Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
April 12, 2012 5:06 pm
Q: What is Universal Design and how does it relate to remodeling?
A: Universal design is an approach to design that focuses on making all products and environments as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, physical ability, or situation. In recent years, the housing industry has recognized the importance of a "universal" approach to residential design that modifies standard building elements to improve a home's accessibility and usability. This allows for more equitable, flexible and simple use. Many books exist on the subject, including Residential Remodeling and Universal Design: Making Homes More Comfortable and Accessible, a resource guide offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD’s guide provides technical guidance on selecting and installing universal features during home remodeling or renovation. The modifications can range from expanding doorway dimensions to replacing kitchen appliances. The guide emphasizes eliminating unintentional barriers and using designs and features that could benefit people with a broad range of needs.
April 11, 2012 7:00 pm
If your 2012 home improvement project is going to include new countertops, you will be happy to note that I recently learned about a great resource through the First Weber Wisconsin real estate & Wisconsin living blog. That blog introduced Alabama home writer Lisa Frederick who is featured at www.houzz.com.
Frederick produced a comprehensive look at the options and costs of 11 different types of countertops. Among the variety of materials are:
Paper Composite -
Created from paper fibers mixed with resin, this surface is eco-friendly and a whole lot more durable than it sounds.
Pros: Paper composite evokes the look of solid surfacing or laminate but with a warmer sensibility. It's surprisingly hardy and can withstand heat and water admirably. It's also a great deal lighter than natural stone or concrete.
Cons: The material isn't scratchproof and is susceptible to chemical damage. It needs an occasional rubdown with mineral oil, and even sanding, to refresh it. Although it sounds as though it would be a lower-budget option, it isn't (unless you install it yourself).
Cost: $85 to $125 per square foot, installed
- Although it's in no danger of overtaking granite, soapstone has come into its own as a counter top material. It offers subtle, nuanced beauty yet feels humbler than granite or marble.
Pros: Soapstone has a natural softness and depth that fits very well with older and cottage-style homes. Although it usually starts out light to medium gray, it darkens with time. (Most people enjoy the acquired patina, but you may consider this a con.)
Cons: Soapstone needs polishing with oil to keep it in top shape. It can crack over time, and it can't handle knife scratches and nicks as well as some other types of stone. The natural roughness of its surface can scuff glassware and china.
Cost: $45 to $100 per square foot, installed
Butcher Block -
Butcher block has a classic appeal and always looks fresh. It's especially fitting for traditional, country and cottage-style kitchens.
Pros: Many homeowners like butcher block's warm, natural appearance and variegated wood tones. Although knives scratch it, many people like the shopworn look it develops — after all, it's what chopping blocks have been made of for years. But you can also sand scratches down with ease.
Cons: Wood swells and contracts with moisture exposure, and butcher block is no exception. It harbors bacteria and needs frequent disinfecting. Oiling is a must to fill in scratches and protect the surface.
Cost: $35 to $70 per square foot, installed
Check out the feature to see all the various counter top options available, here.
April 11, 2012 7:00 pm
Flying off the handle is rarely productive, and drinking too much is a no-no. But there are ways to turn some bad habits into actions that improve your life and health.
From behavioral therapists reporting in Woman’s Day, here are five ‘bad’ habits that may not be so bad if you can turn them into positive life adjustments:
• All that morning coffee – Caffeine is a stimulant, and if it makes you hyper, you may be ingesting too much. But caffeine also helps activate brain chemicals that elevate mood, like dopamine and serotonin. It is also a source of antioxidants and other compounds that may help protect against cancer. So if you don’t feel any ill effects, give yourself permission to drink that second cup.
• Mild bouts of depression – Nobody needs to be Pollyanna all the time. But if you let yourself regularly wallow in despair, it’s time to figure out why. Once you identify the cause— too much debt, no time for yourself, or whatever— make an effort to take the steps that will not only chase away your sadness, but make positive changes in your life.
• A beer after work - Beer is rich in antioxidants and provides a dose of energy-revving iron – and some pale ales contain as much or more silicon than oat bran, a good source of bone-protecting minerals. Like a glass of red wine with dinner, one is, at worst, a harmless indulgence. But beer is high in calories, so figure it into your diet and stop after one.
• Skipping your workouts – You need to work out hard only three or four days a week to reap the benefits of exercise, most experts agree. If daily gym workouts bore you, allow yourself to supplement visits with lunchtime walks, weight-bearing home exercise or a swim a couple of days a week.
• Procrastinating by reading jokes in your email – Blood vessels expand up to 50 percent when you laugh—and a hearty laugh releases nitric oxide which can help reduce blood pressure. Laughter also boosts levels of pain-relieving, feel-good endorphins—so don’t feel guilty about taking a little work time to laugh at the jokes in your mailbox. You may be doing your employer a favor with a cheap way to stay healthy!
April 11, 2012 7:00 pm
It’s that time of year when a second gutter cleaning is almost always needed, especially with the new shedding of leaf debris from newly spring budding branches. Recent winter storms can also blow leaves, pine needles and roofing debris into your gutter causing potential rainwater overflow, which in turn can cause landscape erosion and water damage to your home.
According to Robert Lenney, gutter cleaning expert whose company has cleaned out more than six million feet of gutters since 1996, “cleaning out your gutters is a dangerous task, and it’s sad that deaths occur every year because of it.”
There are a variety of gutter cleaning tips that can bring sanity into this tedious task.
Some of the basics are listed below:
Ladder Safety: Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your roof or gutters. Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard. I recommend a four-legged step ladder for a single story home, and an extension ladder for a two-story home. An orchard ladder is not recommended because there are only three legs for support and they can become unbalanced.
A wooden ladder is also not recommended because they are often wobbly and difficult to safely balance. Fiberglass ladders seem to be the sturdiest, but are also the heaviest. If you are cleaning gutters for hours upon hours, muscle fatigue can set in from moving the heavy ladder numerous times. If this is the case, you should try using an aluminum ladder, which is the second-choice option for strength and support.
Inspect the ladder for defects, dents or loose parts before climbing. If your ladder is fastened together with screws and bolts, make sure all parts are tightened. When opening up a step ladder, make sure the extension-hinge arms are fully extended and locked in place.
Before climbing the ladder, lightly jump on the first rung a few times to make sure the ground is secure. Sometimes the soil is soft, or there might be a gopher hole underneath one of the ladder legs. Either condition could cause the ladder to collapse with the combined weight of the ladder and a person. A piece of half-inch plywood can be placed under the ladder legs to keep it level and steady.
When climbing the ladder, always remember the “Three Point Rule.” As much as possible try to have both legs and one hand firmly secure on the ladder at all times to provide stability and balance while cleaning. Conversely, do not lean out from the ladder balancing on one leg while using two hands to clean debris from the gutter. Oftentimes, it is this stretching and reaching for that last scoop of debris that lands a person in the hospital. Lastly, if at all possible, have someone hold the ladder to provide additional safety while climbing.
Garden Hose: Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. This type of spray nozzle allows you to adjust the water pressure with the use of just one hand. This style of spray nozzle comes with a handy pistol-grip trigger, allowing it to be easily hung over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder, or while using a gutter scoop. This type of spray nozzle can be purchased at any hardware store.
Spraying out the gutter is generally best when most of the larger debris has already been removed. It’s difficult to spray out leaves and pine needles that have piled up over the summer and fall. Spray toward the downspout (leader pipe) so the small, murky debris flows down the downspout. If the downspout is connected to an underground drain that goes out to your street, the base of the downspout needs to be disconnected so the debris can be released at this point, preventing a potential clog further down the system under your lawn or driveway.
Gutter Scoop: Scooping out the leafy debris seems to be the best overall method for cleaning out the gutter. An excellent tool for this job is the bright orange plastic “Gutter Getter” scoop, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. This tool is unique because the front scooping edge is very thin and it forms itself to the bottom of the gutter trough, making it easy to scoop out even the toughest of debris in any size gutter system.
Stay away from using a metal scooping tool because the bottom of the gutter and seams can be damaged. Scraping the bottom of a steel gutter can introduce areas to rust, and if the bottom of the gutter is already rusting, the rusting process could speed up. Using a metal scooping tool can also damage seams in the gutter because the motion of scraping out the bottom of a gutter with a metal tool can damage the caulking that seals two ends of a gutter together (called a seam).
An extension pole can also be attached to the gutter scoop for reaching farther to clean the gutter, reducing ladder moves.
Wear Gloves: Gloves can help protect hands against dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contains bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria. Gloves can also prevent painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter. Cotton gloves can soak up dirty water that exposes skin to bacteria. Leather gloves are not as maneuverable and tend to shrivel up when they dry after cleaning. Rubber gloves can get poked or torn by metal shards in the gutter. Thick, suede glove material is recommended because it is superior to cotton, thin leather or rubber gloves.
Protective Eye Wear: Eye protection is a must because one never knows what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters. People have experienced rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving at high speeds once they start removing a clog, and the last thing they want to have happen is an eye injury.
Rake off Roof: Rake all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again. Also, debris left on the roof can lead to water damming up in valleys or around the chimney, which can cause erosion and roof leaks over time.
Robert Lenney is the owner and founder of the Rocklin California based company Gutterglove, Inc.
Sources: Robert Lenney, www.TapeOnGutterguard.com, www.Gutterglove.com
April 11, 2012 7:00 pm
It's that time of year again. The sun is shining, the sky is blue— and it's time to clear out the old so you can make way for the new. Rhymes aside, spring cleaning can be a tough task for most homeowners, but there are a few house cleaning tips that we can offer, which are very effective. You can spring-clean your own home like a professional maid service would. All you need are a few simple tools and a spring cleaning strategy.
One of the most effective spring cleaning tips that we can offer is that you should ensure that you have all of your cleaning tools with you at all times. Fill up a tote or a basket with all of your housekeeping supplies, so you can carry it around the house with you as you clean from room to room.
Next, go about cleaning one room at a time. Do not move on to another room until the one you're currently working on has been completely cleaned. In the kitchen, be sure to clean and wax the floors, clear out the fridge and all drawers, wipe all of your cabinets and put away your dishes. In the washroom, clean all surfaces (including the toilet and sink), remove clutter and wax the floors. The living room and bedrooms should require the least amount of work: vacuum or mop, eliminate clutter and clean all surfaces. Also, be sure to get rid of any items you no longer need, including clothing, furniture, linens and documents.
Source: Merry Maids
April 11, 2012 7:00 pm
Conveyance. Document used to transfer title. A deed is a conveyance.
April 11, 2012 7:00 pm
Q: What should I consider when remodeling the bathroom?
A: Don’t jump too quickly to discard reusable fixtures. If your tub is in relatively good shape, consider having it re-glazed instead of replaced, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. As for the walls around the tub, cultured marble sheets are cheaper to install than marble tiles and also easier to clean. Fiberglass is also less expensive than tile. If space is extremely limited and you cannot “steal” it from other areas of your home, purchase a jetted tub and shower combination or install a pedestal lavatory instead of a vanity cabinet with a sink. Remember, installing a large jetted tub can overtax your water heater, so consider adding a water heater that is dedicated to the tub to prevent problems later.
April 10, 2012 6:58 pm
The green movement is here. At a time when homeowners everywhere are trying to find ways to conserve energy and save money, a little knowledge can go a long way. The following tips can reduce your carbon footprint and your electricity bills.
Refrigeration - Refrigerators are a huge energy consumer in the home. Some energy saving tips to remember:
• Refrigerators with the freezer on top use 10-15 percent less energy than side by side models.
• If your refrigerator is in the sunlight or next to your stove or dishwasher, it has to work harder to maintain cool temperatures.
An energy efficient refrigerator can save your family over $100 per year on the utility bill and if you combine an efficient new refrigerator with these tips you can save even more.
Washers and Dryers - Clothing washers and dryers can take a toll on your household utility bill. To save yourself some money, upgrade to an energy efficient mode and use these tips:
• Try not to overload your washer, but certainly don't under load it either. If you can start doing all of your laundry in three loads instead of four you will reap the rewards on your energy bill.
• Use cold water whenever possible and always use the energy-saving features.
An energy efficient washer can save your family up to $135 per year when combined with these tips.
Home electronics - This category often goes overlooked as a source of energy consumption by many homeowners. Many think that by switching some of their household products to "off," like a light switch, the item is no longer using energy. This is a common misconception. Devices like a Playstation or Blu-Ray player can still use power when the device is turned off.
To help reduce the energy use of your home electronics, use a power strip so you can turn them all completely off from one central location.
• Use the power management features on your computers and your televisions.
Upgrading your TV to an ENERGY STAR qualified television and following these simple steps can help you conserve over 40 percent less energy.
Water Heating - Water heating is one of the largest energy consumers in the home because it is necessary for numerous household activities. If you are in the market for a new water heater, you may be able to substantially reduce your energy consumption through water conservation.
• If your electric water heater was installed before 2004, install an insulating jacket to save 25-40 percent of standby heat loss.
• Lower the water heater temperature. For every 12 degrees you lower your water heater you can save an average of 3-5 percent on water heating costs.
Dishwashing - Models that use less water also use less energy because 60 percent of the energy used by a dishwasher goes towards heating the water.
• Choose a dishwasher with a "light wash" or "energy-saving" wash cycle. It uses less water and operates for a shorter period of time.
• Look for dishwashers that have an energy-saving cycle that allow dishes to be air-dried with circulation fans, rather than heat-dried with energy-wasting heating coils.
Window Coverings - Energy efficient window treatments are one easy way to conserve energy and reduce your utility bills. To be effective, window treatments must trap air between the shade or blind and the window glass. Window treatments are often overlooked during energy conservation conversations because they rarely consume any energy at all (motorized coverings being the exception). The correct combination of window coverings can drastically reduce the amount of heat lost during the cold winter months and can keep your home cooler during the hot summer months. With so many different options to choose from in terms of types of coverings, you can have your window coverings just the way you like. Pleated window blinds and cellular shades are just two of the many options in types of coverings, but you can also choose material, color, texture, and style. Some factors that contribute to energy gained and lost through window treatments:
Source: Budget Blinds
April 10, 2012 6:58 pm
Many people don’t realize just how talented they are. If you can paint a house, fix leaky faucets, sew designer clothes or bake great pies, you have talents other people would love to have—and you may be able to trade your talent for the goods and services you need.
“Bartering has been a mainstay in American life for many generations,” says Nevada roofer Steve Rittenhouse, who recently traded a roof installation for dental services including braces for his daughter.” It’s a matter of making contact with those who are open to trading, and that’s pretty easy in today’s electronic age.”
Rittenhouse, who has traded his roofing service for a freezer full of beef, new carpeting, and golf club privileges, among other things, offers five ways to get started making bartering pay off for you:
• Put a price on your goods or service – Whether you want to offer professional services or trade a vintage car, assess the hourly value or the item value as closely as you can. When it comes time to trade, you will want to be sure you are exchanging equal value.
• Decide what you want – Once you know the value of what you want to swap, research the cost of the goods or services you would like to receive in return, such as lawn service for babysitting or antique furniture for a piano.
• Start with Craigslist – Look for the ‘barter’ section under ‘for sale.’ In addition to answering offers by others, you can post your proposed barter for free. You can also take out free ads in local neighborhood papers, such as Pennysaver.
• Let your friends know – Word of mouth can be invaluable, and your friends and family are well aware of your talents. Let them know what you are willing to swap for, and ask them to approach possible swappers on your behalf.
• Target flyers – Post flyers advertising for barter partners in libraries and community centers. If you are seeking professional services, leave your flyers at targeted business centers or office buildings. If you want to trade household goods or services, try grocery store or clubhouse bulletin boards.
April 10, 2012 6:58 pm
Between work, errands, spending time with your family and squeezing in that yoga class or tennis match to keep fit and sane, cleaning your home may seem like a daunting task. This is why many American’s hire housecleaners, who create a clean, tidy, less stressful environment for them to come home to. But how do you go about finding the right house cleaning service or individual? Take a look at the following tips.
• Meet the housecleaner in person. Before you hire a housecleaner, make sure you feel comfortable having that person in your home. Check references on past work.
• Ask about prices, fees, cancellations. Find out in advance how much a full service will cost, not just the hourly rate. Some companies charge per hour, others per visit or based on square footage. Ask, if you have to cancel, is there a fee? Can you hire for a one-time service, or is a contract required?
• Service guarantee. What if you're not happy with the service? Is there a guarantee?
• Find out how far in advance to make your appointment. Some cleaning services operate anywhere from as little as a day to as long as several weeks in advance.
• Decide how you want the service to enter your home. Establish beforehand if the service will use a key, garage code or if a family member or neighbor will let them in.
• Ask about insurance. Does the company maintain proper liability insurance? Is it bonded? Does the company do background checks on employees?
• Consider cleaning agents. Will the company bring its own supplies? Talk about what cleaning agents they use and eco-friendly options available.
• What's important to you? Talk to the company about what you expect; what you like/dislike. Make any concerns or expectations you have clear upfront.
Source: Angie's List