The Four Elements – Fire, Water, Earth, and House?
Do you need to make a change to any of the main elements? Fire. Water. Earth. And House?
Deductible Home Improvements When Selling a House
The Internal Revenue Services rewards you as a homeowner for maintaining your primary residence and making improvements over time. In addition to increasing the home’s value, you also get to deduct home improvement costs after you sell the home. Deducting improvements effectively reduces your capital gains from selling the home and your tax bill at tax time.
If you’ve lived in the home for two of the last five years leading up to the sale, you may deduct any improvement cost as long as it meets the IRS’s criteria. By their standards, the improvement must “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses.” Additionally, the improvement must be in place when you sell the home.
Plumbing & Heating
Any upgrades you’ve made to your home’s plumbing system qualify as a deductible home improvement. For example, if you’ve added a septic system or a water filtration system, these would qualify. Don’t include like for like piping or toilet replacements. A water conserving toilet or a piping system upgrade would qualify, however. If you’ve upgraded your boiler for one that’s more energy efficient include it as a deduction.
Room additions such as a sun room, deck or bedroom qualify, too. If you’ve upgraded your kitchen or added built-in appliances, these would also qualify. In general, the IRS favors any home modernization efforts that increase the home’s value. Upgraded flooring replacements qualify if they’re still in place at the time of sale. For example, if you installed new carpeting 10 years ago and replaced it before selling the home, you cannot deduct it. (See Reference 1)
Qualifying home exterior improvements include landscaping, an in-ground swimming pool, a new fence or roof replacement. The IRS considers some exterior home improvements as repairs and may not apply, however. For example, painting the exterior of your home may increase its value in the market place and to a buyer. But, in the IRS’s eyes, it does not add value, prolong its life or adapt it to new uses. Use these three rules when in doubt or speak with a tax professional.
Miscellaneous improvements that will stay with the home like a security or surround sound system or a built-in wireless network would also qualify as acceptable deductions. The IRS allows you to deduct the cost of window and door replacements that increase or improve its resistance to wind or storms. Attic, wall or piping insulation also qualifies since it adds value by reducing energy costs.
Summer Cleaning and Maintaining Your Lawn Mower
Simple tips to keep your lawn mower running all summer long
Maintenance is more than beneficial for the lawn. When you regularly tend to the grass, the lawn provides better conditions for your mower. If your grass is wet or there are clumps of pollen, it’s harder to mow in tall grass. A lawn mower should maintain a level height with the grass it’s cutting. One of the simplest and most effective ways to keep a mower working well is to keep the underside free of caked-on grass. If kept clean, the airflow beneath the mower will be sufficient to lift the grass straight up and provide a better cut. The cleaning process is simple: Disconnect the spark plug, then tilt the mower on its side, and scrape down the underside of the mower with a paint scraper. As for those grass cuttings, no need to bag them for hauling out to the curb it’s a terrific natural fertilizer.
Maintaining the Air Filter and Fuel
Keep an eye on two key components: the air filter and fuel. Those are the two things that will determine the longevity of your mower. A clean air filter keeps your mower working efficiently; follow the owner’s manual for detailed instructions on installing a replacement filter. Always use fresh fuel-only E10 or less-labeled with the date of purchase and ethanol content for proper storage in a cool, dark place. If you’re in a humid area, your fuel will stale more quickly. Never leave fuel sitting in the gas tank of your mower for more than 30 days. Untreated gasoline (without a fuel stabilizer) left in the system will deteriorate, which may cause problems starting up the machine and even damage it. At the end of the season, run the machine all day to empty it of fuel. Once spring returns, refill the mower with fresh gasoline. Give your mower a regular inspection, checking for loose belts and missing or damaged parts. Replace any parts needed or take your mower to a qualified service representative for servicing.
Changing the Oil
There’s one telling hint to the health of your mower, and that is the oil. Consult your owner’s manual for the right method and type of oil to use. Monitor the oil level in your mower and look for floating debris or oil that appears discolored. Old or contaminated oil should always be drained and replaced. To change the oil, remove the drain plug underneath the mower and allow it to drain completely. If your mower doesn’t have a drain plug, you’ll need to carefully tilt the mower on its side and drain the oil through the fill hole. Dispose of the oil properly. Most towns have oil recycling centers available for free.
Keeping the blade sharp will give you a consistently clean cut. It’s like scissors. If you’re getting an uneven cut on the grass, it’s time to sharpen your blades. Depending on how often your mower is out on the lawn, the blade may be sharpened a few times during the summer months. A garden shop equipped with a professional grinder will give the best results. For servicing, you can either take the entire mower to the shop or remove the blade with a wrench. If you chose to remove the blade yourself, first unplug the spark plug, and be sure to wear a pair of sturdy work gloves to protect your hands whenever handling a sharp cutting part.
And what if something gets caught in your mower? Simply turn off the machine, inspect the undercarriage, and remove the lodged item from the bag catcher or discharge. If you take care of it, it’s almost indestructible.
Replacing a Range?
If you like to cook, getting a new range can be a real treat. Cooking will be even more pleasurable with all the new technology available. You may even decide to spring for a professional-style range, with high-output burners and other bells and whistles. But before you make your decision, there are a few things to consider.
Here are nine questions often asked by homeowners who are planning to swap out their old range for a gleaming new one.
How do I know if my new range will fit in the existing space?
Whenever you’re shopping for a new appliance, the best advice is “measure, measure, measure.” Once you know your available space, compare that with the specifications of the model you intend to buy.
That said, ranges tend to come in standard sizes, and if you’re replacing your old stove with another the same size, you should be fine. The most common size for a range (a combination of cooktop and oven) is 30 inches wide, 36 inches high (so the top is flush with the typical kitchen counter), and 25 inches deep—though the oven door handle can add a few inches. Cooks who prefer six burners might opt for a 36-inch range, and there are a lot of these on the market.
A compact range is typically 24 inches, but can be as narrow as 20 inches.
Professional-style ranges (such as those made by Viking, Wolf, and Thermador) can be 30, 36, 48, or 60 inches wide; some are taller than the standard 36-inch height.
What’s the difference between a slide-in range and a stand-alone range?
A slide-in range sits flush with the countertop and cabinets once it’s installed, slightly overlapping the countertop for a seamless custom look. The sides might be finished or, since they’re not visible, unfinished.
A freestanding (or stand-alone) range is also the same height as the countertop, but without an overlap, which leaves a narrow, hard-to-clean gap between range and counter edge. Because it has finished sides, the freestanding range doesn’t have to butt up against a counter or cabinets.
How can I make space to upsize to a larger range?
“Depending on your kitchen layout, this usually requires adjusting the countertop and remodeling the cabinetry. Removing one cabinet doesn’t always solve the problem, as you might then have space left over. You could build a new smaller cabinet, or add a filler panel that matches the other cabinets.”
Can I switch from an electric range to a gas range?
Going from electric to gas is relatively easy, as long as gas is offered in your community. If you already have a capped gas line in your kitchen, the installer can quickly hook up your new stove to the gas line. If you have an existing gas line but it’s too far from where you plan to install the new range, you’ll need a licensed plumber to run a new line. The cost depends on how long the line needs to be.
Adding a new gas line to your home involves more work. Ask a licensed plumber what the job will entail.
Today’s gas stoves also require electricity, since these ranges no longer use pilot lights to ignite the burners. The ignition source comes from an electric igniter located at each burner. But while an electric stove uses 240 volts, your new gas stove requires only 120 volts. A licensed electrician can convert your existing wiring configuration to provide the 120-volt circuit.
Can I switch from an electric (or gas) range to a dual-fuel range?
In a dual-fuel range, the cooktop is gas and the oven is electric. If you’re replacing an electric range, you already have the 240-volt electrical line required by the dual-fuel range; you’ll only need to add the gas line.
Switching from a gas range to a dual-fuel range is a bit more complicated. A gas range operates on 120 volts of power, but the dual-fuel range requires 240 volts. So you’ll need a licensed electrician to run a new larger electrical wire from the panel breaker to the stove location and hook up a new 240-volt receptacle there.
Upgrading to a professional range. What else do I need to upgrade?
First, if you’re trading up to one of the larger professional-style ranges, make sure it will fit through your doorways!
Unlike the commercial ranges used in restaurant kitchens, a pro-style range can be installed next to cabinets, without extra insulation or a sprinkler system. These ranges all have gas burners, but some are dual-fuel, with electric ovens. If you have a gas stove already, the same gas supply will suffice, but you may need to upgrade the electrical circuit to 240 volts for an electric oven.
You may also need to upgrade your ventilation system, since a vent hood that exhausts outside is required by code (with a few exceptions) for a pro-style range. The more BTUs the range puts out, the more air (measured in cubic feet per minute, or CFM) the blower in your exhaust hood needs to remove, so your choice of hood will depend on the CFM rating.
Your local building code may also require what’s called “make-up air” to replace the exhausted air with fresh new air. This means more ducting and another vent in your ceiling or wall.
Finally, you may want to upgrade your range hood for aesthetic reasons, just to have matching pieces by the same manufacturer.
Is Your House Water Trying to Tell You Something?
If your have discolored water it is!
If you have yellow, red, or orange water, you have rust in the water. The variation in color depends on the oxidation of the rust. Rust in the water will not cause health issues.
The rusty water can come from either the city’s water main or the pipes in your house. If your issue only arises when using cold water, if the color change is sudden, or if the color is discolored at all faucets, then it is a city water main issue. Cities usually do an annual flush of the water main to remove sediment, so the problem might go away on its own. However, if there is low flow in your area, the discolored water can continue.
While the discolored water is not a health threat, it can stain clothes, so don’t do laundry while the discoloration is occurring. If you do get a rusty color on clothes, don’t use bleach. The chemical reaction will make the stain permanent. All you need to do is rewash your clothes.
Is the water discolored every morning, but the water clears after a few minutes? Then the discoloration is at one faucet, or the discoloration is in your hot water. If the problem is in your home, then you need to replace the rusted pipes. Do you have galvanized pipes and want to replace the corroded pipes with copper? Then make sure to connect them properly. Connecting them directly, the copper to the galvanized pipes, can cause the galvanized pipes to rust faster.
If you have green-blue water, this is an issue with copper plumbing or brass fittings. If you have this color in your water, it can cause health problems and needs to be immediately remedied. Large amounts of copper in the water can cause gastrointestinal, kidney, and/or liver issues.
If you have black water, this could be a mold issue and you should call a plumber to investigate.
If you have pink water, a harmless organism is growing in your water. It causes no health issues.
If you have blue water, your toilet tank with disinfectant has sprung a leak and is mixing into your water supply. Call a plumber to fix the leak.
If you have pure green water, algae is growing in your water supply.
Discolored water is a symptom of a bigger problem. To diagnose this problem, have a plumber assess the situation and run tests on your water. Only a licensed plumber is qualified to give a definitive answer on why your water is discolored.
- Deductible improvements for your house. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/deductible-home-improvements-selling-house-81041.html
- How to maintain your lawn mower. https://www.marthastewart.com/1539064/how-clean-maintain-your-lawn-mower?did=537145-20200626&utm_campaign=martha-stewart-living_newsletter&utm_source=marthastewart.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=062620&cid=537145&mid=36030785409
- How to choose the best new range for you. https://www.remodelista.com/posts/what-to-know-when-replacing-range-stove-oven-remodeling-101/
- What your water is telling you. https://www.femoran.com/hvac-plumbing-construction-blog/discolored-water-what-different-colors-can-tell-you-about-your-water-supply
~ 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 The Four Elements – Fire, Water, Earth, and House? And check in next week for more cool tips!
“The Four Elements – Fire, Water, Earth, and House?” Show Notes for On The House with the Carey Brothers aired July 25, 2020.
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