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 »»