How to prevent basement flooding and the proper methods of cleaning up after a flood

Turn downspouts from your eavestroughs away from your house and allow them to drain as far away as possible. Water from downspouts will saturate ground surrounding the foundation and flood the basement as it seeps through weeping tiles.

Weeping tiles are perforated pipes running around base of foundation that collect excess moisture in soil and channel it through Brooklyn sewer pipes to storm sewers. If too much water is seeping into ground near the foundation, it can flood weeping tiles and back up into basement. Improve drainage around your home by building up ground near foundation, sloping away from walls. Install a back-up valve and a sump pump. The back-up valve will still allow water to flow down the basement drain, but will prevent sewer water from backing up the pipe. A sump pump can be installed on the sewer line to pump excess water out of the pipe and into the yard.

Do not install back-up valve without sump pump if there are plumbing outlets in basement. Without a pump to relieve pressure, the backup valve will force sewage through toilets, sinks or showers in basement.

CLEANING UP AFTER THE FLOOD: Check your insurance policy to see if it includes sewer back-up coverage. Contact your agent immediately. Take photographs of the affected area. Perform emergency repairs and remove all items that have been damaged or destroyed, but do not dispose of any damaged goods without your insurance adjustor’s approval. Discard contents of freezers or refrigerators exposed to floodwater. Also discard products in jars, bottles and cans if there are signs of seepage. The city is advising that no major renovations or replacements be made until September, when the flood risk will be lower. Utilities and services: All electrical wiring that was flooded must be inspected by an electrician before it can be turned back on. Winnipeg Hydro or Manitoba Hydro will perform an inspection at no charge. All natural gas appliances should be inspected by experts. Furnaces and appliances: Should be inspected before they are turned on. Using an electrical appliance before it is inspected can burn out the motor or cause an electric shock. All insulated appliances must have soaked insulation removed and replaced. Any appliance used to prepare food should be cleaned and disinfected. If you smell gas in your basement, call the utility immediately. Do not attempt to repair floors until they are completely dried out. Floors can be cleaned with a combination of borax (five to 10 per cent) and a few drops of kerosene. Soaked doors should be laid down flat on ground with doorknobs removed. This will limit warping. Rugs and carpets: Soaked flooring should be removed quickly and allowed to dry to protect against mildew. Thoroughly vacuum and then clean with commercial rug shampoo containing disinfectant. Wood furniture: Should be allowed to dry outside if possible. Upholstered furniture: After brushing mould off surface, wipe upholstery with a sponge soaked in soap suds or 50-50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water.

TAKE PROPER PRECAUTIONS: Scrub all skin surfaces that come in contact with floodwater. Salmonella, Shigella and Hepatitis A can be contracted if proper hygiene is not observed.

Candles lend their special glow to holiday celebrations

Candles may have originated in Egypt, where rushes were dipped in tallow, then lighted. The cone-shaped candles have been found in the tombs of pharaohs, and a 5,000-year-old candleholder has been found in Minoan ruins on the isle of Crete.

Beeswax was a side product of beekeeping, which became a domestic art in medieval times. The wax was found to be better than tallow for candle-making, because it burns more slowly and cleaner.

Later, sperm-whale oil was used for candle-making, but that obviously is not an ecologically correct alternative for the ’90s.

Even today, light intensity is measured in candlepower.

Simple, on the surface

Candles seem incredibly simple – a wick surrounded by wax. But which wick, which wax?

“The wick can be the most important part of a candle,” says Rebecca Johnston, owner of LuminEssence candle factory and Northern Lights retail/mail-order store in Woodland Park. “The wrong wick can make it burn out, drip or smoke too much. The wrong wick in any candle can be a disaster.”

With candles, as with many other things in life, you get what you pay for, she says. And, mostly, you’re paying for wax.

Those two-for-a-buck jobs will probably burn like a house afire, and leave a big red (or green or yellow) puddle on your tablecloth. Made of poor-quality paraffin, they often aren’t much of a bargain, she says.

You can pay 10 times that for best-quality pure beeswax candles, but devotees love their warmed-honey scent and the fact that they burn slowly (about an inch an hour) and cleanly – with little smoke and dripping.

“They’re the original smokeless, dripless, long-burning candles,” Johnston says. But today, there also are some very efficient paraffin-beeswax blends, priced between the cheap and the chic.

“One thing I love about beeswax is its sensuous texture,” says Johnston, whose 2-year-old factory produces about 150,000 candles a year, most of them beeswax.

LuminEssence produces a unique, spiral-flared candle that is so popular, it’s made in secret, by workers who are trained for months before they become proficient at it. (Only about 1 of every 10 trainees learns to do it to Johnston’s standards.)

Candles brighten the day

“People are using candles year-round,” Johnston says. “They’re not just for the holidays any more, though the last six months of the year are just frantic for us.”

Candles have become an integral part of home decor, and fit into any decorating style, she says. And not only are people buying them, they’re burning them, she says.

“People love them because they create an intimacy in any setting – there’s something so comforting about candlelight.”

The Silent Woman store, probably has the largest stock of candles at The Citadel mall.

It carries a large selection from Beeswax Designs of California, and has placed a sizable order with LuminEssence – not just because it is local, but also because of its unique designs, says owner Mary Kuehn. The Beeswax Designs spiral-flared candles are more ruffly and the LuminEssence candles more tailored, she says. Both are made with pure beeswax.

Silent Woman also carries candles by A.I. Root – 125 years old and one of the top candle manufacturers in the nation. These candles are beeswax blended with paraffin, and come in innovative colors and styles, including Timberline, a new barklike candle designed for the rustic or Western-style decor.

Silent Woman also carries candle-related accessories – from candle-snuffers to brass “crowns” for candles.

“It’s almost like jewelery for your candles,” Kuehn says.

You don’t need a holiday or religious celebration – or even a power outage – to appreciate the glow of candlelight.

A mundane meal becomes elegant, a simple bath becomes luxurious, when accompanied by candlelight.

Small rechargeable votive candles also are extremely popular now.

Where to get a good light

Candles are available in nearly every grocery store, discount store, gift or card shop. Specialty stores are listed in the Yellow Pages.

LuminEssence candles are available at Sparrow Hawk, Egg House Artisans, The Broadmoor hotel’s Little Kitchen, and Silent Woman.

You also can go to the source.

LuminEssence sells nearly flawless “seconds” at a discount at its factory gift shop, Northern Lights, at 180 Highway 67 in Woodland Park. First-quality candles also are available there, as are candle-making kits and other candle-related gifts.

Simple, hand-dipped beeswax candles are made and sold at the Victor Trading Company, in Victor.

Owner Karen Morrison says it takes about 20 or so dips, or about half an hour, to make the average candle. Hers range from 1/2-inch mini candles to 10-inch tapers ($1-$8 a pair). They come in the natural, golden beeswax color. She also casts some in antique ice-cream molds, then hand-paints them.

Whichever candles you choose, they’re sure to add a glow to your holidays.

Real estate experts offer home sellers tips when selecting a listing agent

While there are many factors to consider when selecting a listing agent in today’s market, sellers should carefully choose a real estate agent who is knowledgeable, reputable and will ensure their best interests are safeguarded, according to Buyers Home Warranty Co.

“Determining the agent’s level of expertise and knowledge of market changes is particularly important in this real estate climate,” said Ray Adams, president of Buyers Home Warranty Co. “Lack of knowledge can not only cost real estate agents and their clients the sale, but it can often lead to a lawsuit. That’s why we offer a continuing education course on consumer protection for real estate professionals statewide.”

First of all, sellers should refer to various sources of recommendations when searching for listing agents to interview.

“For example, recommendations by the local chamber of commerce and board of realtors are excellent sources as well as referrals by friends and relatives,” said Jim Paul, broker of Century 21 Paul & Associates in Burbank.

After selecting several real estate agents to interview, what questions should sellers consider asking? Paul listed the following points to discuss when interviewing real estate agents:

— Experience in real estate

— Number of years working full-time in real estate

— Ranking in the company

— Company’s scope of resources available to agents

— Strengths in listing or selling

— Type of continuing education

— Knowledge of changes in the market

— Type of marketing plan, how listing, negotiations and escrow

are handled

— View towards disclosure, inspections and home warranties.

In addition, Paul suggested that sellers select Evergreen Colorado Real Estate agents who recognize the importance of recommending a physical inspection of the property, full disclosure and a home warranty.

“Real estate agents who are looking out for their seller’s best interests should advise them to get a physical inspection of the property up-front, determine any issues that need to be addressed, and then disclose all the facts to potential buyers,” explained Paul.

“Full disclosure of known defects often relieves sellers from liability when disputes erupt. Furthermore, providing a home warranty can protect them from future liability of many unknown defects, or system and appliance failures that arise after the close of escrow,” he added.

Mary Krueger, broker of The Western Group, an independent real estate company with offices throughout the Inland Empire and Anaheim, agrees that anyone hiring a real estate agent should do so in the same manner as hiring an employee.

“Ask for a resume and references, but most important, be sure to check references,” said Krueger. “Sales awards don’t have as much relevance as recommendations from past clients.”

“It’s also important not to necessarily list with the highest bidder,” she continued. “Real estate agents who are realistic about pricing demonstrate they are looking out for their clients’ best interest, since an overpriced home may actually sell for less than those more realistically priced.”

“There’s a trend in today’s market where sellers are negotiating the listing agent’s commission. But sellers should remember the saying, `you get what you pay for,'” cautioned Krueger. “Agents who accept less commission may be more inclined to take short cuts because they’re doing a job for less money.”

Backed by veterans who have been involved with the home warranty industry since its inception in the early 1970s and were responsible for founding the Home Warranty Association of California (HWAC), Buyers Home Warranty Co. is recognized as a leading firm which provides service contracts covering the repair or replacement of major home systems and built-in appliances throughout California.

The company well exceeds statutory requirements set by the California Department of Insurance, maintaining its solid financial position by securing its reserves in cash assets. As a member of the HWAC, Buyers Home Warranty Co. abides by a professional code of ethics and ensures a high standard of practice within the industry.