Changes to My Blogs

Posted December 30th, 2010 by tina

It’s been a while since I’ve written here. That’s not because I stopped writing but rather, I’ve been reorganizing my blogs. Here’s where you can now find …

So for now, you might find some unexpected content here but watch as soon it will migrate to the new TinaGleisner.com site.

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TEDWomen: Update on Women in Leadership Roles

Posted December 30th, 2010 by tina

In this video Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, provides inspiration to women. She shares why and how women need to become more proactive in their professional growth, not only for themselves but to pave the way for our daughters. She offers 3 tips for women to change the direction of their career paths, and stay focused on their professional development.

  • Sit at the table as an equal player “… as no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side; … no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success”
  • Make your partner a real partner … “as women are still doing twice the housework and 3 times the childcare” so women have more work ahead to make their partnership at home equal.
  • Don’t leave (your job) before you leave …  where Sheryl shared a story of one woman not even married, already worried about how she was going to juggle her career and family. The message was you’ve got to stay engaged until the day you leave to have the baby or you won’t have an exciting job to come back to.

What really struck me were the statistics that 57% of men negotiate their first salary out of college while only 7% of women negotiate … and I was among the 7%. This made me realize that when I stepped outside the corporate doors, it didn’t mean I should get off the road. Yes I chose a different road but I can still make a difference and so … my personal action plan from this video is to step out more visibly and be the leader and role model for women in those industries where I chose to play. It’s time to turn up the heat and get moving again!

Hope you enjoy the video and take away at least one personal action … and would love to hear what you’re going to do, either here as a comment or privately via email.

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Navy Visits West Palm Beach for July 4th

Posted July 3rd, 2010 by tina

When your child goes into the military you’re never sure where they are day-to-day. Yesterday our son Ryan called from West Palm Beach to tell us they where he was. He also said he’d given the West Palm Beach mayor a tour of the ship, along with the local TV station.

This morning it was fun to find that you can see my son on the video, so check out the guy in the white sailor suit opening doors and showing how their beds are made (3 beds with barely enough room to get in and out of them). When one of the guys says the ship is small, that’s absolutely true. For these guys the celebration is getting off the ship (no air conditioning and you need it in Florida in the summer) and going someplace big enough to relax.

I’ve toured the ship and it’s true there are movies running continuously in the dining room. It’s also more like your elementary school cafeteria with old fashioned booths (think MacDonalds but the food is pretty healthy) and total capacity for maybe 50 to 60 sailors at any one time. Other than this room, the only bigger space indoors is the garage for 2 helicopters which doubles as a  work-out gym.

Enjoy Your 4th of July!

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Relax This July 4th Weekend

Posted July 2nd, 2010 by tina

I’m sure everyone has lots of choices of where they’ll relax this weekend. Maybe you’ll have friends over to your house, or travel to visit your children (grandchildren)? Whatever you do, take time to slow down and relax. There’s plenty of time for some fun, fireworks and lots of great food.

Here’s one of my very first videos made by taking photos of lots of homes around the NH seacoast, plus a few from friends. I would love for everyone to send me their photos so I can make a new photo video next year.

Let’s All Celebrate Independence Day!

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Market Square Day, Portsmouth NH

Posted June 10th, 2010 by tina

One of the fun things about living near Portsmouth NH is there are lots of things to do, especially once the weather gets warm. Market Square Day always feels like the season opening and it’s coming this Saturday (always the second weekend in June).

Market Square Day, Saturday June 12th, 9am to 4pm

I’m not going to try to summarize the details as there is a whole website (www.proportsmouth.org) for that, so just click here to find the information you want. Stop by and say hi – I’m at the Habitat for Humanity booth from 7-10am. See you there!

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Why Do You Need a Dryer?

Posted June 9th, 2010 by tina

Someone shared this video on Facebook and I just had to share with all of you , especially as it was filmed in downtown Portsmouth NH. The message is important although I’m not sure how many of us are brave enough to put up a clothes line outside our homes … but look, here’s a photo of a clothes line in Venice. Are you wondering why?

US Energy Prices are Too Low!

Americans are spoiled by low cost energy and we’ve developed bad habits over the years, wasting far too much energy. How often do you run your dishwasher, dryer or washing machine when it’s not full? In other countries the cost of gasoline is significantly higher than the US (check out prices at CNN Money). Remember how Americans reacted when the cost of gasoline went over $4 … and trust me, we will see that again. The question is really what will it take for us to change our habits and stop wasting energy.

Here’s what I learned by watching this video:

  • Bill Rogers, BaldGuyOnClimateChange.com does a daily video interviewing people to learn and share, how they are saving energy, so the video is Bill interviewing …
  • Alex Lee from LaundryList.org where they offer great tips on how to save energy while getting your clothes clean.
  • The US economy is driven by consumers, i.e. this years tax credit to motivate buying appliances …

Appliances were supposed to save us time?

We’re working more to spend $1,000s running our appliances!

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Peter Pan @ Prescott Park, Portsmouth NH

Posted June 5th, 2010 by tina

One of the great things about having children is getting to relive your childhood. When your children grow up and move away like mine have, there are activities that can bring back those memories. Here’s one of my favorites as I prefer siting on a picnic blanket to get dressed up.

A fun experience for everyone, the annual play at Prescott Park in downtown Portsmouth NH, is a great place to meet old friends and relax. It is customary to meet friends early to reserve your space on the lawn (blankets in front, lawn chairs behind the rope) and have a picnic dinner. There are also tables you can reserve and I believe you can get dinner there too but nothing fancy. You can also have dinner in downtown Portsmouth, as it’s just a short walk from there to the park.

The play’s are always family fare. This year will be fun watching Peter Pan fly through the air in the outdoor theater setting. Here are some of the details and it’s best to check www.PrescottPark.org as there are lots of other activities starting with today’s Chowder Festival. I’ve added Judy Collins (August 4th), Livingston Taylor (August 11th) and the Air Force Band of Liberty (August 1st at 3pm) to my calendar.

Here’s the schedule for Peter Pan, 2010:

  • Friday nights starting June 25th, 8pm
  • Sunday nights starting June 26th, 8pm
  • Sunday nights starting June 27, 7pm
  • Thursday nights starting following week, July 1st
  • Plus matinees – Sunday, July 25th at noon; Sunday, August 15th at 1pm

Wow, just saw that the Seacoast Repertory Theater (SRT) is also performing at the park,

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Small Spaces: Living in 344 Sq Ft?

Posted May 1st, 2010 by tina

What fun to revisit places I once lived. In the early ’90s, I lived in Tokyo for several years (earlier video on storing bikes). The last year I commuted to Hong Kong where I managed a technology trial between IBM and Hong Kong Telecom, delivering what’s now known as Pay-per-View.

Americans really don’t know what small spaces are all about. A typical Japanese family of 4 lives has 3 rooms, with parents and children sharing one bedroom. Triple bunk beds are common, and my kids always wanted sky beds where the bed raises during the day, to provide access to the desk and dresser underneath. Enjoy the video … it really does give you a glimpse of life in Asia.

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Dover NH Home Show

Posted April 20th, 2010 by tina

I’ve been pretty busy these last few months, spending time with my sister in Connecticut. That means I didn’t sign up to participate in the Dover Home Show this coming weekend but you might be interested in going …

Dover Home Show

Dover Ice Arena, 110 Portland Ave (Rt 4)

Saturday, April 24 … 9am to 6pm

Sunday, April 25th … 10am to 4pm

Some of my 4 Walls members are participating so I’ll likely stop by to visit. I invite you to stop by and say hello to them as they’re the ones who sent me this free admission coupon below. If you’re looking for decorating help, the Innovative Interior Design Source (meet them on Facebook) includes many of the key resources you need. What’s great is they work together all the time so it’s easy to work with them on any project … and sometimes that includes My Handyman too when they need help with carpentry, crown molding, bathroom remodels and more.

Members of IIDS at Home Show

Members of IIDS at Home Show

  • Artist Touch Painting … Audrey Quenneville serving southern NH, www.artisttouchpaintingco.com
  • B & C Floor Store … Carol and Brett Burgard in Portsmouth, www.bcfloorstore.com
  • Coastal Curtains … Cheryl Stifter from Exeter, 770-6339
  • Extreme Flooring & Design… Christin Minnix from Hampton, 997-2056
  • Jennifer Myers Interiors … Jennifer is based in Hampton, www.jennifermyersinteriors.com

Have a great weekend and enjoy the home show!

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Getting There: Walk, Bike, Bus/Train or Drive?

Posted April 16th, 2010 by tina
Parking at Japanese Store
Parking at Japanese Store

Americans are quite spoiled when it comes to our cars. There are many countries where a family doesn’t have even own a car, let along several cars … and I fondly recall the days when I rode my bike everywhere in Tokyo, including the grocery store. I’ve been doing research on doors, and continue to be amazed at how important our front doors are for curb appeal and yet most of us never use our front door but rather the garage or side door because we drive everywhere. The video below is from Japan where parking your bike is as important as parking your car. It was fun for me, so I wanted to share and I wonder if Americans walked and biked more, maybe we would be healthier today?

Tip: Rent a bike when when visiting any country in Asia … to see what life is really like

In the early ’90s, I lived and worked in Tokyo. It was an incredible experience for my entire family and one of the things we enjoyed were our simple, Japanese bicycles with baskets as we decided not to buy a car in Japan. Trust me, it’s more trouble than it’s worth as you can’t register a car without proving you have a big enough parking spot. I heard horror stories of people buying a car and then discovering they couldn’t park it, so they couldn’t register it … for a few inches. A Japanese friend at work appreciated our decision as he had a car but couldn’t bring it to Tokyo. I let him use the parking space that came with my apartment, as my employer was paying the $500/month rent, i.e. what you would expect to pay in New York.

The automated bicycle parking in this video is similar to the automated car park system in my building. It was fascinating how you drove your car in, but when it was returned to you it was ready to drive out using a turn-style because the parking was underground.

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YOUR Door Questions

Posted April 7th, 2010 by tina

Each month I pick a theme to write about for my newsletter, and this month it’s doors. For fun, I decided to tweet about this and ask people for their questions … Writing about doors this month:front door to bulkhead basement door, etc. Send questions;include #doortips4u (so I can find questions).

Yesterday I got 2 questions and laughed as there’s no way I can give answers in 140 characters or less. Not sure where we’ll end up with this, so decided best thing is to keep all the Q&As here on my blog until I get more insight into how to organize the information. I especially like the new challenge as the first question is tough when I don’t know where the house is or the style/value of the home, both of which typically will influence my answer.

@chirpfrog:got a solid wood door on ’65 house. don’t like the black paint. Better replace or repaint? Many people assume they only need to paint their door when they want to change the color when in fact, painting is critical to protecting a wood door, and even fiberglass doors are wrapped with wood around the edges in order to get a tight fit. Here are the key decision factors to help you decide what to do:

  • All exterior wood trim, including doors need frequent painting (maintenance) if they are exposed to weather, i.e. sun, wind, rain, etc. If you’ve kept up with regular painting (every 1-2 years as needed) and the door is solid (check at ground level), then keep your door.
  • New fiberglass doors require less maintenance but you still need to touch up the wood that wraps the door on ALL 4 sides. There are 100s of styles and textures that mimic wood grain, so you’re sure to find one you like. When the wood that surrounds a door is rotted, we recommend replacing the door too. Installing a factory pre-hung door is easier (cheaper) and less prone to problems than rebuilding the door frame, and often when we try to save the door we find the rot is there.
  • Color and painting – Black is a tough exterior color as it absorbs the most sunlight, so switching to a lighter color might be good if you get lots of sunlight (live in the south?) You might not need to prime the door if you’re putting latex over an oil based paint but you’ll need to research and prep the surface properly to get maximum lifetime for the painting job. Take a small sample of the existing paint to a paint (yes) store for help determining best strategy.
Harvey's Full Lite Storm Door

Harvey's Full Lite Storm

@BCFloorStore: Best storm door? I’m a big fan of storm doors as they allow me to leave the solid door open during spring and fall, which lets a lot more sunlight into otherwise dark entryways and stairways. My favorite storm door (Harvey Full Lite – have on both front & read doors) provides maximum sunlight, but I like the style with at least a 6 inch frame at the bottom to reduce broken glass due to someone kicking the door open. Here are key decisions you’ll need to make:

  • Do you want interchangeable storm and screen? … yes.
  • If your storm door will get wet, pick a foam filled aluminum storm door to avoid water damage. If the door is protected from rain, you can pick between vinyl clad (typical white or bronze) and aluminum … with similar cost and warranty.
  • Style really depends on the door behind the storm, and your home style. I prefer to keep the storm door simple and if you want to dress up your front door, look at light fixtures and wood trim to enhance the curb appeal of your home.
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NH’s Cash for Appliances (Think Cars)

Posted April 6th, 2010 by tina

Last year we all heard about the Cash for Clunkers program where the federal government subsidized a program that helped 2 initiatives – saving energy and stimulating car sales. This year more people should benefit from the Cash for Appliances program which is being funded by the federal government … with each state deciding the details of their own program.

Cash for Appliances in NH

Starts April 19th

Hmmm…
Like me, you might be wondering why the date falls right when home owners should start receiving their tax refunds? Hopefully, you’ll take the hint and consider whether one/more of these appliances makes sense. If you’re one of the unlucky home owners deciding how to recover from the recent floods we’ve had in NH, recognize that all the appliances NH has decided to focus on live in basements where they might have gotten wet during the flooding?

Here is a quick outline of the products you might consider buying this year, when you can benefit from the Cash for Appliance or the existing Energy Star Appliance Rebate Program. I first wrote about the upcoming appliance rebates in January and now the government web sites are full of details, so to recap your choices for investing in budget saving enhancements in 2010. Remember how the Cash for Clunkers ended earlier than anticipated as these programs remain open until available funding is distributed … so don’t wait too long.

Water heater rebates (Cash for Appliances) - Gas hot water heaters generally last 8 to 12 years because they rust out. Electric hot water heaters last 10 to 15 years as they have a glass lining. Tankless hot water heaters claim to have a liftetime of 20/more years but they’re too new to be certain.

  • Gas condensing water heaters – $300
  • Gas storage water heaters – $100
  • Gas tankless water heaters – $300
  • Solar water heaters (check for later start date) – $750

Furnace rebates (Cash for Appliances) – Home furnaces should last 13 to 18 years although they need to be maintained for both operating efficiency and to reach their maximum life.

  • Gas furnaces (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency ? 90%) – $300
  • Gas furnaces (AFUE ? 85% with ECM) – $400
  • Oil furnaces (AFUE ? 85%) – $300
  • Oil furnaces (AFUE ? 85% with ECM) – $400

Boiler rebates (Cash for Appliances) – Gas boilers should serve you for 30/more years with good preventive maintenance the key to extending the life of the boiler.

  • Gas boilers (AFUE ? 85%) – $500
  • Gas boilers (AFUE ? 90%) – $1,000
  • Oil boilers (AFUE ? 85%) – $500
  • Oil boilers (AFUE ? 90%) – $1,000
  • Indoor boiler reset controls – $100

Energy Star clothes washer rebates – $50 (mail-in rebate). Clothes washers will typically last from 10 to 14 years with usage playing a role in the life of the appliance.

Energy Star room air conditioner rebates – $20 (AC rebate form). An Energy Star air conditioner should last 6 to 10 years but like all appliances, it depends on maintenance and usage as they’re not expected to run continuously the way central air conditioning systems do.

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How Well Did Your Home Survive the Winter?

Posted April 2nd, 2010 by tina
Winter Storm

Winter Storm

We’re glad when spring arrives and we can get outside to enjoy the warm weather. New Hampshire had a relatively mild winter as most of our snow got dumped between Washington DC and New York, but we did have some unusual storms that might have done damage to your home’s exterior. It’s wise to conduct a spring checkup each year, similar to visiting your doctor for your annual health checkup. You’ll want to assess winter damage and determine what minor repairs are needed, and project when you’ll need to replace your roof or paint your home as nothing lasts forever.

How Weather Affects Your Home

We mostly think about weather as if affects us, from getting wet running to the car or having to put on boots. Your home is built to withstand the normal weather patterns for where you live, but it’s not practical to build for every possible problem, i.e. we might only have a hail storm once every 20 years in a given town. Here is a list of common, weather related problems you want to consider as you review your home’s exterior this spring. They’re important because one of the primary goals of your home’s skin is to keep the water out, and when water or moisture remains hidden below the surface for years, you are likely to find structural damage and/or mold.

Wind Damage

  • Roofing shingles are often torn loose.
  • Aluminum wrap that covers wood trim, especially at the peak can be torn off.
  • Lots of gutters were ripped off homes this year so make sure they’re secure.
  • Vinyl siding may crack or break due to flying objects in a heavy wind.
  • Wood shingle siding where the pieces are smaller, may become dislodged by wind.
  • Recent wind speeds were enough to damage many fences in the area.

Problems Due to Driving Rain, and Sometimes Hail – Driving rain at unusual angles (horizontal versus falling from above) may penetrate seams where building materials meet, and there may not be weep holes or other ventilation techniques to let this water escape. Common water problems are found:

  • Water can penetrate where the chimney meets the roof.
  • Skylights and other roof features like vent stacks may not be adequately flashed and/or caulked to withstand a driving rain.
  • Older roofs with tar paper below the roofing shingles might no longer be water tight.
  • Doors and windows man not be adequately flashed to channel water away from the house. Caulking on the side can separate or crack leaving gaps where water can get behind the siding, and into the house.
  • Maybe you got some water underneath a door and have forgotten it. You’ll want to check thresholds to make sure there’s no hidden moisture below the threshold or surrounding area.
  • Hail is especially hard and with enough force, can damage vinyl siding.

Snow and Ice Problems – We didn’t have enough snow this winter, but to make this checklist complete:

  • When snow on the roof melts but can’t run off, you get ice dams which can damage roof shingles and cause melting water to find ways to get into your home and cause damage.
  • Falling ice (ice dams) often damage vinyl siding which gets brittle in the cold weather.
  • Snow that piles up against the house can find cracks and/or gaps in your foundation wall or where the foundation meets the framing and siding.

Flooding and Power Outages – Unfortunately we’re seeing 100 year storms which are driving ground water to historic levels. If you weren’t prepared this year, it’s time to consider ways to avoid the same problem in the future.

  • Maybe it’s time for gutters to channel water away from your home’s foundation?
  • The ground around your home must slope away to prevent water from settling and finding ways into your home.
  • Where stairs and decks connect to your home are prone to water damage.
  • If you’re getting too much water in the basement, you may need a perimeter drain to capture and send this water to a sump pump. This is less costly than excavating for exterior drainage.
  • A sump pump removes water that gets into your basement when ground water levels rise … but you need power to run the sump pump. If you’re heavily dependent on a sump pump, you need one that can turn on automatically, with an alternate source of power.
  • When refinishing a flooded basement is to use materials like Armstrong’s CushionStep vinyl flooring, that can be removed, cleaned and reinstalled.
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Help! How to Deal with a Wet Basement

Posted March 31st, 2010 by tina

#With all the rain, and spring is just beginning, lots of home owners are dealing with wet basements. We’re getting lots of calls about repairs to sheetrock, insulation, flooring … and most important, how can I avoid the problem in the future. I put this article together to give you a quick summary of the steps to follow to get rid of the water safely (#1 below) and typical repairs after you’ve cleaned up.

Why does your basement get wet, and especially owners who’ve never had the problem before are now asking this important question. Some of it is due to the weather, i.e. too much rain, one storm right after another so the ground doesn’t have time to dry out … and often, there has been construction in the area that can change the water table that affects your home.

Don’t assume your home is water tight. If your home is normally dry, the water will come in when it rises above the level of your basement. It might come in at floor level, or from the soil pressing against your foundation walls. This water is under hydrostatic pressure and due to gravity, it will push through any weak areas like cracks, joints or other imperfections your your home’s foundation and we’ll address ways to reduce and/or manage future water inflow.

Steps to Cleaning Up a Wet Basement

Armstong CushionStep Flooring

Armstong CushionStep Flooring

It’s important to address water in your basement quickly, as water and even high moisture levels. If left along, many construction materials will sustain increasing damage along with the potential for mold to grow when moisture and food, i.e. the wood framing for your walls, are readily available.

#1 Safety is your first concern. DO NOT walk in a flooded basement if any electrical systems such as a furnace or hot water heater is flooded. Shut off all power and call the electric company or an electrician if you can’t reach your fuse box or circuit breaker without stepping in water. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, leave the house immediately and call the gas company from a neighbor’s house.

#2 Next you have to get rid of the water. You’ll need a sump pump large enough for the water you have in the basement. For smaller quantities of water, you can use a water or wet dry vacuum but remember you’ll be emptying the water outside. During severe flooding, it’s difficult to get quick help from a restoration company or fire department so call early if you’re going to need professional help.

  • Handyman Tip: Pump out a few feet of water, mark the new water level and wait overnight to make sure the water isn’t coming back in if the water level outside your home is higher than inside your home. You may have to pump the water out over several days as the water level outside goes down.

#3 You don’t know how clean the water was so you’ll need to wash down and disinfect the walls, floor, fixtures and furniture that got wet to remove bacteria left.

#4 Before turning the power back on, check all electrical service and replace anything that got wet: wiring, switches, outlets, etc.

#5 Check all other systems to insure they were not affected by the flooding, cleaning as needed:

  • Furnace, heating and air conditioning vents, registers and ductwork.
  • Water system for leaks in pipes that may have been moved, and make sure your water supply isn’t contaminated.
  • Check other utilities and drains for damage as the cost to make repairs now is less that waiting for problems to grow before they become known.

#6 - Now it’s time to dry everything off and remove moisture from the basement as quickly as possible. There are a number of things you can do:

  • Open windows if it’s stopped raining.
  • Run fans to remove moisture and be sure they’re pushing air out of the room.
  • Use one/more dehumidifiers to collect moisture and be prepared to empty them frequently.

#7 - Assess damage to the walls and floors, what you can see and what’s hidden. Water that remains trapped behind walls and under flooring can cause more damage, and more costly repairs if you defer the work.

  • If you removed the water quickly, it may not have penetrated the sheetrock and then you can seal the walls with a stain block to prevent discoloration from bleeding through a new coat of paint.
  • Sheetrock that got soaked will likely need to be replaced, along with any insulation behind the drywall.
  • Baseboard, doors and door trim which got wet, should be removed and dried off on all 4 sides to prevent hidden damage when moisture isn’t able to escape quickly enough.
  • Flooring must be reviewed to assess damage and water underneath the flooring, i.e. most flooring materials when installed over a concrete slab have a moisture barrier to protect it from moisture seeping up from the concrete which is porous.

#8 - Repair and/or replace materials damaged by the basement water. While this project can be daunting, especially if your insurance company isn’t covering the damage, it is the perfect opportunity to reconsider what types of materials you want to use in your basement. You might use exterior paneling instead of sheetrock as it will withstand water better. There are vinyl floors like Armstrong’s Cushion Step (shown above) that are floating floors which can be removed, rinsed down and re-installed easily. Home construction materials are constantly coming on the market, so talk to your Mr Handyman office to get more ideas.

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Do You Know How Safe Your Home IS?

Posted March 20th, 2010 by tina

We assume our homes are safe, and that danger only lurks when we venture beyond our communities or to another country. When we bought our homes we picked location, location, location … for the home and yard we wanted for our family, along with the neighborhood, schools and proximity to shopping, the arts and more.

We assume our homes are safe but how do we know for sure? As we’re living longer and staying in our homes longer, we expect to deal with more illness but how do we account for increases in childhood diseases like autism? Government and industry drive new building codes to continually increase the safety of our homes. Right now there are 2 key factors driving new codes: to make our homes more energy efficient and to focus on home safety, and these changes need to be carefully balanced as noone has an open checkbook.

How Safe are Our Homes?

house-stethescope-red-a4who-ikNew home construction is regulated by building codes which evolve to address problems and support the use of new building materials. The federal government drives goals like energy and health, and each state and local city can add or delete requirements. In California there are added requirements for reinforced walls to withstand earthquakes while Florida adds codes to insure products like special windows are available to withstand hurricanes.

Materials and residential building codes frequently result from advances in commercial construction. However the new EPA rule, Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) which takes effect on Aprill 22, 2010 focuses strictly on residential homes, common areas where people live and child-care centers … and does not apply to commercial facilities. In 2012, residential construction will require fire suppression systems in all new 1 and 2 family homes and townhouses although many states are passing legislation to prohibit adoption at the local level due to the cost which can run more than $5,000 per home.

Learning about home safety is a challenge as the information is scattered everywhere. I decided to create a series of articles on How Safe are Our Homes, to introduce and explain various home construction rules, from the perspective of a home owner to make it understandable. My goal is to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together so here is my initial list of topics, and please let me know if there are other topics I should add to the list.

  • Lead Paint is Hazardous - Learn what you need to know to keep your loved ones safe from lead poisoning at home, and at child care facilities.
  • Prevent Fires at Home – Learn about home owner choices to prevent and control fires at home, from smoke detectors to sprinkler systems and more.
  • What You Can’t See Can Make You Sick - We’ll explain how moisture supports the growth of mold and what you can do to prevent these problems.
  • Living Longer, Living Safely - Learn how homes can be built or modified to safely accomodate walkers, wheel chairs and other tips to keep seniors safe in your home.
  • Hazardous Building Materials – The Consumer Protection Agency monitors toys imported from overseas. Now it appears with last years tainted sheetrock, the US will also need to monitor imported building materials.
  • Building Codes, How They Affect Safety at Home – Many home improvements are mandated by building codes. Learn about the International Residential Code and home safety.
  • Tips for Green and Safe Cleaning – Learn why home cleaning products can be harmful and safe cleaning alternatives.
  • Green Furnishings for Healthy Air – Learn why furniture and other products can make us sick, from the gases given off. Get shopping tips for safe product purchases.
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NH Housing Market Stabilizes

Posted March 12th, 2010 by tina

Like home owners everywhere, you are probably watching what’s happening to real estate in your area. There are so many reports, so much data that at times it makes your head spin. Here is a graph that will help you visualize what is happening in NH, from the first issue of NH’s Granite State Builder. Some of you will remember the housing bubble of the late ’80s and what happened afterwards,

The recent housing bubble didn’t peak as dramatically as the ’80s, so the market wasn’t flooded with new homes to absorb as the economy dipped. The current challenge is more about jobs. More than 100,000 jobs were created in NH during the 1980s, primarily in high tech. In the 1990s, job growth came from a number of industries let by retail. In the last decade, NH has seen the loss of more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs

NH Housing Permits through 2009

NH Housing Permits through 2009

Here are some quick stats on the current housing market and for the full story. If you’d like to see data specific to your NH county, visit Monika’s NH real estate blog …

  • Seeing slight increase in home sales – 2009 was 6% ahead of 2008, with 10,832 homes sold.
  • Number of unsold listings no longer growing
  • 2009 say home prices decline 10% bringing median sales price in 2009 to $212,000 compared to 2008 figure of $235,000.
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2009 Remodeling Cost vs Resale Value

Posted February 23rd, 2010 by tina

This is the 4th year I’ve shared the results of the Cost vs Value Remodeling Report, 2008-2009, where data is collected each summer via survey (4,000 respondents last year). What I found most interesting was the trend graph comparing lasts years results to the prior 6 years (2003 to 2009). Given the ups and downs of the economy and the housing market, noone was willing to project results … and people were pleased to see the drop in remodeling (home) values start to stabilize.

... from Hanley Wood's Remodeling Report, 2009

... from Hanley Wood's Cost vs Value Report, 2009

Some of the most interesting facts follow, with overall trends showing more focus on smaller, low-maintenance projects and an emphasis on essentials over extras.

  • Decline in average, cost-to-value ratios lower than previous year … at 3.86%.
  • Construction costs continue to rise, going up 2.67% even though home values are declining.
  • Exterior replacement projects top the rankings, with 8 of the top 10 spots. Factors include curb appeal for resale plus these projects are less expensive than additions.
  • Energy efficient projects like replacement windows and siding, rank high on the list.

Top Projects (Cost vs Value Perspective)

There are quite a few remodeling projects where you’ll recover more than 75% of the cost. Most of these projects are exterior improvements. Note that the top 10 projects are still delivering 75 percent or more of their cost, when it comes to resale value … so you should still consider these projects for both immediate benefits (look, energy savings and comfort) in addition to resale value.

  • Consider exterior remodeling projects which recover at least 75% of their cost
    • Deck addition (wood) with average cost of $10,601 … will recover 81.8%
    • Siding replacement (vinyl) with average cost of $10,256 … should recover 80.7%
    • Window replacement (wood) for average cost of $11,512 … projected to recover 77.7%
    • … or upper scale wood window replacement with cost of $17,580 … should recover 76.5%
    • Window replacement (vinyl) with average cost of $10,537 … will recover 77.2%
    • … or upper scale vinyl window replacement with cost of $13,608 … projected to recover 79.2%
    • Siding replacement (fiber cement) with cost of $13,177 … expected to recover 86/7%
    • … while foam back vinyl replacement siding with cost of $12,528 … will recover 80.4%
  • Plan for interior remodeling projects that recover at least 75% of their cost
    • Major kitchen remodel, with cost of $56,611 … will recover 76.0%
    • … or minor kitchen remodel, with cost of $21,246 … will recover 79.5%

Research Your Remodeling Project FIRST!

  • Good planning starts with pick 1 or 2 projects, and doing in-depth research about cost-value data for those projects … in your part of the country (data available for 9 regions).
  • Make sure you understand all costs by reviewing the project description and cost components, separating out labor and materials which each contribute cost to the project.
  • Compare the total cost to your budget for the project. If your budget is lower, identify which items you can remove from your project.
  • If you’re trying to squeeze more out of your budget, identify items you can complete yourself. Be realistic, as Mr Handyman sometimes undoes what a homeowner has tried to do. The best home owner tasks are buying and transporting materials plus demo. A friend recently remodeled his kitchen, removing the cabinets plus floor and wall tile himself, leaving the installation of the new cabinets to the professional.
  • When you don’t have the time, tools or skills, call your local Mr/My Handyman company. For larger/specialty projects you will need to find the appropriate contractor for the job. Calling your local Mr Handyman owner for recommendations is a good place to start.
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Find Your Home Maintenance Strategy

Posted February 23rd, 2010 by tina

Having owned homes in New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California … I thought I knew a lot about home maintenance. It wasn’t until I started My Handyman of Southern NH, that I began to learn how complicated a home can be, that a home is really a living/breathing (made from natural materials) structure and it needs ongoing maintenance.

Unfortunately with our busy lives and frequent moves, many home owners (myself included) have focused on home repairs following the traditional:

  • First 6 to 9 months after moving into a new house
  • Fix it when it breaks, i.e. toilet leak
  • Six months leading up to selling (listing) your house for sale
  • … plus special projects to enhance your lifestyle at home, i.e. a kitchen remodel (California), finishing the basement, an addition (Portsmouth NH), etc.

Now I know it’s not smart to wait for the home inspection to tell me there is wood rot on several window sills or below the sliding door to the deck. I now understand that the longer these water problems are allowed to fester, the more extensive the damage (often hidden) and the more expensive the repairs … so it’s not wise to wait for someone else to pinpoint necessary repairs.

Yes, we’re all focusing on the drop in our home’s value but these losses are due to the housing bubble with inflated prices. If you look back 5 to 10 years, and calculate more typical real estate appreciation of 5 to 6%, you will find most housing hasn’t lost value. Home ownership remains one of American’s greatest privileges with significant financial benefits from tax deductions for mortgage interest and taxes, to appreciation for the entire home value versus your equity which might be as low as 5 or 10%.

Hopefully you’re convinced it’s wise to maintain and update your home. Now we can help you find a strategy for maintaining your home, one that fits your personality and lifestyle. While houses don’t come with an owners manual like cars, we hope to provide you with checklists and other information to help you tackle routine mainenance with confidence.

Find Your Home Maintenance Strategy

Let’s look at the different approaches to home maintenance. DO NOT focus on which is the best or right approach. What is most important, is picking one that you are comfortable with, as that’s the one you are most likely to stick with year after year. If we don’t have a checklist for your strategy, let us know and we’ll develop one that fits your strategy.

  • handy-to-do-list-a4who-wdHome maintenance driven by an EVENT:
    • When preparing your home for sale
    • Getting settled after you move into your new home
    • After something breaks or you find a leak
    • To prepare for a family event like a wedding or special company.
  • Home maintenance done on a SCHEDULE:
    • Using a seasonal checklist which is common
    • Breaking tasks down into monthly checklists
    • Rotating through room-by-room checklists, i.e. focusing on the attic when putting holiday decorations away.
  • Home maintenance as a series of PROJECTS:
    • Painting 1-2 rooms each year
    • Updating different rooms, like a bathroom … then the kitchen
    • When re-decorating a room, like the living room
    • Setting up a home office
  • BUDGEt driven home maintenance:
    • Budgeting a percentage (1% annually is recommended) of purchase (or assessed) home value
    • Allocating percentage of disposable income

What’s important is that you find a strategy that works for you. Don’t worry about following the right way to maintain your home, but stick to an approach that will take the stress out of home ownership. If you fix things when they break, great. If you prioritize by project, then keep a running list of items in one place and use it as a guide to select the next project, you’ll get ahead of the curve on breakdowns & repairs … and the associated stress.

The biggest challenge often is finding one approach that works for you AND other members of the team, your significant other and your children. If you don’t have the skills, tools or interest then it’s time to call Mr. Handyman, and we’ll take care of your list for you!

Don’t assume it’s all or nothing. You might decide to devote 2 weekends a year (one in the spring, the other in the fall) to home maintenance projects. Prioritize and do the chores you’re most comfortable with, or enjoy the most … and then let Mr. Handyman finish your list so you can enjoy your home with confidence.

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EPA Creates Rules for Lead Safety

Posted February 23rd, 2010 by tina

For years we’ve heard about problems where children have been exposed to lead paint, mostly from eating paint chips. Lead is a poison and it damages the children’s nervous system which causes problems in their physical, intellectual and emotional development. There are similar problems for pregnant women and adults in general.

There have been rules for de-leading rental properties for years but now the EPA, effective April 2010, has new rules that affect all renovation, repair and painting projects in homes built before 1978, as paint with lead was not legally sold after 1978.

The impact is already being felt across the construction industry as all contractors (includes carpenters, electricians, plumbers, window installers, painters), property managers and others involved in any type of home renovation, repair and painting work in residential houses, apartments and child-occupied facilities built before 1978, are required to get certified. I’ll be taking my 8 hour, certification class in early March while I’ve already submitted certification application to the EPA due to extended lead times.

Lead Safety Precautions for Home Owners

As the new rules take effect in April 2010, home owners should be aware of the following processes that must be followed for all home projects (I’ll share more details after I complete the class).

  • EPA Pamphlet

    EPA Pamphlet

    Pre-renovation education is where contractors need to give home owners the EPA’s lead pamphlet (download and read Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home), and don’t be surprised when you’re asked to sign to confirm receipt (or we can mail it to you, and file a post office receipt).

  • Information signs must be placed near the work site to alert everyone that only workers with protective clothing, following rules they’ve been trained to use, may enter the work area.
  • Companies must be certified, and their workers or “renovators” trained.
  • Lead safe work practices, as prescribed by the EPA, must be followed:
    • Inside: plastic should be used to protect all surfaces in the work area, plus plastic barriers at entrances to the work area to prevent dust and debris from leaving the work area.
    • Outside: involves covering the ground and plants with heavy plastic sheeting that extends at least 10 feet out from the building.
    • Workers must wear protective clothing to insure they don’t breathe lead dust, or let it touch their skin where it can be absorbed. Clothing includes safety goggles/glasses, a painter’s hat, coveralls, shoe covers and rubber gloves.
    • There are guidelines for power tools (must have HEPA exhaust control) and open-flame burning (must keep heat below 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit).
    • Clean up is a key step in the process with verification testing to minimize exposure to lead based paint hazard.

When Don’t You Need to Follow Lead Safety Rules

Here are the steps to follow if you, the home owner, question following the rules … although they’re not recommended:

  • Homes built after 1978 are not subject to these rules. A certified lead-based paint inspector or risk assessor can test the work area to determine if lead is present. The testing involves a surface-by-surface investigation to collect paint chips for laboratory analysis.
  • The rules exclude minor repair and maintenance activities less than 6 square feet per interior room, or 20 square feet per exterior project. Never exempt … window replacement and demolition.
  • The home owner can sign a statement for work in their residence … if no children under 6 live there, no woman who lives there is pregnant and the owner acknowledges that the renovation firm will not be required to use the work practices contained in the EPA lead rules.
  • Owners are not required (still recommended) to follow the rules when doing work on their own home. The risk still exists and lead safe work practices should be followed to protect yourself, your family and the value of your home on resale.
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Home (Handyman) Consultants

Posted January 22nd, 2010 by tina

eNewsletters Building Relationships

Most people think a handyman is the guy who comes with a ladder to clean out their gutters, or I can replace a few broken tiles … or install a screen door. If you’re receiving my newsletter, I hope you know that at My Handyman we do so much more. This true story illustrates how we assume the role of home consultant for many of our customers. We’re able to leverage the experience gained from completing 1,000s of jobs each year.  After my newsletter went out yesterday, here’s what one customer emailed me … today.

“My husband and I reached an impasse when he said he wanted tile for the kitchen floor and I want cork. He doesn’t stand on it to the extent I do. Our kitchen floor is on a concrete slab, and the color scheme is black-and-white. I think we need new eyes on the subject.

I’d like to preface the project by saying I’d like someone as local as possible. When we had our cabinets refaced, Home Depot sent someone from almost 100 miles away, which seemed a bit far afield to go for help. I realize that availability of help for the task is also problematic. Can we talk?”

When I received Patti’s email shortly after 7am, I wanted to call right away but we have a rule that we don’t call until 8am, unless our technician is due to arrive earlier. Patti and I had a fun and productive conversation that I’d like to share. It shows how Mr Handyman can assist customers in evaluating different materials and possible solutions to ultimately help you get the desired results,

My Handyman Consulting by Phone

Patti was thrilled that I responded so quickly. I enjoy talking with customers and helping clarify what they need, and working through to find the best solution. It was also fun (after the fact) sharing my own story when my husband wanted carpeting on a slab for warmth, while I wanted tile in the finished basement so it would stand up to foot traffic.

  • Understanding the requirements
    • Patti said her biggest concern was standing on the floor. She believed cork would provide a cushion, and be more comfortable to stand on for extended periods of time.
    • Her husband  inwanted the floor to match the black-and-white decorating the their kitchen, and he had found a photo online showing exactly what he wanted.
    Armstrong Cushion Step

    Armstrong Cushion Step

  • Brainstorming on the phone:
    • My first ideas was creating a design that combined tile and cork, i.e. using cork where most standing occurs. Patti explained this wouldn’t work due to tile design her husband has picked out.
    • Next Patti mentioned using cork for cushioning, and linoleum over it with a tile design. I wasn’t comfortable with this approach as the linoleum would hide moisture problems (common with concrete slabs) plus duplicate cost for materials and labor.
    • Based on repairs to flooded basements, I was able to recommend a product like Armstrong’s Cushion Step (shown here). This is a vinyl flooring product with a nice cushion integrated. What’s great is the large selection of designs including tile (called stone), wood and “impressions.” It’s a wonderful product to use in basements where flooding is likely to occur as you simply remove the flooring, hose it off in the yard and reinstall it.
  • Follow Up Research
    • One of my favorite tasks running My Handyman is doing research for my customers … and sharing what I learn on this blog. It takes practice to pick the right search terms and here’s what I was able to learn:
      • Searching for “cork and colors”, I found you can get black cork. I called Patti back, and sent her the link so she can order samples. When we talked, it sounded like she’s really excited about the cushion vinyl as it sounds like it will be easier to maintain.
      • Having loaned my Cushion Step sample book out, I called B&C Floor Store to confirm the flooring I had recommended. Armstrong was correct, and Carol right away looked at her store display and told me Targett’s Fiber Floor has a tile design with black-and-white, so now I’ve got to pick up those samples for Patti.

Patti was comfortable with my sharing our morning dialog with all of you. Hope you remember to call us at Mr Handyman when you’re not sure how to proceed with one of your home projects. We’d love to help you!

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