Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Replace or repair? That's the home improvement question



Maintenance and improvement are both essential realities of home ownership. From windows and skylights to gas ranges and front doors, everything in your home will eventually need some work. But how do you know when something simply needs repair, or merits being replaced?



Of course, each situation will be as unique as the home in which it occurs - and as individual as the homeowners themselves. A few good rules of thumb, however, do apply in most cases. When you're considering repair or replacement, ask yourself these questions:



* How old is the malfunctioning item?

* How extensive/pervasive is the problem?

* Will the cost of repair approach the cost of replacement?

* Which course - repair or replace - will yield the maximum energy efficiency?

* How does the cost of repair measure up to the value it will provide? How does replacement stack up using the same measure?



To help you get an idea of how these rules apply, here's what some experts have to say about home elements that frequently raise the repair/replace question:



Skylights



While many modern skylights are energy-efficient, qualify to use the Energy Star mark and are leak-free, if you have an older, plastic model it's probably a good idea to replace it. Not only are these older plastic bubble-type skylights often faded and unsightly, reducing visibility, they are not UV resistant, are not energy efficient, and are much more likely to leak.



"There are millions of those unattractive, cracked and yellowed plastic skylights still out there," says Ross Vandermark, national product manager of VELUX America, which markets the warranted "No-Leak Skylight." "Replacing them with new energy-efficient, double-pane (insulating) glass models is quick and easy. They don't leak, they look better, they reduce UV rays and provide substantial energy savings."



In fact, based on an estimate of 15 cents per kwh/hr, replacing an old plastic skylight with an Energy Star-qualified VELUX skylight can save a 2,000-square-foot home about $194 a year on cooling costs, a company study shows. Add skylight blinds - which are available in a variety of styles that can be remote-controlled, including blackout to block light, light filtering to diffuse light, or Venetian to adjust light - and the energy savings can be enhanced even more. And blinds in colors and patterns can add a fresh look to your room decor. What's more, depending on the age and condition of even older glass skylights, it's not a bad idea to consider a modern, more energy efficient model. To learn more about replacement skylights, visit www.veluxusa.com.



Windows



Recent research shows that skylights and vertical windows can work well together to effectively daylight a home while contributing to heating and cooling energy savings.



Like skylights, windows have vastly improved in energy efficiency over the past few decades. Leaky, inefficient windows can be a major source of heat loss in a home, boosting energy bills and decreasing the comfort level indoors. Window manufacturer Pella points to these signs that old windows need to be replaced:



* They're difficult to open or close.

* You can feel air leaking in or out around them.

* Condensation or fogging occurs on or between glass panes.

* You can see chipping, deterioration or water stains on the window or the wall around it.

* Cleaning is a major chore and you avoid it because of the difficulty.

* It's difficult or impossible to find replacement parts for the old windows.



The Efficient Windows Collaborative (www.efficientwindows.org) site also provides extensive information on selecting both windows and skylights, including fact sheets and computer simulations for typical houses using a variety of windows in a number of U.S. cities.



Heating, ventilation and air cooling



Furnaces and air conditioning units are among the most important parts of your home's infrastructure; they're directly responsible for the comfort level and air quality inside your home. They're also among the more costly items to repair or replace.



So how do you know when it's time to replace part of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system? EnergyStar.gov offers these guidelines:



* If your heat pump or air conditioner is older than 10 years.

* Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.

* Your energy bills are spiking.

* Equipment needs frequent repair.

* Some rooms are too hot while others are too cold.

* The HVAC system is very noisy.

* Your home is very dusty.



Replacing older HVAC systems with newer, Energy Star-qualified ones can significantly impact your heating and cooling costs, according to EnergyStar.gov. An Energy Star-qualified heat pump or AC unit can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, the website says. You can learn more at www.energystar.gov.



Choose a certified installer to create curb appeal with confidence



(BPT) - Looking for a way to improve the curb appeal of your home? Re-siding your home with vinyl siding is a great investment because it never needs painting to maintain its beauty and durability.



Once you've made the decision to re-side your home with vinyl siding, however, you need a qualified contractor to install it properly to ensure long-lasting curb appeal.



"Vinyl siding is not something anyone with a hammer can install," says Matt Russo, production manager with Hollingsworth Home Improvement. "There are techniques that need to be followed."



Look for installers certified through a program sponsored by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). A VSI Certified Installer knows how to:
  • Correctly fasten siding to allow for vinyl's normal expansion and contraction properties and keep it straight and secure on the wall.
  • Properly prepare the area around doors, windows and other openings to prevent water infiltration.
  • Pay attention to details that will give your home a beautiful appearance that will last.


When Margaret Seibert needed to have her 30-year-old siding replaced after a particularly heavy Minnesota storm, she looked to a firm that used only VSI Certified Installers to ensure a quality job. "They did a really good job, and I'm very satisfied with how it looks," Seibert says.



"The main thing is not nailing the siding too tightly, but letting it move," says Matt Ocel, owner of Ocel Buildings in Farmington, Minn., which completed Seibert's re-siding job. "Especially with a climate where you go from 100-degree days to 40-below, you have to leave room for vinyl siding to expand and contract."



With nearly 3,500 VSI Certified Installers across the U.S. and Canada, VSI offers a locator tool to help homeowners find professionals in their area. Log on to www.vinylsiding.org to learn more. Ask if your builder or home improvement contractor is using VSI Certified Installers; these qualified professionals carry a photo ID with their current certification number and expiration date.



VSI Certified Installers have demonstrated their installation skills and knowledge of the industry standard ASTM 4756, verified by an independent quality control agency. ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade and build consumer confidence. VSI Certified Installers must have a minimum of one year of experience installing vinyl siding and accessories, attend a hands-on course taught by a VSI Certified Trainer, pass a written test about proper installation practices, and be re-certified every three years.



Vinyl siding installation companies can also become certified. The company must have an approved quality control program, as well as a certified installer or trainer present on every job crew where vinyl siding is being installed.



For more information about VSI's program, visit www.vinylsiding.org/certifiedinstaller.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Service Animals and Housing in Florida

Service Animals and Housing in Florida
Your question about Florida service animal policies~

Florida laws prohibit discriminating against service animals. Service animals are defined as an animal that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability.

An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship but is not trained to perform a specific task.

Under the Federal Fair Housing Act. the law provides that property owners require reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. Landlords (and homeowners/condo associations) are unable to dictate no pet policies as landlords are required to accept service and emotional support animals. 

The FL statutes state, "An individual with a disability is entitled to rent, lease, or purchase, as other members of the general public, any housing accommodations offered for rent, lease, or other compensation in this state, subject to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons." 

What you can require:
-Statement from a medical professional documenting a disability (the disability does not need to be disclosed)
-Tenant to pay any damages animal may cause
-Current vaccination records
-Animal insurance

What you cannot require:
-Animal application fee
-Animal deposit (refundable or nonrefundable)
-Animal or pet rent

Most surprisingly to landlords, you can not place breed or size restrictions on service animals.  This applies even when a homeowners association dictates "no pets for tenants" and when property owners have severe allergies to animal dander.

As service animals increase in popularity, several online websites have begun offering emotional support certificates for animals.  These certificates often come with a service animal vest and claim to add your animal to the "Service Dog Registry."  These certificates cost around $100 and are not legitimate documentation for a service animal. 

We have seen several pet owners with aggressive breed dogs trying to use online support animal certificates to bypass breed restrictions and increased pet fees. As more people try to use the internet to certify their dogs as service animals, it takes away from the real mission and purpose of service animals and emotional support animals.

Service animal policies are regulated by the Americans with Disability Act, Fair Housing, and your states local statutes.  Specific laws apply to public accommodations and housing. You can read Florida's statutes regarding service animals and housing here.

The Fair Housing Act applies to the sale and rental of most single family housing including apartments, condos and homes with a few exceptions.

Of course, I'm not an attorney, so please do not consider this legal advice and consult your attorney or the ADA with any further questions! Call their ADA Information line at 800-514-0301 (Voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY).

Thanks and have a great day,
Nicole St. Aubin, Broker Associate
Realty Masters of FL~ #1 in Pensacola Rentals!
4400 Bayou Blvd. #58B, Pensacola, FL 32503
Call us at (850) 473-3983

Over 45 Pensacola Rental Homes at www.PensacolaRealtyMasters.com

Revive your bathroom quickly, easily and affordably



Remodeling projects have increased in popularity over the past few years as homeowners have decided to improve on what they have, rather than take a risk in the real estate market. Whether you're hoping to sell your home or create a more enjoyable living space, tackle home improvement projects that make a big impact and add value.



One of the top return-on-investment remodeling projects is updating a bathroom. Bathroom updates even outweigh kitchen projects in terms of getting back what you spend, according to CNN Money. And, if you take a cost-conscious approach and do the project yourself, your investment return will be even better. Renting tools is a key way you can cut costs and bring new life into your bathroom.

There are plenty of remodeling tasks that are easily accomplished by renting tools, versus the cost of buying expensive tools or hiring someone else to do the work. Visit www.rentalhq.com to find an American Rental Association member rental store in your area.

Bring new life to your bath with these tips:
  • Replace old tile. Outdated tile is a common problem that makes bathrooms look old. Replacing it with fresh new tile that is in style will instantly give the room a modern look. Tiling is a DIY project that anyone can tackle, with the right tools. Rent the necessary items like a tile stripper, a tile saw and a mortar mixer to keep your project costs down.


Revive%20your%20bathroom%20quickly%2C%20easily%20and%20affordably Refresh the ceiling. Ceilings can become dingy over time, and you might not suspect them as the culprit that's making your room feel dull. You'll notice a dramatic change if you liven it up with fresh new texture and paint. Texture sprayers are an unusual tool for most DIY warriors to own, but you can easily rent one to make the job quick and inexpensive.
  • Add personality with paint. Another simple fix that can be done is adding a new paint color. It's an easy, quick, and cheap project and can totally change the look and feel of the room. Opt for one of your favorite colors or scour interior design websites and magazines to find a trendy color that gets your attention.
  • Change hardware. Some faucets and cabinet hardware clearly show their decade of origin. Switching out old hardware is relatively simple and a great way to make a dramatic change in the look of your room.


These projects set the stage for creating a new feel for your bathroom. Make the revived space a reality by choosing a decorating theme and accessories that complement it. Items like window treatments, throw rugs, and wall art make the room feel more complete and stylish. To get your project started, visit www.rentalhq.com.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dining outdoors? Tips for keeping food safe and delicious





The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) offers some advice for safely handling food when you're dining outdoors this summer:



Purchasing



Warm weather brings a bounty of fresh produce, and a trip to the local farmers market can make a nice addition to your outdoor meal. Food safety starts in the field. It's important to get to know the growers selling produce at your local farm stand, and ask about their farming practices. How do they keep their products free from bacterial pathogens and other contaminants? Farmers may also have great tips for storing produce, testing for ripeness and even ways to prepare the fruits and veggies they sell.



IFT spokesperson and food safety expert, Don Schaffner, PhD, says that when you're purchasing produce, make sure it's free of mold, bruises or blemishes where bacterial pathogens can grow. Many grocery stores offer freshly cut, packaged produce for customers seeking nutritious convenience foods. Freshly cut vegetables and fruit need proper temperature control to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause foodborne illness.



Prepping



Before preparing food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure all prep utensils such as cutting boards, dishes and countertops are clean before preparing each food item.



Dirt, dust and pathogenic microbes can linger on produce. It's important to wash fresh produce before consuming it. The only exception is are pre-bagged salads and leafy greens, as experts advise that additional washing of ready-to-eat green salads is not likely to enhance safety. Thoroughly washing in cold water will suffice for most fruits and vegetables, but some types of produce require special handling. Wash spinach or salad greens in a bowl of water and rinse them gently to remove dirt and other contaminants. -



Give extra attention to fruits with stems, such as apples, pears and peaches. You may be tempted to forego washing fruit with a rind, since you won't be eating the rind. But, it's still important to wash oranges, avocados, melons, cantaloupe, etc. - pathogens can linger in unwashed crevices and transfer to your hands or the knife you use to cut the fruit. In addition, wash items you'll peel - such as carrots and cucumbers - for the same reason.



Grilling



If you'll be grilling at home, remember to always marinate meat in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. Discard any extra marinade that's touched raw meat.



Grill food thoroughly, using a thermometer to ensure the proper internal temperature: 145 F for steaks and fish, 160 F for pork, hot dogs and hamburgers, and 165 F for poultry. Keep finished meats hot until you serve by moving them to the side of the grill rack, away from the coals or highest flame on your gas grill. Avoid cross contamination by using separate serving plates and utensils for different meats and vegetables.



If you'll be grilling away from home - in a park, tailgating at a sporting event or on a camping trip - consider purchasing pre-formed patties for burgers and pre-cut poultry. This minimizes the amount of handling meat requires and can help minimize the risk of bacteria and cross contamination.



Transporting



A picnic in the park can be great fun for everyone, but it's important to assure your food arrives safely along with your family and guests. Follow smart food packing guidelines. Keep meats, including lunch meats and raw meats, cheeses and condiments cold in insulated, soft-sided bags or coolers with freezer gel packs.



Food needs to be stored at 40 F or colder to reduce the risk of pathogen growth, so limit the number of times you open the cooler. Never allow food to sit for more than two hours at temperatures below 90 F, and no more than an hour when temperatures exceed 90 F. Throw away food that's been sitting out too long.



Securely package raw meat, seafood and poultry to ensure the juices don't contaminate other foods. Pack only the amount of perishable food that you think will be eaten. Beverages and perishable foods should travel in separate containers and coolers, especially if you'll be transporting raw meat.



When it's time to go home, don't reuse packaging material that has touched raw meats or meat juices. Make sure perishable leftovers stay cold on the trip home. Avoid taking home uncooked leftovers.