August 26, 2020

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOME INSPECTIONS

Here’s what to expect during a home inspection:

  • A home inspector will look at a house’s HVAC system, interior plumbing and electrical systems, roof, attic, floors. windows and doors, foundation, basement and structural components, then provide a written report with results.
  • A home inspection generally takes two to four hours, but may take more time depending on the size of the house.
  • Attend the inspection so you can explore your new home in detail and ask questions as you go. This process can give you much more informative than the report alone.

Don’t be concerned with the quantity of defects listed on your report — many will be so minor you won’t bother fixing them. Instead, pay attention to the seriousness of the home’s issues. Some can be deal-breakers. Talk to your home inspector and real estate agent about your best ways forward.

NO HOME IS PERFECT

A home inspection checklist can be a valuable tool when you’re selling a property. If you know what an inspector’s going to be looking for, you can sort out minor issues in advance.

Of course, nobody’s expecting perfection. Blemish-free reports are rarer that Trump/Obama slumber parties. And it may be that you’ve already negotiated over some known issues and they’ve been reflected in the price.

However, cherry-picking small problems that are quick, easy and inexpensive to fix can drastically reduce the list of defects a report shows up. And the shorter that list, the better the chances of your sale closing without quibbles.

HOME INSPECTION CHECKLIST: THE COMPONENTS

Here’s what the inspector will review, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI):

  1. Heating system
  2. Central air conditioning system (temperature permitting)
  3. Interior plumbing and electrical systems
  4. Roof
  5. Attic, including visible insulation
  6. Walls
  7. Ceilings
  8. Floors
  9. Windows and doors
  10. Foundation
  11. Basement
  12. Structural components

Clearly, the inspector isn’t going to tear your home apart to inspect piping and wiring. But the more she has access to, the better the final report will be.

IF YOU ARE THE SELLER

It’s in your interests as a seller to provide quick and easy access to everything on that home inspection checklist. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Leave keys (for instance, for your electrical panel), and label them where the inspector can find them
  2. Make sure all pilot lights are on for fireplaces and furnaces, even in summer — so the inspector can check heating and other appliances
  3. Tidy your basement — There needs to be an unobstructed path down the steps and through to your furnace/HVAC unit/water heater and anything else that needs inspecting
  4. Tidy your attic same as your basement
  5. Clean up key areas in your yard so the inspector won’t need a machete to get to your crawl space, drainage access points or septic tank
  6. If the home is vacant and the utilities have been shut off, have them reconnected

Being helpful won’t necessarily buy you a better report, but even professionals appreciate thoughtfulness.

HOW TO GET A BETTER REPORT

Inspectors are people, too. And, just like everyone else, they associate a clean, sweet-smelling home with owners who care about — and for — their property. It will do you no harm if the inspection starts off from that perspective.

Chances are, you recently prepared your home for showing and it’s already in close-to-perfect condition. But look around for new defects. If a tile’s slipped from the roof or a pane of glass has cracked, get them fixed in advance. Similarly, if your furnace or HVAC is temperamental or is overdue for maintenance, get it professionally serviced.

This is not the time to carry out expensive works. But you might as well go for any quick wins that are available. After all, your buyer’s likely to try to leverage any black marks in the inspection report for a lower price. Who knows? You might even save a few bucks.

WHO PAYS FOR THE INSPECTION?

The buyer usually pays for the home inspection. However, on making an offer, some insist the seller pays. So that’s an item for negotiation.

Sometimes, sellers commission a home inspection before they first offer the home. That can reassure potential purchasers. And it can provide the owner with a chance to fix issues ahead of the marketing of the property.

However, not all buyers are willing to accept a report paid for by the seller. In fact, experts recommend that buyers choose their own inspector, someone without ties to either the seller or the selling agent.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

HomeAdvisor regularly publishes nationwide average costs for home inspections. It reckons that, in 2018, those range from $277-$388, though you may pay below $200 or well over $400, depending on where you live and size of the home.

As with most things in life, the cheapest isn’t always the best. Especially if your state doesn’t license home inspectors, make sure yours is sufficiently qualified and experienced to do a good job — and doesn’t cut corners. Choosing an ASHI member may add some reassurance about your pick’s competence and ethical standards.

WHAT ABOUT FOLLOW-UP COSTS?

Careful buyers — or ones alerted to potential problems by the inspector — may want to commission further reports from specialists concerning the possible presence of:

  • Radon
  • Termites
  • Asbestos
  • Lead piping or paint
  • Mold

Lead and asbestos were commonly used in the construction of older homes but are banned from those recently built. Some buyers also require a check on sewage pipes using a camera service.

HOW LONG DOES THE INSPECTION TAKE?

The duration of an inspection varies widely, mostly depending on four factors:

  1. Home size
  2. Number of defects
  3. Thoroughness of the inspector
  4. The helpfulness of the owner when preparing for the inspection

Having said that, expect somewhere between two and four hours unless there are exceptional circumstances.

SHOULD BUYERS AND SELLER BE THERE?

Why not? Ask your inspector if she’d mind your coming along. Few object.

You’ll have a chance to explore your new home further and ask your inspector questions as you go. It can be much more informative than the report on its own. And it can give you some perspective on how major or minor each issue is.

MY REPORT LISTS DOZENS OF DEFECTS! WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Most reports list dozens of defects. Some run into three figures. That’s because there’s no such thing as a perfect home.

What should concern you is not the quantity but the seriousness of the home’s issues. Many will be so minor you won’t bother fixing them, even though you know they’re there. The last owner didn’t.

But some can be deal-breakers. Talk to your home inspector and real estate agent about your best ways forward.

June 30, 2020

Landscaping Solutions for Dry & Sunny Areas

Gaillardia flowers.

If you live in a hot, dry, sunny region, it makes good sense to choose plants for your garden that thrive in those conditions. Those are the varieties that will do the best and require the least amount of attention and resources. But even if your climate is not predominantly hot and dry, you may still have areas on your property that are consistently warmer and dryer than the rest of your land. Such areas are known as microclimates.

How Microclimates Happen

Many factors can contribute to the production of a microclimate, including:

  • Whether or not the area is on a slope and the directional orientation of that slope. Rain water or irrigation water flows off slopes quite quickly, which often makes these areas relatively dry, regardeless of how much rain falls. And a southern-facing exposure of a slope can exaggerate this condition.
  • The elevation of an area. High, exposed areas are typically
  • The site’s proximity to bodies of water or to reflective surfaces. Bodies of water may create a moister, cooler microclimate, while reflective surfaces, such as bank of windows or a wall of steel siding, can make the garden site very hot and dry.
  • The area’s exposure to prevailing wind. Sheltered areas tend to hold moisture better, while exposed areas will dry out faster and may be especially hot.

While there’s little you can do to affect your regional climate, there are actions you can take to modify and accommodate to the effects of a microclimate in your landscape.

The landscaping problems presented by an especially sunny and dry microclimate and also your possible response will depend on where the hot, arid plot occurs and how you wish to use that part of your property. Soil at the base of the south side of a building or solid wall is likely to be one of the warmest spots in your landscape because it receives the greatest amount of sun exposure, and in addition it’s backed by a surface that reflects light and heat outwards. Because of this extra heat and perhaps a rain shadow cast by the structure, this area is likely to be dryer than the rest of your property. That suggests that any plantings chosen for this area should be sun -oving and drought-tolerant species.

Baptisia

Baptisia adds a cool freshness to the garden.Image Credit: Image © Roundstone Native Seed Co.

Counteracting a Hot and Dry Microclimate

You don’t have to passively accept the effects of a microclimate. You can take measures to modify the microclimate by making it cooler and more moisture retentive. The obvious remedy to an overly sunny garden bed is a well-placed tree that offers some dappled shade, especially during the hottest part of the afternoon. Thickly mulching the ground around the plants will help the soil retain moisture, as will closely spaced plantings that shelter the soil from exposure to the sun. Of course, trees take years to mature, so you may need to plan a gradual transition in your choice of plants as the shade relief develops.

Wind Makes a Sunny Garden Dryer

A freestanding garden—one that stands apart from any structure—can also experience a sunny and dry microclimate. Although reflected and radiated warmth may not be a factor, the freestanding garden is less protected from moisture-sapping prevailing winds, and if the garden is on an elevation or on a south-facing slope, it can receive more than its share of sun. Once again, sun-loving plants are an appropriate choice and once again the addition of a shade tree or two will eventually mitigate the extremes of the microclimate. If winds are causing the soil to dry out too quickly, consider adding a windbreak on the windward side. While a solid wall or fence can serve to break the wind, it also adds a heat-reflective surface. A hedge of drought-tolerant bushes or shrubs, on the other hand, will interrupt and diffuse soil-drying wind without adding to the accumulated warmth.

TIP

When a garden is located on a sharp slope, the effects of water runoff can contribute to the soil’s dryness. Terracing the garden beds to provide level tiers that will better retain moisture can be an effective strategy.

Lawn with lawn chairs.

Your lawn can also show the effects of hot, dry microclimates.Image Credit: Image © Pennington

Sunny and Dry Patches of Lawn

Not every microclimate in the landscape holds a garden plot ,but an area of exceptional dryness and warmth can also adversely affect the vitality and uniformity of ordinary lawn. Perhaps you have a problem swath of grass that parches more quickly than the rest. It seems intuitive that the solution to a dry patch of lawn would be to water it more ,but this can actually contribute to the lawn’s vulnerability to heat and drought. Watering each day causes grass to put down shallow root systems. It’s better to water less often—no more than once a week—and water more deeply to encourage deeper, more robust root growth.

As with sunny, dry garden plots, you can also respond by top-seeding in those areas of the lawnwith more drought-tolerant varieties or cultivars of grass seed, letting the hardier strains gradually replace the susceptible ones. Taking steps to minimize foot traffic while those portions of lawn are stressed can also be helpful.

Blooming purple crocuses

Early bloomers, like these crocuses, show up extra early in a warm microclimate.Image Credit: pr2is/iStock/GettyImages

Put Your Microclimate to Work

Since flowering plants generally require plenty of sun to reach their full bloom potential, a garden spot with an abundance of sunlight presents an opportunity to make the most of your region’s drought-tolerant flowers. You can get advice on suitable selections from local garden centers and horticultural societies. In cooler climates, gardeners can take advantage of known warm microclimates to get the earliest blooms from spring-flowering plants such as crocus, daffodils and snowdrops. Their blooming will be finished before the summer heat sets in.

Dahlias

Dahlias are spectacular and come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and colors.Image Credit: Image © Fivefork Farms

Popular Flower Choices for a Sunny, Dry Garden

While the optimal selection of sun-loving plants will vary from zone to zone, here is a general list of plants considered good choices for a sunny, dry garden:

  • Gaillardia (blanket flowers)
  • Dianthus (pinks)
  • Salvia
  • Poppies
  • Speedwell (veronica)
  • Osteospermum (African daisies)
  • Verbascum (mullein)
  • Dahlias
  • Alliums (ornamental onion)
  • Lilies
  • Antirrhinum (snapdragons)
  • Sweet peas
  • Clematis
  • Sedums (stonecrop)
  • Clematis
  • Baptisia (false Indigo)
  • Echinops (globe thistle)
  • Asclepias (butterfly weed)
Ornamental grasses.

Ornamental grasses can be an attractive complement to your full sun garden.Image Credit: Image © Elan Landscaping Design Co.

  • If your regional climate allows it, desert-loving plants such as cactus, yucca, and agave are obvious choices for a particularly hot and dry garden spot.
  • Herbs, especially those that thrive in the Mediterranean, such as rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme, will do well in a sunny and dry microclimate.
  • Many ornamental grasses require full sun and tolerate dry soil. Varieties suitable for your region can provide a striking background to your flowering plants.

That exceptionally sunny, warm and dry patch in your landscape need not be seen as a problem area; it can also represent an opportunity. In a cool climate, for example, that may be the place where you can push your zone limits. The key is to understand the difference and its advantages of dry, sunny areaas, then to plant it appropriately.References

June 9, 2020

Choosing The Right Paint Sheen

Put the finishing statement on your paint color of choice by selecting a sheen that enhances the look of the surface. Sheen, or paint finish, is a measure of how much light reflects off a painted surface, resulting in gloss—or a lack thereof. Consider some of the common sheen uses listed below, or break from tradition and get creative with sheen.

Sheen and Gloss 101

Sheens and glosses range on a scale from no shine to high shine. Different levels of sheen can affect how colors appear and add dimension to rooms. While there are many different types of sheen, you are most likely to see these seven key interior paint finishes during your painting journey:

  • Flat
  • Matte
  • Eggshell
  • Pearl
  • Satin
  • Semi-Gloss
  • High Gloss
A Chart Shows Best Paint Finishes for a Variety Home Areas
Entryway with yellow painted door and high-gloss finish

Flat Paint

Flat paint is a term for a finish that does not reflect light, resulting in no sheen at all. This lack of reflection allows more paint pigment to come through, is more forgiving of flaws and allows for excellent hide, creating a uniform surface. With its ability to mask imperfections, it offers a flawless finish and is an ideal choice for ceilings and very low-traffic areas.

Use caution when considering flat paint in high-traffic areas that require frequent attention. Stains are harder to remove from low-sheen paint, and constant rubbing or cleaning can result in burnishing.

Bedroom painted in greige paint color with matte finish

Matte Paint

Matte finish is nearly as shine-free as flat, again providing excellent hide and depth of color, with slightly more durability. Matte finish paint also withstands frequent washing, even when applied in busier areas like hallways and family rooms.

A matte look lends a luxurious touch to many interior spaces, including bedrooms and dining rooms. 

Hallway painted in deep brown paint color with eggshell finish

Eggshell Paint

Eggshell finish, perennially popular with professional and DIY painters alike, has a low-sheen reminiscent of flat or matte, but it is infinitely more durable than its namesake.

Widely available in a variety of interior paints, eggshell provides an easy-to-clean, nearly shine-free finish, suited for most areas of a home, including family rooms and hallways. While it reflects more light than flat or matte finishes, its soft glow casts colors beautifully.

Laundry room walls painted in blue gray paint color with pearl finish

Pearl Paint

A pearl finish is a medium gloss that maintains high durability. Both beautiful and easy to clean, a pearl finish lends dimension to trim while being optimal for walls in high-traffic areas. Pearl has a finish that can be used everywhere from wainscoting to doors, and offers mildew resistance for high-humidity areas.

When choosing this finish, make sure you follow manufacturer’s application tips and paint carefully, as paint with a pearl sheen is more susceptible to showing lap marks and other painting flaws.

Living room walls in off-white paint in satin finish.

Satin Paint

Often confused with other finishes, the difference between eggshell and satin paint is that satin delivers a higher gloss, while offering better stain resistance and durability than lower sheens, including eggshell.

Satin paint is ideal for areas that crave definition. Use its distinctive lustre to highlight windows, shutters, trim and even interior doors. For front doors, where architectural details like beveling and paneling are customary, consider Satin to achieve a rich, lustrous look that evokes a look of elegance and luxury.

Also in this category is soft gloss paint, which, while not an exact match for satin paint, offers a similar higher-gloss, better-durability finish.

Kitchen painted in neutral paint colors with eggshell finish walls

Semi-Gloss Paint

The luminous look of a semi-gloss paint is perfectly suited to highlight the architectural details of your home and create dimension on millwork, trim, and doors. Available in most interior paints, it cures to a smooth, furniture-like finish, and its glossy look makes it one of the best paint finishes for kitchen cabinets.

Bathroom walls painted in deep purple paint color in high gloss finish.

High Gloss Paint

Offering a mirror-like finish, high gloss sits on top of the sheen chart. This finish is extremely durable and offers elegant shine. It is easy to clean, stain-resistant and will add a stunning look to doors, trim, and even a high-traffic kitchen.

Many interior designers (and adventurous homeowners) like to experiment with high gloss paint in unexpected areas, such as the ceiling or an accent wall. Keep in mind, however, that high gloss paints require careful application and preparation best left to a professional painter. If you’re committed to a DIY-approach, practice your technique and prime any surfaces to ensure they are even and clean prior to paint application. Since a gloss finish reflects light and can accentuate blemishes, avoid using it on areas that are not completely smooth.

May 18, 2020

ARE MORE PEOPLE MOVING TO THE SUBURBS BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC?

While many people across the U.S. have traditionally enjoyed the perks of an urban lifestyle, some who live in more populated city limits today are beginning to rethink their current neighborhoods. Being in close proximity to everything from the grocery store to local entertainment is definitely a perk, especially if you can also walk to some of these hot spots and have a short commute to work. The trade-off, however, is that highly populated cities can lack access to open space, a yard, and other desirable features. These are the kinds of things you may miss when spending a lot of time at home. When it comes to social distancing, as we’ve experienced recently, the newest trend seems to be around re-evaluating a once-desired city lifestyle and trading it for suburban or rural living.

George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com notes:

“With the re-opening of the economy scheduled to be cautious, the impact on consumer preferences will likely shift buying behavior…consumers are already looking for larger homes, bigger yards, access to the outdoors and more separation from neighbors. As we move into the recovery stage, these preferences will play an important role in the type of homes consumers will want to buy. They will also play a role in the coming discussions on zoning and urban planning. While higher density has been a hallmark of urban development over the past decade, the pandemic may lead to a re-thinking of space allocation.”

The Harris Poll recently surveyed 2,000 Americans, and 39% of the respondents who live in urban areas indicated the COVID-19 crisis has caused them to consider moving to a less populated area.

Today, moving outside the city limits is also more feasible than ever, especially as Americans have quickly become more accustomed to—and more accepting of—remote work. According to the Pew Research Center, access to the Internet has increased significantly in rural and suburban areas, making working from home more accessible. The number of people working from home has also spiked considerably, even before the pandemic came into play this year.

Bottom Line

If you have a home in the suburbs or a rural area, you may see an increasing number of buyers looking for a property like yours. If you’re thinking of buying and don’t mind a commute to work for the well-being of your family, you may want to consider looking at homes for sale outside the city. Contact a McLeRoy Realty agent today to discuss the options available in your area.

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April 9, 2020

Georgia COVID-19 Travel Information

Last Updated April 9, 2020, at 10:42 a.m.

COVID-19 in Georgia

  • The health and safety of Georgians and our visitors is the highest priority for Georgia’s tourism industry.
  • On Feb. 28, 2020 Governor Brian P. Kemp announced a coronavirus task force to address Georgia’s preparation and response to cases of COVID-19.
  • Governor Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) announced a daily status report page for confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia. This page will replace nightly press releases from the Governor’s Office and DPH and will be updated every evening at midnight to ensure accurate and regular information is provided to the public. You can view the new tool on the DPH website.
  • Explore Georgia is actively monitoring developments and information surrounding the virus’ potential impact on travel to and within the state.
  • With the situation evolving rapidly, we encourage our visitors traveling to and within the state to follow the most up-to-date information and guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Georgia Department of Health, and local authorities.

Guidance for Travelers

  • Governor Brian Kemp has extended the statewide shelter in place order through April 30. Gov. Kemp also ordered the closing of Georgia Public Schools through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Both orders can be seen here.
  • Georgia’s beaches are open, but visitors should follow CDC social distancing guidelines. Additionally, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources issued an order prohibiting the use of chairs, tents and umbrellas seaward of the ordinary high-water mark, through April 13. Full details on the order can be seen here. Ferry service to Cumberland Island has been suspended until further notice.
  • On April 8, Gov. Kemp signed an order to suspend short-term vacation rentals in Georgia through April 30. The term “vacation rental” means any transaction to lease or license residential property for residential or vacation purposes, facilitated by a third party or broker for 30 days or less between a corporation, partnership, person, or other entity and a private person. This order does not include hotels/motels, extended stay lodging, or campgrounds. This order does not include any vacation rental which has been fully paid and executed or agreed to before 12:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 9. Full details of the order can be seen here.
  • Restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States have been put in place by the federal government for the next 30 days. The official statement and details can be found on The White House website.
  • Travelers are encouraged to follow guidance issued by the CDCGeorgia Department of Health, and local authorities.
  • Travelers using the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport can find updates and a FAQ on the airport website.
  • The CDC is operating public health entry screening/quarantines at U.S. airports and border crossings, including the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL).
  • Due to the rapidly changing international response to COVID-19, Delta Airlines and other carriers are adjusting daily flights. For details, please refer to airline web sites.
  • Due to COVID-19, many of Georgia’s attractions and museums have closed or reduced hours of operations, and some events have been canceled or postponed. To ensure you have the most up-to-date information, check social media, the organization’s website or call to confirm.

COVID-19 Information and Resources

State Visitor Information Centers Closed

All state Visitor Information Centers (VIC) will close until further notice, effective March 13. Restroom facilities at nine of the 11 VICs will remain open daily:

  • Augusta – I-20 West, GA-SC Line, Augusta, GA 30917. (706) 737-1446
  • Columbus – 1751 Williams Road, Columbus, GA 31904. (706) 649-7455
  • Lavonia – I-85 South, GA-SC Line, Lavonia, GA 30553. (706) 356-4019
  • Port Wentworth (Savannah) – I-95 South, Mile Marker 111, Port Wentworth, GA 31407. (912) 963-2546
  • Ringgold – 2726 I-75 South, Ringgold, GA 30736. (706) 937-4211
  • St. Marys 11 St. Marys Road, St. Marys, GA 31558. (912) 729-3253
  • Tallapoosa – I-20 East, GA-AL Line, Tallapoosa, GA 30176. (770) 574-2621
  • Valdosta – 5584 Mill Store Road, Lake Park, GA 31636. (229) 559-5828
  • West Point – 1-85 North, GA-AL Line

The Georgia Department of Transportation has performed a deep clean of all VIC restroom facilities and will continue with scheduled cleanings, maintaining all health and hygiene standards.

Georgia State Parks

Georgia State Parks are now enforcing that no large crowds are allowed in the parks, and visitors must stay at least 6 feet away from others in all areas. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is currently using a small, remote portion of Hard Labor State Park as a COVID-19 patient quarantine site. For details, visit the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites alerts page.

April 3, 2020

BUILD AN EMERGENCY KIT

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, realizing how unprepared most people are for this type of fluid situation—we thought we’d offer a few suggestions for what to include in a proper emergency kit.

Make sure your kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Once you take a look at the basic items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, or seniors.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps (the paper kind)
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Additional Emergency Supplies

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Glasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
  • Replace expired items as needed
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
March 3, 2020

Brick Sealants – A Product Guide

Bricks are commonly used to clad the walls of chimneys, homes and businesses. They are also a popular material for building stairs, steps, patios and sidewalks. Most brick masonry installations are held together with cement mortar between the bricks. This mortar is the “glue” that holds the whole structure together. Unfortunately mortar is also very porous, and will quickly absorb water and moisture. It is actually very common to see substantial amounts of water go completely through a brick wall or chimney and cause huge amounts of damage to the underlying walls, sheathing and insulation.

Efflorescence is also a big problem on brick. It is caused by moisture absorbing into the bricks and dissolving the natural salts and minerals inside. as the moisture evaporates from the surface, it then leaves the white powdered minerals behind. A brick sealer will greatly reduce water penetration and can often stop the effects of efflorescence completely.

Sealing your brick is easy, simple and will also protect the color of your brick while stopping water penetration into the brick and mortar. Most brick sealing is done with a high performance penetrating sealer that seals and waterproofs while leaving a completely natural sheen and appearance. These products work 100% below the surface to protect from within. They leave no film or coating on the surface, and will never flake or peel.

Brick Cleaning and Preparation

As with all projects, proper preparation is the MOST important step! Before a protective treatment can be applied, any non-compatible existing sealers MUST be removed and the surface completely cleaned and de-greased to ensure adhesion and penetration. In most cases, a thorough pressure washing is all that is needed before sealing brick that is clean and in good condition. If your brick has an existing sealer that has failed or is incompatible with the new sealer you want to use, you will need to remove the old sealer before re-sealing. Specific issues like efflorescence, rust stains or calcite should be addressed with the proper cleaners before applying any sealer or sealant.

>> Recommended Products

Foundation Armor – Concentrated Concrete and Brick Efflorescence Remover and Cleaner
It is designed to penetrate and remove efflorescence from concrete, brick and masonry surfaces. It works to remove the efflorescence and prepare the surface for the application of a sealer or coating. .

F9 BARC Rust, Acid and Fertilizer Stain Remover
Removes tough rust, battery acid and fertilizer stains from Concrete, Pavers, Brick, Vinyl Siding and many other surfaces. 1 Gallon.

F9 Double Eagle Cleaner / Degreaser
Concentrated professional strength cleaner. Removes oils, grease and contaminates from Concrete, Pavers, Brick and many other surfaces. 1 Gallon.

F9 Efflorescence and Calcium Remover
Quickly removes efflorescence, calcium, calcium carbonate and hard water stains from concrete, pavers, brick and more. 1 Gallon.

Nock-Off Industrial Coating and Sealer Stripper
Easily removes concrete sealers, paints, epoxies, urethanes and many other coatings. Environmentally safe and easy to use. 1 or 5 gallons.

Penetrating Brick Sealers

This is the type of sealer we recommend for most brick sealing applications. This type of sealer penetrates deep into the surface, sealing out water and contaminates. Penetrating sealants work 100% below the surface to protect your brick and mortar from within, while still remaining breathable. These sealers do not form a film or change the sheen of the surface. Some such as WB-75 and SB-100 leave a completely natural appearance, while others like Enhancer Shield provide color enhancement for more of that “wet look” many people desire. These sealers do not become slippery when wet, and can never flake, peel or chip like film-forming sealers. These are very effective, long lasting and offer easy application and maintenance. The life-span and level of protection you get from this type of sealer will depend on the quality of the product you choose. Penetrating sealers should never be applied over an existing sealer, unless the previous sealer was a similar and compatible penetrating sealer.

>> Recommended Products

Eagle Natural Seal – Penetrating Clear Water-Based Concrete and Masonry Water Repellent Sealer and Salt Repellent Penetrating silicone sealer for your concrete. It protects concrete from salts, freeze/thaw, chemicals and other elements, featuring a combination of deep penetrating silane and surface-protecting siloxane barriers. Your concrete will bead water and look dry even when wet.

SurfKoat WB 75 Penetrating Sealer
Invisible, Penetrating, Water Repellent Sealer for Concrete, Pavers, Brick, Stone and Masonry. Water-Based Silane/Siloxane. 1 or 5 Gallons.

SurfKoat Enhancer Shield Penetrating Sealer
Color Enhancing, Penetrating, Water Repellent Sealer for Concrete, Pavers, Stone and Masonry. Beautifully Enhances Color While Protecting Against Water and Salt Damage. Water or Solvent-Based. 1 or 5 Gallons.

SB-100 Ultimate Penetrating Sealer
Ultra Performance, Invisible, Penetrating, Water Repellent Sealer for Concrete, Pavers, Stone and Masonry. Solvent-Based Pure Silane. 1 or 5 Gallons.

Wet Look Water Based Urethane Sealers

We include this option because some customers demand a wet-look or gloss sealer for brick. If you MUST HAVE a wet-look product for your brick, this is our best recommendation. These urethanes are two-component products that chemically harden like an “epoxy” after you mix part:A and Part:B together. This makes them hard, durable and chemical resistant. Urethanes are also UV stable and will never turn yellow due to UV exposure. Since these urethanes are also water-based, they offer an easy and safe application. So far, we have only found one of these urethanes that performs to our standards, Seal-n-Lock SuperWet. SuperWet comes in a concentrate form, applies easily by sprayer, is legal for sale in all 50 states and is compatible for use over many types of existing sealers. To maintain protection and appearance, this sealer should have a maintenance coat every 3-4 years.

>> Recommended Products

Glaze ‘N SealClear Wet Look Green Concrete and Masonry Lacquer Waterproofer and Sealer
Green low VOC formula complies with the strictest air quality regulations. It protects and gives a fresh wet appearance to all decorative concrete, masonry, porous stone and more. The unique, proprietary deep penetrating, non-yellowing formula offers the ultimate stain protection in a high gloss finish indoors and outdoors. Ideal for driveways, patios and garage floors.

SealnLock Super Wet Paver Sealer
Our Most Versatile Product! High-Performance Urethane Paver and Concrete Sealer. Extremely durable and easy to apply. 2 or 5 gallon kit. (concentrate makes up to 15 gallons of sealer!)


February 17, 2020

My House Flooded…What Do I Do Now?

Like many recent hurricane victims, you may have found yourself coming back home to an unwelcome guest—flood damage. Perhaps you live in a high-risk flood zone and this is all too familiar territory, or maybe you evacuated just to be safe, never expecting to deal with any actual loss. But now that you know your house flooded, how do you start the recovery process while trying to file your claim? And what about rebuilding? Can you do it in a way that will protect your home from flooding again?

Here are some helpful tips to support you as you navigate the days ahead—from documenting damage and tackling cleanup safely to taking preventative measures.

Tips for Filing a Claim

Make the Necessary Calls:

  • Call FEMA: Alert FEMA of your situation by calling them at 1.800.621.3362. They may have free help available to you. (See Helpful Resources section below.)
  • Call Your Insurance Agent: If you have flood insurance, now is the time to call your local insurance agent. They will begin the claims process and schedule an appointment for an adjuster to come to your home. Make sure to ask the adjuster’s name before they arrive.

Document Everything:

  • Video: Use your phone or a video camera to do a video walkthrough, documenting damage both inside and outside of the house.
  • Photos: Don’t skimp on the pictures—take a bunch and make sure you get close-up, detailed shots of the damaged items before you remove them from your home.
  • Flooring: If larger items like carpet or flooring are damaged, cut a piece out and set it aside to show the adjuster when they come.
  • Keep Records: Make copies of all the paperwork you give to your adjuster or insurance agent. Use your phone to take pictures of the paperwork if you can’t make a photocopy. Keep a record of all contact with the insurance company with dates, times and details of what you discussed.

Meet With the Adjuster:

  • Ask for their identification when they arrive.
  • Be prepared to request an advance or partial payment if needed
  • Be ready with your policy number, insurance information and records related to any damaged belongings or property.
  • Request your adjuster’s email address and make sure any communication is handled by email so that you have a written record.
  • Do not begin any repairs without written (or emailed) approval from the adjuster.

Good to Know: If you have a large claim, you can hire a public adjuster (an independent adjuster) who will work on your behalf to mediate the claim. Watch out for potentially high fees as some states have no caps on what public adjusters can charge.

Keep in Mind That the Adjuster Will:

  • Take measurements and photos, noting any direct flood damage.
  • Provide you with a flood certification number.
  • Give you a suggested Proof of Loss, based on their assessment

Good to Know: The adjuster will not approve or deny your claim, or be able to tell you if your claim has been approved.

Submit Your Proof of Loss:

  • Review your claim before filing—making sure there are no mistakes.
  • Sign and submit the Proof of Loss within 60 days after the damage—the sooner the better.(1) Private insurance companies may require a shorter timeline.
  • File for additional payment if repair work will be costlier than expected.
  • If you discover additional damage, you can add to your claim after you’ve filed. Contact your insurance agent.
  • Keep track of where your claim is in the process.

Good to Know: Keep in mind that you don’t have to accept the adjuster’s initial estimate of the damage. If you believe the estimate does not cover your loss, file a claim for additional damages.

Watch Out For:

  • Robocalls: During Hurricane Harvey, many flood victims received automated calls by scammers saying their flood insurance had lapsed and had to be paid right away to ensure their coverage stayed in place. But, according to FEMA, your insurance company will not use this method of communication to warn you of a possible or imminent lapse in coverage. Instead, they will give you ample warning via postal mail—30, 60 or even 90 days before your policy expires.(2)
  • Scammers: Watch out for contractors who offer low bids or ask for large amounts of money up front.

Recovering from a Flood

Take Extreme Caution on Re-Entry

  • Follow the advice of the local authorities before you attempt to re-enter your neighborhood or home.
  • Do not enter the home if damaged power or gas lines are visible.
  • If your house looks crooked or if it appears the foundation has shifted, do not attempt to go inside.
  • Before going into a room, check the ceiling and floors for signs of buckling or sagging—water may have weakened them to the point of collapsing.
  • If you hear a hissing noise or smell natural gas or propane, get out and call your local fire department.
  • Do not turn power on or off, especially when standing in water.
  • Even if you’ve lost power, do not attempt to go into a flooded basement unless the home’s electrical meter has been removed from its socket by a qualified technician.

Protect Yourself From Potential Hazards

  • Assume all flood water is contaminated, unless otherwise noted by authorities.
  • Be on the lookout for floating or hidden debris such as glass or chemicals as well as animals like poisonous snakes.
  • Avoid contact with contaminated water by wearing the proper protective clothing or equipment (waders, rubber or plastic boots, gloves, etc.).
  • Keep your hands clean by washing them with soap and clean, running or bottled water.
  • If your house is contaminated with mold, you may need additional protective equipment like goggles and respirators.

Tackle Cleanup Safely

  • Ventilate the Area: Open all doors, windows, cabinets and drawers for adequate airflow. If the house was closed due to flooding for more than 48 hours, do this before you begin any cleanup.
  • Pause on Using the Power: Don’t connect a generator or anything else to the home’s electrical system unless it has been deemed safe to use by a licensed electrician.
  • Mitigate the Damage: If there are immediate steps you can safely take to keep additional floodwater from entering the home, such as laying a tarp or boarding up a window, go ahead and take them—but make sure to snap pictures first. If at all possible, wait until the claims adjuster has assessed all the damage to make any extensive repairs.
  • Be Patient With the Basement: Rather than pumping all the water out of your basement at once, remove about a third of it per day. Removing it too quickly could cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse.
  • Remove Excess Water: Remove any standing water (outside of your basement) as quickly as you can. If an electrician has given you the green light to use your home’s electricity, use fans (unless mold has already begun to grow) and a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture.
  • Toss the Food: Throw out any unsealed food, as well as any food that was exposed to floodwaters. Contaminated food is not worth the risk. Toss it!
  • Remove: 
    • Remove any drywall or insulation (unless it’s closed-cell foam) that came into contact with floodwater, and clean the framing thoroughly—drying it as quickly as possible.
    • Rip out all carpets and padding that came into contact with floodwater. Hardwood or laminate flooring may be salvageable and only need to be removed temporarily. Make sure to save a sample of any ruined flooring to show your claims adjuster.
    • Upholstered furniture or window coverings should be tossed unless you hire a restoration company that can disinfect and deep clean them. Save a swatch of any affected fabric to show your claims adjuster.
    • Permanently scrap items that came into contact with floodwater that cannot be adequately sanitized.
  • Eliminate the Mold: Follow the EPA’s guidelines for any mold cleanup. 
  • Sanitize Everything: Scrub and disinfect flooring, appliances and kitchen surfaces with detergent. Be careful not to mix cleaning products—harmful fumes could develop.
  • Examine Appliances: Have your appliances examined by a qualified technician before trying to salvage them.
  • Replace Outlets: Have a licensed electrician replace all outlets or switches that were submerged.

Rebuild the Right Way

  • Work With a Contractor You Can Trust: 
    • Check the Reviews: Think you found a great contractor to do the repairs? Do your homework, because the first person to show up may not be the best person. Ask for multiple references and online reviews.
    • Ensure They Have the Right Experience: Make sure the contractor you hire is experienced in the type of repair or new construction work you need.
    • Protect Yourself: Don’t be fooled by an out-of-town opportunist looking to capitalize on your loss. At the very least, make sure to use reputable licensed and bonded contractors to keep your rebuild or renovation from being a nightmare.
    • Ask for Recommendations: Can’t find a local contractor you can trust? Ask your insurance agent or your claims adjuster for recommendations.
    • Get Multiple Estimates: Think the price your contractor quoted is too high? Get additional estimates from other local contractors if necessary, and consult your claims adjuster or insurance agent before you sign any contracts.
  • Refuse to Settle: 
    • When it comes to work on your home, don’t accept shoddy workmanship or low-quality replacements for custom work on your house
  • Hold Onto Those Receipts: 
    • Even the cost for temporary repairs should be included in the total settlement, so hold onto all your receipts—no matter how small!
  • Make Floodproofing a Priority: 
    • If you’re rebuilding your home, consider building it at least 2 feet higher than what your area’s zoning requires.
    • If you’re repairing an existing home and you have a crawl space, basement or garage below your first floor, you can also look into floodproofing your home by adding flood openings at the base of its structure.
    • Another—although potentially much more expensive—option is to have your existing home elevated so that it’s above base flood elevation. You can also relocate it to a higher part of your property.
    • Instead of using regular insulation, use closed-cell foam insulation along with flood damage-resistant sheathing and wallboard.
    • When choosing flooring for the base level of your home, make sure it’s made of a nonporous material and you use water-resistant sealant or mortar.
    • Keep appliances like your AC unit or water heater elevated—up and away from possible flood damage.

Additional Resources

Monetary Relief: If you’re a victim of a major national disaster and do not have private flood insurance that pays for temporary displacement expenses, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program will give you money for shelter, food or medical care as long as you apply within 60 days of the disaster.(3) To apply, go to DisasterAssistance.gov. Make sure to have your insurance information and your bank account information on hand.

Grants: For victims of hurricanes in presidentially declared disaster areas, FEMA is authorized to make grants to homeowners who do not have flood insurance under what is called the Individual Assistance Program. The grants have a $33,000 cap and are intended to provide assistance with housing as well as other serious disaster-related expenses and needs.(4) Historically, however, the grants average around $5,000.(5) Though flood victims do not have to repay the grants, they must meet certain conditions in order to receive one.

Tax Relief: If you are a victim of a disaster in a Presidential Disaster Area, be sure to ask your accountant at tax time if you qualify for tax relief from the IRS.

Flood Insurance: Are You Covered?

Before Hurricane Harvey even hit, Michael Camp—an insurance Endorsed Local Provider in Texas—was calling his customers in high-risk areas to educate them on what steps they’d need to take next, the importance of getting their claims filed quickly, and what they needed to do to document the damage.

But what if you don’t have flood insurance? Can you get covered if your house previously flooded? And what about the different types of flood insurance? How do you know which one is right for you?

Michael’s advice: “Don’t wait for tragedy to strike again. Now is a great time to go through your files, call your agent, and say, ‘You know, I never really looked at my policy. Does it cover this? What can I do to make sure this is covered, and what’s the price difference on adding flood insurance coverage?’”

Going Forward

In recent months, the entire nation has marveled as residents of cities that fell victim to flooding, and even those outside their borders, opened their homes and their hands to flood victims. Many gave (and continue to give) selflessly of their time and resources—working together to not only support their neighbors, but also to rebuild the cities they love.

We may not be able to stop natural disasters from happening again, but we can reduce our risk of them affecting us by following safety procedures, having a plan in place, and working with an insurance agent to ensure we have adequate coverage. Armed with a plan and resources, we too can be ready to put forth a strong, helping hand.

Helpful Resources:

Looking for a deeper dive into the information covered above? Here are some resources from trustworthy sources that you may find valuable.

General Info

Protect and Prepare

Cleanup and Recovery

Filing a Claim

February 3, 2020

February Lawn & Garden Tips

FIRST WEEK:
• Prune apple and pear trees now – but postpone peach pruning until mid-March.

• It’s dangerous to spray glyphosate (Roundup, etc) on bermudagrass, even if you think it is completely dormant. Make sure no green bermuda sprouts are near the soil surface.

• Look for blooms on your Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). Few other plants can supply the year-round interest of this evergreen ground cover.

• Redesign your lawn for easier mowing. Eliminate sharp angles and narrow turf areas. Use mulch, new flower beds or a groundcover like mondo grass there instead.

• Water poinsettia, Christmas cactus and amaryllis plants with houseplant fertilizer diluted to one-half strength. Don’t overwater!

SECOND WEEK:
• How much fertilizer or lime does your lawn or garden really need? The only way to know for sure is to call your county Extension office (1-800-ASKUGA-1) and get a soil test kit.

• Prune one-fourth of the branches from your overgrown fig bush. Removing any more will reduce the number of fruit this summer. Concentrate on saving the horizontal ones.

• Bring branches of spirea, forsythia and flowering quince indoors. Placed in a vase, they will bloom in just a few days.

• Remember to turn houseplants 180 degrees every two weeks to prevent uneven growth.

• Remove guy wires, stakes and trunk wraps from small trees you planted last fall.

THIRD WEEK:
• The brown foliage on pampas grass and maiden grass can be pruned away now. Leave only a “crew cut” of brown stems twelve inches high.

• Plant sweet pea now for fragrant flowers later. Plant English peas, onions, asparagus or elephant garlic for your spring vegetable garden.

• Overgrown Burford holly shrubs can be pruned severely now. Even if it is reduced to twelve inches tall, this shrub will resprout plenty of new foliage by summer.

• Plant a large container for your patio. A small boxwood surrounded by variegated ivy and blooming pansies would look very nice!

• Plant a winter daphne (Daphne odorum) near your home’s entrance or front walkway. The scent will greet you each day when you arrive at your abode this spring.

FOURTH WEEK:
• Clean out bird boxes so they will be ready to welcome new residents in a few weeks.

• Build raised beds for vegetables, roses and herbs. It’s easy to do with four pieces of 2×8 wood planks. Choose lengths that fit your space; bolt them together at the corners.

• Reduce the size of your butterfly bush by two thirds to one half to encourage new growth (and big blooms) this summer.

• Time for the first fertilization of fescue for the year. Any brand of turf fertilizer will work well. Next application: April.

• Set your mower to its highest setting and cut off the tattered leaves of liriope (monkey grass). They will quickly regrow in March.

January 20, 2020

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Deep-Cleaning a Dirty Floor

To rid your floor of caked-up grime and dirt, you may want to deep-clean it.

For floors with a surface finish:

  1. Use a pH-neutral, wax-free and petroleum-free floor cleaner. You can also make your own homemade cleaning solution with few drops of dish soap and a gallon of warm water.
  2. Wet a sponge mop with floor cleaner and wring out the excess liquid so the sponge is only slightly damp. Mop one 3-foot section of the floor using a circular motion to pull up excess dirt and then move on to the next section.
  3. Rinse the mop using water, wring it out and continue mopping the floor to soak up the remainder of the cleaning solution. As when washing, wring out the mop thoroughly to prevent over-wetting the floor.
  4. Dry with a soft, clean towel.

For floors with a penetrating finish:

  1. Strip off the old wax coating.
  2. Wipe down the floor in 2-foot sections using a clean cloth saturated in mineral spirits.
  3. Let it sit for five minutes on each section before wiping it off with a fresh, slightly damp cloth.
  4. Using a fresh, dry cloth, wipe away any excess moisture.
  5. Reapply solvent-based floor wax using a cloth or an electric polisher to buff the wax into the floor.

Removing Hard Food Stains

  1. To remove caked-on food from a floor with a surface or penetrating finish, push the tip of a plastic knife under the lower edge of the debris and slide the knife upward gently.
  2. If your floor has a surface finish, rub the area with a clean, slightly damp cloth and follow it with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
  3. If the floor has a penetrating finish and a bit of wax coating comes up in the process, reapply solvent-based floor wax using a soft cloth and buff it in.

Cleaning Oil and Grease Stains

You can use trisodium phosphate on floors with both surface and penetrating finishes to break down oil and grease. Before using TSP, make sure to wear gloves and protective glasses.

  1. In a large bucket, mix 2 tablespoons of TSP in a gallon of warm water. Fill a second bucket with warm water only.
  2. With a clean cloth dipped in TSP solution, and wring it out. Gently wipe the stained area using a circular motion.
  3. Immediately rinse away the TSP with a different cloth dampened in the plain water.
  4. Dry the area with a clean, dry cloth.

Removing Wax, Gum and Crayon Marks

Ice works wonders on hard-to-remove debris like dried wax, crayon marks and gum for both surface and penetrating finishes.

  1. After filling a freezer bag with ice, place it over the debris.
  2. When it becomes brittle, scrape it off with a plastic spatula.
  3. If the floor has a penetrating finish and a bit of wax coating comes up in the process, reapply solvent-based floor wax using a soft cloth and buff it in.

Removing Pet Urine, Ink and Water Spots

Pet urine, ink and water leave some of the most challenging stains and involve a little extra legwork, but it is not impossible to remove them. The steps below apply to penetrating finishes only. Do not use sandpaper or steel wool on floors with a surface finish. Instead, use a hardwood floor cleaner and a scouring pad made specifically for this type of floor.

  1. Start by lightly sanding the wood with extra-fine sandpaper.
  2. Gently scrub the area with 00-grade steel wool dampened with mineral spirits.
  3. Wipe away the spirits using a new, water-dampened cloth.
  4. Use a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
  5. Apply solvent-based floor wax (or other type of finish that matches the original) to the area with a soft cloth and buff it in.