The Teddy Bear HouseEvery house has a story, some more exciting than others, but some kind of story, even with new construction if you consider what has gone into its planning and construction.

In my career as a realtor, I’ve had the pleasure to represent some houses with extraordinary stories, including my own, the Ebenezer White House, circa 1734, in Yorktown Heights, which I recently sold.  Now, my real estate partner Michael Pierce and I have just listed the Michtom House, circa 1926, aka, “The Teddy Bear” House, in Cortlandt Manor.

And why, you might ask, is it called The Teddy Bear House?  Because it was built as the country refuge for the family of Morris Michtom, the toymaker who developed and manufactured the original teddy bear in the early years of the 20th century, inspired by President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. With the success of the teddy bear, Michtom went on to establish the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.

A perfect example of the Tudor period, the four-bedroom, 2000 sq. ft. Michtom house sits on an acre on Briar Lane, a sleepy, tree-canopied road that harks back to a time when the area was primarily for leisure time activity for the well-to-do from the city.

Its owners, Diane and Bob Frissora have lived in this sturdy structure with its stucco outer walls and slate roof since 1971 and are emotional about placing it on the market, especially Diane. “It’s where we raised our family,” she says.  Bob, a builder, looks at the prospect of a sale more practically, saying, “How could you build a house like this today?  What would it cost using these materials?”

A special prospect of this particular property is that it has an adjacent one-acre buildable lot that is zoned two-family which is rare for upper Westchester. “This lot can be incorporated into the deal for the house…or not,” Bob said, “so it could be a family compound or purchased along with the house as an investment opportunity.”

There aren’t many true Tudors in upper Westchester like the Michtom home.  The style flourish in America from 1890 to 1940, and the area at that time was mostly small homes and summer cottages, rather than grander structures like this one.

In more urban settings, the style referred to as Tudor was based on a mix of late Medieval and early Renaissance styles. European-trained architects, influenced by Old World styles, brought the eclectic, asymmetrical Tudor style to America toward the end of the nineteenth century. Built for wealthy homeowners, Tudor houses were of solid masonry with elaborate decorative stone and brickwork. They were sometimes called “Stockbroker Tudor” because their financially successful owners had frequently made their wealth in the booming 1920s stock market.

These homes featured such elements as steeply pitched roofs, decorative half timbering, and embellished doorways.

“Basically this is a lower Westchester kind of home in upper Westchester…at an upper Westchester price! How can you beat that?” Bob Frissora concludes.

48146688 - hand stamp on memory foam

When I first started buying mattresses on my own, oh so many years ago, all I had to consider in terms of options were the size and degree of firmness.  Today, with such high-technology choices as those offered by the new “smart” beds that sense and automatically adjust all night to optimize our sleep experience, choosing how to spend our time with our longest term sleeping partner is a whole new ball game.

Our relationships with our mattresses vie with any kind of personal liaisons we might ever have in our lifetimes, considering that if you survive the average life expectancy, you will spend 36,000 nights with your body snuggled up to your most supportive companion.

When it came time for me to buy my first mattress on my own, however, I found that, as a young college student, I was far from sensitive about comfort. To create both a modern sofa and a bed, I bought a six-foot long piece of foam rubber and laid it over a hollow door, supported by four cinder blocks. To keep my handyman special from looking completely primitive, I did attach a pleated skirt to hide the cinder blocks. As a bed, it was indeed torturous.

For my first apartment in New York City, I bought an inexpensive mattress from Macy’s and, as I recall, it was the superstore’s own brand. Even though it was inexpensive, it was dreamily comfortable. When my girlfriend, now my wife, came to my apartment for the first time, I showed her my antique sleigh bed, bragging that I probably had the most comfortable mattress ever. “Why don’t you give it a try?” I suggested innocently. She refused, obviously thinking that it was a ruse of some kind. Things were different in those days.

There is evidence that people have been seeking softer sleeping surfaces for more than 10,000 years. Since the Egyptian Pharaohs had beds of ebony and gold, it is assumed that they devised something soft to place in them, but common people simply slept on palm bows heaped in a corner.  By Roman times, mattresses were stuffed with reeds, hay, wool or feathers. During the Renaissance, mattresses were made of pea shucks or straw and covered with sumptuous velvets, brocades and silks. Their filling, however, became a banquet for bugs.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the term “sleep tight” was coined when mattresses were placed on a web of ropes that needed regular tightening to prevent sagging. The second part of that phrase, “don’t let the bedbugs bite” expressed a condition that was common then and seems to have resurrected with a vengeance just recently.

But by the late 19th century, cotton mattresses that were less attractive to vermin dominated.

In 1900, James Marshall invented and patented the “pocket coil” in which the coil was placed inside a pocket made of cotton and individually suspended, with materials placed on top that provided comfort.

By the 1930s, innerspring mattresses with upholstered foundations gained the prominent position they still enjoy.

Futons were introduced in the 1940s, foam rubber mattresses appeared in the 1950s, followed by waterbeds in the 1960s and airbeds in the 1980s. But most of us still rely on innerspring mattresses to get our forty winks.

In selecting a mattress, you might consider the suggestion of the International Sleep Products Association that you spend at least15 minutes lying on it. Then again, you might not.  The last time I bought a mattress, I tried six different models and can’t imagine that I would have spent an hour and a half dozing off at Sleepy’s.

Much of the firmness debate is solved by the new options for adjustability, even for each side of the bed.

Then there is the question of how big the mattress should be. Widths range from 39” for a twin to 76” for a king, and lengths range from 75” to 84”.

While the square footage of homes and the size of bedrooms is shrinking, anyone sharing a bed may think twice about diminishing the size of the bed proportionately. Did you know that if you share your bed with a partner and it is a simple double bed, you have only as much personal sleeping space as a baby in a crib?

My wife tells a cute story about mattresses. When she took her 88-year-old mother to buy a new mattress and the salesman noted that it came with a 20-year guarantee, her mother said, “At my age, I only need a five-year guarantee. Can I get a better price for that?”

Today, with the new Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed, it’s almost scary to consider that it automatically warms its owner’s feet to facilitate sleep and knows when he or she is snoring and subtly adjusts to alleviate it.  What other nocturnal needs might mattresses address in the future?


Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.


Oh, how the years of repeated ritual can produce a strong desire to create a shorthand to achieving final results.  That certainly has been the case for me after almost a half century of assisting my wife in creating a festive atmosphere in our home around the holiday season.

Our first year of marriage, we spent weeks and weeks in preparation for the wintry holidays.  This year, we decorated in little more than an hour.

We married in the dark ages at the end of September and almost immediately upon returning from our honeymoon, we engaged in our first crafts project, more like a marathon, to create all of our own ornaments for our inaugural tree.  I guess that’s what a young couple with not much money and a lot of time on their hands can do.

In the days before A.C. Moore and Michael’s, the place to get the wildest stuff for ornamental projects was in the hat district of Manhattan, west of Fifth Avenue on 38th Street. On my way home from work each day, I’d pass through and buy interesting hat decorations from the time when women still wore hats.

Then, immediately following dinner, my wife and I would sit in the living room, spread out my finds on our large coffee table and get to work decorating various sizes of Styrofoam balls.

We came up with the idea of each making one elaborate tree ornament every year throughout our marriage, but we got so much into our new hobby that it became an obsession the very first year. The balls became more and more elaborate as we practiced our skills, and many were themed with their own names.

One ball, completely covered in pink ribbon, gathered and pinned, was named our Baby Girl ball, even though we didn’t have a baby yet.   There was the Grace Kelly ball with pale blue and yellow ribbons and pearls; the Swan Lake ball with white ribbons, white feathers and crystals; the Can-Can Girl ball with black and red ribbons, beads and a black feather plume on top; and our real piece de resistance, a large Faberge ball with semi-precious gems all over it, taken from old pieces of jewelry.

The tips of our thumbs had developed calluses from pushing in the pins until we got smart and used thimbles to aid our obsession.

We decided it would be safer to buy a large artificial tree so that there would be no threat of sap staining the balls, and we kept producing our little gems until we ran out of space on the tree. We had become tree ornament addicted.

The bottom line, however, is that we must have OD’d on our first year’s attempt because we haven’t made a single ball since then. We did, however, add antique and specialty ornaments over the years, as presents to each other.

As we have gotten older, our tree has become smaller, and our daughter, who was predated by that pink ribbon ball in her honor, is now the recipient, one by one, of our early Christmas ornament binge.

Today, it’s just a matter of unwrapping each ornament from its tissue and hanging it on our artificial tree, already strung with lights from the manufacturer. While the whole decorating process took less than an hour this year, I have known speed demons who beat our record. There are those who simply place their tree stand on wheels and when the holiday is over, drape it with a sheet, fully decorated, and roll it into storage until it’s show time next year.

As for outside decoration, whenever I see a home with its lawn highly decked out for the holidays, I get the urge to pull up, knock on the door and meet the owner. I’m sure that he or she would be great person who loves kids and probably is still wondrous as a child.

For many years, we were specialists in lighting Christmas wreaths and hanging them at strategic points along our outside fence, connected with garlands of lighted pine garlands looping from one wreath to the next.  If I were to attempt any kind of outside display today, I would simply invest in that highly advertised Star Shower Lazer Light projector where you just plug in the device and let it do its thing.

Have I grown lazy about holiday decorating over the years?  As I see it, it’s more a matter of efficiency to be enjoyed.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

44378168 - smoke detector and pendent fire sprinkler on a ceiling 

About this time every year, I am reminded by my friend “Fireman Joe” Pascarelli that I should write something about fire safety in the home.  While my friend is retired from a 30-year career as a Mt. Vernon fireman – he is now my “go-to” service provider whenever anyone asks for a great house painter, inside or out — he is passionate about educating his community on the basics of fire safety, and he does it stealthily – through children in school.

In between his popular house painting gigs, he squeezes in appearances at the Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights where he instructs students about fire safety in the home and distributes pamphlets which he asks them to take home and review with their parents. “Unfortunately, most people don’t think about fire safety and how to protect themselves until it’s too late,” Joe told me this week.  And he speaks from experience.

In Joe’s case, a passion for fire safety was born in personal tragedy.  Close to his retirement as a fireman, he arrived at a fire scene to find a mother in front of the burning house screaming that her baby was inside. Tragically, Joe was not able to reach and rescue her baby. “I had to ‘see somebody’ for a while after that,” Joe said, “and then I decided to do what I could to work with children, teaching them about fire safety in the home.”

It is particularly important that we all be aware of fire safety during the holiday season when nearly 47,000 fires occur annually, claiming more than 500 lives, causing more than 2,200 injuries and costing $554 million in property damage.  The memory of that Christmas Day fire in Stamford, Connecticut, a few years ago where the homeowner’s three children and two parents were lost is still painful to think about.  It was caused by placing ashes from the fireplace just outside the door of the home in a cardboard box.

“Fireman Joe” offers the following main fire safety points for children and parents alike to know:


  • Remember that the sound of a smoke detector can save your life or that of a loved one. Be sure that batteries are replaced annually, including detectors that are hard-wired that have battery backup.
  • Families should practice the acronym EDITH (Exit Drill In The Home): Know two ways out of the house and, once out, never return to get belongings or pets; have a planned meeting place for family members outside the home; call 911 from a cell or neighbor’s phone.
  • Have oil burners serviced annually to prevent misfire and puff backs. Also have chimneys cleaned annually for both wood stoves and fireplaces.
  • Place supplemental heating sources, kerosene lamps and electric, at least 36 inches away from any combustible material.
  • Dispose of fireplace embers and ashes into a metal container located a distance from the house.
  • Make sure that extension cords are not frayed; don’t overload circuits; don’t leave Christmas tree lights on when out of the house or asleep.
  • Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water.
  • Special note for children: Always sleep with the bedroom door closed; if the door is hot, never open it; if there is smoke, stay close to the floor, and don’t hide.

From the American Red Cross come additional tips:

  • Place Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
  • Use only sturdy tree stands designed not to tip over. Keep curious pets and children away from Christmas trees.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire—pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove top.
  • Designate one person to walk around your home to make sure that all candles and smoking materials are properly extinguished after guests leave.

Any group or school that wants “Fireman Joe” to speak on the subject of fire safety in the home can contact him directly at 914-330-3889.  (And he’s very open to assignments for your house painting needs as well).

     Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

38817493 - repair, building, renovation and people concept - close up of happy couple looking at blueprint at home

The most interesting aspect of my recent move to a new residence was the discovery of an old footlocker in the attic that had been locked up for 45 years and never opened. In fact, I had even lost the key and had to ask a locksmith to come open it.

Its contents, which I had truly forgotten over the years, were all the clippings, magazines and newspapers where I had achieved public relations placements in my early career. And, most fascinating among those findings were clippings about a major housing study that I was assigned to promote.  (Who knew that I was involved in real estate all those years before I became a Realtor?).

The study was conducted by the design firm founded by that greatest of all industrial designers Raymond Loewy and its objective was to determine the preferences of men and women in choosing housing and the differences between the sexes in what they sought in a home.   It was sponsored by a consortium of manufacturers of housing materials.

The study seems to have had impact enough to warrant significant attention by both The New York Times and Time Magazine.  In combing through the information provided, I found that much has changed in almost half a century, while some things remained constant.

The national survey was one of the most comprehensive of its type until that time involving 2500 personal interviews with respondents in their own homes and, for new home prospects, the interviews were conducted before, during and after visits to different types of properties and model homes.

It was the first major study to analyze the difference between men and women in the way they regard homes and housing. When the interviews were conducted at model homes, it was found that the homes failed to fulfill the expectations and desires of would be purchasers, but for different reasons.  Women registered greater general disappointment than men. They were most disappointed in the ability of the home to meet their standards for childrens’ care and upbringing.

Remember, this was 50 years ago, before we had open floor plans.  In those days, kitchens were walled-off almost as though they were undesirable places to be encountered.  In the intervening years, kitchens have opened to dining rooms, family rooms and/or playrooms where mothers and children at play can interact very easily.

Men, on the other hand, saw the new dwelling as failing to serve the major masculine needs, identified at that time as ways to express individuality, protection of personal privacy and the display of possessions and the family itself.  Women’s discontent was directed at particular rooms and functions of these rooms in the home – the kitchen, entrance, and recreation room, while men reacted to specific features of a home and were more permissive of many general faults

Findings showed the point of greatest husband-wife agreement about housing occurred at the earliest stages of married life and family formation, and that the agreement diverged significantly as the family matures.

Divergent as their motivations may have been when considering such factors as children, individuality, use of time, investment, possessions and socializing in relation to housing choice, it was concluded that to buy housing, husbands and wives must come to reasonable agreement about what they want.  This agreement, it was found, gave greatest weight to children, privacy and convenience.  The concern for children, their health, security, social and educational opportunities, came first with both men and women until their family had grown and left home.

The area of the study that has probably most changed is the psychology of home buying. At that time, it was concluded that women were more practical about housing, while males tended to fantasize more romantically, imagining a dwelling that may have been less satisfactory than they imagined.

Another area that may have changed was the selection of favorite rooms in the house by female and male.  Fifty years ago, men were more favorably impressed by the foyer and kitchen, while women were not.  At the time, men were found to regard the entrance foyer for the first impression it gives to visitors who would transfer a favorable impression to males as host and homeowner.

There was general agreement between the sexes, however, in the living room and master bedroom/bath combination.

At that time, women associated the kitchen with being more isolated and detached from family and guests, a sort of Siberia, while their preference for the master bedroom was a symbol of marriage security where they could retreat when they wanted to be alone.  It was also the room where they saw themselves as “pampered and desirable.”

One of the not-so-startling conclusions of the study was that the purchase of a house was seen as a matriarchal move.  When the husband decided to buy a house, the study noted, it is probably for the sake of his wife and children.

Probably the major change is in favorite rooms:  surely the kitchen many times “sells” the house of today, particularly for women and, as for men, they have fared pretty well in having their own space for individuality when you consider that the term “man’s cave” hadn’t even been thought of half a century ago.


Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

51129854 - people, housework and housekeeping concept - happy woman in gloves cleaning window with rag and cleanser spray at home

When is someone going to invent the self-cleaning window and take it to Shark Tank? After all, we have the self-cleaning oven, don’t we?

Of all the chores I’ve considered doing myself as a homeowner, window cleaning has never been among them, not in two New York City apartments (impossible to do a picture window anyway from the 14th floor), two homes in the country and now in a fifth floor condo. I always thought that cleaning my own windows was too big a job for me, especially in my old, big colonial where there were 22 windows, all of which had storm windows which I kept on all year long, so actually that made both sides of 44 windows to be cleaned.

Some of the windows, dating back to the mid-1700s, had windows with small panes, making it extra difficult to get into all the extra corners.  Colonials had small windows because the production of large panes of glass was not yet figured out and, as a consequence, had less exposure to the cold. But today with energy efficient windows, the entire outside can be opened to the world, depending on how much you want to see of it. And you can see more of it through clean glass.

And, if you are more a do-it-yourselfer than I, the chore is made easier by the newer tilt-in windows that allow you to clean the outside glass from the inside.

Other than the practical side of cleaning windows, there should also be a psychological boost in being able to see more clearly.  The rooms are brighter, and you feel clean all over. What causes windows to get dirty in the first place?  It’s just natural weathering that will cause grime to build up.

For home owners, clean windows make a property much more inviting, helping to create a positive first impression for house guests. Additionally, if you are about to venture into the realty market, clean windows are a must in demonstrating good upkeep.

Cleaning windows is also a proper maintenance issue, removing environmental contaminants like acid rain, hard water, and oxidation  — all corrosive contaminants – which extends the windows’ life span.

When cleaned properly windows are made more efficient. Dirt and grime can build up to the point where it interferes with the sun’s natural warming action during the winter months. Oxidation and weathering around window frames can ruin window seals and cause air leaks, fogging, and condensation that has negative implication for energy bills and mold issues. Also dirt and dead bugs can collect on sills over time, preventing proper closing action.

Here are some useful techniques for cleaning windows:

  • Wash one side of a window with horizontal strokes and the other side with vertical strokes so you can pinpoint which side of the window has streaks.
  • Use a squeegee on a long handle or a sponge/squeegee combination to prevent streaks on large windows.
  • Eliminate tiny scratches on glass by polishing the affected areas with toothpaste.
  • Washing windows should be done on a cloudy day, because direct sunlight dries cleaning solutions before you can polish the glass properly.
  • Use a soft toothbrush or cotton swab to clean corners.
  • For extra shine to window glass, polish it with well-washed cotton T-shirts or old cloth diapers. Or rub a clean blackboard eraser over a freshly washed and dried window to give it a diamond-bright shine.


  • Polish windows to a sparkling shine with crumpled newspaper. The paper also leaves a film that’s resistant to dirt.
  • Wash windows from the top down to prevent drips.
  • R­ememb­er that window cleaners pose a threat to woodwork. Don’t let them drip on the windowsill where they can harm the paint or varnish.

­Don’t want to spend money on a glass cleaner? Home recipes work just as well as commercial products for washing windows. Try this recipe for a homemade glass cleaner:

  • Use 2 tablespoons ammonia, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, and 1/4 teaspoon dishwashing detergent.
  • Add all ingredients to a small spray bottle, then fill the bottle with water and shake well. You can substitute 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice for the ammonia.
  • Use as you would any commercial window cleaner.

Whatever the view from any window, you’ll enjoy it better when it’s cleaner.


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. Visit his website at: and, if you would like to consult with him about buying or selling a home, contact him directly at 914-522-2076.



If you’re staring at a blank plasterboard wall that is begging for a little dressing up, consider adding a dado rail, also known as a chair rail, fixed horizontally to the perimeter of the room.

I seriously doubt that the back of any chair has touched a chair rail as a way to prevent damage to the wall in a long, long time.  Rather, the molding device is now mainly aesthetic as a way to help define space and create interest within the envelope of a room.  Particularly in the past few years the chair rail, along with other types of trim such as wainscot, tall baseboards and crown molding, have sallied forth for denoting upgrades and creating luxury.

In architectural terms, the dado rail is traditionally part of the dado or wainscot and, while its purpose may be mainly decorative, there are probably cases where it, along with the baseboard, does in fact provide protection from furniture and human contact.  For instance, in the condo building where I now live, the hallways feature generously-sized chair rails and baseboards, and I note that the maintenance staff is frequently touching up the scuffs that occur from passersby.

To plan the addition of a chair rail, there is some discussion about its proper height from the floor.  Traditionally, the height of the dado rail is derived from the height of the pedestal of a column of classical order, typically 24 inches from the floor or about one-fifth the height of the room. But, modern trends have opted more toward 30 to 36 inches, based on the assumed notion that its actual purpose is to protect the wall from chair backs.  If the ceiling is 8 feet high, it’s best to stay lower with the chair rail.    But, even in colonial rooms with 10-ft. ceilings, I’ve seen the chair rail set at 30 inches from the floor.  Let your own sense of aesthetics be your guide.

For the do-it-yourselfers, the next step is to select the molding at the lumber yard to be used. It should not be too heavy in proportion to the size of the room and the height of its ceiling.   When I lived in an 18th century house with 9 foot ceilings, the original chair rail molding was 4-1/2 inches deep, which seemed appropriate. The next step is to take careful measurements of each wall and to get busy with the miter saw and miter box for the interior and exterior corners.

The best sequence is to paint or paper the wall behind where the chair rail will be prior to its installation and, further, to paint the rail itself.  The following steps are to locate the studs and mark them with pencil, then measure up from the floor or use a leveler to mark the height at the end of each piece.

Attach the molding with finishing nails recessed into the molding with a nail set, and the nail heads are covered over with putty.  The final steps are to caulk the joints where the segments meet and to touch up the paint wherever there is putty or caulk.

Here are some other tips:

When painting or papering the wall behind the chair rail, consider using different, coordinating colors or designs above and below the rail. It is an inexpensive way to add definition.

A good lesson I learned by experience:  measure twice, cut once. If in doubt, cut a bit too long. It is easier to trim a little extra than to replace missing material.

Molding for chair rails may not always be sold as such. If you think molding of a particular shape would look good as a chair rail, use it, even if it is labeled for use as a baseboard.

A chair rail offers homeowners the opportunity to create a two-toned wall. To ensure aesthetically pleasing two-toned walls, note the following:

First, consider neutrals. Although this may seem somewhat boring, neutral shades open up the door for a whole host of options and allow you to add more wall decor without cluttering the space. Neutrals add dimension to the room without dominating the design.

Or, experiment with different shades of the same color. For example, a navy blue on the bottom half of the wall could look dramatic when contrasted with a light blue on top. Additionally, a chocolate brown below the rail paired with a medium taupe above can give any room a warm feel.

Another option is to utilize a paint/wallpaper combination, with the wallpaper applied either above or below the chair rail.  I have used this effect in several of the rooms I’ve decorated. Each time, I’ve matched one of the dominant colors from the wallpaper to select the color paint for the rest of the wall.

A chair rail addition can be an excellent weekend project to add warmth and interest to your home.  But, for those of you who have decided that do-it-yourself projects are best graduated to let-someone-else-do-it projects, I have several good carpenters I can recommend.


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. Visit his website at: and, if you would like to consult with him about buying or selling a home, contact him directly at 914-522-2076.

34269232 - a pipe leaking due to freezing

As I write this in mid-October, my quick question to you is, do you have a water hose still connected to an outside spigot of your home? Other than a fire or tornado, the most damaging event a house can suffer is flooding from a burst water pipe. Yet, most people have just a sketchy knowledge of how to avoid this potential disaster.

One of my most memorable mishaps with burst pipes involved a young couple, buyer clients, who had found the home of their dreams and wanted to close as quickly as possible because the lease on their rental was about to expire. But their dream was dashed, at least temporarily, by a discovery we made when we arrived at the house for the engineering inspection.

We were greeted by an ominous sound of water leaking and discovered in the family room that water was spraying through the seams of the plasterboard walls and half of the ceiling had collapsed. The engineer quickly shut off the water main, but it was too late to prevent the extensive damage to the walls, ceiling, built-in cabinetry and flooring.

As an estate sale, the house was empty, but the selling agent had been very careful to monitor the heating system so that the pipes wouldn’t freeze, so she couldn’t understand what went wrong. The engineer looked around and found that, outside, the garden house had not been disconnected from the outside spigot.  He explained that water in the hose had frozen and backed up into the pipe that traveled through the garage, which was unheated, to the family room on the other side of the garage wall, causing the pipes to burst. When the ice melted, the room was flooded.

When water freezes, it has the force of 2200 pounds of pressure per square inch, according to Dave Goldberg, founder of Dave Goldberg Plumbing & Heating, serving Westchester and Putnam counties. “One of the most common causes of burst pipes is when people forget to detach their hoses for the winter. It should always be done by mid-October,” he said.

“But there are many reasons pipes can burst,” he continued. “It can be a mere draft through a tiny crack in a wall, and if it is cold enough outside, the wind chill factor can cause a pipe to freeze, and it can be anywhere in the house, even over the living room.

He further noted that even if a house is winterized, it can be done incorrectly. “When people had summer houses up here and would close them for the winter, it was easier to drain the pipes because the plumbing was designed for that. Now, with modern construction, pipes wind around beams and go up and down, and there are many elbows that can trap water. If just a drop of water is left in the elbow and it freezes, the pipe can burst,” he said, adding that the best way to avoid this is to have the pipes blown out with an air compressor.

“Things can go wrong even if a house isn’t abandoned,” he said.  “If a family takes a winter vacation, for instance, it’s not enough precaution just to leave the heat on. Suppose there is a power failure or the supply of fuel runs out?”

Goldberg cited the popular use of wood and gas-burning stoves as another cause of burst pipes. “They give you a false sense of warmth,” he said. “It can be 70 degrees inside, but that heat may not get to the outside walls where the water pipes are located.”

As a safeguard, Goldberg recommends to all clients that non-toxic anti-freeze be added to the heating system so that if the power goes off, the water won’t freeze.  “It’s like putting anti-freeze in a car,” he said, “and, it should be checked annually to see that it’s still at an effective level.”

For insulating pipes in the basement or crawl space, he suggests using a heating strip that turns on automatically like a thermostat, and then to wrap both the pipe and heating strip with insulation.

Another safeguard in frigid whether, he said,  is to keep water running from both the hot and cold taps where the pipes are against an outside wall.

If you agree that safeguarding your plumbing from freezing is a good idea, Dave Goldberg Plumbing and Heating offers expert advice and service.  Dave Goldberg himself, who has been my plumber for more than four decades, is now retired, but his son-in-law Doug Maar, will be happy to help you by calling  914-962-3498.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.


Does your home have its own name? If not, maybe it’s worth considering.  More than once, I’ve heard that attaching a name to a home might actually enhance its value.

I first became aware of homes having names in a former life when I was just starting out in the publicity business and did some work in Hollywood. One of my clients was a very senior, world-famous wine expert named Robert Lawrence Balzer, whose home was originally owned by Rudolf Valentino.  Named Falcon Lair, the home had quite a history, considering all the famous guests who had visited it.  I became fascinated by the prospects of that added dimension a name could bring to a house.

But when you think about it, we’ve always attached certain attributes to houses by their names.

In movies, how could Scarlett O’Hara’s character be defined without her unwavering devotion to Tara?  And on television, we remember that the Cartwright family was closely identified with Ponderosa, and J.R. Ewing got shot at Southfork.

While some homes set the stage with visions of great power and influence – Versailles, Buckingham Palace, The White House – even humble abodes can be named to tell their characters.

Here in Westchester, Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-Step program, appropriately named his Westchester residence Stepping Stones; the actress Helen Hayes called her Nyack home Pretty Penny to convey its price; and I have lived for many years in The Ebenezer White House, named for a Revolutionary War physician and early State Senator.

Sometimes homes share a double bill. For instance, I was involved in the sale of a property in Yorktown known as the Adams-Bernstein House, now poised for renovation by the buyer, and I know the history of those two owners from different centuries, each quite different.  The first was a simple farmer from the early 1800s and the second, a sophisticated New York City physician who bought it in the 1930s.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

This has always been my favorite time of year to weed because when I yank those nasty invaders, they all stay weeded and I don’t have to worry about the chore again until next spring. But, I speak out of both sides of my mouth, because I actually enjoy weeding. To me it’s therapy, and it’s a compulsive activity.

It never fails. I’ll be in a rush to meet a client, dashing to my garage across my parking area, covered with crushed bluestone, and I’ll spy a tiny fleck of green peeking through the gravel. I must stop to pull it out.

When I bend over, I drop my car keys, my glasses fall out of my breast pocket and, if the weed is deep-rooted, like a dandelion, my hands get dirty, requiring that I return to the house to wash them after the deed is done.

Or, I’m coming home very late, dead tired, and I notice that, almost like spontaneous combustion, that nasty grout weed has all but consumed a clump of perennial geraniums. It’s getting dark but there I am, stooped over again, releasing those delicate flowers from the clutches of that hostile invader.

Worse yet, we might be entertaining guests on our patio and, in my peripheral vision, I detect another unwelcome visitor in a nearby flower bed. Nonchalantly, I’ll push myself out of my glider, perhaps in the middle of a sentence, and conduct an enemy attack without missing a beat. Annoyed, my wife later tells me that I must not have been giving full attention to our guests.

Yes, I confess. I’m a compulsive weeder.

When I first discovered the joys of gardening as a youngster, it was all about planting annuals and seeing quick results. But by the time I was in high school, perhaps in dealing with my impetuous nature, I found that I equally enjoyed pulling weeds to help ease those first bouts of post-adolescent anxiety.

My weeding addiction became full blown as an adult when I moved to Westchester from the city and my responsibilities were upgraded from a small square patch of earth in front of my house, where a sickly gingko tree sprang from the concrete sidewalk, to a verdant acre and a half of lawn and garden.

At the same time, I had started a new job and commuted a long distance every weekday to report to a boss who was the “Mr. Hyde” personality of all time. My weeding activity was especially intense during that period. Every time I yanked a weed, it was as though I was vicariously yanking his head bald, even though he was already bald.

Lest one think that I need intervention, I would say that there are good compulsive habits and this might be one of them.

Considering that a single weed can produce as many as 250,000 seeds, and that those seeds arrive through a multi-level attack from the air, rain runoff and bird droppings, weeding would seem to be a losing battle. But, there are preventative measures that can help diminish the occasion of weeds sprouting.

Just keep up with the following:

* Uproot the offenders and place them in the compost pile before they go to seed.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch. A three to four-inch layer of mulch applied between plants or garden rows can slow down or in many cases prevent the re-growth of weeds.

* In the spring, after preparing the soil for planting, let it set for seven to 10 days. Then work the surface of the soil with a hoe. This will slice off the newly emerged weed seedlings. If you have time before planting, let the soil rest another week or so and hoe again.

* Cover the soil for a short while with black plastic, but don’t leave it on for more than a couple of months, because the soil needs air and water to remain healthy

* Use those vertical barriers, such as wood, metal or heavy plastic edging to prevent grass and weeds from encroaching from lawn to garden.

And, be mindful of what William Shakespeare wrote: “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.”

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.