Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Protect Your Roof, and You'll Protect Your Home

Ah, the humble roof. We forget that the single most important structural element in our home is the roof. It provides shelter for those we love and the things we value.

It’s easy to let maintenance slide on something we take for granted. With better weather days upon us, now is a good time to inspect the roof and make sure it’s up to the task of protecting your home’s value.

Here are some crucial elements you’ll want to look for during a home roof inspection:

1. Are the gutters clean and in good shape? Organic debris building up in your gutters can cause water to pool and foster an environment for roof rot.

2. Do you see any curling around the bottom edges? Are there any gaps or holes in the soffit?

3. Are there surface cracks in shingles? Cracks warn you of impending disintegration or separation.

4. Is the flashing in good shape? Flashing is material installed to prevent the passage of water into a structure from a joint. This often amounts to shaped metal around seams for chimneys, vents, etc.

5. Are there any blisters? This could reveal a defect or possibly insufficient ventilation.

6. Is the insulation in good shape? Attic insulation can protect a roof from warping and reducing overall moisture in your home. Additionally, it helps keep snow from melting and refreezing, a major contributor to water damage.


7. Is anything going to fall on the roof? Part of roof maintenance is ensuring there’s nothing which might cause an undue load on the house. This includes rotten trees or dangerous overhanging limbs. It’s also a good idea to look at areas which may be eroded by vegetation or tree contact.

A happy roof makes for a happy home. May these simple tips help you protect your home for years to come. - Jim Armstrong 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Guidelines For Determining Your Home Purchase Price Range

Shopping for a home, especially your first one, can be tough when you’re not sure how much you can afford. If you've wanted to live the dream of owning your own home, but haven’t been sure where to start, I've put together a few tips that can make it easier to get a handle on where to start.

Salem Mass Home Buyers Dream about their first property
The American Dream
1. Tax benefits usually mean you can afford more than your rent. Interest deductions on taxes typically translate into significant savings. Many people find they can afford about 33% more than their current rent. To get an idea of what this might be for you, multiply your current rent by 1.33.

2. A home price three times your gross income is usually a reasonable place to begin. For example, if your household made $75,000 last year, you could begin looking in the $225,000 range to start.

3. Know how much you can put down. Ideally, you’d want to have 20% of the home’s price set aside for a down payment. On a $200,000 home, this would be roughly $40,000. You can definitely put down less money, as low as 3%, but it may result in higher interest rates (which translate to higher monthly payments). It will still be better and most likely less expensive than renting. If you are a veteran, you can buy a home with no money down, and still get the lowest interest rates.

4. Determine your “debt factor.” Lenders will often cite the 28/41 rule when it comes to your debt. This means that your mortgage (plus taxes and insurance) shouldn't exceed 28% of your gross monthly income. Your total payments (credit card, car loan, etc.) plus your mortgage shouldn't come to more than 41% of your gross monthly income.


The Realtors at Armstrong Field Real Estate specialize in helping first-time home buyers getting themselves lined up for home ownership. Contact one of our Massachusetts Realtors today.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Unclog a Gutter



How to Unclog a Gutter

Article From HouseLogic.com



By: Douglas Trattner
Published: January 23, 2013



Unclog a blocked rain gutter as quickly as possible to prevent damage to your landscaping, home exterior, gutters, and foundation.


Clean your rain gutters (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/roofing-gutters-siding/how-to-clean-rain-gutters/) at least twice a year. Otherwise, debris like leaves and twigs can clog up your gutter system, causing potential harm to your house and landscaping (http://www.houselogic.com/outdoors/landscaping-gardening/) -- not to mention the gutters themselves. Here's how to identify and fix a clogged gutter.

Is My Gutter Clogged (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/roofing-gutters-siding/fast-fixes-common-gutter-problems/)?
When it rains, here are the telltale signs of a clogged gutter:
          Water spills over the edges of a gutter.

          Water sprays like a fountain from gutter seams and elbow joints.

          Water doesn't flow out the bottom of downspout extensions.

If it's not raining, look for these telltale signs:
          Eroded earth directly below a gutter.

          Peeling paint on siding and fascia.

          Wet, moist, or dirty siding (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/roofing-gutters-siding/how-to-clean-siding/) beneath the gutter.

          Gutters pulling away from the fascia (likely caused by excessive weight).

Where's the Gutter Clogged?

The downspout cage, a wire strainer designed to trap debris while allowing water to flow through, is located where the downspout intersects the gutter. Often, this item is bent or out of place.

Gutter hangers and spikes often slip free from the fascia, landing in the gutter. These obstructions catch leaves and twigs, causing clogs.

Downspout elbows and seams are likely spots for clogs, too. Working your way down from the gutter, tap the outside of the downspout with a screwdriver and listen for a dull thud (as opposed to hollow ring). This will indicate the location of the clog.

If you still haven't identified the location of the clog - and you have downspouts that descend below ground level - then the clog likely is in an underground pipe.

How to Unclog a Gutter

If the clog occurs at the downspout cage:
1. Remove and clean it.
2. Remove all the accumulated debris in the gutter.
3. If the cage is in good shape, firmly re-seat it into the downspout hole.
4. If the cage is damaged or missing, replacement screens cost just a few bucks.

If the clog is caused by loose hangers or spikes:
1. Clean debris from clogs.
2. Reposition or repair the gutter supports.

If the clog occurs at an elbow or seam - and you can reach it from above:

1. Try to free the obstruction with a stick, plumbing snake, or pressure washer outfitted with a telescoping wand.
2. If you can't reach it, simply disassemble the downspout and remove the clog.

If the clog is below-grade, it's the most difficult to clear, and may require excavation. But before that:

1. Remove the downspout where it enters the ground and try to clear the clog using a plumbing snake.
2. Turn on a garden hose and force it into the underground portion of the line; the water pressure may dislodge the clog.

Season-by-Season Lawn Maintenance Calendar



Season-by-Season Lawn Maintenance Calendar

Article From HouseLogic.com



By: Douglas Trattner
Published: April 08, 2013



Follow our season-by-season lawn maintenance calendar to get a barefoot-worthy lawn and ensure great curb appeal.


Early Spring

Like so many maintenance jobs, everything goes smoother - and you'll get better results - with proper preparation. Early spring is the time to get ready for lawn-growing and mowing season.
Sharpen mower blades to ensure clean cuts. A dull blade tears the grass, leaving jagged edges that discolor the lawn and invite pathogens.

Sharpen mower blades (http://www.houselogic.com/news/lawns/lawn-mower-care-sharpen-blade-clean-cut/) once each month during grass-cutting season. Have a backup blade (about $20) so that a sharp one is always on hand.

Tune up your mower with a new sparkplug ($3-$5) and air filter ($5-$10). Your mower might not need a new sparkplug every season, but changing it is a simple job, and doing it every year ensures you won't forget the last time you replaced your sparkplug.

Buy fresh gas. Gas that's been left to sit over the winter can accumulate moisture that harms small engines. This is especially true for fuel containing ethanol, so use regular grades of gasoline.

If you need to dump old gasoline, ask your city or county for local disposal sites that take old fuel.

Clean up your lawn. Time to get out the leaf rakes and remove any twigs and leaves that have accumulated over the winter. A thick layer of wet leaves can smother a lawn if not immediately removed in early spring. Cleaning up old debris clears the way for applying fertilizer and herbicides.

Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/2/)
Early Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/3/)
Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/4/)
Early Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/5/)
Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/6/)
 Spring
Depending on your weather, your grass will now start growing in earnest, so be ready for the first cutting. Don't mow when the grass is wet - you could spread diseases, and wet clippings clog up lawn mowers.

Fertilizing: Both spring and fall are good times to fertilize your lawn. In the northern third of the country, where winters are cold, fertilize in fall - cool weather grasses go dormant over winter and store energy in their roots for use in the spring.

For the rest of the country, apply fertilizer just as your grass begins its most active growth. For best results, closely follow the application directions on the product. You'll spend about $50 to $75 per application for an average ¼-acre lot.

Aeration: Aerating punches small holes in your lawn so water, fertilizers, and oxygen reach grass roots. Pick a day when the soil is damp but not soaked so the aeration machine can work efficiently.

Related: More about lawn aeration (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-aeration-tips-tools/)

Pre-emergent herbicides: Now is the time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent crabgrass and other weeds from taking root in your lawn. A soil thermometer is a handy helper; you can pick one up for $10-$20. When you soil temperature reaches 58 degrees - the temperature at which crabgrass begins to germinate - it's time to apply the herbicide.

Early Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/)
Early Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/3/)
Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/4/)
Early Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/5/)
Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/6/)
 Early Summer
Watch out for grubs: Warm weather means that grub worms, the larvae stage of June, Japanese, and other beetles, start feeding on the tender root systems of lawns. Affected lawns show browning and wilting patches.

To be certain that the culprits are grubs, pull back the sod and look for white, C-shaped grubs. If you see more than 10 per square foot, your lawn should be treated with a chemical pesticide.

Milky spore is an environmentally friendly way to control some species of grubs. When using insecticides, read and follow all label directions, and water the product into the soil immediately. Cost is around $50 to $75 per application.

Grass-cutting tip: Your grass is starting to grow fast, and you might even be cutting more than once a week to keep up. To keep grass healthy, mow often enough so you're removing no more than 1/3 of the grass blade.

Pesky weeds: Weeds that have escaped an herbicide application should be removed with a garden fork. Use a post-emergent herbicide only if you think the situation is getting out of hand.

Check out our guide to some common types of weeds (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/lawns/common-weeds/) and tips on how to get rid of them. (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/how-to-get-rid-of-weeds-naturally/)

Early Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/)
Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/2/)
Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/4/)
Early Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/5/)
Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/6/)
 Summer
Here's a good mantra to guide you through the heart of grass-mowing season: The taller the grass, the deeper the roots, the fewer the weeds, and the more moisture the soil holds between watering.

With that in mind, here's how to ensure a healthy, green lawn:
          Set your mower blade height to 3 inches.

          Deep and infrequent watering is better for lawns than frequent sprinkles, which promote shallow root growth. In general, lawns need about 1 inch of water per week to maintain green color and active growth.

Lawns that receive less than that will likely go dormant. That's okay, the grass is still alive, but dormant lawns should still receive at least 1 inch of water per month. Your grass will green up again when the weather brings regular rains.
          To check the output of a sprinkler, scatter some pie tins around the yard to see how much water collects in a specific length of time. Having a rain gauge ($5 to $20) will help you keep track of how much water the lawn receives naturally.

          At least once each month, clean underneath your mower (http://www.houselogic.com/news/lawns/clean-mower-limit-lawn-disease/) to prevent spreading lawn diseases.

          Although it's OK to leave grass clippings on the lawn where they can decompose and nourish the soil, large clumps of clippings should be removed. Regularly rake up any leaves, twigs, and debris.

If your grass seems to be stressed out, check out our advice on what to do if your lawn is turning brown (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/brown-grass/).

Early Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/)
Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/2/)
Early Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/3/)
Early Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/5/)
Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/6/)
 Early Fall
The best time to patch bare or thin spots is when the hot, dry days of summer have given way to cooler temps. Follow these simple steps:

1. Remove any dead grass.

2. Break up the soil with a garden trowel.

3. Add an inch of compost (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/composting/start-compost-pile/) and work it into the soil.

4. Add grass seed that's designed for shade or full sun, depending on the area you're working on. Spread the seed evenly across the bare patch.

5. Use a hard-tooth rake to work the seed into the soil to a depth of about half an inch.

6. Sprinkle grass clippings over the patch to help prevent the soil from drying out.

7. Water the area; you'll want to keep the patch moist, so lightly water once a day until the seed germinates and the new grass gets about one inch tall.

Early Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/)
Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/2/)
Early Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/3/)
Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/4/)
Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/6/)
 Fall
Your main job in fall is to keep your lawn free of leaves and other debris. You can use a mulching mower to break up leaves (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/landscaping-gardening/how-to-mulch-leaves/) and add the organic matter to your soil, but be sure to clean up any clumps so they don't kill the grass.

In the northern one-third of the country, now is the time to fertilize your lawn. Your grass will store the nutrients in its roots as it goes dormant over the winter, and your lawn will be ready for a jump start when spring warms the ground.

This is also the time to clean up your garden (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/gardens/fall-garden-cleanup/).

Early Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/)
Spring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/2/)
Early Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/3/)
Summer (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/4/)
Early Fall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/5/)

How to Reduce Your Water Heater's Energy Use



How to Reduce Your Water Heater's Energy Use

Article From HouseLogic.com



By: Joe Bousquin
Published: June 20, 2013



Easy and cheap ways to make your water heater more energy efficient.


In the saving energy fight, the hot water heater is a born loser. That's because most of us have a conventional storage-type water heater.
That water storage tank works constantly to keep water hot and ready whenever you want it. But as the water sits, it naturally cools down, a process known as "standby heat loss." When the water cools, the burner or heating element kicks on to warm it up again, in a constantly repeating cycle.

Water heating is the second largest energy hog in your home, accounting for 14% to 18% of your household's total energy costs - between $400 and $600 per year. (Heating and cooling (http://www.houselogic.com/maintenance-repair/preventative-home-maintenance/heating-cooling/) is the #1 energy hog.)

Here are 5 tips to trim your water heating costs:

#1 Turn Down the Tank's Thermostat

For every 10 degrees you turn it down, you'll save 3% to 5% on your bill. Most water heaters come preset at 140 degrees, which has the added risk of scalding. The Energy Department recommends most households lower it to 120 degrees. That's high enough for your needs, and high enough to reduce mineral buildup in your tank and pipes.
Here's how to ensure you get 120 degrees:
          First measure to see what temperature your water is at now. Don't trust the thermostat. They are often inaccurate. Instead, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the hot water at the faucet farthest away from the heater.

          To remember this setting, mark that temperature on your thermostat.

          Now turn down the thermostat to what you think will be 120 degrees, based on your earlier measurement.

          Wait at least 2 hours. Measure the water temperature again at the same far-away faucet. It may take a few attempts to get it right.

          Once it's right, mark that spot on your thermostat so you'll remember it.

If the thermostat on your water heater doesn't have a numbered gauge, put it midway between the "low" and "medium" marks. Wait a day, and then measure the tap temperature as described above. Keep adjusting until you hit your target temperature.

Keep in mind that some water heaters have two thermostats - one for the bottom heating element and one for the top.
Related: 4 more effective ways to take back your energy bills
 #2: Use Less Hot Water
 One sure way to cut hot water costs is to use less of it. (http://www.houselogic.com/green-living/saving-water/)
 A family of four showering five minutes a day uses 700 gallons of water each week - a three-year supply of drinking water for one person!

Simply by installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators ($10 to $20 each), you'll cut your hot water consumption by 25% to 60%. Plus, you'll save on your water bill. That family of four using low-flow fixtures can save 14,000 gallons of water a year.

Also, make sure you use the "economy" setting on your dishwasher (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/appliances/dishwasher-buying-guide/), and break the pre-washing habit. Modern dishwashers can handle a dirty dish. Scrape what's left of dinner into the trash or compost bin and then load.

Related: Low-Flow Isn't What It Used to Be (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plumbing/ultra-low-flow-shower-heads-more-less/)
 #3: Drain the Sediment
Tanks naturally build up sediment, which reduces efficiency and makes saving energy a challenge. ?Draining the tank will keep it running efficiently. And it's really easy to do:
          Turn off the water and power to the unit. On a gas unit, set the burner to "pilot."

          Connect a garden hose to the spigot at the base of the tank.

          With the other end of the hose pointed at your floor drain, carefully lift the tank's pressure-relief valve and turn on the tank's spigot; water should begin to flow.

Tip: While most manufacturers recommend draining the tank once or twice a year, you don't have to drain it completely; in fact, the Department of Energy recommends draining less water more often - just a quart every three months.

Related: How to Care for Your Water Heater (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/water-heater-maintenance/)
 #4: Insulate Exposed Hot-Water Pipes
By insulating your hot water pipes, water will arrive at the faucet 2 to 4 degrees warmer, which means you won't have to wait as long for it to heat up, thus saving energy, water, and money.
While this isn't an expensive DIY job - 6-ft.-long, self-sealing sleeves ($2.50) easily slip over pipes - it could take effort, depending on where your hot water pipes are located. Exposed pipes in the basement are easy targets: Hard-to-reach pipes in crawl spaces or walls might not be worth the trouble.
#5 Insulate Your Hot Water Tank
If you have an older tank, and especially if it's located in an unheated space, wrapping it with an insulating blanket is a cheap and easy way to reduce costs.
Manufacturers have figured this out, so most newer models already are insulated. It's easy to find out which one you have. Look on its label to see if it has an R-value of at least 24. If not, you should insulate your tank.
With these older models, an insulating blanket can cut heat loss by 25% to 45% and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill (source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (http://aceee.org/consumer/water-heating#minimize) ).
Insulating blankets are easy to install and inexpensive ($20). When dressing your tank for saving energy, be careful not to block the thermostat on an electric water heater or the air inlet and exhaust on a gas unit.
If you have a newer model that's already insulated, don't make the mistake of thinking you can get additional savings by adding a layer of insulation. It can block critical components and become hazardous. Check with your manufacturer.

Related:
          When to Replace Your Water Heater (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/water-heaters-repair-or-replace/)

          Water Heater Buying Guide (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/hot-water-heater-buyers-guide/)

          The Good and the Bad About Tankless Water Heaters (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/tankless-water-heater-right-you/)

Halloween Home Maintenance: Spooky Sounds and Strange Smells



Halloween Home Maintenance: Spooky Sounds and Strange Smells

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: John Riha
Published: October 27, 2011


Are you haunted by strange noises and weird odors? With the proper maintenance, you've got more than a ghost of a chance to rest easy.

Creaking and Popping in the Night

The many materials that make up your house - wood framing, plywood, glass, metal ducts, nails, plumbing pipes (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/electrical/replacing-plumbing-pipes-costs-and-options/) - all expand and contract at different rates.

When a house cools at night, these materials may move slightly, rubbing against each other and making noises. Occasionally, they'll contract with an audible pop.

These sounds tend to be more noticeable in fall, when warm days give way to rapidly cooling nights. The bad news? Not much you can do about it. The good news? Those sounds are harmless and normal.
Zombie Odor

It's either time to throw out the garbage, or you'd better call your gas utility (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/heating-cooling/how-read-your-gas-utility-bill/) to check on your gas lines and connections.

Natural gas is odorless, but natural gas suppliers add a foul-smelling odorant -- butyl mercaptan - to alert occupants to any leaks. The smell is like rotten eggs.

Leaks can occur at your gas-fired water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer, and any gas line. Leaking natural gas is potentially dangerous - leave the house and call your natural gas provider to assess the situation. Most utility companies perform safety checks for free.

Footsteps in the Attic
Amplified by an unfinished attic space, a raccoon or even a good-size squirrel on your roof might sound like an ax murderer is doing the polka overhead.

These rooftop transits are normal for critters - roofs offer a nice long unobstructed highway.

Make sure your soffit, rafter, and gable roof vents are covered with screens and in good shape, or your rooftop buddies might find their way into your attic for real. Trim back branches that provide critters easy access to your roof (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-thoughts/inspecting-and-maintaining-your-roof/).

Something's Burning

You can smell the odor of burnt wood, but the smoke detectors aren't going off and there's no smoke in the house. The culprit could be your fireplace - even if you haven't had a fire for days.

The probable cause is a drafty chimney and negative air pressure in your home, meaning that outside air is infiltrating down your chimney, bringing stale burnt smells with it.

Stop drafts by making sure your damper has a good seal. Regulate air pressure by adding more cold air return ducts to your HVAC system (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/heating-cooling/hvac-maintenance/). You'll get rid of the odor and save on your energy bill (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/saving-energy/utility-energy-rebates/), too.

Moaning and Clattering

These classic spooky sounds often show up when the wind blows and there's a storm brewing.

Vents for clothes dryers, bathrooms, and water heaters (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/water-heater-maintenance/) exit out the roof or the side of the house. To prevent backdrafts, these vents have dampers - flaps designed to let vented air out and prevent outside air from coming in. These flaps sometimes move and rattle in high winds.

Because dampers often are located in attics or in between floor joists, the sound can be difficult to pinpoint. You may need a new damper ($85).

Survey: More Renters Want to Become Homeowners



Survey: More Renters Want to Become Homeowners

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Dona DeZube
Published: August 05, 2013


Homeownership as a priority is on the upswing. And a look back shows perceptions about owning weren't as negative during the recession as the media suggested.

Americans have favored buying over renting, even during the recent Great Recession, and this year is no different. The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey, by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, found Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision, and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future.

During the recession, much media coverage of homeownership focused on the idea that lots of people thought renting was much smarter than buying. But that wasn't necessarily the case as a look back shows.

The decline in home prices and turmoil in the housing markets did influence consumers' perception of housing as a sound investment -- but not by nearly as much as the media made it appear.

From 2007 to 2011, based on earlier Pulse surveys, the share of people who thought buying a home was a good financial decision dropped from about 85% to 73% and the share of people who were "not so strongly" positive grew. By 2013, we're back to 80% thinking homeownership is a sound financial decision.

You can interpret that dip two ways. Some would say homeowners were resilient as prices declined. Others would say the recession was a wake up call for investors who viewed the real estate market as a short-term investment.

Regardless of which way you see it, most of us have returned to the much more realistic viewpoint that real estate is a solid, if long-term, investment.

This year's Home Pulse survey also found:
          Eight in 10 Americans think buying a home is a good financial decision.

          68% believe now is a good time to buy a home.

          36% of renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, up from 25% last year.

          The proportion of renters who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31% to 25%.

          Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up to 51% from 42%.

Those renters should be in a good position to buy given that home prices are pretty affordable (unless you're a bus driver in San Francisco). Rising interest rates could come into play, but anything around 6% looks good compared with the double-digit interest rates of the 1980s.

Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38%) said their local market was more active this year, compared with 51% of people who reported a slowdown in local activity last year.

There is also less concern than in the past about the drop in home values; almost half (49%) said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.

How to Fix Common Wall and Floor Problems



How to Fix Common Wall and Floor Problems

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Deirdre Sullivan
Published: September 20, 2013


Although some maintenance projects are best left to the pros, these three easy DIY fixes will give you bragging rights.

We turned to three bloggers for ideas on how to tackle some little, but nagging, household wall and floor issues.
A Made-Up Drywall Repair
The problem: Concealing drywall damage is a tricky business that requires a handful of drywall tools (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/must-have-drywall-tools/) and materials to make walls look like new. To fix coin-sized holes, many traditionalists use mesh or paper tape. But not Lesli DeVito, the DIY blogger behind My Old Country House.
The fix: Cosmetic wedges! DeVito first tried patching the two nickel-sized openings with cement board she had lying around, but the pieces didn't fit as you can see in the picture below (left).
Image: Lesli DeVito of My Old Country House blog (http://myoldcountryhouse.com/a-clever-way-to-patch-a-hole-in-the-wall/)
 Tool list:
          Make-up sponges

          Scissors

          Spackle

          Putty knife

          Sandpaper

How to:

1. Cut the wedges into pieces that are slightly larger than the holes.
 2. Spackle the drywall (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/repair-walls-give-rooms-fresh-face/) and wipe off the excess.
 3. When the spackle dries, sand the area until it's smooth.
4. Add a fresh coat of paint.
Now DeVito challenges people to find where the holes were; go ahead, take a peek (http://myoldcountryhouse.com/a-clever-way-to-patch-a-hole-in-the-wall/).
Related: Another Clever Drywall Fix (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/repair-tips/99-cent-store-solution-3-patch-drywall-hole/)
 A Seamless Way to Remove Nails from Trim and Flooring
Image: Dadand.com (http://dadand.com)
 The problem: You can save some dough by using salvaged materials (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/green-remodeling/saving-money-salvaged-building-materials/) like trim and oak flooring. But before you can install or even safely store them, you have to pull out any old nails -- without damaging the wood.
The fix: Although you might be tempted to whack the nail from the back with a hammer and then yank it, don't. That can mar the surface. Instead, pull the nails out from the back, says Peter Fazio from the site Dadand.
Tool list:
          Pliers

          Work gloves

          Drop cloth

How to:

1. Put the trim or floorboard face down on a drop cloth (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/painting/using-a-drop-cloth/) to protect the front surface.
2. Using your pliers, grab the nail and gently roll onto the curved part of the tool until the nail pops out.
If the old filler used to conceal the nail on the front side pops out, it's easy to fix. Refill the hole with color-matched wood filler (it'll work for composite trim, too). Scrape the top of the repair gently with a putty knife to remove excess filler -- otherwise you'll leave a noticeable bump.
If you can't find color-matched filler, repair the hole and gently sand the area smooth. Spot paint to match.
Related: More Tips for Repairing Old Trim and Molding (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/repair-tips/repair-trim-molding-9th-day-christmas/)
 The Trick to Spiffing Up Grody Grout
 Image: Virginia from LiveLoveDIY (http://www.livelovediy.com/2012/08/how-to-restore-grout.html)
 The problem: When Virginia from LiveLoveDIY painted her kitchen cabinets bright white, her dingy tile grout became a real eyesore.
Sure, cleaning agents like hydrogen peroxide (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/green-cleaning/uses-for-hydrogen-peroxide/) can brighten discolored floors, but they won't do much for grout. Grout is gritty and easily stains; despite scrubbing, it may never appear clean.
The fix: Using what she calls the "best product ever," a bottle of Polyblend Grout Renew (there are other brands, too), a stain- and fade-resistant grout paint in snow white. It cost $10 for an 8-ounce bottle, which was enough to cover the all grout in her kitchen.
 Image: Virginia from LiveLoveDIY
Tool list:
          Grout paint

          Toothbrush

          Rags or paper towels

How to:

1. Squeeze a dollop of paint on the grout and scrub it in with a toothbrush. (The paint Virginia used dries fast, so you'll need to work quickly.)
2. Wipe off the excess from tile with a paper towel.
Including a few breaks, it took her about four hours to complete the job, which she says was time well-spent. Virginia also says the grout paint is easy to keep clean.
Tip: You might also want to seal the grout paint after it dries.
Related: More handy repair fixes (http://www.houselogic.com/maintenance-repair/repair-tips/) for everything from leaky windows (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/saving-energy/got-leaky-windows-3-low-cost-tips-fix-them/) to stripped screws (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/repair-tips/99-cent-store-solution-5-fix-stripped-screw/).

What's the No. 1 Thing People Want in Their Bathroom?



What's the No. 1 Thing People Want in Their Bathroom?

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: October 23, 2013


Bathroom exhaust fans make air smell (much!) sweeter, paint last longer, and mold grow slower -- or not at all. If you don't have one, you're missing out.

A bathroom exhaust fan is an inexpensive upgrade that packs a value punch. The shoe-box-size fan clears obnoxious bathroom odors (priceless!) and removes moisture, which protects your home and health, and reduces maintenance costs.
And, it turns out, everyone wants one. Exhaust fans are the No. 1 feature homebuyers want in a bathroom, says a National Association of Home Builders report. Ninety percent ranked exhaust fan as No. 1, with linen closet second, and a separate tub and shower as third. Who knew?

Still, many homes don't have a bathroom fan. Although the fans are required by building code in many places, older homes -- pre-1960s -- didn't routinely install them. And homeowners today may be reluctant to retrofit bathrooms with an appliance that requires venting to snake through attics, joists, soffits, and ultimately punctures an exterior wall or roof.

We feel your fear, and we're here to help. Below, we break down everything you need to know about selecting and installing a bathroom exhaust fan.

What Does a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Do?

A bathroom exhaust fan is a small, ceiling- or wall-mounted fan that pulls air from the bathroom, sends it through venting (4-inch is preferable), and deposits it outside.

This helps you and your home by:
          Improving indoor air quality, especially by removing bathroom smells.

          Removing shower and bath humidity.

          De-fogging mirrors.

          Thwarting mold growth.

          Preventing door and window warp.

          Slowing fixture rust.

          Retarding paint blister and wallpaper peel.

Related: How To Kill and Prevent Household Mold (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/bathrooms/bathroom-mold/)

How Are Fans Rated?

Exhaust fans are measured by two factors found on the fan's box:
          CFM (cubic feet per minute): Indicates the strength of the fan's draw. CFM's can range from 50 to 1,000-plus, although most bathrooms typically require fans with less than 200 CFM.

          Sone: Measures of the sound the fan makes, typically from 0.5 (almost silent) to 4.0 (sounds like a normal television) -- loud for a fan, but it does provide privacy against toilet sounds, especially nice for powder rooms often located near public areas of your home.

Most people choose a 1- or 2-sone fan -- quiet enough keep your teeth from rattling, but not so quiet that you'll forget it's on.

CFM and sone are related, because stronger fans -- with higher CFMs -- usually create more noise; quieter fans -- lower sone -- often can't adequately clear air from bigger areas.

The important thing is to pick a fan that's right for your space, ears, and budget.

Sizing Your Fan

The Home Ventilating Institute, which tests and certifies manufacture claims, suggests that homeowners follow these formulas when sizing a fan:

For bathrooms less than 100 sq. ft.
: Calculate your bathroom's square footage (length x width), and pick a fan with at least that number of CFMs. For example: If your bathroom is 6 feet by 8 feet, you should buy a fan that's at least 48 CFM. A 50-CFM model comes closest and is the minimum size suggested for small bathrooms.

Size a fan for a ginormous bathroom: If your bathroom is bigger than 100 sq. ft., forget about the square footage figure; instead assign a CFM capacity for each fixture:
          50 CFM -- toilet.

          50 CFM -- bathtub.

          100 CFM -- jetted whirlpool tub.

          50 CFM -- shower.

If you have a completely tricked-out bathroom, you may need at least 200 CFM of draw, which you can accomplish with several 50-CFM fans (one fan should be in separate toilet enclosure), or one big, 200-CFM fan.

How To Install Your Fan

Bathroom fan installation isn't brain surgery -- collect air here; exhaust air out there. But it's not for beginners either, because the project includes removing drywall, perhaps drilling through joists, certainly busting through an exterior wall or roof.

We suggest hiring an HVAC pro, who will charge $150-$700.

If you decide to install a fan yourself, here are some decisions you'll have to make:

Location: If you have a separate WC, put a small fan there. If your toilet is part of the bathroom, locate the fan between the toilet and tub/shower.

Venting: Exhaust flows through venting attached to the fan and out an exterior wall or roof. Never vent smelly, damp air into an attic or crawl space, which will warp rafters and promote mold growth.

The idea is to run venting the shortest, straightest path from the bathroom to outside. Every extra foot and bend the venting makes increases friction and decreases air draw and fan efficiency.

Appropriate venting runs up into your attic, then along or through floor joists until it reaches the eaves. From there, it can be exhausted out a soffit.

In some instances it may be more practical (and less expensive) to run the vent directly out a wall, or through a vent stack in your roof.

Door clearance: During installation, make sure your bathroom door has at least ¾-inch clearance from the floor, so "makeup air" can easily replace the sucked-out air, putting less stress on the fan.

Related: A Replacement Fan That's Easy to Install (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/bathrooms/bathroom-fan/)

Fan Options

Bathroom exhaust fans come in custom styles and colors, but most of us would rather spend our decor budget elsewhere and will choose an off-the-rack fan with one or more of the following options:

Fan only: If you're retrofitting a small bathroom that already has a ceiling fixture, select a basic fan, 50-70 CFM. Cost: $15-$50.

Fan-and-light combo: Good for small bathrooms or WCs. Choose a combo with enough wattage to sufficiently light the area, typically upwards of 60 watts. Cost: $30-$150.

Deluxe combo: All the bells and whistles -- fan, light, heater, nightlight, timer (necessary for super-quiet fans you won't remember are on), humidistat (automatically turns on fan when air moisture rises). Cost: $150-$600.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Should You Buy Flood Insurance?



Should You Buy Flood Insurance?

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Dona DeZube
Published: June 19, 2013


If you have a mortgage (http://www.houselogic.com/home-taxes-financing/home-loans-mortgages/) on your home and you live in a high-risk flood zone, in most cases, your lender requires you to buy flood insurance.
However, if you live in a moderate- to low-risk zone, and your community belongs to the National Flood Insurance Program (most do), then you have the option of buying it.
If you're in the latter category, your first question probably is, "How much does it cost?" Federal flood insurance can cost just a few hundred dollars or as much as $10,000 a year, depending on your risk factor.
Some other facts that can help you make up your mind:

Your Homeowners Insurance Doesn't Cover Flood Damage
It only covers water falling from the sky. Once water touches the ground and enters your home, it's a flood (http://www.houselogic.com/protect-your-home/floods/), and only flood insurance will pay for the damage.
For example, if a tree limb pokes a hole in your roof during a rainstorm, and rainwater damages your ceiling and floor, that's covered by your homeowners insurance. But if heavy rain causes the creek in your neighborhood to overflow into your home, that's covered only by flood insurance.
To be more precise, the National Flood Insurance Program uses this definition of a flood:
A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from overflow of inland or tidal waters, from unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or from mudflow.

Everyone Lives in a Flood Zone
It's just a matter of how much risk of flood there is. The NFIP can tell you your home's exact risk of flooding. But in a nutshell, zones A and V are high risk areas. Moderate- to low-risk areas are zones B, C, and X. If you're in zone D, the risk isn't clearly known because it hasn't been mapped yet. But you still can purchase flood insurance. The zones are used to help determine policy rates.

More Than 20% of Flood Insurance Claims Come From Moderate-to-Low Zones

That's 1 out of 5. And that's not counting homeowners who weren't insured and, therefore, couldn't file claims. No one knows how many uninsured there are, although only 18% of homeowners have flood insurance.

You Can't Count on Government Aid

Government aid comes largely in the form of loans, which you will have to repay. Before you can even qualify for a loan, your area has to be declared a federal disaster area, and federal disaster assistance is declared in less than half of all flooding events.

The Average Flood Claim is $30,000

But if you live where the water rises so high that emergency responders have to cut roof holes to rescue people, your potential flood loss could be quite a bit higher.
Cost of damage to a 2,000-sq.-ft. home by 6 inches of floodwater:
 Finished floor, wood, carpeting $15,870 Doors, base trim, windows
$2,150 Electrical, plumbing $320
Cleaning
$2000 Kitchen and bath cabinets $4,500 Appliances $180 Washer, dryer $150 Repairs to furnace/AC $270 Bedroom furniture $1,800 Kitchenware and food $330 Living room furniture $2,700
Computer accessories $1,100 Media equipment $150 Accent furniture and accessories $450 Personal items $650 Total $39,150 1,000 sq. ft. home is $20,150

If You Decide You Want to Purchase Flood Insurance

To get an idea of how much coverage you'll need, create a home inventory (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-inventories/home-inventory-tools) and then estimate the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home. Together, those two figures are your total potential loss.
A federal flood policy would cover rebuilding costs up to $250,000. You can also get a NFIP to cover up to $100,000 in possessions. One or both of those.

What Flood Insurance Covers (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/disaster-insurance/what-does-flood-insurance-cover/)
 If your home would cost more than $250,000 to rebuild, you have to buy a private flood insurance policy called "excess coverage" to insure the value of your home above $250,000. Ask your insurance agent for options.

Questions to Ask Your Agent
FEMA's online flood map locator (http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/residential_coverage/rc_overview.jsp) can estimate your premium and help you find an agent who sells federal flood insurance in your community.
When you talk to an agent, make sure you get answers to these questions:
          What will and won't be covered?

          Are there additional expenses or agency fees?

          Will my policy insure me for the actual cost of replacing items, or just what the items are valued at?

          Can my zone change, and therefore, my rates? The NFIP is reworking its maps, which is resulting in some potential rate changes.

Related: 7 Myths About Flood Insurance (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/disaster-insurance/flood-insurance-facts/)