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7 Home Improvements Worth the Splurge

April 27, 2015 1:57 am

Homeowners must consider several factors when planning an exterior home remodel – and curb appeal tops the list, according to a recent CertainTeed survey. When asked which factor was most important to an exterior remodel, 39 percent of respondents cited curb appeal, followed by 26 percent naming return on investment and 21 percent indicating outdoor living and lifestyle considerations.

"In home design, there is an increased interest in individualization and creativity – true for both interior and exterior design," says Mike Loughery, CertainTeed. "We've found that homeowners want healthy, energy-efficient homes that offer complete comfort and curb appeal, but don't always know the best way to start."

Here, CertainTeed names the best home investments that can help meet curb appeal, return on investment and outdoor living goals:
  • Better Insulation
  • Cool Roofing
  • Solar Panels
  • Geothermal Heating/Cooling Solutions
  • Low-Maintenance Vinyl Siding, Decking and Railing
  • Patios/Gazebos
  • Outdoor Kitchens
Source: CertainTeed

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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For Retirees, Health Tops Wealth

April 24, 2015 1:48 am

Whoever said, "If you have your health, you have everything," must have been retired.

Health is typically more important than wealth when it comes to determining the well-being of America's retirees, according to a recent MassMutual Retirement Services study. Retirees in better health are more likely to feel financially secure, enjoy retirement, feel fulfilled, and are less likely to experience negative emotions.

The study shows that the loss of health is more costly to a retiree's overall experience than the loss of wealth. Three-quarters (76 percent) of those with $250,000 or more in assets report having a positive retirement experience, compared to 68 percent of those with less than half the assets. However, the health gap is much steeper: 80 percent of those in better health report having a positive experience in retirement, compared to only 59 percent of those who are in poorer health, regardless of how many assets they own.

Four in 10 retirees overall say they spend more on health care than they expected before retiring, with 43 percent spending more than $5,000 annually and 14 percent spending more than $10,000.

In focus groups conducted as part of the study, many retirees expressed concerns about the potential impact of their family health history, especially in later years. Many retirees also talked about working longer to maintain their healthcare insurance.

Source: MassMutual Retirement Services

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Accent These Rooms for a Brighter Home

April 24, 2015 1:48 am

(Family Features) When it comes to brightening your home’s decor, accent pieces can make all the difference. But adding these touches doesn’t have to break the break. Here’s how to incorporate inexpensive, beautiful and practical accents around your home.

Kitchen Accents

Dressing up the heart of the home can be as simple as placing a bouquet of flowers or a decorative hand soap by your kitchen sink. On the counters, keep clutter to a minimum and inject pops of color with a clear or wooden bowl filled with your favorite seasonal fruit.

Living Room Accents

One easy way to add character to the living room is to utilize pieces that tell a story. Treasured mementos from a special vacation or frames filled with pictures of your loved ones add not only a personal touch, but also give visitors a glimpse at the things that matter most to you.

And consider using accessories that serve a dual purpose – wax candles can both enhance the decor and provide pleasant scents, while a throw blanket can complement the decor while providing some cozy warmth.

Bedroom Accents

If you're hesitant about patterns in your home’s sanctuary, try incorporating a bold design through an accent piece, such as a lamp shade. Add a stack of your favorite books on the nightstand in a nod to your personal style.

Source: Softsoap

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Mortgage Rates Edge Down

April 24, 2015 1:48 am

Average fixed mortgage rates moved down slightly, remaining near their 2015 lows as the spring homebuying season continues, according to Freddie Mac’s recent Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®).

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.65 percent and the 15-year FRM averaged 2.92 percent. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.84 percent, while the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.44 percent.

The news is positive for potential homebuyers this spring, says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“Purchase applications in 60 of the 100 markets that MiMi [Multi-Indicator Market Index] tracks are up from the same time last year, including 20 markets that are showing double-digit increases,” Kiefer explains. “Reinforcing this positive momentum, existing home sales surged 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million units in March, the highest annual rate since September 2013. Housing inventory rose 5.3 percent to 2 million homes for sale, but unsold inventory was little changed at a 4.6 month supply.”

Source: Freddie Mac

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More Moves Motivated by Family, Friends

April 23, 2015 1:45 am

Forget warmer climates – more baby boomers are retiring near their adult children to help care for grandchildren, according 40 percent of respondents in a recent Mayflower Movers Insights survey. What’s more, half of Americans believe boomers are needed in the same towns as their children and grandchildren, compared to five years ago.



This is largely due to the increase in two-income households where both parents work and need assistance with their children, one in five respondents said. This complements the results of a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, which found that nearly 60 percent of all U.S. families with children under the age of 18 had two working parents.



Additionally, one in four millennials, or those age 18 to 34, have moved back to their hometown in the past five years. Their primary motivation? Being closer to family, friends and significant others. Just 18 percent of millennials said they were moving back home to help care for family members. Seventeen percent would consider moving back home to settle down and start a family.

Source: Mayflower

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4 Ways to Alleviate Pet Allergies

April 23, 2015 1:45 am

With over 100 million pets in the U.S. alone, it’s easy to see why so many experience chronic pet allergies. Whether they know it or not, one in six Americans is allergic to cats, dogs or both.

A combination of environmental and genetic factors determines who is prone to pet allergies, which can manifest at any time. Experts know, however, that long-term, cumulative exposure to household pets is a common denominator. In other words, living around animals will eventually trigger allergy symptoms in those with even mild sensitivity.

Contrary to popular belief, no amount of cleaning can eliminate animal allergens, but a proactive strategy can reduce allergens to tolerable levels, say the experts at all-natural product provider Amazing Solutions. Here’s how:
  • For new cat owners, spay or neuter your feline friends as soon as possible to reduce the production of allergy-provoking proteins in both males and females.
  • Groom your canine companion after particularly active days. Excitement or stress can cause more allergens.
  • Cat owners should moisten their pet's fur before grooming sessions – the moisture helps to deactivate allergens.
  • All pet owners should regularly bathe and shampoo pets – doing so can reduce airborne cat allergens by 50 percent and dog allergens by over 80 percent.


Source: Amazing-Solutions.com

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Be Cautious when Mounting TVs over Fireplaces

April 23, 2015 1:45 am

In many homes today, it’s a common practice to hang a flat screen television above the hearth. While it may be appealing aesthetically, homeowners must be cautious when considering installing a TV above the fireplace, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Keep safety in mind with these tips.



Review your fireplace and chimney venting system. Some popular models of natural gas logs are designed to be vent-free, and this means high levels of heat can be radiating out from the appliance. Heat and TVs don’t mix.


Check your fireplace opening for discoloration. Discoloration means some potentially hazardous byproducts of combustion are entering your home, rising above your fireplace opening and putting them into direct contact with you and your TV. 



Consider industry safety standards when hiding cables.
National building codes recommend a minimum of two inches clearance between combustible electrical wires and a fireplace or chimney appliance. It’s important that you carefully review mounting instructions when hanging your flat screen to reduce risk as much as possible. If you have professional installers doing the work, make sure you understand their plans for the cable and electrical wires connected to the set.

Source: CSIA

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Thinking Green Easier than Living Green

April 22, 2015 1:45 am

Americans agree: the environment matters. But the conversation, they say, isn’t going far enough.

According to a recent Harris Poll, 44 percent of Americans are concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations. Furthermore, over half of Americans (55 percent) feel the severity of the past winter calls global climate change into question.

The Poll found that while Americans are making an effort to be more environmentally conscious, many remain divided on the ease or difficulty of achieving a green lifestyle.

Attitudes toward organic products, arguably one of the simpler ways to go green, remain divided as well. One majority believes organic foods are healthier in comparison to non-organic, but otherwise similar, products. Another majority believes labeling food or other products as “organic” is an excuse to raise prices. A third majority does not believe organic foods taste better or fresher than non-organic products.

Source: Harris Poll

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5 Ways to Become Better Recyclers at Home

April 22, 2015 1:45 am

(Family Features) Living green isn't just about saving energy. Sustainable living also means putting earth-friendly practices in place throughout your home, including recycling. Make recycling easier for the whole family with these tips from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).

1. Establish collection bins to make it easy to gather all your recycling in one place. The number of bins you need depends on your city's guidelines for sorting. If no sorting is required, a single bin will do. Otherwise, use different colored bins to make it simple to sort paper, aluminum, glass, etc.

2. Most families find the kitchen is a primary source of recyclable goods. If space is at a premium, keep a smaller collection bin in the kitchen that can be easily transported to a sorting station in a larger area, such as the garage.

3. Don't forget to recycle in other rooms, too. Many common bathroom items, such as shampoo and soap bottles, and even cardboard toilet paper tubes, can be recycled.

4. Remember that recycling can also come in other forms, like donating unwanted clothing to charity or using leftover water to quench thirsty plants or freshen the dog's bowl.

5. Be sure to rinse away any food or liquid residue from containers to manage odors and keep your recycling area tidy and odor free. Maximize your bin space by compressing cans and bottles.

Source: PERC

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Plant and Maintain a Tree This Earth Day

April 22, 2015 1:45 am

Did you know that trees can die quickly if planted too far into the ground? Even trees that are well cared for are vulnerable, says the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Before you plant a tree this Earth Day, follow these best practices.

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 hole’s diameter 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, is visible and 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 mulch, such as wood chips. Do not mulch up to or against the trunk. Start the mulch six inches away from the tree trunk. Fertilizing is not recommended at the time of planting.

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

Stake or protect the trunk of the tree
if there is a real potential for wind damage or lawn mower injury. Remove the guy wires (string, rope, wire or other used with supports) when the staking is no longer needed or the tree could be injured or even killed from girdling by the wire.

Prune to develop a good branch structure
1-3 years after planting. Never remove more than 25 percent of total foliage in one year. Depending on the tree and its condition, some arborists advocate capping pruning at even a lower percentage.

If you’re new to purchasing a tree, look for these common forms of packaged trees:
  • Bare-Root Plants may be sold with the roots tightly packed in a moisture-retaining medium that is wrapped with paper or plastic, or with roots loosely covered by a moist packing medium. Roots must be adequately moistened prior to planting. Roots are spread out evenly in the hole when planting.
  • Balled and Burlapped (B&B) Trees are moved with a ball of soil protecting their root system. Soil balls are heavy, so professional arborists who have proper equipment should be hired to plant large trees. Smaller B&B trees should be carried with a hand under the ball. Carrying a B&B tree by the stem or branches can result in serious root damage. When planting, carefully remove the top layer of soil down to the first structural root. Set the root ball in the hole, position the tree, then remove twine and nails. Remove or fold back burlap from the upper third of the root ball.
  • Container-Grown Trees have the advantage of a root system that is relatively undisturbed at planting, but beware of "pot-bound" container trees. Do not buy container trees that have a large amount of roots completely circling the inside of the pot. These trees will take a long time to get established after planting because the roots have difficulty growing beyond the thick ring of circling roots. Immediately before planting container trees, prune any circling roots. Root pruning can cut up to 50 percent of the roots in container trees while still sufficient to permit plant establishment. Always remove the container prior to planting.
Source: TCIA

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