Monday, December 8, 2008

Should you Tile over Tile that has Mold Growing Underneath it?

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: My basement got water in it and I know I have mold growing underneath it. I am in the process of putting new tile over the old tile and am wondering if this is the right thing to do. I am wondering now if I should remove the old tile before installing the new tile. Any help would be appreciated.

Answer: Mold can cause negative health effects to your family. Mold spores could cause respiratory problems, particular for those who are prone to allergies or who have asthma.

If you know you have mold growing underneath your tiled floor I would first remove the old tile, perform a little mold abatement, permanently eliminate the source of water/moisture in the basement, and then re-tile the basement floor. Readmore »»

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tips for Fixing a Squeaky Door Hinge

By Mark J. Donovan

Listed below are a few basics steps for eliminating a squeaky door hinge.

First, make sure the door hinge screws are all tight. A loose hinge could cause torque on the door hinge and hinge bolt thus causing the squeak.

Second, try a little WD-40 on the door hinges. Make sure you use the straw that comes with the can of WD-40 to focus the spray. Right after spraying the door hinge, and swinging the door open and closed a few times, wipe off any excess WD-40 with a rag.

Third, remove one hinge bolt at a time using a hammer and small, thin screwdriver. After removing a hinge bolt wipe it down with steel wool to remove any oxidation material that may be on it. Prior to reinstalling the bolt rub the hinge bolt down with a little oil (e.g. motor oil, canola oil). After oiling the hinge bolt reinstall it and repeat for the other door hinge bolts.

After reinstalling the final door hinge bolt swing the door open and closed a few times. With a little luck your squeaky door hinges are a thing of the past. Readmore »»

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fixing Nail Pops in Drywall

By Mark J. Donovan

Overtime your drywall may begin to have nail pops. When this occurs, you can easily fix them with a little joint compound and a few basic tools.

First, use a hammer and pound in the nail.

Next, hammer in another nail right next to it.

Then using all purpose joint compound and a 2” putty knife, fill in the dimple caused by the hammer.

Let the joint compound dry. If the joint compound shrunk or the area still does not look perfect then use a 3 or 4” wide drywall knife and add a thin skim coat over the nail area.

Again, let the joint compound dry and then lightly sand.

Finally touch it up with a little paint and it should be as good as new. Readmore »»

Monday, December 1, 2008

Properly Insulate Attic Door

By Mark J. Donovan

Your attic is the main source of heat loss in your home, and the attic door opening is one of the main contributors for attic heat loss.

It is important to make sure that the attic door is properly insulated and that weather stripping is applied around the opening. An attic should have at least R-30 insulation installed in it, and depending upon where you live the U.S. Department of Energy recommends an attic insulation R-value between R-38 and R-49. This includes the attic door opening.

If you use a board, such as a piece of plywood for the attic door opening, you can apply layers of rigid foam insulation to the back of it to achieve the desired R-Value. For example, rigid foam insulation has an R-value of approximately 5 per inch. By stacking three 2 inch thick sheets of rigid foam insulation on top of each other you can achieve an R-value of R-30. To laminate the sheets together you can use duct tape or some type of glue, e.g. liquid nails.

So keep your home warmer, and cooler, by properly insulating your attic door opening.

Readmore »»

Benefits of Cordless Screw Guns

By Mark J. Donovan

Unequivocally the cordless screw gun is the most useful tool in my toolbox. I use it for everything. Besides using my screw gun for assembling small projects, I also use it for, hanging drywall, installing decking and electrical work. Heck, I even use it for small projects like hanging pictures.

A screw gun is just one of those tools that is so versatile that everyone should own one.

What I really like about them most is that there is no cord to drag around. The model I have comes with two batteries, so I can have one charging why I’m using the other.

Second, they have an adjustable collar and clutch that stops the screw gun from overdriving screws. This is very useful when installing drywall screws where it is important to not overdrive the screw into the drywall.

Third, they support a variety of bit heads. Such as philps heads, flat heads, or square heads for installing decking screws. You can even use drill bits with them, so that the screw gun can effectively double as a drill.

And finally, what I really like about them, is I save time and wear and tear on my wrist and elbow.

Yes the screwdriver still has its place, but when you have a large project that requires a lot of screws, or just want to get the job done fast, a cordless screw gun is the ticket.

Readmore »»

Table Saws

By Mark J. Donovan

A table saw is an excellent tool to own for the serious carpenter or do it yourself homeowner. Some models, such as woodworker table saws are designed for permanent locations such as in as carpentry shop, whereas other models are designed for portability, job site table saw.

Table Saws are excellent for making very straight cuts and ripping lumber into multiple pieces.

They also include a couple of features and accessories that enable other types of cuts.

First the blade angle can be adjusted to make mitered cuts. In addition, the blade depth can also be adjusted.

Second, a cross cut guide allows you to make cross cuts across a piece of lumber just as you would with a circular skill saw. On some models you can adjust the cross cut guide to make angled cuts.

Finally, an adjustable fence allows you to make very straight cuts when ripping a piece of lumber.

Safety Precautions

Table saws can be very dangerous. You should always unplug the saw when making any adjustments to it. Also, always wear eye and ear protection when using one. In addition, never wear loose fitting clothes when operating a table saw, such as unbuttoned long sleeve shirt. Also, do not tamper or remove blade guard.

Finally, to avoid losing a finger when ripping small thin lumber, use a small piece of wood as a tool to push the lumber through. Some models actually provide a tool for this application.

Readmore »»

Expansion Tanks and Hot Water Boiler Systems

By Mark J. Donovan

Have you ever wondered what the heck that large green, grey, or blue bulbous thing is hanging off the side of your boiler system is?

Well it’s a hot water expansion tank and it plays an important role in your hot water heating system and domestic hot water system.

An expansion tank is used in closed hot water heating systems and domestic hot water systems. It is used to relieve the pressure that might build up in the hot water plumbing pipes so that they do not become damaged and begin to leak.

Excessive pressure can occur due to thermal expansion or by water hammer. Water hammer is when you turn on and off the water and would otherwise hear a bang if it was not for the expansion tank.

The expansion tank contains two chambers that are separated by a flexible rubber diaphragm. One side of the expansion tank contains air (pressurized to 12 PSI), and the other side is open to the hot water system and contains water. When the pressure in the hot water system rises the water pushes down on the diaphragm and gently squeezes the air. As a result, the pressure in the hot water system is maintained at a constant pressure as the water thermally expands or contracts, thus protecting the hot water pipes from being damaged.

If the diagraph fails the entire tank will fill up. When this situation occurs the hot water piping system is at risk of damage. Fortunately expansion tanks have a backup system, in the form of a pressure relief value, that sits just above the expansion tank. If the tank fails and the pressure gets too high in the hot water pipes, the pressure relief valve will go off. Hot water will be sprayed out of the system and may make a little mess, however it’s a much smaller problem than a cracked solder joint somewhere in the piping system.

To determine if your hot water expansion tank is working properly you can tap it and listen to hear the difference in sounds between the top portion and the bottom portion. One half should sound hollow and the second half, with the water in it, should sound like a dead thud when you tap it.

If it sounds like a dead thought both on the top and bottom chances are the diaphragm in the expansion tank has failed and it should be replaced.

You can also feel the tank as well to determine if it is working correctly. If it is warm on the upper half, and cool on the bottom half it is most likely working properly. If it is warm throughout the entire tank, chances are the tank is filled with water and needs to be checked by a plumber.

So that’s what the big green, grey, or blue tank hanging of your hot water heating system is all about.

Readmore »»

Zone Valves and Hot Water Heating Systems

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have a hot water heating system? If so, have you ever wondered what those small metal boxes hanging off of your hot water piping near the boiler are? Well they are zone valves and they play an important role in your hot water heating system.

A hydronic zone valve, as it is officially is called is the mechanism in your hot water heating system that allows hot water to flow from the furnace to your zone heating elements. It is powered by a local 24V AC power supply that is usually located near the boiler.

A zone valve works in conjunction with your home’s boiler, circulator pump, and thermostat. When the thermostat sends a low voltage signal to your furnace to supply hot water to the baseboard heating elements it is actually sending a signal to the zone valve and the circulator pump. It is telling the zone valve to open up and allow hot water to flow through the heating elements. The circulating pump acts to circulate the hot water generated by the furnace, through the closed hot water heating system.

When the thermostat indicates that the particular room or heating zone is warm enough it then sends a signal back to the zone valve to turn off.

Frequently you will see multiple zone valves installed in a hot water heating system. What this means is that there are multiple heating zones within the home that are controlled by different thermostats, and thus the reason for multiple zone valves.

Sometimes a zone valve can fail and stay in a stuck on position. When this situation occurs the room, or zone, will continuously be heated. Other times the zone valve could fail to the stuck-on position. When this occurs, no hot water will flow through the heating elements. In either case a plumber should be called.

So that’s what those little metal boxes hanging off of your boiler’s piping system are all about.

Readmore »»

Hot Water Circulator Pumps

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have a hot water heating system? Have you ever wondered how the hot water makes it from your home’s boiler system up to and through the heating elements? Well it is a hot water circulator pump that makes it happen.

A hot water circulator pump plays an important role in a closed hot water home heating system. It is the device that forces the hot water from the boiler up through the heating elements.

Hot water circulator pumps are centrifugal pumps that are powered by electricity. They work in conjunction with the boiler, zone valves and thermostats to provide heat to your home.

When the thermostat indicates that the room needs heat, it sends a low voltage signal to the zone valve and the hot water circulator pump to open the gates and begin sending hot water up to the heating elements.

As the water cools, after flowing through the cold heating elements, it returns to the boiler where it is then re-heated and circulated back up to the heating elements. This process continues until the thermostat sends another signal back to the zone valve and hot water circulator pump indicating the room is at the desired temperature.

Hot water circulator pumps are also used for providing on-demand domestic hot water. By continuously circulator hot water through the domestic hot water system, hot water is immediately available. This is great for having instant hot shower water and it does help in not wasting water. On the other hand, energy is wasted due to the fact that the water needs to continuously be heated.

Hot water circulator pumps are rated by their flow performance. Besides their horsepower rating, the flow performance consists of two key parameters. First is the flow rate. Basically this is how much water can be passed through the hot water circulator pump per minute or hour. The second parameter is the head pressure rating. This is a measurement of how vertically high the circulator pump can lift water. This is an important parameter when you need to have hot water pumped up two or three floors. So when your circulator pump fails, and as the case with everything, make sure to replace it with one that can handle the job for your hot water heating system.

Readmore »»

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mold Growing on Ceiling

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have cathedral drywall ceilings and notice dark scallop patterns near the edge where the roof line hits the interior wall, chances are you have mold growing on the ceiling. This situation is due to the combination of poor insulation in the roof rafters and high humidity in the home.

Specifically what is happening is the cold outside area is transferring to the interior ceiling surface, and as a result the ceiling surface is becoming cold. When the warm, moist air inside the home comes in contact with the cold ceiling surface, condensation occurs in the form of small water droplets. These water droplets not only enable dust particles in the air to adhere to the ceiling, but also lead to the formation of mold. It is this dust and mold that shows up on the ceiling edges as dark spots. The reason it is a scalloped pattern is due to the fact that the cold transfer is less at the roof rafters. Thus wherever there is a roof rafter behind the drywall ceiling the less of a tendency for condensation to occur.

To combat this situation you can use a dehumidifier in the home. Secondarily you can add more insulation to the ceiling, albeit it is difficult to do in a retrofit situation. Blown insulation may be the best approach as small holes can be used to funnel the insulation into the ceiling. The holes can then be plugged and patched, and the ceiling repainted. Readmore »»

Home Insulation and R-Values

By Mark J. Donovan

Sufficient and proper insulation in the home is critical for keeping your home both toasty warm during the winter months and comfortably cool during the summer months.

When buying a new home, make sure the home inspection includes an assessment of the insulation situation within the home. Make sure the insulation is compliant to your local building codes, and preferably to the U.S. Department of Energy insulation R-Value guidelines. Note that there are different R-value guidelines for different portions of the home, e.g. walls, ceilings, in between floors. The U.S. DOE also provides different R-value guidelines for different regions of the country. For example in the upper New England area the recommend attic R-value is R-49, whereas in Florida it is R-38.

Note that R-value is a term for describing the resistance level to heat flow. The higher the R-value the higher the resistance to heat flow transfer. Depending upon the type of insulation used, the R-value varies between a value of 3 and 4 per inch of insulation thickness. For example a typical fiberglass insulation batt has an R-value of 3.14. Consequently an R-value of R-19 batt insulation is approximately 6 inches thick.

There are four main types of insulation used in the home and they include:

Batt or Blanket insulation - This is your standard fiberglass or Rockwool insulation material. It is used frequently in homes, and slides easily in between wall studs and floor and ceiling joists.

Rigid foam insulation - This is used frequently against basement walls.

Blown in Insulation – This is chemically treated, shredded newspaper that is blown into walls, attics, and between floor joists.

Spray Insulation – This is a two part liquid material that is sprayed onto walls, and between attic and flooring bays. As it hits the surface area it quickly expands and hardens to form a tight and highly insulated barrier. Readmore »»

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to Level Concrete Slab for Wood Floor Installation

By Mark J. Donovan

When planning to install a wood floor over a concrete slab, some will tell you to just apply a self leveling compound to the concrete slab and then glue down the wood flooring. This is a mistake!! Instead, build a network of sleepers (pressure treated 2x4s or 2x3’s over a layer of plastic). The plastic acts as a moisture barrier, and the sleepers act as support for both a wood subfloor and the eventual hard wood floor.

You may also want to add rigid foam insulation in-between the sleepers to add additional warmth to the flooring. Readmore »»

How to Fill in Large Concrete Channel in Basement Floor

By Mark J. Donovan

Sometimes when finishing a basement existing oil or plumbing lines imbedded in the concrete basement floor may need to be removed. In some cases it may be fine to just cut them back flush with the concrete floor and leave them where they lie. Other times, however, the lines may need to be cut out of the concrete basement floor. When this situation is necessary the question frequently comes up on how to fill the channel or large crack that is formed in digging out the lines. In addition you can use shims underneath the sleepers to create a level subfloor surface.

The answer to this question depends on the depth of the channel / crack. If the channel that is cut out of the basement concrete is deep, for example deeper than 2 inches, then Quickrete is appropriate for filling in the channel. If however the channel is shallow, e.g. less than two inches, it is best to use a floor leveling compound. Readmore »»

How to Fix Bubbles Formed under Drywall Tape

By Mark J. Donovan

When taping and mudding drywalls it is important to apply a sufficient amount of mud (joint compound) over the drywall seam first before applying the paper tape. If you do not put a sufficient layer of mud on the seam first, you will end up with bubbles forming underneath the dried drywall tape.

To fix the bubbles formed under the drywall tape, you can cut out the section of tape and redo it, or you can peal back the tape and apply additional joint compound under it.

Applying Drywall Tape Correctly

There is a technique involved in taping and mudding drywall that involves experience and some artistry. Use a 4” drywall blade to first fill in the joint seams and to apply a 4” skim coat of joint compound around the seam area. Next lay your drywall tape into the seam and lightly flatten it down into the joint compound using your 4” blade. Then apply a layer of joint compound over the seam and let it dry.

After the first coat as dried, lightly sand, and apply two additional coats of joint compound. Again, between coats, lightly sand. Also use an 8-10” blade for the second and third coats and flare out the seam to about 12” in width. Readmore »»

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weatherstripping and Caulking Storm Doors

By Mark J. Donovan

With daylight savings time now behind us, and cold weather right around the corner, I decided today to replace the storm door screen insert with the glass insert. In the process I noticed that there were several air gaps around the periphery of the door. Seeing these future winter air draft culprits I immediately jumped into my car and visited my local home improvement store. While there, I picked up door and window caulk and weatherstripping.

With caulk and weatherstripping in hand I returned home and caulked all around the exterior of the door and added weatherstripping along the inside door frame.

In the process of installing the weatherstripping I saw that I still had a rather large gap at the bottom of the door near the handle. To remove the gap, I first lowered the adjustable kick plate a little. It solved most of the gap, but not entirely. To fully eliminate the gap I adjusted the closer plate on the bottom portion of the door. By effectively stretching out the reach of the door closer another 1/4th of an inch the closer now has sufficient tension to fully close the base of the door.

So with just a few minor insulation and mechanical tweaks around my storm door, it is now air tight and ready for the long winter. At least now, however, I can let a little more light into the home during the short days without cooling off the house. Readmore »»

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2009 Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Trends

Considering the state of the environment today, it's no wonder that environmentalists are up in arms, trying to find solutions to many of the earth's serious problems. On the home front, every day working people are jumping on the eco-bandwagon and becoming more environmentally aware in their day-to-day lives. Whether it's by purchasing hybrid cars, switching out their light bulbs for CFLs or buying bedroom furniture made from sustainably harvested lumber - it's becoming easier for anyone and everyone to make a difference. Nowhere is this eco-friendly trend more evident than in home improvement. With the real estate market looking dire, folks are getting down and dirty and fixing up their homes, rather than shopping for new ones. Here are some quick fixes you can use to make your home a greener one.

Change A Light Bulb

Light bulbs are a really simple way to make a difference on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that nearly 1.8 million Americans have pledged to change at least one light bulb in their home to an eco-friendly model. These 1.8 million pledges will save around $200 million in energy bills! While eco-friendly light bulbs, like compact fluorescent (CFLs) are a bit more money up front, the benefits far outweigh the initial cost. CFLs use 70 - 75% less energy than standard incandescents and last nearly ten times longer. The future of home lighting is looking brighter.

Paint Your House Green

No, I don't mean literally paint your house green. I'm talking about eco-friendly paint options! During the normal painting process, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released. These organic compounds greatly contribute to indoor air pollution and with the general lack of good ventilation indoors, the concentration of these harmful VOCs is much higher indoors than outdoors. This is why it's crucial when shopping for paint that you read the labels, just as you would in the grocery store. Paint companies now offer low or "no" VOC paints. These paints are made by using water as a base instead of the traditional petroleum-based oil solvents. Low VOC paints actually have to meet an EPA standard in order to be labeled as such. Green Seal, an eco-conscious non profit has created a certification process that limits low-VOC paints to 50 grams of VOC per liter. Watch out for the Green Seal on paint products to make sure you are using the safest possible paint in your home.

Purchase Green Furniture

Do you plan on replacing any furniture in the near future? Well, when you do, why not do a little research into furniture manufacturers and see who employs eco-friendly technology in their manufacturing process? Leading bedroom furniture manufacturer, Lifestyle Solutions has had its manufacturing process certified for compliance with the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) guidelines for sustainable management of tropical forests. Every single piece of furniture is constructed from plantation-grown, imported hardwood, which helps to ensure sustainable use of timber. Furniture giant Vaughan Bassett on the other hand, uses a different eco-friendly technique. Vaughan-Bassett's "One for One Program" replaces every tree used in the furniture manufacturing process. There are plenty of environmentally friendly companies out there for you to consider - just do the research! Readmore »»

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How to level a Concrete Slab Floor for Hardwood Flooring

By Mark J. Donovan

If you plan on installing hardwood flooring on a concrete slab you first need to make sure the concrete slab is level. If it is not, then depending upon how unlevel it is you either first need to apply a leveling compound, or build a shimmed subfloor.

Regardless if the concrete slab floor is level you should always build a wood subfloor for the hardwood flooring to rest on. The subfloor should be framed with pressure treated 2x4s or other wood material such that water wicking up from the concrete slab will not destroy the subfloor over time.

As you build the subfloor you can adjust its height with shims so that you create a completely level floor. Just remember to start the construction of the subfloor at the highest point in the room.

Readmore »»

How to Stop Creaking Stairs

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have stairs that creak and squeak? This is a sure sign that the stair treads are no longer securely fastened to the stair risers. This can happen over time due to the stair treads drying out or warping, the house settling, or just from a lot of use.

If your stairs are covered by carpet the only way to resolve the creaking stairs is to first remove the carpet. After removing the carpet, pre-drill a couple of pilot holes along the line of existing nails on the stair tread and then install some addition screws. You may also want to run a bead of glue over the screw threads before screwing it into the tread for extra support.

If your stair treads are meant to be exposed then if possible try applying glue and screws to the back side of the stair risers and treads, if you can get to them, e.g. via a basement or lower floor. If you cannot get to the backsides of the stair treads, then you can either remove the tread carefully and apply glue and new screws/nails, or add additional screws to the tread. If new screws are added, you will need to pre-drill the holes and then fill in the screw holes.

Readmore »»

Tile to Floor Transition Solution

By Mark J. Donovan

When installing tile in a bathroom or kitchen frequently there is a floor height transition issue with an adjoining room, e.g. between a bathroom and hallway. Sometimes the tile to floor transition height difference can be as much as ¾” or more. One simple solution for this is to install a piece of marble in the threshold of the door or in the transition area. You can buy marble thresholds at any home improvement store and they come in widths up to several inches and approximately ½” in height. You can also go to any stone store and order a custom cut granite transition piece with a beveled edge to make the transition even more gradual.

Readmore »»

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reverse Ceiling Fan Rotation to Save on Winter Heating Bills

Reverse Ceiling Fan Rotation to Save on Winter Heating Bills
By Mark J. Donovan

Not only can ceiling fans help keep your family feeling cooler in summer months, they can also keep them feeling warmer in winter months. Though ceiling fans do not produce cool or warm air, they do help circulate it, which can help make your family feel more comfortable during hot or cold seasons.

Ceiling fan blades should be set to turn in a counter clockwise direction during summer months and alternatively they should be set to turn in a clockwise direction in winter months..

By setting the blade rotation to turn in a clockwise direction, the ceiling fan will push warm air downwards, thus recycling the warm air that drifted up from the baseboard heaters, or floor registers. As a result, your family will feel warmer without having to crank up the thermostat, thus saving you money on winter heating bills.

Readmore »»

Monday, September 22, 2008

Prevent Mold and Mildew on Home Exterior

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have mold or mildew forming on your roof shingles or home siding? If so there are a few basic things you can do to prevent this situation from reoccurring after you remove what is already there for mold and mildew.

There are three main reasons why mold and mildew form on your home’s exterior. They are (1) high moisture levels, (2) lack of airflow, and (3) lack of sunshine.

To prevent mold and mildew from forming on the exterior of your home you need to address all three of these issues.

For preventative care on an existing home, look at the shrubs and trees around your home. Keep the shrubs trimmed and away from the home siding. Second, if your home is enveloped by large trees remove them, or at least thin them out. This will allow sunshine to come through and hit the home, as well as allow air to circulate around the home. The sunlight and airflow will help keep the home drier and thus prevent mold and mildew from forming.

If you have plans to build a new home, make sure you consider where your roof valleys will lie relative to the sun. If your roof valleys are planned to face north, chances are you will eventually have mold and mildew forming on the roof shingles and siding that is constantly shaded. Remember from your boy/girl scouts days and the training that moss typically forms on the north sides of trees. The same is true with houses.

Consider positioning your home so that the roof valleys get sufficient sunlight throughout the day, or eliminating the roof valleys where they would otherwise face the north. Of course changing roof valleys in your home design might sound drastic, but on the other hand dealing with mold and mildew on your home can alternatively become a big problem for you and your number one investment.

Readmore »»

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Home Freeze Alarms are another Alternative to a Programmable Thermostat

By Mark J. Donovan

I installed a home freeze alarm in a vacation home a couple of years ago.

Similar to the benefits of a programmable thermostat, it allows me to control the temperature of the home via a simple phone call. With two thermostats tying into it, I have one set at 50 degrees and the other set at 70 degrees. With one quick phone call I can switch the thermostat being monitored by the freeze alarm system. This is excellent when I am gone for a few weeks. I can have the heat set at 50 degrees while I am not there and then simply make a phone call to switch to the 70 degree set thermostat. All I do is call 2 hours before I set off for the home, and it is toasty warm when I get there.

In addition, the home freeze alarm protects my home by calling me if the temperature in the home goes below a pre-programmed level.

Readmore »»

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Removed the Air Conditioners and Closed the Pool in Anticipation of Fall

By Mark J. Donovan

With fall nearly upon us, today I decided to remove the two air conditioners from windows in our home. Unfortunately the humidity was so high, I was dripping by the time I removed them. I almost decided to plug one of them in while it sat on the floor just to cool and dry myself off.

I also closed the pool yesterday. Closing a pool is never a straight forward procedure. Inevitably I find myself running to the pool store to buy more chemicals or replacement parts. After about 6 hours though we finally had the cover on and the filter stored away.

If weather permits, next week I will be tackling some siding repair. I have a couple of water damaged clapboards that need to be replaced. If I have the time I will film the process and post it in the weeks ahead. It is always a challenge to remove a clapboard without damaging the ones below or above them.

Readmore »»

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sistering Lumber to existing Ceiling Joists

By Mark J. DonovanSistering Lumber to existing Ceiling Joists

Turning an otherwise unused large attic space into a bedroom or game room is a great idea to create more living space in your home.
However, if you are considering creating a bedroom in an attic you will probably need to sister new lumber, such as 2x6s or 2x8s to the existing ceiling joists. If the ceiling joists are on 24” centers then you should also add new ceiling joists (floor joists) in between the existing ceiling joists. These steps are extremely important when converting an attic into a formal living space. The additional lumber will help to ensure the new bedroom floor won't flex and/or cause cracks in the ceiling drywall below the attic.

Check with your local building inspector to determine your attic’s specific framing needs prior to beginning construction.

Readmore »»

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Dremel Tool is the tool of choice for Removing Grout around a Broken Tile

By Mark J. Donovan

If you need to replace a broken ceramic tile, then you are going to first need to remove the old grout from around it. A Dremel Tool, such as the Dremel MultiPro Cordless 7700-02 20,000 RPM Two-Speed 7.2V Rotary Tool System w/50 Accessories, is perfect for removing grout on small ceramic tile repair projects.

To remove grout from around ceramic tile, care has to be taken not to damage the surrounding tiles. A hammer and chisel can be used for removing the grout, however you run the risk of damaging the neighboring tiles. A dremel tool on the other hand, has a high speed rotary head that you can insert various bits onto, such as a cutter, that can make short work of removing old grout.

A dremel tool is relatively inexpensive and has a million and one applications around the home. Take a look at one, prior to making your next tile repair.

Readmore »»

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fix a Leaky Faucet Drain Pipe

Fix a Leaky Faucet Drain Pipe
By Mark J. Donovan

Question: I recently installed a new faucet and see that I have a small leak in the drain assembly area. It looks like it is at the top of the tail pipe where it connects to the base of the sink. How can I fix this leak?

Answer: First, go to your local home improvement store and pick up some plumbers putty. Plumbers putty is key to eliminating your link.

The drain tail pipe screws into the drain assembly nut that sits in the bottom of the sink. Apply a bead of plumbers putty to the bottom side of this nut. The bead should be about ¼ inch thick and should rap around the back side of the nut.

Once you have attached the bead of plumbers putty to the backside of the nut, screw the tail pipe into it from the bottom of the sink (in the cabinet area).

Before tightening the tailpipe into the drain nut make sure there is a large rubber washer sitting between the metal flange at the top of the tail pipe and the underside of the sink.

Tighten carefully with a pair of large channel lock pliers and your leak should be a thing of the past.
Readmore »»

Friday, August 29, 2008

Solar Energy for the Home

By Mark J. Donovan

Solar power has great potential for the home, however in my opinion it is still not there for the average homeowner. It is just still too expensive for the average homeowner to install and the payback is extremely long.

I recently investigated adding solar panels to my home and was less than impressed with the material and labor costs.

There are a couple of websites that actually provide online tools to aid in calculating roof solar panels and associated hardware for your specific home needs/goals.

Using these tools, I determined it would take about 30-35 years to break even on the investment; however the warranty on the panels was around 25 years.

In my opinion the ROI is too long, and the warranty needs to be at least as long as the time it takes to recover the costs.

Solar panel technology is improving and I think it is an excellent complementary source of power to the home. However, prices still need to drop before this market really explodes. Readmore »»

How to Avoid the Home Remodeling Contractor Blues

By Mark J. Donovan

When hiring a home remodeling contractor know in advance what you actually want done before hiring a contractor.

Key items to address before calling potential contracors includes:

1) Create your own drawings and list of key features you want to see in your new home or home addition.

2) Develop a target budget for the home remodeling project. Get some basic material costs from your local home improvement contractor.

3) Develop a timeline for starting and completing the project.

Once you have these key items solved in your own mind, then begin the contractor bid solication process.

Finally, remember to never overpay the contractor in terms of an initial deposit. The overall payment policy should be "pay-as-you-go". If the contractor gets ahead of you on payment receipts you will have less bargaining power to address contractor mistakes.

For more help on Hiring a Home Remodeling contactor see's Home Addition Bid Sheets. Readmore »»

Top 35 Home and Garden Tools for every Homeowner

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are in the process of buying your first home you need to get prepared to make the occasional home repair. Thus you are going to need to buy some basic home and garden tools.

If you are a homeowner who has plans for remodeling a home then you are going to need an even bigger tool chest. Listed below is my top 35 list of key home and garden tools for every homeowner.

1) Hammer - A 16 ounce claw hammer.
2) 25' Measuring Tape
3) Handsaw
4) Level
5) Screwdriver set
6) Socket and Wrench set
7) Crescent Wrench
8) Adjustable Pliers
9) Needle-Nose Pliers
10 Carpenters Knife
11) Wire Cutter
12) Paint Brushes
13) Paint Pan
14) Paint Roller
15) Sandpaper
16) Square
17) Straight Pipe Plumbers Wrench
18) Screwgun with Drillbits
19) Putty Knife
20) Saftey Glasses
21) Lawnmower
22) Fertilizer Spreader
23) Metal Rake
24) Yard Rake
25) Shovel
26) Circular Skill Saw
27) Table Saw
28) Electric Drill
29) Coping Saw
30) Pipe Cutter
31) Plumbers Tape
32) Miter Saw
33) Reciprocating Saw
34) Chainsaw
35) Toolbox

See HomeAdditionPlus's Tool Store to find your home and garden tools. Readmore »»

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Framing Square is a Key Tool in any Carpentry Project

By Mark J. Donovan

A framing square is an integral part of any carpenter’s tool set. It is used for a multitude of framing applications. Besides aiding in making 90o angle framing cuts, it is extremely useful in framing stairs and roofs.

A framing square is constructed out of steel or aluminum. It has two arms that are positioned at a right angle to each other. One of the arms is referred to as the blade and is two inches in width and 24 inches in length. The second arm is referred to as the tongue and is 1.5 inches in width and 14-18 inches in length. The corner of the framing square is referred to as the heel.

On each of the arms there is a stamped in graduated scale in inches. The scales are stamped on both sides of the square. On the face of the square (usually determined by the manufacturer’s label) the graduated scale is broken down to 1/8th and 1/16th intervals. On the back of the square the graduated scale is broken down to 1/12th of an inch intervals.

For homeowners who are looking to simply make right angle cuts the use of a framing square is fairly self evident. The blade of the framing square should be placed up to the edge of the lumber (e.g. 2x4) and the tongue should lie perpendicularly across the top of the lumber. A line can then be made along the length of the tongue and a straight perpendicular cut can then be made. The Stanley 45-300 Aluminum Carpenters Square is an excellent framing square for any framing application.

For framing stairs, hip roofs, or rafters a more in-depth understanding of how to use the framing square is required. A book on framing, such as the Graphic Guide to Frame Construction: Details for Builders and Designers (For Pros by Pros), can provide the detailed instructions for utilizing a framing squire for these applications.

  Readmore »»

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tips for Buying a Spirit Level

By Mark J. Donovan

One of the most useful tools for a carpenter or any DIY homeowner is a spirit level. They are used in the process of constructing a home to hanging pictures on a wall. A spirit level is a tool that enables a carpenter or DIY homeowner to determine if a surface is either level (perfectly horizontal) or plumb (perfectly vertical).
When buying a level there are a number of features to look for. Levels come in different lengths and sizes, and are typically constructed out of plastic, aluminum or wood. Relatively speaking they are inexpensive, when compared to other carpenters tools.

When selecting a level you will want to focus on making sure you buy a quality one. One of the key features to look for when selecting a level is to see how accurate the vials are for determining if a surface is either level or plumb. Look for a level that has bubbles such that when the bubbles are centered their ends just touch the inside edges of the line markers on the vial. Cheaper levels have bubbles that are either smaller or larger than the space between the line markers on the vial. This leads to guessing when reading the level. Also look for levels that have glass covers over the level to protect the vials from breaking. Finally look for levels that have bubbles that shift quickly with even the slightest adjustment.

Another area to consider when buying a level is the construction of it. Make sure the edges are perfectly smooth. I have used some levels where the ends have a cap. These caps can sometimes create an ever-so-slight ridge at the point where the cap connects to the main part of the level. This little ridge can play havoc in getting an accurate measurement. Typically the best levels are made out of hardwoods or aluminum, and have lifetime warranties.

The spirit level, (a.k.a. carpenter’s level, box level, or framing level) is the most popular level and comes in a variety of lengths. More popular lengths include 18, 24, and 48 inches. For smaller projects around the home a 24” level, such as the Black and Decker BDSL30 24-Inch 3-in-1 Gecko Grip Level, is probably all you need. If, however, you have framing projects planned then you should probably use a 48” one, such as the Carpentry & Construction Box Beam Level 48".

Electronic levels are the latest in home construction technology. Electronic levels provide vials for manual readings along with digital displays for more accurate measurements. They also provide other information such as percentage and degrees of slope which is helpful when installing drainage pipes or any surface that is angled.

Whether it is a traditional spirit level or one of the newer electronic levels, no homeowner should be without one. Spirit levels are inexpensive and have a million-and-one uses. Just make sure you buy one that meets your specific needs and has the quality to ensure a lifetime of accurate measurements.

  Readmore »»

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Use a Pneumatic Nail Gun when Installing Decking

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have plans for installing your own decking material, forget about using a hammer and look towards buying or renting a pneumatic nail gun.

Installing decking material can be a slow and painful process when using a hammer. A pneumatic nail gun on the other hand, can make short work of a decking installation project. In addition, you won’t get “tennis elbow” and you will get a better finished product. With hammer and nails, there are issues that include dealing with bent nails, bad angles for hammering, hammer dents, and inconsistent nail depth.

When looking at nail guns you want to make sure you buy or rent the right type of pneumatic nail gun for your deck installation project. You want to select one that is designed for both framing and decking applications. The Senco #1G0003N Clipped Framing Nailer is an ideal choice as it is light weight, easy to hold, and has an angled magazine for holding nail clips. The nail depth and exhaust are both adjustable. This pneumatic nail gun will handle almost any type of home remodeling framing/construction project as it supports nails lengths from 2” to 3.5”.

Installing a deck is a home improvement project that many homeowners can tackle. However, before deciding on such a path, consider renting or buying a pneumatic nail gun. It will make the job a much more enjoyable project, and you will end up with a better finished product.

Readmore »»

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tips on Buying a Wet Table Tile Saw

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are planning to install ceramic tile in your home, consider buying a wet table tile saw. They are well worth the investment as they will make short work of tile cutting, and in the end you will end up with a much better ceramic tile job.

Wet table tile saws, are great for not only making long straight cuts, but also for making smaller, more intricate cuts, thus eliminating the need for tile nippers in most cases.

Wet table tile saws typically consist of a direct drive motor that turn a dull diamond studded blade. Below the table-top sits a small pan, or reservoir to hold water. The blade rotates through the water, thus cooling the blade and helping to create a smooth clean ceramic tile cut.

Wet saws come in a variety of blade sizes, including 4 1/2”, 7”, and 10” blades. For most do it yourself projects a 7” blade wet saw is appropriate.

Another key attribute to look for when buying a wet saw, is the blade rotation speed. Typically the blade choices operate from around 3600 revolutions per minute (rpm) to 5500 rpm. For most do-it-yourselfers, a 3600 rpm saw speed is sufficient.
When looking for a ceramic tile wet saw make sure you select one that has sufficient power to do the job. Look for ones that have at least 1/3 hp, but preferably ½ hp.

Also make sure that the blade can be tilted / rotated to create both beveled and mitered cuts. The QEP 60087 Table Tile saw - 7" Wet is an excellent choice for smaller ceramic tile jobs. For bigger tile jobs that require larger ceramic tiles, e.g. 12”x12” tiles, you may want to consider the MK Diamond 155779 MK-470 1/2 Horsepower 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw.

Also make sure that any wet saw you are considering has a thermal overload protection capability built into it. Basically this feature will trip an on-saw circuit breaker to turn off the saw if the motor gets too hot. With direct drive motors, if too much torque is applied to them for too long of a period of time they will burn out.

Finally make sure whatever ceramic tile wet saw you purchase has at least a 1 year warranty.

  Readmore »»

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Circular Skill Saw is a Key Tool in a Home Construction Project

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are planning a home construction project, such as framing a home addition or putting in wood shelves, you are going to need a circular skill saw. A circular saw is an ideal tool for either project. A circular saw is ideal for cutting framing studs and ripping plywood.

The most common circular saw has a 7 ¼” blade and can be adjusted to make bevel cuts. They can also be adjusted for the depth of the cuts. Some of the latest models, such as the Black & Decker CS1030L 7-1/4-Inch 13 amp Laser Circular Saw with Soft Grips, have a laser guide to aid in making straight cuts.

When looking into buying a circular skill saw, make sure you look for ones that are light weight and have at least a two year warranty.

It is also important when buying a circular saw to select one that has the power to handle both small and large jobs. The metric for determining if a circular saw can handle the big jobs is the “current draw”. A saw that draws 10-13 amps, will be able to handle the big framing projects. Just remember, however, that if you are plugging a 13 amp skill saw into a 15 amp rated electrical outlet, you will most likely pop the circuit breaker if you run another electrical appliance while operating the saw.

Readmore »»

Screw Guns are Great for Drywall and other Home Improvement Projects

By Mark J. Donovan

A screw gun is one of the best home improvement tools you can buy. Not only are they very useful for installing drywall, they are also ideal for many other home improvement and home repair projects.

Unlike a typical power drill, screw guns have an adjustable collar and clutch to help control the depth of the screw when fastening it to the drywall. This is extremely important so that you don’t inadvertently screw the drywall screw too far into the drywall.

Screw guns are also ideal for installing decking, hanging ceiling strapping / furring strips, and for many other smaller home remodeling or home improvement projects.

Screw guns come in corded and cordless varieties. Personally I like the cordless ones, as they are easier to maneuver and you don’t have to keep pulling around the cord.

  Readmore »»

Monday, August 11, 2008

Use T-111 to Dress-up and Protect your Garage Walls

Use T-111 to Dress-up and Protect your Garage Walls
By Mark J. Donovan

This weekend I installed T-111 along the back wall of my sheetrocked garage. I was tired of my garage "toys" (e.g. wheelbarrow, lawnmower, etc.) banging the sheetrock and marking it up. By installing 3/8 th inch think T-111 along the wall and capping it with 1"x3" strapping I was able to create a wainscoting type look.
T-111 is a textured sheet of plywood like material that has a 1/2" verticle trim line every 8 inches or so. It comes in 4' x 8' sheets.

To cap the top of the T-111, I cut out a wedge of material out of 1"x3" strapping it and set it on top of the T-111.
Readmore »»

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Video on Repairing a Leaky Outdoor Water Spigot

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have a leaky outdoor water spigot that needs repair? well chances are you may very well be able to fix it yourself with just a couple of basic household tools.

In this video, a frost free outdoor spigot (a.k.a. sillcock) has a slow leak. By simply removing the handle and adjusting a nut behind the handle, I was able to make the repair myself. All I needed for tools was a screwdriver and a crescent wrench.

There is a washer that frequently fails behind the nut that sits on the backside of the handle. By either replacing this washer, or tightening up the nut in my case, you can usually eliminate the leak.


Readmore »»

New Video on Installing Carpet Threshold Trim

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have carpeting that is still in great shape, with the exception of some fraying around an entranceway threshold, then you will want to watch this video.

In this video, the carpeting has frayed between the threshold of a bathroom and hallway. The bathroom flooring is vinyl and the hall way is carpeting. The edge strip for the carpet looks a little beat up and the carpet is starting to fray on the tack strip.

Using a new wooden carpet trim piece, you can cover up the old metal strip as well as hide the fraying.

Take a look at this video to learn the specifics for making this small home repair.

Readmore »»

Monday, August 4, 2008

Troubleshooting and Fixing a Frost Free Leaky Sillcock

Fixing a Frost Free Leaky Sillcock / Outdoor Faucet
By Mark J. Donovan

Is your outdoor frost free faucet, also known as a Sillcock, leaking? Chances are you can fix it on your own and save yourself a bundle in plumber repair costs.

Determine where the Leak is

To fix a leaky Sillcock it is first necessary to see where the water is leaking from. Check to see if it is leaking out the spout itself.

Also check to see if it is leaking around the top cap that sits just back behind the handle. Sometimes this cap can become loose and all you need to do is simply hand tighten it. Overtime this cap can become loose due to swings in summer and winter temperatures or simply from frequent use of the sillcock.

If the leak is occurring from the spout, even after you have tightened the handle, then chances are you have a faulty washer sitting back beneath the sillcock handle.

Disassembling the Sillcock

To replace the washer, first turn the water off to the sillcock. Usually this valve can be found inside the home, e.g. the basement or utility room.

Next, rotate the handle of the sillcock to the on position to relieve any pressure in it and to drain the water.

Using a screwdriver remove the screw that holds the handle onto the sillcock.

With the screw removed, pull off the handle.

After removing the handle, use a crescent wrench to remove the sillcock nut that sits back behind the handle.

Replace Washer and Clean Internal Sillcock area

The washer that typically fails sits behind the sillcock nut. Remove it and look for damage or wear. If you see either, replace the washer. Also, make sure there are no particulates or sediment/grit inside the sillcock. If there is, flush it out with water.

Re-assemble Sillcock

With the washer replaced and the internal sillcock area free of any particles, reattach the sillcock nut cap, the handle, and the screw that holds the handle onto the sillcock.

Turn Water back on and Test Sillcock

Turn the water back on to the sillcock and observe water flowing freely from the faucet.

Turn the handle to the off position. With any luck there should be no more dribbles or dripping.

Note that with a frost free sillcock, the valve is far back into the home, (approximately 8 inches) so you should expect to see a few drips for a minute or so after closing the faucet handle. After that the sillcock should be drip free.
Readmore »»

Monday, July 28, 2008

Converting a Kitchen Cabinet into a College Student Dresser

Converting a Kitchen Cabinet into a Dresser
By Mark J. Donovan

With two sons off to college this fall, my wife and I are actively working towards their departure from the nest. This weekend I decided to tackle a small project that converted a kitchen cabinet into a mini student dresser.

Several years ago I received a kitchen cabinet that was slightly damaged during its shipment to a home I was building. The manufacturer sent me a new one, and left the original for me to deal with. It has been sitting in my garage for a couple of years and over the weekend I finally decided it was time to do something with it.

The kitchen cabinet has four drawers and is 18” wide by 24” deep. I decided that if I mounted a top to it, that it could serve as a dresser for storing school supplies and supporting a microwave or printer.

To install a top on the cabinet, I used a ½” sheet of finished plywood. I cut it to the dimensions of 19” x 25 1/5” so that it overhung the sides by ½” and the front by 1 1/2”.

I then attached fastening rails to the inside edges of the top of the cabinet. The rails were approximately 3/4” x 3/4” width and height, and cut to the inside length of the cabinet sides.

I attached the rails to the cabinet side-walls with 1 ¼” screws, from the inside so that no screws showed from the outside of the cabinet.

I then round the front edges of the plywood top using a jigsaw, and then sanded it thoroughly. I sanded it first with a rough (100 grit) sand paper, and then with a finer 400 grit sandpaper.

I then applied a coat of mahogany stain to the top.

Next, I secured the top to the cabinet (dresser) using 1 ½” screws. The screws were applied from the inside of the cabinet, via the freshly installed rails. This enabled a finished top surface that is clean from any screws/nails.

Prior to screwing the top to the cabinet rails, I drilled pilot holes through the bottom of the rails to avoid splitting and to ease in the fastening of the rails.

Finally, I added two coats of polyurethane to the top.

Now, one of my college bound sons has a brand new mini-dresser / night stand for storing school supplies.
Readmore »»

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Removing old Exterior Caulk

By Mark J. Donovan

Overtime exterior caulk dries out and cracks, no matter what the manufacturer promises.

When the old exterior caulk shows signs of cracking it is time to replace it.

Removing old caulk begins with a carpenter’s knife and a flat screw driver or putty knife.

Using the carpenter’s knife score (cut) the old caulk line along the edge of the surfaces areas it is in contact with.

Once you have scored the old exterior caulk, use a screw driver and/or putty knife to dig the old exterior caulk out of the seam. This process can take a little time, however it is important to get all of it out of the seam before re-caulking.

Once you have removed the caulk, sweep and clean out the seam.

After you have thoroughly removed any loose particles and dust in and around the seam, apply a new bead of exterior caulk to the seam.

To help ensure smooth caulk lines, you may consider applying masking tape on either side of the seam before applying the caulk. Just remember to remove the tape immediately after applying the caulk.

Readmore »»

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Unclogging a Showerhead

Unclogging a Showerhead
By Mark J. Donovan

If your shower water pressure is not what it used to be it could be one of several problems, however it is most likely a clog in the showerhead itself.

In the showerhead unit, there is a small filter screen. This filter screen is meant to prevent small particles of sediment from clogging the tiny shower holes in the showerhead assembly. However, if you have noticed the showerhead water pressure has slowly diminished overtime; chances are the filter is clogged.

To unclog the showerhead you first need to unscrew the shower head from the shower pipe. Use a crescent wrench to unscrew the clogged showerhead.

Once you have unscrewed the clogged showerhead, you will find a small filter that sits just inside the showerhead. Using either your fingers or a small set of pliers (e.g. Needle Nose pliers) remove the filter screen from the showerhead.

If you see sediment on the filter screen rinse it off thoroughly. Then reinsert the filter screen back into the showerhead.

Next, if there is old plumbing tape (Teflon tape) on the shower pipe, remove it.

Wrap new plumbing tape around the pipe and then screw on the showerhead. Note: When applying the Teflon tape, wrap it around the pipe in the same direction that the showerhead will be tightened.

Tighten the shower head with a crest wrench just so it is snug.

Turn the shower on and observe if there is a significant improvement in the showerhead water pressure.

If you don’t see a marked improvement in your showerhead water pressure, you could still have one of several problems. It may be that the showerhead holes are clogged. If this is the case, then you will need to remove the showerhead again and soak it in a vinegar water mixture to dissolve away any build up in the holes.

If you notice that your water pressure is low in your entire home then you may have a problem with you well pump or water holding tank. If this is the case, you will need to call a plumber.

Readmore »»

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Use Masking Tape to get Clean Caulk Lines

By Mark J. Donovan

When caulking around a bathtub, or over any type of seam, the best way to get clean lines is to use a little masking tape.

Note: If there is old caulk that is dried out and peeling away from a seam remove it before applying new caulk.

Once the seam is ready to be caulked, apply masking tape to either side of the seam such that you create a gap for applying the caulk.

Now apply your caulk with a caulking gun.

Next use a moist towel, or finger, and run it down the length of the freshly caulked seam.

Allow the caulk to set up a few minutes, and then peel away the masking tape.

With the tape removed, you will have clean lines that are uniform in width the length of the caulk seam. Readmore »»

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Control Garden Weeds with Landscape Fabric

By mark J. Donovan

Are you tired of weeding your garden on a weekly basis? Or if you are one of those who don’t regularly weed your garden, are you disappointed with the look and production of your garden? Well if you are, read on …..

When planting a garden consider using landscape fabric for vegetables that you plant individually. It is ideal for planting tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower and other individual plants. Landscape fabric is ideal for controlling weeds, it’s inexpensive, and it helps keep moisture in the soil. It also helps to keep the ground warmer around the plant enabling faster and shorter growing times.

You can find landscaping fabric, (a.k.a. as geotextiles) at any home improvement or garden store. Landscape fabric typically comes in rolls approximately 3’x50’ or 3’x100’.

To install the landscaping fabric in the garden, roll it out the length of the row or the length of plants you want to plant. Next, cover the ends and sides of the landscape fabric with soil.

Using a knife cut an X into the fabric where you want to plant the vegetable plant. Using a garden trowel simply dig a hole, and plant the vegetable plant. Water the plant well after back filling around it.

Note: It’s best to fertilize the soil a week or so before you install the landscaping fabric. Readmore »»

Monday, May 12, 2008

Garden Benches - A Classic Accent for Your Outdoor Space

By Samuel Francis

Garden benches are one of the most fundamental forms of outdoor furniture - you can make one of your own with little more than two similarly sized and level objects and a sanded wooden board. Though the concept of a bench is rather simple, garden benches can be fashioned in ornate styles that represent baroque/rococo era or sleekly stylized to suit modern tastes. The appeal of garden benches, regardless of the style in which they are made, is their versatility in an outdoor space. Garden benches can be placed where other pieces of garden furniture rarely go - smack dab in the middle of a flower garden, up against the wall of house, directly beneath a tree, along side a sidewalk, etc.

Garden benches are the equivalent of a welcome sign that you can sit on. If you place a garden bench along side the sidewalk in front of your house, passers-by can use it as a place to rest before they continue on their morning stroll. When set beneath trees, garden benches welcome guests to sit and enjoy the shade if not but for a moment. When against a wall on the front porch, garden benches welcome people into a home. And when in the middle of a garden, garden benches invite people to take the time to sit and watch the garden grow. After all, there is no better place to watch a garden grow than from right in the middle of it.

But as you may already know, garden benches are much more than just places to sit. They are pieces of garden décor; in a manor of speaking, they are art. Whether being admired from afar or from within sitting-distance, you can be sure that your garden benches will be admired. It is wise to choose one that you yourself will enjoy viewing, just choose a painting to suit your sofa.
If you think that your garden or your yard is missing something, consider whether or not garden benches can fill that void - it is not always plants and flowers that a garden needs! Interestingly enough, it is often the furniture and décor that can make a garden feel completed. A garden bench might just be the perfect finishing touch for your garden.

And no matter what your tastes, if you look long enough, you are going to find some garden benches that match them. There are concrete garden benches, wooden ones, marble ones, metal ones, and more. There are ones with backs and ones with cushions, ones that double as storage devices, and ones that are curved and some that are straight. There truly is a great variety of garden benches that can be placed in your yard or on your patio.

Even if you choose to have very little outdoor furniture, a garden bench is still a piece that you should consider setting up in your yard. Remember: garden benches are so much more than seats; they are art!

About the Author: Samuel Francis is an avid furniture collector who specifically enjoys outdoor furniture. For more of his articles on garden furniture, please visit supplier of high quality Outdoor Furniture including Garden Benches Readmore »»

Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

Low Voltage Landscape Lighting
By Robert Taylor

Landscape lighting is a rising trend for most home owners wanting to illuminate their homes at night time. Landscape lighting is better described as painting with light and is about beautifying all that is natural or man made in a landscaped setting around the home. It is no longer a luxury item for the average to up market neighborhood. Landscape lighting is most effective when used in limited, subtle ways. If designed correctly it can be an extension of your home decor and can extend the use of outdoor spaces to the home while providing safety, atmosphere and space definition. It can also be most effective is hiding unwanted features such as trash cans or compost bins. Lighting is used to bring trees and scrubs to life at night and extenuate features around your home that are not visible or obvious during the day time. If used correctly low level lighting can be used to illuminate pathways and stairs for safety and security. Lighting allows you to enjoy your garden and exterior amenities of your home even after the sun has set.


Landscape lighting is one of the best security systems you can install. Lighting can be used as a deterrent to residential crime. Correct proportions of landscape lighting surrounding your home, has been shown to minimize crimes by as much as fifty percent. Lighting has two great uses to aid in the security of your home. The lighting can intimidate possible intruders to avoid trespassing on to your property. Should this fail, the illuminated areas will also make it possible for you or your neighbor's to see any intruders as they trespass.


Typically low voltage lighting systems are used for landscape lighting around the home. The preferred light fittings used to create most lighting designs, are low voltage, weather resistant fixtures. The low voltage used reduces the risk of electrocution if live wiring or terminals are touched. Also if power supply transformers are used to reduce the voltage, then they also isolate the low voltage system from the mains voltage which increases safety.

Not just the Garden

Although lighting brings your garden and exterior amenities to life at night time, facade or feature lighting to the exterior of your home should also be considered. If the landscaping has been done correctly it should compliment the house properly during the day. Why not extend the landscape lighting to the exterior surfaces of the home as well.

Narrow beamed lighting that highlights sharp features and wide angled flood lighting to pick up flat surfaces are preferred. These two simple methods create pools of light and shadows that will transform a house that may be uninteresting during the day, and make it come to life at night.


Low voltage landscape lighting is easy to install even if you've never done any electrical installations before. The easiest are prewired lighting systems. These are low voltage light fittings that come completely prewired and ready to install, with weather proof transformers, sealed connectors and pre-installed lamps. All you need to do is place each light fitting that is connected to a string of wire, where you want it, connect the transformer to the mains voltage and turn it on. It's that simple. Separately wired low voltage light fittings and transformers should only be installed by persons that have the experience to do so. It is recommended that these installations should be carried out by a qualified electrician. Remember that during the installation it is desirable to include a timer or a daylight sensor so that the lighting is automatically switched off during daylight hours. Normally landscape lighting is added after the landscaping has been completed. With this in mind it would be a good idea to lay conduits or ducts into your garden. This would minimize any trench digging when it came time to run your low voltage wiring. Map out where you think you will want your light fittings and lay conduits or ducts to suit.


Once the layout of the landscape has been established, it is very important to plan the placement of your light fittings. Lighting can focus on aspects in your landscape which are special to you, such as garden art, a water feature, or an unusual planting. Create a point of interest by highlighting a particular tree, shrub, or architectural aspect of you landscape with a flood light placed at ground level and focused upward. Combinations of light and shadow can create dramatic effects in complete contrast to the daylight scene. Lighting around pools can create a nice mirroring effect off the water or create a tropical feel. Lighting can hide obvious landscape problems while accentuating positive features. Landscape lighting design is very similar to the design of the landscape itself. Most landscape architects will include a lighting scheme with their design.


Low voltage lighting is often a do-it-yourself project and there are many options to suit your budget. Landscape lighting is also more affordable than ever coming in dozens of styles at a wide range of prices. Although it is tempting to purchase the cheaper incandescent lighting systems, in the long run the compact fluorescent options are better. Incandescent lamps will last for between 750 to 1000 hours. Halogens will last for 3500 to 5000 hours. But fluorescent lamps will last for as much as 10,000 hours. Because low voltage fluorescent light fittings have a lower power consumption than incandescent or halogens this makes them more desirable. Fluorescent light fittings also last longer than any other light fitting because they do not get as hot.

Solar Lighting

An alternative to low voltage lighting are solar lights. Solar landscape lighting stores energy captured during the day and then when it becomes dark enough, the outside lighting switches on automatically and stay on all night until they run out of battery power. A very good point is that solar lighting dose not use any wiring or external power source Unfortunately the disadvantages of solar lighting is that they give out very low levels of lighting and this gets dimmer as the night goes on.

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a successful webmaster and publisher of If you would like to learn more about the subject of landscape lighting please visit
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Monday, March 24, 2008

With Home Sales Rebounding in February is an Improving Housing Market Right around the Corner

By Mark J. Donovan

There is a sign that the housing market may be beginning to bottom out. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that home sales increased 2.9% in February.

This is certainly a positive sign in the housing market; however the rest of the news with this report was not so good. The report also indicated that housing prices dropped precipitously, with the average medium sale price on existing homes falling to $195,900. The NAR reported this was the biggest year over year price drop in existing home sales since 1999.

Whether or not this is truly the beginning of a recovery of the housing market or not, getting a little positive news in a market that has gone through a major correction over the past couple of years is a good sign of things to eventually come. Readmore »»

Friday, March 21, 2008

With Declining Interest Rates is now a Good Time to Buy a Home?

By Mark J. Donovan

Interest rates on home mortgages are at their lowest levels in several decades. Thirty year fix rate mortgages are now available below 6%. In addition, the housing market has been in a decline for the past couple of years. If there was ever a time to buy a home, now is the time. Yes, you could try to time the bottom on the housing market, but similar to predicting the bottom of a bear market, it is a very tough endeavor.

Also, many are predicting the housing market to begin to rebound in late 2008 or early 2009. Personally, I think it may take a little longer. Regardless of exactly when the housing market will rebound, the fact is there are few times in modern history where both home prices and interest rates have declined so significantly.

In addition, there is a glut of homes on the market today, both new and used. Builders have inventory that they need to dump in order to pay their creditors. There are also many homeowners who have been trying to sell their homes for a year or longer. It is truly a buyer’s market, and both the used home sellers and builders are willing to negotiate.

Trying to time the bottom of the housing market by waiting a few more months could cost you more, both in terms of a higher purchase sale price, and in higher interest rates. Though the Fed has been cutting interest rates dramatically over the past couple of months, there is the real threat of rapid inflation. If inflation begins to rear its head to any appreciable level, the Fed will quickly reverse its position and begin to ratchet interest rates up.

So if you have been considering buying a home don’t wait. Now is the time, with both declining interest rates and reduced home prices. Readmore »»

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How to Build a Simple Computer Desk

By Mark J. Donovan

Back a few years ago I decided I needed to buy a computer desk. After looking around at a half dozen furniture stores and department stores, I came to the conclusion that there were only two types of computer desks on the market; very expensive ones from high end furniture stores and pressed board garbage from low cost box stores. Neither suited my budget or tastes, but I needed a computer desk.

It was during this realization that I came up with an idea of building my own simple computer desk. I remember seeing standalone kitchen cabinets for sale at one of the local home improvement stores. I thought, hey if I could affix a countertop surface to two kitchen cabinets I’d have a functional computer desk.

Finding the Components for my Computer Desk

With the idea in mind I grabbed my tape measure and drove to a local home improvement store. The store had numerous standalone kitchen cabinets for sale, made from all types of wood. Some were low end constructed, while others were more high-end constructed. I found one cabinet that consisted of a top drawer and a large front door with adjustable shelves. I then found another cabinet consisting entirely of a column of drawers. After pulling them aside, I then visited the countertop area of the store, and surprisingly I found pre-fabricated 5 foot countertops for sale. I selected one that was aesthetically appealing to me and rested it on top of the two kitchen cabinets. I spaced the two kitchen cabinets apart so that they were located at the far ends of the countertop to allow room for a chair and seating. I then made a height measurement and determined that the only modification required was to cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each kitchen cabinet.

Building a Computer Desk

With my desk idea nearly realized, I purchased the two kitchen cabinets and countertop and brought them home for assembly.

Using a skill saw I removed two inches of the base of the cabinets. This was easy to do since the cabinets had about a 3 inch area below the fixed base cabinet shelf and the drawers that was effectively empty space. I then positioned the two cabinet pieces in my office area and mounted the kitchen countertop to the two cabinets using screws and brackets.

Finally, I mounted a keyboard tray slider to the underside of the countertop and my good looking and functional computer desk was ready for use.

Note: Keyboard tray sliders can be found at most office stores. Readmore »»

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

By Mark J. Donovan

Whether or not you are planning to sell your home or just want to improve the overall look of it, investing in your home’s curb appeal always makes great financial sense.

If the front yard of your home looks like a barren wasteland or you have trouble seeing your house from the road due to overgrown shrubs, you should seriously consider investing in your home’s curb appeal.

Particularly if you are planning to sell your home, it is important to invest some money and time into your home’s front yard. Your home’s curb appeal is what generates the first impression to prospective home buyers. It could literally prevent a prospective buyer from looking any further at the home. “If this is what the outside looks like, what’s the point of seeing the rest of the house”, is frequently the thought that runs through a buyers mind when seeing a home without any curb appeal.

Adding curb appeal to your home doesn’t necessarily have to involve breaking your banking account. Listed below are some basic steps you can take to improve your home’s curb appeal.

1) Make sure the yard is free from clutter, e.g. lawn toys, patio equipment, unregistered cars and trailers.

2) Dispose of any old / broken lawn furniture or toys.

3) Make sure the yard is mowed, trimmed and raked.

4) If there are patches of dead grass, remove them and get some grass seed.

5) Make sure the gutters are in good working order and not hanging off the home.

6) Clean the gutters if they are not working properly.

7) If there are overgrown shrubs, prune them so the home can be seen from the road.

8) Add mulch around the shrubs to dress up the shrub area.

9) If the home is lacking shrubs plant some small inexpensive ones around the home’s foundation, and again apply mulch around the base of them.

10) Add a fresh coat of paint to the home if the home has either faded or cracking paint.

11) If the paint looks in good shape, then at least give it a power washing to get off the dirt and grime, and to brighten up the home.

12) Fix anything that is broken on the outside of the home, lights, gutters, shutters, door bells, etc.

13) Add some flowers to the front walkways and entrances.

14) Finally, make sure the yard is kept clean and neat.

With these basic steps your can dramatically improve your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank. Most of these suggestions take only a little time and effort. Readmore »»

Monday, February 11, 2008

Contemplating a Basement Ceiling - Consider the Industrial Look

By Mark J. Donovan

When it comes to basement ceilings, we normally think of two alternatives, drywall or dropped ceiling tiles. However there is another alternative. The industrial look is also an alternative for basement ceilings. The industrial look basement ceiling involves simply painting the basement ceiling as is, floor joists, first floor subfloor, pipes, ductwork, wiring included.

The Industrial look is ideal for the basement ceiling situation where there is limited ceiling height and budget to add either a dropped ceiling or drywall basement ceiling.

The industrial ceiling look is regularly used in the reclamation of older industrial buildings. Frequently you will find upscale restaurants and office space in these reclaimed buildings with industrial ceilings.

If you want to consider an industrial look basement ceiling, check first with a building inspector or home inspector to see what can be painted and what can not. In some cases, some utilities (e.g. heated duct work) may not be able to be painted.

Once you know what can and can not be painted, simply give the as-is basement ceiling a good cleaning, being careful to remove all of the dust. It is important that anything that is to be painted should be free of dust; else the paint will not stick.

Once the as-is basement ceiling is clean, spray on a primer, followed by one or two coats of finished paint. Lighter colors will give the room a brighter look and the perception that the ceiling height is higher than it really is. Readmore »»

Saturday, January 26, 2008

AirFlow Breeze Vent Video Review

By Mark J. Donovan

Mark Donovan of reviews AirFlow Technology's AirFlow Breeze Vent in this video.

The AirFlow Breeze vent is a great, energy efficient, low cost device for increasing the warmth, or coolness in a problem room within your home.

The AirFlow Breeze Home Heating/Cooling System (Almond) (Fits 4"W x 10"L opening) and can be purchased on line at

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Simple Caulking Technique

By Mark J. Donovan

A simple way to get an excellent caulk line every time is to apply masking tape on either side of the gap you want to caulk. You can determine how big of a caulk line you want to leave by how large of a gap you leave between the two strips of masking tape.

After applying the masking tape, run a bead of caulk the length of the gap into the joint.

Once you have applied the caulk use a putty knife to smooth the caulk / joint.

Finally, as soon as you have smoothed out the caulk, immediately remove the masking tape. If done right you will have a beautiful caulk seam, with very fine edges.

Give it a shot. Readmore »»

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Choosing between a Room Addition and a Second Floor Addition

By Mark J. Donovan

When contemplating building a home addition onto a single story house, frequently the question comes up on what makes more financial and practical sense? Is it better to build out with a room addition, or build up with a second floor addition?

The short answer is, if you have the land it is probably better to build out than to build up.

Building any home addition is a major undertaking. However, building a second story addition has significant more risk and interruptions associated with it.

First, local codes need to be checked to see if adding a second story addition is even feasible.

Second, the existing foundation needs to be inspected by the local building inspector, architect, or foundation contractor to see if the foundation can support a second floor. Concrete footings and foundation requirements usually vary on the type of home being built. A second story home creates significantly more load on the concrete footings and foundation walls. Consequently the footings and foundation walls are typically built more ruggedly for two story homes.

Third, the roof has to be torn off the home. This leaves the home vulnerable to the weather such as rain, snow and wind. Also, removing a roof in a controlled manner also takes significant time and labor which adds to the cost of the project.

Forth, frequently the homeowners need to find temporary housing elsewhere, as it is nearly impossible to live in the home while the roof is removed and replaced with another level.

Fifth, although every attempt is made to maintain the integrity of the first floor of the home, inherently there are risks of damage to the first floor ceilings and walls. Ceilings frequently are cracked while the second floor is being constructed.

Building a second floor addition is not an impossible endeavor. However, it does require more up front work and presents more risk to the existing home structure while being constructed. If you have limited land, then it may be your only alternative to create more space in your home. Again, however, if you do have the land it is probably a better bet to build out with a room addition. Readmore »»

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

AirFlow Breeze Vent

AirFlow Breeze VentBy Mark J. Donovan

If your home is heated and cooled with a central air heating and cooling system chances are you have a room that is never quite warm or cool enough. As warm or cool air works its way down the main plenum from the heating/cooling power-plant its velocity slows down. Rooms furthest away from the heating/cooling power-plant consequently, never adequately heat up or cool down to a comfortable level. Sometimes you can adjust the duct work in other rooms to help to maintain the air flow into the problem room; however it is nearly impossible to find a good compromise.

Fortunately, I recently found a solution to this problem that enables me to eliminate the cold room in my house. The product is a rather simple, but ingenious solution that helps to draw warm air out of the heating system that would not otherwise ever make it to the problem room. The “AirFlow Breeze vent” is a product developed by AirFlowTM Technology. It is effectively a motorized vent which replaces the static vent that delivers heat to the problem room. The AirFlow Breeze vent utilizes two low voltage fans that automatically turn on or off via a temperature sensing electronic controller. The AirFlow Breeze vent works by drawing larger volumes of warm air from the heating plenum to the problem room. The built in programmable thermostat on the AirFlow Breeze vent unit allows you to adjust the temperature setting to the level that provides a comfortable room temperature.

The AirFlow Breeze vent is also designed for cooling and central air conditioning applications. Similar to programming the unit for heating a room, the thermostat on the vent can be adjusted to cool the room to a comfortable level when an air conditioning system is operated.

Besides the built in programmable thermostat, the AirFlow Breeze vent has a switch to select between three different airflow rates. The unit can provide airflow rates of 100, 70 and 40 cubic feet per minute (CFM). The adjustable flow rate feature is helpful in accelerating the heating or cooling of a room and for minimizing drafts.

The AirFlow Breeze vent is powered by a small, low voltage, AC/DC converter unit that plugs into any wall outlet. The system is extremely quiet and is as inconspicuous as any other heating/cooling vent in the home.

The AirFlow Breeze vent is also very simple to install. For floor mount, simply remove the old vent and replace it with the AirFlow Breeze vent. The AirFlow Breeze vent can also be wall mounted. There are a couple of drill guides that can be drilled out to enable the AirFlow Breeze vent to be screwed to a wall. The only installation requirement is that a wall outlet needs to be nearby.

The AirFlow Breeze vent comes in a standard 4”x10” size, but also includes adapters to fit 4”x12”, 6”x10” and 6”x12” vent openings. It comes in two colors, Brown and Almond.

So if your home is hot air heated or has central air conditioning, and you have a problem room that needs a little extra heat or cooling, you too may want to consider an AirFlow Breeze vent. To learn more about an AirFlow Breeze vent visit AirFlow Technology. Readmore »»