Choosing the Best Fireplace for Your Home

Temps are dropping here in the Lowcountry, and we’re thinking warm and cozy thoughts. There’s nothing quite like curling up by the fireplace to read a good book or watch a movie on a chilly night. The only problem is that fireplaces aren’t really the norm in the Charleston area these days. Since central heating and cooling is less of a modern convenience and more of a must-have in modern times, a fireplace isn’t a necessity anymore. In fact, most builders consider them an upgrade and charge extra to add one on. But just because we don’t need a fireplace doesn’t mean we don’t want one. If your house is lacking this cozy convenience, or if you have an older fireplace that is in dire need of updating, the options nowadays are many and varied. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a few different types of fireplaces so you can choose the best option for your home.

Wood Burning

If you own an older home, chances are you have a fireplace that is or was once a traditional wood-burning one. There’s nothing like a plain ol’ wood-burning fireplace with its crackling sound, genuine warmth, and cozy ambience. The problem is that they can be an awful lot of work. With chores like chimney and flue maintenance, chopping or buying and storing firewood, and cleaning out the ashes, owning a wood-burning fireplace might be more trouble than it’s worth for some folks.

Gas Burning

Homeowners who want the look of a traditional fireplace without all the work tend to turn to the next best thing: gas fireplaces. Gas-burning fireplaces are much easier to maintain. There’s no logs or kindling to chop, no mess to clean up, and no chimney to clean. You can convert your regular wood-burning fireplace into a gas one easily, or you can buy a prebuilt gas fireplace and install it anywhere, as long as there’s a gas line and proper ventilation.


Electric fireplaces are easy to install, low-maintenance, quite flexible, and can be surprisingly budget-friendly. Whether your budget is around $100 or upwards of $1,000, you’re sure to find several options that appeal to you. Electric fireplaces are safer and cleaner than other options, and most units require little more work to install than plugging them in. If you’re looking for more than ambience from your fireplace, however, an electric fireplace may not be the best option for you. It may be more eco-friendly, but it certainly won’t put out the amount of heat a wood or gas fireplace can.

Ethanol Burning

There’s no short supply of style, shape, and size when it comes to ethanol-burning fireplaces. If you’re looking to add a touch of warmth and ambience to a room every now and then, you might want to look into getting an ethanol-burning fireplace. While they aren’t the best or cheapest option as far as function, they’re perfect for a wide range of design options and portability. Since ethanol fireplaces work on fuel that is poured directly into them and don’t require ventilation, they can be placed anywhere—even in the center of a room. Just don’t expect to heat a whole room with one unless you drop a lot of cash on a larger fireplace and its required fuel. While prices of ethanol vary, you can expect to pay around $10 for a liter.

How-To Tuesday: Avoid Regret After Decluttering and Purging

Purging and decluttering your home can feel so good that it can be hard to know when to stop. Sometimes you just get on a roll and toss more items into the garbage and giveaway piles than the keep pile! While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it has been known to cause a modicum of regret later on down the road. Here’s how to avoid purging past the point of no return and keep declutterer’s remorse at bay when scaling back your collection of “stuff.”

Carefully Examine Personal Paperwork

It’s a nice feeling to take a big stack of cluttery papers and just dump them into the recycle bin or garbage can. But trust us: you don’t want to take the easy way out on this one. It might be a relief to just rid yourself of all those papers at once, but that relief could quickly turn to panic when you can’t find an important document later on. Instead, take your pile of papers, sit down with your shredder, recycle bin, and a good movie or some music (and maybe a good glass of wine), and take the time to sort through the stack carefully. Shred documents that have personal information on them; toss the junk in the recycle bin; and immediately file or find another home for anything that could be important or useful later.

Don’t Throw Away Imperfect Photos

Okay, so you lost seventy pounds, got a better haircut, or ditched the grunge look and don’t really want a reminder of how you looked way back when. Listen to us when we say that you do want those reminders.  Photos that feature you at your heaviest can be motivating later on if you start to put weight back on. Pics that show your previous tastes in clothes, makeup, and even friends can be sentimental to you in your later years. Hey, they might even score you cool points when those cringeworthy styles come back into fashion when your kids are older. But most importantly, those photos might have other people in them that you’ll want to remember when they’re not around anymore.

Hang on to Iconic Clothing

Speaking of certain styles coming back into vogue, you might want to hang on to the more trendy, iconic, and designer items hanging in your closet. An article of clothing or accessory that represents a certain era or trend can be an extremely cool treasure in years to come. (What we wouldn’t give to have Grandma’s poodle skirts, or those amazing glitzy pumps and jumpsuits from Mom’s disco phase, right?) Instead of just tossing anything you don’t wear anymore, get rid of stuff that’s torn or otherwise damaged, anything that doesn’t fit or just never fit well, anything cheap that won’t hold up over time, etc.

Keep Real Jewelry or Collectible Accessories

When you’re purging your accessory collection, make sure you aren’t getting rid of anything important or valuable. Getting rid of costume jewelry is one thing, but be certain that the real stuff doesn’t accidentally get mixed in. You’d be devastated if you accidentally tossed your grandma’s heirloom brooch in with the collection of pins you gave away. It’s also okay to keep any accessories that were on the expensive side, like designer bags and sunglasses. They almost always come back into style after a few decades (vintage Chanel bag, anyone?).

Rethink Giving Away Useful Items

Things like small household appliances and tools fall victim to decluttering all the time. But you should really think about whether or not an item has an actual, albeit occasional, use before you get rid of it. You might not use your blender very often, but what happens when you discover that it’s the perfect tool for making your aunt’s amazing salsa? You’ll have to run out and buy a new one, right? It’s okay to keep any household items that serve an actual purpose, no matter how occasional it might be, unless they’re broken or otherwise in need of replacement.

Store Those Things You Love But Don’t Have Room For

If you love something but don’t have a spot for it in your current space, don’t get rid of it. We’re told to keep things that “spark joy” in our lives. Listen to your emotional side rather than your practical side on this one. You might not use or have room for grandma’s hand-me-down set of silverware or china now, but you might be sad when you don’t have it in a few years. Store the item somewhere until you have the perfect spot for it. It might not fit in your space now, stylewise or spacewise, but you never know how perfect it might be when you change things up or move to a new home.

Don’t Toss Anything You Might Appreciate Having When You’re Older

When you’re young, life can seem endless and full of possibilities. It’s hard to imagine that you might want to keep your goofy scrapbook full of high school and college photos and ticket stubs. You might not appreciate it now, but one day you’ll crave those memories and the mementos that spark them. So go ahead; we give you full permission to keep that shoebox full of love letters from your first boyfriend. No matter how much they might make you cringe now, they’ll make you smile when you’re older and remembering how young and carefree you once were. Your kids and grandkids will get a kick out of it too!

Do You Have Sufficient Homeowners Insurance Coverage?

It’s a surprising fact, really, but it’s true: most homeowners in the United States are underinsured. In fact, insurance giant Nationwide estimates that about two-thirds of homeowners don’t carry enough insurance coverage to protect themselves in the event of major damage or destruction due to fire, flood, or other disaster. While this is a sobering thought, the truly sad part is that most homeowners don’t even know they’re underinsured until it’s too late. This is why it’s imperative that you review your homeowner’s insurance policy each year. Make an appointment with your insurance agent and use some (or all!) of the following tips to make sure you’re sufficiently covered.

Avoid Minimums

If you have a mortgage, your lender requires you to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage. That minimum, however, won’t necessarily cover everything if and when you need it to. All the lender wants is to protect their investment. As blasé as it may sound, all they really want is to ensure they can get their money back. Minimum coverage might help you pay them, but it won’t necessarily do anything to help your home and property. You need to make sure that you have enough insurance to cover the cost of repairing and/or replacing your home today. It doesn’t matter what the market value is. What matters is the actual amount it would take to rebuild. Instead of going for the bare minimum in coverage, look at other ways to save money, such as raising your deductible. A higher deductible can actually save you money on your monthly payments. You might also qualify for savings if you bundle your home and auto insurance.

Keep Your Policy Updated

Improving and adding onto your home is a great investment. In order to protect that investment, it’s important to increase your insurance coverage anytime you change something and add value to your home. You might groan when you think about adding certain high-risk items like a pool to your insurance policy, but the money and headache it could save you if an accident were to happen is worth the hassle and possible payment hike of adding it to your policy.

Keep Personal Property Inventory Updated

In addition to updating your policy based on the house itself, you should also update it to reflect the contents therein. Personal property that is priceless or would cost a lot to replace should always be covered. Typical coverage of expensive items like jewelry, art, and antiques is about $2,500. If your personal property is worth more than that, you should think about purchasing extra coverage for those types of items. It’s also a good idea to document your personal possessions with a home inventory, complete with receipts and photos.

Review Exclusions and Endorsements

Exclusions and endorsements are the parts of your insurance policy that subtract or add coverage. Endorsements, which are usually pretty affordable, allow you to rest easy knowing that you and your property are fully protected. You might get an endorsement for those expensive possessions discussed above, or you might get one for things like sewer and sump-pump backup; home-based business; and special personal property coverage. Exclusions, on the other hand, tell you what is not covered under your policy and help you decide whether to purchase additional liability or other types of insurance. Some exclusions might be certain dog breeds or wind and hail.

Check Your Liability Coverage

When most people think about homeowners insurance, they think about protecting their homes against damage from natural disasters, fire, flooding, and the like. Some homeowners tend to forget that liability insurance is just as important when it comes to protecting themselves and their property. For instance, what happens if someone is on your property and gets injured in some way? Liability coverage is there to help with things like property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, death benefits, and legal costs. It protects your home and your belongings in the event that you get sued.

Figure Correct Replacement Value

Knowing the actual replacement value of your home is key to ensuring that you have sufficient coverage. Your insurance agent can help you with this, but a good way to figure the amount is to take the current local building costs per square foot and multiply it by the square footage of your home. Certain factors can change the price per square foot, including but not limited to types of exterior wall construction, house style, number of rooms and bathrooms, type of roof, features like garages, fireplaces, and trimwork.

Check to See If You Need Flood Insurance

Standard home insurance policies do not protect against flooding. If you live in a flood zone, you probably already have flood insurance, but even if you aren’t required to purchase it, you may want to think about doing so. According to, up to 20% of flood claims come from low- to moderate-risk areas. Just because you don’t live in a spot that floods very often, it doesn’t mean your house isn’t ever at risk for flooding. It’s better to have flood insurance and not need it than need it and not have it.

Friday Five // November 9th, 2018

It’s Friday once again, and you know what that means. It’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun things happening around the Lowcountry this weekend. Honor and celebrate our nation’s veterans, sample a famous Lowcountry dish, have a ladies’ day out, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a safe and happy weekend!

Celebrate our nation’s veterans on Saturday at the sixth annual Red, White, & Blue Festival at the Hanahan Amphitheater from 9am until 5pm. This event is free and will be fun for the whole family with jump castles, kids’ games, face-painting, balloon artists, food and craft vendors, and live entertainment on two stages. Don’t miss the military displays, including World War II reenactors from the decorated 36th Infantry Division.

On Saturday, Touch of Magic Events will host the Lowcountry Women’s Fair at the Gaillard Center from 10am until 3pm. Treat yourself to a day of free massages, makeovers, health screenings, henna tattoos, a fashion show, self-defense classes, shopping, and more. Admission and activities are free. A kids’ area will be set up with face-painting and balloon animals, so feel free to bring the little ones along!

Put on your best “tails” and pounce on over to the Francis Marion Hotel Saturday evening for the 14th Annual Fur Ball to benefit Pet Helpers. The Fur Ball is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Every dollar raised through Charleston’s premiere pet-loving gala enables Pet Helpers to continue its life-saving work of the past forty years. This year’s Fur Ball promises to be the best yet with its Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter theme and entertainment from Plane Jane.

Head on down to “The Joe” Sunday afternoon for the Charleston RiverDogs Shrimp & Grits Festival. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the event and can be purchased at the Riley Park box office or online. Your ticket gets you unlimited samples of shrimp & grits from participating vendors, which include Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Charleston Caribbean Creole Food Truck, Charleston Harbor Fish House, Gillie’s Soul Food, Morgan Creek Grill, Ms. Rose’s Fine Foods & Cocktails, and more. While you savor your samples, enjoy the vendor village, kids’ zone, cash bar, and live music. Upgrade to a VIP ticket for $40 to enjoy complimentary beer, wine, and oysters.

Steeplechase of Charleston returns this Sunday to finish out the 2018 National Steeplechase Association Fall Racing Circuit. This Charleston tradition began in 1792 and will be ushered into a new era with the addition of The Steeplechase Gala and a weekend full of activities. Sunday’s family-friendly event will feature five high-stakes races. Fun in the infield includes a VIP Chalet, vendor village, food trucks, live entertainment, and activities for the whole family. Pack your coolers, grab your biggest hat or your loudest bowtie, and meet your friends at the races!

Why Downsizing Isn’t Always Cheaper

There are many reasons someone might want to downsize when buying a new home. Maybe the kids have moved out and you just don’t need as much space. Maybe you want more free time and less yard and home maintenance to worry about. Maybe you’re looking for a smaller mortgage and fewer home-related expenses. If your number one reason for downsizing is to save money, tread carefully. Buying a smaller home doesn’t always mean you’ll have fewer expenses. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that could make your downsizing attempt pricier than you expect.

Higher Taxes

Before you shed your suburban skin and rid yourself of that large house to move to a smaller place in the city, do a little research on property taxes. Sure, you might be able to snag a one-bedroom that’s close to everything for a smaller price than your house in the suburbs. But you could still be looking at a larger payment thanks to higher property tax rates. Make sure those property taxes don’t cancel out any savings you gained on the sale price.

Homeowner’s Insurance

A smaller home doesn’t always necessarily come with a smaller insurance premium. Think about the location you’re moving to and what’s required in the way of insurance. Before you make an offer on a home, check to see if you’ll be required to purchase flood insurance, which can be even more costly than regular homeowner’s insurance depending on your location.

HOA Fees

If you lived in a more rural or exurban area prior to downsizing, you might not be used to paying homeowners association or regime fees. Condos, apartments, and retirement communities are popular choices for downsizing, and they usually come with HOA and/or regime fees that can be pretty hefty at times. Granted, sometimes these fees include things like exterior insurance, trash pickup, certain amenities, and some utilities. But if you’re not used to paying a monthly fee such as this, you’ll need to really look at your budget to see if you can afford it.

New Home Features

Even if you’re moving into a smaller house, if it’s brand new, it probably has a lot more trendy features than your old house did. New building materials and energy-efficient features and appliances can cost a pretty penny, which pushes up the total cost of your home. When you move into a brand new home, you also have to take into consideration the amount of “stuff” you’ll have to buy to get set up. New home buyers often forget to include things like window treatments, rugs, and other decor in their budget.

Moving Out

Don’t forget that you might actually have to spend a good bit to get your old home sold before you can move. Sometimes you don’t realize how much updating a home needs until you go to sell it. If you’re home’s on the older side, you’ll at least need to repaint, make those repairs you’ve been neglecting, and perhaps even switch out carpeting. A few other things will likely show up on the inspection report as well. And don’t forget about the cost of actually moving! If you’re not DIY-ing your move with your own vehicle, you’ll need to pay movers or rent a moving truck. There’s also the cost of packing supplies, the time and effort you have to put into the job, the possibility of renting a storage unit, etc.

Downsizing can be a pretty great feeling, but it might not feel so great to your wallet if you aren’t careful. If your end goal is to save money by downsizing, just be sure to take these factors into consideration before you make a move.




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