Friday, December 30, 2022

Real Estate: Chimney fires can be preventable with simple precautions

By Carrie Colby

Whether we’re ready for it or not, winter weather is upon us. And with colder temps comes an obvious increase in the use of fireplaces.

For many of us, our fireplaces/chimneys haven’t been touched in months. However, chimneys account for 75 percent of home heating fires, meaning homeowners should actively maintain and follow the necessary upkeep.

There are over 25,000 reported chimney fires a year in the U.S. causing near a billion dollars in damage, and potentially the loss of lives. While some sound like a low-flying jet and include flames shooting out the top of the chimney, others are slow-burning and go undetected until a chimney inspection uncovers damage. Chimney fires are dangerous, but they are preventable.

What causes chimney fires?

Creosote builds up in the flue that lines the chimney. Creosote is a highly flammable black or dark brown residue that is a by-product of combustion. This substance can be crusty, tar-like, sticky or hardened. If there’s enough of it—and the internal flue temperature is high enough or sparks or flames reach it—a chimney fire can start.

How to prevent chimney fires

At the beginning of the heating season, hire a certified chimney inspector to examine your chimney—specifically, the chimney liner and ventilation. The chimney inspector will check for creosote build-up, cracks, and leaks, and make sure the vent is in good working order. A good chimney sweep thoroughly cleans the chimney, flue, and vents. A chimney cleaning runs between $125 and $250, depending on the type and condition of chimney.

Burn “clean” fires

That means fires with more flame, and less smoke. To get a clean fire, burn seasoned wood that has been drying for a year or more. Keep it under cover until use so it is dry when added to the firebox.

Avoid burning evergreens as they tend to pop and spark more than hardwood, which creates a fire hazard. Not all types of woods burn the same though.

Seasoned hardwood, like ash, oak, maple, hickory, and beech, is best. It has been fully dried out, and the ends should appear cracked, showing the wood is dry. When wood is still green, it creates more smoke as the moisture is dried. This additional condensation can lead to creosote build-up.

Keep the damper fully open

Restricted air supply from a partially closed damper adds to creosote buildup, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Be smart about what you’re burning. Some people start their fires with rolled up newspaper logs. Avoid burning glossy pages, wrapping paper or cardboard, which may release nasty chemicals. Never put paper on top of a fire; feed it under the grate so that burning fragments don’t rise up the flue and cause a chimney fire.

Clean the interior of your fireplace regularly, including the floor. Sweep or vacuum up cold ashes.

I have a gas fireplace. Do I still need an inspection?

Even though a gas fireplace puts off less smoke, it still uses the chimney to dispel the heat and smoke from the fire. If you use gas logs in your fireplace, do not skip getting your chimney inspected!

All chimneys work best and remain safer with regular maintenance from a service professional. <

Carrie Colby is a Broker with Allied Real Estate, 909 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. She can be reached at 207-232-5497.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Real Estate: Home Décor Predictions for 2023

By Nicole Foster

After years of washing out an entire space from floor to ceiling in nothing but whites, and greys many designers are speculating that homeowners will continue to shake things up a bit more in 2023.

Distinctive herringbone flooring is making a 
comeback and trending for 2023 home decor.
The minimalist trend of sparsely decorated spaces may be winding down as people crave more energy and dimension. The sudden hard push for maximalist décor following the pandemic will also be subsiding to find the right balance of blank or negative space helping to avoid the feelings of too much stuff going on within a room.

Kitchen: The timeless all white kitchens may become less common with more people instead choosing cabinets which use color as a statement. Creamy tones of beige or grey and muted blues and greens will be increasingly common to see used in kitchen cabinetry.

The modern kitchen will incorporate the use of large swaths of stone with veiny patterns traveling beyond the countertops. Center islands are expected to continue to grow in size as people are increasingly using this space and some are doubling down with not one but two kitchen islands.

People will continue the departure from leaving the base of the island to match wall coverings to puffing it out more with the creative use of texture, trim, and color. We will see more bold and vibrant patterns and materials being used to highlight the backsplash which no longer is limited to the space between counters and cabinets, and instead may travel all the way to the ceiling.

Mixed metals, shiny porcelain and glass tile may be seen used simultaneously instead of selecting only one type of tile and large sections of marble will dominate kitchens in 2023.

Flooring: It is likely that we will see a surge in the use of darker wood tones than we have seen in the recent past. Herringbone and parquet will make a return as many are choosing engineered wood as a more durable choice over hardwood. Larger than ever tiles are predicted to be used as well as textured varieties of flooring.

As a longtime neglected space, many are predicting that we could see more homeowners taking this overlooked empty canvas and using it as a way to tie a room together, while drawing the focal point upwards.

The use of color and texture through adding continuous color up the walls and covering the ceiling, use of wallpaper for ceilings will be on the rise in 2023.

Natural wood planks and exposed beams will continue to be used as ceiling accents, but more people are making bold statements by painting over the beams or wallpapering around them.

Interior Paint Trends for 2023: Painting trends will reflect this year’s selections including Raspberry Blush Benjamin Moore’s color of the Year, Pantone Color of the Year: Viva Magenta and Sherman Williams Color of the Year: Redent Point SW.

Rich jewel tones and deep, saturated hues are predicted to be used increasingly to create a dramatic atmosphere. The trend of using a monochromatic palette of light and airy colors is giving way to the use of more moody tones.

The traditional foundation of a room for a long time has taken it’s roots using a semi-gloss paint for the woodwork and trim, accompanied by an eggshell or matte finish on the walls.

A growing trend is to use the same matte finish of a singular color, or tonal colors, throughout the room so there is no contrast between the trim, woodwork and walls.

The widespread use of white shiplap has evolved to include more vertical applications while stepping away from white and incorporating the rich use of color with the added texture. We will likely see more use of trim added to walls before painting, as an effective way of upgrading the entire room.

Not Your Grandparent’s Wallpaper: The use of wallpaper has been making a strong and steady return and we should only see this trend continue to grow in 2023.

The selections are becoming increasingly used as an expression of art, with some truly stunning choices now available. The wallpaper of today is typically applied in targeted areas of a room as an accent. Large and showy patterns with a return to retro and botanical prints mixed with metallic highlights in bold designs can be used to immediately transform a space.

In a smaller room, such as a half bath, wallpaper may be used throughout the space on both the walls and ceilings. <

Nicole Foster is a Broker with Locations Real Estate in Falmouth and a Windham parent and resident who loves people and real estate. Reach her by email at or call her at 207-615-7558.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Commercial real estate success results from strong relationships, expertise

By Larry Eliason

As a Commercial Real Estate Broker, my focus is to provide my clients with sound Commercial Real Estate advice. I specialize in Sales and Acquisitions Representation for Sellers and Buyers and Commercial Real Estate Leasing Representation for Landlords and Tenants.

As a seasoned Maine Licensed Real Estate Broker, I have developed a diverse set of skills by accumulating years of experience that includes Sales and Marketing, Contract Negotiation, Due Diligence, Planning and Approval Process, Commercial Real Estate Financing and Commercial Broker Opinion Valuation to name a few.

I wanted to provide some basic Commercial Real Estate Terms to help Sellers, Buyers, Landlords and Tenants better understand what Commercial Brokers are looking at as far as Income, Expenses, Cash-Flow and Return on Investment in addition to the physical nature and condition of Commercial Real Estate.

Gross Potential Rent is calculated by taking the market rent of every unit on the property and adding it up. It is the maximum amount of money your property could make if it was 100 percent occupied and every unit was making market rent.

The Vacancy Rate is a numerical value calculated as the percentage of all available units in a rental property, such as a shopping center or business park, that are vacant or unoccupied at a particular time.

Gross Operating Income refers to the result of subtracting the credit and vacancy losses from a property's gross potential income. GOI is also sometimes known as Effective Gross Income (EGI).

Repairs and Maintenance are the costs incurred with a real estate asset operating at its present condition. If a commercial building requires repairs, the cost to repair the damage is debited to repairs and maintenance expenses.

Reserves for Replacements is an amount of money set aside in anticipation of building components or equipment like HVAC wearing out in a relatively short time and it needs to be replaced. Replacement reserves can be a mere accounting entry as a phantom expense item reducing net operating income each month, or it can be money deposited into an account and earmarked for replacements.

Property Management Fee is the operation, control, oversight, and accounting of real estate investments. Management is needed to monitor the property and offers accountability for collecting rents and reviewing expenses as they come along.

Net operating income (NOI) is a calculation used to analyze real estate investments that generate income. Net operating income equals all revenue from the property minus all reasonably necessary operating expenses.

The Return on Investment (ROI) or cash on cash return is a commonly utilized investment measurement in the real estate industry. Return on investment is calculated by taking the monthly or annual cashflow of an asset and dividing it by the total amount of money you invested into a property.

The Return on Equity (ROE) is a measurement of investment returns. ROE considers your total equity, including equity that has built up over time, and measures your cash-on-cash returns against that instead of your initial investment.

The Income Capitalization Rate
, also known as the commercial real estate cap rate, is the rate of return used by Commercial Real Estate Investors to assess the risk and potential return of a property. Cap rates are usually expressed as percentages such as 10% as a return on investment using debt and equity. When comparing investment properties, capitalization rates are a commonly used benchmark for measuring returns.

As much as Commercial Real Estate is to review income and expenses, analyze leases and crunch the numbers to evaluate risk and determine return-on investment, Commercial Real Estate is also a people business. I believe that success in this industry is earned over time by building long-term relationships and being a valuable resource to your clients.

My service area is the Greater Sebago Lakes Region. I do go where a client needs me to travel sometimes hours away from my home base. In the Greater Sebago Lakes Region, the property may be zoned commercial, however, it could also be a residentially zoned Multi-family or an Income Producing Property with Lakefront, a Sales and Service business like a Marina, a Waterfront Campground or other 4 Season Property with Lakefront amenities.

If you are looking to Sell, Buy or Lease Commercial Real Estate, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to help you meet your Commercial Real Estate goals. <

Larry Eliason is a Commercial Broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond and serves as the President of the Windham Economic Development Corporation. You can reach him at 207-415-2112.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Real Estate: Winter water damage from ice dams, attic condensation

By Tricia Zwirner

Excessive snow on the roof, condensation in the attic and ice buildup can cause roof and water damage. What are ice dams? What causes attic condensation? Why is excessive snow on your roof a concern? And what to do if you’ve had these?

What are ice dams?

When the temperature in your attic is above freezing, snow on the roof will likely melt. When the snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes.

If this cycle repeats over several days, the freezing snowmelt builds up and forms an ice dam, behind which water pools into large puddles, or "ponds." The ponding water can then back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or along exterior walls.

The right weather conditions for ice dams are usually when outside air temperatures are in the low 20s (°F) for several days with several inches of snow on the roof.

Causes of condensation in your attic

Attic condensation typically occurs when warm, moist air migrates or is directed into the attic from living spaces below. Research indicates unusually high humidity in the home's living spaces is strongly associated with attic condensation problems.

Winter water damage warning signs

Recognize the signs of stress when too much snow and ice has accumulated on your roof or when you have too much condensation in your attic.

Here are a few things to watch for:
Sagging ridgeline
Drooping ceilings
Water leaks on interior walls and ceilings
Jammed doors
Cracked interior walls near the center of your home
Creaking sounds

Condensation, snow on roof and ice dam prevention tips

Building codes attempt to prevent these problems but they can't address it all. And many houses could have been built prior to their creation.
Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and dryer vents should never be discharged into the attic space and always discharge outside. You may have an adequately ventilated attic, but this won't matter if the bathroom exhaust fan dumps warm moist air directly into the attic space. This could result in condensed water vapor freezing onto cold attic materials, which will eventually thaw creating wet attic materials resulting in damage and potentially mold in the attic and inside the home.
Minimize ceiling mounted fixtures below the attic that create the need for holes in the drywall or plaster ceiling. Properly seal ceiling penetrations to make them airtight taking care to follow manufacturer clearance requirements for flues, chimneys and recessed light fixtures.
Research shows keeping the attic air temperature below freezing when the outside air temperature is in the low 20s can reduce the occurrence of ice dams. Proper attic ventilation is key to keeping the attic cool, while adequate and properly installed insulation is key to keeping your house warm. It is critical to keep soffit vents free from obstructions to allow the natural flow of cool outside air into the attic space to replace the warmer attic air that rises and flows outside the ridge and/or roof vents. This flow of air will keep the attic cool and free of moisture build-up.

What to do
It’s recommended you hire a professional contractor to be sure that insulation in the attic space is adequate to help prevent your home's warm air from escaping into unheated attic spaces.
Remove snow from the roof to prevent the creation (or reduce the impact) of ice dams. A "roof rake" can be used to remove snow but may damage the roofing materials so be very careful or hire a professional if in doubt.
Verify soffit and roof or ridge venting exists for all roof planes and that soffit vents are neither blocked by attic insulation nor covered by newly installed maintenance free finishes outside the home.
Verify all penetrations, access panels and electrical fixtures are properly sealed and insulated to prevent heat and moisture from entering the attic space, while maintaining manufacturer's required clearances.
Verify all exhaust fans and dryer vents are discharged to the outside.
Keep gutters clean of leaves and other debris. This will not necessarily prevent ice dams, but clean gutters can help drain away ice melt as it makes its way to the gutters during a thaw.
Follow up a short-term ice dam remedy with determining and fixing the actual cause to your ice dam problem. Consult a trusted and competent professional.
If replacing your home's roof, have a self-sealing membrane installed under the shingles to help prevent water damage from ice dams.
On metal roofs, install snow guards above entrances.

If your home suffers damage this winter, contact your homeowner’s insurance agent to see if it's covered under your homeowner's policy. <

Tricia Zwirner is a State Farm agent celebrating her 21st year in Windham. She and her team would love to hear from you and can be reached via phone and text at 207-892-2864 or via email at