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.

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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).

Big Design Ideas for Small Homes

Posted in Around Your Home, Construction, Energy Efficiency, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by Pat Hansen

There are any number of reasons families might want to make better use of the space they have in their current or new home. As a family grows, their lifestyle changes, and space for storing toys or doing homework is at a premium. Multigenerational living, where elderly parents, grown children or other relatives all live under the same roof has become common. Or it may just be cosmetic, and the best way to keep clutter at a minimum.

Home builders and remodelers are responding to the demand by maximizing the utility of living spaces without sacrificing visual appeal. With creative storage and built-in features, dining rooms can become a home office or game room in minutes, living rooms can be used for family meals, and foyers can store much more than coats and umbrellas.

In new home construction, smaller-scale, walkable communities have become popular. To accommodate the size constraints of a skinny lot, homes are being designed with features like stacked garages where two cars can be housed trunk to hood instead of side by side. Using flexible walls, attractive flooring material and a roofless interior garage space, the area can easily be converted to a patio for entertaining.

Improved energy efficiency of windows and doors means homes now feature more indoor-outdoor connectivity. Moveable walls and outdoor spaces tucked within the home’s floor plan provide for better flexible use of the space, as well as improved privacy in densely populated areas.

The often-unused space under a stairwell can be engineered to accommodate filing cabinets or drawers, or even to create a sanctuary for the family pet complete with a bed and gates to close it off. Drawers built into stair risers are a great place to store small items such as gloves and hats or art supplies.

The trend extends to home furnishings as well. Murphy beds, where a piece of furniture conceals a bed that can be set up for sleeping in few minutes, have been around for many years. Modern murphy beds are hidden not only in armoires or bookcases, but new designs feature beds that lower from the ceiling electronically at the touch of a button, or fold out from inside a desk or counter.

Other creative, multi-purpose furniture designs include dining tables that convert to a billiard table, bookcases that contain fold-down chairs for when you’re entertaining more than the usual number of friends and family, and cocktail tables with trays that pull out for eating in front of the television.

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

Make Your Home Feel Good with Color Psychology

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Pat Hansen

SunroomHome décor is often viewed as a matter of aesthetics or what looks attractive.

Proponents of color psychology believe that the colors you use to decorate your home can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of you and your family.

If you like the idea of using color to create an emotionally healthy home, color consultants say you should first consider the primary function of each room. Although it can’t be proven scientifically, color consultants say some hues work better than others at encouraging certain activities.

Gathering Room (Fairfield New Home), Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones HomesLiving Room and foyer paint colors: Warm tones like reds, yellows and earth tones like brown and beige work well in both the living room and foyer, because they are thought to stimulate conversation.

Kitchen paint colors: Color consultants say that if you have fond memories of spending time in the kitchen when you were a kid, it might make sense to create same color scheme in your grown-up kitchen.

Kitchen, Nook, Great Room (Lot 389 | Manors of Deerwood)If there is no particular paint scheme you remember fondly, reds and yellows can be great colors in the kitchen as well as in the living room and foyer. If you are watching your weight, however, you might want to keep red out of the kitchen. The restaurant industry has long recognized the appetite-stimulating power of red décor.

Dining RoomDining room paint colors: Because it is stimulating, red décor can be great for a formal dining room. In addition to encouraging conversation, it whets the appetites of your guests.

Bedroom paint colors: BedroomThe bedroom is where you go to relax. Cool colors like blues, greens and lavenders can be great choices here because they have a calming effect. The darker the hue, the more pronounced the effect is believed to be. Reds tend to increase blood pressure and heart rate; blue does just the opposite.

Bathroom paint colors: Whites and warm colors Bathroomhave always been popular choices for bathrooms, in large part because they connote cleanliness and purity. Today, the master bathroom is also used as a private retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation. Many people feel comfortable with blues, greens and turquoises because these colors give a sense of being clean, fresh and calm.

Home office paint colors: Productivity is the Home Officename of the game here. The faster you complete work-related tasks, the more time you’ll have to spend enjoying family and friends. Color consultants agree that green can be a great choice here. Green is the color of concentration; it’s one of the best colors to be surrounded by for long periods.

If you are thinking about selling your home, you may want to consider making your home more appealing to buyers by repainting the living room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom and bath with a warm, neutral color. Staging consultants will usually recommend this, especially, if you currently have white walls.

Prepare Your Home for Severe Winter Weather

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Homeownership, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on January 15, 2014 by Pat Hansen

While not all parts of the country experience snow and ice storms and severe cold during the winter months, many do, and it is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

Snow Covered (Fairfield Home Plan | Clarkston, Michigan
The National Weather Service
calls winter storms “Deceptive Killers” because people don’t often die as a direct result of the weather, but due to hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold or in traffic accidents caused by hazardous driving conditions. Winter weather can also knock out heat, power and communications services to your home, sometimes for days at a time.

Here are some tips from the Department of Homeland Services’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help you keep your home and family safe and comfortable during the cold winter months and extreme winter weather.

  • Attic in need of insulationExtend the life of your fuel supply by winterizing your home. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and install storm windows. An economical alternative to storm windows is to cover them with plastic on the inside.
  • To help prevent pipes from freezing, insulate them with foam wrap or newspaper and turn on your faucets so they drip a tiny bit.
  • Debris in gutter needs to be clearedClear rain gutters so that they don’t fill with water, then freeze and tear away from your roof due to the added weight. Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home during a storm.
  • Make sure all your fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, and the vent openings are clear of debris and snow.
  • Learn how to shut off your main water valve in case your pipes do freeze and burst.
  • Furnace inspectionHave your heating equipment and chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of your roof to sustain the weight of accumulated snow or water (in case the drains don’t work on flat roofs).

During the winter, many people turn to alternate heating and power sources. There is an increased risk of electric shock, house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning if the necessary safety precautions are not taken:

  • Keep fire extinguishers around the home, and make sure all family members know how to use them.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning device inside your home, garage, basement, crawl space or any partially enclosed area. Don’t place the unit near a door, window or vent where carbon monoxide could come indoors.

To learn more about routine maintenance, energy efficiency, safety and more in order to protect and properly care for your home, go to nahb.org/forconsumers.

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

The Multigenerational Household Trend

Posted in Housing News, Lifestyle, New Homes, Renovation, The Drawing Board with tags , , , on January 8, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Family households consisting of three or more generations, or “multigenerational households,” have become increasingly popular in the 21st century. According to the most recent Census, approximately 4.4 million American homes had three generations or more living under one roof in 2010, a 15 percent increase from two years earlier. This is 5.6 percent of the total of 76.4 million U.S. households with more than one person.

There are many reasons for this trend. The recession caused many adult children to return home after college, either because they weren’t able to get jobs that would cover rent, or they wanted to save up to buy homes of their own. According to Pew Institute research, the share of the U.S. population aged 18 to 31 living in their parent’s home increased to 36 percent or a record 21.6 million young adults in 2012.

Multigenerational Home Plan
For many ethnic and immigrant groups
, multiple generations of a family living together is a common cultural custom.

Multigenerational households also form so that grandparents can help take care of their grandchildren, and as they age, their children can care for them. This type of arrangement can ease financial burdens as well, with several generations contributing to the mortgage payment and not having to incur the expenses of childcare, retirement housing or professional care-giving environments.

Home builders and remodelers are building and renovating homes to meet the needs of multigenerational households. These designs allow many generations of the same family to live together under one roof yet have private areas as well as combined living space.

Features of multigenerational home plans can include in-law suites within the main home with separate areas for independent living. These often have kitchenettes and en suite bathrooms, and sometimes private entrances from the street. They frequently include “universal design” products, which focus on maximum usability by people of all ages and abilities. Examples include walk-in showers, smooth flooring transitions, and cabinets with pull-out drawers.

Building professionals who have earned the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation have received training on how to build or renovate a home so that the occupants can live in the home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of their age or ability level. They have been taught the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically pleasing, barrier-free living environments. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care professionals.

To find a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist in your area, go to nahb.org/capsdirectory.

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

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