Sunday, November 25, 2007

Laser Level Video Review

By Mark J. Donovan

A laser level is an excellent tool for installing chair rail, hanging a dropped ceiling, mounting electrical outlet and switch boxes, and just about anything you could use a level for.

Mark Donovan of reviews a 180 degree laser level. In the video he demonstrates how to use a laser level on a smooth surface, such as drywall, for hanging pictures. He also shows how to use it on a rough surface, such as a framing wall, for installing electrical outlet boxes. In the last segment of the video he shows how to mount the laser level on a tripod to have it beam on multiple walls within a room.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Home Heating Energy Saving Tips

By Mark J. Donovan

With winter on our doorstep and home heating oil and gas going through the roof here are a few tips to save you some money while still staying warm.

1) Make sure your home heating system has been properly maintained to maximize its efficiency.

2) While having your heating system serviced have the serviceman lower the hot water temperature by 5-10 degrees.

3) Make sure heating pipes and ductwork in the basement are insulated.

4) Make sure there is adequate and properly installed attic insulation.

5) Fill your oil or gas tanks before the extreme cold weather hits. Because of high demand during these times for fuel, the cost of oil and gas skyrocket during these times.

6) Install a programmable thermostat in your home and set the thermostat 5-10 degrees lower when you are at work or during the evening.

7) Caulk around all the doors and windows to reduce drafts in the home.

8) Use flow-restrictors on shower heads to minimize the amount of hot water used. Readmore »»

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Frost in the Attic

By Mark J. Donovan

This year when you go up into the attic to get the Christmas decorations take a look around the attic to see if there is any frost on the roof ceiling or rafters. If there is then you have a moisture problem that should be taken care of. Moisture in the attic could lead to mold and mildew growth in the attic.

Observing frost in the attic is a sign that warm moist water is infiltrating the attic. Once the warm moist air hits the cold roof surfaces it freezes and forms the frost.

One of the leading culprits for warm moisture working its way into your attic is your bathroom ceiling fans. Check to make sure the bathroom ceiling fan vents and vent pipes are properly connected and that the vent pipes are directed outside the house. On several occasions I have discovered bathroom ceiling fans directly exhausting to the attic. The moisture with those hot steamy showers is captured in the cold attic and forms frost.

Another leading culprit for warm moisture entering your attic is simply poor insulation. Examine the insulation in the attic and make sure there are no openings in the insulation to allow warm air to rise into the cold attic. When warm moist air and cold air, come in contact with one another, condensation forms. When the attic air temperature falls below 32 degrees, the condensation freezes and forms frost in the attic.

Finally, if your house has a chimney check to make sure there are no signs of water infiltration around it. It is best to check for this after a good rain storm. Examine the chimney in the attic and look for streams of water or dampness around the bricks. If there are signs of water on the chimney then you need to apply a sealant or water repellant to the outside of the chimney. You may also need to re-install the flashing around the chimney. Readmore »»

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Drywall Paper Tape and Mesh Tape

By Mark J. Donovan

Over the years I have completed a number of drywall installation projects. In the process I have used paper tape and mesh tape for taping and mudding the drywall.

Paper tape works best on inside corners as it has a pre-formed seam running down the center of it that makes it easy to fold and to apply to inside corners. All you need to do is apply a skim coat of joint compound, prior to applying the tape to the inside corner. Just make sure you apply at least 1/8th inch of joint compound into the seam before applying the tape. Also, when using your trowel, do not press the tape too hard into the joint compound such that you squeeze out all of the material from underneath the tape. If you do, you will wind up with drywall tape that blisters or peals away from the wall.

As with the inside corners, when applying paper tape to flat seams, you first need to apply a skim coat of joint compound to the seams. Once you have applied the skim coat onto a flat seam, use your trowel to work the paper tape into the joint compound. Make sure the paper tape is centered on the seam so that there is equal overlap on both sides of the seam. Hold your trowel at a 45 degree angle and lightly press the tape into the joint compound. Again, you do not want to apply too much pressure, such that you squeeze out all of the joint compound from underneath the tape. If you do, the tape will blister and peal.

Mesh tape works best on flat seams. It is easy to apply, as it can be directly attached to the drywall without first applying a skim coat of joint compound. The only other negative with applying mesh tape to drywall is that your trowel edge can catch on it and instantaneously pull the tape off the wall.

My recommendation is to use mesh tape on the flat seams and paper tape on the inside corners. Readmore »»

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Watch Out for the Arrogant Contractor

By Mark J. Donovan

It has been about 2.5 years now since I started and I created these sites to share my experiences, and allow others to share theirs, on home construction projects. As I have always made it clear, I am not a professional contractor. By profession I am an electrical engineer, and marketing manager who has worked in the high tech industry for 25 years. This said, I am also a veteran homeowner of 20+ years who has gone through many home addition, home remodeling and home construction projects.

My experience with home construction began as a 10 year old kid, helping my father build a couple of family room additions, sheds, and two houses. Since purchasing my own first home, I have completed many home construction projects. My projects have included finishing basements and unfinished upstairs, putting on attached garages and family rooms, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, and even acting as my own general contractor on building one of my homes. This final project, building my own custom home, was actually showcased on the DIY Network back in 2005 (Being your Own General Contractor – Vacation Homes).

One of the greatest skills I have learned throughout my years being involved in home construction projects is how to find the right building contractor. In particular, I have learned how to discern the differences between a good contractor and an arrogant contractor. Note that I say arrogant contractor and not a bad contractor. Bad contractors are usually easy to spot, if you check their references and you ask a few questions. The arrogant contractor, on the other hand is a little cagier. As a matter of fact, the arrogant contractor may actually be good at his trade. However, he is the type of contractor that is impossible to work with. He is the primo Dona that talks a lot of bravado. He’s the guy that wants you to work your build schedule around his. He is inflexible and is always right, and is never hesitant to tell you this fact.

My experience has been to avoid the arrogant contractor like the plague. He is the type of contractor that forgets you’ve hired him, and instead thinks you work for him. Besides being just plain obnoxious to deal with, this type of contractor also has the tendency to fast talk you into spending more money than you need or having extra work done that is not required.

The trick is identifying the arrogant contractor, before you’ve hired him. Over the years I have learned a few basic techniques in exposing the arrogant contractor before I have hired him.

First, always check the references. Make sure when you call or visit the references you ask them how was their experience working with the contractor. If the reference expounds on the virtues of the contractor for 15 minutes you probably have identified a contractor that you will be able to work with. On the other hand, if the reference gives you a “yes, he got the job done” type answer, then this should be a warning sign. Don’t hesitate to probe further with the reference.

Second, find out who the prospective contractor uses as his material suppliers. Visit the suppliers and ask them their experience with the contractor. You’ll quickly learn if he pays his bills on time and is good to work with. If the contractor does not want to share with you his material suppliers’ names, then this is a clear warning sign to stay away from him.

Third, interview the prospective contractor when he provides you with a bid for the project. Really try to get to know the contractor during this process. If during the interview, you feel the contractor is dismissing your questioning or is giving you half answers, then stay away from him. Do not assume that he is just a busy guy that doesn’t have time for your na├»ve questions. If he is unwilling to explain his bid thoroughly during the proposal phase of a project, then chances are he will become even more difficult to work with once he has your signature on his contract and your deposit in the bank.

Finally, place a couple of calls to him during the bidding / proposal phase of your home construction project. See if he returns your calls promptly and answers your questions. If he does not, chances are you are seeing how he will operate once you have hired him.

To conclude, there are many good contractors to choose from when starting a new home construction project. You just have to find them. The fundamental technique in finding a good contractor for you building project is to get to know him first, before you sign a contract with him. Make sure you check the references and suppliers, and spend some time with him during the bidding phase of your project to really get to know him. If the references check out, and you feel completely comfortable with him during the proposal phase of the project, chances are you have avoided hiring the arrogant contractor. Readmore »»