Category Archives: Katonah

Fall garden fix-its now save problems next spring | Katonah Real Estate

Here’s what you DON’T want to say next spring: “I wish I’d taken care of that in the fall!” To avoid giving yourself a dope-slap a few months from now, follow this fall fix-it checklist.

The last of the leaves – Promise yourself not to put away the rake and the leaf blower until all the leaves have fallen from your trees. It’s tempting to allow the final leaves to form a carpet over your lawn, but even though grass “rests” over the winter, it still reaps benefits from sunlight. A final raking now will pay dividends in the spring when your lawn comes back fresh, green and perky.

Buzz cut – Okay, the lawn doesn’t need that “jar head” look, but a final trim is a good idea. Set the blades to cut the grass to a height of 1.5″ to 2″. While you’re at it – and if the rake is still handy and your back can stand it – rake off that dry tangle of “thatch” one last time.

Can’t take no mow – When you decide you’ve run the mower for the last time, carry out a few maintenance must-do’s before you put it to bed. Run the engine until the gas tank is empty. Why? Because gasoline that is allowed to sit in your mower over the winter will become gummy, making it much harder to start in the spring. Slightly less important but still a good idea: drain the oil reservoir and fill with fresh oil.

Getting pruney – If your deciduous trees and fall flowering shrubs are beginning to get out of hand, now is a good time to prune them, if you haven’t done so already. It’s better not to prune evergreens or spring-flowering plants in the fall.

It’s for the birds – Don’t leave it too late to hang your bird feeders and get them filled with seed. Establish your yard as a feeding station early in the season and you’ll enjoy flying visitors all winter. If you’re using an established feeder, be sure to clean it out thoroughly before filling. Mold and debris need to be completely removed to avoid contaminating the new chow. There are some excellent bird feeders available now, if you’re in the market for a new one.

Put away the toys – If you love gardening and landscaping, then tools are your toys. Admit it: you treat yourself to a new one from time to time! It’s just about time to put the tools away until the spring, but before you do, take a few minutes to give them the once over. Knock off crusted dirt and wipe clean. Using a cloth, lightly coat the metal parts with vegetable oil and wooden handles with linseed oil. A good tip: Thoroughly wipe the handles afterwards to prevent them getting sticky during the winter. I found a really comprehensive online article with full details on cleaning and caring for every type of garden tool. The site is http://www.bmi.net/roseguy/gtcare.html. 

Avoid the hose-cicle! – Don’t forget the garden hose. Disconnect it from the spigot and try to drain out as much water from the hose as possible. Water expands when it freezes, and your hose is likely to split if you leave it outside with water still in it. Ideally, put your hose on a reel and store it in a garage or shed. Once under cover, hanging the hose reel on the wall or placing it on a bench is preferable to leaving it on the floor.

 

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https://www.greenwoodnursery.com/7-fall-garden-fix-its-now-save-problems-next-spring?utm_source=newsletter%2012/01&utm_content=fix%20it%20article

US building permits up | Katonah Real Estate

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits grew 5.9 percent in October to seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,297K. This is the strongest number since January. Single-family authorizations in October were at a rate of 839K; this is 1.9 percent above the revised September figure of 823K. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 416K in October, 13.4 percent above September figure of 367K. Building Permits in the United States averaged 1356.10 Thousand from 1960 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 2419 Thousand in December of 1972 and a record low of 513 Thousand in March of 2009.

United States Building Permits
Calendar GMT Actual Previous Consensus TEForecast
2017-10-18 12:30 PM Building Permits 1215K 1272K 1245K 1190K
2017-11-17 01:30 PM Building Permits MoM 5.9% -3.7% 2.0% 2%
2017-11-17 01:30 PM Building Permits 1297K 1225K 1240K 1245K
2017-12-19 01:30 PM Building Permits MoM 5.9%
2017-12-19 01:30 PM Building Permits 1297K  

 

Building Permits refer to the approvals given by a local jurisdictions before the construction of a new or existing building can legally occur. Not all areas of the United States require a permit for construction. This page provides the latest reported value for – United States Building Permits – plus previous releases, historical high and low, short-term forecast and long-term prediction, economic calendar, survey consensus and news. United States Building Permits – actual data, historical chart and calendar of releases – was last updated on November of 2017

 

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https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/building-permits

Futuristic solar home hidden inside 18th-century stone ruins | Katonah Real Estate

The stone ruins of an 18th-century Scottish farmhouse have been brought back to life as the envelope for a surprisingly modern solar-powered home. Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studiocrafted Ruin Studio with layers like a palimpsest, from the 200-year-old farmhouse frame to futuristic and tubular interior shell. In addition to the use of photovoltaics, the dwelling was built to near passivhaus standards and boasts a super-insulated envelope.

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

This unusual home located in the remote Scottish countryside retains an outwardly rural appearance with a pitched roof and exterior stone walls. Instead of using timber for the pitched envelope, however, the architects clad the structure in black waterproofing EDPM rubber. Stranger still is the pair of interior curved shells, inserted inside the rubber-clad envelope, made of insulating recycled polystyrene blocks and covered with glass-reinforced plastic. These white futuristic “tubes” serve as hallways connecting the centrally located communal areas with the bedrooms located on either end of the home.

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

“Emphasizing the narrative of time, these three layers also reflect different architectural expressions: the random natural erosion of stone walls, an archetypical minimalist pitched roof, and a free form double curved surface,” wrote the architects. “These three layers are not designed as independent parts, rather, they take on meaning as their relationship evolves through the building’s sections. They separate, come together, and intertwine, creating a series of architectural singularities, revealing simultaneous reading of time and space.”

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

Related: Barn ruins transformed into contemporary home with spa

Natural light fills the predominately white interior and large windows frame views of the Scottish countryside. The furnishings are kept minimalist and are mostly built from light-colored wood; gridded timber bookshelves located in the tube adhere to the curved walls. Portions of original stone walls are brought into the home.

Via ArchDaily

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

Ruin Studio by Nathanael Dorent Architecture and Lily Jencks Studio, adaptive reuse farmhouse, Scottish passivhaus, farmhouse ruins turned into modern home, Ruin Studio in Scotland,

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Lots Account for 17% of New Home Sale Prices | Katonah Real Estate

Earlier this month we published two blogs highlighting record-small sizes and record-high prices of new single-family lots. Extending this analysis and incorporating data on new home sale prices shows that, on average, lot values accounted for less than 17% of sale prices of new single-family homes started in 2016, the lowest share since at least 1999. Regionally, the share of new home sale prices attributed to lots varied from 26% in New England to 14% in the East South Central division.
Nationally, the share of lot values in new home prices fluctuated around 20% during the housing boom years, peaked at 21% in 2009 and has been declining ever since, despite the rising and record-setting lot prices. The declining share of new home sale prices attributed to lots suggests that other construction costs, including cost of labor and materials, are outpacing the rising lot values. These findings are consistent with the results of NAHB’s proprietary construction cost survey last conducted in 2015. Even though, NAHB’s survey shows slightly higher share of finished lots in single-family home sales prices and the declining share trend starting in 2007.

The similar pattern – with the share of sale prices attributed to lots declining after the housing boom years – is visible across all regions of the United States. Most divisions registered their highest shares in 2009, but the New England and Mountain divisions hit their peaks earlier in 2007, while the West North Central division – in 2006.

New England stands out for having the largest and most expensive lots that account for more than a quarter of sale prices, the highest share in the nation. New England’s strict zoning regulation undoubtedly contributes to high lot prices and their remarkably high share in sale prices of new single-family homes.

The Middle Atlantic and Pacific division are next on the list, with about one fifth of new home prices reflecting lot costs. The East South Central division established the lower bound on the contribution of lots to sale prices of new single-family homes – 14%. Remarkably, the rest of the country does not show much variation with lots accounting for about 16% to 17% of sale prices.The shares considered in the above analysis are averages. To make sure these are not heavily influenced by extreme outliers or Census Bureau’s masking procedures, the entire distribution of the shares of sale prices attributed to lot values is analyzed. The results are consistent and summarized in the chart below.Looking at all new single-family homes started in New England in 2016, more than half of the homes have lots accounting for a quarter or more of the final sale price. There are barely any homes with lots accounting for less than 16% of the sale price. In stark contrast, more than half of single-family homes started in the East South Central division have lots that account for less than 16% of the sale price and there are barely any homes with lots accounting for a quarter or more of the sale price.

 

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2017/10/lots-account-for-17-of-new-home-sale-prices/

Installing a tankless hot water heater | Katonah Real Estate

On Demand Water Heaters

You could save up to $75 a year with an on-demand water heater!

 

ILLUSTRATION: KEITH WARD

Although some conventional water heaters are more energy-efficient, most older water heaters and many lower-priced models waste about 20 percent of the energy they consume. Much of the heat they produce escapes through the wall of the tank as the hot water sits unused for hours at a time. This is known as standby loss.

Besides being inefficient, storage water heaters (conventional water heaters) don’t last long — only about 13 years. Homeowners can increase the life of their water heaters by lowering the temperature to a more reasonable setting, by periodically flushing sediment from the bottom of the tank, and by replacing the anode rod. Some of these measures also save energy.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old and has not been maintained, it may be approaching the end of its useful life. If it’s leaking or showing signs of rust, it definitely needs to be replaced. So consider your options before it goes kaput and you have to make a rushed decision to get hot water back. Now might be the time to install a tankless water heater.

How Do Tankless Water Heaters Work?

Also known as “instantaneous” or “tankless” water heaters, on-demand water heaters are surprisingly compact units. Some are designed to meet the needs of a laundry room or bathroom, but others provide hot water for an entire house.

Like conventional storage water heaters, tankless water heaters provide hot water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, they meet this need without the standby losses of storage tank heaters.

Tankless water heaters don’t suffer from standby losses because they don’t store hot water — they generate it as it’s needed. When a hot-water faucet is turned on, cold water begins to flow into the water heater. A flow sensor inside the tankless water heater detects water flow and sends a signal to a tiny computer inside the unit. The computer sends a signal to the gas burner or electric heating element in the water heater, turning on the heat source. Water flowing through the heat exchanger in the tankless water heater heats up rapidly — increasing in temperature from about 50 degrees to 120 degrees in a matter of seconds.

Estimated Energy Savings

Because tankless water heaters eliminate standby losses, replacing an old, inefficient water heater with a compact tankless water heater will reduce your annual energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects savings up to 30 percent on the cost of heating water, compared to a storage water heater.

Actual savings depend on several factors, primarily the efficiency of the new water heater and the amount of hot water a family uses each day. Also, using electricity instead of natural gas is a much more costly way to heat water.

For homes that use up to 41 gallons of hot water daily (probably a two-person household), the DOE estimates savings of 24 to 34 percent on the cost of providing hot water via a tankless heater compared to a conventional storage-tank heater. In homes that use substantially more hot water, around 86 gallons per day (probably four or more people), the DOE estimates reduced savings, only about 8 to 14 percent. This is because there is less idle time and less standby loss with a conventional water heater if a lot of hot water is used throughout the day. (Hot water use varies significantly depending on your habits. Estimate how much hot water you use by using the Consumer Reports calculators.)

For large families, it may make more sense to stick with an energy-efficient conventional water heater and implement other hot-water saving strategies — such as installing water-efficient shower heads, dishwashers, and clothes washers — to cut down the quantity of hot water used, rather than changing the way water is heated.

Even greater energy savings can be achieved by installing a tankless water heater at major points of use — for example, near the master bathroom, a washing machine, or kitchen. (This reduces the length of the pipe run, which reduces the amount of hot water left in the line when the faucet is turned off.) This strategy could yield savings ranging from 27 to 50 percent, although savings could be offset by the cost of purchasing and installing additional tankless water heaters.

Additional savings also result from the long life of tankless water heaters. According to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, most tankless water heaters last at least 20 years. And they’re made from easy-to-replace, off-the-shelf parts, so repairing a tankless water heater (not an option with leaking storage water heaters) can result in even longer service. A tankless water heater, with periodic maintenance, could outlast two storage water heaters. If you’re considering a tankless water heater and comparing costs to a new storage water heater, be sure to consider longevity.

By reducing your energy demand, a tankless water heater also reduces your family’s contribution to local, regional and global air pollution. Because they’re smaller, easier to repair, more durable and longer-lasting than storage water heaters, tankless water heaters also reduce resource consumption and landfill waste. Using fewer natural resources means less environmental disruption from mining, as well as pollution.

Possible Downsides

Although tankless water heaters offer many benefits over storage water heaters, they do have a few disadvantages. While they produce a steady stream of hot water, they may not produce enough hot water to meet everyone’s needs if demand is high. If hot water is being used at several locations simultaneously, water temperature at the various points of use may decline. Someone taking a shower may experience a drop in water temperature if another family member is also showering, washing clothes, or running the dishwasher. (The same can occur, however, when using a traditional storage water heater.)

This problem can be corrected (or at least mitigated) by simple, cost-effective efficiency measures, such as installing water-efficient shower heads, taking shorter showers, replacing old appliances with water-efficient models, washing clothes with cold water, and coordinating hot water use.

There are three more-expensive ways to ensure plenty of water from a tankless water heater: 1) Purchase the highest output model you can find. 2) Install two tankless water heaters, although this is a less efficient use of resources. If connected in parallel, two tankless water heaters can dramatically increase the availability of hot water. 3) Install a tankless water heater at each point of use — near bathrooms, the laundry room and the kitchen.

Installing an On-Demand Water Heater

Replacing a storage water heater with a tankless model is a major project, especially if the installation requires rerouting the exhaust (flue) pipe or increasing the size of the opening through which the flue pipe exits your house. Some tankless water heaters require larger flue pipes than those used for storage water heaters. This project requires considerable knowledge of plumbing and electricity and is best done by a professional.

Shopping Tips

If you’re replacing a conventional water heater, you may want to consider buying a more efficient storage water heater. Some manufacturers have made dramatic efficiency improvements. Check out the yellow energy tag, which indicates energy use of the model you are considering versus the average for models in its size range. A side-by-side comparison of an efficient storage water heater and a tankless water heater is worth the time.

By maintaining a new storage water heater — replacing the anode rod as needed and annually flushing the sediment from the tank — you can dramatically increase its life. Installing energy-efficient faucet aerators and shower heads will also lower your water and energy bills.

Tankless water heaters can be purchased through home improvement centers (which offer installation services) and from plumbers. When shopping for a tankless water heater, be sure to consider the physical size of the unit and whether it will fit in the location you have in mind.

Also, pay close attention to the output of the tankless water heater—the rate at which it produces hot water versus your demands. Most tankless water heaters supply 2 to 5 gallons of hot water per minute, which is sufficient for energy- and water-efficient end-users.

Gas-fired tankless water heaters typically produce higher flow rates (more hot water per minute) than electric units. Takagi makes a tankless water heater that delivers up to 7 gallons of hot water per minute, which should be enough for several simultaneous uses, especially water-efficient ones.

Some manufacturers, such as Paloma, rate their units on heat output, measured in Btus (British thermal units). Paloma recommends its 141,000- to 145,000-Btu tankless water heater for homes with one or two bathrooms, and the 199,000-Btu units for two- to three-bathroom homes.

When shopping for a tankless water heater, pay attention to fuel type. Power from natural gas and propane produces fewer pollutants than electric models, if they are powered by nuclear or coal-burning plants. Burning natural gas and propane is nearly twice as efficient as making electricity. Look for a tankless water heater with high energy efficiency (called the “fuel factor” or “energy factor”). For greater savings, purchase a model with an electronic ignition instead of a pilot light.

In addition to the cost of the unit, get an estimate of installation costs before you lay your money down. Like a conventional water heater, a tankless water heater requires a flue pipe to remove unburned gases and pollutants, among them carbon monoxide, which is generated from the combustion of natural gas or propane.

Venting is not required for electric water heaters, which slightly lowers installation costs. Unfortunately, electricity is a much more costly way to heat water.

Finally, if you’re thinking about installing a solar hot water system or already have one in place, purchase a tankless water heater designed to work with these systems. Solar hot-water systems feed solar-heated water to the tankless water heater.


What Will It Cost?

Tankless water heaters aren’t cheap. Prices range from about $600 to $1,500, depending on the size of the unit and its output. Installation can run from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more for difficult projects. In contrast, a conventional natural gas or propane water heater costs roughly $300 (for a small tank) to $700, plus about $200 to $300 for installation, depending on the size and any complications. Electric water heaters are typically the more expensive models.


What Will You Save?

Is the extra cost of a tankless water heater worth the investment? A family of four spends about $2,100 a year on energy (the average bill in 2007). With water heating constituting 12 percent of a family’s monthly fuel bill, they’ll spend more than $250 per year for hot water. If they use water wisely, a tankless water heater could save 30 percent — about $75 (or substantially more as energy costs continue to rise). Although these savings may seem modest, in 10 years’ time, they add up to over $750, which partially makes up for the additional initial investment.

Over the 25-year life of the unit, savings could turn the water heater into a money-maker, netting about $1,875 in tax-free savings. Not a bad return, especially considering you’re also saving natural resources and reducing pollution. When doing the math, be sure to include any rebates offered by local utilities and/or tax incentives from the federal government or some state governments. Rebates lower the initial cost, resulting in greater lifetime savings. Check into financial incentives by contacting your state’s office of energy conservation. Every state has one, but the names vary in each state. You can also check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.


Do Tankless Water Heaters Reduce Water Consumption?

Contrary to popular misconception, tankless water heaters do not reduce water demand in a home, unless they’re installed at the point of use. In most instances, you still have to run the water until the hot water from the water heater purges all of the cold water that’s been sitting in the hot water line between the tank and the end user. As a result, tankless water heaters are primarily installed to save energy, not water.

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https://www.motherearthnews.com/green-homes/on-demand-water-heaters-zmaz09onzraw?newsletter=1&spot=headline&utm_source=wcemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MEN%20GEGH%20eNews%2010.06.17&utm_term=MEN_GEGH_eNews&_wcsid=24FE5BB810FAD26219151E535C083A3B046D07A2642370FA

Mortgage rates average 3.83% | Katonah Real Estate

Freddie Mac (OTCQBFMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate increasing for the first time in seven weeks.

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.83 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending September 21, 2017, up from last week when it averaged 3.78 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.48 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.13 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.08 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.76 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.17 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.13 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.80 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Quote: Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“The 10-year Treasury yield continued its upward trend, rising 7 basis points this week. As we expected, the 30-year mortgage rate followed suit, increasing 5 basis points to 3.83 percent. This week’s uptick in the 30-year mortgage rate ends a nearly two-month streak of declines.”

Time to hire a contractor | Katonah Real Estate

Know when it’s time to HIY

Even if you’re an avid DIYer, you’ll eventually need a job done that’s just too big or complex to tackle by yourself. That’s when you hire a contractor. But how do you know you’re getting the best deal? Well, first, make sure you follow all the time-honored advice like asking friends and family to recommend a contractor, making sure you hire someone you’re comfortable with, and verifying that the contractor has been in business for a while and has liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Interview at least three contractors so you can compare the bids. When you meet with them to discuss the job, you should ask these questions to be confident that you’re getting the most for your remodeling dollar.

Exterior painting projects

Exterior painting projects

Painting the outside of a house is a big and often expensive job. The last thing you want is to face the project again in a few years when poorly applied paint starts to flake and peel. You can greatly improve the odds of getting a job that lasts 8 to 10 years by asking these questions before you hire a painter.

How do you plan to prepare the surface for painting?

How do you plan to prepare the surface for painting?

You’ve heard it a million times, but proper preparation is the key to a long-lasting paint job. You can apply the best paint in the world but it won’t last if the surface is dirty or loose. Make sure your contractor is planning to wash the surface to remove dust, dirt and other contaminants, either by scrubbing or with a pressure washer. The next step should be scraping all loose paint followed by sanding and, finally, another wash or wipe-down to remove sanding dust.

Will you prime before caulking and painting?

Will you prime before caulking and painting?

Primers are absolutely necessary over bare wood and a good idea over old paint too. If there are layers of old paint with exposed edges, ask your painting contractor to use a binding primer on these areas. Binding primers form a flexible seal to help prevent old layers of paint from peeling off.

What areas are you planning to caulk?

What areas are you planning to caulk?

Most paint failures start at edges where water can seep under the paint and loosen it. A thorough job of caulking solves this problem and extends the life of the paint job. Your painter should caulk cracks where the siding meets windows and doors, and any other cracks where water could enter. However, the painters we talked to advised against caulking the cracks under lap siding.

What kind of paint do you plan to use?

What kind of paint do you plan to use?

Good painters will use good paint, but they may not plan to use the best paint. Ask the painting contractor to include 100 percent acrylic exterior paint in the estimate. Even if you’re charged a little extra, you’ll save money in the long run.

Roofing projects

Roofing projects

When it’s time to reroof, it pays to make sure the materials and workmanship are first rate. A poorly installed roof can cost you a fortune if it leaks or blows off in a storm. When you get bids from contractors, be sure they’re licensed, bonded and insured and can provide references from past customers.

Photo: romakoma/Shutterstock

Do you plan to tear off the old shingles and pull the nails?

Do you plan to tear off the old shingles and pull the nails?

When you’re comparing bids, ask if the roofing contractor recommends tearing off the old shingles. Removing the old roofing materials allows the roofing contractor to inspect the roof sheathing and repair rot or other damage, exposes problems with flashings, and provides a smooth surface that’s easier to waterproof and roof over.

How will you charge for extra work, like replacing rotted wood?

How will you charge for extra work, like replacing rotted wood?

Regardless of how careful the contractor is to include all the necessary work in the bid, there are bound to be surprises. For example, it’s hard to know the condition of the roof sheathing until the shingles are removed, and at that point in the job you don’t have much bargaining power. That’s why it’s important to include in the contract an hourly rate for extra work, or a square-foot price for replacing the sheathing. If possible, plan to stay home on the day the roofers tear off the shingles so you can work with the contractor to establish an agreeable price for repairs.

Photo: L Barnwell/Shutterstock

Will you replace damaged or rusted flashing?

Will you replace damaged or rusted flashing?

One of the most common roof leak sites is at the intersection of the roof and a wall, like the sides of a dormer. These areas are waterproofed with a series of overlapping pieces of sheet metal, approximately 8 in. square, that are bent to lap onto the wall. These step flashings are then covered with shingles on the roof side, and siding or another piece of flashing, called counterflashing, on the wall side. It’s always best to replace the step flashing. But in some cases, it’s difficult to remove step flashing from under the siding. Make sure your roofer is planning to inspect the step flashing and explain your options for replacing or repairing it.

Will you replace the roof vents and valley flashing?

Will you replace the roof vents and valley flashing?

It’s bad economy to try to save money by reusing roof vents, plumbing vent flashing or valley metal. Replacing all of these with new materials only adds a few hundred dollars to the cost of a typical roof, but ensures a leakproof job. For the best appearance, also ask the roofer to use metal that’s prefinished to match the color of the shingles.

Asphalt driveway projects

Asphalt driveway projects

Fly-by-night contractors are common in the asphalt industry, but there are ways to avoid them: First, don’t buy from door-knockers —reputable contractors seldom resort to this technique to get jobs. Then ask your contractor the following questions to get a long-lasting driveway and the most bang from your buck.

Photo: Matthijs Wetterauw/Shutterstock

How are you planning to prepare the base for the asphalt?

How are you planning to prepare the base for the asphalt?

Just as for a concrete driveway, a well-compacted, stable base is essential for a long-lasting asphalt job. Ideally, soil containing organic material would be removed, as well as enough clay or other expansive soil, to allow the installation of a 6- to 8-in. base of compacted gravel. But this level of preparation may not be common in your area, especially if you don’t have severe freeze/thaw cycles. When you compare bids, pay close attention to how your contractor proposes to prepare the base, and choose the contractor who seems the most likely to do a job that will last.

What equipment will you use to compact the driveway?

What equipment will you use to compact the driveway?

Asphalt must be compacted with heavy equipment soon after it’s spread, while it’s still hot. Choose a contractor who has 1- to 3-ton rollers for compacting the asphalt.

How thick will the asphalt be once it's compacted?

How thick will the asphalt be once it’s compacted?

In most areas of the country, a 2- to 3-in. layer of asphalt is sufficient if it’s installed over a stable base.

Will you slope the driveway to avoid standing water?

Water pooling on or at the edges of an asphalt driveway can cause damage and shorten the life of the asphalt. Make sure your contractor plans to slope the driveway and surrounding area for good drainage.

How do you plan to finish the edges of the asphalt?

A top-notch asphalt job includes beveling the edges at a 45-degree angle and packing the asphalt with a hand tamper for durability.

Concrete driveway projects

Concrete driveway projects

A concrete driveway is a big investment that will last a long time if it’s done right. But choose your contractor carefully. Poorly installed concrete can crack, buckle and heave, leaving you wishing you’d spent a little extra up front for a first-class job.

Will you provide a sketch showing the dimensions of the driveway?

To make sure you know what you’re getting and to prevent any misunderstandings, ask for a sketch of the proposed driveway showing all the dimensions and how it intersects with existing structures like the garage, house or street.

Photo: Imagenet/Shutterstock

How do you plan to prepare the base for the concrete?

How do you plan to prepare the base for the concrete?

The type of soil under your driveway determines how much preparation is needed before the concrete is poured. It’s important to find a contractor who’s familiar with the local soil conditions and can recommend a course of action. Typically the best base for a concrete driveway is a 4- to 6-in. layer of compacted gravel.

How thick will the finished concrete slab be?

While 4-in.-thick slabs are the norm, adding an inch of concrete is a great investment. The extra inch adds only 25 percent to the amount of concrete needed but increases the strength by about 50 percent.

What are the specifications of the concrete you intend to use?

What are the specifications of the concrete you intend to use?

In its most basic form, concrete is a mixture of cement, aggregates (sand and gravel) and water. The proportion of these ingredients helps determine the strength of the concrete. Engineers we spoke to recommend a 4,000-lb. mix (strength) for driveways. Adding fiber mesh to the concrete mix increases resistance to hairline cracks and is a good investment. In cold climates, order air-entrained concrete to help the concrete survive freeze/thaw cycles.

Photo: Alison Hancock/Shutterstock

Do you plan to add rebar to reinforce the concrete?

Do you plan to add rebar to reinforce the concrete?

For ultimate strength, concrete requires an embedded mesh of reinforcing steel. You can see this skeleton of steel being incorporated into every road and bridge project. So it only makes sense to add it to your driveway. Wire mesh doesn’t add much strength. Find a contractor who typically installs a grate of 3/8- or 1/2- in. reinforcing steel and you’ll be assured of the strongest slab money can buy. Typically the overlapping steel rods intersect to form 3- or 4-ft. squares.

How many control joints will you cut into the concrete?

How many control joints will you cut into the concrete?

Concrete driveways are going to crack. Control joints provide a weakened line that encourages the cracks to form where you won’t see them. For a 5-in.-thick slab, control joints should be added in a pattern of squares no larger than about 10 ft. The joints should be at least 1-1/4 in. deep to be effective. Some contractors use a tool to cut the joints while the concrete is wet. Others return to cut the joints with a saw after the concrete sets.Will you apply curing compound after you finish the driveway?

Concrete needs to cure for about a week to approach full strength. During this time, evaporation of the water in the concrete has to be slowed to allow proper curing. Misting the slab or covering it with wet burlap or plastic sheeting are two methods of slowing evaporation. But applying a liquid, membrane forming curing compound to just-finished concrete is better because it doesn’t require constant vigilance to succeed.

Gutters and downspouts

Gutters and downspouts

‘Seamless aluminum’ gutters are the most common contractor installed gutters. The quality of these installations can vary widely, so hire a contractor who’s been in business for several years and can show you examples of past work. Then ask these questions to be certain you’re getting the best-quality job.

Photo: Suti Stock Photo/Shutterstock

How will you slope the gutters so they drain?

How will you slope the gutters so they drain?

It may look nicer to have level gutters, but it’s better if they slope slightly downhill toward the downspouts. Just a little slope, about 1/16 in. per foot, is all that’s needed. Long gutter runs may require downspouts on each end and a gutter that slopes both directions from the center.

How thick is the metal on the gutters you’re planning to install?

There are two common thicknesses of aluminum used for gutters, .027 and .032 in. If you’re getting bids on aluminum gutters, make sure the contractor is planning to install the thicker, .032-gauge gutters.

What size downspouts are you going to install?

What size downspouts are you going to install?

Ask for oversized, 3 x 4-in. downspouts. They don’t cost much more but have the advantages of carrying more water and clogging less.

Does your bid include downspout extensions?

One of the main purposes of gutters is to keep water from accumulating near the foundation. Adding horizontal extensions to the bottom of the downspouts helps move the water farther from the house. Usually the extensions are just another length of downspout material attached to an elbow at the house. But flip up or roll-out versions are available for areas where downspout extensions might interfere with mowing or other activities.

How close together will the gutter hangers be spaced?

How close together will the gutter hangers be spaced?

The contractor will attach the gutters to your house with screws through the back of the gutter, and then add gutter hangers to support the front edge. Since aluminum gutters will bend if they’re not well supported, it’s important to have plenty of hangers to reinforce the outside edge. Be sure your contractor is planning to install a hanger at least every 3 ft. In climates where snow and ice remain on the roof over the winter, ask for 2-ft. spacing.

Are you going to install new gutter apron?

Water running behind the gutters can stain or otherwise damage the fascia board and soffit. To avoid this problem, the gutter installer should install metal flashing, also called gutter apron. Gutter apron slips under the shingles and over the edge of the gutter to direct the water into the gutter.

Ceramic tile floor projects

Ceramic tile floor projects

Properly installed tile floors should last decades. But poorly installed floors will start to crack or fall apart in a matter of years, if not months. Here are some questions to ask your tile contractor to ensure a long-lasting job.

Photo: Anna Maloverjan/Shutterstock

What material do you plan to install as a base for the tile?

What material do you plan to install as a base for the tile?

A tile job is only as good as the substrate it’s on. The base has to be stiff and flat. Tile can be adhered directly to sound, crack-free concrete. Ask your contractor to install an isolation membrane if there are cracks in the concrete. Even though they’ll be covered by backer board or a mortar base, wood floors have to be stiff, with at least 3/4 in. of solid wood or plywood over properly spaced floor joists. Ask your contractor to inspect the floor for sponginess and strength and recommend reinforcements if needed. If the floor is flat, sheets of tile backer installed in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation will be fine. Over uneven wood floors, a traditional mortar or modern self-leveling mortar base is a better option.

Will you use latex mastic or thin-set adhesive to install the tile?

Will you use latex mastic or thin-set adhesive to install the tile?

According to experts at the Tile Council of North America, thin-set adhesive is superior to mastic for setting floor tile. Thin-set provides solid support when it sets, and can bridge slight variations in the subfloor. Be sure your contractor is planning to use thin-set to adhere your floor tile.

Do you plan to apply a grout sealer to protect the grout?

Do you plan to apply a grout sealer to protect the grout?

Grout sealers help keep grout clean and seal out water. Applying grout sealer is an easy job that you can do yourself. But when you’re comparing bids, it’s good to know whether it’s included.

How are you planning to deal with transitions to other flooring?

A well-planned and attractive transition is the mark of a top-quality tile job. Adding an adequate base often raises the floor level and creates a height difference at transition areas. In many situations, marble or solid surface (one brand is Corian) thresholds make attractive transitions to other floors. Ask tile contractors how much height difference there will be between transition areas and how they plan to deal with it.

Do you understand our house rules?

Do you understand our house rules?

Be sure to specify things like where workers are allowed to eat and take breaks while working on your project. If you don’t want anyone to smoke, make that clear. Also talk about your expectations regarding language (no swearing around your kids?) and the type and volume of music that is okay with you.

If you have pets, determine where they will be during the project and what your expecations are regarding the workers. You don’t want your pets or workers stressed out.

Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

And finally, once you start, will you stay on the job until it's done?

And finally, once you start, will you stay on the job until it’s done?

Less-reputable contractors may take your down payment, start the job, and then disappear for a few days to start other jobs. Make sure your contractor plans to stay until the job is done. And to ensure timely completion, don’t make the final payment until every detail is complete. Another common tactic is to subcontract the work to other crews. This isn’t necessarily bad, but make sure your contractor plans to inspect the job daily and keep tabs on the progress and quality of the work.
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https://www.familyhandyman.com/smart-homeowner/how-to-hire-a-contractor/view-all/

Refis could see uptick in second and third quarters | Katonah Real Estate

In the first quarter of 2017, refinances fell 45% from the fourth quarter, however the second and third quarters could see a turnaround in refi activity, according to a first look at Black Knight’s soon to be released Mortgage Monitor.

This chart shows refinance activity each week from October through June as refinance candidates fell from 8.6 million to 4.4 million.

Click to Enlarge

Black Knight

(Source: Black Knight)

Since interest rates fell below 4%, the financeable population rose to its highest point for 2017. While the current 4.4 million borrowers is down significantly from October, it is an increase of 56% or 1.6 million borrowers from mid-March’s low.

Borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter of 2017 cut their monthly mortgage payments by an average of $109 per month, or a total aggregate savings of $36.5 million per month. This marks the lowest total monthly savings since 2008 and a decrease from the fourth quarter’s $59 million.

But since the first quarter, savings have increased once again to a total of $1.1 billion or $260 per borrower each month.

This chart shows the total monthly savings borrowers saw each month.

 

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https://www.housingwire.com/articles/40426-refis-could-see-uptick-in-second-and-third-quarters?eid=311691494&bid=1785932

Geothermal heating | Katonah Real Estate

It is cooler than the air in the summer and warmer in the winter. The earth’s subsurface is an enormous heat sink — a solar battery — and it takes a large amount of energy to keep it in equilibrium. This heat energy comes in great part from the sun, a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy. In lesser amounts, it also comes from the center of the earth that we now know is a heat generator. The inner core of the earth is primarily made of a solid sphere of iron within a larger sphere of molten iron. Calculations show that the earth, originating from a molten state many billions of years ago, would have cooled and become completely solid without an energy input. It is now believed that the ultimate source of this energy is radioactive decay within the earth that continues to this day; the decay produces gradually diminishing temperatures from the earth’s center to the surface. This does not mean that dangerous radioactivity is a hazard to us. We can tap into all of this heat energy, transfer it into our home for heating and return that energy back to the earth during cooling: thus we are really borrowing heat from the earth.

Geothermal units use the same 100-year-old technology found in your refrigerator. They are both devices that move heat energy. It is worth noting that the refrigerator is the most reliable, longest-life appliance in your home. As the diagram in the slideshow explains, a refrigerator removes heat energy from food and moves it into your kitchen. A geothermal system removes heat energy from the earth to heat your home and in the summer removes heat energy from inside your home back to the earth.

Heat naturally flows “downhill” from the warmest medium to the coolest medium. A heat pump is a machine that causes heat energy to flow in the direction opposite from its natural tendency, or “uphill” in terms of temperature. Because work must be done (energy must be applied) to accomplish this, the name heat “pump” is used to describe the device.

A refrigerator and a heat pump are about the same physical size, are quiet appliances usually contained within a single enclosure, have similar components (compressor, evaporator, etc.), and both transfer heat energy. And they each require a refrigerant, a material used in a refrigeration cycle which undergoes a phase change from a gas to a liquid, and back again.

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http://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/energy-efficiency/geothermal-heat-system-ze0z1704zols?newsletter=1&spot=headline&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MEN%20GEGH%20eNews%2006.16.17&utm_term=MEN_GEGH_eNews&_wcsid=24FE5BB810FAD26243359F90C7740FB292B789E42357F9D3

New home sales rise | Katonah Real Estate

New home sales increased in May, partially reversing the previous month’s decrease, according to the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sales of new single-family homes in May increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 home sales, the report showed. This is an increase of 2.9% from April’s 593,000 and is 8.9% above last year’s 560,000 sales.

Click to Enlarge

Home sales

(Source: HUD, U.S. Census Bureau)

The median sales price of new homes sold increased from last month’s $309,200 to $345,800 in May. The average sales price for new homes sold came in at $406,400 for the month.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of May came in at 268,000 homes, the same as the previous month. However, with the faster sales pace, this represents a 5.3-month supply, down from April’s 5.7 months.

 

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https://www.housingwire.com/articles/40507-new-home-sales-reverse-course-increase-in-may?eid=311691494&bid=1795724