Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Digging out from the Blizzard of 2010

Blanketing Snow and High Winds were the Highlights of the Last Storm of 2010

By Mark J. Donovan

For many of us on the Northeast coast of the United States we spent the next couple of days after Christmas digging out from a powerful winter blizzard. Though the snowfall was significant it was the wind that was really the story. Wind gusts exceeded hurricane force levels in some northeastern communities and knocked power out all over northern New England towns. Here in New Hampshire gusts regularly reached 40 to 50 MPH.

The snow started falling on December 26, and really got going that night and the next day. I snowblowed the driveway and cleared the roofs, decks and pool during the tail end of the snowing phase of the storm. Due to the high winds and drifting I had to go back out and repeat the process again this morning. The winds had eased a little, but they were still gusting at around 20-25 MPH by my guess.

The walkways that my son and I shoveled the day before were packed with blowing snow. Actually there was more snow in the walkways than there was in the main part of the yard. Clearing the walkways and creating the snow piles adjacent to them from the first dig-out caused the drifting snow to accumulate deeper in the walkways than the surrounding area. In addition, it was packed down and had a 2 inch crust layer on top making it difficult to remove. See the accompany pictures.









Monday, December 20, 2010

Bat Droppings in the Attic

How to Get Rid of Bats in the Attic

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: - I am seeing droppings in my attic and I think they are bat droppings. How do I get rid of the bats from my attic?

Answer: I had a similar problem in my home this past fall. Initially I thought it was mice in the attic so I set up a couple of mice traps in the attic. To my surprise I wound up catching a bat in one of the traps.

I discovered that the bats were coming into my attic via the small crevice between the rake trim boards and the house siding. To solve my bat problem I used pipe foam insulating tubes. It’s the type of foam insulation that is used for wrapping around plumbing supply lines. I pushed the foam insulation tubes up into the crevice between the rake trim boards and the house siding. It completely solved my bat problem.

To check if the droppings in your attic are indeed associated with bats, stand outside your home during dusk and see if you observe bats exiting the roof area of your home. If you see them flying out of the roof/attic area try the foam insulating tubes. They work and are very inexpensive. Just watch yourself on the roof or ladder.

Why Frost in the Attic

How to Eliminate the Formation of Frost in the Attic

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: - I went up into my attic last January on a very cold day and observed dripping water, and mold and mildew, on the roof sheathing. I made every attempt to resolve the problem by ripping out all of the moisture sodden insulation and installing new insulation. I also made sure the soffit vents were not blocked and had a new ridge vent installed. Unfortunately I am seeing the same problem again this winter. Do you have any ideas why?

Answer: Sounds like you have a serious moisture problem in your attic and a moisture source that you missed. You did the right things, however, by addressing the attic insulating and ventilation. To find the source of your moisture problem, I would first check the bathroom exhaust fans, vent stacks and then inspect the roof for leaks.

First, make sure your bathroom exhaust fans are being vented outside and not into your attic. Often contractors or DIY homeowners who install bathroom exhaust fans simply let them vent to the attic. This is a major mistake.

Second, make sure there is insulation packed in around any vent stacks that may be coming up from the living area below. Use a can of spray foam insulation to seal any of these types of insulation holes in the attic. The holes cut into the framing for vent stacks are notorious for letting warm moist air from the finished living areas below enter into the attic.

Finally, inspect the roof for leaks. I doubt you have a roof leak problem as you would most likely see much bigger signs of water/moisture problems, e.g. water dripping down into the finished living area of the home, or wet spots forming on the ceilings.

If all of these suggestions fail to uncover a problem, then make sure you have properly sized the amount of ridge vent and soffit vent for your attic. You possibly have an insufficient amount.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What to Look For When Buying a Snowblower

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are in the market for buying a snowblower first consider the size of your driveway and the average snowfall you get every year. Too often people buy too small of a snowblower and end up regretting it every snow storm for years to come.

I made the same mistake when buying my first gas snowblower. I lived in New Hampshire and had a 100 foot driveway at the time. I bought a 5 horsepower, 24 inch wide, two-stage snowblower. After just a couple of years it was worn out and I was fed up pushing around a snow-cone machine in my driveway. The snow basically oozed out of the snowblower by the end of its life.

So I went out and replaced it with an 11 horsepower, two-stage gas snowblower that is nearly 3 feet wide. Ten years later it is still easily pumping out the snow even when there is 1.5 feet of snow in the driveway. When buying a snowblower of this magnitude expect to shell out between $1,000 and 2,000.

If you live in a milder climate, you can go with a smaller sized gas snowblower, such as a 5 horsepower unit or a single stage one. They work fine for a 6 inch snow storm, and can even handle the occasional foot of snow that may grace your driveway. With these smaller horse powered snowblowers you can still expect to shell out between $500 and a $1,000 for it depending upon the make and model, and the particular features it may offer.

If you live in an area where you only get the occasional snow storm with a depth not exceeding 6 inches, an electric snow blower is acceptable. Just make sure you have access to an outlet and plenty of extension cord. Though they don’t have anywhere near the power of a gas snowblower, electric snowblowers are quieter, pollute less, are easier to store, and typically cost less.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Prevent Ice Dams this Winter

By Mark J. Donovan

Ice dams form due to warm moist air that is trapped in the attic and the constant warming and cooling of the roof during the cold winter days and month. There are two main components that need to be addressed to prevent ice dams, insulation and ventilation.

It is imperative that there is adequate and properly installed attic insulation to prevent warm moist area in the living areas below from filtering up into the attic space. Warm air in the attic can cause the back side of the roof sheathing to become warm and the snow just above it to melt. As it melts it drips towards the roof eaves. Then, as evening approaches and temperatures cool the water freezes up. This daily repeated process of thawing and cooling causes ice dams to form along the roof eaves. Eventually the ice dams build up to the point that melted snow works its way up under the lower courses of shingles. Once the water gets to the back sides of the shingles it inevitably finds a way into the attic and eventually into the lower living areas of the home.

The other major component that needs to be addressed to prevent ice dams is adequate and proper attic ventilation. Any warm air that does filter up into the attic needs to be quickly expelled to the outside so that it does not have time to warm up the underside roof sheathing.

Attic ventilation should include soffit vents and roof vents, such as ridge vent. The rule of thumb is to have approximately 1 square feet of attic ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic ceiling area with a vapor barrier, or every 150 square feet of attic ceiling area without a vapor barrier. Typically there should be around a 50/50 split between soffit vent and roof vent.

So by making sure you have adequate and proper attic insulation and ventilation you can prevent ice dams this winter.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to Fix a Door Lock

A Couple Shots of Graphite Lubricant is often all that’s Needed to Fix a Door Lock

By Mark J. Donovan

If you’re having a difficult time inserting or turning the key in your door lock you may be able to fix it with an inexpensive tube of graphite lubricant. Simply squirt in a couple of shots of the graphite lubricant and then reinsert the key and turn it a couple of times. Often that is all that is necessary to fix a door lock.

If the locking button on the door lock is the problem, where it won’t turn easily or only partially, then you’ll need to do a bit more work to fix the door lock. To fix a door lock with this type of problem, remove the screws that hold the door knob handle to the door. Then remove the door knob handle itself to expose the internal parts of the door lock and handle. Again, a couple shots of graphite lubricant on the movable internal parts of the door lock are all that are typically necessary to resolve the door lock problem. Make sure to apply graphite lubricant to the door lock column and to the inside pieces of the door knob handle.

Then reattach the door knob handle back onto the door and test it to see if you’ve fixed your door lock. With any luck your door lock problems are history.

One final note - do not use WD40 as a substitute to the graphite lubricant. The WD40 will attract dust to the door lock and in short order you’ll have a sticking door lock again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deicing Salts and Concrete Driveways and Vegetation

By Mark J. Donovan

In preparation for winter weather it’s always wise to buy a few bags of deicing salt and have them handy in the garage. However it is important to understand that deicing salts can wreak havoc on concrete driveways and walkways and can damage adjacent shrubbery and vegetation. In addition, there are number of deicing salts available on the market, each with their own unique pros and cons, and that are designed to work effectively at different temperatures. So which one do you use?

All deicing salts do basically one thing. They lower the melting point or freezing point of water. Their effect is to cause the ice to melt and stay in a liquid water state at lower temperatures.

Sodium Chloride, or rock salt, is the most commonly used deicing salt, and it can effectively melt ice down to about 15o Fahrenheit. Unfortunately it is very corrosive to concrete and metal, and can damage vegetation. It also produces a high amount of Chloride ions which is not healthy for the environment. Consequently rock salt should be used sparingly and on asphalt driveways only.

Potassium chloride is another common deicing salt, however it is effective only down to 20o Fahrenheit and it too easily damages concrete.

Calcium chloride dicing salt is another option. It melts ice even faster than Sodium Chloride and can effectively melt ice down to -20o Fahrenheit. It can be an irritant to skin and it too is corrosive to concrete.

The last fairly common dicing salt is Magnesium Chloride. Similar to Sodium Chloride it works down to around 0o Fahrenheit, however it is less damaging to concrete and vegetation. It also releases fewer Chlorides ions than Sodium Chloride.

So this winter make sure to stop by the local hardware store and pick up the right dicing salt for your climate, and driveway and sidewalk surface conditions. Regardless of what deicing salt you choose, the best rule of thumb is to use it as sparingly as possible. By doing so you can accomplish your main goal of eliminating ice build up on your driveway or sidewalk, while at the same time minimizing environmental harm to your concrete surfaces and localized vegetation.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Snow Blower Maintenance

Prepare Snow Blower for Winter

By Mark J. Donovan

With winter almost officially upon us it’s time to pull out the snow blower and prepare it for winter weather. Snow blower maintenance should include cleaning the spark plug, changing the oil, and putting fresh gas into it. Also make sure to turn the gas cut off valve to the ON position. In addition, check the snow blower shear pins to make sure they are connected to the auger blade and drive shaft. You may also want to buy a couple of extra shear pins in case you break one during the winter season. It’s a major pain to break a shear pin in the middle of a snowstorm when you can’t as readily make it to the hardware store. Also make sure the muffler does not need to be replaced.

Also, as part of the snow blower maintenance, check to make sure the adjustable skids that are attached to the base of the snow blower frame are set evenly and at the right height so that the horizontal auger blade is not touching the pavement. In addition, make sure the pull chord is not frayed and is in good working order.

Once the general maintenance has been completed, fire up the snow blower to make sure it runs smoothly. If it does not, you may need to adjust the carburetor. If you do not have the skill or energy to adjust the carburetor take it into a shop to have them tune it up for you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Polymer-Wood Hybrid House Siding May Have Legs

A New Composite House Siding Could Be the Wave of the Future in Home Siding?

By Mark J. Donovan

Some argue that a new polymer-wood hybrid house siding product is better than any other type of home siding product on the market, less real wood or brick. The new polymer-wood hybrid house siding product is certainly more attractive and sturdier than vinyl siding. It is also cheaper than real wood siding.

Polymer wood hybrid house siding, on the other hand, is more expensive than fiber cement board, at least initially. A manufacturer of polymer-wood house siding, however, argues that their product does not require the initial priming and painting, as well as the periodic painting and maintenance, that fiber cement board house siding does. Thus over time, the manufacturer argues that polymer-wood hybrid house siding is cheaper. Hybrid polymer-wood house siding is also available in a variety of colors so there are plenty of choices for the homeowner. Alside’s Revolution Composite siding, for example, is available in 9 different colors.

Polymer-wood hybrid house siding is not meant to be installed by the diy homeowner or untrained carpenter. The proper installation of polymer-wood hybrid house siding requires new installation methods and special training.

Hopefully this latest composite house siding product will hold up better than some of its predecessors. Other composite house siding products have been shown to attract mold and mildew, swell, and delaminate over time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

HomeAdditionPlus.com among Top DIY Home Improvement Video Channels

Three separate and independent articles recently ranked http://www.homeadditionplus.com/, and its associated video channels, as one of the top home improvement video destinations on the internet.

“Clean-cut and coherent, Donovan’s straight talking approach is easy viewing…” reports Amy-Mae Elliott of http://www.mashable.com/.

Similarly, Leslie Baird of http://www.helium.com/ reported HomeAdditionPlus.com’s Youtube channel as one of the best DIY and Home Improvement channels on the internet.

Also, miamercado of http://www.blogher.com/ stated relative to HomeAdditionPlus.com that “These tutorials not only show you which tools you need, but how to properly use them, so you don’t have to find a channel with a "How to Sew Your Fingers Back On" video.”

"It’s fantastic getting this type of positive feedback about http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and its associated video channels. It takes an incredible amount of time filming, editing, and posting home improvement videos, and to hear positive responses from the diy home improvement community and media is just terrific news”, said Mark Donovan, Founder and CEO of HomeAdditionPlus.com.

For more information on HomeAdditionPlus.com and its associated video channels please see:

http://www.homeadditionplus.com/
www.Youtube.com/HomeAdditionPlus
www.Blinkx.com/channel/HomeAdditionPlus
http://www.5min.com/homeadditionplus.com
http://www.graspr.com/profile/homeadditionplus


References

http://mashable.com/2010/07/11/home-improvement-videos/
http://www.helium.com/items/1901323-the-best-youtube-channels-for-diy-and-home-improvement
http://www.blogher.com/best-youtube-channels-your-diy-home-improvement-needs

Friday, November 12, 2010

Electrical Insulation Gasket Pads for Electrical Outlets and Switches

By Mark J. Donovan

One way you can eliminate cold drafts from your home this winter is to install electrical insulation gasket pads underneath your outside wall electrical outlet and switch covers. Outside wall electrical switch and outlet boxes are notorious for letting cold drafts into your home due to the fact that fiberglass batt or rolled insulation is often not installed correctly around them.

Electrical insulating gasket pads, or electrical insulation pads, are inexpensive and easy to install. For safety purposes first turn off power to the electrical outlet or switch at the main circuit panel. Next remove the electrical outlet or switch cover plate. Then, using a circuit tester or digital multimeter, test the electrical switch or outlet to make sure power is indeed shut off to it.

Next remove the appropriate cutout section from the electrical insulation gasket pad and place the pad over the surface of the electrical outlet or switch. Reattach the electrical cover plate, turn power back on to the switch or outlet, and your cold drafts associated with your electrical outlets and switches are history.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Deck Flashing from Everflashing

By Mark J. Donovan

I recently had a chance to check out some perimeter and ledger deck flashing products from Everflashing. Everflashing offers a variety of deck ledger and perimeter flashing products in hot dipped (G185) galvanized, stainless steel and aluminum. Their deck flashing comes in 1-1/2” and 2-1/8” profiles and is available in 5, 8 and 10 foot lengths. Their aluminum flashing comes in several colors and is approved to be used with wolmanized L3 Lumber.

Based on their unique shape and construction, decking boards are sandwiched in between a tongue and groove slot integrated into the deck flashing product. Not only does this unique design protect the ledger board and home from water infiltration but also helps to hold the deck boards in place.

Everflashing deck flashing products can be purchased at lumber stores as well as on line. For more information on ledger and perimeter deck flashing from Everlasting visit www.everflashing.com.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Repairing Copper Supply Line Pipe

By Mark J. Donovan

Copper pipes are commonly used in residential plumbing applications. Occasionally a copper supply line can burst. It is particularly common during winter months when water can potentially freeze in the pipes due to the loss of heat in the home. Repairing copper supply line pipes requires some basic tools and skill in soldering / sweating pipes. Tools required include a copper pipe tube cutter or hacksaw, a propane torch, sandpaper, a stiff brush, a half round file, rag, and some steel wool. For materials you will need the necessary copper pipe and fittings, lead free solder, and flux.

To repair a copper supply line you must first turn off the water to the damaged pipe and drain the pipe. Any water left in the pipe will make sweating the joint impossible.

After draining the copper supply line pipe, use a pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut out the damaged section.

Next, use the half round file to clean any burrs off of the cut ends of the pipe. Then use the sandpaper, steel wool and rag to clean the first couple of inches of each section of pipe.

Next cut a length of replacement copper pipe to fit the gap that was removed in the supply line. Make sure to clean each end of the replacement copper pipe section with sandpaper, steel wool, and a rag. Then apply flux to the inside of the two couplings that will go on either end of the repair. Likewise apply flux to the ends of each pipe section.

Place the couplings into position over the ends of the replacement copper pipe section and then slide the other ends of the couplings over the cut ends of the supply line pipe.

Finally, sweat, or solder, the copper couplings in place using the propane torch and solder. Make sure to use lead free solder when sweating plumbing joints. When sweating copper pipes always heat the surface of the copper joint prior to applying solder to it. The solder should immediately flow around the copper fitting when the fitting is hot enough.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Building Smaller Houses Post Recession

With an Economy that still Languishes Home Builders are Now Turning towards Building Smaller but Still Amenity Rich Homes

By Mark J. Donovan

Since the collapse of the housing market in 2006 home builders, such as Toll Brothers, have been wrestling with how to attract new home buyers. Their most recent post recession solution has been to shrink the size of their new homes while preserving as many of the luxuries and amenities as possible. The results to date seem to indicate that they might have found a viable recipe. With construction costs down from $170 to $100 per square foot, and prices starting at under $220K for their new 2,000 square foot floor plans, initial sales in Las Vegas, Nevada seem to be brisk.

So where are they getting the costs savings, besides shrinking the size of the home? The answer seems to be in the reduction of finished features and fewer internal walls. For example, by reducing the size of baseboard trim or eliminating some types of finishes altogether and allowing the homeowner to add these amenities later, they are able to save costs in the construction of the home. Likewise, by eliminating some internal walls and halls, they are creating larger open spaces within the home and are relying on the homeowner’s choice of furniture to partition the home into different living areas. Other builders are following Toll Brothers moves and seeing similar success.

The jury is still out on whether or not the construction of smaller houses is the long term solution for the American dream and home building market. However, regardless of the long term outcome, it is without a doubt a positive sign to a see a free market and industry clawing its way out of a long and ugly abyss.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Skylight Design and Position Considerations

By Mark J. Donovan

Skylights can provide natural lighting to a room. They can also provide some level of warmth if chosen and positioned carefully. By carefully considering skylight design and construction, and the placement of the skylight(s) within your home or room, you can maximize these two major benefits.

When selecting a skylight make sure to fully understand the energy performance rating assigned to the skylight relative to your climate, as well as its position within the home.

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) tests, certifies, and labels skylights, as well as doors and windows, for their energy performance. There are a number of factors they evaluate in the energy performance of skylights including, (1) heat gain/loss via U-factor (the rate at which a skylight conducts non-solar heat flow), solar heat gain coefficient, and air leakage, and (2) sunlight transmittance. Skylight design features that influence the energy performance include glazing, general construction and materials, and operation.

In regards to positioning a skylight in a home or room, a skylight facing a southerly direction will provide the most warmth, however the warmth could be excessive during the summer months. When positioning a skylight in a southerly direction consider including skylight shades or shade trees to help combat the solar heat during the summer months. A skylight west-faced positioned will provide afternoon natural light and warmth. A skylight east-faced positioned will provide morning natural light and maximum heat gain. A skylight faced in a northerly direction will provide relatively constant lighting but minimal heat gain throughout the day.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Stop Cold drafts and Dry Air in your Home This Winter

By Mark J. Donovan

If there are major temperature differences in your home during the winter months there could be a number of factors causing it. Also, if the air in your home feels very dry during the winter months, it is most likely caused by warm moist air exiting your home and cold dry air infiltrating it.

First and foremost check for air leaks around your doors and windows by running your hand around the perimeter of the door and windows frames. If you feel cold air drafts, then install door and window weatherstripping.

Second, check the heating and cooling system. Make sure it is running properly and has been serviced in the past year. Also check the duct work if you have a hot/cold air HVAC system. Improperly working or designed duct work is a leading cause of cold drafts in a home.

Finally, check the insulation in your home. Make sure you have the proper amount of insulation in your home’s floors, walls and attic space as specified by the Department of Energy for your region of the country. In particular check the basement and attic space for air leaks as they are frequently the culprits for a drafty house.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Clean Air Filters in Furnaces and Air Conditioning Systems

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have a hot air heating system or central air conditioning system make sure to clean their air filters annually. Clogged air filters can reduce the energy efficiency of the heating or air conditioning system and can lead to more dust circulating in the home. In addition, clogged air filters can reduce your home’s furnace or air conditioning system from keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. Clean air filters also help to extend the life of HVAC systems. Replacing HVAC air filters is inexpensive and easy to do, so there are no excuses for not doing so.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Lead Education Training for Renovating, Repairing or Painting Pre 1978 Built Homes

By Mark J. Donovan

Last night I met with the company Lead-EDU in Manchester, NH. They offer EPA/HUD certification training courses for contractors on Renovating, Repairing and Painting (RRP) homes built pre 1978.

Homes built prior to 1978 could very possibly contain lead paint. The EPA has strict rules for home renovation and remodeling contractors on how to test and address older homes that may contain lead paint. Consequently, if you have a home built prior to 1978 and plan to have renovation work performed on it that may involve disturbing any of its existing paint, make sure to use a contractor that has received RRP certification. If you are a contractor and have plans to work on a home built prior to 1978 you are required by law to obtain this certification.

Lead-Edu provides lead education training and RRP certification classes and programs for contractors, as well as Lead Test Kits for conducting lead risk assessments. To learn more about Lead Education Training and RRP Certification visit Lead-Edu.info.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Prevent Ice Dams this Winter - Now

By Mark J. Donovan

Prevent ice dams this winter by inspecting your attic this fall for proper insulation. Check the Department of Energy’s website to see what the right amount of attic insulation is for your region of the country. Typically a home needs anywhere from R-30 to R-49 in the attic. By installing the necessary amount of insulation in the attic now you can prevent ice dams, and their damaging effects that come along with them, this winter.

Also make sure the soffit vents are not blocked and that the ridge vent or gable vents are in good working order as well. To prevent ice dams it is important that any warm air that may filter up into the attic from the lower living areas, and through the attic insulation, be quickly released from the attic. Having a good attic venting system will ensure this happens. Warm moist air that gets trapped in the attic can cause snow to melt and turn to ice on the outer side of the shingled roof. The melting snow that occurs can quickly form ice dams near the roof eaves when the attic and outside air temperatures drop below 32 degrees (F) in the evening.

See HomeAdditionPlus.com’s article on “Preventing Ice Dams” to learn more.

High Energy Bills are often Related to Window and Door Leaks

By Mark J. Donovan

Check your home's exterior doors and windows for cold drafts this fall. Much of the heat loss associated with a home comes from damaged or non-existent door and window weatherstripping. Weatherstripping can lose its resiliency and end up not forming a tight seal up against window sashes and door frames.

If your home's windows are old, consider replacing them with double pane low-E glass windows. Prices on replacement windows varies dramatically, however even the cheapest ones will do a better job of lowering your home energy bills than an old drafty window that does not close or open properly.

See HomeAdditionPlus.com's "Wood Replacement Window Installation" to learn more.

Likewise, if your doors are old, drafty and provide poor insulation R-value consider replacing them as well.

Exterior House Painting this Weekend

By Mark J. Donovan

Much of my past weekend was dedicated to exterior house painting. The paint on my family room addition house siding and exterior trim work had faded dramatically in the past year or so and was looking quite splotchy. So, with the weather still above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (just barely) I decided to make exterior house painting my weekend project. The previous weekend I had cleaned the house siding with a pressure washer and a house siding detergent so all conditions were right for tackling this project.

I started off my weekend exterior house painting project by first painting the house siding on Saturday. On Sunday I went back and painted all of the trim work. My biggest pain in the neck was shuffling around the heavy fiberglass ladder and positioning it so that it would not inadvertently tilt or slide over when I was standing on it.

After finishing painting the exterior trim on Sunday, I went back and used a razor blade to clean up around the windows. Finally I decided to caulk around the windows to reduce air drafts into the home. I had noticed while doing the exterior house painting that much of the old caulk had separated from the house siding and window frame. With the ladder already out and in place, it only took a few minutes to caulk the windows.

The newly painted house siding and trim work around the family room looks great. So much so that I have convinced myself that if weather conditions permit, I may elect to dedicate next weekend to exterior house painting too. The garage could use a fresh coat as well!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pressure Washing House Siding

By Mark J. Donovan

With gorgeous fall weather in place I went out today and pressure washed my house siding in preparation for painting it in the next couple of weeks. It is amazing all of the dirt and grime, as well as mold and mildew, that collect on house siding. The house already looks 100% better by simply pressure washing it.

Dragging a pressure washer around the house, however, with all of the connecting hoses is a bit of a hassle, and suffice it to say I was pretty much drenched by the end of the project. That said, I can't imagine not using a pressure washer. It would have taken forever using a broom or mop and a bucket of water.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Home Construction Continues to Limp Along in September

By Mark J. Donovan

The Commerce Department recently reported that U.S. home construction for September increased an overall mere 0.3% over the previous month, though up 4.1% from September 2009. Single family home construction drove the overall increase, with an increase of 4.4% in September 2010. New construction permits, however, dropped 5.6% during the same timeframe. The National Association of Home Builders remains negative on the home construction market due to lack of buyers, depressed or still falling house prices, and tight mortgage lending practices.

None of this news should be surprising with 10% unemployment, impending higher income taxes for all, and lack of clarity on health insurance costs in the coming year. Until unemployment starts to drop, and there is clarity on tax and health insurance costs, buyers are likely to stay where they are; on the sidelines waiting and watching the U.S. economy for signs of improvement.

Even when there is clarity and positive signs in the U.S. economy it still may be years before the housing market fully recovers. The bottom line, there is simply years of excess housing inventory on the market or abandon. Until this excess inventory is either consumed or destroyed, home construction will most likely continue to limp along.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Prevent Bat Home Invasions with Foam Insulation

By Mark J. Donovan

Today I installed foam insulation along my home’s roof line, between the rake trim boards and clapboard siding. There is about a ½ to ¾ inch air gap between the two. I installed the foam insulation to prevent bats from congregating in my roof eaves and working their way into my attic.

Over the years I would occasionally find the random bat in my home’s attic, however this year while looking up at my home’s roof during dusk, I saw about a dozen bats exit from under the rake trim boards into the night air. The following afternoon I took a garden hose and sprayed water up into the area where I saw the bats exit the home. Sure enough, about a dozen bats flew out from underneath the rake boards.

By installing the foam insulation, the same foam insulation that is used to wrap plumbing pipes, I hope to prevent the bats from setting up home in my house. I simply used a metal claw to push the insulation up in between the rake boards and the clapboard siding. It wedged in nice and tightly so I am not concerned about it working its way out.

So if you see signs of bats in your attic, e.g. actual bats or bat guano, or observe them exiting the rake boards on your home, consider installing foam insulation tubes in any potential openings along your home’s roof line. It’s inexpensive and easy to do. Just be careful on the ladders. Also, you may want to install the foam insulation tubes shortly after sunset when the bats have exited your home. This way you want trap or squish any when installing the insulation.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

My Recovering Lawn

By Mark J. Donovan

Between this past summer’s heat, lack of rain and grubs my lawn was virtually destroyed this summer. At first I thought it was just the lack of rain and the heat that was killing my lawn. However after observing the crows pecking at my lawn in the early morning in August, I quickly realized it was more than just the drought and heat conditions that were killing the lawn.

Due to the fact that I have a private well with only moderate capacity, watering the lawn was not an option to address the drought issue. Resolving the grub issue, however, was something that I could address. Initially I applied Spectracide to my lawn and noticed moderate success with killing the grubs. A month later I dethatched the lawn and then applied Grubex and fertilizer. The following week I over-seeded the lawn with grass seed after confirming rain was finally on the way. A week or so later, with a couple of days of rain during that time, I began to see some sprigs of new grass. Unfortunately a week later I realized there were still quite a few bare patches, where the new grass seed did not germinate. Consequently I went out again and over-seeded the lawn once more. At this time I am happy to report that all of the new grass seed has germinated and the lawn is now in full recovery.

Though I still won’t be able to do much during the next hot and dry summer, I will inspect my lawn periodically for signs of grubs and apply a grub killer as necessary.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

KILZ Launches Pro Painter Sweepstakes Contest

By Mark J. Donovan

KILZ, the paint and primer company, announced last week their first ever National Pro Promotion contest. It is a contest targeted only to professional painters and offers them a chance to win a new Ford F-150 truck as the grand prize. There are also other prizes to win including BRAVIA 46” LCD HDTV and Sony Home Theater Systems, and Coleman Tailgate Packages. To learn more and to participate in this contest see: http://www.kilzpropainter.com/. Hurry as the sweepstakes contest ends this week!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Home Construction up 4% in August, But Stormy Skies Still Ahead

By Mark J. Donovan

Though not a grand slam, seeing single family home construction increase 4% in August over the previous month was a welcome sign. Apartments and condominiums also shot up a whopping 32% during the same timeframe. This said new home construction starts are still down 78% from their peak in January of 2006.

Though this news was encouraging I am still not optimistic that the housing market is on a clear path to prosperous times again. With unemployment ticking up to 9.6% officially and slated to go even higher before year end, its unimaginable that sustained improvement in home construction starts will continue unabated. In addition, with so much uncertainty in the national politics, massive tax increases kicking in January for everyone, and expected large health insurance premium increases starting soon, it’s hard to believe that there is smooth sailing ahead in the home construction industry. On top of these harsh realities there are still many prospective home buyers waiting and hoping on the sidelines for even lower house prices. Couple all of these facts with a high inventory of existing homes on the market and increasing foreclosures and the prospects of a sustained improvement in the home construction business seems highly unlikely.

It appears builders feel the same way about the home construction market prospects. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also reported its monthly index of builders’ sentiment in September, and it remained unchanged at 13. This is the second month that it has been at this level, the lowest since March of 2009.

Until there is a change in the national politics, less uncertainty with out-of-pocket expenses, and more income into the savings accounts of the average homebuyer, the home construction business is likely to stay in the doldrums for the foreseeable future, regardless of this positive blip of news.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trip to Annecy, France and Classic Stone House

Spent the Week on the Shores of Annecy Lake in a Classic Chateau Style Hotel

By Mark J. Donovan

Last week I was in Annecy, France and had a chance to climb a mountain in the foothills of the French Alps. Along the way to the mountain I was able to snap some gorgeous photos. Shown in the adjacent picture is a classic stone house on the outskirts of Annecy, France.

The views at the top of the mountain were absolutely spectacular. I also had a chance to observe up close and in person paragliding. I watched probably a hundred people take off from the edge of the mountain (around 1300 meters) into the skies over the Annecy Lake valley area. Though I didn’t attempt to paraglide this time, it’s on my list of things to do on my next trip to Annecy, France.

While in Annecy, I stayed at the Palace de Menthon, a classic chateau style hotel sitting on the shores of Annecy Lake. Annecy Lake was absolutely gorgeous with emerald water. It sits at the foothills of the French Alps, near the Swiss border and is absolutely crystal clear. It is considered the cleanest lake in all of Europe, and I have to agree. It was simply spectacular.
Besides the gorgeous views and climate, the wine and food were also phenomenal. Suffice it to say, I am looking forward to visiting Annecy, France again and connecting up with my European colleagues.









Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clean Gutters with the Onset of Fall Weather

By Mark J. Donovan

It is important to make sure to periodically clean your gutters with the approach of fall weather. With leaves falling off the trees and strong winds associated with hurricane season, gutters can often become clogged with leaves and debris. Clogged gutters can lead to water damage in the attic, home and basement. Clogged gutters can also lead to ice dams during the winter months. Ice dams can cause water damage in the attic and cause the gutters to pull away from the home.

To clean gutters you need a ladder, garden hose, and a pair of work gloves. Make sure when using a ladder that it is set properly on the ground to prevent accidental falls. Clean gutters by initially removing leaf and branch debris with your hands. Then use a garden hose to force residual debris and water down the length of the gutter and out the down spouts.

Also while cleaning the gutters, inspect for and repair any damaged gutter pieces. Also make sure the fascia trim boards adjacent to the gutters are not showing any sign of rot. You may also want to scrub the exposed fascia board to remove any mold or mildew that may have formed on them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Plunging Home Sales is Clarion Call for Economic Change

By Mark J. Donovan

This week’s news reports about plunging existing and new home sales should not come as a big surprise. The unemployment rate still officially stands at 9.5% and the administration says it could get worse before it gets better. We are already seeing signs that their prediction is coming to fruition. Honestly, who’s going to buy a home when they are either unemployed or worried about becoming unemployed? To some it may appear incomprehensible that with recent rising profits businesses would not be hiring. However, if you put yourself in the shoes of either a large or small business owner you might be doing the same – preparing for a business profit ice-age.

With U.S. federal corporate tax rates at 35% they are already nearly twice as high as the international average. Then foist upon them major health care legislation costs and huge increases in tax rates as of January, 2010 and you can’t help but understand their hesitancy in hiring. Capital gains and interest and dividend tax rates, for example, are set to jump from 15% to 39.6% in January. That’s a 165% increase!! Those types of tax increases on business and investors generate a giant sucking sound in profits and market caps. Reduced profitability and lower market capitalizations hurt businesses ability to retain employees let alone hire them.

So no one should be surprised with the latest dismal home sales reports, and quite frankly no one should be surprised to see this trend continue. Until there is a change in direction on federal corporate and personal tax policy, and until there is clarity on health care cost impacts, large and small business alike will continue to be slow in hiring if they hire at all. Simply calling for the federal government to print more fiat money for more make-work “state” jobs won’t cut it. No truly objective observer really believes the trillions that have already been spent in the past couple of years on banks, unions, and poorly run state bailout programs has done anything appreciably positive for the United States. Based on the falling value of the US dollar and U.S. Stock Exchanges, it’s obvious the world doesn’t believe the spending has worked, so why should we.

To conclude, if the administration and congress continue on their current reckless spending, power grab, and corporate regulation course, future United States homebuyers may soon be doing what other citizens have done in other federally run government centralized countries, standing in line for state owned housing and awaiting government issued food and furnishing handouts. So much for the American dream. If change is not imminent, get ready to put a fork in it as we are done as our forefathers new us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Visited Montreal, Canada This Weekend

By Mark J. Donovan


I had a chance to spend the weekend up in Canada this weekend. I based myself in Montreal, but spent much of Saturday up at Mont Tremblant Ski Resort area checking out homes and the scenery. What a beautiful place. It was like being in the European Alps.
I also had a chance to spend two evenings in old Montreal and see the Notre Dame Cathederal and other tourist attractions.

Suffice it to say, what a beautiful city and great people. I was shocked when a Metro worker came out from behind his glass window information office to spend 10 minutes talking with us. He gave us detailed directions and made recommendations on what to see in Montreal.

Above is a picture looking over at the ski resort of Mont Tremlant in Quebec, Canada.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leading Indicator of Home Remodeling Activity Shows Hope - Maybe

The American Dream of Owning a Home, and Caring for it, Appears to be Fading

Mark J. Donovan

Last month Harvard’s “Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint center for Housing Studies” reported that home remodeling spending is expected to accelerate in early 2011. This is based on its “Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity”, also known as LIRA. However the report is quick to state “absent a reversal of recent economic progress”.

I’m not so sure that there has been any real economic progress, at least at the homeowner and consumer level. Certainly corporations showed some positive quarterly reports earlier this year, but the ability for them to sustain those positive earnings are now coming into question. But in terms of unemployment, at 9.5% officially and 20% unofficially, homeowners and consumers have yet to see any economic bullish times.

Reviewing the LIRA historical data table linked in the report (Home Remodeling Spending Report) it is astounding to see that homeowner improvement spending has declined from 3Q2007 through 1Q2010 in every quarter, and is expected to continue to fall until 4Q2010. Based on new economic data since this July report, it may be even longer before there is finally an uptick in homeowner improvement spending.

The data further suggests that homeowner improvement spending peaked at $146.2B in 2Q2007, and is expected to fall to $107.7B by 3Q2010. That represents a 36% decline in homeowner improvement spending. This fact is both shocking and not surprising. Not surprising that homeowner spending dropped, but shocking by how much. The home has been historically the quintessential American dream. Based on a combination of economic conditions and possibly a new view of owning a home, it appears that the home is no longer a special commodity in the hearts of Americans.

Managing Home Remodeling Costs

By Mark J. Donovan

When managing a major home remodeling project, trying to keep track of multiple contractor material lists can be nearly impossible. In addition, trying to use multiple paper copy cost breakdown lists to manage overal home remodeling project costs is impossible.

By organizing all of the material and labor costs in one home construction Excel spreadsheet file you can more easily manage your home remodeling costs. Check out my home remodeling bid sheets and their associated material / labor Excel spreadsheet forms to learn how you can more accuratlely manage your home remodeling construction costs.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Wood Flooring Installation Checklist

By Mark J. Donovan


I just released my lastest new bid sheet / checklist, the "Wood Flooring Installation Bid Sheet". The Wood flooring installation Bid Sheet provides a 100 question "Request for Quote" section for soliciting wood flooring installation contractor bids. It also includes information on wood flooring material and labor costs and time intervals for completing work. Lastly, it includes a homeowners section on how to interpret hardwood floor installation contractor responses to the "Request for Quote" section, so that the right wood flooring installation professional is hired.

Learn how to find the real wood flooring installation professionals who know all the trade secrets in achieving a beautiful wood floor installation and finish that will hold up for decades to come. Steer clear of an expensive learning lesson and disappointment. Order my Wood Flooring Installation Checklist / Bid Sheet today and learn how to avoid wood flooring installation disasters.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Foam Based Sealant for Closing Joints and Cracks

Owens Corning Announces New Foam Insulation Sealant to Complement its Batt Insulation Products

Mark J. Donovan

The new foam insulation sealant from Owens Corning is part of its EnergyCompleteTM insulation product line. The foam sealant is a low expanding air infiltration barrier product that utilizes a flexible seal technology that makes it ideal for using around doors and windows, as well as in sheathing joints and cracks. It is also ideal around duct work and construction joints.

Using a portable sprayer, it is easily applied and foams in places. In addition, it does not require the use of a mask or full body protection when applying it. Also, because of its low expansion level it is ideal to use around doors and windows.

The foam based sealant sets up in less than 30 minutes. Once fully set, batt insulation can then be installed over or adjacent to it.

Insulating with rolled or batt insulation around doors and windows and in construction seams is slow and ineffective in many cases. Using a foam sealant such as this product can save time and insulation installation costs, as well as make for a better insulated home.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Attended Lakeside Living Expo in Gilford, NH

By Mark J. Donovan

This past Saturday I attended the Lakeside Living Expo in Gilford, NH and got a chance to see some of the latest in green technology. Of particular interest to me was the geothermal heating and cooling system offered by Dragin GeoThermal of Meredith, NH. In the winter time, a geothermal system works by drawing BTUs from the ground to heat a home. In the summer time, the processed is reversed by drawing BTUs from the home and sinking them into the ground to provide air conditioning. The geothermal HVAC process is relatively simple in function however it provides a much higher efficiency than oil and gas furnaces. In addition, geothermal systems are eligible for energy efficiency tax credits.

Besides geothermal, there were other neat booths that showed off the latest in solar and wind energy systems designed specifically for the home.

I was also impressed with a steel roofing product that is designed to emulate the look of architectural asphalt shingles. It is guaranteed for 50 years, and from just a few feet away looks like any other standard architectural asphalt shingle. The material cost of this type of roofing is about 30% higher than standard asphalt shingles; however the labor costs are on par, to a little less, than installing standard asphalt shingles. They are also designed to support wind velocities of up to 100 MPH.

There were also a number of lake home builders in attendance showing off pictures and sketches of their lakeside home construction projects around the New Hampshire lakes region area.

Furniture and accessory suppliers who cater to lake side homes were also in abundance. Some of the furniture was quite ornate in appearance. Natural building products and faux fauna indigenous to the area were heavily emphasized in the displays.

There were also a couple of chainsaw wood carvers/artists who were showing off and demonstrating their work. Each made a variety of bear and other animal statues out of White Pine logs.

Overall the show was very interesting, however the weather was quite warm and humid.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summers the Time for Deck Construction

Increase the Value of your Home by Building a Deck this Summer

Mark J. Donovan

What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with a backyard deck. Summer is the perfect time of the year for deck construction. A deck addition provides exterior living space to your home and is highly prized by homebuyers.

Before contacting a deck building contractor make sure to initially jot down your top level deck requirements, and preferred decking materials. Also, sketch out the size and location of your deck, making sure to include dimensional information. Documenting deck addition plans upfront will ensure that your discussions with prospective deck contractors will be fruitful. In addition, your deck construction quotes should be more accurate and the chances of getting a constructed deck to what you’ve envisioned will be dramatically improved.

See my Deck Installation Bid Sheet if you would like more tips on how to build a deck and hire the right deck contractor.

If you are in need of help in finding a local and pre-screened deck building contractor visit Find Local Deck Building Contractors at HomeAdditionPlus.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Double Dip Housing Market Looms Ahead

Mark J. Donovan

Not surprisingly new housing sales data suggests that the United States is entering a double dip housing market recession. Home sale prices stagnated in June, only increasing 0.1% and in a number of areas of the country home sale prices actually declined several percentage points.

As I have said before, this should not come as a big surprise to anyone who has their own reasoning skills. With employment at nearly 10% officially, and nearly 20% unofficially, and the end of the home buyer tax credit what else could be expected. Add to these facts looming tax increases for everyone with the soon to end “Bush Tax Cuts” and tight mortgage lending, and it is no wonder why the American public is skittish on purchasing high priced items such as homes.

So what’s causing this second double dip housing market? Not surprisingly, Keynesian economics. With Keynesian economics the government takes a more active role in managing the flow of money through lower interest rates and “stimulus spending”, such as the home tax credits that have been handed out up until the end of April. Though the home tax credit provided some instant gratification for a sagging housing market it has negatively influenced the housing market for the long haul. Pent up home buyer thirst was slaked by the home tax credit that has now expired. Unfortunately, like a camel, the housing market thirst has been quenched for some time to come.

As a result, don’t be surprised to see any real improvement in the housing market until sometime in 2011, and only if federal economic policy has begun to change. Let’s all hope so. A continued economic policy of stimulating an economy by mainly giving out government handouts with fiat money, while at the same time having no private sector job growth, is a recipe for national economic disaster.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Repairing a Punctured Tire

By Mark J. Donovan

This past weekend my son reported that the previous day he noticed that there was a warning light on in the car. After going out to check we quickly discovered that the front passenger side tire was flatter than a pancake.

After swapping out the flat tire with the spare tire and seeing there was a nail hole in the tire, I ran down to the local garage. Unfortunately it was closed for the day. So, with little other choice, I ran over to a hardware store and picked up one of those $5 kits for repairing a punctured tire.

Suffice it to say, within 5 minutes I had repaired the flat tire and within 30 minutes I was back home with the tire reinstalled on the car.

The tire repair kit consisted of two tools. One basically was a threaded reamer that you slid into the hole and pushed and rotated a few times in the nail hole. The second tool was for installing a rubber plug. After reaming out the nail hole, all I needed to do was insert the plug into the end of the other tool, apply some adhesive glue to the rubber plug that came with the kit, and push the tool with the plug attached to it into the tire. After sinking the plug into the tire, I quickly pulled the tool out of the nail hole, leaving the plug in place.

The plug should be placed into the tire about 2/3rds of the length of the folded plug.

After repairing the punctured tire, I immediately filled it up with air and it was ready to reinstall on the car.

So with my new found skill, the next time I have a flat tire I plan to skip the garage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sorry Sir, I need to Inspect your Head

By Mark J. Donovan

Yesterday while going through airline security I experienced yet a new low in airline travel. I had just gone through one of the new X-ray backscatter imaging machines and was told to stand aside and wait. While I stood next to a TSA employee, he was on his radio going back and forth with one of his colleagues on what to do with me. At first, I was not sure what the issue was. The TSA did not attempt to wand me down or explain to me what the issue was. Finally, after a minute or so of back and forth conversations on his radio, he finally spoke to me and said, “This is going to sound funny, but sorry sir, I need to inspect your head”. At 6’ 4” I was apparently too tall for the X-ray machine and consequently my head didn’t get scanned. As a result, he had to do an “inspection of my head”. My first reaction to him was “are you kidding, I’m not wearing anything on my head”. To myself, I thought what is he going to do, pat down my head? Instead he said, “No problem” and then proceeded to walk around me visually inspecting my head. A couple of seconds later I was allowed to proceed on to my gate.

Though the TSA employee acted professionally and we both got a good laugh out of the incident, this episode was just another example in my mind of the pure stupidity of our current security processes through airports. In an attempt to not offend a few, we instead abuse all by putting every air traveler through the ringer. Besides the wasted time of millions of air travelers every day we are now being nearly stripped of all personal dignity. The new X-ray scanners require a person to strip down to a level not typically required of the basic metal detectors. For example, belts, shoes, and wallets MUST come off to go through the new X-ray scanners, where as with the traditional metal detectors much of the time you could leave these items on. In addition, when standing in one of the new X-ray scanners, you need to turn sideways, spread your legs, and put your hands over your head. Do these words sound familiar to you? Do they make you feel a little nervous or wonder where we are headed as a “free country or people”?

The other concern I have is that though the TSA’s website talks about the low level of radiation doses each person is receiving with the backscatter X-ray machines I was surprised that there were no placards on or near the machines stating this. Ironically there was a large placard stating “No snow globes aloud in carryon baggage anymore”. Yes, the little glass balls you shake with the little snowflakes in them.

I also wonder, that even though the radiation doses were low per individual per scan, what the total dose accumulated over hundreds or even thousands of flights throughout a person’s lifetime could be. X-ray radiation accumulates in the body, so how many airport X-ray scans can a person go through before the total X-ray radiation exposure IS a concern. And how about for the TSA employees who stand hour after hour near the machines. Are they safe? Finally, what is the X-ray radiation exposure level that air travelers, as a whole, are being subjected to, all for the sake of not offending a few?

Though my latest air travel experience produced a laugh, it also raised my frustration and concerns again for the United States policy on airline security. I find it ironic, that in the age of incredibly intelligent search engine and database technologies, that smarter and less obtrusive ways of screening air travelers cannot be performed. I also find it ironic, that in order to protect the rights of a few “risk travelers” that all travelers must be subjected to abuse and a loss of dignity. I have no doubt, with the current Crow Magnum approach to airport security it won’t be long before we are fully undressing at airports and standing in line to walk through a door marked with a rubber glove placard.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Installing Crown Molding" Ebook Price Reduction

By Mark J. Donovan

I recently reduced the price on the HomeAdditionPlus.com "Installing Crown Molding Ebook" from $19 down to the low price of $15.

Crown molding adds old fashion beauty and charm to a home like no other type of interior trim. Crown molding is ideal for living rooms, dining rooms, dens and libraries. It's also used commonly in kitchens and hallways.

Before tackling your own crown molding installation project, check out our "Installing Crown Molding Ebook". It teaches you all of the carpentry skills you'll need to complete a professional looking crown molding project, and without wasting a fortune on scrap crown molding material. It is a 20 page Ebook that fully documents the process of installing crown molding and it is loaded with complementary instructional pictures.

Latest HomeAdditionPlus.com Newsletter (June, 14, 2010)

By Mark J. Donovan

Yesterday I released my latest HomeAdditionPlus.com newsletter. In it I include a new Puzzler Contest Question. Send me your correct answer to the Puzzler Question and you have a chance to win a $100 Home Depot gift certificate and a free can of KILZ Clean Start zero VOC primer.

Besides the Puzzler contest, there are several other interesting home improvement topics discussed that you will want to read about, including a video on how to install a new garage door opener, and an article on fireplace firebacks.

So check out my newsletter at HomeAdditionPlus.com Newsletter today!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Asphalt Shingle Roofing Cost Calculator

Get Estimated Roofing Costs in Just Seconds

By mark J. Donovan

I just completed an asphalt shingle roofing cost calculator that I have posted on HomeAdditionPlus.com. The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Cost Calculator is a free tool for homeowners to quickly get an idea of how much it is going to cost them to have their roof reshingled. All that you need to do to use the roofing cost calculator is answer a few simple questions and hit the calculate button. Within seconds, your internet browser will refresh and provide you with an estimated asphalt shingle roofing cost estimate. You can also easily go back and change responses to the questions to produce additional asphalt shingle roofing cost estimates.

The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Cost Calculator complement’s HomeAdditionPlus.com’s highly popular Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet. The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet has been out for several years and has helped many homeowners hire the right roofing contractor for their particular roofing project. The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet includes:

  • A "Request for Quote" Roofing Contractor Checklist
  • Expected Asphalt Shingle Roofing Cost Estimates
  • Extensive asphalt shingle roofing guidance tips, to ensure a shingled roof that will not leak and stand up to the worst of wind conditions.

So if your home’s asphalt shingled roof is in rough shape, make sure to check out HomeAdditionPlus.com’s Asphalt Shingle Roofing Cost Calculator and Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet today!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Is it the Right Time to Buy a New Home?

Evaluate both the Federal and your own Personal Financial Prospects Before Buying a New Home

By Mark J. Donovan

The housing market has been in a tail spin for about 3 years now. On average, selling home prices are down nearly 30% from their peak. Mortgage rates are still at their lowest levels in nearly 50 years. So is now the right time to buy a new home? Is now the time to take the plunge and scale up to the bigger or more luxurious home? In some cases the answer is a definite, absolutely! On the other hand, it also depends upon your particular situation, e.g. your employment status? It also depends on your timeline on how long you plan on holding onto the new home.

So the answer on buying a new home is still somewhat grey in many peoples’ minds today, and that is why the housing market has continued to languish. Very few people have confidence in the staying power of their employment, if they even have employment. With 10% unemployment officially, and more like 17-18% unofficially, there are many people either out of work or know of a friend or neighbor that is.

So to determine if this is the right time to buy a new home for you, there are a few questions you should ask yourself first.

First, are you ultimately long term optimistic about the country’s future? If you are, then it may make sense to buy that new home now. If you’re not, then you might want to hunker down to a European austerity program lifestyle.

My personal view is that though our federal, state, and local governments have been spending with unwanted abandoned for the past 18 to 24 months, the American public is finally sobering up to the fact that they were sold a utopian fantasy by the latest group of progressive charlatans. I suspect center America will not put up with this much longer and through the power of the voting booth begin to rectify this problem in November. So being an optimist, I suspect our current financial and unemployment crisis will not stand, and thus the housing market will significantly improve in the next couple of years.

Second, are you optimistic about your own future employment? If you’re comfortable with your present employment situation for the next couple of years, then now may be a good time to buy the new home. Again, with a change in federal political leadership, we should expect to see a re-investment in corporations and entrepreneurs by 2011/2012. By offering tax incentives and investments into emerging business opportunities the U.S. should begin to see sustainable growth in the next 3 to 5 years, thus ensuring your employability out to and beyond 2015. If, on the other hand, you’re current employment is tenuous then now may not be a good time to buy the new home. It may make more sense to hold off a couple of years until the employment picture becomes a bit more clearer.

Third, is your family growing? If it is, then now is probably a very good time to buy a new home. Unless we go into a depression, which could happen if things don’t change at the federal level this fall – but I’m optimistic they will, this is the time to buy the new home. If you have steady employment and a growing family, the chances of finding home prices and borrowing rates this cheap may not happen again in your lifetime.

So evaluate your own financial situation and ask yourself if you believe the country will change its course to a more financially prudent one. If you are bullish on both of these accounts, then buy the new home and hold on for the ride. It could be a little choppy in the next year or two, but 5 years from now I think the picture will be much brighter. Let’s hope so for all our sakes!!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

No Surprise Home Sale Contract Signings were Up In April

By Mark J. Donovan

So is anyone really surprised that home sale contract signings were up in April. Anyone with a pulse and was in the market for buying a home new the home purchase federal tax credit was about to expire on 5/1/10. To qualify for the federal hand out, a purchase and sales contract needed to be signed by this date.

Though some in the real estate industry are touting this positive factoid as signs of things to come in the hard hit real estate market, I'm not so sure. With the federal tax credit now expired, what's the compelling reason to go out and buy a new home. Interest rates have been at record lows for months and home sales and prices have languished at best. Until the employment picture becomes brighter I'm hard pressed to believe that this uptick in home sale contract signings is sustainable. As a matter of fact, I won't be at all surprised to see that actual home sale contract signings dropped in May and will stay flat through June.

Time will tell, but until the job market improves don't expect any explosive improvement in home sales.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pollen Clouds Hazing Up the Memorial Day Weekend Skyline

Pollen Clouds Blanketing New Hampshire

By Mark J. Donovan

I looked out my front windows late this morning and saw this thick haze over Lake Winnipesaukee. It was as if it was late July with 90 degree temps and equal humidity levels. The only difference was that this haze had a yellow tint. It was pollen.

We've had very little rain in central New Hampshire for the past several weeks and the pollen from the trees is just blowing all over the place. Its like watching large low level clouds float by.

The pollen is also coating everything on the ground. Its as if a volcano errupted and spewed an ash cloud over us.

Hopefully we'll get some rain soon to wash this pollen away.

Cleaning Your Deck

By Mark J. Donovan

If you want to keep your deck looking like new then you should plan on cleaning your deck a few times a year. On top of that you should at least sweep or hose it down once every few weeks depending upon the time of the year. In the spring, for example, when the pollen is blowing off of the trees you should plan on hosing down your deck once a week. Otherwise you'll find yourself walking on a coating of yellow pollen dust.

Cleaning your deck involves some time and the proper tools. To learn the specific techniques and tools for making your deck look like new see my full article at: Deck Cleaning and Maintenance.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Deck Maintenance

How to Properly Maintain a Deck

By Mark J. Donovan

Regular deck maintenance is a necessity, face it or not. So the main question to ask yourself is do you prefer to perform minor deck maintenance work regularly, or wait and deal with more significant and expensive deck maintenance problems down the road. I prefer the former, as I like to save money and I like my decks looking like new as much as possible.

Maintaining a deck regularly involves cleaning the deck every couple of months with a deck cleaning solution and a garden hose, and at least once a year pulling out the broom and/or brush and really scrubbing the deck surface.

In addition, proper deck maintenance means inspecting the deck periodically for damaged boards, popped nails and peeling deck sealers and paints. As soon as you discover these types of deck maintenance issues, they should be addressed. Old damaged decking boards should be replaced, popped nails replaced with slightly larger nails, and peeling decks stripped and resurfaced.

By keeping up with these basic deck maintenance activities you should be able to keep your deck looking like new and extend the life of your deck dramatically.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

House Prices Rebounded Last Quarter in Hardest hit Housing Markets

By Mark J. Donovan

The housing market continues to show small signs of improvement according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Housing prices actually increased in the past 3 months in 91 cities across the United States. Hardest hit communities saw home sale prices increase dramatically. Saginaw, Michigan, for example, saw home sale prices double over the past quarter to an average sale price of $60,800. Nationally, the average home sale price actually dropped 0.7%. Though it was a drop, it was a dramatically reduced drop than previous quarters in recent years. Since 2006, home prices have fallen near 30%, so any sign of stabilizing home sale prices, even reported as a small drop, is a positive step towards a recovering housing market.

If the economy continues to show improvement, and unemployment inches down even just a little, 2010 could represent the first positive annual growth in national home sale prices since 2006. The only other unknown variable is the expiration of the home purchase tax credit which expired on May 1st. The home purchase tax credit has helped to mitigate falling home sale prices over the past year or so, and with the expiration of it, there is the risk that the housing market could stagnate or even falter again if the economic and unemployment picture do not improve.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pending Existing Home Sales Highest in 5 Months but Will it Last?

By Mark J. Donovan

Pending sales on existing homes hit a 5 month high in March according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Much of this was surely due to the home purchasing tax credit expiring on May 1. So it begs the question, is this positive housing statistic a trend or a flash in the pan? Only time will tell.

I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if it is the latter, at least for the rest of 2010. With unemployment still at nearly at 10% (officially) and much higher (unofficially), and European financial concerns with Greece, Spain and Portugal putting a damper on the stock market, I’m hard pressed to see a sustained improving housing market. The likelihood could be even further reduced if the Fed needs to begin raising interest rates sooner than planned. The US Commerce Department recently reported that Americans saw a 2% increase in prices in just the first 3 months of 2010.

Housing Prices Have Probably Bottomed Out

Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slowdown in pending home sales for the remainder of 2010, or at least for the next several months, I suspect housing prices have bottomed out. There are many signs suggesting a slowly improving U.S. economy, and these factors will most likely offset the risk of further declines in housing prices. The only question mark in this hypothesis is how soon the government begins to turn off the stimulus spigots. If the government moves too fast in turning off the flow of stimulus money, this, along with all the other negative factors mentioned above, could potentially cause housing prices to drop further.

Again, only time will tell.