Ask the Home Experts
Q: When are three of the most important times in our lives to purchase life insurance?
A: Your insurance agent will contact you about life insurance during these three important events in your life
1. When you get married: Once you’re married, you usually have dual incomes, bigger expenses and more debt. If something were to happen to one spouse, the other would be expected to take on the financial responsibilities of both, but with one income. This is when life insurance comes in handy.
2. When you purchase a home: A home is usually the biggest debt you will take on. Having a life insurance policy to help cover the mortgage can make a terrible situation a little easier.
3. When you have children: Life insurance can help make the lives of your survivors financially easier, i.e. college and living expenses.
Trey Cantey, Eric Loebs, Lavone Roberson, Aaron Shealy (pictured), Allstate
Q: What should I do to prepare my HVAC system for winter?
A: Before the winter months, your home’s heating system needs to be properly inspected and maintained by a professional for two reasons: First, and most obvious, is safety. A professional inspection will determine if the heating components are damaged or subject to failure, which could lead to more serious concerns, such as carbon monoxide issues or fire. Second is operating efficiency. Power bills are not getting cheaper, and a properly maintained heating system can help reduce energy costs during the winter. So stay safe and have your HVAC system completely inspected and maintained by a properly licensed and trained contractor. If you need help finding a good contractor, contact the South Carolina Association of Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors for guidance at www.schvac.net.
Todd Wagstaff, Comfort Services
Q: Is “green building” just a buzzword or does it really matter?
A: The term “green building,” originally thought to have been coined in the Continental Northwest, was first met with some skepticism in the South. But it turns out it’s simply another way of defining the practical and common sense of energy efficient building that has been used locally for years: more insulation, better sealing of the home envelope, higher efficiency and better sizing of HVAC equipment.
Green building has now evolved into a technical science of its own, with virtually every building related industry using that science to improve home energy efficiency, improve value and better market homes. Clients can even achieve rating designations that are often referred to as merit badges. These designations result from assigning points to green ingredients as well as physical testing done during the building process. You get a more energy efficient product with a lifetime of energy cost savings and an effective marketing tool for the sale of the home.
Barry Davis, The Barry Davis Company
Q: Should I severely cut back my Crepe Myrtles every winter like so many people do?
A: The short answer is an emphatic NO! It’s a tragedy each spring to see so many beautiful mature crepe myrtles cut back to 6 feet in height with cuts of up to 3 inches in diameter. This is bad pruning at its worse. The sad part is that most homeowners and even more “professionals” engage in this practice simply because they’ve seen someone else do it. It’s fine, and even beneficial, to judiciously prune and shape the branch structure and to remove the seed pods from this past year’s blooms, but if your tree is too large, then consider relocating it to an area where it can thrive, or replace it with one of the many available dwarf crepe myrtle varieties. Don’t be complicit in the crime of crepe murder! Let your trees be trees.
David T. Livingston, Green Earth Services
Q: What kinds of remodeling projects require building permits?
A: Building codes have been established by most cities, towns and counties, and they vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another. A building permit generally is required whenever structural work is involved or when the basic living area of the home is to be changed. As a homeowner you should never pull your own permits or authorize a contractor to pull them in your name. The person who pulls the permit is responsible for the work. Every trade such as electrical, gas, plumbing, HVAC and so on must have a permit pulled to allow that work to be done. One of the first questions an insurance company asks when a claim is made is: Was a permit pulled? If the answer is no, then usually the claim will be denied. The best way to identify if a permit is needed is to use a contractor who is a member of the Home Builders Association and has up-to-date licensing. Do not hesitate to call the building inspector’s office to verify your project’s scope and the need for a permit. Your contractor should do this on every job he or she performs.
Scott Hood, Hood & Douglas Construction
Q: What kind of drapery do I need at my windows?
A: It all depends on what your windows let you see. If your view is lovely, then draperies are not necessary. If it’s a great view of the air-conditioning unit, then having draperies is certainly recommended. If you have beautiful moulding/trim around your window, then choose roman shades that fit inside the window, so the attention is drawn to the moulding. If you need privacy but have a good view, then opt for two-inch blinds or shutters. They give the best showing of the outside. They can be paired with a cornice board or a drapery that doesn’t close in on the window. If you have low ceilings, then vertical stripes are a good choice. If they are high, then be thankful – you can have almost any fabric you like.
Katherine Anderson, Katherine Anderson Designs
Q: I want to redo a room in my house. Where do I start?
A: First and foremost, identify the function of the room. Will it act as a hideaway to relax and read, a studio to paint or create, an office to write and focus, or a dining room in which to eat and entertain? Once you determine the purpose, begin to search for the right color palette. While soft aqua may be relaxing in the bedroom, a bold yellow might be better for a sunroom. Next, think about the types of furnishings needed to accomplish the mission and the types of materials appropriate for your stage of life. While a square glass top coffee table might be fine for empty-nesters, it might not be a good choice for a young family with three kids and two dogs. Be open-minded about the space and seek inspiration from every source available. Be on the lookout for something that speaks to you – be aware of colors, shapes and textures around you and think about how they can affect you. While you can certainly use interior design magazines for ideas, the inspiration for a room can start from something as simple as the pattern on your favorite teacup, the fabric on your father’s jacket, or the color of a bird’s feathers in a photograph you love. Finally, enjoy the journey of creating your dream space and don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends, or professionals, if you need some assistance.
Mandy Summers, M. Gallery Interiors
Q: How does water quality affect my plumbing?
A: Most plumbing problems associated with water pipes are related to either water pressure or water quality. A plumber should check both in order to diagnose causes of plumbing problems.
Water quality checks should test for hardness (dissolved rock), iron and chlorine/chloramines. Most municipal water meets very good standards; however, elevated concentrations of chlorine or chloramines can degrade plastic and rubber components. Common problems related to this are toilet repairs and faucet replacements because most operate with plastic and rubber parts.
Significant hardness or iron (common in well water) also can be damaging. Hardness and iron are noticeable by stains and etching on glass and finishes. Sometimes these conditions cause unpleasant odors, particularly when using hot water. Aside from the obvious signs, this water can damage water heaters, appliances and clog pipes.
We all know how important water is to our health but may not realize its effects on plumbing. Cleaning your water can save you money from costly repairs.
Kevin Meetze, Meetze Plumbing
Q: How do you know how efficient your new home is to operate?
A: Most of us wouldn’t buy a car without knowing the miles per gallon it gets, but did you know there is a similar ranking to look for when buying a new home?
The Home Energy Rating System or HERS Score is an efficiency report card for your home. At minimum, a home should have a score of 100. This means that the home meets the basic requirements of efficiency according to today’s building standards. Existing homes tend to have scores above 100.
As a home’s HERS Score gets lower, the energy efficiency of the home gets higher. For example, a HERS Score of 75 indicates that the home will use 25 percent less energy than a home with a score of 100.
A Home Energy Rater can perform the tests necessary to determine a home’s HERS Score. Next time you’re in the market for a new home, make sure to ask about the HERS Score.
Stan O’Brien, Paradime Construction