Ask the Experts

Local professional answer your questions!

Q: I’ve been looking for ways to save on my utility bills and am considering adding insulation to my attic and getting new windows that are better insulated. Are those options the best choice or are there other things that I should consider?
A: Every house is different, and there simply is not a one-size-fits-all type solution to making a house more energy efficient. The house should be evaluated by a trained professional that can help you determine where your particular house is losing most of its energy so that the improvements you chose to make will provide the greatest impact. A complete energy audit is the best place to start. Make sure you chose a qualified auditor that you can trust. Look for certifications or accreditations such as LEED, BPI, RESNET or others when selecting an auditor. Once a complete test and diagnosis has been made, the auditor can help you prioritize the improvements or repairs to make in an order of most important to least. This will ensure you the best return on investment for your house. Remember, all facts are friendly so do your homework.

Todd Wagstaff, Comfort Services

Q: How do you feel about gold in today’s market?
A: When the financial markets become volatile, many people purchase gold. But is it the right choice for you?
Keep in mind that gold prices do not always go up. Consequently, if you bought a gold futures contract, you could lose money if gold prices fall, because you’ll still be obligated to complete your contract at the higher, agreed-upon price. And if you purchased gold coins, bullion or bars, you’d face storage, security, insurance and liquidity issues.
Given these drawbacks to investing in gold, what can you do to fight back against market volatility? You can diversify your holdings among a variety of stocks, bonds and government securities. Keep in mind, though, that diversification, by itself, cannot guarantee profits or protect against losses.
So, try to avoid the allure of gold as a “quick fix.” Other investments may be less glitzy and glamorous, but they have their own sparkle.

Jonathan C. Mauffray, Edward Jones

Q: What is a seminary, and why did Erskine Seminary open a campus in Columbia?
A: A seminary is a place for students to receive graduate-level education in the Bible and Theology. Erskine Seminary was started in 1837 by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, with a residential campus in Due West, S.C., and over the years has had the opportunity to train ministers and congregational workers from a wide variety of denominations.
In 2004 Erskine Seminary opened a branch campus in Columbia in order to serve the needs of students called to urban ministry as well as of commuter students who wish to pursue seminary education but are unable to relocate from their current residences. Located in South Carolina’s capital city, at the intersection of several interstate highways, Erskine Seminary-Columbia seeks to make an impact for Christ’s kingdom by making theological education accessible to all who feel God’s calling into ministry. 

Dr. Mark Ross Erskine, Theological Seminary

Q: Is there any way to prevent deer from eating my shrubs?

A: There are several ways to prevent your valued landscape from becoming the food source for the local deer population. The first is using a repellant, such as a treated fertilizer or spray that can be used in the susceptible beds. While this may initially work, it typically needs to be reapplied on a regular basis and therefore is not ideal. Fencing or meshing is a better solution. Fencing needs to be 6’ to 8’ high, depending on the location. Various types of fencing can blend in well with the surroundings, making it a more desirable option. If you are installing a new landscape, the best solution is to plant deer resistant shrubs and groundcover (Google it!). Deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough, but by selecting plants that are least attractive to deer, you can minimize the opportunity for damage.

Fred Gantt, Hay Hill Services

Q: What is bio-identical hormone replacement (BHRT) and how can it help women and men?
A: BHRT can help many of the symptoms that are seen as we get older, or as we develop hormone imbalance and look to put an end to hot flashes (women), memory “fogginess,” mood swings, weight gain from low metabolism, low libido and fatigue. BHRT is plant derived and compounded in a
pharmacy. The physician orders labs to evaluate hormone levels and customize a dosage that will benefit the patient. BHRT comes in various forms including pills and creams. However, Dr. Rhoe is certified in pellet treatment which is when the hormones are inserted under the skin and dissolve completely into bloodstream delivering physiologically a more balanced effect. Men and women lose hormones as we get older, however just know that you do have a choice and there is help out there.

Dr. Jandrette Adu Boahene, Midlands Medical Wellness

Q: How can I get involved and help clean up my community?
A: The simplest way to get involved in your community is to locate your nearest Keep South Carolina Beautiful affiliate and join in cleanups in your area. If there is no KSCB affiliate in your area, it is easy to start your own initiative. The Great American Cleanup, happening every year from March 1 to May 30, is a great way to get involved in a cleanup. PalmettoPride offers free supplies and support to South Carolinians who want to make a difference in their home towns. For more information please visit our website or call 1-877-725-7733.

                                      Linda Shadel, Palmetto Pride

Q: How do you go about getting your inventory?
A: Most inventory in a second-hand store is donated by the public. Some items such as boutique style hair bows and special costume jewelry lines are purchased from wholesalers, but without the public’s support, these stores would not be able to stay in business. There is always a need for clothing, furniture, house wares, shoes and other items. When gathering items to donate, call ahead to see if free pick up is offered, especially for larger items like furniture. Some second-hand stores donate a portion of all proceeds to charity, so be sure to ask when you call. And now that the holidays are here, it is a great time to clear out your attic, basement and your closets!

                                  Heather Harrison, Palmetto Thrift

Q: Is cost per square foot the best way to compare prices?
A: Cost per square foot, without the perspective of tangible details, can distort the true value of a new home. As an example, the cost per square foot of two homes built with identical features would vary if one were a ranch and the other two-stories. Only when cost per square foot is accompanied by detailed specifications and contract allowances can an accurate cost evaluation be made of homes under consideration.
Intangibles like experience, training and company structure also impact the cost per square foot and are more often difficult to evaluate, making an understanding of the tangible features of a home much more important. As with anything else, you get what you pay for, but knowing what you specifically are and are not buying is an important step toward achieving a satisfactory outcome which price alone cannot predict.
For a more detailed discussion visit, or contact me at 

Stan O’Brien, Paradime Construction

Q: What size ventilation motor would I need if I install a “pro-style” range?
A: As a general rule, you will need a vent motor that can move 200 to 300 cfms (cubic feet per minute) for every linear foot of cooking surface. For example, a 48” pro-style range with six burners and a griddle would need 800 to 1,200 cfms to handle its more powerful burners. If the motor size is questionable, I would suggest the more powerful motor. As with all overhead ventilation, the hood is located near ear-level, so the larger motor running at half speed would be quieter than the smaller running at 100 percent.

Dan Goolsby, S & G Builders

Q: What’s the correct size area rug for my room?
A: There are a few factors to consider when determining what size rug one should put in their room. The ambiance you are trying to achieve for the room, should determine the actual measured size of an area rug. If you are trying to create a cozy, intimate space, then the rug should define the immediate social area. In a significant sized room, typically a 9×12 or 10×14 can establish this feeling. When trying to create a more open atmosphere in the room, leaving a border of floor showing around the rug will enhance the space. The other factor to consider is visual size vs. measured size. Patterned area rugs can have two sizes, their actual measured size and their visual size. Their visual size is affected by color and design – certain designs and colors will make a rug appear larger than it is, and some will make the rug look smaller. These are all features to think about when purchasing a quality rug

(L to R) Tim Cohen & Andrew Olsen, Stark Carpet

Q: Am I too old to bother with exercise?
A: One can benefit from exercise at any age. An expert in older adult fitness understands how to safely help each individual achieve benefits and maintain an independent and fully functional lifestyle.
Primarily, older adults should avoid inactivity. All should first get medical clearance to exercise from a physician and exercises should be individually tailored to match ability and current physical condition. Assessment is crucial for documenting results and should be part of initial orientation to establish a baseline and set goals. The assessment is repeated at determined intervals. I have a continuing record of exercisers who began their program at an average age of 82 and are now 85. Even though each has aged 3 years, the average increase in fitness from the initial baseline is 20 percent. Those scores prove that regular exercisers remain stronger, more flexible, agile and heart-healthy in spite of aging!
There are many ways to exercise — water exercise, dancing, chair aerobics, fitness machines and walking to name a few. Although aging is a natural process, everyone has a powerful influence in how he or she ages. There is also a growing amount of evidence linking regular exercise to psychological and cognitive benefits.

Denise J. Heimlich, Still Hopes 

Q: Interior designer vs. decorator: what’s the difference?A: If you are redecorating or remodeling your home or office, do your homework. Many people use “designer” and “decorator” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways. Interior design is education, experience and examination. Interior designers are able to read blueprints, understand building and fire codes, and know how to make space accessible to people who are disabled. They understand people’s behavior to create functional spaces that are safe, beautiful and that fulfill the project goals. Twenty eight states recognize Interior Design as a profession and many require practicing designers earn the NCIDQ Certificate to demonstrate their experience and qualifications.

A decorator on the other hand is someone who furnishes a space with fashionable or beautiful things. There are no requirements to be a decorator. They traditionally do not have a degree in design but can assist in picking out paint colors, furnishings and other décor for the home. So before starting a project, ask about education, experience and references. Remember, too that interior designers do decorate, but decorators do not design.\

Margo Orlandini, Tezza Interiors

Q: We recently redecorated our home and many of my favorite pieces of art no longer match. I love the frames, but it just doesn’t look right. What can I do?
A: The most important thing to remember is that the framed artwork does not need to match the decor but compliment it. But if you still do not like the look, a new mat can ensure that your artwork is the perfect fit for your new decor. This allows you to keep your favorite art and frames and is affordable. A mat replacement is an ideal solution for those looking to freshen up a space, update the look of the art or help integrate it into your new decor. If your artwork was framed long ago, new mats can protect your art and photos as older materials likely contain harmful acids. Replacing the mat will make your treasured art last longer. 

Sheree Smith, The Picture Place

Q: How can I stay on track with my fitness routine during the hectic holiday season?
A: We all know that keeping your regularly scheduled appointments at the gym can be difficult under normal circumstances. During the holidays, that difficulty seems to be multiplied by 10! The most important factor in keeping your workout appointments is to plan ahead and schedule them first. Keep in mind, as other activities arise, that your workout is a VERY important part of your day. Make it a priority to keep your gym appointments with yourself just as you would a medical or dental appointment. Exercising is a key factor to your general wellness. In this day and age, we seem to readily give up the things we need to do for ourselves, in order to do for others. By keeping yourself healthy, not only will you benefit, but also your family, friends and co-workers. Happy Holidays and keep exercising!

Debbie Parshall, YMCA

«  back to issue