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Real Estate Weekly

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Tips for novice composters Food scraps and yard waste account for between 20 and 30 percent of what we throw away. But thanks to composting, such waste can be put to work rather than discarded. Compost is organic material that helps plants grow when added to soil. Benefitting the planet in myriad ways, compost enriches the soil by helping it retain moisture. Composting also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers while also suppressing plant diseases and pests. In addition, when homeowners compost, they inadvertently reduce methane emissions from landfills, thereby lowering their carbon footprints. Homeowners who do not know how to compost can consider the following tips as they start compost piles on their properties. • Choose an accessible spot on your property. When looking for a spot on your property for your compost bin, choose a location that’s easily accessible. The less accessible the bin is, the less likely you are to stick with composting over the long-term. Placing a compost bin or pile in a dry, shady spot near a water source. • Add the appropriate materials. Animal waste, cooked foods, diseased plants, and fresh weeds from perennial plants should not be added to a

compost pile. Moistening dry materials as they’re added and adding brown and green materials as they are collected. Examples of green waste include grass clippings, weeds from annual plants and plant trimmings. Brown materials include dead leaves and shredded cardboard. Chop or shred large pieces before adding them to the pile. • Give the pile structure. Layering materials can give compost piles better structure. The EPA suggests burying fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material, including brown and green waste. • Turn and aerate the pile. Using a garden fork, periodically turn the compost pile. This aerates the heap and provides oxygen that can accelerate the decomposition of the pile. Piles that are not periodically turned and aerated may grow malodorous, which can be unpleasant for homeowners who hope to add materials to their piles on a regular basis. In addition, without the heat produced by aeration, composting piles will break down very slowly. • Recognize when the material is ready. The EPA notes that compost is ready to use when materials at the bottom of a pile are dark and rich in color. According to the EPA, this can take anywhere from two months to two years, so composters must be patient.


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Real Estate Weekly

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Real Estate Weekly

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www.pgcitizen.ca | Saturday, November 10, 2018

Lighting is a key component of curb appeal Curb appeal can affect prospective buyers’ perception of a home. When addressing curb appeal, homeowners may be inclined to focus on features that are easily seen from the street during the day. But what can a homeowner do to improve on his or her home’s nighttime aesthetic? Outdoor lighting is one aspect of curb appeal that is often overlooked, advises the home improvement experts at The Spruce. Homeowners may fail to recognize the importance of how proper illumination can provide their homes with a warm glow and make it look beautiful after the sun has set. For example, think of how cozy and inviting neighborhoods appear during the holiday season when homes are strung with twinkling lights. Homeowners can replicate that look all year long with lighting elements. Lighting for evening hours also helps maintain a safe environment for people who are visiting the property. Illuminating walkways and doorways provides a clearly visible and safe path to and from the home. The following are a few ways to improve outdoor lighting. • Focus on architectural features. Outdoor lighting can focus on the external features of the home’s

architectural style. Use light to draw attention to interesting gables, dramatic roof lines, dormers, or curved entryways. • Play up landscaping. Stylish lighting can highlight trees, shrubs, pathways, gardens, and all of the elements of softscapes and hardscapes on a property. The lighting experts at Vernon Daniel Associates say that soft lighting can make homes feel warm and cozy. Uplighting trees or other elements can add a dramatic effect. • Light up all doors. Make sure that doors, both entry and garage, are properly lit for ease of entry and egress from the home. Safety.com, a home and personal security resource, says a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the United States. Installing motion-activated lights or lights on timers can deter break-ins. Consider using home automation to control porch lights and other outdoor lights remotely, if necessary. • Create entertaining areas. Outdoor lighting can be used to extend the hours residents can spend outside. This is great for entertaining and can be an excellent selling point. Homeowners are urged not to overlook outdoor lighting as a vital part of their plan to improve curb appeal.


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Real Estate Weekly

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Tips for finding a home services provider Homeowners who are good with their hands can tackle many minor home improvements on their own. However, more complicated projects often require the services of professional contractors to ensure the renovations are done right, completed on time and within budget. Choosing a home services provider requires careful consideration on the part of homeowners. The wrong contractor can cost homeowners time and money, so homeowners must exercise due diligence when vetting contractors before going forward with a home improvement project. Types of contractors The Federal Trade Commission notes that the scope of a project may necessitate hiring various types of contractors. The more complex a project is, the more likely it is that homeowners will need to hire contractors who specialize in certain areas. Understanding the differences between contractors can help homeowners make informed decisions. • General contractor: General contractors manage home improvement projects. This includes hiring subcontractors and supervising their work. General contractors also secure building permits and schedule inspections. • Specialty contractors: Specialty contractors focus on specific areas of a project. For example, homeowners who are remodeling their kitchens may need new cabinets installed by a contractor who specializes in cabinets and cabinet installation. That contractor is a specialty contractor.

• Designer or design/build contractor: The FTC notes that these contractors both design and build projects. • Architects: Architects design homes as well as any additions or major renovations to homes. Architects are often necessary when projects involve structural changes to existing homes. Hiring a home services provider Once homeowners determine which type of contractor they need, they can they begin researching local professionals. • Speak with neighbors, family and friends. Neighbors, family members and friends who have worked with contractors in the past are great resources. Seek recommendations from people you trust, even asking to see completed projects if possible. • Utilize the internet. Websites such as HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List are free of charge and can be great resources when homeowners are looking for contractors. Each site includes reviews of contractors from past customers and contact information for local contractors. • Confirm qualifications. The FTC advises homeowners to confirm contractors’ licensing and qualifications before hiring anyone. Some areas may not require licensing, but many do. Homeowners can contact their local building department or consumer protection agency to determine the licensing requirements for their area. Hiring a home services provider is a complicated process that can be made easier by homeowners who do their research and take the decision seriously.


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Protect your home (and more) from winter’s freeze Freezing temperatures may be good for ice skating or building snowmen, but sub-freezing temperatures can be dangerous for the average person and his or her home. Cold weather often leaves people scurrying to do whatever is necessary to safeguard themselves from the big chill. But it’s important homeowners also protect their homes in cold weather. Plumbing Plumbing and pipes may be vulnerable to cold weather. Frozen pipes may burst and cause substantial damage to a home, potentially causing flooding and structural damage. Homeowners should disconnect and drain garden hoses before winter arrives. Water to outdoor hose bibs should be turned off, though the valves on these outdoor faucets should be left open to drain. Also, outdoor faucets can be covered with insulating foam covers. The Red Cross says pipes that freeze most frequently include pipes in unheated areas, such as basements, attics, garages, and crawl spaces. Close vents to the outside in areas like attics and basements to limit the amount of cold air that gets indoors. Think about insulating unheated areas, as well as using pipe sleeves, heat tape or wraps on exposed pipes.

By opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors, homeowners can allow warm air from a home to reach pipes under the sink. During extreme freezes, keep cold water dripping from a sink to prevent pipes from freezing. Service HVAC systems It’s important to ensure that heating systems are working properly prior to the coldweather season. It may only take hours for the interior of a home to reach dangerously low temperatures without adequate heat. Homeowners should schedule annual checkups of furnaces and hot water heaters. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter and make sure all thermostats are working properly. Have fuel ready Homeowners who heat their homes with oil, wood or coal should make sure they have plenty of fuel on hand in advance of winter. Shortages can occur, and it may take some time for new fuel to arrive in the midst of a cold snap. As a precaution, homeowners can rely on portable space heaters to fill in the heating gaps during freezing temperatures. Exercise extreme caution with these devices, turning them off when leaving the room and remembering to avoid overloading outlets. Protect outside Drain birdbaths, clean out downspouts and remove water from other items where water can freeze and cause damage. Inspect roofing prior to the snowy season, but stay off roofs during freezing weather. Remove snow shovels and other winter gear from storage and make sure the items are easily accessible during snowstorms. Winter’s bite can be severe. Homeowners can protect themselves and their properties when the freeze sets in.


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Salmonella is ‘no yolk’ when raising backyard chickens City dwellers and suburbanites have flown the coop, so to speak. A growing interest in raising chickens has enabled coops and nesting birds to spring up in neighborhoods one would not typically associate with chickens. Sometimes dubbed “urban homesteading” or “urban farming,” these homegrown operations enable people to enjoy fresh eggs from the comfort of home. Henhouses are just another extension of methods to reap the benefits of fresh, local and nonfactory-produced foods. Although advocates insist that raising chickens on a small scale makes the birds less likely to carry disease than factory-farmed chickens, anyone raising chickens needs to be aware of the potential for disease — particularly salmonella. Also, it’s important to care for chickens in a manner that is humane and in line with local laws. What is salmonella? Salmonella is a common bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of humans, other mammals and some birds, including chickens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths are attributed to salmonella annually in the United States. The illness causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection and can last between four and seven days. Salmonella can cause death when not properly treated with antibiotics. Spreading salmonella Although humans cannot catch salmonella from chickens the way one would contract a cold, they can catch it through handling or consuming eggs of infected birds. The rural newsletter and farming resource Grit says salmonella can then be transmitted to humans who eat improperly cooked meat or eggs from infected birds or from putting their hands in your mouths after touching chickens or eggs that have come in contact with contaminated rodent or chicken feces.

The elderly, people with weakened immune systems and young children are at the highest risk for salmonella infection than others. Children who help gather eggs and do not thoroughly wash their hands afterward can be at increased risk. Reducing risk Maintaining clean conditions and routinely inspecting chickens for good health can help lower the risk of salmonella infection. Chicks and adult chickens that have salmonella may produce loose yellow or green droppings; have a drop in egg production, increased thirst and decreased feed consumption; and show signs of weight loss. Look for rodents in the henhouse, as infected mice or other small rodents may transmit salmonella as well. Chickens also need safe, roomy clean conditions to remain healthy and content. According to the resource MyPetChicken, a diet of whole grains and seeds also may be associated with decreased salmonella colonies. Some experts warn against washing eggs as a preventative method. According to a report written by Diane Schivera, an organic livestock specialist for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, thoroughly cleaning egg shells can remove a protective “bloom” that prevents bacteria from entering eggs. Eggs shouldn’t be scrubbed, but some suggest a warm water rinse that will push dirt away from the shell’s pores. Old eggs are more susceptible to bacteria penetration. Storing eggs at room temperature may cause them to degrade faster. Once eggs are gathered, individuals should wash their hands and make sure the eggs are chilled. Salmonella can be prevented in backyard chicken coops. Plus, it’s important to note that risk of infection is very small. The American Egg Board’s Egg Safety reference says an average consumer might encounter a contaminated egg once every 84 years.


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