South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home Remodeling

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Maintenance, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on September 27, 2013

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home RemodelingEvery home seems to have a never-ending remodeling list. As you consider tackling your next project, it usually pays off if you also think about helping the environment.

Green remodeling can last longer, utilize recycled materials and typically end up saving you money in the long run. Below are several environment-friendly ideas that will have your neighbors green with envy.

1. Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a shallow depressions in your yard planted with native shrubs and flowers. When there is a large rainfall, all the water rushes along roadways picking up dirt and pollutants along their way to drainage systems and eventually rivers and streams.

Rain gardens catch water run-off, which reduces the street flooding and makes for cleaner water sources.

2. Reclaimed Hardwoods

Using reclaimed wood is all of the rage right now – and it’s easy to see why. Reclaimed wood helps the environment by being recycled and repurposed from other structures. Turning an old barn into your new hardwood floors not only saves trees and looks great, but is an interesting conversation point.

3. Paper Covers Rock

Most kitchen remodels usually include the discussion of to go with granite or quartz countertops. However compressed paper or glass surfaces are actually better for the environment. Instead of harvesting natural resources, you’ll be recycling resources that have already been used.

4. One Shower Head

It’s tempting to use multiple showerheads and powerfully flushing toilets. However, reducing your water usage saves you money. Install low-flow water fixtures and limit yourself to just one fantastic showerhead in each bathroom. You’ll help the earth and your pocketbook by saving water.

5. Passive Solar Design

Solar panels are a great way to trap the sun’s energy and reduce your utility bills. However, if you’re not ready to directly tap into the grid, then there are ways you can remodel your home using passive solar design. Concrete floors and thick concrete, brick or plaster walls soak up the suns rays during the day and release them at night when the temperature drops.

Going green doesn’t have to hamper your lifestyle or your home’s design. With the five green remodeling ideas above, you’ll add value to your home, help the environment and put money back in your bank account.

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Don’t Overlook These Important Factors When Buying Your Next Home

Posted in Around The Home, Home Buyer Tips, Home buying, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on September 17, 2013

Don't Overlook These Important Factors When Buying A New HomeMost of the time when buying a property, there are a few obvious factors that you will consider – such as the location, the number of bedrooms, the accessibility to schools or your workplace, the need for repairs and any interior features. However, there are a few things that might not have crossed your mind during your house hunting but are still quite important.

Water Quality

Most home buyers don’t even think about the water quality at the property until they get to the inspection stage. However, if you find out that the home has hard water this will dull your clothes when you wash them and irritate your skin.

Hard water will also create calcium deposits within your showers and faucets and even inside your washing machine and dishwasher. Have the water tested so you know its quality and can look into options for a water purification system.

Cell Phone Reception

When looking at a house, don’t forget to pull out your cell phone and check to make sure that you get good reception. There are a number of “dead zones” throughout the country and you don’t want to buy a house where you can’t make a phone call on your cell.

If you have found your dream house but it has poor phone coverage, there is the option to buy a wireless cell phone signal booster.

Lead, Asbestos And Other Health Risks

When buying homes that are older, make sure that you have the home thoroughly inspected for any health risks such as lead paint or asbestos insulation.

These materials were commonly used several decades ago, before anyone realized how toxic they really are. If you find any toxic substances you can have them removed safely or look for a healthier home.

Slope Of The Land

Take a walk around the property and look at the land around the house. Is it flat, or does the earth dip or slope in one corner of the property? Keep in mind that when it rains, water will flow to the lowest point on the property.

If the house is at the bottom of a slope you might have issues with dampness collecting around the foundations. This can be corrected only with serious landscaping, so it’s much easier to buy a house on higher ground.

These are just a few factors to consider that you might not have thought of when buying a house.

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How To Create The Perfect Garage Workshop

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Maintenance by southorangecounty on September 6, 2013

Creating The Perfect Garage WorkshopMost men, and even handy women, dream of a perfectly organized work space where their tools are orderly and they can tackle that list of home DIY projects.

However, renovations can get put on hold because there’s not a designated place to work. Tools are usually scattered throughout closets and the kitchen table serves as a workbench.

You can create a space for all of your improvement projects by turning a section of your garage into a construction-friendly, wonderfully organized haven for your tools and home makeover endeavors.

Below are easy steps to building the perfect garage workshop.

Make Sure You Have Adequate Space

Ideally, you’d still like to be able to get your cars in their designated space, so look for a vacant area at the back of the garage or along one side. If you’re garage isn’t quite large enough, then you might want to consider adding on to it or building an outdoor shed.

Create A Work Surface

For your work surface, you could repurpose old kitchen cabinets with a counter or build yourself a rough table using lumber from your local hardware store. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s sturdy. Cabinets will provide storage for all of the nuts, bolts, paint and little tools you’ll accumulate.

Clear A Wall

Whether this is above your workstation or alongside it, you’ll want an open area to hang up and organize your tools, so that they don’t clutter your surface. Put up a pegboard and create custom spaces with hooks.

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes will seeing all your tools hanging with in reach — and a desire to fill it up.

Install Decent Lighting

You need to see what you’re doing when working with power tools. High-intensity lights, such as halogens or LEDs are perfect for brightening up your space. Utilizing them in track lighting or on bendable gooseneck fixtures can help you adjust the light to exactly where you need it.

Don’t let the thought of a home improvement project send you scurrying all over the house for tools. Take one weekend to follow these four steps and create a designated space for your garage workshop.

Everything will be in one place and it won’t matter how long a project takes or how much of a mess you make!

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Preventing And Clearing Clogs In Your Home

Posted in Around The Home, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on August 23, 2013

Preventing And Clearing Clogs In Your HomeYou’re brushing your teeth and you turn on the faucet. It’s not draining and starts to back up. Here’s the dilemma; do you spit and let it sit or run to the kitchen? One thing is for sure; having a clogged drain can be a major annoyance.

Clogs not only frustrate a homeowner but they can be hard on your plumbing. The added pressure they create puts stress on your pipes and can shorten their lifespan.

So end the issue by following the guidelines below. You’ll learn how to prevent clogging and clear the ones you already have.

No Food Down The Drain

Even if you have a disposal, it’s not good for your pipes to have sticky, mushy food shoved through them. Peel vegetables and scrape plates into the trashcan.

Also, avoid pouring grease down the drain. Animal fat can congeal into a solid and form a blockage. Instead, store it in a sealable container in the freezer. Once it’s full, trash it!

Only TP In The Toilets

All feminine hygiene products should be thrown away, because most don’t dissolve quickly enough and can cause a backup. And be sure to secure toilet lids from curious children, because you have to admit that it is pretty fun to watch almost anything go “bye-bye.”

Hair Today, Problem Tomorrow

Don’t wash loose hair down the drain. Collect it and throw it away after your shower. If you shed a lot, it might be beneficial to install drain screens to catch loose hair and make it easy to dispose. Be sure to clean these out every few weeks.

Chemicals Should Be Used With Caution

Be wary about using chemical drain cleaners. They can erode cast-iron pipes and usually don’t remove an entire clog, so it can easily recur. You should consider hiring a professional plumber to snake your drains; or better yet, buy your own augur at the hardware store for about $15.

Homeowners can be hard on their drains. From hair to food, clogs are a time-consuming frustration that might cost you big. Treat your plumbing with a little love and it’ll reward you by quickly removing water and waste from your sight!

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Quick Tips To Beat The Heat And Save On Your Electric Bill

Beat The Heat With A Programmable ThermostatSummer always brings with it a hard choice: Do you turn down the thermostat to stay cool and resign yourself to high power bills? Or, do you sweat it out to save some dough?

If you’ve been struggling with this dilemma, don’t fret.

With a programmable thermostat, you can beat the heat and save money, too. They are easy to install and can save you over $100 a year.

The key is that they have different temperature settings for certain times of the day. The latest models can be self-installed, are easy to program and can be controlled over the Internet.

Save Energy

This is obviously the biggest perk. Not only are you helping the environment, you’re also helping your monthly budget.

You can preset the thermostat to adjust the temperature when you’re away from the house, so you’re using less energy. Then it can kick back on just before you arrive home.

Save Money

You’ll immediately see a difference in your utility bills when you set your programmable thermostat to turn off for eight-hour periods while you’re at work. Every little bit counts!

Save Yourself The Frustration

If you’re going to be home early from work or are arriving back from a week long vacation, don’t worry about coming home to a sweltering sauna of a house.

Most modern thermostats allow you to access their controls online through a computer, or even your smart phone. With the touch of a button, you’ll arrive to a perfectly comfortable home.

Save Even More

Below are a few tips to keep bills down and your thermostat running efficiently.

  • Make sure you place the thermostat away from air vents, open doorways and windows with direct sunlight.
  • Try to set temperatures for longer increments, such as when you’re at work or while you’re asleep.
  • Every time you hit the buttons you’re using more energy.
  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them once a year.

Don’t waste any more energy! Make the investment in a programmable thermostat and start saving this summer. The convenience and lower utility bills will make you glad you did.

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A Few Red Flags To Look For When Buying Real Estate

Posted in Home Buyer Tips, Home buying, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on August 7, 2013

A Few Red Flags To Look For When Buying Real Estate

If you’re looking to purchase real estate, keep in mind that the homes you are considering might be in need of repairs or improvements.

In a recent study done by a major home inspection company, at least 40 percent of previously owned homes on the market have at least one serious issue or defect.

When buying real estate, you should have a professional inspection performed on the property to look for any issues that might not be visible to the untrained eye.

It’s better to identify this damage before you buy so that you are not stuck with budget-busting renovations.

Below are a few major red flags you should look for when buying a home.

Foundation Damage

Look at the slope of the yard. If the land slopes towards the house, this could be causing water to run down into the foundation, which will result in moisture damage. Take a look at the foundation for any bulges or cracks that could indicate serious issues.

Faulty Wiring

Your home inspector should be sure to check the electrical wiring — especially if it is an older house. If there are any flickering lights, circuits that don’t work, or warm outlets, these are telltale signs of wiring issues that might be expensive to fix.

Ceiling Stains

This is usually a sign that something in the house is leaking. Ceiling stains are common underneath bathrooms when a toilet, shower or bathtub has a leak. A leaky roof could be an even more expensive repair.

When you are negotiating to buy a house and damage is discovered, you can either change your mind about the sale or renegotiate for a lower price that factors in the cost of repairs. Either way, it is always worth having the home professionally inspected to identify red flags and avoid any surprises.

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Go Green By Faking It With Artificial Grass

Go Green By Faking It With Artificial TurfThe summer heat is starting to take its toll on you and your thirsty lawn. Homeowners spend hundreds of dollars every summer striving to grow healthy grass and keep it green.

If you’re sick of trying to maintain a manicured lawn, then you can go green another way. Install artificial turf.

The Grass is Always Greener

Today’s artificial grass is made out of polypropylene, nylon, or polyethylene threads that are sewn into a mesh backing that allows for water drainage. This is then usually laid on top of compacted gravel and tied down at the perimeter.

Modern artificial lawns can mimic many varietals of grass and some even have a thatch layer to give it a more realistic look.

Sick Of Maintenance

Homeowners have many reasons for wanting to be free of their demanding lawns, such as high summer water bills and the constant use of pesticides. With a fake lawn, you won’t have to water, which is especially good for high-heat areas, you won’t have to mow and you can quit worrying about how the weather will affect it.

Considering The Costs

While installing artificial grass can cost a bit up front, it’ll be maintenance free for the next 15 to 20 years. You won’t have to worry about water bills, purchasing grass seed, buying fertilizer or getting gas for the lawnmower, which can add up to a couple hundred dollars every year.

Potential Drawbacks

While a maintenance-free yard does have some appeal, there are a few drawbacks to take into consideration. Fake lawns don’t absorb pet waste, so you have to hose them off regularly.

They can also heat up in direct sunlight. Planting shade trees will help with this issue. And, artificial lawns cannot be recycled, which is an issue that the industry is looking to remedy.

Saving water and reducing the use of pesticides is great for the environment. However, you have to like the look of artificial grass and make sure you’re ready for the investment.

If you’ve been considering going green by switching to year-round green grass, talk with a local installer for grass options and cost comparisons.

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Four Important Home Maintenance Tips Everyone Should Know

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Real estate, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on June 6, 2013

Four Important Home Maintenance TipsOne of the important aspects of owning a home is having the knowledge of how to keep it maintained to avoid costly repairs and serious damage. Over the years weather and use will wear down both the interior and exterior of your property.

If you are able to practice preventative care on your home, then you will prolong the life of all of its systems and components. At least every six months or so, you should be performing an inspection of your property so that you can ensure that it is still functioning properly and safely.

What should you be looking for when it comes to preventative home maintenance?

Here are a few important pointers to keep in mind:

Pests and Insects

Check your home thoroughly for any insects and unwanted pests such as carpenter ants and termites. Make sure that there is no point where the wood of your home is in contact with the soil and trim away and bushes and trees away from the foundation of the property.

If you can catch the infestation right away, it could save you thousands of dollars on repairing future structural damage.

Windows and Doors

Take a close look at the windows and doors of your home to see if you need to repair any leaks to save energy. A draughty door or window can really add to your energy bill over time, so it will be worth it to ensure that everything is sealed properly.

Gutters and Downspouts

Another important home maintenance task is to go around the exterior of your home and clean out all of the debris from your downspouts and gutters. This will ensure that they are draining properly and moving water away from the house. Otherwise, the water can collect on the eaves of the roof or around the foundation and cause leaks and damage.

Check the Roof

Make sure that you also inspect the roof at least every six months. Look for any loose shingles or damaged roof tiles. If you spot any damage early, it will be a lot less expensive to fix than the water damage that would be caused in your attic by leaving a leaky roof for a long time.

These are just a few of the most important preventative home maintenance tasks that every South Orange County property owner should know. For any additional questions regarding your home maintenance, feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call. I love to talk about real estate.

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Simple Tips To Help Your Flowerbeds Flourish This Spring

Simple Tips To Help Your Flowers Flourish This SpringFlowerbeds can be a very attractive addition to any South Orange County home — if you have the time to set up and maintain them. Flowerbeds don’t necessarily require a profusion of costly flowers that need to be fertilized, mulched, covered during severe weather, and possibly re-planted on a yearly basis.

So put on your green thumb and brave the outdoors this spring. With the tips below, you’ll keep your flowerbeds filled and your house looking cheery without a huge money or time commitment.

Weed Eradication

Before you even start picking out roses and tulips, take care of the weeds. Gardens get weeds because there are already pesky roots hiding below the surface.

Dig up the soil and weeds before you plant. It will save you hours of maintenance in the long run and keep your flowers healthy.

Perennial Wildflowers

Wildflower mixes native to your area are often a good choice if you want an array of flowers, but don’t have the time or the motivation to take care of them.

These flowers can grow back easily every year and are well adapted to the climate and soil conditions in your area. Native wildflowers may need little more than watering and the occasional weeding.

Decorative Rock

Filling the beds with attractive decorative rock provides maintenance-free curb appeal to your home. Several colors of decorative rock are available and can be chosen to off-set the color of your house.

Planters may also be placed amongst the rocks to add live plants to your flower beds, and those plants can easily be moved inside before the weather gets too cold for them.

Low-Growing Shrubs

For low-maintenance ground cover in your flowerbeds, plant low-growing shrubs, such as various strains of boxwood or juniper.

The main issue with this option is that the shrubs take a while to grow and fill in. But once established, the only maintenance required is the occasional trimming of overgrown branches.

Vacant flowerbeds detract from the overall look of your house and contribute to an air of neglect. Attractive fillers do not have to be either expensive or difficult to put into place.

If you’d like additional tips on how to spruce up the outside your home, don’t hesitate to give me a call, or shoot me an email.

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