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2 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012

Home Addition Planning Start with paper, a pencil and a ruler before turning on the computer


ver the decades, I’ve b e en involved in building many home additions. Prior to the start of each project, a tremendous amount of planning is done. My planning always starts with a blank sheet of 8 1/2-by11-inch paper and writing down what the purpose of the addition is and the toplevel features my wife and I want in it, be it a family room addition, garage addition or kitchen addition. Once I fully define the main objectives of my project, I begin to sketch out the basic plans. Initially, I start out with a pencil, graph paper and a ruler. I draw the specific scaled outside dimensions of the addition, along with the various internal wall, door and window locations. In the process, I also find out the various sizes of appliances and plumbing fixtures that are required so that they can be drawn properly to scale in the plans. This way, I can confirm that the addition and all the various rooms or

Before you end up with a beautiful home addition, you have to sketch what you envision it to be.

walls within it are of the right dimensions. By going through this level of planning, I can ensure, for example, a toilet wouldn’t protrude out so far from a bathroom wall that the

bathroom door couldn’t close. As part of my planning and sketching, I also make sure to show the exact locations of doors and windows, as well as how the doors swing open.

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I even go as far as to draw in footprint areas for the expected pieces of furniture to ensure there will be sufficient walking lanes and open space throughout the addition. After sketching out the home addition floor plan, I then begin to sketch out exterior drawings of the addition. Of chief concern when home addition planning is to ensure that the addition will meld nicely into the existing home. For example, I focus on the addition’s elevation and where the addition’s roofline will tie into the existing home. More specifically, I develop detailed sketches to find out where the addition will intersect any existing windows or rooflines on the main home. I also determine how the base of the addition will match into the main part of the home. By paying close attention to these particular areas, you can help to ensure that your addition plans will tie in nicely with the rest of the home and, in many

cases, prevent unwanted surprises down the road. The last thing you want, for example, is an addition that perpendicularly ties onto the backside of your main home with a roof peak that extends above the roofline of the main home. I’ve seen a number of these flubs over the years, and they look unsightly from the curb. After fully fleshing out the paper sketches and drawings, the next stage of my home addition planning is transitioning them to the computer and a home design software package. With a home design software package, you can create all types of floor plans, views and elevation drawings. The software also offers the ability to integrate appliances, cabinets and furniture, and it even shows different types of wall and floor coverings in your home addition plans. I will say, however, it does take some time to come up to speed with these home design software packages, and that is why I always recommend starting out your home addition planning with just a pencil, paper and a ruler. This way, you don’t get lost in the technical weeds of a software program while you initially are defining your addition. This said, home design software packages provide incredible value, as they can produce scaled drawings, various views and material lists. They also offer the flexibility to easily change dimensions and features of the addition so that you quickly can evaluate different options in planning your addition. Another major part of my home addition planning is to go out and visit the building material stores to check out building products and prices. This way, I can develop a materials list and an accurate cost estimate, at least for the Continued on following page

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Of chief concern when home addition planning is to ensure that the addition will meld nicely into the existing home.

Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012 • 3

Garage Sales Make the most out of selling unused or unwanted items


aving a yard sale is one thing; having a successful one is

another. Those individuals who take the time to plan their sale are most likely to be successful. Whether called garage sales, tag sales or yard sales, the first thing is to establish your goals, according to Andrew Schrage of the website Money Crashers. “ There are two main schools of thought regarding garage sales. The first is to simply de-clutter your house and make whatever you can available for sale. The second is to focus in on profits,” he says. Begin by gathering items for sale. You can designate a space, such as corner of the basement or garage, where sale items can be placed. Take the time to get the merchandise in order. Check to see that goods work. Clean them, and group similar items

-- such as books, records, dishes and kitchenware -- together. This will make it easier for buyers to find what they are looking for. One of the most important steps is to publicize your sale. “Place your ad in the Friday classified section of the local newspaper, advises Reyne Hirsch, who was an appraiser for the Public Broadcasting Service’s “Antiques Roadshow” for 13 years. “Don’t be too wordy. Think about some spicy keywords that will grab their attention and make them want to stop by. Words like antiques, collectibles, modernism, jewelry and couture add interest to see what is there,” she says. Schrage said he believes you should never pay for advertising, since there are so many free options -- plus, garage sale “gurus” usually know where to find sales. Free sources of advertising include Craigslist and

Home Addition Planning Continued from previous page

materials. After completing my plans and printing them out, I visit my local building inspector to review the drawings and pull the permits. In the cases when I contract the work out, I provide the prospective contractors with copies of the plans so that they can quote them. I make sure that the plan provided to the contractors also includes my materials list so that the contractors have no choice but to stick with the materials I specify.

This helps ensure that quotes from competing contractors are consistent, at least in construction and materials. With this process of home addition planning, I’ve been able to avoid costly mistakes. I also have prevented many unwanted surprises, kept building schedules on track and kept contractor proposals honest. If there is one general take-away from this article that you should focus on, it is that you do your home addition planning upfront and not during the actual construction.

local websites that list events such as yard sales. Notices can be posted on public bulletin boards in supermarkets or community centers, and some newspapers provide free listings for garage sales. Signage the day of the sale is important. “Big black letters, arrows ... even balloons to get the attention of drivers who maybe had no idea you were having a sale. Put the signs out in the wee hours of the morning or the night before,” says Hirsch. Hirsch advises that if you aren’t sure of the value of an item, such as a furniture or painting, hold it back from the sale. “Do some research, or have an expert look at it. You don’t want to make the mistake of selling that old rocker for $5 at a yard sale when it is worth hundreds and perhaps should be sold at auction,” says Hirsch, who once purchased a box of old baseball cards for $5 that contained individual cards that she sold for hundreds of dollars each. Other tips include: --Arrange a joint sale with family, friends or neighbors. The more merchandise, the better. Use different-colored tags or stickers to keep track of everyone’s merchandise. --Have a supply of plastics bags, newspapers and empty boxes available for wrapping and packing sold items. --Consider a tag or dot system, such as all blue dot items are 50 cents, yellow dots are one dollar, etc. You can post price signs by items, such as “Five paperback books for $1” or “DVDs 50 cents each.” --Make sure you have

plenty of singles and coins for making change. Most garage sales are conducted on a cashonly basis. Many sellers wear a fanny pack or multi-pocketed carpenter’s-style apron to hold their money. --For clothing, get plastic grocery bags and allow customers to stuff full for a set amount, such as $5 per bag. This strategy can also be applied toward the end of the sale to move other items. For example, “Fill a box or bag for $1.” --Have an electrical cord handy so buyers can test items such as radios, lamps or power tools to ensure they are working. --Be prepared to negotiate. Most buyers expect to dicker for a better price, but the seller shouldn’t be intimidated if the price offered is too low. Keep in mind that if you want to move the merchandise, your prices shouldn’t be too firm. --Unsold items can be donated to a local charity or thrift shop. Make arrangements for a pickup or deliver

yourself following the event. Donations may qualify for a tax write-off. An additional way to make money at a garage sale is by selling refreshments, including bottled water, soda, lemonade, granola bars and cookies. You can put children in charge of the stand. “I personally feel that this strategy is a great idea to boost the success of your garage sale and also to involve your children,” says Schrage. “If your sale is in the summer, definitely invest in a few cases of bottled water and sell them at a profit. Sometimes, the return on bottled water can rival that of the profits from your garage sale.” Hirsch says that in addition to refreshments, children can make money selling unused toys or games. “It can teach them responsibility about money. Let them negotiate with buyers, although they seem to be less likely to haggle with kids,” she says.

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4 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012

Finding Furniture that Fits When considering new pieces, custom-made may be the way to go


he room you spend your time in -- the one you relax in, entertain in or run your business from -- should be a reflection of you, the owner. Filling your space with custom-made pieces will help make the room more personal and unique. You can spend hours searching through store inventory and still not find that special piece that speaks to you or fits your space properly, and if you’re shopping for stock furniture, you’ll always get something that’s mass-produced. But many stores carry furniture that can be bought ready-made and die-cut in prescribed sizes and designs. Custom-made furniture is unique and crafted to your specifications, however exacting. Sometimes the need or desire for custom pieces is practical; maybe the area needs a specific size or a match is needed for another existing piece. Awkward spaces require customized pieces to fit comfortably. Personalization

can also be a compilation of hobbies, special interests or individual necessities. Current design and fashion trends often factor into what you’ll find available in the stores. “As far as furniture goes,” says Michael Salguero, CEO and co-founder of, “the bedroom (beds, dressers, lighting, bedside tables) seems to be a place where people want high levels of customization.” Those levels of personalization can differ. “There are items that are more on the personalization side, other items are what we call blank-page customization. This is where the customer and artisan work together to co-create something out of the client’s needs/wants/tastes.” The most common materials used in North American furniture are metal and wood; some mass manufacturers may specialize in one specific type of material. Other materials such as plastic covers, metal hinges and glass panels may

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be used as accents. Custom designers will also find ways to use specialty woods; merge woods and textures; use carvings; and combine wood and metal sculptures. If you can dream it, a designer can make it happen. Salguero also explains that custom pieces are “more affordable than you would think. Custom is certainly on par with mid- to high-end retail stores, such as Restoration Hardware and others. Plus, you can get something locally made and handcrafted to your exact specifications.” Kitchen cabinetry is another area where custom pieces often come in handy. Stock cabinets, doors and shelves will fit stand sizes. Custommanufactured cabinets are made to the buyer’s specific needs and dimensions. This may be a perfect solution to fit a corner or to accommodate different sized appliances than the original. Custom cabinets also offer more options in terms of shelving, accessibility and storage spaces. Unless you’re purchasing a stock piece from a floor display, the time between ordering and delivery is often no different, even if you order a custom piece. Since retailers often order from the manufacturer, it may take weeks until the customer has the furniture in place in his home. According to Salguero, ordering custom furniture typically takes about four to eight weeks until delivery. No matter what you decide to order, make sure that the entry path for delivery will accommodate the furniture to avoid damage to your walls or the furniture; it’s suggested that you measure staircase widths, corners and doorways. When you’re thinking of choosing custom furniture, start by scouring stores, magazines or the Internet for ideas and designs. Visit a custom manufacturer and ask to see some of their previous designs for inspiration, if need be. Once you have a concept in mind, choose two or three local and reputable artisans. Describe your ideas and see what they can suggest. Ask designers whether they have a 3-D visualization program for major projects to help you decide whether the finished project is really what you want.

Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012 • 5

Weatherproofing Tips for restoring a wood deck to its original beauty


ain, snow and ultraviolet rays can wreak havoc on a wood deck. If left unchecked, eventually deck boards will begin to fade in color, cup, check, warp and crack. Mold and mildew growth is also a common problem on frequently wet deck surfaces. Consequently, it is important to regularly weatherproof a wood deck to keep it looking beautiful and ensure its structural integrity. To restore and weatherproof a deck to its original beauty, you first need to clean the surface. A pressure washer with a commercial deck-cleaning solution works best -- but great care needs to be taken when using the washer. Make sure to hold the nozzle approximately 18 inches away from the deck surface, and always keep it moving to ensure that you do not damage the decking boards. Also, make sure to clean the deck railings. Power-washing a deck does not always restore it to its original color. Sometimes the boards can still look a little dark. To lighten them up, apply a commercial deck wash and brightening solution to the surface using a sprayer or long-handle stiff brush. This type of solution typically includes bleach of some percentage that will help lighten the wood and give it a more even color tone. If you’re weatherproofing the deck on a sunny day, first hose down the surface with water before applying the wash and brightening solution. After spraying on the solution, use a long-handle

stiff brush to scrub the deck and remove any residual mold and mildew stains. Then allow the solution to soak into the boards for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward, rinse off the deck with a hose. Once the deck has been cleaned and had time to thoroughly dry, you can then begin to weatherproof it in earnest by applying a water sealer. A deck waterproof sealer is specially formulated to repel moisture and protect the wood deck boards from ultraviolet sunlight. Deck waterproof sealers are available in both clear and tinted shades. Before applying a waterproof sealer, make sure you check the weather forecast first. Typically, a deck sealer needs 24 to 48 hours of rain-free weather to dry thoroughly. There are a number of ways you can apply a sealer to weatherproof a wood deck surface. I use a roller and a 4-inch-wide brush, as it is the most economical way to apply it. Initially, I roll the deck sealer onto a small section of the deck, and then use the brush to work the sealer into the wood. I find this method works best, as the deck sealer really gets pushed into the wood grain. Alternatively, you can use a long-handle paint pad or buy or rent a sprayer to initially apply the sealer. As with the roller, work in small sections at a time when applying the sealer with either of these two alternative tools. Also, you’ll still need to work the sealer into the wood with a brush after

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6 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012

Porch Perfect Creating the perfect porch oasis


f you’re lucky enough to have a front porch -- whether it is a small section next to your door or a grand wraparound style -- your next decorating project could be a budgetfriendly makeover of this space. Before, your family and friends simply passed through your porch area, now you can all gather there in comfy chairs, sipping thirst-quenching drinks and whiling away the evening in a relaxing style. Bohnne Jones, owner of Decorating Den Interiors, says, “One of today’s home decorating trends is to ‘bring the outside in and the inside out,’ which makes a front porch cozy and inviting.” From lamps to carpets to curtains, decor items that were once the domain of inside living spaces now find a place in outside design. Before you begin your porch decor process, first take some time to repair any loose railings or floorboards. You want your space to be safe and sturdy before decorating. You might wish to paint your porch wall

a fresh, new color that matches or coordinates with your house color and works with your porch space’s theme -- Southwestern, coastal, Victorian and so on. You might choose a neutral sage green, a sunny yellow or another hue that fits your overall plan for the space. With your porch’s raw space ready, here are the top ways to make over this area: - Give furniture a spin. Rather than have sofas and chairs lined up against the back wall facing outward, rearrange them in an L-shape or face-to-face placement that facilitates conversation. Jones says, “Four chairs can be a more flexible selection than a sofa,” because chairs can be moved around more easily and you can create two separate sitting areas. - Lay a carpet. Turn your porch space into an outdoor “room” by having an outdoor carpet made of material that is resistant to water and mold. You’re not stuck with AstroTurf or sisal rugs; today’s home decor stores

A pretty porch invites guests to visit.

Continued on following page

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Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012 • 7

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Give furniture a spin. Rather than have sofas and chairs lined up against the back wall facing outward, rearrange them in an L-shape or face-to-face placement that facilitates conversation. Continued from previous page

offer outside carpets in decorative patterns and colors. Jones suggests carpets made of 100 percent poly-acrylic yarns, 100 percent polypropylene or olefin, to name a few. Jones says that these carpets are easily hosed off for cleaning. The result is a space-defining foundation that’s comfier to walk on than barewood floors. - Provide pillows. Setting fluffy pillows and cushions on your chairs and sofas instantly adds comfort and coziness to the space. Shop your home decor store and catalogs for pretty pillow designs in outdoor-friendly materials that also resist mold growth. Choose a small, lumbar-support, outdoor pillow for rocking chairs as well. Pet owners might also set out a dog bed made of outdoor-material, so that Fido can hang out on the porch in comfort. - Light it up. In outdoor living decor catalogs, you’ll find outdoor lamps that look very much like tabletop indoor lamps, only they’re safe to use outdoors and are often battery-powered. Place one on an end table to glow alongside citronella candles in safe decanters placed around your space. - Go green. Adding green and flowering plants to your porch sitting area is one of the easiest decor tasks possible. You can place large or groups of tall containers on the porch floor, line up potted plants on a baker’s rack or outdoor shelving unit you’ve set in your space, or hang flowering planters from your porch roof. If your railing is wide and secure enough, you might install window boxes to fill with spring and summer flowers and greenery to surround your new socializing or relaxation haven. “I’m not a fan

of bees and didn’t want to attract them,” says retiree Joanna Blake. “So I put all green plants in my railing boxes and planters, which added a great range of dark and light green colors to my green ‘room’ theme.” - Hang curtains. Install a curtain rod, or use powerful springform curtain rods, to hang colorful or neutral-shaded curtains. This will provide some privacy and add extra visual interest to your porch space. Jones reminds you to be sure that the curtain material, thread and hardware, are made for the outdoors. “Cotton fabric and thread will rot when out in the elements,” says Jones. Lighter fabrics can dance in the breeze, and you can even switch out to new patterns of curtains when fall approaches. - Add music. You don’t need to hire a sound system engineer to install surround sound on your porch, like you might have done with your den. If you have an outdoor power outlet, all you need is your iPod and its dock to play your favorite songs while relaxing on your perfect porch oasis.

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8 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012

Keeping Up Appearances Simple fixes and small changes that keep your home running at full capacity


hen it comes to s pr i ng / s u m m e r home maintenance, a little bit of time and elbow grease can translate into big savings and avoid costly repairs down the line. Everything from changing light bulbs to programming thermostats can be easily done by homeowners, experts say.

Replace a simple part on an appliance, such as a burnedout stove element. Install fresh batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check ground fault circuit interrupters. A professional may be needed to tackle some repairs, but in most cases, armed with Continued on following page

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Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012 • 9

Keeping Up Appearances Continued from previous page

a checklist and a pair of binoculars (to avoid climbing on the roof), you can save time and money by doing the initial inspection yourself. With a clipboard in hand, you’ll want to eye the exterior of your home, basement or crawlspace for: - Sidewalk, driveway, chimney and foundation cracks, mold or mildew; - Ma lf unc t ioning sump pumps; - Clogged vent caps; - Loose or cracked deck boards or patio blocks; - Debris-filled gutters and downspouts; - Loose shingles and siding; - Gaps in window caulking, dirty windows and broken windowpanes. Vacuuming or spray cleaners can remove a winter’s worth of dirt and dust accumulating inside your home on registers, return ducts, lampshades, lighting fixtures, windowsills and windowpanes. Also, thoroughly cleanse range hoods and kitchen vents of grease and dirt. Some small changes in a decorative capacity can be a big improvement. Think about draping furniture with lightweight slipcovers; taking down heavy winter drapes and replacing them with sheer fabric window treatments; or even applying a fresh coat of paint that captures the feel of a seaside vacation. Such changes can bring that spring-summer mood indoors, says designer Sally Morse. One of the easiest small changes involves switching incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescents. It’s something more and more homeowners are

While more than 25 million homeowners have programmable thermostats in their homes, less than 50 percent are actually programming them. Karl Zellmer

doing, according to a recent Harris Interactive Survey. Ironically, one of the simplest small steps homeowners overlook is programming their home’s existing thermostat to reflect seasonal changes, says Karl Zellmer, vice president of Emerson Climate Technologies’ air conditioning division. “While more than 25 million homeowners have programmable thermostats in their homes, less than 50 percent are actually programming them,” says Zellmer. “If you already have a programmable thermostat installed, the only investment needed is about 15 minutes for the initial programming and setup. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, they are relatively inexpensive and quick to install. At a minimum, with your existing thermostat, change your set point a few degrees and enjoy the reduced energy consumption.” Air filters should be changed monthly, says Zellmer, “but that also depends on many factors, including what type of unit you have and whether people in your home have seasonal allergies, etc. Small things like re-caulking windows and adding insulation, curtains and awnings also can help.” Add refrigerator gaskets to

your spring/summer repair list, suggests repairman Steve Ash. He recommends coating the gasket -- that plastic strip that forms a seal between the fridge and doors -- with a thin film of Vaseline. “This will help them stay elastic and form a better seal.” Replacing worn dishwasher racks and non-working stove elements are easy tasks to check off your list. “The two most common replacement parts purchased for dishwashers are upper or lower racks,” Ash says. “Lower racks are easier to replace, as they normally just roll out. Replacing the top rack is simple, too, but requires just a few more minutes of your time to remove the rack stops.” And if your stovetop isn’t heating properly, the most common solution is to replace the defective surface element, or burner, Ash notes. “Ranges built in the last 30 years or so normally have plug-in surface elements, so the repair is very straightforward. Once you disconnect the power, simply lift and pull the defective element from its receptacle and slide in the new one.” Terminals at the end of old elements should be inspected, he says. “If they show signs of arcing, overheating or corrosion, then the receptacle should be replaced, as well.”

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10 • Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012

The Tween Bedroom Challenge Tips on collaborating with your adolescent on design


hen your child says she doesn’t want a “kiddie room” anymore, it might tug on your heartstrings to realize that your baby is growing up. But it can also kick-start a rewarding new project that you can share with your preteen son or daughter. At this milestone age, kids are discover-

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a room,” say Scott Sicari and Jordin Ruderman, hosts of “Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls.” “Try two or three different colors on walls,” says the duo -- one blue wall, one purple wall and one blueand-purple striped wall, for instance. - Assess the tween’s bed and dressers. Obviously, a racecar bed will need to be upgraded to a twin- or fullsize bed, which is often a pricy purchase. A tween girl may want a canopy bed. Ask your friends and relatives if they’re planning to upgrade their teens’ bedrooms and if you might purchase their furniture from them. A newto-you bedroom set can still thrill the tween, especially if he or she idolizes an older cousin who owned it first. You also might re-finish or paint bedroom furniture to give it new life. - Clear everything out of the room, taking every book and toy off the shelves, and have your tween sort belongings into plastic bins marked “keep,” “donate” or “sort later.” Artwork and other items you wish to keep could go into your own plastic bin for keepsakes. Continued on following page

Community Advocate • Spring Home Improvement • Friday, April 13, 2012 • 11


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Don’t expect a theme. Tweens are far more into colors. Continued from previous page

- Professionally clean or steam-clean carpets to give them a like-new appearance. - Experiment with moving furniture around, perhaps placing the bed against a different wall or moving the computer desk to a different corner. Even if furniture is not new, simple repositioning may create a new style for the room. - Tweens love to pick out new bedding and pillow covers, so use coupons and store discounts to purchase fresh, new linens. Reversible comforters give your tween the opportunity to flip the look of the room on a whim. - Give windows a makeover. Sicari and Ruderman say, “With a few yards of fabric, you can create a new window treatment by draping fabric around the window frame.” - Give lights a makeover. New lamps might be in your budget, or you can simply replace lampshades with a funky, colorful new choice. - Choose artwork. Tweens

love to display photos of themselves with their friends, so an oversized corkboard with colorful pushpins can suit their wall personalization wishes for under $15. Inexpensive poster frames are available for less than $10 in craft stores -- perfect for hanging posters of favorite celebrities or sports heroes. - Create an organizing system. Closets and bookshelves can hold plastic or canvas bins in which your tween could store essentials, and desktops can get new organizing trays and penholders. - Add extra details. Vinylcling decorations affix easily to walls and can be removed without damage to paint. Your tween can also choose new metal hardware, such as light-switch plates and dresser-drawer pulls, both very inexpensive at Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s. - Add a social space. Sicari and Ruderman say, “Game areas where the tween spends time with friends can also be injected with personal style.”


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Spring Home Improvement, April 13  

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