Water Woes: Tips for Reacting Quickly to Summer Flooding

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Living in areas prone to summer flooding means you must take quick action if and when flooding occurs. Why? Because all that moisture can ruin your home and your belongings. While awaiting a call back from your insurance company and maybe a visit from a professional mold mitigation company, you can get started cleaning up.

Water and summer heat are breeding grounds for mold that can grow in any areas left damp after a flood. So, it’s important to follow a few tips to help ensure your home does not become a petri dish.

Think Safety Always
You should begin cleaning up and drying out your home right away, but don’t let this urgency mean you skimp on safety. Remember, flooding means there could be mold or other bacteria growing in and on items in the home. Keep your children and pets out of the house during the cleanup process to avoid making them sick.

If your HVAC ducts got water in them, do not turn them on until you can have them inspected. They’ll need to be cleaned to remove bacteria from floodwater. Before entering your home, make sure your electricity isn’t on if you believe electrical wiring was affected by water. You should not enter the home until you’re sure there is no risk of electrocution.

You must wear a mask, gloves and some good water-resistant footwear to keep yourself and anyone working with you safe. Depending on the extent of the flooding, you may want to wear hip- or waist-high boots or waders. Don’t touch any items in the home without wearing gloves, and throw out any food that has come into contact with floodwater.

Drying Out the Home
Do you know mold can start growing in as little as 24 hours? It’s important to get in there and launch the drying process. This includes opening doors and windows to let air in and using a wet/dry vacuum to begin sucking water from carpets.

You should also invest in the equipment needed to help dry out the home. Carpeting is hard to dry out and is often an area where mold can grow quickly. Investing in a portable fan that is stackable, lightweight, and easily portable can make drying out a carpet a little quicker and easier, especially if you live in a coastal area that floods often. The key is to get air flowing through the home in order to dry out wet basements, too. You can also place fans around the house to help circulate air.

Get Damaged Items Out
Depending on the amount of water in the home, you may have water damage in the basement—but sometimes the water rises into the first floor of the house, as well. Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to throw out water-soaked belongings. This includes many items in your home, such as:

  • Carpeting and padding
  • Pillows and mattresses
  • Baby toys
  • Stuffed animals
  • Books and other paper products
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Rugs
  • Cosmetics
  • Wall coverings
  • Food items
  • Anything made of foam rubber
  • Insulation and drywall

You can usually salvage clothes — but wash them in hot water—and upholstered furniture may be salvageable if it can be professionally cleaned. Wood furniture may be saved if you quickly take it outside and remove any drawers or shelves to allow it dry out. However, keep in mind that wood does soak up water and can become moldy and unsalvageable.

Always take photos of items damaged by floodwaters for insurance purposes. To decide what to keep and what to save, consider the monetary and sentimental value. If it’s valuable to you, check with mold mitigation specialists to determine if you can properly clean the item.

Disinfect the Home
Once the home is drying out and you’ve removed all the damaged items, you can begin the disinfection process. Clean walls and floors using disinfectant cleaner and warm water. You can also use a solution of one cup of bleach mixed with five gallons of water.

Go over these areas more than once to make sure you’ve removed any bacteria and germs that may have come in with the floodwater. Sometimes floodwaters are contaminated with sewage that can make your family sick.

Prevent Future Damage
Once you’ve been through a flood, you may want to consider what steps you can take to reduce the damage next time, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.

Store your belongings up high. Instead of storing items in your basement, place them in the attic. At the very least, move them up off the floor and keep items in plastic storage bins.

Get rid of any items you no longer use. The less clutter you have, the less you’ll have to clean up should your home flood again.

While there’s not much you can do to stop acts of nature, you can jump in right away and begin cleanup to make your home safe, clean and livable as soon as possible. Have a plan in place and invest in any equipment you might need so it’s on hand and ready to clean up your waterlogged home.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Home Safety: How to Protect Your Family at Every Stage of Life

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

We all want to keep our families as safe as possible, but home safety requirements change as your family grows and evolves. From newborns to pets, a variety of different strategies can ensure your home is as safe and accommodating as possible for your family. Here are some simple tips to help keep your family safe through every stage of life.

Getting Your Home Ready for a New Baby
Babyproofing a home is largely about protecting them from their own curiosity. Once a baby learns to crawl, anything in reach is fair game to be grabbed, touched, or chewed on.

  1. Install baby gates to keep certain rooms off-limits. This is especially important near stairs.
  1. Fill unused electrical outlets with plastic plugs. Outlets are like magnets for babies.
  1. Store breakable items out of reach.
  1. Keep small items out of reach, as well. Small objects that could be put into mouths are a major choking hazard. A good rule of thumb is if it can fit in an empty toilet paper roll, it is small enough for a baby to choke on.

Home Safety for Toddlers and Elementary-Age Children
Toddler-proofing is a little different from babyproofing in that a toddler is usually more resourceful about getting into things they shouldn’t be. Toddlers will climb, open doors and drawers, and generally get themselves into trouble.

  1. Move anything small or breakable up higher now that your child is walking and climbing. You’d be surprised at what they can reach.
  1. If you have a pool, build a fence around it. You’ll want a barrier at least a few feet high to make it harder for your toddler to climb over.
  1. Secure drawers and cabinets with childproof latches.
  1. Place safety locks on windows and doors to prevent them from being opened.
  1. If you don’t have a home security system, install one for added safety. Choosing a system with the right features, like motion sensors and security cameras, can help you know if your curious toddler runs out the door or it can help you keep tabs on things while the babysitter is over.

Safety During the Teenage Years
As your child grows into their teens, the focus moves further from physical safety and more towards online safety and general home security. Online safety is extremely important with teenagers in the house.

  1. Set clear boundaries and expectations with your teen regarding potentially dangerous situations. These could involve simple subjects like safe driving or complex topics like drinking and drugs.
  1. Keep alcohol, firearms, and any prescription or over-the-counter drugs locked up in a safe place.
  1. Educate your teen about safe internet usage. This includes avoiding malware, being smart on social media, and using privacy settings.

Pet-Proofing Your Home
Pets make great additions to the family, but they come with their own safety needs. In many ways, pet-proofing is similar to babyproofing. Pet-proofing involves keeping harmful items out of their reach and making sure that they can’t escape the house or yard and run off.

  1. Keep cleaning products, chemicals, and medications in high places or locked where pets can’t stumble upon them.
  1. If your pet likes to chew on (or eat!) household items, make sure that you don’t leave anything lying around. It can be helpful to do a quick walkthrough of your home a couple times a day, such as when you leave and return from work.
  1. If you have a home security system, make sure the motion sensors are capable of detecting and ignoring your pets.
  1. If you have a fenced yard, check it for weaknesses or small gaps that a pet could squeeze through.

Getting Your Home Ready for Your Parents to Move In
As our parents get older, it’s not uncommon for them to move in with us. This can help ensure their safety and prevent the loneliness that often comes with old age. It can also present some unique challenges when it comes to home safety.

Depending on your parent’s age and their physical and mental well-being, you may need to make small home improvements for their convenience or physical safety. In general, you’ll want to try to minimize the potential for falls and make sure that help is always within reach.

  1. Install grab bars in the bathrooms near the toilet and shower. These bars can help support a person as they move in and out of the shower or tub, both making this task easier and helping prevent falls. Make sure they can support the weight of the person who’ll be using them.
  1. Walk through your home and check for objects that might make tripping hazards. Throw rugs, children’s toys, and pet toys can all be dangerous for people lacking the eyesight or reflexes to maneuver around them easily.
  1. Set up a medical alert system. This is a wearable device that essentially functions as a panic button—if a person falls or has a medical emergency, they can push the button to get instant access to help.
  1. Learn which foods are hazardous for senior health. As your parents age, their immune system weakens, making them more susceptible to food poisoning and health risks. Prepare meals at home that won’t threaten the health of your aging parents.

Your family grows and changes as time goes by, and so should your home safety plans. If you want to keep up with each of your family members, continually assess their needs. These tips should give you a great starting point towards building a safer home for your family.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How to Avoid High Auto Insurance Premiums

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

High insurance premiums are a reality for many consumers, but they needn’t be for all consumers. High premiums are sometimes paid for by consumers who don’t realize they’re paying for them. Other people who overpay have no idea they have the power to lower their premiums using a number of tried and true techniques. It’s not impossible to find lower car insurance premiums, but it’s also not something most people know how to do without a little guidance. These tips can help you avoid paying high premiums, save you money, and make your life just a little more affordable.

Check Your Credit
The most important thing you can do before you sign any insurance contract is check your credit. Most insurance agencies use your credit to determine your risk as a customer. If your score is low, they figure you’re a risky customer. They think you’re more likely to file claims you can’t afford to handle on your own, and they charge you more than they charge other consumers. Now is the time to check your score, figure out if there are any mistakes on it you can fix to help raise it, and then apply for new insurance premiums.

Don’t Drive a Risky Car
It all depends on what you drive if you want to avoid high premiums. You’re going to get the best rates on newer cars that are large and filled with safety features. You’re also going to see better rates on cars that have easy-to-find parts, that hold their value well, and that aren’t sporting big engines that use a lot of power. It’s better to drive a safe car than a sports car.

Know the Crime Rate
There’s not a lot you can do about where you live, but you should know it can affect your premiums. If you’re shopping for a new home, check the crime rate to see if it’s high or low. People who live in areas with a high crime rate pay more. This is because they are more likely to see damage occur to their car in the form of vandalism or theft, and they’re more likely to get into an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance of their own if the neighborhood isn’t as financially stable as others.

Know What You Need
Cheap auto insurance is entirely possible to have if you know what kind of coverage you need. If you drive a brand-new car, you need a lot more coverage than someone who drives an older car. If you drive a car that’s paid in full, you might not need as much insurance as someone who has a car with a loan on it. It’s all dependent on what you drive and if it’s paid for. Lowering your coverage to complement your needs is a good way to save money and avoid paying high premiums.

Know How to Pay
Did you know you can lower your premiums by allowing your insurance company to automatically debit your fee each month from your bank account? When they feel they’re more likely to get paid, they’re going to offer you a discount. When you pay your premium up front rather than paying monthly, you’re also eligible for bigger discounts. Know what you can save when you pay up front, and you might just avoid a much higher deductible.

Where you live and several other factors all play into what you pay for car insurance, and you should know these things in advance. It’s easier to save money on insurance when you’re aware of what you’re looking for and which factors affect your rates. Ask what discounts you get with your policy, and don’t be surprised when your agent begins listing what you might qualify to receive for being a long-time customer.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Building a Basement Bathroom on a Budget: 5 Tips to Get You Started

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

When you’re ready to finally begin construction on that new basement bath, we have the tips you need to help make it more affordable. Save money on plumbing, fixtures, hardware and more when you shop savvy and plan ahead.

  1. Position Your Basement Bathroom Directly Below Your Upstairs Bath
    If there’s one thing that’s going to blow your budget right away, it’s having to install new drain and water lines on the other side of the house. Play it smart and place your new basement bath just below the one upstairs. This limits the amount of piping your plumber will have to install, making the project easier on your budget.
  1. Install a Drop Ceiling With Acoustic Tiles
    Your new basement bath needs a ceiling, so why not install one that looks great, allows deceptively easy access to water lines and ductwork, and helps deaden the noise from upstairs? You can get all three in one fell swoop when you add a drop ceiling with acoustic panels. Acoustic panels are designed to absorb noise instead of transferring it, which translates into a quieter basement sanctuary. And if you ever need to access your ductwork due to a water pipe leak in the ceiling, it’s an easy chore to remove a ceiling panel and make a quick repair.
  1. Opt for Laminate Flooring
    Hardwood is lovely, and it’ll increase the value of your home when professionally installed, but it’s a no-go in the basement. To get that same warm and cozy appeal, opt for laminate flooring instead. Cold and moisture are two culprits that affect the floor of a basement, but by purchasing a quality laminate floor that’s specially manufactured for basements, you’ll get a sound product that increases the attractiveness and functionality of your space.
  1. Go Vintage
    A cheap, builder’s grade mirror over the sink may not sound impressive, but if you frame it out with molding strips or a vintage mirror frame, you’ll create an upscale appeal. Wall art isn’t the only feature in your new basement bath that will benefit from a little vintage charm. Hit the estate sales and recycle shops for faucets and fixtures, towel racks, sinks, cabinetry, drawer hardware and even your bathtub. Recycled vintage dressers can be converted into console units to hold sinks and plumbing. They’re relatively easy to recondition, and you can customize them to fit the bathroom sink of your dreams. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the cost to add a second bath begins at $3,000, but you can shave dollars off this figure by buying second-hand.
  1. Use Up the Leftovers
    Found a pricey glass tile that you simply must have in the new basement bath? Leave it at the home store. Write down the name and identifying numbers, and search for other people’s leftovers online instead. When other shoppers purchase too much of any product, their overcompensation can be your savings—especially if the item was custom-made.

A basement bath is a huge convenience for homeowners who intend to use their basements for more than just storage. Whether you’ve already finished your basement or it’s next on your list of things to do, these tips will help you cut expenses when it comes time to build out the bath.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Building a Basement Bathroom on a Budget: 5 Tips to Get You Started appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Modifying Your House for Disabled Accessibility Without Compromising Home Value

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

While daily life can be challenging with a disability, innovations over the last few decades have made a new level of independence possible for the disabled. Services and products now make it possible for such individuals to attend school, run daily errands, and live in private homes in ever increasing numbers. Being able to live independently also prevents depression, increases lifespans, and can even improve some conditions.

While this stay at home movement offers many benefits to the disabled and elderly, it is not without its costs. Extensive modifications and renovations often have to be made to homes to accommodate disabled residents. Some of these renovations are fairly un-intrusive (such as intercom and camera systems), but some accommodations require major renovations, such as the installation of chair lifts or elevators. If a homeowner considering such renovations is disabled, any associated costs are often accepted as part of the price of independent living. But what about a scenario in which a disabled individual resides in but doesn’t own a private home? This could be costly for a homeowner in more ways than one.

Disabled-friendly renovations to a home can be expensive in a couple of ways. There is the cost of the renovations themselves, which can be an ongoing process. They can limit a home’s functionality and visual appeal for potential buyers, as well. On the other hand, there are a number of cost-effective resources and techniques that both allow these renovations to be made and make a home appealing to both disabled and able-bodied residents.

What Does Adapting a Home for the Disabled Involve?
Adaptations of this type to private homes vary greatly depending on conditions of disability, and it’s possible that these adaptations may have to change over time, just as disabilities do. The vast majority of disability adaptations that are installed in private homes are considered minor ones. This means that they are relatively inexpensive to install, relatively easy to uninstall, and don’t lessen the value of the home in question. Examples of this type of adaptation include:

  • Installing portable ramps
  • Lowering stair railings
  • Physically rearranging interior and exterior areas for easier access
  • Lowering the heights of doorknobs, window latches and light switches to be accessed by wheelchair users
  • Adding or relocating interior and exterior lighting
  • Installing cameras, intercom systems, and adapted telephones
  • Installing modified latches and lock systems to accommodate those who have difficulty using their hands, such as arthritis sufferers
  • Installing lower storage areas in kitchens
  • Installing lever faucets in both kitchens and bathrooms
  • Installing no-slip flooring, grip bars and shower chairs in bathrooms

These types of changes often cost under $1,000 and generally can be done by amateurs. These alterations also don’t cause issues that can affect home values. Adaptations that are considered major alterations to a home include:

  • Installation of elevators
  • Installation of chair lifts on stairs
  • Installation of ramping floors
  • New plumbing in kitchens and bathrooms, including lower sinks, showers and bathtubs and higher toilets
  • Accessible kitchens
  • Adding accessible rooms to house

These types of changes generally cost well over $1,000. Unless homeowners possess various renovation skills, they should be made by professional contractors.

Once such changes are made, they generally become a permanent part of the house. If such changes could limit future use by new owners, this could affect a home’s value.

Saving Money and a Home’s Value When Making Adaptations
Many individuals are unaware that federal grants are available for home modifications to assist the elderly and disabled. These modifications are also deductible at tax time. Such monies can certainly help to defray the cost of adaptations, even minor ones.

Sustaining a home’s worth is probably not uppermost in a homeowner’s thoughts when making changes to accommodate a disabled relative, but making intelligent and thoughtful changes when doing so can help to preserve home value. These include:

  1. Not making permanent changes that impair or interfere with the house’s basic functioning—in other words, the house should continue to be comfortable and accessible to all who use it, regardless of ability levels; and
  1. Going with the professionals—yes, that internet video made dismembering your house look like a snap, but unless you truly have the time and skills needed for major renovations, paying a professional contractor now will save you and future occupants much money and heartbreak later.

Given our aging population, a professionally adapted house done now could be much more in-demand in years to come.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Modifying Your House for Disabled Accessibility Without Compromising Home Value appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

5 Tips for Finding Vacation Travel Deals

By Susanne Dwyer

Most savvy travelers know that comparison shopping and traveling in the off-season can net significant travel savings. MarketWatch asked a panel of travel agents for some lesser-known tips for finding vacation travel bargains:

Repositioning Cruises – Cruise companies regularly reposition their ships from one region to another, as from Alaska in summer to Mexico or the Caribbean in winter. These twice-a-year cruises are less crowded and provide all the amenities of cruising, all at significant savings.

Score a Bounce-Back Deal – Ever notice what happens when you start to order something on a website but don’t complete the process? You start getting pop-ups, and even emails offering the product at a discount. Try filling in your name and email address at a few of your favorite travel websites and opting in for email offers. Travel companies want your business, and most will offer worthwhile savings to reel you in as a customer.

Think Home, Not Hotel – You can see your destination like a native and save big bucks in the process by swapping homes for a time. Check out sites like Homeaway.com, which lists 41,000 homes in 152 countries. If you’re not willing to swap homes, sites like VRBO.com or Airbnb.com can help you find vacation digs that are frequently less expensive than hotels—and often more comfy, especially if you are traveling with family or friends.

Call Direct – The best prices may not be on travel websites. Calling a hotel direct, even if it is overseas, may not only net cost savings, but put you first in line in popular destinations when/if cancellations open space.

Know When to Book and Travel You may find the biggest discounts on domestic air travel if you book online between midnight and 1 a.m. on Wednesdays or after 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. Also, the cheapest days to fly domestically are Wednesdays, followed by Tuesdays and Saturdays, when demand is lowest.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Top 10 Plants for Designing a Water-Wise Landscape

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Wait! Before you spend thousands on landscaping—or on water-guzzling plants—try planting a DIY drought-tolerant garden. With the right plants, your landscape will be cost-effective, low-maintenance, and beautiful.

Here is a list of 10 plants that won’t break the water bank but will still let you enjoy lush greenery and flowers without having to replant every year. Just be sure to check your hardiness zone and your zone’s growing calendar before planting anything not mentioned on this list to ensure it can withstand your climate.

Northeast

Goldenrod
Goldenrod is so easy to grow that some people call it a weed; it springs up practically everywhere once planted. If you don’t mind prolific yellow tufts that look cheerful in the late summer afternoons, then you’ll love goldenrod. These flowers top out at a couple feet high and bring lots of pollinators like butterflies and honeybees to your garden, so other plants will naturally grow and flourish.

Juniper
Juniper bushes are evergreen, providing a perfect backdrop for other plants during their growing and dormancy cycles. Whether it’s in the dead of winter or summer, you’ll have these fragrant and green bushes to look at. If you’re into attracting nature, you’ll especially love juniper; it was named one of the top 10 wildlife-friendly plants.

Southeast

Baby’s Breath
Baby’s breath is ideal for garden filler flowers, bouquets, drying, and water-conscious people. This low-growing plant blooms all throughout summer and comes back each spring to do it all over again.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
For a flower with healing powers, it’s amazing the purple coneflower doesn’t need much TLC itself. This flower loves full sun and soil that’s part sand, clay, and silt (loamy). Plant purple coneflowers in the summer, water until they’re established, and then enjoy purple, red, pink, and white flowers every summer and fall thereafter. Echinacea is beloved by butterflies too, and grows well in nearly all hardiness zones.

Southwest

Desert Zinnia
Seeing lush, beautiful blooms in the desert is a real treat, which is what makes the desert zinnia so rewarding. Just plant the desert zinnia once, and you can watch it bloom for months each year with little to no effort on your part. It’s perfect for hot, dry, and sandy Southwestern states because it can withstand droughts and it comes back each year. Plus, its flowers are bright white, so they integrate easily into your other landscaping plans and color schemes. Start these plants from seeds and enjoy them for years to come.

Prickly Pear
The prickly pear is a cactus—ideal for desert climates. It also provides your landscaping with added security. These plants grow one foot to seven feet tall, and may be planted around entrances to limit burglar hiding places and deter access. The prickly pear also looks pretty—with vibrant flowers in summer—and produces fruit for your family. No one other plant on this list has all these benefits.

Midwest

Daylily
If you don’t have a green thumb, you’ll love the daylily. It grows perfectly well in most hardiness zones and doesn’t have a soil preference. Add on the fact that daylilies don’t have diseases or chronic pests, and it’ll be one of your favorite plants on your property. Once planted, enjoy brightly colored blooms without worry.

Lilac
The lilac is a low-water tree that never grows more than 15 feet tall, making it perfect to add depth and dimension to your garden. Lilacs rely on the hard frost of the Midwest and Northeast to set its buds and return with velvety soft purple and pink flowers each spring. After the root system develops, you won’t need to do much more than pruning and fertilizing once per year.

West

Sage
Sage is a perennial drought-tolerant herb. Though sage dies off in the winter, you can cut it back at the end of the summer, dry the leaves for cooking, and watch fresh new shoots emerge in early spring. The honeybees go crazy over the bright purple flowers that bloom in late spring, helping the plant double and triple in size in just a few growing seasons.

Yarrow
Yarrow is a lovely, bushy perennial that shows off yellow, red, orange, white, and pink flowers each year. It’s perfect for southern areas because it can stand the heat and some cooler temperatures. Yarrow loves full sun and well-drained soil. If given ideal growing conditions, you won’t have to water it at all and it’ll still grow to about four feet tall. Plus, local deer and rabbits don’t generally find yarrow appealing, so it’s less likely to get munched on.

Planting with purpose saves you money, time, and precious water. Plus, in some cases, the plants you choose can enhance your yard’s security or offer medicinal and nutritional value. Get to planting so this season and seasons to come will be more water-conscious and beautiful.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

8 Ways to Make Your Backyard a Summer Paradise

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Summer is the season to be outdoors. It’s the perfect time for backyard barbecues, neighborhood socials, and late-night evenings on the patio. You don’t need to travel to a luxurious and exotic location to enjoy spending time outdoors. Make your own backyard a summer paradise with these eight simple suggestions.

Inspect and Update Wooden Decks
To make your backyard a summer haven, take some time to inspect and update your deck. Wooden patios and decks can be warped by cold weather, so you’ll want to replace loose or missing slats as needed. Sand, stain, and seal your deck once you’ve made sure it’s structurally sound. If you have a stone patio, check for missing pieces and update as needed. Once this is complete, you’ll have a shiny and appealing deck you can decorate with patio furniture—creating a relaxing sitting area for summertime.

Purchase Patio Furniture and Essentials
Once you have a designated patio or deck space, you’ll want to add some patio furniture so you can sit down, mingle with friends and family, and relax. Consider purchasing weatherproof patio furniture that is both comfortable and durable. Patio furniture can be exposed to harsh, seasonal weather, so you’ll want to make sure it lasts for years.

Get the basics, including some lounge chairs, an umbrella, a hammock, and an outdoor table so you can enjoy meals or games outside. In addition to patio furniture, you may want to buy or build an outdoor fire pit. It’s a simple feature that adds so much to your backyard. Sit around the fire and socialize, roast marshmallows or even cook dinner on your own backyard fireplace.

Add Colorful Cushions and Pillows
You’ll want to add a splash of color to your patio so it’s eye-catching and sings of summertime. Buy some bright-colored, comfortable throw pillows and cushions to spice up the furniture. The bright colors and fun patterns will entice people to sit down, relax, and enjoy your backyard paradise.

Get a Rug for the Patio
Consider adding a rug to the patio or deck area to make the space feel cozier. Outdoor rugs vary in material, size, and shape and are generally made to last in all types of weather. They make a great addition to your space, and can also protect your deck.

Install Outdoor Lighting
Nothing is more magical than twinkling lights against a royal-blue evening sky. Add strands of tea lights or other innovative lights to create a fairytale effect in your backyard. In addition to the decorative lighting, you’ll want to consider adding sensor or smart lights to your backyard for added security. Smart lights are a great way to ensure the backyard is lit—you can even control smart lights with your smart phone.

Make the Backyard Private
You may love your neighbors, but that doesn’t mean you want them always peeking into your backyard. Be creative when thinking of ways to ensure better backyard privacy. One easy way to create a private, secluded backyard paradise is to install a fence. Not only does it ensure privacy, but it is an essential safety measure. Install a strong, secure fence to create a private and safe backyard.

Update Your Landscaping
Landscaping can make or break your backyard. It’s essential to take time to update your landscaping to create an outdoor paradise. You don’t need extravagant plants or trees to make your backyard grand. Take some time to cut back unruly trees and bushes, pull the weeds, water and trim the lawn, and plant flowers around the yard. These simple updates will make a world of difference. You’ll have your own secret garden in no time!

Secure Outdoor Belongings
Once you’ve created a magical backyard space, you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your belongings. Make sure your garden tools and supplies are in a locked shed—away from kids, pets, and burglars. Take time to assess the backyard for any security breaches. This will keep your family safe and protect your backyard, patio, and deck from major damage.

Summer is a wonderful time to relax and enjoy being outdoors. Update your own backyard and you’ll have access to a private paradise any time you want.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 8 Ways to Make Your Backyard a Summer Paradise appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

5 Life Hacks Using Smart Home Devices

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Clean floors and fresh java are hardly the coolest things you can get from using smart devices like robotic vacuums and automatic coffee makers in your home. Whether you’re already benefitting from smart devices or not, here are some unexpected ways you can harness this smart tech to spice up your home.

  1. Handy Diet Helper
    Door sensors aren’t just for keeping burglars out of your house—they can also help you stick to a diet plan. If you’re counting calories, try adding a sensor to the door of your fridge or cupboard where you keep all the most tempting snacks. This clever hack helps keep you honest whether you’re watching your waistline to get back into your favorite jeans or trying to improve your health after your latest physical.

Vivint offers sleek, discreet door sensors that you can easily add to any door—including your fridge and cupboard doors—and once in place, they’re barely noticeable. If you’ve tried and failed to stick to a healthy regimen, then these sensors could be the extra item you need to be accountable for your diet plan and to be as successful as possible. You can also set up alerts that let your support system of friends and family members know when you’re perusing the fridge for a snack so they can give you a friendly reminder to go for something healthier.

  1. Smart Sleep Aid
    Sometimes, you may struggle to get your zzzs, and a pattern of restless nights can affect your work, health, and attitude. Rather than turning to pharmaceuticals to get your full eight hours, try resetting your body’s natural circadian rhythm with smart lighting that mimics the sun’s rising and setting patterns.

Lighting Science offers bulbs that can make this goal easier to attain. The bulbs give off light that doesn’t interfere with melatonin production and complements your body’s biological circadian rhythm, allowing you to get quality sleep each night. Pair their nighttime and morning bulbs with a smart lighting switch like the CasĂ©ta Wireless dimmer and correlating app so you can set your household’s bedtime and wake-up calls with just the swipe of your finger. It’s an ideal solution for back-to-school season or to get ready for and recover from holiday travels.

  1. After School Assistant
    It’s tough to be at work when your little ones get home from school, but thanks to smart technology, you can now greet your kids as soon as they walk in the door—no matter where you are. Two-way video calling lets you welcome your children home, check in on homework, oversee snacks, and make sure they’re attending to chores.

A system such as the Nucleus Anywhere Intercom is the perfect device to help you stay connected. The video-enabled intercom is easy to set up and simple to use. It connects instantly, so you don’t have to wait long for your kids to answer your call. You can also use Amazon’s Alexa to connect to and control the system.

  1. Sneaky Teen Booby Trap
    For some teenagers, sneaking out of the house at night is a rite of passage, but that doesn’t make it safe. If you’re concerned about your teen prowling the neighborhood streets when they should be home, enlist the help of motion-activated lighting to keep them in check.

With Ring’s Floodlight Cam, you can capture your teen sneaking out on video. The system will even light up and sound an alarm when it detects them. These may seem like extreme measures, but there’s no better time to pull out all the stops than when your kids need to be saved from themselves.

  1. Helpful Green Thumb Hack
    Win first prize at the garden club or the county fair by putting smart tech to use in your garden. A Wi-Fi–based plant sensor, like the Koubachi, can finally help you turn your thumb green. This nifty gadget measures ambient temperature, soil moisture, and light levels to ensure your plants get the precise care they need to thrive. The paired app even sends email alerts and push notifications with the latest status of your plants along with up-to-the minute advice to keep your blue ribbon dreams on track.

You can use this one sensor to track multiple plants inside your home or out in the garden—but you need to snap this smart device up fast. The Husqvarna Group recently acquired the Koubachi company, and the current design will only be available through 2018. After that time, you’ll have access to the GARDENA smart system if you’d like to use this tech as you garden.

These life hacks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what smart devices can do for you. Start thinking outside the box with your smart gadgets and stay up to date on the huge variety of devices available. With new technology hitting the market nearly every week, there’s something out there to make anyone’s life easier, more connected, and—yes—smarter.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 5 Life Hacks Using Smart Home Devices appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

5 Practical Water Conservation Tips to Keep Your Garden Lean and Green

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

You don’t need a degree in horticulture to know that water is the lifeblood to a green, luscious garden, but the spring and summer seasons also tend to be when many homeowners see a significant increase in their water usage—and utility bills—due to efforts to help their gardens flourish. However, a great looking garden doesn’t have to break the bank. Yes, you can likely rely on Mother Nature from time to time to help fuel your garden’s growth, but there are many other practical tips and strategies you should administer today to conserve water while keeping your garden in peak shape.

  1. Water Early:This is the easiest way to ensure the water that you do use goes further: water early. We’re talking around sunrise, when winds and temperatures are both low. Calm winds ensure that more water is reaching the plants in your garden and not blowing to areas around your garden. Low temperatures reduce water loss from evaporation that is more common later in the day.
  1. Maximize Rainwater/Miscellaneous Water: If natural rainfall can serve as the main source for your garden, why water? While you’re unlikely to go through a whole summer using just rainwater, there are a variety of ways you can make natural rainfall go further; for instance, integrating rainwater collectors, like the popular rain barrel, into your home’s gutter system. The main purpose of your gutters is to direct collected rainwater from the roof and disperse it safely away from your home. Why not capture this rainwater to store and use within your garden? It’s estimated that a 1,000-square-foot roof can shed up to 600 gallons of rainwater per hour in moderate rainfall.

On a related note, consider taking steps to maximize water usage in the home. For example, capture cool shower water in a bucket as you wait for it to heat, and save water used for cooking that you’d otherwise pour down the sink. You can even reuse old fish tank water. Every little bit can go a long way.

  1. Tune Up Your Sprinklers: If you water your garden with in-ground sprinklers, we encourage you to inspect the system every spring to ensure it’s operating efficiently. Adjust sprinkler heads so that water isn’t wasted on the likes of sidewalks, patios or pavement to maximize watering efficiency, and be sure that there are no breaks in the hoses that run beneath the soil. We’d also recommend integrating a rainfall sensor into your system so that you’re not watering when the garden doesn’t need it.
  1. Tune Up Your Hose: If you water manually by hose, don’t use a standard hose and nozzle. This is inefficient because of the amount of water that is lost to evaporation, runoff and mist. Instead, opt for either a wand nozzle or a soaker hose. Additionally, check the hose connection to the spigot on your home and the hose connection to the nozzle. Is either dripping when the water is turned on? If so, you’re wasting water—and likely much more than you realize. This is easily resolved by purchasing and installing a better hose fitting for either connection.
  1. Incorporate Water-Friendly Details: Finally, there are many things you can do with the plants and garden design tself to maximize water usage. Consider integrating xeriscaping techniques into your landscaping plan. Start with using native plants that are already adapted to the soil conditions at your home, and consider placing mulch around plants to reduce water runoff, minimize weed growth and help keep the soil moist. You might also consider composting, a practice that helps keep moisture in the soil for longer. Finally, consider placing plants that require more water next to each other. This way, you can better target all of them at once with drip irrigation or by adjusting sprinkler zones accordingly.

You’re never going to grow a lush garden without water, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay dearly for it in utility costs.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 5 Practical Water Conservation Tips to Keep Your Garden Lean and Green appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893