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Winterize your outdoor living space in 5 easy steps

Posted by Brickstone Properties on September 21, 2015  /  in Lawn & Garden Ideas/Tips  /  Comments off

5 smart ways to ready the outdoors for winter

(BPT) – Ahh the backyard – it’s served you well all summer. But now the seasons are changing and colder weather is on the way. Which means you need to prime your property from the ravages of winter. That’s right, it’s time to winterize!

Since you can finish your indoor winterizing as temperatures get cooler, it makes sense to winterize your outdoor living space first. With that in mind, here is a five-point checklist to help safeguard your home from Jack Frost for another year:

Prep your deck. Your beautiful deck has been a source of outdoor enjoyment all summer long, so now it’s time to protect your beloved structure before winter rears its ugly head again. Of course, the amount of work you have to put into winterizing your deck depends on your decking material. For example, a durable, long-lasting material such as beautiful Western Red Cedar requires the least amount of maintenance. That said, all decks require some upkeep.

So to preserve your deck’s luster, start by cleaning it with a warm soapy solution and a soft bristle brush (never power wash). It’s important that you remove all dirt and debris from both the surface as well as in between the boards during this process because the more ventilation your decking has through the colder months, the better it will look come springtime. Next, inspect the deck for the presence of mold. If present, wash the deck with a mild oxygen bleach solution and leave on the surface for 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Finally, remove anything that might leave marks on the deck’s surface from inconsistent weathering – think outdoor furniture, movable planters, door mats etc. As for finishing your deck with a fresh coat of stain etc., that’s really more of a spring job (i.e. you’re off the hook for another six months).

Inspect your windows. Take a stroll around your home’s exterior and inspect each of your windows to see if any gaps or cracks are present. If you find some, apply caulking to the openings and this will prevent cold air from seeping through these cracks during the winter, which in turn, will cut down on your heating bills!

Protect those planters. These days, most planter boxes are made with Western Red Cedar. That’s because it’s naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects; and therefore, doesn’t require treatment from potentially dangerous chemicals that can leach into your soil and plants. But like all garden beds, Real Cedar planters need protection during the winter months. Start by removing all soil and cleaning the boxes as you did the deck. Then if possible, store your emptied planters in a garage, shed, under the porch etc. If you can’t, then cover them with a water repellant tarp to protect from moisture buildup – but make sure you don’t seal the tarp. As with decks, it’s very important that you allow for proper ventilation.

Trim those trees. As you walk around your house inspecting your windows for cracks and gaps, this is also a good time to take a look at your trees. Look for trees that are old, appear weakened or diseased. In addition to the trees themselves, you should also check for any dead branches, particularly those hanging near or over your home. As snow accumulates over the winter, the weight may be enough to bring a diseased tree or branch down, potentially damaging your home. You can eliminate this risk by removing any dead trees or branches now before the first snow starts to fly.

Guard the grill. If grilling is one of your favorite summertime activities, you don’t have to abandon it just because winter’s coming. A Real Cedar BBQ cover can protect you from the elements, allowing you to grill all year long. And because the cover is made from a naturally resilient wood like cedar, you’ll be BBQing in all kinds of weather for years to come. You can find free plans to build your own BBQ cover in Real Cedar’s outdoor section.

For extensive project plans, maintenance tips & design inspiration, visit Real Cedar.com. Or if you like to “DIY on the Fly”, download the new Real Cedar Mobile Toolkit app for fast and easy building facts. Available for free from Google Play Store and coming soon to iTunes.

Ceiling revamps: Leave the popcorn to the movies

Posted by Brickstone Properties on September 21, 2015  /  in Home Improvement Ideas/Tips  /  Comments off

(BPT) – Calling all DIY enthusiasts: Those popcorn ceilings have to go. They don’t get much love from homeowners or homebuyers, and they can really bring down the overall look and feel of an otherwise attractive room.

Popcorn ceilings haven’t really represented stylish home design since disco was on the radio, though they’ve certainly lingered a little longer.

Whether you’re interested in a fresh look for your own family or updating your home before putting it on the market, upgrading from a popcorn ceiling is a great investment. As the largest uninterrupted space in any room, the ceiling gives you a golden opportunity to add interest or infuse your personality.

Mark Clement, a general contractor and blogger on MyFixItUplife, regularly advises homeowners on the best ways to create the most value and appeal in their home. “Ceilings really do make a greater impact than people realize,” he says. “The right choice can help a room soar – but you probably won’t get that effect with a popcorn ceiling.”

“New ceilings are a great update, and with today’s options, they’re incredibly easy to install yourself,” Clement says. “Stylish ceiling details really turn heads, and a new ceiling can make a dark or uninviting room feel bigger and brighter.”

But, before you grab your scraper, Clement has a few words of caution about tackling popcorn ceiling removal as a DIY project. “To remove a popcorn ceiling, you have to really be committed to the task. You can certainly do it yourself, but be forewarned that it can create a gigantic mess. You’ll want to consider all of your options carefully, from removing to simply covering it up, based on your time and budget. Patience is also a factor!”

If you know you want to make a change, but you’re not sure of the best way to move forward, here are a few key factors you need to consider when addressing your popcorn ceiling(s):

Stains: You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

Water problems, cracks and other issues that leave blemishes on your ceiling can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you have a popcorn ceiling that makes it difficult to simply paint over. Covering or removing that ceiling allows you to fix the noticeable, distracting blemishes overhead and clear the path for a stylish upgrade.

Scraping: Get ready to get messy.

Popcorn ceilings don’t get enough credit for tenacity, really. Once applied, they’re not easy to remove! At best, you’ll be soaking your ceiling with water (and possibly your walls along the way) before scraping the resulting slop off with a drywall knife. At worst, the water won’t get through all of your layers of paint, and you’ll be breaking out the heavy machinery to sand or scrape through it all, kicking up dust. It’s doable, but it’s a lengthy process and not for the faint of heart.

Cover it up: The easy way to fix ugly.

Don’t worry though – you can always cover up your popcorn ceiling by installing a new ceiling over the existing one. Manufacturers like Armstrong Ceilings have many options: wood planks, metal tiles or patterned panels. How-to videos show how easy it is to install a new ceiling in as little as a day.

To our modern eyes, popcorn ceilings definitely look a bit stale, but the good news is you’re not stuck with them. There are a number of options to freshen up your look and turn your ceilings into the fun, festive spaces that match your true style.

3 steps to prepare your credit for homeownership

Posted by Brickstone Properties on September 21, 2015  /  in Real Estate News/Tips  /  Comments off

(BPT) – Homeownership is a dream for many Americans, and maybe it’s one of yours as well. Making this dream a reality requires hard work, dedication and the proper preparation. You must figure out where you want to live, what type of home you desire, what you can afford and also how your credit rating may impact your home-purchasing goals.

Your credit rating can play an important role in the home buying process, and your creditworthiness could also affect the amount that you can borrow, the interest rates you will qualify for and your ability to obtain a mortgage loan in the first place.

“A consumer’s credit is one of the biggest factors that goes into the mortgage-application process,” says Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. “Before applying for a loan, it is crucial to get your credit in the best shape you possibly can.”

To help you build good credit and increase your ability to obtain better loan terms, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. offers these tips for improving your credit:

Pay your bills on time

Late or missed payments on any of your credit accounts, such as credit cards, mortgages and other loans, could cause a drop in your credit score. To prevent this, make your payments on time. Making additional payments whenever possible and paying extra toward the principal balance will also help to keep a good payment history and decrease the payoff timeline. Using an Extra Principal Payment Calculator tool can also help you calculate the savings that come with paying extra – generating additional motivation to do so.

Minimize any outstanding debt and keep existing debt manageable

Paying your statement balances in full instead of letting debt accumulate can improve your credit scores, which may result in better terms being offered from lenders. Lenders often check your credit report when you apply for a loan and measure the amount of debt you’re carrying against the loan amount they’ve requested. Excessive debt is one of the factors that could cause a lender to decline your application.

Avoid applying for unnecessary credit

Credit applications can appear as inquiries on credit reports, which may suggest to lenders that an applicant is taking on additional debt. Be aware of advertising or sales promotions that offer purchase discounts if you apply for a credit card. Even these cards could show up as inquiries on your credit report. These inquiries remain on credit reports for two years. Instead of applying for additional credit, use your existing lines of credit to showcase your responsible credit management by paying bills on time and paying off the debt quickly.

“There are a lot of steps you can take to improve your credit, but it’s important to remember that credit scores don’t change overnight,” says Hamilton. “It takes time to increase your credit rating, and while it may feel like a slow-moving effort, it is well worth the wait when you get to open the door to a home of your own for you and your family.”

For more credit tips, you can check out the full Guide to Credit, and find other useful guides for homebuyers on vmfhomeloan.com.

NMLS Disclosure
Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, ( http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, KS Licensed Mortgage Co. (SL.0000720), Licensed by the NH Banking Department, Mississippi Licensed Mortgage Company, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking.

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    Brickstone Properties Colorado provides professional residential and commercial property management and sales services in the Greater Metro Denver area.