My Blog

Things To Know Before You 'Hit The Wall'!

April 13, 2017 1:00 am

In talking with remodelers and interior designers this year, the biggest trend seems to be: less is more - especially when it comes to interior walls.

So in the interest of learning the ins and outs of interior walls, we turned to Lee Wallender at thespruce.com. He examined the difference between renovating load-bearing, versus non load-bearing walls.

Wallender says while walls always define rooms, they only sometimes bear weight from above and are important to the structural integrity of the entire house.

He notes that:

- All exterior walls are load-bearing.
- If the wall parallels the joists above, it is likely not bearing loads.
- If a wall is bearing loads, it will be built perpendicular to the joists above it.

But walls built at a perpendicular angle still might be non load-bearing. A closet is a good example.

When removing a non load-bearing wall, Wallender says the main thing that you need to be concerned about is utilities running through the interior wall: electrical, plumbing, cable, and telephone. If your interior non bearing wall has utilities, then you have the added cost of hiring a plumber or electrician to come in and “cap off” those utilities.

On the other hand, load bearing walls are structural elements, so he says removing a load bearing wall and replacing it with a beam is significantly different from removing interior non load bearing walls.

He says when you or a contractor remove a load bearing wall, it must be replaced with either:

- Beam Only:  Horizontal beams of sufficient size.  Other than the two ends, the beam has no vertical resting points.
- Beam + Post:  Horizontal beams whose strength is augmented with one or more vertical posts between the two end resting points.

Wallender says it should come as no surprise that your local or county permit agency wants to know if you are taking down a wall that affects the structural integrity of your home.

Even though you have determined that you can remove your wall with zero effect on the house's structural integrity, he says your city or county permit agency still does not quite believe you. This is because there is a long history of homeowners before you removing walls and causing serious damage to the house and even injuring others.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Planting Pro: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Tree

April 13, 2017 1:00 am

While planting a tree in your yard may seem intimidating, all it takes is a little muscle and some good know-how. Follow these guidelines from the expert arborists at the Tree Care Industry Association:

· Measure the height and diameter of the root ball or root spread.

· Dig the hole just deep enough to allow the first structural root to be at level grade. The diameter of the hole should be two to three times the diameter of the root ball or root spread.

· Set the tree on undisturbed solid ground in the center of the hole. The tree should be planted so that the root flare, the base of the tree trunk where the roots begin to "flare-out," will be visible above grade.

· Backfill with soil from the planting hole, using water to pack or settle the soil around the root ball. Do not tamp soil by stepping on it.

· Mulch the planting area with 2 - 4 inches of an organic, composted mulch such as wood chips. Do not mulch up to or against the trunk. Start the mulch six inches away from the tree trunk.

· Trees should be pruned after planting to remove broken, damaged, diseased or dead branches.

· Stake and/or protect the trunk of the tree if there is a real potential for wind damage or lawn-mower injury. Remove the supportive wires and materials when the staking is no longer needed or the tree could be injured or even killed.

· Prune to develop a good branch structure once the tree has become established in its new home, usually 1 - 3 years after planting. Never remove more than 25 percent of total foliage in one year.

· Fertilizing is not recommended at the time of planting.

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best care for your trees. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association at www.tcia.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Last Minute Tax Tips for the Procrastinator

April 13, 2017 1:00 am

Life can be busy, and during tax season, many wake up to find their filing deadline is just days away, and they have yet to begin their returns. If this story sounds familiar, you’re in luck.

Use these 11 last-minute tips from the EY Tax Guide 2017 as your checklist:

- First and foremost, check your math, even if you use software to file.

- Be sure that your Form W-2 and all Form 1099s are correct. If not, have them corrected as soon as possible.

- Double-check that your social security number has been correctly written on the return.

- Triple check that you have claimed all of your dependents, such as elderly parents who may live with you.

- Attach all copies B of your W-2 forms to your return in order to avoid correspondence with the IRS. If you received a Form 1099-R showing federal income tax withheld, attach copy B of that form as well.

- If you're married, consider whether filing separate returns is more beneficial than a joint return.

- If you are single and have a dependent who lives with you, consider the possibility that you might qualify for the lower tax brackets available to a head of household or surviving spouse.

- Check that you signed and dated your return and entered your occupation. If you are filing a joint return, be sure that your spouse also signs as required.

- If you worked two or more jobs, see if you can claim a credit for any overpaid social security taxes withheld from your wages.

- Be sure to sign your return.

- Keep copies of all documents you have sent to the IRS.


Source: www.ey.com/EYtaxguide

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

City Mouse or Country Mouse? How to Know Where to Buy

April 12, 2017 12:57 am

You’ve made the big decision to become a homeowner - congratulations! Now, the question is, where to buy? While many, many factors go into selecting the right home, the most important of all is location.

Deciding where to buy begins with choosing urban or suburban. Is city life the right choice for you? Or are you better suited for the suburbs or even more rural locations? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide:

Do I want to be close to my job? Many who choose to live in urban areas do so in order to be within walking, biking or public transportation distance to their jobs. If a long train ride or battling traffic in your car is unthinkable, then being too far out in the ‘burbs might not be the right choice.

Do I want a yard? If you like the feel of grass on your bare feet and are passionate about gardening, then an urban condo or townhouse is not the right choice for you.

Do I want easy access to nightlife and culture? If the social buzz of restaurants, bars, theaters and live music is high on your priority list, choose an urban location that affords you quick access to all of these activities and more.

Do I want peace and quiet? Of course noise level varies from location to location, but generally speaking, urban areas come with the sounds of traffic, people and sirens. If crickets and morning doves are what you’re after, then head for the hills.

Do I want a lot of square footage? Or the simplicity of a small space? How much space you want your home to have is a clear indicator of whether you’re better suited for an urban environment or a house in the suburbs.

Do I plan on expanding my family soon? If a significant other, pet or kids are in your near future, consider whether you’re better off opting for a larger space you can grow into. Not to mention a neighborhood that’s family friendly and has quality schools. If this is your plan, then heading away from the city is probably the better option.

If you’d like more urban vs. suburban real estate information, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Who Can Provide The Best Advice On The ROI Of Home Repairs?

April 12, 2017 12:57 am

I was recently drawn to a Kiplinger report that affirmed home sellers can get some of the best advice on repairs they could make to sell their home faster, from their own REALTOR®.

According to the Kiplinger report by Pat Mertz Esswein, your agent can recommend the improvements that he or she thinks will provide the most bang for your buck, the quickest sale, or the highest asking price.
The article also suggests if sellers have any doubts, they can verify their agent’s advice by attending open houses of comparable homes in their market.

One Denver Realtor® told Esswein that if a seller anticipates a major home system is reaching the end of its useful life, the seller should pay to have it inspected and serviced.

Dana Dratch at bankrate.com unpacked another source - the inaugural Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Similarly, that study examines 20 home renovation projects, analyzing what they potentially return at resale. The big surprise in that report is that neither kitchen or bathroom remodels came in at the top.

The winning remodels in terms of ROI? Replacing old siding with new vinyl siding costs about $12,000 and returns about 83 percent of what is spent, the study finds. Dratch talked to David Pekel of NARI who is president / CEO of Milwaukee's Pekel Construction & Remodeling.

He says for many street-facing homes, a new garage door “has traditionally ranked as one of the highest returns on investment." At an average cost of $2,300, according to the report, that project returns about 87 percent at resale.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

How to Improve Your Credit Score

April 12, 2017 12:57 am

Many Americans hope to improve their credit score. Whether you’re planning on applying for a mortgage or a loan in the future, or just want to do your financial due diligence, the experts at Experian offer the following tips for improve your credit score.  

Review your credit report regularly — Your personal credit report is an easy-to-read record of your credit accounts and total indebtedness. Be sure to obtain a copy of your credit report once every 12 months (and especially before major purchases) and dispute any information you believe is inaccurate. You can request a copy of your report directly from Experian or once every year from Annual Credit Report.

Check your credit score — Credit scores can play an important role in your financial journey. They translate the information in your credit report into a number reflecting the risk of doing business with you. To check your risk, request a credit score when you order your credit report. You will receive an explanation of what the score means and which details from your credit report are most affecting it.

Keep your utilization rate low — Your utilization rate, or balance-to-limit ratio, should never exceed 30 percent of the credit limit. Your total credit card balances should never be more than 30 percent of your total credit card limits, and you don't want any one card to have a balance of more than 30 percent of its limit. Both can hurt you. Remember, 30 percent isn't a goal; it's the maximum your balances should ever be. The lower your utilization rate, the better.

If you have missed payments, get current and stay current — Late payments, called delinquencies, may have a major negative impact on credit scores. To see the fastest improvement in your scores, catch up on late payments and pay down your balances. Late payments are the most important indicator of credit risk, so they have the greatest and longest-lasting impact. The more recently the missed payment occurred, the greater that impact will be, and the more missed payments you have, the longer it will take to recover. If you fall behind on your payments, contact your lenders to see if they can improve the terms of your debts.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

To Your Health: Time to De-screen

April 11, 2017 12:54 am

We wake up in the morning and reach for our smartphone. Then we open up our laptop to check email. Then we get to the office and hunker down at our desktop computer for hours on end. Then we come home and watch TV. Before we turn out the lights, we read a few pages of our ebook or make a few moves in Words With Friends on our tablet. Then sleep, wake and repeat.

While screens have become a constant in our lives, they come with many negative side effects, including eye strain, sleep deprivation, neck strain and a loss of social and creative skills. With the right commitment and a few go-to strategies at hand, you can reduce the number of hours spent in front of a screen. Here are a few ideas to try. Your mind and your body will thank you!

Get outside and leave your smartphone at home or at least in your pocket on silent. Go biking with your kids, take the dog for a stroll, or sweat it out on a brisk walk or jog. Not only will this get you away from your screens, it will get you upright and moving.

Make mealtime non-negotiable. Whether at home, in a restaurant or at the office, commit to sitting down at a table, away from computers and phones, and conversing with friends or family; or if solo, catching up with a good book or simply using the silence to let your mind wander.

Set a reminder and get up and away from your computer at least once an hour while you’re on the job. This is critically important if your job involves mostly desk time. Instead of shooting off an email, get up and deliver your message in person. Go fill up your water bottle, take a quick stroll around the parking lot or to the coffee shop, or do some simple stretches in the employee lounge or conference room. This will give your eyes, back, neck and brain a much-needed break.

Make the bedroom a no-screen zone. Get rid of the television in your bedroom, leave your phone on the kitchen counter, and save your laptop and tablet time for the living room. By not allowing screens in your bedroom, you’ll wind down properly and get much better sleep.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

How Employers Can Make the Workplace More Pet-Friendly

April 11, 2017 12:54 am

From in-house baristas to flexible vacation time, offices and businesses across the country and finding innovative ways to support their employees. Making your place of business pet-friendly can help attract animal-loving talent, lower stress in the office and even boost activity. Below are several tips for making  any office environment more pet-friendly, courtesy of PetsBest.com:

Introduce the Idea Over Time – Slowly adapt employees to the idea of having pets in the office. While some employees will be ecstatic, some may not be as thrilled. By slowly introducing pets with a weekly "bring your pet to work day," employees can get used to the new additions to the office.

Pet-Proof Your Space – Just like bringing a baby to the office, pet-proofing is just as important. With cords and trashcans throughout a space, resolving these issues prior to having pets in the office will relieve chaos and issues down the road.

Set Rules and Expectations – Some dogs just aren't set out to be an office dog. Setting both pet and owner behavior rules and expectations, everyone in the office is on the same page of what is expected of them. Whether it be barking or mess clean up, having expectations laid out will hold everyone accountable.

Hold Pet Interviews – Before employees can bring their dog into the office, hold pet interviews. Some dogs, when in unfamiliar surroundings and with many people may not react appropriately for the work place. Like the trial run, this will give the dog and employees a chance to engage and become more familiar which will be helpful in the long run.

Stock the Break Room – Not only with treats for Fido, but the essentials.  Accidents happen, so making sure you have the appropriate supplies will make them that much less of a headache. By stocking up on cleaning supplies, stain remover, waste bags and treats, everyone will be happy knowing you are ready for whatever accident my come your way.

Offer Pet Insurance as a Benefit – While some companies are scaling back on wellness benefits for humans, record numbers of dogs and cats are covered for veterinary expenses through employee-benefits plans that include pet insurance. Providing pet insurance to every employee will set the tone and reassure employees that you support and care for them, and their entire family.

Source: www.PetsBest.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Where Are the Most Family-Friendly Beaches?

April 11, 2017 12:54 am

Looking to take your family on a quick beach getaway this year? You’re not alone.

"Beach vacations are at the top of so many families' must-do list throughout the year," explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. "Whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, our list aims to help families narrow down the options to find beaches that truly are fantastic for families – every beach has lifeguards, in addition to kid-friendly activities and a selection of lodging options nearby. These beaches go beyond just a day on the sand, but offer some really fun features for families to enjoy together."

The following is Family Vacation Critic’s list of this year's winning beaches:

Long Beach Island, New Jersey (Long Beach Island, N.J.)
Insider Tip: The Surflight Theatre – and its popular Show Place Ice Cream Parlour – will reopen in 2017, presenting live children's performances all summer long.

Ponce Inlet, Florida (Ponce Inlet, Fla.)
Insider Tip: The Marine Science Center offers families the chance to learn about the area's sea turtles and other native wildlife.

Jones Beach State Park, New York (Wantagh, N.Y.)
Insider Tip: Kids can touch live marine animals, dig up whale bones and walk through the butterfly garden at Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, right in Jones Beach State Park.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
Insider Tip: Families can enjoy the new Lefty's Alley and Eats – just a short drive from Rehoboth – with bowling lanes, a state-of-the-art arcade, a two-story laser tag arena and an on-site restaurant.

Coronado Beach, California (Coronado, Calif.)
Insider Tip: New in 2017, visitors can transform into a mermaid as part of Hotel del Coronado's Mermaid Fitness classes – cardio and core exercise classes while wearing a mermaid fin.

Balboa Beach, California (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Insider Tip: The area's famous Balboa Fun Zone amusement area has been entertaining families for decades, with its Ferris wheel, arcades and shopping.

North Beach Park, Wisconsin (Racine, Wis.)
Insider Tip: The Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest active lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and is open for guided tours the first Sunday of every month from June through October.

Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts (Eastham, Mass.)
Insider Tip: Cape Cod National Seashore offers a wide range of ranger-guided activities, including guided walks, campfires and canoe trips.

Weirs Beach, New Hampshire (Weirs Beach, N.H.)
Insider Tip: Half Moon Amusement Arcades offers families the fun of two arcades – the Penny Arcade and the Family Fun Center – with more than 250 games combined.

Seaside Beach, Oregon (Seaside, Ore.)
Insider Tip: Families can visit the Seaside Aquarium to explore its hands-on discovery center and interact with its resident seals.

Source: Family Vacation Critic

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Are Your April Showers Inside? Time to Evaluate Your Roof

April 10, 2017 12:54 am

It is said that April showers bring May flowers, but they can also produce leaks or signs that indicate a roof repair or replacement is required.

The experts at Sarasota, Florida's Sonshine Roofing (sonshineroofing.com) say that any buckling, curling, rotted, or missing shingles are sure signs of something going wrong underneath - which exposes the rest of the house to water invasion during heavy precipitation.

Folks at APCO Home Improvement Company in Columbus, Ohio (apco.com) say if your roof is pushing twenty, twenty-five years, it’s time to let it go, especially if you’re not the original homeowner. The company says old roofs start experiencing all kinds of disrepair; some of it is obvious, but some stays well-hidden until it’s too late.

Brown Rooftops serving Georgia and South Carolina astutely point out that your gutter system is an extension of your rooftop, so one affects the other. If there are any granules or obvious and excessive debris in your gutters, you could be looking at replacements for your roof, your gutter, and more exterior issues.

The California Shingle & Shake Company (calshingle.com) says there is no simple answer to cost out a roofing project. A typical bid should be based on square footage, the pitch of the roof, accessibility, type of roofing material needed, 1- or 2-story home, removal of old roof (if necessary), roof permit and city license, and labor.
In their neck of the woods, the average cost to replace a roof runs from approximately $2,000 to $12,000 depending on the size of the roof and the quality of the workmanship and materials.

Calshingle.com suggests that if you suspect or know you need a repair, get detailed quotes from at least two or three different contractors, and compare estimates with special attention paid to materials used and labor costs.

Make sure you also talk to people who have used the contractors you are considering. Ask if they had any complaints, and if the contractors cleaned up nicely, finished on time and kept to the contract.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:
731 W Skippack Pike  Blue Bell  PA 19422       Office:  215-643-3200     Fax:  267-354-6913