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 HomeAdditionPlus.com. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cutting Rafters Easily and Efficiently

One of the most time consuming tasks in homebuilding can be the cutting of a roof. In some cases it can take as long to cut and frame the roof as it does to frame the rest of the house. It can also require a lot of space to get the job done. It is in ones best interests to plan ahead during the course of construction to be ready when it comes time to cut the roof.

Whether the roof be a simple gable roof or a complex roof with multiple hips and valleys you want to be able to cut more than one rafter at a time. Sawhorses become a valuable commodity during the roof cutting phase of construction. Cutting a half dozen or more rafters is what you want to try for. To achieve this there are a few options available to the roof cutter.
If you only have one set of horses, nail an eight foot 2x4 flat to the top of them. This will allow you to mark and cut six or more rafters depending on their width.

The second option is to use two pair of sawhorses. Just like the previous option, nail a 2x4 flat over the top of two horses. In this instance you are not limited to an eight foot 2x4. You can use an 8, 10, 12, or even a 16' 2x4 depending on how much room you have to work in.

The third option is to make your own sawhorses out of a 2x10. Put legs on it just like a normal sawhorse. Again, your only limitation is what you have available for length of 2x10 and how much room you have to work.

Another time saver is to make a rafter pattern. To do this, pick the straightest piece if lumber you can find from the rafter material. Once you have determined the length of your rafter from the plumb cut to the birdsmouth, the depth of the birdsmouth, and the length of the rafter tail, transfer this information to the material. After you have marked all of this on the 2x, carefully and accurately cut the rafter. This is going to be your pattern for the rest of the rafters so you want to be precise with your cuts.

The next move is to nail stops to the top of the pattern. Cut two pieces of plywood about 6" long by 2 1/2" wide. Nail one to the top of the 2x about 2" from the plumb cut, letting it hang over both edges of the 2x one half inch. Nail the other piece just above the birdsmouth. You now have a pattern to mark the rest of your rafters without having to measure each and every one of them.

When you are ready to start cutting the rafters, lay as many boards on the horse as you can and have enough room for the saw to fit in between each one. When laying the boards on the horses, have all the crowns pointing in the same direction (When looking down a board while flat most boards are bowed one way or the other. The convex side would be the crown). Take the pattern and lay it on top of each board with the plywood stops resting on the crowned edge and mark them.

You are now ready to cut rafters. When making your cuts, cut the pencil line. Cut the plumb cut first and then move to the birdsmouth and tail. Depending on how many rafters you are cutting you may have to slide them back and forth so you are not reaching over to far to make your cuts with the saw. When cutting the birdsmouth it is okay to over cut it to totally remove the material.

Homebuilding and cutting rafters can be a dangerous job. Always exercise caution and safety when framing or using a skilsaw.

Mike Merisko (C) 2006
www.sawkerfs.com

About the Author: Mike Merisko has been a carpenter for 26 years. Most of those years were spent in the homebuilding and remodeling industries. He was also in business as a carpentry and general contractor. While that is his forte, he also has experience in bridge building, commercial construction, and exhibit building which is how he earns his living these days. You can browse through articles by him and others at his website http://www.sawkerfs.com/ or visit his blog at http://www.sawkerfs.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Outdoor Kitchens – A Design Concept with Merit

Outdoor Kitchen Designs and Plans

By Mark J. Donovan

A neighbor of mine is in the process of completing a new home. I was surprised to see that the design included an outdoor kitchen. At first my reaction was, “boy, this is overkill”, but after thinking about it I began to see some value. An outdoor kitchen allows you the ability to stay where the action is when you are having a summer party by the pool or waterfront. It affords you the opportunity to fully enjoy the outdoors during the consumption and the preparation of the meal. And it also is a great way to keep your indoor kitchen and your house cleaner during parties. If you have kids you know what I mean. When company comes there is a constant flow of little feet running from the pool to the kitchen to grab sodas and food.

Though there are more upsides to the concept of an outdoor kitchen design than I initially thought, I do however think there are a few design considerations that should be considered before going down the path of an outdoor kitchen.

The first outdoor kitchen design consideration is how, if at all, will the outdoor kitchen be sheltered. Will it sit in a screened in porch area, or on a patio with a roof? My suggestion is that the outdoor kitchen design should include a semi sheltered enclosure, e.g. with a roof and at least two sidewalls for the appliances and countertops to sit up against. This will at least ensure some shelter from the weather elements, which will increase the longevity of the appliances and work area.

The second outdoor kitchen design consideration is the gas or charcoal grill. The grill is the focal point of your outdoor kitchen so you should not skimp in this area, both in terms of size and cost. Grills can range in price from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

You need to consider both the size and location of where the grill will reside. Grills typically come in widths from 24” to 60”, pending if there is a side burner attached to it. Their depths can range from 15” to 24” in depth. The grill should be positioned so that countertop space can be installed on either side of it.

If you are not considering a hood to vent out the smoke, then you will want to position the grill near the edge of the roof structure of the outdoor kitchen. Otherwise, smoke will get trapped in the kitchen area. You also should consider prevailing winds for the placement of the grill, as you will want to prevent smoke from blowing in your guests’ faces.

The third consideration is the choice of cabinets and countertops. As my neighbor did, I would consider using stainless steel for both. They are resistant to corrosion or rust, and easy to clean. Granite or Ceramic Tile countertops, over lightweight concrete cabinet systems, may also work well as they too are relatively impervious to weather conditions.

The forth consideration is appliances. Again, I would recommend stainless steel appliances, including the grill/range and refrigerator. I would forgo the dishwasher in an outdoor kitchen design. Instead add a stainless steel sink to the outdoor kitchen design. Why not make the outdoor kitchen experience complete by having to clean up dishes by hand! Frequently only cold water is run to outdoor kitchens, so cleaning dishes outside may not be practical. If, however, the outdoor kitchen is connected to the main house, then running hot water to the outdoor kitchen may be something to consider.

I would also consider situating the outdoor kitchen near the area where your guests and family will be expected to be during parties and functions. It should also be near the outdoor eating area. Otherwise, the outdoor kitchen will not serve its main purpose – keeping you where the action is.

Electricity, Gas and any other utilities will need to be brought to the outdoor kitchen area. Frequently digging a single trench and separating and shrouding the utilities in separate steel or plastic conduit is satisfactory. However, you will need to check with local building codes to ensure this is done properly to your area. In addition, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters will be required for the electricity.

Outdoor kitchens are expanding in popularity. Even in colder climates. The only limitation in colder climates is the length of the season(s) they can be used. As cold weather approaches, plumbing pipes will need to be drained and refrigerators turned off and emptied. Other than that they are low maintenance. So as you plan for your next home, consider an outdoor kitchen and increase your home’s outdoor pleasure.

For more help on remodeling your kitchen, see HomeAdditionPlus.com’s Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet will help ensure that your kitchen remodeling project goes smoothly and you get the finished kitchen you are looking for. In addition, it will help to ensure that your remodeled kitchen will be accomplished on time and on budget.

About the Author: By Mark J. Donovan. 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 Readmore »»

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ceramic Tile Subfloor Preparation

Tiling over Concrete and Wood Subfloors

By Mark J. Donovan

Tile Subfloor preparation is critical for a quality ceramic tile installation job. In general, tile Subfloor preparation includes insuring a stable and level subfloor that is free from dirt, dust and any type of chemicals that could prevent proper bonding between the ceramic tile and the subfloor.

Tiling over Concrete Subfloor

In general a cement or concrete subfloor is the best surface for installing ceramic tile. However, the concrete floor needs to be flat and level and free from any type of chemicals that could prevent a proper bonding between the ceramic tile and the concrete surface. If there are any paints or sealers on the concrete it needs to be removed. There are floor strippers, floor scrapers and abrasive scouring agents that you can purchase from any home improvement store to help aid in this process.

Also, if the concrete floor is new, the installation of ceramic tile should be delayed for 1 month to allow full curing of the concrete. The moisture levels in concrete must be low (below 16%) for proper bonding of tile. If chemicals were used in the curing process of the concrete then the concrete may be unsuitable for directly applying ceramic tiles.

If the concrete floor is not level or a chemical was used in the curing process you may need to apply a leveling agent to the concrete floor. You can test the concrete for chemical additives by dropping a few drops of water on the concrete. If it pools up and does not absorb into the concrete then a chemical was more than likely used. Talk with your local ceramic tile dealer to determine what leveling agent is most appropriate for the ceramic tile job.

Finally, if the concrete floor is extremely smooth you may need to rough it up with an abrasive scouring material to ensure a solid bond between the ceramic tile and concrete floor.

Tiling over Wood Subfloor

Tiling directly over a wood subfloor is usually inadequate. Typically a house has only a ¾” layer of tongue and groove plywood as the sublayer. For proper ceramic tile installation you should first add at least another ½” layer of exterior grade plywood on top of the subfloor. The plywood should be screwed or nailed down every 6-8” throughout the entire surface area of the subfloor.

Luan, interior grade plywood, OSB, should not be used as the additional sublayer material.

If there are already sufficient layers of subfloor wood material, make sure the subfloor is level. If it is not, use a leveling agent to level out the area.

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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How to Hire the Right Home Builder

What to look for when Hiring a Custom Home Builder

By Mark J. Donovan

One of the most important aspects to consider when undertaking a new home building project is deciding on whom to hire as your home builder. However for many, just finding a home builder to even bid on the home building project can be difficult and confusing.

The best way to start is by word of mouth. Talk to your friends, family or neighbors who have recently undertaken a new or custom home building project. Find out what home builders they used and if they would recommend them.

Real Estate agents are another great resource for finding local home builders. Real estate agents frequently work with builders on new home developments or custom home building projects. They can tell you who to work with and who to stay away from. In addition, they may even be able to get you into some of the finished homes built by the home builders they are recommending. They are more than willing to do this as they may generate an immediate sale, or at a minimum demonstrate goodwill to one of their affiliate home builders which could payoff for them in the long run.

Another alternative for finding a new home builder is to use the services of ServiceMagic or NeedContractor. These two companies are becoming increasingly popular as a resource for find home building contractors for all types of trades, including; framing, electric, plumbing, roofing, etc.

ServiceMagic and NeedContractor maintain a database of pre-screened and pre-qualified home building contractors. For a contractor to qualify to be a member of one of these firms they must go through a rigorous review process, including Better Business Bureau checks, licensing checks, and previous customer reference checks.

The advantage of these companies is that you do not have to pay for their services. Instead, the contractors pay membership fees to them. All you need to do to take advantage of their services is complete a simple on-line form that describes your project, budget and timeframe. They will then notify one or more of their membership contractors located in your area, which will then get directly in touch with you. From that point forward you evaluate them for your specific project.

Before you hire a new home builder there are many important questions and tasks that need to be completed first. There are the simple questions such as are they available to work on your home building project, and are they skilled in the particular type of home you are looking to build. Then there are the reference checks and the site visits of their previous projects.

If the initial research on your prospective new home builders are favorable, then its time to start the bidding/quotation phase. After you provide them with either a description or blue prints of your home building project, they need to develop a formal bid (quote) for your project, including the total cost, payment schedule, building time-line schedule, material types to be utilized, and who they plan on using for subcontractors (if any). To simplify the bidding process you may want to consider HomeAdditionPlus.com's New Home Construction bid sheets. The bid sheets include a standard bid sheet form that you can provide to all of your prospective new home builder contractors. This sheet helps to level the playing field.

Once you have received the bids its time to evaluate them. It is during this time that great care has to be given in the review process. Not all contractors are the same and not all materials are the same. Consequently bids can vary widely. This is where a little pre home construction knowledge on your part can ensure you get the new home or home addition you are looking for. In addition to HomeAdditionPlus.com's New Home Construction Bid sheets providing standard bid sheet forms, they also include information to the homeowner on what to look for and stay away from in terms of materials and contract services. In addition, they provide estimated costs and time intervals for the various aspects of the new home construction project.

After reviewing the bids from the prospective home builders, narrow your selection down to just a couple. Follow up with them and have a face to face meeting to go over the bid, reviewing any questions you may have with them or the bid. Question them on specifics of their bid, and where there is initial disagreement see if there is compromise on the prospective builder's part.

Determine which one appears to be most willing to work with you and is the most responsive to your needs. The home builder most willing to work with you, and that overall meets your budget and timeframe objectives, is probably the appropriate fit for your home building project.

With the selection of your home builder complete, you can now move on to the numerous material and appliance selection process. Readmore »»

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Building a Family Room Addition

Besides providing your home with more living space, building a family room addition can be a terrific investment. However, before embarking on building a family room addition the homeowner should first consider several important items. These items include: home market values in the neighborhood, financing, home building costs, family room plans (size and scale of project), architecture, timetable for completion, personal disruption/inconvenience threshold and the sweat equity commitment level.

Size of Family Room Addition and Market Value
Prior to actually breaking ground on a family room addition, it is best to first have a plan. You need to determine what you are looking for in terms of additional living space. For example: How many square feet? What types of rooms? Once this is understood, it is then important to find out the market value of homes in the local area with similar size and features to the new and improved home. With this information the homeowner can then calculate the difference between their current home market value and the new and improved home market value. This difference should represent the maximum cost budget for the new addition if a positive investment is desired. For example, a homeowner would not want to spend $40,000 on a new family room addition that provides only $20,000 in increased market value to the improved home.

Financing the Family Room Addition
The next important question involves how to fund the cost of the family room addition. Unless the project is being funded via cash/savings then financing will be required. If current mortgage rates are higher than the existing mortgage, then a home equity loan will probably make the most sense. If current mortgage rates are lower than the existing mortgage, then refinancing the entire home, including the cost of the family room addition project, may make the most sense.

Architectural Considerations of the Family Room Addition
Once the financial items have been addressed it is then time to focus on the size and scale of the project, as well as the architectural and aesthetics of the new family room addition. The family room addition should be of size and scale such that it aesthetically melds into the original house. It should not be too small or too big. Frequently, homeowners get carried away and add large amounts of new living space without sufficient thought on the outside appearance. From a market value, there is more to a home than just pure living space. A home needs to maintain its exterior aesthetics as well. It is important to consider such items as siding, doors, windows, rooflines, and elevations. All should meld into the existing home exterior seamlessly and aesthetically.

If an architect is not planned for the project, then the homeowner should at least make some sketches of the home exterior with the new addition. The building inspector will probably require them anyways during the permit process. Also, there are many Home Design software packages on the market today that can help create such drawings.

Schedule and Sweat Equity Commitment
The next two items that should be considered include the timetable for completing the project and the homeowner sweaty equity commitment level. Many homeowners assume they can do a lot more than they are either skilled to do or have the time to do. From personal experience, I would suggest contracting out the site/ground work, rough framing, roofing, siding, heating/cooling, and the drywall. All of these tasks require skill, time and brawn. If local laws permit, electric and plumbing may be tackled by the homeowner. However, both require skill and can be life threatening if not performed properly. Other tasks that a homeowner could tackle include installing interior doors, finish trim, painting, cabinet installation, tiling and hardwood flooring. Prior to a homeowner signing up to any specific task however, they should first honestly assess their skill and available time, and compare them to their project schedule. If they don’t match, hire the contractor.

Threshold of Inconvenience and Disruption
Finally, a homeowner should consider their threshold for inconvenience and disruption. A family room addition, particularly if it involves the kitchen, is very disruptive to today’s busy lifestyles. It is also a dusty, dirty and noisy endeavor. In addition, dealing with subcontractors can be challenging at best. For a typical family room addition anticipate several months of effort and inconvenience.

If after assessing all these issues you are still willing to move forward with the project, contact your subcontractors, pull your permits and get ready for an exciting time. For most homeowners building a family room addition is a positive experience that provides both new living space and a great investment.

For more help on building a family room addition, see HomeAdditionPlus.com's Room Addition Bid sheet. The Room Addition Bid Sheet will help ensure that your room addition project goes smoothly and is completed on time and budget.

About the Author: By Mark J. Donovan. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Friday, August 11, 2006

Installing House Siding

How to Install Cedar or Masonite Home Siding

Your home’s exterior siding can make or break the appearance of your house, however there are many different types of house sidings to choose from. In addition, installing house siding on your own is frequently dependent upon your handyman skill levels as well as the type of house siding you plan to install.

Vinyl siding is installed on more than 50% of new homes today as it is easy to install, low maintenance and inexpensive. Vinyl house siding comes in many different colors, textures and gauge thicknesses. Though vinyl home siding is lightweight, easy to cut, and can be secured with hammer and nails, there is some craftsmanship required to install it properly. Thus, do it yourself vinyl house siding should be limited to the more experienced DIY homeowner.

There are even more wood based house siding products to choose from than vinyl. Wood based house sidings include, but are not limited to Cedar siding, Masonite siding, and log and pine siding. Most DIY homeowners with basic carpentry skills, and a little up front knowledge, can install wood home siding products themselves. The tools required to install wood based siding products, such as Cedar or Masonite siding are typical of what most homeowners already have in their homes. One suggestion, if you are planning to use wood siding, buy wood siding that is already primed, otherwise allow time to prime the material first (both sides) before you install it.

There are also other home siding materials to choose from including Aluminum siding and Cement board home siding. Aluminum siding, however, has waned in popularity over the years, as it dents easily and is difficult to repair. Also it requires unique craftsmanship skills to be installed correctly. Cement board home siding, on the other hand, is rapidly increasing in popularity due to its low maintenance, durability and appearance. However, it does require more expensive equipment to install, including diamond tip saw blades and pneumatic nail guns.
In this article we focus on installing Cedar or Masonite house siding.


Tools Required:

  • Table Saw
  • Chop Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Hammer
  • Chalk Line
  • Carpenters Knife
  • Compass
  • Square
  • Measuring Tape
  • Ladders/Staging
Preparing for Installation of House Siding

Installing house siding starts with a home that is trimmed out and has been wrapped in a plastic moisture barrier. The plastic moisture barrier helps to prevent heat loss while enabling moisture to pass through. The trim includes all outside soffits, exterior corner and base trim.

Drip flashing should also be installed above all doors and windows and on top of all base trim. The drip flashing, usually made out of aluminum in a z like pattern, rests on top of the door/window/base trim and rises up about 1 inch and is secured to the external house sheathing with nails.

Establishing chalk lines for the Siding Clapboards

Once the trim, moisture barrier and flashing are installed, horizontal chalk lines should be snapped every 3.5 to 4.5” inches up the length of the exterior wall. These lines represent the reveal or width of the exposed siding clapboards.

The establishment of the chalk lines should be started at the base of the house and progress upwards towards the roof. Make sure that the lines are level; otherwise you will wind up with slanting clapboards.

The clapboards should be installed relative to these snapped lines.

Installing the House Siding Clapboards

A small spacer board should first be installed where the bottom clapboard row will reside. The spacer board is a 1” ripped length of clapboard. Use the thinner/upper portion of the clapboard for creating the spacer board. This will help to create a slant that will naturally occur with the other clapboard layers that lie above it.

Start the installation of the clapboards at the bottom of the exterior house wall and work your way upwards towards the roof. The clapboards should be cut to length leaving approximately 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch (on each side) for expansion.

Note: the bottom clapboard will rest on top of the drip flashing that curls over the edge of the base trim, and over the spacer board.

Clapboards should be nailed using galvanized or stainless steal ring nails. Nails should be installed every 16 inches along the top and bottom of the entire length of the clapboard, making sure the nails are secured into wall studs. The nails should be secured into the clapboards about 1 inch from the top and bottom of the clapboard. Done properly, only the bottom nail will be visible in the finished product.

When you get to the final course of clapboard near the roof, you will need to rip the clapboard (cut along its length) to the appropriate width. Note: Be sure to measure and cut such that you remove the top of the clapboard, otherwise your top clapboard will have an uneven thickness relative to all of the others pieces installed.

To dress up the top clapboard, install a small trim board (e.g. ¾ x ¾ inch trim piece) up against the top of the clapboard and the bottom of the soffit. This will help hide any unevenness that may exist due to the rip cut or imperfections in the soffit line.

Installing House Siding around Obstructions

As you install the siding you will run into mechanical and electrical obstructions, such as vents, pipes and electrical boxes and conduits. Sometimes it is best to cut the siding such that the seam is centered on the obstruction. Other times, it may make more sense to cut out for an opening on larger lengths of clapboard house siding.

Siding around Doors and Windows

As with other obstructions, if you need to make cuts, it is best to create a seam that is centered over the window and door versus near the edge. It is more pleasing to the eye and will give a more finished looking product.

If you have arched doors and windows employ the use of a compass to score a line that matches the curve of the door/window with the specific clapboard piece. Cut this edge first, and then make sure the curve of the clapboard cut matches the curve of the door/window. Then cut the other edge of the clapboard to the appropriate length.

Final Thoughts

Installing house siding takes time and it works best with two people, one for measuring and nailing, and the other for making the cuts. When installing house siding, you can never measure and check your lines enough. The worst thing you can do is to install house siding in a haphazard way. You do not want to wind up with clapboard lines that are crooked. Again, house siding will make or break your home’s exterior appearance. Take time to consider what house siding is right for your home and take your time if you plan on installing it yourself.

For further help in hiring a home remodeling contractor for your next home remodeling project visit HomeAdditionPlus' Home Addition Bid Sheets. Home Addition Bid Sheets include the tools and information you need to ensure you hire the right home remodeling contractor for you home remodeling project. Each bid sheet contains a comprehensive checklist of questions to ask prospective contractors, as well as cost and timeframe estimates. Home Addition Bid Sheets help ensure that your home remodeling project will be accomplished on time and on budget.

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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Thursday, August 10, 2006

DIY Shower Pan Plumbing Installation

The Installation of a Shower Pan Liner

Custom showers can be built using standard stud material and backerboard for the walls, and either a prefabricated base or a custom shower pan base.

Though a prefabricated base can save you money and time, it typically is constructed out of a fiberglass material and is not designed to support ceramic tile. Many homeowners today prefer the complete ceramic tile shower. A DIY homeowner can tackle the installation of a shower pan and the associated drain plumbing with a little education and willingness.

It is important to understand that ceramic tile showers, by themselves, are not water proof. They are only water resistant. Thus it is imperative to properly install a shower pan and the associated drain plumbing to ensure a leak proof custom shower.

The shower pan liner is a made out of a flexible PVC material that can easily be formed into the base of a custom shower unit. It is sandwiched between two layers of mortar that are pre-sloped towards the shower pan plumbing drain.

Ceramic tile is secured to the mortar based floor and the backerboard shower walls such that water that may permeate the tile or grout lines drains down to the liner which then empties out into the shower pan drain plumbing.

For more information on installing a shower pan membrane liner, see the Shower Pan Membrane Liner Installation EBook from www.HomeAdditionPlus.com. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Tiling a Shower Stall Starts with a Shower Pan

Building a Custom Ceramic Tile Shower

The most important feature in a ceramic tile shower stall is the shower pan. The shower pan channels water to the drain and prevents the shower from leaking. Consequently it is critical that the shower pan be installed correctly and that it is waterproof and durable.

The shower pan is actually a mortar bed consisting of a flexible shower pan liner sandwiched between two layers of mortar. The shower stall walls are framed with 2x4 studding and faced with some type of backerboard underlayment designed for receiving ceramic tile.

The installation of a shower pan starts with the spreading of a layer of mortar. The mortar needs to be sloped properly to enable water to run off towards the drain. The flexible plastic shower pan membrane liner is then installed on top of the sloped mortar bed.

The shower pan membrane liner should be cut to size and hand molded into the shower base.
Note: The shower pan should be cut to size such that several extra inches of shower pan material can be run up the shower stall side walls to enable the shower pan to be secured with nails to the studs. Also, the shower pan should be installed prior to the installation of backerboard on the shower walls.

After the shower pan membrane is secured, the second layer of mortar should be installed in the base of the shower, again maintaining the slope of the mortar towards the drain.
Once the shower pan mortar bed has set up, you can install the backerboard to the walls and begin to install the ceramic tiles.

Start the installation of tiles in the center of the shower pan area and work your way outwards.
Next, install ceramic tiles on the walls. Use a plumb line to run straight lines down the length of the walls. Position the plumb line at the ceiling and centered on a wall. Snap the line, so that you have a vertical line running the length of the wall.

Next, Install your tiles outwards from the line toward the edges of the wall. Repeat this process for all the walls.

For tile cutting, a wet saw works best, as you can obtain very accurate cuts and minimize ceramic tile waste.

After the ceramic tile has had 24-48 hours to set up, grout can then be applied to the tile.
Finally a sealer should be used on the grout to minimize moisture seeping through the grout lines.

For more information on installing a shower pan membrane liner, see the Shower Pan Membrane Liner Installation EBook from www.HomeAdditionPlus.com. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com Readmore »»

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

How to Measure for Window Blinds and Window Shades

Window Blinds: Providing Luxury and Functionality to Windows

Window blinds complement a window both in terms of appearance and functionality. Window blinds, or window shades, can complement the interior home d├ęcor by adding shapes and colors to possibly an otherwise boring interior window frame. Window blinds also provide privacy and can reduce lighting within a room. They also reduce UV sunlight helping to preserve carpeting and furniture.

Window blinds and shades come in many different materials and styles. Window blind materials include; many wood varieties, faux wood, aluminum, PVC and fabric. All can come in many different colors and shapes. There are inside window blinds, outside window blinds, vertical window blinds, horizontal window blinds, cellular shades, natural shades, and roller window shades. Many of the various window blinds can be motorized if required.

Inside window blinds reside on the inside of the window frame, whereas outside window blinds secure outside the window frame. Inside windows allow the window frame to be viewed. Outside window blinds allow the homeowner to give the illusion of larger windows within the home.

There are several popular window blind slat widths. The more popular slat widths include 0.5”, 1.0”, 1.5” and 2.0”.

Measuring for Outside Widow Blinds
To measure for outside window blinds, simply measure and note the width of the window frame and add at least 3-4 inches to allow the window blind to overlap the window frame by 1-2 inches on each side. For the height, measure from the required top position of the window blind / shade to the windowsill.

Measuring for Inside Window Blinds
To measure the width for inside window blinds, measure the exact distance between the inside window frame surfaces and note the distance. Perform this measurement at the top, middle and bottom of the window and use the narrowest width. To measure the height for inside window blinds, measure in 3 places from the sill to the top of the opening of the window and use the longest measurement.

A do it yourself homeowner can easily install window blinds and window shades. Typically basic household tools are all that are required (e.g. Screw Driver, pliers).

Warranties vary amongst the various manufacturers, however many offer limited lifetime warranties.

Window blind and window shade manufacturers include; Elden Draperies, Levolor, Zhejiang Orient Creation I/E Co Ltd.

About the Author: By Mark J. Donovan. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Monday, August 7, 2006

The Benefits of Replacement Vinyl Windows

What to look for when buying Replacement Vinyl Windows

Replacement vinyl windows are made from polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC. Replacement vinyl windows are the most popular windows on the market today for home and window remodeling. They are extremely energy efficient and durable, come in many different styles and colors, and are virtually maintenance free.

Replacement vinyl windows are available in a wide variety of styles, sizes and shapes. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to other window options.

Replacement vinyl windows come in double and even triple panes to provide the ultimate in heating / cooling cost saving options. Due to the fact that vinyl (PVC) is a poor conductor of heat and cold, replacement vinyl windows are extremely energy efficient. Replacement vinyl windows are offered in variety of different R-Insulation factor values to provide for various levels of energy efficiency. The higher the R-Factor, the more energy efficient the window is.

Replacement vinyl windows typically cannot be painted, so careful consideration needs to be made when selecting window colors. The long-term advantage of this of course is that replacement windows are low maintenance due to the fact that painting is never required. In regards to cleaning, all that is required is wiping down the windows with soap and water.

Replacement vinyl windows are also scratch resistance, due to the fact that the vinyl color permeates the entire vinyl wall thickness. Vinyl windows are also highly durable, as they are resistant to chipping, corroding, rotting and swelling.

The installation of Replacement vinyl windows is quick and easy. Frequently, a skilled window contractor can install all new vinyl replacement windows in a home within a couple of days. Readmore »»

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Tips on How to Buy a Home Security Alarm System

Do it Yourself Guide for the Best Home Security Monitoring Systems

Without a doubt there are a plethora of new home security systems on the market today that any homeowner can install. Do it yourself home security systems are inexpensive and can be installed within just a matter of hours. The wireless home security monitoring systems are excellent in terms of installation ease for the do it yourself homeowner as little to no wiring is required.

Typically do it yourself wireless home security monitoring systems come with a basic set of home security monitoring devices, including, motion detectors, door and window sensors, and temperature and moisture sensors. In addition the home security system typically has sirens and can call up to several phone numbers automatically when an alarm goes off.

The main home security panel can support many additional sensors than the original set provided in the basic package so expanding your home security system over time is possible. Virtually all wireless home securing monitoring systems include handheld and key chain remote controls.

One of the latest rages in home security is the employment of home security camera systems. The prices for these types of systems have become very affordable and the technology allows you to even have camera feeds downloaded to the internet so that you can view your home at any time and anywhere.

Prices can vary widely, but you can find basic packages for under $200 dollars.

With home security costs now so low, every home should have one.

About the Author: By Mark J. Donovan. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Tips on How to Buy Kitchen Granite Countertops

Considerations when Buying Kitchen Granite Countertops

Granite kitchen countertops are an excellent choice for a kitchen remodeling project. There is nothing on the kitchen countertop market that surpasses the beauty, elegance, functionality and durability of granite kitchen countertops. However, before you decide to buy kitchen granite countertops there are a few things to consider first.

Kitchen Granite Countertop Maintenance

Of all the stones on the market for kitchen countertops granite is the most durable and least porous. This said, however, granite can absorb liquids and can thus stain if not properly and regularly sealed. Typically kitchen granite countertop providers will recommend wiping down the granite with a sealer once every year or so. Before you buy your particular kitchen granite countertop make sure you ask about maintenance.

Kitchen Granite Countertop Costs

Kitchen granite countertop prices are not cheap, but they are affordable for most. Typically you can expect to see kitchen granite countertop costs of $80 to $120 per square foot. This figure includes both the granite and the labor to install them.

Kitchen Granite Countertop Colors

Kitchen granite countertops come in many different colors as the granite is obtained from all over the world. A couple of thoughts when choosing colors: Dark colors can mask the site of crumbs, or puddles of liquids on your countertops. On one hand this may be a good thing. On the other hand, you may wind up laying food on what may not be a clean countertop.

Kitchen Granite Countertop Warranties

Most reputable Kitchen Granite Countertop manufacturers warranty granite countertops for extended periods, with some offering up to 25 year warranties. Make sure you ask about warranties, as this may help determine the quality of granite you are planning to buy.

With these few useful tips on how to buy kitchen granite countertops in mind, you should be able to ensure that you find the right granite countertops for your kitchen remodeling project.

For more help on remodeling your kitchen, see HomeAdditionPlus.com’s Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet will help ensure that your kitchen remodeling project goes smoothly and you get the finished kitchen you are looking for. In addition, it will help to ensure that your remodeled kitchen will be accomplished on time and on budget.

About the Author: By Mark J. Donovan. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Friday, August 4, 2006

Some Useful Kitchen Remodeling Tips and Ideas

Kitchen remodeling is one of the most popular and financially worthwhile home improvement projects you can make. It is considered by many to be the most important room in the house. Consequently it is important that you thoroughly think through what you want in your kitchen remodeling project. Besides the normal considerations such as what type of cabinets, appliances and countertops to install, you should also consider a number of more subtle ideas. Below we discuss some of them.

Lighting

Lighting is extremely important in the kitchen. You need direct work area light as well as indirect lighting. As a result, you should consider installing spot-lights (incandescent or halogen “can” lights) above the countertops where you expect to do the majority of your food preparation. You may also want to consider putting hidden recessed fluorescent lights under and even above the upper cabinets. Indirect lighting should be placed over eating areas.

Garbage Storage and Disposal

A garbage bin sitting next to a wall in a kitchen area is unsightly and not very hygienic. You should consider in your kitchen cabinet design to include a pull out cabinet or a tilt cabinet for storing the garbage bin.

A garbage disposal is a great kitchen sink accessory, and if you are on municipal sewage you should definitely consider installing one in the new kitchen cabinet design, if the original kitchen has not already been wired for it. Note: if your home is on a private septic system, you may not be able to install a garbage disposal in the new remodeled kitchen.

Windows

Windows provide additional indirect lighting as well as enable airflow. Garden windows are a great choice over the kitchen sink area as they allow lots of light into the kitchen and provide a great area for storing plants and other kitchen accessories.

Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are the largest and most expensive aspect of your kitchen remodeling project. It is important to take your time when doing your kitchen design. It is best to work with a professional kitchen designer that can give you specific tips and ideas for your specific kitchen room dimensions and objectives.

It is important not to skimp in terms of quality and features on your cabinets, as they are heavily used and will probably be expected to have a life expectancy of at least 10 years. What does this specifically mean? It means use solid hardwoods for cabinet material. You should also consider other unique features including; glass in cabinet doors, lazy Susans, and slide out drawers.

Kitchen Countertops

There are a lot of choices here. There are the traditional wood laminate countertops as well as Silestone, Granite, and Soapstone countertops. Silestone and granite countertops are the rage today and are comparatively priced. Specific features when designing your kitchen countertops include beveled edges, backsplashes, and colors. Look at all your options for each one of these accent pieces when designing your kitchen countertops.

Kitchen Flooring

Kitchen flooring is also very important in planning your new kitchen remodeling project. Kitchen flooring options include vinyl, linoleum, tile, and wood flooring. Prices vary widely. Vinyl/Linoleum are soft on the feet and relatively inexpensive but do not stand the test of time. Tile flooring in the kitchen has increased in popularity, however care has to be given in selecting the right type, size and style of ceramic tile to minimize concerns for scratching and breakage due to frequent dropping of objects. Hardwood floors are also popular in high-end kitchen remodeling projects. Certain wood flooring products, such as cork, can provide the comfort, durability and even sound proofing that are needed in a good kitchen design.

Also, you may want to consider radiant floor heating in the kitchen. This is highly useful when choosing tile flooring.

For more help on remodeling your kitchen, see HomeAdditionPlus.com’s Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet will help ensure that your kitchen remodeling project goes smoothly and you get the finished kitchen you are looking for. In addition, it will help to ensure that your remodeled kitchen will be accomplished on time and on budget.

About the Author: By Mark J. Donovan. 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 http://www.homeadditionplus.com/ and http://www.homeaddition.blogspot.com/ Readmore »»

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Tips For Finding Best Home Improvement Contractors

Find the right Home Improvement Contractor with Home Addition Bid Sheets.

In today's world the most valuable asset owned by people is their home. And when considering any size home improvement project, protecting this investment should be top priority.

If you are planning for renovating or remodeling your home and facing difficulty in finding the proper contractor, here are some tips to be keep in mind while selecting a contractor for your home improvement project.

How to find a Qualified Contractor:

One source for locating a qualified, experienced contractor is from other people who have had similar remodeling work done. When talking with contractors, request references and take the time to check them out.

Check with a service that keeps track records of various contractors.You can also use online resources and directory for locating a qualified contractor in your area.

You can also use sites like LocalContractorBids.com, where you can submit your project so that contractors can place a bid on your project. After reviewing all the bids you can select the most appropriate one.

Hire only a home improvement contractor with strong referrals and high rankings. Depending on the type of project you are planning, you may need to deal with any of the following professional contractors:

Architects are designers of homes, buildings, and home improvement remodeling projects. You may want to consult one if your project includes new construction or structural changes.

Questions you should ask to Possible Candidates:

How long have you been contracting? What licenses and certifications do you carry? How many projects have you completed in the last year; what were they, and who were they for? How many years you are working on home improvement projects? "What references do you have? Will there be any subcontractors, and if so what are their credentials? What insurance coverage do you have? What permits are required for my project?"

Also check with the appropriate government office to see whether or not there are any unresolved complaints against the contractor before making your final selection.

Call all references and ask questions such as: Was the project completed on time and were you happy with the results? How well did the contractor communicate with you throughout the project? Were there any cost over-runs?

Also ask if the contractor employee's were on time, courteous, and whether or not they cleaned up the home improvement site when they were finished?

About the Author: Sanjay Lute is content writer for the http://localcontractorbids.com/;Visit the site (http://www.localcontractorbids.com/index.php ) for more information about Home Improvement projects Readmore »»