Show Notes: To Repair Or To Replace
Much like Hamlet asking, “to be or not to be,” we ask the hard questions like, “to repair or to replace?”
We also discuss
- things you can find out about your home
- interior design trends for 2020
- cleaning a kitchen range exhaust system
- Check out this article on range hood ventilation!
- and a step by step program for choosing flooring!
Missed our live show? Don’t worry! Because we have a podcast of the show. It’s the same thing we aired on the radio, but ready for you whenever and wherever you are! Check it out here.
18 Important Things You Can Find Out About Your Home – Free of Charge
You can never know too much about your home. Whether you’re renting or buying, you’re in a house or an apartment, or you currently live there or are planning to move, knowledge is power. Fortunately, there’s a lot of free public housing information out there. Perfect for some detective work!
Though each area is different, we researched and spoke with experts to get guidance on what details you can find out about your property, and where to find them. Word to the wise: If you’re having trouble finding the right department for your research, it may go by a different name or be under another division. For this information, contact your city hall.
Here are a few of the major things you can find out about the place you might soon choose as your home:
- Construction Date
Want to know when your home was built? Give your city’s building and safety department a call. They should have a record of your building’s permits.
- Assessor’s Identification/Parcel Number (AIN or APN)
An AIN is assigned to a parcel of land by a tax assessor. It is meant to help with property identification and recordkeeping, so having this number can help you easily find additional details about your property.
You can find the AIN on your property’s deed, title report, or annual property tax bill. If you don’t have these in your possession, you can contact your county assessor or clerk for assistance.
- Property Value and Tax History
County assessors possess a wealth of property information, including the value of your property, tax information, and recent sale information. For the original value of the property, you can request building permits from your county’s building and safety department.
Your local library can also help you access this information. Sites like Zillow provide this information as well.
- Environmental Factors
For data about air quality, water quality, energy production, health risks, climate, and more, the Environmental Protection Agency has a MyEnvironment portal where you can search for these facts by inputting your address.
- Name of Contractor, Architect, and Original Owner
If you’re curious about who originally built and owned your property, you can visit your city’s building and safety department. Your library can also point you in the right direction.
- Ownership History
If you want to know about everyone who has ever owned your property, pay your county clerk a visit. They are responsible for maintaining public records like property deeds. You can also try using online city directories, census records, or voter registration records that allow you to look up residents by address. From there, you can search newspaper archives (which include birth, marriage, and death announcements) for additional information about each person.
Probate records are court records that can also be utilized. They outline distribution of an individual’s estate after their death. You can find these records at your county courthouse, and they can help you trace ownership by finding out who inherited your property after a previous owner passed away.
For details about the current property owner, you can visit your city’s assessor. If you have the assessor number available (see #3 on this list), make sure to bring it.
- Property Changes
Shuman Roy, a home insurance writer for Expert Insurance Reviews, tells Hunker that the Freedom of Information Act can provide details on any changes that have been made to your property. All you have to do is submit a FOIA request with your local building department. You can find out exactly how to do that on the FOIA website.
“Your town’s building department has a file on each property within its jurisdiction,” Roy states. “Whether you are renting or purchasing your property, you can get an actual history on the property by reviewing all of the construction permits filed, identifying which contractors did the work, and reviewing any variances that were requested on the property.” This information can also help you plan any changes you’d like to make in the future.
For zoning details involving land use and building environment, you can visit your local planning department. They can tell you more about the size, shape, style, and location of your building — as well as any regulations your property falls under.
- Building Violations
Real estate attorney Samuel Goldberg tells Hunker that your local housing department can help you find information about building violations. Take NYC as an example: “In New York City, a tenant can go onto the HPD (Housing Preservation Department) website,” Goldberg says. “When you enter your address, you can find out lots of information about the owners of the building, [such as] if the building is validly registered with HPD, and if there are any violations in common areas of the building or in individual apartments.” Your housing department can even help you report a violation.
Suro also recommends looking through city, county, and courthouse records to find out if any illegal improvements were made (ones you can’t find a permit for), if property information was ever incorrectly reported (so you can fix it), and if the previous owner was fined for anything.
- Rent Control
To find out if your building is rent controlled, you can visit your local planning or housing department. Sally Richman, a Senior Housing Planning Economic Analyst at the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department, tells Hunker that a housing department can also provide in-depth information on “rent stabilization, rental housing inspection, [and] affordable and accessible rental housing searches.”
- School Information
To read up on your property’s school district, you can search for the address on a real estate website. Real estate expert Benjamin Ross tells Hunker that this website can also provide you with “in-depth data on any school’s performance, including test scores, school rank comparisons, attendance rates, and demographics.”
- Historic Photos
You might be able to find historical images of your neighborhood or home by contacting your local library or historical society. Suro also recommends checking Google Maps to see how a property looked at various points in time.
- Tract Maps
To view a map of your property divisions and the surrounding area, reach out to your county’s building or engineering department. If they have the original property records, this department can also provide you with the name of the original owner and property subdivisions.
- Physical Structure and Blueprint Information
The number of rooms, purpose of the building, material of construction, property size, initial value, and additional information about your structure can be found in your building’s permits and blueprints, via the records kept at your building and safety department. Visit the department’s website for information on how to request these records.
- Unit Features
Interested in moving, but want to make sure your prospective unit has all the features you need? Take a look at real estate websites like Zillow, which can have detailed information about the appliances and heating and cooling systems in your apartment.
To find out how much utilities might cost — before you even move — you can look up your state’s residential electricity and gas (for both your home and car) data through the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For phone, trash, internet, and all other bills, look up companies that service the area and call for an estimate. They may even have special promotions for new customers.
- Parking Information and Restrictions
This is especially valuable for people living in larger cities with strict parking regulations. For more information about local parking laws, you can visit your department of transportation. To learn more about a specific building’s parking situation, look up the property on a real estate site.
- Street Name History
Your local history department or organization might have records (and fun facts) on how your street name has changed over time, and how it first got its name.
To Repair Or To Replace?
To repair, or not to repair? That is the question on most homeowners’ minds when their appliance is on the fritz. Appliances are an investment, and you want to make them last as long as possible, but there are times when the cost of maintaining and up-keeping your appliance is greater than purchasing a new one. How do you know when to call an appliance repair technician or when to start shopping for something new? Here are a few things to consider:
Is your appliance still under warranty?
It is not uncommon for appliances to have issues within their first few years. If your appliance is new, check if your warranty covers the repair. Sure, there are rare occasions that you may have purchased a lemon appliance, but often the issue is due to an error in installation, plumbing or electrical line problems, or it could be user error. If your appliance is still under warranty, opt to repair instead of replacing it.
Is it the end of your appliance’s useful life?
All good things must come to an end, including your appliance’s life. Someday the time will come when it costs more to continually maintain your appliance than it does to buy a new one. It is advised to use the 50% rule – if your appliance is 50% through its lifespan, the cost to fix it should be less than 50% of the price of a new appliance. According to Consumer Report, here is a list of the life expectancy of modern appliances:
- Gas Range: 15 years
- Range & Oven Hoods: 14 years
- Electric Range: 13 years
- Dryers (electric and gas): 13 years
- Refrigerators: 13 years
- Garbage Disposal: 12 years
- Freezers: 11 years
- Washing Machines: 10 years
- Microwaves: 9 years
- Dishwashers: 9 years
- Compactors: 6 years
With proper care and usage, the lifespan of your appliance can exceed these averages. At Westside, we pride ourselves on making honest recommendations when we believe it would be best for our customer to replace their appliance than to repair it.
Could proper maintenance extend the life of your appliance?
Guilty of overloading your washing machine or not scraping off excess food before placing your dishes in the dishwasher? When was the last time you had your dryer vents or refrigerator coils cleaned? Have you changed your washer hose since it’s been installed? If putting in a little time, TLC and money for preventative maintenance on your appliances will help extend its life, choose to repair it instead of replacing it.
Interior Design Trends For 2020
- Zen dens
- Separate closed-off living spaces called “zen dens” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation will be gaining in popularity this year. It’s not like splitting up the house, but a place you can get away from it.
- Master suites expand
- Master bedrooms and baths are getting more love. Homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day
- Inside and outside continue to blend
- Extending great rooms and family rooms into the backyard makes entertaining easier and allows for more and comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice
- Wallpaper and texture provide new depth
- Wallpaper designs and textures can make a room feel more dynamic and personal
- Velvet becomes a staple
- Velvet is becoming preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather. Expect to see more bedding accessories and pillows to add additional texture to a room
- Blue is the color to incorporate
- Dark and navy blue can serve a neutral colors for a room and pair with lighter colors for a pop
- Say goodbye to gray
- Everything is going to warm up. Designers are returning to shades of brown and beige as well as navy
- Computer rooms are out – charging stations are in
- Rethink your space; with everyone using laptops, tablets and phones there is no reason to dedicate an entire room for a computer
- Minimalism move over
- Homeowners are embracing more eclectic styles
Cleaning A Kitchen Range Exhaust System
Keep your filters clean and you can improve your air quality and reduce fire risk.
The ventilation system above or next to your stove top serves several important functions in the kitchen. It helps remove moisture, smoke and odors, helps improve indoor air quality, and most importantly, helps trap flammable, aerated grease that is creating during the cooking process. Some states or cities require a ventilation hood to be present in the kitchen but even if your area doesn’t require one, you’ll want to make sure one is installed in your kitchen. Regularly cleaning and maintaining this ventilation system will help it function better, remove bacteria and mold, and reduce the risk of a kitchen fire.
Why your kitchen needs an exhaust system
In addition to whisking away odors, steam and smoke, a good ventilation or exhaust system will suck in and trap tiny grease and oil particles that would otherwise end up drifting throughout the kitchen and into rest of the home. Additionally, if you cook with natural gas, understand that a certain amount of nitrogen dioxide (along with carbon monoxide and formaldehyde) may be produced when cooking. These chemicals are bad for the lungs and can aggravate people with asthma or respiratory issues. When cooking, always turn on the exhaust system to help improve the indoor air quality.
How to clean the hood, filters and ventilation system
The exhaust system filters act as a trap for grease and oil and should be cleaned or replaced often. How often depends on the type of filter system as well as how often you cook. If you wok fry food weekly, for example, a monthly cleaning will be necessary. But most find that a regular schedule of cleaning the filters every 3 months is the best way to keep a routine that you can stick to. Recirculating hoods use charcoal disposable filters and should be replaced every 6 to 12 months. Check with your manufacturer for more specific replacement or cleaning instructions.
To clean the wire mesh filters first remove them from the hood or ventilation system. You can either wash them by hand with warm soapy water (some find that baking soda works great too) or you can place them in an empty dishwasher and run a full cycle. You may need to repeat these methods if they are particularly greasy. Once they are clean, inspect them to ensure there is no rusted or broken parts. Let them dry completely before placing them back in the ventilation system.
The rest of the ventilation system, like the hood, should also be periodically cleaned. Most hoods are made from stainless steel so use a cleaning product designed for this material. You’ll want to remove dust, grease and debris and always rub the stainless steel in the direction of the grain.
Commercial kitchens regularly have the entire exhaust system cleaned to remove grease and prevent dangerous fires. Homeowners can have this done as well; find a professional who is a member of the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association.
What happens if you don’t clean the stove ventilation system
The three biggest reasons for keeping the filters and ventilation hood clean are better indoor air quality, reduction of bacteria and mold, and fire risk reduction. As mentioned above, having a functioning and clean ventilation system will help create a healthier indoor air quality. This is especially important in the cooler months of fall and winter when many homeowners are cooking inside more and have the windows closed.
The warm and moist environment directly above a hot stovetop is perfect for growing bacteria and mold, especially when there is a steady supply of food particles and oils. Dust can also stick to this grease buildup and create a nasty mess, not to mention a bad smell.
Kitchen fires are a very real hazard that you need to be aware of. When cooking on the stove, high heat mixed with oil can create a flame. If this flame is high enough, or near enough a grease-soaked filter, the flames can catch and spread. A grease or cooking fire can be very scary, spread quickly, and is responsible for 50% of reported residential house fires every year. Always keep a fire extinguisher labeled “for cooking fires” or with a “K” to put out a kitchen grease fire.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Flooring
Choosing flooring is far more complicated than just finding the best-looking product. Several other factors–moisture, durability, costs, and more–greatly influence your decision. Follow these five steps in order to reach the flooring decision that is right for you and your home.
Will Your Floor Be Installed in a Basement, Full Bathroom, or Other High Moisture Area?
|Your Answer||Choose This Flooring|
|Yes||You need flooring that is suited for a high- or medium-moisture environment, such as concrete, ceramic or porcelain tile, or vinyl tile.|
|No||Moisture is not a limiting factor. At this point, all types of flooring still may be used. Proceed to next step.|
Do You Have Pets, Children, or Any Other Extra Need for a Durable Floor?
|Your Answer||Choose This Flooring|
|Yes||You will need a floor with superior wear resistance. Some flooring that appears to be wear resistant often is not. For example, site-finished solid hardwood can easily scratch. Its saving grace is that scratches can be sanded out. Instead, try a durable flooring like ceramic or porcelain tile, laminate flooring, plank vinyl flooring, or even carpeting.|
|No||While everyone wants a durable floor, durability is not a chief factor in your decision. Proceed to next step.|
What Is Your Square Footage Budget?
|Your Answer||Choose This Flooring|
|$2.00 or less||You will find bargain laminate flooring hovering around this price; nothing gorgeous but it has a general wood-like appearance. Sheet and tile resilient flooring can also be found in this price range. Lots of gorgeous ceramic and porcelain tile can be found in this range–but tile is truly a labor-intensive installation.|
|$2.00-$5.00||The sweet spot price range for many types of flooring. You can snag some domestic solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring, but do not expect any exotic woods. The more attractive laminates fall in this range, as well as higher quality luxury vinyl tile.|
|$5.00 or more||Increasing your price range means you can explore some of the harder, more exotic hardwood and engineered wood options–kempas, ipe, brazilian cherry, mahogany. The highest quality, premium laminate and luxury vinyl flooring products will be found here.|
Do You Want Flooring That Requires Very Little Maintenance?
|Your Answer||Choose This Flooring|
|Absolutely. It Is My Primary Concern||Any form of resilient (vinyl) flooring is best: tile, sheet, or plank. Laminate flooring is a close second, only because it needs special cleaning methods. Because wet mops can ruin it, use an extremely damp mop or a system like a Swiffer Wet Jet.
Buy on Amazon – Swiffer Wet Jet
|Would Be Nice, But Not the Most Important Thing||With solid hardwood, you trade beauty for maintenance. I don’t care what the manufacturers say: solid or engineered wood is work, but it’s worth it. One major task: keep high-traffic areas covered with throw rugs and runners.|
Do You Want To Install Your Flooring By Yourself?
|Your Answer||Choose This Flooring|
|Yes||By installing your flooring yourself, you can often cut your entire flooring cost in half. Laminate flooring and plank vinyl flooring tend to be the easiest floor coverings for homeowners to self-install. Both are floating floors, which means that each board connects to an adjacent board (not to the subfloor). Ceramic and porcelain tile installation is not as self-evident as laminate and vinyl installation. Hone your learning curve on an out-of-the-way room, like a basement bathroom.|
|No||Wall to wall carpet is tough for DIYers to lay down perfectly flat. Nail-down solid hardwood and engineered wood floors are best installed by pros. As mentioned, ceramic/porcelain tile can be self-installed; it is more a matter of whether you want it installed well.
Many flooring retailers do not offer in-house installation, though they may maintain a list of favored local installers..
2020 CHINESE NEW YEAR FLOWER FAIR
JANUARY 18 AND 19, 2020
Chinatown, San Francisco
Grant Ave. from Clay to Broadway, Pacific, Jackson and Washington between Stockton and Kearny
Each year, the Chinese New Year Flower Fair takes place the weekend before the Lunar New Year holiday, so that families can enjoy the festive atmosphere and purchase fresh flowers, fruits, candies and brand new supplies for the home to begin the new lunar year.
Delight in performances of traditional Chinese magicians, acrobats, folk dancers and opera as you take in the beautiful fragrances of spring. You will find over 120 booths and concessions making this a shopper’s paradise.
- Fruits – Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness. The Cantonese word for tangerine, gut, sounds like good luck, while oranges, gum sound like gold. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one’s relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children.
- Flowers and Plants – Flowers and plants symbolize growth and if a plant blooms on New Year’s Day, this will signify a year of prosperity. The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits to bear seeds for the next generation. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations in the home to begin a new year.
- Candies – Sweets are served to family and friends when they visit your home during Chinese New Year. The candies are displayed on a Harmony Tray in either groups of nine which sounds like longevity or eight, a homonym for prosperity.
~ Thank you~
A very special thank you to all of our callers! We live to answer your questions, so keep them coming!
Thank you to our Technical Support:
- Danny Bringer – Chief Engineer
- Carol “Remodeling Babe” Carey – Executive Producer
- Sam Reed – Associate Producer
- Rico Figliolini – Digital Master
Thank you for tuning in to find out how to repair or to replace! And check in next week for more cool tips!
“To Repair Or To Replace” Show Notes for On The House with the Carey Brothers aired January 18, 2020.