Liz Hieter
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Wood or Wood-Like Flooring: What's the Difference?

June 14, 2016 2:21 am

Traditionally, hardwood floors added warmth and natural beauty to the home. These days, hardwood competes with copycat laminates and engineered wood floors, which can cost less. The differences between wood and wood-like flooring, according to Melissa Maker, host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube:

Hardwood – Hardwood flooring is made of solid, natural wood. Costing between $6 and $15 per square foot, it is typically made with a tongue and groove system for easy installation. It is simple to sand and refinish, but is easier to damage and requires a healthy amount of maintenance to keep it looking great.

Laminates – The core of laminate flooring is made of high density fiber (HDF), as opposed to actual slabs of wood. The top layer is a photographic layer that mimics the look of hardwood. It won’t fool a discriminating eye, but at about half the cost of hardwood flooring, it will take more abuse, is easy to clean, and is installed using a tongue and groove locking system you can install or uninstall with ease.

Engineered Hardwood – A hybrid more expensive than laminate and costing about as much as hardwood, engineered hardwood has a core of plywood or HDF and a top layer composed of a hardwood veneer glued onto the core. It has the more natural characteristics of wood, but it handles heat and moisture better because of the core material. It may be refinished, but generally only once.

Despite their differences, all three types of flooring may be cleaned the same way, Maker adds. They should be swept or dust-mopped regularly, and cleaned with a drop of dish liquid and a capful of white vinegar mixed into a bucket of warm water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Lawn: 5 Water-Wise Tips

June 13, 2016 12:21 am

For many homeowners, watering the lawn is a guessing game—sometimes with a losing outcome.

Knowing when and how to water your lawn is a science, says Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a national coalition of grass seed farmers and academic turf specialists.

“When it gets hot, the most common mistake people make is to excessively water their lawn,” Ostlund says. “However, your lawn only needs to be watered once or twice a week during the summer months. When done correctly, cutting back on irrigation can actually strengthen your lawn.”

Less watering stimulates deep root growth, which can be a boon in drought-prone areas, Ostlund adds. (Not to mention, overwatering can also counter community efforts to curb water consumption!)

Water with no more than 2 inches each week, Ostlund recommends. This will compensate for the lack of rainfall in summer without risking over-saturation.

The best time to break out the hose is early or late in the day, says Ostlund. This allows for deeper absorption, because the sun will not evaporate the water as rapidly as it would mid-day.

Most importantly, be sure to regularly schedule watering times. Lawns thrive wioth consistent waterings, according to Ostlund.

Source: Grass Seed USA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Extra Room an Untapped Revenue Opportunity?

June 13, 2016 12:21 am

More homeowners are renting out their unused bedrooms to supplement income—to the tune of 33.6 million!

That’s the number of extra rooms available across the country, according to a recent Finder.com analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Assuming each of these rooms could be rented out for $100 a week (a rock-bottom rent in many markets!), homeowners all told could earn $174 billion each year.

The breakdown, based on Census data, is as follows: there are 357,032,421 bedrooms in the U.S., and 323,391,100 people, leaving a surplus of 33,641,321 rooms. The total number of spare rooms is likely to be even higher, since many couples share a bedroom.

Where are all these available bedrooms?

Florida leads with 3,026,887 bedrooms, according to Finder.com, with Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina rounding out the top five.

The average homeowner renting out an extra room, Finder.com’s analysis shows, can expect to gain $5,000 a year in rental income—an amount significant enough to pay down a mortgage.

Renting out an extra room is not decision to be taken lightly, however. Be sure to:

• Check with your accountant for the tax implications of the extra income and how to handle relevant tax payments.

• Research relevant county or state laws surrounding letting spare rooms.

• See if the terms of your lease allow subleasing of rooms, and if there are relevant local regulations.

• Make sure that your home insurance policy covers tenants, as well.

• Do a background investigation of potential tenants. Interview them in person and ask for financial records that demonstrate their income.

• Request a rental bond and two weeks’ rent in advance—this will offer you some security if your tenant proves unreliable.

Your real estate professional may also be a resource worth consulting.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buying or Renting: Which Is Right for Me?

June 13, 2016 12:21 am

Housing is on the up and up, with demand high and sales robust. Still, for those new to homeownership, it may be difficult to determine which route—buying a home or renting one—is the most sensible.

“Millennials should weigh a number of factors before committing to any lease or mortgage,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation, in a statement. “With the cost of living continuing to rise, they must be prepared to handle the demands of their housing choice—whether that’s a rental property or homeownership.”

First to consider, according to the ABA Foundation, is your savings. Do you have enough money for a down payment for a home or a security deposit for a rental—and enough saved for emergencies?

Next, weigh all of your debt obligations—student loans, credit cards, etc. Can you reasonably afford to pay those debts along with the cost of a home? Generally, the ABA Foundation states, mortgage or rent payments and utilities should amount to no more than 30 percent of your gross monthly income.

Your credit score is an important consideration, as well, whether buying or renting. A low score can bring about a higher interest rate on a mortgage, or even prevent you from obtaining a rental. The ABA Foundation suggests taking action to improve your score before making the decision to buy or rent.

Non-financial factors matter, too. How long do you plan to stay in the home? Renters may have the option to move more often, but homeowners will build up equity. Keep this in mind when comparing your options, the ABA Foundation recommends.

For more guidance, contact a real estate professional. He or she can help you make an informed decision based on your needs.

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hurricane Headed Your Way? 3 Preparedness Steps

June 10, 2016 12:12 am

Hurricanes may appear to only impact coastal regions, but they can be just as devastating farther inland if homeowners are not prepared.

“A hurricane is a serious threat to residents in coastal areas as well as hundreds of miles inland,” says Brad Kieserman, vice president of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics for the American Red Cross. “We're ready and we want people to know it's important for them to get prepared, too.”

To do that, Kieserman and the Red Cross advise homeowners to:

Assemble an emergency kit* that includes:

• Battery-Powered Radio
• Copies of Personal or Sensitive Documents
• Emergency Contact Information
• First-Aid Kit
• Flashlight
• Medication
• Non-Perishable Food
• Water (One gallon per person per day)

*Several of the items listed above are available for purchase at RedCrossStore.org.

Keep your kit up-to-date. Ensure documents in your kit are current, and replace any food or water that may be unsafe to consume as soon as possible.

Develop—and practice—your evacuation plan. Discuss the plan with your loved ones and perform drills regularly.

Remember: If a hurricane is in the forecast in your area, stay informed. Every community is different. Find out how your area responds to disasters, and determine where shelters will be located before the storm hits.

For more hurricane and other disaster safety tips, visit RedCross.org.

Source: American Red Cross

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Beat the Heat: Tips to Cut Cooling Costs

June 10, 2016 12:12 am

Cooling your home is costly—even more so if your system is inefficient. There are several, inexpensive ways to cut back on energy consumption and costs.

The first step is to have the air conditioning unit serviced—preferably before temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels. According to the experts at New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service, the technician will clean the unit’s coils, filters and fins so that the system operates at peak performance throughout the season.

“Temperatures are finally starting to heat up, and we want to help homeowners stay comfortable this summer and avoid steep increases in their utility bills,” says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of Gold Medal Service. “We also want to make sure homeowners have their A/C ready to go when they need it. Now is the best time to schedule your annual air conditioning unit tune-up to ensure fast service and a cool house all summer.”

Another way to keeping cooling costs under control is to invest in a programmable thermostat, Gold Medal Service experts say. This prevents unnecessary cooling when you’re not home—and keeps more money in your pocket each month.

A ductless mini-split air conditioner is another consideration, particularly for those who do not have an air conditioning system. The experts at Gold Medal Service say these devices can be more energy-efficient than their counterpart due to the absence of ducts.

Ceiling fans can save energy, as well, for those with and those without an air conditioning system. Simply turn the thermostat up a few degrees and turn on the fans, Gold Medal Service experts say, to keep your home cool for less.

By using these tips to reduce energy consumption, you can beat the heat this summer and save on cooling costs. A win-win!

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Remodeling Your Kitchen? Types, Layouts and More

June 10, 2016 12:12 am

Renovating your kitchen is one of the most valuable improvements you can make to your home—if done within a budget that fits the circumstances.

Generally, the price of a cost-effective kitchen remodel will be 10 to 15 percent of the overall value of the home, say the experts at Cornerstone Design and Remodel, a San Diego, Calif.-based firm. Most kitchen remodels, according to Cornerstone, fall into one of three categories:

Minor (Costing less than $15,000)
Intermediate (Costing around $40,000)
Luxury (Unlimited budget)

Minor remodels involve installing new appliances or countertops or giving the cabinets a cosmetic update. The expected return on investment, Cornerstone’s experts say, can be up to 98 percent.

Intermediate remodels fetch slightly less at resale than minor ones—up to 91 percent of the cost of the project, the experts at Cornerstone say. Intermediate projects might include installing brand new cabinetry and flooring.

Luxury remodeling projects tend to exceed their initial budget, in part due to the cost of high-end finishes, products and technology. While the final result will be appreciated by the current homeowner, a buyer may not be willing to pay for it come resale, so exercise caution, the Cornerstone experts say.

Some kitchen remodels, luxury or otherwise, also involve changing the structure or layout of the room. In this case, it is best to scale the expansion to match the rest of the house, according to Cornerstone. The most common layouts for kitchens are L-shape, U-shape and galley. L-shaped kitchens generally include an island in the design; U-shaped and galley kitchens are efficient workspaces, but galley kitchens can become congested if the flow of traffic through it is heavy.

However you decide to renovate your kitchen, keep in mind the next owner will want to enjoy as much as you will, the experts at Cornerstone add. Efficiency in the design will achieve just that.

Source: Cornerstone Design and Remodel

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sun Safety: 3 Myths Debunked

June 9, 2016 2:09 am

For all the talk of the dangers of the sun, many of us fail to protect ourselves from one of the most common sun-caused conditions: sunburn.

Why haven’t we taken better precautions?

According to a recently released survey by The Merck Manuals, most sunbathers rely on misinformation—myths about sun protection that, when adhered to, can lead to potentially devastating consequences.

The Merck Manuals recently consulted with Dr. Karen McKoy, of the Lahey Clinic Medical Center’s Department of Dermatology, to disprove the most common misconceptions:

Misconception: “I need sunlight to get enough Vitamin D.”

Results from The Merck Manuals survey show 62 percent of respondents believe sun exposure is vital to maintaining healthy Vitamin D levels. While the sun does provide Vitamin D, the exposure is not worth the health risks, Dr. McKoy says. Seek out other sources of Vitamin D, whether through food or through a supplement.

Misconception: “I have on sunscreen with a high SPF, so my skin will be protected longer.”

Forty-four percent of survey respondents falsely believe a higher SPF will protect them from the sun for an extended period of time. Dr. McKoy advises reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours while outside, and to avoid the sun, if possible, between late morning and early afternoon.

Another similar misconception: higher SPF numbers equal higher protection. This is incorrect—an SPF 30 sunscreen, for example, bars 97 percent of the sun’s rays, and an SPF 15 sunscreen blocks just 4 percent less than that, even though the SPF 30 appears to be double the SPF 15.

Misconception: “If I’m covered up when swimming, I won’t get sunburn.”

Thirty percent of survey respondents believe a cotton T-shirt will provide sufficient protection from the sun while in water. A T-shirt does not prevent ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin while in water—and neither do baseball hats. For maximum protection in water, apply sunscreen, wear clothing with a tight weave and don a hat with a seven-centimeter brim, Dr. McKoy recommends.

One other, less common misconception of note: what we eat does impact how we react to the sun. Consuming foods like lemons, limes, carrots, celery and parsley can result in Lime Disease (formally called Phytophotodermatitis), which manifests as a rash that is exacerbated by sunlight.

Source: The Merck Manuals

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Eyeing a New Appliance? Look Over These Tips First!

June 9, 2016 2:09 am

Are you getting ready to buy a major appliance, like a refrigerator, oven, dishwasher or dryer?

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM.org) recommends the following tips:

Get the specs. Ask your dealer for specifications from several manufacturers offering the type of appliance you need. Compare available features, designs and capacities.

Know what you need now, and what you might need later. Decide which features you will really use, and what you might need down the line. Some appliances may include the option to add features later, like installing an icemaker in a refrigerator.

Set your price range. Compare prices in relation to what the appliance offers—price tends to increase as features are added.

Determine the size. Know what size and features you’ll need, so you can select a model with sufficient capacity. Check the space available to make sure your new appliance will fit, and make sure halls and doorways allow clearance for entry and installation.

Consider the care. Ask your dealer for the appliance use and care manual. Read it carefully before you buy to get a better idea of the maintenance required.

Ask about delivery. Ask the dealer about the cost of delivery and installation. (Are they included in the price?)

Find the fix. Make sure authorized factory service is available in your area for the brand you select.

Check the power. Make sure your house has adequate electrical service for the appliance.

Do some light reading. Read the warranty before finalizing your decision. Does the warranty cover the entire product? Only certain parts? Is labor included? How long does the warranty last?

The number of options you have may seem overwhelming, but adhering to these tips from the AHAM will help you purchase an appliance you’ll love for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Title Insurance Matters

June 9, 2016 2:09 am

An owner’s title insurance policy protects your property rights as a homeowner. Those purchasing a home should obtain a policy to insure against defects associated with the title of the home.

Owner’s title insurance is worthwhile because…

…it protects your investment.

A home is likely the largest investment you’ll make. Insuring it, says the American Land Title Association (ALTA), is like insuring any other valuable asset. Owner’s title insurance protects the rights of the property owner for as long as he or she (or heirs) owns the home.

…it mitigates your risk.

Issues inevitably arise for every homeowner, but title discrepancies shouldn’t be one of them. An owner’s title insurance policy will cover you in the event a title claim occurs. According to the ALTA, these include a tax lien against the property, an outstanding mortgage or a pending legal action related to the property.

…it goes beyond insurance and warranties.

Standard homeowner insurance policies, as well as home warranties, do not cover your rights as the owner of the property.

What’s more, owner’s title insurance policies are inexpensive, paid for through a one-time fee that equals approximately 0.5 percent of the purchase price of the home, the ALTA says.

Above all, an owner’s title insurance policy ensures peace of mind after purchase.

Source: ALTA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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