RE/MAX 440
Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

Protect Your Home from Wildfire

May 8, 2014 12:54 am

Wildfire season is approaching and it’s time to make sure you have done everything you can to protect your property. Firefighters must make snap judgments about which structures to try to save and which are too dangerous to defend. A defensible space is required to protect your home from approaching fire and to give some protection to the firefighters. Firefighters will risk their lives to protect your home, but not if you haven’t done your part.

First, don’t start wildfires. Ninety percent of wild fires are started by people. Some fires are started by lightning, but most are caused by campfires, cook fires, cigarettes or matches, fireworks, and arson. In dry areas, many fires are started by improper disposal of ashes. Fireplace and woodstove ashes can smolder for a week and a half. A strong gust of wind can ignite buried ashes.

One recent wildfire was caused by a 20-year-veteran volunteer firefighter who buried ashes in a pit. He soaked and stirred the ashes, but several days later a strong wind fanned the smoldering ashes into a fire that consumed his home and 165 others. The humidity is so low in certain regions at times that organic material in soil may smolder seeming to burn dirt.

The second thing is to make the space around your house defensible. Clean away anything that might burn that is on or next to your house. Wildfires mainly spread through flying embers. Pine needles and leaves on your roof or in your gutters can catch fire. This is even more of a problem if your roof covering is not fire resistant. Class A materials are the most resistant to fire and include fiberglass shingles and tile materials. Untreated wooden shake shingles have the lowest fire rating and take little to ignite.

If you are in a wildfire-prone area, remove shrubs and trees within 10 feet of your house. Clean all combustibles from this immediate area. Trees and bushes within 30 feet of a structure need to be kept pruned with tree branches below 6 feet removed. Stack fire wood and store propane grill tanks, and other highly flammable materials. Install propane tanks for home heating at least 30 feet away from your house. This provides a buffer zone for firefighters to defend your house.

During an active fire your home will be evaluated if threatened. If you have prepared a proper defense zone no action may be required and precious manpower can be used elsewhere. If you have a fair defensive zone, firefighters may improve the zone and move on if possible. They may need to actively protect your property if weather conditions escalate the danger. If a functional defensive zone exists and it can be defended without a high probability of loss of life, firefighters will try to save it. If saving your house endangers their lives more than the house next door, they will put more energy into saving your neighbor.

Dead trees and are extremely flammable. If dead pine trees are next to and hanging over the house, temperatures in a forest fire can get hot enough to cause pine trees to explode spreading embers in all directions. Again, firefighters will defend the properties that can be saved with the least manpower and danger first. The more you do to protect them the more they can do to protect your property.

In grass land areas, fire can be just as threatening as in the forests. Grass fires burn extremely hot and can move at high speeds if wind driven. If your property has accessible fuel it can be consumed quickly. If there is no accessible fuel, it’s likely your property will survive where the house next door may not. Include your defensive zone in your spring clean-up and maintenance list.

Source: Carl Brahe, Certified Professional Inspector

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Hazards of Hoarding

May 7, 2014 12:42 am

The effects of hoarding can result in a variety of different issues that cannot be readily seen upon first diagnosis of the problem. What drives hoarding many times are conditions related to OCD. However, the long term effects can be an issue for both the individual who is suffering from it, but also their loved ones as well. Some of these effects can be fatal in the most extreme of cases.

One of the issues that can be affected is one's personal safety. The individual can cause a possible hazard to the structure of their building due to the excessive weight of the items that have accumulated over time. This weight could compromise the structural integrity of the building itself and result in the possibility of the building collapsing in on itself. Also, the items that the individual might be collecting could possibly be flammable and this could present a fire hazard.

In many states, individuals who are hoarders often face legal repercussions in regards to their actual property. If a hoarder is leasing or renting a property from a landlord, they can be evicted under certain laws and ordinances. This often is shown in court by the landlord demonstrating that the individual is risking the other individuals in the building. However, if hoarders do become homeless, they may not have a shelter to go to as often, shelters do not allow for hoarders to stay in their buildings because of the potential risk to other people.

If a parent poses a risk to the health and safety of a child, the child may be taken away into protective custody. The main reason for the child being removed is the potential health risks, since the items that can collect can decompose or become infested with bacteria that is harmful to humans. The infestation can cause respiratory issues due to mold, or ammonia from human waste and animal waste. Also, if a person does become sick from the items that are decomposing, emergency crews may have difficulty removing an individual from a property surrounded by waste.

All of these issues listed are hazards of hoarding. Not only does the hoarding risk the personal well-being of a hoarder, but it affects their loved ones as well. A hoarding situation can cause someone to lose to control over their possessions, family and home. Seek a professional hoarding cleanup company to help before the situation becomes out of control.

Source: Address Your Mess

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Disappearing Designs and Relaxing Environments Lead Bathroom Remodel Trends

May 7, 2014 12:42 am

A survey conducted by Geberit revealed that 30 percent of Americans believe the toilet tank is the most unappealing feature of their bathroom, revealing a growing shift towards form over function in bathroom design ahead of National Home Remodeling Month in May.

"Homeowners want to make their bathrooms sleek and spa-like," said Liz Murray, a Portland, Oregon-based interior designer. "Expect to see more 'disappearing designs' that tuck away anything that looks untidy, along with products that bring smart home technology to the bathroom to really transform the space into a sanctuary for the mind and body."
A survey from Houzz revealed that 17 percent of homeowners are opting for wall-mounted or tankless toilets instead of traditional toilets, pointing to the rise in "disappearing designs."

Another ongoing trend identified by Murray is the continued popularity of eco-friendly products: "Products created from sustainable materials like bamboo, cork, porcelain or recycled glass will be prominently featured during this year's remodeling season," said Murray.

Designing the Perfect Bathroom:
When asked to describe their perfect bathroom, Americans ranked creating a nice place to relax (37 percent), saving space (24 percent) and making it a quiet atmosphere (20 percent) as the most important qualities of a bathroom. A sleek and modern bathroom style appeals to 44 percent of Americans, followed by spa-inspired (27 percent) and elegant luxury (19 percent).

"The modern bathroom serves more than just the basic functions of traditional bathrooms," said John Fitzgerald, vice president of marketing for Geberit North America. "We're seeing people using their bathrooms to also read, check smartphones and listen to music."

According to the survey, 47 percent of Americans use their bathroom to read books or magazines, take a phone call or check email (35 percent) or listen to music (27 percent).

Good Bathrooms Matter: One third of Americans believe that having high-quality, updated bathrooms is important when making home rental or purchase decisions, meaning bathroom remodels are an important factor to consider during the spring real estate season. In fact, a survey conducted by Houzz revealed that 40 percent of homeowners are planning to remodel in the next two years and 27 percent of remodeling projects will be bathroom-related.

Source: Geberit North America

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Should Sunblock Be Used Indoors?

May 6, 2014 12:30 am

The same ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that are harmful outdoors pass right through windows into offices, homes and cars. Experts say this is a serious contributor to people's daily accumulation of indoor ultraviolet exposure leading to skin cancer and photo aging.

"If you're sitting next to a window with sunlight streaming in, you're at risk for UV damage to your skin and eyes," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA), a nonprofit group representing the many benefits of window film for consumers, on behalf of leading manufacturers, distributors and dealers. "Window film brings automatic and continuous protection indoors without the need to take action in the form of sunblock," added Smith.

Residential and commercial window films can also reduce glare by more than half while allowing 30 to 80 percent of visible light in and blocking up to 99.9 percent of the sun's UV rays. Window film protects from the dangers of the sun while letting in natural light, safely.

Many dermatologists suggest using sunblock inside the home, but knowing people often forget this extra step, window film can provide 24/7 protection indoors and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends it.

Dermatologists note a wide body of evidence showing that cumulative, ongoing exposure to UV rays leads to skin aging and cancer, according to a report in Clinical Interventions In Aging. In addition, automobiles, side windows and sunroofs may also let in harmful rays and people who drive frequently often have pronounced sun damage and skin cancer on their left side as documented in the The New England Journal of Medicine.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Moms Hate to Wait on Mother's Day

May 6, 2014 12:30 am

Across the country, Mother's Day is one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions for flowers, greeting cards, and restaurants. However, a new survey from NoWait, the wait-listing app and seating tool for casual-dining restaurants, reveals that the number-one reason why moms would choose not to dine out on Mother's Day is because their "favorite restaurant is too busy." NoWait announced its nationwide survey results to uncover Mother's Day preferences around dining out.

When asked how they typically spend Mother's Day, 71 percent stated they "plan on taking Mom out to eat" for the holiday, yet only one-third (33 percent) find making a reservation necessary for their dining plans. If they do plan ahead, the Mother's Day study shows that partners are poor planners, with 74 percent making plans "less than a week before"; only 20 percent plan "more than a month in advance" and six percent "make no plans at all." Despite the large number of procrastinators who wait until the last minute to make Mother's Day plans -- if they make any plans at all -- 88 percent would walk out after just 30 minutes of waiting; only eight percent are willing to have her wait "up to an hour" and an especially small fraction (4 percent) are willing to make Mom "wait as long as it takes."

More results from the inaugural Mother's Day survey from NoWait are as follows:

• When it comes to the specific meal with which families celebrate Mom, they can sleep in. Almost half (44 percent) take Mom out for dinner, while breakfast (8 percent), brunch (37 percent) and lunch (11 percent) were less popular.
• Although President Wilson officially declared Mother's Day the second Sunday in May, Americans are less literal when it comes to celebrating on the specific day. Despite a majority (70 percent) celebrating Mom "at a restaurant," they are split evenly between dining out actually "on Mother's Day" versus "at some time during the Mother's Day weekend."

Source: NoWait

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Seven Spring Safety Tips

May 6, 2014 12:30 am

Spring is in the air, and along with it comes the urge to clean, organize and spruce up your yard after a long, hard winter. Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) wants to ensure that you do so safely and that your equipment is in good working order. PSE&G offers the following tips to stay safe around electricity and gas.

Spring cleaning indoors:

1. When vacuuming and sweeping, check for electrical cords crossing your path or running under rugs. Cords should be out of pathways to avoid tripping and should never be hidden under rugs or furniture where they could overheat and potentially start a fire.
2. When cleaning in the bathroom and kitchen, make sure that electrical appliances are not placed where they could get wet. Electrical parts can become grounded when wet, posing an electric shock or overheating hazard.
3. When dusting, check lamps and fixtures to ensure they have light bulbs with the correct wattage. Wattage should be of equal or lesser value than that recommended by the manufacturer.

Spring cleaning outdoors:

1. If you use power tools to work outside, make sure that extension cords are marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools. Overloaded cords may lead to electric shock and serious injury.
2. Check for overhead power lines when using ladders to clean your gutters or pool-cleaning equipment that could reach within 10 feet of the lines.
3. When digging in your yard to plant new trees or bushes, make sure that you know where underground electric and gas lines are located..
4. If planning to trim trees, check for overhead power lines. The only safe way to trim trees within 10 feet of power lines is to call a professional.

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Add Curb Appeal and Value to your Home during National Home Improvement Month

May 2, 2014 5:45 am

According to professional contractor Mark Clement, National Home Improvement Month in May is the ideal time to make improvements to the exterior of your home. By upgrading your home's curb appeal, you increase the value of your house and make a positive impact on visitors.

"According to Remodeling magazine's 2014 Cost vs. Value study, home improvement projects involving curb appeal have very strong return on investment numbers for homeowners," says Clement, co-host of MyFixitUpLife home improvement radio show. "Their research shows that in a mid-range priced home, up to 67.8 percent of the cost of a roof replacement can be recouped when selling a home.

"For the replacement of a fiberglass entry door, the cost recouped is up to 70.8 percent and homeowners can expect to regain up to a whopping 78.8 percent of the cost of replacing older windows with vinyl replacement windows. These numbers show that curb appeal improvements add value to the home overall and can be considered extremely smart investments for homeowners."

Clement points out that homeowners should start each May with a "top-down" evaluation of their home's exterior products. "Begin by checking out the appearance and functionality of your roof, siding, windows, trim and doors," says Clement. "Look for products that are worn out, need repair or re-painting, or simply should be replaced. Tackling these projects in May means you'll have more time to enjoy the results and a carefree summer."

Clement recommends the following checklist for National Home Improvement Month to make sure your home is in top condition:

1. Check the roof. Using either a ladder or binoculars from across the street, look for problem areas, such as missing or broken shingles, along with roofing tiles that may be "flapping" in the wind. These are all indications that a new roof may be in your future. If that's the case, research the benefits of polymer shake and slate roofing tiles. These impact- and fire-resistant tiles come in a wide variety of colors. Some roofing tiles are sustainable and recyclable. They also have a 50-year limited warranty.

2. Clean and assess the home's siding. Environmentally-friendly detergents, scrubbing and/or pressure-washing all work well for many homes to remove dirt and algae that can grow on siding. Never pressure-wash trim pieces, doors, windows or screens. The extreme high pressure could crack or destroy the caulking around the units. Check for changes in the exterior from the previous year and be alert to buckling, rotting, peeling paint or insect damage that may need to be fixed.

3. Check on the gutters. Each year homeowners should check to make sure their gutters are clean, unclogged, securely attached to the home and remain sloped for proper drainage. Plus, make sure the water running off the roof doesn't cause damage to the building structure, landscaping or property below the roof.

4. Evaluate the windows. If you find that the windows in your home don't operate easily, there's air leaking in or out of the units, or there's condensation between the glass panes, it may be time to seriously consider replacement windows.

Vinyl framed windows have the highest growth rate in the country due to their energy-efficiency, aesthetic appeal and durability. Some of the best have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction. Plus, maintenance hassles are so low you'll forget the horrors of rotting frames, scraping and repainting that come with wood windows.

5. Spend time with your doors
. If you can see light around a door from the inside, your door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it's time to consider a new door. Even if you can't see light, air may be moving through gaps in the weather stripping at a surprising rate.

Think about the weather conditions that your home's doors face along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing an inefficient entryway with a high-performance fiberglass door.

6. Look at your home's accessory features. Spend time with your shutters, trim and louvers to see if they're rotting. Check the bottoms and tops of columns and near the joints in crown and other mouldings for water spots, decay or peeling paint to see if they're deteriorating in any way. They may also be suffering from termites, insect infestations or warping.

Source: Ziprik Consulting

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Take Action against Termites

May 2, 2014 5:45 am

Your first reaction to seeing flying termites in your home could be panic. If you've had a previous termite infestation, you probably just feel angry. Either way, hungry termites mean business and your home is on the menu.

"After the cold winter we've had, you may be surprised to know that termites are swarming right now," says Ty Ferraro, Dow AgroSciences product manager for the Sentricon® System. "We've had a cold winter, but now that we're getting rain and warmer spring air, the termites are here."

The National Pest Management Association estimates that subterranean termites cost homeowners $5 billion per year to repair damages. That's more than fires, earthquakes and tornadoes combined. Yes, termites are a big problem.
So what do you do if you find winged bugs flying around in your home? Here are five steps the experts recommend.

1. Get expert help. Many pest management firms will do an inspection for free. Termite damage is slow but steady, so although it needs to be stopped, you have time to make the best decision.

2. Identify the enemy. Flying bugs could be termites, but they also could be ants or pantry pests. Catch one in a bag or jar to help with identification. Flying ("swarming") termites and ants easily can be confused with each other. Among other traits, ants have a narrow waist and termites have straight antennae.

3. Know your options. Used since the 1950s, liquid barrier treatments inject a chemical insecticide into the soil around and even beneath your home to stop the termites. A better approach, the Sentricon® System, eliminates the underground termite colony and it's a green approach. In fact, it's the only termite product to ever win the U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

4. Conquer the queen. You need a product that doesn't just kill individual termites, it eliminates the entire termite colony. The colony is a complex hierarchy of termites who depend on each other for survival and who protect and care for the termite queen. Her job is to produce offspring, and depending on the species, has the amazing ability to produce up to 1 million eggs in her lifetime. Bottom line is: you kill the termites in the colony, no one can care for the termite queen and she – and her ability to reproduce – dies.

5. Take action to avoid termite swarming altogether.
Preventive treatments are becoming the norm as pest management professionals seek to help homeowners avoid pest problems before they occur. The old saying that "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure" is especially true for termites – flying termites known as swarmers in a home are a sign of a mature colony, and that usually means damage already has occurred. But the lack of swarming termites in your home does not mean your home is not being attacked.

Source: Dow AgroSciences

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Lighting, Mix Use of Cabinetry, Wine Storage Top Kitchen Trends in 2014

May 2, 2014 5:45 am

Kitchens remain a top remodeling project in 2014, according to the Member Profile Study done by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), in time for National Home Improvement Month this May. Eighty-two percent of NARI members identify kitchens as their No. 1 service.

This year, the association’s 2014 CotY Awards program, which recognizes top projects in 25 categories, totaled nearly $73 million worth of remodeling projects and identified national trends emerging, especially in the areas of kitchen updates.

“Consumers want practical, comfortable kitchens that are efficient to use and easy to live in,” says Tom O’Grady, CR, CKBR, chairman of NARI’s Strategic Planning. “Bigger isn’t better, but homeowners still want a feeling of space, and open concept and islands are still part of kitchen trends in 2014.”

Improving the overall look and feel of the kitchen was most often cited as the main motivating factor by homeowners for remodeling, followed by improving function on the CotY entries.

Lighting
The continuing trend of fewer upper cabinets in the kitchen creates more space for decorative task lighting, often on adjustable arms that gives the option to have the light directed where it is needed most. Decorative task fixtures in black, iron and aged brass finishes make a statement. Other trends include:

• Pendant lights over kitchen islands continue to be a great opportunity to bring style into the mix
• Chandeliers in kitchens add a pretty and an unexpected sparkle and can soften up the hard lines and smooth surfaces of appliances and countertops below
• An oversized lighting fixture becomes a focal point in an otherwise plain room
• Under cabinet lights, controlled by a dimmer, provide ambiance

Built-in cabinetry that looks like furniture
Mixing and layering finishes and woods to create a custom look is another key trend, as is built-in accent cabinets that act as framework for the rest of the cabinetry. These cabinets, often designed tall and narrow with glass fronts, provide the look of a built-in china cabinet to showcase collectables. In general, upper cabinets are less popular because they stop the line of sight, especially to backyard garden views.

- Appliances are subtly hidden behind the cabinetry for a clean, streamlined appearance.
- Colorful kitchen cabinetry has made a big comeback. Palettes using and mixing blues,
orange, browns or greens countering neutral white, wood or dark finishes are
providing kitchen flair. Dramatic contrasts of light cabinets and dark countertops
provide visual impact.

Wine storage
With the explosion in the wine market over the past few decades, wine is becoming more of a lifestyle choice and factoring into kitchen designs.

• Dedicated “butler” areas for entertaining, sampling and sharing wine with guests are very popular, allowing the cook the opportunity to socialize while doing food prep.
• Integrated wine coolers, an answer to tight kitchen spaces, are nestled into cabinetry along with wine racks to showcase a homeowners’ collection.

If you're planning a home renovation project this year, consider incorporating some of these trends to update your kitchen. Before construction gets under way, consult with a professional remodeler about the renovation projects you have planned.

Source: NARI

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Five Myths of Spring Cleaning

May 1, 2014 5:33 am

(Family Features) Don’t get caught putting extra work into your spring cleaning efforts.

“A little effort up front can make everything you do feel effortless,” said Patrick Coleman, spokesman for Hoover vacuums. “It’s not about finding short cuts. It’s about finding easier ways to do the job right.”

Here are five myths, and the best ways to actually tackle the challenges.

• Cleaning Every Spring is Enough
When it comes to your hardwood floors, putting off cleaning until spring may mean you have to replace them more often.
Walking on dirt and debris can wear down the floors over time. So while it may be tempting to just sweep unless there’s a spill, it’s best to clean the floors at least once a week.

Do this instead:
You don’t need to scrub on your hands and knees every week. Let a machine do it for you. The Hoover FloorMate Deluxe has a set of brushes that spin while they gently wash and scrub hard floors. You’ll be surprised how much less you’ll mind cleaning the floor.

• Vinegar is a Miracle Cleaner
Natural cleaning can be a more environmentally friendly way to tackle the mess, but you need to make the right choice for the right job.

Vinegar will do a great job on glass, plastic and ceramic. However, it can actually damage porous surfaces like the grout between tiles or stone.

Do this instead: Mix 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, 3 drops of dish detergent and 1 cup of water. Make it smell divine with essential oils.

• More Dirt = More Soap Needed
When something is absolutely filthy, it’s natural to grab the soap and go to town. But that can actually make it dirtier.
While soap is helpful in removing dirt and grime, if you don’t get it all rinsed and removed, the residue acts like a magnet for more dirt.

Do this instead: Use less than you think you need. You can always add more if needed.

• Newspapers Can Replace Paper Towels
You can certainly save money and a tree or two by reusing newspapers instead of buying paper towels to clean windows and other surfaces.

But the ink on newsprint can smear – so you need a backup plan.

Do this instead: Keep a few extra towels or torn garments for when the newspaper is not cutting it.

• Hairspray is the Best Way To Get Out Ink Stains
Yes, hairspray does work. But why add glue and other chemicals to the mess?

Do this instead:
The alcohol in hairspray is what’s actually doing the heavy lifting. So go straight to the source and use alcohol to lightly blot out the stain.

Source: Hoover

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