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SPRING HOME IMPROVEMENT | Friday, April 23, 2010

Simple home repairs can prevent bug infestations

Adam Heiden and Greg Lally of Denison Hardscapes work on a retaining wall and steps at the historic McHenry House on 1st Avenue North in Denison. Photo by Jean Dahleen

High school friends build satisfied customer base with landscaping business by Gordon Wolf Just more than five years ago, Greg Lally received a call from high school classmate and friend Adam Heiden. Heiden’s question was basically “How about starting a landscaping business together.” From that phone call, Denison Hardscapes was born. The business specializes in retaining walls, brick pavers for patios and stamped concrete, and offers a complete line of landscaping services. At the time of Heiden’s phone call, Lally had already been working in the landscaping business for about 10 years. He started working for G&G Enterprises in Denison the summer after eighth grade. Graduating from Denison High School in 1999, Lally attended Northwest Missouri State and earned

“I enjoy working outside. You get to do something different every day.” ~ Adam Heiden

a degree in horticulture, with the career goal of working in landscaping. After college he went to work for Estate Gardeners in Omaha, Nebraska. After high school Heiden attended the University of Sioux Falls and graduated with a degree in wellness and fitness leadership. During summer breaks from college he worked in general construction and with concrete. After college he returned to Denison where he worked for Quality Communications. “I decided I wanted to do something different,” Heiden stated, and that

prompted his call to Lally. “Adam kind of called me out of the blue,” said Lally. “We really got started doing side jobs when I would come back to Denison from Omaha on the weekends.” From those weekend jobs, Denison Hardscapes continued to grow. “We did a couple retaining wall jobs and everything progressed from that point,” commented Heiden. “Our first job on the side was probably our biggest job so far,” Heiden added. For that job, a retaining wall for Dewey Petersen in Dunlap, the landscaping

partners used 3,500 landscaping blocks. Denison Hardscapes uses the Versa-Lok retaining wall system. Lally and Heiden design smaller landscaping jobs themselves. For bigger landscaping projects, they turn to the designers at Boulevard Gardens in Omaha. “Greg went to school with one of the designers there,” said Heiden. Spring, summer and fall months will find Lally and Heiden outside, working long hours. “I enjoy working outside,” said Heiden. “You get to do something different every day.” Lally added, “We enjoy the work and also enjoy when we have repeat customers wanting us to work on another project for them. It’s also gratifying when customers refer us to others.”

by Emma Struve Spring is the perfect time to bug-proof your house. This, according to Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Mark Shour who said that during the course of regular spring cleaning, evidence of overwintering pests or areas susceptible to infestation can be easily identified. To start, Shour recommended using a vacuum to clean up spiders and webs. Spiders that take up residence in homes are usually of two types: those that build webs to catch prey or hunting spiders that do not have webs. In the first case, Shour explained, “The spider must have a web, so if you get rid of the web, you get rid of the spider.” Piles of dead bugs can indicate spider predation is occurring. This may also be an entrance point for bugs into the building. As the weather improves, and we begin to open our windows to let in fresh air. Shour advised checking screens. Make sure there are no holes where bugs can enter – especially flying insects. It is also a good idea to seal any cracks around door and window frames. Lady beetles, Shour offered as an example, easily enter through slim cracks and even infiltrate homes by slipping underneath siding (this, too, can be sealed with caulk). Shour does not recommend the use of chemical insecticides for two reasons. The first, insecticides are only effective for a short time, usually about two weeks. Secondly, in order to kill pests, they must come in contact with the insecticide. Maybe most importantly, insecticide is only a “band-aid” for the problem of insect pests in your house. Without determining the entrance point or limiting desirable habitat, usually cleaning food spills, bugs will inevitably return. A prime point-of-entry for insects into many houses is where there is a hole all the way through a wall around electrical or plumbing entrances, for example. Shour suggested packing copper wool, which doesn’t rust as steel wool will, around these utility service points and then sealing over the crack with caulk. This practice will exclude both bugs and rodents. “Ants occasionally come into houses looking for food,” Shour said. Live ants can be vacuumed. In most cases, when the food source is removed – sometimes as simple a project as cleaning the garbage can – the ants are eliminated. Any residues can be cleaned up with soap and water – no need for harsh chemicals. However, finding large, black carpenter ants in a home away from a door or other entry through which they may have incidentally wandered may indicate a water leak. Carpenter ants, Shour explained, use damp, decaying wood to build nests and are sometimes found under the bathroom or kitchen sink. If a nest is located, Shour advised vacuuming the nest and ants up together. Once the water leak is fixed, the ant problem should be, too. PESTS . . . Page 3



APRIL 23, 2010

Mold control in the home The key to mold control is moisture control. If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the water problem. It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Why is mold growing in my home? Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees; but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water. Can mold cause health problems? Molds have the potential to cause health problems.

Molds produce allergens – substances that can cause allergic reactions – irritants, and in some cases potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.

Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. For more detailed information, consult a health professional or the state or local health department. How do I get rid of mold? It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back. What is the best way to clean moldy areas? One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than ten square feet (a patch about three feet by three feet), in most cases, you can handle the job

Preventing mold growth By taking the following actions to reduce humidity and prevent condensation in your home, mold growth will also be inhibited in many cases: Š Vent appliances that produce moisture – clothes dryers and stoves, for example – to the outside. Š Use air conditioners or de-humidifiers. Š Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Š Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or washing dishes. Š Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors or windows, when practical. Š Use fans as needed. Š Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation. Š Increase air temperature.

yourself. However, if there has been a lot of water damage, or mold growth covers more than ten square feet, you may choose to hire a contractor or mold remediation expert. Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold because it could spread mold throughout the building. If the water or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call in a

professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry completely before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel. Moisture and mold prevention and control tips: Š If wet or damp materials or areas are dried within 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.

Š Clean and repair roof gutters regularly. Š Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation. Š Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly. Š Keep indoor humidity below 60 percent; ideally between 30 and 50 percent. Š Moisture condensing or collecting on windows, walls or pipes can be a sign of high humidity and surfaces should be dried quickly. For more information on mold related issues including mold cleanup and moisture control, you can call the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at 800-4384318 or visit Information courtesy of the Iowa State University Extension Disaster Recovery Web site at

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APRIL 23, 2010


PESTS, from Page 1 Even notoriously difficult to exterminate German cockroaches, brown, light-avoiding, fast-darting kitchen dwellers, can be ousted with a similar strategy: vacuum up any live bugs that can be found and then thoroughly clean the area where they have been feeding with soap and water. For example if cockroaches are found near the microwave, cleaning the area around the microwave may not be sufficient. Unplug the microwave, remove the cover, and vacuum any roaches seen. The same is true for refrigerators and stoves, these appliances should be moved and cleaned. In the instance of a cockroach infestation, Shour indicated that insecticidal bait stations may be effective in killing lingering pests. Sticky traps, of the same kind used for rodents, placed in areas formerly frequented by the insects can be used to monitor whether a pest population has been destroyed. Other nesting places for both insects and rodents include infrequently moved cardboard boxes. Shour suggested replacing cardboard storage boxes with plastic ones to eliminate the inviting habitat. Shour recently finished a project in the Denison High School to transition their athletic fields from the sole use of pesticides to an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. First, the insect must be identified to determine if it is a pest. Second, determine how many pest insects are found; if the

number is fairly low, no control may be needed. Third, concentrate on cultural methods such as mowing at the proper height, fertilization, seeding with certified seed and topdressing with compost. These things will improve the grass stand and make it more able to resist pests. Shour initiated school IPM nine years ago. He has visited many schools and is participating in a national infrastructure for the program’s delivery. Shour and Iowa State University were recently recognized for “outstanding contributions through school IPM in the nation’s schools,” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. IPM implementation in 10 school districts spanning seven states averaged 71 percent reduction in pesticide application and 78 percent reduction in pest complaints. “Once we get people to stop and think about the ways they can manage pests, we can eliminate the use of pesticides when they really are not needed, be cost efficient and present little to no risk to people or the environment. It really is a winning solution.” For more information on IPM visit and

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Home energy efficiency is new feature on eXtenison Web site More than 70 land-grant universities from across the nation have combined resources to produce a new Web site on home energy efficiency. It contains many resource areas within eXtension (pronounced E-extension), an educational initiative of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System to help people make more informed decisions. Home energy is the newest topic for eXtension and will encourage consumers to adopt energy-efficient measures and use energy-efficient products and materials in their homes. The new Web site is accessible at “After a long, cold winter with expensive heating bills, the new Web site provides the information consumers need to help make their homes more energy efficient, save money and be better prepared for next winter,” said Mary Yearns, Iowa State University Extension housing specialist. Each U.S. household spends about $2,000 a year on utility bills. Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted. Improving energy use in homes through efficiency practices and products can save money, conserve resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Extension housing specialists across the nation were receiving many questions

about home energy issues and thought a Web site would be an effective way to address common consumer concerns,” explained Yearns. The home energy resource area offers information focused on existing homes, new homes and alternative energy systems. The site features: • Frequently Asked Questions: Home energy experts have answers for more than 140 frequently asked questions, providing information on topics such as home appliances and building materials. • Fact Sheets: Information on heating and cooling systems, appliances, building materials, maintenance and landscape provides the latest research and best practices to reduce home energy use. • Ask an Expert: Experts respond to individual questions from the public. About eXtension More than 25 resource areas on eXtension provide objective and research-based information and learning opportunities that help people improve their lives. eXtension is an educational partnership of more than 70 land-grant universities. The eXtension site,, is customized with links to state Cooperative Extension Services.

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DMU, MRES offer residential rebates on energy-efficiency Denison Municipal Utilities and Missouri River Energy Services, through Bright Energy Solutions, are providing cash rebate incentives for homes, including Energy Star® appliances, compact fluorescent lighting, heating and cooling systems, appliance turn-ins, and high-efficiency building envelope (windows, doors, insulation, etc.). Bright Energy Solutions offers a unique portfolio of energy-efficiency cash incentive residential programs to help residents reduce electric energy costs and operate more efficiently. Bright Energy Solutions is a program offered to residential and business customers of participating municipal utilities that are members of Missouri River Energy Services. Cash incentive commercial programs are also available through Bright Energy Solutions, including lighting, motors/pumps, VFD’s, and cooling/chillers. Once the energy efficient equipment is installed, owners will continue to enjoy the energy savings well into the future. To take advantage of these incentives, contact Denison Municipal Utilities at 263-4154. The following are among the incentives offered by Denison Municipal Utilities, MRES and Bright Energy Solutions: Energy Star Clothes Washer The offer: When DMU customers purchase a qualified Energy Star clothes washer, they can receive a $50 rebate from DMU. Rebate forms are available at the DMU Service Center, West 7th and Broadway. Energy savings: The U.S. Department of Energy says about 90 percent of the energy used for in a conventional top-load washer is for heating the water. When considering the purchase of a new washing machine, look for the

Energy Star and EnergyGuide labels. Energy Star clothes washers clean clothes using 50 percent less energy than standard washers. Energy Star decorative light strings The offer: When DMU customers purchase qualified Energy Star decorative light strings, they can receive a rebate of $3.50 per string from DMU. The limit is six strings per customer, with a maximum incentive of $21. Rebate forms are available at the DMU Service Center. Energy savings: Energy Star qualified decorative light strings consume 75 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands and can last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent strands. In addition, the Energy Star light strings are cool to the touch, so they reduce the risk of fire. Energy Star room air conditioner The offer: When DMU customers purchase a qualified Energy Star room air conditioner, they can receive a $15 rebate from DMU. Rebate forms are available at the DMU Service Center. Energy savings: A new Energy Star qualified room air conditioner will use at least 10 percent less energy than conventional models. Also, remember to size your room air conditioner to the room you want to cool. According to Energy Star, a room air conditioner that’s too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit. Energy Star dehumidifier The offer: When DMU customers purchase a qualified Energy Star dehumidifier, they can receive a $10 rebate from DMU. Rebate forms are available at the DMU Service Center.

Energy savings: Energy Star qualified dehumidifiers have more efficient refrigeration coils, compressors and fans than conventional models, so they use less energy to remove moisture from the air. Energy Star Dishwasher The offer: When DMU customers purchase a qualified Energy Star dishwasher, they can receive a $25 rebate from DMU. Rebate forms are available at the DMU Service Center. Energy savings: Energy Star qualified dishwashers use at least 41 percent less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption. They use less hot water compared to new conventional models. Residential heating and cooling The offer: The Bright Energy Solutions Residential Heating and Cooling Program offers cash rebates to customers who purchase and install qualified, energy-efficient central air conditioning units, air-source heat pumps, and ground-source heat pumps in their homes. Energy savings: Heating and cooling a home uses more energy than any other system in a house. About 46 percent of the utility bill goes toward heating and cooling. What is Energy Star? Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, is designed to help people save money and protect the environmental through energy efficient products and practices. According to the Energy Star Web site, in 2008 Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 29 million cars and saved $19 billion on their utility bills.

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Spring cleaning your home by Christy Potter Spring is in the air, but is your house still suffering from the winter blahs? Take heart and grab a broom. A little spring cleaning is all it takes to get your home ready for the nice weather. Not everyone finds spring cleaning fun, but if you follow a few basic tips and tricks, it will be easier than you think.

page. Not only is this a little “recycling” in action, but also it helps prevent streaks and bits of fuzz that paper towels can leave behind on glass. If you have a ceiling fan, use a sturdy stepladder to climb up and wipe the blades with a damp cloth. Ceiling fan blades can collect an amazing amount of dust, and removing it regularly can help decrease the amount of dust in the air - a problem for many allergy sufferers. Sprinkle a little baking soda onto your carpet before vacuuming to help freshen the room and eliminate pet, food or smoke odors. Vacuum last. This way you’re not letting dust from the furniture or fixtures fall onto your newly-swept carpet. Remember to pull furniture out and vacuum underneath. If moving furniture is a problem, your vacuum cleaner attachments can help you get at those hard-to-reach spots. Those same attachments can be helpful in reaching cobwebs in the corners of your ceiling, as well as cleaning lampshades and furniture. Wash and dry quilts or blankets used during the winter before putting them away for the season. Tuck a dryer sheet between the folds to keep that freshly-washed scent. Open sliding doors and use your vacuum attachments to clean out winter’s dirt and debris from the tracks. Wash, dry (or dry clean) and re-hang your curtains. You might not have even noticed how dingy they’d become, but you’ll be surprised how much brighter a room can look when the curtains are clean. Take blinds outside and wash with a mild ammonia solution. Rinse with the garden hose and leave in sunshine to dry. Strip bed linens; vacuum mattress and box springs, then flip and rotate mattress before making the bed with fresh sheets. Give your plants a little spring cleaning. Wash winter’s dust from their leaves in the kitchen sink with the vegetable sprayer, or take them outside and spray them lightly with the hose.

Before you clean Inventory your cleaning supplies. It’s frustrating to be elbow-deep in a cleaning job only to realize you’re missing something you need. Change into old clothes you won’t mind getting dirty or possibly staining. This may sound basic, but it’s an important step. One wayward squirt of cleanser can put an irreparable bleach spot on your favorite shirt. Turn off the television and the phone. You don’t want distractions to keep you from getting the job done. Turn on the radio or play your favorite CD to help get you going. Prepare one bucket of cleaning supplies to take with you to every room. The bucket should include a few rags, some paper towels, a page or two of newspaper, an old scrubber sponge, furniture polish and one all-purpose cleaner. You should also include a couple of garbage bags: one for garbage and one for collecting things that you no longer want but are too good to throw away. These things can be donated to your favorite charity. Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from chemicals and hot water. Open the windows, take a deep breath and get going! Cleaning Spray a little furniture polish onto a rag, rather than directly onto the furniture. This helps eliminate wasted polish and prevents over spray, which can make hardwood floors slippery. Clean your windows with a crumpled-up newspaper

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In the bathroom, spray a foaming cleanser onto the shower and tub, and pour toilet cleaner into the bowl. They can be working while you clean the mirrors, empty the garbage and vacuum up hair and dust. Don’t forget the base of the toilet where hair and dust collect. Wipe down the tub and shower, the scrub out the toilet bowl, flush, and wipe down the outside. Mop the bathroom floor with a strong cleanser. Take down your shower curtain and liner and wash them. In the kitchen, it’s easy to neglect the inside of your refrigerator. Take a few minutes to check for food that has expired or gone bad. Reclaim a little space by looking for small amounts left in bottles and jars that can be transferred to smaller containers. Wipe down shelves and crisper drawers. On the outside, spray a little cleaner onto a paper towel or rag and wipe the door handles. Defrost the freezer and get rid of any old and/or freezer burned food. Vacuum stove vents and refrigerator coils. Wash out all trash cans before putting in fresh liners. Rearrange a little. Put pictures, knickknacks, candles, etc. onto different tables or shelves. Small touches like these can give your room a fresh look without having to rearrange furniture. If you feel like rearranging the furniture, however, go right ahead! Spring is a wonderful time to try something new. Clear away clutter. Recycle old newspapers and magazines, put books back on their shelves, and make sure all CDs are tucked into their rack. When your things are easier to find, it makes your whole life much simpler and more enjoyable. After you clean Enjoy your beautiful, clean, and ready-for-spring home! Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010

A guide to shutters, blinds and shades by Amanda Knoles Window treatments offer a fast and convenient way to improve the appearance of any room in the home. Unfortunately many people put up standard mini-blinds or curtains without considering other choices. Before you choose a window covering you should give some thought to each window. Do you want to let more light in or block it out? Do you need more privacy, or does the window offer a terrific view? Can the window be used to enhance a decorating theme in the room? Shutters Shutters have become increasingly popular in recent years. They enhance the decor of a room and can transform an ordinary space into a showplace in minutes. The larger the louver, the more modern the appearance of the room. Shutters cost more than blinds or shades but they are an investment that can increase the value of your home. They offer a terrific way to control privacy, darkness and light, and they make a dramatic design statement at the same time. Vinyl plantation shutters are easy to clean and practically maintenance free. They will save you 20 to 40 percent off the cost of wood shutters and you never have to worry about fading, painting, shrinking or cracking. Many manufacturers offer bi-fold and bypass arrangements as well as arches for special window treatments such as patio doors. Wood painted arches come in a variety of styles and some slatted arches, honeycomb and pleated arches are designed to coordinate with matching window blinds. Deco framing is a great way to improve the look of plain windows. Divider rails provide more flexibility and allow upper and lower louvers to operate separately. Dual view shutters offer the same flexibility but without a divider rail. Blinds Wooden blinds are available in many finishes with a choice of wide or narrow slats. The fabric tapes also come

Bamboo and matchstick blinds in classic brown and light tan finishes can be used to achieve a more casual feel. They are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and available in standard widths.

in a range of colors making it possible to easily coordinate blinds with upholstery fabrics. Wooden blind finishes vary from light birch or pine to dark cherry. Faux wood blinds, available in several colors, offer a choice of smooth or sandblasted finishes. The faux wood finishes are practical and attractive choices for bathrooms, kitchens, family rooms and children's rooms. Metal blinds can work well if you are furnishing an office or seeking a more high tech look, but most decorators recommend a softer look for residential interiors. Fabric mini-blinds are available in a variety of colors, textures and standard sizes. They can also be custommade for odd-sized windows. They are easy to install and offer a fast and inexpensive way to change the look of a room. Vertical blinds such as those from Levolor are frequently used for large windows and sliding doors. They resemble draperies but offer more controlled light management along with low maintenance. Available in textured fabrics and embossed patterns, they are lightweight and stay dust free.

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Shades Shades have come a long way from the awkward and flimsy roll-up styles of years past. Duette shades are available in transparent, opaque and blackout densities allowing the user to choose the amount of light that is allowed in. Duette honeycomb shades have a unique construction that traps air in the honeycomb pleats and insulates against summer heat and winter cold. Shades also offer the option of leaving the top down or bottom part up to suit your privacy and lighting needs. For a more traditional look, decorators recommend choosing a shade close to your wall color. Balloon shades cover the top half or third of the window at all times. They are constructed with a large amount of fabric and generally work best in bedrooms. Roman shades offer more light control and use less fabric than a balloon shade. They are frequently made of see-through fabrics or may be constructed of canvas to block out more light. Silhouette shades are usually custom-made to fit your windows and they are soil and dust repellent like Duette shades. They are a good choice for picture windows where a transparent effect is preferred during the day with more opaque coverage at night. They may be matched to your wall color or you may prefer a coordinating color for more contrast. Major manufacturers display their window treatments at window covering specialty stores, department stores and home improvement centers. Study their displays to spark ideas for your own home, then consult a window covering specialist to determine the proper way to measure your windows to ensure a perfect fit. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010

Tips for choosing paint colors by Amanda Knoles If you've seen any home makeovers in magazines or on TV you know that paint colors can dramatically transform a room. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to redecorate a room but many people feel intimidated when choosing colors. In the past most people stayed with safe interior shades such as beige, off white, light blue and light green. Today the range of colors and paints makes it easier to become more adventurous. Before you choose a paint color, think about how the room is used and how you respond to different colors emotionally. Look at home decorating magazines and clip out color schemes and rooms that appeal to you. Keep in mind that paint can enhance a room's features or it can be used to hide flaws. Yellow, orange and red are classified as warm colors while blues, greens and purples are labeled cool. You may want to choose cool colors to create a relaxing ambience in a bedroom. A warm yellow adds warmth to a chilly den or dining room. Decorators often use light colors such as cream and white to make smaller rooms appear larger. Dark colors such as navy or red can evoke a cozier mood in a very large room. Don't forget to take your floor covering into consideration when choosing paint colors. A very dark wood floor or a dark colored carpet will have an effect on how wall colors look. Upholstery texture and patterns may also influence your choice of paint colors. Decide if you want the room to have a warm, casual ambience or a more formal feeling. Visit a local paint, hardware or home improvement store and collect a variety of brochures and paint samples. Pay attention to displays showing textured walls and paints with special effects. Consider how various paint combinations would look in different rooms. Take the paint chips home and look at them in natural and artificial light. When you particularly love one color such as bluegreen, try using neighboring colors on the color wheel as accents to create an analogous color scheme. Interior designers often advise their clients to take a look at their wardrobes before selecting a new color for the bedroom or living room. If you have a lot of blues and greens in your closet, chances are you'll be happy with some variation of those colors on your walls. You may want to coordinate paint colors using hues from a favorite rug or painting. Monochromatic colors are the easiest to work with when decorating. Basically you choose one color and use varying shades of it throughout the room to create a sense of casual coordination. For example a medium yellow room could have slightly darker molding, a lighter ceiling and yellow print wallpaper on one wall. Complimentary colors can be a little tricky. When choosing colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel such as blue and orange or green and red, it is best to use them as accents or accessories to avoid garish contrasts. Color can also be used to create the illusion of a different sized room. A square room looks very different when one wall is painted a different color. Try enhancing interesting architectural features such as a window seat or beams by painting them a coordinating or contrasting color from the walls. You can make a very narrow room seem wider by painting the shorter walls a darker color than the longer walls. The color you choose for the ceiling is very important. A lighter color is a better choice for a low ceiling in a small room. A dark color is the best solution when you have a cavernous room with a ceiling that seems too high. Hallways and foyers will seem warmer to guests if you choose a warm color like yellow or peach. Red and green are popular choices for dining rooms and kitchens, while pale blue and lavender are considered romantic choices for bedrooms. Bathrooms allow you to be a little more dramatic. For example a black and white color scheme in a bathroom can be quite sophisticated but in a small bedroom the same look could be overwhelming. Consider using a technique such as sheen striping to create vertical stripes of the same color but in different sheens or textures. It's a sophisticated decorating trick that not only creates visual interest but also helps create the illusion of height in rooms with low ceilings. Copyright Š 2010 Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010



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APRIL 23, 2010

Restore an older home by Sarah Combs There seems to be a lot of nostalgia lately among home remodelers. Drawing on the charm of the 19th and early 20th centuries (specifically Victorian as well as the Art Deco period of the 1920s and ‘30s) has become increasingly popular. In part, this might be because authentic building materials are more readily available, thanks to the surge in reclaiming and recycling. At any rate, there are homeowners who are either trying to restore their homes’ original look or to transform a more contemporary house into a dwelling that reveals certain ties with, or at least an appreciation of, the past. It could be that the past seems comforting, representing what many view as simpler times. It doesn't much matter what the rationale is; these efforts can result in a more attractive and comforting place to live, and could also enhance resale possibilities. Things to consider be-

fore starting If you are considering major remodeling to make your home appear more vintage, there are some things to think about before tearing anything out or making any major purchases: • Do your research: Know what look you want to achieve, how best to do that, and whether the materials you want are obtainable. Study magazines and houses you like, take pictures, talk to others who've undertaken such projects and talk to professionals as well. It doesn't matter if you actually follow their advice. The most fundamental point is, this is your project; you should get what you want, but you also need to know what that is before it's too late. • Check out the electrical and plumbing systems and how they would be affected by a remodel. Anything behind the walls -- pipes or wires -- must be in good shape. • Be sure all relevant sur-

faces are level. • If you'll be installing 8" or 10" baseboards, rather than using expensive straight cut fir, use an aesthetically pleasing composite substitute called MDF (a type of fiberboard) that can also be cut into decorative trim. • Do you already have furniture or decorations that you particularly favor? If so, consider incorporating them into your vintage look. There are several reasons to suggest this. One, attempting a strictly authentic look may result in a phony effect. Two, this attempt could lead to an atmosphere that's unnatural and uncomfortable. Three, a somewhat eclectic look is more personal, so why not put your stamp on the period you favor? Here's your chance to merge the past and the present, including the best of both times. • Don't try to cut corners: If you're adding porch posts, for instance, be sure to use ones of a sufficiently sub-

stantial width; anything less will look skimpy and inadequate. Also, be sure they have a sufficiently large flat surface if you're intending to decorate them with "appliqués." Appliqués are carved wooden gingerbread type trim, without which a self-respecting Victorian house would not feel properly dressed. Well, I was thinking of redoing the bathroom . . . Ah! Art Deco, perhaps? That trend is very big for bathrooms right now. The combination of elegant pedestal porcelain sinks, mosaic floors, and wall tiles in pale pink, black and white. You could also add heated towel racks, which were first used in the ‘20s. Back then, they were heated with gas; today's version uses electricity. All in all, you'd end up with a beautiful while highly functional bathroom. As mentioned above, these days, it's easy to find genuine materials. While

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original tiles may be tricky because they're hard to remove intact, sinks and toilets are easy to find. If you aren't able to track down the real thing, there are plenty of firms that make replicas of sinks, cabinets, light fixtures, wallpaper, tiles and trim. Less is more. Well, sometimes, anyway. As suggested above, just a few touches can convey the impression you want. (This could lead to the right look and be easier on the pocketbook.) It's just that they need to be the right touches, and that's where your research, perhaps combined with a professional's advice (whether a historian, a builder specializing in remodeling, or an architect) could prove invaluable. To find the right kind of pro, look around at buildings you admire and find out who was responsible for creating that look and where they got the needed materials. Many US towns, regardless of size, have historical societies and museums, not to mention libraries, staffed with history buffs and filled with books

and photos, all of which could provide the ideas you're looking for. While you're at it, you might look for a glossary of building terminology. Both in your reading, and in dealing with various professionals, knowing the industry’s language will help you to get precisely what you want. You'll not only know what questions to ask, but you'll understand the answers as well. A few last words . . . Watch this paper and consult your local telephone directory when looking for firms dealing in reclaimed materials. Look under such headings as “Recycle Centers and Services" or "Salvage Materials." If this proves a dead end, check more traditional headings such as “Building Materials” and even “Antique Dealers.” Although such places may not have precisely what you need, they ought to have enough knowledge to be able to point you in the right direction.


Thinking of making your home look more vintage? Research, research, research. Enter the process with precise knowledge of what you want to do and what can be done. Otherwise, you could end up spending a lot of money before coming to a dead end. Inspect your electrical and plumbing systems. It is essential that they be in good shape before any re-

model is attempted. Incorporate existing furniture and décor that you like into your home’s vintage look. Don’t cut corners. You don’t want your effort to look tacky or like you gave your house short shrift. But don’t overdo it. Some materials just won’t be available and you’ll want your home to have your per-

sonal signature to it, anyway. Besides, it will be easier on the pocketbook. Familiarize yourself with remodeling terminology. Get professional help. Local historians, builders and architects are invaluable to any remodeling effort of this magnitude. Copyright © Publishers-Edge


Copyright © 2005 Publishers-Edge


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APRIL 23, 2010

Guide to energy-saving appliances by Amanda Knoles A study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that consumers could save money and help their communities save energy by switching to water and energy efficient appliances. When consumers in the study switched to a front loading washer, a water and energy efficient dishwasher and an energy efficient clothes dryer, they attained a 38 percent reduction in water consumption and a 37 percent reduction in electricity. Results of the study show that a typical family with a home more than 10 years old could save $200 per year in electricity and water bills and 18,600 gallons of water by switching to energy and water efficient appliances. Appliances consume about 20 percent of your household’s energy with refrigerators and clothes dryers hogging the most. When shopping for a new appliance you should not only look for the best price but also the operating cost and energy efficiency rat-

ing. Replacing a refrigerator more than 12 years old with a new model will save up to $100 in annual electricity bills. Switching to an energyefficient clothes washer could save up to $1000 over the washer's life span. The easiest way to determine if a new appliance is energy efficient is to look for the Energy Star label. Most manufacturers produce appliances that are certified energy efficient. The Energy Star label is the seal of approval from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies developed criteria to help shoppers identify the most energy efficient large and small appliances on the market. Appliances with the Energy Star label exceed federal efficiency standards by 13-20 percent and as much as 110 percent for some models. The label is only given to products that have been rated high performance with reduced operating costs.

Federal law also requires manufacturers to post Energy Guide labels on all new freezers, refrigerators, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, room air conditioners, central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers. The label helps consumers compare operating costs with similar models and specifies how much electricity or gas the model uses in a year and how much it costs to operate. Most of the energy used by dishwashers is for water heating. The Energy Guide label estimates how much

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power is needed to run the dishwasher and heat the water based on the yearly cost of gas and electric water heating. The label on a new refrigerator will detail how much electricity in kilowatt-hours a particular model uses in a year. Look for the smallest number, which translates to less energy use and a lower operating cost. Energy efficient refrigerators have better insulation, improved temperature and defrost mechanisms and their compressors run less than older models. (Refrigerators with the freezer on top are

more efficient than those with freezers on the side.) Washing machines with the Energy Star label use less water and about a third less energy than other machines. The energy efficient washing machines also help save on clothes drying since they remove more water from clothes during the spin cycle. Many of the new clothes dryers have a moisture sensor that shuts off the dryer automatically when clothes are dry. This features saves energy as well as wear and tear on clothes. Gas dryers are less expensive to operate than

electric models. Drying a load of laundry in an electric dryer costs about 40 cents compared to 25 cents in a gas dryer. When shopping for gas and oil-fired furnaces and boilers, look for the Energy Guide label with Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. Energy Star certified furnaces have a 90 AFUE or greater. Air conditioners with the Energy Star label are shown to be twice as efficient as other systems. With room air conditioners, the higher the EER (Energy Efficiency Rating) the more efficient the unit. Manufacturers and retailers display the Energy Star and Energy Guide labels on appliances, on packaging and in advertising. Purchasing an energysaving appliance not only helps the environment and saves money on utility bills; it could save you sales tax if your state offers tax incentives for energy efficient products. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge

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Fix water problems in your basement by Chris Hall If you’re a first time homeowner, you can probably remember your first carefree trip to the basement after a heavy rain, and your shock and horror when your warm and comfy stocking feet made contact with a cold puddle of water in the middle of the floor. While this is probably the mildest of basement water trouble experiences, as a general rule water problems are findable and fixable and come from one of three major sources. The first is plumbing problems, from leaky connections to burst pipes. The second is faults, major and minor, in your home’s foundation or other structures (for example, a hole in the roof that leaks through the walls and into the basement) and the third is chronic water problems from dampness to flood resulting from your home’s location in the path of a spring or other natural water flow or runoff. Whatever your problem, it is important to get it taken care of immediately, as continual exposure to water cannot only seriously damage your home but lead to mold, mildew and other contaminants that are not so easy to get rid of once they’ve taken hold. If you know that leaky plumbing causes your water problem, your first and best solution is, naturally, to call a plumber. Remember, however, that hiring a plumber is akin to hiring a lawyer, you want to make sure you get more than one opinion on your case,

ask for references and make sure you can communicate with them fully and effectively. As you can see every evening on one of the seemingly hundreds of home improvement programs on television, solving plumbing problems can range from replacing a ten cent washer to replacing all the pipes in the house – make sure you’re getting an accurate picture of where you fall within that range. If you can pinpoint the problem – say, a leaky water heater connection – you can probably fix it yourself by making a stop a your local hardware store and picking up some parts as well as some instruction on how to deal with the problem. Just be aware that something you are not absolutely sure how to fix may make the problem worse. If the problem is leaks, again you can call one of any number of the foundation inspection and repair people you’ll find in the Yellow Pages or in the paper. Again, references and second opinions are in order. All houses settle over time and can develop visible cracks in basement walls that may not necessarily be indicators of a serious problem. If your water problem is minor, try your hardware store for the wide variety of foundations sealants they stock and see if that solves the problem. If not, move onto professionals who can accurately assess the cause and solution for the problem. If your water problem is major – and many new homeowners have

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been surprised when the lovely finished basement they saw on closing day transformed into a soggy nightmare after the first check behind paneling and pull back carpeting for the signs and smells of water damage before you buy – don’t try and fix it yourself but call in a structural engineer to assess the extent of the problem and solution – which may involve jacking up the entire home and replacing the foundation -- and also contact the realtor who sold you the house. Finally, some older homes may have chronic water problems caused by their location. Though again, a structural engineer can assess the source of the problem, all is not lost – many homes have basement sump pumps that are designed to nip chronic water problems in the bud, and such a solution might be the right one for you. If you are looking at a home with a sump pump, make sure you get a full report on not only why it is necessary but on the level of water the pump is designed to handle, maintenance and so on. But remember, if your water problem is serious and caused by the natural flow of water from one place to another, unless you have very deep pockets in a battle with Mother Nature, the odds are not in your favor. Copyright © Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010

Choose great cabinets by Jim Akans There is no finer finish product in most new homes than the cabinetry that adorns the kitchen space. From deeply stained exotic wood species, beautiful natural finishes, to the hand-painted look of low-maintenance thermo-foils, cabinetry provides furniture-quality product precision over a far-reaching price range. With the incredible selection available in materials, styles and finish options, it is of no surprise that making the right cabinet choice for you home can be confusing. As with most product purchases, budget limitations make the decision a little easier by narrowing the available choices. For a typical kitchen, cabinetry can range from approximately $2,000 to over $100,000 (well, that is probably not your typical kitchen!). There are three basic levels of cabinetry; stock, semicustom and custom, with stock being the most affordable and custom the most expensive. Stock cabinets come in standard pre-assembled sizes and are the most popular type of cabinet. They are often available for immediate delivery or require only a few day turn-around from the supplier, hence, you can get started on your project right away. The main drawback to stock cabinets is that there are a limited number of sizes and styles available which can make it difficult to match the size or usage you have in mind. That is where “filler strips” come in to play. These are slats of wood, finished exactly like the cabinets that can be custom-cut to fill any gaps between the cabinets and the wall if the stock cabinets don’t fit the kitchen space precisely. Next up are semi-custom cabinets. Like stock cabinets, these are pre-assembled in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, wood species and finishes. The difference is some of the dimensions can be altered so they are able to achieve a semicustom fit to your kitchen space. That, however, means a longer delivery time because those “special sized” cabinets are not manufactured until you place your order. So if you are in a rush, stock is the way to go. Fully custom cabinetry is created to the purchaser’s specifications. There is virtually no limit to the size, style, wood species and finishes; you can even have a custom design carved into the face of the cabinets if you like. Obviously, these are at the top of the heap price-wise and require the longest turn around time. A few more terms to become familiar with when cabinet shopping; 1. Frame and Frameless construction: There are two basics cabinet door styles. A framed door is similar to a picture frame in appearance, with two vertical frames (also called stiles) and two horizontal frames (called rails) embracing a center panel. A frameless door is also called a slab

since that’s what it is, a slab of very beautiful wood that is not surrounded by a frame. 2. Recessed and Raised Panel construction: This is about that center panel in a framed door. A recessed panel is a flat piece of wood inside the frame that can be smooth, grooved or decorated with carvings. A raised panel is typically made by gluing (or laminating) several thin pieces of wood together to “raise” the center panel back to the same level as the frame. 3. Partial Overlay and Full Overlay: This has to do with how the doors and drawer sit on the frames of the cabinets. Partial Overlay means some of the cabinet frame remains visible when the door is closed. A Full Overlay means the doors or drawer fronts cover the frame from view when they are closed. 4. Glazes: This has become a very popular finish option. After the cabinet has been stained, a contrasting stain color is wiped on the cabinet surface, allowed to sit for a short period of time, and then wiped off. The result is that this contrasting color remains in the nooks and crannies of the cabinet surface, giving more depth to the appearance. 5. Dovetail Joinery: This is an important one. Where the

front of the cabinet drawer attaches to the drawer box is a crucial construction spot because you, your kids, and big Uncle Ben are going to be yanking on this time and time again. The cheap way to make this connection is with a lap joint, where the two surfaces butt together with the help of glue and staples. That won’t last very long before pulling apart. Best to look for a Dovetail joint, recognizable by the “comb-like” pattern made when the surfaces of the drawer front and sides join. Fantastic looking, well made cabinets are available in nearly every size, style and price range. The key to a long, happy relationship with your new cabinets is to choose a finish and design style that fits your tastes, find the best quality construction available in your price range, and be sure to inquire about service after the sale just in case there is a problem with fit or shipping damage. Whenever possible, stick to well-known brands or a reputable local manufacturer as that will increase the likelihood parts will still be available when you need to replace something several years from now. Copyright © Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010

Get the most for your remodeling dollar by Charles Hoffman I’ve recently been looking into downsizing for my 85 year old mother, who now lives in a five bedroom three bathroom home that is getting to be a little much to take care of for a four foot eight woman with an active social life. Just getting the place presentable for a marathon game of canasta with the other members of the little old lady mafia in her neighborhood can take days. All of which is to say, navigating the slippery slope of what something is worth in the real estate market today is not for the faint hearted. For example, the first thing you’ll find is that everyone’s house, no matter how big, or small, or crumbling at the seams, is worth at least 200K – except yours, which somehow (according to buyers) no one will buy for over 150K, unless you spend about 50K fixing it up. Is this for real? Well....yes and no. Top cosmetic improvements can bring your house up to whatever is the highest prevailing price in your neighborhood, but if you think spending $50,000 is going to add $50,000 to the value of your home over and above what homes in your neighborhood are selling for think again. Nobody is going to spend $350,000 for a home in a development where every other house is selling for $250,000. However, there are things you can do to bring your home on a par with other homes in your area so you can comfortably ask for top dollar and, unlike the more realistic market of some years ago, you may even actually realize a bit more on your home than what you’ve put into it. According to a recent article in Parade magazine a kitchen remodel costing around $15,000 helped the homeowner realize an approximately $22,000 increase in the value of their Florida home. This kind of added value is in no way a sure bet except in the hottest of the hot markets, so invest in remodeling carefully. Another word to the wise: remember,

Find the best contractor for your home project If every house in your neighborhood has two bathrooms but yours, adding a bath should be the first remodeling project on your list. But don’t just go with the first contractor you interview, since basic remodeling jobs can vary widely depending upon whom you hire. Check out builders with the Better Business Bureau or local Home Builder’s Association, ask friends and acquaintances whose homes you admire, check with your church and other organization to which you belong. And once you find a contractor you can trust and whose work you admire, develop a plan to keep him busy as much as possible upgrading your home. Next to a doctor, a lawyer and an auto mechanic, a good contractor or handyman is worth his weight in gold.

part of the value equation for any home is what you’ve actually gotten out of it by living in it. If you want to start renovating for sale, do it when you move in or do it over time as you live in the home. That way, you’ll reap the energy saving benefit of those new energy saving windows, and enjoy the convenience of those deluxe appliances, or that new deck with a gas grill and get your maximum value out of them before you pass them on, lovingly cared for, to a new owner. What are the most desirable home improvements? Well, renovated kitchens and bathrooms top the list. Over the past few years remodeling these essential spaces deliver around 80 percent and more of their cost in resale value. Adding a bathroom, another bedroom, a deck or other outdoor entertaining area and then cosmetic improvements like exterior siding and so on also top the list of improvements that make a difference in the value of your home.

Things that you might think would add value but surprisingly, do not, are swimming pools (which can actually lower the value of your home everywhere except places like California, Florida and southernmost climates) and over the top fixtures and accessories. You are unlikely to get back the money you spent on all of those 24K gold faucets and fixtures or Waterford crystal chandeliers, unless every house in your neighborhood has them. If you do want to update your home for sale, remember appearance is everything.

Look at your neighbors’ homes, or the houses that have sold for the top prices in your development (take advantage of open houses and if you’re thinking of selling, start looking at every house in your neighborhood). Do the things that add the most sizzle for the least amount of cash. Also, you should clean, freshen and paint. A well maintained home without a lot of dirt and clutter inspires confidence – and that includes outdoors as well. Copyright © Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010



When to call a plumber by Sarah Koch For some of us, the moment to call a plumber arises as soon as the least little thing goes wrong. A leak in the bathroom sink? Call a plumber! The dishwasher won't drain? Call a plumber! And if it comes to anything major, like replacing old pipe, then call a plumber. Though you should always rely on a professional if you have serious doubts, with a little research, you might be surprised at what you can take care of yourself. It's largely a matter of: • Taking the time to assess the situation properly. • Seeking advice from a knowledgeable person or an easy to follow repair manual. These can be found at any good hardware store, bookstore, or library. • Is it a project that seems like something you could do with the right tools? • Knowing how old your plumbing is. Older pipes are likely to be more delicate, requiring gentler treatment. Regardless, start out with a non-aggressive approach, increasing force as seems necessary. Be cautious. With too much force you could break a pipe and cause some serious damage. • And, if it's something major, what do the local building codes and ordinances allow? Remember that the codes vary from state to state, city to city, and are changing all the time. Even if you just wanted to replace a piece of pipe, what type of pipe is allowed according to your city ordinance? (Plastic, for instance, may not be acceptable.) • If it is something fairly serious, know that the local building inspector will need to view the progress of the project from beginning to end. Be certain what requirements you need to meet. Failing to follow instructions will almost certainly

lead to your having to redo the entire project. Note: A licensed plumber will know the code and what is required. With the right tools and tips you may be able to complete many plumbing jobs yourself. Here are some of the things, as well as just a few tips, that could be useful, depending on the nature of the job: • Safety glasses or goggles are recommended for any job involving sanding, scraping, hammering, or chiseling. This is especially important if you wear contact lenses. • Be certain that the wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers are the right type for this project, and in good shape. • Earplugs of some sort if working with, or around, power tools.


• Power tools should be maintained carefully. Blades should always be sharp, and handles in good shape (no cracks or chips). Always unplug power tools before changing settings or parts, and be sure you're using the right tool for the job. • Be certain children and pets are a safe distance away from the work area. • Not to be pessimistic, but have a firstaid kit on hand. If you just have clogged drains avoid using commercially made de-cloggers. They tend not only to dissolve clogs, but pipes as well. Instead get yourself a good plunger (a $5 to $10 investment), and an auger, and follow this technique for maximum effectiveness: • Stuff a wet rag into the sink overflow hole to maximize plunger suction;

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• Remove the popup drain plug; • If you can, fill the sink halfway with water; • Coat the lip of the plunger with petroleum jelly so it'll make a better seal against the bottom of the sink; • Pump the plunger several times before yanking it off quickly. Four or five times should do the trick. • If you find that it isn't working remove the trap below the sink (that curved piece of pipe) and run a snake (aka: auger) into the drain line. Removing the trap can be messy, so place a bowl or bucket underneath it before applying your wrench. • If, after all this, there's still a problem (or you just don't want to touch that trap, and who can blame you), then call in a drain cleaning service or licensed plumber. Preventative treatment is the best, of course. So, try running hot water through your pipes once a week or so. In addition, once or twice a year, pour a non-caustic copper sulfide or sodium hydroxide-based drain cleaner down those drains to further get rid of soap and grease buildup. How about leaking faucets or pipes? Or sweating toilet tanks? Or, for that matter, a running toilet? These are fairly simple problems, and there are a number of books available that'll guide you through such repairs. There are also books devoted to the maintenance of septic tanks, swimming pools, and anything other plumbing-related topic. If you've never done so before, this is a great time to build a relationship with your local hardware store staff. Don't hesitate to ask questions, get advice and by all means keep that plumber's phone number close to hand.

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APRIL 23, 2010

Add a swimming pool Outdoor entertaining will never be the same by Curt Hagedorn One of the most dreamed-of outdoor features for many homeowners is a swimming pool. A pool can provide a focal point for outdoor entertaining, a gathering place for family and friends, and even provide a convenient place for daily exercise – many authorities recommend swimming as an ideal way of working all your muscles in a low impact setting, and about 20 percent of homeowners who build pools use them for that purpose as well as recreation and relaxation. A professionally installed, well-constructed, adequately warranted in-

ground pool, with all of the necessary maintenance and safety features can cost from $20,000 to $25,000 and up, up, up – through say, $50,000 will get you quite a lot of pool for your money. If you take the time to find a reliable contractor with an abundance of satisfied customers, a pool can become a standout feature of both your property (though opinions on the value of a pool the overall property value vary in different parts of the nation – more about this later) and your lifestyle, adaptable to your family’s fun and fitness needs for the life of your home. Nobody really envisions a bland concrete, water-filled hole in the middle of their backyard when they start thinking about adding a swimming pool. But when you start scouring the ads for bargains, in most cases that is just what the discount price you will see reflects – sometimes even less than that.

The very first great idea when building a pool is to make sure that your vision matches the reality of what you can afford, and how you’re planning on using the pool. Families with small children may want to focus extra dollars on safety (many localities have extremely strict safety regulations regarding pool fencing); families with teenagers may find that size and depth are compelling factors. Ease of maintenance is also a serious consideration – automatic filters, skimmers can greatly reduce the time and expense of pool upkeep. Finally, luxury and cosmetic features abound – everything from the design of the pool itself to additions like spas, lap pools, slides, lighting, fountains and waterfalls and special surfacing features for both pool and adjacent areas – from simple tile surrounds to elaborate mosaics to an in-pool bar. Fortunately, a reputable pool contractor will be able to guide you through an endless array of choices to the pool of your dreams. Basics to look for include serious construction warranties for the life of the pool as well as packages which include all of the up-to-the minute built-in maintenance, lighting and safety features as part of the price. New horizons in backyard pool design and construction make just about any size or shape pool possible – even a small

backyard with limited access can be transformed into a water wonderland. If fitness is your goal, you can combine a small bathing pool for water-calisthenics with an adjacent spa and even a lappool for a total water fitness environment. Up to date features like in-line chlorination, ozone and other water treatment systems, automatic skimmers and pool cleaners can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend maintaining your pool. Check with your pool supplier to see how much regular maintenance can cost. You might find it a great deal more convenient and cost-effective to contract for regular pool care, particularly if you are adding a spa or other water features. If you are looking for a truly magical experience, think of your pool as part of a total “natural” environment. This hot trend integrates all of the backyard functions around the pool area and, like the trend in outdoor living, is adaptable for a variety of uses from play to relaxation and entertaining. The extremely popular infinity or “negative” edge that makes a pool appear almost to extend directly to the horizon line, an illusion that facilitates peaceful contemplation. Other popular choices include “beach” entry, where portions of the surrounding pavement slope down directly into the pool – particularly popular as a means of entry and exit for small children and the

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APRIL 23, 2010


elderly in shallow-end constructions. Kids will also appreciate the variety of caves, slide and waterfall features that incorporate climbing, sliding and ducking in and out of sheets and fountains of moving water. For a price, even waves are available, as are more subtle flows of water designed to add sound and sparkle to the liquid environment. Underwater lighting has also become quite sophisticated, ranging from simple floods to lights that provide constantly changing colors and patterns. In-pool construction – arches, statuary, raised “shelves” for sunning in a few inches of water, even bars for serving cold libations has also become a way of creating drama and setting your pool apart from the rest. Remember, the more elaborate your concept is, the more you might want to work with your contractor and a reputable landscape architect, to make sure that everything works together and that all of the rules, regulations and safety and maintenance extras will be followed. Finally, depending upon your budget, you can surface and surround your pool with a dizzying plethora of tiles, special finishes, patterned concrete, paint and plaster to create your own special paradise. Millions of tiny pearlescent grains can refract the sunlight off the bottom of your pool, special concretes are available that can be polished and finished like marble, granite and many other natural stones and colors. Mosaics can be created to mimic everything from Greek temples to cartoon characters. Fiber optic lighting imbedded in the pool can create a well of starlight in your own backyard. For the ultimate in year-round enjoyment, your pool can be enclosed in a variety of ways, transforming it into an integral and luxurious part of your home. If building an in-ground pool is slightly beyond your means, there are quality “above ground” pools that can cost a good deal less – though here again the rule that “you get what you pay for” is even more in force. Research any above-ground pool supplier carefully and makes sure you contact both old and new customers to get the low down on reliability, maintenance and general satisfaction. The trend in above ground pools is, at the high end, towards near in-ground quality and especially, appearance, with elaborate decking and other features designed to incorporate the pool into the overall landscape. If local trends indicate that an in-ground pool will not add significantly to the value of your property, you might want to save money on a quality above-ground model that can actually go with you should you decide to move. There are also somewhat less expensive in-ground models designed with liners of plastic or fiberglass similar to above ground pools – these have fewer available features but have the advantage of being somewhat “temporary” in situations where expense, cosmetic and other considerations might dictate against an above ground or more traditional in ground pool. Here again, let your research be your guide, and make sure that you interview a variety of both contractors and customers to see if such a pool will meet your needs. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge


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APRIL 23, 2010

Money saving tips when remodeling by Heidi Serven Preparing a remodeling project takes a lot more than determining your style and selecting a color scheme. Even if you do know exactly what you want to do, the options you choose may inflate the price much more than you can reasonably afford. There are ways to stretch your budget and end up with stellar results, at a cost you can afford.

she may be able to provide design alternatives or cost saving options. Be sure to make your choices based on value and quality rather than just price. To create a more manageable project, divide the work into several jobs instead of one large job. Keep in mind that by staging a remodel in phases, you will likely end up paying more money in the long run.

Getting Started The first and most important step is to find a professional contractor for your remodeling job. Hire someone who is familiar with building codes in your area. Start by planning ahead. Choose everything you want to include in the new room(s). This will define your budget and prevent costly decisions later on. Include all your product and material selections in a contract to ensure that you’ll stay on task. Include specifics like model, size and color, so there is no question about what you intended. It is recommended to save 10 to 20 percent of your budget to allow for additions or changes to your plan. When choosing new products for your remodeling project you should compare prices carefully before making a final decision. When discussing ideas and options with your contractor keep and open mind. He or she may suggest a design concept that you hadn’t considered that may prove to be more space friendly and cost effective. Be upfront and honest with your contractor about your budget. He or

General Remodeling Tips Be creative. There are often various ways to accomplish the design and style you are looking for. Ask for feedback from people who have recently remodeled or discuss options with your contractor. If he or she doesn’t have the answers you’re looking for, seek out other resources. The best cost saving technique in remodeling is to change the appearance of a room without altering its structure. A new coat of paint or color change can make a dramatic difference to a room and is much more cost effective than adding or removing walls. When possible keep existing window locations. Moving windows locations can be very expensive. Find Your Space Adding square footage to a home remodel will add significant dollars to your projects cost. One alternative is to capture space from a neighboring room. This is called “space reconfiguration”. You can create more space using optical illusions. There are many decorating ideas to make a small room appear larger than it is.

When adding square feet you will have to consider issues such as the need for excavation, adding foundation and the possibility of revamping the heating/cooling system to accommodate additional space.

lamp sockets. Don’t be scared off by the initial increase of fluorescent over incandescent bulbs. The new bulbs will last much longer, saving you more money in the long run.

Do It Yourself Decorating Select neutral colors and fixtures, appliances and laminates. They are less expensive initially and will withstand color trend changes. Standard colors are also less expensive than their custom counterparts. Good floor covering is essential for any room. Shop around and ask questions to familiarize yourself with the prices of the various floor materials for your home. Use existing flooring if it is still in good condition. When replacing vinyl flooring, there may be hardwood underneath, which could be refinished. If you want to update your current vinyl flooring you can install a synthetic floor leveler over the top and lay the new, rather than tearing the old flooring out.

Smart Thermostats Consider the addition of an programmable thermostat. Your savings will depend on the climate you live and the season. Advantages of the automatic system are that it will work from preprogrammed settings, meaning you won’t need to worry about remembering to set back the temperature for times when you’ll be gone and the temperatures will be set comfortably when you get home or wake up.

Consider Long Term Savings As you remodel consider energy savings ideas that will provide you with more for less money. Fluorescent Lighting Replace old fashion light bulbs with fluorescent lighting. Energy costs are 50 to 70 percent less, with bulbs lasting 10 to 20 times longer. There is a wide selection of fluorescent lights to fit your standard

Save Water By replacing your old showerhead with a new efficient model you will use up to 15 to 50 percent less water. This will result in a saving in your water bill and energy bill for heating the water. Wash in Cold When doing laundry, wash your clothes in cold water. If you have an old machine that can’t be made to use just cold, you can turn off the hot water faucet that connects to your washing machine. By carefully planning for a remodel, you will be able to accurately plan your budget and come up with creative and cost effective ways to save space and costs. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge

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APRIL 23, 2010

Putting a new roof on your home by Della Serene When a roof starts to show signs of disrepair, homeowners pay for it financially and by being inconvenienced. The cost of heating goes up and drains the pocketbook. In winter, when icicles drape from the roof, there is heat escaping through the roof. Adding insulation may be a solution but may not always be enough. When the icicles melt, the water can be trapped under the shingles and leak into the attic through the ceiling and into the house. When leaks start to appear, the water spots are unsightly inside the house and catching the dripping water can be a hassle. It is never fun to come home and find standing water on the floor. Rain and melting snow can also cause leaks if the roof is not in tip-top shape. While leaking is a good indication that a roof needs to be replaced, there are other, less obvious signs.

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APRIL 23, 2010


out, a trip to a building supply store or lumberyard is the next order of business. Sometimes, a new layer of shingles will correct the problem if the sheathing is still in good shape. Check the local ordinances in your area. Some building codes dictate no more than two layers of shingles on a roof. There are several types and colors of shingles on the market. People that work in lumberyards and at building supply stores are very knowledgeable in this area and will be able to give you options to help you decide the best materials for you to use. When putting on the roof, you’ll need a ladder, hammer, nails and something to cover the roof in case of adverse weather if it is going to take a few days or the weather report predicts rain. Electric nailers can be rented and will generally make the job go faster. They are also good to use if you have a problem with carpal tunnel or your wrists in general. It takes some of the repetition of pounding nails away. Renting a truck or dumpster is also a good idea. Handling the old shingles once is efficient. If they can be thrown directly into a waiting receptacle rather than on the ground, then into a truck, it will save a lot of frustration and work. A trip to the local dump will be in order

to discard the used materials. Proper ventilation is vital if you want your roof to last. While it is a benefit to insulate the attic to keep heat from escaping, it is also important to allow an avenue for hot, moist air to escape. That is where roof vents come in. If the house cannot breathe, it will be too tight and the wood will buckle and become unglued sooner. “Louvered vents are placed high at each gable end through can vents placed high on the roof, or a continuous ridge vent. Ridge vents are more efficient than can vents, because they get less snow in them and are better camouflaged,” said Jeff Petrucci in an article written by Martha Salij of the Detroit Free Press. Soffit vents and drip-edge venting can also be used. A soffit is under the overhang. Houses with narrow eaves do not accommodate soffit vents well. In that case, drip-edge venting is a better option. It is a system that combines guttering with ventilation, according to the article. Spending a weekend on the roof and investing for the future by replacing the roof will save time and frustration in the future. It is a good investment and a much-needed repair that will improve the home and save money in the long run. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge


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APRIL 23, 2010

Innovative designs for outdoor living by Curt Hagedorn “Outdoor Living” used to mean a Weber Kettle, a picnic table and a yard big enough to set up croquet or a badminton net. The yard was often surrounded by a chain link fence under-planted with annuals and with, at most, a birdbath providing a focal point. Though these are still the bare essentials for many Americans, a trip to your local home store, discount emporium or garden center will open your eyes to a world where “outdoor living” means creating any number of family living areas out of doors. These may include living rooms, recreation rooms, kitchens and even baths. Just about any indoor activity can now be undertaken out of doors, and with as much attention to style, comfort and convenience as homeowners demand inside their houses with as much variety in pricing. Well planned outdoor living spaces and amenities can add a great deal of pleasure to day to day living, and can also significantly increase the value of your home as more and more buyers view features like privacy fencing, patios and decks, spas, lighting, professional landscaping, etc. as necessary pluses when purchasing a home. What follows is a list of some of the more desirable

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APRIL 23, 2010


innovations in design and products. The traditional utilitarian chain link fence, designed to keep dogs and children in and strangers out, has given way to structures that provide the same “boundary keeping” but add additional privacy and beauty. While backyards and patios are often ringed by 6 to 8 foot tall privacy fencing, available in a variety of woods from pine to cedar to redwood that can be painted or stained, a new and welcome development at your local hardware store or home warehouse is vinyl fencing components and “kits” in a variety of styles and colors. These may include traditional white-picket fencing, colonial post and rail and other designs that provide both style and function for front as well as rear yards. Look for mix and match combinations of posts, rails, pickets, decorative finials or “post-tops” and gates. Vinyl fencing is often less expensive (though somewhat less sturdy) than wood fencing and requires little to no maintenance. Installation, while not a snap if done correctly (think post-hole digging and mixing and pouring of concrete footings) is easier than wood or metal fencing and is definitely a do-it-yourself possibility. Remember to check local regulations and to have your property lines determined by a professional surveyor before any major fencing project. The trend for these outdoor living spaces is in multiples and levels, as well as for some “retro” designs like wraparound porches and upper level balconies on certain styles of homes. Basically, the fine American tradition that “more is more” rules here. The “deck off the family room” has turned into decks with either a roof or protective awning, or even screens and removable storm windows to transform it for three season use. A patio for sunning, or adjacent to a spa or pool may supplement this outdoor room. The master suite may also boast its own private patio, deck, balcony or porch. These are usually fenced for privacy and may also include amenities like a spa, lap pool or outdoor shower. Depending upon the


home design and amount of space, decks and patios may also be divided, often visually by flooring or shelter, into areas for working out, relaxing, entertaining and cooking. Elaborate kitchen installations are now available that are basically a “plug and play” purchase with the assistance of your local home supplier and electric or gas grill, cook top, smoke vent, refrigeration, prep areas and storage in a dizzying array of finishes and styles all come together. Your outdoor kitchen may be defined by an awning or lean-to roof and be surrounded by a bar area just like your kitchen inside. Some of these elaborate set-ups are freestanding. Others, particularly those requiring water or including icemaker, require plumbing and wiring, which you should figure into your budget. Another big idea in outdoor living areas is the outdoor fireplace. These are often designed with a mantle and chimney just like a regular fireplace for atmosphere and taking the chill off the night air. Portable fire pits and ceramic “chimneas” (basically a gourd-shaped firepot and chimney combination) are also available, as are newly popular outdoor heating systems that can render a dinner party outside amidst new falling snow positively toasty. Again, it’s important that you check with your local buildings department for the proper permits before any large scale deck or patio project, and that you hire appropriate, licensed contractors for any electrical or plumbing work. Outdoor lighting now also comes in a wide range of styles and designed for a wide range of uses. Low voltage lighting for walkways and to highlight planting areas has become positively ubiquitous, provides a lot of visual bang for the buck and is easy to install yourself. New features include individual lights with solar cells that store energy during the day, and come on automatically at night. Post lights and other more permanent lighting features now come in more styles and colors than just plain “black and brass colonial,” and often incorporate security and convenience features like automatic night/day illumination, timers



and motion detection. Your local gas and electric company often will feature a variety of the most up-todate, energy saving models and even offer deals on installation. Outdoor furniture and other “moveables” are now offered in enough styles to satisfy the most compulsive decorator. In addition to the traditional patio umbrella, other forms of moveable shelters like cabanas are becoming more popular and available, so that no matter what the weather, your chips and your guests will both stay dry. Awnings are also becoming more sophisticated, made out of both canvas, metal and vinyl slats and often incorporating both motorized operation and even light sensors that will automatically lower your awning when the sun swings into view. Also becoming more popular outdoors are items like wireless speakers that bring your indoor sound outside. Some are designed to look like rocks to be placed unobtrusively among plantings. Decorative elements such as birdbaths, pergolas, trellises and screens all feature variety from easy care vinyl to elaborate custom constructions of cast iron, steel and stone. Finally, don’t forget the garden in your garden. “Planters” based on the “raised bed” or “Square Foot” gardening concept, incorporated into both decks and patios are newly popular, offering homeowners the opportunity to grow herbs and vegetables under ideal conditions and right next to their outdoor kitchens, where a handful of branches from a convenient rosemary bush make an ideal sauce brush for barbecued chicken and some peppers, zucchinis, tomatoes and other summer favorites can be picked and tossed right on the grill. Key to the success of these raised beds located in full sun are widely available irrigation systems, installed before planting, which work on a timer and make consistent watering automatic instead of a chore. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge


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by Curt Hagedorn We’ve all seen the advertisements on television for “free” home security systems, and we’ve all wondered whether or not, in these changing times, such a system might be right for our home. The answer for most of us is yes. Home security systems can help deter theft, provide more favorable insurance rates and protect our families and possessions not only from crime but also fire, smoke, carbon monoxide, water and other threats. However, since the security of your family is involved, purchasing a home security system is not to be entered into lightly. There are basically two types of security available to homeowners. One of which might be described as an “alarm” system and the other that involves contracting with a security company for “monitoring.” An alarm system relies on the homeowner or neighbors to respond an audio/visual signal such as a siren or flashing lights, indicating any breach in the system from a broken window to a tripped smoke alarm. These are sometimes available with bedside “panic” buttons to sound the alarm and/or automatically dial 911. Monitored security means that a local or regional security operator will notify local authorities and in some cases also contact the homeowner directly. Since the reliability of monitoring is key to these systems, you should definitely contact both your local police and fire departments for recommendations, your Better Business Bureau and the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association to see if your potential security provider is certified. Once you’ve decided on the type of system most appropriate for you, the components are relatively similar. Some are designed to protect the perimeter of your property, others are designed to detect unauthorized ingress to your home at various points, and still others are designed to notify authorities of a variety of other potential hazards, from smoke and fire to carbon monoxide to leaking pipes. The incorporation of home automation into security systems also now makes it possible for your total security system to turn lights and heating and cooling devices on and off. Some companies now offer message centers where even non-emergency messages can be left and transmitted to other family members or designated parties. Of course, the cost of such systems can range from the most basic low cost up front or free system to more sophisticated systems. A system that has little or no up front costs is paid with a monitoring contract. The security company makes up their cost for the system with your monthly monitoring fees. Fees based upon the length of your contract can range from approximately $1,200 per year and up. If you are looking for a reduction in your insurance rates to pay part of that cost, make sure you check in advance with your home insurer as to what is required for the rate reduction. A basic hardwired non-monitored system, which may cost $250 to $500, usually will include a control panel, keypad, magnetic sensors for windows and doors (in limited number) a battery backup in case of a power failure and a siren. If “panic” features are included, the system is wired into your phone lines, an additional dedicated line may be required. Additions to the system (costing between $25 to

APRIL 23, 2010


$50 and up for each device, include vibration or “broken glass” sensors, motion detectors and motion detecting lighting for both outside and inside the home. Other additions includes smoke and carbon monoxide detectors wired into the system, sprinkler systems (most commonly located in the kitchen. You can also add closed circuit television monitoring for both the homeowner and security company. Various temperature detectors can be installed to consistently monitor excess heat or cold – helping to avoid expensive malfunctions to heating and cooling systems, potential fire or frozen pipes. Other features include remote control – some feature solenoids that can lock or unlock doors and windows – and paging systems whereby, with the touch of a button, you can be notified when your child arrives home from school. Features can even allow a child or elderly family member to page you or other designated parties from home with the touch of a button. These “one-touch” operations are becoming increasingly popular as systems become more user or family friendly – even young children can be taught how to use the system effectively. Two-way monitoring is also relatively new. Think of it as a speakerphone hotline directly from the security company to your home. Once an alarm has been tripped or a “panic” button pressed, you can speak directly to the security service through the control

panel. Again, this is particularly useful for small children, the disabled or elderly when they are home alone. With the rise in home automation, many security systems now can also be wired into your personal computer, along with features like houselights, garage door, automatic drapes and other window coverings, sprinkler systems, even major appliances and home audio/visual systems. You computer can help your house mimic that “lived in” look even if you are gone for an extended period of time. In the end, no matter how elaborate your home security system is, remember to learn and follow the simple rules provided by most local police and fire departments. Make sure you have adequate means of egress, including portable fire ladders for upper floors, make sure you have a family plan and meeting place for exiting the house in case of fire or other emergency. Also, make sure that, whatever system you buy, everyone in the family knows its features and knows how to operate it at least to the point of notifying authorities of a problem. If you’re gone on a long trip, stop the delivery of your newspaper, mail and other deliveries. Make sure all your outdoor lighting and bulbs are working and up to date. Also notify your local police and neighbors that you will be out of town or that teenagers or elderly relatives are home alone. Copyright © 2010 Publishers-Edge


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APRIL 23, 2010

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Spring Home Improvement  

Spring Home Improvement suggestions and information from the Denison Bulletin & Review.

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