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By Sally J. Cunningham, Sarah Doerflein, Cynnie Gasch, Donna Hoke, Lisa Littlewood, Nancy J. Parisi, and Ashley Scheffert

With all the things we cover in Home, there’s still a lot of little stuff we pick up along the way that there’s just no place to share. This issue aims to take care of that. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already gotten some A to Z in the What’s In/What’s Out, Tech House, Garden Beat, and Going Green departments, so here, we’re just going to give you the gamut of handy knowledge and home tips. You’re sure to pick up something useful.

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ANTIQUES When you’ve finally set aside some time for antiquing, follow these tips to ensure the most productive trip. • Call ahead to confirm the store is open, no matter what the website says. • Arm yourself with a basic plan. Decide on one or two items you’re seeking, and shop with those in mind. This will help prevent distraction, especially when you visit stores with multiple floors and endless options. • Buy what you love. If you love it, it will work in your house. Just make sure it will fit. • B ring a tape measure. Even if you love the vintage dresser, if it won’t fit through your entryway, it’ll have to stay behind. • Be open to reinventing an object to be the thing you need. An antique wardrobe in the living room provides storage for kids’ toys. A tapestry makes a statement on the wall and hides the television. A vintage sofa has perfect lines, but no one wants to sit on the suspect upholstery; consider reupholstering in a modern fabric. • Mix furniture and décor pieces from different eras or high and low-end pieces. An ornate gilded antique mirror works nicely above a simple modern console table.

• Before committing to the sale, examine the piece to ensure it will function as intended. Inspect the construction of furniture for wobbly legs, loose joints, drawers that won’t open, and any cracks that require repair. • Know how to spot a fake. Look at the arms, legs, or handles for convincing wear that would occur from daily use. Check for dovetail joints versus modern screws and nails. • Prior to paying, have a clear understanding of the return policy. Some shops may only allow returns for a few days after the purchase or only refund with store credit. • Have cash on hand and don’t be afraid to haggle. Start the negotiations with the person who has the authority to drop the price. Remain friendly and conversational and ask what their best price is. Commit to walking away from the deal if a compromise can’t be reached. To close the deal, ask if there is a discount for paying cash. • Be sure to get a receipt that lists the item’s age, material, value, and any damage or restoration. • Antique shops have been curated by the owner, which can be reflected in higher prices. Luckily, they aren’t the only show in town. Shop estate sales

and thrift stores for vintage finds at a lower cost. Estate sales have allencompassing inventory from highend furniture from any era to low-end knick-knacks, jewelry, and tools. When a private company is holding the sale, less desirable goods will have been removed and the merchandise will be neatly organized and clearly tagged. Arrive early and investigate each room. The basement, garage, and other outbuildings may house items, so don’t forget to look there as well. If you are more interested in a deal, arrive at the end of the sale when the sellers are eager to unload inventory. Be warned: all sales are final. •T  hrift stores have an ever-changing inventory and are best for inexpensive furniture for DIY projects, housewares, clothing, and maybe a designer find for a fraction of the cost. Don’t get lost in the fray; timing is key. Be aware of when the stores put out new inventory. •O  nline, shop 1stdibs, the luxury online marketplace. The exorbitant prices are better suited for a business tycoon, but the site is great for inspiration before you search eBay and Craigslist for something similar. Happy hunting. –SD

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BIDDING

Bidding on real estate: Local real estate agents have reported complex bidding wars and conditions in which upwards of twenty offers have come in on a single property, resulting in some sales as high as tens of thousands of dollars over asking price. While that’s great news for sellers, buyers need to be prepared: Get your finances in line before you start looking. It used to be all that bank pre-approval was good enough to bid with, but, according to one agent we talked to, “precommitment” is better, particularly if there is a potential bidding war. Preapproval means only that your submitted financial paperwork looks good; a pre-commitment assures that the bank has taken the extra steps (which can take up to six weeks) to verify your finances, and your loan is definite. Use an agent. You may be tempted to go at it alone, but a real estate agent has a finger on the pulse of the market and often knows of properties even before they’re listed. Joanna Beers, a Buffalo teacher who recently bought her first home in Amherst, says she couldn’t have done it without her agent. “I can’t tell you how many houses I looked at on Zillow and other websites and by the time I called to look at the property it was already sold,” she says. Be proactive. Good houses are going fast. In Beers’ case, her agent alerted her to a 1,400-square foot, three-bedroom cape in Amherst as soon as it came on the market. After attending the open house, Beers knew it was “the one,” but when the owners said they would accept bids for one week before making a decision, Beers’ agent suggested: “Make it personal. Write a letter to the homeowner.” Beers followed the advice, and both she and her agent believe it helped her beat out the other offers.

After laying a smooth bead of caulk, spray your latex-gloved finger with Windex. With gentle and even pressure, wipe your finger along the bead to fully distribute the caulk into the seam. Apply Windex as needed to not only keep your fingertip clean, but to create a professional, even finish. –SD

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Make it personal. During the open house, Beers and her agent noticed that she and the current homeowner (whom she never met) had something in common—they both had cats. So when Beers wrote her letter telling the homeowner a few things about herself and how much she loved the house, she also included a picture of herself with her cat, Boo Radley. She closed by saying that she and Boo hoped this would be their new home. “I like to think that Boo Radley sealed the deal,” says Beers. –LL

DECKS Whether you are looking to build a new deck or overhaul an existing one, consider composite decking material over wood. Composite decks, from brands such as Trex, are long-lasting, environmentally friendly, and low maintenance. A simple soap and water scrub or power-wash are generally all that is required in the upkeep of these high-quality decks. –AS


When we think about windows, we like to think about natural light, and not escaping from a fire, but when it comes to safety and code compliance, the latter is more important. If you’re finishing your basement, state and local building codes require that an egress window be part of the budget. The good news is that basements that have been finished as living space—with a proper safety egress—can be included in your home listing (e.g., as an extra bedroom). And if you’re buying a new build, your basement will already have one. –DH

EGRESS WINDOWS

FIREPLACE MAINTENANCE Ash should be cleaned out once a week, though leaving an inch or so in the bottom of the fireplace helps to create natural insulation for more efficient fires during winter, when the fireplace sees the most use. Cleaning tip: sprinkle used coffee grounds on the ashes to prevent ashy dust messes. Hire a professional chimney sweep once a year to check for cracks, clean residue, and make sure the chimney is structurally sound. This helps prevent the threat of “chimney fires,” offering homeowners peace of mind. –LL

GOOGLE

HANGING PICTURES So many home repair jobs would be easy if only you had someone to show you how—and you do! Everything you need is right at your fingertips...literally. If you never thought to use the Internet as an instructional tour, you’re in for a treat: use Google to research and read reviews on products, YouTube to watch how-to videos, and Pinterest to discover fun ideas and life-hacks for your home. –AS

Hanging even one picture in the right spot can mean multiple nail holes, but this tip will help you hang anywhere from one picture to an entire gallery properly— the first time. Before hanging, lay out frames on butcher’s or parchment paper. Find a composition you are happy with, then trace the frame outlines, cut them out, and attach them to the wall using painter’s tape. Secure your frames to the wall with heavy-duty sticky strips (for easy and damage-free removal) and peel away the paper from underneath. –AS

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INSULATION Use an infrared thermometer gun as a low-cost way to check how well a home is insulated. Point and shoot the gun at windows, doors, walls, and the roof to take accurate temperature readings. During the winter, readings taken from outside that register warmer than the baseline show thermal leaking and a need for more insulation. –SD

Somewhere between throw-it-out Leslie and save-it-just-in-case Sally is a balance: There are things you will use again. It’s fine to have a dress-up suitcase for your child or grandchild or a drawer for seasonal decorations. You just can’t keep everything. (Personally, I’m happy to have a “Memory Closet,” with clothes that can instantly transport me to other times and places, like Mom’s cocktail dresses from the 1940s, which I once wore to be Marilyn Monroe or Lucille Ball at costume parties, and the red strapless dress, size six, that my twenty-four-year-old self wore to dance in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.) Just be selective, whether it’s furniture, books, or clothing. Try these guidelines:

Let it go if: • You weren’t proud to wear or display it the first time. • You’re counting on a weight change. Of course you will get there, but the clothes will be out of style by then. • It was a great bargain, but you don’t love it passionately. • Your best reason for keeping is “someone special will want this someday.” Give it to them now! • The accumulation is a burden or cluttering or crowding a needed area. • You’re not using it. This goes for anything Grandma passed down or Dad used: how many cake plates, doilies, dresser scarves, scythes, drills, rug beaters, or woodworking planes does a person need? If they have antique value, put them on a wall or sell them. Keep if: • You would buy it again if you saw it at a yard sale. • You’ll really read the precious hardcover again, you know the author, or it’s a good reference. (All other books get donated to libraries or charities.) • You remember lots of compliments for the decorations, the dishes, or the hat, and you think you’ll use them again. Stash them—but with a label or sticker that says “Use by [date].” Then follow through—or toss. • It was your baby’s cutest outfit or toddler’s favorite toy, Aunt Susan knit-

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ted it, or your eyes fill with tears when you remember reading that worn picture book over and over. Let the rest go before moths and mildew catch up with it.

JUNK

The longer you’ve lived in one place, the more junk you have, unless you’re my girlfriend, Leslie, who throws out everything the minute its use is over, from her wedding dress to holiday decorations. I secretly envy her—what a neat house—but then my PDPT (Post Depression-era Parental Training) kicks in, with The Voices: I could use it next year; it will save money … My daughter might use it … I’ll lose weight and wear it again … I’ll put it away just for now … I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Where the stuff goes: Once the choices are made, there are many options for donation, from the familiar Salvation Army and Goodwill to City Mission and Operation Prom; don’t forget museums for anything of historical value. If your charity of choice isn’t obvious, some online sources can help: Charityclothingpickup.com informs us (EPA research) that about eightyfive percent of used clothing or textiles ends up in landfills. Charity Clothing works with local charities to get household goods and clothing to those who need them. By clicking “drop boxes” I found boxes near home. (Charity Clothing does residential pickups in some areas but not here yet—check with individual sources as many do.) Donationtown.org offers a thorough directory of charities by zip code, with a full listing of which charities want what kind of goods—toys, shoes, books, furniture, clothing. It also leads you to “Schedule your pick-up.” It was the best solution to prod me forward. –SJC


KID'S ART More often than not, the work of your budding Burchfields ends up haphazardly taped to the wall or fridge or stacked somewhere in an ever-growing pile, but there are better ways to manage the work of prolific young artists. • Create Washi tape frames. This easy to remove and reusable masking tape comes in countless colors and designs. Tear off a strip to create a custom frame in seconds. Browse the endless selection online or stop at the local craft store. • A clothes line and clothes pin can hang art in a pinch. For a more streamlined look, install a three-part curtain wire system along a stretch of unused wall. Use curtain hooks with clips to hang art from the wire strand for a clean uncluttered look. • Create a gallery wall by spraypainting mismatched frames a bold color for a seamless look. To make it even easier to swap out work, replace the glass and backboard with a cut-tosize corkboard insert. This is the original way to pin a favorite. • Peg board acts as both display and stor-

LIGHTING

age. Paint the board a complimentary color and then hang above a desk. J-shaped hooks are placed in the board from which binder clips hang. Artwork can be attached without causing any damage. The same hooks can be used to hold buckets for additional desk supplies. • Magnetic paint can free up fridge space. Choose a wall in the kitchen, mudroom, or hallway and apply magnetic paint. When dry, paint over it to match the rest of the room. Use assorted magnets to create a personalized display. • For a more permanent exhibit space, create a feature wall using Graham & Brown Frames wallpaper. The simple neutral color scheme of the paper makes a statement on its own. Cut artwork to fit the varying sizes of frames for a curated look. As an added bonus, kids and visitors can also draw directly on the paper and leave their marks. • Store leftovers in art portfolios (buy online or at local craft stores) large enough to store oversized pieces and hold multiple years of work. Label with the child’s name and stow. Mail pieces to relatives as unexpected surprises. Have the child sign the work and add a brief note to personalize it.

Lighting can have the most immediate impact in making a house feel like a home, yet it’s often the last thing we invest in as we try to balance financial, aesthetic, and space considerations. Fortunately, there are effective, beautiful, creative, and thrifty solutions. Levels of lighting include table and floor lamps as well as ceiling mounted lighting. For floor and table lamps, shop local estate sales and thrift markets, where there is often a great selection of table lamps. The decorative nature of antique and modern light fixtures can add a theme of sculptural or architectural dimension to your living spaces. (If your vintage lamps are a little rusty—as in they don’t turn on and off easily—your local hardware store has the replacement electronics you need to reconstitute an aging fixture.) If you find three different lights—two tables and a floor, for example—with bases you like, you can create a “set” by purchasing unifying lampshades at Target, Home Depot, or online. You can also paint all the bases the same color to tie them together. I have five table lamps that range wildly in era, but

Make artwork not just decorative, but functional. Use large pieces as wrapping paper or cut varying pieces to decorate a package. What was once an elementary art exercise can double as a birthday or thank you card. Use the app, Artkive, to snap a photo, label with the child’s name, add comments, and archive it. You can also print out a book of the artwork you snapped for posterity. Everything is stored digitally so there is no need to feel guilty for what goes in the trash. –SD

their overarching theme—Asian plaster figurines—unites them. I have them in my livingroom and bedroom, and love the character they add to my home. Two table lamps and one floor lamp, by the way, create a warmer feeling in a living room or bedroom than an overhead light, because the light hits the room at a lower height. Add 40-watt LED bulbs, and the light is warm and homey. For ceiling lighting on a budget, try IKEA. Locally, visit the Burlington, Ontario, store, or order from IKEA online. Use the power supply cord to connect to any plug in your home, and channel your cord to the ceiling along a window frame or corner, mounting a shade with an ultimate cost of as little as $22 (including the cord and bulb). This allows you to completely reconfigure your home without bringing in an electrician. With these low cost options, you can find light from minimalist (Chinese lanterns) to wildly decorative, to contemporary (swirling shades), to a truly vintage aesthetic. –CG

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MIRRORS

A well-placed mirror is an effective design tool to maximize light and brighten any space. Hang a mirror opposite a window to reflect light or a stunning view. In a room that lacks natural light, place a mirror behind a candle, table lamp, or pendant light to amplify the glow. –SD

NEATEN When the house needs to look great fast, grab two laundry baskets and one garbage bag and make rounds through the major living areas of the house: living room, bathroom, kitchen, and entryway. Throw clothing items into one basket and miscellaneous toys, papers, and clutter into the other— tuck them both into the laundry room or other covert space and sort later. Wipe down countertops, empty trash, and put out clean towels in the bathrooms and the kitchen. Fluff the couch pillows, fold any blankets, light a candle, and welcome your guests. –LL

ORGANIZE CLOSETS Do you have a closet threatening to burst at the seams—a space that has started to look like an oversized junk drawer? Here’s a few DIY strategies to return it to the efficient storage solution it was intended to be. • Determine the closet’s purpose. Its purpose can be multi-dimensional, but it should not be a quick hiding place for every miscellaneous game, shoe, photograph, clothing item, and cleaning supply. • Start from scratch. The best place to start is with an empty space. Pull everything out of the closet to sort and purge. • Purge accordingly. Identify what you need and want to store, and put stray items back where they belong, find new homes for them, or get rid of them (see Junk). • Look up, down, and around. Is there unused space? A simple wire shelf installed above to hold bins is an easy way to store seasonal or small items that don’t need to be accessible at all times. Consider floor space for a small shoe rack or shelf to maximize the storage potential as well. Hooks are also great and can be installed on side walls or the back of the door to organize purses, bags, and other hangable items. • Purchase a few helpful storage pieces, depending on your space. Many big box hardware stores carry mix and match DIY closet organizers. Bins, drawers, or extra clothing bars can help your closet stay orderly so you can actually find the things you know are in there. –LL

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PAINTING The secret to a stellar paint job begins with preparation. Remove everything from the wall: outlet covers, switchplates, loosen light fixtures and secure in plastic bags. Fill all nail holes and other imperfections with spackle. Sand the wall and then Swiffer to ensure a smooth, perfect foundation for painting. Transform an outdated or average element in your home with metallic or copper spray paint. Spray accents like hardware on cabinets, small side tables, light fixtures, shelving brackets, or frames to add a little luxury. –SD

QUICK FIXES • Scratched wood floor: Scratches in wood floors can be unsightly, but you do not need to refinish an entire floor to fix the problem. A homemade mixture from items in your house can do the trick. Mix a half cup of vinegar (apple cider or white) with a half cup of olive oil. Using a cloth, rub the mixture onto the scratch until it disappears. There is no need to wipe any of the mixture off once you are done; let it soak into the wood for the best results. Aside from fixing scratches and wear, this will restore shine into your wood floors as well. • Dents in carpets and rugs: When rearranging the furniture leaves you with dents, your go-to items are an ice cube and blow dryer. Place the ice cube into dent; you may need more than one depending on the size. As the ice cube melts, the moisture will help to plump and raise the carpet back up. Once the ice has fully melted, use a blow dryer to dry the area while working the fibers back to normal position with your fingers or a spoon. • Dents in wood furniture: Over the years, wood furniture can wear and dent from heavy use. To raise and fade a dent, dampen it with a wet cloth, then place the wet cloth or paper towel over the dent. Turn your steam iron on high, make sure the water is full (you want lots of steam), and iron over the wet cloth in a circular motion (staying in one place too long can cause burning). Every minute or so, check the status of the dent, and repeat the process until it fades away. (It is best to try this process on a nonvisible surface to see how the wood will react to the heat and steam before applying onto the dent.) • Stripped screws: Nothing is worse than having to remove or tighten a screw with a head that’s been completely stripped. Place a section of rubber band—the rubber band should be at least as wide as the screw head—over the head of the screw,

and push your drill or screw into the rubber band as you screw or unscrew. The rubber band will give you the grip you need to turn the screw and get job done. • Watermarks: Did someone forget to use a coaster? You may have seen people attempt to erase watermarks with baking soda or mayonnaise, but it seems that toothpaste is actually the most successful remedy. Gently rub a small amount of white toothpaste onto the ring until it disappears. Be careful not to use too much pressure, as it can wear away any finishes on the wood if done for too long. –AS

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ROOFS The anticipated life expectancy of a 3-Tab asphalt roof is fifteen to eighteen years, while an architectural shingle roof has a lifespan of twenty-four to thirty years. Harsh Buffalo winters can shorten the life of both types. During a spring thaw, check shingles for curling, cracking, and missing granules. Any moisture or sunlight coming through the attic is a sign from above that it’s time for a new roof. –SD

SUNLIGHT If your house is darker than you’d like, constructive solutions like adding tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) or skylights, replacing interior doors with French doors, adding windows, and widening doorways can help, but they’re also costly. While you contemplate what big solutions you might pursue, work with what you have by pairing warm woods with deep colors, hanging mirrors where they will reflect light, and investigate faux skylights like Solar Skylights, which provide sunlight without the risk of leaks. –DH

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TERMITES AND OTHER HOME PESTS

Most insects that enter our homes are merely nuisances, but a few serious pests call for action. And by action, let’s always try for common-sense solutions first and chemical exterminators as a last resort. Termites are not as common in Western New York State as in New York City and Long Island (where all real estate sales require a termite inspection certificate), but sometimes we find them here—and then they are a serious concern because they endanger structures. Identification: Termites are often confused with ants. If you can see the actual insects, an ant has a narrow waist like a wasp, and a termite appears stout, with a broad waist. Ants have L-shaped antennae and termite antennae are straight. Termite wings are twice as long as their bodies, while ant wings are only as long as their bodies. Other clues to the presence of termites are mounds of shed wings, powder, earthen or mud tunnels, and sunken areas behind wallpaper. If you knock on beams and they sound hollow, it could signal an advanced infestation. Prevention: Termites require wood in order to feed and multiply. Keep wood mulch, wood piles, or boards apart from the house foundation. Termites can still build their earthen tunnels across cement or other obstacles to reach wood. In termite-infested areas, seek knowledgeable builders and termite-resistant construction materials. Extermination: In case of termite infestation, get professional help. Effective pesticides are not available to homeowners and home remedies do not apply. Carpenter ants nest in wood but do not eat it. They nest only where wood is damp, and the simplest way to remove them is to replace damp or rotting wood. Dehumidify damp areas and fix leaking pipes. There is no need to take action if they are outside, as they are simply doing their


jobs as decomposers of fallen trees and decaying wood. Carpenter bees are very large (one-inch long) bees that look like bumblebees with shiny black abdomens. They bore holes into raw, unpainted, untreated wood to make nests. Typical holes are round and half-inch diameter, in a straight row, looking as if they were drilled. Carpenter bees are important pollinators, and rarely sting people although they are noisy and appear to be attacking. Treatment consists of replacing the wood, and painting untreated structures. Powerpost beetles can seriously damage wood in old homes and old furniture. Clues are tiny shotholes and fine powder. They rarely infest dry and finished wood; treating or replacing the wood solves the problem. Do other insects in the house seem threatening? The more you get to know them, the more you’ll learn that most insects are just passersby that blundered in, or are taking advantage of situations you have permitted. If you block the entry points—tighten, caulk, fix screens, fill holes, keep the doors closed—visitors such as cluster flies, boxelder bugs, lady beetles and Western conifer seed bugs won’t come in. The easiest solution for these harmless visitors is to catch them and put them outside, or swat with a fly swatter if you must. (The same goes for spiders—actually good for controlling flies and other pests.) If you clean up the pantry—seal containers, throw out old boxes of flour, use glass jars, and put cake mixes in air tight baggies—you won’t have flour and grain beetles or moths. If you clean up damp places such as drains, basements, and under sinks, you won’t see drain flies, moth flies, sowbugs (aka pillbugs), silverfish, springtails, centipedes, and millipedes. And no decaying fruit means no fruit flies. –SJC

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UTILITIES

While we’re all familiar with turning down the thermostat, turning off the lights, and lowering the temperature on the water tank to save on utility bills, trends in recent years require more upfront investment, but have greater cost-savings impact. Gas and electric companies often provide low-interest loan programs for homeowners to make energy-efficient renovations. Utility companies looking at their bottom line (providing energy to as many homes as possible) are finding it is better to provide service as efficiently as possible. A variety of government and utility-driven programs provide incentives for the end users—homeowners. One of these programs is the energy audit. Because I live in the City of Buffalo, I worked with the nonprofit energy-oriented construction company, New Buffalo Impact, thanks to a program with PUSH Green. After an energy audit, Buffalo Impact analyzed their findings and provided options, in a range of budgets, to improve my home’s energy efficiency. I then reviewed their recommendations and selected the improvements that fit my budget and could make the greatest impact for the dollar. These included insulating my roof and basement, blowing insulation into my exterior walls, filling air gaps around windows and sealing them, and installing a new furnace. I chose not to install new windows—even though I’d anticipated doing so in some cases—and to delay replacing the water heater since I had installed a new one three years prior. The end result of my work with Buffalo Impact is that I no longer feel a breeze when sitting next to my exterior walls and windows in the winter. My gas and electric bills have decreased significantly. My furnace is quieter and faster, and my home is much warmer. If you are thinking about a big renovation, several other local companies, including Buffalo Energy, provide similar energy audit services. It took me six years to contact PUSH Green and Buffalo Impact because of a variety of economic realities. So, what other small moves can someone make to decrease utility bills? Install rain barrels to collect water for plants, use the energy saver settings of your dishwasher, plant native or drought-resistant plants so that you do not need to water as frequently, lower your thermostat by five degrees in winter, wear sweaters, and use blankets. LED lighting, though a few dollars more expensive, offers a full spectrum of energy efficient lighting; a single bulb can last as long as fifteen years. –CG

VENTS Ensure clean, unpolluted air within your home by performing a simple test. Hold a tissue up to the kitchen exhaust fan or bathroom fan while it is running. Let go, and the tissue should remain airborne. If not, there could be a blockage that requires a thorough cleaning to restore high functioning ventilation. –SD

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WATER DAMAGE Free-flowing water is the basis of both interior and exterior residential problems, from leaking pipes, failed sump pumps, and appliance hoses inside, to leaking roofs and gutter and drainage problems outside. The rule of thumb? Keep water where it belongs—in gutters, pipes, and flowing barrier-free into the ground, sewer, or drainage systems. “The majority of water damage takes place in the winter months, especially when people leave town and they turn down the heat in their house and their lines freeze and then explode,” says Hertel Hardware president and master plumber Tony Christiano, who says damage from such a disaster can range from $500-$50,000. “Turn your heat to fifty degrees, not lower. And you can shut off your water main. The main is generally at the front of your house, for most homes. You can contact your local plumber to walk you through it.”  Christiano also suggests annual checkups for sump pumps and toilets by professionals who know what to look for. “Make sure that your sump pump has been serviced, and have a backup system—a battery- or wateractivated backup sump pump,” he says. “I advise getting a water alarm that sits on the basement floor to warn when water is on the floor.” “Toilet seals should also be checked annually,” he continues. “Some of the worst damage is water that has seeped from a second floor toilet to a first floor. Seals should be changed out every ten to fifteen years. Contact your local plumber to do this; it’s an hour’s worth of work plus a service call. Make it part of the yearly maintenance of your home.”


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“Water is very destructive,” concurs Tony Zoccano, co-owner of Locktight Waterproofing, who says his company’s crew stays busy repairing foundations and drainage troubles year-round. “This winter is going to be catastrophic. [We had] the greatest drought in 146 years. Water evaporated in the soil, contracting the soil away from the foundations of homes.” Zoccano also notes how the regional renaissance has affected the water table, which is rising: “It’s the principle of displacement. The water table plus the extreme weather patterns plus the type of soil we have in the region, largely solid clay, is compounding foundation problems—downspouts and drainage tiles are not draining properly. “Water gravitates to foundation walls, is attracted to the foundation, and the original coating of tar on the foundation is water soluble so, after twelve years, it dissolves. This can cause mold in the home and efflorescence, that white powder that is lime leeching out of the concrete foundation.” Check basement junctures at the floor and ceiling for soft spots or cracks that might be indicative of early foundation damage that can lead to leaking. If you see anything, call a waterproofing company to assess the damage and provide estimates. The bad news? These solutions aren’t cheap, but the sooner you catch them, the less damage you will incur. –NJP

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EXTRA SPACE

Homes vary in size and layout, but if it’s extra space you need, here are some solutions universal enough to work in any of them. Bedroom: One of the most convenient ways to maximize storage and free up space is by upgrading to a bed frame with drawers that can hold blankets and pillows or off-season clothing. Another trendy idea is the deco-

rative chest that can not only provide out-ofsight storage, but also can serve as a seat at the end of your bed or a table for a seating area in a master suite. You can find chests anywhere from antique stores to places like HomeGoods. Bathroom: Small bathrooms without a closet or medicine cabinet can mean no place for toiletries. Instead of storing bathroom items in another room, add decorative shelves to a free wall, or purchase an over-the-toilet unit that won’t take up any walk space. If you rely on under-the-sink storage, buy and label stackable bins or baskets to maximize space. Living room: If your living room is on the smaller side, adding large furniture or storage pieces eats up valuable floor space—but a storage ottoman can be dual-purpose as both seating and storage. The aforementioned decorative chest can provide storage and act as a coffee table to store DVDs or video game consoles if you are without an entertainment center. If you have a larger space, add faux built-ins, which can provide extra space now and act as a resale upgrade later. Most DIY online tutorials call for a few bookcases to attach to the wall and crown molding

YACHT CHAIRS AND OUTDOOR FURNITURE

In an area with weather as drastic as ours, it is important to have an outdoor furniture maintenance and storage plan for the winter months. While it is tempting to just throw the items in your shed at the end of summer, preventative measures now will

ZILLOW

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and baseboards that coordinate with your space and give the bookcases the seamless appearance of being original to the home’s construction. Kitchen: In the kitchen, it’s all about vertical space. If your plates don’t stack all the way to the next shelf in your cabinet, you’ve got space that can be used; get wire stacking or hanging shelves or hang hooks for mugs. Under the sink, a tension bar can hold cleaners with trigger handles. If there’s room above your cabinets, add a shelf there for rarely used items. Add shelves to the sides of cabinets for fancy glassware. When it comes to the kitchen, a little imagination can help you fill every space. –AS

make for nicer looking furniture come spring. No matter what type of furniture you are treating, maintenance comes down to four steps. 1) Clean the furniture (and cushions) with water and a mild detergent and let it dry completely to prevent the build up of mildew. 2) Fix rust spots, cracks, or tears now. 3) Polish aluminum furniture with a thin coat of car wax for maintenance (or oil for some woods). 4) Cover the items with furniture covers or a tarp for the winter, especially if you don’t have an indoor storage space. –LL

Zillow has become a popular web tool for anyone buying or selling a home, but users should know that its accuracy has become questionable and has even led to lawsuits. Buyers, sellers, and agents from around the country have reported significant inaccuracies in everything from square footage, lot size, and days on the market, with the biggest discrepancies being reported in home market value. Bottom line, use Zillow as a curiosity resource, but when you get serious about buying, follow up with an agent who knows the market. And, if you’re a seller, double check your listing for accuracy. –LL n


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LISTEN to Spree editor Elizabeth Licata regularly on the radio at WBFO/88.7, where she contributes to the station’s Tuesday morning Press Passes once a month (with Mark Scott) and contributes her own reports on gardening on a seasonal basis. WATCH her on WKBW/Channel 7 where she appears on AM Buffalo the first Tuesday of every month. READ her contributions to the awardwinning garden website GardenRant.com.

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“We pride ourselves on the fact that the building’s owner is an architect/developer,” says Jason Frizlen of his father, Karl, the president of the Frizlen Group. “It’s an art as well as a development project.”

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Luxury Apartments FORMER SCHOOLS MAKE THE PERFECT

Photos by kc kratt

By Steven Brachmann

For the better part of seventy-five years, the parochial school for the St. Rose of Lima parish provided education and religious instruction for youth on Parker Avenue, just a few blocks from Hertel. Although the school closed in 2007, the Frizlen Group has revamped the interior of this Buffalo landmark to

provide luxury apartments for young professionals. It’s one of three such conversions for the firm; the School Lofts @ Abbott, formerly the St. Thomas Aquinas School on Abbott Road near Mercy Hospital, and the School Lofts @ Mineral Springs, formerly the St. Theresa’s School in South Buffalo. Expect move-in

dates this coming spring. From the outside, not much about the St. Rose of Lima school suggests change. The multistory brown brick facade remains, although a sign—The School Lofts @ Parkside—on the corner of Parker and Parkside Avenues is evidence that class is no longer in session.

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Indeed, the building is 100 percent leased, according to Jason Frizlen, property and leasing manager for the Frizlen Group; the first round of tenants took residence in October, about a year after the father-and-son (Jason’s father, Karl, an architect/developer, is firm president) Frizlen Group acquired the property. The building comprises twenty-one apartments on four floors, from the basement to the 400 level; Frizlen notes that there is no true first floor between the basement and the 200 level. “[The schools] make for great apartment buildings,” notes Frizlen, citing the large windows, high ceilings, and wide hallways that create a living experience not typical of most apartment buildings. “You won’t find this amount of space anywhere else.” The ceilings in the apartments range from ten to twelve feet, creating a feeling of openness larger than the square footage—which ranges from 478 to 961 square feet—might suggest. The high ceilings also provide for a little more useful space in the closets, and the expansive stairwells and hallways, about ten feet wide, make it easy to maneuver furniture. Asbestos abatement required that the original tile from the hallway floors be removed, but it’s been replaced with tile that mimics the intentions

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of the original style. Original block glass provides natural lighting in the hallway as well. The apartments are also unique, says Frizlen, and part of what makes them so are the original aspects of the school— like the block glass—that were retained in compliance with the Frizlen Group’s use of state and federal historic tax credits to assist with financing the renovation. These include original hardwood floors, as many of the school’s doors and windows as possible, as well as chalkboards and corkboards that make for unusual apartment amenities. Residents in most of the apartments have the ability to personalize living quarters with

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messages. Along with the classrooms, many of the administrative offices have also been converted, and some retain the original woodwork. (The historic landmark tax credits also required retention of the gymnasium, which doubled as the school’s cafeteria, and also has a stage; the group is currently exploring commercial applications for the space, including upgrading the cafeteria to rent as a commercial kitchen space.) The Frizlen Group added partitions to the old classrooms in order to turn them into one- and two-bedroom apartments, and the large windows in each apartment provide ample natural light for every room but the bathroom. Each

unit has been outfitted with modern appliances including stainless steel dishwashers, stoves, microwaves, and full refrigerators along with granite counters and dark wood cabinetry. New recessed lighting and central air conditioning/ heating is also standard for all units. All but six apartments have in-unit laundry appliances; the six without have access to washers and dryers within the building. Each apartment also has new plumbing with instant hot water tanks, so that residents don’t draw from a central tank that might decrease accessibility to hot water. In units where the original hardwood flooring could not be retained, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) floor-


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ing has been used to mimic the hardwood appearance while offering superb durability. Marble stone tile is used for thresholds between rooms for an added touch of quality. While electric and gas utilities are not covered as part of the lease, renters do enjoy free intercom services, as well as 200 digital television channels plus Showtime, Internet access, and offstreet gated parking that provides direct access to the building. One-bedroom, one-bathroom units range from $875 to $1000 per month, while two-bedroom, one-bathroom units are $1,000 to $1,150 per month. Two-bedroom, two-bathroom units are

$1,225 to $1,325 per month. Given the building’s proximity to Hertel, Frizlen expects to draw a clientele who enjoy urban living. Specifically, he envisions the complex to be a good fit for the twenty-five to thirty-five-year-old range who are part of the current exodus from Buffalo’s suburbs. n Steve Brachmann has been a professional freelancer since 2009. He writes on technology, business, and legal topics for IPWatchdog.com, a blog focused on intellectual property topics. Locally, he’s written for the Buffalo News and Hamburg Sun. He lives in Allentown.

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ARTFUL EAST AMHERST CHALET

Photos by Nancy J. Parisi

By Nancy J. Parisi

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Along a tree-lined East Amherst street, one house appears to be like all the others with its brick façade, perfectly landscaped yard, and tasteful lawn decorations. But inside the foyer, it becomes clear that it’s not: the soaring two-story chalet interior is filled with a lovely array of textures, features, and artwork. The focal point of the flowing ground floor space is a smooth river stone-fronted fireplace under a wash of light and alongside a contrasting wall covered in geometrically patterned wallpaper that mimics parquetry. On the other side of the fireplace, a neutral wall backs a vibrant, abstract painting that complements the abstract sculpture on the contemporary glass and metal table below.

Built in 1980, the house sits on a more than 10,000-square-foot lot and the typical four-bedroom, two-point-five bath statistics, but occupying almost 4,000 square feet. “We’ve lived here fifteen years and are the fourth owners,” says Robyn. “My condition for buying this house was that I wanted it to have a flow for living and entertaining; I didn’t want it to feel choppy. There was carpeting throughout the house and we installed hardwood downstairs in the dining room, wet bar, sunroom, and living room. We installed tile in the kitchen and laundry room.” The couple’s master bedroom, on the ground floor, is carpeted. Major updates can be seen from van-

tage points in the sunroom, dining room, office area, and living room, and pantry. The kitchen was entirely redone. For this undertaking, the couple hired designers and contractors to create an outstanding kitchen with triangular island, and tiered and lit pan ceiling that creates Art Deco-esque interest. Every Formica surface was replaced with granite, even on the pass-through, and on the wet bar around the corner from the kitchen, on the other side of a soaring two-story wall. Details like the elegant, elongated silver handles on the kitchen cupboards, long and thin metallic glass tiles, and the double farm sink make the kitchen durable and gorgeous. It was Greg, the husband and a CPA, who came up with

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RESOURCES Advanced Furniture 4545 Transit Road Buffalo, NY 14221 contemporaryfurniture.com 716-276-8495 Buffalo Hardwood 3801 Harlem Road Cheektowaga, NY 14215 buffalohardwood.com 716-651-9663 Elite Design National (kitchen contracting) 12184 Allegany Road Silver Creek, NY 14136  elitedesignnational.com 716-934-7166 Italian Marble and Granite, Inc. 8526 Roll Road Clarence Center, NY 14032 716-741-1800 MacOff Electric, Ltd. (pot and track lighting, pan lights in kitchen) 6721 Salt Road, Clarence, NY 14031 716-741-9640 Markarian Rugs 3807 Delaware Avenue Buffalo, NY 14217 716-873-8667

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much of the tile and lighting design, as well as visualized the floor plan when they first looked at the house. One hundred square feet of an underused patio is now a sunroom sanctuary for reading/relaxing/watching TV—a place to decompress when the kids are asleep. Accessible from the master bedroom, the space features a small electric fireplace, single-blade ceiling fan, window seats with built-in storage, and a door that leads to what’s left of the outdoor patio (the outdoor portion is also accessible from the kitchen). A doublehung window in the kitchen has been converted to a pass-through that bring more natural light into both rooms. One of the features that attracted us to this house was the incredible amount of built-ins; my husband and I both have walk-in closets,” Robyn says. “To build them from scratch would’ve been astronomical.” One stand-out room design in the home is the first floor half bath, the “powder room.” The Asian-inspired wallpaper, dramatic fixtures, abstract and off-center tile work around the sink, and baseboard lighting make it a work of art. It is accessible via a sliding wood and glass door. Another custom glass door in the home is to the pantry; its light provides more architectural interest in the kitchen. The couple collects glass art and Robyn says that much of the artwork is from travels and from Vern Stein Galleries in Williamsville. Robyn’s collection of antique teacups is on display, along with some other, smaller glass art pieces, in the home’s sole French Provincialinspired piece of furniture. “We will never be done. We’re not doing any projects right now as we have our third child. Ideally I’d like to do something with the upstairs, with the kids’ rooms; they don’t have enough closet space. We will be buried in this house,” says Robyn. And her favorite feature? “I enjoy my entire house. I don’t want to live in a house, I want to live in a home, where people congregate, where my kids and their friends want to be.” Nancy J. Parisi is a frequent contributor to Spree Home.

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