Gunning Daily News

5 Steps to Erase the Signs of Harsh Winter Weather on Exterior Wood

April 20, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011-Long after the snow melts, the signs of harsh winter weather remain, leaving wooden decks, doors, shutters and sheds looking shabby. Repairing, replacing and refinishing wood can feel overwhelming, but the experts at Olympic Exterior Stains offer tips on how to tackle the task one step at a time.

1. Take stock of your home's exterior wood and evaluate what needs to be replaced vs. what can be saved. Harsh weather can cause old or unprotected wood to warp, crack or grow mold and mildew. Look for any rotten or unsafe pieces and replace them before beginning the next step. Prepare the rest of your wood for cleaning. Remove all furniture and cover surrounding plants and bushes. While it's important to cover surrounding vegetation with a sheet or cloth before cleaning, some deck cleaners are biodegradable and won't harm your spring blooms.

2. Test for success. Two easy tests can help determine if cleaning exterior wood is enough, or if re-staining is necessary to protect and beautify wood.

-Water Absorption Test: Pour a small cup of water on a few horizontal surfaces. If water is absorbed in less than 10 minutes, or if the surface color darkens, then it is time to stain or seal your deck.

-Tape Peel Test: For older, weathered wood, take a putty knife or sharp blade and cut a small "X" in two or three random spots on the woods surface. Cover the cuts with duct tape, press down firmly and then quickly pull it off. If flakes of old wood stain are stuck on the tape, then you must first sand the surface or apply a stain stripper to reveal a fresh layer of wood before staining.

3. Clean and prepare. Snow and winter weather deposit a layer of dirt that must be removed before stain can be applied. Cleaning allows for better stain penetration, maximum adhesion and uniformity of color. Many homeowners turn to power washers to clean wood, but this can drive dirt deeper into the wood grain and potentially damage and splinter wood. It's best to use a cleaning product suited for the type of wood you have.

4. Protect with stain. After cleaning each surface, pick the protective waterproof sealant or stain product and color that's best for your project: clear, toner, semi-transparent or solid color stain. Once you've chosen a color, test it on a small hidden area to determine how quickly your specific wood will absorb and retain a stain color. Different wood types vary in color, texture and absorbency and stain absorbency varies due to temperature and humidity, too. These factors affect the final color.

5. Finishing touches. Once it's all done and your deck, shutters and front door look like new, consider decorating with potted flowers or an attractive bench to complement your refreshed exterior wood.

For more information, visit www.olympic.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


8 Money Mistakes That Can Really Hurt

April 19, 2011 8:13 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-These days, the road to financial ruin is paved with all kinds of attractive options, from payday loans to reverse mortgages to borrowing from your 401k. As you navigate through the current economy, keeping one eye firmly fixed on the future, there are some options that should be avoided if possible.

From the financial gurus at USA Today, here are eight mistakes you should avoid to keep you finances on solid footing:

Raiding your 401k It's tempting, because we think of it as a pension fund we can control. But it's a poor decision at any time, and especially bad if you are toying with bankruptcy because 401k funds are almost always protected in a bankruptcy-and if you do go bankrupt, you want to preserve your retirement.

Walking out on a mortgage If you owe more than your house is worth, you need to assess whether your money crunch is short-term or long-term. If it's short-term, talk with your lender about temporary options to keep you out of default. If it's long-term, go to makingmortgagesaffordable.gov for information on loan modification options, or work with your lender to get short sale approval.

Ignoring your card balance If you are having difficulty paying off credit card debt, work with the lender to arrange a modified payment plan.

Debt wipe-out scams Debt erasure scams are plentiful. If you need help, seek it through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Co-signing a loan Whether it's for a relative, a friend, or a romantic interest, co-signing is a bad idea. If the primary payer flakes out for any reason, you are on the hook for loan repayment.

Payday loans These are marketed as short-term loans to help you through until payday. But consumers often get trapped in repeat borrowing at large and ballooning interest rates.

Reverse mortgages These may be an option for some senior homeowners, but the high fees and costs can be deadly. A home equity line might be a better option. Check with a reputable financial advisor before committing to a reverse mortgage.

Trying to stiff Uncle Sam Your signature on your tax return affirms that everything in it is accurate. A small misstep can likely be amended if questioned. A big misstep could cost you penalties-or even get you charged with fraud.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Remodeling Tips to Incorporate "Green" Design into Your Home

April 19, 2011 8:13 am

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, Case Design/Remodeling, Inc., a leading D.C. Metro area home improvement company, offers homeowners six tips for incorporating "green" design into their next remodeling project. The list was compiled by Matt Dirksen, a Green Advantage Certified (GAC) project designer at Case with more than 15 years of experience in the home remodeling industry.

Below are Case's top six green home design and remodeling tips for Earth Day 2011.

Preparation Before beginning a project, perform an "existing analysis" of the home. This includes anything from gathering information on water, gas and electricity usage, to conducting an energy "audit" to pin-point daily habits such as leaving lights on when a room is not in use.

Lighting Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED or compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting. If possible, take advantage of both natural lighting and shading to reduce energy consumption from heating and cooling a home.

Materials Opt for paints and finishes with low or zero-volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to the environment and one's health. Choose designs that incorporate recycled materials, such as countertops made from recycled glass, or flooring made from repurposed wood.

Appliances Swap in ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances that use less energy, such as refrigerators and dishwashers.

Plumbing Consider low-flow shower heads/faucets and dual-flush toilets to conserve water.

Insulation and Ventilation An energy-efficient home requires both proper insulation and ventilation. Seal windows, doors and pipes, but also ensure sufficient ventilation to allow water vapor to pass through and prevent molding.

"Many of today's homeowners are opting to make their house more 'green,' especially when planning for a remodeling project," Dirksen said. "At Case, we strive to provide homeowners with the latest resources, materials and expertise from certified professionals to assist with incorporating green elements into their design decisions."

For more information, visit www.casedesign.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

April 19, 2011 7:13 am

Secondary mortgage market. Market for the purchase and sale of existing mortgages, designed to provide greater liquidity for mortgages; plays an important role in getting money from those who want to lend to those who want to borrow.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: Can I deduct improvements made to my home?

April 19, 2011 7:13 am

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Remember 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.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


6 Steps to Spring Clean Your Wardrobe

April 19, 2011 7:13 am

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-With the arrival of spring comes spring cleaning, and homeowners across the country are taking advantage of the longer days and warmer temperatures by getting started on spring cleaning chores. Closet Innovations, a San Francisco custom closets company, offers six easy steps for cleaning a closet and wardrobe to allow for more free time and less stress during the spring months.

"A messy, unorganized wardrobe can produce undue stress in anyone's life if left unaddressed," said Chris Hall of Closet Innovations. "If you have a lot of things, I recommend updating your inefficient storage spaces."

Closet Innovations offers the following steps to make your closet and wardrobe space much more accessible and organized this spring:

1. Empty out the entire closet.

2. Sort items and accessories by what is desirable and undesirable.

3. Use cleaning products such as wood oils, glass cleaner and cloth to clean and sanitize the area.

4. Inventory clothes and accessories.

5. Get rid of old hangers.

6. Place items in closet according to desirability.

"Now is the perfect time for a fresh start. A new season commands a new outlook and a new wardrobe demands a new closet system," said Chris.

For more information, visit www.closetinnovations.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Easy and Earth-Friendly Tips to Help Take Good Care of Your Family, Home and the Planet

April 19, 2011 7:13 am

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-Earth Day is a great reminder that there are many ways people can have a positive impact on the planet. But being more eco-conscious can go beyond just one day. Try these easy and earth-friendly tips in your daily life to help take good care of your family, home and planet.

Trade transportation. According to www.epa.gov, leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. So, try public transportation if you can. Carpool, walk or bike to work, and get the kids in on the act, too. Some schools sponsor "Walk to School" days to help cut emissions and get kids more physically active.

Clean green. You don't need harsh chemical cleaners to take care of household cleaning. Natural products like Baking Soda can tackle many of your everyday chores. Church & Dwight Co., Inc, the maker of Arm & Hammer was one of the first corporate sponsors of the original Earth Day in 1970 and even though the initial celebration was over forty years ago, baking soda is still as safe and natural as it was back then. Baking soda can be used to scrub away build-up on the grill, freshen the carpet and can even take on patio furniture cleaning and pool care. You can also keep recycling bins deodorized with a regular sprinkling of baking soda..

E-cycle. If you have electronics that you no longer use, many of them can be recycled. Recycling old computers, DVD players and other electronics helps save natural resources, and reduces land, air and water pollution due to hazardous substances such as lead and chromium. Find out where to recycle your electronics at www.earth911.com.

Wash wisely. The average washing machine uses 40.9 gallons of water per load, according to www.epa.gov. If you are looking to buy a new washer, shop for a high-efficiency one that uses less than 28 gallons per load. Wash only full loads of laundry to save more water and energy.

Go outdoors. Even if you live in an urban area, there are still ways you can plant your own garden. Without a backyard, head up to the roof. Planting a rooftop garden can help absorb pollution, reduce heat gain and ultimately result in energy savings. For easy maintenance, plant trees and perennial flowers to create an urban oasis or try a vegetable garden and enjoy fresh produce from an unexpected location.

Try a natural makeover. Spruce yourself up with natural products that will make your skin and hair feel refreshed. To exfoliate your face and body, make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water and rub in a gentle circular motion to remove dead skin cells. For squeaky clean hair, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your palm with your favorite shampoo and rinse as usual. Baking soda will help to remove residue and leave hair cleaner and more manageable.

It may not seem like much, but every step you take makes you, your home and the earth a little better off.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

April 18, 2011 9:43 am

Second mortgage. Lien on property that is subordinate to a first mortgage. In the event of default, the second mortgage is repaid after the first. Also called a junior mortgage, and in some circumstances a home equity loan.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: Can an older homeowner who is cash poor but house rich use their home to tap into the equity?

April 18, 2011 9:43 am

A: Yes, but not so much by refinancing. A reverse mortgage is a better, and increasingly popular, option for older Americans to convert home equity into cash. Money can then be used to cover home repairs, everyday living expenses, and medical bills.

Instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to the homeowner, who continues to own the home and hold title to it.

According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, the money given by the lender is tax-free and does not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits, although it may affect the homeowners' eligibility for certain kinds of government assistance, including Medicaid.

Homeowners must be at least 62 and own their own homes to get a reverse mortgage. No income or medical requirements are necessary to qualify, and they may be eligible even if they still owe money on a first or second mortgage. In fact, many seniors get reverse mortgages to pay off the original loan.

Repaying a reverse mortgage is not necessary until the property is sold or the owner moves. Should the owner die before the property is sold, the estate repays the loan, plus any interest that has accrued.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Bedroom Design Ideas for Better Sleep and Comfort

April 18, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 18, 2011-Creating a relaxing and comfortable bedroom environment is an important part of getting better sleep. Bay Area interior designer Lisa Staprans offers these interior design ideas for bedroom designs that enhance sleep and rejuvenation.

-Keep the bedroom uncluttered. What is in the room should bring you joy and a sense of peace and calm.

-Select artwork that is personal and inspiring.

-Choose bedroom colors that make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Add splashes of color with a beautiful coverlet or pillows made from an amazing textile. Stay away from fussy fabrics.

-Have a variety of lighting options, including ambient and reading lights.

-An upholstered headboard adds comfort and softens the room.

-For stability and harmony, anchor the bed against a wall

-Invest in high quality and beautiful linens pillows, comforters and mattress pads. They feel great and last longer.

-Have a mix of pillow sizes.

-Build your bedroom around a high quality, comfortable mattress set. .

For more information, visit www.McRoskey.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.