5 Ways to Protect Yourself When Buying a Fixer- Upper

Toxin Free Pet Friendly Yard

Interesting article from MarthaStewart.com, list provided by a spca.com

How-To: Keep Your Pets Safe from Backyard Poisons

Summer is the perfect time for pets to play in the backyard, but before you let your pet loose, check for hazards.

The first thing you should do to keep your pets safe outdoors is to get to know the names of the plants in your yard to determine if they’re safe, says Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. If your pet ingests something poisonous, inform your vet immediately. Common toxins include compost, mushrooms, insecticides, snail and slug bait, and cocoa-bean mulch.




Puppies have a tendency to chew on everything they find. Place chicken wire around harmful plants (like azaleas, shown) to keep your pet away.  Azalea/Rhododendron Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.




Pick any mushrooms in your yard and toss them right away — many poisonous varieties resemble safe ones. For example, toxic Gyromitra esculenta looks similar to these edible morels.







Although compost benefits your garden, the bacteria and spoiled food inside can make pets sick. Keep compost and lawn-care products covered and out of your pet’s reach.




Lilies Members: of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.


Sago Palm: All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs: The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Oleander: All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects—including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

Castor Bean: The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

Cyclamen Cylamen: species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

Kalanchoe: This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

Yew Taxus spp.: contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

Amaryllis: Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.

Autumn Crocus: Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression.

Chrysanthemum: These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

English Ivy: lso called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy and California ivy,Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, should pets ingest, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily): Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

Pothos Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum): belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Schefflera Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla: contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.




Top Five Attic Ventilation FAQs

Top Five Attic Ventilation FAQs

By: Paul Scelsi, Air Vent, Inc., on behalf of the Roof Assembly Ventilation Coalition

On the surface attic ventilation may not appear to be a “top of mind” concern for contractors working on the roof and inside the attic. After all, there’s insulation, underlayment, shingles and flashing to tackle, too. However, based on the volume of questions the member companies of the Roof Assembly Ventilation Coalition (RAVC) receive about attic ventilation, it is clear contractors are thinking about it. Here are the five most commonly asked and answered questions the RAVC receives.

Q: Why is it important to ventilate the attic – what’s its purpose?

Attic ventilation provides year-round benefits to help fight heat buildup in the summer,



moisture buildup in the winter, and ice dams in climates with snow and ice. This helps to prolong the life of the building materials – including the shingles, helps to improve the comfort level inside the home, and helps to lower the utility bills by reducing the load on the air conditioner and other appliances such as fans and refrigerators. RAVC member companies have case studies documenting these benefits.

The summertime benefits of attic ventilation are often more obvious to the contractor than the wintertime benefits. That’s understandable. It’s not too difficult to realize the attic can get very hot in the summer, and if that hot air is not properly removed through ventilation it can become problematic. However, the wintertime benefits are less obvious, but – quite possibly – more important. That’s because the average family of four generates an estimated 2 to 4 gallons of water vapor each day through activities such as cleaning, showering, breathing, etc. (see Moisture Control in Buildings, Heinz R. Trechsel). Some of this water vapor rises into the attic. In the summertime, the outdoor air temperature – as well as the air inside the attic — is warmer than it is in the winter, and warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air can.  But in the winter, the amount of water vapor that the air can hold is substantially lower. As a result, it can condense as frost or water droplets, drip onto the insulation, and, in time, contribute to mold, mildew, wood rot and poor indoor air quality.

Q: How much ventilation does an attic need?

The starting point for any attic ventilation project is always, “What is the size of the attic space to be vented?” The International Residential Building Code (IRC) defines attic size in terms of its square footage – length x width, floor of the attic. Once a contractor knows the attic square footage, the amount of necessary attic ventilation can be calculated.

The code minimum for attic ventilation in the 2012 IRC, Section R806 – Roof Ventilation[1] is as follows: 1 sq. ft. of Net Free Area for every 150 sq. ft. of attic floor space. This means, for every 150 square feet of attic floor space there should be 1 square foot of Net Free Area.  (NOTE: While the IRC does not address the need for more attic ventilation as the volume in the attic rises with roof pitch increase, member companies of the RAVC do in their various resources).

Q: What’s the ideal way to ventilate an attic?

It is the recommendation of the RAVC that the attic ventilation system always be balanced. This means an equal amount of intake net free area through vents positioned in the soffit/overhang or near the roof’s lowest edge and exhaust net free area through vents installed at or near the peak of the roof. This allows cool, dry air to enter the attic at the lowest point helping to remove any warm, moist air from inside the attic through the exhaust vents – along the entire underside of the roof deck. RAVC member companies have an extensive offering of intake and exhaust vents.

If the attic ventilation system cannot be balanced 50% intake/50% exhaust, it’s better to have more intake than exhaust because it’s been our experience most houses lack proper intake. Additionally, any excess intake will become exhaust on the leeward side of the house because the intake vents on the windward side of the house will have “pressurized” the attic. As a result, the intake vents on the leeward side of the house will work “with” the exhaust vents to release air.

However, if the attic has more exhaust than intake it is potentially problematic because the exhaust vents could become intake to compensate for the lack of balanced intake. For example, a ridge vent could pull air from its back side if it can’t obtain air from intake vents. Or, a wind turbine could pull air from a nearby wind turbine on the same roof because there is not enough intake low on the roof to pull from. In either scenario, the exhaust vent is potentially ingesting air and weather which it’s not designed to do.

Q: The more exhaust vents on the roof the better it is for the attic, right?

Well, it depends. If it’s more of the same type of exhaust vent, it is OK (as long as it does not exceed the amount of intake as explained earlier.). But if it’s a combination of types of exhaust vents, it’s potentially problematic.

In general there are five types or categories of exhaust vents: ridge vents, power fans (traditional electric and solar powered), wind turbines, gable louvers, and roof louvers. The RAVC recommends never mixing two types of exhaust vents on the same roof above a common attic because it could short-circuit the attic ventilation system. Here’s how it can happen. Air follows the path of least resistance. That path is supposed to be from low in the attic (intake vents) to the highest possible exit point in the attic (exhaust vents). If two different types of exhaust vents are combined (for example, a ridge vent and a gable louver) the primary path of air becomes the distance between the two types of exhaust vents. That short-circuits the proper flow of air and could cause one of the exhaust vents to ingest weather because it is suddenly functioning as an intake vent.

When it comes to intake vents, by the way, it’s OK to mix multiple types on the same roof (for example, rectangular undereaves and roof-top installed edge of roof vents) because they will be in the same wind pressure zone working together. That is not the case with multiple types of exhaust vents.

Q: How are multiple ridge heights handled?

The rule of thumb for ridge heights states that all ridges can be vented whether they run parallel or at angles to each other. If, however, the ridges are more than 3 feet apart in height, only ventilate the higher one or separate the attics. As wind passes over an externally baffled ridge vent, it creates low pressure zone, drawing air from the attic. The faster the wind moves over the baffle, the greater the pressure it creates. Typically, wind moves faster at higher elevations, therefore, the higher ridge will be exposed to high wind speeds. If the wind speed difference is adequate, the pressure at the higher ridge may be enough to pull air into the lower ridge vent. Thus, it’s best to separate the attics with plywood or poly sheeting to create two distinct attics. Once the attics are separated, ventilating all of the ridges is acceptable.

How to work with an Interior Designer?

Clever Storage Ideas

Several useful storage ideas from RealSimple.com

Use Glass Jars !!!



This trick works in the garage, the basement, and the craft room (or even possibly the home office, if you have an appropriate area): Nail or superglue the lids to the underside of a surface near where you store your tools, then twist the jars into place. Put like-size nuts and bolts in one jar, wood screws in another, nails in another.




Use Shower Curtain Hooks !!!

If space allows, place hooks on a closet bar and hang purses from them to keep your carryalls at eye level. Say good-bye to a mess of accessories on your closet floor.

Use a Tissue Box !!!



Dispense plastic grocery bags with ease by stuffing empties into an old tissue box stored under the sink; simply pull out one when you need it. For a slimmer solution, try a cardboard paper-towel tube.





Use a Tension Rod !!!

To keep pot lids from rattling around and getting lost in kitchen drawers, position a short tension rod to create a divider. Stack pots and pans in the larger section and lean lids against the rod on the smaller side.




Understanding the Color Wheel

Using a color wheel and a template, the relationships between colors are easy to identify.

Monochromatic Relationship Colors that are shade or tint variations of the same hue.

Complementary Relationship Those colors across from each other on a color wheel.

Split-Complementary Relationship One hue plus two others equally spaced from its complement.

Double-Complementary Relationship Two complementary color sets; the distance between selected complementary pairs will effect the overall contrast of the final composition.

Analogous Relationship Those colors located adjacent to each other on a color wheel.

Triad Relationship Three hues equally positioned on a color wheel.

What is a Building Designer?

What is a Professional Building Designer?  From the AIBD website.

A Building Designer is first and foremost a professional familiar with all facets of the building trade, whose plans and designs represent the particular needs, style and budget of the client. A Building Designer may offer a complete array of professional services to you as the client and may consist of:

  • Residential Design, both single and multi-family, and commercial structures as permitted by the architectural statutes of each state.
  • Confering with you to ascertain type, size, and ultimate usage of the structure during the initial planning stage.
  • Approaching any design problem based on the practical, functional and economical solutions that will best fulfill your requirements, while translating these factors into a concept that is both aesthetic and utilitarian.
  • Offering recommendations regarding the site, interior and exterior layout, materials to be used, and architectural and exterior treatments.
  • Furnishing you preliminary and detailed designs for the proposed structure, ranging from the initial concept to complete working drawings and specifications that will comply with all applicable building codes and regulations.
  • When the conceptual designs are accepted by you, the building designer may present a contract detailing the extent of the services to be furnished and outline the related responsibilities, fees, and structural, mechanical and electrical considerations.
  • Helping you select contractors and overseeing construction. You may retain a Building Designer to provide all or any part of the planning, design, and construction process as you desire. These services are subject to the policies and services of the individual designer you select.
  • When retained to do so, he may assist you by preparing and publishing bid proposals for construction, and may also interpret and explain bid proposals to you with any recommendations.
  • As your agent, he may as allowed by some states to conduct on-site inspections or observations of your construction, ensuring that all work meets the recognized standards.

A Professional Member of the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) has met the requirements of the AIBD Bylaws and the minimum two-years work experience standards. The AIBD established an autonomous body known as the National Council of Building Designer Certification to create and administer an examination and certification program. These persons so certified are permitted to use the title of Certified Professional Building Designer (CPBD). Certified Members have more than six-year of work experience, have submitted examples of their work, and have been tested on competencies related to performing services required in any portion of planning, design and construction, as permitted in their state of residence or practice.