentage point higher than the "full cost" rate.

A typical no-fee loan includes points and all fees in the loan principal, so the borrower does not pay or “see” these expenses at the closing. Instead, the borrower pays them over the life of the loan.

If you are looking to refinance, it may be possible to get a no-cost program that will lower your rate at no expense to you. Today, lenders are paying all closing costs, such as title fees, appraisal fees, and credit report fees. There are no loan fees or points, and nothing is added to your loan balance.

However, many lenders may charge a loan application fee and some restrictions may apply depending on the size of the loan.

7 Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill

January 11, 2012 5:20 pm

If you’ve been clipping grocery coupons from the Sunday papers for years, you may have noticed a sad but noticeable truth: many of your name brand favorite coupons seem to be a lot less in evidence. “But,” says budget advisor Crystal Paine,” there are plenty of other ways to get more groceries for less.”

Paine, who wrote “The Money-Saving Mom’s Budget,” suggests ten ways to get more for your money:

1. Try the dollar store – Most carry off-brand canned and packaged goods—and some recognizable brands—costing far less than supermarket brands. Many also carry fresh produce at prices that may amaze you.
2. Shop the bread outlets – Check the phone book for outlet stores operated by many major brand bread bakers. The outlets sell their day-old breads and sweets for as much as 50 percent off supermarket prices. Most products have a use-by date anyway, so stock up the freezer and save big-time.
3. Use less soap – Get more out of your laundry soaps, dish soaps and shampoos that what the package recommends. In most cases, you won’t notice a difference in cleaning power, but you will find you are replenishing them less often.
4. Ditch the cold cereal – It’s an expensive breakfast. Make and freeze pancakes or waffles and store them in the freezer, toaster-ready. Try less expensive individual oatmeal packets. Throw milk or yogurt and over-ripe fruit in the blender for an inexpensive smoothie.
5. Use the freezer – If milk is getting ready to expire, put it in the freezer. Same for cheese and other dairy products—and fruit, cut into chunks and bagged. Use them later for puddings, smoothies, and other recipes. Grate the cheese for casseroles.
6. Shop less often – Doing so will save you money by forcing you to work your way through your food cabinets, freezer and fridge to come up with dinner ideas.
7. Try reusable water bottles – Don’t buy disposable bottled water. Buy reusable bottles at the dollar store, label one for each family member, and wash and refill every night.