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Chimney caps, yes or no?

Our home inspector recommended that we install a chimney cap on the older home that we are buying.

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Q Our home inspector recommended that we install a chimney cap on the older home that we are buying. The chimney has not had a cap in it’s 60 plus year life, so why put one on now?

A In my practice as a home inspector, I always recommend the installation of chimney caps. Chimney caps serve a variety of purposes. They keep animals such as birds, squirrels and rodents from entering the chimney and in some cases the crawl space. A 60 year old home may have had an oil-fired furnace in the crawl space or basement which would have been vented through the chimney. The vent pipe opening provides direct access for critters. It is not unusual for rodents to crawl down through the chimney into the crawlspace seeking a warm place to nest. Chimney caps also keep out rain and debris such as leaves that can collect in the flu. Chimney caps also serve as spark arresters. Most caps are not expensive, and your local chimney sweep can recommend the one that is best for your chimney.

SELLING YOUR HOME? USE THESE TIPS!

Increase The Curb Appeal Of Any House.

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Clean up the outside.

  • Curb appeal is the first impression of your house. Keeping the grass cut and the area tidy will help make a great first impression.
  • Paint or wash the exterior of the house (including window casings, shutters, and doors).
  • Wash the windows inside and out.
  • Check the gutters and chimney.

Increase The Curb Appeal Of Any House. Simple, low-cost curb appeal and house makeover improvements that anyone can do in a weekend. Or, there are many landscaping companies that can help with the job if time is an issue.

Touch up the interior.

  • Put a fresh coat of paint in the most used areas of the home. This will clean as well as brighten up the rooms.
  • Wash the walls where paint is not appropriate (i.e. wall paper, paneling).
  • Wash all floors and bathroom tiles.
  • Shampoo dirty carpets.
  • Get rid of clutter. Clean out your closets, garage, basement, and attic. Use shelf storage if necessary.
  • Replace air filters to help keep the dust down.

Replace bathroom and kitchen fixtures that are worn or leaking.

  • People will notice a leaking or worn-out faucet. By replacing these items, you will give a new look to the room.
  • Clean under the sinks. If there are any leaks, fix them. Then clean up the damage using contact paper or paint.

Home Improvement Contractor. Find and research local contractors, and get free no obligation quotes on your home improvement projects.

Get rid of any bad smells in your home.

  • Pay attention to pet or cigarette odors.
  • Place scented potpourri around the house.
  • On the day you're expecting a potential buyer, pop a batch of frozen cinnamon rolls, home-made bread, or an apple pie into the oven for a great aroma.

Home Improvement TV Shows

When it comes to home improvement projects, visual examples can teach volumes. Thus enters home improvement television.

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When it comes to home improvement projects, visual examples can teach volumes. Thus enters home improvement television. These TV shows have been around for over two decades and recently there has been an increase in the number of these shows available. However, viewers be savvy, some of the new shows are more interested in entertainment than thorough craftsmanship. Loosely grouped, there are two styles of home improvement television: Classic - shows based on a model that details and examines craftsmanship and the tools craftsmen use; and Entertaining - shows that focus on the entertaining their audience with quick flashy project run-throughs that end in "before and after" snapshots. What follows is a quick review and guide to some popular home improvement television shows and their web sites. ________________________________ Contents: Introduction Part I: Professional Home Improvement Television - Web Site Summaries & Links Part II: Entertaining Home Improvement Television - Web Site Summaries & Links Conclusion & More Programs ________________________________ Part I: Classic Home Improvement Television The Classic home improvement television shows are based on a more traditional model of a television show that concentrates on craftsmanship and itemizes the details for many of the toughest home improvement projects. Viewers gain confidence that they can build the home they want or remodel that old home with personality. These educational programs are some of the longest running home improvement television shows; perhaps the classic model speaks for their longevity. The formula for these shows usually includes: knowledgeable host or hosts, experienced and professional crews, the best or the latest tools and/or materials and finally, a large project that spans over many episodes. This Old House is probably one of the most famous and longest running of the home improvement shows (this year is the show's 25th anniversary!). This program covers two major projects every year. During the larger projects, smaller projects are shown in detail and the latest tools and materials are examined. This Old House encourages homeowners to be creative and see the potential in their property. However, this program still utilizes the use of professional crews. This should not be lost on the viewer; if you are tackling a whole home makeover, it is best not to do it alone. Even the hosts of this show bring in outside experts to show them particular stages of the project. This Old House does demystify the renovation process and provides the homeowner with an inside look to what contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other building professionals do for various home improvement projects. This program gives the homeowner the confidence to hire and work with professional craftsmen on their dream home. Whereas This Old House examines home improvement on the larger scale, its recent counterpart, Ask This Old House, has the smaller do-it-yourself projects in mind. Most of the same crew from This Old House run this show as well: general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook. Here they showcase their individual strengths and use the host of both shows, Kevin O'Connor, as their Guinea Pig and/or punch line. The jokes can be rather quirky and there a few groaners mixed in; however, the information that comes from this show is professional, thorough and easy to follow. The main scheme of the show is to answer questions that come from their viewers. They may answer questions in their studio or as a house call. The house call really illustrates how one may become a do-it-yourselfer as these gentlemen always make the homeowners get their hands dirty. Many times the homeowner does most of the project or completes it themselves after the foundation and technique are covered. This show also takes time to showcase the latest tools and materials. The short segment of 'What Is It?' challenges all the hosts to identify odd tools that can be used in home repair/improvement (enter the quirky jokes). Overall, this classic program gives homeowners a real thorough run-through on some common home repairs and improvements. Another show that uses the classic method approach to home improvement is Hometime. This show again tackles larger projects and showcases individual aspects of those projects. Viewers are encouraged to try home improvement projects but educate themselves first. Projects are covered in detail with tools and materials discussed. The techniques for completing the project are covered in detail as well. This serves to give the viewer a good knowledge base. There are only two aspects for viewers to keep in mind about this program. First, many of these projects work with a professional crew; however, the crew is not showcased. Instead the hosts spotlight most of the projects themselves. Many tasks highlighted can be completed by individual homeowners. However, because the professional crews are not as highlighted, some viewers might be mislead about the amount of work they will have to complete on their own. Second, viewer questions and projects are not answered individually. Instead, viewers may send in videos of projects they have completed which may or may not have been inspired by the show. Neither of these aspects are detrimental to the knowledge provided by this program. Hometime has been around for 19 years, it obviously has a format that works for educating viewers about home improvement. Home Again, hosted by Bob Vila, is another classic program that examines craftsmanship in home improvement. Similar to This Old House, which Bob Vila hosted from 1979-1989, this program covers roughly two major projects per season. Parts of the projects are shown in greater detail to showcase craftsmanship and/or technique. The professional crews that complete the large projects are at the forefront and the various specialists are interviewed throughout the show to help explain why they do a tasks a certain way, use this particular material, etc. This show again strives to educate the homeowner and encourage them to think of the possibilities for their home. As quoted from Bob Vila's site, he encourages the homeowner by letting them know, "You CAN build what you want. You CAN revive an older house to suit your personality. You CAN give your family more space. You CAN express your individuality through color and style…as long as you have the knowledge to use what works!" Thus, this show provides both knowledge and encouragement to the homeowner looking for home improvement help. These are only a few examples of the Classic home improvement shows on television. These shows are aimed at educating the viewer in the use of tools, types of materials available and the nitty-gitty facts about how to get some complex tasks done. It would be difficult to cover all the shows here. At the end of this article is included a list of more home improvement television shows and their web sites, take time to check them out and you might find a new favorite! Classic Home Improvement: Web Site Summaries & Links Same order as article. This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/ This show has been around for 25 years. On the main site you may see current or classic projects where the crew has worked on renovating and building homes inside and out. This show is not about quick fixes and flashy facades. Instead this show details good craftsmanship and the latest materials on the market to renovate a home meant to last. The web site does have web cams of current projects in the making. To check one out click here. Ask This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tvprograms/asktoh A fun offshoot of This Old House is Ask This Old House. Although the humor is a bit quirky, there is great information for small home improvements and repairs. The show is great if you can catch it. Like all the other home improvement shows you can use the web site to get more detailed information about certain products or services highlighted in the show. However, if you want to look at the detailed how to information, you will have to subscribe to the magazine. Have a question of your own? You may send a question directly to them online. This question may be answered on the television show or in the magazine. Hometime www.hometime.com This site has project advice, information about the show and a variety of products to help you with all your project needs. Also find lists of vendors and their contact information for materials you see used on the show. The how-to tutorials on the web site are basic, however, they do offer more free information than many of the other home improvement shows. Check out the archives to find past episodes that relate to your own projects. Copies of programs can be bought and usually cover one individual tutorial or the whole series related to construction of one house project. This show is interested in the thorough education of its viewers and avoids quick fixes. However do not expect individual attention to your particular project; this show does illustrate how projects (i.e. tiling a bathroom) are done but does not tackle individual, viewer submitted homes/projects. There is a chance to submit video of your own projects as examples of creative improvements and modeling; to find out more click here. Home Again www.bobvila.com/BVTV/HomeAgain/ This web site provides a summary of each project. Also included are materials used and information to find vendors. A selection of video clips are available online to view segments of the show. These video clips are some of the most thorough and helpful out there on the web. It is a great way to catch bits of the show you missed. The entire project on video is available for purchase as well. Check around to the rest of Bob Vila's site, he showcases other programs he has done such as his Guide to Historic Homes of America on A&E and Restore America on HGTV. Also, his site gives great home improvement information all around and is worth the exploration. Part II: Entertaining Home Improvement Television Entertaining home improvement shows have followed the trend in reality television. They are fast paced and include someone who is real (for lack of better definition); a real homeowner who has asked for help. The projects vary in size from one room or area of the home to the entire house itself. These shows strive to be different from the other shows causing some pretty wild and exciting projects. However, attention to details are not the strong point; in fact some shows are in such a hurry to meet the show deadline that the craftsmanship for the project can suffer. However, these shows do offer splashes of ideas and push viewers to be creative, to keep thinking "outside the box." Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a great example of entertaining home improvement. In this show the entire home and landscaping is made over. Professional crews have one week to makeover a home for deserving families that really need drastic improvements to their home because of a major life event. The show provides small hints on topics such as how to improve space or what can kind of add-ons can be done on certain homes. Each member of the design team takes the viewer through their area of the home and explains why certain things were done to improve the home. Most of the show covers the design aspect rather then the nitty-gritty of how the space was remodeled, walls taken out, etc. This show entertains the viewers showing them what home improvement can accomplish but it does little to give an actual foundation in any home improvement projects they may encounter. Another extreme makeover style show is Monster House. This show truly aims to push home improvement to the extreme. These homes are changed by a team into stylized theme homes; not theme parks, but pretty close! Those who volunteer to be on the show want a drastic remodel to their boring home. Be careful what you ask for! They get a home based off an interest or passion of theirs. This may include a roman villa retreat, a jurassic find or maybe even treating their dog to the ultimate doghouse! This show doesn't show too much on how too. There are a lot of ideas and you do get to watch some of the challenges the crew faces working on the home and with each other. An added bonus is the teams that work on the house vary. The teams must work together and under the time limit in order to receive prizes of their own. Entertaining to say the least! Home "improvement" is up to the viewer to decide. One of the most popular home improvement shows (and considered one of the reasons there are so many of theses shows today) is Trading Spaces. This show isn't traditional home improvement that learns how to fix plumbing or update wiring in an old home. This show is all about the surface elements. In the show two neighbors agree to renovate one room in the others home. With a limit in budget and time it is a mad dash to make renovations and add stylish design. One guest designer directs the project room for each house. Under their guidance, decorative and improvement features are added to the space. Sometimes there is a larger home improvement project involved, such as new flooring or counter tops. However, there is little detailed guidance to these projects and the neighborly teams just "go for it" as there is more concern for deadlines and looks than craftsmanship built to last. There are good aspects to this show as it has encouraged viewers to try new things and view their living space potential rather than limitations. The entertainment value is definitely there as the before and after on these projects are highly entertaining and the reactions of the homeowners are priceless. Finally, another example of an entertaining home improvement show is While You Where Out. In this program a family member sends a loved one away while they secretly renovate a part of the house for them. Like Trading Spaces, this show is more about design than classic home improvement. However, here the designers really look to please the family rather than shock them. In this way the homeowners really do a get a home improvement to their living space. However, due to budget and time constraints, many projects are done on the surface. Additions to the room that require intensive remodeling can unfortunately be rushed and given rough surface treatment. An extra human element is added to this show when loved ones must answer questions correctly to gain extra features for the redesign. This entertaining show can give viewers ideas but some of the rushed means-to-an-end should be viewed with caution. Entertaining home improvement shows have found a niche on television. They are fast paced and a final project is revealed for viewers in an hour or less. These shows do not illustrate traditional home improvement projects. They often cut corners or do surface fixes that are more concerned with appearance than lasting craftsmanship. Viewers should be careful not to be tricked into the "simplicity" of home improvement projects. However, these programs do offer encouragement to homeowners looking at tackling home improvement projects. In fact, these shows really encourage viewers to consider splashing their personality on the property they own. Homeowners are told not be afraid to try something new and push the conventional ideas they may have of what a home should look like. Entertaining Home Improvement: Web Site Summaries & Links Same order as article. Descriptions from show web site. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/ Put together one very run-down house, a deserving family, several opinionated designers, seven days and what do you get? The answer is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show's successful first season garnered an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Program. As this ratings-rich reality series enters its second season, each self-contained episode features a race against time on a project that would ordinarily take at least four months to achieve, involving a team of designers, contractors and several hundred workers who have just seven days to totally rebuild an entire house — every single room, plus the exterior and landscaping. Monster House http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/monsterhouse/ So. Tired of that same old living room? Well, you could slap a little paint on the walls, maybe. Or jazz things up with a brand-new throw rug. You might even slipcover that chewed-up old couch. Or ... you could call in Steve Watson and theMonster House crew. Sure, you and your family will have to move into an RV for a week and look on as a bunch of strangers tear apart everything you know and thought you didn't love. But remember: They have talents galore, sensitivity to your interests and an unlimited budget. Trading Spaces http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/tradingspaces/ Ever sit in someone's home and wonder what would happen if you stripped, ripped and painted as you pleased? Find out during this one-of-a-kind decorating show when two sets of neighbors swap keys to transform a room in each other's home. They have two days, a set budget, and they're not allowed back into their own homes until the moment of truth. This is how-to with a neighborly twist. While You Where Out http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/wywo/ ... a homeowner sneakily sends his or her partner, parent or roommate out of town for a couple of days as While You Were Out host Evan Farmer brings in a talented designer and two handy persons to work around the clock to create a new look for an indoor or outdoor space. Meanwhile, TLC surreptitiously videotapes the absent party during their getaway, gaining fodder for the pop-quiz portions of the show. Prizes are awarded based on the answers that could enhance the finished project — or not, depending on whether the at-home partner can correctly predict the answers of the partner who's "out." All of which leads to the big surprise at the end of each show, when the stunning transformation is revealed and the homeowner announces, "Look what happened While You Were Out!" Conclusion There are many home improvement television programs on the air these days. There are the classic style programs that concentrate on craftsmanship and the tools used for various home improvement projects. And there are the entertaining home improvement shows that showcase the human experience related to home projects. These entertainment programs show possibilities but relatively little know-how detail. Whichever style you prefer, there is plenty out there to choose from. If you still can't find enough there are now entire cable networks dedicated to the how-to market. These channels have plenty of home related programs to choose from. Before tackling the next home improvement project, sitting on the sofa watching TV might actually be a good place to start for education and inspiration! More Home Improvement Programs to Check Out (Descriptions provided by show web sites) American Home www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_hah05 American Home 2005 showcases innovations for the home that are so new they almost haven't happened yet. See the latest products and ideas, from materials to floor plans to appliances. Meet the builders, architects, designers and other experts who are setting the trends in the home industry. Before & After www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_baa Hosted by Pat Simpson, each episode profiles major home remodeling projects from start to finish. Past projects include turning a cramped 1950s concrete block home into a spacious New England summer home; adding a second story to a suburban ranch home from the '70s; and adding a wraparound deck to a '60s split-level. Before & After is all about turning eyesores into eye-openers. Do It Yourself Network TV www.diynet.com Again, for those of you that have cable, this station has a lot of different do-it-yourself projects and improvements for the house. Easily find all the shows that have aired pertaining to your project; you may even see when a particular project will air again. A lot of the show details from materials to individual steps are available online. For a complete list of shows go here: www.diynetwork.com/diy/pac_ctnt/text/0,2019,DIY_14161_16823,00.html DIY to the Rescue www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_dttr Got in over your head with a home improvement project? DIY to the Rescue can help finish the job! This special presentation from one of our sister networks, DIY Do It Yourself Network, brings in a team of experts to help real homeowners finish a problem project in around 48 hours. Fix It Up! www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_fix Do it yourself is the motto here, with a program that covers a wide range of self-help home projects. Topics range from tiling, refinishing projects and deck additions to landscaping and lawn care--and everything in between that today's do-it-yourself homeowner needs to know about. The early episodes are hosted by Pat Simpson and Amanda Rosseter, while newer episodes are hosted by Pat Simpson and Jodi Marks. Houselift http://home.discovery.com/fansites/houselift/houselift.html Houselift is a home remodeling show with a brand-new perspective — the homeowner's. Paul Hochman, the Today Show's gear expert, and his wife Tricia and their two children experience the fun, excitement, terror and tribulations every homeowner faces when they live through a major home construction project. Unvarnished, and with a healthy mix of humor and how-to, Houselift demystifies the home renovation process by putting Paul in the middle of the job. Each show features a key conflict and lots of learning for those considering a foray into this expensive, but ultimately rewarding, territory. Included in the mix are financial advisers, real estate agents, concrete experts and even a marriage counselor, who help Paul and Tricia through the process. Fun, engaging and educational, Houselift is a hit, literally in the making. In a Fix http://home.discovery.com/tuneins/inafix.html We know they mean well, those do-it-yourselfers. But what is that old saying about good intentions? The In A Fix team selects a home repair project that has gone terribly, shockingly wrong — gaping holes in ceilings and gutted kitchens. With a complicit spouse, In a Fix stages a dramatic "intervention" on the family handyman or woman in desperate need of help. During the hour, they not only fix the problem, they up the ante — a small fix becomes a major re-do. Michael Holigan's Your New Home www.michaelholigan.com Michael Holigan’s Your New House, seen on broadcast stations and cable by more than 2 million viewers every week. We promote tips and advice on how to build, buy and remodel the home through our TV show...serve as a source of expert advice and information for consumers on topics relating to: New home construction, The purchase and financing of new and existing homes, The purchase and financing of manufactured homes, Residential remodeling, Home improvement Renovate My Family http://www.fox.com/renovatemyfamily/ Hosted by best-selling author Jay McGraw, RENOVATE MY FAMILY is not just a home-improvement show - it's a life improvement program that visits families who have encountered some challenges along the way. Sell This House www.aetv.com/tv/shows/sell_this_house/ SELL THIS HOUSE™ gets inside the mind of the buyer and the heart of the seller with real life experiences and great advice on how to prepare your house for the market. Each week features homeowners desperate to sell and prospective buyers secretly videotaped as they express their observations upon first seeing the house. Enter a real estate and home decoration expert who recommends changes. In the end, the house is transformed (on a budget) and the buyers are brought back. Will the house sell? For how much? To whom? You'll learn the answers as participants experience the ups and downs of SELL THIS HOUSE™. Surprise by Design http://home.discovery.com/fansites/surprisebydesign/surprisebydesign.html As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. It also takes two — and a few willing friends and family members, if you want to get technical — when you've got a $2,500 budget and just one day to surprise someone with a redecorating or landscape project. That's where our dynamic design team of Rebecca Cole, Robert Verdi and Peter Gurski comes in. Toolbelt Diva http://media.home.discovery.com/fansites/toolbeltdiva/toolbeltdiva.html As the feisty host of Discovery Home Channel's new series Toolbelt Diva, Norma pairs up with female homeowners to tackle a variety of home-improvement projects. Toolbelt Diva proves that any woman can take on just about any home-improvement project, and it also has plenty of information and insight for the man of the house as well. Town Haul http://media.tlc.discovery.com/fansites/townhaul/townhaul.html In Town Haul, Gorder tackles the biggest challenge of her career. She's not just redesigning a living room, family room or bedroom, rather she's remodeling an entire town over the course of several weeks. In an eye-popping television event, she will oversee a team of skilled designers, carpenters and craftspeople as they work alongside townspeople to reimagine, repaint, repair and restore small towns across the United States. Weekend Warriors www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_war Weekend Warriors celebrates the do-it-yourself trend with a cinema-verite look at people planning, doing and completing weekend home-improvement projects. This series follows such do-it-yourselfers as apartment-dwellers, homeowners, couples, singles and families through the stages of a project to its successful (or even unsuccessful) completion. The focus is on the enthusiasm and the experience of the participants as they improve their home on their own.

The Cleaner Home

Make your home environmentally green

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The old days of harsh bleach and chemicals used to clean around the house are slowly fading out. Along with this trend is a desire of many consumers to adopt more environmentally friendly products for their home. This can be anything from the new countertops and floors to the groceries bought at the local supermarket. In addition to what you bring in (and take out) of your home, the maintenance of your home can is a way to become more green. According to the energysavers.gov website, "Americans spend more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool, light, and live" in their homes. Everyone may not try every option or may find their budget does not allow for all of the products available. However, a few home improvements and informed purchases can not only save you money in the long run, but these changes can also provide a healthier home for your family and the planet. Initially, all the options to create a greener home can be overwhelming. But some tasks are good home maintenance and a few only need to be done once. The headings below is just one way to break down some of the improvements and updates you may make to your home which will effect its impact and performance. Did we say performance? You bet! Making sure your home is running efficiently and smoothly is the number one way to helping the environment! How efficient is your home? Making your home work efficiently to keep you warm, cool and provide you with creature comforts is the perfect way to help other creatures of the world. Taking time to keep your home updated will help reduce the amount of energy you need and ultimately be easier on your wallet as well. Lighting: You can cut electricity costs by taking advantage of natural lighting and choosing carefully the lighting you purchase. Natural light is a great way to improve your home's efficiency. Skylights and easy to open window treatments can help you better regulate where you get your light during the day. Windows facing north and south can offer a great source of natural light and heat. West and east windows will offer light but may produce too much glare as the sun rises and sets. Choose your artificial lights carefully. Selecting a few accent lights and then a concentrated task light for an activity such as reading is a better alternative to lighting up every square inch of the room with florescent bulbs! Using environmentally efficient light bulbs can help reduce energy costs. However, research the bulbs you buy. Some may not work as well for task lighting. Others may not work with your older lamps and you may be better buying a new lighting fixture at the same time. Keep your artificial lights working at their best. Even the simple task of keeping your lamp shades free of dust can improve the light quality in your home. Windows: The windows of your home can be a great ally. Getting the right type of window treatments can help regulate your home temperatures. Drapes: Drawn closed in the winter, these window treatments can help prevent heat from escaping by as much as 10%! Drapes can also help decrease heat coming into the home if closed against direct sunlight in the summer. Blinds or Shades: These can help reduce the amount of heat coming through the window because of direct sunlight. Dual shades can be very useful. Use the light side to help reflect and keep out the warming sun in the summer and the dark side can be used in the winter to draw in more heat. Shutters: Both exterior and interior shutters can be used to keep heat out in the summer. They do not work as well at keeping heat in during the winter. Another perk of having exterior shutters is that they can provide extra security for your home as well. Window Panel: Similar to a shutter, a window panel is a product that pops into the window frame and provides extra insulation in the winter. An inexpensive addition, this may be ideal for windows not used for their light in the winter. Screens: Although these don't really keep any heat in place, using screens on your windows allows for better cooling and airing of your home in the summer. Screens allow you to keep windows and doors open encouraging a natural movement of the air. Using open windows well in the morning and evening can drastically reduce your air conditioning bill. Thankfully this can be done without letting in all the bugs and critters! Awnings: Window awnings can help keep the house cooler in the summer by reducing the amount of heat that is adsorbed. Air Leaks: Get rid of air leaks! Insulation works to improve both the heating and cooling of your home. Check around your doors and windows first. Many leaks escape through these portals the most. Replace weather stripping and caulk where needed. Besides the doors and windows, also check for air leaks around vents, fans, phone and cable lines, and electrical lines. Depending on the materials used in your home, you may also need to check any brick, stucco or cement construction for needed repairs. Not sure if you have a leak? One option is to use an incense stick. The smoke will show any movement caused by air leaks. Another method is to have someone stand on the other side of the possible leak source while you shine a flashlight at the edges. If they can see the light on the other side then some updates should be made. Insulation: Updating or adding insulation to your home, especially an older one, can help reduce costs associated with heating and cooling your home. The attic, crawl space, basement, exterior walls and space around service ducts are the areas that will need the most attention or improvement. Reduce Water Usage: There are many ways to reduce your water consumption around the home. The hot water heater can be an energy hog. Try insulating it if it does not already have at least R-24 insulation. You can also lower the temperature of the water from 140°F to 120°F to save on cost. Make certain to fix any leaky pipes or faucets. Over time these will not only consume water but will also cause damage to the surrounding area. To get better use of water for your money, consider installing low-flow water faucets and showerheads. You may also consider a water (and energy) efficient clothes washer. What do you bring into your home? Whether building a new home or shopping for the weekly groceries, the products you choose to bring home have a great impact on the environment. Taking some time to consider your choices before you buy is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Renewable Construction: If building or remodeling a home, consider renewable sources for some of your construction needs. You do not have to use all or any of them, however, if you take the time to research some of these options, you may be surprised and find a good fit. Hardwood floors are great in that they keep allergies as bay and are easier on the environment then synthetic carpet manufacture. However, a renewable wood is key here. Renewable floors such as bamboo or cork are much easier to replenish. Another option that has gained in popularity is reclaimed wood. This product is taken from demolition sites - everything from an old house to an old gymnasium floor. Research the product's history as some sealants and paints used on the wood may be toxic. There are more renewable sources available. From recycled glass used as tile to recycled jeans used as insulation. Take a look at our links to the right for more information about these items and possible vendors in your area. Buy Local: There has been a lot of encouragement for consumers to buy local recently. Buying locally should help cut down on shipping and packaging costs. Doing so can also help local farmers and businesses. Not always the cheaper option, trying to purposely buy some items locally can help the economy and ultimately the environment. In fact, some believe buying groceries from local sources provides fresher produce that ultimately could be better for your health. Quality of Product: Being a savvy consumer who expects the best quality in their products is helpful to the environment as well as your pocketbook. Move away from cheaply made items; instead research your purchases and get ones that will perform well for a long time to come. Check Labels: On anything you buy, take time to check the labels and be aware of any impact it may have on your environment - including at home. Consider carefully your choice in chemicals used for cleaning. When working on home improvement projects consider the options you have for glues, paints and other possible hazardous materials. THERMOSTAT: Lower your thermostat by a few degrees. Get a controller where you can specify different temperatures for day and night. LIGHTS: Turn off incandescent lights when not in use. Turn off florescent lights if you will be gone for more than 15 minutes. Optimize your use of natural light with work or reading places near northern or southern windows away from eastern and western sun glare. ELECTRONICS: Turn off power strips if nothing on the strip is in use. Unplug unused electronics. COMPUTERS: Turn off your computer monitor if you will be gone for more than 20 minutes. Turn off both your computer and computer monitor if you will be gone for more than 2 hours. Use the sleep mode if your computer has one. ENERGY: Consider purchasing green energy from your power company such as solar power, wind power, biomass power, geothermal energy or hydropower. If your power company does not have one of these options available, you may still be able to invest in future programs. LAUNDRY: Wash your clothes in cold water when possible. Clothesline dry your laundry on sunny days. Shop for detergents that list which toxic chemicals are not in the product. A generic statement such as "non-toxic" may be gimmick so read the label carefully. GROCERIES: Shop locally. Use a cloth reusable bag for groceries. COOKING: Use cookware that cooks at lower temperatures such as cast iron or clay. Save your baking for cooler hours. DISHES: Only run the dishwasher when it is full. Run the dishwasher at night. GARDEN GREEN: Check out our article on environmentally green gardening. Or see our article about pet safe gardening.

A Greater Green Thumb

Make Your Garden Environmentally Green

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A Greater Green Thumb: Make Your Garden Environmentally Green We hear so much about "going green" in the news today that we sometimes forget that one of the best ways to be environmentally friendly is through a green thumb! Whether through careful design of a major landscape renovation or small changes to a few habits, making your garden green can be as simple or complex as you want. In fact, don't expect to make major changes in how you care for your yard overnight. Instead, consider some ideas you can implement now and then slowly add to them. As you begin to implement new gardening techniques you will also discover that making your landscape environmentally friendly is not just about saving mother nature - it can also save you money! Here are a few quick ideas to get you started on your new green garden: Pesky weeds: Yes, dousing them with weed killer is easier. However, most are not children, pet or nature friendly. Some old fashioned weed pulling can be great exercise or way to get the kids to earn their allowance. - Try to get weeds early in the year as this will mean less pulling later on. - Pulling a little at a time as you walk down a path is much better than a whole day of work. - Putting down mulch can help prevent weeds. - If you have an area that is overtaken by weeds instead of lawn, you might want to consider replanting the area with low native plants that need little attention. Return of the native: Using native plants in your landscaping is a great way of choosing plants that are accustomed to the climate and resistant to pests in your area. Although not foolproof, you will find native plants much easier to care for than many imports. - Also, many imports can be harmful to the native plants of the area. For example, English Ivy may look pretty when you care for it, but left on its own, it is a weed that quickly overtakes native plants and even trees! Research non-native plants beforehand to make certain they are not really noxious weeds for your environment. Homebrewed compost: Adding a compost bin is a great way to recycle food and yard waste and get something in return for it! Composting does take about 3-6 months before you get to use any results, but once you get the cycle going you will have a great way to decrease your garbage and increase your plants. - There are many styles of compost bins from indoor to outdoor, homemade to store bought - you can even find stylized ones that give character to your décor! - If you don't have a garden but have yard removal, check with your waste company's policies, many companies now offer to take the same items you would put in a compost bin (i.e. vegetable and fruit skins). They in turn use this to make compost for city parks. Even if you aren't using the compost, it is a great way to get this type of waste out of the landfill and to areas where it will be more beneficial. Harvest the rain: While your out picking up a compost bin, add a rain barrel too! These barrels can be placed directly under you gutter downspout or out from under the eaves. It is ideal to use the water regularly to keep it circulating. Overall this will help save on your water usage and bills! Water thoughtfully: Watering your plants properly will avoid unnecessary waste. - Use drip hoses for more even watering and to help decrease your water bill. - When watering plants, pay attention to their roots and water them before the sun is high so the plant has time to drink before it evaporates. - Using mulch around your plants can keep natural moisture in. Just make sure the mulch is not too deep and you leave some space at the base of the plant stem. Grow your groceries: What is more green then eating from your own garden? If you have never gardened before, start with a small plot and easier to grow veggies. For local advice, check out your neighborhood gardening associations which often offer free classes. Getting garden fresh foods on your table not only helps the environment but offers you better flavor and ease of mind as you know exactly what went into your produce. - Don't have a large yard? Urban community gardens are a fun way to build a sense of community, get free gardening help and again, harvest some great tasting produce. - Another way to garden in small spaces are through container gardens. Using containers to grow herbs and smaller vegetables like onions or spinach is a great alternative. - As you garden more, you will begin to start your veggies from seeds rather than buying starts at the store. When making starts of your own, use old milk cartons or other containers that you can recycle and use again and again. Invite the birds and the bees: Utilizing plants in your garden that are naturally appealing to beneficial insects and birds is a great way to improve the life of your plants. These good allies will help cut down on bad bug pests and can be fun to watch too! - Plant flowers and plants that are attractive to butterflies, bees and other naturally beneficial insects. Encouraging natural pollinators and cutting down your use of pesticides is a great combo for these natural little friends. - Some nurseries even sell lady bugs as they are a great natural defense for bug problems. - Invite birds into your yard with berry plants, flowers, and a water bath. Birds are some of your best pest reducers. - If you have berries you want to keep for yourself instead of the birds, there are safe netting options out there that don't trap birds but keep them off your berries! Plan your garden: As we have mentioned in earlier articles, planning out a garden can save you a lot of headache and money down the road. But it can also allow you to be more green. When planning your layout you may pay closer attention to what areas of the yard get more sun or rain and install plants that are suitable for different locations. - You can also minimize your gardening chores by planning certain "wild" areas or buffers using native plants that require little upkeep. Hardscapes: Finally, when planning or renovating your yard, consider the non-organic features. From the paths to the containers, consider what impacts the materials you use will have on the environment and your garden's health. - Recycled materials are becoming more readily available for constructing everything from paths to patios. Take a look at all the options and give these recycled materials a chance. - Try to get planters and containers made of recycled material. Some people get very creative with old items that they turn into planters (i.e. an old sink or wheelbarrow). - Try some of the new solar lights to add lighting features to your yard. They are earth friendly and can save you money! Useful Links EPA: Greenscapes www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/green/ Information about going green provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Includes ideas for homes, businesses and recreational areas. USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ "This section of our Web site will help you find your nearest Cooperative Extension office. The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes." This resource will help you find state specific plant information. American Horticultural Society List of Mater Gardeners www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/ "The map below links to Master Gardener websites in the United States. Links to Master Gardener programs in three Canadian provinces are listed below as well. Clicking on the map and links below will connect you to some of the best, regionally-specific advice you can get on gardening." To find out more about classes, gardening tips and the best plants for your area, check out these state sites. Buy Green, Going Green, Green Savvy, Eco Products Green Cleaning Products http://www.buygreensavvy.com Quality green and eco friendly products at the best prices!

So, who's afraid of the big, bad Home Inspection?

No matter whom you talk to that is involved in a home sale transaction, whether it be the owner, buyer or real estate agent, everyone has a certain amount of reservation concerning a home inspection or “termite” inspection.

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No matter whom you talk to that is involved in a home sale transaction, whether it be the owner, buyer or real estate agent, everyone has a certain amount of reservation concerning a home inspection or “termite” inspection. But why, all that it entails is basically a visual inspection of the home and a short written report, right? So, who’s afraid of the big, bad home inspection? Everyone it seems!

Let me start by making an obvious observation. For most all of us, the single biggest investment we will make in our lifetime is the purchase of our own home. Not only is it an investment that we can’t have go sour, but we must make a comfortable, safe place out of the dwelling to protect and grow our families that we can live in happily and call “home”. And when we’ve outgrown or want a new/different home, we need to realize the equity we have built up in the property to help us purchase our next “home”. “OK”, you say, “I know all of this. What has this got to do with being afraid of home inspections?” Everything, actually, because it is well known that buying or selling a home is probably the second biggest stress we will encounter in our life. All the uncertainty and suspicions begin to “bubble to the surface” as the home sale process grinds on which skews our thinking, and sometimes our common sense. So, let’s look logically at what a home inspection has to offer for each participant in the home sale process. I want to start with the home owner who is thinking about moving and about to list his/her property for sale, because usually they are the ones that think they have nothing to gain from, and everything to loose from a home inspection. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter what “shape” the owner feels his/her property is in (good, bad or in between), the smartest thing they can do is spend the few dollars necessary for an accurate home inspection and “termite” inspection. Spending these few dollars in the beginning will save you major dollars and stress in the end. Possessing this information prior to listing your home for sale not only enables you to plan, but to price your property accurately. The information gleaned from the reports allows you to take care of any repairs that you feel you want to on your time schedule, and to obtain bids from various contractors for repairs you don’t want to tackle yourself, which could save you a lot of money in the process. When you do list your property for sale, you do so empowered with the knowledge that you know of, or have taken care of any repairs, and, you can go into negotiations with the buyer straight on because you have a “heads-up” on what the condition of your home is. This negotiating strength will allow you to realize as much of your equity as possible to be used to purchase your new home. Most real estate agents will appreciate this situation also because it takes most all the uncertainty and stress out of the equation, because, normally the inspection results are revealed shortly before escrow is to close and there is no time for obtaining bids or alternative actions, which can result in a “blown” deal with everyone unhappy.

Most everyone thinks that a home inspection and “termite” inspection are only for the “protection” of the buyer. That is only partly true. Sure the inspections are ordered to reveal any unknown/undisclosed issues. But, the buyer didn’t order and pay for the inspections to make the property out as garbage! The buyer likes and wants to spend and invest their hard earned money on the property and want to make it their “home”. As a prospective purchaser of a home and property, you want the inspection(s) to validate your decision to purchase that piece of property. You want to know what you are buying. You, of course, want to know what the big issues are, if any, but you also want to know the little things that will be an irritation or money drain before you sign the contract of sale. You want to make up your own mind as to what is acceptable as is, and what is not and needs to be negotiated with the seller. And just about as important, the home inspection is actually your first in depth “get acquainted” look at your new home because it covers information on so many of the homes’ components, systems, utilities and their locations. But even that is not all, if your home inspector is like most concerned inspectors’, he is your source for information you can turn to long after the close of escrow when everyone else involved in the deal has disappeared.

OK, I’m to the real estate agent and what the home inspection and “termite” inspection has to offer them. How about peace of mind? How about the good feeling inside that you have put together a home sale in which both the buyer and seller are happy and there is not going to be a bad case of “buyers remorse” now that escrow is closed? How about the fact that you are looked up to as an agent that demands full disclosure and still can close the deal BECAUSE EVERY BODY KNOWS WHERE THEY STAND AND WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT OUT OF THE DEAL! In the years I have been involved in inspecting homes, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen buyers follow through and close a sale of a home with major issues because they not only like the home, but because they are fully aware of its’ short comings and are mentally prepared to take it on. With truth and knowledge everyone comes out ahead. As I’ve been preaching for years, your buyer today is your seller tomorrow.

So in closing, there is absolutely nothing to fear from a home inspection or “termite” inspection except fear itself. These are “tools” to be used in a positive way to bring about a positive home sale experience, if you choose to use them in that way.
Ron Ringen owns and operates Ringen’s Unbiased Inspections, which is located in Sonora, California. Ringen’s Unbiased Inspections serves the beautiful gold country of California that includes the foothills and Sierra Mountains in the counties of Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amadore. Ron has been involved with the Structural Pest Control business for 43 years and has been a licensed Structural Pest Inspector in California since 1968. Ron is a licensed General Contractor (B) in California and has been since 1977. Ron is certified with the American Institute of Inspectors as a Home Inspector, Manufactured/Modular Home Inspector and a Pool and Spa Inspector.