1. Gravel. Loose stones come in different sizes and colors, make the least expensive surface, and allow water to drain into the soil. Water runoff, traffic, and plowing will move it around, so it may need annual touch ups.
2. Tar & Gravel. Also called surface treatment or double shot, this looks like gravel but the tar helps hold it in place. You need new stone every 7 to 10 years to keep the gravel color.
3. Asphalt. This is the least expensive solid surface driveway and great for kids to play on. But you have to re-seal it every few years, especially in northern climates, to keep water from getting into crevices and freezing.
4. Concrete. This needs less maintenance than asphalt and offers interesting options. The least expensive is installed as slabs with expansion joints to minimize cracking. Exposed aggregate concrete costs more and features a rough gravel surface. Decorative concrete comes in many different colors and stamped patterns and costs the most.
5. Concrete pavers. There are many styles and colors, from bricks to squares to octagonal patterns. The cost is similar to decorative concrete but individual pavers are easily repaired.
6. Natural stone. Cobblestones, Belgian blocks, and slate paving are beautiful, but expensive.
Fifteen things you can do to reduce energy and maintenance costs:
1. Turn down the hot water heater to 120°F. It's a waste of energy to heat water hotter than most people can stand.
2. Get a water heater blanket. Many older water heaters and even fairly new ones aren't well insulated. A water heater blanket saves money by keeping the heat in.
3. Wrap insulation around exposed hot water pipes. Good quality pipe insulation makes the water 2° to 4° warmer and delivers it quicker. The first three feet leaving the heater and the last few feet coming back are key.
4. Check for running toilets, leaky faucets and under sink plumbing. They cost you money and lead to mold.
5. Check attic insulation. If you have an unfinished attic, have at least 6" of insulation, (more in the northern U.S.).
6. Put in a programmable thermostat. This automatically adjusts temperature, so you only pay for heating or cooling the house when you're actively using it.
7. Install ceiling fans. Their air circulation effect lets you put your thermostat 1° or 2° higher in summer and 1° or 2° lower in winter. Set to blow air down in summer and up in winter.
8. Replace the air handling filter. This is behind a slotted panel in the air handler. Note the size and stock up. A dirty filter makes the system work harder. Check every two months.
9. Clear all air vents. Make sure vents aren't blocked and look in to see they're dust bunny free.
10. Air-dry some laundry. Put up a rack in the laundry room or a clothesline outside. Air-dry a third of your laundry and you're running the dryer a third less of the time.
11. Choose reliable, energy efficient appliances. Paying a little extra for quality and reliability will save you lots over the long haul.
12. Seal out air. Air leaks are money leaks. Look for them around windows and doors, and then seal them up.
13. Monitor foundation cracks. If you have cracks in basement walls, cover the ends with masking tape with the date. If the cracks grow, call in a specialist. Foundation problems are way cheaper to fix sooner than later.
14. Plant shade trees near your home. They cool the house in summer, saving money on air conditioning, and add value to the property.
15. Write down a home maintenance checklist. Include tasks you should do monthly, quarterly, and annually. Review each month. You'll save tons of money over time.
A popular health magazine reports:
1. Chocolate reduces chances of heart disease and stroke. A recent study found that people consuming the highest levels of chocolate had a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared to those with lower chocolate intakes.
2. Chocolate may help you in math. Flavonols in chocolate are thought to improve blood flow to the brain. One study reported participants could do calculations faster and more accurately after drinking hot cocoa.
3. Chocolate makes you feel good. Chocolate contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins, a reaction similar to the one people experience when they fall in love.
4. Chocolate relaxes you. Studies have shown chocolate contains the compound anandamide, which activates the brain receptors for relaxation.
5. Chocolate may help you live longer. One study found that participants who ate candy one to three times a month had the lowest mortality rates of the group.
If you're buying your first home, moving up, or downsizing, we can help you with the financing. We're happy to answer your questions, whenever you're ready to take advantage of today's attractive housing market. We can also help with refinancing your existing home or funding home improvements. Please call or email us any time. We're always here for you.... Have a great day!
A home burglary occurs in the U.S. every 13 seconds and only one in four burglars are ever caught. Here's how to keep the bad guys away.
1. Replace all exterior locks with deadbolts. Locks only provide security if you know who has every key. When you move into a new home, hire a reputable locksmith to install new deadbolts. Deadbolt locks can't be opened without a key. Bored-in deadlocks embedded into the door are even harder to break through. Spend a few dollars more for good locks and you could save thousands.
2. Eliminate exposed door hinges. Burglars can take out the pin on exposed hinges and walk right in. Re-hang the door with hinges inside.
3. Install peepholes and motion sensor lights. Always know who's at the door before you open it. Sensor lights also illuminate the path to your entrance when you come home in the evening.
4. Remove hidden keys. one out of 3 break-ins happen with no forced entry. If you're hiding a key under a mat, in a fake rock, or anywhere else, remove it. If you worry about losing keys, install a deadbolt with a keypad.
5. Put lamps on timers. Install timers throughout your house and set them for random times - don't have them all go on at 6:30 and off at 11. Most burglaries occur from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., so set some lights to turn on during the day if the house is empty then.
6. Install window locks or pins. These discourage burglars who don't want to make noise by breaking glass. Use the same brand of lock for all windows, so they're easy to set. If they use a key pin, keep it in a secure but accessible location in case of fire.
7. Trim trees and shrubs near windows. These can hide a burglar at work.
8. Don't make it obvious no one's home. When you go out, turn telephone and answering machine volumes down. Don't leave notes for family or friends on the door or mailbox. If you'll be gone a while, ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail, or have the post office stop delivery until you get back.
9. Don't leave ladders and tools lying around the yard. Impulse burglars can use them to gain access.
10. Destroy new TV and computer boxes. Don't let the world know you've just bought something of value.
11. Install an alarm system. Choose a local alarm or a monitored system. Local alarms make noise to scare off intruders. A monitored system makes noise too, but it also sends an emergency signal to a monitoring center that immediately alerts the police. There are installation costs and a monthly charge for the monitored system, although it may get you a discount on your homeowner's insurance.
1. Roof and chimney.Replace damaged shingles or roof tiles and repair flashing around vents, skylights, and chimneys. If your roof is older, start saving money to replace it. Clean roof if any mold is visible. Examine the chimney exterior for damage and have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.
2. Gutters and downspouts. Repair loose or leaky gutters and make sure downspouts are clear and drain away from the foundation.
3. Siding, brick, stucco.Pressure-wash siding to keep mold from growing. If wood is visible, sand and prime before painting. Scrape peeling paint and sand before painting. Check bricks and stucco for chipping and bad mortar. Repair or seal with an appropriate sealant.
4. Decks, driveways, fences.Pressure wash these too, and look for cracks and other damage that needs to be repaired.
5. Exterior caulking. Inspect seals around windows, doors, and other openings and scrape and re-caulk if deteriorating. Check window and door sills and thresholds for cracks, caulk edges and repaint or replace as necessary.
6. Screens. Clean window and door screens and patch holes or replace screening. Repair damaged frames and repaint. Replace broken hardware. Tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers.
7. Hot water heater. Open the spigot near the bottom to drain out sediment that builds up. This will lengthen the water heater's life and cut your energy bill.
8. AC compressor. This needs good airflow to work efficiently, so clear any plant growth blocking it.
Whether you're buying your first home, moving up, or downsizing, we can help with the financing. We're happy to answer any questions, whenever you're ready to take advantage of today's attractive housing market. We can also help with refinancing your existing home or funding home improvements. Please call or email us any time. We're always here for you.... Have a great day!