Tips for Buyers and Sellers

Tips for Home Buyers and Sellers: How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

We have had several days with temperatures below zero. I am concerned that you have taken steps to prevent pipes from freezing. So, I'm sharing this information to help you protect your home.

When water pipes freeze, the damage that results is often expensive and extensive. You can prevent the pipes at your home from freezing with just a small amount of effort.  The damage from frozen and bursting pipes is arguably one of the worst cold weather related threats to your home.

The likelihood of a pipe freezing, and possibly bursting, primarily depends upon its location in the home. The pipes at greatest risk of freezing are:

  • Exposed pipes in any part of the house that is not heated.
  • Pipes located in exterior walls.
  • Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.
  • A poorly maintained irrigation system.

How to Prevent Freezing of Pipes in your Home

Preventing Outside Pipes from Freezing: A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than an exploded hose because it can cause an interior pipe to burst. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze. The same problem can result from a frozen irrigation system that is not emptied and prepared for cold weather.

If you don't have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. They cost only a couple bucks and are worth every penny.

If you have an outdoor kitchen, be sure to winterize the pipes supplying your outdoor kitchen. Don’t forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, also, to prevent damage.

Exposed Interior Plumbing: Exposed pipes in the basement may or may not be in danger of freezing. If the basement is finished and used as living space they are in a heated portion of the home. However, plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, unfinished/unused basement, or garage are at risk of freezing.

To protect these pipes, they should be insulated. In most cases, relatively inexpensive foam pipe insulation is adequate. If the winter is unusually cold, you might choose to wrap your pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape ($50 - $200, depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temperatures.

Under-Insulated Walls:  If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), it’s probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It will probably be worth the cost (about $200) to open up the wall and enhance the insulation.

If all else fails, it might be necessary to reroute a pipe. The cost will depend upon the location of the pipe, how far the pipe must be rerouted, and the amount of collateral damage that is caused by the repair. Typically, the cost will be $700 or more.

Finally, if you plan to leave your house for an extended period during the winter, you will need to take additional steps to protect the house from frozen pipes. Set your thermostat to maintain an interior temperature of 55 degrees or more. Shut off the main water supply and drain the system: open all faucets and flush the toilets. In extremely cold temperatures and locations, it might be wise to contact your plumber and ask him or her to inspect the system, to drain the hot water heater, and to replace the water in traps and drains with nontoxic antifreeze. 

Tips for Homeowners: Caring for a Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

 

Every year in the U.S., hundreds of homes are burned due to fire started by dry Christmas Trees. It is always especially sad to learn of a house fire during the holidays. Here are some tips for caring for your fresh cut Christmas Tree. Here are some tips to help you care for your tree and keep your home and your family safe.

 

  1. When a tree is cut, more than half of its weight is water. Display your tree in water in a reservoir-type stand to provide water and minimize needle loss.
  2. To calculate the amount of water, use 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
  3. Use a stand that is large enough for the tree. Whittling the sides of the tree to fit a stand is harmful to the tree. The outer layers of the tree wood are the most efficient in drawing up water.
  4. Before placing the tree into the stand, cut off a slice of the stem, keeping the base of the tree flat. This will help the tree absorb water.
  5. Do not drill a hole in the center of the base of the tree. This will not help with water absorption.
  6. Check the stand daily to be sure there is enough water in the stand.
  7. Keep your tree away from all sources of heat (fireplace, heat vents, heaters, direct sunlight). Lowering the temperature in the room will reduce the amount of water the tree needs each day.
  8. Use lights that produce low heat.
  9. Check all light strings before putting them on the tree.
  10. Do not overload electrical circuits.
  11. Always turn off tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
  12. Check the tree for freshness. If the tree is very dry remove it from your house.
  13. Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. 


Fall and Winter Squash – Pure Deliciousness!

It is hard to believe that summer is over, and that Halloween is just days away. Instead of lamenting the passing of summer, we should enjoy all that the fall season has to offer. While you are carving your  pumpkin, it is a great time to think about some of the foods that ripen in the fall. Pumpkins are not the only fall variety of fall and winter squash. These versatile squash varieties are one of the joys of the fall season.

The fall harvest offers about 11 varieties of squash and 3 or more types of pumpkins. All fall/winter 

squash have hard protective shells. This makes them easy to store all winter long. Fall/winter squash have great flavor and they are loaded with nutrients. They are also low in fat and calories. When you add some seasoning they are pure deliciousness.

Varieties of fall/winter squash

Acorn squash is relatively small and typically weighs 1 – 2 pounds. The exterior shell is dark green and orange, the flesh is yellow-orange. Its natural flavor is nutty and a little sweet. It can be prepared in many ways, but some of the most popular recipes are made by cutting it in half, removing the seeds, and filling the space with seasonings, nuts, meats, cheese, and more.

Butternut squash is roughly pear-shaped. It has a smooth cream-colored shell and bright orange flesh. It also contains very few seeds. This is the sweetest squash variety. Some of the most popular dishes made with butternut squash roast or saute the flesh, or pureed or in soup.

Pumpkin, when chosen for cooking and baking, are smaller than the field pumpkins that we use for fall decorating and carving jack-o-lanterns. When buying, look for those grown specifically for eating. These varieties are sugar pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, cheese pumpkin s, and several heirloom varieties. These pumpkins can, of course, be used for pies, but they can also be baked, roasted or pureed for soup, chili,   and curries.

Banana squash is a large and elongated variety that can grow to a length of two or three feet and weigh up to 40 pounds. The shell is smooth orange, pink, or blue; the flesh is bright orange. It is typically sold either whole or cut into cubes and the seeds removed. Their flavor is somewhat earthy, but rich and sweet. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, like other varieties.

Buttercup squash is round and squat with a dark green rind that has gray-green striations. The flesh is firm and dense and bright orange. Its flavor is sweet and creamy. Because the flesh tends to be a bit dry, it is best baked or steamed.

Delicata squash is often called sweet potato squash. It is cylindrical in shape and it has a thin yellow or cream skin with green stripes. The flesh is yellow-orange. The flavor is reminiscent of sweet potato and a bit creamy. It can be cut into cubes or slices or stuffed .

Hubbard squash is one of the largest of fall/winter squash varieties. The shell is hard and firm and the color can be dark green, blue or gray. It can be purchased whole at farmer’s markets, though in grocery stores it is typically sold cut and free of seeds. Its flavor is similar to a sweet pumpkin. The flesh can be used in a variety of ways, like other squash.

Kabocha squash (Japanese for squash) is squat in shape and green in color. The flavor is nutty, earthy, and very sweet. It can be prepared or used in the same ways as other squash. It can be used as a pie filling.

Spaghetti squash is cylindrical with a pale cream to bright yellow shell. It is named for the flesh

, which when scraped looks like strings or spaghetti. It is often used as a healthy alternative to pasta. The flavor is very mild, with no sweetness.

Turban squash is typically used for decorating. It is shaped like a turban and has a shell that is dull, bumpy and mottled green to yellow to orange. It can be cooked in the same way as butternut or acorn squash. The flavor is mild and nutty.

Sweet Dumpling squash is very small, with a shell that is yellow with bright orange or dark green striations. The flavor of the flesh is sweet and starchy, somewhat like corn. It is typically prepared stuffed or roasted.

Preparation of fall/winter squash

Baking or Roasting. Remove any stem, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and the fibrous substance around them. Place squash cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Squash that has been hollowed out can also be stuffed with sugar, seasonings, meat, cheese, nuts, etc. and baked.

Steaming. Squash varieties with shells that are easy to peel, such as kabocha or butternut are best for steaming. Peel, skin and hollow out the squash and cut into serving pieces. Boil 1 inch of water in a large pot, with squash pieces in a steamer basket and cover. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork or bitten.

Microwave.  Some people like to microwave squash whole. This softens it, making it easier to peel, remove seeds, and cut up. Microwave at full power for 5 (smaller squash) to 10 minutes, until it can be pierced easily with a fork. If more time is needed, microwave for additional 1 minute intervals until done. Cool enough to handle before cutting up or cutting in half.

 
 

Favorite Recipes

Here are three very popular recipes to try this year.

Classic Pumpkin Pie.  [source: http://southernfood.about.com/od/pumpkinpies/r/bl20106d.htm]

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inch)
  • Whipped cream or whipped topping for garnish

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Directions

Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and flour in medium mixing bowl. Add eggs. Mix well. Add evaporated milk, water and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Pour the filling into the pastry-lined pie pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 35 minutes or until center is set. Serve with a dollop of whipped topping and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

 

Butternut Squash Ginger Soup  [Source: http://localfoods.about.com/od/creamysmoothsoups/r/Ginger-Sauash-Soup.htm]

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds butternut squash (1 large squash)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, more if needed to taste
  • 8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • Sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish (optional)

Preparation Time 15 minutes

Cook time: 1,800 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Directions

Halve, peel, remove seeds and cube the squash. Set aside. Halve, peel and chop onion. Peel and mince garlic (if using it). Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add butter or oil and onion. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft (about 3 minutes). Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the fresh ginger and the ground ginger, and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add squash and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until squash is very tender (about 20 minutes). Transfer small batches to a blender. Hold a kitchen towel over the top and whirl until completely smooth (2-3 minutes). Alternatively, a hand- eld immersion blender can be used. Blend the soup until it is completely smooth. Return soup to the pot. Taste. Add salt of taste, if needed. Serve with dollops of sour cream if desired.

 

Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan Cheese and Basil  [Source: hhttp://southernfood.about.com/od/wintersquashhrecies/r/Spaghetti-Squash-Recipe.htm]

Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeds removed, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed and finely minced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Serves 4 to 6

Directions

Line a baking pan with foil and oil lightly with olive oil. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and soft fibers. Arrange squash, cut side down, on the foil lined pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Turn squash over, cover once again with foil, and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until very tender. Scoop squash out of its peel and toss I a large bowl with butter, diced tomato, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Serve hot with crusty bread.

I hope you will find many ways to enjoy fall/winter squash this year. If you have a favorite recipe for pumpkin or squash, please share it on my Facebook page.  Happy Fall. 

 

 

 

Tips for Homeowners: Tree Falls On Property Line: Who Pays? Who Picks Up the Pieces?

 

 

 

Who pays depends on numerous factors.

 

When a neighbor’s tree falls over your property line, yell TIMBER, then call your insurance company. Homeowners’ insurance policies typically cover tree damage caused by perils like wind and winter storms.

 

Most policies cover hauling away tree debris if the mess is associated with house damage; some will cover cleanup even if no structures were harmed.

 

When a Tree Falls

 

Your neighbor is responsible when a tree falls over your shared property line only if you can prove he was aware that his tree was a hazard and refused to remedy the problem. Regardless, your insurance company restores your property first, and later decides whether or not to pursue reimbursement from the neighbor or his insurer if the neighbor was negligent in maintaining the tree.

 

Before a Tree Falls

 

Write a letter to your neighbor before his dead, diseased or listing tree falls through your roof or over your property line.

 

Trim Their Trees

 

If the limbs of a tree hang over your property line, you may trim the branches up to the property line, but not cut down the entire tree. If a tree dies after your little pruning, the neighbor can pursue a claim against you in civil or small claims court. Depending on the laws of your state, your neighbor may have to prove the damage was deliberate or caused by negligence, but may also be able to recover up to three times the value of the tree.

 

Before you cut, tell your neighbors what you intend to do to protect your property. They may offer to trim the whole tree instead of risking your half-oaked job.

 

Your Tree Falls

 

It’s always a good idea to take care of your big and beautiful trees, and keep receipts for trimmings and other care.



Dollar Return for New Windows

 

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from someone on my mailing list with a question about upgrading to new windows.

 

The question was this: [we] have been considering upgrading our windows. We would use [X famous name brand]. We were quoted a price of $17,000 for the entire home. We know about energy efficiency savings, but we were hoping to have your expertise on the dollar return when selling our home (in general); we are not looking to sell now, but just as cost/value comparison.

 

Some facts: According to the 2016 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling.com, the average cost of window replacement in Seattle is $15,308 for vinyl windows and $18,837 for wood windows. The impact upon resale value of the home would be an increase of $17,417 for vinyl windows, recouping 113.8% of cost and $17,941 for wood windows, recouping 95.2 percent of cost.

 

Cost is affected by materials, Low-E coatings on windows (to reflect sunlight), number of panes of glass in the (glazing; 1, 2 or 3 panes), amount of space between panes of glass, and whether or not gas (argon or krypton) is inserted between panes of glass for better energy efficiency. Price also typically reflects the guarantee on the windows.

 

The performance of windows may vary depending upon location and local weather conditions. Also, the government rebates and tax credits offered a few years ago have now expired.

 

My response: Overall, my experience is that the price of replacement vinyl windows averages about $500 to $800 per window. Going to wood or wood clad raises the price considerably. The wide price range for vinyl replacements is due to competition, quality, warranty offered, and brand value. As far as dollar return, buyers love to see new windows in a home. However, often they don’t notice the brand or the features. A significant positive impact on buyers is if you, as a seller, can say that the newer windows have a transferrable “lifetime” warranty.

 

For example, I just had a good experience with Champion Windows. For a $99 service fee, they were willing to replace a window with a broken seal for the new buyer. Replacement took that window from an eyesore to being wonderful again. It seems that energy efficient windows in the Northwest often cloud up due to a broken seal. I don’t think any manufacturer is immune from this condition. At some point in the life of a double pane or triple pane window, a few on a house might suffer from a broken seal. The ability to have that handled by the manufacturer under warranty is terrific.

 

Another observation about the Champion Windows I dealt with was the ease of cleaning from the inside of the house. This double hung style has a mechanism that allows you to flip the window over to clean it from the inside. This can be a wow factor for some buyers. I’ve also had good experiences with Milgard vinyl windows.

 

One more point regarding installation and impact on home value. I strongly recommend that wood trim (often called “brick molding”) be used to finish the exterior edges of the windows.

 

Overall, replacing windows throughout a house is money well spent. You’ll enjoy the way they will enhance your house visually. You will also appreciate the difference in comfort and efficiency (EnergyStar estimates that replacement windows result in a 15 percent savings annually). I hope this helps. Please let me know about the direction you choose and your level of satisfaction. Clients often ask me about windows.

 

In fact, if you have a recent experience with new windows, I’d love to hear about it. If you are willing to share your story, please send me an email. 


An Important Consideration for All Homeowners: Tankless Water Heaters