How To Make Sure Your Fireplace Is Safe

By: Douglas Trattner

FireplaceWith chilly fall nights and winter just around the corner, how do you keep your fireplace and your family safe? The best tools you have are your eyes.

With regular visual inspections both inside your home and out, you’ll make sure your fireplace is in good shape for the burning season.

Checking From the Outside

Examine the chimney to make sure a chimney cap is present and in good repair. The metal cap keeps animals, rain, and snow out of the chimney, while acting as a spark arrester that prevents hot embers from landing on your roofing.

If you have a multi-story home or a steep roof, play it safe and use a pair of binoculars to check the chimney cap from the ground.

While you’re at it, make sure:

  • There’s no bird nest or debris buildup on the cap.
  • There are no tree limbs above or near the chimney.
  • The mortar and bricks on the chimney aren’t crumbling or missing.
  • The chimney rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.
  • The chimney crown — the sloping cement shoulders at the top of the chimney — is beveled, which helps air flow.
  • The flue liner is visible above the chimney crown.
  • The chimney is plumb and not leaning to one side or the other.
  • The roof flashing is tight against the chimney.

If you spot anything amiss, call a licensed chimney professional or mason to remedy the problem. For pricey jobs, make sure to get a second estimate.

Looking Inside Your Home

With a flashlight, inspect the flue damper to make sure it opens, closes, and seals properly.

“If the damper doesn’t seal well, you’ll lose a tremendous amount of heat from the home when the fireplace isn’t in use,” explains Gary Spolar, a licensed sweep and owner of Century Chimney in northeast Ohio.

With the damper open, check the flue for combustible material such as animal nests or other foreign objects. You should be able to see daylight at the top.

Inspect the fireplace surround, hearth, and firebox to make sure there are no cracked bricks or missing mortar. Damage inside the firebox is serious — have a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79-$500.

Also, check for obvious signs of moisture inside the firebox, which could mean a faulty cap.

Inspecting a Gas-Burning Fireplace

We enjoy gas fireplaces because they’re low-maintenance — but that doesn’t mean they’re no-maintenance. You should:

  • Inspect the glass doors for cracks or latch issues.
  • Check that gas logs are in the proper position.
  • Turn gas off at the shut-off valve and test the igniter.
  • Ignite the fire and look for clogged burner holes. If present, turn off gas and clear obstructions with a pin or needle.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Read more:

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101 Things To Do in Memphis #29: Battlefront Laser Tag and Paintball

Battlefront LasertagSituated in a private 20-acre forest at Shelby Farms Park, Battlefront Laser Tag & Paintball is the newest option for outdoor fun. They offer outdoor laser tag and paintball games like you have never seen or played before!

Whether you’re planning a small family outing or a large group game, they have space and equipment for you! The wooded playing fields are loaded with obstacles and bunkers to hind behind. Playing at Battlefront is an experience that you will never forget. They use top-of-the-line equipment to create top-of-the-line fun for players of all ages and skill level, so there are a variety of ways to play.


Package 1 | lighter weight equipment; better suited for younger players

  • 1/2 Hour: $9.99 per rental
  • 1 Hour:  $14.99 per rental
  • 2 Hours: $19.99 per rental

Package 2 | more equipment options; longer range; better suited for ages 10+

  •  1/2 Hour: $14.99 per rental
  • 1 Hour:  $24.99 per rental
  • 2 Hours: $29.99 per rental

Note: You can have up to 40 players on the field at any time. Additional players can be rotated into games. The price of your game depends on the number of pieces of equipment rented, not the number of players. Players will rotate in and out after each game or set of three games. Please book group sessions in advance.


  • Admission:  $4.99 (does not include paintballs)
  • Rental Paintball Gun and Face Mask: $9.99
  • Paintballs:: $4.99 and up

Packages include a protective face mask, paintball marker, a compressed air tank with unlimited air fills and an optional hip pack for extra paintballs.

For more information, check out their website.

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Memphis Real Estate Market Report – September 2014

This month in August, sales were down 28% compared to last year at the same time. This means we really need to be aggressive on how we “look.” I have a great staging list I would be glad to email you for free – just call or email me! Back to the numbers average sales prices were up 12% compared to last August. Year-to-date home sales in Shelby County were down 7% from this period last year, but again sales prices are up 7%. Only 3 zip codes in the county had an increase in overall sales activity for the month – 38016, 28028, 38133. But, 15 zip codes had increases in average sales prices. Collierville, 38017 had the most home sales for the month with 101 recorded, but that is still down 5% from last August. Home sales under $100k were down 39% from last year. Home sales over $300k were down 19% from last August. Also, if you are interested in selling your home or are interested in buying a home; please feel free to contact me at 901-230-2610 or 901-756-8900. You can email me at Be sure to visit for all of your real estate needs.

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101 Things To Do In Memphis #28: Best Memphis Burger Fest

best memphis burgerA favored event among local foodies, the 3rd annual Best Memphis Burger Fest will be held on September 21st at Minglewood Hall on 1555 Madison Avenue. Talented locals and restauranteurs will participate in this cooking competition, which is sponsored by Best Memphis Burger Blog and Memphis Paws, Inc. Last year, almost $6,500 was raised for Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services through the event.

The festival runs from 10:30 am to 6 pm with live music playing throughout the day. Cooking teams will compete in four categories: best Memphis burger, best veggie burger, best anything-but-beef burger and best extreme/creative burger. Teams also will kick off the day with an early morning Bloody Mary competition. Meanwhile, hungry attendees can participate in burger eating contests. In addition, there will be vendors, food trucks, pet adoption opportunities, corn hole for the kids and more. Admission is $7.

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Fall Landscaping: How To Prepare Your Yard For the Winter

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon landscaping chores are your last chance to prepare your property for winter, and to protect that curb appeal you’ve worked so hard to create. So pull on some gloves, grab your tools, and get ready to mulch, prune, and plant before snow and frozen ground turn the lights out on your landscaping.

Spread Mulch

“Fall mulching is better for the plants than spring mulching,” says Dan Taft, owner of The Cutting Edge in Chantilly, Va. “It helps protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during a cold and dry winter.”

Spread 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch around shrubs and trees. Taft warns home owners to avoid using free mulch from municipal piles, which often contain disease spores; instead, buy hardwood shredded mulch from home and garden centers, he says.

“Cheap, dump mulch mainly is made from trees that have died from disease,” Taft says. “Many diseases will linger in the mulch, like leaf spot and pine bark borers. You don’t want ground-up diseased plants around your landscaping.”

Remove the Dead and Dying

Fall isn’t the time to prune, because that encourages growth when healthy plants should remain dormant. But don’t shelve your shears and loppers yet. Fall is the time to neaten your landscaping before putting it to bed for the winter.

“If you remove dead landscaping in fall, you don’t have to look at it all winter,” Taft says.

  • Remove dead annuals.
  • Deadhead spent blooms, and cut back dead and desiccated ornamental grasses and perennials.
  • Lightly prune dead and dying branches from shrubs and trees. Carefully remove dried blossoms from hydrangea, but don’t remove dead-looking stalks, where new buds will form in spring.
  • After the first frost, cut back tea roses to about a third of their height.

Wrap Delicate Shrubs

Heavy snow, ice, and high winds can dry and split your delicate and pricey shrubs. To protect your landscaping from the winter elements:

  • Hide small plants under overturned plastic pots or buckets.
  • Wrap shrubs, such as boxwoods, in burlap.
  • Surround vulnerable trees with shredded leaves.

Take Advantage of Fall Sales

Early fall until the ground freezes is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Not only do cooler weather and autumn rain put less stress on young landscaping plants, nurseries often have sales to empty their shelves before winter.

“They need to sell every plant by Dec. 1,” Taft says. “Nurseries generally pay a third of the price that you’re paying. So don’t be afraid to offer less than the asking price. If you’re buying several things, the manager may give you a break.”

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Read more:

Photo: © Tab1962 | Dreamstime.comCleaning Up Yard During Autumn Photo

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101 Things To Do in Memphis #27: Midnight Classic Bike Tour and Lunar Festival

Midnight Classic logoThe Midnight Classic is an annual 17-mile, non-competitive bike ride through Overton Park, East Memphis, Midtown and Central Gardens that begins at midnight. Currently in its 15th year, the race is the largest cycling tour in the Memphis area and more than 2,000 people attended the 2013 race.

The 2014 Ride is scheduled for August 23, 2014. The event charges preregistration fees ranging from $20-$40, which includes a t-shirt and a meal after the race. Most riders finish around 2am, but the fastest time ever was 59 minutes and 51 seconds.

The event is preceded by the Lunar Festival, which begins at 10 p.m. and runs throughout the bike tour. The festival includes food provided by vendors, music by local artists, and booths from various bike shops in Memphis. Proceeds from both the Lunar Festival and the bike tour itself benefit Meritan, a Memphis-based non-profit providing health, social and child placement services.

Participants in the tour are allowed to ride in the road, and both Memphis police and Midnight Classic volunteers act to divert traffic, providing cyclists with empty roads and clear paths for the entire 17-mile ride. There are also several “rest stops” along the ride, which are gas stations with food and drinks available.

After the event, a meal is arranged and all riders are able to eat food provided as part of the registration. The 2014 meal will include food from Central BBQ. Trophies are also awarded to the “largest organized group of people” at the event, the person with the “best costume”, and the “best bicycle decoration.”

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Buyer Tip: Don’t Double Dip on Inspections

home inspectionIn the recent past, there is a new trend developing among buyers that is slightly troubling.  They are using the inspection period of the contract to not only beat up on sellers, but also to monetarily double dip. What do I mean by “double dip?”  It’s simple.

Recently, I received an offer on a listing that had a few issues – outdated fixtures, deferred maintenance, etc.  The buyer wrote a low-ball offer and explained they made the offer because of these items they would have to fix.  The seller agreed with the buyer’s rationale and they agreed on a contract price.  Imagine the seller’s surprise when the buyer did inspections on the home and now asked for all of these items to be corrected.

The inspection and due diligence period is designed to allow the potential buyer to find out if there are any hidden issues with the house that would either cause them to walk away from the deal or to negotiate a lower price to offset those hidden repairs that are needed.  It’s not a chance to beat up the seller over items that the buyer obviously already knew about.

We’ve found ourselves facing several buyers lately who not only want a steal on the price, but also want closing cost assistance and every possible repair made.  I mean, who wouldn’t.  However, depending on where the home is located, if you find yourself in a multiple offer situation, these hardball tactics could cause you lose out on your dream home.  Is it really worth it?

If you’d like insider knowledge on how to structure a strong offer, give me a call today.


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101 Things To Do In Memphis #26: Peabody Ducks at the Peabody Hotel


Source: Roger Schultz (via Flickr)

One of the most popular attractions in Memphis, the Peabody Ducks march to and from the Grand Lobby of the Peabody Hotel daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in a time-honored tradition dating back to 1933.

So, how did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin? Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Jack Daniel’s Tennessee sippin’ whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain.

Three small English call ducks were selected as “guinea pigs,” and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Soon, five North American Mallard ducks would replace the original ducks.

In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991.

The original ducks have long since gone, but after nearly 80 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks. The Peabody ducks march at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

Fun Facts

  • Ducks were not the first residents of The Peabody’s lobby fountain. Rumor has it that turtles and baby alligators each briefly graced the fountain in the 1920s.
  • The Peabody Ducks are five North American mallards – one drake (male) with white collar and green head, and four hens (females) with less colorful plumage.
  •  Duck is not served anywhere at The Peabody, and has not been seen on the hotel’s menus since its 1981 reopening, quite possibly making Chez Philippe the only French restaurant in the world that does not serve duck.
  •  The Peabody Ducks do not have individual names. However, the very first team of ducks was named Peabody, Gayoso, and Chisca – named for the three hotels owned by the Memphis Hotel Company in 1933.
  •  The Peabody’s lobby fountain is cut from one enormous piece of travertine marble made and shipped from Italy for the hotel’s 1925 opening. The colorful flowers adorning the top of the fountain are changed out every other day in the middle of the night.
  •  When off-duty from the Lobby, the ducks live in their Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop. The $200,000 structure is made of marble and glass and includes its very own fountain with a bronze ducks spitting water. It also includes a small house – a replica of the hotel – where the ducks can nest, with a soft, grassy “front yard.”
  •  The Peabody Marching Ducks have appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Sesame Street when Bert and Ernie celebrated Rubber Ducky Day, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and in People magazine and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
  • The Peabody Ducks have been both a question on the TV game show Jeopardy and in the board game Trivial Pursuit.
  • Current Duckmaster Anthony Petrina, a Memphis native, is only the 5th Duckmaster in the hotel’s history. Original Duckmaster Edward Pembroke held the position for 50 years.
  • Raised by a local farmer and a friend of the hotel, each team of Peabody Ducks lives at the hotel for only three months before retiring from their duty and returning to the farm, where they are free to live as wild ducks. With a return to the great outdoors in mind, the hotel recognizes its resident waterfowl as wild animals and does not domesticate them or treat them like pets.



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Collierville named as America’s Best Main Street

From Parade Magazine 8/15/2014:

Collierville-vtrAfter Parade readers nominated more than 2,000 Main Streets, editors selected 16 based on the criteria for a successful downtown, according to our research. Then in June, readers voted for their favorites in a bracket on

Congratulations To Our Winner: COLLIERVILLE, TENNESSEE!
Start your day by the old train depot in this town (pop. 47,333) outside Memphis and you’ll likely meet Joseph Johnson, who peddles produce from the back of his van. ★ “This has always been a nice town, with nice people,” he will tell you, and he’d know: The lifelong resident has a front-row seat on the Collierville square, a picturesque park at the heart of the community. In the summer, neighbors gather here around a gazebo for free concerts. ★ Local pride springs from the town’s rich history (as a trade center for cotton, and later, a cheese-making capital) but also its promising future: Since the 1990s, the population has tripled as corporations like FedEx have moved into town; and the ­local economy is thriving. A law office operates near a yoga studio and a brick-walled service station. At Dixie Pickers, you can shop for seersucker, bow ties, and fishing apparel. And over at the Silver Caboose Restaurant, diners catch up with the owner over pimento cheese sandwiches. ★ But the success of downtown is no accident. Laura Todd, executive director of a local civic group, credits a roster of programs that promote smart development. “We have great character and characters here,” she says. “Collierville makes you feel at home. It really does.”


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101 Things To Do In Memphis #25: Germantown Festival

Germantown FestivalOne of the longest, continuously run festivals in the area, the 43rd Annual Germantown Festival is back again for a free family fun weekend for all. Head to the Germantown Civic Club Complex (7745 Poplar Pike) in Germantown on Saturday, September 6th, 2014 and Sunday, September 7th, 2014 for the best in arts and crafts, children’s activities, rides and games, live stage entertainment, car exhibits, community displays, and more.

This 2-day event is held rain or shine and for many is a long-standing tradition of family fun and excitement in Germantown. The Festival hosts nearly 400 local and regional artists and craftsmen and offers a wide range of unique items including jewelry, pottery, metal, woodwork, hand-stitched garments, paintings, photography and many other popular and trendy items such as purses, fabrics and garden accessories.

The Children’s activities and games are always a favorite for families. Attractions include rock-climbing walls, bungee jumps, inflatable moonwalks and slides as well as pony, train and kiddie rides. Children of all ages enjoy the clowns wandering the park offering balloon animals and face painting as well as the many art activities and amusements.

Civic and Non-Profit Organizations will be selling mouth-watering festival food of every kind from corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes to catfish, brats, BBQ and much more. Live stage entertainment is scheduled for both days and offers festival goers a chance to sit and relax or tap their toes and dance. Additionally, new and classic cars will be on exhibit at the Germantown Festival from car clubs and local dealerships.

Admission to the Festival is free and free shuttle bus service is available from two free parking lots located at Union University, 2745 Hacks Cross Road, and Germantown Performing Arts Center (GPAC), 1801 Exeter road.

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