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Homeowner Tips in Kingston, NY

 
 
 
More Room for Living
Are you looking to add on a playroom for your kids or a home office for yourself? If you are, your unfinished basement might be the answer to your problem.

Ask yourself the following questions to help decide if a finished basement is right for you:


  • Do you need extra room in the house for your growing family, upcoming holidays, or the return of a college student?
  • Do your kids need a place to play and be loud?
  • Do you need a quiet home office?
  • Do you currently have an unfinished basement?
  • Would you like a finished basement?
  • Do you want usable living space without the inconvenience of traditional basement renovations?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, check out the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System.

The Basement Finishing System is a simple, easy, premium quality solution for finishing basements. It provides homeowners with a beautiful, affordable way to create usable living space without the inconvenience of traditional basement renovations.

Unlike traditional drywall methods, this system is designed especially for basement conditions. Through the use of moisture-durable materials in a “breathable” system assembly, the potential for moisture build-up and mold/mildew growth within the walls is greatly reduced. The panel system and PVC framing also accommodates traditional wiring and panels are easily removed for access to interior foundation walls.

Some of the Basement Finishing System's key benefits include: faster and easier than framing, drywall, and painting (contractors to complete a basement in days, not weeks or months); no drywall dust, tape, or paint to clean up; and long-lasting performance means fewer callbacks with no cracks or nail pops to repair.
 
Is Your Home Energy Smart?
Walk through your home and circle the descriptions below that best fit your house. Then calculate your home's energy-efficiency rating.
Attic Insulation
Test: Use a ruler to measure how much insulation you have in the attic area.
  • 6 inches or less (2 pts.)
  • 7 to 11 inches (4 pts.)
  • 12 inches or more (6 pts.)
Tip: Improving your home's insulation is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to reduce energy usage. If you have less than 12 inches, you probably need more.
Furnace Filters
Test: How often were your furnace filters cleaned or changed in the last year?
  • Not at all (2 pts.) 1-3 times (4 pts.)
  • 4 or more times (6 pts.)
Tip: Make sure your furnace is operating at maximum efficiency by cleaning or replacing your furnace filters frequently. Be sure to follow the instructions in your owner's manual.
Thermostat
Test: Is the temperature setting on your thermostat above or below the following levels in the winter?
  • 74° F or higher (2 pts.)
  • 71°– 73° F (4 pts.)
  • 70° F or lower (6 pts.)
Tip: A programmable thermostat can help you reduce your heating and cooling bills by as much as 10 percent a year.
Weatherstripping
Test: Open your front or back door and check the condition of the weatherstripping between the door and the door frame.
  • None (2 pts.)
  • Worn out (4 pts.)
  • Good condition (6 pts.)
Tip: Sealing air leaks in your home can reduce your home's energy usage by 10 percent or more.
To calculate your home's Energy-Efficiency Rating (EER): 1. Add up your total points. 2. Divide your total points by the number of questions you answered. Total/Questions Answered = EER
Energy Efficiency Rating Scale:
6.0 – 5.1 points = Very energy efficient
5.0 – 4.5 points = Energy efficient
4.4 – 3.8 points = Getting close
3.7 – 3.0 points = Needs a few improvements
2.9 – 2.0 points = Needs major improvements
My Home's Energy Efficiency Rating is:___________________________.
 
Can't I Get a Little Peace and Quiet?
Increased noise in homes means more stress and less sleep for American homeowners, according to a recent noise control survey sponsored by Owens Corning. Some 20 percent of homeowners and renters say noise adversely affects their lives.

Nearly 30 percent of respondents of the survey said they would invest in products to make their home quieter, with 62 percent spending $499 or less and 38 percent spending more than $500 to reduce the noise permanently.

Here are some products offered by Owens Corning to help control the noise level in your home:

The QuietZone® Noise Control System effectively manages sound and controls noise by incorporating four basic acoustic principles: breaking, blocking, absorbing, and isolating sound vibrations. This system greatly reduces sound transmission from laundry rooms, entertainment rooms, family rooms, and other areas where noise is created. It can also help create privacy in home offices, master bedrooms, or other areas where peace and quiet is desired.

The QuietZone Noise Control System includes:


  • QuietZone® Acoustic Batts
  • QuietZone® Acoustic Floor Mat
  • QuietZone® Acoustic Wall Framing
  • QuietZone™ Acoustic Door System
  • QuietZone® Acoustic Caulk


Here are some other things you can do to reduce noise in your home:


  • If you have children, set up specific play-times and quiet-times.
  • Have guidelines on how loud people can be in certain rooms, i.e. the bedroom or media/TV room.
  • Close or lower windows when outside noise becomes an annoyance.
  • Check appliances to make sure they run properly.
  • Install wall-to-wall carpeting.
 
It's a Heat Wave!
It's hot. It's really hot, especially during the long summer months.

How to Prepare Your Home for a Heat Wave:

  • Hang drapes or blinds to help keep direct sunlight out and keep the room cool.
  • Check your air conditioning unit to make sure it works properly, and clear away debris from the unit.
  • Remove storm windows and reinstall window screens.
  • Add an extra layer of insulation to help stop heat transfer and keep cool air in the house.
  • Install weatherstripping around windows and doors.


How to Prepare Yourself for a Heat Wave:

  • Refrain from strenuous activities during the peak afternoon hours. Instead, reschedule the activities to a cooler time of day.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and put on sunscreen.
  • Drink lots of water or other non-alcoholic liquids.
  • Spend time in air conditioned places.
  • Listen and watch for summer heat advisories on the radio and TV.
 
I'll Huff and I'll Puff and Blow Your House Down
During the hurricane season, homeowners in the Gulf and mid-Atlantic states are at high risk of severe structural damage from the high winds and rain associated with hurricanes and tropical storms. Here are a few ideas to help protect your home.

Here are some tips to help protect your home before a storm hits:

  • Disconnect and remove your exterior antenna.
  • Resecure loose or damaged shingles, and seals around flashings, chimneys, and vents.
  • Fix or replace loose or damaged planks of siding.
  • Clean out debris from gutters and downspouts and be sure they are secure.


If you're building a new home or an addition to an existing coastal home, consider using these new Owens Corning construction materials to help you weather the storm.

  • WeatherGuard® High Wind 110 Roofing System: When installed as part of a complete roofing system, WeatherGuard High Wind 110 shingles and WeatherGuard High Wind 110 Hip and Ridge shingles create a roof that can withstand 110 mile per hour winds.
  • PinkFormXtra™ Insulated Concrete Wall System: Instead of traditional wood, PinkFormXtra is an insulated concrete wall that provides superior energy-efficiency, strength, and durability. Texas Tech University's Wind Engineering Research Center found that concrete walls bombarded with 250-mph flying debris sustained no structural damage.


But what if a storm hits before you can prepare your home? Here are a few tips:

  • Make a list and take photos of the damaged areas.
  • Contact your insurance company to see if the damage is covered by your homeowner's policy.
  • Use a tarp to cover a leaky roof to protect it from additional water damage.
  • Make temporary fixes until a professional can repair the damage.
 
A New Window to the World!
Before you go shopping for the “right” window, it pays to do your homework. Decide why you want new windows, learn what features to look for in windows, and how the right glass can save you money.

Do I need energy-efficient windows?
Energy efficient windows may help minimize energy bills and maximize indoor comfort. Double-and triple-pane glass offers important benefits: indoor temperatures stay more comfortable and outdoor noise is reduced. Today, all windows receive energy-efficiency ratings. Look for a high R-value and a low U-value to signify an energy-efficient window.

The R-value measures how resistant a window is to heat flow, so the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating performance.

The U-value measures the actual transfer of heat through a window's frame and glass, so a lower U-value means the window is insulating more efficiently.

What is the “right” window for you?
The “right” window depends on your project. If it's a replacement window, a room addition, or a remodeling project, be sure the style you select complements your home's current window system. If you're building a new home, consult with your architect or builder to ensure the window style and construction meets the needs of the location. For example, walls with a northern exposure need windows with higher R-values since they do not receive direct sunlight. This helps to retain heat in these rooms.

Are you looking for beauty and design?
Windows come in a various styles, shapes, and sizes. Your choices can range from the simple double hung to the bay to the specialty-shaped window. Ask yourself if you want to add beauty or if you want just functionality. Remember the windows you select can express your personality and give your home a great new look.
 
Give Your Home an Exterior Facelift
Here are a few ideas that can help you create an attractive exterior.

Curb Appeal

Remember the exterior of a home begins at the curb, not at the front door. Walkways, benches, landscaping, dramatic lighting, and driveway embellishments set the tone for a home's exterior and interior. Don't forget that decorative millwork such as pediments, scalloped trim and artificial stone products can create a whole new look from Victorian charm to a natural earthy feel.

A New Color Palette

One of the simplest and most exciting ways to dramatically improve your home's exterior is to change colors. Keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Light Colors Make Things Look Larger: Using lighter colors make your home appear larger. Warm colors such as yellow, red, and orange make your home appear closer to the front of the lot.
  • Deeper Colors Make Things Look Smaller: A house with dark colors appears smaller and less imposing. Also by using darker colors your home appears to be farther back in the lot.
  • Match Color Schemes to Architectural Style: A home's architectural style can be a guideline for choosing appropriate colors. For example, a Cape Cod home may look best in subtle colors, while a Victorian can carry more dramatic colors.
  • Create Balance with Color: Using monochromatic color schemes helps bring balance to your home's overall look. Selecting contrasting colors on the entryway and porch can add visual interest.


The Shell of Your Home

In addition to color, different siding styles and accessories can dramatically impact the exterior appeal of your home. Decorative styles such as Dutchlap vinyl siding feature a beveled profile on their edges, creating a soft shadow line. Beaded siding includes a half-round molding effect cut into the bottom of the panel, creating deeper shadows and more dimension. Also consider how different siding colors and styles will complement your home's roof. After all, your roof is 50 percent of your home's exterior and makes a big impression.
 
Is Your Roof Past Its Peak?
Harsh storms, ice dams, heavy rains, and high winds can take a serious toll on your roof. It's a good idea to be on the lookout for trouble. Taking steps now to give your roof a thorough check-up can help catch minor problems before they become larger, more expensive ones.

Here is a checklist of warning signs that indicate a troubled roof:

Ceiling Spots
Water spots on the ceiling are often caused by leaks in the roof. There are many places you should look to find the source of the problem. Check the roof for damaged or missing shingles, the chimney and vents for cracks in flashing, the eaves for water backing up from ice dams, and the rafters for leaks that travel away from the source.

Damaged Flashing
Flashing are pieces of metal or roll roofing around vent pipes, chimneys, adjoining walls, dormers, and valleys used to prevent water from seeping in. Damage to the flashing can be caused by improper installation or by drying and cracking. Flashing can sometimes be repaired without replacing the roof.

Missing Shingles
Missing shingles are often caused by exposure to high winds and improper fastening, but usually can be replaced individually. If you decide to re-roof, you might consider shingles that are specially designed to stand up to strong winds like Owens Corning's new WeatherGuard® High Wind 110 Roofing System.

Buckling and Curling
When a shingle buckles, it bends upward in the middle, forming a peak. Buckling is caused by improperly applied felt or by movement in the deck (the surface the roof is applied to). Curling causes the corners of the shingle to turn up. It is usually a result of a lack of ventilation, nails positioned too high up, an incorrect number of fasteners, or under-saturation of the shingle.

Blistering
Blisters are bubbles that appear on the surface of asphalt roofing. They are usually caused by moisture in the shingle or by applying the shingles over a wet deck.

Algae Growth
Algae growth shows up as a dark discoloration on the roof. It is found most often in warm, humid climates such as the Southeast but does not affect the service life of the roofing material. In areas where algae growth is most common, you might consider using algae-resistant shingles.

Missing Granules
Normally, a certain number of granules will be loose, especially after application. But on aging shingles this is often a sign that you need to replace the roof.

Rotting
Rotting shingles are caused when the mat at the core of the shingle absorbs moisture. It is a common problem with organic-based shingles.
 
Improve Your Home's Indoor Air Quality
You might assume your sore throat, itchy eyes, headache, or fatigue are the signs of yet another cold. But they could also be the symptoms of something more serious: indoor air pollution. In fact, the American College of Allergists says that half of all illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air.

Air pollution is not just a problem that occurs outdoors. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that indoor pollutants can be two to five times higher than the levels outside. Sometimes these levels can reach up to 100 times higher. And since most people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, inside pollution can pose serious risks.

There are a number of factors that can lead to poor air quality. Check out the following sources of pollution and how you can prevent them from building up in your home:

Radon
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that enters a home from underneath as uranium in the soil or rock naturally breaks down. Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon can cause lung cancer—and if you smoke, your risk of cancer is even greater when you're exposed to radon. Do-it-yourself tests for radon are easy to use and you can buy them at hardware stores or other retail outlets. If you have questions about radon in your home, call the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON.

Tobacco Smoke
Secondhand smoke is made up of more than 4,000 compounds, including at least 40 that are known to cause cancer. Exposure to these chemicals can irritate eyes and lungs, but can also be a major threat to those suffering from allergies or asthma. Try to avoid smoking inside, but if it's not possible, make sure there is ventilation in the area where you are smoking. Open a door or window, or use a fan.

Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
Gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide along with other particles can be released into the air, irritating your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Using an exhaust fan over your stove will help eliminate some of these fumes. Also have your fireplace, chimney, and furnace checked each year for damaged parts.

Household Products
Fumes from household products such as paint, cleaning solution, wax, and disinfectants can build up, causing irritation, dizziness, headaches, and other symptoms. Make sure you follow product instructions and increase ventilation when working with chemicals. Only keep on hand the products you need and dispose of products you no longer use.

Biological Contaminants
Bacteria, mold, mildew, dust mites, and pollen can build up in your home causing symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, dizziness, fever, or shortness of breath among others. And as moisture builds up in your home, these contaminants grow. Be sure your attic and crawl spaces have proper ventilation to keep the humidity level down. Also, remember to follow manufacturer instructions for cleaning and upkeep when using a humidifier. If your basement is damp, use a dehumidifier to keep it as dry as possible.

For more information on improving the quality of your indoor air, contact the EPA's Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-438-4318.

* Some of the above information is from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Ten Ways to Save Energy and Stay Comfortable This Winter
Don't be surprised if you shiver when opening your energy bill this winter. American families typically spend 40 percent of their annual home energy bill just to keep their home warm during the few winter months.

By making your home more energy efficient, the Department of Energy says you can easily trim your winter energy expenses by 10 to 30 percent without sacrificing comfort. Try the following energy-saving tips:


  1. Add Another Layer of Attic Insulation
    Heat rises. And since the majority of homes built before 1980 are under-insulated, it rises through the ceiling, past the roof and into the atmosphere because of a lack of insulation in the attic. According to the DOE, one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs and make a home more comfortable is to add more insulation in the attic. As a general rule, if you have less than 12 inches of attic insulation, you probably need more.
  2. Warm Yourself Before You Warm the Entire House
    Put on a sweater before you turn up the thermostat dial. Each degree you lower the thermostat decreases your fuel bill by approximately 3 percent.
  3. Turn On the Humidifier
    It's not the heat—it's the humidity. If your furnace doesn't have a built-in humidifier, use a portable unit in frequently occupied areas such as the bedroom and living room. The additional moisture will increase the “heat index” inside your home, making 68º F feel more like 76º F. The relative humidity in the home should be between 30 to 50 percent to help avoid condensation on windows.
  4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
    Why heat the house when nobody is home? A programmable thermostat can automatically lower and raise your home's air temperature when you are at work or sleeping. By simply turning your thermostat back from 72º F down to 65º F for eight hours a day, you can save as much as 10 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs. If used appropriately, the energy savings will offset the costs for a programmable thermostat (starting at $30) in less than one year.
  5. Let the Sun Shine In
    Open the window shades on the south and west side of the house during the day to maximize the warmth of the sun, and close them at night. If you, like half of American homeowners, have single-pane windows, consider replacing them with double-pane windows with a special coating on the glass that reflects heat back into the room during the winter months.
  6. Cover the Windows
    If you can't afford to replace your single-pane windows, remember to use your storm windows or install a clear plastic film across the inside of your window and frame. The plastic becomes nearly invisible when you heat it with a blow dryer and is relatively inexpensive (typically $4 to $6 per window). The trapped pocket of air between the plastic film and window acts as an effective insulator, helping to reduce heat loss through the window by 25 to 50 percent.
  7. Change Furnace Filters Frequently
    You can improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems by as much as 10 percent by cleaning air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed and changing forced air heating system air filters monthly. An alternative to swapping out the replacement filter is to use washable filters (around $20 each). With care, they can last up to five years.
  8. Seal the Ducts
    The most logical way to stay warm is to only heat living areas, not the attic or unfinished basement. However, in many homes, the warm air generated by the furnace often escapes into the attic or basement before it reaches its intended destination because of cracks or holes in the air ducts. As a result, the furnace works overtime to keep the rest of the house warm. Check your ducts for leaks each fall and use duct tape to repair and seal holes or sections that may have separated. If you are buying new ducts, consider a system that is already surrounded by insulation.
  9. Plug the Drafts
    The exterior of your house is your first line of defense against drafts, so caulk, seal, and weather-strip around all seams, cracks, and openings. Pay special attention around windows and where siding or bricks and wood trim meet. You can also reduce drafts from the inside by caulking, sealing, and weather-stripping around windows and door frames, and near electrical boxes and plumbing fixtures.
  10. Close Vents to Guest Rooms
    Today's larger homes often have more rooms than family members to fill them. By closing the vents to just one spare bedroom in a five bedroom house, you can instantly cut your heating bills by as much as 20 percent. You can always open the vents when guests visit for the holidays.
 
You're Just One Day Away From a More Energy and Cost-Efficient Home
Ask yourself three questions:

  • Was your home built before 1980?
  • Do you have high energy bills?
  • Is your house cold or drafty?

If you answered “yes” to even one of the above questions, it's time to climb up into your attic and check the insulation before the cold winter sets in.

The attic is one of the easiest and most important areas of the home to insulate. According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), up to 45 percent of a home's energy is lost through the attic. The DOE recommends R-38 for attics in most areas—equal to 12” of fiber glass blanket insulation—but most older homes only have between 3” to 6” of insulation.

Installing additional insulation doesn't cost much time or money. In fact, it's easy to do yourself in just one day. And unlike the insulation of long-ago, Owens Corning's MIRAFLEX® insulation is virtually itch-free. Plus, if installed properly, PINK fiberglass insulation won't settle or deteriorate—insuring that the insulating value is maintained for the life of your home. When adding a second layer of insulation to the attic, always use the unfaced type so moisture is not trapped inside the bottom layer.

Here are some easy steps to help you add insulation to your attic:


  1. First, lay down some temporary flooring to give yourself footing. Install a work light so you can see easier.
  2. Lay the insulation blanket at the outer edge of the attic space and work toward the center. This will give you more headroom in the center of the space, where cutting and fitting can be done. Be careful not to get “insulated into a corner” where it will be hard to get back to the attic entry way.
  3. If the joist cavities are completely filled, lay the new insulation in long runs perpendicular to the direction of the joists, and use leftover pieces for small spaces. If the cavity is not completely filled, use the appropriate thickness of insulation to fill it to the top, then add an additional layer of insulation in the perpendicular direction.
  4. The insulation should extend far enough to cover the tops of the exterior walls, but should not block the flow of air from the eave vents.
  5. Keep insulation three inches away from recessed lighting fixtures unless the fixture is marked “I.C.” (Insulated Ceiling), which is designed for direct contact with the insulation. If you place insulation over an unrated fixture, it may cause the fixture to overheat and perhaps start a fire. Also, always install insulation at least three inches away from any metal chimneys, gas water heater flues, or other heat-producing devices.
  6. Stuff spaces around masonry chimneys and other areas that have small openings with small pieces of unfaced insulation.


Adding insulation in your attic has other benefits besides keeping your home warm and saving you money on your energy bill. A well-insulated home uses less energy, which means fewer pollutants are released into the atmosphere and you're helping conserve the world's energy resources. You'll also increase your home's resale value. According to nationally syndicated real estate columnist James Dulley, upgrading your attic insulation to recommended minimum levels for your area can return up to 200 percent of the cost of a do-it-yourself job when you sell your home.
 
A Little Preventive Maintenance
Tackle a few of these easy maintenance projects this weekend and you'll have a safer, more energy-efficient home year 'round.

Add Another Layer of Attic Insulation
Heat rises. And since the majority of homes built before 1980 are under-insulated, it rises through the ceiling, past the roof and into the atmosphere because of a lack of insulation in the attic. As a general rule, if you have less than 12 inches of attic insulation, you probably need more.

Clean Gutters and Spouts
Gutters and spouts clogged with leaves, nuts, and other debris can cause damp or wet basements, cracking, or sinking foundations and floors, and damage to vinyl siding and roofing soffits. In the winter, clogging debris will prevent ice and water from flowing properly and can lead to damaged or leaking gutters.

Invest in a Humidifier
If your furnace doesn't have a built-in humidifier, you might consider buying a portable unit for frequently occupied areas such as the bedroom and living room. The additional moisture will increase the "heat index" inside your home, making 68º F feel more like 76º F. The relative humidity in the home should be between 30 to 50 percent to help avoid condensation on windows.

Check Your Roof
Missing or damaged shingles can allow melted snow or ice to leak into your home. Inspect your roof to make sure all shingles are laying flat and straight.

Let Your Roof Breathe
Making sure your roof has ventilation is just as important as making sure your house has enough insulation. If your roof is not properly ventilated, the hot air rising from your home will get trapped in the attic and cause the snow to melt. The water may then leak into your home or refreeze under your roof shingles causing them to pop off.

Cover the Windows
If you can't afford to replace your single-pane windows, remember to use your storm windows or install a clear plastic film across the inside of your window and frame. The plastic becomes nearly invisible when you heat it with a blow dryer and is relatively inexpensive (typically $4 to $6 per window). The trapped pocket of air between the plastic film and window acts as an effective insulator, helping to reduce heat loss through the window by 25 to 50 percent.

Trim Trees and Remove Dead Branches
Ice, snow, and wind can knock down trees and branches, causing potential damage to your home or property and harming plants for the next growing season. Be sure to trim dead or overgrown branches after the first frost.

Change your Furnace Filters
You can improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems by as much as 10 percent by cleaning air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed and changing forced air heating system air filters monthly. An alternative to swapping out the replacement filter is to use washable filters (around $20 each). With care, they can last up to five years.

Plug the drafts
The exterior of your house is your first line of defense against drafts, so caulk, seal, and weather-strip around all seams, cracks, and openings. Pay special attention around windows and where siding or bricks and wood trim meet. You can also reduce drafts from the inside by caulking, sealing, and weather-stripping around windows and door frames and near electrical boxes and plumbing fixtures.

Clean Your Chimney
Built-up materials in your chimney can be a fire hazard. If you use your fireplace regularly, have your chimney cleaned each year.

Turn Off Your Water
Forgetting to turn off the water leading to your outside spigots can cause frozen or burst pipes. First shut off the water from the valve inside your home then open the valve outside to let the trapped water out. Also don't forget to remove garden hoses.