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North Castle Daily News

Home Improvements

Hurricane Preparation
By James Shelly

September 12, 2016
We are in the peak Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from mid-August to late October. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage hundreds of miles inland. Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions can produce especially heavy rain, often resulting in flooding. Even if you do not live on a coastline, keep an eye on any approaching storms, and have your supplies and family plan ready, as you may be impacted.

To start, prepare an emergency kit (with necessary supplies, food and medicine) and make a communication plan. Identify your area’s evacuation routes to determine where your family will meet, and how everyone would get there should you need to evacuate. Listen to an NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates. Avoid using the phone, except for absolute emergencies. Consider purchasing a manually powered radio, cell phone charger and other emergency supplies at: https://www.redcrossstore.org

Keep trees and shrubs around your home well-trimmed to make them more wind resistant, and make sure rain gutters and downspouts are clear. Bring in any outdoor furniture, decorations, etc. along with anything else that’s not secured.

To prevent damage to your windows, and ultimately the interior of your home, cover all windows. While permanent storm shutters offer the best protection, a second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood. You can get it cut to fit and ready to install before the storm season. Note that taping a window will not prevent it from breaking.

As an added protective measure, install — or have a professional install — straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame of your home. The main objective after your family’s safety is to keep wind from entering the structure; if storm-driven wind enters a structure it can cause extensive damage.

Secure any parts of a fence that appear weakened or loose. Check doors, windows, and walls for openings where water can get in; use silicone caulk to seal cracks, gaps, and holes—especially around openings where cables and pipes enter the house.

Inspect your garage door for signs it’s pressure-rated – look for: label, solid steel wheels, large metal braces spanning width of the door and brackets attaching the tracks to the wall. If it is not pressure-rated, purchase a bracing kit from your local hardware store to do it yourself, or hire a licensed contractor.

Inspect your roof cover and overhang (if you’re not sure what to look for, contact a qualified professional to schedule a roof inspection); roof covers; shingle tabs should be well-sealed to the top of the shingle below; tiles should not be loose, and metal should be in good shape and well attached.

All vents and soffits (panels that cover the underside of the roof overhang) should be made of sturdy material and securely attached.

If you have accordion or roll-up storm shutters, check that they are properly functioning and in good condition. For metal, polycarbonate or plywood shutters, install permanent anchors to make it easier to install them quickly when a storm threatens. Inspect porches, carports, entryway canopies and storage sheds to make sure they are firmly attached and in sound structural condition.

Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh or replace them.

Anchor fuel tanks to prevent them from being torn free by floodwaters.

Turn off utilities if instructed. If not instructed to do so, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed to try and keep food from spoiling for as long as possible if power is lost.

Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water for drinking, to help with washing, and filling toilets.

Reduce potential water damage from storm surge or flooding by rolling up area rugs, and getting them off the floor to reduce the chances they will become wet and grow mold. This is particularly important if the property will be left unattended for an extended period of time and if long-term power outages are a possibility.

Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets could possibly be under water.

During the storm, stay indoors, away from any windows and glass doors. Close all interior doors and lock all external doors. During the height of the storm, seek shelter in an interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level of your home.

Under the following conditions you should evacuate:
If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions;
If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure, as these types of shelter are particularly susceptible to hurricane/wind damage;
If you live in a high-rise building be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations. Avoid using elevators.

Homeowners insurance policy does not cover damage from flooding–only from wind damage–caused by a hurricane. To be covered for damage from a flood you must have a separate flood policy. Some homeowners policies have a separate, higher, deductible for hurricane damage, and different companies define a hurricane differently. Review your contract to understand how it operates in your policy. Keep claims contacts handy. Click here for more insurance information




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How to Protect Yourself Against Home Improvement Incidents

August 20, 2016
The North Castle Police Department received a call from the Whippoorwill area on Thursday about an injured worker who was hired to perform construction on a home on Bayberry Road. The officers responded and helped take the injured party to a medical center. North Castle’s Building Department and OSCA (Occupational Safety Councils of America) were notified to conduct an investigation.

Although accidents do happen, homeowners are reminded that all home improvement contractors in Westchester County must be licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection. Examples of home improvement work are the following: “waterproofing, exterior siding, gutters, decks, roofs, construction of additional rooms, window replacement, driveway repaving, kitchen and bathroom renovation, masonry, fence installation, chimney maintenance, exterior painting, landscaping, gardening, and swimming pool repair and installation.”

Plumbers and electricians must also obtain a trade license from Westchester County. Homeowners should ask each contractor, plumber and electrician if they are licensed and avoid any unlicensed contractors. Contractors who operate without a license are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Westchester.gov provides an online service to check if home improvement contractors or landscapers are licensed to work in Westchester County: consumer.westchestergov.com/find-a-licensed-contractor

Licensed Plumbers and Electricians can be verified here: consumer.westchestergov.com/trade-licenses-search

Although the online service may verify if a contractor carries a required Home Improvement, Electrical or Plumbing license, the Consumer Protection agency also provides a list of renegade renovators to avoid: consumer.westchestergov.com/renegade-renovators?view=article

All jobs for home improvement jobs costing $500 or more must have a written contract, but the Consumer Protection Agency advises that it’s best to get a written contract for all jobs, and not to agree to an oral contract.

By law, the following items must be included in a home improvement contract:
• “The complete name, address and phone number of the contractor.
• The contractor’s license number.
• A consumer notice which states in bold print that the customer has an unconditional right to cancel the contract until midnight of the third business day after the contract was signed. Cancellation must be done in writing.
• The approximate start date and completion date of the work, including any contingencies that would change the completion date.
• A specific description of the work and materials, including brands, model numbers and other identifying information, along with the price.
• A clause which states that the contractor is legally required to deposit all progress payments received prior to completion in an escrow account or post a bond to protect these payments.
• A clause which states that if the contractor or subcontractor who does the work is not paid, he may have a claim against the owner’s property under the Lien Law.”

Although not required by law, the following contractual obligations are also recommended:
• “Guarantees on workmanship and materials because if you don’t get these in writing, they will be difficult to enforce.
• Clarification on who obtains and pays for permits.
• A requirement that the contractor remove and cart away construction debris, including the frequency with which this must be done.
• The total price, including materials, labor and any additional charges.
• The progress of a payment schedule, which must bear a reasonable relationship to the work done, materials purchased or other project related costs.
• A ‘lien waiver’ clause which allows you to withhold final payment until the contractor gives you proof of payment to all subcontractors, suppliers and vendors. This helps prevent unpaid subcontractors, suppliers and vendors from putting liens on your home.
• A requirement that the contractor will comply with all applicable laws, regulations and codes, and that no work will be done until the contractor has obtained all necessary permits.
• A penalty clause that allows you to reduce the price if work is not completed on time. For example, ‘$100 per day to be deducted from the contract price for each day the job is unfinished beyond June 1st.’ This is important because some contractors overextend themselves by taking on several jobs at once.”


Safety Information from Con Edison

During power outages safety is the first concern. 80% of North Castle Con Ed customers lost power during Tropical Storm Irene. And many household were without power for five days. Con Ed offers the following information to prepare for power outages.

Consider all downed lines dangerous and call Con Edison immediately at 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633). Put the number in your cell phone.
 
Stay away from flooded areas and debris, as they could conceal downed power lines. Avoid flooded areas and keep kids away from flooded areas after a storm. The water could hide energized line.

Refrain from driving around in damaged areas, as you could interfere with  rescue and/or restoration efforts.

If you're using a generator, run it outside and connect your appliances directly to it. Do not wire your generator directly to your breaker fuse box, as it may back-feed on power lines and cause injuries. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious concern. This incident appeared in the police blotter on August 28: "Caller reports the CO alarms have been activated.  Call was transferred to County Fire. FD reports low level of CO on the exterior of residence due to a generator."

Don't cook with a gas grill inside the house. Don't use charcoal fires or candles inside.  

If you leave your home, turn off appliances that may have been on when the power went out, or turn off your main breaker.

If you have any doubt about your home electrical system or are unsure of how to proceed, call a licensed electrician.

If a storm is predicted, fill your tubs with water for cleaning up. Have extra water, food that does not require refrigeration, and batteries on hand for flashlights and radios.

New Bulbs Save Energy

Republished 2016
North Castle experienced more electric service infrastructure damage than any other Town in Westchester in a storm in 2011. It is only logical to see a rate increase to cover the billions of dollars in recovery costs.  

Consider this tip from Con Edison to save on home energy.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. The major benefit of using CFLs is lower electricity bills. It requires up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. There are also fewer replacement bulbs to buy because CFLs last 6-to-15 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

If A Tree Falls...
By James Shelly

October 7, 2016
As the old saw goes, there may not be any sound. But if it falls on your neighbor’s property, you may never hear the end of it.

Here’s a primer on how your insurance policy handles property damage caused by falling trees and the personal liability between you and your neighbors.

If a tree on your property falls during a storm and damages your home, your homeowners insurance policy will pay for the repairs, subject to the deductible. As long as the event was sudden and unforeseen, also referred to as an Act of God. However, if there is some reason to believe the tree was unhealthy and you failed to take action when the condition was obvious, your insurance company may deny the claim on the basis of deferred maintenance. As an example, say the same tree fell and caused damage on a day there was no storm. That’s a red flag. The claims adjuster will examine the tree, and if he finds readily apparent signs of decay such as rot, missing bark, or a lack of foliage, you may be on your own, especially if the decayed tree was close to the house.

And what if you have guests sitting in the backyard when the same tree falls and injures someone? The typical homeowners policy provides a small amount of medical coverage that will be paid out regardless of whether anyone was negligent. But if your guest was seriously injured there could be considerably higher dollar amounts involved for the remaining medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In that case, the tree will be examined with the same questions in mind: was the event unforeseeable, or was something wrong with your tree for which you should have taken action? In the latter case, the liability coverage in your homeowners and umbrella policies come into play.

If the tree that falls and damages your house is owned by a neighbor, and that neighbor is unwilling to pay for the damage out-of-pocket, you would file a claim with your own insurance company for the repairs. The same questions of liability will be considered by your claims adjuster, and if they feel your neighbor was negligent in the face of obvious facts, they may try to reclaim from the neighbor’s insurance company what they have paid out to you. This process is called subrogation. If your insurance company is successful in subrogating the claim, they may refund your deductible.

Ownership of a tree is determined by the location of the trunk, regardless of how much of the roots and branches overhang your yard. A tree sitting on the property line (a boundary tree) is the shared responsibility of you and your neighbor. Neither of you may cut it down without both of you agreeing. There are cases, however, in which you cannot file a claim, or hold your neighbor accountable, even though your neighbor owns the tree fully. You have the right to trim the branches and roots of your neighbor’s tree back to the property line. You must do so from your side of the line, unless you have permission from your neighbor to cross over.  With this right comes responsibility: if your neighbor’s tree threatens injury or property damage on your side of the line, you have a duty to mitigate the risk. If the roots from your neighbor’s tree are visibly growing in the direction of your patio, you have the right, and the duty to cut them back and protect your property from damage. Your insurance company will not pay such a claim if you have failed to act.  In another example, if an obviously dead bough hangs within striking distance of your roof, you must cut it back or risk losing the right to file a claim with your insurer. If cutting it back to the property line is insufficient to mitigate the risks to life and property on your side of the line, you should notify your neighbor of the foreseeable problem and follow up in writing if they fail to address it. This will make it easier to demonstrate their constructive foreknowledge in court should the worst occur. In such cases you may also wish to inform your insurer and provide copies of correspondence with your neighbor.  Your insurance company may persuade the neighbor to act.

There is an important caveat to your trimming your neighbor’s tree. If your actions cause the tree to die, you can be held responsible and complicate the question of liability. For these reasons it is recommended you consult a qualified professional, such as an arborist or tree surgeon before cutting anything.

If your trees are overhanging a public area, like a road or sidewalk, contact your town or county representatives to clarify who is responsible for tree liability and keeping drivers and pedestrians safe from falling branches and trees.

It may be a good idea to have the trees on your premises examined by a qualified professional from time to time. But it is not a requirement for which you can be held liable. In a leading New York case, Ivancik v. Olmstead, a 1985 Appeals court decision upheld the principle that no liability attaches to a landowner whose tree falls outside his premises unless the tree was defective and he knew about it or should have known about it”. Furthermore, the judges went on to say “there is no duty to consistently and constantly check all trees for non-visible decay, rather, the manifestation of said decay must be readily observable in order to require a landowner to take reasonable steps to prevent harm.”

This article is intended to provide general information to the reader. The information contained herein is not specific to any individual situation, nor does the author or the publisher assume liability for its accuracy. For advice on your particular situation contact a qualified professional or your municipal or county representatives.

Is Your Well Water Safe to Drink?

May 15, 2016
Over 90% of North Castle residents rely on private wells as their household water supply. Westchester County says that while not required by law, homeowners using well water should take special precautions to protect their drinking water.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommends that private water supplies be tested annually for coliform bacteria, nitrate, pH, iron, manganese, sodium and chloride. If the sample tests positive for coliform bacteria, further testing should be done for nitrate, arsenic, lead, and primary organic contaminants.

Known reasons for well water contamination include failed septic tanks and leach fields, storage and improper handling of fertilizers and pesticides, and leakage from underground storage tanks. Consuming well water contaminated by ground water could lead to health issues, especially for young children, those with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.

In 2006, 80 percent of North Castle homes utilized on-site septic systems. Depending on usage, Westchester County Department of Health recommends that private septic tanks be pumped out every two to three years. Larger households of six people should pump the tank more frequently than smaller households of two people.

To properly maintain a well, regularly check underground oil, diesel, and gasoline storage tanks. Also be sure your well is protected from any pet waste. Be careful about spillage and disposal of household and lawn chemicals, as well as being aware of their proper storage. If you suspect a problem, it’s recommended to test your well water more frequently to detect any contamination problems.

George to the Rescue
Legacy Construction to Appear on George to the Rescue

April 27, 2016
A reality TV program on NBC focuses on families that have experienced hardship and get help from George Oliphant in transforming the given family's living space. Armonk's Legacy Construction Northeast was part of the crew that helped with work on a home in an upcoming episode of George to the Rescue. The show will air on WNBC New York Saturday April 30 at 9:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Sunday May 1 at 12:30 a.m.

George considers each house he sees as having tons of potential and is enthusiastic about the projects. His compassion and sincerity comes across clearly and the families are excited to see him. As he says to the families, "the pleasure is all mine."

George starts by bringing in a general contractor and designer to figure out how to handle the project of the episode. Three partners from Armonk’s Legacy Construction, worked with George to finish a widowed mother’s master bedroom and bathroom that her husband started but never finished.

Four Byram Hills graduates appear on the show. Brothers Chris and Tom Yaroscak and Nicole Fareri Riess of Legacy Construction worked with the general contractor team, while Cami Fareri Luppino worked with the design team.

“It’s a great story for a wonderful family,” Beth Yaroscak, another member of Legacy Construction, said.  She continued, “We are proud of how we all came together to make this happen. The transformation is incredible."

Recycle Freezers or Refrigerators and
Save With Con Ed


Republished 2016
Save money and energy when you recycle your old, inefficient freezer or second refrigerator. Here's how:

• Con Edison will pick up your freezer or second refrigerator at a time that is convenient for you, and give you $50 as a thank you.

• They can also collect and recycle old window or wall air conditioners at time of pick up.

• You'll help the environment by reducing landfill waste.

Click to schedule your pick-up