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Top 10 unsexiest home improvement projects

Senior editor at Angie's List, Mike LaFollette

Senior editor at Angie’s List, Mike LaFollette

If you’re a first-time homeowner, the thought of home improvement probably conjures visions of installing a state-of-the-art kitchen with the latest appliances, or a sprawling patio that transforms your backyard into an outdoor oasis.

Not only do these projects boost the value of your home, but they’re functional and fun to show off to friends and family.

Your fantasies probably didn’t include sump pump failure, backed-up toilets, overflowing gutters or black mold lurking in your crawl space.

The reality is that home ownership often proves extremely unpredictable. However, one thing you CAN count on is spending a considerable amount of money on unglamorous maintenance projects you can’t show off to neighbors, but will keep your home healthy.

10. Cleaning gutters. This seasonal task involves climbing on a ladder and scooping out decaying leaves, animal waste and other random sludge that have been marinating in your gutters for months. But you’ll have bigger problems when a blockage sends water spilling down the sides of your home, which can ruin siding, flood your basement and rot the fascia boards that hold the gutters.

9. Installing windows. Adding one window will set you back a couple hundred dollars, and a major window replacement job can cost thousands. New windows offer increased efficiency and should lower your energy costs, but unless you install stained glass or security bars, your neighbors are unlikely to comment.

8. Repairing the foundation. You might crack up at the thought of spending hard-earned money to repair the slow-growing crack that stair-steps up the basement wall, but foundation fissures are no joking matter. Not all cracks signal impending collapse, but have it checked out before it’s too late.

7. Removing mold. Eliminating the patch of black mold hiding behind the bathroom wall may not be at the top of your to-do list, but failure to remove mold can cause serious respiratory problems. Make sure to hire a remediation company that pinpoints the source of the mold. Avoid the contractor who wants to paint over it.

6. Fixing the toilet. Although the insides of some toilet tanks resemble the cockpit of a fighter jet, resist the temptation to put off toilet repairs. You’ll be glad you called a plumber the next time nature calls.

5. Adding insulation. Insulation stays out of the spotlight, but performs an important role. It’s dirty and expensive to install, but offers a good return on your investment through lower utility bills and increased comfort. Just don’t count on anyone showing up to your insulation viewing party.

4. Replacing the sump pump. You won’t be pumped when your basement floods because you failed to replace your sump pump. Make sure to install a sump pump with a battery backup and alarm system for extra security.

3. Updating electrical wiring. It costs several thousand dollars to rewire a home or modernize an aging electrical system, and what do you get to show for it besides a bunch of wires hidden in your walls and attic? You should at least sleep better knowing there’s a decreased risk of fire because you removed the 1920s-era knob-and-tube system.

2. Pumping the septic tank. Pros recommend pumping your septic system every three to five years to prevent backup. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s better than sewage backing up in your toilets and spilling on the lawn. Just don’t be like Cousin Eddie from “Christmas Vacation” and empty it into the sewer.

1. Replacing the sewer line. This unsexy situation starts with raw sewage backing up in your home and ends with contractors digging up your front yard and landscaping to bury a new sewer line. Trenchless replacement methods exist that bypass the backhoe, but often come at a higher cost.

 

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Avoid scams by hiring right

by Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List

Angie Hicks

Angie’s List found, Angie Hicks

SCAM. IT’S A SCARY WORD. A healthy fear of bad service is one reason some join Angie’s List. The unfortunate experience of actually having been a target of shady operators directly led others to become members.

In nearly 19 years of working closely with consumers and service providers, we’ve learned a lot about how to hire right and avoid disappointments or scams. From our earliest days, we’ve offered reviews of local companies as well as independent reporting on consumer issues. In reviewing the lowlights of last year, our staff documented a variety of complaints, including stories of shoddy and unfinished work, as well as contractor failure to be appropriately licensed.

As is all too frequent, we found that elderly homeowners, as well as victims of weather disasters, continue to be targets of companies that take the money and run, do poor work or otherwise take advantage of consumers. The accompanying tips offer some guidance on steps to take in the wake of poor service. But it’s easier to avoid a problem in the first place, so educate yourself on these common contractor scams:

  • Scare tactics: Be leery of a contractor who alarms you with the dire consequences that will follow if you don’t hire him or her to fix something right now. Get multiple bids on any major project, with all details covered in writing. Also, if a contractor working on one project suggests others that need to be done in a hurry, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
  • Uninvited guests: Avoid contractors who show up at your door unexpected, especially if they claim to haw surplus materials from a nearby job that they can use cheaply on a project for you. Being sure to get multiple bids from highly rated contractors will help you avoid getting scammed from a door-to-door operator.
  • Price boosting: Some unscrupulous contractors offer a low initial price and then try to charge more later due to “unforeseen” problems. To avoid this, negotiate a price ahead of time and put the details in a written contract.

Shady characters are endlessly creative in finding new ways to scam consumers, so these are just a few of the practices they’ll employ. Use your common sense, and rely on Angie’s List to help you stay informed.

Follow Angie on Twitter @Angie_Hicks

Bad business?

If you’re a victim of unsatisfactory work or questionable business practices, consider the following actions:

  • Submit an Angie’s List review and contact our Complaint Resolution Process team.
  • File a complaint with your state’s attorney general or, if your state has one, contractors’ board.
  • If your contractor is bonded, contact the issuing agent for possible reimbursement.
  • Depending on the amount you’ve spent, take your issue to small claims court. Or, talk to a private attorney who has experience with your type of situation.

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DIY Danger

DIY_inforgraphic_webEach year, tens of millions of homeowners take on home improvement projects themselves.  Many save money, with optimal pride-swelling results.  But an estimated one-in-five DIYers end up getting hurt in the process.  Know your limits.

Trim trees safely:

30,509 are treated annually in emergency rooms for injuries related to chain saws, typically used for cutting down trees, branches and firewood.

TIP: Follow manufacturer’s instructions, wear protective eyewear and gloves, and use a rope to safely lower large branches.

Watch your wiring:

431 people die each year in the U.S. because of electrical shock related to consumer products, including drills.

TIP: Shut off power at the breaker box before working on anything involving electricity, such as when installing new lights.

Respect tools:

293,184 people visit the ER for injuries involving home workshop equipment, from jacks and welding tools to power saws.

TIP: In addition to minding manufacturer’s instructions and wearing protective eyeware, watch your hand position and shut off defices when not fully engaged in a task.

Tread carefully:

191,006 people are treated in the ER for injuries related to the use of ladders.

TIP: Place your ladder on firm, level ground and make sure to use one that extends at least 3 feet over the roofline or working surface.

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; Consumer Reports / Home Safety Council.

You’re invited to the United Community Centers Garden Party!

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United Community Centers Garden Party

Please join us for an evening in the garden. Meet our Board, staff, program participants, and neighbors. Enjoy appetizers, drinks, performances, music, and a raffle while the sun sets over East New York.

Friday, June 6, 2014 from 6:30 to 9:00 PM

New Vision Garden
Corner of Schenck and Livonia
East New York – Brooklyn 11207

$20 donation (but we would love if you can give more, or bring some extra cash for the raffle!)

RSVP on Facebook or just respond to this email and let us know you’re coming!

P.S. Can you donate raffle prizes, food, or volunteer assistance setting up the event?
Contact Rachel at 718-649-7979 or rbishop@ucceny.org!

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East New York Farms!
United Community Centers

613 New Lots Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11207

(718) 649-7979
Fax (718) 649-7256

www.eastnewyorkfarms.org
Like us on facebook for more updates!

Protect Your Family & Home — Call Before You Dig

Call 811 before starting a home improvement project that requires excavation. If you don’t, you could hit gas, electric, water, sewer, cable, or telephone lines, and endanger yourself and others.

Call 2 to 10 days before starting – whether planting a tree, putting in a mailbox or working on larger projects.
Utility companies will mark the pipes and wires with color-coded paint.
If you smell rotten eggs, you may have a gas leak. Leave the area immediately, and take others with you. Once you’re at a safe distance, call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633) or 911. National Grid customers should call 1-718-643-4050. Your call can be anonymous.
For more gas safety tips, click here

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Dead Malls: New York Has Most in Nation

The inside of a long-dead mall, as photographed by Seph Lawless for his new book "Black Friday."

The inside of a long-dead mall, as photographed by Seph Lawless for his new book “Black Friday.”

The Golden Age of the American shopping mall is over and the shopping landscape has changed. Or has it?

Smell Gas. Act Fast.

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Smell rotten eggs? If you suspect a gas leak, leave immediately and take others with you. DO NOT do anything that could create a spark, such as light a match, smoke, use the phone, turn lights or appliances on or off, or start a car. Once outside, call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633) or 911 to report the leak. National Grid customers should call 1-718-643-4050. Don’t assume someone else has already called. You can report a leak anonymously.

Click for more gas safety tips.

 

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Workshop: DIY Rainwater Harvesting

Rain Barrel

Join us for a hands-on workshop that will lead you through building a basic rainwater harvesting system for your community garden.

Learn the importance of water conservation, how to plan and design your system, where to put your system, what materials are needed for your system, and how to assemble and maintain your system.

Sponsored by the generous support of the National Grid Foundation. Keep an eye out for other DIY workshops in the series to be announced soon.

April 26
Bushwick, Brooklyn
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

This is a free workshop, but space is limited.
To RSVP, contact Wilfredo Florentino: wflorentino@citizensnyc.org  | 212.822.9568

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Uniform Land Use Review Procedure Public Hearing

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FROM THE OFFICE OF THE BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT

UNIFORM LAND USE REVIEW PROCEDURE PUBLIC HEARING

Notice is hereby given that, pursuant to Sections 197-C and 201 of the New York City Charter, the Brooklyn Borough President will hold a public hearing on the following matters in the Community Room, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, New York 11201, commencing at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

CALENDAR ITEM 1

HENRY APARTMENTS
SPECIAL PERMIT AND DISPOSITION OF CITY-OWNED PROPERTY
140277 ZSK AND 140278 HAK

In the matter of applications submitted by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), pursuant to Sections 197-c and 201 of the New York City Charter and to Article 16 of the General Municipal Law of New York State, the following:

a) for the grant of a special permit pursuant to Section 74-902 of the Zoning resolution to modify the requirements of Section 24-111 (Maximum Floor Area Ratio and Percentage of Lot Coverage) to apply to a non-profit institution with sleeping accommodations in connection with a proposed 6-story building on property located at 768-770 Decatur Street a.k.a. 1696-1712 Broadway;

b) the designation of such property as an Urban Development Action Area and an Urban Development Action Area Project for such area; and

c) the disposition of such property to a developer to be selected by HPD

to facilitate the development of a six-story mixed-use building with approximately 79 residential units of affordable and supportive housing and ground floor commercial space.

Note: To request a sign language interpreter, or to request TTD services, call Mr. Richard Bearak at (718) 802-4057 before the hearing.

Garifuna-American Heritage Month proclaimed at City Hall

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By Tequila Minsky | CaribBean Life

Earlier this month at City Hall, March 11-April 12 was proclaimed Garífuna-American Heritage Month. Members of the Garifuna Coalition and others in the community were on hand for the honors. Heritage Month acknowledges the great contributions of Garífuna-Americans to the fabric of New York City and New York State.

At City Hall, members of the New York area Garifuna-American community hold the proclamation declaring March 11-April 12 Garífuna-American Heritage Month. Photo by Tequila Minsky

At City Hall, members of the New York area Garifuna-American community hold the proclamation declaring March 11-April 12 Garífuna-American Heritage Month.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Among the month of significant dates and scheduled events, Garifuna-American Heritage will be celebrated April 3 at Bronx County Courthouse and April 11 at Brooklyn Borough Hall, both starting at 5:30 p.m.

Also, a Garifuna (full) Day Conference & Festival will take place on April 12 at 344 Brook Ave. in Bronx. This is the Garifuna Community’s sixth year celebrating Garífuna-American Heritage Month in New York.

Heritage Month pays tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garífuna’s countries of origin—Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

New York City is home to the largest Garífuna Community outside of Central America, part of a migration since the 1930s. The community was virtually obscure, but the Happy Land Social Club fire on March 25, 1990, when almost half of the 87 victims were Garifuna, brought more visibility. A granite memorial dedicated in 1995, east of the 1959 Southern Blvd. site of the fire, commemorates those who died. Behind the impressive marker is a placard that lists the names of those that perished in the club.

Garifuna-American Heritage Month 2014 also observes the 217th anniversary of the forcible transfer of the Garifuna people from St. Vincent to Central America and their arrival on April 12, 1797.

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About the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc.

The Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization headquartered in New York City. It was founded on May 9th,1998 and was incorporated as a Domestic not for Profit Corporation on May 28, 1999. The purpose of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. is to serve as a resource, a forum, and advocate for Garifuna issues and a united voice for the Garifuna community. It seeks to find solutions to social problems such as, poverty, immigration and housing affecting the Garifuna people, through grassroots organizing and community development