Archive for the I Wish I’d Thought About That Category

Beware of Potholes: They are back and they are bad

Posted in Construction, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Local News, Worth Repeating with tags , , on March 19, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Potholes have returned and hitting one with your car can do a number on tires, wheels, steering, suspension and alignment.

Pothole (Sinistar | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: Sinistar | morgueFile.com

To help determine if hitting a pothole has damaged your vehicle, watch for the following warning signs provided by the Car Care Council:

  • Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming-out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. The steering and suspension are key, safety-related systems. Together, they largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals hub units and tie rod ends.
  • Pulling in one direction instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These symptoms mean that there is an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for the lifespan of the tires and helps ensure safe handling.
  • Flat TireLow tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems will be visible and should be checked out as soon as possible since tires are the critical connection between your car and the road in all sorts of driving conditions.

“Every driver knows what it feels like to hit a pothole. What they don’t know is if their vehicle has been damaged in the process. If you’ve hit a pothole, it’s worth having a professional technician check out the car and make the necessary repairs to ensure safety and reliability,” said Rich White, Executive Director, Car Care Council.

Potholes occur when water permeates the pavement, usually through a crack from wear and tear of traffic, and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street. Many potholes appear during winter and in spring months because of excessive rainfall and flooding. The deteriorating pavement is usually easy to spot since there are often chunks of pavement lying nearby. These chunks often pose a hazard as they can be sent flying if hit by passing vehicles.

Spring is on the way. The orange road repair trucks and orange cones should be a welcoming sight. A little patience is required here, but knowing that the menacing potholes will soon be filled is worth a few delays.

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March is the Time for Making Maple Syrup

Posted in Dining with Pat, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Making maple syrup is a traditional right of spring, signaling the end of winter. Several species of maple trees grow in Michigan. Although all produce sap suitable for the production of maple syrup; two species, sugar maple and black maple are the source of sap for most commercial maple syrup production. Sap suitable for conversion into syrup may also be obtained from red and silver maples, although such sap usually has a lower sugar content.

**NOTE: The E. L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
is hosting “A Day in the Sugarbush Maple Tapping
this Saturday, March 15, 2014.
Details are noted at the end of this article**

Necessary Equipment

Collection-PailMaple syrup can be produced with a minimum of equipment, but a few standard items increase the efficiency of the operation and the quality of the product, including:

  1. A drill with a 7/16 or 1/2 inch bit for drilling tap-holes in trees.
  2. A metal or plastic collection spout for each tap-hole.
  3. A collection container (bucket or plastic bag) or tubing line for each tap-hole.
  4. A large pan and a heat source for boiling down the sap. The size needed will depend on how much sap you intend to handle.
  5. A large-scale thermometer, calibrated at least 15 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  6. Wool, Orlon or other filters for filtering finished syrup while hot.
  7. Storage containers for the finished syrup.

Tapping the Tree

TapTo obtain the earliest runs of sap, tapping should be completed by the first week in March in Michigan. Minimal trunk diameter for trees suitable for tapping is 10 inches at 4 feet above the ground.

To tap a tree, select a spot on the trunk of the tree 2-4 feet above the ground in an area that appears to contain sound wood. At this point, drill a hole approximately 2-2.5 inches deep into the wood. Then insert a collection spout and tap lightly into the tree and attach a bucket or plastic bag or a tubing line to the spout. Open buckets used for sap collection should be covered to keep out rainwater, debris, insects and other foreign materials.

Collecting the Sap

Collecting-SapSap flow in maple trees will not occur every day throughout the tapping season. It occurs when a rapid warming trend in early morning follows a cool (below freezing) night.

To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket. This should happen quickly, though there will be little drips that won’t amount to much at first. Place a lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip.

After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you are satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat to take inside to start the syrup making process. Do not store the sap as it can spoil.

Turning Sap into Syrup

Syrup-KettleWhen you have a large quantity of sap, it’s time to cook it up to make the syrup. This is done by boiling the sap in a large pan on the stove as long as you have a vent fan and a dehumidifier on hand. When you boil sap, it can produce considerable moisture in the air. Professionals prefer to use outdoor gas ranges with large metal pans in order to avoid the moisture build up in their homes. There is also a hobby-sized evaporator available.

Boil the sap until it becomes thicker as the water boils off. You will need to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1-1/2 inches from the bottom of the pan.

As the sap is boiling, you need to skim off any foam that might be on the top. Using a candy thermometer, boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you have reached this level, let the syrup completely cool. The sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off the good syrup into a glass bottle. Let it cool and you are ready to serve homemade maple syrup.

If you plan to can the syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into sterilized glass containers to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.

Sugar-ShackIf you feel that making your own maple syrup is a task too daunting to undertake, you can visit the Bloomfield Hills’ E. L. Johnson Nature Center this Saturday, March 15, 2014 and participate in tapping the trees, collecting the sap and visiting the sugar shack to watch the boiling process that produces pure maple syrup. Then, you can visit the log home for a taste of nature’s sweetener!

For a guided tour, meet at the Visitor Center:

  • Tours are from noon to 4:00 pm.
  • Tours are scheduled every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour.
  • Pre-registration is suggested to reserve a specific time: click here for details

E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI; phone: 248-341-6485; website: http://naturecenter.bloomfield.org/

Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency with Technology

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical, Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on March 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Today’s home owners and buyers are looking for ways to incorporate home technologies that increase the long-term value of their house but also provide convenience, safety and comfort. Energy management is a highly-desired feature in both newly-built and existing homes, along with multi-zone heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and lighting controls. Not only are these features easy-to-use, but they also provide energy-efficiency.

By incorporating the following technologies, home owners can save money on their utility bills:

  • Automated HVAC systems can maintain a more energy-efficient temperature while the home owners are away at work, but switch to a more comfortable temperature prior to their arrival home.  Zones can also be created to heat or cool only the areas most used by the occupants, keeping other areas, such as guest bedrooms, shut down until they are needed. They also can combat the problem of heat rising, keeping upper floors cooler in the summer without freezing the lower floors in a home. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, programmable thermostats can save consumers about $180 per year in energy costs.Programmable Thermostat
  • Water heaters with a timer can be turned off when the occupants are traveling, then can turn on and begin heating the water in preparation for their return home. Tankless gas water heaters — which only activate when residents start to use hot water and immediately de-activate when they are done — are also a great option and can reduce water heating costs up to 35 percent annually.
  • Lighting can make up 10 to 20 percent of the total electrical usage of the home. Installing an automatic dimmer, which adjusts to the home owner’s needs based on time of day or occupancy, will lower electricity bills and increase the life expectancy of light bulbs.
  • Blinds and drapes can be programmed to close during the hottest part of the day to block out the sun; keeping the house cooler. In the colder winter months, they can open up to allow the sun in to warm the house, which helps regulate the room temperature.

By incorporating technologies that help make your home operate more efficiently, Energy Star estimates that home owners can save $200 to $400 annually on their energy bills.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Design Trends for 2014 and Beyond

Posted in Around Your Home, Housing News, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, New Homes with tags , , , , on February 26, 2014 by Pat Hansen

The National Association of Home Builders recently announced the winners of the Best in American Living Awards – a prestigious award program that spotlights design excellence for the entire residential building industry.

Award recipients represent the forefront of innovative design in America, and are lauded as the most creative and inventive builders, remodelers, architects, developers, land planners and interior designers in the nation.

Based on submissions from this year’s crop of winners, some of the newest trends in design that home buyers will see over the next several years include:

Light Colored CabinetryWhite on White – Cabinets, flooring, backsplashes, counters, fixtures and appliances are beginning to lighten up. Layering white on top of white is a new approach in many kitchens and bathrooms that is giving way to a fresh and light feeling. To achieve clean lines and a modern feel, designers and builders are selecting European cabinetry, adding shiny surfaces via appliance, backsplash and countertop choices, and incorporating glass walls.

Bold Exterior Colors – Bold colors are making their way to the exterior of homes. Whether it’s through paint, a mix of cladding materials, doors, windows, porches, shutters or trim, an extra layer of drama is being adding to the design of elevations, further enhancing curb appeal.

Interior Courtyards – Interior courtyards are popular in all housing types right now. The primary difference is scale. Within single-family homes, courtyards provide private and safe outdoor living areas and are being shifted to side yards.

New Light FixtureSpecialty Lighting – Specialty fixtures are “lighting it up” this year. Regardless of whether it involves a custom or a stock fixture, designers are finding ways to showcase them as pieces of art rather than just a functional element. Lighting is being paired with wood ceiling details to further enhance the room’s design and create a feeling of warmth.

Historic Style with Modern Flair – New or remodeled homes, whether they are Craftsman, Prairie, Mid-Century Modern or another historic architectural style, are adding modern flair to their traditional designs through color, finish, fixture and lighting selection, while continuing to be influenced by the past through the use of reclaimed building materials and classic proportions and detailing.

Outdoor KitchenBlurring the Lines Between Inside and Out – Lines continue to be blurred between the inside and outside of homes. No longer limited to areas with warmer climates, this is being seen all across the country. More homes now feature moveable glass walls, gourmet outdoor kitchens and interior courtyard pools, adding more everyday living space.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Thaw after Deep Freeze Can Wreak Havoc on Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by Pat Hansen

A February thaw is here and while it will undoubtedly be a relief from the recent temperatures, the rapid warm-up also comes with some hazards, especially for homeowners.

House, snow (jeltovski | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: jeltovski | morgueFile.com

The build-up of ice along roofs and gutters can lead to sudden problems when the ice melts. When it refreezes, it causes ice damming and that ice damming can cause things like water stains inside the home. Water dripping through the soffits can push gutters off the home and can also push shingles off.

What can you do to prevent an ice dam from building up?

Proper insulation

Attic in need of insulationKeep your attic space at the same temperature as the outside air. As heat rises from your home into the attic, it will cause the snow and ice on your roof to melt quickly, which when it refreezes causes the ice dam. Using proper insulation will keep the heat in your home, but more importantly it will keep it from escaping into your roof shingles through your attic. If there are air leaks, warm air will pass through traditional insulation. The leaks need to be sealed for the insulation to do its job. To do a proper job in sealing air leaks, all insulation should first be removed.

Insulation also prevents moisture from forming inside your attic, which can create mold and mildew.

Roof raking

Some experts say whenever there is a big snowstorm, homeowners should use a roof rake to scrape the first two or three feet of their roofs free from snow. They recommend doing this within 24 hours of the snowfall. This frees up the bottom area of the roof so that as the water does run down, it doesn’t get stuck in the snow and gets right off the gutter and also right off the roof.

Be careful not to chop at your roof with the rake as this can damage shingles.

Heater cables

If you can’t reach the first few feet of your roof to rake it, you may choose to install heater cables. The cables line the first few feet along the eaves of your home and even run through the gutter, to help ice and snow melt and keep the moisture free-flowing.

Ice can pose a danger to gutters as it is heavier than water and snow, causing gutters to droop under the weight. Expanding ice can also push apart gutter seams and push gutters away from the fascia which attaches them to the home.

Do you have an ice dam? What should homeowners look for?

  • If you see Ceiling Water Damagewater spots inside your home this could just be tip of the iceberg – you may have inches of damp insulation in your attic.
  • If you see water pouring off of the soffits of your home, it is likely running out through the attic and could be rotting out the wood.
  • If you see water running between the gutters and the fascia board, there may also be problems.
  • Have the chimney inspected. Cracks and pieces of brick lying on the roof indicate that ice and water have gotten in between the mortar and expanded.

How to Remove Ice Dams – Hire a Pro

There are plenty of hack methods for removing ice dams such as using an axe, ice pick, salt tablets, heat cables and a pressure washer. If ice dams need to be removed, hire a pro to steam them off. Don’t let anyone near your roof with a pressure washer or the shingles might end up discolored.

Homeownership: A New Year’s Resolution That Lasts

Posted in Homeownership, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Manors of Deerwood, New Homes with tags , , , , , , , on February 12, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Why not make this year’s resolution one that will last long into the future — long after you’ve stopped bothering to set the alarm an hour early to go for a run. Deciding to become a home owner is possibly the best resolution you can make.

According to a 2012 nationwide poll, 96 percent of home owners are happy with their decision to own, and 74 percent say that owning a home is the best long-term investment they can make.

Lot 389DW (Manors of Deerwood | Clarkston, Michigan)
Here are some tips
to help you make good decisions for your homeownership resolution:

  • First, figure out how much you can afford. This depends on factors including your credit rating, your current expenses, cost of a down payment and interest rates. Don’t forget that you will need a down payment up front and money to make monthly mortgage payments.
  • Check your credit report carefully. Inaccurate information on your credit report could result in lenders offering you loans with higher-than-market interest rates or denying your application altogether.
  • Then find a lender you trust and work well with. Ask your friends, family and neighbors who own their homes for recommendations. Work with a qualified lender on getting together a budget and collecting helpful advice before buying a home.
  • When shopping for a mortgage, consider all of your options. There are many choices in terms of a loan and not everyone is right for every buyer. Don’t forget to research Federal Housing Administration (www.fha.com) programs that offer loans with lower down payments. They are often a good option for first-time buyers.
  • Keep in mind that there are tax advantages to being a home owner that can help offset costs. Depending on your specific situation, often the closing costs and some other first year costs of purchasing a home are deductible. And the mortgage interest deduction (MID) enables many home owners to reduce their taxable income by the amount of interest paid on their mortgage loan each year. More than 70 percent of home owners with a mortgage are able to claim the MID in a given year.
  • The U.S. Housing and Urban Development website (portal.hud.gov) has loads of information for home buyers, including tools to help you figure out how much you can afford, how to shop for a loan, information on how to avoid predatory lending and an explanation of the settlement process.
  • Finally, learn about the neighborhoods where you are interested in buying. Visit areas you are interested in at different hours, talk to people who live there, and find a real estate agent that you trust and knows the neighborhoods you like.

With careful and thorough planning, you will be moving into your new home before you know it. If you have questions about the home buying process, visit nahb.org/timetobuy.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Selling Your Home? Consider an Inspection First.

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, New Homes, Sell your Home, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

If you plan to sell your home soon, it may be wise to get a home inspection before you list your home. You can speed things along by getting a home inspection and analyzing the condition of your home and making necessary repairs before the house is under contract.

Whole home inspections cover numerous systems within the house, but there are some hot spots that seem to worry buyers the most:

Roofs and Chimneys

  • Decaying ShinglesDeteriorated shingles or other roof coverings are one of the first things home buyers and inspectors notice. If the elements underneath the shingles are moist or rotted, you can bet repairs will be requested.
  • Make sure flashing around the base of the chimney is watertight, and that mortar and bricks are in good condition.

Radon

  • Radon may or may not be part of a home inspection, but it is a good idea to ask for a radon test since radon has been linked to lung cancer. If an unacceptable level is found, then a radon mitigation system will be required. There are recommended companies that do radon mitigation and they can be found by contacting the MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality).

Mold and Mildew

  • Mildew stains and odors scare buyers, especially since toxic black mold is such a hot topic. Chances are you won’t even get an acceptable offer if mold and mildew are present. Even if the mold is the normal variety, get rid of it and fix the source of the problem.

Plumbing ProblemsShower Inspection

  • Fix leaks long before the home inspection takes place. The inspector will check water pressure by turning on multiple faucets and flushing toilets at the same time. The inspector will also run the dishwasher.

Damp Basements and Crawlspaces

  • Mildew odors signal that a basement is too moist. Buyers and home inspectors will look closely at the walls and floors for patches of mildew and signs of dampness. The inspector might use a meter to determine how much moisture is present in these spaces because moisture deteriorates building materials and attracts insects.
  • Cover exposed earth in basements and crawl spaces with plastic to help keep moisture levels down.
  • Most foundation leaks are a result of poor drainage that funnels water towards the foundation.
  • Make sure gutters are clean so that rainwater flows toward downspouts instead of spilling over gutter sides along the foundation.
  • Point drainage downspouts away from the house.
  • Check water flow through buried drainage lines by flooding them with water from a hose. If water comes back towards you, the line is plugged and should be cleared.
  • If foundation problems do exist and you cannot make repairs, you might need to lower the price of the house upfront, with the understanding that the price reflects the problem. Another option is to give the buyers an allowance to make the repairs after closing.

Inadequate Interior Electrical Systems

  • Electrical PanelThe electrical panel and circuit breaker configuration should be adequate for the needs of the house.
  • The inspector will look for receptacles with ground fault interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms and kitchens. These receptacles contain mini circuit breakers that click off during a short circuit or overload. The inspector will make sure the receptacles are what they appear to be, and not “dummies” that are not wired correctly.
  • The inspector will test a portion of the remaining receptacles in the house.

Other Important Home Inspection Checks

Furnace inspectionHeating and cooling

  • The home inspector will check the heating and cooling systems, making sure they work and will comment on their efficiency.

Structure and Foundation

  • The inspector will take a close look at the structure and foundation.

Appliances and Smoke Detectors

  • The inspector will check the appliances that will remain with the house, including running the dishwasher and testing smoke detectors.

Before the Home Inspection

  • Sample Inspection ReportDo everything you can to get the house in good condition before you attempt to sell it, but don’t be discouraged if the inspection report contains a few negative comments. Home inspectors make a note of everything they see. They can identify problems in the making and suggest preventative measures that might help avoid costly repairs in the future.
  • Home inspections usually take 2-3 hours, or more in some instances. Costs vary from $250 to as much as $500. Home inspectors are not required to be licensed in most states; however, many are certified by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors).
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