Home Maintenance

Natural Drain Cleaner, Yup!

Let's face it, we all have recurring themes of disagreement that arise when living in the same household with other people. For example, clogged drains have lead to repeated domestic arguments in my own household. I am impulsive, and I want the problem (any problem) addressed immediately. My partner is slow and methodical, and he needs to take his time when responding to problems. My impulsivity leads me to want to reach for the Drano, in the face of a clogged drain, and nip the problem in the bud. My partner historically puts his foot down (firmly) in response to this solution. And, in this case, I have learned that he is correct. The chemicals in liquid drain cleaners can eat away at one's pipes, and cause long term damage. Not to mention the fact that they are dangerous and toxic, and just not a good thing to leave lying around one's home. At this point, to be honest, I almost always reach for the white vinegar when it comes times to clean most anything in my house. As I was perusing Apartment Therapy this morning - which I tend to do on a regular basis, I came across this recipe for how to make non-toxic drain cleaner. I think that all home owners should bookmark this page and remember to use it the next time your pipes get clogged. Happy Housekeeping!

 You Should Know How to Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Ayn-Monique Klahre

Sep 30, 2018

Dead skin cells, soap scum, random food scraps, human hair, pet hair, and just regular ol' dirt—these are all the things you regularly wash down your sink or tub's drain. And if they sound gross now, image how much worse they are once they've congealed into a stringy, slimy ball of gunk inside your pipes. Yuck!

 

You want to prevent any of this gunk buildup before it becomes a real problem—especially in homes with older pipes or large families. The first sign of a growing clog? A gray ring around your tub or sink from the water sloooooowlydraining, giving soap bubbles ample time to attach and dry to that formerly clean porcelain. Another sign is water pooling around the drain. If you can actually see the slow drainage, it's time to act!

There are strong chemical cleaners designed to tackle truly clogged drains (and boy, do they smell like they're working!), but for prevention and regular maintenance, a DIY unclogger (a professional term!) will do. This method combines a couple products—with surprising cleaning powers—that you already have in your cabinets.

 
 
1/5 Run the hot water: Turn your sink or shower on at full-blast hot and run it for a few minutes, then allow it to drain. If your water doesn't get super hot (which it might not, because the EPA recommends you keep it at 120 degrees for both energy efficiency and safety), boil a big pot of water on the stove, then pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain; this is the first step in loosening the gunk.
Image credit: Christine Han

How To Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Ingredients

  • Boiling-hot water
  • Baking soda (about a cup)
  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about a cup)

Equipment

  • Spoon or funnel (optional)
  • Tub stopper or rag
 

Instructions

  1. Run the hot water: Turn your sink or shower on at full-blast hot and run it for a few minutes, then allow it to drain. If your water doesn't get super hot (which it might not, because the EPA recommends you keep it at 120 degrees for both energy efficiency and safety), boil a big pot of water on the stove, then pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain; this is the first step in loosening the gunk.
  2. Pour in the baking soda: Slowly send about a cup of baking soda down the drain, using a spoon or funnel as necessary. Do it little by little so it's not all jammed at the top of the drain.
  3. Add the lemon juice: Slowly pour the lemon juice on top of the baking soda. Brace yourself for some action: This will cause a fizzy, bubbly chemical reaction. 
  4. Cover and wait: Use your tub stopper or a rag to cover the drain, and wait. Give the mixture enough time to work, about a half hour, and keep it covered the whole time. 
  5. Run water again: Uncover the drain and send piping-hot water down it (again, either from the faucet or heated on the stovetop), letting it run for a few minutes. Wait for it all to drain. Is it draining faster than before? If not…
  6. Repeat as necessary: If your drain is super clogged, it may take a few rounds before it clears up. But with proper maintenance (repeat this process two to four times a year, depending on your household) you can prevent those big clogs from building up again.

 

What NOT To Do When Decluttering!

I'm amazed that no matter how big the space is in which we live, we always manage to fill it with stuff! Even though we are conscientious about waste and trying not to consume too much stuff - we manage to acquire a LOT!. Also - because we are conscientious about how we dispose of every item that leaves our house (reduce, reuse, recycle), getting rid of things is often a multi-step process. Rinse or clean out containers before disposal or recycling, keep TO GO bins or boxes in anticipation of upcoming recycling events (electronics, plastics, etc), compost everything biodegradable, etc, etc.

I love reading articles such as the following one from Apartment Therapy, with smart and helpful tips about how to approach decluttering one's home. As realtors, we are always advising seller clients to "declutter" in order to ready a property for sale. It's good to have to go-to PRO tips on hand to share with clients about how to approach a decluttering project.

Pro Organizer Tips: What NOT To Do When Decluttering Your Home

Catrin Morris Sep 14, 201

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)
 

Do you need the help of an organizing professional...without the professional price? We asked Washington DC's organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik for some words of organizing wisdom. Instead of giving us additional organizing and decluttering tips and strategies, Nicole though it would most helpful to tell us what NOT to do when trying to harness the chaos in your home.Nicole says these five missteps are the most common in her line of work — and most likely to derail even the best efforts to conquer clutter:

Organize First; Buy Second

Do not go out and buy a ton of storage pieces and supplies before you sort through your home. All of those pretty bins, boxes and baskets at The Container Store are very enticing, but they won't do you any good unless they fit the space (on the shelf, under the bed, in the closet); hold what you need them to hold, and function properly for your particular space.

I recommend cleaning out first, assessing what containers you REALLY need, and then buying a few bins to start. You can always add later, but you don't want a bunch of empty containers cluttering up your home while you figure out where you might use them.

 

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Che

Do not set aside an ENTIRE day to organize your WHOLE house. Very few people have the energy and/or focus to spend 8 hours organizing. You'll likely become frustrated and less efficient as the day progresses. It's much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you'll feel motivated to do more, not be burned out by the process
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Complete Each Task — Completely

Of course you will need to sort things into categories (e.g., toss, recycle, donate, give to friend, put in deep storage). But here's the crucial part: Once you have decided where something is going to go — take it there. Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process. Take the bags and boxes out to the trash or recycling immediately. If you're donating something or giving something to a friend or family member, put the items in your car or make arrangements for dropping them off. You've done so much work getting this stuff ready to take out, complete the deal!

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Do not think that once you've organized your space, that you are done. You'll feel like a failure when you have to clean it up again in a month. Realize that while you have created a new, efficient, and logical system for processing and managing incoming and outgoing items, you are not done. There is no autopilot. You should expect regular upkeep, but just be glad that the new system is far more efficient than the old one.

Good Enough is Enough

Very few people have closets and drawers that resemble those in catalogues. Trust me. I've been in a lot of houses and apartments and even after we've totally reorganized a space, it doesn't look like an ad for The Container Store. It looks great and works properly, but it is a space that is used by an actual human being, not one that has been carefully staged by a team of stylists and marketers for a non-existent resident. You will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. The goal is to set up a space that works well for your needs. That is success.

- Re-edited from a post originally published 8.5.2014 - CM

Gardening Tips from the Gazette!

Since our first blog post in 2013, I have cited gardening tips from Mickey Rathbun of the Daily Hampshire Gazette on an annual basis. Her column always has timely advice for us fledgling gardeners. It can feel overwhelming to establish or maintain ground cover and garden beds. Ms. Rathbun lists helpful steps, ways to prioritize, what to focus on and when to do it.  The following column also lists upcoming garden events in the Northampton area and beyond!

Mickey Rathbun: Busy time in the garden

With the unusually cold spring we’ve had, I’m having a hard time realizing that summer is upon us. Everything is growing so fast — especially weeds, it seems — you can practically see it happening. That means our gardens need lots of tending.

Some days I think: where do I even begin? Here are some tasks to tackle in the next few weeks:

Invest in a compost delivery and top dress established plants. When planting or dividing, add it liberally to the holes you dig. Your garden will thank you.

Spring-blooming shrubs should be pruned after they’re finished flowering and before they set next spring’s buds. In our area, that means by the first week of July. This includes lilacs, weigela, deutzia and certain viburnums, including the divinely fragrant Korean spice viburnum. Prune out dead or diseased branches, crossing branches and trim for overall shape and size.

Eradicate poison ivy and other pesky weeds when they’re still small. It’s almost too late to go to battle with poison ivy; it seems to have arrived full grown overnight. But if you put on your sturdiest garden gloves, long sleeves and pants and pull it out now, you’ll get a good head start on it. That goes for briars like wild blackberry that have a tendency to smother other shrubs in the landscape. After you work with poison ivy, wash thoroughly with Tech-Nu, or another similar product that neutralizes poison ivy’s toxic oil.

It’s not too early to start deadheading spring-blooming perennials such as Geum and Dicentra formosa. Sheer back perennial geraniums after they’ve bloomed. They’ll look shorn at first but will generate healthy foliage soon and sometimes produce new bloom.

Divide spring flowering perennials after they’ve bloomed.

To be thorough, water the plant well first so it’s hydrated for the upcoming disturbance. Then dig up the entire plant and pull and/or cut apart divisions. If you’re doing it the quick and dirty way, leave the entire plant in the ground and carve out divisions with a sharp trowel. 

Fill in the hole with compost and soil. Keep the divisions moist and shaded if you can’t replant them right away.

Add some compost to the new planting holes before replanting. If possible, do this on a cloudy day. Bright sun is a stressor.

I have sometimes resorted to shading new divisions with umbrellas, which works well if it’s not too windy.

If you’re careful, you can divide most perennials pretty much anytime, avoiding the period when they’re in early or full blossom. A few things, like peonies, are tricky. They do not like being disturbed. They have a deep tap root, so if you dig them, wait until fall and then be very careful to dig deeply without severing the root.

Set out hummingbird feeders. Clean them regularly and keep them filled. Make sure bird baths are full. This is especially important if we have a dry spell and birds don’t have access to puddles and other places where they can drink and bathe.

Clean the birdbaths often and refill to disrupt mosquito breeding.

Speaking of water, make sure you keep planters well-watered. They dry out quickly. And keep a close eye on newly planted shrubs and perennials, which need a steady supply of water to become well established. Water deeply and less often. A daily spritz will not reach the roots.

One thing you might not have to do just yet is to get rid of foliage from spring bulbs. The bulbs need the leaves to photosynthesize and provide nourishment for next year’s flowers. Wait until the leaves are dead before cutting them. Don’t tie them up. This will look messy for a while, but be patient.

Stay on top of your weeding and you’ll have a lot less work later in the summer. Use mulch to cover bare spots that weeds thrive in. Consider groundcovers such as Lamium maculatum (dead nettle) to fill in the gaps. It does well in dry shade once established. Depending on the site, lamium needs to be kept in check, but it’s easy enough to do that, and it’s a whole lot prettier than bare dirt and random weeds!

25th  Anniversary Forbes Library Garden Tour

This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., consider spending a few hours enjoying the seven gardens on the Forbes Library Northampton Garden Tour. 

The event raises funds for the Friends of Forbes Library, Inc. to help finance programs and materials for the library. The tour also aims to inspire and educate garden lovers with the chance to visit a variety of appealing landscape styles and collections of garden plantings.

 This year’s gardens are located along a scenic 10-mile route, accessible by car and offering a pleasant bicycle ride. Driving directions are included with the tickets to this self-guided tour.

At each garden there will be handouts with descriptions of the plantings and volunteer garden guides on hand to answer questions. 

Tour tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at Forbes Library, State Street Fruit Store andCooper’s Corner in Northampton, Hadley Garden Center in Hadley, North Country Landscapes and Garden Center in Westhampton and Bay State Perennial Farm in Whately.

On the day of the tour, tickets are $20 and are available only at the library. For details:  www.forbeslibrary.org. For more information, contact: Lyn Heady at 584-7041

Garden field study

On June 19, Berkshire Botanical Garden is sponsoring a tour of two fabulous gardens in Washington, Connecticut: the beautiful, panoramic Highmeadows Garden, the private estate of Linda Allard, and Hollister House, an American interpretation of such classic English gardens as Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and Hidcote.

Linda Allard will provide a tour of her gardens at Highmeadows. A tour of Hollister House will be led by head gardener Krista Adams. 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Cost: members: $50/non-members: $65. Pre-registration required.

Participants should bring a lunch and dress for the weather. Transportation to and from BBG in Stockbridge included in the price and time.

City Spaces, Country Places Garden Tour

The 22nd annual Worcester area garden tour will take place on June 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This self-guided tour gives access to five distinctive private gardens in a variety of sites. Advance Sales: member $20/ non-member $25. Day of tour: member $30/ non-member $35. Tickets purchased by 9 a.m. June 18 will be mailed. Tickets purchased after that must be picked up at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston. Directions to the gardens are included in the ticket. 

Smell the roses 

While you’re out Worcester way, stop by Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston and enjoy the New England Rose Society’s annual show. It takes place June 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s a rose sale all day and a rose planting and Q&A with Dave Cannistraro from 11 a.m. to noon. It is free with admission to Tower Hill.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at mickey.rathbun@gmail.com.

DIY Repair Your Deck This Summer!

Now that the sun in shining, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming - the spring real estate market is upon us! I so enjoy seeing all the new "inventory" in the Northampton area with my buyer clients. Houses seem to double in size when you include the yard, and any outdoor living spaces, such as decks, patios, pools and the like. The flip side of this increased sense of space, is that outdoor areas actually require upkeep, and this can be time consuming and expensive. It's a good idea to take stock of all that needs doing, and decide which items/projects you are willing and able to pay for (yard clean up? gutter cleaning?), and which projects you prefer to do on your own (planting new perennials?, mulching your garden beds?).

In the past week, I've happened upon a number of houses with decks in need of TLC. My first impulse as a homeowner, would be to hire a professional to deal with a weathered deck. But, in reading this piece from todays' Daily Hampshire Gazette, it seems as if freshening up ones' deck is actually a manageable DIY project!

How to repair a splintering deck

By HomeAdvisor

Thursday, May 31, 201
 
Splintering decks are usually the result of neglect — occurring after a deck remains untreated and unsealed for a number of years. The lack of protection allows water to soak into the boards, eventually causing them to splinter and crack.

Fortunately, all is not lost. It may be hard to get that brand new look back completely, but following a few simple steps can help you bring your neglected decking back to life.

Your first order of business is the easiest. Mix up a solution of half bleach, half water and spray down your entire decking. If you see areas of deck mold (not unlikely if it's been a while since your deck's been treated), hit those especially hard and work at them with a scrub brush until the mold has been removed.

Finally, wait for the deck to dry before moving on to the next step.

The bleach does two things: It kills deck mold and mildew, and it bleaches the wood to a uniform color, preparing it for treatment. If you treat a deck that's at the point of splintering without applying bleach, you'll end up with dark, unattractive decking. Using bleach will bring out the natural wood look you're trying to recover.

Once the bleach solution has dried off the deck (it's a good idea to give it about 24 hours, just to be sure), you can move on to sanding. Since splintering decks mean lots of painful slivers for bare feet, it's important that you sand down your deck so that you're once again working with a smooth surface. Renting a large floor sander will certainly speed up the job, though the railings, banisters, steps and other hard-to-reach places will probably need to be done with a hand sander or sandpaper. Finally, rent a power washer and clean off the deck. It's going to be covered in a fine layer of dust from the sanding, and you'll need to get rid of that if you want your sealer to take properly.

Once the deck has dried out a second time, you're ready to treat the deck. Using a power sprayer drastically reduces the time it takes to treat a deck, though it can be done with paint rollers and brushes if you've got the patience. Just be sure to watch out for drips and runs, and to brush them up quickly. Waiting until after the deck is dry to try to get rid of them is almost impossible. Finally, remember to treat your deck on a regular basis (at least every few years). It's the only sure-fire way to prevent problems like splintering, cracking, rot and mold.

While it's possible to repair decking yourself, it's a time-consuming and laborious job — especially if you don't have the right tools. A decking contractor is experienced enough to repair decking of all sorts, and they will also have the supplies and know-how to get it done right in a fraction of the time. For this reason, many homeowners find hiring a decking pro to be worth the extra cost.

 

Visit HomeAdvisor.com.

Time to Winterize Your Home!

Yes, it's that time of year again when your friendly neighborhood realtors remind you to make sure your home is properly winterized. Although we haven't yet seen snow in the Northampton area, history suggests we can count on it's arrival at some point in the not-too-distant future. It makes sense to have your ducks in a row before the first big snow storm and low temperatures descend upon us. To that end, I include the following article from the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley website. It provides a thorough laundry list of how to prepare your home for winter.

Avoid Costly Repairs With These Winter Maintenance Must-Dos

Failure to prepare your home for the upcoming winter months can have dire consequences on your wallet, as well as pose a safety hazard for others. Even those in warmer climates will want to be careful this time of year: Everyone can benefit from an annual maintenance tune-up, and even in the South a winter frost can come as a nasty surprise.

Fortunately, there are some relatively easy preventative measures you can implement in the fall months to help ensure a smooth winter. The list below provides a few of the low-cost measures you can take now that will save you from the hassles of repairs and from the cost of winter issues.

Winterize pipes and outdoor spigots. As the temperatures start to dip below freezing, any water that is exposed to the lower temperatures will freeze. When water freezes, it expands; water left in a hose has nowhere to expand to. The copper piping that feeds the water to the hose will eventually split because of this expansion.

 

The easy fix here is to remove all the hoses and make sure that there is no water left in them. Also, for more protection, you can place a foam box over the spigot.

Additionally, if you live in a place where the temperatures drop dramatically or stay cold for an extended period of time, you need to make sure the pipes inside the home are protected. This is very important if your home has a crawl space underneath the house with exposed pipes. Simple and inexpensive foam pipe covers can accomplish this.

Clean roof gutters. If your home has gutters you need to make sure that you inspect how they are attached to the roof and that they are clear of debris. You want to make sure no dams or clogs are created. The best time to check is after all the fall leaves have dropped and then again during the spring thaw. Cleaning the drains will help ensure that the drains do not get ripped off from the roof and that water will not back up, which can cause a leaky roof.

Remove foliage and potential tree hazards. Trees and foliage provide great shade for your home in the summer and help keep the heat at bay. However, you want to make sure that you do not have branches and other foliage over your roof or potentially covering electric lines, cable, gas or any other cables you may have running to your home. It is easiest to trim back or remove any potential problems in the fall. Snow on branches can weigh them down and potentially cause utility problems or even roof damage.

Inspect your furnace. Winter typically requires the use of a heater. Schedule an inspection of your furnace to make sure it is venting properly and will not be obstructed by winter weather. Check and/or replace your carbon monoxide alarms, which is a low-cost fix that may just save your life.

Dryer exhaust.  Much like your furnace, inspect your dryer vent. Make sure no lint is backing up the exhaust and that winter weather will not cause any issues. A backed-up exhaust can lead to house fires.

These few safety precautions will help ensure that the winter months pass safely and that your home is protected. Take a few minutes and make your home as safe as possible for you and your family.

Fall Purging Can be Fun!

I love finding a new home for the items that I no longer use. This morning, on my way to take the kids to school, I put my carefully culled boxes of outgrown (by kids) or rarely worn (by me) clothing on our curb to be picked up by the Hartsprings Foundation. This local organization (affiliated with Big Brothers/Big Sisters), circulates all over the Pioneer Valley on an ongoing basis picking up a wide array of household donations for families in need. Another great resource is the ReCenter Swap Shop at the Glendale Road transfer station on Saturdays. This is a great place to get rid of many kinds of unwanted household items that are in durable and working condition. In addition, here is a link to the Northampton MA DPW which provides information about where and when to recycling what. To follow is an interesting companion piece from Apartment Therapy about what to purge, and when.

 

25 Things to Get Rid of This Fall

Brittney Morgan, Sep 10, 2017

A "New England Meets West Coast" Style Home (Image credit: Emily Billings)

Summer's over and fall is here, and that can only mean one thing: it's time to do some major decluttering. (What, you thought that only happened in spring?). The change of seasons is the perfect time to reset by going through your home room-by-room to get rid of all the stuff you didn't use all season, not to mention all the stuff you know won't get much use by winter, either.

To help you get started, here's a list of things you can get rid of ASAP from your closet to your medicine cabinet and beyond.

Wardrobe

  • Swimsuits you didn't wear all season.
  • Summer clothes you didn't wear and the clothes you did wear, but didn't feel good about yourself in.
  • Fall and winter clothes and outerwear you don't feel your best in or don't plan to wear.
  • Sandals and other summer shoes you didn't wear all season.
  • Fall and winter shoes you don't like anymore or don't plan to wear.
  • Clothes, shoes and accessories (including sunglasses) that are damaged if you don't plan to fix them.
  • Socks that you don't have matches for.
  • Inexpensive jewelry you haven't worn in ages.

Beauty Products

  • Makeup that's expired or doesn't match your skin tone.
  • Sunscreen you've been holding onto since last summer.
  • Hair and skincare products that have expired (or that you just haven't used in who knows how long).
  • Old nail polish that's lost its original texture.
  • Your loofah (they definitely don't last as long as you think they do!)
  • Samples and travel-sized products you never use.

Sarah's Small & Stylish Brooklyn Apartment (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Kitchen/Pantry

  • Spices you haven't replaced in a few years.
  • Foods you put in the freezer when summer started.
  • All those extra grocery bags you've set aside.
  • Food storage containers that could use a refresh or that are missing lids.
  • Appliances you haven't used since last fall.
  • Extra kitchen utensils you don't use or need.

Miscellaneous

  • Toys, clothes and shoes your kids will grow out of by next summer.
  • Worn-out beach towels.
  • Old magazines you've read through and through or never got around to all summer.
  • Over-the-counter meds or prescriptions that have expired (make sure you dispose of them properly!)
  • Old, worn-out sheets and bedding.

Feeling good? Let's get going!

Summer Projects Worth Doing!

Another Northampton summer is finally upon us. For many people this means, among other things, that new light may be shed upon various projects required to improve your home or property, which weren't apparent during the winter months. 

I love finding encouragement to support a hard won decision. We finally decided to green light our screened in porch construction after two years of hemming and hawing -- and we are super excited that we will have an outdoor space which keeps the bugs out! In addition, look at the words of wisdom I happened upon from the wonderful Apartment Therapy website below - this just happens to suggest that our decision was a good one!

Summer Projects That Will Give You Good Return on Investment

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

You don't have to do a total renovation to increase the value of your home. Simple home improvement projects — like landscaping, new doors or shutters, or just a new paint job — can do wonders, majorly transforming the look of your house and bumping up its value.

Landscaping

It's well-agreed that boosting your home's curb appeal will pay off when it's time to sell — though estimates range from 100 to 1,000 percent ROI. Regardless of the exact numbers, it's clear: You'll likely get out more than what you put in. Realtor.com has some ideas, ranging from weeding and maintenance to planting trees (which almost always add value).

Painting

A freshly painted home can get you a 5 to 10 percent premium when you go to sell. It's a no-brainer to paint over those rooms that are scuffed or really need it, but if you're looking to sell in the near future, you can also use paint to appeal to buyers and command a higher sale price for your home. For instance, a recent study from Zillow found that blue is a color likely to bump up the selling price of a space.

Decks and Patios

If you were thinking about getting a deck, patio or porch already, good news: It offers a 90.3 percent average return. You also get a good return if you revamp the deck you already have. You want to make sure all the boards, railings and stairs look sharp and are in safe working order. No one wants a deck that looks like a hazard to have their kids around. And adding things like lighting, planters and gates can up the value even more.

New Doors

Both garage door and entry door replacements have a high return on investment, at 80.7 percent and 98 percent, respectively. Spicing these up can increase the curb appeal over traditional, drab doors. It'll give your place something unique that other homes won't have.

by Sarah Landrum

Jun 23, 2017

Arctic Temps Expected to Hit Northampton Area!

Well, it looks as if winter has finally arrived to the Pioneer Valley, and she means business! It seems we can expect possible power outages due to the high winds. Make sure to have your flashlights powered up, and back up power and heat sources ready to go, should we lose power. It's also extremely important to dress appropriately for the weather if you need to be outside for any period of time.

Real Estate Reminder: Remember to keep your heat on low if you have to be out of town during the cold snap. Burst pipes can lead to very expensive plumbing and cosmetic fixes!

Here's the report from the Daily Hampshire Gazette today:

 

Cold snap expected to arrive in Pioneer Valley

By EMILY CUTTS
@ecutts_HG

Thursday, December 15, 2016

 

Snowy Trail

Photo credit: Allegro Photography

An Arctic front is expected to hit the region bringing with it cold temperatures, high winds and snow, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Thursday morning’s high temperature in the 20s is forecast to drop throughout the day to the mid-teens, according to Bill Simpson, a spokesperson with the weather service.

Winds will gradually increase with wind gusts reaching up to 40 mph in the afternoon bringing with it wind chills dropping near zero, Simpson said.

“One good thing – it’s a relatively short period,” he said.

The highest winds and lowest wind chills are expected in the evening and could hit 10 to 20 below zero in Western Massachusetts with some locations even colder, according to Simpson.

Moving into Friday, winds are expected to die down and temperatures are forecast in the mid-teens.

Snow is expected to arrive following the evening commute and could drop four to five inches in the Connecticut River Valley.

“Dress appropriately. We have a wind chill advisory out once you get below zero to minus 20,” Simpson said. “Hopefully people are dressing appropriately.”

Simpson also said people should prepare for possible power outages because of the high winds.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.

Time to Check Your Fire and CO Alarms

Another handy-dandy safety-related blog post from Maple and Main Realty! Fire safety is no joking matter. Many of us New Englanders have back up heating systems such as wood-burning stoves, pellet stoves, fireplaces, and the like - all of which come with the need for proper maintenance. As we hunker down for the winter, it's imperative that your house be as fire-safe as possible. Proper disposal of live ashes from fires, making sure your chimney has been swept recently, making sure your furnace and/or boiler have been recently serviced, checking on batteries in your fire and CO alarms, etc. All of these measures should be on your pre-winter to-do list. The following article is a repost from a recent piece in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about fire safety concerns.

Home fire safety concerns increase with cold weather

  • A Greenfield Fire Department engine at a fire. File photo/Shelby Ashline

By TOM RELIHAN
For the Gazette
Thursday, October 06, 2016

It’s getting colder, and that means we’re looking for ways to keep warm.

So, it’s a good time to think about protecting the home from fires, which increase in Massachusetts during the winter months.

The state Department of Fire Services has some tips.

Next week is Fire Prevention Week, according to DFS spokeswoman Jennifer Mieth, and this year’s theme is “Don’t Wait, Check the Date.”

She’s talking about smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. They’re the two devices that homeowners rely on to warn them when a fire has broken out, or when colorless, odorless carbon monoxide is building up. “You should replace smoke alarms every 10 years — the sensing technology degrades over time, and you may not be able to rely on it when you need it the most,” Mieth said. “Even if you put new batteries in and hear that beep, it still might not detect smoke.”

Recently, a grant program in Lynn to install new detectors saw officials finding one more than four decades old in a home. Lack of smoke detectors in general led to numerous fatal fires last year, Mieth said.

The Department of Fire Safety is also running its “Keep Warm, Keep Safe” campaign this time of year, as residents begin turning on the heat. 

Mieth said it’s important to regularly have your furnace inspected by a licensed professional.

“A clean, efficient furnace is cheaper to run and less likely to cause problems,” she said.

Heating systems are also the leading source of carbon monoxide in the home. Mieth said its important to have working CO detectors, and they need to be replaced even more frequently than smoke alarms — most only last five to seven years, unless it’s a newer model rated for up to 10 years.

If heating by wood, regular cleaning of your chimney by professional is crucial. Accumulated material in the chimney is the leading source of chimney fires, and cracks along the shaft could let fire contact the building’s main structure.

When disposing of the fire’s ashes, Mieth said, a metal container with a lid, stored outside, is the only safe way to do it.

“Do not put them in plastic recycling containers. Do not put them in paper or plastic bags,” she said. “Don’t store them under on the breezeway. Put them outside in a metal, lidded container. You touch the ashes and they may seem cold, but single embers can stay hot for a long time.”

When the winter chill really sets in and furnaces have a hard time keeping up, many people turn to space heaters to keep toasty. But Mieth said it’s important to know how to operate them safely.

They should always have a three-foot “circle of safety” around them, free of anything that can catch fire. Also, don’t use extension cords –— Mieth said extension cord failure is the most common cause of space heater-related fires.

“Any heat-generating device draws a lot of electricity, and if you’re not using the right kind of cord that can be really dangerous,” she said.

Tom Relihan can be reached at trelihan@recorder.com.

 

Choosing the Right Siding for your Home

We lived in a 100 year old house with clapboard siding for 8 years. We loved the look of painted clapboards, but we quickly tired of the upkeep and expense of the exterior paint job. 2 years ago we bought a new home, with Hardie Plank siding. The exterior paint has shown no signs of wear and tear since it was painted. In fact, the paint job looks new! 

Here in the Northampton area, we realtors sell a mix of +/- 100 year old homes with clapboard siding (or clapboards covered over with vinyl siding, aluminum siding and, sometimes, asbestos shingles), as well as mid-century homes with aluminum or vinyl siding, and, lastly, some new construction which usually has vinyl or Hardie plank siding. The Daily Hampshire Gazette recently ran a special section on homes, including this interesting article about choosing the right siding for your home. If you are a homeowner who is thinking about residing your current home, or you are building a home and wondering what siding might be best for you, this article should come in handy.

Here is an example of Hardie Plank siding.

Vintage Farmhouse, www.jameshardie.com

Deciding on siding

GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Tim Uhlig, pictured in photo at left, from Wilcox Builders in Hatfield, primes a new edge on a fiber cement soffit

board being installed on a home in the Village Hill development at Northampton. At right, and below, Michael

Cendrowski, works on the soffits while Uhlig cuts the siding, shown above right.

4 HOME MAGAZINE, Wednesday, September 14, 2016

 By LINDA ENERSON

For the Gazette

Siding is just one element of a home, but it’s an important one, as siding is often the first thing people notice when

they walk up to or drive by a home —and there’s a lot of it. If, for some reason, you don’t like the siding you’ve picked

out for your new or renovated home, it’s pretty hard to overlook it. Siding is made from a variety of materials,

some of them time-tested, like vinyl and wood, but there are also some newer products on the market, such as

fiber cement and OSB. With so many options to choose from, it can be a confusing task for homeowners to pick the siding

option that will serve their needs best.

Wright Builders constructs new homes and commercial buildings around the Valley using all kinds of siding. Roger Cooney, vice president

of design, sales and estimating, helps customers make decisions about what siding they want based on price, environmental impact,

aesthetics, durabilityand maintenance. According to Cooney, the key to picking

the right siding is for homeowners to understand their own priorities. For example, how critical is it for their home’s

siding to be eco-friendly, and what price point will their budget allow?

Vinyl

Vinyl is the least expensive siding option. When it comes to the environmental impact, “it’s pretty nasty,” Cooney said. Vinyl siding is largely

composed of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). During the manufacturingprocess of PVC, dioxin (a carcinogen) and other toxic gases are

produced, which are harmful to the  health of workers, as well as people and animals in the surrounding area. Dioxin and other toxins are 

also released when vinyl begins to  break down through the natural weathering process or when the siding materials finally make their way 

to a landfill. And Cooney said that in the unfortunate circumstance of a house fire, vinyl can actually melt, releasing more toxic chemicals.

Fiber cement

Fiber cement siding is a composite material made from cement, cellulose and sand. It is produced in a variety of styles, including shingles,

lap siding, vertical siding, and panels, and like wood, can be easily painted or stained, though unlike wood, it is impervious

to water and termite damage. Cooney said his company is installing fiber cement on many of the homes and commercials they build

because it is very durable, reasonably priced (about $3 per square foot at R.K. Miles), and more aesthetically pleasing than vinyl, as well

as fireproof. Fiber cement siding is used on all of the homes that Wright Builders recently constructed at the Village Hill developmenton the

old State Hospital grounds in Northampton. In terms of the environmental impact of fiber cement, Cooney said that while it is inert once

produced, fiber cement siding does require a fair amount of energy to manufacture. During installation, workers must wear a respirator to

prevent inhalation of silica dust when they cut the product.

OSB (Oriented strand board)

(OSB) is a siding product made of many glued layers or strands of wood. The price point of OSBproducts is similar to fiber cement siding

materials. According to Cooney, when it comes to durability and environmental impact, OSB scores less favorably than fiber cement. “It’s

has a lot of formaldehyde and glue in it,” he said.

Wood

The old standard, wood clapboard siding is still among the most environmentally friendly siding available, as long as it is sourced from

companies that practice sustainable forestry. Cooney said consumers should look for The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, which

certifies that responsible forestry standards have been maintained in the production of wood products bearing that label. Consumers

should also be aware that FSC certification adds cost. While not FSC certified, most locally harvested wood products are managed 

suitably and sustainably, according to Cooney. Pine and cedar are the two types of wood siding. Both can be sourced locally, as Eastern 

cedar and Eastern white pine grow in the Northeast. Pine is relatively inexpensive. Clogston says pine clapboards run between $1.50 and 

$2 a square foot at R. K. Miles. Cedar, which Cooney said holds up to the elements better than pine, showing less discoloration from

weathering, is the most expensive of all siding. Clogston said cedar runs in the range of $5 to $7 per square foot. The problem with wood

is that it requires a new coat of stain or paint about everydecade. According to Cooney, the best way to preserve wood siding is to paint or

stain all sides of it including any cuts made during installation, and install it over a drain plane to allow rain and other “bulk water ” to exit. 

But maintaining wood is only a problem if you don’t like to paint. Cooney recentlypainted his own house over Labor Day weekend. 

“Personally, I find it meditativeand satisfying … I’m sure I’m unusual in enjoying that type of work!” he said.