Costs, delays mount for Boeing’s NASA launch system, audit finds

NASA’s flagship space launch system being built by Boeing is taking years longer than expected with cost overruns of nearly $ 2 billion, an audit found on Wednesday, raising questions about meeting a goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024.


Reuters: Science News

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New Apple monitor stand costs as much as an iPhone

Apple made waves Monday with a computer monitor stand that costs as much as its latest iPhone. The $ 999 Pro Stand is designed to hold up Apple’s new $ 4,999 Pro Display XDR monitor, which works with the $ 5,999 Mac Pro. That is to say, Apple’s newest computer will cost at least $ 12,000 before boosting any…
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Constellation Brands’ stock drops as new tariffs could raise Corona, Modelo import costs

The drop put the maker of Mexican beers like Corona and Modelo on track for its biggest one-day loss since Jan. 9, when it fell 12.4%.
Economy

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Discussing Payment Plans, Costs, and Financing With Your Windows Contractor

First off: Congratulations. You have done the research, determined that your home could bode well from an upgrade or even replacement of some (or more) of its windows and perhaps window frames, and have chosen a solar contractor after sifting through three or four estimates. Now it’s time to plan out how you will be budgeting for your home improvement project. You will want to save on the initial investment and in the long term.

Just by searching online for payment options and educational materials, you’re on the right path and now you’re in the right place. A windows replacement or upgrade is a costly, and worthy, investment—nothing and no one should push you to do anything you’re not completely comfortable with. When it comes to windows replacement payment options, whether you do so in cash or through financing, you should understand your options and be comfortable with the path you choose. A trustworthy contractor will walk you through each step and be glad to explain anything you want clarification for, from the reasoning behind certain costs to the myriad financing options at your disposal.

Discussing cost and payment options for your project with your contractor is one of your most valuable venues to a successful windows installation, whether you take out a loan, pay in cash, or make use of federal incentives and assistance packages. Use our guide to familiarize yourself with the windows replacement financing universe and use it as a launching pad for conversations with your local contractor.

Windows Replacement Payment: The (Window) Ball Is In Your Court

You don’t have to feel like your contractor is doing you a favor.

Replacing the windows in your home or business is a sizable investment. Depending on what you choose—from the type of windows and material to glazing options, energy efficiency ratings, and the number of windows being replaced, a new window replacement can range anywhere from $ 3,000 to $ 15,000—or more. Contractors are aware of the lucrative nature of the work and are competing for your business. It’s okay to expect the contractor to handle the bulk of the work in reducing costs before your window replacement project even begins—after all, one of their value propositions is expertise in the field and local knowledge about getting the most out of local, state, and federal rebates and incentives.

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, you should certainly negotiate. If you can pay a lump sum, your contractor might be open to giving you a discount. If you want to pay through a payment plan, your contractor might offer their own so you don’t have to go through a bank. And if you do need to go through a bank, be sure you first learn about all of the financial incentives available to you both directly and indirectly in the form of loans or tax credits.

Understand Your Home Equity and the Doors It Opens For You

Homeowners are often able to use their homes, whether mortgaged or not, as securities for loans to fund home improvement projects. Two common ways to leverage your home for credit from a bank or other financial institution include lines of credit and loans. If your budgeting puts these payment options on the table, run it by your window installer. An experienced contractor will have both expert and valuable anecdotal advice regarding these methods.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit, otherwise known as a HELOC, allows homeowners to borrow money against their home’s equity. HELOCs are generally flexible since they behave like lines of credit (as with a credit card) but limited by a home’s value, and they also carry the risk of foreclosure.

Home Equity Loan

In contrast to a HELOC, this loan allows a homeowner to borrow money against the value of a home over the amount of any or all mortgages levied against the property. Since the home itself is the security for the loan, it can result in large amounts of borrowed assets. For all intents and purposes, a home equity loan is a kind of second mortgage.

Whatever options you find suits you best, you may want to discuss it with your contractor. Their experience with other homeowners in the area and specifically as it pertains to window replacement installation projects will be very valuable in helping you determine the best path forward for your own financing.

Consider a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Loan

PACE programs are mechanisms by which private property owners —homeowners like you— can more easily finance energy-efficient and renewable energy improvements on their property and using private sources of income.

According to the Department of Energy, you can pay for home energy-efficiency specific improvements—window replacements among them—without a large up-front cash payment. You will then repay for the improvement costs over a set time period just like with a loan over a decade or two pending your finances—as always, be sure to run through an option like this with your contractor to get guidance about your best option here.

“As of 2017, over 150,000 homeowners have made $ 4 billion in energy efficiency and other improvements to their homes through PACE financing,” according to the DOE.

The loan is tied to your home, not you, which means you can sell it along with your home if that day ever comes. Interestingly, the added value your home will gain as a result of your window replacement or upgrade incentivizes both you and a potential homebuyer in the future. Most importantly, perhaps, a PACE loan incentivizes you to charge ahead with a home improvement project like a solar panel installation without having to wait for the resulting savings to specifically show a return on your investment.

Nor should you expect them to be realized in order to decide to invest in the upgrade—improved windows are not going anywhere.

Lean Into Federal Programs For Window Replacement Installations

The ENERGY STAR Program is a volunteer-based resource from the Environmental Protection Agency that is designed to help homeowners save money on home improvement projects, as well as other endeavors, that aid in protecting the climate.  

It covers a slew of home improvement projects, from insulation to central air conditioning and window replacements or upgrades.

“You do not have to replace all the windows/doors/skylights in your home to qualify,” the ENERGY STAR site explains about tax credits.  “And it doesn’t need to be a replacement either – installing a new window where there wasn’t one previously (like in an addition) qualifies.” This, like other programs from government agencies, might be beneficial to your own home improvement project. It might also be overkill or conflict with another financial incentive or program.

Before signing up for or into any program, loan, or financial incentive otherwise, consult your local and experienced contractor on whether that is the right move for your window replacement project.

Whichever direction you choose to fund your home improvement project, discussing costs and window replacement payment plans with your trustworthy window installer will give you an intimate and specific foot up on saving the most both in the short term and the long.

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Discussing Payment, Costs, and Financing With Your Solar Contractor

First off: Congratulations. You have done the research, determined that solar paneling is a good choice for your home, and have chosen a solar contractor after sifting through three or four estimates. Now it’s time to plan out how you will be budgeting for your home improvement project. You will want to save on the initial investment and in the long term.

Just by searching online for payment options and educational materials, you’re on the right path and now you’re in the right place. A solar paneling installation is a costly, and worthy, investment—nothing and no one should push you to do anything you’re not completely comfortable with. When it comes to solar panel payment options, whether you do so in cash or through financing, you should understand your options and be comfortable with the path you choose. A trustworthy contractor will walk you through each step and be glad to explain anything you want clarification for, from the reasoning behind certain costs to the myriad financing options at your disposal.

Discussing the cost of and payment options for your project with your contractor is one of your most valuable venues to a successful solar panel installation, whether you take out a loan or sign a Power Purchasing Agreement. Use our guide to familiarize yourself with the solar panel installation financing universe and use it as a launching pad for conversations with your local contractor.

Solar Panel Payment: The (Solar) Ball Is In Your Court

You don’t have to feel like your contractor is doing you a favor. The cost of solar installation has dropped more than 70 percent since 2010, according to data from Solar Energy Industries Association. In response, therefore, contractors have stepped up their game to compete in an increasingly saturated arena. Further, it’s okay to expect the contractor to handle the bulk of the work in reducing costs before your solar installation project even begins—after all, one of their value propositions is expertise in the field and local knowledge about getting the most out of local, state, and federal rebates and incentives.

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, you should certainly negotiate. If you can pay a lump sum, your contractor might be open to giving you a discount. If you want to pay through a payment plan, your contractor might offer their own so you don’t have to go through a bank. And if you do need to go through a bank, be sure you first learn about all of the financial incentives available to you both directly and indirectly in the form of loans or tax credits. For example, the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation (that’s hard and soft costs combined), is phasing out its value over the next several years. By 2022, that 30-percent figure drops to 10 percent, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Understand Your Home Equity and the Doors It Opens For You

Homeowners are often able to use their homes, whether mortgaged or not, as securities for loans to fund home improvement projects. Two common ways to leverage your home for credit from a bank or other financial institution include lines of credit and loans. If your budgeting puts these payment options on the table, run it by your solar installer. An experienced contractor will have both expert and valuable anecdotal advice regarding these methods.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit, otherwise known as a HELOC, allows homeowners to borrow money against their home’s equity. HELOCs are generally flexible but limited by a home’s value, and they also carry the risk of foreclosure.

Home Equity Loan

In contrast to a HELOC, this loan allows a homeowner to borrow money against the value of a home over the amount of any or all mortgages levied against the property. Since the home itself is the security for the loan, it can result in large amounts of borrowed assets. For all intents and purposes, a home equity loan is a kind of second mortgage.

Whatever options you find suits you best, you may want to discuss it with your contractor. Their experience with other homeowners in the area and specifically as it pertains to solar panel installation projects will be very valuable in helping you determine the best path forward for your own financing.

Consider a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Loan

PACE programs are mechanisms by which private property owners —homeowners like you— can more easily finance energy-efficient and renewable energy improvements on their property and using private sources of income.

According to the Department of Energy, you can pay for home energy-efficiency specific improvements—solar panel systems among them—without a large up-front cash payment. You will then repay for the improvement costs over a set time period just like with a loan over a decade or two pending your finances—as always, be sure to run through option like this with your contractor to get guidance about your best option here.

The loan is tied to your home, not you, which means you can sell it along with your home if that day ever comes. Interestingly, the added value your home will gain as a result of your solar panel installation incentivizes both you and a potential homebuyer in the future. Most importantly, perhaps, a PACE loan incentivizes you to charge ahead with a home improvement project like a solar panel installation without having to wait for the resulting savings to specifically show a return on your investment.

You Can Save With Solar Without Buying a Solar Panel System At All

As you consider your solar panel system options, you should be aware there are other paths to saving on your utility bills by powering your home with solar that don’t necessitate purchasing a solar energy system.

There are two basic ways to reap the benefits of solar panels without buying them, a solar lease and a Power Purchase Agreement. Discuss both with your reliable contractor to get an idea of how each applies to you and which might be based for you based on your needs, budget, and finances.

Lease A Solar Panel System

For some homeowners, it makes more sense to allow a third party to pay for their solar energy installation and then either pay to lease the system or purchase the energy generated from it from the owner at a reduced rate. When they lease solar panel systems, homeowners don’t own the solar energy system itself. That means they are not responsible for the system’s upkeep, maintenance, and usually installation. Instead, you would pay a lease to use the solar energy system in one form or another. Of course, the applicable tax credits and financial incentives available, like the one mentioned above, do not apply to a lessee. While there is less risk, there is also less reward in that sense.

On the much brighter side, however, leases are sometimes available for little-to-no money down, making them much more budget-friendly. The terms of a solar lease will depend on many variables, from the solar system itself in terms of its expected output and down to you, the homeowner, and what your needs are. Discussing cost-related parameters of your project with your solar installer will give you a great start in determining a solar lease is worth your efforts.

Sign a Power Purchasing Agreement

A power purchasing agreement, or PPA,  is similar to a solar lease. Someone else pays to install a solar energy system on your home and assumes both the burden of maintenance and any tax credits associated with the system. However, instead of charging rent to use the system as in the lease model, the owner actually sells you the energy generated by your system at a greatly reduced rate.

PPAs are typically set for a certain term of time, usually somewhere between 10 and 25 years. After the agreement expires, the homeowner can choose to either extend the agreement, have the owner remove the system, or purchase the solar energy solar at a reduced rate. As with a PACE loan, the PPA is attached to the home, so if a homeowner chooses to sell their home, the new homeowner may take over the agreement.

Whichever direction you choose to fund your home improvement project, discussing costs and solar panel payment plans with your trustworthy solar installer will give you an intimate and specific foot up on saving the most both in the short term and the long.

The post Discussing Payment, Costs, and Financing With Your Solar Contractor appeared first on Modernize.

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White House takes on surprise medical bills in continued push to lower US health-care costs

President Donald Trump announced a new push Thursday for legislation designed to end surprise medical bills that leave Americans saddled with costs for care that they thought were covered by their insurance.
Health and Science

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Stop this runaway train of overtime costs at MTA, LIRR

Last weekend, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s transit riders and bridge and tunnel toll payers saw a fare hike — and drivers soon will have to pay a “congestion fee” to enter core Manhattan. Yet this new money barely makes a dent: The MTA still faces a half-billion budget deficit next year, doubling by 2022. Though…
Opinion | New York Post

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4.25.19 Lower your overall housing costs; FCC is bad at collecting robocall fines; You don’t own your medical records

Housing is one of the biggest line items in your budget. But if you want to build wealth, keep that in check; The FCC has levied major fines against robocallers. But they haven’t collected much; Unless you live in New Hampshire, you don’t actually own your own medical records.

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4.22.19 Which home improvements pay off?; Ponzi scheme busted; How to cut dental care costs

Which home improvements make sense in order to maximize your money?; A ponzi scheme was busted in Florida and ordered to pay over a billion dollars in fines; How can you cut the costs of your dental care?

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Chicago sues Jussie Smollett over costs of investigating alleged attack

The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Jussie Smollett seeking three times the damages it said it incurred in the investigation of a hate crime that authorities allege the “Empire” actor staged.
Reuters: People News

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4.5.19 Americans are borrowing money to pay for healthcare costs; Clark Stinks

Americans eschew certain healthcare procedures to cut costs and are often borrowing from others to pay for healthcare needs; Christa reads listener posts about how Clark has missed the mark in his advice this week. If you have a “Clark Stinks” to share you can leave it here.

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Doughnut Hole Is Gone, But Medicare’s Uncapped Drug Costs Still Bite Into Budgets

Three times a week, Tod Gervich injects himself with Copaxone, a prescription drug that can reduce the frequency of relapses in people who have some forms of multiple sclerosis. After more than 20 years with the disease, Gervich, 66, is

Unlike commercial plans that cap members’ out-of-pocket drug spending annually, Medicare has no limit for prescription medications in Part D, its drug benefit. With the cost of specialty drugs increasing, some Medicare beneficiaries could owe thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket drug costs every year for a single drug.

Recent proposals by the Trump administration and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would address the long-standing problem by imposing a spending cap. But it’s unclear whether any of these proposals will gain a foothold.

The 2006 introduction of the Medicare prescription drug benefit was a boon for seniors, but the coverage had weak spots. One was the so-called doughnut hole — the gap beneficiaries fell into after they accumulated a few thousand dollars in drug expenses and were on the hook for the full cost of their medications. Another was the lack of an annual cap on drug spending.

Legislative changes have gradually closed the doughnut hole so that, this year, beneficiaries no longer face a coverage gap. In a standard Medicare drug plan, beneficiaries pay 25 percent of the price of their brand-name drugs until they reach $ 5,100 in out-of-pocket costs. Once patients reach that threshold, the catastrophic portion of their coverage kicks in and their obligation drops to 5 percent. But it never disappears.

It’s that ongoing 5 percent that hits hard for people, like Gervich, who take expensive medications.

His 40-milligram dose of Copaxone costs about $ 75,000 annually, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In January, Gervich paid $ 1,800 for the drug and another $ 900 in February. Discounts that drug manufacturers are required to provide to Part D enrollees also counted toward his out-of-pocket costs. (More on that later.) By March, he hit the $ 5,100 threshold that pushed him into catastrophic coverage. For the rest of the year, he’ll owe $ 295 a month for this drug, until the cycle starts over again in January.

That $ 295 is a far cry from the approximately $ 6,250 monthly Copaxone price without insurance. But, combined with the $ 2,700 he already paid before his catastrophic coverage kicked in, the additional $ 2,950 he’ll owe this year is no small amount. And that assumes he needs no other medications.

Tod Gervich injects himself with the prescription drug Copaxone, three times a week. While he’s accustomed to managing his condition, he can’t get used to Medicare’s high coinsurance payments.(Courtesy of Tod Gervich)

“I feel like I’m being punished financially for having a chronic disease,” he said. He has considered discontinuing Copaxone to save money.

His drug bill is one reason Gervich has decided not to retire yet, he said.

An annual cap on his out-of-pocket costs “would definitely help,” said Gervich, a self-employed certified financial planner in Mashpee, Mass.

Drugs like Copaxone that can modify the effects of the disease have been on a steep upward price trajectory in recent years, said Bari Talente, executive vice president for advocacy at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Drugs that used to cost $ 60,000 annually five years ago cost $ 90,000 now, she said. With those totals, Medicare beneficiaries “are going to hit catastrophic coverage no matter what.”

Specialty-tier drugs for multiple sclerosis, cancer and other conditions — defined by Medicare as those that cost more than $ 670 a month — account for more than 20 percent of total spending in Part D plans, up from about 6 percent before 2010, according to a report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a nonpartisan agency that advises Congress about the program.

Just over 1 million Medicare beneficiaries in Part D plans who did not receive low-income subsidies had drug costs that pushed them into catastrophic coverage in 2015, more than twice as many as the 2007 total, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

“When the drug benefit was created, 5 percent probably didn’t seem like that big a deal,” said Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the Program on Medicare Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Now we have such expensive medications, and many of them are covered under Part D — where, before, many expensive drugs were cancer drugs” that were administered in doctors’ offices and covered by other parts of Medicare.

The lack of a spending limit for the Medicare drug benefit sets it apart from other coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, the maximum amount someone generally owes out-of-pocket for covered drugs and other medical care for this year is $ 7,900. Plans typically pay 100 percent of customers’ costs after that.

The Medicare program doesn’t have an out-of-pocket spending limit for Part A or Part B, which cover hospital and outpatient services, respectively. But beneficiaries can buy supplemental Medigap plans, some of which pay coinsurance amounts and set out-of-pocket spending limits. Medigap plans, however, don’t cover Part D prescription plans.

Counterbalancing the administration’s proposal to impose a spending cap on prescription drugs is another that could increase many beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket drug costs.

(Credit: Department of Health and Human Services)

Currently, brand-name drugs that enrollees receive are discounted by 70 percent by manufacturers when Medicare beneficiaries have accumulated at least $ 3,820 in drug costs and until they reach $ 5,100 in out-of-pocket costs. Those discounts are applied toward beneficiaries’ total out-of-pocket costs, moving them more quickly toward catastrophic coverage. Under the administration’s proposal, manufacturer discounts would no longer be treated this way. The administration said this would help steer patients toward less expensive generic medications.

Still, beneficiaries would have to pay more out-of-pocket to reach the catastrophic spending threshold. Thus, fewer people would likely reach the catastrophic coverage level where they could benefit from a spending cap.

“Our concern is that some people will be paying more out-of-pocket to get to the $ 5,100 threshold and the drug cap,” said Keysha Brooks-Coley, vice president of federal affairs at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” said Cubanski of the proposed calculation change. “There will be savings for some individuals” who reach the catastrophic phase of coverage. “But for many there will be higher costs.”

For some people, especially cancer patients taking chemotherapy pills, the lack of a drug-spending cap in Part D coverage seems especially unjust.

These cutting-edge targeted oral chemotherapy and other drugs tend to be expensive, and Medicare beneficiaries often hit the catastrophic threshold quickly, said Brooks-Coley.

Patty Armstrong-Bolle, who lives in Haslett, Mich., takes Ibrance, a pill, once a day to help keep in check the breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. But while the medicine has helped send her cancer into remission, she may never be free of a financial obligation for the pricey drug.

Armstrong-Bolle, 68, paid $ 2,200 in January and February for the drug last year. When she entered the catastrophic coverage portion of her Part D plan, the cost dropped to $ 584 per month. Armstrong-Bolle’s husband died last year, and she used the money from his life insurance policy to cover her drug bills. This year, a patient assistance program has covered the first few months of coinsurance. That money will run out next month and she’ll owe her $ 584 portion again.

If she were getting traditional drug infusions instead of taking an oral medication, her treatment would be covered under Part B of the program and her coinsurance payments could be covered.

“It just doesn’t seem fair,” she said.

Kaiser Health News

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Avoid Hidden Costs During Your Air Conditioner Replacement

An air conditioner replacement is a smart way to drastically increase the value and energy efficiency of your home. However, installing a new AC unit can be a big expense for homeowners. How do you ensure that your air conditioning replacement stays in budget, and avoid hidden costs that could break the bank? Knowledge is key. Read on for Modernize’s advice to help you prepare for unexpected costs during your air conditioning project. 

Basic Costs of an Air Conditioning Replacement

Begin by determining your baseline air conditioning replacement budget. The average air conditioning replacement cost ranges between $ 3,500 to $ 7,525. This includes the unit and the installation.

The cost of your project will be impacted by considerations like:

Square Footage: Upon arriving at your property, the HVAC contractor will measure the square footage of your home. This will help determine the size unit needed to efficiently cool your home. A larger home will require a more powerful unit, which will cost more.

Repairs: The contractor recommendation may include upgrading attic or crawl space insulation, resealing of windows and doors, or repairing breaches in exterior walls where conditioned air might escape. These precautions may add to the total cost.

The Unit: An air conditioning unit with a higher energy efficiency ratio will cost more, but often yield a better return on investment over time. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER is a rating that notes the efficiency of the cooling system. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the system. The minimum standard SEER is 13 for air conditioners. Most modern air conditioners have a SEER that ranges from 13 to 21. The Energy Efficiency Ratio or EER is a rating that bases its energy efficiency rating on how the unit would react to an outside temperature of 95 degrees, an inside temperature of 80 degrees and humidity of 50 percent.

Labor: Labor costs will vary depending on the size of the crew, their experience, and the scope of your project. However, Modernize encourages homeowners to not select a contractor based on price alone. The quality of work is especially important when it comes to home repair projects. While some aspects of an air conditioning replacement can be DIY, the smartest choice for such an important project is to partner with a reputable contractor. The right contractor will be able to help you set (and stick) to your air conditioning replacement budget and have the experience to foresee any hidden costs.

Permitting: Depending on where you live, your contractor may also need to secure permits to complete an air conditioning replacement. Your contractor will manage the permitting process, but be prepared for the cost. Depending on your region, an air conditioning replacement permit may be a flat rate, or it could vary based on your home’s size or value.

The Most Common Hidden Air Conditioning Replacement Costs

No matter how well prepared and researched your air conditioning replacement budget may be, keep in mind that the installation may uncover additional costs that are beyond you or your contractor’s control. Especially if you live in an older house, it is wise to be prepared. With that in mind, some common unexpected costs to be prepared for include:

Replacing Damaged Ductwork: Your home’s air duct system delivers warm or cooled air to different rooms and areas. This duct system is essential for your home’s comfort and energy efficiency— and is very delicate. Ductwork can easily become damaged, ripped, or tangled. Discuss with your contractor if you notice any problems.

Rotten Wall Studs: Wall studs are susceptible to rot in moisture-heavy areas of your home (like in basements). This is not always easy to detect. Your contractor may find issues after the drywall has been removed.

Electrical Upgrades: Older homes might not have sufficient power available to handle the increased demand with a new unit. Similarly, if other appliances have recently been added, it may max out the electrical panels capacity. If you have an older home, discuss the impact of a new unit on your home.

Drywall Repairs: For air conditioning ducts that back up at a wall or ceiling, drywall is usually cut to fit the outer edges. If your new unit is a different shape or style, drywall cuts from the previous unit may need to be repaired.

Keeping Your Air Conditioning Replacement on Budget

Now that you have the knowledge of the costs —both planned and unplanned— to expect during your air conditioning replacement, all that’s left is to ensure you stick to your budget. To do that, you can:

  • If you can wait, have your new system installed in the fall or spring. Contractors are usually less busy during these seasons and are willing to offer off-season discounts to homeowners.
  • Leave 15-20 percent of wiggle room in your budget. This will allow you to take any hidden issues in stride without impacting the rest of your air conditioning replacement. This may seem like a large buffer, but it’s better to plan ahead and for the unexpected.
  • Be transparent with your contractor about your budget. Let them know about your budget constraints up front. This will help them determine the most realistic way to reach your desired end result and help them as they purchase supplies for the project.

All in all, having a reliable and honest air conditioning contractor is perhaps the easiest way to avoid hidden costs during an air conditioning replacement. Take advantage of Modernize’s tools to find a trusted local contractor.

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New Bill Could Help Black Banks Raise Capital, Cut Costs, and Attract Black Investors

A new bill could help black banks raise more capital and boost small business lending in the African American community.

U.S. Representative Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, has introduced the Rescue Act for Black and Community Banks. The bill–initiated in January 2019–aims to, along with other measures, bring regulatory relief for black banks from Congress, boost wealth-building for black consumers and businesses, and help save black banks from failing.

The number of black banks in America totaled 22 in 2017, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data shows. That number is down an eye-popping 42 percent from 38 in 2012. The most recent number reveals there were only 23 black banks as of the third quarter of 2018.

Ryan Johnson, communications director for Congressman Rush, and William Michael Cunningham, an economist and banking expert who worked with Rush’s office on the bill, shared with BLACK ENTERPRISE some key points of what the legislation would do.

black banks

Rep. Bobby Rush

Johnson says Rush believes black-owned community banks play a vital role in communities because they reinvest in the people that live, work, and worship with one another.

“These financial institutions stimulate economic development and spur innovation amongst our entrepreneurs, augmenting the economic wealth African-Americans so desperately need. For black, minority, and rural communities to thrive, a new focus must be placed on the financial institutions serving them,” Johnson said.

The communications expert added that the bill establishes within the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an office to be known as the “Office of Black and Community Banks.” It authorizes the comptroller to provide them with the regulatory flexibility to encourage affordable small dollar lending.

He says the bill further establishes the “Minority Bank Deposit Program” to expand the use of minority banks, women’s banks, and low-income credit unions and requires federal agencies to develop plans to use these institutions, to the extent possible, for their banking needs.

The bill also could help African American banks boost black entrepreneurship where they operate and become stronger financial services providers.

“The push to solve the economic crisis in the black community will require fighting on several fronts: education, health, fighting discrimination, and the creation of wealth building opportunities,”  Johnson said. “The goal of this bill is not to make black banks compete with other banks, but to increase access to capital and credit for the black community. By doing that, this legislation will significantly increase entrepreneurial activity in the black community by supporting the development of many community financed small black businesses.”

Interestingly, Cunningham maintains the bill is an extension of the Black Lives Matter and Bank Black Movements. He said the bill seeks to partially or completely exempt black banks and community banks from a majority of federal banking regulations, helping level the playing field with larger white-owned banks. He noted regulatory relief for black banks would be done to the extent the comptroller determines appropriate without endangering the safety and soundness of the overall banking system.

Plus, he said the legislation requires a study on the use of New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) by black and community banks. The program could potentially bring new investment into black banks through tax credits. Cunningham said it would allow individual and corporate investors to receive a credit that reduces federal income tax owed. Investors make debt and equity investments in specialized financial intermediaries, including some black banks, called Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Community Development Entities (CDEs).

According to Cunningham, for every $ 1 million invested, an investor gets a tax credit of 39 % or $ 390,000 over 7 years, in addition to keeping any returns generated by the original investment.

The tax credits, which are scarce and limited in amount, are distributed by the U.S. Treasury. He added black banks, CDFIs and CDEs have not been able to get these tax credits from Treasury, claiming they have gone instead mainly to white nonprofits and firms like Goldman Sachs.

Simultaneously, Cunningham says the bill could make black banks much more profitable by reducing compliance and operating costs as well as removing unneeded regulations.

He estimates that each black bank could increase in market value by 25% if the bill passes in its current form.

The post New Bill Could Help Black Banks Raise Capital, Cut Costs, and Attract Black Investors appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Money | Black Enterprise

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This ridiculously tiny skirt costs $260

Things worth $ 260: a good pair of leather boots or clogs, decent “Hamilton” tickets, a dinner at Per Se. Things not worth $ 260: a strip of fabric that some fancy fashion label is trying to convince me is a “skirt.” The minuscule micro mini features an elastic waistband and a side slit (somehow). It’s the…
Fashion News, Photos, and Video | New York Post

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How health-care costs us $89 billion a year in lost time

Americans spend more time traveling and waiting for health appointments than for any other service, according to a new analysis.
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Avoid Hidden Costs During a Roof Replacement

From curb appeal to increased energy efficiency, a roof replacement is a smart way to drastically increase the value of your home. However, roof repairs can also be some of the most expensive renovations for homeowners. So how do you ensure that your roof replacement stays in budget, and avoid hidden costs that could break the bank? Knowledge is key. Read on for Modernize’s advice to help you prepare for unexpected costs during your roofing project.

Basic Costs of a Roof Replacement

Begin by determining your baseline roof replacement budget. The average roof replacement cost is between $ 8,000 – $ 17,500 including installation, the cost of roofing shingles, removal of your old roof, disposal fees, permitting and labor.

Whether you are budgeting for a DIY replacement or accepting bids from roofing contractors, the cost of your project will be impacted by basic roofing considerations like:

Roof Dimensions

In short, the simpler the roof, the cheaper the replacement. The complexity, slope, and size of your roof will have a significant impact on the cost of your roof replacement.

Roofs (and roof repairs) are measured in squares, which are 10×10 foot areas. The more squares to be replaced, the higher the cost. Roofs with more slant have a larger surface area than roofs with less slant. And a roof with more level changes, hips, valleys and add-ons like dormers will be more expensive than a simple roof.

Roofing Materials

Roofing material prices range from very affordable options like asphalt ($ 150 to $ 550 per square) to options like slate (close to $ 385 to $ 800 per square). As such, the cost of raw materials will drive the price of the entire roofing project up or down.

In addition to shingles, building materials are another cost to consider. This includes, but is not limited to, boards and plywood, nails, drop cloths, calk, roof underlayment, flashing, and sheathing.

Labor

Labor costs will vary depending on the size of the crew, their experience, and the scope of your roofing project. However, Modernize encourages homeowners to not select a contractor based on price alone. The quality of work is especially important when it comes to roofing projects.

While some aspects of a roof replacement can be DIY, the smartest choice for such an important project is to partner with a reputable roofing contractor. The right roofing contractor will be able to help you set (and stick) to your roof replacement budget and have the experience to foresee any hidden costs.

Disposal

While it is often possible to install new roofing over existing shingles, that can impact the quality of your roof and interfere with your roofing warranty. As such, your roof replacement will likely entail the disposal of your current roof. Shingles must be disposed of properly, so budget for a dumpster and additional disposal costs.

Inspection and Permitting

To determine the scope of your roof replacement, your roofing contractor will do an inspection of your current roof. Inspections are generally not free, but a roofing contractor may include the cost of their inspection in the price of a repair project after being hired. After an inspection, your contractor will be able to provide a more accurate quote and scope of work.

Depending on where you live, your contractor may also need to secure permits to complete a roof replacement. Your contractor will manage the permitting process, but be prepared for the cost. Depending on your region, a roof replacement permit may be a flat rate, or it could vary based on your home’s size or value.

 

The Most Common Hidden Roof Replacement Costs

No matter how well prepared and researched your roof replacement budget may be, keep in mind that construction may uncover additional costs that are beyond you or your contractor’s control. Especially if you live in an older house, it’s wise to be prepared. With that in mind, some common unexpected costs to be prepared for include:

Bringing Your Roof Up To Code

Your roof may have originally been built to meet decades-old building codes that will no longer apply to new construction. While this is great news for your home’s energy efficiency and sustainability, it is an added expense to keep in mind.

Pests and Mold

Especially in humid areas of the country, mold and termite damage can add hidden costs to your roof replacement. Whether it’s insects or decay, these problems will need to be addressed before new shingles can be installed.

Leaks And Rotten Plywood

Leaks in your roof can sometimes go unnoticed until the shingles are removed during a roofing repair. These leaks can cause damage to your home, like rot in rafters and other wood structures. If there is already extensive damage, the material and labor cost to replace that wood can quickly increase the roof replacement price by hundreds of dollars.

Poor Roof Design Causing Water Traps

Water traps are a common issue that homeowners are often unaware of until a roof replacement takes place. Water traps are areas that are prone to leaks due to runoff areas that direct too much water to one place. Water traps also lead to faster wear on your shingles and other materials like siding or brick. If your contractor uncovers this issue, you can expect to include the costs to mitigate the water traps in your roof replacement budget.

Upgrades

For many homeowners, a roof replacement is a smart choice to increase the value of their home. In that vein, you may find that upgrades to other elements of your roof are also in order during the roof replacement. Examples include upgrading to low-maintenance gutters, improving your roofing ventilation, or opting for a more durable type of roof underlayment. Discuss how these and other options can be worked into your roofing repair with your contractor. They can help you decide what makes sense to maximize the value of your home while staying within budget.

Tips To Keep Your Roof Replacement On Budget

Like any home renovation, there are ways you can prepare your home to minimize additional costs that can occur during the actual installation. Tips include:

  • Cut your grass short before roof installation begins. Shorter grass will make it easier for your roofers to use a magnetic nail finder to recover any nails or staples that go astray during a roof replacement.
  • Cover items in your attic with a tarp or plastic sheeting. Small gaps in your decking can allow shingles, nails and other debris to fall onto your insulation or valuables stored in your attic.
  • Where possible, move plants and lawn furniture far away from your home. This also applies to vehicles parked in your driveway. Relocating valuable items will minimize the chance of them being damaged while your roofing team hauls loads of debris over the side of your roof.

Now that you have the knowledge of the costs, both planned and unplanned, to expect during your roof replacement, all that’s left is to ensure you stick to your budget. To do that, you can:

  • Complete your roof replacement in the off-season. Demand for roof repairs is greatest in spring and summer, so the cost will typically be higher than when done in the cooler months when laborers’ time is in less demand. The price of new shingles can also be lower during the off-season.
  • Leave 15-20 percent of wiggle room in your budget. This will allow you to take any hidden issues in stride without impacting the rest of your roof replacement. This may seem like a large buffer, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Establish great communication with your contractor. Let them know about your budget constraints up front. This will help them determine the most realistic way to reach your desired end result, and help them as they purchase supplies for the project.

All in all, having a reliable and honest roofing contractor is perhaps the easiest way to avoid hidden costs during a roof replacement. Take advantage of Modernize’s tools to find a trusted local contractor that can make the roof of your dreams a reality.

The post Avoid Hidden Costs During a Roof Replacement appeared first on Modernize.

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Democrats move to cut prescription drug costs

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SPECIAL NEWS BULLETIN:

http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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Higher Health Insurance Costs for Small Businesses Coming in 2019?

A recent ruling by a Texas federal judge insisting the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—otherwise known as Obamacare—is unconstitutional is potentially bad news for millions of small businesses, the national advocacy group Small Business Majority maintains. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with an alliance of 20 states that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance nullified the overall ACA.

‘Obamacare’ will continue to remain in effect for now. The case could be appealed and possibly reach the U.S. Supreme Court, observers say. They say that process could take months or even years.

The ruling occurred a day before the deadline for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the ACA. Roughly 11.8 million U.S. consumers enrolled in 2018 healthcare exchange plans, the federal agency Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported.

The ruling has “no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan,” Seema Verma, the administrator for the Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees ACA, tweeted.

Former President Barack Obama posted on Facebook that Obamacare will “likely”  survive the judge’s ruling. He urged people to proceed with open enrollment and get coverage.



President Donald Trump saluted the decision as “great news for America,” boasting that Congress will now create a “great” healthcare plan, though that will likely be difficult if large numbers of the pool of uninsured Americans opt not to pay for insurance.


However, the Small Business Majority says the ruling’s impact could hit entrepreneurs, including black small businesses owners soon.

“While this federal court decision does not change the status of the ACA right now, it injects a degree of uncertainty into the ACA marketplaces that many entrepreneurs depend on for quality, affordable health insurance,” Simon Brown, a spokesman at Small Business Majority, told Black Enterprise.

“That uncertainty could cause consumers to leave the marketplaces, meaning prices could rise for those who continue to buy insurance through ACA marketplaces.”

John Arensmeyer, Small Business Majority founder & CEO, added through the ACA’s individual mandate penalty was previously repealed, its remaining components must be upheld in full because the law is absolutely critical to the success of small businesses, their employees and solo entrepreneurs.

Before Obamacare became law in 2010, the Small Business Majority says small businesses and their employees represented a disproportionate share of uninsured workers, and small business owners paid 18% more on average for coverage than larger companies.

Yet, the growth in small business healthcare costs slowed dramatically since 2010, occurring after regular double-digit gains before the law’s enactment. The law made health insurance more affordable for smaller firms, resulting in many entrepreneurs launching their own businesses.

More than 5.7 million small business employees or self-employed workers are enrolled in the ACA marketplaces, and more than half of all ACA marketplace enrollees nationwide are small business owners, self-employed individuals or small business employees, the Small Business Majority states.

Plus, the advocacy group says the law has enabled most states to expand their Medicaid programs, allowing low-income small business employees and entrepreneurs to obtain health coverage.

Arensmeyer says ending the ACA would be an unmitigated disaster for America’s entrepreneurs.

“For the good of America’s job creators, the constitutionality of the ACA must be upheld, and we hope this decision is immediately appealed.”

 

The post Higher Health Insurance Costs for Small Businesses Coming in 2019? appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Money | Black Enterprise

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12.28.18 Foster kids at risk; Warning for small biz owners; Car leasing costs going up

As foster care kids reach adulthood, difficulties mount; A warning to small business owners about expired URL’s and how they can be commandeered; Leasing a car is getting even more costly than it has been.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Watch the video
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The hot new Fire TV Stick 4K costs less than the original with this Black Friday deal

Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon’s wildly popular Fire TV Stick is on sale for Black Friday for just $ 25, but it normally retails for $ 40. Meanwhile, the brand new Fire TV Stick 4K with all-new Alexa Voice Remote normally sells for $ 50, with is a killer value considering you get 4K, HDR support, Dolby Atmos support, and Amazon’s new next-gen Alexa voice remote. As you might have surmised though, the new 4K model is also on sale for Black Friday 2018, and the price is down to just $ 34.99. That’s $ 5 less than the old Fire TV Stick’s normal retail price, and you don’t have much longer to take advantage.

Fire TV Stick 4K with all-new Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player: $ 34.99

Here are the bullet points from the product page:

  • The most powerful 4K streaming media stick with a new Wi-Fi antenna design optimized for 4K Ultra HD streaming, with more storage for apps and games than any other 4K streaming media stick.
  • Launch and control all your favorite movies and TV shows with the next-gen Alexa Voice Remote. New power, volume, and mute buttons to control your TV, sound bar, and receiver.
  • Enjoy brilliant picture and immersive sound with access to 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR, HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos.
  • Choose from 500,000 movies and TV episodes. Watch favorites from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, STARZ, SHOWTIME, CBS All Access, and others.
  • Experience tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills, plus millions of websites like YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit.
  • Alexa on Fire TV provides the most comprehensive voice experience of any streaming media player—view live camera feeds, check the weather, dim the lights, and stream music.
  • Amazon Prime members get unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV episodes, plus ad-free listening to millions of songs with Prime Music.
  • No cable or satellite? No problem. Watch live TV and sports with subscriptions to Hulu and PlayStation Vue.

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Amazon’s Roomba 960 Black Friday deal is so good it has to be a mistake
  2. This might be the best Black Friday deal of all time on an Apple product

Trending Right Now:

  1. eBay’s Cyber Monday deals begin this weekend: Cheaper Xbox One X, MacBook Air, and 65-inch Samsung TV
  2. The company with the hottest Android phones you can’t buy is helping Google ‘kill’ Android
  3. The Galaxy S10 might do something the iPhone and Pixel can’t

The hot new Fire TV Stick 4K costs less than the original with this Black Friday deal originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 23 Nov 2018 at 16:57:42 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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Washington’s Chelan County PUD Plans Higher Electricity Costs For Crypto Mining

A rural Washington County Public Utility District, or PUD has proposed higher electricity costs for cryptocurrency miners, according to Central Washington radio station KPQ. The Chelan County PUD in north-central Washington has proposed a new electricity pricing structure, Schedule 36, for the mining activity, which generally takes enormous power.
RTT – Top Story

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Trump administration courts investors in broad effort to combat rising health care costs

The Trump administration is battling rising health costs by going after higher prices.
Health and Science

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Click today to request your free ACRX discount prescription card and save up to 80% off of your medicine!

SPECIAL DONATION REQUEST UPDATE:

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Facebook Live: What About Those Sky-High Air Ambulance Costs?

It’s bad enough that a patient has a health emergency so dire it requires a helicopter ride to make it to the hospital in time. But then comes the bill, which can approach six figures and for which insurance coverage is often spotty. In this Facebook Live discussion, Diane Webber, a senior editor at KHN who has coordinated coverage of the issue, talks with senior editor Stephanie Stapleton about the regulatory and market-based factors that contribute to these sky-high costs.

Here’s our coverage, done in partnership with NPR:

Kaiser Health News

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Avoid Hidden Costs During A Window Replacement

Replacing multiple windows in your home is a worthwhile, but costly, investment. As you vet and select the best window contractor for your project, it is important to discuss your budget and potential factors that might affect the overall cost of your window replacement. To make sure your project is as affordable as possible, review these hidden costs ahead of your upcoming window replacement.

Old Window Disposal:

Ahead of your window installation, it is important to discuss how to best dispose of your old windows. While many window installers will clean up and discard the windows at no additional cost, some contractors do charge a fee for this service.

Check your estimate, and discuss disposal details as you vet contractors. The cost of transporting the leftover frames and dump fees for non-hazardous waste disposal can add an extra $ 40 or $ 50 to your budget.

Framing Changes:

Most new windows will easily slide into your existing window openings, making for a relatively simple replacement process. However, there are some situations —like uneven framing or rotting wood— that can cause pricey complications.

An existing frame will need to be rebuilt if:

  • There is uneven framing.
    • If your new windows won’t fit in the existing space, the frame may need to be rebuilt to accommodate the new windows.
  • There is rotting wood.
    • If you’ve had moisture damage from a recent storm, the water might leak into the wall. The original window will need to be removed in order the replace the damaged or rotted window.
    • This is more common in older homes. Homeowners may be unaware of this damage until after the window has been removed. In many cases with older homes, the wall structure may have broken seal damage, and not the window itself. This damage to the wall won’t be visible until the window is removed.
  • There is a fire code.
    • Homes older than 75 years old were likely not built to modern fire code standards. The International Residential Code dictates that windows must have a specific opening size (with a minimum of 24 inches height). If your home’s windows don’t adhere to these requirements, they will likely need to be enlarged to comply with these standards.

Rebuilding a window frame can cost an additional 50 percent on top of your current replacement costs. While rotted or severely damaged frames are usually a worst-case scenario, talk to your contractor about what damage they may encounter once the window installation is underway.

Window Delivery:

If you purchase your windows from a home improvement store and haul them home, you do not need to worry about a delivery charge. However, if you purchase your windows from a dealer or manufacturer, you may have a delivery fee.

Depending on your region and distance from the seller, the delivery fee can range anywhere from $ 50 to $ 400. If you are purchasing your windows through a dealer or contractor, discuss if your contractor will cover this fee. If not, discuss out how much it will cost, as it will be included in your estimate.

Permits:

In most cases, a home window replacement is a process between the homeowner and contractor. In some instances, a project may require a building permit before you can begin your project. A permit is required when a window opening is enlarged horizontally or when the wall structure is altered, as both of these changes can have safety repercussions.

An application must be submitted and a permit approved before any construction begins. While homeowners are responsible for acquiring permits, many contractors will take on the task. It is important to discuss any permit needs with your contractor, as the average cost of a building permit can run anywhere from $ 400 to $ 1600.

Lead Paint Test:

If your home was built before 1978, your walls are likely coated in lead-based paint. Undisturbed, lead-based paint does not pose many risks. However, renovations and repairs can create toxic lead dust. Paint lead and lead-contaminated dust are some of the leading causes of lead poisoning.

Windows carry a higher lead exposure risk due to their exposure to outside elements and paint friction. If you have an older home, you or your contractor will need to inspect your paint.

Testing for toxic lead typically costs between $ 200 and $ 400. You may need multiple tests. While homeowners can conduct a home inspection for an affordable price— if the test is positive, a lead risk assessor may need to examine the home and send dust samples to a laboratory for analysis.

If you have an older home, talk with your contractor about testing for lead-based paint and how it could impact the cost of your window replacement project.

Ready to find a trusted contractor for your window replacement? The Modernize Contractor Checklist will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your window repair or replacement project is in good hands. You can access the interactive checklist by visiting the Modernize Homeowner Portal or by downloading it here.

The post Avoid Hidden Costs During A Window Replacement appeared first on Modernize.

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