If I Had a Driveway, I’d Have a lot of Paving Options

“If I Had a Driveway…”

I’d have a lot of paving options… but in order to determine which material works best for your application, you have to answer some questions.

English: Interlocking Concrete Paving Stone Dr...

English: Interlocking Concrete Paving Stone Driveway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How long is the driveway?  The longer the driveway, the more it costs to cover, which is why you see so many long driveways covered in loose stone or aggregate.  The problem with loose stone is that it can get washed away or scattered by plows and vehicle tires driving over them.

Most people are familiar with asphalt and concrete.  Composed of rock, sand, and asphalt cement, asphalt is a less expensive alternative to concrete but requires sealing every few years to keep it from cracking.  At $2 to $5 per square foot to install, it’s about double the price of gravel but half the price of concrete.  Concrete requires little maintenance, although it’s a good idea to keep it clean and sealed, and is highly durable, often lasting 25 to 50 years, making it a popular paving material.  Concrete can be stamped or colored to create unique patterns but these customized looks can double the usual cost of $5 to $10 a square foot.  A lesser know option, tar and chip, is an inexpensive alternative to asphalt.  Small stones are embedded in tar to create a variable surface that would be great in northern climates where asphalt driveways can be slippery in the winter months.

There’s been a lot of talk about permeable driveway materials and for good reason.  Using permeable materials, water is absorbed back into the ground rather than running off roofs, onto conventional surfaces, where they collect oil, fertilizer, debris, and even garbage as the run off makes its way into the sewer system or fresh water supply.

English: Image of alley renovated with permeab...

English: Image of alley renovated with permeable paving located in Chicago, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The earliest driveway material was grass but grass can wear away.  Several paving options can be utilized to avoid a potentially muddy surface during rain.  Just like in the early days of automobiles, thin paver strips, about 18″ wide, can be installed allowing vehicles to pass while still reducing runoff.  These paver strips can be made from gravel, concrete, or paving stones, produced from concrete, brick, cobblestone, or recycled plastic.  These pavers can be solid shapes or open grid systems.  Today there is even permeable asphalt and concrete which was developed for use in high traffic areas with strict environmental requirements that might not otherwise allow the use of either material.

The most costly option also offers the most creative options.  Permeable paver stones give the homeowner the ability to create unique patterns while still allowing water to absorb back into the ground because the gaps are filled with sand.

So that’s my overview of driveway paving options.  Which one works best for you?

Related reading:

Asphalt Driveway Pros and Cons

Concrete Driveway Pros and Cons

Permeable Paving Options for Driveways

Options for Driveway Paving

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Kitchen Counters: So Many Choices…

“Kitchen Counters:  So Many Choices…” 



My kitchen desperately needs updating.  I don’t think the builder’s wife ever spent a moment in the kitchen, let alone a full day, so I spend a lot of my free time thinking about and researching looks for my new kitchen.  Until now, I hadn’t given much thought to what type of material is best for my countertops.

Almost everyone knows about granite, but did you know soapstone and slate are also natural stone that make great counters? Of the 3, granite offers the most variations of color and movement of pattern, but soapstone and slate can be formed into sinks to match the countertop.  Although slate is the softest of the 3 materials, scratches can be buffed out with steel wool.  Granite can be shiny, or for a more modern look, matt finished.

Other stone options are quartz, carrera marble, and travertine.  Because travertine has to be sealed periodically to prevent bacteria from forming in the pitted surface, it is more high maintenance than the other options.  Quartz, on the other hand, is one of the hardest materials on the planet and doesn’t need to be sealed so it’s virtually maintenance free.  The beauty of Carrera marble is that the veins hide normal wear and tear and stains, while still costing less than other types of marble.

Some people turn up their noses at manmade materials like Corian,  and engineered stone like Silestone, but they’ve been around for 40 years, and provides a highly durable, and versatile surface.  If you can dream it, chances are your contractor can make your dreams come true with these materials.

If you crave a more modern look, you have several impeccable choices:  concrete, stainless steel, and glass.  Restaurants use stainless steel polished to a #4 matt finish because its easy to keep clean, making it and glass some of  the most hygienic materials available.  More expensive than some of your other options, glass has become increasingly popular because it offers a sleek look that can be customized in a vast array of colors, textures, and shapes.  Choose glass that’s at least one inch thick and tempered for added durability.  DP_Danenberg-Design-modern-Italian-kitchen-island-vent-hood_s4x3_lg


Concrete is not only versatile, mixing well with other materials to create a unique look, but energy efficient.  Concrete holds the heat when the house is warm and releases it into the air when the house cools down.

Looking for old school?  Try a tiled countertop or for a warmer look, wood.  Wood, once sealed is highly durable and you can place anything on it including hot pots and casseroles.  Tile was probably more popular before the trend towards seamless countertops took off.

What would you choose?

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Why You Need Title Insurance

“Why You Need Title Insurance”            


Insurance (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

My friend just bought a multi family from me.  After we closed and he toured his new investment property, there were things he noticed for the first time because, as he said, “I was more concerned with the things I had to do before I could close, like having all the money I had to bring to closing, and buying my homeowner’s insurance.”  Title insurance is another one of those things you need to get before you close and you hope you never have to think about it again.

While working with Quicken on a mortgage application, I received several calls from my contact until I provided him with the name of the title insurance company our mutual clients would be using.  Of course my clients had no idea this was going on, because their attorney, like so many attorneys, acquired title insurance for the buyer and then just added it to the HUD-1 Settlement statement.

So what is title insurance besides another expense at the closing table and why is it so important to the lender?  Title insurance protects the buyer and their mortgage holder fr0m losses due to clouds on the title.  Sounds romantic, clouds on the title, until someone steps forward to contest your fee simple right to enjoy your property.  

Title insurance companies make sure that no one else can claim ownership of your home due to unpaid property taxes, including water liens, unpaid mortgages, mechanics liens, right of way easements, or child support liens, just to name a few.  In upstate NY, homeowners had to insure against Indian Tribes claiming rights to their land. 

What makes title insurance so different?  Title insurers only charge a one time fee which pays for a title search professional to identify and repair problems that occured in the past.  Title insurance has lower loss rates because it’s preventive, and your title insurance converage is in effect for as long as you or your heirs own the property.

One of my clients filed a claim against her title company when an unrepaired defect prevented her from reselling the property.  Another client found out her lawyer never paid for her title insurance until an issue arose and she had no recourse.  

You have the right to chose your own title professional and don’t need to leave it up to your attorney or mortgage provider.

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Paper, Rock, Scissor, Vinyl

Victorian house with gingerbread trim

Victorian house with gingerbread trim

“Paper, Rock, Scissor, Vinyl

I first posted this blog a few years ago on my Prudential website. 

It’s summertime in New England.  The golf course calls to you, you want to sit by the pool, the flowers you’ve planted over the years look fabulous, and the exterior of your home is crying for paint. What should you do? You can call the painter or, like we will probably do, schedule about 4 summer weekends scraping and painting. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it…or do they?

If someone had told me I would write a column extolling the virtues of vinyl siding, I would have laughed at them. I still use wood to barbeque. I prefer natural fibers to acrylics. I buy fresh over canned. Yet here I am telling you that the next generation of vinyl siding is nothing like what you are used to.

I started researching vinyl siding that doesn’t look like wood after hosting an open house where the vinyl hand split shake, that’s right, vinyl shake, was so reminiscent of cedar shake you had to tap it to make sure it wasn’t wood. The product’s rough hewn texture created the same shadow effects found in the natural product but without the time consuming and costly maintenance. Want a cedar shake look with out the rough texture? You can have that, too.

Have you always wanted to live in a log home? I located a company that specializes in vinyl log siding. Like its fancier cousins, this product is impervious to wood boring insects, resists fading and will never split or corrode. Each ‘log’ is backed with insulated foam which conforms to the shape of the siding panels to eliminate air pockets and protect the panels from damage caused by extreme weather.                                                          

Log Home

Log Home

Is your home a quaint cottage or Victorian style home? Why not try panels of half rounds under the eaves to create that whimsical feeling we’ve come to love about these homes.

How about stone? No, I’m not talking about the kind that screams faux from a mile away. I’m talking about a hand chiseled look you could marvel at even up close.  I would love to do a stone front on a ranch house. Even “hand cut stone” architectural columns for fencing, decking, porches and landscaping aren’t a problem.

And let’s not forget the roof which accentuates all the other architectural details of your home. Say goodbye to those ubiquitous asphalt shingles. You can now add the beauty of chiseled slate to create a vintage look or a high barreled “clay” tile for a Mediterranean feel. Produced with a high performance polymer, your vinyl roof will resist expansion and contraction thus avoiding splitting and cracking in any climate under any conditions.

So you’ve updated your home’s exterior but what are you going to do about the deck? Why not complete your maintenance free home with a maintenance free deck. One company offers a line of wood-and-plastic-fiber composite materials as a “green alternative” to pressure treated lumber. These low maintenance products, made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics, besides being non-toxic and preservative-free, don’t splinter and are impervious to rot and insects. They require no sanding, painting, or staining and come in a wide variety of colors and styles.                       

vinyl deck, railing, and canopy

vinyl deck, railing, and canopy

Once upon a time, when I was married, we lived in Goshen where, in April, you sometimes have snow up to your window sills. One particularly snowy winter night we were asleep when all of a sudden our Jack Russell, Baby Shamu, started barking furiously. He wasn’t the smartest dog so my then husband yelled at him to be quiet and we went back to sleep. It turned out the dog was barking because the deck attached to our bedroom wall separated from the 2nd floor of our house and crashed to the ground while we slept. Carpenter ants ate the deck, the house and the supports between the two.

These new fangled vinyl’s aren’t cheap, but if you are looking for maintenance free curb appeal with superior insulation efficiency and the ability to withstand the elements and the insects, then maybe you should think vinyl. I am.

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Log Home for Sale, Winchester, CT

“Log Home for Sale, Winchester, CT”

Nestled in the foothills of Litchfield County, yet close to everything, you will find a beautiful, solidly built, and meticulously maintained log home for sale in Winchester, CT.  Offered at $269,000 (MLS# W1071537).  For information on this or any other property, please contact Ruth Zeiss at (347) 556 – 0014 or ruthzeiss@prudentialct.com.

112 Roberts Avenue Winchester, CT

112 Roberts Avenue
Winchester, CT

Litchfield County is known for its shopping, including great antiquing, wonderful dining, and varied outdoor activities.  Want to ski?  Ski Sundown is less than 10 miles away.  Feel like playing golf?  Green Woods Country Club is a mile down the road.  There you can play 9 holes, get a bite to eat, and hire a caterer for your next event.  Travel 5 miles and you find yourself in the town of Torrington, where you can do all your shopping, including Home Depot, Stop and Shop, and Wal-Mart.

Winchester, CT, a town of approximately 11,000 calls itself the “Gateway to the Berkshires” and lies a mere 97 miles from New York City.  Winchester is a quintessential New England town with a green and a 1.5 mile long commercial district.  440 Acre Highland Lake offers visitors 2 public beaches and a State boat launch.

This rustic yet modern log home, is located on a quiet street and the sellers updated it to provide maximum privacy.  The oversized deck overlooks acres of undeveloped land.  A pair of sliders allow access from front and rear of the house.  The great room has the warmth of wood ceilings, floors and exterior walls while the interior walls are sheet rocked.                      Log Home for Sale in Winchester, CT

The master bedroom suite is the sanctuary you long for.  A cozy balcony awaits you at the top of the stairs.   Enjoy a book and a beverage, or contemplate the gorgeous beams and framing work.  French doors separates the sitting room from the rest of the master suite.

The kitchen was renovated with new stainless steel appliances, a new tile floor, and sink.  The 2 bedrooms beyond, each hold a queen sized bed and dresser and share the full bath.

French doors separate the sitting area from the master suite

French doors separate the sitting area from the master suite

Need more living area to spread out?  A place for the kids to play with their toys, a home office, or business?  The unfinished basement, with its walk- out and wood stove, is a perfect place to carve out more space for whatever your needs.

Whether you are looking for a well maintained, beautiful log home for year round living or a weekend retreat, 112 Roberts Avenue is a home you should definitely see.

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April 10th: Realtors at the Capitol Part II

“April 10th:  Realtors at the Capitol Part II”

Today I’ll tell you about HB 6160 which requires working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all residential buildings and private dwellings when title is transferred.  Although the CT Association of Realtors support reasonable measures to increase awareness and use of CO and smoke detectors, but oppose mandates that would make smoke and carbon monoxide detectors a condition of title transfer.

Smoke detector

Smoke detector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As any of you who have purchased a house knows, especially in this restrictive climate, it’s hard enough to get a house to closing without mandating expensive retrofitting of buildings to the latest standards.  The bill, in it’s current state, requires a transferor to provide an affidavit in situations such as transfers to spouses, mortgages, which are a title transfer in Connecticut, and transfers for estate planning purposes.  Car believes these types of transfers should be exempt.

The current bill before the house requires post-closing responsibilities and liabilities of the seller.  Closing attorneys will be forced to hold post-closing escrows to secure these responsibilities, creating an administrative nightmare.

The current bill requires CO detectors and their installation to meet National Fire Protection Association requirements.  Unfortunately, these standards aren’t publicly available so how can you force sellers to swear under oath that their installation meets these proprietary requirements.  CAR also feels the bill should specifically allow the use of battery-operated CO detectors as it does smoke detectors.

Since the Property Condition Disclosure Report already requires sellers to discloses whether detectors are present and working, and licensed home inspectors also test detectors as part of their home inspections, an affidavit shouldn’t be necessary if the buyer has received a home inspection or the property condition disclosure indicates that detectors are not only present, but working.

Next time I’ll tell you about SB 971: A modern method of foreclosure.  Stay tuned!

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April 10th: Realtors at the Capitol; Private Transfer Fees

“April 10th: Realtors at the Capitol; Private Transfer Fees”

Last Thursday, realtors from all over the state made their yearly trek to Hartford.  The idea behind the yearly event is to let our state legislators know how we, as a group, feel about prospective legislation.  Since everyone knows the housing recover in Connecticut is fragile, I will discuss, in several posts, the issues we fought for on your behalf under the umbrella of “Do no Harm to Housing”.

One of the more beautiful state capitols, both...

One of the more beautiful state capitols, both the exterior and interior. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SB 859-Banning Private Transfer Fees

“Private transfer fees” require that purchasers in certain developments pay a one time flat fee to the developer or investor every time the property is sold.  An example of this is the one time fee of $1500 every buyer must pay to Heritage Village, when they purchase.  In defense of the Village, these payments have been used to pay for line items that other developments would have imposed a special assessment for, such as roofs and siding.  There has never been a special assessment in the Village.

CAR, the CT Association of Realtors Support this bill because we feel these are hidden charges that hinder property ownership.

What the bill says:

Bans any private transfer fee obligation entered into or recorded after the bill’s effective date (effective upon passage).  The bill emphasizes that any such obligation would be void and unenforceable.

Grandfathers but requires clear disclosure to buyers of private transfer fee obligations recorded or entered into before the bill’s effective date.

Allows charges (like condominium association assessments) that are legitimately reinvested into the property for the benefit of all owners or payable to tax-exempt community betterment (like property improvements).


These private transfer fees aren’t easy to find in the condo documents and can be an unpleasant surprise to owners when they go to sell.  The Transfer Fee can extend over 99 years, so a longer title search is critical.

The revenue streams are often securitized to help certain developers and Wall Street financiers, not the development, itself.

Private transfer fees have been banned in 42 states and the Federal Housing Finance Agency has banned their GSE’s like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from purchasing mortgages in developments having the types of transfer fee covenants this bill would prohibit.

Next time, I’ll tell you about HB 6160 so stay tuned.


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