Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Restore brick fireplace the safe, easy way

Homeowner seeks to rid structure of ugly latex paint

Wednesday, October 31, 2007By Bill & Kevin BurnettInman News

Q: We are remodeling a 35-year-old home that has a nice brick fireplace. The previous owner used it to burn paper and other low-temperature items that produced a lot of smoke, resulting in a very heavy and unattractive buildup of carbon and soot. Worse, the owner used off-white, wall-color-matching, latex paint on the outside part (yes, right on the bricks) of the fireplace.

What must I do to restore some of the natural color and texture of the original brickwork? Sandblasting? Chemicals? Small bombs? And, what type of professional service should I engage to tackle this work, if you feel that "sweat equity" will not suffice?

A: Chemical stripping won't work very well, and we suspect that you had your tongue planted firmly in cheek when you mentioned a small bomb. The alternative we'd suggest is sandblasting.
We wouldn't take on a sandblasting job, especially an inside one. The preparation is intense and the cleanup of sand and leavings will be significant. Also, a deft touch with the wand is necessary to avoid gouging out too much mortar while trying to get rid of the paint. It's a job better left to the pros.

To find someone to tackle the job, we suggest you check the Yellow Pages. Call several blasters to see if they can do the job and get references. That's the route we'd go.
But you might want to consider another alternative to sandblasting -- refacing.

Our brother Bryan has a fireplace project going at his home in Eagle, Idaho. He just ordered a wood-burning, energy-efficient fireplace to replace an antiquated, poorly designed woodstove. Every time he tried to start a fire in the stove, he got smoked out.

When the workers removed the old stove, the flue opening was plugged with what Bryan said looked like a couple of deflated footballs, made of creosote. Needless to say, this is a serious fire hazard. If you haven't already done so, we recommend you employ a good chimney sweep to get your chimney in "fire shape."

Bryan's fireplace is faced with used brick. He doesn't like the look. Uncle George suggested -- you guessed it -- white paint. That isn't flying with Bryan. So Kevin suggested he consider refacing the brick with stone, tile or marble. In your case, consider following Kevin's recommendation and refacing with brick. It would be a lot less messy than sandblasting; you could choose the look you want; and it's definitely a do-it-yourself project.

If you decide to go this route, choose a veneer brick. It's thinner -- 3/8 to 3/4 inches thick -- and much lighter and easier to work with. It has all of the warmth of brick without the heft. For examples and more information, go to

Q: I would like to reuse the ceramic floor tiles from my kitchen remodel (putting old tiles at the kickboard onto new cabinets). How do I get the mastic off the tiles? I've tried soaking, but that hasn't worked. Should I try muriatic acid?

A: We bet you've soaked them in water. That won't soften and remove the mastic, as you've discovered. Muriatic acid will work only on cement-based mortar. Instead, we suggest soaking the tiles in lacquer thinner followed by a good scraping with a wide putty knife and a scrub with a wire brush. Do the job outside, and wear gloves, eye protection and a respirator because the fumes from the solvent are strong and can burn skin and mucous membranes.

Copyright 2007 Bill and Kevin Burnett

Monday, October 29, 2007

Real Estate market. If you have any comments please post them. Dora Baycroft.

Inexpensive Home Heating Tips
Hot, Not Bothered:
Inexpensive Home Heating TipsThe dramatically rising cost of home heating is a bothersome concern for most Canadians. Heating your home efficiently this winter will be the key to keeping your energy costs under control. Here are some quick, easy and, most importantly, inexpensive ways to maximize warmth and minimize impact to your pocketbook:

- Adjust Your Personal Thermostat: Wear a sweater and dress warmly around the house. When you're stationary, watching television or reading, you're most susceptible to a chill, so toss a throw around you. Since hot air rises, resist the icy influence of cooler floors with thick socks or slippers.-

Adjust Your Home Thermostat: It goes without saying that the less energy you use, the lower your heating bills will be. Set your thermostat at 21°C when you're home awake, 18°C when you're sleeping and 15°C when you're out of the house. Purchase a programmable thermostat to reduce you heating bill by as much as 20 per cent.-

Let the Sun Shine In: While up to 25 per cent of your home's heat is lost through its windows, they are also a source of solar warmth. During daylight hours, keep your drapes open and let the sun help heat your home. Insulate your windows with plastic film to reduce heat loss by 50 per cent. Insulating curtains are expensive, but pay for themselves within 7 years.-

Seal the Leaks:
Caulk, seal and weather strip around windows and doorframes, baseboards, ducting and electrical outlets to save up to 20 per cent on your heating bill. Remember to close your fireplace flue when you're not enjoying a fire. Install a door sweep to resist against under-the-door drafts. Turn off the heat supply and close the door to unused rooms, such as a guest bedroom. Close interior doors leading to hallways or stairways to keep the heat where it's needed most.
Pbulished by Royal LePage

Friday, October 12, 2007

Strem of low offers confuses home seller

Q: I tried to sell a house for the appraised price and was unable to sell at that price. I understand that property will not sell when it is priced too high but the offers I received were $5,000 to $8,000 less than the appraisal.

I was under the impression that if I advertised the property for the appraised price, it would move quickly. I told one real estate agent when she made me an offer from a client that I was going to have the house appraised again and that I would provide the appraised price to the potential buyer so he could adjust his bid.

The agent didn't go for that at all. Can you give me some suggestions as to what I did wrong? When I couldn't sell the house, I finally rented it.

A: I think you made a few basic mistakes. First, the appraised value is not necessarily the same thing as the market value.

The appraised value of the home is what an appraiser thinks the home is worth based on the sales of other similar homes in the area. The market value is what someone will actually pay for the house.

In your case, either because of the condition or location of the home, the market is telling you that your home isn't worth what the appraiser thinks it should be worth--it's worth $5,000 to $8,000 less.

Getting a new appraisal doesn't change what someone will pay for the home. You'd be better off buying some cans of white paint and repainting the interior of the property. Then, you might get more money for it.

Renting the house is fine. Eventually, prices will rise in your neighborhood and you'll get your price, but not today. And only you can decide if waiting for prices to rise in order to get the extra $5,000 to $8,000 is worthwhile.

Q: My father died late last year and left a piece of property to my two sisters and me. Ownership is to be divided equally. The property is a house on Lake Michigan on the eastern shore, about due east of Chicago.

Local real estate agents have told us the property is worth $1.2 to $1.5 million. We all live too far away to use or manage the property and have decided to sell. However, one sister insists on doing nothing this year and waiting until next spring to sell. She says she heard one should wait at least a year to sell inherited property and that it "feels right" to wait.

Can you give me some reasons why we should either wait or sell immediately? My own feeling is that the taxes for this property are going to be very high once my father's "grandfathered" tax rate lapses.

A: First, I'd like to offer my condolences on the loss of your father.

Although I'm sure you and your sisters are missing your dad, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't want to put your dad's house on the market now--when vacation homes are selling like hotcakes. The carrying costs (taxes and maintenance) on a house that expensive could be costly, especially if none of you are near enough to use it regularly and make sure that small problems don't turn into big issues.

I think the advice your sister is remembering refers to individuals who have experienced a huge trauma, like the death of a spouse or partner. In those cases, if the individual can afford to wait, it is a good idea to let a year go by while he or she adapts to the new circumstances of a new life.
In your case, you won't gain anything by waiting a year to sell this property. You have inherited the property at the current market value (which may even be able to be adjusted to whatever price you sell it for this spring). That means you would pay no capital gains tax on your inheritance when you sell.

And after the expense of selling it (broker's commission, transfer taxes, etc.), you would each pocket a significant amount of cash.

I think that you should sell now, especially since interest rates might rise significantly in the next year, which could dampen interest in an expensive vacation property. But it doesn't really matter what I think.

You and your siblings need to talk this out so everyone is comfortable with the plan. If you're having trouble agreeing, ask an estate attorney to mediate.

Contact Ilyce through her Web site, 2006 Ilyce R. Glink