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(NewsUSA) - You know you're supposed to do it twice a year. But what homeowner relishes the thought of climbing a ladder to check the health of his roof -- as key to a home's energy efficiency as that roof might be -- when the weather is turning sharply colder outside?
Well, as it turns out, while even a quick, eyeball roof-check is recommended this time of year, there's a fallback option.
You could just check your attic instead.
"Roofs actually create an insulated barrier that helps trap heat inside, and most attic spaces are located right below them," explains Jason Joplin, program manager of the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence. "That makes them perfect for spotting potential problem areas and damage without worrying about falling."
Here's some tips on what to look for:
* Water leaks. As sure as cable companies will do anything to avoid a la carte pricing, it will soon storm. And when it does, shine a flashlight up in the attic in search of not just dripping water and condensation, but also water stains on the ceiling, walls and floor. All are signs that H2O is finding its way under your roof's shingles or behind its flashings.
* Animal damage. You don't want to know the havoc refuge-seeking birds, bats, squirrels and raccoons can cause. So anything suspicious -- nests, droppings and gnawed wood, wires or insulation -- merits an immediate call to a pest professional.
* Ventilation. "Think of the attic as the lungs of the house," says Joplin. "It has to be able to breathe in order to function properly." Meaning, if your vents are stuffed with debris, they need to be cleared.
* Structure. Any hint of a sagging roof -- look up for this one -- could signal potential structural weakness requiring professional repair.
But wait. You say you love the cold as much as you do the spring (the recommended time for a second annual roof check-up)? If so, you can still inspect for structural deformities without risking your neck on a treacherous ladder by using binoculars to zoom in on everything from loose shingles to broken gutters.
And if prolonging your roof's life is truly your goal, experts say it pays to consult a professional roofing contractor who's insured and uses quality materials like Timberline American Harvest shingles from GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer. A free service that makes it easy to find a factory-certified contractor in your area can be found at www.gaf.com.
(NewsUSA) - It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Maybe you were in an auto accident, and for whatever reason -- taxes spring to mind -- you agreed to forgo a large, lump-sum payout from the other driver's insurance company in favor of small periodic payments. Or maybe your child was born with a birth defect that Big Pharma was held legally liable for, and all you could think about was making sure the money to care for him would be flowing in for decades.
Whatever the case, you've decided that "structured settlement," as it's called, no longer works for you.
"Sometimes cashing in is the only option," says Bankrate.com. "That $500 monthly payment from an accident in 2002 may have helped with the medical bills early on, but if the beneficiary has now lost his job and is on the verge of losing a home, a lump-sum payout of $50,000 may seem quite enticing."
In fact, an estimated $6 billion in structured settlements are bought or sold in any given year. Not all players are alike, though, so you'll want to be sure you don't just automatically call the 1-800 number you saw in some come-on TV ad.
One new web-based entry in the field, SellMyAnnuity.net, stands out for the care it takes to make the process utterly transparent for potential sellers. It's not just that it provides hundreds of examples of past sales -- including six-figure ones -- to give you an idea of what to expect before requesting to be contacted by an agent. No, it actually features PDFs of signed court documents.
Did you get that? PDFs. Of. Signed. Court. Documents.
"We're committed to providing more information about structured settlement annuity sales than any other company in the industry," says Todd Albert, SellMyAnnuity's chief technology officer. "And we'll help people determine whether they should sell, how many payments they want to sell, and of course make sure they get as much money as possible as fast as possible."
The website also explains how various federal and state laws exist to protect you from doing anything foolish. Chief among them: Even after you've accepted an offer, a court judge who's heard your reasons for trading future payments for an immediate lump sum must confirm the sale is in your "best interest."
"You can't turn a structured settlement into cash just because you'd like a new car," says Albert. "But things like buying or repairing a home, starting a business, funding a college education and paying off debt can be acceptable."
(NewsUSA) - As the cold winter months quickly approach, people won't be the only ones huddling inside for warmth. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) encourages homeowners to take steps to prevent pests like cockroaches, rodents and nuisance wildlife from making your home their winter getaway.
Winter invaders such as cockroaches, mice and rats present considerable health threats to family members. Cockroaches carry bacteria and other kinds of human pathogens, contaminating food surfaces and potentially triggering asthma attacks in children, and with 24 percent of homeowners reporting mice infestations specifically in the winter, they are among the top pest issues of the season. Most rodents only need a space the size of a quarter to enter a home, and once inside, they can cause considerable damage and pose serious health risks to people and structural damage to homes, as they are known for chewing through electrical wires and wallboard.
Nuisance wildlife such as raccoons and squirrels can also be an issue in the colder months and may present a unique set of dangers due to their size and aggressive nature if they are frightened or feel threatened when trapped in an unfamiliar environment. Lastly, homeowners should check wood piles for ants and spiders that can often be hiding within.
Prevention is the best way to avoid an infestation during the winter months. NPMA offers these 10 important measures for homeowners as the temperatures begin to drop:
* Seal cracks and holes, including areas where utilities and pipes enter the home.
* Screen vents and openings to chimneys.
* Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
* Replace loose mortar and weather-stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
* Keep tree branches, shrubbery and ground covering well trimmed and away from the house.
* Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off the ground.
* Store boxes off of the floor to prevent rodents from residing in undisturbed areas.
* Repair fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles, as some insects are drawn to deteriorating wood.
* Store garbage in containers with lids.
To find a pest professional or learn more about how to protect your family from the diseases and dangers of pests, visit www.pestworld.org.