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Rebuilding Together

Rebuilding Together – Changing Lives One Home at a Time

On Saturday, April 25th, sawing and hammering was heard in hundreds of neighborhoods – from border to border and coast to coast – as more than 200,000 caring volunteers pitched in to repair, update and revitalize over 4,000 homes belonging to the elderly, disabled and thousands of low-income families and individuals who simply need a helping hand.

Thanks to Rebuilding Together ®, the nation's largest nonprofit organization working to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalizing neighborhoods, this year, more than 10,000 homes of those in need will receive critical home repairs, modifications for the disabled and energy efficient upgrades – and all at no cost to the homeowners. As of last year alone, nearly 600,000 such homeowners – with an average annual income of less than $16,000 and in serious need – now live in a better and safer environment.

Everyone Pulling Together
Today need is at an all time high, as low-income homeowners fight to keep and maintain homes in neighborhoods devastated by a weak economy and pervasive housing crisis. Over 44 million homes in the U.S. will experience property devaluation as a result of foreclosures in their neighborhoods (source: Center for Responsible Lending). Rebuilding Together works to stabilize such neighborhoods by focusing its efforts on communities where foreclosures are highest. And where for health, age or economic reasons, homeowners must to put aside basic home maintenance for life necessities, such as food, medicine and healthcare, Rebuilding Together is often a last resort.

In addition to recruiting hundreds of thousand s of volunteer workers for hands-on participation, Rebuilding Together also turns every $1 donated into $4 in equivalent value with the added donation of goods from corporate sponsor partners – such as Sears, Lowe’s and Cricket Communications – and with services and the participation of various skilled trade associations.

Our National Rebuilding Day
On Saturday, April 25th, our nationally syndicated home improvement radio program, On The House with the Carey Bros. & Rebecca Cole, was broadcast live from the backyard of the William Donnelly home, located in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Oakland, California. This house was one of the many selected to be worked on for National Rebuilding Day by Rebuilding Together’s Oakland Affiliate organization. Throughout the day, volunteers from as far away as San Diego and from all walks of life toiled inside with interior upgrades and repairs while others outside worked on landscaping and planting trees. In all, 2,000 volunteers worked on 25 area homes and eight facilities spread throughout Oakland.

Thousands of miles away in Chicago, our listeners also heard the thankful appreciation of the Durr sisters, one of which is enlisted and headed for Iraq, soon leaving her two young daughters with an aging grandmother in a home that is now better and safer than ever.

It was a story repeated thousands of times that day in thousands of ways. And It is a story that will be repeated thousands of more times in the days, weeks and months ahead – thanks to the tireless efforts of more than 200 affiliate chapters nationwide – working year-round wherever deteriorating neighborhoods need to be stabilized and aging communities need to be revitalized.

While groups like Habitat for Humanity are dedicated to constructing or finding “new” homes for families, Rebuilding Together focuses on updating and repairing existing homes of homeowners in need. It is about adding bathroom grab bars for an elderly retiree, replacing a broken water heater or simply repairing a porch light. It’s about painting, cleaning, mowing and planting... and it is about safety and quality of life.

Day after day, homes in need will be repaired, made safer and more efficient and countless lives will be made infinitely better... one home at a time. It is a story that calls out to each and every one of us – to pitch in and to make a difference.

Let’s all rebuild together. To volunteer, make a donation or learn more about Rebuilding Together visit www.RebuildingTogether.org.

Garden Hose Repairs

. Does your garden hose look like a snake digesting a rat? Perhaps it has a small pinhole leak that occasionally spritzes your face. Worse yet, your hose might be leaking massively, wasting gallons of precious water and leaving you with little or no water pressure.

Don't despair. Repairs often can be simple and inexpensive certainly less than the cost of a new hose.

Before we discuss the repair process, we'll examine a few of the most common reasons for damaged hoses.

The most common: the hose is never long enough. Folks tend to think that just because the hose is more flexible than a run of solid pipe it can be stretched the extra foot or so to reach that remote spot in the yard. Each time the hose is stretched, the connection at the fitting that is attached to the hose bib becomes weaker. Eventually it will leak or become detached. Instead of yanking on the hose, extend it with a small hose section or locate additional hose bibs at those hard-to-reach points in the yard.

For added protection, install a rubber sleeve or metal spring guard to surround the hose at the location where it attaches to the hose bib. This will minimize stress at this very vulnerable location.

If you live in an area with freezing temperatures in winter, be sure that garden hoses are placed in storage. Water in the hose can freeze and cause the hose to expand, resulting in damaged fabric or perhaps even a leak.

Driving over a hose, especially when it's under pressure, can lead to its early demise. Lawn mowers, sharp garden tools and, believe it or not, some pets can have a devastating effect on an otherwise healthy garden hose.

Never fold over the hose or "kink" it to temporarily stop the flow of water. This is sure to shorten its life.

It's important to keep a hose out of the hot sun. Extreme heat can cause the material to permanently stretch, and ultra-violet rays can break down the finish.

Keep the hose loosely wound on an suitable hose rack. A large nail, a piece of pipe or other makeshift hangers simply won't do. Hose replacement parts and repair kits are available at most hardware stores, home improvement centers and garden supply shops.

There are two common hose-repair kits sold. The first is a metal clinch-type, the other is a plastic screw-together clamp. Both are reliable, however the plastic screw-together clamp can be used over and over again, the clinch-type cannot.

Use a sharp utility knife to cut out the damaged section of hose. Try to cut the hose ends as square and straight as possible. This will allow the ends to fit snugly against the repair part for a secure connection.

To install the one-piece clinch-type fitting, force the ribbed shaft at the end of the fitting into the end of the hose. If the fit is too tight, making it difficult to get the hose over the end of the fitting, soak the end of the hose in hot water. Lubricating the fitting with a little soap also will help.

Once the fitting end is pushed into the hose, use pliers to squeeze down the individual metal fingers that surround the hose. Repeat this procedure to attach the mating length of hose to the remaining end of the fitting.

The screw-type clamp works essentially the same way as the clinch-type fitting. The difference: instead of using pliers to squeeze down on metal fingers, a screwdriver is used to attach plastic clamps to either side of the repair.

Leaks at hose ends are generally caused by damaged brass fittings. Threaded fittings also can be replaced. There is a trick to replacing fittings. You'll want to be sure to get the right part either male or female.

Metal clinch-type fittings are available for hose ends too. Push in fittings can also replace threaded fittings. Slip a metal hose clamp over the hose, insert the fitting and tighten the clamp.

Sky's The Limit With Backyard Entertaining

. Americans today are increasingly turning to their homes and backyards as a retreat for comfortable, cost-effective and carefree entertaining.

Patios, decks, pools, hot tubs, ponds, fountains, waterfalls, fireplaces, play structures, gazebos, decorative lighting, synthetic putting greens, elaborate outdoor kitchens and lavish landscaping are many of the components that Americans are choosing to create their very own backyard fantasy.

Decks and patios: As the centerpiece of backyard entertaining, the complexion of decks and patios has changed dramatically. When it comes to products and finishes, consumers are seeking form and function -- it's all about aesthetics and ease of maintenance.

Broom finish gray concrete has been upstaged by architectural "stamped" finishes that are attractive, durable and easy to clean. And although wood is still a popular choice for decking, a grown number of consumers are opting for "composite" materials that offer the look of real wood without all the maintenance that goes along with it.

An outdoor kitchen: Though freestanding barbecues are as popular as ever, an increasing number of consumers are opting for a built-in, high-end outdoor grill.

Today, an outdoor grill is typically only one of multiple appliances installed as part of an outdoor island "oasis" that doubles as an outdoor kitchen and entertainment hub.

And today's outdoor grills aren't your daddy's barbecue. Better models have multiple commercial-quality burners, infrared grill or rotisserie burners that sear in flavors and cook food in a fraction of the time, and a smoker tray that produces mouthwatering flavor. All this is wrapped into an attractive and durable package of stainless steel, copper, porcelain, brass or chrome.

A set of independent or integral side burners for cooking side dishes such as corn on the cob or baked beans are a must-have for the serious backyard chef.

It doesn't stop there. Griddles, woks, warming drawers, under-counter refrigerators, ice-makers along with handsome storage and organization systems round out the most popular amenities for the ultimate outdoor experience. Add a flat screen television and music and you'll never want to go indoors!

Pools, hot tubs, waterfalls, fountains and ponds: Be it a babbling brook or a placid pond, the sight and sound of running water has become a must-have for many fantasy backyards.

Fountains range from a simple bird bath to elaborate multitiered streams. Fountains are a favorite do-it-yourself project because they are easy to assemble and the project can generally be accomplished in an afternoon.

Ponds and water gardens that feature colorful stones, unusual water flora and perhaps some fish are more popular that ever, primarily due to the broad availability of product at local home and garden centers.

When it comes to swimming, the trend is toward smaller, more intimate pools. However, what is lost in size is gained several-fold with elaborate components and finishes such as pebble-finished plaster, integral "beaches," stone coping, an infinity waterline and fiber optic lighting. Elaborate rock waterfalls that often double as a waterslide have become the rage and rival what can be found at many theme parks.

Safety first! Keep in mind that a child can drown in as little as a couple of inches of water. If you decide to incorporate water into your backyard fantasy, be sure to keep small children safe by taking the proper safety precautions.

Play structures and gazebos: When we were growing up, you were one lucky kid if you had a metal swing set in your backyard. Swings are as popular as ever. However, instead of being attached to a metal pole they are part of a complex wooden play structure that can include a fort, tire swing, fireman's pole, slide and climbing net.

Play structures can be built from scratch or easy-to-assemble kits can be found at most home and garden centers or backyard specialty stores.

A gazebo nestled into a lushly landscaped corner of the backyard can create an intimate storybook setting that can serve as a great location for a family meal or the perfect locale on a rainy day.

Many easy-to-install gazebo kits can be found at home and garden centers, lumber yards or specialty stores that sell play structures and other backyard basics. Copper roofing, built-in benches, lighting, and removable screens and shutters are a few of the available options that you might want to consider for your gazebo.

Fireplaces, fire pits and space heaters: To extend their enjoyment and maximize their investment, many people are spending time outdoors during chilly times of the year. A raging fire from a built-in fireplace or a fire pit provides a great source of heat and acts as a cozy conversation pit while sharing a cup of hot chocolate and toasting marshmallows. As with the outdoor kitchen a fireplace or fire pit can be custom-built or bought as a prefabricated component.

Fireplace or not, propane-fired portable space heaters are an excellent means of taking the chill off evening entertaining and because they are portable, they can be placed where they are most needed.

Landscaping and lighting: What tropical paradise would be complete without lush landscaping? There's no substitute for the beautiful colors and fragrances that landscaping can provide. Plus, strategically placed trees can lend some much needed shade for both the backyard and your home. Want to lower your utility bill in the summer? Plant a tree.

Artificial turf has been around on the gridiron for quite a while. However, now you can putt just like a pro right in your own backyard on a putting green made of synthetic turf. It looks and feels like grass with none of the maintenance -- no water, no fertilizer, no mowing.

Finally, a little landscape lighting can go a long way toward creating the perfect mood by highlighting trees, shrubs and other architectural elements and features. In addition, path and patio lighting can make getting around your backyard fantasy safer and easier.

Low voltage landscape lighting kits are more affordable than ever and, like most electronics, you just plug and play.

Karel’s Korner

. I am now almost 63 and as we age, priorities change as to what we want from life.

So let me share with you a couple of simple things you can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Do you know of a friend or loved one, who had dementia or any of the many brain waisting ailments? This is not something I want to happen to me or my clients or friends. So here's what I found out. Vitamin D3 together with Curcumin, a chemical found in the spice Tumeric, may stimulate the body's immune system to clear beta amyloid from the brain.

Beta Amyloid are waxy deposits that result from the degeneration of tissues and form plaques that are a distinguishing characteristic of Alzhimer's disease.

So try these simple steps to avoid any form of cognitive impairment.

Also rent the film "The Notebook" and keep a box of tissues near.

Live long and well.

If you can't stand the heat: Getting a new air conditioner


During a recent heat wave, the central air conditioning system failed in our home.

An investigation by a local heating and air conditioning contractor revealed that the compressor/condensing unit had met its demise and that the unit would need to be replaced. The good news was that our unit was more than 10 years old and even when operating at its peak was at best an energy hog.

The contractor said that the energy efficiency of air conditioning equipment had improved markedly in the last decade and that new "ultra energy efficient" equipment could cut cooling costs in half. Needless to say, the prospect of cutting an out of control utility bill had great appeal.

First, it may be useful to share a bit of information on how a central air conditioning system works. Most residential central air conditioning units consist of three main elements -- a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. With a conventional "split system," the evaporator is located within the air handler -- typically a furnace -- and the compressor and condenser are located within a radiator-clad box somewhere outside the home.

Refrigerant circulates through copper tubing that runs between the condenser and the evaporator. This refrigerant receives and releases heat as it raises and lowers in temperature, changing from a liquid to a gas and back to a liquid. The refrigerant is particularly cold when it starts to circulate through the indoor coil.

As the comfort systems fan pushes warm room air across this coil, the cold refrigerant absorbs so much heat from the air that it turns into a vapor. As a vapor, it travels to a compressor that pressurizes it and it moves through the outdoor coil, which gets rid of the heat. A fan helps to dissipate this heat. The refrigerant then passes through an expansion device which converts it to a low-pressure, low-temperature liquid, which returns to the indoor coil. And so the cycle continues.

According to Energy Star, a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through energy efficiency, you should consider replacing your air conditioning system with a new, more energy-efficient model that bears the Energy Star label if it is 10 years or older.

Replacing a central air conditioning system is not a do-it-yourself project. We suggest that you contact a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor who will be able to discuss the various considerations that must be made when purchasing and installing a new system.

Among the most important considerations is size. When it comes to central air conditioning, bigger isn't necessarily better. An oversized unit will experience increased operating costs and result in less comfort. Conversely, an undersized system will run much longer than it should and will likely never do an adequate job of cooling your home.

In the past, when it came to sizing a central air conditioning system, the rule-of-thumb was one ton of air conditioning capacity for every 500 square feet of living area. Today, sizing an air conditioning takes into consideration many factors and is far more complex than the old rule-of-thumb method.

Most professional heating and cooling contractors use a "Manual J" calculation to determine the size of a central air conditioning system. The Manual J Air Conditioning Sizing System was developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and takes into consideration factors such as insulation, window area, roof overhang, shading, duct location -- plus other relevant information.

Oversized equipment will operate in short run times or cycles, not allowing the unit to reach efficient operation or deliver even temperatures throughout the home. Another disadvantage to an oversized unit is that it will not run long enough to adequately remove excess humidity.

Studies show that summertime operation at 78 F and 30 percent relative humidity provides the same level of occupant comfort as does 74 F and 70 percent relative humidity. This lower humidity level will provide increased comfort, lower utility bills and less risk of health issues associated with high humidity.

To reduce wasted energy, the U.S. Department of Energy has established minimum efficiency standards for air conditioners. Every unit is given an efficiency rating, called a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating). The higher the SEER rating number, the more efficient the unit and the lower the cost to provide a given amount of cooling.

Though the minimum allowable SEER rating for a new central air conditioner has been 10, it will increase to 13 in January 2006. Ultra-efficient models have a SEER rating of 15 to 18.

When it comes to efficiency, don't be confused by terminology. "High efficiency" models meet the minimum SEER standard of 10. "Super-high" efficiency models have a SEER rating of 11 to 12 and "ultra-high" efficiency models are 12 and up.

To achieve a high SEER rating, an air conditioner may employ many energy-saving features: typically large coils for more efficient heat transfer and variable speed blower and fan motors to reduce electricity consumption.

Don't forget about your homes duct system. All too often, old heating and air conditioning systems are replaced without giving any thought to the old duct work. Properly installed and maintained duct work can last 20 years or more. But time, heat and humidity can degrade your ducts insulation. Over the years, your ducts may have collected contaminants that should be removed.

Have some of the rooms in your home been less comfortable than others? Have your contractor evaluate the amount of air each room should get and verify that your duct system is clean and configured to deliver the right air to the right rooms. It may even be time to consider replacing your duct system.