Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Environmentally Friendly

For many years the construction industry had no real regard for the pollution being created or the harm that was being done to the environment or public health. The main goal was to just get the job done on time and on budget. As time has passed, the level of awareness has been raised and most people have come to accept the importance of implementing more control over their construction practices.
Putting these controls into place does require more time and energy but as a construction contractor or even a do it yourselfer working on your own home improvement project, we all have a responsibility to protect the environment from pollution. This not only includes green building and construction practices but also the conscious effort to help keep hazardous waste from entering lakes, streams, and storm drain systems or polluting the atmosphere. Waste products can include runoff created by the mixing and spillage of materials such as concrete, cement, mortar mix, stucco, thin set adhesive, tile grout, paint, fertilizers, oil and gas, sawdust and cleaning products. This can easily be resolved by establishing a washout container that can be used to capture any waste. It can then be disposed of properly and is easier to set up than you might think. A plastic kiddie pool can be used as a washout container and is a great solution for the small quantities of waste usually generated by small do it yourself projects. Another easy solution is simply a small hole dug in the ground that is then lined with a heavy duty plastic such as visqueen or a tarp.
A simple solution for controlling airborne pollutants is just a little water - i.e. dust control. Wetting cementious product bags before opening and emptying the contents slowly while adding water will help to control any escaping dust. Another good idea is to fill the mixing container with a small amount of water before adding the material. This will help to absorb the material and minimize the dust that becomes airborne. This same method can be applied to dry soil before working it - i.e. grading, landscaping, drilling and trenching. Don’t forget to wear a protective mask when mixing these products or working in a dusty environment because health pollution is just as big of a problem as environmental pollution.
The point is that with a little consideration and extra time, we all can do our part to implement environmentally friendly construction practices and help keep the environment clean.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dryer Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are 15,000 clothes dryer fires per year. The result of these fires are material losses, injuries and even death. Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire in some dryers.

To help prevent fires follow these helpful tips:
· Clean the lint screen/filter before each load of clothes. It is so easy to forget to do this each time. A small reminder sign near or on the dryer itself is a good idea. Be aware of clothing that is still damp at the end of a typical drying cycle or drying requires longer times than normal, this may be a sign that the lint screen or the exhaust duct is blocked. Your high utility bill can be an additional signal.
· Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct periodically – A good rule of thumb is once a year. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not, the vent or the exhaust duct may be blocked. Many times the damper is actually stuck. To remove a blockage in the exhaust path, it may be necessary to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer.
· Clean behind the dryer, where lint can build up. Also clean the interior of the dryer chassis to prevent lint build up. Always use a
qualified service person to clean the dryer’s interior vent system.
· Replace plastic or foil, accordion-type ducting material with an approved fire resistant duct. Flexible plastic and foil type ducts are susceptible to kinks and can trap lint causing heat build up - A potential fire hazard! Most manufacturers specify the use of a rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct, which provides maximum airflow.
· Take special care when drying clothes that have been soiled with volatile chemicals. Clothes that have come in contact with gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning products, or paint solvents can be combustible. If possible, wash the clothing several times to minimize the amount of volatile chemicals on the clothes and hang the clothes to dry. If using a dryer, use the lowest heat setting and a drying cycle that has a cool-down period at the end of the cycle. To prevent clothes from igniting after drying, do not leave the dried clothes in the dryer or piled in a laundry basket.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Going Green

As more and more environmentally friendly products are coming to market, it seems only fair to mention the role of a few construction material products that are doing their part in helping to clean up the environment. Known as green construction or sustainable building methods, some of these innovations are quite interesting if not amazing. Goals of green building include being health conscious by decreasing pollution and toxins thereby limiting the impact on our environment. Also designed to conserve energy and valuable natural resources, many of these materials are quickly renewable such as fast growing bamboo used to manufacture flooring and paneling. Some products indirectly offer environmental benefits by conserving the water that would normally be an ingredient used to complete the final product such as cement used to mud-float showers and bath tubs in preparation for the installation of ceramic tile.
Although many building contractors and tradesmen are very negative when it comes to new products and techniques, these are usually old school veterans who are very set in their ways. You know the ones who live by the motto: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But in keeping an open mind, one will understand and soon admit that there may very well be superior products and techniques available today that were not available yesterday.
One product that comes to mind is a waterproof backer board designed to be applied directly to a tub or shower wall prior to the installation of ceramic tile. While there are several different manufacturers, the benefits are primarily the same and include:

·Lightweight and easy to install over existing drywall or open studs.
·Water conservation. Minimal water usage required.
·No need to for a sand/cement mixture which can release toxins as bags 
 are opened and mixed.
·Minimal gray water or cement debris generated thereby making clean up
 easier both in the staging area as well as in the work area.
·Installation options include flush surface or simulated mud-float.
·Designs and specifications allow for soap and shampoo niches, shelves and
 seats, and even tub decks and bases.

If you are considering the installation of a new shower or tub ceramic tile surround and based on the benefits mentioned above, I think it would be prudent to at least investigate using a new product such as this. Not only will you be environmentally conscious and socially responsible but it just might save time and money.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Adjusting Your Door


Doors swell and start rubbing on the jamb for various reasons. Foundations settle, wood framing members twist, bow and absorb moisture and walls rack out of plumb sometimes due to earthquakes. But the primary cause is due to the fact that the top or bottom of the door was not sealed during the painting process. This allows moisture to enter the wood frame from the inside, expanding the door and causing it to rub or even get completely stuck in extreme circumstances.
Sometimes the fix can be relatively simple. If the latch side of the door is rubbing, try this:

  1. If the top side, latch side of the door is rubbing, remove the top hinge pin. If the bottom side, latch side of the door is rubbing, remove the bottom hinge pin. Only remove one hinge pin at a time.
  2. Using a crescent wrench, tighten it around each ear of the hinge that is attached to the door. One at a time, bend each ear slightly (about 1/8”) in the direction of the lock side of the door. Be careful not to bend the ears too much as this can cause the door to become hinge bound – now rubbing on the hinge side of the jamb. After bending each ear, re-insert the hinge pin and operate the door. You may be surprised at how easy it was to fix the problem.
  3. If  the hinge side of the door is rubbing, just reverse the direction in which you are bending the hinge ears.
  4. Add a little lubricant to the hinges and you are done.

Of course sometimes the door will be rubbing at the top of the jamb. In this case, your only alternative is to plane the top of the door. If you are trying to avoid the use of power tools, you can try a sure form rasp or hand planer. Just plane the door a little at a time and then try it until it no longer rubs. Take your time. You don’t want to get in a hurry and plane too much at one time. The door may now close but the fit will look terrible.
After the problem has been resolved, don’t forget to seal the top and bottom of the door with a quality paint. Although you will have to use a drop cloth, there are many creative applicators available that will allow you to apply the sealer without having to remove the door.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Finishing Your Patch

Finishing the patch can be somewhat tedious and time consuming but certain steps just have to be followed in order to reach the final goal of completing a quality patch that blends in with the surrounding area.
Whether the patch is big or small, the first step in the finishing operation is to tape the joints. If you are in a hurry and the patch is relatively small, a fast setting compound can be used. Using a 20-minute mud for example will allow you to move on to the next step quicker and shorten the total time necessary to complete the job. Mix only what you will use up within 20 minutes. If you have the time to allow for drying between coats, an all-purpose compound works best. It will allow you to take your time without worrying about the material drying up too fast during the application process. It is also easier to sand.
The type of tape being used is also selective. There are paper tapes as well as self-sticking open mesh. The difference is cost and ease of application.
Using a 6” wide putty knife, spread the taping compound over the joint and then imbed the paper tape by applying pressure with the knife blade. Do each joint separately, overlapping the tape slightly. If using the self-sticking tape, apply it to the wall first and then apply the compound directly over the top of it. Spread the material over the tape as smoothly as possible taking special care to completely cover the tape but not too thick. Try to keep the edges of the compound flush with the surrounding area. This will help to cut down on the sanding time between coats. After all joints are coated, let the patch cure overnight. Next, lightly sand the patch being careful not to sand so deep that the tape gets torn. At this point, you can switch over to the 20-minute compound for your second and third coats or continue on with the all-purpose compound allowing 24 hours between each coat. Use a 12” putty knife for the second and third coats. Center the knife blade on the joints and feather the edges as you go. Sand between coats and apply the compound as smoothly as possible. After the final coat has dried, lightly sand the main body of the patch. Now check the edges until smooth blending into the surrounding area. Check for small imperfections as you go and touch up as needed.
Now you are ready to apply the texture. There are many different texturing tools on the market, but a favorite for small jobs has to be the
Finishing the patch can be somewhat tedious and time consuming but certain steps just have to be followed in order to reach the final goal of completing a quality patch that blends in with the surrounding area.
Whether the patch is big or small, the first step in the finishing operation is to tape the joints. If you are in a hurry and the patch is relatively small, a fast setting compound can be used. Using a 20-minute mud for example will allow you to move on to the next step quicker and shorten the total time necessary to complete the job. Mix only what you will use up within 20 minutes. If you have the time to allow for drying between coats, an all-purpose compound works best. It will allow you to take your time without worrying about the material drying up too fast during the application process. It is also easier to sand.
The type of tape being used is also selective. There are paper tapes as well as self-sticking open mesh. The difference is cost and ease of application.
Using a 6” wide putty knife, spread the taping compound over the joint and then imbed the paper tape by applying pressure with the knife blade. Do each joint separately, overlapping the tape slightly. If using the self-sticking tape, apply it to the wall first and then apply the compound directly over the top of it. Spread the material over the tape as smoothly as possible taking special care to completely cover the tape but not too thick. Try to keep the edges of the compound flush with the surrounding area. This will help to cut down on the sanding time between coats. After all joints are coated, let the patch cure overnight. Next, lightly sand the patch being careful not to sand so deep that the tape gets torn. At this point, you can switch over to the 20-minute compound for your second and third coats or continue on with the all-purpose compound allowing 24 hours between each coat. Use a 12” putty knife for the second and third coats. Center the knife blade on the joints and feather the edges as you go. Sand between coats and apply the compound as smoothly as possible. After the final coat has dried, lightly sand the main body of the patch. Now check the edges until smooth blending into the surrounding area. Check for small imperfections as you go and touch up as needed.
Now you are ready to apply the texture. There are many different texturing tools on the market, but a favorite for small jobs has to be the
Finishing the patch can be somewhat tedious and time consuming but certain steps just have to be followed in order to reach the final goal of completing a quality patch that blends in with the surrounding area.
Whether the patch is big or small, the first step in the finishing operation is to tape the joints. If you are in a hurry and the patch is relatively small, a fast setting compound can be used. Using a 20-minute mud for example will allow you to move on to the next step quicker and shorten the total time necessary to complete the job. Mix only what you will use up within 20 minutes. If you have the time to allow for drying between coats, an all-purpose compound works best. It will allow you to take your time without worrying about the material drying up too fast during the application process. It is also easier to sand.
The type of tape being used is also selective. There are paper tapes as well as self-sticking open mesh. The difference is cost and ease of application.
Using a 6” wide putty knife, spread the taping compound over the joint and then imbed the paper tape by applying pressure with the knife blade. Do each joint separately, overlapping the tape slightly. If using the self-sticking tape, apply it to the wall first and then apply the compound directly over the top of it. Spread the material over the tape as smoothly as possible taking special care to completely cover the tape but not too thick. Try to keep the edges of the compound flush with the surrounding area. This will help to cut down on the sanding time between coats. After all joints are coated, let the patch cure overnight. Next, lightly sand the patch being careful not to sand so deep that the tape gets torn. At this point, you can switch over to the 20-minute compound for your second and third coats or continue on with the all-purpose compound allowing 24 hours between each coat. Use a 12” putty knife for the second and third coats. Center the knife blade on the joints and feather the edges as you go. Sand between coats and apply the compound as smoothly as possible. After the final coat has dried, lightly sand the main body of the patch. Now check the edges until smooth blending into the surrounding area. Check for small imperfections as you go and touch up as needed.
Now you are ready to apply the texture. There are many different texturing tools on the market, but a favorite for small jobs has to be the electric texture gun.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Drywall Patching Made Easy

Drywall patching can be fairly simple. The trick is to take your time making sure each step is as close to perfect as possible. This way, you will be pleased with the final result.
Any part of the process that is ignored can cause problems with the next step finally leading to a poor outcome. Always use a drop cloth below your working area to catch any falling debris. Not only will this protect your flooring but will make cleanup alot easier too. Of course if you are not the do it yourself type, you can always hire a qualified contractor and rely on his expertise.

Small patches – Depending on the size of the patch, you may have to remove the surrounding material in order to expose a sound surface. If the patch is relatively small, you may be able to just scrape off the loose material surrounding the repair and then just fill it with a patching compound of your choice. There are many products on the market but I prefer lightweight. It is easy to use, doesn’t shrink and easy to sand. The main thing to keep in mind is to keep the patch as small as possible. This is especially important when patching holes caused by picture hanger nails or screws. If the patches are too big, you will be left with a horrible looking wall after it is painted. First remove any loose material. When left behind, fuzz, drywall paper, old spackle or paint chips can effect the final outcome. Next apply the patching compound. Remember to keep the patch as small as possible. This can be accomplished by using a very small putty knife. And now the most important part of the process. Using your thumb, wipe off the excess patching material surrounding the  hole. This will keep your patches small and less noticeable after painting.
Large patches – Using a level, outline the area with level and plumb lines. You have a couple of options. Either locate existing wood backing (studs, plates or blocks) or install your own. Next cut along the lines with a retractable knife blade. It is best to just score a line first and then make a second and even third pass in order to cut completely through the material. Remove the old material and check the thickness. Drywall comes in various thicknesses so make sure that you are replacing it with the same size material. Now clean up the edges of the cut out to insure that the new material will be flush when installed.
Mark and cut a new piece of drywall to fit your cut out. It is advisable to cut the new piece about an 1/8” smaller than the cut out to ease in the installation of the new piece.
If your cut out was made over existing wood backing, you are now ready to install. If backing is needed, you can install a floating backing. Using a 1”x 2” or similar material, simply measure the cut out and install a slightly longer piece inside the opening using drywall screws to hold it in place. Now attach the new material to the wood backing using drywall screws. Make sure that the screw heads are slightly countersunk into the drywall surface to insure a smooth patch.

Stay tuned for our next tip on finishing your patch.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ooh! Ooh! That Smell.


Is there an obnoxious odor coming from your kitchen sink that you can’t quite put your finger on? Where is it coming from and how do you get rid of it? Guests are starting to whisper and you are getting a reputation for being a bad housekeeper. Nobody wants to party at your house. Don’t panic, the solution may be fast and easy, not to mention very inexpensive. If you have a newer home, that smell is probably just left over from waste particles that have accumulated in the garbage disposal. Try this quick fix: Cut a large lemon in half and squeeze it into the garbage disposal opening. Let it work for five or ten minutes and then flush with hot water for about a minute. Repeat the same procedure again and see if that solves your problem. Surprisingly, this works most of the time. The citric acid in the lemon juice will neutralize the odor very effectively.
Now for older homes the problem could be caused by a faulty dishwasher drain hose leading from the dishwasher to the sink. This hose usually attaches to an air gap device at the underside of the sink and then wyes off with another hose to the side of the garbage disposal. Many times one or both of these hoses can become kinked causing food particles to become trapped in the hose with no way out. A sure sign that this is happening is during the drain cycle when the dishwasher will discharge water through the openings in the air gap back into the sink. This indicates that the drain hose is clogged.
You can imagine what happens to these food particles that have been lodged in the hose for a long period of time. They begin to decay creating a putrid odor. Even if you detach the hose and clear the obstruction, the foul smell will usually remain in the hose. Flushing the hose with hot water is worth a try but usually it is best to just replace the hose.
Just a note – Many homes are not equipped with an air gap device. Instead the dishwasher drain hose runs directly to the garbage disposal but the problem remains the same. Look for a kink in the hose. At this time it is also a good idea to make sure that the hose is run properly. It should be gently sloped upwards from the dishwasher to the underside of the countertop where it should be attached with a proper hose clamp. From there it should gently slope downwards to the garbage disposal. This method will help to insure that food particles do not back up in the drain hose and eventually back into the dishwasher.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

That Dripping Faucet

Does the incessant dripping of your faucet keep you up at night? It may not need to be replaced just yet. You may be able to stop the drip and return to a peaceful nights sleep sooner than you think.
The cause may be sediment that has become trapped in the water line over a period of time. This sediment may be preventing the faucet stem washer from completely seating allowing a small amount of water to bypass and creating a drip.
The attempted fix is relatively simple and the savings over the cost of a new faucet is nice too.
Try this: First determine if the water drip is coming from the hot or cold side. To do this, simply feel the drip. Under the sink (in a bathroom the proper terminology is lav or lavatory) you will find two shutoff valves (one hot – usually on the left and one cold –usually on the right.) By the way, the proper terminology for these shutoff valves are angle stops.
Turn the handles all the way to the right to shut them off. Next, turn on both lav faucets to release any water pressure that is still in the supply lines. Remove the decorative cap located on top of the appropriate faucet handle to reveal the screw. Note – Some faucets have an allen screw located on the side of the faucet handle but this is not the norm. Using a screwdriver, remove the screw and then the faucet handle. This will expose the valve stem which will have a nut at the bottom. Using a crescent wrench, turn the nut to the left until you can remove the stem from the faucet body. Next, place a large cup upside down over the opening in the faucet body. This will help to prevent water from splashing onto the floor. Holding the cup firmly and directing it back into the lav, turn the appropriate angle stop on just enough to get a good shot of water into the cup and back out into the lav. Do this for only about 3 seconds and then shut off the angle stop. Repeat this procedure two more times. This action will remove the sediment that has been trapped in the waterline allowing the stem washer to fully seat which should stop the drip.
Now reinstall all of your parts and test the faucet. This procedure is surprisingly successful most of the time and the cost – just a little of your time. 
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Home Inspection

You are contemplating a purchase of a foreclosed property and want to make sure that the price is right. Realizing that there will be a certain amount of investment that needs to be made in order to bring the home up to your standards, you decide to schedule a home inspection. But who can you trust to give a complete and unbiased report on your prospective new home? Whether it’s an investment property or a home that is to be occupied by your family, you want to have confidence and peace of mind. If you do a search of qualified inspectors or companies, you will find many who are supposedly certified. But who are they certified by? There are numerous online schools and agencies that will certify just about anyone who is willing to pay the tuition or the certification fee.
These schools are very professional and do provide valuable knowledge to their students but the best qualification comes from the experience gained from being in the construction industry for many years. After all, how can someone that has recently been certified by an online school possibly have better credentials than a seasoned veteran of the construction industry that has 40 years of field experience?
Don’t just hire a certified home inspector by thumbing through the yellow pages or conducting an online search. Do some homework and look for a qualified inspector. By qualified that doesn’t mean that they have to be certified. For example, in the state of California there is no requirement for a home inspector to be certified. Although this certification may add to the credentials of a home inspector which in turn may enhance his business prospects, that doesn’t always mean that he will provide the best service. Although some home inspectors do have bonafide field experience, many have limited experience if any. Instead their credentials simply consist of the certification
that has been obtained through some online study course. In other words, they have simply bought their certification. What does this do for you? Sure you will receive a report that seems official but is it a complete review of the property in question?
When choosing an inspector, it is important to thoroughly review their entire scope of work. In other words, what does their inspection consist of? You will notice that some scopes call for only a certain percentage of electrical outlets or plumbing fixtures to be tested. What good is this? What about the one room with the electrical problems that failed to be tested? What about the one sink that leaks? Or the part in the scope stating that the inspector will not walk on the roof but instead will only inspect it from ground level? Are you kidding me? What part of the roof can you inspect from ground level? It goes on and on but the point is that you really have to read the scope of work to know what value you will receive from your home inspection. Always check the true qualifications of your home inspector. Don’t just rely on a certification. You may be disappointed only to find out when it is too late.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summertime BBQ

With summertime rapidly approaching, many of us are already planning our activities in the great outdoors. Number one has to be that great American past time – the outdoor BBQ. Of course we will need a nice gathering place, usually a patio or deck. But we haven’t built one yet. So let’s get busy.
A wood deck is ideal for a gathering place and can be constructed to fit almost any terrain. Flat areas are simple and easy to design. While hillsides and multi – level areas can be a lot tougher, they do offer advantages; primarily the view. These situations will also allow you to create your own unique design. Viewing platforms, steps, stairs and benches will make your deck stand out from the rest.
Once the deck has been designed, the type of material must be chosen. For many the first thing that comes to mind is redwood. While redwood is a beautiful product whether it is left natural or stained or varnished, it still has it’s drawbacks. While it is termite resistant, it is not completely immune. In time, it can be attacked by termites. So why take a chance? New products are being introduced all of the time. Recently,composite deck material has become the popular alternative. It is termite proof and with pre - finished textures and colors of your choice, it doesn’t need maintenance. Once your deck is built, you can sit back and enjoy it without having to worry about repainting or resealing.
Next you will need shade. Again many people immediately think of wood for their shade structure. But the same problem exists. Wood is susceptible to warping, cracking, paint peeling,fungus and mold. You want to be able to enjoy your patio cover after it is built, not have to worry about maintaining it. Again there is an answer - Alumawood shade structures come in a variety of designs and colors to compliment the finish of your home. Other features include:

· The embossed texture simulates real wood.
· A variety of designs are available. Choose lattice or solid top. Choose rafter styles.
· Other options include architectural columns and railings, ceiling fans and post lights.
· Offered in a variety of colors to compliment your stucco or wood finishes.
· It is virtually maintenance free. Just rinse it off once in awhile.
· Never paint again. Paint will not chip, crack or peel.
· Fire retardant.
· Termite proof.
· Possible tax rebates through the Energy Star program.
· Peace of mind.

And for the finishing touches, how about an outdoor fire pit. that can be enjoyed at night under the stars? Then a little patio furniture. and sit back and relax.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

An Article on Dryer Vent Safety

Are your ducts in a row?

Dryer-venting systems should be cleaned to reduce the risk of fire caused by lint
buildup.

Jay Romano
New York Times Syndicate
April 30, 2006
NEW YORK -- A 2003 study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that more than 15,000 fires in 1998, resulting in 20 deaths and 370 injuries, were attributable to overheated clothes dryers. Typically, the fires were caused by a buildup of lint in the dryer venting system.
Dryer-vent systems in most houses are no more than 5 or 10 feet long. But the venting systems in multifamily buildings (including co-ops and condominiums) can be hundreds of feet long and can contain decades-old accumulations of lint, fabric, small articles of clothing and just about anything else that can make its way from the dryer into the venting system.
"This is something most people never think about," says Stuart M. Saft, a Manhattan lawyer who is chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. "But when you have a building that's 70 years old and has a dryer venting system that hasn't been cleaned in years, you can be sure it's going to be full." Saft says that in addition to being a potential fire hazard, accumulated debris can be a breeding ground for mold and can significantly reduce the efficiency of dryers. Joel Greenberg, president of 1-800-Chute-Me, a vent-cleaning company in Montclair, N.J., agrees. "Only a handful of New York City's newer buildings are equipped with high-volume dryer exhaust systems," Greenberg says. In most multifamily buildings, he says, dryers in laundry rooms are connected by flexible plastic or metal vent hoses to lint boxes, which are connected to a duct system that runs to the building's exterior.
Although the lint boxes were originally designed to be cleaned regularly, Greenberg says, many have been hidden behind walls or partitions, making access for cleaning difficult and putting the boxes "out of sight and out of mind."
"The lint box usually feeds into an exhaust system that runs through the interior of the building," he says, adding that usually the venting takes a circuitous route before it reaches daylight. "In one large building on the Upper East Side that we just worked on, the dryer exhaust system ran for 350 feet through walls, into mechanical rooms, past some street-level stores, and then through ceilings to a roof fan that hasn't worked in years."
Usually, Greenberg says, vent systems are not cleaned until the dryers stop working. So when the time comes to clean the system, it can yield a considerable amount of gunk.
"In one building, we took out 35 lawn-and-leaf bags full of lint," he says. Cleaning a hidden ventilation system, he says, typically involves cutting holes in walls and ceilings to gain access to the ductwork and then sucking out the lint with a high-efficiency vacuum. Depending on the job's complexity, he adds, the cost could range from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more. So who is responsible for cleaning the dryer venting system: the building owner or board or the laundry-room contractor? "Usually, the contractors say it's the building's responsibility, and the building will say it's the contractor's responsibility," Greenberg says. "The result is that the venting doesn't get cleaned." Saft says that while most laundry-room agreements do not address the issue, it is certainly a legitimate bargaining point in renegotiating a laundry-room contract. "When you renegotiate, it's a good bet that the company will be replacing some machines," he says. "That would be a perfect time for the company to clean out the venting."
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dryer Vent Fires

It’s been all over the media lately. News articles and television reporting have alerted us to the danger of dryer vent fires. The cause of these fires is usually lint that has built up over time and caused a blockage of the dryer vent. As clothes are dried, the moisture is displaced out of the clothes and into the vent where it mixes with dry lint and forms a paper mache like material. It then dries to form a hard blockage in the vent pipe which will not allow the hot air to escape. At this point, the blockage creates back pressure and overheats the dryer vent which causes the fire hazard. It is one of those things that is out of sight, out of mind until it happens. There are subtle hints that it is time for dryer vent inspection, cleaning and maintenance but unless you are aware enough to notice that the clothes are taking longer to dry or that your dryer seems hotter to the touch, you will probably miss the early warning signs. That is why it is so important to develop a regular maintenance schedule.

· Inspect and clean the lint filter of your dryer before each and every use.
· Post a small sign in the laundry room so that you won’t forget.
· Schedule inspections, cleaning and maintenance of the complete dryer vent system once a year.
· Make sure that the system maintenance is done by a qualified professional.You will have peace of mind knowing that the job was done right.

Also be aware that sometimes excess lint buildup is caused by the inferior design and installation of the dryer vent system. Long vent runs, vertical vents and vent systems with too many bends can create an unusual hardship on the efficiency of your dryer. Many times these systems require a blower assist fan to help solve the problem. The blower assist fan is a fairly simple installation that is located in the attic of your home. While the fan can be an added expense, it will be well worth it. When your dryer is operating at peak performance, it will use less energy. You will save money and recuperate the cost of the fan in no time.

Remember, with a little effort and by following the above suggestions, you will have peace of mind knowing that you and your family are safe from dryer vent fires.
Please watch the video below and pass it on to your friends and loved ones.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Do it Yourself Security Systems

With crime becoming more rampant throughout our world, security is becoming increasingly important. Especially home security. It seems that reports of home invasions are an everyday occurrence and with most households being empty throughout the day, theft can be a constant worry.
Today’s options for home security systems are vast. There are security camerasoffering video and audio surveillance which can be installed in strategic locations indoors and outdoors. Door and window magnets that will trigger an alarm when contact is broken. Floor sensor pads which can be strategically placed at possible points of entry. Motion detectors with sensitivity adjustments. Light beams which can cover huge areas and electronic gates to secure the major point of entry. In addition to all of this, there is the option for 24 hour monitoring by a host of different companies.
Just like buying a car, the more options you choose, the higher the price. But what to do when you want some sense of security without the big price tag? Technology has improved so dramatically that there are now wireless security systems that are very efficient and can be installed easily by the average homeowner. Basically, just plug a unit into an electrical outlet and set a code. It is that simple and the affordability for peace of mind is very reasonable. Of course, these systems are no match for Rex ( the 150 lb. German Shepherd ) if that’s the way you want to go.

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Termites

The thought of having termites can create alot of stress. After all, you have worked very hard to pay your mortgage and maintain a beautiful home, only to watch as the termite damage becomes more and more obvious. You would like to just ignore it with hope that they will just go away but there is no denying that the signs are there and the problem is getting worse. First you notice small piles of what appears to be sawdust but there has been no woodworking done in the area. What is it? Termites. They leave a visible trail of digested wood (sawdust) as they work to destroy your home. What can you do to stop them? There are many pest control services that can treat this problem. Some use a chemical spray to treat the foundation and stop the termites from transitioning from the ground into the walls of your home. If the problem calls for drastic measures, they will tent your house and then release a chemical fog treatment. Of course you will have to move out of the house for a while, pack up some of the furnishings (dishes, utensils, etc.), and don't forget the pets. There are also termite control systems for the do it yourselfer. Available at your local hardware store, these systems consist of stakes which release chemicals into the ground and capture jars where you will find the dead termites. Recently, orange oil has become quite popular and has proven to be successful in controlling termites. It is chemical free which means that you will not have to leave your house as the treatment is applied.
Whatever treatment you choose, something has to be done to control the termites and stop any future damage. Once the termites have been brought under control, you will have to address the damage that has already been done. This may involve the removal and replacement of various wood components including siding, studs, sills, joists and plywood subfloor.
In an effort to help minimize the possibility of future termite damage, I suggest using a Fiber Cement Siding. Unlike wood, this type of siding is not very appealing to termites and after all the work that has been done to solve your termite problem, you certainly want to do everything possible to avoid having to do it again.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Exterior Plaster Blistering

Exterior Plaster Problems

Florine says:
Help, the exterior plaster on my walls is blistering and falling off. What is wrong?
Many older homes were not equipped with weep screed which is a sheet metal flashing found at the transition of the bottom plate of your walls (usually 2x4 mudsill) and the top of the foundation (slab or footing). The weep screed serves four purposes:
  1. A plaster ground which helps to gauge the thickness of the plaster as it is applied.
  2. A waterproof flashing covering the gap between the foundation and the bottom plate of the wall.
  3. A means to allow the plaster to release moisture that has been absorbed, hence the term “weep” screed.
  4. Separation between the top of the foundation and finish grade (soil) or finish surface (hardscape).
Homes without weep screed are generally suffering from a saturation problem. The waterproof  barrier (felt paper) and wire were usually applied to the wall in shingle fashion starting about 2” below the bottom plate / foundation transition. This method usually served it’s purpose as a moisture barrier but would allow the plaster to come into contact with finish grade (soil). Because the plaster acts like a sponge and is in constant contact with the soil, it can never release the moisture and becomes saturated. The moisture pressures it’s way through the plaster creating blisters and finally the plaster falls off. Other noticeable problems are mold and mildew, not to mention rusting wire which breaks and causes the plaster to lose it’s support.
The solution is separation between the plaster and finish grade. The existing plaster will need to be chipped off the foundation to a level of about  4” above the foundation / wall transition. This can be accomplished with a small chipping gun available at your favorite tool supply store but be careful not to damage the felt paper moisture barrier. Of course if you are not ready to tackle this as a do it yoursel project, always hire a qualified contractor. After the plaster is removed, pull the nails securing the stucco wire to the wall and gently pull the felt paper loose. Now slide the weep screed under the paper so that the top is even with the top of  the base plate. Secure the weep screed with galvanized nails (1 ¼” roofing nails work well for this) and re-nail the stucco wire with firring nails. Using an approved sealant (Topps 900) be sure to seal any holes that were made in the felt paper before proceeding with the plaster patching operation.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Noisey Toilet

Do you have a toilet that keeps you awake all hours of the night?
Does it gurgle, run and even flush by itself? The fix can be very simple with no need to even purchase new parts. Just turn off the water supplied by the valve that is located just behind and usually to the lower left of the toilet. Flush the toilet to drain the tank and remove pressure from the waterline. Now remove the tank lid and look inside to find the flush valve. With the water still off, remove the top of the valve either by removing 3 screws or by turning counter clockwise to unlock the tabs. There is a small rubber washer that seals the center waterway. That is normally the source of the problem. If the washer does not completely seal the hole, air and water will escape causing all kinds of annoying sounds. What keeps the washer from a complete seal is usually a little bit of sand or grit that is stuck in the valves water line. To remove it, simply place a cup over the hole in the valve. This will help to keep water from spilling all over the bathroom. Holding the cup in one hand, turn the water back on for a second. The sand or grit should blow out of the line and your problem is solved. Shut the water off, clean the rubber washer, and reinstall the parts that were removed. When everything is back together, test the toilet several times. If there is still a problem, check the flapper at the bottom of the tank. Water may be escaping here. This too can sometimes be fixed easily with no need for new parts. Just lift the flapper and clean the bottom of it as well as the outlet that it closes on. Many times the cause of seepage is just scum that has built up and is preventing a proper seal.
Of course there are those times when you will need to replace parts that are defective and just can’t be fixed. These parts, much like the toilet itself, are available in different levels of quality and price ranges. If you don’t intend on having to replace the toilet any time soon, buy a quality part Save on ALL of your Plumbing needs at Home-Improvement-SuperStore!! Even though it may cost twice as much as the inexpensive one on the same shelf, it will be well worth the peace of mind.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vinyl Floor Installation Made Easy

Easy Vinyl Floors

If you are a do it yourselfer and would like to install your own New Luxury Vinyl Tiles,there is an easy way especially if the sub-floor is plywood underneath the existing flooring. First, remove the trim attached to the baseboard at the old flooring and remove the toilet. Then instead of removing the old flooring, simply install ¼” plywood as an overlay right over the top. The overlay can be attached easily with screws. This will save countless hours of prep work involved with removing the existing flooring and then cleaning the surface to accept the new flooring. Of course, the sub-floor must be solid and in good condition. Make sure the screw heads are at least flush with the plywood surface but not countersunk so as to break the top laminate. The fitting of the new vinyl is the hardest part but to make it simple use a kraft paper which can be cut to a pattern and then taped together to form a template for the real thing. Once you are happy with the way the kraft paper fits, set it on the vinyl, copy the outline and make your cuts.  Now you are ready to spread the glue. Set the vinyl down on the floor before you start. Now roll it back about half way and spread the glue with a notched trowel (usually 1/16”). Roll the vinyl back into place and then complete the other half the same way. Use your hands to smooth the top the best that you can. Don’t worry if some bubbles appear. These are just caused by gas escaping from the chemical reaction in the glue and should disappear in 24 hrs.
Now reset your toilet and install the trim. Job well done.
One other bit of advice – Vinyl flooring comes in 6 ft. and 12 ft. widths. If your dimensions are over 6ft., seriously consider purchasing vinyl that is 12 ft. wide. You will pay a premium but there are advantages:
·        No precise matching and cutting of the two pieces being joined.
·        No chance of possible voids at the seam that could allow the penetration of moisture
·        Finally, seams sometimes have the tendency to turn yellow with age even after using a proper seam sealer.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Fireplace Problems

So a customer asked why his cement fireplace logs were turning black and soot was building up at the top of the decorative stone fireplace face. After all this was a natural gas, direct vent fireplace that had been converted to propane. “Note” – Always use a conversion kit that has been approved by the manufacturer. Although this type of fireplace can generate some heat, it is intended more for the ambience than for heating purposes. It should be clean burning unlike a standard wood-burning fireplace which creates alot of smoke and soot. Well the problem was that the entire kit of vermiculite, rock wool and lava rock was mixed together and placed into the burner pan which instantly contaminated the clean burning fuel. This fireplace never had a chance. A classic case of not following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember these fireplaces have been tested many times before final approval and the manufacturer knows what is best. The lava rock should have been placed around the burner pan and not in it.
The solution in this case is to clean out the burner pan and discard the vermiculite, rock wool and lava rock. These items can then be purchased as a kit or separately from many manufacturers. Place the vermiculite in the burner pan slightly covering the burner tubes. Tear the rock wool into pieces about the size of a quarter and place them on top of the vermiculite. Because the rock wool/vermiculite is intended to simulate burning embers, the pattern is personal preference. Next place the lava rock around the bottom of the fireplace being careful not to spill too much into the burner pan. The fireplace log-sets can be expensive, so to avoid the replacement costs the soot should be cleaned off with
an approved product. In fact, depending on how much use your fireplace gets, a yearly maintenance schedule should be adopted to include the cleaning of the log set and the replacement of vermiculite, rock wool and lava rock as needed. This will help to keep the fireplace box and surrounding areas clean of soot. Other contributing factors to the soot problem could be low gas pressure caused by the propane tank needing a refill or improper placement of the fireplace logs. Again, always read the literature that is included with your new appliance and then follow the instructions. It will save you a lot of frustration and ultimately a lot of money.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wood Fence Maintenance

With spring approaching, it is a good time to start thinking about
home maintenance and repair. While there are many things on the to do list, one item that is often neglected is your wood fence which should have a yearly maintenance schedule. This maintenance is very important to prolonging the life and beauty of your wood fence. Ignore it and your fence will crack, peel and twist to the point where replacement of some if not all of it’s components becomes necessary. A few replacement boards may not be a huge expense, but when it becomes necessary to replace boards, rails and posts, this can become quite costly. In some cases, the entire fence may have to be torn down and re-built. But with proper care, these expenses can be avoided. The following is a quick yearly checklist that will help your fence last for many years:

  1. Moisture is your fence’s biggest enemy.
     A. Redirect any water from your sprinkler system away from your fence, even if it            
           means relocation of your sprinkler heads. Sprinklers should be directed away
           from your fence in the same way that they should be directed away from your
           house. This initial cost will save you a bundle by avoiding future costs.
      B. Remove all grass and weeds that come in contact with any part of your fence.
          These can hold moisture against your fence causing mold and mildew and
          eventually the wood will begin to deteriorate.
          A good weed-eater can be your best friend.
  1. Inspect for loose boards. Replace and re-nail as needed.
  2. Tighten all loose bolts and screws. Pay special attention to gate hardware. It gets the most use.
  3. Finally, clean all surfaces. Remove loose paint with a wire brush or pressure washer. Make sure all surfaces have dried and re-seal, re-stain, or re-paint. There are many good products available. Check with your local hardware store.

    If you do find it necessary to replace portions of your wood fence, consider first replacing the posts with galvanized metal. There are many types of post brackets available that make it easy to attach the wood fence and you won’t ever have to worry again about wood fence posts rotting and eventually breaking. Another advantage of metal fence posts is not having to worry about damage caused by a weed eater.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Applying the Paint

Now You Can Paint


Believe it or not the hard part is already done. The pre-paint preparation is usually very tedious. But before you start painting, check the room one more time. Are the drop cloths in place? Do the wall patches look good? Open the window slightly for ventilation but not too much for dust to blow in. Stir the paint thoroughly. One can at a time is OK now that you have already batched all of your paint. Run your roller cover over the tape on the door one more time. Place a pan liner in the tray and pour in some paint.
Apply the paint. There are different methods in the way a room is painted. Whether you are using different colors for the ceiling and walls or the same color for both, it is best to paint the ceiling first. That way you won’t have to worry about the paint that drips and splatters on the walls since the walls are going to be painted last. However, make sure that any large drips are wiped down before they dry to prevent bumps. Many painters like to cut in i.e. brush painting angles, corners, window returns, around door casings, and baseboards after rolling the walls and ceilings. I find it better to do all of the cut in before rolling except for the baseboard because the drop clothes are in the way. Using a brush, paint a line about 2” –3” wide at all of the cut in areas before you start rolling. If using different colors, complete the ceiling first and then proceed to the walls. Roll in the shape of a big W making sure to overlap all of your strokes. Roll slightly into your cut lines. Keep plenty of paint on your roller. Not so much that it drips but enough so that you don’t see roller marks. Check the quality of your paint job as you go. Don’t wait until you are finished to decide that you have made mistakes. Although you are having fun, you don’t want to do it twice. When you are finished with the ceilings and walls, pull the drop cloths back. Either tape down the edge of the carpet at the baseboard or use a shield. Now paint the baseboard. If using a shield, wipe it each time it is moved so wet paint isn’t touching the carpet.
After your paint project is complete, wait 24 hours before replacing wall hangings, plug and switch plates, heat registers and smoke detectors. The paint is still soft and you would hate to ruin a beautiful job.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Re-painting Project


One Step Paint and Primer -

The new all in one primers and paints are advertised to cover in one coat but do they really? While the new formulas are definitely far superior to the ones that we are accustomed to (You know – the paints that take anywhere from 2-4 coats to cover), they don’t always cover as advertised. But there are several ways to increase your chances of a successful paint job that will cover in one coat.

Be prepared before you get started:
Here are some ideas.
1. Purchase all of your supplies first. The convenience of ordering painting supplies online has never been easier. Paint (about 1 gallon for each 300 square feet of wall and ceiling space), 5 gallon plastic bucket, 6 foot fiberglass ladder (very light), brushes, roller frame and covers, pans and liners, blue painter’s tape and masking paper, shield/edger, drop cloths, putty knife, spackle, caulking and caulking gun, cleanser and a sponge along with any other supplies you may need can be found at your favorite discount paint supply store. 
2. Move everything to the center of the room. Less interference means a
    smoother application.
3. Cover all flooring and furniture with heavy duty drop cloths. They may seem
    expensive at first but they will last forever and you will be ready for the next
    job.

4. Clean all surfaces to be painted with a sponge and mild cleanser.  
5. Remove all plug and switch plates and tape off the plugs and switches.
    Remove heat registers and smoke detector.

6. Remove all wall hangings. If you intend to re-hang in the exact same place,
    leave the hooks, nails and hangers in place. This way you won’t have to guess
    where they were. It will also save you a lot of extra time not having to re-level.

7. Spackle all dents and holes as needed. Always keep your patch as small as
    possible to avoid the need  to sand or re-texture the patched areas. You can
    do this by first applying the spackle to cover the defect and then wiping the
    excess around the patch with your thumb or finger.

8. Caulk all cracks in corners of walls, ceilings and window returns, and at
    baseboards and door casings. Wipe down caulking with a wet sponge.
9. Next, if you purchased your paint in 1 gallon cans, you must batch it to insure
    that all of your paint will match no matter when you decide to use it. This is
    very important for any touch up that you might want to do at a later date. To do
    this just pour each gallon together into the 5 gallon bucket and stir well. Then
    pour the 5 gallons back into each 1 gallon can .
10. Place a couple lengths of blue tape (about 12” long, side by side on the door
      of the room you are painting). Now double the tape back over itself so that
      the sticky side is exposed and roll your new roller cover over the tape to
      remove any fuzz that may be loose. Again, a real time saver. Now you don’t     
      have to constantly keep picking out little hairs that get stuck in the paint. Just
      leave it on the door in case you need it again.

In our next post we will have a few tips on applying the paint.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Patio Covers - Aluminum vs Wood

Your new wood patio cover has just been installed and it is beautiful. But while the natural beauty of wood is undeniable, there are also many drawbacks. It must be protected from various weather conditions. Acceptable methods include paint, stain and other various sealers (clear or colored). So you invest a little sweat equity and Do-it-Yourself. But even after all of your hard work, the sun dries and bleaches it and the paint peels. Before too long you start noticing cracks. These cracks allow moisture to be absorbed like a sponge and the wood starts to twist and warp. The nails start pulling out allowing the wood to move even more. Now what? A little maintenance should fix the problem. Right? You make a trip to the hardware store where you purchase wood, nails, spackle, caulking and paint. At checkout you are thinking “wait a minute, I already paid for all of this material once”. You replace a few components, re-nail, spackle and caulk, and re-paint as needed. But the problem still exists only to repeat itself over and over again. You ask yourself why did I ever have this thing built with wood? This continual maintenance is killing me, not to mention draining my bank account. If only I would have built an Alumawood shade structure.
There are many benefits to using Alumawood:

Beautiful Patio Covers. Built to last a Lifetime.
  
  • The embossed texture simulates real wood.
  • A variety of designs are available. Choose lattice or solid top. Choose rafter styles.
  • Other options include architectural columns and railings, ceiling fans and post lights.
  • Offered in a variety of colors to compliment your stucco or wood finishes.
  • It is virtually maintenance free. Just rinse it off once in awhile.
  • Never paint again. Paint will not chip, crack or peel.
  • Fire retardant.
  • Termite proof.
  • Possible tax rebates through the Energy Star program.
  • Peace of mind.
You shouldn’t have to worry about your patio cover after it is built. Just enjoy it.
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