Wood Fireplace: 9 Tips for Safety and Efficiency

Ready for the colder months? You will be if you follow these simple guidelines to keep your wood fireplace burning brightly — and safely.
1. Only burn dry, cured wood — logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow.

Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species. Less dense woods like spruce or white pine burn well if sufficiently dry, but you’ll need to add more wood to your fire more often, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

2. Burn firewood and only firewood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your wood fireplace going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.

3. Close the damper when not using your wood fireplace to prevent warm indoor air — and the dollars you’re spending to heat it — from rushing up the chimney.

4. Keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room. On a factory-built, prefab wood fireplace with a circulating fan, keep doors closed to prevent unnecesary heat loss.

5. Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney, and to reduce downdrafts. Caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one because it won’t rust. Caps cost $50 to $200.

6. Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. A top-mounted damper that also functions as a rain cap provides a tighter closure than a traditional damper for your wood fireplace.

7. Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house — near your wood fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.

8. Get your chimney cleaned twice a year if you burn more than three cords of wood annually. A cord is 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pickup trucks.

9. To burn a fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. Keep the damper of your wood fireplace completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally—with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering in the fireplace and creosote from developing.

Source: Houselogic.com Wood Fireplace: 9 Tips for Safety and Efficiency by Wendy Paris Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/fireplaces-chimneys/wood-fireplace-9-tips-safety-and-efficiency/#ixzz3OdyzQGp2

SABOR’s 2015 Housing Forecast Recap

San Antonio Board of Realtor's (SABOR) has released its Housing Forecast for 2015. According to guest speaker Mario Hernandez, President of the Economic Development Foundation, the population of San Antonio increased 2.04 percent from the previous year. That is a phenomenal increase for just one calendar year but the good news is that means more home buyers. Hernandez also revealed a 2.62 percent increase in job growth over the last year and a drop in the unemployment rate from 6.5 in 2012 to 4.3 currently. Hernandez also shared that San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States and our cost of living is 9.2 percentage points below the national average.

Chairman Jeffers provided a look at the year in San Antonio. As of the end of November, a total of 22,655 homes have been sold in the city. That’s a four percent increase from the previous year. Days on market dropped to just 68 days, which is down seven days from 2013. Jeffers also took a look at which areas saw the most growth in 2014 and provided a breakdown of each subdivision’s sales and pricing for the year.

Dr. Dotzour reminded the group that 6.5 months of inventory is considered the national average. San Antonio is currently below that number. Dr. Dotzour pointed out the need to build more homes. If home prices are going up and there is more housing inventory then the market is good and moving forward.

Interest rates are still low and if the inventory remains below the national average, that means you may have more competition for the home you want. Winter months are traditionally the slower time of year for home buying. This means buyers have lots of options now that may not be there later in the spring and summer.

Source: SABOR

Don't Flush Your Money Down the Drain: Budget-Friendly, Easy Bathroom Makeovers

Remodeling a typical 5-by-7-foot bathroom costs about $16,500, according to the Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling magazine. But you can get a lot of bang for a lot fewer bucks with some simple makeover ideas that’ll turn your bathroom into the pride of the house.

Small, affordable bathroom makeovers are the specialty of Tim Shaw, a Mt. Pleasant, S.C., handyman. We asked Shaw what projects he recommends — and what they typically cost.

So you know: A professional handyman charges $30-$60 per hour, and there may be a $150 minimum charge per job.

Quick fixes under $50
  • Replace the old shower head with a modern, low-flow shower head. You can get a sunflower-style head, which creates a rain-like spray, or a hand-held one, which hangs from above like a normal shower or can be hand-operated thanks to its attached hose. DIY cost: $40
  • Install a new tub/shower trim kit. Swap out the handles and nozzles on your shower with new ones made by the same manufacturer. This is an easy do-it-yourself job, with the kit costing just $20 to $50, depending on brand. Also, replace the toilet handle; DIY cost is about $20.
Spruce up for under $300
  • Paint the bathroom. A coat of mildew-resistant bathroom paint goes a long way toward freshening up your bathroom. A handyman or pro painter will charge $250-$350 for a 5-by-7-foot bathroom, including paint. Trim costs by removing mirrors, light fixtures, and towel bars yourself prior to painting.
  • Replace the towel and toilet paper holder, the medicine cabinet, and the shower curtain. These are simple DIY jobs that can transform the look of any bathroom. DIY cost: $250.
Makeovers under $1,000
  • Replace the sink, faucet, and vanity to improve the look and functionality of the bathroom’s main workstation. Handyman cost, including materials: $800.
  • Swap out an old two-handled shower for a single-knob pressure-balancing valve, and you’ll eliminate the risk of anyone getting scalded when another family member flushes a toilet and the cold water flow is interrupted. A licensed plumber will charge $800.
  • Resurface the tub. Removing a built-in tub often requires doing a lot of demolition to the bathroom, from the walls to the floor. But you can refinish your existing enameled cast-iron tub, making it look like new and changing it’s color (if it’s 1960s pink, for example). Pro tub refinishing is $700. Make sure you ask if they wear respirators and take adequate measures to protect against tub refinishing chemicals.
  • Add bead-board wainscot. This classic half-wall of painted wood dresses up the bathroom, modernizes the look, and protects the walls from dings and spills. A handyman will do this job for about $700.
Source: HouseLogic.com Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/bathrooms/bathroom-ideas-budget/#ixzz3IxlNKwFz

Changing Demographics Impacting Housing Market

Realtors® from across the country recently gathered to discuss the effects changing homebuyer demographics on the housing market during the 2014 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

"Among primary residence homebuyers, the demographics have shifted dramatically, especially among first-time homebuyers, whose share of the market has dropped to its lowest level in decades,” said Jessica Lautz, director of member and consumer survey research for the National Association of Realtors®. “We have also seen an increase in the median age and income of the average buyer, as well as in multigenerational household formations as adult children and elderly family members move back in with their families."

Adult millennials, those aged 18 to 33, were a popular topic of discussion for the panel. In 2014, millennials saw 60 percent better job growth than the US overall and a drop in unemployment to 6 percent. This growth, along with improved economic opportunities, should encourage millennials to form households and buy homes in the coming years. "Millennials are the largest generation of people in the U.S. and represent 60 percent of first-time homebuyers,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. “They are also more likely than any other group to purchase a home in the next year."

Tightened inventory, difficulty receiving credit and lower than average salaries have kept many of these buyers out of the market, but most economists see that as a temporary setback.

"It's not that young people don’t want to purchase homes, it’s that they are delaying the purchase," said Lisa A. Sturtevant, vice president of research for the National Housing Conference. "Many of the reasons millennials are not forming households or making purchases are economic, so as the economy improves, we should see this group become more of a force in the housing market."

Smoke said it’s a misperception that millennials are not already participating in the market. “They represented 37 percent of home shoppers this summer, and over the next 5 years this generation will make up two-thirds of household formations," he said. "Between June and September 2014, over half of adults aged 21-34 visited real estate websites or mobile apps. And this is the cusp—get ready for the millennial wave to drive the housing market for decades."

Another group that will be competing with millennials for dominance in the housing market is baby boomers. Sturtevant said, "With millennials searching for new homes, baby boomers downsizing, and groups with historically lower incomes all entering the market, an increased demand for smaller, less expensive homes will begin to emerge."
Source: Realtor.com