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Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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Tom's Blog

Give Your Home a Routine Check-Up

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

As autumn arrives, Americans shift their focus from sunny barbecues and beachside bonfires to raking leaves and picking apples. The dog days are gone, and the upcoming season promises new opportunities to spend time with friends and family. Unfortunately, it also promises a new set of issues for homeowners and car owners. There's no need for a total makeover, but careful homeowners should make a point to fall-proof their home, just as motorists maintain their vehicles.

Here are some projects to tackle now:
Clean your gutters. After a summer of scattered showers, it's a good idea to take a look around the roof for any leaks or cracks in the gutters. As autumn moves along, inspect them a few more times to make sure there isn't any foliage creating clogs. Stagnant water and falling leaves make for a mucky mix that could lead to foundation damage if left untouched. Be sure to check for any loose, broken or missing shingles, too.

Dust off the fireplace. Nothing beats the warm glow and homey scent of a well-stocked fireplace. Embrace those relaxing fireside evenings by clearing out any debris that might be left over from autumns past. Have the chimney cleaned at least once a year, and check for any nicks or cracks in it. Lastly, be sure to put up a screen to shield family members from any wayward sparks.

Shop for an insurance policy. The colder weather poses certain risks for homeowners both at home and on the road. With so many assets to protect, there's no need to settle for less than satisfactory home or auto coverage. Take a fresh look at your policies and premiums and make sure you've got the coverage you need without overpaying for it. Remember, you could receive a home-auto discount if you get both policies from the same carrier, so be sure to ask about that and other discounts.


Clearing the Air: What an HVAC Cleaner Should Really Do in Your Home

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

(ARA) – Those statistics about indoor air pollution and it’s relation to respiratory problems convinced you it was time to get your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) cleaned. You were even looking forward to the increased energy efficiency that a clean system can provide. But $49 and one very noisy service call later, you’re still sneezing and you haven’t seen any dip in your energy bill.

What happened?

“A very low service charge may indicate the service provider isn’t performing a thorough cleaning and maintenance of your home’s entire HVAC system,” says Matt Mongiello, president of NADCA, the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance & Restoration Association. “He or she may have done nothing more than blow air through the ducts and clean off vent grills inside the home. A cleaning performed to NADCA standards – which are cited by the EPA as a best practice – encompasses much more than just the ductwork.”

HVAC companies are among the top 10 industries with the most complaints, according to the Better Business Bureau. So how can a homeowner know if a service provider is doing a good job, or just blowing hot air?

The EPA recommends you interview companies to ensure they have experience working on your type of system, that they will take steps to protect your home and everyone in it from contamination, and that they comply with NADCA’s air duct cleaning standards.

NADCA members carry general liability insurance, have at least one person on staff trained and certified as an Air Systems Cleaning Specialist, and clean and restore heating and cooling systems following the association’s standards and guidelines. A job done to NADCA standards should include:

A thorough inspection of the HVAC system before doing any work, and full disclosure of any problems discovered during the inspection.

  • Examination of metal ductwork at several random sites to ensure the interior surfaces are free of visible debris.
  • Cleaning of both the supply and return air ductwork.
  • Removal, cleaning and resetting of all supply registers, return air grilles and diffusers.
  • Cleaning of the supply and return air plenums.
  • Inspection and/or installation of access panels.
  • Cleaning of the air-stream side of the heat exchanger and cleaning of the secondary heat exchanger.
  • Removal, cleaning and reassembly of the blower motor.
  • Cleaning and inspection of the blower blades and blower compartment.
  • Cleaning of the evaporator coil, drain and pan. If the cooling coil is clean, light should shine through it when you point a flashlight at the coils.
  • Inspection and repair of the coil fins if needed.
  • Replacement of air filters.
  • Washing of the air cleaner.

While some companies may tout “duct-cleaning” for very low prices, be wary of these offers, Mongiello, advises. “A cleaning typically costs between $450 and $1,000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system, how easily accessible it is, the climate in your region and how dirty it is,” he says.

Many of those variables will influence how long the job takes, too. Before you hire a contractor, contact at least two NADCA member companies to provide you with a time estimate for the job. “You’ll get an idea of how long the job should take,” Mongiello says. “But in general, a service provider who’s in and out of your home in an hour or less may be leaving out some steps that are necessary to do the job right.”

Finally, Mongiello advises, feel free to stick around while the technicians do their job. “As long as the homeowner’s presence isn’t compromising anyone’s safety, there’s no reason a consumer can’t observe how a job is done,” he says.


Word of the Day:

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

Second mortgage. Lien on property that is subordinate to a first mortgage. In the event of default, the second mortgage is repaid after the first. Also called a junior mortgage, and in some circumstances a home equity loan.

Q: Is It Possible to Refinance Following a Bankruptcy?

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

A: It can be difficult to do after a bankruptcy, unless you are willing to pay very high interest rates and fees. However, if you are contemplating bankruptcy, first talk with your lender and explain your situation. If your mortgage payments are current, the lender may be accommodating and refinance your loan, thereby helping to ease your financial burden.

Three Easy Project Ideas for Indoors and Out

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

In the continuing quest to find something to do around the house and yard during that transition period between late summer and early fall, I ran across an item at, penned by Sean from Chico, Calif.

He took a fresh look at some of the easier things to accomplish ahead of fall and winter's wrath - that could enhance your property as well as your family's health.

Here they are in a nutshell:
1. Seal ventilation leaks: Houses with leaks and gaps are harder to keep cool than those that are tightly constructed. The hot air seeps in while the cool air conditioning rushes out, or cool winter air seeps in while expensive heat leaks out. Discover where you have leaks in the home (the most common spots are around the doors, windows and garage) and seal those leaks.
2. Improve your IAQ - indoor air quality: This can make the difference between a healthy household and one that has danger lurking in the air. Recovery ventilators and air exchangers (Sean recommends Broan‘s AE60 air exchanger) are roughly the same size as an air conditioner and offer constant filtration, humidity control and general home ventilation.
3. Install outdoor lighting: Sean says providing proper lighting can make walkways safer, add a layer of security and highlight your landscaping. Outdoor wall sconces, chandeliers, pendants, and path and post lights can also prolong the life of your outdoor party and instantly add to your home’s curb appeal. reports that Low-voltage landscape lighting does not require an electrician or inspection, and, unlike some other electrical work, is safe to install.

Consider creating a silhouetted effect or front lighting to showcase single plants or trees. If you have a tall tree, place a light at the base and shine it up through the branches, or hide a tree mount fixture and have it shine down on a lawn or garden.

You may consider lighting other objects of interest like a birdbath or bench. It’s generally a good idea to spread your lighting out to create even illumination throughout the yard, but don't over-light your landscape, since too much light might prove unattractive.

Protecting Your Hard Wood

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

(ARA) - No matter what the setting, the good looks and durability of hardwood floors can be maintained with minimal effort. It’s simply a matter of proper care and maintenance.

The American Hardwood Information Center,, in conjunction with the National Wood Flooring Association suggest the following care and maintenance guidelines to keep hardwood floors looking beautiful today, and for years to come. Here’s how to begin.

General maintenance guidelines

All hardwood floors should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt and grit from between the floor boards. Avoid using a wet mop which can dull the finish. Instead, sweep with either a dust mop or broom that features exploded tips, or vacuum the floors using a vacuum with special hardwood floor attachments or one with the beater bar turned off.

Wipe up any spills immediately, using a soft, dry or slightly damp cloth, starting at the edges of the spill and working toward the center. Allowing spills to remain on hardwood floors could damage the finish, as well as the wood.

Avoid walking on hardwood floors with sports cleats or high heel shoes in disrepair. These can scratch the finish, or even dent the floor. Placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs will also minimize scratches.

Further minimize scratches by placing scatter rugs at all entrances to help keep small stones and debris out. But choose wisely. Scatter rugs with rubber backs can discolor wood floors. Special rug mats can be purchased from a wood flooring retailer to protect the floors from discoloration.

You’re not "finished" just yet

Knowing which type of finish applied to protect the hardwood floor is important. Different flooring finishes require different kinds of care, so if or when in doubt, contact the flooring manufacturer or a wood flooring professional in your area.

There are three major types of wood flooring finishes available— surface finishes, wax and acrylic impregnated –and the experts at the National Wood Flooring Association stress that using the right maintenance products will protect and prolong the life of the floor.

Surface finishes, also referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes, are practical and very popular. They remain on the surface of the wood and form a protective coating that is water-resistant, durable and requires minimal maintenance.

For cleaning purposes, use products recommended by the flooring manufacturer. If the floors were finished or refinished on site, contact the installer. If neither is known, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner which can be purchased at a retail flooring store. Never use wax-based or petroleum-based products on a surface finish floor, as they will damage the finish.

Wax finishes soak into the wood, harden to form a protective penetrating seal, and when needed, are maintained with additional thin applications of wax. Only solvent-based waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids made specifically for wax-finished wood floors should be used.

Use cleaning products, available at retail flooring stores, made specifically for wax finishes. Follow the directions carefully to determine how long the cleaner should remain on the floor. Once the floor is clean, apply a new coat of wax to restore luster.

Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. These finishes most often are used in high traffic areas of malls, restaurants and other commercial settings.

Cleaning an acrylic impregnated floor depends on the finish. If the floor has a urethane-based finish, follow the same procedures suggested for surface finished floors. If the floor has a nonurethane-based finish, use a spray and buff system, as recommended by the manufacturer.


Remodeling? Follow These 5 Steps First

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

Having the flexibility to turn your home into your dream house is an amazing feeling, and remodeling can be fun. But imagine being halfway through your kitchen remodel only to realize the money you budgeted isn't enough to cover completing the project. This is a perfect example of why proper home remodeling planning is so important. Below are five steps everyone should follow before the remodeling process takes place.

Draw a plan to define a clear idea of what you want the end result to look like. Write down any and all thoughts you have in regards to the desired room design. Draw where you think furniture pieces may go; describe how certain elements will be incorporated. The plan can change throughout the remodeling process, but having that visual at the start will help guide the project as things progress. If you are having difficulty formulating a remodeling plan, call a professional handyman or designer to help with direction and give you more ideas.

Research the various elements involved in your plan. Oftentimes, other people have carried out the same projects themselves and can offer valuable advice. Save time by learning from others' experiences, rather than by your own trial and error. If you find your kitchen remodeling, for example, is beyond your capabilities, a skilled handyman may offer expertise that can enhance your plan beyond your expectations. Once you have done your research, you will have a better idea of how much money and time are required to complete the plan.

Create a budget that you are comfortable devoting to your project. Before you begin purchasing materials and securing labor, you need to set a limit to ensure that spending does not get out of control. At this point, your plan may need alterations to fit within your budget restraints. Proper budgeting ensures your plan can be carried out to completion. In order to complete the kitchen remodeling, however, you will most likely need some professional help.

Gather help from experienced craftsmen to ensure your success. While some handy homeowners may opt to remodel alone, having others help will make the process a smoother experience. In some cases, that can be as simple as collecting friends and family to share the labor. Unfortunately, this type of help does not always give you the professional results you hope to achieve. Sometimes it may be best to bring in a professional.

Get the appropriate permits required by your local government to make sure your project complies with local building codes. Make sure to apply at your local town office for any necessary permits involved in your remodeling project. If you are unsure of how to go about this or which permits you require, handyman services can be extremely helpful.


Word of the Day

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

Sales contract. Contract that contains the terms of the agreement between the buyer and seller for the sale of a particular parcel or parcels of real estate.

Q: What Is APR?

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

A: The annual percentage rate, or APR, is an interest rate that differs from the loan rate. It is the actual yearly interest rate paid by the borrower, including the points charged to initiate the loan and other costs.

The APR discloses the real cost of borrowing by adding on the points and by factoring in the assumption that they will be paid off incrementally over the life of the loan. The APR is usually about 0.5 percent higher than the loan rate and is commonly used to compare mortgage programs from different lenders.

The Federal Truth in Lending law requires mortgage companies to disclose the APR when they advertise a rate. The APR is usually found next to the mortgage rate in newspaper ads.

Fall Gardening 101

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

Can you really start a garden in fall? It’s not too late to begin planting certain lettuces, cabbages and cauliflower if you choose the right variety.

A column on late summer gardening at also advises that you can also plant fast-growing varieties of carrots, peas and beets. And many leaf vegetables and salad crops are hardy enough to last well into autumn, including kale, Swill chard, lettuce and arugula.

Another source for you folks in the south eastern part of the country is Louisiana State University AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske, who assures that many varieties can be planted at this time of year.

It is also good times to plant seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, collards, mustard, turnips, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, lima beans and southern peas, bulbs for green shallots and Irish potatoes. Also, in late August and early September, transplant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

Insects are a worse problem, Dr. Koske says. This late in the season, gardeners often find several generations of insect pests, each one larger than the previous.

Fall gardeners must be more observant and prepared to battle insect pests. The good news is that fall is generally dry, and diseases could be less of a problem unless they are insect spread.

Other fall crops will need to be planted during the second part of the fall gardening season, which begins in September-early October. Seeding for these include carrots, endive, lettuce, onion, parsley, English peas, bulbing shallots and radish.

And you can plant garlic as late as October in the southern regions that hold on to warmer weather, or generally stave off frost well into December.

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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440 - PERKASIE

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