Real Estate Information Archive


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Starting Seeds

by Lowes Creative Ideas

Starting plants from seed is an easy way to grow flowers and vegetables on the cheap. For the cost of a seed packet, you can enjoy oodles of flowers and vegetables. Plus, you get to experiment with unusual plants that aren’t commonly sold in containers or cell packs. A bonus to those raising or mentoring kids: starting seeds is a great activity for children. Here’s what you need to get started:

A container: You can use a seed-starting flat, peat pots, discarded cell packs, or old containers, such as yogurt cups and egg cartons.

Seed-starting mix: A special mix that provides the right medium for seeds to set root. You can buy a prepackaged mix or make your own with equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.

Light: Use grow lights or set your seed trays in a sunny window. Grow lights need to be placed within 8-10 inches of plants for photosynthesis.

Step 1: If you’re reusing old cell packs, scrub them with soap and water, rinse, dry, and then spray with a 10% bleach solution to kill any pathogens.

Step 2: Once the cell pack has dried, fill it with the seed-starting mix and tamp gently to remove air pockets.

Step 3: Sow seed following packet directions. Large seeds, such as beans and peas, are easily placed by hand. For tiny seeds, such as lettuce, you may wish to use a folded piece of paper and a toothpick to help distribute seed more easily.

Step 4: Irrigate with lukewarm water. Use a watering can with a gentle flow so you don’t wash the seeds out of the soil. Keep the soil moist, not wet.

Step 5: Set near a light source. You can use grow lights or a south-facing window. Be sure the area is warm. Seeds germinate best in temperatures that range from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds will germinate in two days to a week, depending on species.

Seedlings can be transplanted to larger containers or directly to the garden when danger of frost has passed. It’s best not to transplant seedlings until they have developed at least one set of true leaves in addition to the tender growth that originally emerged from the seed. Seed starting is so easy, and it’s a cost-effective way to grow all the plants you want.

Lowe’s Creative Ideas

Health Effects of Combustion Products in Your Home

by EPA

In addition to environmental tobacco smoke, other sources of combustion products are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces, and gas stoves.  The major pollutants released are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particles.  Unvented kerosene heaters may also generate acid aerosols.

Combustion gases and particles also come from chimneys and flues that are improperly installed or maintained and cracked furnace heat exchangers.  Pollutants from fireplaces and woodstoves with no dedicated outdoor air supply can be "back-drafted" from the chimney into the living space, particularly in weatherized homes.

Health Effects of Combustion Products

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body.  At high concentrations can cause a range of symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, and disorientation, to fatigue in healthy people and episodes of increased chest pain in people with chronic heart disease.  The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning.  Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially sensitive to carbon monoxide exposures.

Nitrogen dioxide is a reddish brown, irritating odor gas that irritates the mucous membranes in the eye, nose, and throat and causes shortness of breath after exposure to high concentrations.  There is evidence that high concentrations or continued exposure to low levels of nitrogen dioxide increases the risk of respiratory infection; there is also evidence from animals studies that repeated exposures to elevated nitrogen dioxide levels may lead, or contribute, to the development of lung disease such as emphysema.  People at particular risk from exposure to nitrogen dioxide include children and individuals with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Particles, released when fuels are incompletely burned, can lodge in the lungs and irritate or damage lung tissue.  A number of pollutants, including radon and benzo(a)pyrene, both of which can cause cancer, attach to small particles that are inhaled and then carried deep into the lung.


Basic Information on Pollutants and Sources of Indoor Air Pollution



Reducing Exposure to Combustion Products in Homes

  • Take special precautions when operating fuel-burning unvented space heaters.

    Consider potential effects of indoor air pollution if you use an unvented kerosene or gas space heater.  Follow the manufacturer's directions, especially instructions on the proper fuel and keeping the heater properly adjusted.  A persistent yellow-tipped flame is generally an indication of maladjustment and increased pollutant emissions.  While a space heater is in use, open a door from the room where the heater is located to the rest of the house and open a window slightly.
  • Install and use exhaust fans over gas cooking stoves and ranges and keep the burners properly adjusted.

    Using a stove hood with a fan vented to the outdoors greatly reduces exposure to pollutants during cooking.  Improper adjustment, often indicated by a persistent yellow-tipped flame, causes increased pollutant emissions.  Ask your gas company to adjust the burner so that the flame tip is blue.  If you purchase a new gas stove or range, consider buying one with pilot less ignition because it does not have a pilot light that burns continuously.  Never use a gas stove to heat your home.  Always make certain the flue in your gas fireplace is open when the fireplace is in use.
  • Keep woodstove emissions to a minimum.  Choose properly sized new stoves that are certified as meeting EPA emission standards.

    Make certain that doors in old woodstoves are tight-fitting.  Use aged or cured (dried) wood only and follow the manufacturer's directions for starting, stoking, and putting out the fire in woodstoves.  Chemicals are used to pressure-treat wood; such wood should never be burned indoors.  (Because some old gaskets in woodstove doors contain asbestos, when replacing gaskets refer to the instructions in the CPSC, ALA and EPA booklet, Asbestos in Your Home -
    , to avoid creating an Asbestos problem.  New gaskets are made of fiberglass.)
  • Have central air handling systems, including furnaces, flues, and chimneys, inspected annually and properly repair cracks or damaged parts.

    Blocked, leaking, or damaged chimneys or flues release harmful combustion gases and particles and even fatal concentrations of carbon monoxide.

    Strictly follow all service and maintenance procedures recommended by the manufacturer, including those that tell you how frequently to change the filter.  If manufacturer's instructions are not readily available. change filters once every month or two during periods of use.  Proper maintenance is important even for new furnaces because they can also corrode and leak combustion gases, including carbon monoxide.


Attention Homeowners: Your New To-Do List

by Allen Norwood

If you've invested in expensive technology consider protecting your investment with regular service by a professional. Builders, inspectors and other experts say that's always wise. Don't let the contract lapse.

Follow the manufacturer's advice for care and service. Owner's manuals are online. Just check the product for a model name or number, and go to the company site. The manual should answer most questions. Many have helpful pictures, and there's usually a toll-free hotline on which an expert (if you're patient) can answer questions. Today's homes are filled with components that weren't so common years ago. They make your home more efficient and less work. You can't ignore them entirely, though. So, as you plan your chores and projects for the coming year, here are some to keep in mind.

These ancient materials are more popular than ever. Not all stones need sealing. Ask your stone pro. Buy the best sealers you can afford. Grit and acids are the biggest threats to marble and limestone. Clean surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap (available at hardware stores) or a mild liquid dish detergent and warm water. Go easy on the cleaner or soap, because too much can leave a film. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Do not use abrasive cleaners, or ones with lemon, vinegar or other acids. For deep stains, try a poultice at


Treated crawl space/attic
Closed, or sealed, crawl spaces are touted as efficient - and healthy - alternatives to the traditional vented crawl spaces. They're certainly drier and cleaner and brighter, so you shouldn't mind sticking your head under your house from time to time. And you absolutely should, experts say. Don't ignore this chore. Check regularly to make sure no moisture is getting in. If there's a dehumidifier, make sure it's working. Look for condensation. And if you see standing water, you have a real problem.


Vinyl windows
Vinyl windows are tough, and extremely popular. They should get a yearly inspection.
Clean window tracks of debris. Make sure weather stripping is sound and making proper contact. Replace as needed. When cleaning, never use abrasives. That can damage the vinyl skin of the window. If you need to lubricate a track, use pure silicone spray, not WD-40. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for caulking. When washing windows, be cautioned that bleach can discolor dark vinyl colors. And, remember, window films can void your window warranty.


HardiePlank/fiber cement siding
It won't rot. It holds paint. And it's very durable. It's the siding of choice on many new homes. Often called HardiePlank, it's almost trouble-free. Still, inspect annually. If caulking fails, water can penetrate the joint and damage the wood and framing behind the siding. If you're going to check your home's exterior less often, use caulk rated for at least 20 years, and longer is better. Choose a quality silicone or polyurethane.


Fiberglass doors
Minor dents can be filled with auto body putty. Follow the instructions on the can and, just as if you were working on a car, don't stint on the sanding. Uneven spots will show. For larger areas, cut out damaged fiberglass with a grinder. Repair with mat and resin from fiberglass repair kit. Prime, then paint. with 100 percent acrylic.


Stainless steel
Stainless steel is hot for kitchens because it looks good, resists rust and cleans easily. The biggest complaint about stainless is that the fridge shows all those little handprints.
Clean with a specialty product such as 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. Such products create a barrier against fingerprints. Avoid products with chlorine; mild abrasives can scratch. Read labels.


Multihead showers
There are six times as many connections that can leak, six times as many shower heads that can clog. Check regularly and clean with CLR or some other solution. You can use white vinegar to clear a shower head that has been clogged with mineral deposits. Place vinegar in a plastic bag, enclose the head and secure the bag to the shower neck with a rubber band or twist tie. Let stand for at least two hours.


Composite decking
Early on, composite decking was billed as a trouble-free - and chemical-free - alternative to treated lumber. You still have to clean it. The best way to prevent stains is to sweep or hose off regularly. To wash, use a commercial composite deck cleaner. Jomax is one popular brand.
For stubborn stains, allow solution to sit for a few minutes and scrub with a bristle brush.
Be careful with power washers. Some decking manufacturers recommend against them, and using one can void your warranty. Other makers suggest smaller washers with no more than 1300 PSI, with the fan tip no closer than 8 to 10 inches from the surface. The best known maker of composite decking, Trex, recommends that you wash your deck twice a year, in spring and fall, to prevent mold and mildew.


Allen Norwood, Charlotte Observer


Displaying blog entries 1-3 of 3

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

© 2016 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently owned and operated franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.®.  Equal Housing Opportunity.