Protect Your Home from Radon

If you have recently bought or sold a house, you have probably heard of radon. This invisible, odorless and tasteless gas comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, and it rises through the ground and into the air. The air dissipates it enough that it is not harmful. But it also can seep into your home through cracks or holes in the foundation, where it becomes trapped and can become concentrated to unhealthy levels. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, responsible for more than 20,000 deaths a year.

Luckily, testing for excessive amounts of radon and alleviating the problem in your home is a simple process. You can purchase low-cost “do it yourself” tests or hire a qualified tester. If levels in your home are found to be high, a radon mitigation system can be installed, which is simply a vent pipe system and fan that pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it outside.

Radon levels can vary tremendously from home to home, and even in the same home from season to season. The EPA estimates that 1 in 15 homes have undetected high levels of radon. So if your home hasn’t been tested, it is probably a good idea to do so and make sure you are protected from this dangerous gas. Visit the EPA’s website at for a variety of publications and resources about radon.

Fact: Radon is heavy and collects in low areas. If you spend a lot of time in your basement, the EPA recommends you test your home for radon.

What Does Your Front Door Say About You?

We know that different colors evoke different emotions in people, but color experts say color can also be an indicator of your personality, even (or especially) on your front door.

“The front door is the focal point of the home,” says Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute. “The color there sends a strong message – in the case of the front door, providing insight into how we view our home.”

Here is the message, according to the Institute, that you might be sending with your door of a different color:

Red – passion, vibrant and “full of life, energy and excitement”
Blue – sanctuary, calm, serenity, and relaxation
Green – health, safety, tranquility, and harmony
Black – power, sophistication, strength, and authority
Brown – warmth, stability and reliability (dark brown could signify desire for privacy or isolation)

If none of those colors work for you, also consider yellow (happiness, high energy), purple (dreamer, free spirit) or white (clean, organized). The best part is that if you try something and it just doesn’t work, changing the color is as easy as just painting over it.

Stud Space = Extra Storage

Are you limited by the lack of storage that comes with a small room? Fear not, you do have options! Between the studs that hold up your house and walls lies unused space that can be converted into built-in shelves or a storage nook.

Bookshelves — These could go in any room in place of shelving units.

Bathrooms — Keep clutter off your bathroom countertops by building in space for a few shelves to hold toiletries. Even recessing an area for your towels or bathrobe can make a small bathroom appear bigger.

Pantries — Take a look at unused wall space in your kitchen. Shallow shelves could be used to hold canned goods, spices or stemware. You could also use the recessed area to mount hooks and hang pots and pans.

Tip: Be sure to check for venting or wiring before starting this project.

Garage Security Tips

You may lock up your house like Fort Knox to keep you and your valuables safe, but the garage door is often overlooked in the process. Burglars can use this knowledge to their advantage to gain access to your house. So consider these garage do’s and don’ts as part of your home security plan.

Don’t leave your garage door opener in your vehicle. Do purchase a keychain remote opener and carry it with you.

Don’t leave your garage door open. Do consider installing a device that automatically closes the door after a set amount of time.

Don’t leave the door leading from the garage into the house unlocked. Do make sure it is as secure as your front door.

Don’t give burglars places to hide. Do install low-cost outdoor motion-sensor lighting around the garage.

Do frost or cover any garage windows so thieves can’t see what is inside or that your vehicle is gone.

Do put a padlock on the inside of your garage door when going out of town to ensure that the door cannot be opened.

Also keep in mind that most home invasions occur during the day in the middle of the week when no one is home. So always be sure to secure your house before leaving for the day.

Is Your Doorbell Smarter than You?

Forget the peephole. “Smart” doorbells are giving homeowners a brand new way to see who’s knocking on their door. The basic feature behind this new development is the ability to wirelessly connect your doorbell and a video camera to your smartphone so you can see who is at your door without having to get up and answer it.

The newest technology under development features facial recognition that will allow you to store contacts into your system and play pre-recorded messages to specific visitors. The technology available now allows you to:

  • See and speak with visitors over an intercom system via your smartphone.
  • Customize access for each smartphone in your home.
  • Be notified when someone is approaching the door, before they ring the doorbell, via a motion detector.
  • Take and store pictures and view streaming video.
  • Wirelessly unlock your door.
  • Receive a notification on your phone when someone rings your doorbell and then see and speak with them, even if you are at work or on vacation.

Fight the Good Fight Against Mosquitos

As long as there have been people in North America, there have been mosquitos. So the annoying and potentially dangerous pests probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But we can protect ourselves from them by following “3 D’s of protection” recommended by the American Mosquito Control Association.


Try to wear long pants and long sleeves outdoors when practical, especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most prevalent. Also wear light colors and avoid tight clothes with a loose weave, which mosquitos can bite through.


Mosquito larvae float atop still water to grow and hatch, so the key to prevention is eliminating standing water around your house and in your yard. Items that encourage water collection include roof gutters, pet water dishes, children’s toys, bird baths, pool covers, and tarps.


Three mosquito repellants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency are generally safe and effective — DEET, Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Keep the following tips in mind when using repellants:

  • Spray on exposed skin, not clothing.
  • Apply sparingly and reapply as needed. (Saturation doesn’t increase effectiveness.)
  • Keep away from eyes, nostrils and lips.
  • Minimize use if pregnant or nursing.

Tip: Turn on a fan. Any wind speed of more than 1 mph disrupts mosquito flight, and they will avoid the area.

How to Lighten a Dark Room

Sometimes you get stuck with a small room or one without much natural light, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the dark. There are lots of easy (and some not so easy) ways to lighten and brighten a dark room.  


Painting the walls a lighter color can drastically change the appearance of a room. White is always an option, but light pastels can have the same effect without the starkness. Also consider using a satin gloss, which will reflect light, as opposed to a matte finish.


Most changes to floors are fairly significant, ranging from refinishing hardwood to installing lighter wall-to-wall carpet. When refinishing hardwood with a lighter stain, top it off with a high gloss to reflect light. You can also “lighten” the appearance of a dark hardwood floor with a pale-colored area rug.


Dark furniture can really weigh a room down. Choose light fabrics and paint wooden furniture light colors. Also think about adding reflective surfaces to your furniture, like a mirrored table top.


Mirrors are your best bet for fighting darkness. Place them opposite a light source (a lamp or window) to maximize the amount of light reflected. Smaller items, like mirrored picture frames, reflect light as well.


Maximize the natural light coming in through windows. Keep the windows clean. Hang curtains higher and wider than the window frame so the entire window is exposed. Stay away from heavy drapes and thick blinds that block the light.
Lights   Use light that is cast up and down, such as wall sconces and lamps with shades that open at the top and bottom. Aim for diffused light. Use walls and corners to reflect the light around the room.

To Fix or Not to Fix?

When you’re getting ready to sell your home, that is always the question. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a house in good condition will sell faster than one that needs work.

Low-cost, minor improvements that increase the appeal of your home are always a good idea – you want to be sure it looks like the house has been well taken care of. Patch nail holes and repaint, fix or replace damaged flooring, repair plumbing leaks, replace outdated light fixtures, clean out and reseal gutters, and keep up with the yard and garden.

Beyond the basics, ask yourself these questions when deciding what to fix:

What is the market like? In a seller’s market, you may not need to do much. In a buyer’s market, you might have a long list of repairs and updates to make in order to keep your house in the running.

How fast do you need to sell? If you must sell quickly, you’ll probably need to make the necessary improvements so your house is move-in ready. If you have time to test the market, you can hold off on pricey fixes and see how your house fares as-is, knowing you have the option of repairing those things later on – if you’re not getting the offers you’d like.

What is the condition of comparable homes on the market? If other homeowners have prepped their houses to move-in condition, you may need to do the same.

As your real estate professional, I would be happy to discuss how to best prepare your home for the current market in our area. Please contact me at your convenience!

Simple Ways to Allergy-Proof Your House

Protecting yourself from household allergens can be a daunting task, but start simple and you might see quick results.

  • Use two doormats at every house entry point – one inside and one outside.
  • Take off your shoes when you enter the house.
  • Vacuum carpets weekly using a vacuum with a small-particle filter.
  • Damp-mop floors once a week.
  • Wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth once a week.
  • Hang machine-washable curtains instead of heavy draperies.
  • Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in dust-proof zippered covers.
  • Wash bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Repair cracked or broken caulk and tile in the bathroom.
  • Always run the bathroom exhaust fan when you take a shower.
  • Clean out under the kitchen sink and check for leaks.
  • Monitor the humidity in the air (ideal is 30 – 50 percent).
  • Change air filters once a month.

If you can only make a few changes, start with your bedroom — you spend about one-third of your time sleeping. And, if possible, go to an allergist and find out what you are allergic to. This will help you focus your efforts and make sure you are treating the right problem.

Saving Water through Xeriscape

Tired of wasting water and money to achieve a lush lawn and garden? Maybe you should try Xeriscape — using creative landscaping to conserve water.

Xeriscape is a combination of seven common-sense gardening principles that save water while creating a lush and colorful landscape:

  1. Plan and design for water conservation and beauty.
  2. Create turf areas of manageable sizes and grasses.
  3. Select low-water plants.
  4. Use soil amendments, such as compost or manure.
  5. Use mulches to reduce evaporation and keep soil cool.
  6. Irrigate efficiently.
  7. Maintain the landscape properly.

Originally developed in Colorado for drought-afflicted areas, Xeriscape is now used across the country in efforts to be more environmentally conscious. The practice offers many benefits:

  • Saves water – Reduces landscape water use by 60 percent or more.
  • Improves property value – Can increase property value by as much as 15 percent.
  • Less maintenance – Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal.
  • No fertilizers or pesticides – Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements.