Is Your Sump Pump Working?

This winter in Northeast Ohio hasn’t been bad.  Temperatures are nothing compared to what they used to be a few years back, and snow accumulation has been minimal — my daughter is still waiting for enough snow to build our annual igloo — and unless February brings too much snow to make up for January’s, the climate in Northeast Ohio is not too shabby.

Spring will come sooner than you think.  The rains will undoubtedly come too, and with the rains come flooded basements in many homes around here.  We are humans, and busy humans to boot.  We don’t check many things around the home, unless we have an emergency or pay someone to do it for us.  For example: When was the last time you checked the sump pump to make sure it works? Do you know if you have one?  A sump pump can be an incredible help if you have a flooded basement, and making sure is in working condition can be very beneficial for your whole family.

If you have a sump pump and are wondering what to do, these are some of the basic things you need to check to make sure it’s working properly.

  1. The electrical system of the sump pump can suffer from damages over time.  Power surges during storms can damage it and leave you with a sump pump that no longer works.
  2. If you are testing the sump pump, make sure you go outside to make sure that is discharging the water.
  3. Replace the battery every couple years.
  4. Make sure the motor of your sump pump is not making strange noises when running it.  If it is, follow the manufactures’s instruction to fix the problem, or call a knowledgeable company to fix it for you.
  5. Make sure the drain lines are clean, and will not block the water exits.
  6. Maintenance is key for your sump pump.  The manufacture’s instruction booklet can give you clear instructions on how to properly maintaining your sump pump, and keep it working for years.

If you have already one installed, checking it before the rains arrive can be a very helpful aid when you most need it. Look into the manufacture’s booklet to know what steps to take before you test it, or call a knowledgeable person or company to do it for you.

Looking at any Home Depot, or Lowes store, you will find that there are hundreds of sump pumps to choose from.  Make sure that if you are going to replace the one you have, you need to make sure it is the right one for your home.  A too little or too big sump pump for your home cannot be good and even shorten its life. Talk to a professional if you are unsure what to buy.


Living Responsibly This Year

As of the first quarter of 2016, and according to an article published by Time magazine about retirement, 1 in 3 Americans have saved $0 dollars for retirement.  The difficulties of saving for retirement has plagued the nation by increasing health and car insurance premiums, mortgage payments, college increases and everything else in between. Back in 2013, more than 3 quarters of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck. In 2016, more than half of Americans have less than $1,000 dollars to their names according to a Forbes magazine article, and many people will have difficulty paying for a $400 dollar emergency.

There are many polls and articles about the reason Trump got elected the next president of the United States, and the reason may seem reasonable for those who voted for him; They believe he will make their lives better.

But many economists, analyst,and people that Do know economics believe the top 1% will be the only people that benefit from a Trump presidency.  If you are in the 1%, congratulations! But if you checked the links above and checked the Times’ article, and you are one of those Americans that are living from paycheck to paycheck, then you will have to wait and see if a Trump presidency is beneficial to you.

We, as individuals have to take care of our finances first, before we can take care of many other issues concerning our lives.  Regardless who is the president at the moment, our personal finances are our responsibility and have to take care of them responsibly.

There are many safety precautions we take with our children to live a safe and prosperous life, and here are the 3  insurances we must have to live a responsible life, and to protect our children in case of an accident.

  1. Homeowners Insurance —For many people, their home is their greatest asset.  If they have equity, if their home has gone up in value, or they have done a good job remodeling, chances are the home is their greatest asset.
  2. Disability and Life Insurance— Health insurance is and has been mandatory since 2014.  You must carry a minimum level of health insurance coverage or risk paying a tax penalty fee otherwise. Life insurance isa protection for your family in case something should happen to the main provider.
  3. Car Insurance —In many states in no longer possible to register your car without proof of insurance.  Having enough insurance to protect yourself and any passengers traveling with you at any time is the prudent thing to do.

Living responsibly means taking care of those frustrating issues that we would rather not.  Insurance to protect our assets and the health and well being of our family falls into that category of frustrating issues. Live well and responsibly. Take care of your family issues.


Taking Care of Your Home

Remodeling the basement is not a top priority for many families.  Their budgets do not allow the expense of remodeling a whole basement, or the upper stories offer all the space they need.  But regardless of what your situation is, having a waterproofed basement is a necessity many families need to have.

If your basement is wet, has too much humidity, has mold, or has crack on the walls, you need to have your basement check by a knowledgeable person to determine the damage and to find a solution. 

The many illnesses associated to mold found in basements across the country are many; From eye, nose and skin irritation for those allergic to mold to respiratory system problems that are very dangerous to people’s health.  Wet basements are not a very nice place to be in they are in disarray, but offer the much needed space for a growing family.

Taking care of your home does not begin or end with the basement.  But, the basement and foundation of your home are very important parts of your home that you need to take care if they have problems before looking to fix something else.  These are some other things you can do to protect your home.

  1. Make sure the gutters and downspouts are properly connected, and free of debris.  Make a conscious effort to clean the gutters after the fall to ensure they are free of leaves and make sure the downspouts are taking the water away from the foundation of your home. From 5ft. to 10ft. ensures the water won’t find a way to the basement of your home.
  1. The mulch on the flower beds around the home should not reach above the sealant of the foundation. Flatten the mulch on the flower beds making sure there is no stagnant water anywhere near the foundation.
  1. Have you checked the grading around your home? The cement driveway can over time become unleveled and allow water to sit around the foundation, and inadvertently find a way to the basement of your home.
  1. The roof of your home is an expensive home repair you have to keep in mind.  Many homeowners overlook this simple maintenance home inspection check that can save you thousands if you find the problem quickly. Checking the roof of your home every year allows you to catch a problem before it gets too big.  Loose shingles or curling shingles are some of the first signs you need to check to see if you have a problem with the roof of your home.
  1. The moulding around your exterior windows should be checked periodically to make sure it’s in good condition.
  1. Have you checked your shed? How is the roof? A good quality shed at one of your Home Depot or Lowe’s stores can set you back close to a thousand dollars.  Why not check the roof, walls and doors to make sure they are in good condition, and if not, make the small necessary fixes to prolong its life?

For many of us, our home is the biggest asset we have.  By taking care of our homes, we increase its value while allowing us to live in a place that we can truly call home, and live comfortably ever after.


Buyer Beware – Don’t Fall for the “Tricks” of Home Selling

housesMagazines, TV shows, blogs and your neighborhood realtors’ newsletters are all full of good ideas on how to influence people to buy your house.  What you don’t see as much are the magazines, TV shows, blogs and your neighborhood realtors’ newsletters full of good ideas on how to avoid that influence if you’re the buyer.

Buying a house is a difficult, confusing, time consuming task, and none of us want to make a bad choice.  Here are some suggestions to combat realtors and sellers attempts to sway you.

Smell

Sellers are encouraged to bake cookies, burn candles and use deodorizers to cover up unpleasant smells (mold, animal, dirty/musty, teenage boy, etc).  They’re also used to distract from nearby outside smells (farms, factories, neighbors’ kennels, sewage, etc).

Don’t be affected.  The chocolate chip smell doesn’t mean you’re in your cozy childhood home, and that wonderful cinnamon/vanilla candle combination might be masking the cat odor in the carpet.  If you’re serious about a house ask for “no smelly stuff” when you schedule your 2nd visit and go sniffing through it.

Fresh paint

Sometimes fresh paint is covering old or unattractive paint and sometimes it’s covering mold and water damage.  From the attic to the basement water damage is a fairly common problem in Northeastern Ohio houses; it would be wise to look for it.

Was the entire bedroom ceiling painted or just certain spots (roof leak)?  Has the whole dining room been freshened up or just the wall under the upstairs shower?  Are the freshly painted outside basement walls covering up big problems? 

Look for discolorations in suspicious areas.  Water stains and mold can bleed through paint.  You may be able to see faint outlines if you’re looking for them.  In addition to looking, feel for texture differences. 

Water damage can weaken the drywall, changing the texture and making it soft to the touch.  Does it give or feel mushy if you press it?  Does it look different from the surrounding areas?  Does the odd colored area on the outside basement wall feel moister or cooler (possible water) than another?  Ask the realtor about the spots and bring them to the attention of your inspector.

Creating the Dream

“Imagine your family eating together in this large, airy kitchen.”  “The basement is perfect for that man cave your husband wants.”  “Oh no, the house isn’t too big.  You can turn that extra room into your own private office.” 

Good realtors understand how to get you emotionally invested in a house.  Some will greet you at the door of a house saying, “Welcome home.”  Hopefully, your realtor will help you keep your feet firmly on the ground — just remember they’re trying to sell you something.

But, ultimately it’s up to you to look out for your best interests.  Falling in love with a house may sound romantic and seem necessary, but it can cause poor judgment.  Dreams are nice, except when they lead to buying a lemon.

Watch the TV shows and read the articles through an unemotional buyer’s eyes.  They come close to saying, “Assume the buyer is clueless and can be tricked with candles, staging, neutral paint, natural light and emotional manipulation.”  Buyers beware indeed.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

The Fun Part of Waterproofing the Basement – Decorating It

stock-photo-3164773-executive-home-bar-and-entertainment-roomYou finally got your basement waterproofed.  It’s dry, looks good and smells even better.  Now it can be used as an actual living, working, and storage space.   This is where the fun starts; it’s time to decorate.

Basements can be a decorating challenge because they’re usually used for a variety of different functions (i.e. workshop, crafts, kid’s play area, storage, media room, workout equipment, laundry, meditation).  Some of these uses are utilitarian and straightforward, while others are more esoteric and personal. 

Here are some decorating ideas to make your spaces functional and uniquely your own.

Use the walls

Too often walls are used only to hang pictures on or put furniture against; there are other uses for them.  Think about using your storage needs as a decorating opportunity.  Depending on the function of the room consider using bookcases, cubbies, lockers, storage units or shelving.  Add corresponding baskets or plastic totes and you have a functional as well as decorative feature. 

Exercise room – metal shelves for weights, workout DVDs, fitness balls/mats and clear plastic totes for smaller items.  Kid’s play room – shelving (sturdy and secured to the wall) painted in primary colors for books, games, baskets and colored totes for toys.  Media room – bookcases for DVDs, electronic equipment and baskets for remotes.

Consider the ceiling

People don’t consider the ceiling when they’re thinking of decorating.  But, the basement can be different – like the walls, the ceiling can be used for decoration and function.  If you have overhead space there are some creative ways to use it.

Kid’s play room – string a net from the ceiling between 2 corners and use it to store balls.  Workshop – save garage space by hang bikes or golf bags along the wall, out of the way, with ceiling hooks.  Storage room – that Christmas tree doesn’t have to take up valuable self or floor space; some overhead hanging units can hold up to 250 lbs. 

Remember the stairs

The space under the stairs is usually left to spiders and bugs.  There are many pre-made cubbies, shelves and bookcases that fit under standard basement steps or you can get built-in shelves or cabinetry. 

Getting to decorate after your basement has been waterproofed is exciting, and there are a lot of good ideas you can use.  Just keep in mind that simple and uncluttered never goes out of style.  Cluttered and disorganized will make even an Architectural Digest room look bad.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

Make Your Basement Safe for Storage

pioneer (9)It’s the unusual, and lucky, person who doesn’t want more storage space. Even people who are ruthless about clutter need a place for their “must keep” items.  Thank goodness for basements.  When used properly a basement can be a great place to safely store a variety of objects for a long time. 

Unfortunately, in most households basement storage just happens, there’s no organization to it.  Items are tossed into unsuitable boxes and bags, then “temporarily” put in corners, on shelves and in cabinets — where they stay for years. 

People often unintentionally damage or ruin their things, sometimes important keepsakes and valuables.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  A little bit of knowledge and planning can go a long way toward making sure your possessions are protected.  Here are some things to consider when making your basement safe for storage.

  • Every house and basement has bugs, so it’s smart to plan for them.  What kind do you have?  Are they the kind who do damage and need to be exterminated (carpenter ants, termites)?  Or are they the kind to create deterrents for (spiders — sealed bags and boxes, or moths — balls or cedar chips)?
  • Think about plastic or wire shelves instead of wood.  Wood shelves absorb moisture and can damage items stored on them. 
  • Get a dehumidifier, it’ll help control dampness and odors.
  • Go through your belongings and decide what storage containers and packing materials are appropriate for them.  Grandma’s quilt (damp) and your mother’s good china (breakage) need something different.
  • People often store tools, iron or steel possessions in the basement thinking it’s safe.  They don’t think about rust until they unpack Uncle Joe’s vintage train set and see that it’ll need major, expensive repairs to get it back to the condition it was in when first packed.  Consider a light coating of machine oil every few years for protection. 
  • Furniture can easily get ruined in a basement.  Moisture, odors and bugs can damage it fast and beyond repair.  Consider using unbleached drop cloths or old color fast sheets to drape over it.  Store it at least 3 inches from the wall and elevated on non-wood pallets, bricks or blocks to prevent moisture damage. 

Basements are funny places — they hold our cherished memories alongside our junk.  It’s worth the time to safeguard the valuable and useful.  After all, what will your kids put in their basements if you don’t preserve anything to give them?


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

Organize Your Basement, Finally

pioneer (6)One of the books on a bestsellers list right now is about getting organized.  It’s not the first and it won’t be the last.  There’s a modern day mantra that goes like this, “I’ll be (happier, healthier, calmer, thinner, wealthier …) just as soon as I get (my life, the house, the kids, work, my schedule…) organized”.

I don’t know about health, wealth and happiness, but I do know that getting the basement organized can create a feeling of satisfaction – if that leads to those other things, then all the better.  The basement can be a good place to start your quest for more control over your stuff.

For most people looking at a project as a whole is overwhelming, especially those we really don’t want to do or are dreading doing.  It can be especially discouraging if it’s something we know we should do and know it’ll benefit us when it’s done, but we keep putting it off.  It adds guilt to the resistance, which is rarely a good formula for motivation.

The best way to stop this impasse is to break down the overall project into pieces that are controllable.  The key to any kind of organizing is to start with small manageable tasks which can be done in reasonable time frames.  How many parts you break it into depends on the size and scope of the job.  Here’s an example. 

Dyan and Sam had been wanting to organize their basement for years – lots and lots of years.  It was becoming an ever increasing irritant; they needed the space and their families had started making bad hoarding jokes.  So, they came up with a plan that fit both of their organizing preferences and agreed to be ruthless in getting rid of things.

Dyan wanted to do her tasks in frequent, but short time frames.  She did the initial organizing by sorting things into 4 piles – throw away, donate, sell and keep – for a ½ hour every day.  Sam wanted to set aside less and bigger chucks of times for his chores.  He set aside an afternoon every other week to go to Goodwill, haul the trash, or get the items ready for a garage sale.  At the end of the process they went through the surprisingly small “keep”  pile together.

How you carve the task of organizing your basement into manageable pieces will work better if it’s guided by your preferences and personality.  This method works for all projects, from simple to a major.  Also, once you get your basement done you can use the same skills to tackle the garage, attic or your kids’ rooms.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 



Should You Remodel Your Basement?

pioneer (13)There’s a lot of information out there about how to turn your basement into a fabulous living space.  Man cave?  Craft room?  Kid’s play room?  Home theater?  All good ideas.  But, before you spend your time, money and energy, stop and ask yourself a question.  What’s really right for your situation and your basement?

Here are some financial, physical and emotional questions for you to think about.

Return on investment (ROI) – When you’re figuring the ROI take the size, age and neighborhood of the home into consideration.  What are comparable houses selling for?  What up-grades do they have?  Is the basement the place to put your money or will you get better value from redoing the kitchen or a bathroom? 

The answer to that is usually in favor of the kitchen or bath — renovation costs for a basement can quickly exceed the ROI, especially if you’re going to do it “right”.  Often, a not remodeled space that’s clean, bright, organized and dry can increase the value of a house, while a poor or cheap remodel will detract from it. 

Structure of basement – There are a lot of older homes in Northeastern Ohio and many of them simply aren’t good candidates for finished basements.  They’re usually cold and damp, which only a lot of money can fix.  Also, the mechanicals (i.e., plumbing, electrical, support posts, HV/AC, sump pump) can be difficult to work around or hide — creating choppy, small rooms.

Don’t be lured to the design dark side by reality shows that aren’t real at all.  HGTV has a lot of resources the typical home owner will never have access to.  No amount of creative designing is going to make the sloping drain in the middle of the floor, which smells like sewer in the hottest part of summer, disappear.  Some spaces are simply too difficult to fix up.

Expectations – Take some time and think about what you want this space to “do”.  Think honestly about your emotional expectations for it.  People often think that internal problems can be addressed through external means, and they are disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

Want a quiet space?  (What are you going to do when the kids invade your craft room, like they have every other room in the house?)  Think it’ll prompt family time?  (Is a bigger flat screen the answer to not spending enough time together?)  Do you think you’ll finally get organized?  (Unless you’re committed to behavioral changes too more space usually means more clutter.)

Remodeling your basement can be a big project, so be sure it’s really going to meet your financial, physical and/or emotional goals.  The poorly lit, badly tiled, damp walled, low ceiled, cheaply paneled, smelly, circuit blowing, weird color remnant carpeted, deserted finished basements of our area are legend, don’t add to them.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

Basement Remodeling the Smart Way

Remodeling your basement is a no-brainer.pioneer (9)  Right?  It’ll give you the much needed space your family requires.  Also, it’ll increase the value of your home and make it more attractive to buyers when you sell.

Or not.  Contrary to what many people believe a finished basement isn’t always a good return on investment.  Depending on how you do the remodeling you may only break even or actually decrease the value of your home.

The smart way to avoid making a big expensive mistake is to “think” first and “do” second.  Here are some areas to consider.

Resale                                                                                                                                         

How long do you plan on being in the house?  Turning your basement into a Brown’s multi-media, wet bar, Dog Pound complex is fine if you’re going to be in the house for many years. But, if you’re planning on selling in 5 years or less you probably should rethink it. 

Most buyers look for the basics: is it dry, is the wiring up to code and can it handle today’s electronic needs, are the ceilings high enough, is there any natural light and is it a functional space which can be adapted to their needs?  (Putting a toilet next to the washer and dryer doesn’t make it a bathroom.)  They want good quality, neutral walls, ceilings and floors. 

Determine the requirements of the project

Intelligent remodelers do their homework to determine the practicability and ultimate outcomes of their project ideas.  For example, in case of fire, most cities require a bedroom to have a proper exit, which must lead directly outside.  It can’t be a door that leads to another room.   Where are you going to put a window in an underground basement? 

Here are just a few things to think about and determine.  What are the daily requirements of living with the project?  What utilities are going to be turned off and for how long?  How are the workers going to be going in and out?  Are they going to be alone in the house?  How do you find a good contractor?  What’s your budget and how are you financing it?

Be realistic about money

Dreams of craft rooms, kids’ play areas and man caves are exciting – why else would you be thinking of remodeling your basement?  But, they should be mixed with reality.  Look at your basement with a critical eye.  How are you going to work around 4 support poles, a sump pump, an electrical box and 2 drains in the floor?  And how much is it going to cost?

Adding a bathroom?  What about ventilation?  Truly evaluate current and future water/moisture concerns, as well as the expense of fixing them.  It’s almost impossible to live in Northeast Ohio and not know someone who’s ignored their basement water/moisture problems, resulting in expensive repairs to their basement. 

A basement remodel is a big investment in time, money and energy.  It’s worth the effort to do it smart.  You know someone who didn’t think a home remodel or project through before they acted, we all do.  Don’t be that person.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

3 Warning Signs of a Bad Contractor

pioneer (10)If you’re at a social function and you want to gather a crowd start talking about home improvement/repair projects.  It seems that everyone has a contractor from hell story, often more than one.  If you don’t want to be a part of that group, here are 3 things to pay attention to.

1. You have a bad feeling about him.  It’s a lot easier to never hire someone in the beginning than trying to get out of a contract at a later date.  Be aware of your personal feelings about him while when he’s standing in the middle of your basement talking about the project.  Trust your gut.

How’s he treating the kids or dog?  Would you feel comfortable having him in the house alone?  If you’re a woman — is he talking down to you or dismissing your concerns/questions?  (Yes guys, this is a thing.)  What’s his attitude like; helpful and interested or distracted and indifferent?  Do you seem to be communicating well and does he understand your ideas?

2. She’s really focused on money.  Primarily focusing on money, and not your job, is a classic sign of a contractor in trouble or one who’s “shady”.  She, absolutely, should discuss money, budgets and payment schedules with you.  But, it shouldn’t be the focus of her interest. 

Is she asking for too big of a down payment or full payment upfront?  Is she a cash only business?  Is she giving a low ball bid or using a “today only deal” to pressure you into making an immediate decision?

Also, look for signs of cash flow problems or under funding.  What does her truck and the tools in it look like?  (Red flag and a true story – A “roofer” showed up to bid a project and asked the home owner to borrow a ladder.)  Depending on the job, ask if she has the proper equipment for it or if she’ll be renting. 

3.  He’s in over his head.  Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want him to practice on your house.  He should be able to prove his experience in dealing with projects similar to yours.  His skills and knowledge should match your project.  He may be a wonderful bathroom remodeler, but that doesn’t mean he can build a deck. 

Do you know more about the project and what’s required than him?  Do his questions and answers show competency or inexperience?  Does he give well thought out ideas for the project?  Can he give examples of how he’s’ solved problems similar to yours on other jobs?

He should be a professional.  A professional: knows what permits are required, when and how to pull them, has insurance (workers’ compensation and liability), is bonded if the situation requires it and holds the proper licenses.  He’ll provide all this information to you as a standard practice of doing business.

It’s not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk.  Paying good attention in the beginning can go a long way to avoiding problems in the future. 


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 150 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes.