May 27, 2011 2:57 pm
RISMEDIA, May 31, 2011--As temperatures heat up across the country, you can make sure this is the best summer ever with the following 10 tips, time-savers, water-care ideas, and maintenance and safety suggestions for backyard living.
1 – Safety first. Follow a few common sense rules in the backyard and around the pool. Keep each child within arm's length at all times, designate an adult as water watcher, ensure that the pool's fence is always locked, and install both gate and pool alarms to alert you to unsupervised pool use.
2 – Use plants to dress up the landscape. A bit of backyard greenery can be both pretty and functional. Use shrubs for form, foliage-heavy plants for color, and sturdy perennials for reliability. Plenty of pretty perennials, such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, require little tending and offer cheery blooms throughout the growing season.
3 – Add years to backyard furnishings. If mildew spots appear on outside chairs and tables, wash the fabric according to manufacturer directions and dry in the sun. Then mix together equal parts lemon juice and salt; spread on the stain. Dry in the sun again and rinse thoroughly.
4 – Organize backyard toys and tools. Two simple storage rules for keeping backyard clutter to a minimum: air out wet things by storing them in big mesh bags or open-weave crates; toss all the little bits – sunscreen, dive toys, etc. – into a clear plastic shoe organizer hung on the fence where everyone can easily find them.
5 – Stay healthy with a water workout. According to the Centers for Disease Control, just 21 minutes a day of exercising in a pool can decrease your risk of chronic disease. If swimming laps doesn't excite you, there are other great ways to get moving. Try kickboxing using water as the resistance and enjoy the benefits of strength, endurance and balance. Depending on intensity, a typical water exercise session of 40 to 50 minutes can burn up to 600 calories.
6 – Maintain a perfect pool. A pool filled with cloudy water equals no fun. Fortunately there's a pool-care strategy – Circulation, Filtration, Cleaning, Testing and Chemistry – that equals a stellar pool season. Maintaining a pool, its equipment and beautiful water requires proper water treatment. Make sure to complete the proper water testing and upkeep a regular care schedule for your pool.
7 – Convert an ordinary salt pool into a backyard oasis. Try using a special blend of minerals, pool equipment protectors, water enhancers and pH adjusters that all work to make silky, relaxing water.
8 – Soak in a sensational spa. A backyard spa can offer the same soothing effects as a professional spa with a few easy, affordable ideas. Place flameless LED candles around the edge of the spa. Take tunes into the spa with a floating speaker that connects wirelessly to an MP3 player. Add a soothing scent to the water with single-use aromatherapy packs.
9 – Make a smaller footprint on the Earth. In order to be more environmentally friendly, make sure to always keep pool chemicals properly balanced. Overworked filters and motors waste energy and hike utility bills.
10 – Help pets swim safely. It may seem like fun to let the dog paddle around, but before you let a pooch jump in, make sure he can get out without damaging the pool or hurting himself. Also check with the vet - swimming in a pool should be appropriate for the breed. Finally, make additional time to monitor the pool's water. A typical dog can be the equivalent of about 50 swimmers in the pool, meaning extra vigilance is needed to maintain the chemical balance.
For more information on creating and maintaining a backyard haven, visit www.bioguard.com.
May 27, 2011 2:57 pm
RISMEDIA, May 31, 2011-- The “Do It Proper with Copper” video series is back with its second installment of DIY architectural and plumbing how-to videos.
The short, instructional videos have been produced by the Copper Development Association (CDA) and are designed to illustrate exactly how one can use the metal in plumbing, architecture and building and construction projects.
CDA project managers Larry Peters, who specializes in architectural applications, and Harold Moret, who specializes in plumbing applications, once again provide their expertise in proper copper application techniques.
The new series expands on the first how-to videos, which launched in 2010 and cover building techniques such as: vertical lap seams, flat seams and standing seams for architectural copper systems, and bending and flaring, structural adhesives, and a continuation of brazing techniques used in plumbing applications.
Each video explains which tools are needed for the application, while giving a step-by-step tutorial that is easy to understand for anyone from the average do-it-yourselfer to the seasoned professional. The videos break down the different copper methods, and make sure no small details are overlooked. For example, the standing seam video not only discusses how the seam is constructed, but also how cleats should be used to attach the sheet copper to the substrate of the roof or wall.
"We received good feedback from the first series, both from individuals using copper on their own projects and from instructors using the videos as a teaching tool. So we created this second series to expand to other joining systems and applications," says Andy Kireta Jr., vice president of building construction for CDA. "The videos are great for anybody looking for guidance on the right way to install copper systems, and they are packaged in a way that makes specific information easy to access and understand. In just a few short minutes you can gain confidence that your skills in installing the system will allow copper to provide the lifetime of service that you expect.”
The Do it Proper with Copper video series is available for free download here: http://www.copper.org/applications/doityourself/homepage.html. The series can also be viewed on the CDA’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/coppervideo?ob=5.
May 27, 2011 2:57 pm
RISMEDIA, May 31, 2011—Reforms to America's housing finance market must ensure a reliable source of affordable mortgage lending for creditworthy consumers. That's according to REALTORS® and other industry insiders who examined the federal government's future role in the secondary mortgage market at the "Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac: Obama Options and Beyond" session during the National Association of REALTORS® 2011 Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
Panelist Steve Brown, 2011 NAR first vice-president nominee, outlines NAR's position for reforming the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Brown states that reform is required, taxpayers must be protected from losses, and the federal government must continue to play a role in the secondary mortgage market to ensure a steady flow of mortgage liquidity in all markets under all economic conditions.
"As the leading advocate for homeowners, NAR is concerned that eliminating the GSEs without a viable replacement is not a reasonable option and will severely restrict mortgage capital and result in higher fees and costs for qualified borrowers," says Brown. "Reform of the secondary mortgage market needs to be comprehensive and undertaken methodically."
James Parrot, senior advisor for housing at the National Economic Council in Washington, D.C., overviewed the administration's recommendations for reforming the GSEs in the wake of the financial crisis, which included varying levels of government backing. He notes the primary objective of the proposals is twofold—first, to lay out an immediate near-term path for reform, with steps that could be taken the next few years to reduce taxpayer risk and move the housing market to more stable footing, and second, to frame the discussion regarding the government's long-term role in housing finance.
"The government's large presence in housing finance is unhealthy and needs to be scaled back; however, the steps we take over next few years to reduce the government's role and increase private capital will have a tremendous impact on the housing market and economy as well as the availability and affordability of mortgages," says Parrot. "The objective isn't to turn away from housing, but to make the housing finance market stronger so that families and their most important asset are better protected."
Panelist Susan Wachter, a professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, agrees that private capital needs to return to the housing finance market, but that most likely won't happen until the market has stabilized.
"There needs to be more accountability and transparency in the secondary mortgage market so that private investors can best assess their risk and safely get back into the market," she says.
Mark Calabria, director of Financial Regulation Studies at the Cato Institute, argues for a very limited government role in the secondary mortgage market, saying that the private capital market has the funds and capacity to absorb Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's market share. He says that increased government support in the past few decades has only slightly increased America's homeownership rate and that rates in other countries are higher despite their government's limited involvement. Despite his opposing viewpoint to the level of involvement, Calabria acknowledges that some government backstop was essential in the future, since the housing and finance markets are sensitive to booms and busts.
David Katkov, executive vice president and chief business officer at The PMI Group, counters that it would be naïve to move to a purely private market because it's been successful in other countries, adding that the U.S.'s housing finance system dwarfs that of other countries and is far more complex.
Ann Grochala, vice president at the Independent Community Bankers of America, also shares concerns for small lenders and community bankers in a purely private market, where competition from large lenders would be great.
For more information, please visit www.realtor.org.
May 26, 2011 8:57 pm
RISMEDIA, May 27, 2011-- Batten down the hatches—plus the windows, doors and roof. Hurricane Season 2011 starts on June 1 and—based on expert predictions—it could be a whopper.
At Colorado State University, forecasters believe the number of named storms will reach 16, and they predict there’s a 72% chance that the entire United States coastline will be affected by at least one major hurricane landfall in 2011. The Weather Research Center in Houston has forecast at least 10 named storms in 2011 with six of them projected to intensify into hurricanes. And, they’re predicting that coastal areas in west Florida, Louisiana and Alabama have a 90% chance that they’ll be in the line.
“Homeowners all along the East Coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico should prepare for potentially severe weather this year,” says Jill F. Hasling, president of the Weather Research Center. “Now is the time to evaluate your home’s exterior and determine how well it is prepared to withstand hurricane-force winds, torrential rain and flying debris.”
Hasling speaks from experience. In 2008, Hurricane Ike reached into the Houston area doing significant damage to structures near the Weather Research Center. “We had impact-resistant windows installed on our facility more than five years ago and they made all the difference in keeping our building safe during that storm,” says Hasling. “We strongly advise people to make it a priority during Hurricane Preparedness Week, which is May 22 to 28, to completely evaluate the four most vulnerable areas of the home—windows, entry doors, the roof and the garage door. If any of these are compromised, the wind and rain that enters the home can cause extensive damage.”
According to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler, selecting the right door for a home is also a critical decision. “Hurricane-force weather conditions can be extreme for hundreds of miles inland, so it’s important that homeowners seriously consider upgrading with impact-resistant building products,” says Kraeutler, host of the nationally syndicated radio show The Money Pit. “Fiberglass entry doors maximize the seal between the door and the frame to help keep out the damaging effects of wind and rain. This system is engineered to work together and meets building codes across the country, including in severe weather zones. One of the great things about this type of energy-efficient door construction is that it can be requested on both entry doors and patio doors.”
A home’s roof is another vulnerable area during high winds and driving rain. Roofs should be examined yearly to determine if there are missing shingles, curling or splitting shingles, lifting shingles or loss of granules. Both straight line winds and pressurized winds can cause different damage—from uplifting the shingles off the roof to pushing intense wind-driven rain and flying debris onto the roof.
“Once air pressure moves through a hole in a roof and into the home during a hurricane, it can literally blow out the walls and windows of the house,” says Kraeutler. “It’s vital for homeowners in potential hurricane areas to have well-installed, solid roofs overhead to protect their homes and prized possessions.”
“Homeowners should make sure they have proper bracing, such as galvanized metal hurricane straps, to connect the roof to the walls of the home,” says Kraeutler. “This can help prevent uplift during hurricane-force winds. For a second step, consider impact-resistant polymer roofing tiles that have been formulated and tested to withstand hurricane strength winds and severe impact. That’s a winning combination for a roof.”
Kraeutler stresses that homeowners should always follow the directions of local authorities regarding evacuations and emergency procedures during severe weather. “More than likely in extreme weather situations, you’ll have to evacuate,” says Kraeutler. “But when you invest in impact-resistant building products that are always ‘on guard’ you can leave knowing that your family’s home and cherished possessions are secure. That can bring incredible peace-of-mind during a highly stressful time.”
May 26, 2011 8:57 pm
RISMEDIA, May 27, 2011—Twenty years ago, Senator Alan Cranston, Congressman Henry Gonzalez and housing advocates from across the country designed a new block grant program exclusively dedicated to producing affordable housing. Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) has produced one million units of affordable housing.
Located in Owensboro, Kentucky, the one-millionth “HOME unit” is home to Michelle Nash, a mother of three who helped to construct the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house along with Habitat for Humanity.
“We’ve come a long way since the HOME Program got its start 20 years ago,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Today, State and local governments rely on the HOME program to produce affordable homes for very-low and extremely low-income families struggling to find a place to call home. Reaching one million homes proves this landmark production program works!”
Nash purchased her 1,200 square-foot home for $65,500 after contributing 600 hours of labor and four months of her time toward constructing it. The total cost of construction was $109,260 with a total HOME investment of $35,000. The monthly mortgage is only $400 allowing Michelle to work as a full-time student as she cares for her children.
Nash says, “It’s always been my dream to own a home but the tough part was how I was going to achieve this goal. I feel truly blessed that this program has given me the ability to afford a home and provide for my kids.”
“We’re ecstatic that Owensboro is home to the one-millionth HOME unit built in America,” says Mayor Ron Payne. “Redevelopment is our number one priority in our city. Owensboro remains committed to improving the quality of life for low- to moderate-income families and individuals in our community, by expanding housing choice with quality affordable homes produced with HOME funding.”
HUD’s HOME Program
The Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act created the HOME Program in 1992. HOME provides formula grants to States and localities that communities use - often in partnership with local nonprofit groups - to fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, and/or rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership or provide direct rental assistance to low-income people.
Each year, HUD allocates approximately $2 billion to more than 600 state and local participating jurisdictions to increase the stock of affordable housing and provide tenant-based rental assistance for low- and very low-income households. Since the program’s inception, the program has completed more than one million units of affordable housing. In addition, the HOME Program provided more than 240,000 families with critically needed rental assistance. Each dollar of HOME funds leverages nearly $4 million in other public and private investments with a combined $78 billion over the life of the program.
For more information, visit www.HUD.gov.
May 26, 2011 8:57 pm
RISMEDIA, May 27, 2011--If you're continuing to focus on outside enhancements for your home during this month's National Home Improvement Month, Mark Clement, professional contractor and host of MyFixItUpLife home improvement radio show, has a few additional suggestions:
Evaluate the functionality and decorative appeal of your current windows. If you have condensation between glass panes, the windows are hard to open or close, your energy bills are soaring or if there are drafts coming in around the window units, then it’s time to seriously consider replacement windows.
Vinyl framed windows are the category of windows with the highest growth rate in the country. Why? These frames are extremely energy-efficient and some of the best have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction. Plus, maintenance hassles are so low you’ll forget the horrors of rotting frames, scraping and repainting that come with wood windows.
Investigate your window options and stick with a national manufacturer that can stand behind a long-term warranty. Always keep return-on-investment in mind, which may lead you to consider buying ENERGY STAR® qualified windows.
If you have the opportunity to replace your entry door or windows, make sure to finish off the job with stylish window and door trim. Lightweight and easy to install, weather-resistant synthetic moldings, shutters and entryway surrounds are a definite do-it-yourself project for any homeowner.
Take an eagle’s eye look at your home. Most houses have louvers placed high above the attic or garage space to allow ventilation in those areas. And, most houses have wooden louvers that can rot with time. Replacing louvers with insect-resistant and rot-resistant synthetic louvers can improve the home’s appearance and functionality.
Wrap it up. Clement recommends that if you have unsightly porch posts you can easily transform them into showpiece parts of your home by using Column Wrap Kits. The decorative synthetic pieces can be installed in less than 15 minutes around existing structural posts and columns to give an upgraded look to any home.
For more home improvement tips, visit www.myfixituplife.com or www.nari.org.
May 25, 2011 2:57 am
With a continued emphasis on going green, homeowners are stepping up their recycling efforts in order to keep harmful products out of landfills. If you are still unsure about the benefits that come with recycling, the experts at the National Recycling Coalition have compiled a list of the top 10 reasons that we should put a greater emphasis on recycling.
1. Good for our economy
American companies rely on recycling programs to provide the raw materials they need to make new products.
2. Creates jobs
Recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. More than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises employ 1.1 million workers nationwide.
3. Reduces waste
The average American discards 7.5 pounds of garbage every day. Most of this garbage goes into landfills, where it's compacted and buried.
4. Good for the environment
Recycling requires far less energy, uses fewer natural resources, and keeps waste from piling up in landfills.
5. Saves energy
Recycling offers significant energy savings over manufacturing with virgin materials. (Manufacturing with recycled aluminum cans uses 95% less energy).
6. Preserves landfill space
No one wants to live next to a landfill. Recycling preserves existing landfill space.
7. Prevents global warming
In 2000, recycling of solid waste prevented the release of 32.9 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MMTCE, the unit of measure for greenhouse gases) into the air.
8. Reduces water pollution
Making goods from recycled materials generates far less water pollution than manufacturing from virgin materials.
9. Protects wildlife
Using recycled materials reduces the need to damage forests, wetlands, rivers and other places essential to wildlife.
10. Creates new demand
Recycling and buying recycled products creates demand for more recycled products, decreasing waste and helping our economy.
For more information, visit www.nrc-recycle.org.
May 25, 2011 2:57 am
In this market, using the first real estate agent you speak to can be a recipe for disaster for home buyers according to the home buying specialists at the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA). For years, real estate sellers have been told to interview a number of agents before they pick one to list their home because of the difference in the service and skill levels provided. However, most home buyers end up using the first real estate person they meet.
"In an appreciating market, buyers may not need a skilled negotiator and property evaluator. But today's real estate environment is different. Home buyers need to work with the most skilled agent they can find to provide market insights and to advocate on their behalf," says Barry Nystedt, Region 8 Director of NAEBA. "Home buyers need to compare the qualifications, loyalty, experience and negotiation effectiveness of real estate agents to find the best one to work with. Top buyer's agents will be very happy to discuss their capabilities and the types of savings they have been able to achieve for buyers."
If home buyers are not careful in choosing an agent they are often caught in a difficult situation if they see homes with an agent from the listing office and later decide they want to use their own agent to represent them, because the listing office may make a claim for the buyer agent fee built into the transaction.
With home values still falling in many areas, home buyers need their own loyal advocate. "Ask the real estate people you are considering working with some serious questions," recommends Nystedt. "Choose one who has a proven track record of helping homebuyers save money and who will be loyal to you no matter what home you are interested in. Don't just settle for the first real estate agent you talk to."
For more information, visit http://www.naeba.org.
May 25, 2011 2:57 am
If you are considering a move in the coming months, heed these suggestions to give you the best chance of making your move a positive experience.
1. Don't contract with a moving company until you've done your homework. There are a number of reputable moving companies operating in the United States, but there also are some that are not. You can find a list of certified movers at www.promover.org or check the Better Business Bureau's website (www.bbb.org) for recent reports about any of the moving companies you have under consideration.
2. Understand the coverage options offered by your moving company. Hiring a professional moving company is an investment in convenience-but it is not a guarantee against damaged or lost possessions. So, before moving, make certain you understand the types of protection each moving company offers.
3. Finish packing before moving day. J.D. Power's research has shown that customers who are still packing on moving day are more than 40% more likely to have items go missing than are their counterparts who finish packing before moving day.
4. Don't put off unpacking. Unpacking promptly following your move will give you sufficient time to file a claim if you need to do so. Nearly one-half (45%) of customers who discover items lost or damaged during their move do not file a claim with their moving company. Many of these customers cite timing or missed deadlines as the reason they could not or did not file a claim.
5. If at all possible, avoid moving during the summer months. Demand for moving company services-and often, their prices as well-tend to spike during the summer months. J.D. Power found that customers reported the lowest levels of satisfaction in June, August, and September. In addition, the percentage of customers indicating they had possessions damaged or lost during their move reaches the highest levels during these peak months.
For more information, visit www.jdpower.com.
May 24, 2011 8:57 pm
(MCT)—Thomas Christopher is a lawn and garden expert calling for a radical revamp of how we approach yard care. "Lawns. I keep struggling with them," says Christopher, editor of the just-published The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening
(Timber Press, $34.95). "I try to persuade people to do it in an easier, more environmental way, but people are stuck back in the Eisenhower years.
"It's got to stop," he adds. "People have to get a grip and break the habit."
Here are some ways to break turf's hold on your life, resulting in a greener and "greener" lawn that takes far less time to maintain.
Make sure the mower blade is very sharp. "A dull blade leaves grass looking ragged and encourages disease or lawn problems," Christopher says.
Set the mower level higher. "Most people set their lawn mowers way too short," he says, noting too close a cut damages the grass, encourages weed growth and calls for too-frequent mowing. It's never about how short the grass is but how neat and trim the lawn looks when finished. Grass varieties grown in cooler climes should be 3 inches long or longer; warm-climate grasses, such as Bermuda and centipede grasses, can be cut a bit shorter, to around 1 1/2 inches.
Let your mower "design" the yard. Once you start the mower rolling, do not back up or make, in Christopher's words, "turns so tight they require slowing down." When you finish, look around for any areas of uncut grass. "The trick is to eliminate the little corners, peninsulas and island of grass," says Christopher. "Those patches are time-waster areas." What to do then? Don't mow those patches; replace with ground covers or mulch.
Start mowing in the most visible area of the property, like the front lawn. Christopher says the most efficient way to mow is to choose a specific area and mow in a circular motion from the edges toward the center. Mowing back and forth in rows is also acceptable.
Let no single bush or tree be an island in your yard. If there's something planted in the middle of the lawn that makes mowing hard, like a large bush with overarching branches, Christopher recommends ripping out the grass under the bush. Create a garden bed or plant some more bushes. Use mulch to create a large, even shape that's easy to mow around. "Don't drop plants into your yard," he warns.
Be aware of your terrain, especially any steep slopes. Christopher had a friend who was mowing downhill, slipped, and his feet went under the mower. "He lost a couple of toes," Christopher recalls. Where the ground goes downhill, mow back and forth across the grade.
Don't be overeager about mowing. Christopher has encountered a number of guys who can't cut back on their grass-cutting routine even when their yards really don't need it. Be honest about whether or not you can give up the mower.
For more information visit http://www.chicagotribune.com/