Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5

Plaster Ceilings Peeling After Half a Century

by Alan Heavens


Question: My parents have lived in their house for 48 years. The house is about 54 years old. They have always used good-quality paint.  About three years ago the ceiling began to peel. When a representative from the paint company came to inspect the situation he said it was the plaster on the ceiling and not the paint.  They have delayed painting because the ceilings continue to peel. What might be the cause and what do you suggest they do? Seems like too long a time for this to happen.

Answer: Moisture is a likely cause, high humidity in the house, inadequate ventilation after insulating, a leaky pipe in the shower, clogged dryer vent - just about anything - might cause the plaster to be damp and make it difficult for the paint to adhere to the surface.

Much of what I see on the Internet about peeling paint on plaster ceilings has to do with much older houses that have several coats of paint including the be-very-careful-with lead-based stuff.
I'm almost sure it is a moisture issue, because that's what I have found over the years with my own older houses, much older than your parents' place. Until you solve it, you won't be able to repaint successfully, and then you'll need to prep very carefully and thoroughly before you do.
I asked Deborah Zimmer and the Paint Quality Institute about what makes paint fail. The clues, she said, can be found in the way your paint is failing.

"The evidence is right there, you just need to know how to interpret it," she said.
If your exterior paint is peeling, the culprit is probably moisture. Peeling occurs when wet wood swells underneath the paint, causing the paint film to loosen, crack, and ultimately peel.
Water can reach the wood through un-caulked joints or a leaky roof. Another possibility: water being forced underneath the roofing shingles because of clogged rain gutters.

Bubbles or blisters in your paint can eventually lead to peeling, so they can't be ignored. This problem can usually be traced to either heat or moisture.  If your house was originally painted on a very hot day in direct sunshine, for example, blistering can result, especially if a dark-color paint was applied.

Sometimes, moisture is to blame. Excess moisture from within the home can build up behind the paint and cause blisters (this is less likely with latex paint, which is vapor permeable); rain or heavy dew can also produce blisters if the surface preparation wasn't done properly or if low-quality latex paint was used.


|By Alan J. Heavens, Inquirer Real Estate Writer

Making Your Windows More Efficient

by Terri Bennett, Charlotte Observer

With all the money we spend this time of year on presents, parties, and everything else — who really can afford to let money fly right out the window? Do Your Part during these chilly months to make your windows more efficient to cut down on your utility bills.

In the winter, drafty windows can account for up to 25 percent of our heating bill.

However, there are some fixes that will make all the difference. Common choices include insulating drapes, interior storm windows, and plastic window insulation kit. Each of these solutions has its own pros and cons, but they all insulate the same way. They create an insulated air buffer between your home and the window surface.

Insulated drapes are considered the most attractive option, but experts stress the importance of proper insulation. Drapes must be flush with the wall to effectively create an air space between the window surface and the curtains. Improperly installed curtains that let air pass through the sides of the drapes can actually pull heat away from the room.

Drapes, of course, can be reused and will help reduce utilities costs in every season.

Interior storm windows can be fitted to your windows and are effective at reducing air infiltration. These units use a fitted pane that often clips into a frame. Pane materials range from the more expensive glass to polycarbonate plastic. The advantage to interior storm windows is that they can be reused for several years. Many favor interior storm windows over exterior varieties because they are easier to install will require less maintenance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, interior storm windows can reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent.

Plastic insulation kits are a very economical choice. Kits include a plastic sheet that is attached to a window frame with adhesive tape and then stretched tight by applying heat with a hair dryer. The plastic film is made of vinyl, polyester or polyethylene and can technically be removed and stored for next winter's use. Most homeowners, however, find these kits to be single season items due to tears in the plastic and the milky appearance created by the aging plastic.

So which is your best choice? Go with a reusable option like interior storm windows or insulating drapes. Homeowners that want to realize long term savings should consider upgrading to Energy Star qualified windows. Energy Star-rated windows will have a substantial upfront cost but are the most efficient way to reduce home heat loss around windows.

Whether you go big or small, do your part to keep the warm air inside your home and more money in your wallet.

By Terri Bennett (c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer


Private Drinking Water Wells

by EPA

If your family gets drinking water from a private well, do you know if your water is safe to drink? What health risks could you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice?

EPA regulates public water systems; it does not have the authority to regulate private drinking water wells. Approximately 15 percent of Americans rely on their own private drinking water supplies, and these supplies are not subject to EPA standards, although some state and local governments do set rules to protect users of these wells. Unlike public drinking water systems serving many people, they do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and its quality before it is sent to the tap. These households must take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance of their drinking water supplies.

  • Basic Information - Learn about the types of drinking water wells and guidelines for proper construction.
  • Where You Live - Find information about private drinking water wells in your region or state.
  • Frequent Questions -This page answers questions you may have about your well water.
  • Human Health - Learn about health risks associated with drinking water wells.
  • Partnerships - Several organizations are working to keep private drinking water wells safe.
  • What You Can Do - Learn how to do your part in keeping your drinking water well safe.
  • Publications -Download or order copies of brochures, booklets, posters, reports, and multi-media publications.
  • Related Links - Link to web sites with additional information on private drinking water wells.
  • Glossary - Look up unfamiliar terms in EPA’s electronic glossary Delicious


Decorative Rock and Gravel are Great for Landscaping

by Stacy Downs, McClatchy Newspapers


If you're looking for solutions to landscaping challenges, decorative rock and gravel just might be the ticket.

Drainage issues? Budget-friendly alternative to a paved patio? Interesting edging for your flower beds? Check, check, check.

The dilemma for Pam Messick was that nothing grew under the linden tree in her front yard, one of those giant trees with the dramatic canopies you see lining the streets of Prairie Village, Kansas. Not grass, not ivy, not even hostas.

"My husband and I'd sit on my front porch, and it would look like a dust bowl," she says. "It wasn't pretty." Working with Sharp Landcaping this year, Messick selected cobblestone reminiscent of summers in Colorado. She wanted the spot to feel Asian, so a Japanese maple was added among the stone. Neighbors walking their dogs frequently stop and talk to Messick about her new rockscaping. "They tell me they love my rock garden," Messick says. "When the rocks get wet from the rain, they're especially beautiful. Vibrant color veins pop out. Sure, I could have added just mulch, but this is so much more interesting. It feels natural and perfect.

To make the tree-canopied spot a sitting garden, Messick plans to add another strong stone statement, a boulder bench. So far, she has chosen the decorative gravel. Jack Robinson says in recent years, interest has grown in xeriscaping, using plants and other materials that help reduce water use. "They want less maintenance," Robinson says. "Not all the mowing."

Adding rock or gravel is one of the best ways to create a permeable landscape, says Jamie Durie, the Australian designer and host of HGTV's "The Outdoor Room." "It absorbs water and melted snow rather than them running off into the street," he says. With all the benefits, using decorative rock requires thoughtful planning and requires upkeep, says Kristopher Dabner.
For example, Dabner designed a series of pea-gravel backyard patios and pathways for a Lawrence home. First it needed a level of aggregate, then breathable landscape fabric as a weed barrier before a final layer of pea gravel.

With any stonescaping project, Dabner says, you need to "stay ahead of weeds."
"Herbicide needs to be sprayed when the weeds are small. If you let them sprout for a few weeks, you'll have a huge mess on your hands." Because of the major weed patrol it would require, Dabner says people should not use decorative rock instead of mulch in most cases - especially around the perimeter of a house.

But Dabner likes rock for a dramatic, modern statement - like creating a square, circular or triangular gravel patio instead of the usual concrete rectangle. And he likes stone as a solution for drainage. He helped Nancy Addy create a dry creek bed in her sloping yard that backs up to woods. Gravel was placed on the bottom, and prettier river rocks are on top, mimicking a winding stream.

An avid gardener, Addy walked the path next to the ribbon of rocks, marveling at lush vegetation as well as snails, caterpillars and cocoons. "One thing about rock is that it attracts tiny creatures: snakes, mice and voles," she says. "They don't bother me, and I don't bother them. You also need to always be wearing the right shoes because rocks move beneath your feet." The stepping stones that weave through Addy's yard come from rocks excavated from their lot.
"The rocks are beautiful and natural," she says. "I love them."

Measure the length and width of the area. "So many people have to come back because they didn't measure; they try to use their arms and hands as estimates," says Jack Robinson. Signs typically spell out how much footage a ton of rock covers - employees can help, too.

Take pictures of the spots where you want rock. Plotting your house and yard on graph paper helps, too. "Think of rock shopping like buying furniture," Robinson says. "You want to make sure it fits size-wise and style-wise."

Go for a natural, regional look. "White rocks and red rocks are out of place here," says landscape designer Kristopher Dabner. "The super-colorful rocks you'd see in Arizona don't look at home in the Midwest."

Remember other materials. For example, say you're going to edge a flower bed with salt-and-pepper- colored, goose-egg- shaped granite river cobbles. First, you'll need two parallel strips of metal edging to outline the bed. Between the strips, fill in with landscape gravel before placing the cobbles on top.

Be mindful of environmental ethics. Jamie Durie of HGTV says rocks from Third World countries are a bad idea. "You'll see inexpensive rock from India and Indonesia that's from their rivers. Fish need those rocks for silvering. People really depend on those rocks as part of their food chain." But, he says, manmade rock "can look great."

BY Stacy Downs, McClatchy Newspapers

Bring Your Kitchen out of the Dark with Layers of Light

by Stacy Downs, McClatchy Newspapers

Lighting is often described as the jewelry of the home. But it’s more critical than that, especially in kitchens, where it’s all about slicing, dicing and reading recipes. So maybe the new catchphrase should be: “Lights are the eyes of the home.”

“Kitchen lighting is so crucial and should be one of the first things people think about when they’re designing or remodeling a kitchen, but it often gets last priority,” says lighting consultant and interior designer Lisa Duncan. “People spend tens of thousands of dollars on their kitchens, but then you can’t see the new improvements or what you’re doing if the lighting isn’t right. Then I come along, and drywall has to be ripped out.”

Instead of doing an overhaul of her decades-old kitchen, Sasha Paulsen updated the lighting in her favorite room. Her dark kitchen, with only a can light above the sink and another above the prep area, was a problem. She couldn’t always see what she had, especially in the corners under her cabinets. With Shirley Allen of the Light Shop, Paulsen rethought the types of lighting in her kitchen.

Over the sink: She swapped the can for a glass and nickel pendant that provides better illumination, which is key for washing hands and cookware (she has three racks of pots and pans). Bonus: It’s much more attractive.

Above the table: She replaced a 1960s scalloped metal fixture original to the house with a “more inspiring” metal sculptural one with white shades. The shades eliminate the glare of a bare bulb.
Under the cabinets: Lights were installed under the cabinets to illuminate the corners, making them more usable. And Paulsen sees a big difference when she’s performing prep work, such as slicing vegetables with a sharp mandolin.

“It’s changed my whole cooking and dining experience,” says Paulsen. “And the process of kneading dough and baking bread, too.” Not only do under-cabinet fixtures provide proper task lighting, they add pleasant ambience for home entertaining.

“Adding under-cabinet lighting is the No. 1 thing you could do if you want to update your kitchen and make it more functional,” says architectural and kitchen designer Billie Deatherage. Deatherage always includes dimmer switches in her remodeling and new construction plans. “They are inexpensive and can give you the control to make your kitchen go from production mode to entertainment mode quickly. And they save energy.”

Paulsen loves the difference a dimmer switch makes in her kitchen. But one of the challenges with kitchen lighting is that it adds heat. Lighting consultant George McMillen sees the problem all the time. “People will remodel their kitchen and love it in the fall and winter, but then spring and summer comes and suddenly, it’s too hot,” McMillen says.

So McMillen is using more LEDs (light-emitting diodes) — particularly under-cabinet lights versus xenon and especially halogen because LEDs don’t produce as much heat, and they’re more energy-efficient. Consumer Reports recently tested 60-watt incandescent bulbs and their energy-saving equivalents. The magazine’s conclusion: You can find a CFL or LED that will give you the brightness and light quality you like, and it will save you around $50 over the life of each CFL and anywhere from $65 to $400 over the lifetime of each LED. “The challenge with LED is the color — it can look too warm or too cool,” he says. “But the technology is getting there.” Designers and lighting consultants are steering away from the matching pendants above an island. “They’re almost like a gate,” says Allen of the Light Shop. “You want to move them out of the way so you can see what’s happening in the kitchen.”

There’s a new focal point for lighting in the kitchen: the sink. Sasha Paulsen replaced a can light with a statement fixture. “Look how beautiful kitchen sinks have become — and functional with the built-in cutting boards and colanders,” says interior designer Dianne Boren. “You can actually see to wash your hands and the dishes.” Boren has a dimmer control for her sink light and others in the kitchen. She likes how it glows.

Kitchen and architectural designer Billie Deatherage in Kansas City makes sure all her kitchen projects have under-cabinet lighting. “It’s so important for task lighting,” she says. “But it’s also a great ambient light for entertaining.” She advises installing under-cabinet lighting toward the front of the bottom of a cabinet. If it’s installed in the back, the light doesn’t distribute evenly and creates bright spots and shadows.

Geri Higgins is seeing more kitchen ceiling fixtures that have integrated exhaust fans — an alternative to the large range hood. Styles range from contemporary to crystal chandelier. Elica’s “Star” ventilation light is $4,265 at Portfolio.

If you don’t like the hot spots that recessed can ceiling fixtures make on countertops, consider frosted glass fixtures. Shirley Allen advised interior designer Dianne Boren to use them in her kitchen. Boren likes the results.

Shirley Allen advises designers and clients to install sconces above kitchen doors exit-sign style. “They act as night lights for teens getting in at night or for late-night snackers.” Interior designer Dianne Boren’s kitchen has a sconce to the door leading outside and another to a hallway. “This is an under-the-radar lighting detail, but it’s functional and pretty.”


By Stacy Downs


Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5

Contact Information

Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

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