Home Maintenance

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.

Painting Over Wallpaper

In the real estate market in the Northampton, MA area, many of the homes for sale are 100 years old or older. While houses of this age are generally full of charm and character - with age often comes a set of issues to deal with. Items such as possible presence of lead paint, asbestos wrapped heating pipes, floor tiles or exterior shakes, and old wallpaper over original plaster are among the issues found in older homes.

I recently sold a sweet, old farmhouse in Williamsburg, MA. The house was full of charm, character, and good vibes. The upstairs bedrooms, however, were wallpapered, and the plaster to which the wallpaper was adhered had shifted away from the walls and the lathe underneath. In a situation such as this, I would imagine that the only solution is the remove the plaster and the wallpaper - and recover it with new sheetrock and paint. There are times, however, when it is possible, and a good solution, to paint right over existing wallpaper. This article from Angie's List explains when and how this remedy would apply.

When you have to paint over wallpaper


 

 

Painting over wallpaper is acceptable if removal will damage the wall or the wall is already damaged. 

 

(Brandon Smith, Angie's List) Brandon Smith/Angie's List--TNS
By OSEYE BOYD
Angie's List (TNS)
Thursday, March 31, 2016

While painting over wallpaper isn't the best option, sometimes it's the only option.

Forget what you've heard: It's possible to paint over all wallpaper -- and not just the paintable type.

While it's always preferable to remove wallpaper before painting, it's not always possible. Sometimes, you'll find layer upon layer of wallpaper, or removal will cause significant wall damage, says Jeff Sellers, owner of Merrifield Paint and Design of Arlington, Virginia.

"In some of these older homes, when you start pulling paper off you really don't know what you're getting into," Sellers says. "You can get the paper off and find the wall is damaged, and that's why they put the wallpaper up. You never know why people put up wallpaper."

Sellers says the type of wallpaper is a good indicator of whether it will come off easily. Paper-backed wallpaper is more difficult to remove than vinyl. You'll likely need to use a scoring device and adhesive remover, which may prove laborious and result in possible wall damage.


How to paint over wallpaper

You may be tempted to slap some paint on the wall, but there's more to it. Without proper preparation, the wallpaper will eventually lift and begin to show through the paint -- and look like painted over wallpaper.

According to experts, the wall should be clean and dust free. Remove all loose ends. If unable to remove, glue or cut away, spot prime and fill holes with spackle. Prime the wallpaper with an oil-based primer and skim the wallpaper with drywall mud to cover seams from the wallpaper and create a smooth wall. After skimming, sand the wall and prime again. Be sure the wall is dust free before applying paint.

"What matters is that you use an oil-based primer to seal the wallpaper," says Carlos Mendoza of Carlos Mendoza Painting, in Spring, Texas. "That's what's going to seal the wallpaper."

Once you've prepped the wall, Mendoza recommends using satin finish paint instead of flat, which is porous. If you prefer, you can use flat paint. However, because it's porous, flat paint holds dirt and is difficult to clean.

"The satin finish does show imperfections, but as long as you keep the texture consistent, you should be OK," Mendoza says.

Avoid bubbling, lifting or other issues with the wallpaper by testing a couple of spots and allowing to dry completely before painting the entire wall, said Octave Villar, manager of Behr application laboratory in Santa Ana, California.

 

Time to make sure you are prepared for winter!

Many of us Northampton area residents are wondering whether this winter will come close, in snow accumulation, to last winter. So far, it's not looking that way - though you can't seem to go anywhere in town today without hearing conversations about the upcoming Nor'easter (the Emperor's New Nor'Easter?). But, impending storm or no, it certainly makes sense to stock up on the types of materials and gadgets that you will be thankful to have on hand once the snow really does start falling. Our local Northampton paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, had this article to share, with great ideas about how to be ready for the snowfall when it finally comes. I imagine these items are flying off the shelves at local hardware stores, so put them on your shopping list if you don't already own them!

 

Stock up on the right tools to beat back Old Man Winter

 

R

Photo credit: Kevin Gutting

 

By ERIC GOLDSCHEIDER
For the Gazette

Rock salt mixed with sand is the first thing that comes to mind for many people when the task is melting the ice beneath their feet.

This is a perfectly acceptable solution for a limited number of applications, according to David Chaisson, co-owner of Stadler Ace Hardware in Belchertown. Maybe the bottom of a sloped driveway could use a sprinkling of this gritty concoction that provides the benefit of added traction along with its melting properties. It will give you the grip you need to build momentum as you ascend.

But in most cases you'll want something a little less harsh.

Rock salt is not only hard on metal, accelerating rust, but it also does no favors for concrete. In fact, "it will eat your concrete," said Chaisson. It may not seem like much at first, but the salt, which is perfectly fine on asphalt or blacktop, will start pitting a concrete walkway. Small cracks can develop and when water gets into those and freezes, the expansion will lead to a cascading cycle that will eventually destroy the concrete.

Salt is also not great for shoes, it will burn your pet's feet, and if you track it into the house the carpets will suffer.

The alternative is a product that comes under a variety of names but is usually referred to as Ice Melt. Chaisson carries a brand called Mr. Magic, which he prefers because it goes on orange, allowing for easy even distribution.

"When you are putting it on the white snow you can see where you are putting it to get a nice even mix," Chaisson said, "so you are not putting it on too light or missing some spots."

The active ingredient is calcium chloride. It keeps melting ice even when the overall temperature drops to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. That is considerably colder than rock salt, which only keeps melting down to minus 10 degrees.

Chaisson recommends getting your Ice Melt early because it often sells out. Last year it was very hard to find by midwinter.

Depending on your needs, the cheapest way of buying Ice Melt is in a 50-pound bag, though Chaisson recommends buying it in a drum the first time, and then buying refills.

"It's always a good idea to have a drum or some kind of sealable container so you can do your job and then fill it back up," he said. "You have to cover it up and keep the moisture out because if the moisture gets in, it will make it hard as a rock and you have to break it up and it becomes a pain in the neck."

Chaisson said you can apply Ice Melt on the ground before the snow falls or you can put it on ice that has already formed. "Let's say you have a thin layer of ice, you can put it down and it will stay there until the next storm," he said. "It keeps melting until it's melted out." How long that might be depends in part on how well the melted water drains off, or whether it puddles and refreezes.

Roof care

Driveways, walkways and paths to the wood pile are not the only places you want to think of in terms of keeping the snow and ice from piling up, Chaisson said.

A little bit of early intervention when snow starts piling up on the roof can go a long way toward preventing bigger problems.


Most importantly, he said, is to get the right kind of rake (with a long handle) so that you can clear snow off the first few feet of your roof. If you do that, the rest of the roof will take care of itself, as normal sunshine will heat up the shingles just enough to let the snow dissipate in an orderly way.

Ice dams were an issue that people in our area used to deal with once in a decade, said Chaisson, but in recent years they have become an annual phenomenon. That is when ice builds up toward the bottom of the roof and stays there, preventing the melting snow from dripping off. In fact, it can build up and start pooling on the roof and then as it repeatedly melts and freezes it can seep under the shingles and over time cause major damage.

"If it's looking like it's going to stay cold for a while, you should get a bit of your roof opened up even if there is not a lot of snow," said Chaisson.

There is also a relatively new product that has come to the market in the last five years that looks something like a hockey puck that you can put on your roof to help keep the ice from building up.

These are a little pricey, Chaisson said, but they work very well.

"If your roof is frozen solid, especially your gutters, you can throw them up onto your roof a couple of feet," he said. "You don't have to be very accurate and you don't have to send them way up."

The effect may seem to be almost imperceptible at first, but as the pucks (or discs) slowly melt the ice around them the chemical (just like the Ice Melt, it is calcium chloride) drips down with the water, clearing built-up ice along the way. "It may not look like it's doing a lot, but it is doing all the work under the top surface," said Chaisson.

One of the reasons it is so important to clear the lower portion of the roof is that starting in the late afternoon the chilled air coming up can quickly freeze any moisture that gathers there during the day, Chaisson said.

"The wind is what starts the thing because you are melting every day," he said. "Around 4 o'clock you get the uplifting cold."

Throwing snow

Back on the ground, ice is one thing, but snow measured in inches and sometimes feet can be another. Shovels come in at least 30 varieties and brands, ranging from less than $10 to up to $40.

"You truly get what you pay for," Chaisson said. The major differences are between the "pushers" and the "lifters." There are also the so-called "back savers" which have angled posts that allow you to stay in a more upright position as you heave the snow to where you want it to go. The advantage is that you get to let your legs take some of the weight that your back would otherwise handle.

Another variable to look for in shovels is whether the blade is made of metal or plastic. As you might expect, the metal blade is more durable but it might not be the right solution for a deck, for instance, where scratching could be an issue.

And then there are snowblowers. Tom Perron, the owner of Boyden & Perron in Amherst, prefers to call them "snow throwers" but, he said, the terms are interchangeable and are usually dependent on who the manufacturer is.

There is a lot of variety there.

The simplest power tool for clearing your front steps and maybe a walkway or small driveway is a power shovel, which is electric and plugs into the wall. An obvious advantage is that you don't have to deal with smelly gas and oil. There are also no spark plugs or carburetors that need to be serviced. Besides being clean, they are also light, so you can easily take them out to a deck you want to clear. The obvious down side is that you have to be within reach of a power source and you have to manage the cord while you are doing your work.

Perron sells three sizes of power shovels.

When it comes to gasoline-powered snow throwers, there is a major distinction between single-stage machines and double-stage machines.

For the first, the auger (think spiral blade) touches the ground directly. As it spins it throws the snow off to the side. This is good when you are working on smooth surfaces and the snow is not too deep or tightly packed.


The motion of the blade helps propel the machine forward as you go. Depending on use, the blade needs to be replaced every few years. It can throw the snow 25 to 30 feet, according to Perron. He sells these in seven different models.

For bigger jobs you will want a two-stage snow thrower. In this case the auger does not touch the ground, which means you can use it on a wider variety of surfaces, including rougher terrain like a lawn or a gravel driveway. The rotating blade in this case cuts into the snow and feeds it to a secondary mechanism, called the impeller, which is what throws the white stuff up to 40 feet.

Unlike the single-stage snow thrower, this machine has a transmission, which means that you can adjust the power depending on the job. The wheels are also connected to the transmission so you get a power assist in moving the machine forward.

"Some of the larger snow throwers are easier to use than the smaller ones," Perron said.

He sells seven models of the two-stage snow throwers. Those at the higher end include features like heated handles and headlights as well as, of course, more power and a wider intake so you can move more volume more quickly.

Finally, if you want to go really large, there are riding snow throwers. These are for people who have large surfaces they need to clear quickly.

The added benefit of these is that they have a dual use as lawn mowers in the summer.

That is something nice to think about as you head out into the frigid environs of a heavy blanket of snow left behind by a winter storm.

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com

 

Keeping Up with the Needs of your Home

It's hard to pinpoint the moment at which your newly renovated kitchen or bath starts to feel and look dated. As the months and years go by, something shifts. Is it that the paint has faded? Is it that the white square tile just isn't as timeless a choice as white subway tile would have been? Are you wishing you had chosen oil-rubbed bronze fixtures vs. chrome? Whatever the case may be, time does take it's toll on our homes - both stylistically and actually. As realtors, we are often pointing out to sellers, that when faced with what to focus on with regard to house updates for resale, it's the systems that should come first. Roofs, windows and trim, HVAC systems, gutter cleaning, moisture management in basements -- all of these items may be less compelling than a gorgeous bathroom renovation - but aesthetic choices are subjective. For instance, If you spend a lot of money on a kitchen renovation in lieu of replacing an aging roof or aging HVAC system - buyers may not like your design choices; they would therefore be less likely to buy your home than a home with a slightly dated kitchen but a new roof and updated HVAC system.  Giving a house or room a fresh coat of paint can liven up the space without spending a lot of money.

The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette gives sound advice about the "whens" and "whys" to start taking on home improvement projects in an aging home.

 

 

Living Smart: Projects for your home’s difficult teen years



As your house approaches 20 years old, consider steps to improve window efficiency. (Summer Galyan/Angie's List/TNS)

By Michele Dawson Angie’s List (TNS)
Thursday, November 5, 2015


When it comes to home improvement projects on your house that’s coming of age, there’s no denying that your roof, windows and air conditioning and heating units might be getting moody, temperamental or give you the silent treatment altogether.

As your home ages, it will require more upkeep and improvements. It’s especially important to stay on top of some of the more potentially troublesome elements of your home — ones that can cause you massive headaches and put a huge dent in your wallet.

Many changes both small and large can increase energy efficiency and cut down on electricity or gas bills, as well as increase home value if and when you plan to sell your house.

If your home’s age is in the double-digits, some of the home improvement projects on your to-do list will include:

Roof repairs, shingles and gutters


While staying on top of roof maintenance should take place regardless of the age of your home, it becomes even more important in the teen years. The National Roofing Contractors Association says you should examine the condition of the shingles. Any sign of blistering, buckling or curling means it’s time to replace them. You should also check the chimneys and pipes for wear or anything that seems to be coming apart. Also, check your gutters for any shingle granules. If you’re finding healthy amounts in the gutter, that means they’re not on the shingles and your roof is missing out on ultraviolet ray protection. If you find any of these problems, consider a roof repair by a licensed roofing contractor.

Gutter cleaning plays an important role in protecting your gutters, downspouts and foundation. Keep a clean gutter by regularly hiring a gutter cleaning company, and consider adding gutter guards to further protect them.

Window replacement and repair

As your windows age, they’re bound to lose the battle with draftiness or become stubborn and stick to their frames, and you’ll likely see your energy bill increase. Checking your windows for drafts and caulking is an easy solution that can be completed in a weekend and with minimal expense. Or you might consider new replacement windows with high energy efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says you’ll save 7 to 15 percent on your energy bill, and your home’s temperature will be consistent. No more drafts if you’re sitting by the window or rooms that feel too hot in the summer. A vinyl window overhaul can cost you upwards of $10,000 to $15,000. But the good news is that you’ll recover about 78 percent of that when you sell your home, according to Hanley Wood’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report.

Heating and cooling

Life expectancy in HVAC units is typically 10 to 15 years. Units produced today are much more energy-efficient than the models just a decade ago. If you’re constantly calling an HVAC contractor, your unit is noisy, it’s humid inside your house, your energy bills are rising, or your unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is less than 13, then it’s time to consider replacing your heating and cooling unit with a model that boasts higher energy efficiency. A licensed HVAC contractor can perform a load calculation that gets the most efficient model for your money.

Landscaping, tree service

When your house was new, the trees and landscape were so young and nonthreatening. As the years pass, the trees have matured and provide shade and beautiful aesthetics. But your gutters are getting clogged with leaves and you start to notice bumps and bulges in the path of tree roots, heading straight to your block patio. You’ll need to start cleaning those gutters more frequently. And if your tree roots are presenting problems, you can consider installing a barrier to the roots or dig and place pack material to discourage the roots.

A tree service professional can help ensure the best health for your trees by careful pruning and maintenance.

Painting and home décor


An easy way to help your home decor retain a youthful appearance is by livening it up with a new paint job. For both the interior and exterior, a fresh coat of paint can bring a crisp, clean, bold appearance. As walls get dingy and dirty, painting a room can do wonders. And introducing new colors can make a room or exterior of your house feel new again.

Staying in tune with your house during its tumultuous teen years is especially important if you plan on selling in the near future. Buyers tend to navigate toward homes that have been properly maintained and sport newer, more energy-efficient features. And exterior work such as regular tree service and fresh paint can increase curb appeal for a better home value.

 

Thinking Ahead to Fall

It has been a beautiful summer, much needed after the winter that wouldn't end. I'd like to be more zen, have more of a "be here, now" attitude and continue to enjoy these summer moments, however, as realtors, we tend to be thinking ahead much of the time. In winter, we often meet with sellers to advise them about prepping their homes for the selling season in the spring. In summer, we may be speaking to them about gearing up for the upswing that tends to happen in the fall market. In addition to this, as Northampton residents, here in the heart of New England with its' many seasonal changes, we need to think ahead with preparing our homes for the colder seasons. To that end, I happened upon this helpful piece on the Apartment Therapy website today that I thought I would share with our readers here.

 

10 Things to Get Done Before Labor Day

 
 

Esther and Brandon's personality-filled home

 

This is a public service announcement: The Halloween stuff is already out at craft stores. And I'm not sure how fall came to have a mascot, but I know that autumn is on its way when I hear people start talking about how much they miss pumpkin spice. While there are still several weeks left to enjoy the summer, it might be a good time to start thinking about the tasks you need to get done before cool weather really sets in.

1. Clean the Grill

After all those summer parties are over, give your outdoor cooker a deep clean before putting it up for the season. And you might want to think about getting a grill cover if you don't have one already.

2. Paint, If You Plan To

If there are any indoor painting projects on your docket, tackle them now while the weather's warm enough to keep your windows open for ventilation.

3. Wash Windows and Glass Doors

Summer comes with a lot of grime. Give all the glass around your place a good wipe down as fall creeps in.

4. Clean and Repair Your Outdoor Space

Take mental notes of any pressing tasks that need to happen on the balcony or around the backyard, then get going on them while there's still plenty of daylight and good weather.

5. Check for Leaks Around Windows or Doors

You'll want to inspect these areas for air drafts before the crisp fall air comes breezing in. Then install weather stripping as needed.

6. Vacuum the Vents

Clean built-up dust from vents, room fans, baseboard heaters, dryer vents and the range hood.

7. Test Your Heater

Don't get caught in a freeze with a broken heating system. HVAC repair professionals are notoriously busy towards the end of the calendar year, so get a jump on it and check now to see if your home is ready for heating.

Spring Cleaning Time!

I am amazed how the undeniable instinct to clean and declutter accompanies the warmer weather year after year.  It's like clockwork.  After being cooped up inside all winter long, I find myself looking at both the interior and exterior of my house with new eyes.  Clothes that don't fit the kids (or that I no longer wear) go to Goodwill, piles of who-knows-what that pepper every surface of the house get dismantled and dealt with, the garage gets swept and organized, artwork gets framed and hung, the lawn gets mowed, flowers and trees get watered and planted... I turn to my husband/recycling guru to check in about various local recycling events happening here in Northampton (electronics, expired meds, toxic waste, paint cans, furniture, etc).  It feels good to be productive in this way.  Yet it is interesting that, despite these efforts, the projects never seem to end!  

I was perusing my favorite go-to blog/website Apartment Therapy today and came across this very relevant post about keeping your living space looking great!

 

 

 

Get Rid of These 5 Things That are Keeping Your Home from Looking Its Best


If the look of your home isn't quite where you want it to be, it could be because you're holding on to things that are dragging your decor down. Does anything on this list sound familiar? If so, consider whether passing it along would give you the freedom you need to take your space to the next level.

Things that used to fit your style, but don't anymore.
Maybe when you were in college you went through a phase where you really loved shabby chic, or Chinese-inspired stuff, or whatever, and you bought a bunch of things and they were great, but now they don't quite fit your style but you can't get rid of them because you used to really love them. It is ok to get rid of these things. Sometimes tastes change. You're not the same person you used to be. Let your home, and your life, be what it wants to be now, and find those old things a new home where they'll be truly appreciated.

Stuff that you have just to fill holes.
Most people have a lot more furniture than they actually need. I can't explain it -- maybe it's our consumerist culture -- but I think that in decorating we feel a lot of pressure to fill up spaces. Like, if you have a blank wall you feel there needs to be some piece of furniture there, even if it's something you never use and don't even like. Do you have a piece that has never felt quite right, but that you've kept because it's the thing that goes in that particular corner? Consider letting go of it. Your home doesn't need to be full to feel full.

Bulky items that don't really have anywhere to go.
You loved that armoire when you saw it at the flea market, but it's been floating around your house awkwardly ever since then, as you tried without success to squeeze it into a corner where it just wouldn't quite go. Sometimes things you like are out of scale for your home, or the way you live, and it's better to just admit it and move on.

Things that you like but that don't fit into your lifestyle.
Maybe you have a sofa that is beautiful but too uncomfortable to sit on, or a lovely serving dish that you never have occasion to use, or a rug that you really like but avoid stepping on because it stains so easily. It's worth thinking about how the things you own affect the way your home feels, as well as the way it looks. Your home should be a place that makes you feel comfortable, and things that you like but never use can be obstacles that get in the way of you living your life.

Projects you are never ever going to finish.
This is a hard one. Oh gosh, is it hard. Especially if you're like me, and you love to plan projects, and buy things to make them happen, and then you are not so good at actually following through on them. At some point, maybe after years and years, you just need to admit that you are never going to paint that sideboard, or re-cane that chair. Find a new home for those things, and clear the clutter and the guilt out of your life.

(Image credits: Alysha Findley)

 

Don't Let Those Pipes Freeze!

As realtors, we tend to hear many stories of winter-related homeowner issues from week to week. While we all live in fear of the dreaded ice dam,- in winter, local stores tend to sell out of roof rakes quickly, and most of us are out there shoveling off our roofs after every snowfall to avoid the expensive fallout of ice damming. This year, we have a new winter worry to concern us -- frozen pipes!  I'm not merely referring to the pipes within your own home, I am referring to the service lines which come off the water main on your street. It turns out that homeowners are responsible for keeping service lines on their private property clear, the town is responsible for the water main. We Northampton residents are a bit incredulous at the severity of this freezing cold winter - spring can't come soon enough!  In the meanwhile, here is an article about frozen water pipes from the Daily Hampshire Gazette earlier this week.

 

Derek Shingara, of Shingara Enterprises, uses a blowtorch to melt away snow and ice around a curb stop valve outside a home on Seventh Street in Shamokin, Pa., Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. Shingara Enterprises was sub contracted by Aqua Pennsylvania to locate the valve after a homeowner reported his pipes were frozen. (AP Photo/The News-Item, Larry Deklinski)

Area public works officials issue recommendations to avoid frozen water pipes, service lines

 

By CHRIS LINDAHL

@cmlindahl

Monday, February 23, 2015 

(Published in print: Tuesday, February 24, 2015)

 

NORTHAMPTON — As persistent snowfall has raised concerns about roof damage across the region, nearly a month of below-freezing temperatures has local

 

Department of Public Works officials warning of another threat faced by homeowners — frozen pipes. “The one thing I would recommend to people — if you’ve never had it happen to you, this would be the year to check your pipes,” Amherst DPW superintendent Guilford Mooring said Monday.

 

The Pioneer Valley saw 27 straight days of below-freezing average daily temperatures before the streak was broken Sunday, according to Alan Dunham of the National Weather Service. “That’s a fairly long stretch,” he said. “Unheard of no, but you don’t have many stretches longer than that.” 

 

Dunham said arctic air from central Canada that moved into the region after each of the recent snowstorms is to blame. There’s a chance of snow Wednesday, and continuous below-freezing temperatures are nearly certain Wednesday through Sunday. With those freezing temperatures comes a deep frost that can threaten water meters and pipes inside and outside homes.

 

“The ground is seeing a freeze that it hasn’t seen in a very long time,” Northampton water superintendent Greg Nuttelman said Monday. Nuttelman and Mooring agree that when the temperature drops, it is a good idea for homeowners to let their faucets drip to protect their pipes. A higher water bill is “cheap insurance” against broken pipes, Nuttelman said.

 

The key to preventing broken pipes is keeping them warm, Nuttelman added. That can be achieved by opening doors to rooms where pipes are located, placing a lighted bulb near pipes, wrapping them in insulation and opening doors to cabinets where pipes are enclosed.

 

In addition to more than the usual number of reports about interior pipes freezing, there has been an increase in outside water service lines freezing in both Amherst and Northampton, Nuttelman and Mooring said.

 

The water service line is the pipe that brings water from the main in the street into a building. The majority of the length of these pipes are buried on private property and are the responsibility of the homeowner should they burst.

 

Nuttelman said his crews have responded since last Thursday to 16 cases of frozen service lines, a typically rare occurrence.

 

In Northampton, the DPW will try to thaw the pipe using a machine that sends jets of hot water into the frozen line from inside a home. If that does not work, however, the pipe must be dug up and thawed using steam.

 

Some of those frozen service lines were last reported frozen in the late 1970s.

 

In Amherst, the DPW keeps a list of homes that have histories of frozen service lines. When the temperature drops, the department notifies people on that list and encourages them to keep their water running.

 

If no water comes out of the faucet when it is turned on, Nuttelman said it is most likely that pipes nearest a wall, door, window or along the floor that are frozen.

 

To start, homeowners should open a faucet near the frozen pipe to release water vapor from melting ice. Begin warming the pipes using a hair dryer starting from the faucet and moving toward the frozen section.

 

Nuttelman said the expense of leaving a pencil-width stream of water running is a small price to pay to avoid the high cost of replacing burst pipes or service lines.

 

Water meters can be another casualty of cold weather. Mooring said that water meters, commonly found in basements, often break when homeowners shut off their water before going on vacation. Water trapped inside the meter can freeze, breaking the meter, if temperatures inside the home are allowed to drop. 

 

As a remedy, Mooring suggests leaving the heat on even if you shut off your water.

 

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com

 

Tips for Choosing Paint Colors

One of the pieces of advice we often give our seller clients as listing agents, is that a fresh coat of paint goes a long way towards making a home (or an individual room) look better.  In addition, it is a relatively small investment to make when thinking about how to improve the look of your home.  I found this relevant blog post on Apartment Therapy which gives concise tips about choosing paint colors.  Of course, you can always speak to your realtor about local painters who also specialize in help with color choices.  Whether you are more into the DIY approach or not, this information may be of interest.

Tips for Choosing Paint Colors

5-12-08paintcolors.jpg

We think Marilyn and Peter got it just right when they chose this shade of gray-green for their accent wall, but as winners of the 2006 Fall Colors Contest, they've got a natural knack for color. Not everyone is so adept at picking out paint, so we've listed a few tips below for choosing paint colors...

Just to kick off the conversation, these are ideas we've collected (especially over the last couple weeks, as we've been choosing paint colors for all the rooms in our new apartment). Add your tips and tricks in the comments below.

5-12-08painting4.jpgFlickr Finds: Dior Gray Accent Wall

o Choose a color that works with your furniture. It's much easier to change your walls than buy a new living room set, so use what you already own to guide your choices.

o Consider a room's natural light when choosing whether to go dark or pale. Generally, rooms with lot of natural light can handle dark colors better than a poorly lit room. Pale shades will usually reflect natural light.

o Choosing the right color is all about balance. If you have colorful furnishings or accent pieces in your home, try balancing them with more neutral walls. If your all-neutral furniture feels bland, use a bold color to give the room some kick.

5-12-08painting5.jpgColorTherapy: Coastal Fog

o If you see a color you like in a photograph, try to match it to a color chip. Although colors aren't reliable online, a photograph of a whole room gives you a better idea of a color than a swatch on your screen. For rooms that list color sources from AT, see NY's Color Therapy posts.

o Collect chips in a range of colors and look at them against any upholstery, rugs, and wood tones in the room.

o Pair wall colors with a complimentary trim, or paint trim and baseboards the same color as the walls for a modern look. When choosing trim, remember that colors change in relation to one another. Collect chips and samples for both your main and accent colors.

5-12-08painting3.jpgColor Combo: Gray and Blue

o In our experience, paint almost always looks darker on the wall than it does on the chip. If you're working off a chip, choose the color you want, then consider going a shade lighter.

o Choose the type of finish you want for your room. Flat finishes hide imperfections, while glossy finishes reflect light. Flat finishes are harder to keep clean (so they're not ideal for a kitchen or bathroom), but glossy finishes can look cheap if the walls aren't in top form.

o Even if you have to pay a little, invest in a small sample pot and paint a few swatches in your room, near the windows and in dark corners.

o Although painting can be stressful, it's one of the least expensive changes you can make in a room, so don't get too upset if you make a mistake. You can always change it later.

via Tips for Choosing Paint Colors | Apartment Therapy.