Ann M. Ciesielka
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10 Tips for Homeowners Rebuilding after a Storm

September 29, 2015 2:34 am

As important as it is to make home repairs as soon as possible following a natural disaster, it is also important to take some time to plan the project, consult with local officials and choose a contractor wisely, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Before you start:


• Contact the local permitting office. Follow all local and state requirements.

• Check with your local building official to make sure your work is safe and meets all local and state codes and requirements.

• Look for a contractor with an established physical address. Ask for references and contact them.

• Get bids from more than one person. Make sure they are in writing and specify exactly what will be done. Beware of a low-ball price, and never pay the full price in advance.

When building:

• Consider using building materials that are more resistant to flood, wind, corrosion and decay.

• If siding or roof sheathing needs replacement, consider installing hurricane/seismic connectors at the rafter-to-wall or truss-to-wall connections. Adding wall-to-foundation ties may also be necessary.

• Windows, doors and skylights should be checked for leaks. If they need replacement, consider impact-resistant units.

• Check your attic for adequate insulation. Straps should be added from rafters to wall top plates, and gable end-wall framing should be braced.

• Inspect soffits to determine if structural upgrades are necessary.

• If you live in a flood-prone area, elevate appliances such as air conditioners.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Best Ways to Improve Your Sleep Environment

September 28, 2015 12:34 am

If sleep disturbances regularly prevent you from getting the proper amount of shut-eye, you’re not alone. In fact, 75 percent of adults experience sleep disruptions caused by allergy symptoms, trips to the restroom and temperature discomfort – and nearly a quarter say they rarely wake up feeling well-rested, according to a recent AllerEase® survey.

To improve your sleep environment, Dr. Neeta Ogden, a board-certified adult and pediatric allergy and asthma specialist, advises a three-pronged approach.

"My top recommendation for those suffering from respiratory congestion at night is to try a three-step plan: use zippered allergen barrier bed protectors, nasal saline spray, and remove allergens from your bedroom such as pets and carpets," says Dr. Ogden. "Simple changes can have a year-round impact on quality sleep and living."

Dr. Ogden also recommends addressing other common causes of sleep disruptions with the following tips.

• Wash bedding once per week, including comforters and duvet covers, to prevent household allergens from collecting in plush surfaces.

• Wash pillows monthly, or replace them every six months, if they are non-washable.

• Limit liquids and snacks close to bedtime to avoid overnight bathroom breaks.

• Identify optimal sleep temperature and adjust fan, heat or air-conditioning accordingly.

Source: AllerEase®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Preserve Character when Renovating Your Home

September 28, 2015 12:34 am

(Family Features) A self-taught home rehabber, licensed real estate agent and designer Nicole Curtis, star of HGTV's "Rehab Addict," has made an art of introducing the comforts and conveniences of modern living while restoring homes to their former glory.

Whether you're giving new life to a historic treasure or sprucing up a more modern home, there are many ways to retain the integrity of the original design while keeping your renovation within budget.

Take hardwood flooring, for example. Many homeowners can’t wait to tear out a dingy carpet, but that carpet may actually be covering a hidden gem: original hardwood floors. Approach your renovation with a “What can I save?” rather than a “What can I lose?” mentality, says Curtis. Damaged sections of wood flooring can be patched using reclaimed wood from other parts of the home, or even the attic. A good sanding and a fresh coat of stain are all that’s needed to restore the original flooring.

Likewise, consider every alternative before installing a brand new feature in your home. A ductless system, for instance, is a modern upgrade that won’t destroy the existing structure and architectural integrity of the home.

"No ductwork makes my life so much easier," Curtis says. "There's less time and money spent on finding ductwork space and installing the systems, so we no longer have to sacrifice design."

When it comes to the kitchen, pause before you make plans to gut it. In the kitchen, you may be surprised by how sanding and staining or painting the existing cabinetry transforms the space. Keep in mind that lightly colored cabinets and countertops will make a small kitchen space feel larger, and you can bring pops of color into the room with the backsplash and décor, says Curtis.

Source: Mitsubishi Electric

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Ask the Architect: What Are the Most Popular Home Design Trends?

September 28, 2015 12:34 am

According to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), home design trends favor automation and outdoor living – and don’t count on that changing any time soon.

“With the tremendous interest in well-designed outdoor living spaces, it’s a pretty strong indication that the days when houses were viewed as a way to flip for a big profit are long gone,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Signifying a renewed interest in practicality and use, demand for mud rooms and dedicated guest rooms are also quite high.”

In addition to those features, homeowners are seeking to upgrade their homes with first-floor master bedrooms, home offices and fitness rooms, the AIA reports. On the automation side, architects say smart thermostats, backup power generators, electrical car docking stations, central audio mechanisms, air purifiers and security systems top homeowner wish lists.

“Automation is on its way to becoming standard functionality within homes,a s there are systems available to regulate temperature, lighting, home audio and energy usage,” adds Baker.

Source: AIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Land at 4-Month Low

September 25, 2015 12:28 am

Bankrate.com reports the 30-year fixed mortgage rate has retreated to 4.00 percent, the lowest level since late spring, with an average of 0.26 discount and origination points. At the current rate, the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan would be $954.83.

The 15-year fixed mortgage rate also fell, decreasing to 3.18 percent, along with the larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which dropped to 3.89 percent. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) were also on the downswing – the five-year ARM slid to 3.19 percent, and the seven-year ARM sunk to 3.38 percent.

According to Bankrate.com, mortgage rates were the beneficiaries of increased jitters about the health of the global economy following the Federal Open Market Committee’s latest meeting. When the Fed opted not to initiate interest rate hikes, it sparked uneasiness in financial markets; nervous investors typically flock to safe-haven U.S. government bonds, to which mortgage rates are closely related.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Fall-Inspired Color Trends

September 25, 2015 12:28 am

Is your home in need of a makeover? One of the simplest ways to refresh the look of your home is through seasonally-inspired décor.

“Fall is the perfect time to add color to your walls and update décor in your home, ahead of the busy holiday season,” says Julie Richard, Ace Hardware design expert. “Whether you’re looking to add a pop of color with a decorative statement piece, or apply a fresh coat of paint to a room that needs a lift, our advice will help you bring transformative updates to life during the most colorful time of year.”

Organic and timeless, autumn’s foliage lends itself to warm, neutral color palettes and vintage décor paired with deep greens and jewel tones, says Richard and colleagues Katie Reynolds and Nathan Fischer, also Ace design experts. The trio recommends updating your home with these color trends:

1. Green – Bring this trend to life in your home by painting a statement piece using a vibrant green, or by painting an accent wall in a muted olive tone.

2. White – Give your living room more depth and dimension with new baseboards (that are at least five inches high) in a creamy, opal white. To really transform the look of your space, paint the floor in a stark white.

3. Black – Dark furniture against white walls can help make a bold statement in an otherwise neutral space. Paint base cabinets or your favorite piece of furniture in a shade like black chiffon for a crisp, classic look.

4. Blue – Add doses of color in complementary shades, such as sky blue walls with orange accessories, to add character and flair to a room.

5. Pink – Don’t overlook the ceiling! Add a hint of blush to the ceiling to simulate the appearance of a slight glow.

Source: Ace Hardware

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Binge-Watchers: When Were You Hooked?

September 25, 2015 12:28 am

It may have taken “Breaking Bad” character Walter White nearly an entire season to become Heisenberg, but as Netflix reports, fans committed to the series long before the plot twist unfolded – and it wasn’t during the pilot episode.

“Given the precious nature of primetime slots on traditional TV, a series pilot is arguably the most important point in the life of the show,” says Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “However, in our research of more than 20 shows across 16 markets, we found that no one was ever hooked on the pilot.”

According to Netflix’s research, fandom emerges when commercial breaks and appointment viewing are stripped away. In fact, 70 percent of viewers who watched the “hooked” episode across Netflix and non-Netflix programming went on to complete season one in uninterrupted format.

Netflix also evaluated global fandom trends, revealing some interesting finds. The Dutch, for instance, tend to fall in love with a series the fastest, getting hooked one episode ahead of most countries irrespective of the program. Down Under, viewers hold out longer across the board, getting hooked two episodes later than the rest of the world. Inexplicably, Germans exhibited early fandom for “Arrow,” whereas France fell first for “How I Met Your Mother.”

Source: Netflix

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Prevent Scams against Seniors

September 24, 2015 2:25 am

According to Consumer Reports, seniors and their loved ones lose billions of dollars to fraudsters every year, typically through phone scams that take advantage of a senior’s isolation. Staying involved in the community, advises the nonprofit organization, is key to preventing elder financial abuse.

Consumer Reports also suggests the following tips:

Stop robocalls.
Sign up for Nomorobo, a free service available to customers with VoIP service with select providers. Consider a white list call blocker device, which blocks numbers that are not programmed into it. And, if someone from an unknown number calls, don’t press to connect to a representative – just hang up. Responding to a call demonstrates a live person is there, which can generate more calls. Also, sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry (donotcall.gov or 888-382-1222); it won’t prevent crooks from calling, but it will limit legitimate marketing calls.

Have someone help pay the bills. Create a shared bank account with a trusted friend or family member. Arrange to transfer only enough money each month to pay the bills. Get to know the officers and tellers at the local bank or credit union; they may raise a flag if they notice suspicious activity on an account.

Arrange for limited account oversight. Some financial institutions will send statements and alerts to a trusted person who has no direct access to a senior’s account but can check for suspected fraud. EverSafe is a paid, Web-based service that consolidates all accounts in one place and checks for suspicious activity daily. Someone else can receive the online statements without having access to the accounts that are being monitored.

Vet all contractors and financial advisors’ credentials. For contractors, check with the state licensing board and the local Better Business Bureau. Ask for proof of insurance and bonding. Don’t pay in full up front. For financial advisors, check brokercheck.finra.org to find regulatory actions, violations, or complaints.

Set up an emergency plan.
Temporary hospitalization or permanent incapacity are just two reasons someone may not be able to control his or her own finances. Give power of attorney to someone trusted and financially secure. The power-of-attorney document can be drawn up with limits, such as assigning a relative or friend to monitor the person with power of attorney; mandating a periodic written report of financial transactions; or assigning joint powers of attorney, which requires two signatures on every check.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Greener Pastures: 5 Lawn Maintenance Tips for Fall

September 24, 2015 2:25 am

(Family Features) Come autumn, caring for your lawn should go beyond a weekly mowing. In fact, there are many steps homeowners can take to ensure their lawn remains healthy, green and beautiful for many seasons to come, according to the TruGreen lawn care experts:

1. Aerating

Aeration involves removal of soil cores to improve water and air movement in compacted soils, and aids in promoting deeper and increased root growth and thatch management. Long-term, your lawn will respond quicker to fertilizer and water runoff will be reduced when irrigating.

2. Overseeding

When it comes to increasing lawn thickness and health, overseeding can be essential. It can help discourage future weeds while also aiding recovery from summer heat, disease and insect activity. Seeding during late summer or early fall will give grass the maximum time to develop a deep extensive root system and mature before the onset of winter stresses.

Aeration is recommended when overseeding to give seeds more soil contact and provide a moist, protected environment required for germination.

3. Feeding

Fall feeding gives your landscape the nutrients needed to prepare for a healthy, green spring revival. Hiring a trained specialist with a plan customized to your region will help trees and shrubs thrive. If you fertilize your own lawn, make sure to follow the product directions and sweep all fertilizer that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.

4. Maintaining

Throughout the fall, remove fallen tree leaves and debris from your lawn. Studies have shown mulching tree leaves back into your lawn effectively clears away tree leaf debris that otherwise can become matted and damage your lawn over the winter. Clean and edge landscape beds, leaving no more than 2-3 inches of mulch in the beds.

Lowering the mower height by one or two settings during the last few mowings before winter reduces grass diseases associated with snow. Avoid walking on frost-covered lawns, as doing so may cause brown footprints to appear later that can remain visible until spring.

5. Pruning


Pruning is an essential maintenance practice for trees and shrubs. Landscapes can quickly become overgrown if not cared for, but yearly pruning will maintain trees and shrubs to an ideal size and shape. Remove dead or damaged branches from trees and shrubs to prevent rot organisms from invading the trunk and stems of plants.

"A healthy lawn encourages you to live life outside more with your family, friends and neighbors," says TruGreen Chief Science Officer Dr. Kirk Hurto. "There's no time like late summer and early fall to start preparing your yard for those spring and summertime outdoor gatherings."

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Safety Tips for Storm Cleanup on Your Property

September 24, 2015 2:25 am

In the aftermath of a storm, many homeowners take the DIY approach when clearing debris from their properties. This approach, however, can be risky, especially when removing downed trees or tree limbs.

Outdoor power product manufacturer Husqvarna recommends the following tips for a safe storm cleanup:

1. Purchase power tools – and get adequate training for them – before a crisis strikes. Check with your local outdoor power product retailer for course recommendations, and supplement training by viewing online videos. And don't forget to thoroughly read the manufacturer's owner's manual.

“You aren’t going to go buy safety equipment right after a storm if you can’t get out of your driveway,” says Dante Terzigni of Do-Cut Sales and Service in Youngstown, Ohio.

2. Don't use a chainsaw without a complete regimen of personal protective equipment (PPE). Essential elements include a helmet, a visor and protective glasses to avoid scratches and sawdust spray, earmuffs to protect against harmful loud noises, chaps, work gloves and protective boots.

3. Before you begin removing tree debris, assess the full scope of damage. Create a plan for how to prioritize the work.

“Carefully walk the property and look for downed power lines,” says Mike Hope, a certified arborist in Cape Cod, Mass. "Never cut a tree that is laying on or touching a power line."

4.
Don't volunteer for a job you're unprepared to handle. Tackle tasks you can comfortably and safely undertake. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated.

5. When operating a chainsaw, it is best to start on flat ground, with the chain brake engaged. Don't "cut" corners during cleanup efforts.

6. Ongoing maintenance is critical. Pause often to clean filters and tighten chains.

"It's wise to have extra chains and files to sharpen them," says Bill Johnson of Coastal Equipment Rentals in Cape Cod, Mass. "Many downed trees are in the dirt and chains can dull quickly."

Source: Husqvarna

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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