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Caring for Wood Siding; To enjoy wood siding’s beauty for a lifetime, maintain it properly and diligently.

Wood siding is one of the most beautiful of all types of siding — and one of the most expensive. If you’d like to avoid repairs that could cost thousands of dollars, and you’d like to keep your clapboard, shingles, or board-and-batten lasting for decades, regular upkeep and maintenance is critical.

Finish, protect wood siding

Wood must be properly finished with a paint, stain, or clear sealer. Left unprotected, it’s susceptible to rot and decay caused by moisture. Of special concern is the fact that wood expands and contracts with normal changes in humidity and temperature. These fluctuations may cause paint finishes to chip and crack, and over time puts stress on caulked seams around windows, doors, and at corners. If the caulk separates and fails to keep out moisture, wood rot may develop. Even species of wood that have a natural resistance to rot, such as redwood, cypress, and cedar, may decay if not properly protected from the elements.

Paint comes in unlimited colors and can be changed at any time. A house with wood siding must be repainted at least every five years, or as soon as the paint finish begins to deteriorate. A DIY paint job requires about 60 hours of labor. A professional crew will paint a two-story, 2,300 sq. ft. house for $3,000-$5,000.

Stain is a good choice for wood because it allows the beauty of the grain to show through. Stain penetrates wood fibers and helps seal them against moisture; it’s also resistant to the cracking and chipping that affects paint. Because stain is a penetrating sealer—not a coating, like paint—it’s difficult to change the color of previously stained wood. Staining a house is less labor-intensive than painting because prep work is minimal. Expect to pay $2,000-$4,000 for a pro crew to stain a two-story, 2,300-sq. ft. house. Using a rented paint sprayer, a two-person DIY team can re-stain a two-story house in 4-5 days for about $500, including the stain.

Clear sealers prevent moisture damage and allow wood to retain its natural color, but they must be reapplied at least every two years. Clear sealers are formulated to help slow the process that allows ultraviolet light to turn wood silvery gray. However, all natural wood, regardless of species, eventually turns gray when exposed to years of sunlight. Using a rented paint sprayer, a two-person DIY team can refinish a two-story, 2,300 sq. ft. house in a 3-day weekend for about $500, including the finish.

Clean stains on wood siding

Dirt is the most common cause of discoloration on wood siding. Clean annually using warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. Divide your house into 20-foot sections, clean each section from top to bottom and rinse before moving on.

Mildew appears as black spotty stains. Clean the area with a solution of one part bleach to four parts water. Wear eye protection and protect plants from splashes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Rust stains often appear as dark black splotches and vertical streaks. They’re usually caused by a metal fastener, such as a nail or screw, that wasn’t galvanized. Contact with moisture causes the fastener to oxidize, leaving streaks. To remove the stain, dissolve 4 oz. oxalic acid (available at hardware stores and home improvement centers) in 1 cup warm water.

Wear eye protection and acid-proof gloves; avoid splashing the mixture onto adjacent surfaces. Apply the mixture to the stain and gently scrub with a soft bristle brush. Rinse thoroughly with water. Refinish the spot if necessary. Problem nails must be replaced with a galvanized or stainless steel fasteners.

Restore the color of natural wood siding

Siding that has discolored with age can be restored to its original color by applying a wood cleaner or brightener. These products often are intended for use on wood decks, but they work well on natural wood siding. They’re available at hardware stores and home improvement centers. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Replace wood siding

Replace wood siding that show signs of damage. The most common damage comes from accidentally hitting the siding with sticks and stones thrown from a lawn mower, or from objects, like baseballs. Occasionally, wood siding may crack due to changes in atmospheric moisture. Repairs to wood siding require the expertise to remove the damaged siding while leaving surrounding siding intact. Unless you have the skills, hire a professional carpenter or siding contractor. Expect to pay $200-$300 to replace one or two damaged siding panels. More here.

Real wood siding on a home


Home Can Be Where the Help Is. More must be done to get critical services to seniors who want to stay in their homes.

Responding to the needs of an aging population will be one of the most complex public policy challenges facing our nation in the 21st century. A successful response will require innovative approaches that bring together the best thinking from a variety of different fields and disciplines. A critical element of any strategy must be more effective use of housing as a platform for the delivery of health care and other services.

Here’s the situation: By 2030, some 73 million people aged 65 or older and nearly 9 million aged 85 or older will be living in the United States, representing a doubling of the number of individuals in both groups since 2000.

The ratio of working age people to those who have retired will fall significantly. Today, one in seven persons is 65 or older; by 2030, that share will grow to one in five. With fewer workers supporting more retirees, government budgets and social service delivery systems will be severely tested.

Surveys show that the overwhelming number of seniors will seek to “age in place” in their existing homes and communities. Understandably, as they age, most Americans want to live close to friends and family and continue to enjoy the personal connections that have enriched their lives.

Yet many of our homes and communities are not suited to make living independently a safe, viable option. Millions of homes lack basic structural features such as no-step entry and extra-wide hallways and doors, while many neighborhoods were not designed with seniors in mind and often lack transportation and other needed services. More here.

Best Nursing Homes, Caregiver, Elderly, Aging, Senior

11 Ways To Raise Your Credit Score, Fast

A recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling indicates that more people would be embarrassed to admit their credit scores (30%) than their weight (12%).

While crash diets don’t usually work and can be unhealthy, it is possible to change your credit score fairly quickly. But just as with weight loss, “quickly” is a relative term. Seeing any improvement could take 30 to 60 days, according to Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of Your Credit Score, Your Money & What’s At Stake.

But nothing will change at all if you just sit there on the couch, eating Cheetos and charging items on the Home Shopping Network. So get moving!

The first thing to do is get a copy of your credit report from The three major credit reporting bureaus must give you one free copy per year, so plan to order one every four months.

Then use one or more of the following tips to boost that three-digit number that has increasing power over our everyday lives.

1. Dispute errors. Mistakes happen. You can dispute errors online through Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. After you’ve fixed any foul-ups, you might try to…

2. Negotiate. You can’t deny that you stopped paying a credit card bill when you were unemployed last year. But you can ask creditors to “erase” that debt or any account that went to collection. Write a letter offering to pay the remaining balance if the creditor will then report the account as “paid as agreed” or maybe even remove it altogether. (Note: Get the creditor to agree in writing before you make the payment.)
You might also be able to ask for a “good-will adjustment.” Suppose you were a pretty good Visa V +0.92% customer until that period of unemployment, when you made a late payment or two – which now show up on your credit report. Write a letter to Visa emphasizing your previous good history and ask that the oopsies be removed from the credit report. It could happen. And as long as you’re reading the report, you need to…
3. Check your limits. Make sure your reported credit limits are current vs. lower than they actually are. You don’t want it to look as though you’re maxing out the plastic each month. If the card issuer forgot to mention your newly bumped-up credit limit, request that this be done.

4. Get a credit card. Having one or two pieces of plastic will do good things to your score – if you don’t charge too much and if you pay your bills on time. In other words, be a responsible user of credit.

Can’t get a traditional card? Try for a secured credit card, taking care to choose one that reports to all three major credit bureaus. And if you can’t get a secured card, you might ask to… More here.


10 Ways To Keep Your Home Cool.. Without Touching The Air Conditioner

Let’s cut to the chase — it’s hot out and it’s only going to get warmer over the next couple months. And while it’s tempting to crank up the AC or plant yourself within a couple-foot radius of the nearest fan, these certainly aren’t the only tricks for keeping cool.

1. Keep your blinds closed. As simple as it may seem, the Family Handyman notes that up to 30 percent of unwanted heat comes from your windows, and utilizing shades, curtains and the like can save you up to 7 percent on your bills and lower indoor temperatures by up to 20 degrees. In other words, it essentially prevents your home from becoming a miniature greenhouse, which is especially the case for south- and west-facing windows.

2. And be smart about your doors. Closing off unused rooms will prevent the cool air from permeating these areas during the hottest part of the day. You’ll want to capitalize on the cooler night hours, however (see tip #7), and let air flow naturally through your home.

3. Swap your sheets. Not only does switching up your bedding seasonally freshen up a room, it’s a great way to keep your bedroom cool. While textiles like flannel sheets and fleece blankets are fantastic for insulation, cotton is a smarter move this time of year as it breathes easier and stays cooler. And as an added bonus, buy yourself a buckwheat pillow or two. Because buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together inside a pillow case. More here.

cold cocktails

6 Smart Ways to Beat the Summer Heat In Your Home

Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes summer air conditioning bills and some potentially miserable outdoor conditions.

Sure, it feels great to have your air conditioning running constantly to keep your house cool, but it utterly drains your wallet. If you’re smart, however, you can avoid running your air conditioner 24/7. Take advantage of several tactics for beating the summer heat without watching your energy meter spin out of control.

Here are six strategies you can employ to keep those energy costs nice and low.

Block sunny side windows. Sure, sunlight streaming through a window looks beautiful, but those sunny rays bring pure heat into your home.

The best strategy you can use is to cover up all windows on the sunny side of your house. The more dense the covering, the better, but even a simple curtain is better than nothing at all. Every little bit of direct sunlight you block from entering your home will keep your home just a bit cooler and allow your air conditioner to run a little less.

Leave windows open at night. Most nights, outdoor temperatures drop below the level of your air conditioning, so take advantage of it. Open your windows and let the cool air blow in.

Start doing this as early as possible, even in mid-spring. You might wake up to a cold house, but that means the house will be cool as the day warms up. The chill might be enough to prevent you from turning on the air conditioning all day long, which can be a great money saver.

Run ceiling fans the right way. A ceiling fan can be an inexpensive tool for keeping your home feeling cool, but it won’t cool down unless you set it to spin counterclockwise. Most air conditioners have a simple switch setting to make this work. More here.

Piggy bank on the beach.

Is Rent-to-Own or Contract-for-Deed Right for You?

New mortgage underwriting criteria went into effect Jan. 10 requiring a debt-to-income ratio of less than 43 percent for most qualified mortgages. Even if you don’t qualify for a mortgage under the current lending regulations, renting may not be your only option. Alternatives such as rent-to-own and contract-for-deed transactions make homeownership possible for those who may not meet mortgage-underwriting standards.

[Read: What New Mortgage Rules Mean for Homebuyers.]

These transactions have some variations depending on state rules and the contents of the legal agreement, but a rent-to-own (or lease-purchase) transaction often means the buyer rents from the owner for a set period of time, after which the buyer agrees to purchase the property. In some cases, the tenant might pay extra money each month toward equity in the home. A lease-option agreement gives the lessee the option (and not the obligation as with lease-purchase) to later buy the property.

“It could be a house in a neighborhood that you really want to settle in but for whatever reason you can’t qualify to buy a home,” says Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. “Instead, you can qualify to rent one that you’d like to be able to buy in the future.” Zigas says rent-to-own especially appeals to former homeowners who want to get back into ownership.

In contract-for-deed agreements (also called bond for deed or installment land contracts), the purchase is often financed by the seller rather than a third-party mortgage company. One benefit to the seller is that the process is typically faster than a traditional mortgage, according to Richard Ernsberger, attorney at the Pittsburgh-based law firm Behrend & Ernsberger. In real estate markets that are still recovering from the recession, it could also give sellers an alternative to staying put or leaving the property on the market indefinitely.

[Read: How to Compete in a Seller’s Housing Market.]

For the buyer, perhaps one who doesn’t currently qualify for a mortgage, it could buy time to improve his or her credit score. “It gives you the chance to live in a place before completing the sale,” Ernsberger says. “You can structure the agreement so that the person you’re purchasing the house from will report [your payments] to the credit bureaus. Maybe after two to three years, you could qualify for a traditional mortgage.”

Mark Colwell, a Redfin real estate agent and real estate investor in San Francisco, has entered into several lease-option transactions and says the arrangement gave him more time to consider his financing options. “Usually you shop for financing for a week,” he says. “This allowed me to shop for financing for well over a year. If you’re an investor, it gives you time to look for partners or line up remodel strategies for particular properties.” More here. 

Young couple moving in new home