Tips

Fixed Rate Refinancing

If interest rates drop significantly, you may want to investigate refinancing. Most experts agree that if you plan to be in your house for at least 18 months and you can get a rate 2% less than your current one, refinancing is smart. Refinancing may, however, involve paying many of the same fees paid at the original closing, plus origination and application fees.

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Energy Efficient Mortgage

The Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) allows a homebuyer to save future money on utility bills. This is done by financing the cost of adding energy-efficiency features to a new or existing home as part of an FHA-insured home purchase. The EEM can be used with both 203(b) and 203(k) loans. Basic guidelines for EEMs are as follows: The cost of improvements must be determined by a Home Energy Rating System or by an energy consultant. This cost must be less than the anticipated savings from the improvements. One- and two-unit new or existing homes are eligible; condos are not. The improvements financed may be 5% of property value or $4,000, whichever is greater. The total must fall within the FHA loan limit.

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Light Time

Turn off the lights in any room you’re not using, or consider installing timers, photo cells, or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.

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Pruning Cuts

Pruning cuts should be made so that only branch tissue is removed and stem tissue is not damaged. At the point where the branch attaches to the stem, branch and stem tissues remain separate, but are contiguous. If only branch tissues are cut when pruning, the stem tissues of the tree will probably not become decayed, and the wound will seal more effectively.

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Powertool Placement

Generally allow about 2-in. from the back of the tool to the wall, but be sure to leave space for any sawdust collection equipment you plan to install, including the ductwork and any attachments to it or to the tool.

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Wallpaper Start

When applying wallpaper, choose an inconspicuous spot for your starting point. The edge of a door frame is a good choice. This is where the first and last strips of wallcovering in the room will meet, and inevitably, those strips won’t match perfectly. That’s why it’s important to find an inconspicuous spot.

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Staying Sellers

Sellers will sometimes opt to remain in the house after closing via a short-term rental agreement. As the new owner, be sure the purchase contract and rental agreement stipulates that the sellers repair any damage they cause after the closing date.

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Refrigerator Seals

Replacing the seals on your refrigerator is not hard and can make a big improvement in the aplliances efficiency (and appearance). Replacement seals are often available at many home goods store and through the maker of the unit. One tip for using these replacement seals is to warm them before installing, this removes the crimps that often occur from their packaging. A few minutes in the clothes dryer should do the trick.

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Deck Staining

When staining your deck, be careful not to apply too much of the stain. You don’t want to get surface film on the wood when what you’re really going for is penetration. Also, be sure to keep a wet edge so you don’t get unsightly lap marks. Apply stain in the proper weather conditions. Avoid applying the product in direct sunlight, and be sure there is no chance of rain for the next 24 hours.

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Precision Marks

Use a well-sharpened pencil to make cut marks for your shop projects. A blunt pencil, held vertical to the rule, will make a line too far away from the edge. Angle the pencil about 45 degrees to keep the line at the edge of the rule. For greater precision, make your cut marks with a utility knife using a sharp blade.

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Shoveling Safety

Before you go out to shovel the snow from your driveway and walks, take a few moments to prepare yourself for what is often a good workout. Do few stretches, drink plenty of water and dress in layers. Boots with good traction are a must, as are gloves that allow you to firmly grasp the shovel’s handle. Never try to lift more than you can carry and avoid smoking as it reduces oxygen needed for such strenous work.

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Fertilizer Facts

It is best to apply fertilizer when the soil is moist and then water lightly. This will help the fertilizer move into the root zone where it is available to the plants, rather than stay on top of the soil where it can be blown or washed away. Watch the weather. Avoid applying it immediately before a heavy rain system is predicted to arrive. Too much rain (or sprinkler water) will take the nutrients away from the lawn’s root zone. Use the minimal amount of fertilizer necessary and apply it in small, frequent applications. An application of 2 pounds of fertilizer five times per year is better than 5 pounds of fertilizer twice a year. Calibrate your fertilizer spreader to be sure you know exactly how much material is being discharged in a given space. Follow instructions accompanying your spreader. When spreading fertilizer, cover ends of the lawn first, ten go back and forth across the rest of the lawn, using half of the recommended amount. Shut the spreader off before reaching the ends to avoik over-application. Apply the other half of the fertilizer going back and forth perpendicular to the first pattern. Dispose of fertilizer bags or containers in a safe and state-approved manner.

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Improvement Records

Beginning on the day that you complete the purchase of a home, keep track of everything you spend on major improvements. You will need to document those expenditures, which increase your home’s “basis” (and thus reduce your net “gain”) when you eventually sell. Even with today’s liberal capital gains exclusion, rapidly rising home values may push some homeowners closer to the taxable gain threshold faster than they suspect.

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Revive Hardwood Floor

You may be able to renew a dull finish without completely refinishing the floor. Still, some hardwood floor manufacturers recommend that only professional refinishers tackle the job.

If you decide to do it yourself, begin by sweeping with a good broom and then vacuuming the surface. Next, use a buffer with an abrasive pad and/or fine-grit sand paper until the finish feels smooth. Another option would be to use a rectangular oscillating sanding machine. Hand-sand any areas that remain rough or irregular. Keep in mind that you want to lightly sand the top coat of the finish, not sand through it. Remove dust by sweeping, vacuuming and wiping the floor with a lint-free towel slightly dampened with water. (Make sure the towel has not been treated with fabric softener or anything else.) Allow the floor to dry completely before applying a single coat of polyurethane finish. Check with the manufacturer of the new finish if you’re not sure it’s compatible with the finish already on the floor.

For a waxed floor, apply a mineral-spirit based renovating product and buff with a No. 1 steel wool pad. Allow the floor to dry completely. Next wax and buff. Keep in mind that these steps will brighten the appearance of the finish, not lighten the wood itself.

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Cultivating Annuals

Cultivate by hoeing to break up soil crusts and control weeds. Shallow rooted annuals are injured by deep, vigorous cultivation. Hoeing should be very shallow to cut weeds off just below the soil surface. As the annuals fill in, hand weeding may be the only practical alternative. Chemical weed preventers are available but they have a short life and must be reapplied. Most chemicals labeled for flowers do not give control of difficult perennial weeds.

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Find Out the Base Flood Elevation

The best way to prepare for a flood is in the planning stage of a new home. FLASH recommends an evaluation and inspection of your homesite and lot prior to construction to determine the flood zone and the Base Flood Elevation or BFE. The BFE refers to the elevation associated with the “100-year flood,” or a flood with a 1% chance of occurrence in any given year. The “100-year flood” patterns form the basis for the National Flood Insurance Program rates and regulatory floodplain management.

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T Square

A 4-ft. T-square for drywalling can come in handy for other projects. Besides being helpful in drywalling, it can be useful when laying out patterns or cutting on full sheets of plywood or particle board. The square is accurate, stable and will give you a full 48-in. straight line. Some newer versions come with a head that can be adjusted to various angles, then clamped in place.

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Storing Dowels

To store dowels, molding and the like neatly off the floor in your shop, you can use empty 3-lb. coffee cans. Attach one can with a bottom 6 in. off the floor. Then attach another with both ends cut out about 2 ft. above it. Slide material down through it into the bottom can.

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Installing a Toilet

If you’re updating a bathroom, you’ll need to know how to replace the toilet. Apply a wax seal over the floor toilet flange to prevent sewer gases from entering the room. For extra protection, put a second bead of plumber’s putty to seal any imperfections between the floor and the bowl. Place the new bowl firmly and evenly over the seal and bolt it to the floor. Attach the tank. Cut your toilet tube supply to connect the tank to your water supply. Fill and tank and flush away!

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Powertool Safety

When working with any type of powertool, avoid wearing jewelry such as watches, bracelets or chains. They can easily become caught in the moving parts of the tool.

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Rip Cuts

Rip cuts are cuts that go with the woodgrain. After a proper measurement and marking have been made, carefully use your thumb to guide your saw with two or three short upward strokes. Once the cut is started hold the saw at a 60 degree angle to the wood and make smooth, full downstrokes. If you’re making a long cut, use a wedge to spread the wood apart. This will help prevent any binding.

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