Friday, December 29, 2006

How to be your own General Contractor on a Home Construction Project

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: I live in New Jersey and would like to be my own general contractor, and do some of the renovations myself on my home improvement project. In particular, I want to do some of the construction myself on a new home addition and want to hire subcontractors for some of the tasks that I can not do, or am not allowed to do in the state of New Jersey. Can you explain to me how I go about being my own general contractor and building the addition myself?

Answer: A General Contractor basically coordinates the build; pulling permits, hiring the subcontractors for Foundation, Framing, Roofing, Electrical, Plumbing etc. He frequently also obtains the financing through a construction mortgage and disperses payments to the subs as they complete their phases of the project. At the end of the project the General Contractor sells you the home, or transfers ownership to you, and the construction mortgage is converted over to a conventional homeowner mortgage.

You can be your own general contractor, however, banks are hesitant in giving out construction mortgages to "part-time" general contractors, so unless you have the finances to fund the project yourself you may run into some problems getting the construction mortgage. A good documented plan (architectural drawings, costs fully fleshed out, a timetable/schedule for the building of the home or addition, and subcontractors identified) can be helpful however in getting over this hurdle.

In regards to actually doing the work, you should check with your local municipality building inspector. Plumbing and Electrical can sometimes be a problem as frequently building inspectors require licensed contractors to do this work. From my experience, doing your own framing, insulation, roofing, flooring, interior trim work can all be done by the homeowner.

When you submit your plans to the building inspector they should clearly spell out / show what you are planning to build. They should include drawings of cross-sectional views of the construction and what type of material will be used.

Assuming you get the permit approved you should be able to construct the home or home addition yourself, or via subcontractors that you hire. You will need to have inspections upon the completion of major tasks:

• Foundation Installed
• Framing completed (including outside doors/windows/roofing)
• Rough Electrical
• Rough Plumbing
• Insulation
• Final inspection.

You will also need approved septic design plans and inspections for a septic system if your home will not be on municipal sewage. Note: a septic design can take 2-3 months to complete, so plan early.

To learn more about how to be your own general contractor or how to hire the right contractors for your new home construction project see Home Addition Bid Sheets from Readmore »»

Building a Family Room Addition on to a Small House

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: I want to add a family room addition to my tiny house. My square footage as of now is 544 sq feet on the first floor and 544 sq on the second floor. There is no full attic, nor a full basement. As you can see it is a small home. I want a one level 16x25 family room addition with a crawl space. My question is, do you think that is a good size or is it too big?

Answer: Indeed your house is small; however adding a family room addition to it is possible. I think the 16x25 family room addition, simply added to the side of the home may be a bit excessive such that it throws the home out of balance. The addition may swamp the size of the main home from a proportions standpoint when viewing it from the curb.

One architectural possibility is to consider some form of a “wrap-around” family room addition, where you have a portion of the family room extended off the side of the house and the remainder of it, extended off of the back of the home.

I would suggest your contact a local architect, as he/she may be able to provide a number of family room addition ideas that creates a finished home with curb appeal. Curb appeal is important from a resale perspective. Future home buyers care for both space and how the home looks, both from the inside and the outside.

For more help on building a family room addition, see's Room Addition Bid sheet. The Room Addition Bid Sheet will teach you how to hire the right general contractor and subcontractors for your family room addition, and help ensure that your project is completed on time and budget. Readmore »»

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Home Freeze Alarm Installation

By Mark J. Donovan

I installed a home freeze alarm system in my home yesterday, and I must say I am pretty impressed with it.

I installed an FA-D2 Freeze Alarm that I purchased online from The FA-D2 Freeze Alarm provides a number of unique features that I could not find in other systems I researched.

The key features that I was looking for and that were supported by the FA-D2 Freeze Alarm included:

  • The ability for the box to call up to 3 phone numbers when the temperature went outside a specified temperate range (e.g. 45o - 85o F).
  • The ability for the box to accept Water Sensor and Motion Sensor inputs and to call up to 3 phone numbers when either/any of these alarm sensors activates.
  • The ability for the box to switch between two thermostats (e.g. one set for 68o F and the other one set for 55o F when we are away from the home). Very useful for a vacation home or cottage.
  • The ability to call the box at any time to obtain temperature and power conditions at the home.

The cost of the FA-D2 freeze alarm varies between $280 and $300, depending upon who you purchased it from.

The device was very simple to install. I located it near a telephone jack and power outlet, and within 10 minutes I was able to program it to dial 3 different phone numbers in the event of an out-of-temperature condition.

I also added a second thermostat in my home to take advantage of the remote temperature control feature. My home is heated with a single zone hot air system. By adding the second thermostat, I can remotely control which thermostat is used by the heating system to control the temperature of the house.

After installing the second thermostat, I had to make a few minor wiring changes to the controller box on the heating burner associated with the furnace. Basically each of the thermostats normal “hot” lines needed to feed into the FA-D2 freeze alarm system. I then connected a third wire between the FA-D2’s Common terminal and the “hot side” of the heating burner’s control electronics. I finally connected the white return wires associated with each thermostat to the “return” screw nut on the heating burner’s control electronic box.

Again, with a phone call to the FA-D2 Freeze Alarm box, I was able to select which thermostat the furnace operated off of. One of the thermostats I set at 68o F and the other I set to 55o F for when we are away from the home.

The entire project only took a couple of hours to complete, and after repeated tests, I am 100% sold on the FA-D2 Freeze Alarm. It works as advertised and is well worth the $300 investment.

Readmore »»

Monday, December 18, 2006

Should one brand of Kitchen Applicances be used in a Kitchen Remodeling Project

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: How important is it to match kitchen appliance brand names in a professional style kitchen?

Answer: Kitchen appliance selection depends on your particular budget and tastes. Thermador and Viking offer very high end kitchen appliances and if you choose to go with these types of appliances plan to spend $10K or more on just kitchen appliances when remodeling your kitchen.

In regards to sticking with one brand throughout the kitchen, I would worry less about that and more on sticking with the same color and quality level. For example you would probably want all appliances to be stainless steel versus a mix of finished surfaces.

On the other hand, if there is a discount offered by purchasing all of the same appliances from the same manufacturer, then it may make sense.

I do believe a kitchen is the most important room in the home. Consequently, I think its worth spending a little more in this room than others, as I think you will have a a better chance of getting your return on investment. On the other hand if you have an average home, and are going to put high end, state of the art, appliances in (e.g. Viking) you may not get your money back on the investment if your planning to sell in 1-3 years. Readmore »»

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hands Free, Water-Saving Electronic Touchless Faucets

By Mark J. Donovan

With water becoming increasingly more of a precious commodity hands free, water-saving electronic touchless faucets will become the way of the future in new home construction.

As prices decline on this technology, don't be surprised in the not too distant future to see municipalities mandating hands-free water-saving electronic touchless faucets in new home construction.

As environmental concerns rise, the use of these types of faucets make a lot of sense, not to mention the other health and energy benefits associated with them.

However, the consumer / homeowner will surely push back on this technology if ultra-low water-saving / low flow is also part of the mandate. Today's water faucets can pump out 2.5 - 5 gallons per minute (GPM), where as frequent flyer experience at the airports suggest hands-free water-saving electronic touchless faucets maybe pump out 1 GPM. There will need to be some level of compromise in the water-saving flow rate if this technology is to ultimately take off and provide a benefit for our environment.

To learn more about hands free, water-saving electronic touchless faucets see Readmore »»

Solar Powered Attic Fans

By Mark J. Donovan

One of the best ways to cool off your home's attic quickly is to employ an attic fan. However, because of their size, noise and required re-wiring, homeowners frequently hesitate or never install them. As a result, they either suffer with un-necessary elevated temperatures in the home or spend more on air conditioning electric bills.

An alternative to the traditional attic fan is to use a solar powered attic fan. They require no re-wiring and have theromostats that can turn the attic fan on as soon as the temp hits a pre-set temperature level.

The Solar panel sits right on top of the attic fan cover, consequently requiring little square area.

To learn more about solar attic fans see: Readmore »»

Top 12 Tools for the DIY Home Improvement Handyman

By Mark J. Donovan

Below is my list of the Top 12 tools required for the DIY home improvement handyman:

1) Hammer - This is a must. Without a hammer, not even a simple pitcure can be hung.

2) Screw Driver Set - A set of Common and Philips screw drivers for tightening loose kitchen cabinet handles.

3) Wrench and Socket set - for installing curtain rods.

4) Tape measure - for knowing where the center of the wall is when hanging the picture frame.

5) Level - for making sure that shelf that you just hung on the wall looks straight from 4 feet away.

6) Hand Saw -for cutting small pieces of lumber (garden stakes).

7) Circular Saw - for cutting larger pieces of lumber.

8) Plunger - To prevent the need for calling a plumber.

9) Carpenters Knife - for trimming everything unimaginable.

10)Screw Gun / Power Drill (with drill bits) - for drilling holes in everything and screwing in the curtain rods.

11) Square - for making straight lines prior to cutting lumber.

12) Tool box - for storing the tools Readmore »»

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Radio Controlled Home Lighting

By Mark J. Donovan

As the cell phone has become ubiquitous in our lives, other wireless technology products are now beginning to pervade our homes. Wireless routers and radio controlled home lighting systems are primary examples of the wireless phenomenon.

Many techno-savvy homeowners have already installed wireless routers within their homes to connect to the Internet and network computers, printers, and gaming equipment together.

Radio controlled products such as electric garage door openers have also been around for years. However, much more sophisticated radio controlled home building products are right around the corner from becoming standard features within our homes.

Radio controlled home lighting systems are a good example of the inexorable march of wireless technology. There are a number of manufacturers selling some very exciting radio controlled home lighting systems that enable virtually all of your home lights to be controlled by 1 or 2 master controllers (be it wall mounted or remote controllers).

Some of the benefits associated with radio controlled home lighting, include the ability to turn on or off all, or a portion of, a home’s lights by a single control button either located on a wall or via a remote hand set. In addition, remote controlled home lighting systems frequently employ dimmer switches that replace older switches within the home, thus allowing the ability to set or control the brightness of lighting in each room within the home.

Radio controlled home lighting systems can also be turned on/off from your car, just like your standard garage door opener. Thus, you no longer need to walk into a dark house when you arrive home in the middle of the night.

Radio controlled home lighting systems can easily be installed in both new and old home construction as no rewiring is required. Typically light switches are replaced with Dimmers that have built-in transceivers in them that communicate with a master controller and one or more repeaters that are strategically positioned within the home. Also, some manufacturers offer light dimmers that can be plugged right into existing outlets. Some master controllers are powered via batteries, so no AC wiring is required.

Radio controlled home lighting systems can also be integrated into existing home security systems.

The cost of radio controlled home lighting systems can vary as it is dependent upon how many light dimmers are required, the size of the home (which impacts the number of repeaters that may be required) and the types of master controllers employed. See or for more information on features and pricing. Readmore »»

Monday, December 11, 2006

How to Fix a Sagging Kitchen Cabinet Spice Rack

By Mark J. Donovan

Recently we had new kitchen cabinets installed and within weeks my wife brought to my attention that the kitchen cabinet spice rack was sagging. It was actually sagging to the point that the bottom end, furthest from the hinges, was actually rubbing on the bottom of the kitchen cabinet frame.

Instead of calling the cabinet installer and attempting to get someone out to fix it, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

After removing all of the spices and other cooking products from the cabinet, I inspected the hinges to see what was going on.

It turned out there were three problems. First, the hinges were adjustable. Instead of circular holes for the screws to slide through and attach to the kitchen cabinet frame, they were elliptical holes. I noticed that the screws were positioned at the top of the ellipses. So I first attempted to loosen the screws and push the cabinet upwards and retighten the screws. In doing this I quickly learned that the screws would not tightly snug down. After removing them, I learned why. The screws were barely penetrating into the wood, even when screwed all the way flush with the hinge. At best they were penetrating the wood cabinet by 1/8th of an inch.

After purchasing some slightly longer screws, that would allow ¼” penetration into the wood, but not penetrate out the other side of the kitchen cabinet, I again readjusted the kitchen cabinet spice rack upwards. I adjusted it such that the screws lined up with the bottom portion of the elliptical hinge holes and then tighten them.

After installing the new screws, the kitchen cabinet spice rack was no longer resting on the bottom of the kitchen cabinet and swung freely. However, the cabinet spice rack still sagged somewhat on the side furthest away from the hinge.

Again, after inspecting the spice rack, I noticed the kitchen cabinet installers did not attach the other side of the hinges to the spice rack properly. The bottom hinge’s center column sat flush with the kitchen cabinet spice rack, whereas the top hinge’s center column sat almost ¼” away from the spice rack. This also was contributing to the sagging.

So, I pulled out my screw gun once again and removed the spice rack from the hinges. Using a center punch I then created 3 new screw-hole locations where the top hinge had been attached. The new screw-hole positions were set slightly further back from the original holes such that the hinge’s center column would rest flush with the spice rack when it was reattached.

Using a small drill bit, I then drilled small pilot holes, being careful not to penetrate completely through the other side of the spice rack.

I then reinstalled the spice rack to the hinges and again stood back to see if the sagging had been fully corrected.

Though the kitchen cabinet spice rack swung freely, there was still some sagging.

I next pulled out my tape measure and made two measurements. I measured the distance from opposite corners of the spice rack. Sure enough, the spice rack was “racked”. The measurements differed by ½”. I was also able to adjust this distance by pushing on opposite corners of the spice rack, however of course as soon as I let go the spice rack went back to its original sagging shape.

I realized the reason for this component of the sagging kitchen cabinet spice rack saga was due to the fact that the dowels and center board within the spice rack float in the sockets and cutout grooves. This is standard process, however. Most cabinetry makers do not use glue in these components so that the wood can flex and contract pending temperature and moisture levels.

At this point I chose to go no further in the sagging spice rack project, as the sag was minimal and no longer caused any damaging rubbing with the bottom part of the cabinet. I did, however, come up with a simple idea to solve this final component of the sagging spice rack.

If I was to simply cut a section of 1/8” thick lattice, approximately 12” in length, and cut the ends at 45 degrees, I could position it within the back base section of the spice rack such that I could square up the spice rack. The piece of lattice would lie at a 45 degree angle against the center board. The bottom portion of it would butt up against the bottom corner of the spice rack, near the lower hinge. The top portion would sit up under the first shelf of the spice rack. The lattice would affectively be wedged into this space at a 45 degree angle such that it would square up the spice rack.

Note: When making the measurements for the lattice piece you need to hold the rack to the squared up position, otherwise you will cut a section of lattice that leaves you with your sagging spice rack.

Tools/Material Required for Fixing a Sagging Kitchen Cabinet Spice Rack
  • Screw Driver or Screw Gun
  • ¾” screws
  • 16” of 1/8” thick lattice
  • Drill and Drill bit
  • Center Punch
  • Hammer
  • Tape Measure
Readmore »»

Sunday, December 10, 2006

How to Repair a Sticky Interior Door

By Mark J. Donovan

A sticky interior door is usually attributable to either a door hinge becoming loose, or the door swelling due to high moisture or humidity levels within the home. How to repair a sticky interior door dramatically differs pending on which is the culprit associated with your sticky interior door.

Tools Required for Repairing a Sticky Interior Door
  • Screw Driver or Screw Gun
  • ½” or 3/8” dowel (12 inches in length)
  • Circular Saw
  • Long Straight Edge
  • Hand Plane
  • Chisel
  • Sandpaper
  • 2 C-Clamps
  • 4 wood shims
  • Carpenters Glue
  • Paint/Stain

The first thing to inspect when experiencing a sticky interior door is the door hinges. Make sure all of the hinges are tightly fastened to the door jamb and the door itself. Due to some basic laws of physics and leverage, the upper most hinges along the door jamb are more likely to become loose over time, so inspect these first. As the hinge becomes loose and separates from the door jamb, the door leans out, if you will. Consequently the far end of the door winds up rubbing up against the far side of door jamb, which causes the stickiness.

Tighten Screws in Door Hinges

Use a screw driver or a screw gun to make sure all of the screws are tightly secured to the door jamb.

If in the process of tightening the screws you determine that one or more of the screws are stripped you can do one of two things. First try to use longer screws in place of the original shorter ones. If the longer screws do not securely fasten the hinge to the door jamb, you will then need to go to Plan B.

Plan B involves the use of ½” or 3/8” dowels. When using dowels, first open the door widely and remove the screws from the section of hinge. Swing the hinge away from the stripped out screw holes so that the stripped out screw holes are visible.

Next, using a ½” or 3/8” drill bit, drill out the stripped out screw holes, approximately 1” in depth. Then, with carpenters glue applied to approximately 1” of dowel, slide the dowel into the hole you just drilled. Let the dowel and glue set up for 24 hours.

With the dowel now firmly setup and sanded flush with the door jamb, position the hinge back over the door jamb and make a small pilot-hole mark.

Again, slide the door hinge out of the way and then drill a small pilot hole into the dowel, where you made the small pilot-hole mark.

After the pilot-hole has been drilled refasten the hinge using the original screws.

If the door hinges are all properly secured the space between the door jamb and the door, on the hinge side, should be approximately 1/8th of an inch the entire height of the door.

Trimming a Sticky Interior Door

If the interior door still sticks, then your door may have swelled due to the absorption of moisture. If this is the case, you will then need to remove the door and trim the opposite hinge side of the door.

Before removing the door, attempt to close the door and see where the door is touching the door jamb. Use a pencil and run a mark along the length of the door where the door is touching the door jamb.

Next, remove the door from its hinges by pulling out the hinge pins.

Lay the door on a set of horses or other flat work area.

Using a long straight edge, run a straight line along the length of the edge of the door such that it is consistent with the marks you made earlier on the door.

Also, while still holding the straight edge, score the line with a carpenter’s knife. This will help aid in preventing chips in the door when cutting with your circular saw.

If the section of door material to be removed is 1/8th inch or less, use a hand plane to remove the offending wood.

If greater than 1/8th of an inch then you will need to use your circular saw.

Using a couple of C clamps, and a few of shims for protecting the door from the clamps, fasten your long straight edge to the door so that it can be used as a fence for the circular saw. Position the long straight edge board so that your saw will slide along side of it and cut on the line that you previously made.

After cutting the door, lightly sand it.

Re-install the door onto its hinges, and check to see if the door swings freely closed.

Once you have determined the interior door is no longer sticking, remove the door again, and apply one coat of stain/paint to the trimmed edge.

With the door reinstalled, your sticky interior door is now a thing of the past.

Readmore »»

Friday, December 8, 2006

Radiant Heating with Radiant Cove Heaters

By: Mark J. Donovan

Radiant cove heaters are an ideal choice for heating a new addition to your home. Radiant Cove heaters, as their name implies, provide radiant heat to rooms by converting electricity into heat energy.

Radiant cove heaters are mounted on walls near the ceilings in a room. They typically are positioned approximately 4 inches from the ceiling and come in various lengths and sizes, pending the room’s area. Radiant cove heating units are controlled via a wall thermostat located in the room. Each room utilizing radiant cove heaters can be independently controlled with separate thermostats, similar to standard floor mounted electrical heating elements.

Radiant cove heaters produce mainly heat energy that is radiated downwards towards the living area. Radiant heating, unlike convectional heating, is absorbed into the objects that it is directed at including, furniture, people, floors and walls. These objects once warmed, emit heat energy, which helps to provide for a comfortable, stable and warm room temperature. Similar to how the sun’s rays can quickly warm you; radiant cove heaters provide rapid directional heat that quickly warms you and your local surroundings.

In addition, radiant cove heaters also provide some level of convection heating, which helps to heat the air within the room.

As a result of their radiant heating properties, cove heaters are extremely efficient as they direct heat where people need it - towards the center of the living space. Other alternative heating sources direct conventionally heated air towards the ceilings, via outside walls. This process creates drafts that circulate throughout the room. Pending where you stand relative to the heating element, there can be several degrees difference in temperature within the same room, not to mention breezes.

Besides being extremely efficient, radiant cove heaters can also be aesthetically appealing. They come in various lengths, colors, styles, and wattages, and are produced by a number of manufacturers, including Radiant Systems, Inc.

Radiant cove heaters are also extremely functional and safe. Because they are located up near the ceilings, they are out of the way of children, pets, curtains and furniture. Unlike standard baseboard heating elements, there are no concerns of denting or scratching them as they are above the fray of children and vacuum cleaners. In addition, furniture can be placed along walls that would not otherwise be possible with baseboard heating elements.

Also, because they operate on electricity, which is an extremely efficient energy source, there are no vents or chimneys required with radiant cove heaters, thus saving building costs an energy operating costs.

So when considering your next construction or home addition project, consider radiant cove heaters. They are an excellent alternative to traditional heating sources, and can save you money both in the short and long run. Readmore »»

Monday, December 4, 2006

Simple Woodworking Projects for Christmas Presents

By Mark J. Donovan

My son and I visited my father’s woodworking shop this past weekend to build a couple of simple woodworking projects for Christmas presents.

Every year the extended family gets together to exchange Christmas gifts via a Yankee Swap. A few years back the family decided that presents should all be hand made by the giver, versus store bought items. Consequently my son and I make our annual pilgrimage to my father’s woodworking shop around this time of year to build simple woodworking projects.

Typically we select projects that can be built and stained/painted in the same day (albeit a long day). In the past we have built Tie and Belt Racks, Birdhouses, and Newspaper and Magazine baskets. Normally we both build the same thing to expedite the process and to better share in the building process (on the fly acquired knowledge, tool jig settings, etc.)

This year, my son and I decided to build different woodworking projects. My son built a simple paper towel rack and I built a small step stool.

The paper towel rack consisted of two sideboards with rounded front edges and 1” holes through their centers. The two sideboards were attached via a backboard that spaced the sideboards for the standard width of a paper towel roll. A 7/8th inch dowel, that extended beyond the ends of the sideboards by two inches, and that was slightly milled out in the sections that lined up with the two sideboard holes, completed the project. The sideboards and backboard were constructed using Maple.

My small step stool, consisted of a top board that was 12” x 10”. Actually the top board was initially constructed of two sections of 5.5” x 0.75” Maple boards that were glued together, planed, sanded, and then routed along the top edge.

The top board then rested on two legs, again made out of Maple, that were 8” in length and 5.5” tall. Using a coffee can lid I traced out curves on the underside of each leg, as well as on the ends of them, to jazz up their appearance.

The legs were then sanded and attached to the top board via 1.25” screws that were countersunk into the top board.

I then added a 1.0” x 0.75” x 9.5” brace board that sat between the two legs and flush up against the underside of the top board. This added some extra rigidity to the stool. Again, I counter sunk a single 1.25” screw into each leg to secure the brace between the legs. Note: I also used woodworking glue on all pieces for added strength.

I then plugged all the holes with some glue and pre-fab’d wood plugs, let them dry for an hour, and then sanded them flush.

Finally, we both added a coat of Walnut stain and some wax to our projects and we ready for this year’s Yankee Swap.

So if you too are looking for some simple woodworking projects to do for this Christmas, consider the projects outlined above. Within 6-8 hours you too can have some fairly nice looking presents to hand to the family. Readmore »»

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Paving over an Existing Asphalt Driveway

By Mark J. Donovan

Asphalt paving over an existing driveway can be done if the existing driveway is in good shape. It should be level, and free from any bulges or trenches.

If the existing asphalt paved driveway is crumbling and heaving, or if there are signs of root damage, then the old driveway should be ripped up so the base can be re-constructed. Tree roots and any rocks that have worked their way to the surface should be removed. Additional gravel should then be brought in and packed and rolled prior to applying the new Asphalt driveway.

For more help on Asphalt Driveway Paving, see's Asphalt Driveway Paving Bid sheet. The Asphalt Driveway Paving Bid Sheet will help ensure that your hire the right contractor so that your driveway is paved correctly and you get the finished driveway you are looking for. Readmore »»

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs – Read Fine Print before Buying

By Mark J. Donovan

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) can save you a lot of money, but not necessarily as much as proponents and home improvement stores suggest.

Technically Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs use only a quarter of the power as incandescent light bulbs and they are typically guaranteed for 8000 hours versus 500 hours, respectively. Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs cost around $3.00 (during sales) whereas an incandescent typically goes for around $.50. Though a Compact Fluorescent light bulb costs about 6 times as much as an incandescent bulb, it lasts 16 times longer and uses only ¼ the power of the incandescent bulb. As a result, Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs make a lot of financial sense, at least in the simple math.

The problem with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs is that they have a fixed number of times that they can be turned on before they begin to fail. As a result, they are not appropriate for lighting applications where the light will be turned on and off frequently. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs are meant to be turned on and left on for long periods of time (e.g. 3 hours or more). Thus, Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs are probably not meant for bathrooms or bedrooms where lights are turned on and off frequently. They may however be appropriate for living rooms and kitchens where lights may be left on much longer in the evening.

In addition, thought Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs do not create a great deal of heat themselves, they are however sensitive to it. As a result, they are not appropriate for recessed lights or enclosed lighting fixtures. Because of the excess heat build up in these types of lights, the Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs will fail in short order.

The other consideration with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs is that they contain trace amounts of Mercury and thus should not be simply thrown away when they fail. Instead they should be taken back to the store where you purchased them or to a recycling plant that can properly handle them. The Mercury levels associated with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs are safe, when the bulb is left in its natural state (unbroken). So failed bulbs should be returned to stores or recycling plants left undamaged.

All this said, Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) have a bright future and can save homeowners a great deal of money. Used in appropriate applications a Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb will pay for itself after just 500 hours of use (e.g. 100 days at 5 hours per day). CFLs are available in a variety of white lighting shades including “Warm White”, “Soft White”, “Cool White” and “Day” light tones.

So the next time you are contemplating a Compact Fluorescent Light bulb sale at your local home improvement store, think where you will use them in your home before you decide on how many to actually buy. Readmore »»

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How to Clear a Clogged Sink Drain

By Mark J. Donovan

Having to clear a clogged sink is inevitable if you are a homeowner. Fortunately, however, clearing a clogged sink is straight forward to do, albeit it’s a little messy and awkward.

The first step in clearing a clogged sink is to first look under the sink, and see what type of drain plumbing exists. You should see either a PVC or metal J-trap length of tubing. The J-Trap is basically a 180o bend in the tubing that creates a water seal between the sink drain and the rest of the drain system in the house.

Next remove the drain stopper. Normally you can remove the drain stopper by turning it left or right 90o and lifting up. To aid in removing the drain stopper you may also need to disconnect the pivot rod that sits behind the drain tail pipe underneath the sink.

J-Trap with Couplings

If the J –Trap has couplings that you can unscrew, use your hand or a pair of channel pliers to remove the couplings. Make sure, however, you first place a bucket underneath the J-Trap to catch the standing water in the J-trap.

Once you have removed the couplings, simply slide the J-trap down off the sink drain sleeve and away from the remaining portion of the house drain system. Pour the contents of the J-Trap into the bucket and remove any large solid/semi-solid clogs from the J-Trap. A pair of gloves may be helpful during this task.

Next, use a rag or bottle washer brush to thoroughly clean out the J-Trap.

In the event you did not find a clog in the J-Trap, first look down through the drain and see if the drain tail pipe is clear. If it is not use a hand auger to remove the clog in the drain tail pipe. If there is no clog in the drain tail pipe and the J-Trap, this probably means the clog is further into the drain system. If this is the case you will want to use the hand auger again and push it further into the drain system. As you push it in, feel for resistance. Once you have passed any resistance screw the hand auger and pull back towards you to remove the clog.

Finally, reinsert the J-Trap into position and reconnect the couplings. With the couplings tightened your clogged sink is a thing of the past.

J-Trap with Clean-Out Plug

Some J-Traps may not have couplings. This is particularly true with older plumbing systems. In this case there is typically a Clean-Out Plug at the base of the J-Trap.

Using a pair of channel lock pliers loosen the Clean-Out Plug nut. Once loose, position a bucket underneath the J-Trap and remove by hand the Clean-Out Plug. Clear the clog via access the Clean-Out Hole. Again, gloves work great during this task. Frequently the clog is a mass of hair. A small screw driver may help in this case to enable you to reach in and clear the clog.

Again, if the clog persists after cleaning out the J-trap, repeat with the hand auger as described earlier.

J-Trap without Couplings or Clean-out Plug

In this case use the hand auger and insert it into the sink drain to remove the sink clog.

Insert the auger into the sink drain until you feel the auger pass the obstructed area. Then simply screw the auger and pull back on it to remove the sink clog.

Using a Plunger to Clear a Clogged Sink

A plunger should be your last resort as it effectively just pushes the clog further into the system. The hope is that the clog will be pushed into a wider portion of the drain system and then simply be flushed away. Sometimes, however you just push the clog further into the narrow portion of the drain system and make it more difficult to remove with a hand auger later. Readmore »»

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Raised Floor System Benefits

By Mark J. Donovan

A raised floor system can be very useful when building a new home or even sometimes when adding a bathroom.

A raised floor system, using standard wood floor joist framing, can provide additional headroom in a basement or can ensure access to pluming and wiring that would not otherwise be accessible on a to-be-built concrete slab based home. In addition, if you are contemplating a new bathroom in a second or third floor, and can not or do not want to rip up ceilings and floors to route new pipes, a raised flooring system maybe just the answer.

Many basements have limited height, particularly if the center beam running down the length of the basement, is sitting in a recessed wall pocket. A raised floor system can elevate the beam another 12-18”, providing comfortable headroom in the basement. This is highly useful if the basement is anticipated to be finished at some point. It also enables additional window and natural lighting possibilities in the basement.

If a home is slated to be mounted on a slab, a raised floor system is a good way to elevate the home a little. This can serve several purposes. First, the home will have more curb appeal as a raised foundation typically is more aesthetically pleasing than a home sitting on a slab. Second, by using a raised floor system, all of the plumbing pipes and electrical wires can be routed in the raised floor verses imbedded in the concrete slab. This allows the ability to make repairs or even make wiring or plumbing improvements possible. Finally, a raised floor system helps reduce the risk of water damage in case of high rainfalls.

Frequently people decide to add bathrooms on second or third floors where they have little access to existing plumbing pipes or the ability to install new ones. By building a raised floor system using 2x6’s for example, they can route all of the plumbing pipes to one central or appropriate location to connect into an existing plumbing drain system. The only downside to using a raised floor system in a bathroom is the fact that you need to step up to it. This may be a small price to pay when considering the alternatives, e.g. not adding the bathroom or having to rip up floors and ceilings to route new pipes. Readmore »»

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How to Control Moisture in a Ventilated Crawl Space

By Mark J. Donovan

For many, a home’s crawl space is rarely accessed or used. However, an out-of-sight / out-of-mind mentality on a crawl space that is not properly moisture controlled could cost you a lot of money.

If a crawl space is not moisture controlled properly, your home is susceptible to rot, mold and insect damage. In addition, if an air conditioning or heating system is located in the crawl space it may also be damaged by high moisture content. Finally, a non moisture controlled crawl space is energy inefficient which translates into higher heating and air conditioning bills.

Crawl spaces can be found with and without operable ventilation systems. Though venting a crawl space may seem to make sense to reduce moisture levels, it actually can cause more harm than good in hot, humid climates. A vented crawl space in a hot, humid climate actually will increase the humidity level within the crawl space and make it more susceptible to moisture damage. The moist hot air reacts with the cooler air in the crawl space and causes condensation. The condensing moisture attaches itself to floor framing surfaces where mold can begin to form.

Though the rules can vary on your local climate conditions there are several basic steps you should do to minimize the moisture levels in your crawl space.

First, when installing the crawl space foundation, make sure you put in a French drain (perimeter drain) around the foundation walls. The Perimeter drain should be designed so that water runs away from the outside foundation walls.

Second, make sure you seal the outside of the foundation walls to finished grade level with a waterproof sealer.

Third, when backfilling in around the foundation, make sure the finished grade gently slopes away from the foundation walls.

Fourth, the floor of the crawl space should be covered with a 4-6 mil layer of polyethylene vinyl (plastic) to reduce moisture transfer from the ground into the crawl space area. The seams should overlap by 1-2 feet and should be taped. The plastic should go up the sides of the wall of the crawl space 6-12 inches. Finally, add 2 inches of sand over the plastic to minimize the risk of breakage.

Lastly, ad gutters around the eves of the house or addition to control the flow of rain water run off. Downspouts should be positioned to direct the water away from the foundation walls.

During hot summer months seal off the vents in the crawl space to minimize the influx of hot moist air that would otherwise condense in the cool crawl space area. Likewise, in the winter months seal off and insulate the vents of the crawl space to reduce the threat of cold air that could freeze pipes in the crawl space.

During cooler/moderate temperature seasons (spring and fall), open the vents of the crawl space to enable moisture within the crawl space to be dissipated.

Note: The recommend ratio of ventilation area to crawl space is 1:500.

In order to minimize the affects of the colder drier air in the crawl space you will want to insulate the “roof” of the crawl space. Basically you will want to install rolled insulation between the floor joists. The rolled insulation will not require a moisture barrier surface, as the plywood floors above act as a moisture barrier. However, after you have installed the rolled insulation you may want to cover and staple it with a layer of polyethylene vinyl to create a vapor barrier between the bottom side of the insulation and the crawl space airspace. Make sure when installing the rolled insulation you use insulation hangers to secure the insulation in between the floor joists. Do not rely on the friction between the floor joist and the rolled insulation to hold the insulation in place. Readmore »»

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Can You Asphalt Pave a Driveway in Winter

By Mark J. Donovan

Frequently I get asked the question by homeowners on whether or not a driveway can be asphalt paved in winter.

The answer depends on whether or not the ground is frozen. Simply put, if the ground is frozen do not allow the asphalt paving contractor to apply the asphalt. If it is applied when the ground is frozen it will not roll to grade well. The asphalt arrives on the job site extremely hot allowing it to be easily spread and rolled to grade. However, if the hot asphalt is poured onto a frozen surface such as the ground, the asphalt will immediately begin to stiffen or freeze up.

Even if the asphalt driveway is able to be rolled to grade while the ground is frozen it will result in a poor quality driveway that will quickly begin to break down. The reason for this is the aggregate material embedded in the asphalt will not be firmly packed with the asphalt, thus resulting in stones quickly becoming loose.

If, the temperature is below freezing, but the ground has not yet frozen it is acceptable to have the Asphalt paving contractor install the asphalt driveway. Unlike a frozen ground, below freezing air temperatures will not dramatically affect the rate of hardening of the asphalt material. Thus the asphalt paving contractor will be able to roll the asphalt to grade and achieve the right level of compression.

To conclude, if you live in the northern half of the United States, and it is already December it is probably wise to hold off any asphalt paving projects until spring time. Readmore »»

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Home or Garden Arbor can Spice up Your Backyard

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are looking to spice up the outdoor appearance of your home or backyard, building a home or garden arbor just maybe your answer.

Home and garden arbor structures offer versatility to your home’s property in several ways. An arbor can immediately transform a drab home doorway entrance, or a plain backyard garden, into a beautiful entranceway or garden.

Arbors have been in use throughout time to enhance gardens by providing a place to grow climbing flowers and vines. You can also squeeze more flowers in your garden as an arbor allows you the ability to grow plants upwards, where they actually fair better because of more sunlight exposure.

In addition, arbors can establish privacy barriers and increase your home’s outdoor living space during the warm spring and summer seasons. Arbors can influence mood swings, and provide a romantic hideaway to while away a summer afternoon while relaxing on a swing or hammock. Arbors can also enhance a home’s landscape, particularly if your backyard appears drab and lacks any unique visual aesthetics.

Arbors are relative easy to build and an ideal project for the do-it-yourself homeowner. Material for building an arbor is readily available at most home improvement centers. The cost of building an arbor is relatively inexpensive and construction can be completed in a single day or weekend using common tools.

When your arbor is complete, you will enjoy something more special than just a sense of accomplishing another home project. You will have added real value to your home and you will undoubtedly receive the envious admiration of your family and neighbors.

For more information on building a home or garden arbor, See's "How to Build an Arbor Ebook". It provides in-depth, easy to understand, step-by-step instructions and pictures, on how to build an arbor. Readmore »»

Friday, November 10, 2006

Should You Feed Your Home Remodeling Contractor

By Mark J. Donovan

Frequently I get asked the question by homeowners on whether or not they should feed a home remodeling contractor when they are performing work on their home.

My response is always the same. As with any employer/employee relationship it is always good for the employer to show some occasional extra level of appreciation to his/her employees. And this frequently does come in the form of a free lunch or dinner. However, this said, it is unwise to become the regular “Chuck Wagon” to your home remodeling contractor. Besides getting expensive just in terms of groceries it also can lead to other negatives. Your over hospitality could actually backfire on you. The contractor may grow to expect the regular food service and in the event you stop or suspend service, they may question your motives. This questioning could lead to bad feelings and a reduction in their performance as they may think you are unsatisfied with their level or quality of work.

To conclude, it is best to maintain a healthy employer/employee relationship with your home remodeling contractor, however it is unwise to inadvertently try to become their friend by feeding them on a regular basis. Show occasional appreciation if it is deserved but do not attempt to become a contractors meal ticket. Readmore »»

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Outdoor Fireplace Plans

Constructing Backyard Beauty

Building an outdoor fireplace is a huge commitment. Most of these fireplaces are permanent structures and will remain a part of your home for many years. This means that they have to remain attractive to you and any future owners of your property. This is why outdoor fireplace plans are vital before undertaking this type of construction plan.

Obviously the first thing to consider when building an outdoor fireplace is where to place it. Many people choose to put a fireplace near the pool or on a deck that is used for entertaining.

Be sure to choose a spot that compliments the house and other structures on the property. Also choose a spot that is ideal even if you change the landscaping or setup of your yard. Remember, the fireplace is permanent. You have to be happy with your placement decision. If you have any doubts, hold off on construction until you are completely sure.

The next thing to consider is what type of fuel you are going to burn in your fireplace. Wood fireplaces will require the installation of a chimney whereas gas fireplaces will require other venting structures. Keep in mind that the addition of a chimney or the exclusion of one may affect the overall look of your fireplace.

Next you will need to choose your materials. Most outdoor fireplaces are constructed with beautiful stone and brick. The interior of the fireplace is constructed of aluminum alloy and/or cast iron. There are a wide variety of stones that can be used in constructing your fireplace so this could be the most enjoyable part of your construction project.

Now all you have to do is look through construction plans and/or pictures of other fireplaces to choose the look of your fireplace. There are many styles to choose from so this could be a bit overwhelming. You can even customize your fireplace to make it perfectly accent your home and property. Once you have done this, it is time to begin construction and start enjoying your outdoor fireplace.

About the Author: Article provided courtesy of the Outdoor Heating Guide - your premier resource for outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. Readmore »»

Outdoor Furnaces can Dramatically Lower Your Heating Bills

Outdoor Wood Burning Furnaces for Home Heating

If the high cost of heating your home last winter didn’t already prompt you to look for alternative ways to keep your home cozy, the threat of future hikes in fuel prices may have you looking at possible solutions to lowering your heating bill. Yes, at the moment things are looking a little better but we all know now how quickly escalating fuel and energy costs can wreak havoc on our budgets. This possibility has many looking at outdoor furnaces as a solution to shield them from fluctuating fuel prices.

Outdoor wood-burning furnaces are a great idea for many reasons. They keep your home comfortable with the kind of warm, cozy heat that only wood can provide. And by burning wood instead of fuels, you are being friendlier to the environment. Wood is also a renewable resource, whereas fuel is not.

As the demand for fuel grows and the supply dwindles, fuel price hikes like we have experienced over the past year will become commonplace. By heating your home with wood, you can avoid these peaks in heating costs and may be able to do away with your heating bill altogether if you burn wood from your own property.

Outside wood burners are also safer and cleaner than burning wood indoors. There is no smoke, ashes, odors or soot buildup and the chance of catching your home on fire with this type of heat is virtually nonexistent.

The only drawback of the outdoor furnace is that you have to go outside to load the furnace with wood and to perform routine cleaning and maintenance. But the ability of the furnace to burn whole logs instead of split lumber means that you will not have to see to your heating system very often. There will be no running outside in the middle of the night to add more fuel to the fire. And if you are like many, the money that you save will more than make up for this inconvenience.

About the Author: The Outdoor Heating Guide is your premier resource for outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and patio heaters. Readmore »»

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Engineered Wood I-Beams vs Sawn Lumber for Floor Joists

By Mark J. Donovan

Engineered Wood I-Beams Continue to Grow in Popularity

Engineered wood I-beams were first introduced in the late 1960s and were used mainly for high-end home construction. However, today up to half the homes built in the United States now use engineered wood I-beams. Engineered wood I-beams are considered an excellent alternative to sawn lumber for floor joists due to their strength and overall lower installation costs.

Wood I-beams look similar to the traditional steel I-beam. They consist of a center section constructed out of a thin layer of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) material that is sandwiched on top and bottom by two wide flange sections made out of finger jointed sawn lumber. Typically there are cut-out or knock-out sections in the OSB material that can be removed for running electrical wires and heat ducts.

Engineered Wood I-beams have several major advantages. First, they are much stronger, straighter and stiffer than conventional sawn lumber. Data indicates that they are 50% stiffer than sawn lumber. Consequently they provide less deflection, which translates into better floor construction.

As a result of their strength, wood I-beams can be used to cover larger spans and can be separated on wider on-center spacings. Thus, significant building costs can be achieved as less wood material and labor installation effort is required.

Note: wood I-beams are more expensive than sawn lumber equivalent lengths; however, these initial material costs are more than offset due to fewer wood I-beam joists required on the project. With the benefits of increased on-center spacing and coverage of longer spans, typically fewer floor joists are needed and the traditional center beam required in most sawn lumber floor joist construction is eliminated.

Engineered wood I-beams are also much lighter than conventional sawn lumber (e.g. 2 x 10s or 2 x 12s) as they are constructed using a combination of finger jointed sawn lumber and OSB material. Wood I-beams can weigh up to 60% less than their sawn lumber counterparts.

Because of their unique construction wood I-beams do not warp, shrink, cup or twist and thus they are able to create stiffer floors that have fewer tendencies to settle or squeak.

Engineered wood I-beams typically come in longer lengths than traditional sawn lumber. Wood I-beams lengths can range from 24’ to 60’ in length and can be modified on the job site with certain manufacturer restrictions.

Wood I-beams are also considered an environmentally sensitive alternative to traditional sawn lumber as they require 35-60% less wood material and can be constructed using smaller faster growing trees.

Wood I-beams do have a few limitations/concerns. Typically they are used for interior construction only as water can damage them. Also, not all contractors and sub-contractors are trained in using wood I-beams. As a result, careful attention has to be made so that electrical and plumbing contractors do not notch the flanges when installing pipes, wire or ducts.

There has also been concern for fire safety with wood I-beams. Studies have shown that wood I-beams are more susceptible to fire damage due to their lack of mass (when compared to sawn lumber) and their heavy reliance on glue in their construction.

Regardless of the few limitations/concerns, the use of engineered wood I-beams continues to grow in popularity. They provide stronger floors, reduce overall building costs and are environmentally friendlier than their traditional sawn lumber counterparts. So when considering your next home building project you may want to ask your contractor about using wood I-beams floor joists as an alternative to standard 2x10s and 2x12s. Readmore »»

Monday, October 30, 2006

Insulating and Ventilating Your Attic

By Mark J. Donovan

Late Fall is an excellent time of the year to inspect the attic and if necessary make some minor improvements. A well-insulated and ventilated attic can save you a lot of money and aggravation. The attic can be a significant contributor to heat loss from your home if not properly insulated. Also, if the attic is not properly ventilated your roof can become susceptible to ice damning. Ice damning can lead to major damage inside the home.

Ice damns start when heat builds up in the attic and causes snow on the roof to melt. The water from the melted snow runs off towards the eves of the roof. As the water nears the eves it begins to cool again and refreeze as ice. After several days of this process the ice builds up and forms damns. Eventually the ice damns cause water from the melting snow to back up underneath the shingles and onto the bare roof sheathing. Once there, the water finds cracks and nail holes to slip through. Finally the water works its way down onto the ceiling sheetrock and begins to cause major damage inside the home.

By ensuring a well insulated and ventilated attic ice damning can be eliminated. So when inspecting your attic, make sure you have sufficient insulation and that it has not been compressed down. Also make sure soffit, ridge and gable end vents are free from material that can clog them, e.g. Bees nests. You may also want to consider installing additional venting if your roof has had a history of ice damning even after additional attic insulation has been installed. Finally, if the insulation layer between the ceiling joists is jammed up tight against the inside slope of the roof you should install attic foam rafter vents or chutes. The rafter vents will ensure that air flows smoothly between the soffit and ridge vents. Readmore »»

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Ecommerce Solution for Selling Digital Products

By Mark J. Donovan

ECommerce Website Design and Creating Custom Paypal “BuyNow” Buttons

One of the most important aspects to consider when selling digital products online, and implementing a new ecommerce website design, is how to provide a secure and easy payment solution for the immediate delivery of digital products. Paypal offers most of the ecommerce payment solutions necessary for an ecommerce website business, with a couple of minor, but significant exceptions.

When developing an online ecommerce web site that sells digital products, such as Ebooks and Edocs it is imperative to enable customers to automatically download the products immediately after they purchase them. This is one of the main reasons why people buy digital products online. However it is also just as important for authors and artists to protect their work from Internet hackers. Thus an ecommerce payment solution needs to protect both the buyer and the seller. Paypal addresses most of these needs by enabling online purchases via the use of encryption technology and “BuyNow” ecommerce Buttons.

However, there are limitations to Paypal’s standard ecommerce encryption and “BuyNow” Button tools that can make the online purchase of digital products less than a positive experience.

With Paypal’s standard merchant tools a seller has the ability to create unique encrypted Paypal payment buttons with unique return URL hyperlinks displayed on the final Paypal payment page, however there is a significant limitation.

The advantage of creating separate return URLs is that the seller can create separate download pages that have hyperlinks to each separate downloadable digital product. The problem, however, is that the URL is referenced by a fixed “Return to Merchant” title message on the final Paypal payment page. This “Return to Merchant” title is unclear to the buyer and consequently many customers do not click on it to go to the download page. Instead they get angry and frustrated and contact ecommerce website designers and webmasters to vent their frustrations.

The simplest way to solve this problem is to be able to change the return URL title “Return to Merchant” to something like “Click here to Download Your Order”. However this is easier said than done as it is impossible to do with Paypal’s standard Merchant tools for creating Paypal “BuyNow” buttons. The major reason for this is that most ecommerce website designers select to have their Paypal buttons encrypted when creating the Paypal buttons using Paypal’s “BuyNow” create buttons tool. They do this so that Internet hackers can not easily find the download pages on their website and effectively steal the product. The root problem thought is that when the encryption option is selected under the Paypal “BuyNow” buttons utility tool, it becomes impossible to edit the “Return to Merchant” text.

After much research into this problem I was able develop a process and solution to this ecommerce problem. The solution enables ecommerce website designers to change the “Return to Merchant” text AND encrypt the “Custom” Paypal button. This solution has been documented in a new Ebook titled “Selling Ebooks Using Encrypted Paypal Buttons”. The Ebook provides easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions for solving this problem on both Windows XP and Windows 2000 computers. Within 1-2 hours of reading this Ebook, ecommerce website designers can begin creating their own unique and custom Paypal “BuyNow” buttons. For more information on this product see: “Selling Ebooks Using Encrypted Paypal Buttons Ebook

About the Author: Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has worked as an Electrical Engineer and Marketing Manager in the high tech industry. His other passion involves building homes and additions to homes. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit and Readmore »»

How to Handle Ceramic Tile Floor Transitions under a Dishwasher

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: Could you please tell us how to handle tiling under a dishwasher to keep from making it too high to go back under the cabinets? With the backerboard and then the tile, it has too much height. What are our options?

Answer: First, most kitchen appliances have adjustable legs that can be rotated to raise or lower the appliance. You may want to see if you can adjust the legs of the dishwasher to lower it such that you can install the backerboard and ceramic tile underneath it and clear the underside of the countertops. Also, you may altogether want to remove the adjustable legs to maximize the clearance.

Second, most dishwasher legs sit back a couple of inches from the front of the appliance. You could consider only tiling up to the edge of the dishwasher legs. Readmore »»

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How to Install a New Faucet

By Mark J. Donovan

Installing a new faucet is a small enough project that most Do it Yourself homeowners can tackle with a little plumbing knowledge and some basic tools.

You can install a new faucet in one to two hours using a pair of large channel lock pliers and a crescent wrench.

Turn the Water Off

To begin with, turn the water supply off to the faucet. Usually this can be done by turning the valves off under the sink. Confirm the water to the faucet is off by turning the faucet on and confirming no water flows from it.

Remove the Old Faucet

Next disconnect the flexible supply lines from the valves attached to the hot and cold supply pipes.

After disconnecting the flexible supply lines, remove the old faucet mounting nuts that secure the faucet to the sink.

Next, remove the mounting nut that holds the Stopper Pull Rod and Stopper Drain bracket assembly to the drain tail pipe.

Then remove the J-Trap drain assembly from the sink tail pipe.

The faucet should now be able to be lifted from the sink.

With the old faucet removed, clean around the sink area using a rag and putty knife.

Select a New Faucet

Next visit your local home improvement store and find a replacement faucet with the same spacing between the hot and cold threaded tail pieces of your old faucet. Also pick up two flexible replacement supply lines.

Install the New Faucet

Connect the new flexible supply lines to the threaded tail pieces of your new faucet.

Next install the new faucet into the mounting holes on your sink.

Then secure the faucet to the sink using the mounting plates and/or nuts that came with the new faucet.

Attach the other end of the flexible supply lines to the valves on the hot and cold supply pipes.

Next, attach the new tail pipe to the sink drain.

Then install the new Drain/Stopper assembly that came with the new faucet into the sink basin. Part of the Drain/Stopper assembly will include connecting a mechanical linkage system to the back of the drain tail pipe. This linkage system will connect the Drain Pull Rod to the Stopper assembly in the sink drain.

Reconnect the J-Trap Drain Assembly to the Drain Tail Pipe.

Turn the supply line valves back to the ON position.

Turn the new faucet on and check for leaks around all the compression fittings. If any leaks are found, turn off the supply line valves and tighten the leaky fitting nuts. Then turn the supply lines back on and confirm the leaks have been stopped.

For more information on how to install a new faucet, See's "Installing a New Faucet Ebook". It provides in-depth, easy to understand, step-by-step instructions and pictures, on how to install a new Faucet. Readmore »»

Friday, October 20, 2006

What is the Standard Stud Spacing for Framing Walls

By Mark J. Donovan

QUESTION: A frequent visitor to and was installing a garage door opener and needed to know the stud spacing between ceiling joists.

He initially attempted to find out by drilling holes every inch in his ceiling's sheetrock. After a dozen holes, he contacted us asking for help on this basic question, "What is the standard stud spacing for walls and ceilings?"

ANSWER: When framing walls, studs are normally spaced on 16 inch centers. In some cases, such as in a garage with no second floor, local building codes may allow wall stud spacings of 24 inches. Also, in some cases ceiling joists or roof trusses can be spaced on 24 inch centers. Readmore »»

Sunday, October 15, 2006

How to Change a Light Switch

By Mark J. Donovan

Changing a light switch is a relatively straight forward project to do, however when dealing with electricity safety needs to be the top priority.

You can change a light switch in less than an hour using just a common screwdriver and a pair of Needle Nose Pliers.

To begin with, turn power off to the switch at the main circuit panel or fuse box. Note, it is best to use only one hand when turning on and off the circuit breaker. Your other hand should not be touching the circuit panel or anything that could come in contact with the ground.

Make sure you let everyone in the home know that you are working on the switch and that for no reason should they turn power back on at the main circuit panel or fuse box. You may also consider putting a piece of tape over the circuit breaker and label it “DO NOT TURN ON”.

After turning power off at the circuit panel or fuse box, toggle the light switch a couple of times to ensure that the light switch is no longer operational.

Next, using your screwdriver, remove the screws that hold the switch faceplate and pull the face plate off.

Now remove the two screws that hold the light switch to the electrical box.

Next, pull the switch out from the electrical box a few inches.

Label each wire with a piece of tape indicating which wire attaches to which screw or press-fit socket.

Using your screwdriver and/or Needle Nose pliers remove the wires from the switch.

Visit your local home improvement store with your switch in hand, and find an exact replacement to it. If you are looking for a different style switch, ask a salesperson to help you find a functionally equivalent switch. For example, if your old switch is a Single Pole, Single Throw (SPST) type, you will need to find a replacement switch that is functionally the same.

Install the new switch, making sure to attach the wires back according to the labels you made earlier.

Push the newly wired switch into the electrical box and attach it with the two mounting screws.

Reinstall the switch faceplate cover and you are ready to test it.

Turn the power back on to the switch at the main circuit panel or fuse box.

Toggle the light switch and confirm the light turns on and off properly.

For more information on Changing a Light Switch, See's "How to Change a Light Switch Ebook". It provides detailed, easy to understand, step-by-step instructions and pictures, on how to replace a Light Switch. Readmore »»

Friday, October 13, 2006

Installing Ceramic Tile over Linoleum Covered Concrete Floor

By Mark J. Donovan Visitor Question: Can Ceramic Tile be installed directly over Vinyl or Linoleum covered concrete floors.

“I am thinking about laying tile over linoleum that is adhered to concrete. The linoleum is very securely adhered to the concrete. Would removing wax and then sanding/scoring the linoleum prior to installation be adequate prep work in this situation?" Answer: Installing ceramic tile directly over Vinyl or Linoleum covered concrete floors is not ideally recommended as there is no way to ensure that the bonding agent between the linoleum and the concrete floor will not eventually fail. When this eventually does occur the tile will no longer be attached to a stable surface. Over time the tiles may become loose or crack.

It is preferable in this type of situation to remove/scrape away the old linoleum or vinyl flooring material and use a leveling agent to ensure a flat and stable surface.

If you are still compelled to apply the tile directly over the linoleum then you should at least rough up / sand the linoleum / vinyl to achieve a better bonding job with the ceramic tile. Readmore »»

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Selecting the Right Asphalt Roofing Shingles for Your Home

By Mark J. Donovan

The Difference between Fiberglass and Organic Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt Shingles are one of the most common choices for roofing materials. As a matter of fact, at least 75% of the homes in the United States use asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles come in various styles and costs and have warranty packages from 20-40 years.

There are two types of asphalt shingle construction: Fiberglass mat based shingles and Organic mat based shingles.

Fiberglass based shingles are thinner and lighter, as their backing is made out of a fiberglass mat. Note: A bundle of asphalt shingles can weigh between 70 and 140 lbs and there are typically 3 bundles of shingles per square (100 sqft per square of shingles). Consequently fiberglass mat based shingles are easier to lift making a roofer’s job easier when carrying shingles up a ladder. Fiberglass mat shingles are also more fire retardant and typically have slightly longer warranties than organic based shingles.

Organic based shingles are heavier and considered more rugged as their mat backing is made out of felt paper and asphalt. They are heavier due to the fact that there is literally more asphalt used in them than a Fiberglass mat shingle. Organic mat based shingles are also considered more flexible than fiberglass shingles, however they are known to be more water absorbent and can warp over time.

As a result of these differences Fiberglass mat shingles are used much more prevalently in the southern and central part of the United States, and Organic mat based shingles are used more in the northern part.

Fiberglass Asphalt based shingles used on your home should be compliant with ASTM D-3462 standards, and Organic based shingles used on your home should be compliant with ASTM D-225. More and more municipalities are requiring shingles to meet these standards, so you should check with your local building inspector and read the label on the shingles prior to purchasing them.

Fiberglass and Organic mat based shingles are comparably priced. They can range anywhere from $25 to $80 per square.

3-Tab shingles have been around for a long time and are still the most common shingle installed, however more and more homeowners are moving towards architectural shingles. Architectural shingles are a little more expensive but are actually easier to install, as less care is needed in ensuring straight lines. Architectural Shingles typically also have longer warranty periods.

3-Tab shingles typically require greater skill and longer installation times as the roofing contractor needs to ensure that wavy shingle lines are not created when installing the shingles. Architectural shingles, on the other hand, are a little easier to install as the lines and shadows are designed to be more complex. As a result, imperfections in the installation process of architectural shingles can be more difficult to see.

Architectural shingles typically cost most than 3-Tab shingles, however their cost may be somewhat mitigated by a lower installation cost.

Whatever shingles you decide to use, make sure you read the shingle packaging labels and check with your local building inspector first. Your home’s roof is one of the most import aspects of your home. An improperly installed shingle job or the installation of the wrong shingles can lead to expensive water damage and high repair costs.

For more help on Shingling Your Home's Roof, see’s Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet. The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet will help to ensure that your roof won't end up with a blue tarp over it and a dumpster sitting in your yard for weeks as you wait for the roofing contractor to come back and finish roofing your home.

About the Author: Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes and is a licensed real estate agent. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit and Readmore »»

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How to Sell a House Fast in a Declining Housing Market

By Mark J. Donovan

Minor Home Improvements that will Sell your House

When the housing market is declining and you want to sell your house it is more important than ever that your home look the best it can. Though making sure your home is clean, organized and uncluttered are critical factors in successfully selling a house; making some minor home improvements can also be key. Painting, fixing crack tiled floors, gluing down curled vinyl or linoleum floors, refinishing wood floors, replacing old exterior lighting fixtures, trimming shrubs around the home exterior, eliminating old ceiling water stains from previous roof leaks are just a few of the ideas. All of these minor home improvements can transform an older home into a new home with limited costs and time.

Paint Interior Walls

If your interior walls are looking shabby with marks and dents, and old nail holes then fill in the holes and repaint the walls. However, make sure you do a quality job by taping all trim first and cutting carefully around the ceiling. Nothing can hurt the appearance of a room more than a poor paint job.

Fix Cracked Tile Floors

If you have tile floors in your home’s entrance way and kitchen, make sure that you have fixed any broken tiles prior to attempting to sell your house. These are two highly visible and important areas of your home and poor flooring in these areas can make or break the selling of your home.

Glue Down Curled Edges on your Vinyl or Linoleum Floors

If your vinyl or linoleum flooring was put in after your kitchen or bath cabinets and appliances were installed, chances are there has been some curling at the edges of the Vinyl or Linoleum flooring. Apply some glue underneath the curling edges and press the vinyl or linoleum flooring back into place. You will need something heavy to hold down the edges while the glue dries.

Re-sand and Refinish your Wood Floors

If you wood floors are in rough shape then re-sand and refinish them. Quality wood floors can be a real selling point in a home. Scratched up wood floors, however, can be a real turn off to potential homebuyers.

Re-Paint the Ceiling to Eliminate Water Stains

If you roof at one time had a leak, make sure there are no ceiling stains. If there are, then repaint the ceiling. Ceiling paint is very inexpensive and can be easily applied with a roller and a couple hours of work. Leaving ceiling stains visible to potential homebuyers invites questions about your roof’s integrity. No future homeowner is interested in having to replace the shingles on the home as soon as they move in.

Update your Exterior Home Lighting

If your home is at least 5 years old and your exterior home lighting is made out of brass, or brass plating, chances are that it is dingy and faded and quite frankly an eye sore. Again, outdoor entrance way lighting is one of the first things a potential homebuyer sees. Installing two or three exterior lights is relatively inexpensive compared to delaying the selling of your home in a declining housing market.

Trimming Exterior Shrub

If your home’s front exterior shrubs are overgrown and swallowing up your home’s front exterior then pull out the trimmers and aggressively remove the overgrowth so that the homes front exterior can be seen again.

Power Wash the Exterior Siding

Make sure there is no mold and dirt visible on your home’s siding. Use a power washer and a proper detergent to remove any mold and mildew on the exterior of the home. Nothing looks worse to a potential homebuyer than to see a green sheen running up the home’s exterior.
With these minor home improvements, and pricing your home right to begin with, you can dramatically increase the chances of selling your home quickly. It is important to note that a potential homebuyer usually makes an impression of your home in the first 8 seconds of seeing it. Thus, it is critical that the home’s exterior, entranceway, and key rooms look as good as new before they show up at your door.

About the Author: Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes and is a licensed real estate agent. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit and

Readmore »»

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Home Construction Bid Sheet

Are you in the process of finding a builder to build you a new home. Then the HomeAdditionPlus New Home Construction Bid sheet is a must. It provides you advice and a checklist for new home construction that will save you aggravation and money. Readmore »»

Room Addition Bid Sheet

Adding a Room Addition, such as a Family Room, onto your home is similar to building a new home. Having it aesthetically meld into your existing home is even more of a challenge. If knowing what needs to be considered to ensure your Room Addition project is done right is imperative to you, then the HomeAdditionPlus Room Addition Bid Sheet is a must. It provides you advice, a breakdown of expected costs, and a checklist for potential contractors to fill out, saving you time aggravation and money. Readmore »»

Garage Addition Bid Sheet

Adding a Garage onto your home is similar to building a new home. Having it aesthetically meld into your existing home is even more of a challenge. If knowing what needs to be considered to ensure your Garage Addition project is done right is imperative to you, then the HomeAdditionPlus Garage Addition Bid Sheet is a must. It provides you advice, a breakdown of expected costs, and a checklist for potential contractors to fill out, saving you time aggravation and money. Readmore »»

Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet

Turning a Basement into a finished room or rooms can increase the living area of your home by up to 100%. Many people convert unfinished basements into Family Rooms, Billiard Rooms, Bars and Bathrooms. If knowing what needs to be considered to ensure your Basement Remodeling project is done right is imperative to you, then the HomeAdditionPlus Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet is a must. It provides you advice, a breakdown of expected costs, and a checklist for potential contractors to fill out, saving you time aggravation and money. Readmore »»

Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet

Kitchen Remodeling is one of the best investments you can make in your home. However the costs of remodeling can vary greatly depending on the type of cabinets and appliances you desire, and the contractor you select. The HomeAdditionPlus Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet will help you ask the right questions when finding a contractor. It provides you advice, a breakdown of expected costs, and a checklist for potential contractors to fill out, saving you time aggravation and money. Readmore »»

Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet

Remodeling your Bathroom can turn an outdated home into a new home and it has one of the best Returns on Investment for home remodeling projects. However the costs of bathroom remodeling can vary greatly depending on the type of bathroom fixtures you desire, and the contractor you select. The HomeAdditionPlus Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet will help you ask the right questions when finding a contractor. It provides you advice, a breakdown of expected costs, and a checklist for potential contractors to fill out, saving you time aggravation and money. Readmore »»

Asphalt Driveway Paving Bid Sheet

Asphalt paving can really dress up the curb appeal of your home. If constructed correctly an asphalt driveway can last 25-30 years. The HomeAdditionPlus Asphalt Driveway Paving Bid Sheet will help you ask the right questions when finding a paving contractor so that you get a high quality driveway at an affordable price. Readmore »»

Brick and Paver Walkway Bid Sheet

Planning to dress up the outside of your home by installing a new Brick/Paver Walkway, but not sure how to find the right landscaping contractor? The HomeAdditionPlus Brick and Paver Walkway Bid Sheet will help you find the right landscaping contractor by providing you with the right questions to ask prospective contractors. Ensure your Brick or Paver Walkway is installed correctly and to your satisfaction Readmore »»

Restoring Steel Baseboard Heating Element Covers EBook

If your tired of looking at those rusted Steel Baseboard Heating Element Covers in your bathroom and want to do something about it, then you'll want to see the Refinishing Baseboard Heating Element Cover Ebook from Readmore »»

Shower Pan Membrane Liner Installation EBook

If you are planning to build a custom ceramic tile shower in your home and want to ensure a leak-proof shower then you need the Shower Pan Membrane Liner EBook from The Shower Pan Membrane Liner EBook will quickly teach you the step-by-step process for installing the shower pan membrane liner correctly. Readmore »»

Changing a Toilet Wax Ring EBook

If your toilet is leaking around the base and/or you constantly smell a bad odor in the bathroom, chances are the wax ring on your toilet has failed and it needs to be replaced. See the Changing a Toilet Wax Ring Ebook from to get simple to read, step-by-step instructions on how to replace the wax ring yourself. Readmore »»

Installing a New Window Ebook

If your old wooden window is drafty, does not open or close well, or is showing signs of water damage and decay, it is probably time to think about replacing it with a new state-of-the-art Low-E glass, vinyl clad window. See the Installing a New Window Ebook from to get simple to read, step-by-step instructions on how to replace the old window yourself. Readmore »»

Installing Interior Window Trim Ebook

So you've just had a new window installed in your home and you now need to install Interior Window Trim. You're thinking this is a project that you would like to do yourself, but not quite sure how to go about it. Well has come to your aid! See the Installing Interior Window Trim Ebook from to get simple to read, step-by-step instructions on how to install interior window trim yourself. Readmore »»

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How to Replace an Old Window in Your Home

A Guide to Installing a New Window in Your Home

By Mark J. Donovan

If your old wooden window is drafty, does not open or close well, or is showing signs of water damage and decay, it is probably time to think about replacing it with a new state-of-the-art Low-E glass, vinyl clad window.

Also, if the glass pane associated with your existing old wooden window is foggy or you can feel cold drafts during the winter months emanating out from around it, or you need to hold it open during the summer months with a prop of some sort then it is definitely time to replace it.

Replacing an old window is something a Do It Yourself homeowner can tackle with some basic carpenters knowledge and a few basic carpentry tools that you probably already have in your home.

Purchasing the Proper New Window

Prior to installing a new window you first need to figure out what size window to purchase. The key parameter required when ordering a new window is its rough opening. This is specified by the window manufacturer and tells you how large of an opening you need for installing a specific window. Typically the rough opening is 1 to 2 inches taller and wider than the actual window itself.

You may need to remove the interior trim from around the old window to obtain the rough opening dimensions for your new window.

Make sure you purchase a new window that has rough opening requirements that are equal to or smaller than your measurements.

Removal of the Old Window

Once you have purchased your new window it is time to remove the old one. Using a hammer and a claw remove the old exterior trim and any nails that may be securing the window to the home. There may be a nailing flange around the perimeter of the old window. Simply use your hammer and claw to remove these nails.

With the nails removed the window should be able to be pulled out of the window frame opening.

Installation of the New Window

With the old window out, it is now time to install the new window. Before, installing the new window, make sure the rough window opening is clear of any debris and any old nails.

Place the new window into the window opening and center it within the window frame.

Use a level and a measuring tape to make sure the window is plumb and square, otherwise the window will not work properly. You may need to add some shims to plumb and square up the new window.

Once the window is plumb and square within the window frame, fasten it with a couple of nails. With most new windows they come with a nailing flange that makes nailing the window to the outside home exterior straightforward.

When nailing the window, start on the upper right hand side and work your way down with just a couple of nails. Check again with the level to make sure the window is level and plumb. Also take one more look on the inside of the window to make sure the window is square and centered.

If the window has remained square and plumb, go ahead and install a couple of additional nails on the other side of the window. Again, one at the top, and the other about halfway down the window.

Then go into the home and remove/cut away the retention bands that held the window square during the window installation. Slide the windows up a down and see if they operate smoothly.

If the window operates smoothly go ahead and add additional nails every 4-6 inches around the nailing flange of the window. If it does not, you may need to remove one or more of the initial nails installed and readjust the window to make sure it is plumb and square.

With the window now installed, add new trimboards around the window perimeter on both the inside and outside of the window and enjoy your new view.

For more information on installing a new window, see the Installing a New Window Ebook from The Installing a New Window Ebook provides easy to understand, step-by-step instructions, on how to remove an old window and install a new one. Pictures are included for every key step in the process

About the Author: Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit and Readmore »»

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Exterior trim and Azek Exterior Trimboards

By Mark J. Donovan

More and more homeowners are turning to man made exterior door and window trim products to lower home maintenance tasks, reduce building costs, and to extend the longevity of their homes. In addition, installing external trim boards on a home can morph the appearance of an otherwise ordinary vinyl clad home into that of a custom home.

If you are building a new home or remodeling your home’s exterior trim, and you are looking for low maintenance exterior trim material with long life cycles then you will want to consider Azek trimboards.

Azek trimboards are made from cellular PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) and are uniquely designed for exterior and interior home trim applications. Azek trimboard products include standard trimboards, cornerbead, beadboard and even sheet boards for soffits. Azek PVC products also include millwork products such as interior trimboards, fascia boards and detailed mouldings.

Key Features

Some of the key attributes that I find most attractive about Azek exterior trimboards are:

  • They come in standard milled lumber dimensions
  • They can be installed using standard woodworking tools and nails
  • They come in either natural or semi-matte white colors and can accept paint or stain, thought painting/staining is not required.
  • Most importantly, they are extremely low maintenance as they are immune to moisture
Quality and Consistency

Also since they are manufactured, versus harvested from a forest, Azek trimboards’ quality is consistent and uniform throughout the entire trimboard. Thus, there are no knots, voids, or twists in the material. In addition, all the edges are perfectly square and smooth so excellent joinery is ensured. Again, they come in standard lumber stock widths. Normally they are sold in 18 to 20 foot lengths and come with a protective wrap.

Because Azek trimboards are manufactured with PVC they will not absorb moisture. As a result, unlike wood trimboard products that are moisture absorbent, Azek trimboards will not twist, warp, cup or rot. Azek provides a 25 year warranty.

Easy Installation with Standard Tools

In addition, because PVC is flexible Azek trimboards can be flexed and shaped around curves avoiding any cutting and providing a cleaner finished look to archways.

As I indicated early Azek trimboards can be cut using standards saws with carbide tips and be fastened using standard hammers or nail guns. As with all exterior trimboards they can be fastened using stainless steel or hot dipped galvanized ring nails. They can also be glued together with special PVC glues that are readily available.

Pre-drilling holes is not required, but can be done using standard drill bits; however as with all power cutting tools the blades should be sharp to avoid excessive frictional heat build up.
Azek trimboards can also be routed using standard carbide routing bits. Routing edges are left clean and as crisp as the rest of the material.

Azek trimboards have been designed to look and feel like standard premium grade lumber and are available in either smooth or rough finish.


Azek trimboards are expensive. They can be up to 2 times the cost of traditional woods. However the cost is justified by the fact that maintenance is not required and that the entire product can be utilized. Again, with wood trim boards; there are frequently knots, cracks or split ends that prevent the full use of the lumber which results in effective higher linear costs per foot.

About the Author: Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit and Readmore »»

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ceramic Tile Flooring and Thinset Mortar

By Mark J. Donovan

When installing ceramic tile flooring, you should use a thinset mortar versus an organic mastic adhesive. Though mastic comes ready-made and is easy to use, it does not stand up to the rigors required of ceramic tile flooring, even Type 1 Mastic.

Thinset mortar basically consists of Portland cement, sand and methylcellulose. The methylcellulose is used to slow the curing process to enable the tiles to be set.

The thinset mortar requires mixing with water and sometimes an acrylic latex additive if additional bonding strength is required. It is much more durable than even Type 1 Mastic, and is ideal for water prone areas.

There are a number of thinset mortar manufacturers and products. I would suggest staying away from the fast setting thinset mortars unless you are well familiar with the process of installing ceramic tile flooring.

You should read the instructions on the thinset mortar package to determine the right ratio mixture of water and thinset, however here are a few basic tips:

  • The thinset mortar should be mixed with cold/cool water until there are no lumps and the consistency is creamy smooth.
  • Warm water should not be used, as this will accelerate the setting time of the mortar.
  • After the thinset mortar has been properly mixed it should be allowed to sit for 5-10 minutes to allow it to slake. (The slaking action allows the mortar to stiffen up a bit as the chemical bonding additives begin to work.)
When installing ceramic tile flooring mix up only enough thinset mortar for about 30-60 minutes of ceramic tile installation.

One 50 pound bag of thinset mortar will cover an area of approximately 75-100 square feet, using a ¼” or 3/8” square notched trowel.

When installing the ceramic tile flooring, make sure you wipe away the thinset mortar from around the edge of the tiles using a slightly damp rag or a toothbrush. Otherwise, you will either spend an inordinate amount of time scraping away the thinset mortar after it dries or have the mortar visible as it pokes out around the grout lines.

If you are planning to use a light color grout you should use white thinset mortar, and if you are planning to use a dark grout color you should use a gray thinset mortar.

After installing the ceramic tile flooring allow 24-48 hours for the mortar to set up thoroughly.

For information on installing a shower pan membrane liner, see the Shower Pan Membrane Liner Installation EBook from The Shower Pan Membrane Liner EBook will quickly teach you the step-by-step process for installing the shower pan membrane liner correctly. It includes instructions on framing the shower stall, pouring the pre-slope and shower base mortar, and installing the shower pan membrane liner.

About the Author: Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes. His projects have included: building a vacation home, building additions and garages on to existing homes, and finishing unfinished homes. For more home improvement information visit and Readmore »»