Real Estate Information Archive


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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


Healthy Home, Room by Room

by Lowes Creative Ideas


Before you tackle each room, consider these overall tips to make your home healthy:

• Favor harder surfaces, which are healthier because they attract less dust and are easier to clean. Bare floors are better than carpet; leather chairs and sofas are better than upholstered furniture.

• Choose shades for window treatments. They don't gather as much dust as blinds and fabric curtains and are easier to keep clean.

• Keep your home tidy and organized. Neat homes are cleaner and healthier. Pick up messy rooms and keep items off the floor.

• Place a floor mat or rug at every door. People track in all sorts of chemicals via the dirt on their shoes. A mat helps to keep pollutants from entering your home.

• Make your home a no-smoking zone.

• Test your home for radon. This colorless, odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today.



Consider this: You spend a third of your life in bed. If you wake up with a runny nose or itchy throat, dust mites might be the problem.

Say "goodbye" to bed bugs: Wash sheets weekly; blankets every two weeks in hot water. Freeze non-washable stuffed animals for two or three hours. Opt for washable pillows and comforters over those made with down or feathers. Replace pillows every two years.
Laundry baskets and hampers can be a playground for germs -- don't forget to clean them regularly.

Keep a healthy level of humidity. Dust mites and mold love moisture. Keeping relative humidity around 30 to 50 percent helps keep these and other allergens under control.
Install CO detectors close to sleeping quarters. Replace after five years.

Keep closets organized and clutter at bay. Remember, tidier = healthier.

When choosing paints look for low- or no-VOC products to avoid head aches and respiratory problems.


The living room is where the whole family goes to relax, unwind and feel good. Keep it healthy and happy by following these tips.

Houseplants work as a natural air filter by adding oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. Some of the best houseplants for treating indoor air pollution: philodendron, English ivy, spider plant, dracaena, weeping fig, peace lily, bamboo and reed palm.

Make sure to open your windows from time to time and air out the house. Fresh air will help clear allergens from a room.

For safer fires, install a fireplace insert and check the chimney yearly. Install carbon monoxide alarms and store firewood outside the house.

Using a vacuum cleaner that has strong suction, rotating brushes, and a HEPA filter ensures that dust and dirt won't get blown back out into the room. In high traffic areas, vacuum the same spot several times. For best results, vacuum two or more times each week and clean your filter regularly according the maker's directions.

Even if routinely change furnace and air conditioner filters and vacuum regularly, you may still want the extra insurance of an air purifier, especially if members of your household have respiratory problems. When shopping for a system, look at the CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) number -- the higher the number, the stronger the cleaning power.

If you have pets, keep them out of the bedroom. After all, that's where we spend the majority of our time at home. Bathe your pets regularly as well, and keep them off of the furniture.



Kitchens are the hub of the home. Keep these tips in mind for a healthy kitchen.

Mopping picks up the dust that vacuuming leaves behind. New microfiber mops and dust cloths reportedly capture more dust and dirt than traditional materials and don't require any cleaning solutions whatsoever.

Filtering your water has never been easier, thanks to the variety of purification products available, including whole house water filtration systems, under the sink filters and faucet-mounted devices.

Don't forget to replace the filters on your refrigerator's water and ice maker.  Thoroughly clean and disinfect your refrigerator monthly.

Wash wooden boards in the sink with a brush and hot soapy water; non-porous boards of plastic, acrylic or glass can be tossed in the dishwasher.

The best strategy for keeping countertops and other kitchen surfaces healthy is two-fold: first, wipe away any visible messes with a paper towel. Then follow up with an anti-bacterial wipe or a diluted solution of bleach and water.

A clean home is a healthier home and cleaning with eco-friendly friendly cleaners is the healthiest.



Basements can make or break a healthy home. If they're too damp, they can become a haven for mold. Neglected furnace filters and air ducts can send allergens throughout your home. Follow these tips for a healthy basement.

Use a HEPA furnace filter and remember to change every month (or follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

Look for fragrance-free or naturally-scented laundry products.

To prevent mold from taking hold, don't let wet clothes sit in the washer for long periods of time.
A dehumidifier (and air conditioner during summer months) helps reduce indoor humidity levels and effectively controls allergens.


Article from Lowes Creative Ideas


5 Steam Heating Maintenance Tips to Keep Your System in Good Shape

by Charles Furlough

In steam-heating systems, water is heated to its boiling point (212º Fahrenheit), and steam rises by convection through pipes to radiators located throughout the house. The steam releases heat into the air, then condenses; gravity sends the water back to the boiler for reheating. In a one-pipe system, the same pipe distributes steam to various radiators and carries the condensate back to the boiler. In a two-pipe system, one pipe supplies the steam, and the other returns the condensate to the boiler.

No matter what type of system, the boiler is the star of the show—a steam-heating system is only as good as its boiler. Luckily, a boiler can last 50 years—even longer given regular maintenance and care. Below are a list of key monthly and yearly maintenance issues—some you should call in a professional for, and others you can do yourself (depending, of course, on your level of comfort with the task). If your home has steam heat, chances are many others in the neighborhood do too, so if you’ve just moved to the area, ask your neighbors about the best boiler service people in town—then keep these five maintenance guidelines in mind:

1. Test the pressure-relief valve every month during the heating season by depressing the handle (located on top of the boiler, this valve allows steam to escape if the pressure in the boiler exceeds a preset safe level). If no steam comes out or the valve does not completely close, call a professional to have the valve replaced. It’s critical that this valve always be functioning properly.

2. Have a professional drain the boiler once a year. (To drain the boiler, a hose is typically attached to the boiler when it’s cold, and water is led into a floor drain, while the boiler’s interior is flushed with fresh water. This is best left to a professional).

3. Make sure the pressure of the boiler is always between two-10 psi. If the steam-pressure gauge indicator on the boiler is not in this range, call for service.

4. Open the boiler’s blowoff valve (at the bottom of the low-water cutoff) once a month when the system is off, to drain out all the sludgy water that could clog the whole system.

5. Open the valves at each end of the boiler’s steam-pressure gauge once a month. The water level should be in the middle of the valve. If water is not visible, shut off the boiler, let it cool, open the fill valve on the water inlet pipe and add water. If your system has an automatic water fill valve, call a service professional.

Finally: While the boiler needs the most maintenance and care, it’s important to keep the radiators in good shape too. In order to retain heat and operate efficiently, most steam pipes are covered with insulation (used as a heat shield, around and under the radiator cover). Never tamper with this insulation. Visually check the condition of what you can see; if it looks excessively cracked, dry or crumbling, have it serviced or replaced. Never add, remove or change existing insulation yourself, as doing it wrong can present a severe fire hazard; always call a professional. If you’re in the home-buying process: when it’s time for the home-inspection, choose an experienced, professionally trained home inspector who is familiar with steam-heating systems and can accurately evaluate the condition of the existing boiler and radiators.

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.