Homeowners Liable for Snow, Ice Control

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-12

(BPT) - During the winter months, it’s common to see shopping centers and business owners out and about clearing snow and ice from pathways, parking spaces and entrances. But this isn’t just good business to help customers get in the door - it’s also a liability issue should someone slip and fall and injure themselves. Homeowners, too, face similar, albeit more limited, liability if they fail to take adequate steps to remove such slippery hazards from their property.

Generally speaking, homeowners are responsible for limiting dangers on their property, but in some cases, this can also extend to public sidewalks abutting your home. In some localities, governments also require homeowners clear snow and ice or face fines. A regional survey of county and municipal agencies conducted by the Salt Institute found 83 percent have written policies directing property owners to remove accumulated snow and ice "within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm." Penalties for property owners not complying can range from nominal tickets, to misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to fines of up to $500.

Shoveling snow is simple, but ice removal is another matter, and nothing works better to remove or prevent ice from forming than salt. Salt lowers water’s freezing point, the temperature at which it changes from a liquid to a solid and vice versa. The most effective way to use salt is to melt the snow or ice that is right at the pavement. If you can do this, then you will find it much easier to shovel the snow or ice from the sidewalk. This process, preventing water from freezing in the first place, is called anti-icing. It is best achieved by putting salt (or some other anti-icing material) down on the sidewalk when a freeze or a snowfall is expected. In contrast, melting water already frozen is called deicing and in this case salt is applied once ice appears. It still works, but is less efficient than anti-icing.

Commercially available anti-icing materials include salt (sodium chloride), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate. Each has its advantages and disadvantages but salt remains the best choice for use at temperatures above 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 degrees Celsius). For extremely low temperatures, look for a mixture using calcium or magnesium chloride instead.

Laws regarding snow and ice clearing vary by state and from locality to locality, but most mandate some action must be taken within a reasonable time period (often 24 hours) after it stops snowing. For example, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states that any owner who "removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton."

The dangers from slips and falls should not be taken lightly, especially for the elderly. Each year thousands are rushed to emergency rooms as a result of icy falls with injuries that could have easily been prevented. One enterprising hospital, St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis, Indiana even decided to give away road salt to local residents to try and prevent such injuries and the resulting emergency room visits. In the end, the person who is most likely to slip and fall is the homeowner themselves.

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Four Steps to Protect Your Home from Winter Water Damage

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-05

(BPT) - Rain, sleet, ice and snow - no matter what form it’s in, precipitation can lead to major winter damage resulting in many issues for home and business owners. Icy roads, ruptured pipes and ice dams are all complications brought on by winter water, and the threat may be even greater this season according to national weather predictions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting this winter to be wetter-than-average in many parts of the country. Additionally, when you consider the threat of El Nino looming for certain regions, proper seasonal preparation is especially important this year.

“When it comes to winter weather, it pays to be prepared for the worst,” says Peter Duncanson, director, disaster restoration system development at ServiceMaster Restore. “Preparing now is important, as excessive precipitation combined with freezing or near-freezing temperatures can cause significant damage overnight.”

To protect yourself and your home from winter’s harshest weather, here are four must-do tips from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore.

  • Understand your insurance policy. If something goes wrong at your house, you want to know you’re covered. That means now is the perfect time to review your insurance policy closely. As you do so, pay special attention to what is and is not specifically covered, as it applies to winter weather conditions. You may find gaps in your policy where additional coverage is needed.

  • Keep your gutters flowing. Your gutters are one of your home’s most important defense mechanisms when it comes to water removal - but only if you keep them clean. Clear your gutters of debris as soon as possible and repair any leaks to ensure proper water flow. Keeping your gutters clear does more than just rid your home of excess water, it also stops the possibility of ice dams - a very expensive seasonal hazard. Once your gutters are clean, make sure your downspouts are clear of debris as well, and that they properly divert water several feet away from your home’s foundation.

  • Fortify your foundation. Water damage to your home’s foundation can easily cost thousands of dollars so it’s worth your time to reinforce it in advance. Take a trip around your house and inspect the foundation for cracks or small holes where water can seep in. Even a few inches of water can damage your carpet, drywall, wood floors or the foundation itself.
  • Prevent pipes from freezing. A frozen pipe that ruptures can be one of the most destructive winter water accidents. To protect against frozen pipes, insulate your home’s outdoor pipes with a faucet cover or even a towel. You should also ensure pipes that border an exterior wall are well insulated. This will keep the pipes warm and reduce their risk of bursting. On the coldest nights, it’s a good idea to open faucets a small amount, allowing water to drip into a drain to keep water moving through the pipe. You can also leave cabinet doors open underneath sinks to circulate air and protect against freezing.

Follow these four steps to help your home enter the spring nice and dry. To learn more about ServiceMaster Restore, visit ServiceMasterRestore.com.

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Winter Tree Trimming: Why The Season of White Is a Great Time to Think Green

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-05

(BPT) - Is your winter tree maintenance limited to trimming the Christmas tree? If so, you’re missing out on one of the season’s most important home projects. Many homeowners pay little attention to their trees and bushes once colder weather arrives, but seasonal maintenance done during these months can be incredibly beneficial, not only for the plant but for you as well.

So grab your tools and your gloves because it’s time to get started on your winter tree pruning.

Why is winter tree pruning important?

Think of winter tree pruning as a head start. Pruning trees and shrubs during the dormant cycle ensures they will have a full growing season when spring arrives. In addition to the longer growing season, winter is also a good time to prune because colder temperatures reduce the risk of disease or pests attacking the plant.

Finally, pruning your trees during winter is also an easy way to protect your home from dying or diseased branches that may pose a falling risk. This is especially true in regions where heavy snowfall is common.

What trees or shrubs should you prune during the winter?

There are several species of trees or shrubs that can be pruned during the winter months, but you can categorize them into three easy-to-remember groups:

  • Hardwood trees. Pruning hardwood trees in the winter is easy thanks to their lack of foliage. Branches should be cut just above the branch collar - the space where the limb and the tree come together. This area of the tree is rich in anti-microbial chemicals to help the tree heal from the pruning without suffering decay. Clippers can be used to trim smaller branches, but for larger sections or dying plants, use the Husqvarna 450 chainsaw. This all-around powerful saw features the X-Torq engine for lower fuel consumption and emission levels without a drop-off in power. Its auto return stop switch makes it easier to handle, perfect for those spots where you need to make that precise cut.
  • Fruit trees. Similar to their hardwood cousin, winter is also a great time to prune fruit trees. Each species of fruit tree has special considerations you must take into account, however, so research your species before pruning. Once you’re finished, your efforts will be rewarded in the spring with larger, more delicious fruit.

  • Shrubs and/or trees that flower. Want the best blooms next summer? Prune any tree or shrub that flowers after May 15, late in the winter. To handle those projects efficiently, use the Husqvarna 136LiHD45 hedge trimmer. This trimmer features advanced battery technology for optimal power output, and their one-touch keypad makes it easy to get the job done right without excess battery loss.

When do you start pruning?

Branches that pose a falling risk should be handled immediately, but if you want to maximize the spring growing season, late winter is the time to prune. Start your project with the right tools and you’ll support fuller, healthier plant growth during the spring, giving you another great reason to say goodbye to winter.

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How Smart Home Chefs Are Going Green with Kitchen Design

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-17

(BPT) - Home chefs everywhere are taking a new approach when designing their dream kitchens. Beyond upscale tools and high end appliances, they also want features that are eco-friendly and environmentally smart. Here are the top trends in eco-friendly kitchen design.

Green countertops
When it comes to selecting eco-conscious kitchen countertops, home chefs are getting creative. The greenest countertops are made from recycled materials such as glass, cement, porcelain and even paper. These products aren’t just environmentally friendly, they are absolutely stunning with complex colors and upscale designs that fit into any kitchen aesthetic.

Fireplace bake ovens
A fireplace/bake oven combo is a beautiful focal point that is as useful as it is stylish. Tulikivi soapstone fireplace ovens warm kitchens and provide home chefs an extremely useful way to bake. Their unique design allows wood to burn separately within the fireplace firebox or bake oven. The whole stove warms evenly from top to bottom so no heat goes to waste, plus the aroma produced by a wood-fired oven gives every meal a delicious finishing touch. Learn more about cooking with fireplace bake ovens by visiting Tulikivi on YouTube.

Eco-friendly cabinets
Appearance isn’t the only thing home chefs are considering when shopping for cabinetry. Most pressed wood cabinets are made with a resin called urea-formaldehyde, which can be unhealthy. Buying cabinets made from solid wood helps avoid this concern. Additionally, cabinets made from sustainable materials are in high demand, like bamboo or wood that has been responsibly harvested. Finally, nontoxic paints and varnishes are a must.

Greenhouse garden windows
A garden window is a popular option for kitchens above the sink. Not only do these types of windows let natural light into the space to cut energy expenses, they also feature a recessed ledge ideal for potted plants. That means this eye-catching window also allows home chefs to grow their own herbs year round so there’s no need to waste time and fuel running to the local grocery store. Healthy, fresh flavorings can be plucked at a moment’s notice.

Energy efficient appliances
Appliances alone account for a whopping 13 percent of a household's energy costs. Refrigeration and cooking appliances are the biggest energy drains, so it’s no surprise that green kitchens feature Energy Star approved appliances. Kitchen features that give more bang for the buck are in high demand also. Half of all the energy used in the home goes to heating, this is why smart homeowners are using Tulikivi ovens to bake and heat their homes. These bakeovens store heat in the thermal mass of the soapstone, a two-hour burn can radiate heat for up to 24 hours producing clean, comfortable, cost-saving warmth.

Reclaimed materials
New doesn’t always mean the best. In fact, more home chefs are seeking reclaimed materials not only for environmental reasons, but also because these materials give kitchen spaces one-of-a-kind personality. For example, vintage reclaimed tile is fantastic for creating a conversation-worthy backsplash that no other kitchen has. Another option is reclaimed wood from old barns or schoolhouses, which can be transformed into noteworthy flooring with a great backstory.

Smart faucets
Today’s kitchen faucets have entered the smart age. More than just low-flow for water conservation, smart faucets offer additional ways to go green. Some have motion sensors so with a wave of the hand they turn on quickly and then turn off after a designated amount of time. Home chefs enjoy features like quick hot to cool temperature changes too, which make it easy to cook and also save H2O.

The green movement is here to stay and home chefs are embracing kitchen design that offers upscale elegance while being eco-friendly. Consider these trends when you build your dream kitchen. To learn more, visit Tulikivi.us or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tips and Tricks for Solving 6 Common Kitchen Design Dilemmas

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-17

(BPT) - Kitchen design is an art form, one where function and beauty harmoniously co-exist. Achieving that balance, however, isn’t always easy. When renovating a kitchen, homeowners can find themselves facing challenging design dilemmas. And they are not alone.

“When redesigning or refreshing a kitchen, the goal is to create a space that is hardworking, yet beautiful,” says Nate Berkus, renowned designer and artistic advisor to LG Studio. “Look for items that really represent who you are and your design personality, and you’ll create an area you and your family will love both now and 10 years from now.”

Berkus points to six common kitchen design dilemmas and offers suggestions on how homeowners can create a space that is functional, and also beautiful.

1. Space challenges

When you don’t have enough room for the large table your family needs, get creative. Consider building an L-shaped bench around a farm table and adding extra chairs. It’s a clever use of space and will create a cozy nook where your family can gather for meals, or kids can do homework. Plus, the bench can double as storage space so it’s extra hardworking.

2. Last year’s - or last decade’s - cabinets

Cabinets are one of the first things you notice in any kitchen, and they’re also one of the most important in terms of functionality. If your cabinets provide ample space but look dated, Berkus suggests giving them a facelift. “I always appreciate a simple, clean style, but with cabinets I tell my clients they shouldn’t be afraid to mix it up,” he says.

Use varying materials and finishes, like a wood or paint color that’s different from the rest of the kitchen. “I recommend sticking with a neutral palette for cabinets, whether you’re installing brand new ones or painting your existing cabinets,” Berkus says. “White, charcoal and gray will always be elegant, and you can’t go wrong with black - it’s absolutely one of my favorites. It makes a dramatic statement and looks fantastic paired with stainless steel appliances.”

3. Small budgets, big taste

When you long for that sleek, built-in look but don’t want to break the bank, counter-depth appliances are a great design choice. They seamlessly integrate with cabinetry no matter what the material, supporting that clean look you ultimately want your kitchen to reflect.

“I’m obsessed with LG Studio’s three-door counter-depth refrigerator,” Berkus says. “The door-in-door feature is one of my favorites.” The refrigerator also features a sophisticated, pro-style, flat-door design inspired by Berkus that gives it a premium look. LG Studio’s slide-in ranges, with designs also inspired by Berkus, are another great option to help homeowners achieve a custom, built-in aesthetic.

4. Unattractive, inefficient lighting

Lighting is one of the most important design elements in any room, and it’s the one thing people often overlook when re-designing their kitchens. “Lighting can instantly change the whole feel of a space,” Berkus says. “I believe it is one of the most important decisions you can make in any room, especially the kitchen, which, let’s be honest, is usually the hardest working room in your home.”

To create lighting that is both useful and beautiful, remember to light the room in layers - from above, under cabinets to illuminate work areas and all-around accent lighting to create ambiance. It’s also such an easy way to add a whole lot of personality to your kitchen. Opt for vintage sconces and brass or metallic lighting fixtures. They will instantly up the design ante and make the space feel decidedly layered and interesting.

5. Counter space confusion

Figuring out how much counter space you’ll need is always tricky. Start by considering all the ways you’ll be using your counters. You’ll need food prep areas, of course, but will you also want a breakfast bar where your family can sit for meals and snacks? Will you need extra room for countertop appliances?

“My rule of thumb is, to always double the amount of counter space you think you’ll need,” Berkus says. “You can never have too much, especially if you like to cook and entertain.”

6. The slate is simply too clean

A large, open-concept kitchen can seem appealing, but it can also be daunting to design and decorate.

“Don’t be afraid to do something unexpected in the kitchen to break up the space,” Berkus says. “I love the idea of creating an unexpected seating area in your kitchen. Shop your weekend flea markets or online stores for a vintage sofa, coffee table and rug to set up an area for your family to relax in.”

Ultimately, Berkus says, keep in mind that the kitchen truly is the heart of the home. “Kitchen design is about creating a space in your home that brings the whole family together, and is the best place to reflect your sense of personal style.”

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4 Ways to Tap Into the Nordic Décor Trend

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-17

(BPT) - Minimalist Nordic design is taking over the home décor scene in 2016. Scandinavian-inspired design principles, featuring white, simple color schemes and use of natural materials, provide attractive options for creating a balanced, beautiful home.

The Nordic movement, which evokes the simple, minimalist homes of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland, is enjoying new popularity as Americans seek to balance work life with home life, and create spaces where they can unplug, unwind and relax. Nearly 77 percent of homeowners reported neutral tones, such as those embraced by Nordic design, make a room feel more tranquil, according to a recent Sherwin-Williams National Home Design and Color survey.

Here are some tips to steer your space clear of clutter and embrace the minimalist beauty of Nordic décor for a balanced and bright 2016.

Start with a clean slate
Selecting the right hue of white paint on your walls can create the foundation for Nordic design. Take a cue from colors inspired by natural, fine-textured stone. For example, Alabaster (SW 7008), Sherwin-Williams 2016 Color of the Year, is a natural, flattering white suited especially for a harmonious atmosphere in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens.

Turn on the light
As in Nordic countries, the winter season’s long, dark months create a craving for daylight and its positive impact on mood. During these months, take advantage of the daylight you do have by letting window light shine in through a sheer curtain for an ethereal effect in your space.

When the sun goes down, create the effects of daylight in your home décor. Incorporate shiny and reflective elements, like a large beautiful mirror hung on the wall, to reflect your interior lighting and give the illusion of a more spacious atmosphere.

Use shiny metallic elements such as copper, the metal of the moment, in a living room lamp or for pendant lighting in a white kitchen. Hang paper lanterns in a bedroom to add movement and lighten up the space in a fun and interesting way.

Embrace natural tones
Nordic design is all about using natural, live-well tones to create environments where we can feel serene. To achieve this look and feel, use earthy, natural materials, such as Carrera marble, to bring an element of sophistication to a countertop in a kitchen or bath.

Choose birch or maple wood grains for cabinets and furniture to add balance to lovely light stone grays and blush petal pinks, and create a refreshing, yet uncomplicated atmosphere.

Get sharp with geometrics and details
Complex shapes, angles and patterns in vibrant colors are also present in Nordic décor. Use a boxy picture frame or multilevel open shelving units to offer symmetry and provide a focal point in your space.

In a home that celebrates simplicity, there’s always room for a bit of whimsy or a pop of color. Even small details can make a big statement: a zebra-striped pillow on a couch or bed; several multicolored candleholders lined up in a row on a dining room sideboard; or red-painted counter stools in a winter-white kitchen.

For more help planning your painting projects, visit your local Sherwin-Williams store or www.sherwin-williams.com.

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4 Things to Consider When Choosing Siding

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-17

Siding options like Mastic Home Exteriors by Ply Gem SolarDefense, shown here, expand exterior home design with on-trend colors that make your home the envy of the neighborhood.

(BPT) - Selecting new siding is one of the most important decisions homeowners face when building new or remodeling an existing home. With so many options - both classic and modern materials - there’s a lot to consider.

Many manufacturers are now combining traditional styles and materials with high-tech finishes, delivering a product homeowners can love for years to come. Among all the options on the market, vinyl siding - with its various styles, textures and colors - remains the most used product. In fact, 2015 marked 21 straight years vinyl siding held the top spot in cladding for new single-family houses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual home report.

Whether you are building a home or remodeling one, there are four key areas homeowners should account for when determining which siding option meets your needs: durability, design, maintenance and affordability.

Siding selection is typically a once-in-a-lifetime decision, making durability a key factor for many. Homeowners should look for a siding option that is resistant to every element, including rain, wind and even the sun. Manufacturers now offer siding products with technologies that resist the damaging impact of the sun, preserving color for the lifetime of the home. Options, like Mastic Home Exteriors by Ply Gem SolarDefense, expand exterior home design with darker, on-trend colors that make your home the envy of the neighborhood.

Perhaps the most-overwhelming decision for most when considering siding options is deciding on a style and color. There are seven primary siding material options available to homeowners - vinyl, metal, wood, brick, fiber cement, stucco, and stone - and countless color and style options within each material type. To guide you in determining what would look best, it is recommended to ask a siding specialist like a contractor, builder or architect for help. They can educate you on color coordination and what would go well with the neighborhood, while still giving personalized options for your home. They will also be able to weigh in on accent pieces like trim and shutters, which can help bring out your style.

“Homeowners are looking for more creative and colorful options,” said Pat Verlodt, president of Color Services & Associates, an organization that identifies color trends and educates consumers and manufacturers about those trends. “Whether you’re looking for a specific panel texture, such as cedar shake or wood clapboard, or a certain period-specific color scheme to align with historical significance, my recommendation is to look at vinyl. It provides the homeowner the freedom to add low-maintenance color and definition that will never be out of style or need painting or refinishing.”

Beyond style and color, homeowners are also seeking siding that is low-maintenance, which reduces or eliminates the cost and personal time expended for proper upkeep. Each siding material type has a different level of care and maintenance required. Vinyl typically requires just soap and water for periodic cleaning. Wood and fiber cement can require repainting every five to seven years. Stucco will need to be repainted and sealed. Brick and stone require re-pointing of mortar. The earlier point about durability plays a part here too, ensuring the option you select is free from potential time-consuming - even costly repairs - due to storm damage such as wind and moisture.

Lastly, set a budget. Do your homework on the options and secure estimates, then compare them with your budget. Don’t forget that sometimes investing a little more into the project up front may reduce issues and maintenance costs down the road.

As you look to select new exterior siding, be sure to keep in mind these important factors - durability, design, maintenance and affordability - to make the best choice possible for your home and lifestyle. To get started on siding your house, look to manufacturer websites such as plygem.com for siding choices, as well as home visualizer and color selection tools that help homeowners experiment with different color and textures before making a decision.

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