Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Housing Slump Continues

By Mark J. Donovan

The U.S. housing market is still in trouble. Though new home sales increased in March, the increase was half of what industry analysts were expecting.

The Commerce Department reported yesterday that new single family home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 858,000 units in March. This figure is 2.6 percent higher than February which was the slowest month in the past 7 years, and left the sales pace 23.5% lower than a year ago.

This report follows a day after a report came out that existing home sales fell 8.4% in March, the biggest drop seen in 18 years.

If you are a seller the only positive nugget out of this news is that home prices rose in March 6.4% to a medium price of $254,000. The northeast region of the country slanted this data due to the fact that home sales in this are were the strongest and they usually command higher prices.

Analysts believe the major contributor to the housing slump is the increase in mortgage foreclosures. Readmore »»

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Are Green Homes the Future in Home Building?

By Mark J. Donovan

More and more frequently I read that the “green home” is the way of the future in the home building industry. With just a fraction of 1% of the homes today being green, I’m not so sure, however. It maybe 20 to 30 years from now, but I question the assertion that in the next decade that 50% of the homes will be green homes. Unless of course the phrase “green home” is redefined. Similar to how pork is described today as the other “white meat”.

A green home is a home that is designed and built to use less water and energy and is constructed using recycled materials. To be certified as a green home, the home usually needs to be less than 2500 sqft in total living area. There are a number of organizations around the country that specify what qualifies as a green home or green material. Some of the organizations include the EPA’s Energy Star program, Environments for Living, and HealthyBuilt Homes. These organizations rate homes on a point or star system. A green home, for example, with a 5 star rating is considered to be at the highest level of green conformance.

To qualify as a green home, a home needs to incorporate several key features. First, it must be a tight house so that there is little to no air leakage inside or out. Second the home needs to be insulated with green insulation material that also has a high insulation value, e.g. rigid foam insulation that does not outgas. Third, air conditioning and air duct work has to be sized properly for the house. Basically the air conditioning system needs to be highly efficient and minimized to no more than what the home really needs. Fourth, the home has to employ water and electricity conservation techniques.

Green home proponents claim the cost of building a green home is only 3 to 5% higher than existing home building costs. Again, I question these numbers. Typically a green home is a custom home, and a custom home usually has much higher material and construction costs than a standard home.

The green home is without question an excellent goal, however I think the residential home building industry will be slower to move in this direction than its proponents think. Home costs continue to represent a higher percentage of homeowner’s income, and as a result the green home will be out of reach and unaffordable for many. Unless the government provides significantly higher incentives for builders and homeowners to make and buy these homes, the green home will remain in the category of windmills and solar energy. Neat ideas that have yet to become viable market opportunities. Readmore »»

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Home Depot Introduces its own line of Micro Homes

By Mark J. Donovan

Apparently the Katrina cottage is gaining popularity throughout the country. Initally Lowes developed these micro-homes for displaced residents of the New Orleans area. However, national interest and demand is growing for these micro-homes. So much so that Home Depot has just announced its line of Katrina cottages.

Both Lowes and Home Depot plan on offering plans and building materials for these micro homes. Each offer a variety of plans for homes between 500-1000 sqft, with a price tag of between $25,000 and $50,000.

With large stick built home building costs well exceeding $100 per sqft, the micro home just may be the future in affordable housing, particularly as lot sizes shrink in populated areas. Readmore »»

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Install Baseboard Trim Video

In this video Mark Donovan of walks you through the process of removing and replacing a section of baseboard trim. He covers everything from removing the old damage baseboard trim to installing the new baseboard trim piece. He also shows how to caulk and paint it.

Readmore »»

Monday, April 16, 2007

Taping and Mudding Drywall Video

By Mark J. Donovan

In this video Mark Donovan of steps through the process of taping and mudding drywall.

Readmore »»

Friday, April 13, 2007

Who Pays when the Wrong Materials are Ordered for Your Custom Home

By Mark J. Donovan

So what do you do when the lumberyard shows up with the wrong windows and doors and insists that they are for your new custom home? Do you accept delivery? Who do you call to resolve the mistake? Who pays for the mistake? Sometimes all the players do, the lumberyard, the framing crew and even you? Unfortunately it is the price that you sometimes pay when being your own general contractor for your custom home. To learn more about how to avoid this nasty situation see “Who pays when the Wrong Windows are Ordered”. Readmore »»

Monday, April 9, 2007

Replacing a Pull Chain Light Switch Fixture Video

By Mark J. Donovan

In this video, Mark Donovan, of walks you through the process of replacing a pull chain light switch fixture.

Inevitably pull strings on pull chain light switch fixtures break, even when you treat them with care. When the inevitable occurs, it is easier and cheaper to replace the entire pull chain light switch fixture than it is to attempt to fix just the pull string itself.

Readmore »»

Central Vacuum System Video

By Mark J. Donovan

In this video, Mark Donovan, of reviews central vacuum systems.

If you are in need of a new vacuum cleaner for the home, take a look at a central vacuum system before purchasing another canister or upright vacuum cleaner.

A central vacuum system offers numerous advantages over canister and upright vacuum cleaners. They are light weight, extremely quiet and offer significantly more suction compared to canister and upright vacuum cleaners. And contrary to what you may have thought, they can easily be installed in existing homes, without having to tear up your walls.

Readmore »»

Power Washer and Cleaning Home Siding Video

By Mark J. Donvoan

When it comes to removing dirt and mold from your home's siding nothing beats a gas powered pressure washer. Gas powered pressure washers can pump out water at up to several thousands PSIs enabling you to strip away mold and mildew that you would not otherwise be able to do by hand.

In this video, Mark Donovan of reviews the basics of power pressure washers and the benefits they offer in cleaning home siding.

Readmore »»

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Making Mitered Cuts Video

By Mark J. Donovan

How to make Mitered Cuts when Installing door or Window Trim

The key to installing door or window trim successfully starts with making perfect mitered cuts, or more specifically creating seamless window and door trim joints.

In this video, Mark Donovan of steps you through the process of making the perfect mitered cut.

For more information on installing Window and Door trim see's Installing Interior Window Ebook and Installing Interior Door Trim Ebook. These Ebooks are loaded with pictures and provide easy to understand, step-by-step instructions, on how to install interior window and door trim. Readmore »»

Friday, April 6, 2007

Toilet Bolt snap-On Cover Installation Video

Mark J. Donovan

Mark Donovan of steps you through the process of installing Toilet Bolt Snap-On Covers.

If your toilet's bolt covers are designed to just lay on top of the toilet bolts, most likely you frequently find them laying around the bathroom floor or in your dog's mouth. Exposed brown looking toilet bolts can make your toilet and your bathroom look unsightly. Toilet Bolt Snap-On covers are inexpensive and easy to install. They ensure the toilet bolt stays covered and guarantees a more finished looking toilet base.

Readmore »»

Sewage Ejector Pump Up Systems Video

By Mark J. Donovan

Mark Donovan of reviews the basic functions of a Sewer Ejector Pump Up System and provides tips on the installation procedures and costs associated with installing one.

If you are planning a basement remodeling project that includes a bathroom and/or laundry room, and the basement sits below the level of your main sewer or septic lines then you will need a sewer ejector pump up system and want to watch this video.

Readmore »»

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Pressure Washers are Ideal for Cleaning Home Siding

By Mark J. Donovan

Removing dirt, mold and mildew from your home siding can be done by hand with an ordinary brush, a bucket of soapy water and a lot of elbow grease.

But a much faster and better way is with a pressure washer. A pressure washer is the ideal tool for removing tough dirt, mold and mildew from your home’s siding.

What is a Pressure Washer?

  • It is a hand held device that outputs a stream of jet water at a very high pressure.
  • Typically the output water pressure rate is between 1500 to 3500 psi.
  • There are a variety of types on the market; however there are 2 major types, electric and gas powered.

I prefer the gas powered as they available with higher output nozzle pressures and do not require an electrical wire to be dragged around the home which can create a safety issue. Water hoses and Electricity don’t mix well. Not to mention, they it is just another line to drag behind the pressure washer.

Pressure washers come with a varitye of nozzle types to provide for different output water pressures.

They are typically used in a variety of cleaning applications including, removing dirt off homes, driveways, decks, patios, cars and boats.

A gas pressure washer costs in the range of $200-500. Electric Pressure washers cost in the range of $100 to $300. Both types are portable and are usually pulled along on wheels. All they require is a water hose and a source of power, gas for the gas types and electricity for the electric versions.

Using a Power Washer

When cleaning a house, stand about 10 feet away from the home when using the power washer. Aim the spray nozzle in a downward angle to the home siding when spraying to prevent water from penetrating up and behind the siding. Also avoid spraying electrical boxes or windows as you could cause an electrical short or damage the windows. When using cleaning detergents make sure you completely rinse it off the home, as the chemicals left on the home could damage it.


Pressure washers output a water stream that can punch a hole through siding and remove paint off a deck. Consequently they can be dangerous. Eye protection and proper work clothes should be worn when using one.

Power Washers are a great time and elbow saver, and are well worth the investment. Check one out at your local home improvement store and good luck cleaning your home siding.

For more information on Power Washers see our Video on "Power Washers and Cleaning Home Siding".

Readmore »»

Monday, April 2, 2007

Tiling over Vinyl applied to a Concrete Floor

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: I have an old vinyl non-cushioned floor with no asbestos. It has a slight texture and is securely stuck to the concrete slab floor. The floor appears to be smooth with no bumps etc, however there are a few holes in the vinyl. I am redoing my kitchen and am considering installing ceramic tile, porcelain tile or possibly some kind of natural stone tile directly over this vinyl floor. Is this possible and do you have any suggestions?

Answer: In general you should try to remove the old vinyl if at all possible, however I know from personal experience that this can be extremely difficult. This said, in some cases tiling over vinyl is possible.

A couple of important points: Tile is very rigid and thus will not flex without breaking. If the vinyl flooring has a great deal of resiliency/flexibility in it, the tiles could crack. Also, if the vinyl is not securely fastened to the concrete floor, then the tiles again could break or lift up.

If the existing vinyl is securely fastened to the concrete slab, and the vinyl itself has limited compressibility, then you will probably be okay to install the tiles over the vinyl. The original vinyl should be removed if either one of these conditions are not the case.

If the vinyl is a non-cushioned type and is securely fastened to the concrete slab, you can probably get away with installing the tile directly over the vinyl.

Finally, make sure you use the tile manufacturers recommended adhesive or bonding agent for vinyl surfaces. Readmore »»