Maintaining Your Home

Hiring a Contractor

How to Protect Yourself – The Federal Trade Commission Estimates that Americans Lost More Than $4.1 Billion Dollars to Fraud and Scams in the Last 5 Years!

Hold On! Not so Fast!

  • Door-to-door salesperson???
  • What do you know about them?
  • Always Use extreme caution – you are about to let strangers in your home!
  • Are they pressuring you for an immediate decision? WARNING bells should go off!
  • Use due diligence and research any contractor before agreeing to a contract.
  • Interview several contractors before making a decision.
  • Consider getting a recommendation from someone you trust.  Call the recommendation. Ask questions. Can you see a sample of their work?
  • They only accept cash? This the number one warning!
  • Can you verify the company name, address and phone number? Anyone can print a business card.
  • Did they provide you with any references?
  • Did they offer you a great price because they “have materials left form another job”.
  • Did they ask you to get any required permits?

Interviewing Guidelines

  • Get the contractor’s full name and contact information.
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed, insured and bonded in your state. Ask for a copy of his/her license.
  • Ask how much experience the contractor has in similar jobs.
  • Ask for a break down of the estimate by costs. Only agree to pay for what has been presented in the contract. Do not agree up front, to pay additional charges.
  • Ask for a timeline of the project from start to finish.
  • If the contractor is using sub-contractors, make sure those workers are also licensed, bonded and insured.
  • Ask if the contractor provides a warranty on the work being done. Is the contractor responsible to fix their own mistakes?

Once You Have Chosen a Contractor

  • Obtain a written and signed bid, no matter how big or small the job is.
  • If a building permit is required, have the contractor get one in their.
  • Never pay the contractor in cash! Always use a credit card and get a receipt.
  • Never pay for the job upfront. Ask to billed after it is complete.
  • If you are dealing with an insurance claim, call your insurance company prior to the work being done to see if they have any restrictions or requirements.

While the Work is in Progress

  • Secure all your valuables in the house. Do not leave them out where they could be damaged or stolen.
  • If you see a problem with the job, photograph it before you discuss with the contractor.
  • Be available when the work is being done, in case of questions and to monitor the work.

After the Work is Completed

  • Make sure all the subcontractors have been paid by your contractor.
  • Make sure the job has been completed to your satisfaction.
  • Pay the final bill!

 

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Smaller Spaces

We appear to be exiting the era of the McMansion.  Several recent reports from new home builders make it clear that, despite the increased affordability of housing, the average size of a new home is smaller than it was a few years ago. Buyers are beginning to embrace the concept of the “big-enough” home. If you have embraced this trend and have chosen to make do with reduced square footage, here are some suggestions on how to make smaller rooms look larger and function effectively:

  • Choose furniture wisely. While small furniture takes up less space and makes a room feel more open, it may not be as comfortable as larger pieces. The solution may be to make do with fewer larger pieces.
  • Let in as much natural light as possible. Natural light makes rooms seem airier, so take steps to add natural light. Adding a skylight will capture light and make a room appear larger. When choosing your window treatments, remember that curtains block light – the less you cover, the more natural light can flood into your home. Choose a sheer fabric, or chose blinds and shades that expose the entire window when drawn. If you need privacy, consider replacing a window with glass blocks, which provide privacy while allowing light in.
  • Avoid straight lines. Round tables, rugs and pillows, and sofas and chairs with curves, help small rooms feel less boxy.
  • Organize your collectibles. Removing all the knick-knacks from a small room will make it appear more spacious, but also more sterile and less homey. Instead, edit your collectibles carefully and display them in just one or two places, not scattered throughout the whole room.  A group of similar items, or different objects of the same color, creates a visual destination in a room and avoids a sense of stifling clutter.
  • Use tables made of clear materials.  Clear surfaces such as glass or Lucite give the impression of openness while delivering function.
  • Choose contrasting colors to visually expand small rooms. In the past, interior designers have suggested that painting everything white.  But today, while they still like white for cabinets and ceilings, they are suggesting that you add a warm contrasting color that will cast a glow to the room. A different approach to making a room appear larger is to paint the walls and ceiling the same shade, so the eye doesn’t stop at the ceiling line.
  • Strategic use of lighting. Lamps placed at different heights will brighten a small room and make it seem larger.
  • Use floating shelves instead of cabinets. These provide useful storage, but look airy and chic.
  • Determine your priorities. Make rooms fit your needs and lifestyle. If having a desk is more important than having a dining table, you can eat at the kitchen counter or coffee table.
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What’s Hot in Outdoor Living

It’s not quite spring yet, but it’s not too early to start thinking about your outdoor living areas. Surveys show that having an attractive outdoor living environment ranks very high with today’s buyers. Creating an “outdoor living room” for your home will pay off when you sell. Not planning to move?  Then do it for yourself and your family.  It’s a relatively inexpensive way to give yourself more space for living and entertaining.

What features are most desirable?  The American Society of Landscape Architects conducts an annual Residential Trends Survey. It’s 2011 survey, reported these features as the most popular outdoor living feature trends:

  • exterior lighting (96.2%)
  • fire pits and outdoor fireplaces (94.2%)
  • seating and dining areas (94.1%)
  • grills (93.8%)
  • installed seating, such as benches, seat walls, or ledges (89.5%)
  • weatherized outdoor furniture (83.5% )
  • counter space (74.2%)
  • utility storage (61.3%)
  • stereo systems (58.3%)
  • sinks (54.7%)
  • refrigerators (50.2%)

The survey showed increased interest in technology for the outdoors, such as stereo systems, Internet access and televisions. Low-maintenance landscaping and water-efficient irrigation systems are also growing increasingly popular.

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A Leaky Roof May Come from an Interior Source

In some cases what appears to be a roof surface leak is not a leak at all but rather an interior source of water. Here are some examples –• Air leakage from the house: If household air can leak into the attic, warm moist air will condense on surfaces in the attic during cold weather. This can damage the roof decking and structural framing and even cause water to drip back into the house. Sealing the attic in cold climates is very important.

• Leaking ducting: If heating and cooling ducting runs through the attic, it must be well sealed. Ducts leaking air can cause condensation.

• Air conditioning ducting: If air conditioning ducting runs through the attic, it should be well insulated and have a good vapor barrier. Condensation can form on cold air ducts and can drip down into the ceiling.

• Attic mounted heating and cooling: Furnaces and air conditioning evaporators create condensation. If this equipment is located in the attic and there is a leak somewhere in the condensation path, it will leak into the house.

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The Leaky Roof Surface

When the roof surface ages, it wears and becomes less and less reliable. Eventually it may leak. But not only old roofs leak. One of the most common causes of roof failures is poor workmanship during installation. The reason this is not readily apparent is that it often takes a few years for a poor installation to manifest itself in a leak. By this time it is all too easy to point the finger at wear and tear.

A leaking roof can be disruptive and costly, causing damage to interior finishes. In some cases it is easy to determine the cause and in other cases it can be difficult to diagnose. In some cases a roof leak will only occur with specific weather conditions. Let’s try to make some sense of this mystery.

Sloped Roofs Shed Water
Sloped roof systems are designed to shed water from one shingle to the next down to the roof edge. Sloped roof systems are not waterproof. Understanding this concept is the first step to understanding how a roof can leak. Flat roof systems, on the other hand, are designed to be waterproof.

It’s All About the Flashing
Roofs don’t normally leak in the middle of a field of shingles or tiles. They leak where there is a roof penetration such as a skylight, chimney, dormer or roof wall intersection. These critical areas are kept from leaking with flashing. Flashing is usually made up of pieces of metal configured so water will shed across the gap between the roof penetration and the roof surface. Often roof leaks can be traced to poorly installed or worn flashing. If you have a roof that leaks, the flashing is the most likely culprit.

Wind and Rain
Roof systems should be designed and installed to accommodate your local climate. On the other hand, it is possible for a perfectly installed and maintained roof to leak given the right combination of wind and rain. Recall that sloped roof surfaces are not waterproof but they shed water down the roof.

Ice
In cold climates, ice can cause a perfectly good roof surface to leak. Ice can block the flow of water to the edge of the roof or to the drain. Water can then back up under the shingles and leak into the house.

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How Does the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Affect Residential Real Estate?

It is impossible to ignore… Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana.  And while state law recognizes recreational marijuana as legal, federal law currently does not.

According to the Denver Post, of the ten largest cities (by population) in the State of Colorado, only Denver is currently accepting license applications for recreational pot stores.  The majority of counties have postponed making a decision and instead are watching closely to see how enactment is working in other parts of the state.

Home buyers are  concerned how legalized recreational marijuana use will affect their purchase of residential real estate.  Will it affect the neighborhoods where pot shops might open up? Will it affect crime? Traffic? Property values?  It’s important to note that as of this writing,  grow operations are only allowed in areas zoned industrial.

However, this new law does allow for in-home cultivation of up to six plants and that is the area of concern for residential real estate. If there is evidence of an extensive grow operation, buyers need to be aware that there is potential for widespread mold. Under this new buyers need to have an increased level of awareness during the inspection.

According to Colorado Inspection Services, large scale in-home growers cut holes in ceilings to allow for ventilation and to run water lines.  They also change the duct-work and rewire the house to accommodate higher voltage grow lights.  You should pay special attention during the inspection to unsafe wiring, over-sized fusing, damaged fixtures, holes for vents and electrical access, wood rot, rusted gas appliances, damaged vents, and mold from venting to interior, attic or crawlspaces.

Investor/landlords will also have to pay close attention to their rental properties and the behavior of their tenants.  While personal pot use is legal, pot use on a rental property may result in violations in loan covenants relating to “illegal activities”, or issues with hazard insurance coverage.

 

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Residential Hazardous Waste Removal

 

Hazardous waste

Residential hazardous waste removal is available door-to-door for single family residences in many Cities and Counties.  It offers homeowner’s a great opportunity to get rid of all kinds of HHW (Household Hazardous Waste). Such items may include, used motor oil, used oil filters, antifreeze, dried paint, household and auto batteries, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, acids, photo and household chemicals.

Each City or County who offers such a program, manages their own residential hazardous waste removal. So, the first step is to contact the City or County that you reside in and see if there is such a program available. Then contact the program administrator and see if you qualify. While you have them on the phone, clarify what types of hazardous waste you would like to dispose of and verify that it is allowable under their program. After you have been qualified, the operator will walk you through the procedure, explain the cost and determine the next available pick-up date in your area. 

This is a very easy and affordable way to get rid of your residential haszardous waste.  For Unincorporated Arapahoe County, City of Centennial and Denver residents, see the following contact information:

Curbside Inc.  1-800-449-7587    or email: hotline@curbsideinc.com for collection information and to schedule an appointment.

Additional resources on household hazardous waste and recycling can be found at: 

http://earth911.org  Earth 911 lists by State and County, HHW facilities, collection details and collection event information.

http://obviously.com/recycle/   Obviously.com provides a recycling guide that offers a starting point for consumers in the USA and Canada, who are searching fthe internet for recycling information.

http://denvergov.org The Official website for Denver.

 

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Carbon Monoxide Deadly – Detectors Required

Carbon Monoxide DeadlyCarbon monoxide deadly!  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is deadly and home detectors are now required. Carbon monoxide exposure accounts for 500 deaths and an estimated 15,000 emergency room visits, each year in the United States.  In 2009, Colorado lawmakers passed HB1091. The Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act,  requires all residential properties, to have carbon monoxide detectors installed within 15 feet of each bedroom.

It is important for your families safety, that you purchase a carbon monoxide detector that has been laboratory tested. Do not buy the cheapest model available. Buy one for it’s features and not the price. Even if it means upgrading the one that’s already in the home that you just purchased. Sellers are required to provide detectors, but they are not required to provide the industry best.  At the end of the day, it is very cheap protection for you and your family, and if you have a leak that goes undected, you may not get a second chance. 

Carbon monoxide is deadly!  If your carbon monoxide detector goes off immediately:

  • Determine if it is your smoke detector or your carbon monoxide detector going off. You should have both.
  • Check to see if any one in the home is experiencing severe headache, dizziness, confusion and/or nausea – all signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.  If so, get them or you, out of the home immediately and seek medical attention.
  • Get fresh air into the home.
  • Call 911 or get to an emergency room. Be sure to tell Emergency Responders that you believe that you have been exposed to carbon monoxide.
  • Don’t ignore symptoms especially if more than one is feeling them.
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Remodeling a Home Built Prior to 1978 will Require a Certified Lead Contractor

A new regulation regarding lead based paint and required by the U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency went into effect on October 1, 2010. The new law requires all contractors working in homes built before 1978, when lead based paint was banned, to be trained and certified under the Lead Paint: Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (LRRP). The regulation isn’t just limited to remodelers. Other contractors who must be certified include carpenters, plumbers, heating and air conditioning workers, and window installers.

The new guideline is to further protect individuals from the exposure and potential hazards of lead based paint, that may occur when a home built before 1978 is remodeled. Lead based paint can be dangerous to children if they inhale or ingest it and reportedly may cause serious damage to their brains and nervous systems.

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Choose Your Contractors Carefully

It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment and start cutting corners, not only based on time, but on money as well. An ounce of caution may become a pound of prevention. So, begin your repair or remodeling job by hiring only Licensed and Bonded Contractors. Without the current and required permits, bonds and licenses – you could end up paying a lot more than you intended!

Your protection for having any contracted work done on your home or rental property are those three items: 1) license for the County in which the property is located 2) company and employees who are bonded and insured 3) the appropriated permits pulled and posted in the front window. Ask for copies of licenses and bonds before signing any contracts and before any work has begun. Licenses can be verified on the City’s Website or by calling the City. The work should not begin until the permit is posted.

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