RE/MAX 440
Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879 
peterpatkos@remax440.com
Peter Patkos

My Blog

Select the Right Tree for the Right Place in Your Yard

April 25, 2014 4:21 am

It has been more than 140 years since the first Arbor Day was observed in Nebraska. It has since become a national observance that takes place on the last Friday in April in most states and recognizes the importance of trees as well as tree selection, planting, and care. A properly selected and planted tree can add beauty and energy efficiency to your landscape. A poorly selected and planted tree can become high maintenance, dangerous, and short-lived. The Energy Education Council has advice to help you select the tree that is best for your yard.

"This is an excellent time of year for tree planting," says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council. "With some research and preparation, your tree will be a healthy and beautiful addition to your home for years to come."

One of the first considerations is the purpose of your tree. Will your tree be needed for shade, a windbreak, or beauty? These considerations will affect what tree is suitable for you, and where it should be planted. Dense evergreens provide a good wind block, while leafy deciduous trees provide shade in the summer.

No matter what purpose the trees will serve, it is always best to choose native trees. They require less maintenance and will live longer. You can get more information about native growing trees from a regional university Extension office or a state department of natural resources. In addition, the Arbor Day Foundation has a free tree wizard tool that will help you select the best tree for your needs. It is available at www.arborday.org/shopping/trees/treewizard/intro.cfm.

The next step is to decide where you will plant your tree. For a windbreak, plant trees to the north, northwest, and west. For shade, plant trees to the east and west of your home. Remember that fast-growing trees are more brittle and likely to be damaged in a storm. Plant these trees farther from your home to protect your home from damage.

If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, there are additional considerations to help keep your home and community safe. It is recommended that you limit the flammable vegetation and material around your home for at least 30 feet on all sides. Contact your local fire department for more information.

Also be sure to select planting locations that will not interfere with your utility lines or power poles. Power outages or interruptions occur when trees and branches come into contact with overhead lines. Electrical arcing and sparking from a wire to a nearby branch can cause fires.

Tall growing trees with a mature height of greater than 40 feet should be planted 50 feet away to avoid future pruning. A mature height of less than 25 feet is recommended for trees planted near power lines. Keep in mind that trees should never be planted directly under power lines, near poles, or too close to electrical equipment.

Tall growing trees near power lines must be pruned to maintain a safe distance from the wires. If you have trees that are growing into power lines, contact your electric provider. Never try to prune them yourself.

Before planting, take proper precautions to stay safe. Be sure to call 8-1-1, the national "Call Before You Dig" number, a few business days before you want to plant. It is a free service that gets your public underground utilities located and marked, so you can dig safely away from them.

Source: Energy Education Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Outdoor Living Trends that Instantly Turn a Drab Deck into a Beautiful Oasis

April 25, 2014 4:21 am

(BPT) - Warm weather means more time to spend outside enjoying gentle breezes and sunshine-filled days. Is your deck or patio ready for months of outdoor fun? If your outdoor space is a bit drab, there's no need to fret. The year's top trends in outdoor living will transform any deck in an instant and create a space that is truly an extension of the home.

"Homeowners are demanding expanded livable spaces and are looking for fresh ways to update their decks and patios for premium enjoyment," says Madeleine MacRae, exterior market manager for Somfy Systems, maker of motors and controls for shades, screens and awnings. "The good news is that an existing space can easily be transformed into an outdoor oasis with minimal effort and financial investment." MacRae offers top outdoor living trends that will instantly transform your deck into a beautiful, relaxing oasis:

Shade
Sunny days define the warm weather months, but outdoor spaces can quickly heat up and drive homeowners indoors to cool off. That's why shade options are a necessity, with automatic awnings leading the trend. Somfy Motorized awnings not only create cooler, more comfortable outdoor spaces, but they can also be set to react to the environment with sensors customized to open and close the awning as wind and sun intensities shift. These modern high-tech awnings do more than enhance outdoor living; they improve indoor living by blocking the sun from coming inside the home, creating real energy savings by keeping AC units from kicking on in peak times.

Lighting
The American Society of Landscape Architects recently released the results of its 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, and lighting topped the list of in-demand outdoor living features. As the sun goes down, there's no need to retreat indoors when your patio has the proper lighting. Solar lights are a popular option that again pair well with the sustainability theme - they charge during daylight and glow automatically at dusk. Strings of garden lights are another popular option, adding a subtle twinkle to outdoor spaces.

Ambiance

Potted plants bring rich shades of green and other beautiful colors directly onto the deck or patio area to add unparalleled ambiance. A few strategically placed pots add a touch of serenity while tying together landscape themes. What's hot for 2014? Sustainability and low-maintenance continue to be in high demand, making native plants a natural choice. When deciding which plants to use in your pots, ask your local garden center expert or call your local extension office to see what native plants will perform best in the region where you live.

Stylish outdoor furniture is a necessary element of designing a cozy, usable outdoor space with superb ambiance. Upholstered sofas and oversized accent pillows in a variety of colorful patterns are big this year. When furnishing your deck or patio, keep in mind the flow of traffic and embrace thoughtful arrangement of furniture to encourage conversation and comfort. In addition to couches and chairs, incorporating an eating area makes dining al fresco a joy any time of day. If you're tight on space, seek multifunctional furniture that performs double duty, such as a couch that also serves as a storage space for blankets under the cushion. If you have liberal space, installed furniture is super trendy, such as a hanging swing or sofa.

Naturally aligning with homeowners' desire to create functional space both indoors and out, the demand for outdoor kitchens is growing. Whether it's a corner with a grill or a full kitchen with refrigerator, prep sink and all, incorporating a space on your deck for cooking food is a top trend. Whether you're slow-grilling a turkey for an intimate family dinner or flipping burgers for a neighborhood cookout, outdoor kitchens will serve you well time and time again throughout the warm weather seasons, all while adding value to your overall home investment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Useful Tips to Spring Clean the Pantry

April 24, 2014 4:10 am

To celebrate spring, Annie Chun's announced 10 tips to help consumers de-clutter the kitchen and prepare for a season of healthy, mindful eating. The recommendations support the brand's mission to empower at-home cooks with the tools, resources and products they need to feel comfortable in the kitchen and well-equipped to make a great meal.

While it's important to maintain a well-stocked and well-organized pantry year-round, Annie Chun's advises consumers to take advantage of annual "spring cleaning" with the following easy steps:

1. Remove all items from your pantry. Reassess all of the food and supplies you have accumulated, and clear your shelves of unhealthy, overly processed foods. This keeps the pantry free of temptation while making space for more wholesome options.
2. Identify "pantry staples" and always keep them stocked. Convenient, shelf-stable foods that deliver on flavor will help ensure you never go hungry and provide simple meal options that can be ready in minutes.
3. Check "best by" dates. Discard anything that may have expired or items that you hardly use which are nearing their expiration date in order to cut down on clutter. Pay attention to oils, nuts, grains and seeds which can go rancid over time.
4. Wipe down surfaces. Before re-stocking, be sure to wipe down shelving with a food-safe, gentle cleanser to eliminate any dirt, germs, etc.
5. Consider accessibility. For pantries with deep shelves, reorganize your products so that taller items are in back, and smaller items are in front, making it easy to see what you have.
6. Group "like" items together to ensure quick access when you need them.
7. Label and date things. For any non-packaged goods or foods that aren't shelf-stable, be sure to label and date them appropriately.
8. Employ the use of airtight containers. Air-tight containers will maintain your food at peak freshness for as long as possible, lessening the chance of spoilage.
9. Keep healthier, packaged snacks at eye-level. When better-for-you snacks—like nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain crackers—are right before your eyes, you're more likely to favor them in place of something unhealthy.
10. Keep a pen and paper nearby to keep track of your supplies so that you don't risk running out of anything you might need.

Source: Annie Chun’s

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More Than Half of States Still Show Improving Housing Markets

April 24, 2014 4:10 am

Freddie Mac released its Multi-Indicator Market Index(SM) (MiMi(SM)) for February showing the U.S. housing market overall recovering at a slightly slower pace from the previous month. However, more than half of all states, as well as more than half of the top 50 metro areas, continue to show an improving trend. Eleven states and the District of Columbia, and four metro areas, are in their stable range of housing activity, unchanged from last month. One year ago, seven states and the District of Columbia, and zero metro areas, were in their stable range.

• The national MiMi value stands at -3.11 points indicating a weak housing market overall and declining by 0.03 points from January to February. However, on a year-over-basis, the U.S. housing market has improved by 0.67 points, and the 3-month trend (+0.12 points) shows an improving housing market. The nation's all-time MiMi low of -4.49 was in November 2010 when the housing market was at its weakest.

• Eleven of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia are in their stable range of housing activity with North Dakota, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Alaska, and Louisiana ranking in the top five. Wyoming moved up to the second place ranking. The District of Columbia declined one spot to third place.

• Four of the 50 metro areas are stable and in range, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and Austin with the latter two switching between third and fourth place rankings.

• The five most improving states month-over-month were South Carolina (+0.14), Louisiana (+0.7), Ohio (+0.07), Tennessee (+0.05) and Nevada (+0.07). From one year ago the most improving states remained unchanged: Florida (+1.87), Nevada (+1.65), California (+1.08), South Carolina (+0.96) and Texas (+0.93).

• The five most improving metro areas month-over-month were Charlotte (+0.10), Columbus (+0.09), Nashville (+0.07), New Orleans (+0.07), and Las Vegas (+0.05) which tied with Memphis (+0.05) and Miami (+0.05). From one year ago the most improving metros remained unchanged: Miami (+2.33), Orlando (+1.91), Las Vegas (+1.64), Riverside (+1.60), and Tampa (+1.49).

• Overall, in February, 28 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia are improving based on their three month trend and 27 of the 50 metros are improving. Kansas City, St. Louis and Minneapolis metro area housing markets slipped in their three month trend after seeing declines in their purchase application activity and local employment picture.

"Despite a slowdown over the winter months, the housing market continues to show improvement in most states, although at a somewhat slower pace,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft. “And while not all the MiMi indicators are trending in a better direction -- gains in local employment and loan performance have really helped many markets across the country, especially those that were hardest hit. Outside of these areas we also are seeing positive improvement from the Carolinas and Tennessee as their local unemployment rates fall further."

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Greener Grilling: Good for You and for Mother Nature, Too

April 23, 2014 3:57 am

(BPT) - You already know grilling is a healthful, flavorful and fun way to cook while enjoying the great outdoors. But did you know it can also be a "green" activity?

By choosing earth-friendly fuel options, better ingredients and sustainably sourced seasonings, you can satisfy your family's taste buds and Mother Nature with these greener grilling tips:

* Grilling with charcoal briquettes imparts a wonderful flavor to foods, but many cooks resort to a squirt (or several) of lighter fluid to get the coals burning faster. Forego the lighter fluid and invest in a charcoal chimney - a metal cylinder that makes it easy to get charcoal started. Briquettes go on the grate atop the chimney and newspaper goes at the bottom. When you light the paper, the chimney effect of the tube lights the charcoal from the bottom quickly and easily.

* Many people use disposable dinnerware for outdoor dining. While it may be convenient to not have to wash those dishes, reusable dinnerware and table linens are better for the environment and cheaper in the long term. Plus, cloth napkins and real plates impart a special charm to dining al fresco.

* This summer, why not try meat and poultry from free-range or grass-fed animals, rather than factory farmed? Better yet, select meat from a local farmer, buy organic or go vegan or vegetarian. Firm tofu, Portobello mushrooms and even polenta are healthy and trendy alternatives to meat. Such options reduce the environmental impact of your meal, and they often taste much better!

* Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat to your grilled meats and vegetables. When you choose sustainably sourced spices and herbs from purveyors like Frontier Natural Co-op, you're not only getting outstanding flavor, but you can be assured the seasonings have been produced using practices that are better for the environment, too.

* When purchasing produce, look for local options. Locally grown veggies and fruits travel a shorter distance to make it to your grill, meaning less fossil fuel is consumed overall.

* You can conserve resources without skimping on flavor if you make marinades using whole spices that you've pan roasted and freshly cracked before blending. Flavored and artisan black pepper corns, salts and sugars are trendy right now. You can also incorporate artisan vinegars, fine drinking wines and unusual beers into your marinades to create unique and pleasing flavors.

* Do you love adding smoke to your grilling? Rather than buying pre-soaked planks or pre-processed briquettes, try smoking by soaking whole herbs, spices and tea leaves in water then throwing them on the hot coals to create unusually flavored smoke blends that go far beyond basic mesquite and hickory.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Indoor Allergen That Might Surprise You

April 23, 2014 3:57 am

While many welcome the arrival of warmer temperatures with open arms, people with seasonal allergies and asthma may be bracing themselves with boxes of tissues and asthma medications this season. According to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, about 45 percent of people over the age of six and 36 percent of children under the age of six have tested positive for at least one allergen.

Outdoor allergens are prevalent again, but families staying inside on a hot day also have indoor allergens to think about. One of the most forgotten indoor allergy triggers is cockroaches.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 63 percent of American homes contain allergens from cockroaches. This includes droppings, saliva and dead bugs, and children can be especially sensitive. In addition, cockroaches are known to spread a number of serious diseases including Salmonella and E. coli.

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has the following tips for homeowners to help reduce allergens in the home so families can breathe more easily and stay healthy:

Vacuum Regularly. Running the vacuum at least once a week using a unit with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter can clean up crumbs and help remove allergens from carpeting and furniture.
Store Food Properly. Keep food stored in sealed containers, particularly in the kitchen.
Inspect Groceries and Deliveries. Sometimes, cockroaches and other pests can be brought in with deliveries or groceries from the store. Carefully inspect items as you put them away, and promptly remove cardboard boxes once unpacked.
Keep a Spotless Kitchen. Clean dishes and wipe down counter tops, appliances and other surfaces daily to remove crumbs and spills that can attract pests.
Take Out the Trash. Dispose of garbage regularly, and be sure curbside containers or dumpsters are properly sealed.
Stay on Top of Home Repairs. Seal cracks and holes around the exterior of the home, paying special attention to entry points for utilities and pipes. Also, check for leaks under appliances and sinks to avoid moisture buildup.
Work with a Pro. If you suspect an infestation, contact a qualified pest professional to properly identify your pest problem and recommend a course of treatment.

Source: National Pest Management Association

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Poll Respondents More Embarrassed to Admit Credit Card Balance and Credit Score than Age or Weight

April 23, 2014 3:57 am

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling™ (NFCC) recent online poll, when asked what they would be most embarrassed to admit, the highest number of respondents, 37 percent, indicated it was their credit card debt.

People were given five categories from which to choose. In addition to credit card debt, the options included age, weight, bank balance, credit score or none. Coming in a strong second, 30 percent of respondents indicated they would be embarrassed to admit their credit score. Since debt and credit scores can be related, it is not surprising that these two concerns earned the unenviable top two spots in the poll. Consider the following:

* Excessive credit card debt should be seen as a warning sign that a person is in the financial danger zone. Although credit cards may appear to be the solution to a financial shortfall, charging beyond what can be repaid each month can quickly get out of control. Debts that cannot be responsibly managed may lead to late payments resulting in fees being added onto the balance and can sometimes take years to repay. Such activity is likely to negatively impact a person's credit report and potentially result in a lower credit score.

* Typically one of the highest-weighted elements of a credit scoring model is the credit utilization ratio, which considers how much a person owes versus his or her available line of credit. Although lenders each have their own criteria for evaluating credit worthiness, it is smart to not utilize more than 30 percent of available credit.

"Since consumers revealed that the two facts they'd be most embarrassed to admit are related to credit, it is obvious that they are not comfortable with how they are currently managing their money," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "The good news is that there are solutions available for those who want to take charge of their financial future. Since April is Financial Literacy Month, now is the ideal time for people to address their financial concerns."

For help overcoming your most embarrassing financial moments, reach out to an NFCC member agency and inquire about the three-step Sharpen Your Financial Focus program. To be automatically connected to the agency closest to you, dial (855) 374-2773, or visit www.SharpenToday.org or www.agudicehoy.org.

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Energy Efficiency through Insulation Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

April 22, 2014 3:45 am

With today marking the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) reminds the public about the key role of fiber glass and mineral wool insulation in achieving greater energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "Buildings account for 40 percent of energy use worldwide," NAIMA Interim President and CEO Angus Crane said. "Reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are global priorities and among the easiest, most impactful ways to do that is ensuring all buildings are energy efficient. Properly insulating and air sealing buildings is critical to optimizing energy efficiency and reducing costs to building owners."

This winter, which saw many states break decades-long records for cold temperatures, reminded many homeowners of the costs of under-insulated homes: high energy bills. NAIMA estimates that some 40 million U.S. homes are under insulated and adding insulation is a relatively simple, low-cost home improvement that offers benefits that are friendly to the pocketbook and the planet. Additional insulation can reduce utility costs by as much as 30 percent and overall energy use by 50 percent when compared with an uninsulated building.

"Earth Day also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of businesses, industries and governments in educating the public about global sustainability and climate change," Crane said. "NAIMA applauds the many organizations that promote energy-efficient policies to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and improve the future of the planet."

Notwithstanding the significant environmental benefits of insulation, there are many other advantages, including insulation's role in improving public health. A 2004 study conducted by Harvard University School of Public Health found that adequate levels of insulation improved public health by limiting the effects of outdoor pollutants on the population. In addition, properly insulated buildings also offer better acoustical control. Homeowners may also take advantage of financial incentives and tax credits offered by a number of jurisdictions and entities throughout the United States to make homes more energy-efficient by doing such things as adding insulation.

"It is not an overstatement to say that we can insulate our way to a brighter future and at the same time, control our increasing energy costs," said Scott Miller, chairman of NAIMA's Sustainability Subcommittee. "Insulation is a simple solution to a weighty global challenge -- reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions -- but it clearly offers a myriad of benefits."

Source: naima.org

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What Says Vacation in Any Language? A Perfectly Packed Suitcase

April 22, 2014 3:45 am

Summer is around the corner and many across the country will be jet-setting off on wonderful and warm adventures. But what should you bring and what can you do without? Here are a few steps travelers can take to make packing perfect.

Step one: Weight, size…
Understand limitations. Traveling by car, with an empty trunk to fill? In this case, the more the merrier! But for those traveling by air, it is worth looking into weight and size restrictions to eliminate those last minute surprises when checking it at the airport. Most airlines enforce a 50 pound weight restriction for checked bags. Find out what the maximum weight is for your chosen airline and pack accordingly.

Step two: The essentials
Make a master list of everything needed, every day. This list can include all the basics, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, and all personal must-haves, like special face cream or hair straightener. Keep this list and re-use it for the next trip!

Step three: Mix and match
Forget total outfits. First, consult the local weather forecast. Then, choose a basic color theme and stick with it – blacks or navies, whites or creams – so that you can pack a set of mix and match basics. Pack familiar items – now is not the time to experiment with new pieces. Leave behind articles which wrinkle too much or show wear too easily. And take multifunctional pieces like a blazer or cardigan to coordinate with pants or a dress. With the space saved, there is room for one or two extravagant items – or for souvenirs picked up along the way!

Step four: Shoes, shoes, and more shoes!
Oh, the agony! Again, sticking to a color theme will make decisions so much easier. Take a comfortable pair of shoes, as traveling always involves a lot of walking. Then take one pair that can dress anything up for the evening. And finally, wear the biggest pair while travelling. As for purses, the same rules apply – take one for the day, which can possibly double as a second carry-on bag, and a little bag for the evening, which can easily slip into the suitcase.

Step five: Toiletries
Searching for a little piece of home away from home? For many people, that comes in the shape of toiletries and cosmetics. Always remember the 100 ml rule – anything larger than 100 mls can only be packed in checked luggage. And collect samples of favorite brands to use during the trip. This will drastically reduce the volume of toiletries required.

Step six: Accessories
If there is one area people can pack a few outstanding items in, this is it! Pack all the basics, and sneak in a few extras just in case. Those sparkly earrings? Check. A bangle bracelet? Why not?

Step seven: Packing vs. unpacking
One last rule? The less you pack, the less you have to unpack!

Source: DELSEY

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Most Americans Incorrectly Believe Wind Speed Determines Hurricane Evacuation

April 21, 2014 3:33 am

A national Harris Interactive Survey commissioned by the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® has revealed some frightening perceptions regarding hurricane evacuation. The survey found that a vast majority of Americans, 84 percent, mistakenly base their life or death evacuation decisions on the hurricane category and/or wind speed. In fact, hurricane evacuation boundaries are based on the threat of water, not wind, and nearly all evacuation orders are issued due to threat of inland flooding and storm surge.

"Most people think of wind with a hurricane, but in recent years, water from storm surge and inland flooding has done the most damage and killed the most people," said Rick Knabb, Ph.D., Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center (NHC). "Families need to find out if they live in an evacuation zone today, have a plan in place and immediately follow evacuation orders when issued."

Tropical storms, Category 1 and 2 hurricanes, post-tropical cyclones and even Nor'easters can all cause life-threatening storm surge. In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, bringing storm surge of 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels. In 2012, Tropical Storm Debby produced storm surge of seven feet in the Florida Panhandle. Often, heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms cause flooding well inland from the initial strike zone.

"People underestimate the force and power of water," said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. "During Superstorm Sandy, the Sochacki family of Union Beach, N.J., lost their home when it was broken apart and swept out to sea. In the middle of the storm, they were forced to take shelter in an elevated, concrete home next door."

New evacuation resources available
Beginning this hurricane season, the NHC will issue an experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map for areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States that are at risk of storm surge from a tropical cyclone. These real-time maps will show areas where storm surge could occur and how high above ground the water could reach in those areas. The interactive map will be available at www.hurricanes.gov when hurricane or, in some cases, tropical storm, watches or warnings are in effect.

Additionally, FLASH has compiled available online resources on evacuation zones and storm surge mapping for the 222 coastal counties, parishes, and regions from Texas to Maine to help families determine if they reside in an evacuation zone.

Other myths revealed
The annual Harris Interactive survey tests homeowners' hurricane beliefs regarding safety and property protection. Some of the other widely held myths included:

MYTH: It costs more than $10K to make a home stronger against hurricanes
FINDING: 69 percent of Americans believe this to be true
FACT: There are affordable methods and products that minimize damage and the need for costly repairs, including:
• Garage doors are often the most vulnerable opening on a home in a hurricane, but they can be braced for as little as $150.
• Windows and sliding glass doors can be protected from flying debris with temporary plywood shutters for $275 to $750 or with corrugated steel or aluminum shutters from $7 to $15 per foot.
• Roof uplift resistance is critical in high wind and it may be tripled by applying a 1/4 inch bead of APA AFG-01 certified wood adhesive along the intersection of the roof deck and roof rafter or truss chord on both sides of the beam.
• Water intrusion through the roof deck joints is a common source of damage; however, peel and stick water barrier can be applied during re-roofing for as little as $750.

MYTH: Taping windows helps prevent hurricane damage
FINDING: 54 percent of Americans believe this to be true
FACT: Taping windows wastes preparation time, does not stop windows from breaking in a hurricane, and does not make clean-up easier. In fact, taping windows may create larger shards of glass that could cause serious injuries. Masking tape, duct tape, window film and specially marketed "hurricane tape" are insufficient and potentially dangerous. Use tested and approved hurricane shutters or other opening protection instead.

Source: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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