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Archive for the ‘Home Improvements’ Category

2010 Rotary President  Carol King , CPA, responds to The Hillman Group with a global view about outsourcing American jobs and products.

Hillman Group VP Dan Smercina wrote the following email reply to Ms King last week….

Ms. King,

This is to acknowledge your recent e-mail and interest in The Hillman Group.  While it is our strict corporate policy to keep all supplier information confidential, I want to assure you that your message was sent to the appropriate parties within our company.

Thank you for expressing your opinion and please be assured Hillman remains committed to providing top quality products, competitive prices and ‘World-Class’ service to our valued customers.


Dan Smercina

Vice President of Marketing

The Hillman Group,  Inc.

Ms King’s response to Hillman and Mr Smercina

Mr. Smercina,

Thank you for responding to my email.  As mentioned below, Crow-Erickson is my client so I am well informed about the details of this issue.   

I hope that as you move forward,  you will make a genuine effort to resolve this matter in Crow-Erickson’s favor.  However, further cutting her profit margin to replace your volume manufacturing discounts or other arrangements with the China government and China vendors does not solve the problem.  It only serves to keep you in the $$$ loop and give you a conversation point to share with the public about “how hard you tried”. 

These are the questions that you should be addressing:

            Is it the truth?

            Is it fair to all concerned?

            Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

            Will it beneficial to all concerned?

In case you do not recognize these  questions, this is the 4-Way Test for every member of Rotary International – all 1.2M members, business people from 235 countries around the world.  These guiding principals have led this organization for 106 years.

As Lowes and Home Depot move forward in their “Buy America” campaign, somewhere in the back of their minds they must know that it is only a matter of time before the world knows the truth. 

As you are aware, a growing number of people are watching how you handle this issue.  They watching to see if you, indeed, will choose to “Buy America” as well.

 Carol L King, CPA  

Carol L King & Associates, PA … 40 N French Broad Avenue … Asheville NC 28801… 828-258-2323. fax 828-258-9982

I was interviewed on Clear Channel News this morning about our Fight to Save our Company and American jobs from the chinese, copycat imports of InfoBox that are being brought into the US by The Hillman Group, distributors for Lowes, Home Depot and Menards.

After the radio interview, we received a call from Senator Richard Burr’s (R) office to inquire about our story.   The Senator’s office is looking into the matter to determine how they can help.   Thank you, Senator Burr!

Tommi Crow radio interview on Jameson show

I would like to say a BIG thank you to Jerri Jameson at WWNC News Radio 570 for having us on her show this morning.  

Thanks for following our story and for your support!  Please continue to sign our petition and send emails to Lowes, Home Depot and Menardsn telling them that InfoTube and InfoBox SHOULD NOT be replaced with chinese imports.

If you have been following our blog, then you know that The Hillman Group went to China and made a copy of our patented, US made InfoBox that is sold at retailers such as Lowes, Home Depot and Menards. 

Hillman planned, and spent a great deal of time and money to steal the InfoBox, replace it on the store shelves with it’s “Yellow”-lidded Chinese copycat.  The goal is to put another US company out of business and toss its workers to the wind. 

Well, we have another plan!  FIGHT BACK!!!

We are placing a BOUNTY and REWARD on the Yellow Chinese Hillman Box.  If you can find and purchase one of these boxes, please do immediately

  • Mail the china box to 1854A Hendersonville Rd #221 – Asheville, NC 28803, along with your receipt.
  • We will send you TWO (2) FREE, Original, 100% Made in the USA INFOBOXES with the Bright, Red Lids    
  • OR, TWO (2) FREE INFOTUBES, The Originals, Made in the USA  with the Bright, Red Caps to your Door at NO CHARGE!!!!  
  • Sign the InfoTube Care2 Petition to Save American Jobs, Companies and Products by CLICKING HERE
  • We are looking forward to returning ALL the Chinese boxes to the store ourselves!!!

Your voice and support matter to American workers, American home owners and America!!!  Thank you in advance for helping us fight!!!

Tommi Crow, owner of Infotube and InfoBox

If you have a condo, ranch, one level bungalow or a home with the master on the main level that you need to sell, this may be your lucky year.  The baby boomers (those 77 million people that were born between 1945 and 1964) are back in the housing market in a big way..and they often pay cash.

The aging boomers have finally worked up the courage to sell the family house, depreciated as it is, and roll the home equity into their last ever home purchase.   Ironically, the catalyst for this trend has nothing to do with real estate.   The motivation is age, quality of life and the stock market.  The stock market is back, bringing with it the net worth of the boomer generation, who controls 80 percent of the financial assets in the United States. 

If you own a one level, low maintenance home…you are already sitting in tall cotton…but you can do some simple things to sweeten the pot even more…if you know what to emphasize and what needs to be done.

Capitalize on the needs of the 65+ year olds, who are looking for place that they can grow old in.  They are naturally drawn to homes that are easy and safe to live in, even if managing stairs and home maintenance is hard to do.

  • Replace door knobs with levered handles.
  • Replace knob-type plumbing fixtures and cabinet pulls with levers or open handles.
  • Today’s house only needs one bathtub.  Offer at least one,  barrier free shower on the main floor, even if means taking out a bathtub.
  • Put a laundry room on the main floor, even if you have to eliminate a closet or half-bath to do so.
  • Consider making entryway staircases longer and more gentle.  Create an option to add a wheelchair ramp to one side, if needed.
  • Consider adding grab bars in glass enclosures or  if your bathroom has wide open space.
  • Replace carpeting with tile, hardwoods or laminate flooring for easier maintenance, durability and a smoother surface.
  • Provide ample indoor lighting and don’t forget the outdoor security lights.
  • Provide outdoor handrails on stairs, inclines or wherever necessary

Marketing Insight:  Most home improvements, suggested above, offer easy living appeal for all ages.  Just because your house is senior friendly doesn’t lessen the appeal to everyone else, but always be tactful.  Design two InfoSheets for Buyers.  Offer one in a standard format and create another that highlights senior-ready amenities. believes that 2011 will be a better year for home sellers, if they know how to reach and appeal to today’s buyer.  Visit our website for tips, insights and a FREE home listing!  What do you have to lose?  Did we mention we also offer a low, flat fee MLS listing package for home owners???

Insulation Upgrade Saves Energy and Money

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 posted by Tommi Crow

One of the easiest and most cost-effective energy upgrades you can make to your home is to improve the level of insulation in your attic. Upgraded attic insulation makes your home easier and less expensive to heat — and to cool next summer — and also makes for a more comfortable living environment.

Depending on what you have now, an insulation upgrade may be a do-it-yourself project, or it may be one that you want to leave to the pros. Some utility companies have programs in place with rebates or low-interest loans to help with energy upgrades, so you’ll want to check with them as well before you get started.

How much do you need?
How much insulation you need is always a good question. The easy answer is “as much as you can get,” but actually there’s a point where continuing to add more insulation really won’t pay you back much additional dividends.

For example, if you have R-19 in your attic, doubling it to R-38 will be a huge improvement. But doubling R-38 to R-76 wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

The R-values for new homes are set by the building codes, so that’s a good place to start. Many areas have established R-38 as a minimum for attics, and some colder areas have increased that to R-49. The further your insulation is below what the codes require, the more you’ll benefit from the upgrade.

What’s up there now?
How much you’ll benefit from upgrading your insulation depends on what’s in the attic now. So you’ll want to start with a trip into the attic to determine what kind of insulation you have, and also to measure its average depth. Here are the four most common types of attic insulation:

  • Loose-fill fiberglass: This is probably the most common, and will be fluffy strands or cubes of pink, white or yellow material. It has an average R-value of 2.5 per inch, so if your measurements show that you have about 6 inches of the stuff, you have an R-value of approximately 15.
  • Fiberglass batts: This is the same material, but it’s woven into thick mats instead of lying loose. It’s typically lying between the joists, but it may be on top of the joists as well. Batts have an average R-value of 3.2 per inch, so your same 6 inches would give you an R-value closer to 19.
  • Mineral wool: This is another loose fill material, although it’s also made into batts as well. It’s gray, and will appear thicker and more fibrous then fiberglass. The average R-value is about 2.8 per inch, so 6 inches would have an R-value of around 17.
  • Cellulose: This is essentially a recycled paper material, with other additives. It’s a light to medium gray, and is a loose fill but not as fluffy as fiberglass. It has a distinct “ground cardboard” look, and averages 3.7 per inch in R-value. Six inches of this material would give you an overall R-value of about 22.

What type of insulation to install?
What type of insulation you’ll want to use for the upgrade depends on a couple of different things, including the costs in your area, and whether you want to do the work yourself.

For attics, blown-in insulation works best. It’s easy to install, covers everything to a uniform depth, and is cost-effective. If you want to do the work yourself, both fiberglass and cellulose can be blown in using a blower that you can rent. Many home centers and other insulation retailers have the blowers available, and they’re sometimes loaned free of charge with a minimum insulation purchase.

Either of these types of insulation produces a lot of dust as they’re being blown, so you’ll want to wear a respirator, as well as some eye protection. For a complete list of safety gear, safety precautions and installation tips, refer to the manufacturer’s specific instructions.

The other alternative is fiberglass or mineral wool batts, which come in standard widths and thicknesses. These work best for attics that don’t have any insulation at all, since you can lay the batts between the joists. If there’s already batt insulation in place, you can install a second layer over the first. Use unfaced batts only, so that you don’t create a double vapor barrier and trap moisture between the layers of batts. Also, install the new layer perpendicular over the original layer, for better coverage over any gaps and cold spots.

Safety first!
You need to keep the insulation away from anything that produces heat, such as fireplace chimneys, wood stove flues and exhaust fans. Recessed light fixtures can only be covered if they’re specifically rated for that purpose. To keep the insulation away, use sheet metal to construct a dam, creating a 1- to 3-inch air space as per the insulation or fixture manufacturer’s recommendations.

It’s also important that you don’t do anything to block the ventilation in your attic, so you also need to install vent baffles to keep the insulation from sloughing down over soffit vents. These can be wood or cardboard, attached to the face of the rafters at each of the vents to keep the air flow clear.

Finally, to prevent moisture buildups that can damage wood framing and lead to mold growth — in addition to robbing R-value from that new insulation — be sure all exhaust fans are vented completely to the outside of the attic!

Thank you for visiting   Please visit our site to place a FREE home listing about your property or search our site for thousands of home listings seen no where else on the web.

How to Get Rid of an Ugly Swimming Pool

Monday, August 30, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow

Paul Bianchina
Inman News

Q: I found a house I would love to buy, but the problem is it has a pool. I would love to get rid of the pool and just plant trees in the back, but friends tell me the value of the house would fall.

I don’t care; I had a pool once and it took too much effort to take care of — and nobody used it. My husband says it is so easy — he would just put dirt in the huge hole. Is it that easy? –Zein G.

A: You certainly can fill in the pool, but it’s a little more involved than just filling it with dirt. First, you need to disconnect all of the plumbing and electrical wiring associated with the pool and its support equipment. This is something that should be done by licensed professionals — especially the electrical wiring.

From there, you would want to break off the upper portion of the pool itself — the tile, concrete, etc. — down a couple of feet. That will get any of the hard surface around the top and upper edge of the pool out of the way so that it doesn’t eventually begin to show above ground again. Now you can proceed with filling in the pool itself.

To prevent dangerous settling, filling in the pool needs to be done in a succession of layers, known as “lifts.” Dirt and rock would be placed in a layer on the bottom of the pool, then compacted. Another lift of dirt and rock would be added and compacted, etc. The final lift would be all topsoil, allowing for the placement of new landscaping.

You will definitely want to talk with an experienced, licensed excavator about the exact steps required for your particular situation, and also get a bid for the cost of the work — preferably before you make your final purchase decision. You’ll also need to check with your local city building department to determine what permits might be required.

As to the purchase and the value of the house, you stand to take a hit in three different areas. You’ll be buying the house based on its value with a pool, a value that will then typically decrease when the pool is removed.

And, you have the expense of the removal and the new landscaping. I would discuss this with a real estate professional who’s experienced with your area, and make sure this makes financial sense.

Finally, be aware that the removal and filling of the pool is something that will need to be disclosed to a future buyer when you go to sell the home, and could have a potential impact on a future sale.

Thank you for visiting a FREE homes for sale website!!   Ask us a real estate question…we will answer!

UP the Odds of Selling Your Home this Spring

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow


Every single home seller can Up the Odds of Selling their home this season.  And, best of all…we aren’t recommending  lowering your price….

To learn how successful seller’s got the job done this spring…CLICK HERE….for details with Before and After Photo’s.

Thank you for visiting   Homes that have languished on the market in the past are now Under Contract!!!  If you need help selling your home, we are here to help you!  Call 1-800-858-6000 or visit our site today.

Tree FAQ’s for Earth Day!

Thursday, April 22, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow

Did you Know ….

Tree FAQs:

“Over the course of 50 years, a single tree can generate $31,250 of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycle $37,500 worth of water, and control $31,500 worth of soil erosion. ”

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”Anonymous

“One tree can absorb more than a ton of carbon over its lifetime.”
Via:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Trees reduce storm water runoff and erosion, and they remove harmful chemicals from the soil to prevent them from running into streams and rivers.
Via:  USDA Forest Service

It doesn’t take a lot of money or time to plant one tree for Earth Day!   In addition to being good for the earth…planting a treel also adds green to your bank account when you sell your home.   Mature landscape has no subsitute. planted 7 tree’s for Earth Day this year and we hope to plant more next year.   Thank you for visiting and please plant a tree today!

Let’s face it, not all plants can stand up to dogs, bouncing balls, kids and all around foot traffic. But there are some plants made for the feet-whether two or four.

These creeping perennials are very low growing ground covers that, when stepped on, bounce right back, and they come in a wide variety of color. Some favorites include blue star creeper, stonecrop and creeping wire vine. Miniature rush resembles grass but holds up to foot traffic. The choices are endless.

Before you rush out to buy your creeping perennials, you need to make an assessment of where you’ll plant them. For sunny locations, select something like thyme or stonecrop. If the soil is wet, choose plants like viola and Lysimachia. And also, how much foot traffic will the plants really get? The rule of thumb is this: The more delicate the leaf structure, the less traffic they’ll be able to withstand.

If your pathway is stone, soften the look of the edges by choosing plants that will give it some old world charm and make it look like it has been there forever. If the area is in full sun and drains well, Potentilla, an aggressive speader, will fill in the cracks quickly.

Space between stepping stones and pavers will vary on type of path. Plant a full plant in wider spaces for faster “fill-in”. In small spaces, use a utility knife to cut your plant into quarters. If the space is very tight, try slicing long slender pieces to tuck in. If your existing path needs more space, chisel out some of the original path to creat more of a gap for your plants.

A good place to visit these plants that are “Good For Your Sole” is

The true test comes with help from the dog. If the plants can  withstand him, they can withstand anything.

Thank you for visiting  Our business is marketing homes.  We have helped thousands of home owners and we can help you, too.  

Tip for Spring Home Sales:   Boost your curb appeal and you will boost your bottom line. 

Old Church Converted into a Heavenly Home

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow loves unique idea’s for converting non-residential real estate into homes.  Take a look at this church which was recently converted to a residence… Isn’t this archtecture amazing!!

InfoTube salutes the homeowners and architects who created this beautiful home.    If you have a heavenly home that you want to sell…create a FREE webpage about your property at

I have been hearing real estate agents chatter about homes with Mother-in-Law Rooms or Suites these days.   It seems a lot of home buyers are interested in accomodating more than one generation of their family in their home.   When I inquired about the trend…this is what I learned.

  • Nearly 40 percent of buyers sited financial reasons as the motivation for co-habitation
  • A third of the buyers who were looking for an “in law” friendly floorplan cited care issues.
  • Only 6 percent said a strong family bond was the reason they were living with family. offers some Tips for Buyers and Sellers regarding the “In Law” suite Trend

  • Everyone involved in the purchase should talk frankly about sharing rooms, bathrooms and common area’s, such as kitchens and family rooms.
  • Sellers with rooms or places to accomodate multi-generational living should definitely highlight and play up that aspect of their home.
  • Buyers will be very clear about their needs and are willing to pay for extras.  Extra bedrooms, bathrooms or even plumbing roughed in for an extra bath will be important.  Luxury ammenities such as separate kitchens, entrances, handicapped accessibility, one level living or a free standing additional building on the property are most sought after.

Thank you for visiting homes for sale and rent website.  Search our listings for thousands of deals found no where else on the web.

Cheap Fast Update for Bathroom Mirror

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow

If you have one large mirror over your bathroom sink or vanity and you would like an updated fresh look…we have an easy, do-it-yourself trick that won’t cost you an arm and leg.



1.  Measure your mirror, then purchase a molding you like at the hardware store.  Some stores will even cut it for you.

2.  Stain the molding to match the woodwork in your bathroom.

3.  Apply glue to molding, then stick it to the mirror. 

Thank you for visiting free homes for sale and rent website.   At you can place your property listing on the site, search for your dream home, advertise your home on the MLS, print brochures for your InfoTube or InfoBox or print free legal forms.

The Truth about Being a Landlord

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow

      The real estate crash has created new interest about property management and the work involved in becoming a landlord.  Some people feel they have been cornered into the landlord role, because they have been unable to unload property they already own.  Others are considering buying and renting property as an investment, since home prices and money are cheap.

Before you consider investing your savings in real estate, ask yourself why you’re doing so.  Do you think that landlords get rich off rental income?  Do you expect home prices to suddenly rebound?  Do you expect to flip your investment for big profit, like some did 4 or 5 years ago??  If this is what you’re thinking, you might need to think again. 

Myth #1: Real Estate can Make You Rich:  We’ve all heard the late night commercials and multi-level marketing groups that make their money by selling the keys to making riches in real estate.  Don’t buy into it.  Unless you’ve owned a property for many years, or you found the deal of a lifetime, you should know that rarely does the rental income cover expenses.  In other words, rental property will cost you money, not make it.  When the market was soaring higher, landlords could justify losing money every year on rent, because they saw their property values grow.  In 2010, it will be very difficult to make renting a profitable venture.

Myth #2:  Rents Above Base Costs = Profit:  Calculating potential profit from rentals is not at all that simple.  An investor needs to be sure to calculate all the real expenses of owning property. 

Hidden Expenses.  If you have a loan, you’ll pay interest so figure that in.  Property taxes on real estate are already high and expected to go higher.  If future tax increases exceed the probability of rent increases, you lose even more.  Landlords also need a personal liability insurance umbrella, in addition to insurance coverage for the structure itself.   Landlords should count on having a one month vacancy (no renter) per year, as leases expire.  In addition, you’ll need to budget for the advertising, signage, etc needed to attract a new tenant.  Don’t forget to add in the cost of accounting and filing tax returns on rental properties. 

Don’t forget about Repairs and Maintenance.  They will vary depending on the age and condition of the property, but even if you buy brand new, the best tenants will cause normal wear and tear.  In addition, all property needs to be updated and maintained regularly.  If you don’t have the skills or the time, budget in repair costs plus the labor. 

Utilities and ground care can also eat away at potential earnings.  If the property is separately metered, the tenant pays the utilities.  If not, the landlord pays.  Unless the property is a single family home, the landlord will always pay for sewer and water, at a minimum.

Myth #3:  The Cost of Opportunity:  The Costs of Lost opportunity to be more precise.  If you invest your savings in a piece of rental property, then you can’t invest it in stocks, bonds or other financial instruments.   It is important for investors to know what their money can earn, in order to decide the best place to put their cash.   And, remember that real estate is not liquid, like equities and other investments.  You can’t dump a bad real estate investment, or cash in your profits, with a call or click of your mouse, like you can other investment vehicles.  Remember that just to sell a piece of investment property can take months or years, and fee’s to sell will generally erase 10-12 percent of the sales price.

Myth #4:  Fat Cat Landlords Sit While Cash Rolls in:  Being a landlord may look like a “cushie” job, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Landlords are responsible to their tenants and the law.  Owning any property, even one you occupy, requires constant attention and upkeep.   Unless you own over 10 units, you probably can’t justify the cost of a property manager to oversee finding and screening tenants, enforcement of leases, collecting and accounting for monthly rentals or handling evictions.  In addition, all landlords should be willing to accept late night phone calls or vacation interuptions for flooding, broken down heat or AC, leaking roofs, etc.  If that scene doesn’t sound appealing to you, or you’re not very handy, then becoming a landlord probably isn’t a job you will like.   

Conclusion:  Real estate is a high maintenance investment vehicle.   It is also one that is very expensive and time consuming to get rid of, if you don’t like it.   So, if you are considering becoming a landlord for any reason, make sure you calculate all the costs, time and trouble, before you jump in.

Thank you for visiting …a FREE homes for sale and rent website for owners, builders and investors.  We have over 20,000 properties listed on the site and more are added daily.  Keep checking in for the freshest listings on the web.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. aka Silent Killer

Friday, January 8, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is called a silent, deadly killer because the gas odorless, colorless and tasteless, yet is highly toxic.  Hundreds of people die from CO poisoning and thousands of others require medical treatment.

What are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?

  1. Headache, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue.   Since the symptoms are fairly commonplace, people are often misdiagnosed with the flu or a “bug”.  Unfortunately, they unknowingly return back home, further exposed to the deadly gas.

What are the Sources of CO in a Home?

  1. The killer often resides in a faulty fuel burning appliance or fixture, such as a furnace, fireplace, oven, range, hot water heater or space heater.  Other sources are garaged, idling cars, or charcoal burned indoors or inside a tent or camper.  

What can a Homeowner do to Carbon Monoxide Proof Their Home??

  1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors Today!   A variety of models are available at most hardware stores and cost no more than smoke detectors.  2 major manufacturers make multi-tasking products that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide.

Conclusion:  The price of carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely high, but the cost to prevent it is very low.   Install a CO detector in your home this weekend to protect your family from this invisible killer.

Thank you for visiting FREE homes for sale and rent website.  Search our database for over 20,000 deals on real estate from coast to coast.

Radiator Covers Dress Up Your Home

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 posted by Tommi Crow

Easy staging and decorating tip:  Install a cover over old radiators.



Radiators perform a necessary function in any home, but they can easily be a home feature, too.   An easy DIY project, a Radiator Cover can completely transform the look and feel of your room, by hiding away those ugly radiators.

Why not give your home an instant and inexpensive makeover and gain shelf space?  Radiator covers look more attractive than a bare radiator and also provide a shelf for plants, flowers, photographs, candles, lamps, etc.

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