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Pet Friendly House

Ideas to Make Your House Pet Friendly


 

home for sale

For many, bringing a pet home is the same as bringing home new family. Pets easily find their way in our hearts with their playful antics and friendly companionship. When you first bring a new pet into your home it is imperative that you are willing to make some adjustments to your living space. This article is aimed at giving hints for all who have pets or will have pets in their home. Preparing your home and yard for your new pet is important to their well being and your ease of mind. The focus will be discussing animals that are out most of the time, like cats and dogs, that are more likely to get into some mischievous fun. However, many of these tips and hints will work for most of the four legged friends we bring into our home. Most of the tips will seem like common sense, however, when the new pet is roaming around it may slip our mind to check for common place hazards. Many times we take for granted that things are safe or wouldn't interest animals. However the puppy running down the hall with a roll of toilet paper would beg to differ!

So let's get your home and yard ready so it is safe for your pets (and also not a free going playground waiting for destruction and mayhem)!

Part I: Preparing Your Home

When bringing a new pet to the home the last thing anyone wants to think about is cleaning and proofing their home. However, taking a little time to do so will prevent headaches and possible heartaches. It will keep your pet, prized possessions and your sanity intact. This is true whether you are bringing home a new pet or adjusting an older one to a new home. Or, perhaps, you find your self in the unfortunate situation of losing possessions to a pet who has never had boundaries set up in your home. Whatever your reason, these tips will help proof your home for the new, old and mischievous pets in your life.

Think Below the Knees 
Get down on all fours and look around at the same level as your pet. There is a whole other world down at their viewpoint!

  • Think low! Remove objects on low shelves, coffee tables, and anywhere else that is easy access. Anything destructible, such as paper, books, anything made of cloth (i.e. laundry). It is much easier to 'chew train' a pet if they do not learn a bad habit of "where to look" for destructible goodies when you aren't looking.
  • Also think about food and snacks. Don't leave pop cans, candy wrappers, crumbs or anything else on a low counter. Leaving out these delicious tidbits can easily lead to "counter surfing".
  • Since kittens and ferrets may actually have the ability to walk on your counters, make certain to keep an eye on them when cooking. You may have food on the counter and the stove burners on - both can be dangerous. If you are a messy chef you may have a very happy kitty, but it could be dangerous if you don't keep an eye on them!
  • Speaking of food and snacks, make sure if you have smaller pets, like mice, that they are out of reach to your new puppy or kitten. Don't forget your fish - sometimes the idea that the aquarium is invincible can be tested.
  • Smokers - do not leave cigarette butts where pets may reach them. If eaten it can lead to nicotine poisoning and the filters aren't good on the digestive system.
  • Children's toys can be great fun for pets too! Make sure your kids realize they may loose their toy if it is left out and unattended. Also many toys may have small parts or can be easily broken into small parts by your pet which can be dangerous.
  • Overall keep you place picked up of daily messes. For example: Newspaper whether read or not is still fun to shred and eat. (Same goes for the mail!) Just got home from shopping? Put away the bags! Plastic bags can be either chewed and swallowed (pups) or can suffocate some pets accidentally (kittens & ferrets).
  • Sometimes pets will eat something that will require surgery to remove. Small objects to watch out for include rubber bands, balloons, beads, buttons, Q-tips, sewing needles, thread, staples, string, pantyhose and coins - to name a few!
  • Medication should never be left around the house. Make sure it is secure - just like with children!
  • Keep heating vents covered. Many pets love to snuggle up to these and you don't want your pet falling in.
  • Smaller pets like ferrets should be blocked off from holes and other hideaways - you don't want them to find a comfy spot and not come out! Also be certain to check under recliners before moving them as your pet may find it a nice place to hide out.
  • Plants should be moved to higher ground or blocked. Watch out for vine plants that your pet might grab and bring the whole thing down. * Some household plants are poisonous to pets. Here are a few: aloe vera, amaryllis, caladium, holly berries, lilies, mistletoe, mums, and poinsettias. For a complete listing check out the Poisonous Plants resource links.

Playtime!
Unless they are sleeping, or eating, they are playing!! Some tips to make this non-stop action fun and safe for both of you!

  • Keep an eye on your pet at play with certain toys. Some toys don't hold up to your pets hunting prowess and become shredded in no time. Toys with squeakers are fun but many pets will work hard to remove them if your not watching. Just keep in mind if you are in the other room, you may never see them devour their cut up prey! A solution would be have toys for when you can see them and more durable toys for when they are in the yard, other room, or you are not at home.
  • Also watch older toys. If they don't fall apart they may actually be warn into sharp edges, don't let your pet play with damaged toys, they can cut themselves easily. Look before you step when playing with all our small pets. Try this pattern "Turn, Look, Step"
  • Some small animals such as rabbits are chewers and it normal to give them various chew toys such as: Cardboard boxes, empty oatmeal containers, bird toys, cardboard paper towel rolls, things to shred. Try to keep them away from your wooden furniture - they love wood! Instead wood sticks are available at pet stores.

Road Blocks
If they can't reach it, they can't eat it, scratch it, or all out destroy it!

  • Don't forget the garbage! Take the garbage outside or make sure you can close it away in a closet/room where pets cannot reach it. Not only will they make a mess rifling through all the goodies they can also hurt themselves if there are any rough objects they rifle through.
  • Keep some rooms closed. It is perfectly reasonable for there to be certain rooms that pets may not visit unless supervised. One obvious choice would be the bathroom (remember that puppy running down the hall with toilet paper - cute - but after the 20th time said pup turns from cutie to lil'-demon). If you don't have a door to a particular area look into getting a child gate or blocking it off with other materials. If you have a mixture of pets you may not want them to be able to access certain areas of each others space. A prime example is keeping kitty litter from dogs, some seem to find the "deposits" tasty snacks. In this instance you can set up a roadblock for the dog that the cat can still easily climb over.
  • If your pet is especially good with its nose or paws you may want to get childproof latches. They will work well to keep them out of lower cabinets in your home.
  • Keep the lid down on the toilet, especially if you use strong cleaners. Small, curious pets may fall in and pets taking a drink can be poisoned by cleaners - some of them even contain anti-freeze!
  • Speaking of cleaners, here are some examples of cleaners that are really dangerous to your pets (to name a few!): ammonia, bleach, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, rat/bug poison.
  • Keep electric cords out of reach or secure them to baseboards. When first home keep an eye on where your pet is at all times. Some may try chewing on the cords. You can deter this with a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple", a mix of vinegar and water, or hot sauce. Or even better, block access to them altogether.
  • Speaking of cords, watch those drapery cords as well. Tie them up so all your window treatments aren't pulled to the ground.
  • Many animals are attracted to fire. The light of a candle or the heat of a fireplace will peak their interest. Make sure candles are never left unattended. For the fireplace make sure Fluffy knows just how close they are allowed to get for a good snooze - warm is good, singed is bad.
  • Keep the upstairs windows and any cellar doors shut. Young pets are just like children with their curiosity but can easily misstep and fall.
  • Be careful when working in the garage. It is best to keep them out and make sure you clean up thoroughly! Such toxins like anti-freeze are very lethal to pets - a drop the size of a dime can be lethal! (You hear a lot about anti-freeze, not only is a small amount incredibly lethal, anti-freeze is also sweet smelling and tasting to pets - they will seek it out!!)
  • Watch our for open dresser drawers, closets and other nice dark places, kittens are especially curious and many are drawn to these make-shift dens. Have you heard about the kitten jumping in the dryer? Its not a urban legend, be alert and check before you shut the door.
  • Another warm place kittens like to snuggle is on a car engine. If your kitten has access to your car (or the neighborhood cat for that matter) it may help pound on the hood of your car and honk you horn. If you don't want to do this every day try to limit access to your car.
  • One of my favorite words of advice when watching out for the sleeping kitten: "Locate your kitten before you sit down on the sofa or use the recliner." (Of course, depending on your house rules, that may go for your other pets too!)

Table Manners
Don't feed table scraps to your pets. Many times people don't realize that some foods okay for us can be toxic or hard on the system for animals.

Some foods to be aware of: Alcohol, Chicken & Turkey Bones, Nutmeg, Apples (stems & seeds), Chocolate, Onion Apricots (seeds), Coffee (grinds & beans), Peaches (seeds),  Avocados, Dairy Products (large amounts), Pears, Baking Powder, Fatty Foods, Plums,  Baking Soda, Garlic, Potatoes (peelings & green,) Broccoli (large amounts, )Grapes, Raisins, Cherries (stems & seeds), Macadamia Nuts, Yeast, **Tobacco, although not a food, ingestion can be poisonous

Holiday Playground
The holidays are fun for everyone - including your pets!

  • Decorations should be up high or in rooms that pets have limited access.
  • Any holiday lights should be treated the same as other electrical cords. Get it out of the way or secured so your pets don't accidentally trip over them. Also keep a lookout and make sure they do not chew on them; again a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple" will work.
  • Other holiday items to keep from you pets include: metal ornament hooks, popcorn strands, tinsel, angel hair (it is spun glass), and decorative artificial snow or tree flocking - to name a few.
  • Don't forget that holiday plants like holly berries, mistletoe, and poinsettias are poisonous!
  • Fourth of July fireworks are fun for us but many pets find all the racket frightening. One suggestion is to have treats nearby and give them treats whenever there is "Boom!" so they associate the noise with happier things (mostly used for dogs). Another thing to keep in mind if you are leaving for the festivities, don't leave pets alone out in the backyard. They may panic and do things they normally wouldn't do like digging their way out!
  • Many holidays include house guests that are not familiar with your pet or household rules. After introducing your guest to your pet, make certain you let your guests know not to leave doors open, feed table scraps or any other important household rules. If there are a lot of guests you may want to arrange a quiet place for your pet to retreat.

Home Alone
What do they do when you leave the home? Preferably it doesn't involve eating the couch!

  • Before you leave for a long day at work it is important your pet is calm. For dogs a good walk in the morning may be necessary. For cats a little play time will help with bonus energy. Teach your pet tricks and have them perform for you before you head out. Our pets sleep more then we do and getting rid of morning energy will help them settle for a nap while your out earning money to spend on them.
  • If you have a really active breed you may want to look into a dog daycare or walking service for a couple days out of the week. Taking your dog to a pet daycare is like taking them to camp. They get to romp with other dogs and usually come home tired and ready for a good night sleep. Many find that a few days out of the week is enough to hold them over on the days in-between.
  • Crates can be lifesaver when you are gone. If you have pet that is still undergoing training and is not sure of all the rules, a crate or restricted room is a must.

Cautionary tale on the restricted room - we placed one of our pups in a room in our house as we went out to get a bite to eat. There was no furniture in the room except for her crate with her toys. When we came back she had climbed the crate and chewed the metal blinds on the window and also proceeded to dig up part of the carpet!

Part II: Preparing

Your yard is fun place for you and your pet to enjoy the outdoors. Maintaining your yard for your pet is relatively easy. There are some hazards that you will want to watch for and prevent. Not all of your pets may enjoy your yard to its fullest, some may stay in pens or restricted kennel/runs. The tips below address pets that have more freedom. These pets roam a fenced backyard or around the perimeter of your house (i.e. Dogs & Cats). In addition to proofing tips we offer some ideas about making your yard more enjoyable. Sometimes you may have a small space or areas you really don't want Fido to excavate. Read on for a checklist of ways to make your yard safe and entertaining for your pets.

Yard Maintenance
When maintaining your yard you want to keep your pets in mind.

  • When working on the yard keep pets indoors. Our dogs like to chase the lawnmower - bad idea - so they now watch from inside. Some pets may be just the opposite and try either to attack the mower or try to escape in a panic - equally bad idea. Besides the lawnmowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and other loud tools should not be used when pets are around.
  • Be careful with other tools such as shovels, rakes, spades, etc. Some pets may try to "help" you do the yard work and can inadvertently be struck by these items.
  • Review the chemicals you use on your yard. Weed killers, bug killers/bait and other chemicals can be poisonous to your pets as well. Some you may still be able to use, however, you may need to let the yard sit for x amount of hours before letting your pets back out. Symptoms of poisoning usually include: vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes convulsions or unconsciousness.
  • Keep your yard clean of waste. Especially with puppies, they can get in the habit of eating their waste. Besides, you will both enjoy your yard much better if it is not covered in poo mines! For cats you should have an outdoor litter box. This will be easier to clean and prevent the cat from laying waste to your (or your neighbor's) flowerbeds.
  • Remove any ladders, tools or stacked piles (i.e. wood), etc. that young pets may try to climb or knock over. If you do keep the stacks in your yard, check that they are secure and cannot roll onto your pet. Consider carefully what you plant in your yard. Plants that can cause complications include: Rhododendron, Japanese Yew, Lilly of the Valley, Peach and Cherry Trees (pits) to name a few. See our links to Poisonous Plants for more details.
  • You may want to try to keep your yard clear of the bee family by getting rid of nests on your property. Your dog cannot escape bees flying through the yard, but cutting down their numbers may help. All dogs are naturally allergic to bee stings. Depending on the location of the sting they may have to visit the vet for medication. If it is on the mouth/head it can lead to swelling and difficulty breathing.

The Kingdom 
Your pets will make your yard into their own domain. Make sure their kingdom is safe and enjoyable. 

  • Check the fence of the yard for holes or gaps that may be an easy escape. Make sure your gates are locked and secured and guests and children know to do so as well.
  • It is best not to have any young pets around water unattended. If you have a pool or pond make sure to watch them around this area carefully. Some trainers even suggest teaching pets how to get out of the pool or pond early on, sort of a "Swimming 101" for the pet in case they get into trouble when your back is turned. If your pet does get into a pool, make sure they get a bath so none of the harsh chemicals can effect their skin and coat.
  • Most pets are sun lovers. If your pet likes to "sunbathe" keep an eye that they don't get too hot. Signs of heat exhaustion include: restlessness, panting excessively and drooling. The worst case scenario is the pet collapsing and eventually falling into a coma. To counter it, wrap them in a damp cool (not cold) towel and go to your vet or animal hospital. In hot weather keep plenty of water. Refresh and refill it often. If you keep food outside as well make sure it does not sit too long. The heat may cause it to spoil and flies may contaminate it.
  • Make sure you have shade in your yard. You may even want to add a structure such as a doghouse for your pup to rest
  • Ask your vet to recommend a flea & tick prevention plan right for your pet. Depending on how much your pet is outside, where it goes, etc. you may need more preventive tools. It is imperative you ask your vet as many medicinal solutions are measured by your pets size, weight, age, etc.
  • Your pet may like to make or find a burrow to rest in. Block off crawl spaces under sheds or decks. You don't want them to get trapped or hurt by any debris you cannot see underneath.

Ideas for your Pet Friendly
Yard Below are just a few ideas of things you may do to improve your yard for your pet.

  • Placing markers around your yard for your dog to potty on or for your cat to scratch on can help save some of your other trees. Start by blocking the trees you want to save and place toys or treats by the markers you want them to use. Eventually you can train you pet to have a habitual like for that particular log(s)!
  • Prepare digging spots for your pets. For your dog it can be a small area of dirt and sand where you keep toys to encourage him to be there. For cats you can have one container/pot with catnip or another enticement. By keeping them interested in their designated digging spot they will learn to have fun there and leave the rest of your yard alone (most of the time!).
  • If you don't want your dog in your flower bed try a wooden or stone fence. Some dogs will learn to stay out of the area due to the road block, however you may need to supplement the roadblocks with additional training.
  • Dogs are going to do their rounds around "their" territory. This will leave worn paths in the grass. You may want to lay a nice stone path on their route to beautify it.
  • Continuing with a dogs tendency to make paths, for smaller yards you can make a maze path for them. Using placing flowerbeds and other structures you can create a winding route for them for their territorial routine.

Conclusion

Pets are a wonderful addition to the family and home. Taking time to proof your house and yard will make both of your lives a lot easier. It may seem daunting at first that there are so many things to do for or keep away from your pets. However, after a while your pets will learn the house rules. You may even be able to reclaim certain areas of the house as your pet matures and understands not to destroy your things. For example, our dogs don't touch the laundry anymore and we can leave books on low shelves without them getting even a sniff of interest. You will find many of the hazards you watch for you will begin to do so naturally. Eventually you won't even realize your new habits. It is simply part of the lifestyle change that happens as it is always an adjustment to bring animals into our home. Just know that you can be pro-active, you'll have far fewer headaches in the long run and in the end you will have great company and lots of fun!

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House of the Future

Smart Homes and Integrating Technology


home for saleWhat better way to open the new year with a look at the future. In particular the technology and innovation behind homes of the future. There is no doubt that as technology changes so many aspects of our lives it will soon also effect our personal sanctuary. Last year we looked at how computers were changing how we watched television. Other simple pastimes such as reading are also affected by computers and software notebooks that change our libraries. Music collections can now be slimmed down from plastic CD to bits of data on our computer. But what about the home structure itself? How will new technology effect how we use energy, water, communications and the natural environment surrounding the home? What might the homes of the future look like? Below we take a look at some of the more fast approaching changes to residential buildings that we might see take hold in the next few years.

Homes with a Brain - The new smart homes integrate new technology while keeping flexible for future innovations. A central command for everything from lights, security, and temperature control to entertainment features such as TVs, computers, and music are all connected to one central powerhouse that can be accessed from anywhere in the home. Programming options will allow you to set the home to various tasks based on the time of day. Imagine waking as the blinds open to the sun in your room, the kids are all woken for school by the house using lights and/or radio alarms, the coffee is already brewed and the security system turns off the evening protections so you don't set it off as you grab your morning paper. At the end of your day, the house checks that all the lights are off for you, all the doors and windows are locked, the security system is on, and maybe the refrigerator tallies its contents so it can remind you in the morning that you are running low on milk.

  1. Automated Climate CoHome Inspectors ntrol - Homeowners with newer heating and cooling systems already know the benefit of automated temperature control. Currently the system can check the temperature and adjust to the ideal climate you preprogrammed. In the future, these systems will be even smarter. Look for future heating and cooling systems to respond to more than just temperature. They will also adjust according to sunlight and wind - perhaps your shades will automatically close against a setting sun. Climate control will also become easier by zone or area. You can control heating to the bedrooms at night in the winter while balancing the rest of the house so you are not paying to heat empty rooms.
  2. The Efficient "Big Brother" - Smart homes of the future will help us monitor how we use energy and resources. With a fully integrated home, families can examine how they are using and wasting energy, water, etc. They can then easily determine where they can make changes to make their homes more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
  3. Smart Appliances - These futuristic appliances can tell when your dishes are clean and will stop washing automatically. Your laundry will also only run until the rinse water is clean which will moderate water use and shorten cleaning time. Or better yet, instead of running the whole timed 60 minutes, the dryer will stop as soon as your clothes are dry.

Solar Energy - Recent oil prices and environmental concerns have created a resurge in the use of solar power. The new solar panels are not the same ones from the 70s. Instead, new solar panels on the market collect more photovolatic energy and are easier to install. Many homes are already including a few solar panels on the roof to offset energy costs. Setting the panels at the right slop towards where the house receives the most sun exposure is key. Even in a sunny state like California, consumers should realistically expect only a 50-75% savings at this time. But this is still substantial! Just imagine, as technology improves, so will our ability to use the sun's energy.

Wind Energy - Harnessing wind energy for a single urban residence is in a much more experimental/infancy stage than solar energy. But in the future, wind energy may help offset your energy costs just as much. Traditionally, wind power has been on a large scale and usually used rurally because the size of the turbines. But there are innovative thinkers already creating compact wind turbines for the urban resident. A recent example is the Clarian Jellyfish that is no more obstructive than a TV antenna on the roof.

Wireless Energy - Various forms of wireless energy are still under experimentation. Some are already proven to work in models - such as the WiTricity created by MIT Professor Marin Soljacic. In the future, using electromagnetic induction, microwaves or even lasers, energy may be transferred without the use of wires. In cases such as electromagnetic induction, the transmitting energy is reportedly safe to humans as energy moves from the power source to the receiver at a resonant frequency that matches each other but not other items in the environment. At this point the idea is that homes will still be connected to the city power grid, but all the devices in the home would be powered without wires. Imagine never having to charge your cell phone again or hanging a television on the wall without any wires. To read a bit more, click here.

Phones - Will your home in the future have a standard phone line? Many customers have been dropping phone line use in favor of wireless options - in fact, last year it was estimated that one in every five homes only uses wireless phones.* In addition, homes are now using more Internet phone and communication options such as video conferencing. Homes in the future may not be built with a standard phone line as more users switch to an IP based or wireless phone plan. Already many businesses are cutting costs by either not upgrading or not installing these phone lines for reconstruction or new construction projects. Starting with the business sector first, it may only be a matter of time when the phone line becomes optional for new homes.

Security - Many of the gadgets from the movies are now a reality for the everyday consumer. It is becoming easier to set up cameras around your home that you can access from any computer on a secured site. Add to this new electronic locks that allow you to lock/unlock your home online - perhaps you forgot to lock the doors this morning but can now do so from work or you want to let your neighbor in to bring in the paper while you're on vacation. And yes, these new locks will let you track which doors are opened, when and, in the future, by whom. You can already get fingerprint readers that will limit access to computers and/or your home. Some of the new model homes also include iris scans that make keys almost unnecessary.

Space - In the cities our available living space can be limited and will be even more so in the future. For urban living, therefore, it makes sense that our living spaces take on multiple functions. Tucking away what is not in use and creating efficient use of space is a common element many urban homes are adopting. For example, compact, built-in furniture features can help turn a living room into a bedroom or dining room. Perhaps suburban and even some rural homes will adopt some of these innovations as they give evidence of their cost effectiveness. Homebuyers may use urban designs to lower energy bills and the cost of building or remodeling a home. However, large homes will not disappear overnight and design will not change in most of the country until these slim urban concept designs prove their efficiency without sacrificing comfort.

Plants - Plants can help make a room more appealing and complete. In the future, plants may also be used to facilitate cleaner air in the home or to help clean waste water. Plants already can act like a carbon filter and help in taking gases such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde out of the air.* Maybe start this today and get a spider plant which is reported to work on both of these gasses. Currently plants may also be used around the home to help slow chemicals from storm runoff, safely adsorbing chemicals and creating clean waste. In the future, as more ways to treat water through phytoremediation are developed, this technology may become more accessible and plants may take a greater role in helping remove toxins from the water coming in and out of our homes.

Sprinklers - Okay, so not as impressive as say wireless energy, but the new sprinkler systems are still pretty neat - and cost effective. New systems allow for thinking sprinkler systems that will water the lawn only as needed. Set to read the amount of rain already received - you won't see automated sprinklers on during a rainstorm again!

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Selling your Home? Use these tips!

Increase the curb appeal of any house


Clean up the outside.

  • Curb appeal is the first impression of your house. Keeping the grass cut and the area tidy will help make a great first impression.
  • Paint or wash the exterior of the house (including window casings, shutters, and doors).
  • Wash the windows inside and out.
  • Check the gutters and chimney.

Increase The Curb Appeal Of Any House. Simple, low-cost curb appeal and house makeover improvements that anyone can do in a weekend. Or, there are many landscaping companies that can help with the job if time is an issue.

Touch up the interior.

  • Put a fresh coat of paint in the most used areas of the home. This will clean as well as brighten up the rooms.
  • Wash the walls where paint is not appropriate (i.e. wall paper, paneling).
  • Wash all floors and bathroom tiles.
  • Shampoo dirty carpets.
  • Get rid of clutter. Clean out your closets, garage, basement, and attic. Use shelf storage if necessary.
  • Replace air filters to help keep the dust down.

Replace bathroom and kitchen fixtures that are worn or leaking.

  • People will notice a leaking or worn-out faucet. By replacing these items, you will give a new look to the room.
  • Clean under the sinks. If there are any leaks, fix them. Then clean up the damage using contact paper or paint.

Home Improvement Contractor. Find and research local contractors, and get free no obligation quotes on your home improvement projects.

Get rid of any bad smells in your home.

  • Pay attention to pet or cigarette odors.
  • Place scented potpourri around the house.
  • On the day you're expecting a potential buyer, pop a batch of frozen cinnamon rolls, home-made bread, or an apple pie into the oven for a great aroma.

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Clean to green

Spring clean your way to the ultimate garage sale


The days are longer, the temperatures are becoming pleasant and our energy levels are up as we begin to stretch out of our winter hibernation - spring is here! Time to harness some of the new energy and get the spring cleaning out of the way. Although some demigods may have immaculate households and not heed this tradition, most of us do have a bit (or more) of collected clutter and dust around the home. Spring cleaning is a great opportunity to remove dust, mold, toxins and clutter from our households. And as we clean, we notice a pile emerge of unused and unwanted "stuff." This gathered hoard of old décor, books, electronics and exercise gadgets should not be squirreled away for another year! Instead, incorporate into your spring cleaning the determination to get this "stuff" out the door through a garage sale (real or virtual) or off to charity.

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning for most households is a family tradition. According to the contributors to Wikipedia, evidence of spring cleaning can be seen in ancient civilizations - from the Jewish tradition of cleaning the house before Passover to the Iranian "khooneh tekouni" or "shaking the house." Many Americans grew up in households where there was a yearly purge of dust and "bad air" from the winter months. This too comes from earlier times when fires of coal and wood were the primary source of heat and rural households sometimes bundled down with the livestock indoors. For this reason, some argue that spring cleaning is not a necessity with our modern furnaces, solid windows and cleaner spaces. Consider this a time then to do the very best cleaning of all your living spaces, appliances and work areas. We all skimp on cleaning out the fridge or stove, now is the time to hit these areas thoroughly. Below we have listed some common items to clean during this sweep. For a more detailed list to help on your cleaning, we have also provided a "Spring Cleaning Checklist."

Common Spring Cleaning Tasks:

Dust ceilings, walls, corners, light fixtures, base boards, vents, and furniture

Wipe down walls, light-switches, outlets, doorknobs and handles

Clean blinds, curtains, drapes, window sills and windows

Clean doormats, bathmats, and area rugs

Shampoo the carpets

Clean the hardwoods and vinyl

Dust and wipe down furniture, cabinets, shelves and countertops

Clear the clutter and get items back where they belong

Consider items for a garage sale, charity run, or dare to think it - re-gift it!

Remember to click here for a detailed Spring Cleaning Checklist! WORD | PDF

Other important items (while your at it):

  • Update important documents in safe or safety deposit box
  • Update emergency plans and phone trees
  • Review emergency plans with family members
  • Review all medications in your household for expirations
  • Review first aid kits - these don't last forever and you may need to replace some items or the whole kit Also review any other emergency kits
  • Test and change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Garage Sale

Now that you have cleaned your house, you have gathered "stuff" that you no longer use, need or want. Your gathered hoard of goodies will probably include:

  • Unwanted décor
  • CDs / DVDs / Games
  • Books
  • Dishes / Glasses / Cups
  • Kitchen Gadgets/Small Appliances
  • Exercise Gadgets
  • Craft Goods
  • Small Electronic Devices

Now what?

Getting ready for a garage sale can be a daunting task and should be handled with the same planning and care you would give to a major event - just try to keep it fun - you're planning for a big block party where you get to meet your neighbors and make some money! Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Take inventory of your gathered hoard: :Literally list the items as you place them in boxes/bags until the weather is nice for the sale. This will help you organize items. It is very helpful if you begin this process during your spring cleaning.
  2. Consider items for charity: If you have some highly valued items, such as gently warn winter coats or clothing, consider giving some of these items to charity. You may try to sell most items and then give the leftovers to charity. However, don't use your local charity as a dump - be realistic and keep only usable items for these organizations.
  3. Set a date: Choose a day where you can rest well the night before and commit your full energy the day of the event. Keep the big day reasonable - if you are not a morning person - don't open a garage sale at 8am. With the right advertising you should be able to set your hours and stick to them.
  4. Be firm on your choices: If you haven't used an item in a year, then it is a very good chance you won't use it again. Let go of any emotional attachments to items - even if you mother gave you that clock you never use you can let it go. Instead, keep the more personalized items like photos or something handmade. Every gift is not a treasure! Remember - it was the thought that counted - not the unworn tie!
  5. Know the going rate: Review other garage sales in your area to see how similar items are being priced. Check online for prices on trade sites such as eBay.
  6. Showcase your items: Hang clothes, put small items in baggies, etc. Keeping your selection clean and neat will help buyers decide quickly. Also, label all of your prices. One box of "10 cents each" may be okay, but try to keep most items clearly priced and labeled.
  7. Advertise and make signs: These days advertising a garage sale is not only done in the paper. You can post announcements to online localized sites such as Craigslist and even most Penny Savers have an online option as well. When you make your signs keep them clear, big and simple. Make certain to take them down as soon as your sale is over.
  8. Change from the bank: Before the big day make sure to get some change for the cashbox. Decide beforehand if you will accept a checks and under what conditions or for which particular items.
  9. Prep your sale table: Besides your cashbox, prep your sale table with bags, newspaper to wrap fragile items, paper and pens, maybe a few good munchies and some items for you to do during any slow lulls.

Online Garage Sale

Now perhaps you have items left over from your garage sale or prefer to sell from the comfort at your computer desk at your own pace. Just keep in mind that selling items online will require more time as you write descriptions, place photos and run to the post office. If you have the patience or enjoy the idea of a virtual garage sale, these sites will help you get your unwanted items moving out the door! Amazon Marketplace: If you are a bit of a bibliophile and need to thin your collection, the

Amazon Marketplace can be a great option to sell used books, CDs, DVDs and more. Keep in mind that to list is free, but there are fees when an item sells. Considered more user-friendly than similar sites, it is worthwhile to check it out. http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=1161232

BarterBee.com: A site specifically geared towards recycling CDs, DVDs and computer or consol games between households. Once you sign up for a membership, you list your used items for sale. Sell items to get points. You can then use those points to buy other CDs, DVDs or games that you want to try out. Of course you wouldn't use this site to make cash - points are used for like items. http://www.barterbee.com/

Craigslist: An online mismatch of services, used goods and announcements by city location. Here you may be able to find used items cheap. It can be the ordinary like used furniture to the not so common. For example, I once found someone who had new pavers left over from a patio project that they were willing to sell at a discount just to get them off their lawn. You may also be able to find cheap services such as yard work. However, users beware, there are no regulations on this site and you should take precautions when working with anyone on this list. This site definitely has a mixed history of great successes and terrible wrongs. Be careful. http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites

eBAY: One of the most popular and well known online auction stops, eBay has been around since 1995. Users have the ability to rank other users for the ease of trade transactions. Probably the biggest garage sale on the internet. http://www.ebay.com/

Etsy: Buy and sell handmade items - a great source for crafters and home artisans of all medias. This site allows you to sell your talented pieces or purchase others for less than gallery prices. http://www.etsy.com/

JunkDepot: An online clearing house where you can list your items for sale. To list is $.99 per item and there is a 6 month limit to your posting. http://www.junkdepot.com/

Oodle Classifieds: An online classified search machine that searches 80,000 sources. You can also post your classified adds as well. http://www.oodle.com/

Sell.com: Another online classified site that allows you to list items for sale - a basic add is free and there are no transaction fees once an item sells. You can get a few more bells and whistles for a cost. http://www.sell.com/

Silkfair: Another online trade site that strives to make your life easier with fewer fees and an easy to use interface. A good alternative to check out if interested in selling or buying items online. http://www.silkfair.com/

SwapThing: This site allows for consumers to trade and barter items or services. There is also the option to do flat out sales. Unlike an auction site, you can barter privately and do not have to list items for auction. You enter what you want and it will match you with others who have it available. http://www.swapthing.com/home/index.jsp

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Paint-On Insulation: Is It Truly Green

Winter is here and if that utility bill is high you are probably already troubleshooting problem areas of your home


Winter is here, and if that utility bill is high, you are probably already troubleshooting problem areas of your home. One of largest contributors to drafty rooms is a lack of insulation. Insulation is designed to stop air passage through ceilings, walls, and the floor. The intention is to keep the right air where you want it in each season. Obviously, the windows and heating source are also important to maintaining an overall energy efficient program, but having the right insulation is a key factor.

In existing homes, it can be difficult to go back and insulate after the fact. If attic space allows, you can blow-in insulation. Under-floors and in-between walls can be difficult as well. Even with your best efforts, there is bound to be some location that is hard to reach. What if you had a product that you could apply from the exterior?

Sound a bit like science-fiction? SFGate highlighted the ingenious concept of Nansulate this past November. It is a paint-on insulation that suspends specially engineered particles with low-conductivity in an acrylic base. The particles are water-resistant, making the paint a weapon against mold and mildew. Unlike traditional fiberglass insulations, this new product is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

So how green is this product? The company promotes it as a major breakthrough in green endeavors. Not only does it contribute to creating more energy efficient homes, but they also make this statement regarding the safety of the ingredients: "Nansulate® coatings contain none of the ingredients contained on the EPA listing as Class I or Class II Ozone Depleting Substances, nor do they contain any ingredients on the listing for Global Warming Potential (GWP) that are non-ozone-depleting." The company is anxious to become accepted into the green marketplace. "We are pleased to see that our Nansulate coatings are becoming a brand name in the sector of Green Nanotechnology," stated Francesca Crolley, VP Operations & Marketing. (Nano Science and Technology Institute)

Sounds like a pretty good idea, but is it affordable to the average homeowner? Surprisingly, it is actually quite affordable. At $66 for 150 sqft of coverage, it is an inexpensive alternative to other forms of insulation. Especially if you take into account the ability to avoid opening up walls or crawling under houses. The paint can be applied with a brush, sprayer, or roller. It is applied to walls, windows, pipes, and water heaters, and can even be applied over existing paint.

Because this is a fairly new product and its composition is so different from traditional insulation materials, it is hard to do a straight-across-the-board comparison between the two. So far, however, those who have already used it report a 20-40% savings on their utility bills.

A relatively new product, the company is working hard to bring awareness to its presence. I, like many, was initially skeptical. It sounds a bit too easy to be effective. They offer several case studies to promote its efficiency, but each of us will probably have to try it firsthand before we are believers. It definitely sounds like it is worth trying-out. Fairly easy to install, why not see how it can help your energy efficiency this season? Request free estimates from a skilled painting contractor in your area to see what this product can bring to your home. More information at: CalFinder Remodeling

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Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Tips

Every Day people are looking for ways that they can make a difference.


With all of the environmental problems our world is facing today, every day people are looking for ways that they can make a difference. Earth conscious individuals everywhere are recycling their paper, plastic and glass, purchasing hybrid and electric cars but what more can people do in their day-to-day lives to make a difference? When it comes to earth-friendly home improvement measures, you'd be surprised at the amount of "small stuff" you can do that really adds up in a big way. Here are a few of my favorite eco-friendly home improvement tips.

1.) Change a Light Bulb, Change the World: One of the smallest things you can do with one of the biggest potential impacts is changing one, single light bulb in your home from an incandescent to a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if every American home replaced just one bulb, we could save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year. That translates into savings of over $600 million in annual energy costs. Additionally, by changing just one light bulb, we could prevent the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions of over 800,000 cars! That's incredible! While CFLs do cost a bit more up front, they last up to 10 times longer and produce about 75% less heat. The best part is, you don't need to buy all new lighting! CFLs can be used in most standard light fixtures. While the impact of every American switching one light bulb to a CFL is staggering, why not change a couple? It's recommended that a CFL be installed into any fixture that is used for more than 15 minutes at a time, including fixtures in the living room, bedroom and kitchen.

2.) Paint The Town Green: If you have a painting project on your list of "to-dos," consider using low or no VOC paints. VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) are low level toxic emissions that are released into the air during the painting process and sometimes, for years afterward. While zero VOC paints are ideal, these can cost on average, about $30 a gallon. If you are on a budget, low VOC paints are a suitable option, costing about the same as a regular gallon of paint. Many of these low and zero VOC paints are also odor free, which is a plus. You can also purchase low and no VOC stains and varnishes for your woodworking projects.

3.) If You Build It Green, They Will Come: When it comes to purchasing furniture for your home or apartment, it’s a good idea to be thorough when shopping around. I'm not just talking about shopping for the best price - I'm talking about shopping for the "greenest" manufacturer! Take bedroom furniture manufacturer, Lifestyle Solutions, for example. Lifestyle Solutions has its manufacturing process certified for compliance by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) guidelines for sustainable management of tropical forests. Every single product they produce is constructed from plantation-grown imported hardwood to help ensure a sustainable use of timber. Bedroom furniture manufacturer Vaughan-Bassett on the other hand, employs a One For Program, in which the company replaces every tree used in the manufacturing process, with a new one. By shopping with a more earth-friendly company, you feel especially good about your investment - and let’s face it, good furniture is definitely an investment.

4.) Clean Living: When you clean, have you ever stopped to look at the bevy of chemicals found in most household cleaning solutions? I always go by the mantra of "if you can't pronounce it, it can't be good." By using natural cleaning products, you eliminate both direct contact with your skin and you help the environment at the same time. Since most conventional dish and laundry detergents are petroleum based (non-renewable resource), with fragrance that contain phthalates (potentially harmful chemicals), you should try and use "fragrance-free" products and cleaning products with a citrus-oil base. Home-made concoctions are also great ways to clean a more eco-friendly way. Remove stains by soaking fabrics in water mixed with borax, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, washing soda or white vinegar. Baking soda can be used in place of traditional cleanser for cleaning countertops and stovetops. Try adding one-quarter cup of white vinegar or a tablespoon of lemon juice to a spray water bottle and clean your windows. By taking a pot of boiling water and flushing it down your drains, you help prevent drains from clogging. If your drain is already clogged, try a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Sprinkle one fourth cup of baking soda into the offending drain and then pour a cup of vinegar, letting it sit for 15 minutes. Flush it out with boiling water and repeat as necessary. When it comes to the day to day tasks and basic home improvement, there are plenty of eco-friendly ways that you can make a difference. While some of these things might take some extra time and cost a little more money, it's probably worth it in the long run. More information at: http://www.BedroomFurniture.com

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The Cleaner House

Make your home environmentally green


The old days of harsh bleach and chemicals used to clean around the house are slowly fading out. Along with this trend is a desire of many consumers to adopt more environmentally friendly products for their home. This can be anything from the new countertops and floors to the groceries bought at the local supermarket. In addition to what you bring in (and take out) of your home, the maintenance of your home can is a way to become more green.

  • According to the energysavers.gov website, "Americans spend more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool, light, and live" in their homes. Everyone may not try every option or may find their budget does not allow for all of the products available. However, a few home improvements and informed purchases can not only save you money in the long run, but these changes can also provide a healthier home for your family and the planet. Initially, all the options to create a greener home can be overwhelming. But some tasks are good home maintenance and a few only need to be done once.

The headings below is just one way to break down some of the improvements and updates you may make to your home which will effect its impact and performance. Did we say performance? You bet! Making sure your home is running efficiently and smoothly is the number one way to helping the environment! How efficient is your home? Making your home work efficiently to keep you warm, cool and provide you with creature comforts is the perfect way to help other creatures of the world. Taking time to keep your home updated will help reduce the amount of energy you need and ultimately be easier on your wallet as well.

  • Lighting: You can cut electricity costs by taking advantage of natural lighting and choosing carefully the lighting you purchase. Natural light is a great way to improve your home's efficiency. Skylights and easy to open window treatments can help you better regulate where you get your light during the day. Windows facing north and south can offer a great source of natural light and heat. West and east windows will offer light but may produce too much glare as the sun rises and sets. Choose your artificial lights carefully. Selecting a few accent lights and then a concentrated task light for an activity such as reading is a better alternative to lighting up every square inch of the room with florescent bulbs! Using environmentally efficient light bulbs can help reduce energy costs. However, research the bulbs you buy. Some may not work as well for task lighting. Others may not work with your older lamps and you may be better buying a new lighting fixture at the same time. Keep your artificial lights working at their best. Even the simple task of keeping your lamp shades free of dust can improve the light quality in your home. Windows: The windows of your home can be a great ally. Getting the right type of window treatments can help regulate your home temperatures.
     
  • Drapes: Drawn closed in the winter, these window treatments can help prevent heat from escaping by as much as 10%! Drapes can also help decrease heat coming into the home if closed against direct sunlight in the summer. Blinds or Shades: These can help reduce the amount of heat coming through the window because of direct sunlight. Dual shades can be very useful. Use the light side to help reflect and keep out the warming sun in the summer and the dark side can be used in the winter to draw in more heat.
     
  • Shutters: Both exterior and interior shutters can be used to keep heat out in the summer. They do not work as well at keeping heat in during the winter. Another perk of having exterior shutters is that they can provide extra security for your home as well. Window Panel: Similar to a shutter, a window panel is a product that pops into the window frame and provides extra insulation in the winter. An inexpensive addition, this may be ideal for windows not used for their light in the winter.
     
  • Screens: Although these don't really keep any heat in place, using screens on your windows allows for better cooling and airing of your home in the summer. Screens allow you to keep windows and doors open encouraging a natural movement of the air. Using open windows well in the morning and evening can drastically reduce your air conditioning bill. Thankfully this can be done without letting in all the bugs and critters! Awnings: Window awnings can help keep the house cooler in the summer by reducing the amount of heat that is adsorbed.
     
  • Air Leaks: Get rid of air leaks! Insulation works to improve both the heating and cooling of your home. Check around your doors and windows first. Many leaks escape through these portals the most. Replace weather stripping and caulk where needed. Besides the doors and windows, also check for air leaks around vents, fans, phone and cable lines, and electrical lines. Depending on the materials used in your home, you may also need to check any brick, stucco or cement construction for needed repairs. Not sure if you have a leak? One option is to use an incense stick. The smoke will show any movement caused by air leaks. Another method is to have someone stand on the other side of the possible leak source while you shine a flashlight at the edges. If they can see the light on the other side then some updates should be made.
     
  • Insulation: Updating or adding insulation to your home, especially an older one, can help reduce costs associated with heating and cooling your home. The attic, crawl space, basement, exterior walls and space around service ducts are the areas that will need the most attention or improvement. Reduce Water Usage: There are many ways to reduce your water consumption around the home. The hot water heater can be an energy hog. Try insulating it if it does not already have at least R-24 insulation. You can also lower the temperature of the water from 140°F to 120°F to save on cost. Make certain to fix any leaky pipes or faucets. Over time these will not only consume water but will also cause damage to the surrounding area. To get better use of water for your money, consider installing low-flow water faucets and showerheads. You may also consider a water (and energy) efficient clothes washer. What do you bring into your home? Whether building a new home or shopping for the weekly groceries, the products you choose to bring home have a great impact on the environment. Taking some time to consider your choices before you buy is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Renewable Construction: If building or remodeling a home, consider renewable sources for some of your construction needs. You do not have to use all or any of them, however, if you take the time to research some of these options, you may be surprised and find a good fit. Hardwood floors are great in that they keep allergies as bay and are easier on the environment then synthetic carpet manufacture. However, a renewable wood is key here. Renewable floors such as bamboo or cork are much easier to replenish. Another option that has gained in popularity is reclaimed wood. This product is taken from demolition sites - everything from an old house to an old gymnasium floor. Research the product's history as some sealants and paints used on the wood may be toxic. There are more renewable sources available. From recycled glass used as tile to recycled jeans used as insulation. Take a look at our links to the right for more information about these items and possible vendors in your area. Buy Local: There has been a lot of encouragement for consumers to buy local recently. Buying locally should help cut down on shipping and packaging costs. Doing so can also help local farmers and businesses. Not always the cheaper option, trying to purposely buy some items locally can help the economy and ultimately the environment. In fact, some believe buying groceries from local sources provides fresher produce that ultimately could be better for your health.
     
  • Quality of Product: Being a savvy consumer who expects the best quality in their products is helpful to the environment as well as your pocketbook. Move away from cheaply made items; instead research your purchases and get ones that will perform well for a long time to come. Check Labels: On anything you buy, take time to check the labels and be aware of any impact it may have on your environment - including at home. Consider carefully your choice in chemicals used for cleaning. When working on home improvement projects consider the options you have for glues, paints and other possible hazardous materials.
     
  • THERMOSTAT: Lower your thermostat by a few degrees. Get a controller where you can specify different temperatures for day and night. LIGHTS: Turn off incandescent lights when not in use. Turn off florescent lights if you will be gone for more than 15 minutes. Optimize your use of natural light with work or reading places near northern or southern windows away from eastern and western sun glare.
     
  • ELECTRONICS: Turn off power strips if nothing on the strip is in use. Unplug unused electronics.
  • COMPUTERS: Turn off your computer monitor if you will be gone for more than 20 minutes. Turn off both your computer and computer monitor if you will be gone for more than 2 hours. Use the sleep mode if your computer has one.
  • ENERGY: Consider purchasing green energy from your power company such as solar power, wind power, biomass power, geothermal energy or hydropower. If your power company does not have one of these options available, you may still be able to invest in future programs.
     
  • LAUNDRY: Wash your clothes in cold water when possible. Clothesline dry your laundry on sunny days. Shop for detergents that list which toxic chemicals are not in the product. A generic statement such as "non-toxic" may be gimmick so read the label carefully. GROCERIES: Shop locally. Use a cloth reusable bag for groceries.
     
  • COOKING: Use cookware that cooks at lower temperatures such as cast iron or clay. Save your baking for cooler hours. DISHES: Only run the dishwasher when it is full. Run the dishwasher at night.
     
  • GARDEN GREEN: Check out our article on environmentally green gardening. Or see our article about pet safe gardening. 11/1/2008 12:00:00 AM

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Things you must know before hiring a home inspector.


Things you must know before hiring a home inspector.

There’s always this feeling of fufilment when you are getting ready to buy a home, especially your first home. You cant wait to get the paper work done and relocate. Under such circumstances, we tend to make the wrong choices in hiring home inspectors. You don’t want to move into a home only to realize that there are problems you should’ve noticed earlier and fixed.

 

In this article, I’ll be writing on the basic things you must know before hiring a home inspector.

 

Ask for references

 

The first thing you must do is to ask the home inspector about his previous jobs. A good home inspector should be able to give you references or even a sample from his previous job. Although reference will serve but a sample should be a preferred option. His sample will be able to give you a glimpse on what to expect from his home inspection.

 

Don’t hire an all ‘rounder’

 

When you need the services of a home inspector, its important that you hire a home inspector and not a contractor. If you hire a person who is affiliated with repair companies, you may end up doing unnecessary repairs to the home. People like to ‘upsell’ services to make money. A bad home inspector will point out minor issues in your home and also recommend some services to you. That’s very bad.

 

Conduct Interviews

 

When you’ve narrowed down your list of home inspectors, the next step is to conduct an interview. This interview will give you the opportunity to ask several question. You can ask about insurance and refunds policy just in case there is a mistake in the inspection. You can also ask about the time frame for the inspection. A home inspector that is not willing o spend upto 4 hours inspecting your home shouldn't be hired. A good home inspector must dedicate his/her time inspecting your new home.

 

In the world today, a lot people have labeled themselves home inspectors even without any qualifications to prove that. Don’t get scammed by such people. Always go for the right people that will guarantee an excellent output. At Homecheck.com, we take our time to inspect homes for our clients. Our rates are friendly and our terms are easy to understand. Give us a call or write us a mail to get started.

 

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