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Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home-Part 1

t's time to give your home a little TLC.

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Welcome to Rocky's Corner. It's time to give your home a little TLC. We all know how quickly time flies -weeks turn to months and months to years. Too often homeowners neglect to do periodic maintenance checks on building structures, roof systems, household fixtures and appliances. This neglect can lead to expensive repair costs that could have been avoidable.

You have joined me on the first of an 8-part series on Preventative Maintenance Tips for your Home. I hope that you will find this information to be both informative as well as useful in helping you to maintain your home.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE TIPS FOR YOUR HOME MONTHLY FIRE EXTINGISHER:
* Check that it is fully charged and recharge if necessary.

SMOKE DETECTORS AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS:
* Test all alarms to insure that they are working properly.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL:
* Always run cold water when grinding to harden fats and grease and to move waste down the drain lines.
* Disposers are generally self-cleaning- grinding citrus peels, eggshells, small bones, or a little ice will clean deposits and get rid of odors.
* Remember not to grind oyster or clam sheels, or highly fibrous materials or non-organic materials such as metal, glass or plastic.

DRAINS:
* Use a non-toxic biological drain cleaner regularly to keep drains clear. (Avoid using bleach or mouthwash down biologically treated drains because it kills the "friendly bacteria" working to keep your drains clear.

SINKS & TUBS:
* Check for moisture or small leaks under toilets, bathtubs and sinks.
* Keep strainers in your bathroom sinks to catch soap pieces and hair.
* Overflow holes on tubs should always be clear to prevent water damage to floors and ceilings.
* Flush with hot water and baking soda.

HEAT PUMP:
* Clean reusable filters or replace disposable.

FORCED WARM AIR HEATING SYSTEM:
* Clean reusable filters or replace disposable.

EVAPORATIVE AIR CONDITIONER:
* Clean reuseable filters or replace disposable.
* Clean evaporator or condenser coils.
* Clean condensate drain when in use
* Clear debris from around outside unit.

When performing your maintenance check if you should find that additional work is required consider hiring a professional. Proper care and maintenance to your home can saves hundreds of dollars in repair costs. I hope that you have found this article to be helpful and informative.

Please join me next time for Preventative Maintenance Tips for your Home part 2. Visit us at www.freminshomeimprovement.com

Home Improvement Web Sites

These days you can find a web site that covers anything. Included in this trend are home improvement web sites.

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These days you can find a web site that covers anything. Included in this trend are home improvement web sites. Some of these helpful sites may be related to a television program (as discussed in our April article 'Home Improvement Television'). However, there are also many that are mostly web based that offer great home improvement hints, tutorials and visual aids. Below is a list of some of these web sites. We have included the web site message to the consumer, our short review and our ranking of the practical features (such as navigation) to the right. Web sites are listed in alphabetical order. Hopefully you will find some information here that may help you on your next home improvement project! About.com Home Repair http://homerepair.about.com/ Web Site Summary: [About.com contains areas maintained by experts in the field; the only description we found about this section was about the expert.] Bill Lewis is a professional electrician. He has also been a carpenter, a contractor, an editor, a publisher and an urban planner. Bill focuses in this site on repairs and improvements with an eye to saving money and adding value. Homecheck Summary: Helpful articles about various projects and home repair issues. A good article reviews the pros and cons of do-it-yourself work. Overall the articles are quick and to the point. No illustrations are offered but the advice is good and well written. Would like to see more topics and visual aids. Al's Home Improvement Center http://alsnetbiz.com/homeimprovement/ Web Site Summary: Als Home Improvement Center is the site for do it yourself and how to tips covering all aspects of residential home repair, home improvement, remodeling, and renovation projects around the house. Featuring tips, advice, how-to articles and step-by-step information to help you maintain and improve the value of your home. Homecheck Summary: Random. This web site is primarily made up of links to other home improvement sites. However, there are some written guides and tutorials. The web site itself is basic in appearance and has few visual aids. However, some of the tutorials do offer step by step pictures. The site may be hit and miss but does seem to have some hidden gems. Ask the Builder www.askthebuilder.com Web Site Summary: Once you are in my new cool web site, here is what you will find: Over 400 Step-by-Step Guides- these contain the extra content, how-to instructions, links to manufacturers, etc. that the newspapers didn't have the room to print when they ran my original columns. Numerous TV Video Clips - watch me show you new products and cool tricks on how to do things. Over 150 Radio Shows - These radio shows have been stripped of the boring commercials. Each show is broken out into the individual callers. I explain in great detail how to do things as I talk to callers. You can listen to the segments or shows as often as you want. Each week I add the latest radio show for your listening pleasure. Email Questions and My Answers - Live questions from visitors just like you along with my responses. [This description is what a premium, paid for membership includes, some of these materials are available for free on the web sit as well.] Homecheck Summary: This web site does offer some good articles about home improvement. A paid for membership will give the user access to much more. Good content in the articles and Q&A, but not very many visual aids. Some of the material is for geared towards those with advance knowledge of home construction. A good site to review and would be even better if you want to pay for the membership; check out what a paid membership get you, click here. Better Homes & Gardens www.bhg.com Web Site Summary: BHG.com is focused on decorating, building and remodeling, crafts, entertaining, cooking, and gardening. It also has extensive information for women and families. In addition to providing useful tools and advice, BHG.com's trusted experts keep visitors up to the minute with information on the latest developments and trends around home and garden. BHG.com was designed with real people in mind. It has easy-to-use interactive tools; clear visuals; specific, step-by-step instructions; and money saving suggestions. It makes life easier and more enjoyable. Homecheck Summary: One of the first things you'll notice are the pop up ads on every page; incredibly annoying and overused! This site does have home improvement and restoration articles available online. However, the articles are brief and some do not have pictures. The Tools & Guides are useful and easy to use. These tools include planning the layout and painting rooms to calculators for figuring out the cost of materials in advance. Overall this site is better for stimulating decoration and remodeling ideas but does little to tell the do-it-yourselfer how to tackle these projects. BobVila.com www.bobvila.com Web Site Summary: Online and on the job site, home improvement pro Bob Vila helps homeowners build their dreams. Homecheck Summary: This web site offers a lot more information than just TV listing times. It is easy to get around, however, there is so much information available the choices at first can be a bit overwhelming. Articles are very practical and thorough, fix its include diagrams and photos, and the videos are a great way to review topics if you missed the television show. Design tools and the bulletin boards do require a sign up, but it is FREE! These tools are great and easy to use. Overall this site is one of the most informative and generous internet sites offering expert advice. DoItYourself.com http://doityourself.com Web Site Summary: N/A Does list a great deal of quotes from media sources and what they say about the site. Homecheck Summary: This web site really uses the point and click method. Once inside, most of the pages show all possible selections at once leaving the user to scroll and review at will. For shopping this works best. Once in the home improvement section, each topic has How To, Q&A and Tips. All are written concisely and use some pictures when applicable. Some How To's are more informative than others. Depending on the topic, users may find not all their questions answered as the subject may only have an introduction/summary instead of a full tutorial. More diagrams and drawings for some of the How To sections would be nice as well. Finally, a collection of manufactures and suppliers are listed by area of expertise or in advertisements throughout the site. (For professionals interested, listing on these pages begins at $30.) DoItYourself Network www.diynetwork.com Web Site Summary: DIY Network is your television source for the latest do-it-yourself projects, including Home Building; Home Improvement; Automotive & Boating; Crafts; Gardening; Living; and Woodworking. Informational and entertaining, DIY's programs and experts answer your most sought-after questions, plus offer creative projects that will inspire you to do something out of the ordinary - yourself. DIY's web site, DIYnetwork.com, features step-by-step instructions for all that you see on-air, totaling more than 15,000 projects online. Homecheck Summary: The tutorials do point out the television show times. However, if you miss the show, a step by step detail with pictures from the project are available online. Not all the show reviews are meant to be tutorials of how-to but instead are examples of what may be accomplished; a sort of idea bank. Overall the tutorials are clear and easy to follow. There are also some project planners available, but these are borrowed from the Lowe's web site. Home Decoration Concepts www.homedecorationsconcepts.com Web Site Summary: Homedecorationconcepts.com is a site that has been built to ensure you have all the information you want when you build your own house. The information presented here covers various aspects of home decor ranging from individual articles on decoration bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms etc to general articles on furniture &furnishing the house. The site even provides you with articles based solely on how to paint and maintain your house. In short, Homedecorationconcepts.com can be your first step towards your dream house! Home Depot www.homedepot.com Web Site Summary: The Home Depot is the world's largest home improvement retailer and second largest retailer in the United States. We help our customers build their dreams by being more than a store. Learn about Home Depot and our other subsidiaries that specialize in everything from flooring, lighting and interior decor to landscape supply. See how we're making your community a better place to live. Find a career with a Home Depot company or invest in your future as we drive to establish wealth and financial security for our investors. Homecheck Summary: An extension of the store, this site is intended to sell products. However, it also has some tips and ideas for using the products available. The tutorials on this site do come with difficulty rating and photographs of the project steps/procedures. An easy tool included in the tutorials is a printable shopping list so you may know exactly what you need (and where to buy it!) for any project. The only downside is the planning tools are brand based and only show painting color schemes, shelving layouts, etc. using one particular brand. Home & Garden TV www.hgtv.com Web Site Summary: At HGTV.com, you'll find even more of what you love about HGTV: instructions for thousands of home and garden projects, video tips, an interactive Program Guide and episode finder, Calculators, Message Boards and more. Just click on your favorite topic—Decorating, Remodeling, Gardening, At Home, Crafts—to learn the latest on enhancing your nest. And be sure to visit the HGTV Store for unique home and garden gear. Homecheck Summary: The How-To tutorials are great. They take you through step-by-step with audio and visual review. After watching the segment you may print out written instructions as well. It does work best with a high speed internet connection. Only negative comment is we wish there were more! But these are sponsored by Lowe's and users may always click on the advertisement to go to their library as well. The Home Improvement Web www.the-home-improvement-web.com Web Site Summary: The New Home Improvement Web Directory - Tips, Design, Decorating, Repair and Improvement Information For The Consumer and Professional! Find Improvement Tips, Products, Professionals, and Services in Canada, United States, and United Kingdom! Homecheck Summary: Some great articles about home maintenance and repair. However, there are no illustrations. Many of the articles are submitted by other web sites/sources, but the quality of the articles seems to stay about equal. HomeStore.com www.homestore.com Web Site Summary: Homestore, Inc. is a leading supplier of media and technology solutions that promote and connect Real Estate Professionals to consumers before, during and after a move. Homecheck Summary: This site is primarily geared to those looking for realtors, homes, apartments and other real estate listings. To find home improvement articles go the Home & Garden tab at the top right. Here you may find decorating and some guides to home improvement projects. The tutorials are borrowed from the Creative Homeowner text and include great pictures with the step by step guide. Finding the tutorial you are looking for can take a little time through the different menus. It is easy to click on another feature and be taken to another site; although the new site is owned by the same group, why you went there may not be clear at first. Again, do-it-yourself home improvement is not the main feature of this site so unfortunately there are not as many articles and projects; but the articles it does offer are easy to follow and have good visual aids. HomeTime.com www.hometime.com Web Site Summary: Welcome to Hometime.com your online source for home improvement, remodeling, and repair information. Here is where you’ll find project advice, information about current and past TV episodes, behind-the-scenes Hometime information and a variety of products to help you with all your project needs. Homecheck Summary: This site has project advice, information about the show and a variety of products to help you with all your project needs. Also find lists of vendors and their contact information for materials you see used on the show. The how-to tutorials on the web site are basic. Check out the archives to find past episodes that relate to your own projects. Copies of programs can be bought and usually cover one individual tutorial or the whole series related to construction of one house project. Home Tips www.hometips.com Web Site Summary: Home Tips is your free one-stop resource for help with home improvement, remodeling houses, home repair, decorating, and buying appliances and other home products. Homecheck Summary: This site has some lengthy articles and some quick summaries. Very few pictures and a lot seems to point towards purchasing material through the site. That is not to say the information isn't valuable; many of the articles/buyer's guides offer good reviews of the materials available to the consumer. There is a section of D-I-Y Instructions that offers a bit more insight. But again would like more step-by-step, illustrated instructions. Lowe's Home Improvement www.lowes.com Web Site Summary: [Well the closest we could find!] Lowe's has been Improving Home Improvement ® for more than 59 years. In 2005, Lowe's earned several notable industry distinctions, including: Ranked 43 on the FORTUNE 500; Named 2003, 2004 and 2005 ENERGY STAR Retail Partner of the Year; Operates more than 1,100 stores in 48 states Homecheck Summary: Offered by the retail store as an extra feature, the primary goal of the site is to get information about and/or purchase products for sale. Prompted for your Zip Code, this information is used so you may search for products available in your area (this includes plants!). Navigation is easy, however some pages heavy with images may take longer for some computers to load. Most of the tutorials suggest certain products, which is to be expected. However, these tutorials do still prove to be helpful and diagrams are provided for more complex tasks. Check out their 'In-Depth Microsites' for more information and online tools such as the Garden Planner. The Garden Club has really useful tools with great information about plants. Overall, this site does prove helpful to the home improvement weekend warrior. Michael Holigan's Your New Home www.michaelholigan.com Web Site Summary: Michael Holigan’s Your New House, seen on broadcast stations and cable by more than 2 million viewers every week. We promote tips and advice on how to build, buy and remodel the home through our TV show...serve as a source of expert advice and information for consumers on topics relating to: New home construction, The purchase and financing of new and existing homes, The purchase and financing of manufactured homes, Residential remodeling, Home improvement Homecheck Summary: Tutorials are available through online copies of show transcripts or broken down into step-by-step online tutorials. The use of photos help illustrate the steps of the projects. If you have a good connection you may also watch video excerpts from the show. All around great advice and direction. Just can't wait for there to be even more topics available. MSN House & Home http://houseandhome.msn.com/ Web Site Summary: [Could not find one for this section, but everyone is pretty familiar with MSN.com for which this is an extension.] Homecheck Summary: Tutorials and content is provided by Better Homes and Gardens. Articles are short and to the point. Most have drawn illustrations. Start Remodeling www.startremodeling.com Web Site Summary: StartRemodeling.com’s Roots began in 1997 as an interactive sales tool for Lone Star Specialty Remodelers, a Houston, TX based remodeling contractor, in business since 1982. The site, still owned and operated by Real Remodeling Professionals, was transformed in 1999 to bring visitors to the Internet an informative and easy to navigate site that will allow them to locate anything and everything they may need to improve their homes. Homecheck Summary: Some good short articles and how-to's are in the Interior and Exterior Showcases. The remodeling values article is a nice hidden gem as it was the first we saw of someone illustrating how that major home improvement project may effect the resale value of your home. Overall, the articles are bit hit and miss and could use more visual aids, but there are some definite gems to look over in the archives. This Old House/Ask This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com Web Site Summary: Homeowner Know-how: Our extensive database of do-it-yourself articles and step-by-step instructions help homeowners execute a wide range of home improvement tasks. Organized by topic, this section covers everything from kitchen and bath to yard and garden. Homecheck Summary: Some free tutorials available online. However, most information is only available to magazine subscribers ($4.93/3 issues & presumably much more through online access). The guides that are offered for free are well written, have great photographic visuals and are easy to follow. It may make the subscription worth it to those who want expert guidance and help. TrueValue www.truevalue.com Web Site Summary: True Value, operating worldwide, has been a leader in the hardware industry since 1948. With its broad and deep product selection and helpful customer service, True Value is a trusted resource for do-it-yourselfers in big cities and small towns alike. Homecheck Summary: The web site for the retail store, this site has some good directions for home projects and improvements. The tutorials are very detailed. Drawn pictures serve as visual aids; it would be nice if there were more of them for some of the projects listed. Well written and easy to follow articles. Don't forget to check out the expert Q&A where you may submit questions or review the archive or questions asked. Toolbelt Diva http://media.home.discovery.com/fansites/toolbeltdiva/toolbeltdiva.html Web Site Summary: As the feisty host of Discovery Home Channel's new series Toolbelt Diva, Norma pairs up with female homeowners to tackle a variety of home-improvement projects. Toolbelt Diva proves that any woman can take on just about any home-improvement project, and it also has plenty of information and insight for the man of the house as well. Homecheck Summary: A fun twist to the usual home improvement shows, this tv show's web site also offers video clips and written guides reviewing projects handled on the show. Wish there was more material available online as the topics covered are still rather limited.

Insurance Coverage in an Economic Recession

Limiting Your Risk When Cutting Costs

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Lately, when we turn on the news, we hear about a troubled economy and an unstable job market. The constant barrage of bad news has encouraged most of us to cut spending wherever possible. Perhaps a household will cancel cable TV for a year, limit their cell phone plans, reduce the number of times they eat out as a family, or tackle another cost reducing option. As many different "belt-tightening" measures are taken, everyone should be careful they don't cut the essential items. One annoying essential is the cost we pay for insurance - there is no guarantee we will need it in the near future (in fact, we hope to need it as little as possible), however, if an accident does happen and we don't have coverage, the costs could send us into bankruptcy. Understandably, if a bread-winner of the household loses their job, it is tempting to cut costs where we cannot see the immediate need. This said, it is far better to reduce coverage than to go with no coverage at all.

Before we discuss insurance any further, let us get this down now - it is not worth the risk to eliminate insurance coverage completely.

  • For homeowners insurance, your mortgage lender will require that your home is at least minimally insured. However, it is possible to let your insurance coverage lapse if you don't pay your bills or mortgage. A few months lapse does not mean you lose your insurance right away. However, letting it go longer than a couple of months will leave your home uninsured. When you then try to reenroll your coverage, the insurance company may charge you as much as 2 or 3 times more depending on how long you went uninsured - you have become a higher risk client. If you do not reenroll and let your insurance continue to lapse, your lender can take action to protect their investment. A lender may enroll the house in an insurance policy which they then add to your loan payment. However, they will be the party to receive funds if the home is damaged (i.e. fire). Essentially, you will be forced to pay for an insurance of their choosing (maybe at a higher rate) but you will not receive the benefits of the original coverage under your name.
  • Basic automotive insurance is required by law in most states. If you are driving uninsured, you could be faced with a lot of out-of-pocket expenses as well as legal fines if you are ever in an accident. Again, if you drop insurance coverage and reenroll later, the insurance company may charge you as much as 2 or 3 times more depending on how long you went uninsured as you are a higher risk client. For a chart detailing the amount of coverage required in your state, click here to visit Insure.com. Before you cut your auto insurance to the bare minimum listed, consider some of our insurance shopping tips listed below that may help you lower your costs.
  • Finally, what about health insurance? It is estimated that this year the number of Americans without health insurance is as high as 52 million. Most Americans rely on their employers to help cover some of their health insurance cost. However, as premiums rise for companies, they are forced to increase the contributions of their employees. So in today's economy, both those with jobs and those who have lost their jobs are struggling to keep affordable health insurance. Everyone should have health insurance to offset the astronomical cost of emergency health care. Those without insurance may find that the ambulance ride alone may break the bank and leave them with more debt than they can possibly afford to repay. Below we have provided some strategies for obtaining cheaper health insurance.

The above said, let us see how you can cut some of your insurance rates!

Cutting your insurance costs does not mean you should go without coverage. Instead, be a savvy consumer and do your research and shop around. Recently an insurance company ran an ad where they asked consumers how long they shopped for their car and received answers from a week to even a couple of months. When they then asked how long they shopped for insurance, there was a pause and the usual answer of, "Er, uh, less than an hour." This commercial proved a good point about how many people approach shopping for insurance with less care than the big ticket items to be covered. Here are some shopping tips to help you find the best price and coverage.

Strategies for obtaining discounts on home, automotive, and health insurance

SHOP before you DROP your money! As the commercial we used as an example above, and as we keep mentioning over and over, nothing can beat comparison shopping. Use the web to your advantage as there are so many quote and comparison sites available. If you aren't comfortable with the web, do some calling around to your local agents. It is worth your time and money! 

Considering the online insurance option? You may give up on some individualized care, but the cost savings may be worth it. Consider these PROS and CONS before you buy online insurance coverage:

The PROS - There are many benefits for utilizing online insurance:

  • Easy Comparison Shopping: Using insurance websites, you can compare coverage and prices on almost any type of insurance. You can also browse the individual insurance carrier websites once you have narrowed your search. Almost all companies now have libraries and tools for you to learn more about their services online.
  • Your Time Is Money: Shopping for insurance online can be done at any time of day. It is hard to get time away from your daily schedule to sit down and comparison shop with insurance brokers, or indeed, individual agents.
  • Low Pressure: Let's face it, many people find it easier to stand firm without the person-to-person contact. Users feel they can be more savvy and better informed when every option is at their fingertips rather than relying on an agent's account.
  • Save Money: Due to the time needed to comparison shop, the pressure to stay loyal to one company, and the uncertainty of other companies, some may lose money by staying blindly loyal to their insurance carrier. The online market allows for easy comparison shopping, less pressure, and research tools to learn more about other companies. By becoming well informed, you can work out a better rate with your current provider or move to a new provider who offers better coverage for your dollar.

The CONS - Be aware of these complications when purchasing insurance online:

  • Understanding Coverage Options: Without an agent to explain 'insurance speak,' you may not know all the coverage you may need. This is especially the case for those getting insurance for the first time. However, if you have discussed options with an agent before and have a generally good idea of the type of coverage you will need, this may be something that is manageable with a little extra research.
  • Is that quote really a deal: All quotes may not be equal. Take care to examine all the coverage included with quotes. The online quotes may help you narrow your search, but should not be taken at face value because not all companies offer the same 'comprehensive' coverage.
  • Buying Insurance Coverage In Your State: Not all states allow you to purchase insurance online. Some allow you to get quotes but still require you to meet with an agent before signing any contracts. Also, because the Internet clouds locality, you will need to make sure the insurance carrier is licensed in your state.
  • Individual Customer Care: Do you really want to push 1, then 2, then 4 to talk to someone about your insurance coverage? Working with a local agent still offers the advantages of individualized customer service. They will also have a better knowledge of the coverage their carrier provides and can help you understand all of your options. They may also be aware of more discounts available to you that you may not know to ask for online. In this way they can offer better individualized care.

For more information about purchasing insurance online, read our article 'Online Insurance: Is Online Insurance Right for You?'

  • Look for and Ask about Discounts: All insurance companies offer discounts, however, not all of them will offer a discount if you don't ask. Since not all insurance companies are upfront with all the discounts they offer, it is best to shop with this at the top of your list of items to ask about. Discounts are available for all types of coverage and include everything from being a long-time client to paying your policy in full (rather than monthly). Homeowners can get discounts by making certain upgrades to their home that make the home more secure and/or energy efficient. Automotive insurance often has the most selection of discounts ranging from a good driving record, a short daily commute, or even a high grade point average (for those student drivers in the house). Health insurers will give discounts for clients in good health - if you lead a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, no smoking or drinking, you may find completing a health survey will save you money on your premium.
  • Raise your Deductibles: By raising the amount you pay out-of-pocket in the case of an emergency, you can lower your rates substantially. Higher deductibles will mean that you may have to pay as much as $1000 or more out-of-pocket per event. However, it does provide a safer gamble compared to no insurance at all. For health care you may consider a high deductable plan for "emergency" or "catastrophic" insurance. These plans will only cover a major accident but, if you are in good health and don't need a lot of medications, this plan can help offset high rates. However, keep in mind that you will have to pay over $1000 out-of-pocket and these plans will not cover routine doctor visits. Instead, combine this insurance with a Health Savings Account for the best rounded coverage.

MORE Strategies for obtaining discounts on home and automotive insurance: Flood damage is not covered by homeowner insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program is a partnership between FEMA and isnurance companies that offers coverage. 

  • Bundle to Save: Using one insurance provider to cover your home and vehicle can help save you money as most insurance companies provide a discount to get your business. This will save you money if you check with your current provider, but don't be shy, take advantage of online comparison sites or do some calling around. You may be surprised at the differences!
  • Review your Policy: Make certain you review your policy at least once a year. There may be adjustments you can make in coverage. For example, as your car gets older and subsequently worth less than when you first bought it, you may find you need less coverage. For your home, you may find you have sold high insured items from your household or take inventory and realize you don't need to cover that old computer or entertainment center for as much as you did before. Examining your Personal Property Value may lead to areas you can logically cut coverage.

For more information about homeowners' insurance, read our article 'Understanding Homeowners Insurance.'

Insurance Company Rankings

• AM Best Company - Insurance Reports http://www.ambest.com/homepage.asp
• Consumer Reports (requires membership for ratings) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/money/insurance/index.htm Standard & Poor's Ratings http://www2.standardandpoors.com/
• US News & World Report - Top Health Insurance Companies http://health.usnews.com/sections/health/health-plans/index.html

Online Insurance Comparison Sites

• Insurance.com www.insurance.com
• Quicken http://www.quicken.com
• InsWeb www.insweb.com Insure.com www.insure.com
• eHealthInsurance www.ehealthinsurance.com

 

Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home-Part 8

We will conclude this series with tips for the fall.

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Every Fall

SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS:

  • Change batteries and check to make sure they are operating properly.
  • Also consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t have any.

CLEAN CARPETING, UPHOLSTERY, DRAPERIES AND AIR DUCTS:  

  • Have your carpets, upholstery and draperies cleaned regularly, once every 12 to 18 months, to remove the dirt and grit that can wear them out prematurely.
  • Consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if family members suffer excessively from respiratory infections, asthma or allergies; if there is visible mold growth inside ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system, the ducts are infested with insects or rodents. Excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

DRAIN-WASTE AND VENT SYSTEM:

Flush out system. HEATING:

Forced Warm Air Heating System

Before turning on your unit, make sure nothing flammable has been stored next to the furnace over the summer. Also, change the filters regularly. Be sure all access panels are secure, with all the screws in place. Be sure the thermostat is set in the heating mode. Run your heater for a few minutes to burn off the dust that usually collects on the heat exchanger over the summer (don’t worry, that smell is normal) and to make sure it is in working order before you need it. Arrange for service calls before the start of heating and cooling season to get better attention and have more flexibility when scheduling appointments. Consider hiring a pro to perform a furnace maintenance check-up, including these steps:

1. Inspect thermostat for proper operation.
2. Inspect filter and change or clean as needed.
3. Check all electrical components and controls.
4. Oil motors as needed.
5. Inspect heat exchanger for possible cracks, which would introduce carbon monoxide into the living space.
6. Check airflow. If diminished, it may be necessary to clean the evaporator coil and ductwork.
7. Check air fuel mixture, where appropriate.

Gas Burner 

  •  Clean burners and ports, or have them professionally cleaned.

Oil Burner 

  •  Have your oil burner professionally serviced; lubricate fan and motor bearings.

Thermostat

  •  Clean heat sensor, contact points, and contacts; check accuracy.

Heat Pump

· Schedule an annual service call to have a certified professional to inspect the wiring, check belts and replace if needed, and oil the moving parts. Arrange for service calls before the start of heating and cooling season to get better attention and have more flexibility when scheduling appointments.

Hot Water Heating System

  •  For steam heating, check shutoff valve for leaks and drain lower water cut-off per manufacturers’ instructions. Lubricate pump and motor; bleed air from radiators or convectors.
  •  Oil-fired Boilers
  • Hire a professional for annual maintenance including flue cleaning, a fuel-filter change, cleaning and adjustment of the jets. Arrange for service calls before the start of heating and cooling season to get better attention and have more flexibility when scheduling appointments.

DOORS AND WINDOW WEATHERSTRIPPING:

  • Check the weather-stripping around all doors and windows and replace it if necessary to reduce drafts. And the loss of heated air.
  •  Make sure the weather-stripping on the door between your garage and home is intact to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

FIREPLACE AND CHIMNEYS:

  •  The most important maintenance to do regularly is to have a pro clean your flue liners in order to prevent the build up of creosote.
  •  Have your wood burning fireplaces and stoves inspected annually and cleaned and repaired as required to prevent chimney fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and mortar and flashing failure.
  •  Water leaks can also cause your mortar to deteriorate prematurely.
  •  Consider installing a chimney cap to protect your chimney from water, debris and critters.

STORM WINDOWS AND DOORS:

  •  Inspect all windows and doors-replace any cracked or broken glass, tighten or repair any loose or damaged frames and repaint if necessary; replace broken, worn or missing hardware; tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers; check for broken or missing glazing.
  •  Consider installing a chimney cap to protect your chimney from water, debris and critters.

GARAGE DOORS:

  •  Clean and lubricate hinges, rollers, and tracks; tighten screws.
  •  If serious repair is required, consider replacing.

PEST CONTROL:

  •  Remember, insects and other critters would naturally prefer to come indoors out of the rain and cold, if possible, as winter sets in.
  •  Make sure all vents and other openings are covered and spray for insects along perimeter of house. ·

WATER HEATER:

  •  Every six months you should turn off the power source and drain it completely until it is clear of sediment.
  •  Also inspect flue assembly (gas heater); check for leaks and corrosion.

EXTERIOR CAULKING:

  •  Inspect caulking around exterior doors and windows, replace if necessary.

BASEMENT AND FOUNDATION:

  •  Check grading for proper slope away from foundation wall.
  •  Inspect for cracks and moisture repair if needed.

DECKS AND OTHER EXTERIOR WOOD:

  •  Inspect exterior wood for cracks, splintering, decay, and insect damage; treat and repair as needed.
  •  Keep decks clean, removing wet leaves and debris that can cause staining or encourage wood decay, mold and mildew growth.
  •  Having your deck professionally cleaned and sealed can add years to its life.
  •  Repair hinges and latches on your gates.

GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS:

  •   Clear/install/repair gutters and downspouts and make sure the runoff is directed away from your home so it can not erode the soil around the foundation or run into your basement or crawl space.
  •  Install gutter accessories to divert water, channel underground drain lines into existing yard drainage or storm sewers, or consider installing a dry well at the end of the drainpipe to slowly distribute the water to surrounding soil.

LANDSCAPING: 

  • Cut back any trees or shrubs that are touching the exterior. 
  •  Check with a local gardening service or your county extension agent for information about appropriate measures in your area for fertilizing, thatching, aerating and reseeding lawn and controlling disease and insects in all your landscaping

PIPES: 

  • Check your pipes for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting, replace if necessary. 
  • Check for leaking around the outside hose bibs.
  •  Install insulation around outdoor water pipes to protect from freezing.

ROOF: 

  • Check for warping, aging, moss, and cracking making sure that shingles, shakes or tiles are sound; repair or replace as needed.
  •  Inspect the flashing around chimneys, skylights and vents.
  •  Seal cracks or openings where water could penetrate. ·
  • If you see significant damage or wear, consider contacting a roofing specialist to give you a bid on a roof replacement. · Do NOT cover air vents or turbines.

SIDING: 

  • Inspect siding (especially on the south and storm sides of the house) for evidence of deterioration, including cracks, splintering, decay, and insect damage; clean, treat and repair as needed.

o Brick and stone: check joints between wood and masonry. Waterproof or repaint if necessary.
o Wood: look for lifting or peeling paint, splitting wood or areas where the wood grain is separating. This is evidence that water is getting into the siding.
o Stucco: a chalky residue that rubs off on your hand is evidence of oxidation, a deterioration of paint or color coat that reduces stuccos’ insulating value. If the stucco is cracked, this allows water to get in around windows and doors.
o Trim: look for peeling paint on the fascia boards, windowsills and sashes that could allow water in to form mildew and fungus on the interior of your home behind curtains, blinds and window coverings.

This concludes our 8 part series on Preventive Maintenance Tips. I hope that you have enjoyed this series and that these tips will make for a more enjoyable home. Join us next time on “Hiring A Contractor.” Visit us at www.freminshomeimprovement.com

Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home-Part 5

This month we will discus helpful tips for maintenance every 2 years.

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Welcome back to Rocky’s Corner!

Last month we started Part 4 of an 8 part series of Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home. This month we will discus helpful tips for maintenance every 2 years. Every 2 Years

AIR DUCTS:
Consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if family members suffer excessively from respiratory infections, asthma or allergies; if there is visible mold growth inside ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system, the ducts are infested with insects or rodents. Excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR:
Change sensor element.

DECKS AND PORCHES:
If they are professionally cleaned, sealed and maintained, it should only be necessary to refinish and/or stain your wooden decks every two or three years. It is necessary that surfaces be thoroughly cleaned and dried before adding another coat of stain or protective finish. Remove mold and mildew, fungus, tree sap, grease and bird droppings from exterior wood with the appropriate commercial deck cleaner (or homemade mixture) and a stiff brushed broom. Clean mildew and fungus by mixing one cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water; scrub and rinse well. Sodium bicarbonate works well to remove dirt, mildew and the weathered gray residue from sunlight degradation. Oxalic acid will remove metal stains around nails and dark tannin stains often found on redwood, cedar and oak. Use care and follow manufacturers’ directions when using these products, wear eye protection, long pants, long sleeves and gloves; cover surrounding vegetation with plastic and rinse well.

TILE, NATURAL STONE AND GROUT:
Have your grout, professionally sealed every one to three years in medium to heavy-used areas and every three to five years in lightly used areas.

SEPTIC TANK:
Have the septic tank cleaned and pumped. Join me next month for Part 6 of our series on Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home. We will be starting with tips for each season st Spring Visit us at www.freminshomeimprovement.com

Slab verses crawl space

Some are built on a slab, and others have crawl spaces. Is one better than the other?

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Q. We are looking at new homes in South Carolina, and we noticed that some are built on a slab, and others have crawl spaces. Is one better than the other?

A. Traditionally, houses in South Carolina have been built on raised foundation walls to keep the structure away from the ground, but with the advent of newer technologies, more and more builders are choosing to build homes with concrete slab foundations. Briefly, a house with a crawl space has a wooden floor built on foundation walls and piers that can be anywhere from about two to six feet off the ground depending on the slope of the lot. In this type of house, the utilities such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC can be run under the floor, and are accessible for repair or renovation. The crawl space has fresh air ventilation, but is closed to insects and animals. This type of construction requires stairs for access. A slab-built house, or patio home, is built directly on a reinforced concrete slab foundation. This slab rests directly on the ground, and the utilities are run under the slab and brought up into the structure wherever needed. The heating and air ducts are routed through the attic in most cases. This type of construction requires no stairs for access. With a house built up off the ground, modest amounts of water entering the crawl space during rainstorms is not usually a problem, because it runs right through or evaporates through the fresh air vents. With a slab house, there is very little tolerance for water draining against the structure, because it will find its way into the house. If you are considering buying a patio home, pay careful attention to the lot drainage. The choice between the two types of construction is largely a matter of personal preference unless someone in your family has difficulty climbing stairs in which case, a slab-built home would be your best choice. Regardless of which type of house you choose to purchase, it would be wise to get a thorough home inspection from the most competent inspector in the area.