Month: October 2011

Preparing For Halloween

5 sure-fire ways to zombie-proof your home

It turns out that protecting your home from and preparing your family for a zombie attack can be quite useful. As the Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) puts it,  “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”

Here are some tips from This Old House and the CDC on the best zombie defense.

1. Prepare for a siege —create a Zombie All-Hazards Emergency Kit that includes water, non-perishable food, wooden stakes, a flashlight, basic tools, a battery or hand-crankable radio and a gun loaded with silver bullets if you can get your hands on some.

2. Dismantle your staircase — retreat to your upper floors and eliminate all access from downstairs. In the panic of attack, you might be reduced to smashing your stairs to bits, but a little advanced planning will enable you to take it apart for re-assembly post apocalypse.

3. Power tools are not your friend —there is plenty of precedent for zombies finding nearby power tools and wielding them with deadly effect. Drain the power, bury the tools or break them, but do what you can so they can’t be used against you.

4. Strengthen your siding — fiber-cement siding is the most likely to withstand zombies scratching and kicking the outside of your home to get to you. Not to mention, replacing your current exteriors with fiber-cement siding ranks number one in Hanley Wood’s Cost vs. Value report for projects costing more than $1,200, returning an average of 83% of your investment when you sell your home.

5. Don’t let them know you’re home —keep your curtains closed and your shades down. Cellular shades and wood blinds both offer adjustable light as well as helping to control the temperature of your home, keeping the heat out in warm months and keeping it in during cooler times, which might come in handy if your fuel supply is threatened during a zombie invasion.

For more tips on defending your home, see this step-by-step guide from This Old House.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

5 home maintenance tips that will save you headaches in the future


Prevention, not procrastination, is a homeowner’s best friend. Luckily, there are websites, magazines, tv shows and news items aplenty to help homeowners recognize, prioritize and address common home maintenance issues.

 “Mr. Fix-It” himself, Lou Manfredini, who hosts House Smarts TV and is the home improvement contributor for NBC's Today Show, recently released his list of common mistakes and solutions. “Very often, homeowners miss the warning signs that there is a problem or look for short-cuts to save money around the home. However, emergency repairs can end up costing more in the long run, so it's important to be aware of common home maintenance mistakes."

1. Change is a good thing — change heating and cooling system filters regularly

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homeowners change the filters in their heating and cooling systems at least every three months. Clogged, older and over-used filters may cause the system to work harder and run longer, costing more in energy costs and repairs over time. 

2. Mind the gap — keep an eye out for loose tiles and gaps in the grout

Check the grout in between bathroom tiles annually, especially around wet areas. Gaps in grout can result in water seeping behind the tiles, causing damp patches, risk of water leaking into other rooms and loose tiles.

3. Water can do more than make your hair curl — check your roof regularly

Once or twice a year, take a good step back (about 50 feet) and check your roof for curled shingles, which generally mean there’s a leak in your roof. If you think some shingles look suspect, call a licensed roofing contractor for a more thorough inspection and assessment.

(for more tips from Mr. Fix-It, see his “Home Maintenance Mistakes Will Cost You”)

HouseLogic, an online homeownership resource from the National Association of Realtors®, also offers a wealth of information on keeping your home in tip-top shape, including Home Maintenance 101.


4. Less water, less noise, less money — fix running toilets to save water and money

Running toilets can not only be annoying with their constant noise, they waste water and cost money. The EPA estimates that constantly running toilet can waste 200 gallons of water or more a day.

5. Preparation prevents panic — become familiar with controlling your utilities

If water starts rushing into your home, do you know how to shut off the main water line?  What about the gas and electricity? The best time to find out how to shut off your utilities is when there is no urgent reason to. Everyone in your household should feel comfortable turning off the water or electricity if needed.


For home maintenance videos, tips, instructions and more, visit these sites:

Home Inspector Locator’s Home Maintenance Guide

House Logic’s Maintenance & Repair

The EPA’s Fix a Leak reviews finding a fixing a multitude of common household leaks

FEMA’s Utility Shut-off and Safety


Is There A Movie Theater Hiding In Your Home?

How to create a home theater at any budget

A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it. ~Alfred Hitchcock

A night at the movies (with popcorn and soda) for a family of four costs about $80.

Home theater systems and components are more advanced and cost-effective than ever. Whether you want to upgrade your current TV system or transform a room into your own cinema, there are a variety of ways to enhance your at-home movie experience.

1.         The Screen— the larger the screen, the more it will feel like you are watching a movie. Three years ago a 46-inch plasma screen TV cost around $1,500, today you can get a 50-inch plasma TV for less than $1,000. Samsung, Sony and Panasonic plasma TVs consistently get high marks from sources including, PC Magazine, For more information, Consumer Reports offers a summary of the pros and cons of both plasma and LCD technologies, offers a step-by-step HDTV buying guide, and MSNBC comes at from another angle with Top 10 mistakes made when buying an HDTV.

2.        The Sound— if you want a step up from the built-in speakers on your TV, there are many options available.

  • Soundbar — New technology allows a single speaker (“soundbar”) to mimic surround sound without requiring multiple speakers placed (and wired) around the room. Polk Audio’s soundbars are well-reviewed by Crutchfield offers more information on choosing the right soundbar for you.
  • Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) — offering all the components required for home theater (except the screen), HTIBs run from high-end systems with full featured receivers and powerful speakers (such as this one from Denon) to more affordable solutions with stripped down receivers and speakers meant to be better than a TV’s built-in system (such as this well reviewed system from Onkyo).

3.        The Seating —theater style seating takes your home entertainment experience to a new level. La-Z-Boy offers special theater seating in addition to its standard recliners and furniture. To find an online store, search “home theater seating” online. receives high ratings from customers and offers white glove delivery. You can even find home theater seating on, such as Coaster’s 600001 Black Theater Recliner for $330.

For more tips on creating a home theater in your home, try these resources:

Save on Your Heating Bill Without Turning Down The Thermostat

Tips from the pros on insulating for the winter

Summer is officially over and winter is not that far away — which means it’s the perfect time to prepare for chilly temperatures and blustery weather. Insulating your home properly to keep cold air out and warm air in is the number one way to help control your heating bills.

If you don’t want to replace your windows, but you think they could use a little beefing up in draft and heat loss prevention, here are some tips:

  1. CAULK— for obviously leaky and breezy window frames, use an acrylic caulk to create a tight seal around the window.
  2. DRAPE— cellular shades or heavy curtains drawn when the sun is down (or hidden behind stormy weather) provide another layer to keep warm air in and cold air out. Tip: keep curtains open during the day to take advantage of the sun’s heat, and drawn at night.
  3. CLOSE— make sure vents and flues to the outside are closed whenever possible and keep the doors to closets and unused rooms closed to keep warm air in the areas where you spend time.
  4. PROGRAM— if you don’t already have one, consider installing a programmable thermostat that will automatically reduce the temperature at night and other times lower temperatures are acceptable.

For more ideas on how to save while staying warm, visit these resources:

Bill and Kevin Burnett at Inman News: Best way to insulate windows

Las VegasReview-Journal: Fight the battle of rising heating costs

Apartment Therapy: 5 Ways to Insulate Your Windows For Winter Tips to Reduce Your Winter Heating Oil Bill