Tag Archives: home improvement

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring is an alternative to solid hardwood flooring made entirely out of real wood.  It’s currently the most popular type of flooring in the world.  North America is the only area left where traditional, solid wood floors still outnumber engineered floors, but engineered wood flooring is quickly catching up, with the rate of use for new builds, as well as remodels, increasing steadily every year for the past few decades.  Inspectors and homeowners alike may be interested in how this product is manufactured and installed, and what its advantages are compared to older, more traditional forms of flooring.

(read full article on InterNACHI)

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own

by Nick Gromicko and Ben Gromicko

The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.

1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.

2.  Combination Wrench Set
One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3.  Slip-Joint Pliers
Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4.  Adjustable Wrench
Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5.  Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.

6.  Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.

7.  Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure — not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.

8.  Hacksaw
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle — not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.

Easy ways to save money and energy at home

According to Energy Star, a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), which costs only a few dollars, will save about $30 over its lifespan and will pay for itself in just six months. In addition, CFLs actually reduce mercury emissions around the world, because they lessen the need for electricity from power plants that emit mercury. Coal-fired power generation accounts for 51 percent of the mercury emissions in the U.S. But CFL bulbs contain mercury, so some people prefer not to use them due to safety concerns if a bulb brakes. LED light bulbs (light-emitting diodes) cost more upfront but last even longer than CFLs, consume less energy and they contain no mercury.
What are some other easy ways to save energy and money? How about getting rid of the phantom of the office? Desktop computers and laptops continue to use power in sleep mode if they are plugged in. There are similar phantoms-phantom electrical loads-that can be found throughout the home. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that 75 percent of electricity used to power home electronics is actually consumed while the products are turned off. Some people feel it is not convenient to turn multiple appliances and electronics on and off, but a power strip allows multiple devices to be turned off with one switch. Conserving water is becoming a fact of life. Using less water will lower the overall water bill, and using less hot water will save on the electric or gas bill. Lowering the hot water temperature to 120° saves energy and is hot enough for showers and use in clothes washers and dish­washers. Water-efficient fixtures, including showerheads, faucets and toilets are available, and appliances should be upgraded to those labeled with the Energy Star designation as they are replaced. Demand-type water heaters (tankless) provide hot water only where it is needed and do not produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters. Creating a drought-resistant landscaping can also cut down on water usage outdoors.
When the air-conditioner is on, another way to reduce energy consumption is by raising the temperature. For every degree higher it is set, cooling costs are reduced between seven and ten percent. Periodically replace air filters when running the heating or cooling system and it will operate more efficiently. Ceiling and whole-house fans can also play a large role in keeping inside temperatures manageable while reducing cooling and heating costs.
With more than fifty percent of a home’s energy use going towards heating and cooling, slowing the flow of air between inside and out can make it easier to control temperature. Adding insulation in the ceiling is one way to reduce that air flow. Measuring the current level of insulation is easy and can be done using a yardstick to measure the thickness of the insulation, and then multiplying the thickness by the R-value (resistance to heat flow) of the insulation material. The R-value ratings of a variety of attic insulations can be found on the Department of Energy website. The site also lists the appropriate R-value ratings for various parts of the country. Adding insulation to an attic is often one of the most cost-effective methods of improving a home’s energy performance.
Sealing areas where air leaks may occur will save energy and lower energy costs. Some common areas to check include weather-stripping around doors, caulk around window frames and any unsealed spaces around pipes; check for air leaks in the attic hatch, around fireplace dampers, mail slots, and wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.

Creating an outdoor oasis for your home

What makes outdoor living so appealing? Being outdoors allows for a connection with nature as well as allowing homeowners to fully enjoy all of their property. It can provide an environment promoting relaxation and comfort, and even extend the useable area of a home.

To make the most of those outdoor opportunities, creating an exterior oasis can be done with some forethought and a few crucial elements. One that is often overlooked, but can really make a difference, is screening. Mesh screening stapled to the underside of the deck (if this area can be accessed) will prevent bugs fr-om crawling up through the deck’s floor. Mosquito netting or other screening around the upper portion of the deck can also provide privacy, while serving double-duty as insect prevention. Since mosquitoes and other insects can really spoil cocktail hour, here are a couple of other tricks that may keep them at bay. Strategically placing waterproof fans on the deck or outdoor patio will ‘inhibit mosquitoes for a couple of reasons. The wind stirred up by fans may make it difficult for mosquitoes to smell humans as well as making it difficult for mosquitoes to fly and maneuver. Planting flowers and other plants that are known insect repellents can also help. Some 0f these plants include basil, marigolds and lemon grass.

Comfortable seating is important, including getting rid of rickety, plastic lawn chairs. Today’s outdoor furniture is designed to be attractive, easy to lounge in a_nd weather-resistant. Adding a fire-pit is almost guaranteed to draw attention and company. Cool fall nights are nights to look forward to when there is a warm fire glowing.

There are a number of home fixes that can make the interior of the home appear to extend seamlessly to the outside. One may be the installation of sliding glass or French doors, which allows for easy entrance to the outdoor realm, as well as allow site lines that beckon outside.
Another trick is to install matching flooring from inside to the outdoors. For example, the use of the same weatherproof flooring-such as stone tile­ outside as well as indoors will unify the two spaces.

While the sun and natural light will take care of daytime lighting needs, to keep the party going into the evening requires the help of some exterior lighting. In fact, when prospective buyers are queried about outdoor features, exterior lighting is one of the most frequently mentioned requirements. Adequate outdoor lighting makes outdoor areas safer, more accessible and allows for more outdoor living. Uplighting (a bulb or light set in a cylinder or container at ground level with a beam of light directed upwards) can be used to create focal points, highlighting trees or other outdoor details. From a practical standpoint, solar or other landscape lighting will illuminate walkways, railings, stairs and doors for safe and unrestricted movement. Scones or pendants can light up patio or deck areas used for entertaining
or grilling. And strings of lights add a sense of warmth and celebration to any evening.
Finally, in an electronic age, no outdoor area can be considered finished without accommodating the needs of texters and tablet-users. To keep everyone connected, online, wireless outdoor Wi-Fi antennas can provide an extra boost of service, and solar USB charging stations will ensure all devices -as well as their owners-remain charged up. While not overtaking the market for indoor flat screens, all-weather outdoor televisions keep the games on alongside the grill.

DIY: Must-Have Tools for Every Skill Level

ThisOldHouse.com puts together tool kits for the beginner, semi-skilled, and experienced DIYer saying, “A tool chest usually starts with a small investment on the part of a new and inexperienced homeowner and grows over time as new projects need to be completed and skill level improves. TOH put together tool kits for the beginner, semi-skilled, and experienced DIYer. Just remember that no experienced DIYer’s kit is complete unless it contains the tools from the beginner and semi-skilled collections.

Easy as DIY: Home projects that anyone can do

abstract background of old cracked green wallEven if you don’t fancy yourself a handy person, there are some projects around the house that anyone can tackle.  Although these might seem simple to an experienced  DIY-er, here’s a Yahoo “Dummies Guide” to allow even the newest novice the opportunity to save some money and literally Do It Yourself to fix a leaky faucet, drafty windows, a clogged toilet or a crack in the wall.

Read This Before You Finish Your Basement

basementThis Old House says, “Even if it’s currently cold concrete and crammed with boxes of off-season duds, the lowest floor of your home probably has loads of potential. Treat it just as you would any of the rooms above ground, and it might just become the most popular spot in the house—for a lot less cash than adding on. Here’s their step-by-step bottom-line advice for turning this underutilized space into a place you’ll be eager to spend time in.